Philip Ward Eldred at Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941.
A single war episode illustrates so much of the attitude of the credit union officer to his institution, that it deserves a place in this narrative. This story came from the supervisor of federal credit unions in Hawaii.
The office of the Hawaiian Air Depot Federal Credit Union (operating today as Hickam Federal CU) was located in the corner of one of the large hangars at Hickam field, a primary objective of the Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor. The records of the credit union were kept in a safe and two large steel lockers.
Friday, December 5 was pay day, and all that day and Saturday morning, December 6, members had streamed into the office, leaving deposits and payments with their passbooks for posting and distribution a few days later. At noon Saturday, the treasurer banked the five thousand dollars received and went to his home in Honolulu. From there, he saw the Japanese attack, seven miles away, the next morning. During the attack the former treasurer, P.W. Eldred, who lived near the field, made a desperate attempt to reach the credit union office and remove the credit union records. He was riddled with machine gun bullets while running towards the hangar, which was blasted by hundred-pound bombs a few minutes later. One of the bombs penetrated directly into the credit union office, exploded, blowing the steel desks, the safe, and the chests to pieces. Over 90 percent of the passbooks were destroyed. The Hawaiian Air Depot Federal Credit Union was the first and only credit union in America to come under the enemy's fire. Day after day members came to the new office of the credit union, re-established immediately after the raid, and, one after another, signed new notes and had new passbooks issued. By January 7, 230 new notes had been obtained on $58,390 of outstanding indebtedness, and 400 new passbooks had been issued covering $74,000 in shares. The members willingly approved the action of the directors transferring all surplus to a special reserve, passed up a dividend, and reopened for business. Not a single member refused to sign a new note. The credit union rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes of Hickam Field, and within the incredibly short period of thirty days, was doing business again after having nearly every vital record completely obliterated. The former treasurer, when he knew that death was raining from the skies, gave up his life in a heroic effort to protect the credit union records. He was the symbol of the high courage with which the credit unions fought the war for the preservation of the democracy of which they are so important a part.