The European coast from Norway to northern Spain was defended by a series of concrete constructions armed with machineguns, barbed wires and minefields: the Atlantic Wall.
On April 10, 1944, the allied naval officers received confirmation of a landing at Normandy in the North of France; the operation was to be supervised by the commander in chief of the allied fleet: Admiral Bertram Ramsay.
After a bombardment during the night (carried out by the allied aviation) and a naval bombardment (carried out by the fleet) against the Atlantic Wall, at dawn, Tuesday, June 6, 1944, D-Day began.
By 8 am, all the first assault waves had landed on 5 Normandy beaches (codenamed Utah Beach and Omaha Beach (where the Americans land,) Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach (where the English, Canadians and Free France soldiers land.))
The Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000; in the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed and 7,900 airborne troops. (Allied casualties were at least 10,000.)
On June 8, the Americans at Omaha Beach and British at Gold Beach linked up. Reinforced by the 2nd Infantry Division, at Omaha, and the 90th Infantry Division at Utah, US forces launched new offensives deeper inland.
That was in Europe … in the Islands, the then greatest number of fatalities from a single fire occurred in Kalihi on June 8, 1944.
Fires have from time to time burned down large sections of Honolulu, but loss of life had been light. Three of the largest fires – the Esplanade fire of 1877 and Chinatown fires of 1886 and 1900 – caused significant property damage, but no one was killed.
However, on that fateful day in 1944, two Army medium B-25 bombers collided in midair and plunged into a congested residential area, setting fire to 11 or 12 dwellings. Ten women and children perished in the burning buildings. All four crewmen died in the crash (including Lt James L Pauley and John H Davis.) (Schmitt)
“The women and children were trapped and fatally burned when their homes were ignited by the flaming wreckage of one bomber that crashed in the middle of an arterial route to Pearl Harbor. One other child was critically burned.”
“Witnesses said the planes collided about 1,000-feet in the air, coming together at right angles. The left wing was broken off one and the tail sheared off the other.”
“The wingless bomber plummeted to Dillingham Boulevard, its flaming wreckage setting fire to houses on both sides of the street. The tailless plane fell on a small open spot in an area of small homes.”
“All the city’s fire fighting equipment was called out. The fires blocked traffic for nearly four hours.” (Galveston Daily News Texas June 10, 1944)
Members of the Chun family were in the list of the casualties. The mother, Ester, and two children Marilyn (age 4) and Donald (age 2) died that day.
The husband and father, Kam, a 1938 graduate of President William McKinley High School, worked at Pearl Harbor shipyard in his 20s as a boiler maker (he was witness to the attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.)
After the death of his wife and two eldest children, he applied for a job as a police officer and served for sixteen years at the Honolulu Police Department.
He later got into acting and was a familiar face and regular on Hawaiʻi Five-O; we knew his as Kam Fong (Kam Fong Chun) who played Chin Ho Kelly. (He remarried (1949) and later died of lung cancer October 18, 2002, at the age of 84.)
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