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 could."
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 saved."
"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 will."