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Air attack hit home for Spotsylvania man page 3
Retired Air Force major from Spotsylvania witnessed Pearl Harbor attack from another perspective

 Donald Funai, 81, who is of Japanese descent, witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, while living in Hawaii. He later served in the U.S. Air Force and worked as an air-traffic controller. He now lives in Spotsylvania.
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 12/7/2012

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"You could see the wreckage of the [battleship] Arizona, with the superstructure bent over," he said.

The Funais managed better than many families, despite the hardships of war.

An aunt had married an Army master sergeant, who happened to be a cook at Schofield Barracks.

"So we never suffered from a lack of meat, butter, sugar, and all kinds of things people couldn't get because of rationing. He'd come over with all kinds of goodies," Funai said. And his father, who was a baseball coach at the boys' school, had an ample supply of spirits to share with friends and coaches.

Through the war years, Funai worked in the pineapple fields and a cannery. He was pumping gas at a service station in August 1945, when the war, and gas rationing, ended.

"Our tanks all ran dry," he said. Over in Honolulu, "GIs were riding up and down the street with the girls "

INTO THE MILITARY

Funai enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Hawaii. He graduated in 1954 with a degree in marine zoology, but he chose to go to flight training.

Don Ho, the Hawaiian crooner, was one of the 12 men in Funai's ROTC class.

"We used to sing, drink and get in trouble together," Funai said.

Funai joined the Air Force in 1955, serving for 21 years. During that time, he made his first and only trip to Japan, assigned to Tachikawa Air Force base north of Tokyo.

His impression: "Good food, nice people, who were looking down on me because here's a Japanese boy who wasn't speaking Japanese."

Later, he served a year as a pilot in Vietnam. While in the military, Funai met and married his wife, Shirley, an Air Force nurse.

After leaving the service, he worked for the Federal Aviation Administration, doing air-traffic control and in-flight inspections.

Funai and his wife moved around the country during his stint with the FAA, eventually winding up in Spotsylvania in 1979. Shirley died nine years ago.

Funai now lives with his daughter, Stephanie, in a subdivision off State Route 3.

She heard about her father's brush with a pivotal moment in American history early on.

"For me, it was amazing that he was alive during those times, and saw this huge piece of history [that] I was studying in school," she said, adding that it is a story from a different perspective.

Funai says he thinks back on that day in 1941 when early December arrives.

"We had a bird's-eye view and I think about those guys in the military not realizing they were under attack, and trying to find weapons to shoot back."

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: rdennen@freelancestar.com


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