ON THIS DATE IN 1941: Football players spring into action

Fresh off an exciting 20-6 victory over Willamette, Hawaii didn’t have much time to celebrate as early the next morning Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

From the coach on down, the University of Hawaii football team responded to the call after the attack, immediately trading their leather football helmets for shiny ‘tin’ police headgear.

Hawaii coach Eugene Gill, a veteran of world War I where he served in France, was among the first to respond for guard duty and his players followed. Melvin Abreu, Chin Do Kim, Harold Kometani and Bob Henderson were assigned special police work. While their teammates were patrolling the streets, Axel Silen and Lloyd Conkling enlisted in the Navy.

The Rainbows weren’t the only ones to get busy, as players from visiting Willamette and San Jose State immediately volunteered for police duties while hoping to play a football game that never came. The Spartans were slated to play Hawaii in the Police Benefit Game on Dec. 14 before it was canceled by the hostilities.

San Jose State coach Ben Winkleman got the idea to volunteer when one of his players, 21-year old Chet Carson, spoke up and said ‘Gee, if only I had a gun in my hands I would feel better.’

Willamette coach Roy Keene, who served with Gill in France, said his only hope for his team during volunteer police duty is that “they will shoot straighter than we did with our passes against Hawaii on Saturday.”

All told, the Honolulu Police department enjoyed 50 new volunteers and put them to work as early as Saturday afternoon while Japanese planes were still in the air.

“They are a lot of fine fellows,” Police Chief W.A. Gabrielson said. “Many have studied police methods at San Jose and now they’re out to get a little practical experience.”

San Jose State and Willamette didn’t leave the islands until Dec. 19, arriving in San Francisco on Christmas day. The Bearcats paid for their living expenses during their time on Oahu with their defense work, allowing UH athletic director Pump Searle to donate an additional $1,500 to the Shrine Hospital for Crippled Children.