GOODING • Marion Wood can still hear the voices 72 years later.
“They were screaming at you for help. They were screaming for their father and mother or calling for God.”
Wood was making bacon and eggs in the mess hall at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked Dec. 7, 1941.
He heard vibrations that didn’t sound right.
“I walked out the door and saw a Japanese plane,” he recalled Thursday.
The sight was shocking. “We felt so secure,” said Wood, who had often walked along Battleship Row, admiring the ships.
“It caught us off guard. I didn’t know how to react.”
He and fellow Army members made their way to their stations as the bombs fell; he was attached to an anti-aircraft battalion.
“We had places to go in case of an attack,” said Wood, now 95. “We never figured it would happen.”
The Japanese paid little attention to the men, focusing instead on ships and aircraft, he said.
Wood remembers seeing the USS California on fire and the USS Arizona sinking.
After the attack, rumors ran rampant about what might be next.
That night, the mood was tense. “You didn’t want to take a long breath or cough,” he said. “You might get shot at.”
Wood and an Army lieutenant made sure all lights were out in the area.
They headed toward a tiny house in Waipahu, a nearby town. A light was visible in the window. The lieutenant kicked in the door.
“I never heard such a horrible racket,” Wood said.
Inside was a woman and about 200 baby chickens. The lieutenant had knocked down a shelf holding dozens of the chicks.
The commotion was a small moment of levity in a sad, frightening time, when fires burned for days, lighting the night sky.
World War II
After Pearl Harbor, Wood served in Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands and on Guam and Kanton Island, a tiny atoll in the South Pacific Ocean. At one point he got Dengue fever, his temperature shooting up to 106. It took him months to fully recover.
The fighting often was in close quarters.
“We used to holler at them a little bit. They’d holler back,” he said.
Neither could understand the other. Looking back, Wood feels conflicted.
“There’s a guy coming at you and you’ve never seen him and he’s never seen you and you never did anything to him and he never did anything to you and you’re trying to kill him,” he said. “You’d think we’d be smarter.”
We can go to the moon, Wood said, but we can’t get along.
Before the Attack
When he was 16, Wood joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was kicked out for being too young but eventually got back in.
The Corps brought him to idaho. Wood worked in mines and logged Galena Ridge in northern Idaho. Although he lived in California for a while after the war, he came back to Idaho again.
“Idaho just kind of fell in love with me or I fell in love with it,” he said.
Wood and a friend hitchhiked to Portland, Ore. After spending some time there, Wood enlisted in the Army in September 1941.
Tired of being a two-bit per hour dishwasher, Wood finally took a local recruiter up on his offer.
Soon, Wood shipped to Pearl Harbor, not sure what to expect.
“I really had no idea,” he said. “I was just a kid from Missouri.”
Wood recalls the days before the attack as enjoyable.
“It was a nice time,” he said. “It was a nice place with good food.”
At the Diamond Head Hotel, $3 could get him 10 fried oysters and a quart of cold beer.
Wood scraped together pennies from his $21 monthly salary for the meal.
“We used to say we make $21 a day, one day a month,” he joked.
After the War
After the war, it took him time to settle down.
Wood married a woman he had met as a teenager. They had written to each other during the war.
“We made each other what we wanted to be,” he said.
The couple had two daughters and later divorced. Wood was married to his second wife for 36 years, until the day she died.
His current wife lives in a dementia-care facility in northern Idaho, near family. They occasionally talk, but the fog of dementia has taken over, he said.
“We had nine good years,” he said.
Wood never returned to Hawaii. He hasn’t seen the USS Arizona Memorial.
“In some ways I didn’t want to. In some ways I did,” he said. “There’s good memories there and bad memories.”
This time of year, Wood’s thoughts often turn to that day at Pearl Harbor. Although he participates in memorial events, he doesn’t like to dwell:
“I’ll be glad when it (the day) is over.”
Wood doesn’t mind talking about his days in the service, but he doesn’t like to go into detail.
“Sometimes in a war it almost sounds like you’re bragging. A lot of people saw worse than I did. I got by easy.”
Wood lived in Jerome for a while but settled in Gooding, where he still lives, at the Bennett Hills Care and Rehabilitation Center.
These days, he enjoys his guitar, despite one arthritic finger, and his grandchildren.
He often talks about his faith. He said he wouldn’t have made it this far without God.
“I’ve lived quite an interesting life,” he said, smiling. “I wouldn’t advise anyone to do the same.”