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Ewa took Zero fire, too

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Kiyoshi Ikeda ran to his home in Ewa Villages when he saw the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 69 years ago and was closing the door to his kitchen when a Japanese fighter pilot fired a round that landed two feet from him.

"Bakatare!" Ikeda yelled back at the pilot as other Japanese Zeros were already strafing Ewa Field just a mile from Ikeda’s home, killing four Marines and wounding 11 more in three waves of attack, according to the 14th Naval District Command history.

Yesterday, Ikeda returned to the abandoned and weed-covered remains of Ewa Field for a sunny ceremony honoring one of the lesser-known sites of the Japanese attack that propelled America into World War II.

The ceremony was one of several held over the last few days that lead up to tomorrow’s Dec. 7 commemoration.

World War II historians at the old Ewa Field yesterday wanted to honor the actions of the Marines that day — and to bring attention to the forgotten airfield, which had once been the hub of Oahu military flight operations on the Ewa plain.

It drew modern-day Marines who presented the colors, along with historians from the Hawaii Historic Arms Association and Hawaii Military Vehicle Presentation Association who stood in for World War II-era sailors, soldiers and Marines and wore World War II-era uniforms.

The groups also brought an M-1943 Willys Jeep, an M-2-4 International 1 1/2 -ton truck, a 1944 WC51 Dodge three-quarter-ton truck and a 1943 Ford M20 armored utility car to give the event more World War II authenticity, said Jeffrey Wang, president of the Hawaii Military Vehicle Presentation Association and a board member of the Hawaii Historic Arms Association.

Before it was renamed Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, Ewa Field was carved out of a 3,000-by-3,000-foot patch of sugar field to tether dirigibles in the 1920s, according to Navy history.

On the eve of the Japanese attack, an estimated 700 Marines were stationed at Ewa Field, whose landing strip was designed like an aircraft carrier flight deck for Marine Air Group 21, which flew fighters, tactical bombers and scout planes.

Ikeda was a 14-year-old freshman at Waipahu High School and had gotten used to U.S. pilots making touch-and-go landings on the mock carrier flight deck day and night.

So when he saw Japanese Zeros flying overhead on Dec. 7, 1941, Ikeda assumed they were Americans training for battle.

Then he saw the attack unfold over Pearl Harbor and ran home, only to be shot at by a plane bearing an unmistakable red circle on its wings and body.

While five or six Japanese bullets pierced his neighborhood and one landed near Ikeda’s feet, another Japanese fighter pilot merely waved harmlessly at another boy in the neighborhood, Ikeda said.

"I don’t know why but that pilot shot at me," Ikeda said.

Single-seat Japanese fighter planes began the first attack on Ewa Field at 7:55 a.m., firing incendiary, explosive and armor-piercing 7.7 mm and 20 mm rounds in low-level strafing runs over Runway 1 1/2 9, according to the Navy.

By the time the first attack ended at 8:20 a.m., the Zeros had destroyed or damaged tactical bombers and fighters parked on Runway 11’s tie-down area and warm-up platform, according to the Navy.

Zero pilots also killed the officer of the day as he tried to call the camp to arms from the Ewa Gate guardhouse, according to the Navy.

The second and third attacks lasted from 8:35 to 9:15 a.m. and consisted of heavy strafing by rear gunners flying in Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes that were retreating from the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Japanese tail gunners killed three Marines who were firing back from disabled planes, according to the Navy, and wounded 11 other Marines who were trying to extinguish U.S. planes burning along the flight line.

Ikeda was not old enough to join the all-nissei 442nd Regimental Combat Team or the 100th Battalion that were formed after the Japanese attack, but he showed up at yesterday’s ceremony at Ewa Field because the events of Dec. 7 had a profound effect on the rest of his life.

Ikeda went on to a career as a sociology professor at the University of Hawaii but was forever touched by the efforts of the Americans who joined the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the lesser-known battle of Ewa Field.

"It developed a model for me of what a good citizen should be," Ikeda said.

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