During the early days of the war in Europe, the United States implemented a program within Hawaii that selected a group of prominent citizens throughout Honolulu who would be of strategic value in the event of an act of war against the nation. While the US did its best to avoid joining the war, by 1941, after trade embargoes and moments of high tension with Japan, entry into World War II was looking more and more probable.
The US Navy groomed men like Harry Soria, Sr. to respond to a surprise act of war. At the time war broke out in Europe, Soria was a radio personality in Honolulu. His name was well known within the Hawaiian Territory, and he was connected with achievements like the first remote live music broadcast and first remotely-broadcast telephone call in Hawaii.
It was his skill as a radio announcer that drew the Navy’s attention and towards the beginning of 1941 he was secretly recruited into naval intelligence. With other businessmen from Honolulu, Soria trained under the US Navy, spending weeknights at the Iolani Barracks in downtown Honolulu learning what he needed to know for the inevitable war.
Each member was given his own task should war break out and, Soria’s was as lead censor for trans-Pacific radio telephone communications, which charged him with controlling the censorship of the trans-Pacific long-distance switchboards at the local telephone company. Essentially, his job was to ensure nothing sensitive be heard by anyone who wasn’t meant to hear it, and to intercept calls that posed a potential security risk.
The night before the attack, these men were living their lives as normal. Soria was hosting his weekly Voice of Hawaii program, possibly inadvertently giving away Honolulu’s position as the Japanese pinpointed the location of Oahu through radio transmissions. The morning of December 7th, Soria went from a beloved radio host to an active member of the US Navy.
While Pearl Harbor was under fire from the Japanese planes, Soria was disconnecting long-distance calls being made to all over the country and keeping a log of every call that he had heard. Later on that hectic day, Soria found himself listening in on a call between the United States President and the governor of the Territory of Hawaii. Franklin Roosevelt and then-governor Joseph Poindexter discussed the attack and the aftermath, and all the while Soria monitored the call, keeping a log of what was discussed.
It was on this phone call that Roosevelt instructed Poindexter to place Hawaii under Martial Law, and it was within Soria’s notebook that every detail of that historic conversation was written down.
Being a man of his word, and knowing the importance of the oath he took that day, Soria never revealed the details of his log book or the phone call. Prior to his death in 1990, he even burned the book, leaving his family—and the nation—in the dark about what he experienced that morning.
While many secrets throughout history tend to surface at some point, Soria left nothing behind to allow his story to be pieced together.