The Aeronca TC-65 Defender was an American high-wing light plane of the 1940s. Aeronautical Corporation of America formally changed its name to Aeronca Aircraft Corporation in 1941, and the onset of World War II ushered in a new era for Aeronca aircraft. Production of the TC-65 Defender was increased for use by the U.S. government’s new Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program, created to train new pilots for possible wartime service.

Eight private aircraft were in the air over Oahu at time of the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor. Four were from K-T Flying Service, two from Gambo Flying Service, one from Andrews Flying Service, and one from Hui Lele Flying Club. Local attorney and territorial legislator, Roy Vitousek, and his teenage son Martin were flying this Aeronca TC-65 Defender toward Pearl Harbor that fateful Sunday morning.

According to Martin, they stayed in the air during part of the attack, circling at 2,000 feet to avoid the Japanese planes. Upon taking fire from enemy aircraft, they immediately returned to John Rodgers Field and executed a safe landing. John Rodgers Field is now Honolulu International Airport.

The Vitouseks were fortunate. Of the eight pilots in the air that day, three were shot down, two of whom died. One was forced to bail out. Two landed safely. Two pilots went missing and are presumed dead.