|My Experience of the Events of December 7, 1941|
After having been called to active military duty in the Army Air Corps in September of 1941, I, a First Lieutenant, was assigned to the 534th School Squadron at Mather Field, located near Sacramento, Ca. Shortly afterward, I was reassigned to Williams Field in Higley, Arizona. I drove to Phoenix with First Sergeant Edward Bush on December 1-2, and reported to the Army Air Corps Advanced Flying School Number Seven (ACAFS #7) on December 3. I registered, along with other servicemen, at the El Portal Hotel in Mesa on December 4 because there were no Bachelor Officers Quarters available at the base. On the morning of December 7, I heard a radio in the next room broadcasting the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I didn’t believe it—I thought it must be some kind of spoof. I knocked on the door of the room from which the news was emanating and introduced myself to Major Keene. I said, “Is this for real?” We agreed that the news must indeed be true and reported to Williams Field, where we were immediately given assignments. Since I was an Infantry officer, I was told to teach our raw recruits (6 squadrons and the Base Group—about 300 men total) to soldier. We got 1903 Springfield 30 cal. bolt-action rifles from the Arizona National Guard. I asked for dummy ammo to teach the men to load, lock, and aim these weapons. I was told they had no dummy ammo and I would have to use live ammo. I shuddered, but said to myself, “This is war, so do what you must.” I prayed that I could teach these youngsters fresh from civilian life to use Springfield rifles with live ammo—without killing or maiming anybody. My prayers were answered.
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The next day, December 8, I was named officer of the day (OD). We had posted armed guards around the perimeter of the camp, and as OD I had to check the guards every three hours. Everyone was nervous, and I hoped not to be shot by a scared and trigger-happy GI. One of the guards reported that he had seen lights flashing in the distance. He thought it could be enemy signaling. With the news of the sneak attack at Pearl so fresh in our minds, we conjured up visions of an attack on ACAFS #7 in Higley, Az., possibly originating from Japanese ships in the Gulf of California.
The next morning I told the Commanding Officer (CO), Major B. A. Bridget, about the peculiar lights. At that time, we had several Arizona citizens on the base as civilian employees. The CO asked me to talk to one of them. I did. He asked me just where the lights appeared, and I showed him. He said, “Lt. Rhodes, in that location there is a curve in the road to Queen Creek. The flashing lights you saw could well have been caused by cars negotiating that curve.” And so ended the “attack” on ACAFS #7, Higley, Az., without bloodshed.