Dorothy and Bonnie Nabors
"Mr. and Mrs.
Nabors: Newlyweds at Pearl Harbor"
Dorothy and Bonnie Nabors
December 9, l994
Interviewer: Rheba Massey
"We were asleep when they first hit,"
Dorothy Nabors remembers. Bonnie, her husband of nine
months, knew right away that it was the Japanese.
"We could see their faces, they were so low. You
could see the insignia on the airplanes." The Nabors
had married in March, the day she returned to Hawaii,
having given up a teaching position in California. They'd
met in Honolulu the previous summer and hastened their
wedding plans because they feared being separated if war
came. Bonnie, a Texan, had re-enlisted in the service and
gone to Hawaii in 1939. "There were sixteen of us
that went over as part of a buildup in the Pacific. Four
of us made it back."
That dreadful morning, Bonnie
knew he must get to the hangar line and do what he could
to save planes. First he sent Dorothy away from the base.
She fled with some neighbors in their car and was
stranded overnight in a tiny house with no lights,
expecting another attack or even invasion at any time,
listening to radio pleas for emergency help.
Bonnie made it to the hangar line where he and an
officer managed to get two aircraft off the runway before
a second wave attacked. They lay in a field of weeds and
watched. The aircraft took 300+ machine gun bullet holes
and four 20 mm cannon shell hits. The car that Bonnie
used to try to reach the airfield was also shelled after
he abandoned it at the parade ground. Despite the fact
that two people had been killed taking refuge in the car,
the Nabors shipped the car back to California and drove
it until 1949.
The days after Pearl Harbor were difficult for the
newlyweds. Bonnie remembers being hungry, breaking into
the mess hall to get supplies for the men trying to get
the airplanes back in service, and not sleeping for
almost three nights.
"There was a lot of disorganization . . . .We
didn't expect it the way it happened. If anybody tells
you they were not scared, they're not telling the truth.
But you keep on doing what you have to do. The aircraft
were my responsibility and I knew we had to save what we
Bonnie stayed with the troop carrier until after the
Battle of Midway. If the Japanese had invaded, his group
would have been the last to leave, if they could - after
blowing up everything to prevent capture. Dorothy
returned to California, where she spent the rest of the
war "glued to the radio" and helping the war
effort by working at the Santa Ana Air Base. Bonnie's
phone calls and even their letters were censored, and
those returning to the states were warned not to tell
"what we knew."
Bonnie feels that "the American people don't know
how close they came to losing that war at the Battle of
Midway. . . . If we had lost it, everything would have
moved back to the west coast."
Bonnie did not get back to the states until December
of 1942. The young couple then drove to Gulfport,
Mississippi, where Bonnie was a consultant for technical
training schools and later went to Miami Beach Officers
Candidate School. There was a housing shortage in Miami;
so Dorothy, who was pregnant, had to stay on in Gulfport
in a barely finished apartment. Bonnie stayed in the
service until 1946 and was in the active reserve for 32
years after that. The Nabors eventually settled in
California, where they lived until 1982, when they moved
to Ft. Collins to be close to their son and his family.
Dorothy felt the war was harder on others than
herself. Her brother came back an old man. How did Bonnie
feel about the dropping of the atomic bomb? "It's a
good thing it happened. I don't know how many lives it
"Ever since (the war) I have prayed constantly
that we will never again get so weak that some bully will
think he can come in and knock us off - because they