Censored Account of Pearl Harbor Attack Published

Thursday, 06 Dec 2012 05:18 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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A gripping and poignant reporter’s account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — deemed too graphic for publication — has finally been printed 71 years later.

“I felt that numb terror that all of London has known for months. It is the terror of not being able to do anything but fall on your stomach and hope the bomb won’t land on you,’’ wrote Elizabeth McIntosh, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“It’s the helplessness and terror of sudden visions of a ripping sensation in your back, shrapnel coursing through your chest, total blackness, maybe death.’’

McIntosh, now 97, tells the Washington Post — which Thursday published her account of the Dec. 7, 1941 barrage that killed 2,402 Americans — that she had geared the piece towards Hawaii’s women to “help prepare them for what lay head.

But her editors spiked the story because of its graphic content they feared would be “too upsetting’’ for the daily paper’s readers.

In her article, McIntosh tells of seeing “a formation of black planes diving straight into the ocean off Pearl Harbor’’ and then “a rooftop fly into the air like a pasteboard movie set.

As bombs relentlessly dropped, “ambulances screamed off into the heart of the destruction,’’ McIntosh wrote. “The drivers were blood-sodden when they returned, with stories of streets ripped up, houses burned, twisted shrapnel and charred bodies of children.’’

She said her office was barraged with calls from women knowing how they could help out in the aftermath.

“It was then that I realized how important women can be in a war-torn world,’’ McIntosh wrote.

What McIntosh witnessed would affect her profoundly. She quit the newspaper business two years later to join the Office of Strategic Services and was in charge of running morale operations against the Japanese in Burma and China.

She later went on to become a longtime employee of the CIA and in 1998, at the age of 83, published a well-received book, “Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS.’’

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