When Eishin "Toy" Tamanaha awoke on the morning of December 7, 1941, it was to the sound of explosions at Pearl Harbor. He figured it was just another exercise, so after dressing he strolled to a nearby café for breakfast. Someone mentioned that there was a war going on, but being a young man with other things on his mind, he paid no attention.
After breakfast Tamanaha joined up with his friends: in a time when plantation feudalism still dominated Hawaii, Waiakea-Uka and Piihonua buddies stuck together. But for some now forgotten reason Uyeno's housemate Toshi Morimoto decided to stay home that morning.
Masayoshi "Freddy" Higa and James Koba were scheduled to participate in an amateur boxing match on Monday, and their weigh-in was at the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) gym. En route to the gym, which was located on the third floor of the Lady of Peace Cathedral on Fort Street, the men stopped at the Cherry Blossom Saimin Stand on South Kukui Street. Tamanaha bought a Popsicle; Higa played pinball.
And sometime between 9:40 and 9:50 an anti-aircraft shell hit the noodle stand and fifteen people were killed or injured.
Tamanaha found himself lying in the middle of the street. "I was conscious," he later recalled. "I just sat there, looking at my legs. They were all mangled. Then I lay down on the street and blacked out."
Shortly after 10:00 a.m. CYO gym manager Bill Kim and some of his boxers happened by. "We saw Toy and the rest of the boys sprawled on the street, bleeding and dying," Kim wrote in 1946. "We were too stunned to do anything at the moment." So it was another passerby, George Apela, who picked up Tamanaha and took him to Queen's Hospital on Punchbowl Street.
The emergency room attendant sent Tamanaha to the temporary morgue in the basement. While there, Tamanaha regained consciousness and began moaning. The morgue attendant had to search through the bodies to find which one was making the noises. The hospital's elevator wasn't working so the attendant then had to use a hand hoist to raise Tamanaha from the basement to the surgery on the fourth floor.
Three surgeons and an intern were working at Queen's Hospital that day. The surgeons were Rogers Lee Hill, James R. Judd, and Douglas Bell; the intern was Harold Sexton. During the course of the day the four men performed several bilateral amputations, but Tamanaha was the only one to survive. Queen's Hospital patients provided the blood transfusions required on Sunday and members of the CYO boxing team donated blood on subsequent days.
On March 3, 1942, Tamanaha underwent additional surgery. When word went out at the CYO gymnasium, fifteen volunteers including the well-known professional David Kui Kong Young immediately went to the hospital to give blood. However, only three had the right type, among them CYO manager Bill Kim.
Following his discharge from the hospital Tamanaha moved in with his sister. Toward earning a living, he applied for a liquor license but was denied, probably due to his ethnicity. In 1945 he had some serious kidney problems and he had to go back into the hospital. This time fortune began smiling on Tamanaha, as in the hospital, he met a young woman, Haruko Morita, and on February 15, 1946 the couple were married; eventually they had four daughters. Meanwhile Honolulu businessman Danny Clement decided to support Tamanaha's reapplication for a liquor license and in April 1946 he was granted permission to open a package store in Hilo. In January 1947, Hawaii's delegate to Congress, Joseph R. Farrington, introduced a bill into the House of Representatives requesting that Tamanaha be granted $20,000 "for personal injuries suffered when struck by a bomb on December 7, 1941, resulting in loss of both legs and other injuries." And perhaps best of all, in June 1948 Tamanaha's friend George Costa presented him with a pale green Dodge sedan that had brake and clutch levers on the dash instead of the floor. "It feels wonderful," Tamanaha told reporters. "Now I won't have to look at four walls all day and night. I can go out whenever I want to without bothering my friends."
Tamanaha died in Pearl City, Hawaii, in July 1984. He was aged 67.