Home > Uncategorized > Day of Infamy

Day of Infamy

Source: Walter Lord, Day of Infamy (New York: Bantam Books, 1970).

[page 11]

[…] there was Southeast Loch, a narrow arm of water that led like a bowling alley straight to the battleship moorings in the center of Pearl Harbor.

[page 50]

Dominating the whole scene — and squarely in the middle of the harbor — was Ford Island […] the carriers themselves moored along the northwest side of the island, while the battleships used the southeast side.

This Sunday, of course, the carriers were all at sea, and the moorings opposite Pearl City offered little in

[page 51]

the way of excitement — only the old cruisers Detroit and Raleigh … the ex-battleship Utah, now demoted to target ship … the seaplane tender Tangier.  But on the far side of the island a thrilling line of masts and funnels sprouted from “Battleship Row” — Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, and California were all there.


The large and the small, the mighty and the meek, they all added up to 96 warships in Pearl Harbor this Sunday morning.

Assembled together, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was a big family–yet it was a small family too.  Most of the men knew everybody else in their line of work, regardless of ship […]

[page 69]

The Oklahoma’s call to arms needed no extra punch.  First came an air raid alert; then general quarters a minute later.  This time the voice on the PA system added a few well-chosen words, which one crew member recalls as follows: “Real planes, real bombs; this is no drill!”  Other witnesses have a less delicate version of the last part.  The language alone, they say, convinced them that this was it.

[page 71]

Down the corridors … up the ladders … through the hatches the men ran, climbed, milled, and shoved toward their battle stations.  And it was high time.  The alarm was no sooner given when the Oklahoma took the first of five torpedoes … the West Virginia the first of six.  These were the golden targets — directly across from Southeast Loch.  Next the Arizona took two, even though a little to the north and partly blocked by the Vestal.  Then the California got two, even though far to the south and a relatively poor target.  Only the inboard battleships seemed safe — Maryland alongside Oklahoma and Tennessee beside West Virginia.


[page 72]

Worst of all was the Oklahoma.  The second torpedo put out her lights; the next three ripped open what was left of her port side.  The sea swirled in, driving Seaman George MURPHY from his post in the print shop on third deck as soon as he got there.  His group retreated midships, slamming a watertight door behind them.  The list grew steeper, and within seconds the water was squirting around the seams, filling that compartment too.  As the ship heeled further, Chief Yeoman George SMITH shifted over to a starboard ladder to reach his battle station.  Everybody else had the same idea.  In the flicker of a few emergency lamps men pushed and shoved, trying to climb over and around each other on the few usable ladders.  It was a dark, sweat-smeared nightmare.

[page 91]

There was no time for counterflooding on the Oklahoma, lying ahead of the West Virginia and outboard of the Maryland.  Lying directly across from Southeast Loch, she got three torpedoes right away, then another two as she heeled to port.

Curiously, many of the men weren’t even aware of the torpedoes.  Seaman George MURPHY only heard the loud-speaker say something about “air attack” and assumed the explosions were bombs.  Along with hundreds of other men who had no air defense stations, he now trooped down to the third deck, where he would be protected by the armor plate that covered the deck above.  Seaman Stephen YOUNG never thought of torpedoes either, and he was even relieved when the water surged into the port side of No. 4 turret powder handling room.  He assumed that someone was finally counterflooding on that side to offset bomb damage to starboard.

The water rose … the emergency lights went out … the list increased.  Now everything was breaking loose.  Big 1000-pound shells rumbled across the handling rooms, sweeping men before them.  Eight-foot reels of steel towing cable rolled across the second deck, blocking the ladders topside.  The door of the drug room swung open, and Seaman MURPHY watched hundreds of bottles cascade over a couple of seaman hurrying down a passageway.  The boys slipped and rolled through the broken glass, jumped up, and ran on.

On the few remaining ladders, men battled grimly to get to the main deck.  It was a regular log jam on the ladder to S Division compartment, just a few steps from open air.  Every time something exploded outside, men would surge down the ladder, meeting head-on another crowd that surged up.  Soon it was impossible to move in either direction.  Seaman MURPHY gave up

[page 92]

even trying.  He stood off to the side — one foot on deck, the other on the corridor wall, the only way he could now keep his footing.

Yeoman L.L. CURRY had a better way out.  He and some mates were still in the machine shop on third deck amidships when the list reached 60 degrees.  Someone spied an exhaust ventilator leading all the way to the deck, and one by one the men crawled up.  As they reached fresh air, an officer ran over and tried to shoo them back inside, where they would be safe from bomb splinters.  That was the big danger, he explained: a battleship couldn’t turn over.


[page 93]

Around the harbor nobody noticed the California’s troubles — all eyes were glued on the Oklahoma.  From his bungalow on Ford Island, Chief Albert MOLTER watched her gradually roll over on her side, “slowly and stately … as if she were tired and wanted to rest.”  She kept rolling until her mast and superstructure jammed in the mud, leaving her bottom-up — a huge dead whale lying in the water.  Only eight minutes had passed since the first torpedo hit.

On the Maryland Electrician’s Mate Harold NORTH recalled how everyone had cursed on Friday when the Oklahoma tied up alongside, shutting off what air there was at night.

Inside the Oklahoma men were giving it one more try.  Storekeeper Terry ARMSTRONG found himself alone in a small compartment on the second deck.  As it slowly filled with water, he dived down, groped for the porthole, squirmed through to safety.  Seaman Malcolm McCLEARY escaped through a washroom porthole the same way.  Nearby, Lieutenant (j.g.) Aloysius SCHMITT, the Catholic chaplain, started out too.  But a breviary in his hip pocket caught on the coaming.  As he backed into the compartment again to take it out, several men started forward.  Chaplain SCHMITT had no more time to spend on himself.  He pushed three, possibly four, of the others through before the water closed over the compartment.

Some men weren’t even close to life as they knew it, but were still alive nevertheless.  They found themselves gasping, swimming, trying to orient themselves to an upside-down world in the air pockets that formed as the ship rolled over.  Seventeen-year-old Seaman William BEAL fought back the water that poured into the steering engine room.  Seaman George MURPHY splashed about the operating room of the ship’s dispensary

[page 94]

wondering what part of the ship had a tile ceiling … never dreaming he was looking up at the floor.

Topside, the men had it easier.  As the ship slowly turned turtle, most of the men simply climbed over the starboard side and walked with the roll, finally ending up on the bottom.  When and how they got off was pretty much a matter of personal choice.  Some started swinging hand over hand along the lines that tied the ship to the Maryland, but as she rolled, these snapped, and the men were pitched into the water between the two ships.  Seaman Tom ARMSTRONG dived off on this side — his watch stopped at 8:10.  Tom’s brother Pat jumped off from the outboard side.  Their third brother Terry was already in the water after squeezing through the porthole on the second deck.  Marine Gunnery Sergeant Leo WEARS slid down a line and almost drowned when someone used him as a stepladder to climb into a launch.  His friend Sergeant Norman CURRIER coolly walked along the side of the ship to the bow, hailed a passing boat, and stepped into it without getting a foot wet.  Ensign Bill INGRAM climbed onto the high side just as the yardarm touched the water.  He stripped to his shorts and slid down the bottom of the ship.

[page 133]

Next up the line, the Oklahoma lay bottom-up, but her men were by no means out of the fight.  […]

Most of her survivors settled for the Maryland[…] Marine Sergeant Leo WEARS found a shorthanded gun on the main deck, appointed himself a member of its crew.

[page 202]

[…] Perhaps the best news of all circulated among men from the Oklahoma: survivors of the attack would get 30 days’ leave.

[page 219]

How many ships were in Pearl Harbor? Best answer seems to be 96.  Most maps show 90 ships, but omit the Onario, Condor, Crossbill, Cockatoo, Pyro, and the old Baltimore.

What was U.S. air strength? Some 394 planes, according to Congressional investigation, but many were obsolete or being repaired.  Available aircraft: Army — 93 fighters, 35 bombers, 11 observation; Navy — 15 fighters, 61 patrol planes, 36 scout planes, 45 miscellaneous.

How big was the Japanese Striking Force? There were 31 ships–six carriers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, nine destroyers, three submarines, eight tankers.  Air strength — 432 planes used as follows: 39 for combat air patrol, 40 for reserve, 353 for the raid.

What was the strength of the Japanese Advance Expeditionary Force? Probably 28 submarines — 11 with small planes, five with the famous midget subs.  (The Congressional investigation set the figure at 20, but this is too low, according to the Japanese.)

When did various events occur? Most reliable sources agree the raid began about 7:55 A.M., ended shortly before 10 o’clock.  At Pearl and Hickam few noticed the five neat phases spelled out in the CINCPAC Official Report.  To the men it was a continuing battle flaring up and down in intensity, with a 15-minute lull around eight-thirty.  The most stunning single moment — the Arizona blowing up — seems to

[page 220]

have taken place about 8:10.  Some eyewitnesses feel that the explosion came at the very start of the attack, yet this couldn’t be so, judging from the experiences of the five Arizona survivors who were located.


What were the American casualties? Navy — 2008 killed, 710 wounded, according to the Navy Bureau of Medicine.  Marines — 109 killed, 69 wounded, according to Corps Headquarters.  Army — 218 killed, 364 wounded, according to Adjutant General’s figures.  Civilian — 68 killed, 35 wounded, according to the University of Hawaii War Records Depository.  Of the 2403 killed, nearly half were lost when the Arizona blew up.

What was the damage? At Pearl Harbor, 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged.  Lost: battleships Arizona and Oklahoma, target ship Utah, destroyers Cassin and Downes.  Sunk or beached but later salvaged: battleships West Virginia, California, and Nevada; mine layer Oglala.  Damaged: battleships Tennessee, Maryland, and Pennsylvania; cruisers Helena, Honolulu, and Raleigh; destroyer Shaw; seaplane tender Curtiss; repair ship Vestal.

At the airfields 188 planes were destroyed–96 Army and 92 Navy.  An additional 128 Army and 31 Navy planes were damaged.  Hardest-hit airfields were Kaneohe and Ewa.  Of the 82 planes caught at these two fields, only one was in shape to fly at the end of the raid.

During the attack there were about 40 explosions in the city of Honolulu — all, except one, the result of U.S. antiaircraft fire.  These explosions did about 500,000 dollars’ worth of damage.

What were the Japanese losses? Tokyo sources agree that the Striking Force lost only 29 planes — nine fighters, 15 dive bombers, and five torpedo planes.  In addition , the Advance Expeditionary Force lost one large submarine and all five midgets.  Personnel lost: 55 airmen, nine crewman on the midget subs, plus an unknown number on the large submarine.

[page 234]

[List of Contributors]

Maj. Leo G. WEARS, USMC, Oklahoma

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