tv [untitled] May 26, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm EDT
i heard a message like, take cover. we're being strafed or something like that. three or four seconds later. i picked my speed up faster to get back there because we mustered just for a second or so before we go to general quarters. i'm standing forward, just looking with these head foehns and talking to the guns when the ship blew. and when the ship blew, the force of that ship, it just rared like that. it was so great that your knees buckled and forced you right to the floor. and all of us was forced to the floor with that. you couldn't possibly stand up. it was that great. and then it started doing this.
the vibration from up there and then the extra whip because of the steel and then it goes faster and faster and faster. and we ended up in a human ball about eight or ten of us marines just hanging on to each other on the deck of that director room when it quit doing that. we checked each other out and nobody was hurt. there wasn't any of the glass broke up there. i don't know how thick that glass was. it wasn't broke. we look down and it's a white furnace in front of us. just complete destruction. you just couldn't imagine the heat and the stuff that i seen before my knees buckled, just go up in the sky. i don't know how high it went. it seemed like in just a few minutes, we just absorbed more.
i watched the oklahoma. i watched the oklahoma go over like a wounded whale. went over the side. and the men was coming over the lifeline and then walking on the side of the ship and walking near the bottom. then evidently it didn't roll any further. there was men all on the side of the oklahoma. i have seen these other men from the part of the ship. i could see them through the edge of the fire and the smoke trying to go down that line that had been thrown to them. and i seen them go down like circus people down that line. i seen people trying to jump from up in there. and it seemed like they swing and they go out and then like they are going to try to land in the water and then they got
about this angle out to the outer edge of the curve of jumping. the fire and the heat seemed to suck them right in. and they never did hit the water. they went right into the fire. then we come to the gally deck and here's some of the cooks standing there that i recognized. you recognize a man by his physique or his voice. no clothes on, charred, burned black, standing there. they wouldn't live long. they were in shock. one used to cook our early breakfast for us. i was on the marine well boat team for the ship and he used to cook breakfast for us and there he stood with one leg on, one leg off, bleeding, and he didn't
live. none of those burned people live ed. i go over the quarter deck. i go over to the edge and sat down. i was attempting to take my shoes off. and the next thing i remember i'm in the water swimming. we had high top shoes in the marine corps. so i swam ashore with them shoes on and my trousers and the t-shirt. instead of swimming, you didn't dare go that way because this is all fire over here. and increasing. fire was spreading. so we swam this way out and then in. and we would swirl and then go down and make more time under water for a short while. and then we'd pop up and this
major with commands like how well i pulled on the well boat team. and just encouraging us to hang in there. and that we did. for years, it was a guilt feeling. how did i stay alive and all those good guys die? and that come up a lot. and i was afraid to talk about it for a long time. and then the last 25 or 30 years, i've volunteered to give speeches in a lot of different places and clubs whenever i could. and i just keep them abreast with what did happen at pearl harbor. and i come out and tell them. i said now this is going to a hard story for somebody to stand up here and talk and tell you
about a defeat. >> i still think that to me, in my mind, that there was a water tower on fort island that they bombed. and i seen it go over. and i knew it was no drill. when the planes come in over us, then they come from the landing and drop the torpedos toward battleship row. they had the dive bombers and then they had some horizontal bombers. we could see the gun bursts. i seen the nevada get hit. i seen the nevada get hit. i seen the oklahoma capsize. we had the big explosion and the fire ball just engulfed us. we were just trying to get some place behind a bulk head or do something. we were actually just burning
alive. but then after the initial explosion, got to go down, but the decks were so hot. you don't see much when you are burned as bad as we were. just trying to get some place where you could get comfortable. i guess we're just caught off guard and we somehow we survived. just trying to still keep surviving. >> my battle station was changed from distribution row to the after repair party, which is what saved my life because if i had been in the distribution gang, i'd still be there. petty officer came running through the corridor and said the japanese are attacking. close your battle ports and man your battle stations. so for a minute, we just kind of froze.
but the first said if it's so, we might as well do it. we ran to our battle stations and mine was about four decks down by the number three gun and also the radio shack. and the first man there was supposed to get the head sets on and make contact with the engine room. that was our control center. and i did that, but i couldn't raise anybody. so i stood there with the head sets on for a few minutes and whether it was a bomb or a torpedo that hit the ship, i don't know, but it knocked the lights out. there was this terrific explosion. and it was just like a tornado had had gone through the ship and it just pushed me from the top of the ladder to the bottom. and i have no idea how i got down there. all i know is that i was standing on the bottom of the ladder and so i just took my hands and i rubbed my body all over and checked my arms and
legs to see if i had any broken bones or was bleeding and i wasn't so i stepped through that doorway into this passageway. as i did that, there were several other men down there with me. but by now, the explosion had consumed all the oxygen in the air and we weren't able to breathe. i dropped down on my hands and knees, and i opened up the four dogs on the bottom. they were what made the door water tight. and thank goodness somebody opened the four on the top. we're doing all this without being able to breathe. we just knew we had to do this. by that time, the water had already started to leak into the base of this number three gun. so we all knew that we had to leave. we crawled up through the number three gun out through this hatch. and there's a handle on that hatch that you can take ahold
of. and that's one time i thought i would be on the deck. here i was maybe 10 feet or better up in the air. so i swung over to the ladder that was on the side of the turt and crawled on to the port island side thinking that way if they are shooting at us that hopefully they wouldn't be able to hit us. this oil was covering all of our body and so we were getting tired. it just isn't possible to swim because your skin breathes too. we were just getting so tired. so i swam over to the key, which is this large cement object out there that you can see today. and put my hands up on the bumper and fortunately there were two men standing on that
bumper and they pulled me up to my waist and they said, now you have to get up the rest of the way yourself because there are other men we have to pull out of the water. well, i was so tired that normally i would have just fallen back into the water, u be i knew if i did that, i would likely drown. so you get this extra energy and. i forced myself up on this bumper. and as i did that, one of the other fellas had gone to the after end of the ship and we had some 30-foot launches tied up there. he got one of those launches and started it up and brought it around by us. he told us to jump in. he said i'm not stopping because there's japanese fighters all over the place so i jumped into this launch and i hit one of the benches. and since i was so oily, i just about slipped out the other side. this is the third time i've been
back. and the first time was the hardest because it's kind of like facing all your friends that you don't have anymore. if anybody talked to me about the arizona or whatnot, it wasn't that i didn't try, but i had a real hard time trying to talk. but this time, that wasn't the case. i've been able to kind of get over that. and. i prayed for all of these men on this ship. there wasn't a man that i know of that wouldn't have fought to the death to preserve our nation. because freedom is a gift that has to be fought for sometimes. and it has to be appreciated and understood. we went up to punch bowl and had that service, just before the service was over, it rained. just a little bit.
it was just a mist, but it was just like tears from heaven. that these men remembered us too. >> got transferred into texas and volunteered for the arizona. i joined the arizona in long beach late september '40. sunday was liberty day supposedly. and i was due to solo. i had been taking flight lessons. when the first planes went over, they were level. and they just went down battleship row this way. and i said it looks like the flight boys are out early. they used to pull surprise raids on us. and right behind him came another one that was banked. there was a quite big red sun sitting up there. i said they are not ours. let's get the hell out of here.
i climbed up the side of the nevada. i don't think we really had time to think right away. the adrenaline came out of no place and you just instinctively reacted. i know i reached off the blister top and caught the scuttle edge and actually flipped up on to the deck. and i don't think i could have done it if i wanted to thinking about it. we helped out with the nevada and they cleared the sides and brought the boat back to the arizona when she blew up. and we started casualty work and they sent us to the tip of fort island to carry the casualties over to hospital landing. and we got six times there and finally sank the 50-footer. that's where i got wounded. we tied up to a barge that was on fort island.
and just let it hang there and fill up with water. we went ashore. we found a pickup truck sitting there. keys in it. so we all piled into the truck and one guy was driving the truck. we found a building. went inside and it was full of armament and we put a machine gun in the back of the truck and we each had rifles and .45s. and we're out looking for japs because they were bailing out of the planes. and we blew a tire so we got out of the truck and left it. that's when i saw more gold than i've ever seen in my life. about eight admirals, i guess they were. walking toward us. the first question was what's your ship, young fella. i pointed and said that's it. he says you're just the one we need. he says you're going to be a body guard and you stay with
this officer until you get relieved. i guess it was 10:00 in the morning before i stopped and said, hey, we're at war. then i got scared. and up to that point, i really wasn't scared. just running on adrenaline, i guess. >> i was up in the chiefs quarters at the time. they had the privilege of coming down and having breakfast when they wanted it. i think i was sorting my laundry. one of the chiefs come down and said the california is on fire. so i go up the ladder and see this coming over. i said uh-oh. so i took off and went back to three. chief quarters was up by the anchor. so i had the 125 yards to go. so i took off full feet, no
problem getting there. there was nobody there but me. i could either go up or down below and come up through. my battle station was in the upper part. why i went below, i don't know. almost made a mistake. we couldn't fire. we were knee deep in water immediately. and you can't fire that wet powder. no use firing at planes with those 14-inch guns. so we waited. we were unconscious anyhow. you didn't know what to do. our explosion was not the big one. our explosion was one that hit off one and went down, we think, to the fourth deck, which was armored. and exploded. i'd gotten down to the seventh deck almost and when the
explosion came back there, we didn't know about the big one until we got out of the ter et down to the deck. when the explosion came. no lights, in fact, your eyes went out. it was a big one. couldn't see. you could smell a lot of stuff. couldn't breathe. in other words, everything but unconscious. nobody was hurt. it was just the explosion part that we got at that point. e we knew we were sinking and we knew we were at the port. other than that, we didn't know. the next question is, what did you do? what do you do? it was obvious that we had to go
up as the water runs out of there and could we do anything? was the battle over? and we had no communication either. nobody was telling us what to do. we were stuck there. so finally we went and i didn't make them big decisions. had no input. on we finally went up into what they call the gun room. and stayed there a while. took our clothes off. of course, our uniform then was skivy shirts, cutoff whites, black shoes and black socks. so we thought that possibly there might be some gas involved in this. >> oh, okay. >> see?
that's why we took all the clothes off and took our shorts and stuck them around the trainer and pointer sites out beside the gun barrel. we came out probably not seeing much. we came out under the overhang and go down a ladder to the deck and we could see that the floor mast was gone. or leaning over. next thing you know the deck was riddled with bullets, bullet holes. of course, the stern never did sink. so, we weren't in the water. so the forward part of the ship, that middle quart other of the ship forward was nothing. next question then, what do you do? there wasn't anybody i could help at that time. so, we i think -- i am not sure
the word got around to anybody to abandon ship. we had -- as a group, you had to make your own decision, i guess. there was nobody on deck to tell you what to do. so we jump in the water, take our shoes off, jump in the water, which is about 10 or 15 feet down. we could go over on the key and go down, but i think we jumped in. that was a mistake, too. burning oil. on we went back, back to the key. and went back aboard. the three or four of us that i remember. and i seen a guy walk out of our compartment. looked like crisp bacon. i think it was an hour or more he'd been in there. this guy walks up to me and says, help me, combs.
and i helped him to the boat. and he died on the way to the island. and i found out later who he was. he was my best friend. the abandon ship, i think a lot went over on the line to the vessel. in other words, the vessel had their mooring line oefrz s over vessel. which would have been a mistake, too, because they got it bad. they were along our stern. the 300 ship long, 90 foot ship. they kind of protected -- probably what happened, they kind of protected our stern. if they hadn't, we would have been in bad shape. there was two safe places you could be, and that's where we were. two or three seconds later, mour maybe, and i would have been in that fourth deck instead of on
down to the sixth or seventh deck. that may be an explanation of why i'm still here. if you want to delve that deep. >> right. >> and we always do. you know, you get out after the battle you say, well, what would have -- i would have -- if i hadn't slowed down, the skipper says a little later, if i hadn't slowed down to 20 knots, we would have got it right in the middle instead of in the bow. see? see, in the navy you were -- the ship is your home. i mean, the beach didn't amount that much to me. so the way i describe it, i not only lost my buddies, i lost my home. it's like having a fire, you know. no, there's really no way you can describe it.
but it relieves me in the respect that i'm going to join them, you know. used to i had no idea that i had this guilt complex. in other words, how did you survive? why, if you ask yourself why, or other people ask me how. why did -- do you have that complex, you know? usually it's the guys doing all the work here in the battle. he's the guy that didn't make it. you're standing around doing nothing. you survive, you know. and the ship was doing some firing on them. they were working at it before the explosion. >> a spent a little bit of time as a mess cook in chef petty officer's mess because i paid a little extra money. and i think about two weeks before the 7th i was transferred
back to my 4th division and i had a duty station in number four turn. that morning we were all up early and our division -- 4th division had the duty of setting up all the benches and everything for the church service on the fan tail. and we had already had breakfast and completed that and had just come back in the department when it started. i went down to the lower passageways, to the lower part and up because that's where my battle station was. the big explosion, and i suppose it was an explosion forward, ship just lifted up and then it settled back down and sank real fast. i don't think we really realized what had happened, but i knew enough about powder magazines and what they stored down there that that forward explosion just about wiped out everything. those bags of powder, i think they weighed 105 pounds, i'm not
sure, raw silk. and they used four for each projectile. so they had a lot of those little suckers down there. we had a lot of big, heavy batteries in the lower part of the gun mount in case we lost current. when the saltwater hit them, the chlorine gas started coming up. so we went out a hatch on the rear and got on the quarter deck. you could see chunks of teak wood sticking out. we felt one bump in the turn. i think a bomb hit on the sloping side of the armor and then went out to the side. when we come out, john anderson and i went out together. he was second class boatman, i was seaman first. he had a twin brother occupy the
five-inch gun. we tried to get him but he was on fire and couldn't do it. they brought the barge up the stern of the ship and the lieutenant commander's damage control, i don't remember his name, but he told us we might as well leave the ship. in fact, he shoved us off, on top the dead and the wounded. we went just right over to the island just a short distance. there was a runway out there and they had an underground place. betook the wounded into it. i think they were picked up and taken to a hospital. i'm not sure. we was kind of messed up. and then we got a boat and started picking up people. slept on the beach that night and next day i got on the "uss mcdonagh" and dd 351 and i stayed on it until '43. most of the boys i went in with
were school dropouts. i was a school dropout. i didn't finish school until i was 25. most of them were hungry. most of them their families were hungry. and it was very, very tough times, after having come through the great depression. no jobs, no place to go, no home. and we found a home in the navy. so, i think it's important we not forget those boys. none of those boys ever fathered a child, had a family, had a home, had what i've had. and that's really sad. and most of them have been forgotten. and that's sad. because if we forget, what has happened in the past, we're in danger of losing the future also, i think. i brought the last three of my grandchildren out here this time. i have a grandson named for me and two granddaughters.
and i wanted them to know the freedom they have is not free. somebody paid a hell of a price for it. >> every ship except one. i said a battle ship. i said how about let meg close out my career on a battle ship. which one you won't? said don't make any difference. i would like to get one of the big five, which were the california, maryland, the newest ones. he said i can't get you that but how about the arizona? i don't care. just a battle ship. that was it. it's just as tough to go out there to the arizona memorial as it is -- as the day i awe it burning. when i read those names up there, i'm done, i'm finished. >> history bookshelf features popular american history writers of the past decade.