In relating my fathers account of Pearl Harbor Day, we start long before that December day.
He always said that they all knew America would get sucked into the war, no one knew how or when exactly.. but they all knew we would be involved.
Dad was attached to the Litchfield, an old WWI 4-stacker. It was a light cruiser as I recall him saying, the Admirals flag ship.
Dad had asked several times for a transfer to the Air Corp as in his exact words, “he did NOT want to be a sitting duck”.
The transfer was finally approved. When the fleet went into Pearl for fuel and restocking provisions, dad was dropped off at the sub base to later get a troop transport to Moffit Air Station where he was going to get his air training.
Fortunately the Pacific Fleet was back out to sea before Dec 7th… the Japs were after our two aircraft carriers..
In all the years and times that I asked my dad about that day, he rarely ever said anything… he might start to tell a little, then he would get suddenly silent….it’s like a puzzle you’ve had to put together through out the years. A little info here and there and now the puzzle is almost complete after piecing so many tries together this is what I have gleaned from his as to that day.
The Day of the Attack on Pearl Harbor
He woke up to “all hell breaking loose”. He was on the 3rd floor of the sub base barracks, ran downstairs as did everyone else. At the door, rifles were being passed out.. Dad had a .30-06 bolt action Springfield. There was so much chaos, no one had a clue what to do other than take a gun and defend Pearl Harbor. He ran out the door, looked around for a safe place to sit and shoot from. He ran down the pier where the submarines moor.. at the end of the dock was an old steam shovel that had been dredging the channel.
Dad climbed into the iron bucket and waited for the Japs to fly over. He took several shots at the planes and one was hit. It had lots of smoke and eventually crashed. He never knew if it was his bullet or someone else’s or what. But it crashed. He always wondered if his bullet had done the job.
Dad said that it was so chaotic with so many planes in the air that he watched two of our planes have a head on collision over Hickam which is just to the south of Pearl. He saw the battleships get hit on battleship row and saw the bomb fall onto the Arizona and the massive explosion.
Dad never once told this much in one try of telling the story.. he always would freeze and end it when he realized that he was “remembering”.
Over the many years I would get snippets of the story…
One time we were discussing watch making and repair… he mentioned that he had a good buddy who was a great watch maker, who stationed on the Arizona. By the time he reached the ships name, it came out “Arrrr-iiiiiii-zooooo-n-aaaaaaaaa… end of conversation.
It was always that way; he would recall something that reminded him of something horrific that day, and BAM, end of conversation.
Dad said that it ended up taking about six months to finally get to Moffit.
He either doesn’t remember the rest of that day, or just refused to ever think of the rest of the day. The rest of the day was nothing compared to that morning.
The worst, most sad story that my mother would relate of the aftermath was, “the tapping”.
All who related “the tapping” to my mother (including my father apparently) said it was gut wrenching.
After the bombing ended and the rescue efforts started. The men trapped in the USS Arizona were tapping out Morse Code messages of where they were trapped, how many injured and so on in hopes of being rescued. The story was always told with such reverence and quiet sadness… the tapping got less and less everyday until there was no more tapping.. and all the men who had been tapping messages who were never secured…
When I was a kid I remember looking in my dads locked cabinet, as we often got to have a peek. In amongst his prize possessions was an ivory slide rule. He got it off a one man Japanese sub that had run aground in the harbor. Dad said the oddest thing was that there was American candy.. a Hershey bar in the sub… a suspicious thing as having American candy would have been very odd as at this point we were at war with Japan… so it lead them to know that there were traitors providing the Hershey bars.
If you are interested in reading about how Patti learned her father was one of those hero’s she learned about in school read here.