Everett Hyland sat in front of his birthday cake at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Reaching 96 years old is an accomplishment for anybody, but a 96th birthday is an even greater accomplishment for a serviceman who nearly died during the Attack on Pearl Harbor.
On December 7th, 1941, he was stationed aboard the fleet flagship, the USS Pennsylvania, which was docked at Pearl Harbor. An attack by Japanese Zeros caused an explosion that rendered Everett Hyland unconscious. When he awoke in sick bay, he recognized his fellow radioman, Osman, walking by. He called out to him, “Hey Ozzy”. Osman came over and asked Everett, “Who are you?” Hyland thought to himself “Uh-oh”. He responded to Osman, “It’s Hyland”. Osman backed away in sheer freight. That’s when Everett Hyland realized the severity of his condition, as charred skin and blood oozed from his body.
But as I celebrated with Hyland and his family, there was no way that I could have known that his face had been burned beyond recognition. To me, he was a spry 96 year old guy with a twinkle in his eye. Next to him sat his wife, Miyoko, whom he met at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center after moving to Oahu from Japan. Also by his side, his daughter Holly and his granddaughter Anna Maria, who both flew out from the U.S. mainland to celebrate his special day. Around Everett Hyland was an magnanimous aura that suited both his unlikely survival at Pearl Harbor and his multicultural family that was very much ahead of the times.
Hyland is now preparing for another incredible life event in the form of a special meeting on April 28th, 2019 at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, where he will be meeting with Atomic Bomb survivor Masahiro Sasaki-san Hiroshima. Sasaki-san was 4 years old when the bomb leveled his hometown. He ran from his burning house with his grandmother, mother, and his 2 year old little sister, Sadako. They found refuge in the nearby river as the black rain poured down on them. They didn’t know that they were being exposed to immense levels of radiation.
Sasaki-san and his family had survived, so the went on rebuilding their lives. One day his now 12 year old sister Sadako had developed a lump in her neck. She wasn’t burned like so many of her neighbors, nor was she visibly deformed. Yet like so many survivors years after the atomic bomb attack, she laid in the hospital bed for months. To fulfill a Japanese legend that if you fold 1000 cranes, your wish will come true, Sadako sat folding origami cranes. The lump in her neck was from her cancer, and although they didn’t tell her that her Leukemia was terminal, she confided in a fellow patient that she was afraid of dying.
Paper was hard to come by back then, so the community pooled together any paper scraps they could find for her cranes. She folded over 1000 cranes, which had become her way of channeling her sadness and emotions about her disease into the cranes. Sadako passed away that year from the disease that was caused by the atomic bomb radiation. The community was so saddened by her passing that they built the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is where the Children’s Peace Monument now stands to honor children like Sadako.
By 2010, Masahiro Sasaki-san only had 5 of Sadako’s peace cranes left. He donated one to the World Trade Center to commemorate the 9-11 Attack. Then in 2012, Sasaki-san donated one of the last cranes to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to commemorate the Attack on Pearl Harbor.
Everett Hyland and Masahiro Sasaki-san will meet each other at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center on April 28th, 2019 as part of my documentary Sakura & Pearls: Healing from World War II. What will happen when these two survivors from opposite sides of the war meet each other?
Our cameras will capture this rare moment in history. We are currently raising funds through a Go Fund Me campaign to fly out Sasaki-san and another Hiroshima survivor, Koko Kondo-san, to Pearl Harbor for this special meeting. If you feel moved by this story, please consider donating. Every contribution, even small donations, can inspire other people to donate as well. Help us make history happen.