Harbor devastation: Missionary recalls bombing

Victory gardens planted, blood donated for war effort

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On Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, Elder Wayne M. Winegar had just listened to the radio broadcast of “Music and the Spoken Word.” The Mormon Tabernacle Choir had sung the words, “All is well.”

And all did seem well for the missionary serving his second year in the Hawaiian Islands. The day before, Saturday, he had joined with his mission president and others for a conference in Kona, on the Big Island. He was serving then in Hilo as a branch president. Back home in Utah, his girlfriend, Virginia Adams, was waiting for him.

Elder Winegar was still listening to the radio when the announcer suddenly broke in, “Pearl Harbor is being bombed.”

Wayne M. Winegar, now 90 years old, was an LDS missionary serving in Hawaii on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941.
Wayne M. Winegar, now 90 years old, was an LDS missionary serving in Hawaii on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Credit: Photo by Jule Dockstader Heaps

“The war changed a lot of things,” a now 90-year-old Brother Winegar said, sitting in his home in Kaysville, Utah. Around him are pictures of family, mainly of his wife, Virginia, who died in 2009, and their four children, 21 grandchildren, 59 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. He is a member of the Kaysville 3rd Ward, Kaysville Utah Crestwood Stake.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Elder Winegar and other missionaries volunteered as air raid wardens and dug air raid shelters.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Elder Winegar and other missionaries volunteered as air raid wardens and dug air raid shelters. Credit: Photo courtesy of Wagoner family

Recalling the moment he heard that Pearl Harbor on Oahu was being bombed, Brother Winegar said, “As I remember, it just froze us. If there’d been a follow-up, we were in big, big trouble. We didn’t realize how much trouble until we saw the devastation [later in his mission] in the harbor.”

Soon, the missionaries were told the islands were under martial law. In Brother Winegar’s personal history he wrote: “No more than 4 or 5 people were allowed to meet together, other than at formal church gatherings. …”

Describing those days, Brother Winegar told the Church News: “Everything was blacked out. We were told to volunteer for everything for the war effort but not to receive money. We were air raid wardens. You walked through [town] to check if there were any lights on. Everybody was asked to donate blood.”

The young Elder Winegar also dug air raid shelters and helped plant “victory gardens.”

Upon completing his mission, he returned home with other missionaries aboard a troop transport. “It took us nine and a half days [because of zigzagging].”

Brother Winegar said sleeping below decks was uncomfortable with crowding and smoke. Many grabbed their blankets and life jackets and slept on deck.

Once released from his mission, he and Virginia were married in the Mesa Arizona Temple; they settled in Bountiful, Utah. He prepared to be drafted, but the Davis County Draft Board determined that his father’s business, a general mercantile, was important to the home front. With his father aging, one of three brothers had to stay home. The family chose the newly married, newly returned missionary.

The family business is still in operation.