Back to Pearl Harbor
By Jack McKillop
U.S. MARINES AT PEARL HARBOR
As war clouds gathered over the Pacific basin in late 1941, the United States Pacific Fleet operated, as it had since May 1940, from Pearl Harbor. While the security of that fleet and for the island of Oahu lay in the Army's hands, that of the Navy Yard and the Naval Air Stations at Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe Bay lay in the hands of U.S. Marines. In addition, on board the fleet's battleships, aircraft carriers, and some of its cruisers, Marines provided security, served as orderlies for embarked flag officers and ships' captains, and manned secondary antiaircraft and machine gun batteries -- seagoing duties familiar to the Corps since its inception.
The Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor comprised a Barracks Detachment and two companies, "A" and "B," the men living in a comfortable three-story concrete barracks. Company A manned the main gates at the Submarine Base and Navy Yard, and other "distant outposts," providing yard security, while Company B enforced traffic regulations and maintained proper police and order under the auspices of the Yard Police Officer. In addition, Marines ran the Navy Yard Fire Department. Elements of Marine defence battalions made Pearl Harbor their home, too, residing in the several 100-man temporary wooden barracks buildings that had been completed during 1940 and 1941. Less commodious but no less important was the burgeoning airbase that Marines of Marine Aircraft Group Two (2dMAG), later MAG-21 had hewn and hammered out near Barbers Point -- Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, home for a Marine aircraft group consisting of fighting, scout-bombing, and utility squadrons.
On 27 November, having been privy to intelligence information gleaned from intercepted and translated Japanese diplomatic message traffic, Admiral Harold R. Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, and General George C. Marshall, the Army's Chief of Staff, sent a war warning to their principal commanders on Oahu, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, and Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, the Commander of the Hawaiian Department. Thus adjured to take appropriate defensive measures, and feeling that his more exposed advance bases needed strengthening, Kimmel set in motion a plan that had been completed as early as 10 November, to provide planes for Midway and Wake. The latter was to receive fighters -- 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats of Marine Fighting Squadron Two Hundred Twelve (VMF-211) -- while Midway was to get scout bombers from Marine Scout Bombing Squadron Two Hundred Thirty One (VMSB-231). The following day, 28 November 1941, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) departed Pearl in Task Force Eight under Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force, embarking VMF-211 at sea. VMSB-231 was to embark in another carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), in Task Force Twelve under Rear Admiral John H. Newton, on 5 December.
At the outset, apparently no one except the squadron commanders knew their respective destinations, but the men of VMF-211 and VMSB-231, meanwhile, apparently ordered their affairs and made ready for what was to appear as "advanced base exercises." Among those men seeing to his financial affairs at MCAS Ewa on 3 December 1941 was First Lieutenant Richard EW. Fleming, USMCR, who wrote to his widowed mother: "This is the last time I'll be able to write for probably sometime. I'm sorry I can't give you any details; it's that secret."
On the 5th, Task Force 12 sailed from Pearl. Eighteen light gray Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators from VMSB-231, under 41-year old Major Clarence J. "Buddy" Chappell, then made the 1.7-hour flight from Ewa and landed on board Lexington, along with the "Lady Lex" air group. Planes recovered, the force set course for Midway. The Lexington departed Pearl Harbor on the morning of 5 December. That afternoon saw the arrival of Battleship Division One from gunnery exercises in the Hawaiian Operating Area, and the three battleships, USS Arizona (BB-39), USS Nevada (BB-36), and USS Oklahoma (BB-37), moored in their assigned berths at the quays along Ford Island. The movements of the ships in and out of Pearl Harbor had been the object of much interest on the part of th espionage system operating out of the Japanese consulate in Honolulu throughout the year 1941, for the information its operatives were providing went to support an ambitious and bold operation that had taken shape over several months.
Unbeknownst to Admiral Kimmel, a Japanese task force under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, formed around six carriers and the most powerful force of its kind ever assembled by any naval power, had set out from the remote Kurile Islands on 27 November. It observed radio sxilence and steamed via the comparatively less traveled northern Pacific.
Nagumo's mission was to destroy the United States Pacific Fleet and thus ensure its being unable to threaten the Japanese Southern Operation posed to attack American, British, and Dutch possessions in the Far East. All of the warning signs made available to Admiral Kimmel and General Short pointed toward hostilities occurring within the forseeable future, but not on Oahu. War, however, was about to burst upon the Marines at Pearl Harbor "like a thunderclap from a clear sky."
SUDDENLY HURLED INTO WAR
Some 200-miles (321.9-kilometres) north of Oahu, Vice Admiral Nagumo's First Air Fleet -- formed around the aircraft carriers HIJMS Akagi, HIJMS Kaga, HIJMS Soryu, HIJMS Hiryu, HIJMS Shokaku and HIJMS Zuikaku pressed southward in the pre-dawn hours of 7 December 1941. At 0550 hours, the dark gray ships swung to port, into the brisk easterly wind, and commenced launching an initial strike of 184 planes ten minutes later. A second strike would take off after an hour's interval. Once airborne, the 51 Aichi D3A1, Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11 dive bombers (later given the Allied Code Name "Val"), 89 Nakajima B5N2, Navy Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber Model 12 bombers (later given the Allied Code Name "Kate") used in horizontal bombing or torpedo bombing roles, and 43 Mitsubishi A6M2, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighters Model 21 (later given the Allied Code Name "Zeke"), let by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, Akagi's air group commander, wheeled around, climbed to 3,000-meters (9,842.5-feet), and droned toward the south at 0616 hours. The only other military planes aloft that morning were Douglas SBD Dauntlesses from USS Enterprise, flying searches ahead of the carrier as she returned from Wake Island, Army Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses heading in from the mainland, and Navy Consolidated PBY Catalinas on routine patrols out of Naval Air Stations (NASs) Pearl Harbor on Ford Island and Kaneohe.
That morning, 15 of the ships at Pearl Harbor numbered Marine detachments among their complements; eight battleships, two heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, and one auxiliary. A 16th detachment, assigned to the miscellaneous auxiliary (target/gunnery training ship) USS Utah (AG-16), was ashore on temporary duty at the 14th Naval District Rifle Range at Luuloa Point.
At 0753 hours, Lieutenant Frank Erickson, USCG, the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pearl Harbor duty officer, watched Privates First Class Frank Dudovick and James D. Young, and Private Paul O. Zeller, USMCR -- the Marine color guard
-- march up and take post for Colors. Satisfied that all looked in order outside, Erickson stepped back into the office to check if the assistant officer-of-the-day was ready to play the recording for sounding Colors on the loudspeaker. The sound of two heavy explosions, however, sent the Coast Guard pilot running to the door. He reached it just in time to see a "Kate" fly past 1010 Dock and release a torpedo. The markings on the plane -- "Which looked like balls of fire" -- left no question as to its identity; the explosion of the torpedo as it struck the battleship USS California
(BB-44) moored near the administration building, left no doubt as to its intent.
"The Marines didn't wait for colors," Erickson recalled later, "The flag went right up but the tune was general quarters." As "all Hell" broke loose around them, Dudovick, Young, and Zeller unflinchingly hoisted the Stars and Stripes "with the same smartness and precision" that had characterized their participation in peacetime ceremonies. At the crew barracks on Ford Island, Corporal Clifton Webster and Private First Class Albert E. Yale headed for the roof immediately after general quarters sounded. In the direct line of fire from strafing planes, they set up a machine gun. Across Oahu, as Japanese planes swept in over NAS Kaneohe, the Marine detachment there -- initially the only men who had weapons -- hurried to their posts and began firing at the attackers.
Since the American aircraft carriers were at sea, the Japanese targeted the battleships which lay moored off Ford Island. At one end of Battleship Row lay the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36). At 0802 hours, the battleship's 50-calibre (12.7 millimeter) machine guns opened fire on the torpedo planes bearing down on them from the direction of the Navy Yard; her gunners believed that they had shot one down almost immediately. An instant later, however, a torpedo penetrated her port side and exploded.
Ahead of Nevada lay the battleship USS Arizona (BB-39), with the repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4) alongside, preparing for a tender availability. Major Alan Shapley had been relieved the previous day as detachment commanding officer by Captain John H. Earle, Jr., who had come over to Arizona from the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43). Awaiting transportation to the Naval Operating Base, San Diego, and assignment to the 2d Marine Division, Shapley was lingering on board to play first base on the battleship's baseball team in a game scheduled with the squad from the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6). After the morning meal, he started down to his cabin to change.
Seated at breakfast, Sergeant John M. Baker heard the air raid alarm, followed closely by an explosion in the distance and machine gun fire. Corporal Earl C. Nightingale, leaving the table, had paid no heed to the alarm at the outset, since he had no antiaircraft battle station, but ran to the door on the port side that opened out onto the quarterdeck at the sound of the distant explosion. Looking out, he saw what looked like a bomb splash alongside Nevada. Marines from the ship's color guard then burst breathlessly into the messing compartment, saying that they were being attacked.
As general quarters sounded, Baker and Nightingale, among the others, headed for their battle stations. Aft, congestion at the starboard ladder, that led through casemate no. 9, prompted Second Lieutenant Carleton E. Simensen, USMCR, the ship's junior Marine officer, to force his way through. Both Baker and Nightingale noted, in passing, that the 5-inch/51
(12.7-centimeter) there was already manned, and Baker heard Corporal Burnis L. Bond, the gun captain, tell the crew to train it out. Nightingale noted that the men seemed "extremely calm and collected."
As Lieutenant Simensen led the Marines up the ladder on the starboard side of the mainmast tripod, an 800-kilogram (1,763.7-pound) converted armor-piercing shell dropped by a "Kate" from HIJMS Kaga ricocheted off the side of Turret IV. Penetrating the deck, it exploded in the vicinity of the captain's pantry. Sergeant Baker was following Simensen up the mainmast when the bomb exploded, shrapnel cutting down the officer as he reached the first platform. He crumpled to the deck. Nightingale, seeing him flat on his back, bent over him to see what he could do but Simensen, dying, motioned for his men to continue on up the ladder. Nightingale continued up to Secondary Aft and reported to Major Shapley that nothing could be done for Simensen.
An instant later, a rising babble of voices in the secondary station prompted Nightingale to call for silence. No sooner had the tense quiet settled in when, suddenly, a terrible explosion shook the ship, as a second 800-kilogram (1,763.7-pound) bomb -- dropped by a "Kate" from HIJMS Hiryu - penetrated the deck near Turret II and set off USS Arizona's forward magazines. An instant after the terrible fireball mushroomed upward, Nightingale looked out and saw a mass of flames forward of the mainmast, and much in the tradition of Private William Anthony of the Maine reported that the ship was afire. "We'd might as well go below," Major Shapley said, looking around, "we're no good here." Sergeant Baker started down the ladder. Nightingale, the last man out, followed Shapley down the port side of the mast, the railings hot to the touch as they made their way below.
Baker had just reached the searchlight platform when he heard someone
shout: "You can't use the ladder." Private First Class Kenneth D. Goodman, hearing that and apparently assuming (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the ladder down was indeed unusable, instinctively leapt in desperation to the crown of Turret III. Miraculously, he made the jump with only a slight ankle injury. Shapley, Nightingale, and Baker, however, among others, stayed on the ladder and reached the boat deck, only to find it a mass of wreckage and fire, with the bodies of the slain lying thick upon it. Badly charred men staggered to the quarterdeck. Some reached it only to collapse and never rise. Among them was Corporal Bond, burned nearly black, who had been ordering his crew to train out no. 9 5-inch/51 (12.7 centimeter) at the outset of the battle; sadly, he would not survive his wounds.
Shapley and Corporal Nightingale made their way across the ship between Turret III and Turret IV, where Shapley stopped to talk with Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, Arizona's first lieutenant and, by that point, the ship's senior officer on board. Fuqua, who appeared "exceptionally calm," as he helped men over the side, listened as Shapley told him that it appeared that a bomb had gone down the stack and triggered the explosion that doomed the ship. Since fighting the massive fires consuming the ship was a hopeless task, Fuqua told the Marine that he had ordered Arizona abandoned. Fuqua, the first man Sergeant Baker encountered on the quarterdeck, proved an inspiration. "His calmness gave me courage," Baker later declared, "and I looked around to see if I could help." Fuqua, however, ordered him over the side, too. Baker complied.
Shapley and Nightingale, meanwhile, reached the mooring quay alongside which Arizona lay when an explosion blew them into the water. Nightingale started swimming for a pipeline 150 feet (45.7 meters) away but soon found that his ebbing strength would not permit him to reach it. Shapley, seeing the enlisted man's distress, swam over and grasped his shirt front, and told him to hang onto his shoulders. The strain of swimming with Nightingale, however, proved too much for even the athletic Shapley, who began to experience difficulties himself. Seeing his former detachment commander foundering, Nightingale loosened his grip on his shoulders and told him to go the rest of the way alone. Shapley stopped, however, and firmly grabbed him by the shirt; he refused to let go. "I would have drowned," Nightingale later recounted, "but for the Major." Sergeant Baker had seen their travail, but, too far away to help, made it to Ford Island alone.
Several bombs, meanwhile, fell close aboard USS Nevada, moored astern of USS Arizona, which had begun to hemorrhage fuel from ruptured tanks. Fire spread to the oil that lay thick upon the water, threatening Nevada. As the latter counterflooded to correct the list, her acting commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Francis, J. Thomas, USNR, decided that his ship had to get underway "to avoid further danger due to proximity of Arizona." After receiving a signal from the yard tower to stand out of the harbor, Nevada singled up her lines at 0820 hours. She began moving from her berth 20 minutes later.
The battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Nevada's sister ship moored inboard of the battleship USS Maryland (BB-46) in berth F-5, meanwhile manned air-defence stations at about 0757 hours, to the sound of gunfire. After a junior officer passed the word over the general announcing system that it was not a drill -- providing a suffix of profanity to underscore the fact -- all men not having an antiaircraft defence station were ordered to lay below the armored deck. Crews at the 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) and 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) batteries, meanwhile, opened ready-use lockers. A heavy shock, followed by a loud explosion, came soon thereafter as a torpedo slammed home in the battleship's port side. The "Okie" soon began listing to port.
Oil and water cascaded over the decks, making them extremely slippery and silencing the ready-duty machine gun on the forward superstructure. Two more torpedoes struck home. The massive rent in the ship's side rendered the desperate attempts at damage control futile. As Ensign Paul H. Backus hurried from his room to his battle station on the signal bridge, he passed his friend Second Lieutenant Harry H. Gaver, Jr., one of Oklahoma's Marine detachment junior officers, "on his knees, attempting to close a hatch on the port side, alongside the barbette [of Turret I] ... part of the trunk which led from the main deck to the magazines ... There were men trying to come up from below at the time Harry was trying to close the hatch ..." Backus never saw Gaver again.
As the list increased and the oily, wet decks made even standing up a chore, Oklahoma's acting commanding officer ordered her abandoned to save as many lives as possible. Directed to leave over the starboard side, away from the direction of the roll, most of Oklahoma's men managed to get off, to be picked up by boats arriving to rescue survivors. Sergeant Thomas E. Hailey, and Privates First Class Marlin "S" Seale and James H. Curran, Jr., swam to he nearby Maryland. Hailey and Seale turned to the task of rescuing shipmates, Seale remaining on Maryland's blister ledge throughout the attack, puling men from the water. Later, although inexperienced with that type of weapon, Hailey and Curran manned Maryland's antiaircraft guns. The battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) rescued Privates George B. Bierman and Carl R. McPherson, who not only helped rescue others from the water but also helped to fight that battleships' fires.
Sergeant Woodrow A. Polk, a bomb fragment in his left hip, sprained his right ankle in abandoning ship, while someone clambered into a launch over Sergeant Leo G. Wears and nearly drowned him in the process. Gunnery Sergeant Norman L. Currier stepped from Oklahoma's red hull to a boat, dry-shod. Wears -- as Hailey and Curran -- soon found a short-handed antiaircraft gun on Maryland's boat deck and helped pass ammunition. Private First Class Arthur J. Bruktenis, whose column in the December 1941 issue of The Leatherneck would be the last to chronicle the peacetime activities of Oklahoma's Marines, dislocated his left shoulder in the abandonment, but survived.
A little over two weeks shy of his 23d birthday, Corporal Willard D. Darling, an Oklahoma Marine who was a native Oklahoman, had meanwhile clambered on board a motor launch. As it headed shoreward, Darling saw 51-year-old Commander Fred M. Rohow (Medical Corps), the capsized battleship's senior medical officer, in a state of shock, struggling in the oily water. Since Rohow seemed to be drowning, Darling unhesitatingly dove in and, along with Shipfitter First Class William S. Thomas, kept him afloat until a second launch picked them up. Strafing Japanese planes and shrapnel from American guns falling around them prompted the abandonment of the launch at a dredge pipeline, so Darling jumped in and directed the doctor to follow him. Again, the Marine rescued Rohow -- who proved too exhausted to make it on his own -- and towed him to shore.
USS Maryland, meanwhile inboard of Oklahoma, promptly manned her antiaircraft guns at the outset of the attack, her machine guns opening fire immediately. She took two bomb hits, but suffered only minor damage. Her Marine detachment suffered no casualties.
On board USS Tennessee (BB-43), Marine Captain Chevey S. White, who had just turned 28 the day before, was standing officer-of-the-deck watch as that battleship lay moored inboard of USS West Virginia (BB-48) in berth F-6. Since the commanding officer and the executive officer were both ashore, command devolved upon Lieutenant Commander James W. Adams, Jr., the ship's gunnery officer. Summoned topside at the sound of the general alarm and hearing "all hands to general quarters" over the ship's general announcing system, Adams sprinted to the bridge and spotted White en route. Over the din of battle, Adams shouted for the Marine to "get the ship in condition Zed [i.e.: establish water-tight integrity] as quickly as possible." Whit did so. By the time Adams reached his battle station on the bridge, White was already at his own battle station, directing the ship's antiaircraft guns. During the action (in which the ship took one bomb that exploded on the center gun of Turret II and another that penetrated the crown of Turret III, the latter breaking apart without exploding), White remained at his unprotected station, coolly and courageously directing the battleship's antiaircraft battery. Tennessee claimed four enemy planes shot down.
USS West Virginia , outboard of USS Tennessee, had been scheduled to sail for Puget Sound, Washington, due for overhaul, on 17 November, but had been retained in Hawaiian waters owing to the tense international situation. In her exposed moorings, she thus absorbed six torpedoes, while a seventh blew her rudder free. Prompt counter-flooding, however, prevented her from turning turtle as Oklahoma had done, and she sank, upright, alongside Tennessee.
On board USS California (BB-44), moored singly off the administration building at the naval air station, junior officer of the deck on board had been Second Lieutenant Clifford B. Drake. Relieved by Ensign Herbert C. Jones, USNR, Drake went down to the wardroom for breakfast (Kadota figs, followed by steak and eggs) where, around 0755 hours, he heard airplane engines and explosions as Japanese dive bombers attacked the air station. The general quarters alarm then summoned the crew to battle stations. Drake, forsaking his meal, hurried to the foretop.
By 0803 hours, the two ready machine guns forward of the bridge had opened fire, followed shortly thereafter by guns no. 2 and 4 of the antiaircraft battery. As the gunners depleted the ready-use ammunition, however, two torpedoes struck home in quick succession. California began to settle as massive flooding occurred. Meanwhile, fumes from the ruptured fuel tanks -- she had been fueled to 95 percent capacity the previous day -- drove out the men assigned to the party attempting to bring up ammunition for the guns by hand. A call for men to bring up additional gas masks proved fruitless, as the volunteers, who included Private Arthur E. Senior, could not reach the compartment in which they were stored.
California's losing power because of the torpedo damage soon relegated Lieutenant Drake, in her foretop, to the role of "... a reporter of what was going on ... a somewhat confused young lieutenant suddenly hurled into war." As California began listing after the torpedo hits, Drake began pondering his own ship's fate. Comparing his ship's list with that of Oklahoma's, he dismissed California's rolling over, thinking, "who ever heard of a battleship capsizing?" Oklahoma, however, did a few moments later.
Meanwhile, at about 0810 hours, in response to a call for a chain of volunteers to pass 5-inch/25 (12.7 centimeter) ammunition, Private Senior again stepped forward and soon clambered down to the C-L Division Compartment. There he saw Ensign Jones, Lieutenant Drake's relief earlier that morning, standing at the foot of the ladder on the third deck, directing the ammunition supply. For almost 20 minutes, Senior and his shipmates toiled under Jones' direction until a bomb penetrated the main deck at about 0830 hours, and exploded on the second deck, plunging the compartment into darkness. As acrid smoke filled the compartment, Senior reached for his gas mask, which he had lain on a shell box behind him, and put it on. Hearing someone say: "Mr. Jones has been hit," Senior flashed his flashlight over on the ensign's face and saw that "it was all bloody. His white coat also had blood all over it." Senior and another man then carried Jones as far as the M Division compartment, but the ensign would not let them carry him any further. "Leave me alone," he gasped insistently, "I'm done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off!" Soon thereafter, however, before he could get clear, Senior felt the shock of an explosion from down below and collapsed, unconscious.
Jones' gallantry -- which earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor -- impressed Private Howard M. Haynes, who had been confined before the attack, awaiting a bad conduct discharge. After the battle, a contrite Haynes -- "a mean character who had shown little or no respect for anything or anyone" before 7 December -- approached Lieutenant Drake and said that he [Haynes] was alive because of the actions that Ensign Jones had taken. "God," he said, "give me a chance to prove I'm worth it." His actions that morning in the crucible of war earned Haynes a recommendation for retention in the service. Most of USS California's Marines, like Haynes, survived the battle. Private First Class Earl. D. Wallen and Privates Roy E. Lee, Jr. and Shelby C. Shook, however, did not. Nor did the badly burned Private First Class John A. Blount, Jr., who succumbed to his wounds on 9 December.
USS Nevada's attempt to clear the harbor, meanwhile, inspired those who witnessed it. Her magnificent effort prompted a stepped-up effort by Japanese dive bomber pilots to sink here. One 250-kilogram (551.2-pound) bomb hit her boat deck just aft of a ventilator trunk and 12 feet (3.66
meters) to the starboard side of the centerline, about halfway between the stack and the end of the boat deck, setting off laid-out 5-inch
(12.7-centimeter) ready-use ammunition. Spraying fragments decimated the gun crews. The explosion wrecked the galley and blew open the starboard door of the compartment, venting into casemate no. 9 and starting a fire that swept through the casemate, wrecking the gun. Although he had been seriously wounded by the blast that had hurt both of his legs and stripped much of his uniform from his body, Corporal Joe R. Driskell disregarded his own condition and insisted that he man another gun. He refused medical treatment, assisting other wounded men instead, and then helped battle the flames. He did not quit until those fires were out.
Another 250-kilogram (551.2-pound) bomb hit USS Nevada's bridge, penetrating down into casemate no. 6 and starting a fire. The blast had also severed the water pipes providing circulating water to the water-cooled machine guns on the foremast -- guns in the charge of Gunnery Sergeant Charles E. Douglas. Intense flames enveloped the forward superstructure, endangering Douglas and his men, and prompting orders for them to abandon their station. They steadfastly remained at their posts, however, keeping the 50-calibre (12.7 millimeter) Brownings firing amidst the swirling black smoke until the end of the action.
Unlike the battleships the enemy had caught moored on Battleship Row, USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), the fleet flagship, lay on keel blocks, sharing Dry Dock No. 1 at the Navy Yard with the destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375) -- side-by-side ahead of her. Three of Pennsylvania's four propeller shafts had been removed and she was receiving all steam, power, and water from the yard. Although her being in drydock had excused her from taking part in antiaircraft drills, her crew swiftly manned her machine guns after the first bombs exploded among the Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats parked on the south end of Ford Island."Air defence stations" then sounded, followed by "general quarters." Men knocked the locks off ready-use ammunition stowage and Pennsylvania opened fire about 0802 hours.
The fleet flagship and the two destroyers nestled in the drydock ahead of her led a charmed life until dive bombers from the aircraft carriers Soryu and Hiryu targeted the drydock area between 0830 and 0915 hours. One bomb penetrated Pennsylvania's boat deck, just to the rear of 5-inch/25
(12.7-centimeter) gun no. 7, and detonated in casemate no. 9. Of Pennsylvania's Marine detachment, two men (Privates Patrick P. Tobin and George H. Wade, Jr.) died outright, 13 fell wounded, and six were listed as missing. Three of the wounded -- Corporal Morris E. Nations and Jesse C. Vincent, Jr., and Private First Class Floyd D. Stewart -- died later the same day.
As the onslaught descended upon the battleships and the air station, Marine detachments hurried to their battle stations on board other ships elsewhere at Pearl. In the Navy Yard lay the miscellaneous auxiliary USS Argonne (AG-31), the flagship of the Base Force, the heavy cruisers USS New Orleans
(CA-32) and USS San Francisco (CA-38), and the light cruisers USS Honolulu (CL-48), USS St. Louis (CL-49) and USS Helena (CL-50). To the northeast of Ford Island lay the light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL-43).
Although miscellaneous auxiliary (target/gunnery training ship) USS Utah
(AG-16) was torpedoed and sunk at her berth early in the attack, her 14 Marines, on temporary duty at the 14th Naval District Rifle Range, found useful employment combating the enemy. The Fleet Machine Gun School lay on Oahu's south coast, west of the Pearl Harbor entrance channel, at Fort Weaver. The men stationed there, including several Marines on temporary duty from the carrier USS Enterprise and the battleships USS California and USS Pennsylvania, sprang to action at the first sounds of war. Working with the men from the Rifle Range, all hands set up and mounted guns, and broke out and belted ammunition between 0755 and 0810 hours. All those present at the range were issued pistols or rifles from the facility's armory.
Soon after the raid began, Platoon Sergeant Harold G. Edwards set about securing the camp against any incursion the Japanese might attempt from the landward side, and also supervised the emplacement of machine guns along the beach. Lieutenant (j.g.) Roy R. Nelson, the officer in charge of the Rifle Range, remembered the many occasions when Captain Frank M. Reinecke, commanding officer of USS Utah's Marine detachment and the senior instructor at the Fleet Machine Gun School (and, as his Naval Academy classmates remembered, quite a conversationalist), had maintained that the school's weapons would be a great asset if anybody ever attacked Hawaii. By 0810 hours, Reinecke's gunners stood ready to prove the point and soon engaged the enemy -- most likely torpedo planes clearing Pearl Harbor or high-level bombers approaching from the south. Nearby Army units, perhaps alerted by the Marines' fire, opened up soon thereafter. Unfortunately, the eager gunners succeeded in downing one of two Douglas SBDs from USS Enterprise that were attempting to reach Hickam Field. An Army crash boat, fortunately, rescued the pilot and his wounded passenger soon thereafter.
On board USS Argonne, meanwhile, alongside 1010 Dock, her Marines manned her starboard 3-inch/23 (7.62-centimeter) battery and her machine guns. Commander Fred W. Connor, the ship's commanding officer, later credited Corporal Alfred Schlag with shooting down one Japanese plane as it headed for Battleship Row. When the attack began, the light cruiser USS Helena
(CL-50) lay moored alongside 1010 Dock, the venerable minelayer USS Oglala
(CM-3) outboard. A signalman, standing watch on the light cruiser's signal bridge at 0757 hours identified the planes over Ford Island as Japanese, and the ship went to general quarters. Before she could fire a shot in her own defence, however, one 800-kilogram (1,763.7-pound) torpedo barreled into her starboard side about a minute after the general alarm had begun summoning her men to their battle stations. The explosion vented up from the forward engine room through the hatch and passageways, catching many of the crew running to their stations, and started fires on the third deck. Platoon Sergeant Robert W. Teague, Privates First Class Paul F. Huebner, Jr. and George E. Johnson, and Private Lester A. Morris were all severely burned. Johnson later died.
To the southeast, the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) lay across the pier from her sister ship USS San Francisco (CA-38). The former went to general quarters soon after enemy planes had been sighted dive-bombing Ford Island around 0757 hours. At 0805 hours, as several low-flying torpedo planes roared by, bound for Battleship Row, Marine sentries on the fantail opened fire with rifles and 45-calibre (11.43-millimeter) pistols. USS New Orleans' men, meanwhile, so swiftly manned the 1.1-inch/75 quads (27.94-millimeter), and 50-calibre (12.7-millimeter) machine guns, under the direction of Captain William R. Collins, the commanding officer of the ship's Marine detachment, that the ship actually managed to shoot at torpedo planes passing her stern. San Francisco, however, under major overhaul with neither operative armament nor major calibre ammunition on board, was thus restricted to having her men fire small arms at whatever Japanese planes came within range. Some of her crew, though, hurried over to New Orleans, which was near-missed by one bomb, and helped man her 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) guns.
The light cruiser USS St. Louis (CL-49), outboard of USS Honolulu, went to general quarters at 0757 hours and opened fire with her 1.1-inch
(27.94-millimeter) quadruple mounted antiaircraft and 50-calibre
(12.7-millimeter) machine gun batteries, and after getting her 5-inch
(12.7-centimeter) mounts in commission by 0830 hours -- although without power in train -- she hauled in her lines at 0847 hours and got underway at 0831 hours. With all 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) guns in full commission by 0947 hours, she proceeded to sea, passing the channel entrance buoys abeam around 1000 hours. USS Honolulu, damaged by a near miss from a bomb, remained moored at her berth throughout the action.
The light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL-46), moored by herself in berth C-6 in Pearl Harbor, to the northeast of Ford Island, noted the attacking planes at 0755 hours and went to general quarters. Her machine gun battery opened fire at 0810 hours on the attacking planes as they came within range; her antiaircraft battery five minutes later. Ultimately, after two false starts (where she had gotten underway and left her berth only to see sortie signals cancelled each time) Phoenix cleared the harbor later that day and put to sea.
For at least one Marine, though, the day's adventure was not over when the Japanese planes departed. Search flights took off from Ford Island, pilots taking up utility aircraft with scratch crews, to look for the enemy carriers which had launched the raid. Mustered at the naval air station on Ford Island, USS Oklahoma's Sergeant Hailey, still clad in his oil-soaked underwear, volunteered to go up in a plane that was leaving on a search mission at around 1130 hours. He remained aloft in the plane, armed with a rifle, for some five hours. After the attacking planes had retired, the grim business of cleaning up and getting on with the war had to be undertaken. Muster had to be taken to determine who was missing, who was wounded, who lay dead. Men sought out their friends and shipmates. First Lieutenant Cornelius C. Smith, Jr., from the Marine Barracks at the Navy Yard, searched in vain among the maimed and dying at the Naval Hospital later that day, for his friend Harry Gaver from USS Oklahoma. Death respected no rank. The most senior Marine to die that day was Lieutenant Colonel Daniel R. Fox, the decorated World War I hero and the division Marine officer on the staff of the Commander, Battleship Division One, Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who, along with Lieutenant Colonel Fox, had been killed in USS Arizona. The tragedy of Pearl Harbor struck some families with more force than others: numbered among Arizona's lost were Private Gordon E. Shive, of the battleship's Marine detachment, and his brother, Radioman Third Class Malcolm H. Shive, a member of the ship's company.
Over the next few days, Marines from the sunken ships received reassignment to other vessels -- USS Nevada's Marines deployed ashore to set up defensive positions in the fields adjacent to the grounded and listing battleship -- and the dead, those who could be found, were interred with appropriate ceremony. Eventually, the deeds of Marines in the battleship detachments were recognized by appropriate commendations and advancements in ratings. Chief among them, Gunnery Sergeant Douglas, Sergeant Hailey, and Corporals Driskell and Darling were each awarded the Navy Cross. For his "meritorious conduct at the peril of his own life," Major Shapley was commended and awarded the Silver Star. Lieutenant Simensen was awarded a posthumous Bronze Star, while USS Tennessee's commanding officer commended Captain White for the way in which he had directed that battleship's antiaircraft guns that morning.
Titanic salvage efforts raised some of the sunken battleships -- USS California, USS West Virginia, and USS Nevada -- and they, like the surviving Marines, went on to play a part in the ultimate defeat of the enemy who had begun the war with such swift and terrible suddenness.
They're Kicking the Hell Out of Pearl Harbor
Although the Japanese accorded the battleships and air facilities priority as targets for destruction on the morning of 7 December 1941, it was natural that the onslaught touched the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard as well.
Colonel William E. Farthing, Army Air Forces, commanding officer of Hickam Field, thought that he was witnessing some very realistic maneuvers shortly before 0800 hours that morning. From his vantage point, virtually next door to the Navy Yard, Farthing watched what proved to be six Japanese dive bombers swooping down toward Ford Island. He thought that Marine Chance Vought SB2U Vindicators or Douglas SBD Dauntlesses were out for an early morning practice hop. "I wonder what the Marines are doing to the Navy so early Sunday?"
Over at the Marine Barracks, the officer of the guard, Second Lieutenant Arnold D. Swartz, after having inspected his sentries, had retired to me officer-of-the-day's room to await breakfast. Stepping out onto the lanai
(patio) at about 0755 hours to talk to the field music about morning colors, he noticed several planes diving in the direction of the naval air station. He thought initially that it seemed a bit early for practice bombing, but then saw a flash and heard the resulting explosion that immediately dispelled any illusions he might have held that what he was seeing was merely an exercise. Seeing a plane with "red balls" on the wings roar by at low level convinced Swartz that Japanese planes were attacking.
Over in the squadroom of Barracks B. First Lieutenant Harry F. Noyes, Jr., the range officer for Battery E, 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) Antiaircraft Group, 3d defence Battalion, heard the sound of a loud explosion coming from the direction of the harbor at about 0750 hours. First assuming that blasting crews were busy -- there had been a lot of construction recently
-- Noyes cocked his ears. The new sounds seemed a bit different, "more higher-pitched, and louder." At that, he sprang from his bed, ran across the room, and peered northward just in time to see a dirty column of water rising from the harbor from another explosion and a Japanese plane pulling out of its dive. The plane, bearing red hinomaru (rising sun insignia) under its wings, left no doubt as to its identity.
The explosions likewise awakened Lieutenant Colonel William J. Whaling and Major James "Jerry" Monaghan who, while Colonel Gilder D. Jackson, commanding officer of the Marine Barracks, was at sea in the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) en route to Johnston Island for tests of Higgins landing boats, shared his quarters at Pearl Harbor. Shortly before 0800 hours, Whaling rolled over and asked: "Jerry, don't you think the Admiral is a little bit inconsiderate of guests?" Monaghan, then also awake,
replied: "I'll go down and see about it." Whaling, meanwhile, lingered in bed until more blasts rattled the quarters' windows. Thinking that he had not seen any 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) guns emplaced close to the building, and that something was wrong, he got up and walked over to the window that faced the harbor. Looking out, he saw smoke, and, turning, remarked: "This thing is so real that I believe that's an oil tank burning right in front there." Both men then dressed and hurried across the parade ground, where they encountered Lieutenant Colonel Elmer E. Hall, commanding officer of the 2d Engineer Battalion. "Elmer," Whaling said amiably, "this is a might fine show you are putting on. I have never seen anything quite like it."
Meanwhile, Swartz ordered the field music to sound "Call to Arms." Then, running into the officers' section of the mess hall, Swartz informed the officer-of-the-day, First Lieutenant Cornelius C. Smith, Jr., who had been enjoying a cup of coffee with Marine Gunner Floyd McCorkle when sharp blasts had rocked the building, that the Japanese were attacking. Like Swartz, they ran out onto the lanai. Standing there, speechless, they watched the first enemy planes diving on Ford Island.
Marines began to stumble, eyes wide in disbelief, from the barracks. Some were lurching, on the run, into pants and shirts; a few wore only towels. Swartz then ordered one of the platoon sergeants to roust out the men and get them under cover of the trees outside. Smith, too, then ran outside to he parade ground. As he looked at the rising smoke and the Japanese planes, he doubted those who had derided the "Japs" as "cross-eyed, second-rate pilots who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door." It was enough to turn his stomach. "They're kicking the hell out of Pearl Harbor," he thought. Meanwhile, unable to reach Colonel Harry B. Pickett, the 14th Naval District Marine Officer, as well as Colonel Jackson, and Captain Samuel R. Shaw, commanding officer of Company A, by telephone, Swartz sent runners to the officers' respective quarters. He then ordered a noncommissioned officer from the quartermaster department to dispense arms and ammunition.
While Swartz organized the men beneath the trees outside the barracks, Lieutenant Noyes dressed and then drove across the parade ground to Building 277, arriving about 0805 hours. At the same time, like Swartz, First Lieutenant James S. O'Halloran, the 3d defence Battalion's duty officer and commanding officer of Battery F, 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) Antiaircraft Group, wanted to get in touch with his senior officers. After having had "assembly" sounded and signalling his men to take cover, O'Halloran ordered Marine Gunner Frederick M. Steinhauser, the assistant battalion communications officers, to telephone all of the officers who resided outside the reservation and inform them of the attack.
In Honolulu, mustachioed Major Harold C. Roberts, acting commanding officer of the 3d defence Battalion since Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Pepper had accompanied Colonel Jackson to sea in USS Indianapolis, after taking Steinhauser's call with word of the bombing of Pearl, jumped into his car along with his neighbor, Major Kenneth W. Benner, commanding officer of the 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) Antiaircraft Group and the Headquarters and Service Battery of the 3d defence Battalion. As Roberts' car crept through the heavy traffic toward Pearl, the two officers could see Japanese aircraft flying along the coast. When they reached the Water Street Fish Market, a large crowd of what seemed to be "Japanese residents ... cheering the Japanese planes, waving to them, and trying to obstruct traffic to Pearl Harbor by pushing parked cars into the street" blocked their way.
Meanwhile, as his acting battalion commander was battling his way through Honolulu's congested streets, O'Halloran was organizing his Marines as they poured out of the barracks into groups to break out small arms and machine guns from the various battalion storerooms. After Harry Noyes drove up, O'Halloran told him to do what he could to get the 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) guns, and fire control equipment, if available, broken out and set up, and then instructed other Marines to "get tractors and start hauling guns to the parade ground." Another detail of men hurried off to recover an antiaircraft director that lay crated and ready for shipment to Midway.
Marines continued to stream out onto the grounds, having been ordered out of the barracks with their rifles and cartridge belts; they doubled the sentry posts and received instructions to stand ready and armed, to deploy in an emergency. Noyes saw some Marines who had not been assigned any tasks commencing fire on enemy planes "which were considerably out of range." At the main gate of the Navy Yard, the Marines fired at whatever planes came close enough -- sailors from the high-speed minelayer USS Sicard (DM-21), en route to their ship, later attested to seeing one Japanese plane shot down by the guards' rifle fire.
Tai Sing Loo, who was to have photographed those guards at the new gate, had left Honolulu in a hurry when he heard the sound of explosions and gunfire, and saw the rising columns of smoke. He arrived at the naval reservation without his Graflex and soon marveled at the cool bravery of the "young, fighting Marines" who stood their ground, under fire, blazing away at enemy planes with rifles while keeping traffic moving. Finally, the more senior officers quartered outside the reservation began showing up. When Colonel Pickett arrived, Lieutenant Swartz returned to he officer-of-the-day's room and found that Captain Shaw had reached there also. Securing from his position as officer of the guard, Swartz returned to his 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) gun battery being set up near Building 277. Ordering Marines out of the building, he managed to obtain a steel helmet and a pistol each for himself and Lieutenant O'Halloran. Captain Samuel G. Taxis, commanding officer of the 3d defence Battalion's 5-inch
(12.7-centimeter) Artillery Group, meanwhile, witnessed "terrific confusion" ensuing from his men's efforts to obtain "ammunition, steel helmets, and other items of equipment."
Meanwhile, the comparatively few Marines of Lieutenant Colonel Bert A. Bone's 1st defence Battalion -- most of which garrisoned Wake, Johnston, and Palmyra Islands -- made their presence felt. Urged on by Lieutenant Noyes, one detail of men immediately reported to the battalion gun shed and storerooms, and issued rifles and ammunition to all comers, while another detachment worked feverishly assembling machine guns. Navy Yard workmen -- enginemen Lokana Kipihe and Oliver Bright, fireman Gerard Williams, and rigger Ernest W. Birch -- appeared, looking for some way to help the Marines, who soon put them to work distributing ammunition to the machine gun crews. Soon, the Marines at the barracks added the staccato hammering of automatic weapons fire to the general din around them. Meanwhile, other Marines from the 1st defence Battalion broke out firefighting equipment, as shrapnel from exploding antiaircraft shells began to strike the roof of the barracks and adjacent buildings.
At about 0820 hours, Majors Roberts and Benner reached the Marine Barracks just in time to observe the beginning of the Japanese second wave attacks against Pearl Harbor. Robert found that Lieutenant O'Halloran had gotten the 3d Battalion ready for battle, with seven 50-calibre (12.7-millimeter) and six 30-calibre (7.62-millimeter) machine guns set up and with ammunition belted. Under Captain Harry O. Smith, Jr., commanding officer of Battery H. Machine Gun Group, 3d defence Battalion, the 3d's Marine gunners had already claimed one Japanese plane shot down. Lieutenant Noyes was, meanwhile, in the process of deploying seven 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) guns
-- three on the west end of the parade ground and four on the east.
Sergeant Major Leland H. Alexander, of the Headquarters and Service Battery of the 3d defence Battalion, suggested to Lieutenant O'Halloran that an armed convoy be organized to secure ammunition for the guns, as none was available in the Navy Yard proper. Roberts gave Alexander permission to put together the requisite trucks, weapons, and men, Lieutenant Colonel Bone had the same idea, and, accordingly dispatched a truck at 0830 hours to the nearest ammunition dump near Fort Kamehameha. Bone ordered another group of men from the 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) battery to me Naval Ammunition Depot at Lualualei just in case. he hoped that at least one truck would get through the maelstrom of traffic. Marines from the 2d Engineer Battalion made ammunition runs as well as provided men and motorcycles for messengers.
Meanwhile, Roberts directed Major Benner to have the 3d Battalion's guns operational before the ammunition trucks returned, and to set the fuzes for 1,000-yards (914.4-meters), since the guns lacked the necessary height-finding equipment. The makeshift emplacements, however, presented less than ideal firing positions since the barracks and nearby yard buildings restricted the field of fire, and many of the low-flying planes appeared on the horizon only for an instant. Necessity often being the mother of invention, Roberts devised an impromptu fire control system, stationing a warning section of eight men, equipped with field glasses and led by Lieutenant Swartz, in the center of the parade ground. The spotters were to pass the word to a group of field musics who, using their instruments, were to sound appropriate warnings: one blast meant planes approaching from the north; two blasts, from the east, and so on.
Taking precautions against fires in the temporary wooden barracks, Roberts ordered hoses run out and extinguishers placed in front of them, along with shovels, axes, and buckets of sand (the latter to deal with incendiary bombs); hose reel and chemical carts placed near the center hydrant near the mess hall; and all possible containers filled with water for both fighting fires and drinking. In addition, he ordered cooks and messmen to prepare coffee and fill every other container on hand with water, and organized riflemen in groups of about 16 to sit on the ground with an officer or noncommissioned officer in charge to direct their fire. He also called for runners from all groups in the battalion and established his command post at the parade ground's south corner, and ordered the almost 150 civilians who had showed up looking for ways to help out to report to the machine gun storeroom and fill ammunition belts and clean weapons. Among other actions, he also instructed the battalion sergeant major to be ready to safeguard important papers from the headquarters barracks.
Prior to Roberts' arrival, Lieutenant (j.g.) William R. Franklin (Dental Corps), USN, the dental officer for the 3d defence Battalion's Headquarters and Service Battery, and the only medical officer present, had organized first aid and stretcher parties in the barracks. As the other doctors arrived, Roberts directed them to set up dressing stations at each battalion headquarters and one at sick bay. Elsewhere, Marines vacated one 100-man temporary barracks, the noncommissioned officer's club and the post exchange, to ready them for casualties. Parties of Marines also reported to the waterfront area to assist in collecting and transporting casualties from the ships in the harbor to the Naval Hospital.
By the time the Marines had gotten their new fire precautions in place, the Japanese second wave attack was in full swing. Although their pilots selected targets exclusively from among the Pacific Fleet warships, the Marines at the barracks in the Navy Yard still were able to take the Japanese planes, most of which seemed to be coming in from the west and southwest, under fire. While Marines were busily setting up the 3-inch
(7.62-centimeter) guns, several civilian yard workmen grabbed up rifles and "brought their fire to bear upon the enemy," allowing Swartz's men to continue their work.
The Japanese eventually put Major Roberts' ingenious fire control methods
-- the field musics -- to the test. After hearing four hearty blasts from the bandsmen, the 50-calibre (12.7-millimeter) machine guns began hammering out cones of tracer that caught two low-flying dive bombers as they pulled out of their runs over Pearl Harbor, prompting Roberts' fear that the ships would fire at them, too, and hit the barracks. One "Val" dive bomber slanted earthward near what appeared to be either the west end of the lower tank farm or the south end of the Naval Hospital reservation, while the other, emitting great quantities of smoke, crashed west-southwest of the parade ground.
Although the Marines' success against their tormentors must have seemed sweet indeed, a skeptical Captain Taxis thought it more likely that the crews of the two "Vals" bagged by the machine gunners had just run out of luck. Most of the firing, in his opinion, had been quite ineffectual, mostly "directed at enemy planes far beyond range of the weapons and merely fired into the air at no target at all." Gunners on board the fleet's warships were faring little better!
Almost simultaneously with the dive-bombing attacks, horizontal bombing attacks began. Major Roberts noted that the 18 bombers "flew in two Vees of nine planes each in column of Vees and [that] they kept a good formation." At least some of those planes appeared to have bombed the battleship USS Pennsylvania and the destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes in Dry Dock No. 1. In the confusion, however Roberts probably saw two divisions of "Kate" horizontal bombers from HIJMS Zuikaku preparing for their attack runs on Hickam Field. A single division of such planes from HIJMS Shokaku, meanwhile, attacked the Navy Yard and the Naval Air Station on Ford Island.
Well removed from the barracks, Marines assigned to the Navy Yard's Fire Department rendered invaluable assistance in leading critical fire-fighting efforts. Heading the department, Sergeant Harold F. Abbott supervised the distribution of the various units, and coordinated the flood of volunteers who stepped forward to help.
One of Abbott's men, Private First Class Marion M. Milbrandt, with his 1,000-U.S. gallon (832-Imperial gallon or 3,785-liter) pumper, summoned to the Naval Hospital grounds, found that one of HIJMS Kaga's "Kate"s -- struck by machine gun fire from the ships moored in the Repair Basin - had crashed near there. The resulting fire, fed by the crashed plane's gasoline, threatened the facility, but Milbrandt and his crew controlled the blaze.
Other Marine firefighters were hard at work alongside Dry Dock No. 1. The battleship USS Pennsylvania had not been the only ship not fully ready for war, since she lay immobile at one end of the drydock. The destroyer USS Downes lay in the dock, undergoing various items of work, while destroyer USS Cassin had been having ordnance alterations at the Yard and thus had none of her 5-inch/38s (12.7-centimeter) ready for firing. Both destroyers soon came in for some unwanted attention.
As bombs turned the two destroyers into cauldrons of flames and their crews abandoned ship, two sailors from USS Downes, meanwhile, sprinted over to the Marine Barracks: Gunner's Mate First Class Michael G. Odietus and Gunner's Mate Second Class Curtis P. Schulze. After the order to abandon ship had been given, both had, on their own initiative, gone to the Marine Barracks to assist in the distribution of arms and ammunition. They soon returned, however, each gunner's mate with a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in hand, to do his part in fighting back.
Utilizing three of the department's pumpers, meanwhile, the first firefighters from the yard, who included Corporal John Gimson, Privates First Class William M. Brashear, William A. Hopper, Peter Kerdikes, Frank W. Feret, Marvin D. Dallman, and Corporal Milbrandt, among them soon arrived and began to play water on the burning ships. At about 0915 hours, four torpedo warheads on board the destroyer USS Downes cooked off and exploded, the concussion tearing the hoses from the hands of the men fighting the blaze and sending fragments everywhere, temporarily forcing all hands to retreat to the nearby road and sprawl there. Knocked flat several times by the explosions, the Marines and other firefighters, which included men from USS Cassin and USS Downes, and civilian yard workmen, remained on the job.
Explosions continued to wrack the two destroyers, while subsequent partial flooding of the dock caused Cassin to pivot on her forefoot and heel over onto her sister ship. Working under the direction of Lieutenant William R. Spear, a 57-year-old retired naval officer called to the colors, the firemen were understandably concerned that the oil fires burning in proximity to the two destroyers might drift aft in the partially flooded dry dock and breach the caisson, unleashing a wall of water that would carry the battleship USS Pennsylvania (three of whose four propeller shafts had been pulled for overhaul) down upon the burning destroyers. Preparing for that eventuality, Private First Class Don O. Femmer, in charge of the 750-U.S. gallon (625-Imperial gallon or 2,839-liter) pumper, stood ready should the conflagration spread to the northeast through the dock.
Fortunately, circumstances never required Femmer and his men to defend the caisson from fire, but the young private had more than his share of troubles, when his pumper broke down at what could have been a critical moment. Undaunted, Femmer made temporary repairs and stood his ground at the caisson throughout the raid.
At the opposite end of the dry dock, meanwhile, Private First Class Omar E. Hill fared little better with his 500-U.S. gallon (416-Imperial gallon or
1,893-liter) pumper. As if the fire fighting labors were not arduous enough, a ruptured circulating water line threatened to shut down his fire engine. Holding a rag on the broken line while his comrades raced away to obtain spare parts, Hill kept his pumper in the battle.
Meanwhile, firefighters on the west side of the dock succeeded in passing three hoses to men on USS Pennsylvania's forecastle, where they directed blasts of water ahead of the ship and down the starboard side to prevent the burning oil, which resembled a "seething cauldron," from drifting aft. A second 500-U.S. gallon (416-Imperial gallon or 1,893-liter) engine crew, led by Private First Class Dallman, battled the fires at the southwest end of the drydock, despite the suffocating oily black smoke billowing forth from the destroyers Cassin and Downes. Eventually, by 1035 hours, the Marines and other volunteers -- who included the indomitable Tai Sing Loo
-- had succeeded in quelling the fires on board USS Cassin; those on board USS Downes were put out early that afternoon.
More work, however, lay in store for Corporal Milbrandt and his crew. Between 0755 and 0900 hours, three "Val" dive bombers had attacked the destroyer USS Shaw (DD-373), which shared YFD-2 with the small harbor tug Sotoyomo (YT-9). All three scored hits. Fires ultimately reached Shaw's forward magazines and triggered an explosion that sent tendrils of smoke into the sky and severed the ship's bow. Several other volunteer units were already battling the blaze with hose carts and two 350-U.S. gallon (291-Imperial gallon or 1,325-liter) pumpers sent in from Honolulu. Milbrandt, aided as well by the Pan American Airways fire boat normally stationed at Pearl City, ultimately succeeded in extinguishing the stricken destroyer's fires. In the meantime, after having pounded the military installations on Oahu for nearly two hours, between 0940 and 1000 hours the Japanese planes made their way westward to return to the carrier decks from whence they had arisen. With the respite offered by the enemy's departure (no one knew for sure whether or not they would be back), the Marines at last found time to take stock of their situation. Fortunately, the Marine Barracks lay some distance away from what had interested the Japanese the
most: the ships in the harbor proper. Although some "shell fragments literally rained at times" the material loss sustained by the barracks was slight. Moreover, it had been American gunfire from the ships in the harbor, rather than bombs from Japanese planes overhead, that had inflicted the damage; at one point that morning a 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) antiaircraft shell crashed through the roof of a storehouse -- the only damage sustained by the barracks during the entire attack.
Considering the carnage at the airfields on Oahu, and especially, among the units of the Pacific Fleet, only four men of the 3d defence Battalion had been wounded: Sergeant Samuel H. Cobb, Jr., of the 3d defence Battalion's 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) Antiaircraft Group, suffered head injuries serious enough to warrant his being transferred to the Naval Hospital for treatment, while Private First Class Jules B. Maioran and Private William J. Whitcomb of the Machine Gun Group and Sergeant Leo Hendricks II, of the Headquarters and Service Battery, suffered less serious injuries. In addition, two men sent with the trucks to find ammunition for the 3-inch
(7.62-centimeter) batteries suffered injuries when they fell off the vehicles.
In their subsequent reports, the defence battalion and barracks officers declined to single out individuals, noting no outstanding individual behavior during the raid - only the steady discharge of duty expected of Marines. To be sure, great confusion existed, especially at first, but the command quickly settled down to work and "showed no more than the normal excitement and no trace of panic or even uneasiness." If anything, the Marines tended to place themselves at risk unnecessarily, as they went about their business coolly and, in many cases, "in utter disregard of their own safety." Major Roberts recommended that the entire 3d defence Battalion be commended for "their initiative, coolness under fire, and [the] alacrity with which they emplaced their guns."
Commendations, however, were not the order of the day on 7 December. Although the Japanese had left, the Marines expected them to return and finish the job they had begun (many Japanese pilots, including Fuchida, wanted to do just that). If another attack was to come, there was much to do to prepare for it. As the skies cleared of enemy planes, the marines at the barracks secured their establishment and took steps to complete the work already begun on the defenses. At 1030 hours, the 3d defence Battalion's corporal of the guard moved to the barracks and set the battalion's radio to the Army Information Service frequency, thus enabling them to pass "flash" messages to all groups. The Marines also distributed gas masks to all hands.
The morning and afternoon passed quickly, the men losing track of time. The initial confusion experienced during the opening moments of the raid had by that point given way to at least some semblance of order, as officers and noncoms arrived from leave and began to sort out their commands. At 1105 hours, the 3d defence Battalion's Battery G deployed to makeshift defence positions as an infantry reserve in some ditches dug for building foundations. All of the messmen, many of whom had taken an active hand in the defence of the barracks against the Japanese attack, returned to the three general mess halls and opened up an around-the-clock service to all comers, including "about 6,000 meals ... to the civilian workmen of the navy yard," a service discontinued only "after the food supply at the regular established eating places could be replenished."
By 1100 hours, at least some of the 3-inch (7.62-centimeter) batteries were emplaced and ready to answer any future Japanese raids. At the north end of the parade ground, the 3d defence Battalion's Battery D stood ready for action at 1135 hours while another battery, consisting of three guns and an antiaircraft director (the one originally earmarked for Midway) lay at the south end. At 1220 hours, Major Roberts organized his battalion's strength into six task groups. Task group no. 1 was to double the Navy Yard guard force, no. 2 was to provide antiaircraft defence, and no. 3 was to provide machine gun defence. no. 4 was to provide infantry reserve and firefighting crews, no. 5 was to coordinate transportation, and no. 6 was to provide ammunition and equipment, as well as messing and billeting support.
By 1300 hours, meanwhile, all of the fires in Dry Dock No. 1 had been extinguished, permitting the Marine and civilian firefighters to secure their hard-worked equipment. Although the two battered destroyers, USS Cassin and USS Downes, appeared to be total losses, those who had battled the blaze could take great satisfaction in knowing that they had not only spared the battleship USS Pennsylvania from serious fire damage but had also played a major role in saving the drydock. As Tai Sing Loo recounted later in his own brand of English: "The Marines of the Fire Dep[artmen]t of the Navy Yard are the Heroes of the Day of Dec. 7, 1941 that save the Cassin and Downes and USS Pennsylvania in Dry Dock No. 1."
Later that afternoon, Battery D's four officers and 68 enlisted men, with four 30-calibre (7.62-millimeter) machine guns sent along with them for good measure, moved from the barracks over to Hickam Field to provide the Army Air Forces' installation some measure of antiaircraft protection. Hickam Field also benefitted from the provision of the 2d Engineer Battalion's service and equipment. After the attack, the battalion's dump truck and two bulldozers lumbered over to he stricken air base to assist in clearing what remained of the bombers that had been parked wingtip to wingtip, and filling bomb craters.
Around 1530 hours, a Marine patrol approached Tai Sing Loo, a familiar figure about the Navy Yard, and asked him to do them a favor. They had had no lunch; some had had no breakfast because of the events of the day. Going to the garage, Loo rode his bright red "putput" over to the 3d defence Battalion mess hall and related to his old friend Technical Sergeant Joseph A. Newland the tale of the hungry Marines. Newland and his messmen prepared ham and chicken sandwiches and Loo made the rounds of all the posts he could reach.
In the afternoon and early evening hours of 7 December, the men received reports that their drinking water was poisoned, and that various points on Oahu were being bombed and/or invaded. In the absence of any real news, such alarming reports - especially when added to the already nervous state of the defenders -- only fueled the fear and paranoia prevalent among all ranks and rates. In addition, most of the men were exhausted after their exertions of the morning and afternoon. Dog-tired, many would remain on duty for 36-hours without relief. Drawn, unshaven faces and puffy eyes were common. Tense, expectant and anxious Marines and sailors at Pearl spent a fitful night on the 7th.
It is little wonder that mistakes would be made that would have tragic consequences, especially in the stygian darkness of that first blacked-out Hawaiian night following the raid. Still some hours away from Oahu, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and her air group had been flying searches and patrols throughout the day, in a so-far fruitless effort to locate the Japanese carrier force. South of Oahu, one of her pilots spotted what he thought was a Japanese ship and Enterprise launched a 31-plane strike at 1652 hours. Nagumo's fleet, however, was homeward bound. While Enterprise recovered the torpedo planes and dive bombers after their fruitless search, she directed the fighters to land at NAS Pearl Harbor on Ford Island.
Machine guns on board the battleship USS Pennsylvania opened fire on the flight as it came for a landing, through, and soon the entire harbor exploded into a fury of gunfire as cones of tracers converged on the incoming "Wildcats." Three of the F4Fs slanted earthward almost immediately; a fourth crashed a short time later. Two managed to land at Ford Island. The 3d defence Battalion's journalist later recorded that "six planes with running lights under 4500-feet (1,372-meters) altitude tried Ford Island landing and were machine gunned." It was a tragic footnote to what had been a terrible day indeed.
The Marines at Pearl Harbor had been surprised by the attack that descended upon them, but they rose to the occasion and fought back in the "best traditions of the naval service." While the enemy had attacked with tenacity and daring, no less so was the response from the Marines on board the battleships and cruisers, at MCAS Ewa, and at the Marine Barracks. One can only think that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's worst fears of America's "terrible resolve" and that he had awakened a sleeping giant would have been confirmed if he could have peered into the faces, so deeply etched with grim determination, of the Marines who had survived the events of that December day in 1941.
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