Frank Tremaine Obit


UPI Reporter Who Covered Pearl Harbor Dies

SAVANNAH, Ga., Dec. 22, 2006 (UPI) -- Frank Tremaine, a longtime newsman with United Press International, died on the 65th anniversary of the day he broke the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He was 92.

His death, on Dec. 7, 2006, in Savannah, Ga., was only reported more than two weeks later because Tremaine said he wanted to be cremated with no funeral or memorial service.

Tremaine was United Press's Pacific bureau manager based in Honolulu when the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base on Dec. 7, 1941. The news flash he filed was the first word on the attack sent outside Hawaii, and he and his wife, Katherine, gave the first eyewitness accounts by telephone.

The Tremaines had a house in Honolulu with a panoramic view that included Pearl Harbor, and they were awakened by the first bomb explosions at the base.

Tremaine became an instant war correspondent early one Sunday morning by looking out of his front windows. It was Dec. 7, 1941, and what he saw from his hillside home in Honolulu were puffs of anti-aircraft fire and a cloud of black smoke rising from Pearl Harbor seven or eight air miles away.

Having been awakened from a sound sleep, he may be the only correspondent to have covered his first war story stark naked since his coverage began immediately with phone calls to sources who might know what was happening. Who needed pajamas in balmy Hawaii?

Tremaine was the United Press bureau manager in Honolulu at the time and the crack of AA fire and booms of explosions got him out of bed just before 8 a.m. Suddenly his theoretical responsibility for coverage of news from Hawaii westward to Australia, the Philippines and Asia became a reality.

His staff grew from two to as many as 30 as he directed UP's war coverage in Adm. Chester W. Nimitz's Pacific Ocean Areas theater until the Japanese surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. For that ceremony, he perched on the edge of a forward 16-inch gun turret about 20 feet immediately above the deck where the ceremony took place.

He was UP's first postwar Tokyo bureau manager, then went on to assignments in Mexico and Central America, Los Angeles and back to Toyko to direct coverage of the Korean War in 1950-51.

UP transferred him in 1952 to headquarters in New York, where he filled a variety of vice presidential posts including general manager of UP Newspictures, general business manager, general manager for North America, and manager of international operations. He was named senior vice president in 1972 and retired June 30, 1980, after 44 years of service. United Press became United Press International in 1958 when it merged with International News Service.

Tremaine began his news career as UP's campus correspondent at Stanford University, from which he was graduated in 1936. Two days later, he was at work as third man in UP's three-man Salt Lake City bureau. Then followed assignments in San Diego, San Francisco and New York before his appointment as manager in Hawaii in 1940.

UP claimed that Tremaine's flash on the Pearl Harbor attack was the first from the scene to reach the outside world although the White House announcement beat him by a few minutes.

When the flash reached Manila, Bureau Manager Frank Hewlett called the Navy's Asia Fleet headquarters. "Tell your Pearl Harbor correspondent to go back to bed and sleep it off," the duty officer said.

As he phoned around, Tremaine got little information at Pearl Harbor but he found a positive official response at Army Headquarters at Fort Shafter.

"Pearl Harbor is under aerial attack," Intelligence Press Officer Capt. Harry Albright told him. "I know that," Tremaine muttered to himself, but aloud, he asked, "Who¹s attacking?"

"We can't say yet," said Albright.

"You don't think it's the Germans, do you?" said Tremaine as he hung up to file his first flash.

Moments later in a second call, Albright confirmed that the attackers were Japanese.

After filing a series of dispatches on what he and Kay could see and glean by phone, Tremaine left the house to try to reach the action. Shortly after his departure, a phone call he had placed to UP in San Francisco came through and Mrs. Tremaine provided more detail in the first eyewitness report of the day.

Her report included a description of two Japanese planes unsuccessfully attacking the destroyer Ward at sea off Honolulu Harbor. Then she was interrupted by a siren-like scream which became louder and louder and ended with an explosion which was heard through the phone in San Francisco.

"What was that?" said Jim Sullivan, the deskman there.

Mrs. Tremaine ran outside, then returned to report that an American anti-aircraft shell, failing to explode in the air, had fallen nearby. A shell fragment grazed a bystander's forehead, but there were no other injuries nor serious damage in that incident.

The Tremaines collaborated on a book about their experiences that day, "The Attack on Pearl Harbor -- by Two Who Were There," which was published in 1997 by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation.

Tremaine was born in Detroit on May 30, 1914 and reared in Pasadena, Calif., where he moved with his mother, grandmother and two baby sisters after the premature death of his father in 1924.

He and Kay Newland, his high school sweetheart, were married Sept. 2, 1939. They had met in the fifth grade at the Henry W. Longfellow elementary school.

Reflecting the transient life of a news service reporter, their daughter Nancy was born Jan. 2, 1944, in Honolulu and son, Frank G., in Pasadena Oct. 14, 1948, during his father's assignment in Mexico.

During their 28 years in the New York area, the Tremaines lived in Scarsdale and Rye Town. He was a member of the Dutch Treat Club and Society of Professional Journalists in New York and the Scarsdale Golf Club, Fox Meadow Tennis Club and Shenorock Shore Club. The Tremaines also were members of the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale and the Rye Presbyterian Church.

After retirement, the Tremaines spent winters in Savanah, Ga., and summers in Christmas Cove, South Bristol, Maine. He taught journalism and was an active volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

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