Maxine: WWII | Maxine: Biography | Maxine: My Sister, My Friend
by Judy Vorfeld
WAIPAHU, HAWAIIóOAHU SUGAR PLANTATIONóDecember 7, 1941 Around 7 am, Jack lay in bed reading the Sunday paper. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee drifted into the bedroom. Brilliant red poinsettias and bright green lawns dotted the graceful plantation homes in an area that overlooked Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. Maxine was puttering in the kitchen when their friend and neighbor Bob Clark, banged on the door. He rushed in to announce that America was at war: the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.
Forced to evacuate their home, Oscar Webber and his family, former Pearl City neighbors, showed up at the Vorfeld home. In the following chaos, Jack and Max learned that some Pearl City army wives were being evacuated to Pearl City Heights, a bleak area with nothing but canefields and ditches.
""Watch the boys. I'll be back," Max said as she headed out the door. No longer brilliant blue, the skies above Pearl Harbor now appeared gunmetal gray.
"Wait! Where are you going?" he asked, running after her. Max usually took time to consult Jack if she was planning on doing something unusual, and here she was, headed out with bombers flying overhead.
Never mind. Just watch the boys." Racing toward the tan Plymouth, she jumped in and tore out of the driveway, headed for Pearl City Heights. Aware that she might be shot or captured, or worse, she drove alongside fields of green sugar cane, and found the stranded women. Anti-aircraft guns bellowed. Machine gun bullets split the air as enemy planes strafed Hickam Air Force Base and Pearl Harbor.
Lord," she prayed, "Help me find them. I know you don't want these poor women shot, or worse!" The attack did not surprise Hawaiian residents, many of whom believed there would be an enemy attack followed by invasion.
Great clouds of smoke invaded more and more of the usually beautiful skies above Pearl Harbor, but she refused to be sidetracked. Machine guns from Japanese planes rat-tat-tatted. Horrifying noises from all kinds of explosions vibrated through the air rocked the ground.
Maxine kept going, hands firmly on the steering wheel as her car bounced along the secondary roads in search of the women she felt had been abandonded. Finally she spotted the terrified women, loaded as many as would fit into the car, and sped toward the plantation. She whipped into the driveway, quickly unloaded them, and tore back for a second load.
Although she could have been killed, wounded, or captured, Maxine Vorfeld's faith in God helped her forget her timidity and focus on one act: saving precious lives.
NOTE BY JACK: That morning, other former Pearl City friends and neighbors arrived. I helped organize them, and once Max returned with her last load of women, I headed for the factory, where I discovered some spent .50-caliber machiine gun slugs in a nearby hedge. Later we inspected the exterior of the plantation buildings and found a number of bullet holes. We stared at each other, wondering when and if the invasion would come.
The Japanese used the twin smokestacks of Oahu Sugar Co. to help plot their air attack. From maps and other intelligence data retrieved from downed enemy aircraft, we learned that the smokestacks were one of the landmarks used to guide the bombers toward Pearl Harbor.
The military placed Hawaii under martial law, and businesses and homes could only operate in a blackout situation. Since the government considered sugar an essential industry, they classified me as 2-A. Life for those of us in Hawaii, as for people throughout much of the rest of the world, changed dramatically from that day forward.
Copyright Judy Vorfeld.
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