The horizon around Oahu slowly revolves like the moving bowl around a compass rose on a binnacle, and the lubber mark comes to rest on South, at Pearl Harbor. The Steering Wheel of our Navy was spun hard over, at the turning point Midway in the Pacific. And now through the gigantic labors of Pearl Harbor, gray Task Forces move south, not to protect but to attack. Southward move the transports with Marines, troops and landing barges, guarded by grim fighting ships bound for the Solomons, Guadalcanal and eventually the islands of Japan. Like birds in migration, flocks of planes fly south. The carriers, those convenient perches at sea, move their nested eagles.
Ordered to New York to secure what I had observed with pen and brush, words and paint, from copious notes and sketches—I see from the rising Clipper, Pearl Harbor revolve slowly, steady herself, and move away below me. Aloha! I shall always remember you, never forget your triumphant sights, your clamorous sounds, your hot and dusty odors.
The soft hues of Oahu's lee roll down from the clouds and mountains to the graceful curve of the shore, that stretches from Pearl Harbor to Honolulu. Scalloped patterns of white and green divide the colors of land and sea. Recognizable are the nestling houses of many friends, the whole like a richly pigmented scale model. Diamond Head, how the fortunes of war have changed since I first saw you through the mists of early morning, from the surface of the mysterious sea. How often have I seen you since against the tropical blue, as thin as brown pasteboard, as one dimensional as a backdrop. Now from the air, you are a round empty bowl, resembling a close-up of a cold ancient crater on the surface of the moon.
Below to starboard, the bluffs of Molokai slice steeply into the Pacific, the Leper Colony waits on the clean land. Beyond, the Islands of Lanai and Maui are entrancing in distance and the mellow light of eventide.
Blue mists blur past the small ports, swirl opaquely by, as up through the clouds we climb to the lonely world of the sky. In the long barreled fuselage, denuded of furnishings save four chairs and a table, we two Navy Officers dine with the ship's Captain. Beneath, an unbroken sea of clouds roll softly, white and still, rise dome on dome, fall away to silent valleys, form distant tumbled hills beneath a blue empty dome.
The sun sets below the billowed clouds, and twilight dyes them with deep violets and gray blues, against the flaming red of the western sky. A dark cavern appears, below and under the vast bridge of clouds above it. Down there, placed on the dull steel of the ocean, is a convoy of minutely reduced ships. Without movement, they are tiny models with painted wakes, as motionless as toys.
All bunks have been stripped from the ship, and it is rather hard sleeping on the metal deck, and cold at 12,000 feet, in spite of the first blankets after months of lazy, warm tropical nights.
For hours we fly through the morning, detached from all the world. The tunnel of the fuselage of our ship is a small particle of our world, suspended far above it. Within its thin shell are hermetically sealed our country, language and memories of what we knew on earth. In the brilliant cold light of the sun, stretching around the hard circle of the horizon, the clouds in a flat plain cut us off from all below. I accept it finally, and know with all my visual sense that I am looking down on a vast prairie, covered with thickly packed snow in little hummocks, their round sides lit by sun, casting cold blue shadows. I am sure there is a hard crust on the snow of that solid plain. The dome of the sky is cobalt, grading down through cerulean to green at the brittle horizon. Mellow clouds float in the heavens above the snow field, adding to the confusing illusion. . . . "Land Ho!" sings out my fellow passenger, and ahead to port a black rock cuts up through the snow. "That's a mountain beyond San Francisco," he says in a matter of fact voice. San Francisco, I almost say out loud—that's on the world, that's—the plane banks, swings round and down, straight for the hard snow. I almost wait for the crash, as we dive into the soft clouds. Down, down through ten thousand feet of dense gray vapor, that increasing heat—warm—hot—very hot—blind—Lord, we'll hit the world—and suddenly we're in the clear. Two thousand feet above the beautiful bay. Treasure Island—ferry boats—bridges—the city coming fast into our laps. This is San Francisco, this is the golden western gate to the mainland of the United States of America.