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80 Years Ago Today, CU Manager Killed at Pearl Harbor Attempting to Save Records

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii—Eighty years ago today a credit union leader was killed attempting to save the CU’s records during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese attack came just two days after the Dec. 5 payday, and as a result Hickam Federal Credit Union had been very busy. Located inside a large hangar at Hickam Field, the credit union was popular with members. At the time, as there was no automatic deposit or payroll deduction, members would leave their passbooks for posting and redistribution, which was handled by the CU’s assistant treasurer.

For those two days prior to the Japanese attack, Hickam FCU members streamed into the credit union leaving deposits and payments of over $5,000 along with their passbooks.

Pearl Harbor

As the Hawaii CU League reported, “On the morning of the attack, Hickam FCU Treasurer P.W. Eldred made a desperate attempt to save the credit union’s records. As he dashed toward the credit union, Eldred was caught in a hail of machine gun fire and killed. Moments later, a stick of 100 pound bombs blasted the hangar housing Hickam FCU. One bomb directly penetrated the credit union, blowing steel desks, lockers, and a safe completely out of the hangar. Over 90% of Hickam FCU’s passbooks were obliterated along with most of the credit union’s vital records. As the smoke lifted and the horror of the day’s events came into focus, Hickam FCU officials were left with the unbelievable task of reconstructing from memory over 400 accounts, including over 200 loans.”

Board Meeting Held

The CU’s board met on Dec. 10 and suspended all business except taking deposits as it worked to recreate all the lost records. As officials recalled and the Hawaii league reported, “A steady flow of members arrived at the credit union’s new office to sign new notes and receive new passbooks. Members who lived on the mainland sent in new notes through the mail and continued payments on their loans. Not a single member protested the acts of the board or refused to sign a new note.”

Records show that by Jan. 7, with the country now at war with Japan and Germany and World War II under way, Hickam FCU obtained 230 notes on $58,390 outstanding and reissued over 400 passbooks covering $74,000 in shares.

“Hickam FCU members willingly approved action to transfer all surpluses to a special reserve and passed up a dividend payment. The monumental efforts of everyone involved resulted in the authorized reopening of Hickam FCU on January 11, 1942,” the league reported.


This story first appeared in CU Today

Reprinted with permission, CUToday.info