T

he Hawaiian sky glowed a luminous blue, the sun peeked out gaily from behind the few gentle clouds. The trade winds had blown away the choking smell of smoke and ashes. The tides had pulled deep into the ocean much of the thick black oil that had spilled from dozens of wounded ships, leaving only a scatter of iridescent puddles that glowed in the sun.

It was a beautiful day inOahu. If you averted your gaze from the harbor, still crammed with wreckage, it was the perfect day for surfing, swimming, or lazily sitting on the island’s white sandy beaches.

A perfect day for funerals.

It had been a long week for the men and women stationed atPearl. The medical personnel were still struggling with the many wounded. Surviving soldiers and sailors, including Private Moe Freed, had been pressed into service, trying to salvage what they could from the bombed-out ships, and helping clean up the fragments of what had once been hundreds of aircraft. But the busiest of all were the men of Graves Registration, the unit tasked with identifying and burying the dead.

All through the week the telegrams went out. The lists went up, tacked onto bulletin boards: name after name of friends and comrades who had perished.

Four days after the attack, Moe’s fears were confirmed in pitiless black-and-white type on an updated list of the dead. There it was: Russo, Luigi, followed immediately by Lu’s cousin, Russo, Max, a jolly midshipman Moe had met once.

Laughin’ Lu had lost the card game that had kept him overnight on theArizona, the ship most badly damaged in the attack; he’d lost the card game and his life. Yet he and Max were fortunate: Only around 100 of the more than 1,000 dead on theArizonacould be identified and buried. The rest were buried, unidentified, in common graves, or left to their watery repose at the bottom of their sunken ship.

Now, on this stunning Monday morning eight days after the attack, Moe and dozens of others, mostly sailors, stood quietly before a row of graves. A small American flag was perched on each mound, the deceased’s dog tag and a Hawaiian lei wrapped around its wooden stick.

Moe could hardly hear the chaplain as he intoned his mournful service; the words were drowned out by the sound of his friend’s deep, throaty laughter and memories of the bear hug he’d given Moe when he heard him speak Italian. The image of Lu’s mother urging him to eat appeared before Moe’s eyes, eyes that were wet with tears for Russo, Luigi — Laughin’ Lu — his comrade, his friend, one of the first casualties of the war, which, for America, had begun one week before.

Moe had been given the morning off for the funeral. He’d been kept so busy, he hadn’t had time to get to Tripler, and now, as he gave his friend’s grave one final farewell glance, he walked over to the road and hitched a ride to the hospital.