tv Open Phones with Paul Travers CSPAN December 10, 2016 8:30pm-9:31pm EST
deck, and as his tradition in the navy, you have to salute the flag state your business, and they can let you aboard. davis i wanted to see ted from colorado. i said about that time, i turned around, faced him, and i looked out. about that time is when i seen there were four planes coming direct, straight at us. and we did not think much of that because they used to, kind of, use us for target practice, dropping balloons, balloons full of water on us on a sunday, but this was not that. it was a real fact because as soon as the ship dropped -- you could not see the torpedoes
drop, but when he turned up and went away, like this, you could actually see him, and you could see torpedoes coming straight at us. i would say it was less than 300 feet from us when you first spotted him. within less than two minutes, it was all hell that had torn loose. >> did you ever find out what happened to your school friend that you were going to meet on the arizona? >> never did find out. he might not have even been there. because like i say, usually the arizona, they would come in one day and be shipped out the next. no, i never heard from him. i wrote to my aunt -- you know, it is a small town, a very small town, and she was in her 80's at
the time she wrote me the letter, and i had called her and contacted to her, and she said she never heard from him, so i guess maybe he didn't make it. that is the best thing i can tell you there. >> there is a story about the utah -- that there are 40 old souls entombed with an infant child ashes. this navy chief, they had come from the states, and his daughter died. they were going to bury her at sea, and pearl harbor comes, and they bombed her because they thought she was a carrier. they bombed her, and she sunk, but she is still there. so, they hunt -- the chief had the baby's urn in his locker and they hunt for it, but they could never find it.
40 fellows went down with the ship, so they say there were 40 souls guarding that infant girl. she was only, i think, a month old. >> we could hear explosions, and we -- my mother decided it had to have been something drastic, and when she found shrapnel that had gone through our refrigerator, then it was really, really frightening, so we just huddled under an overturned settee for about three hours and waited until my father came home, or my sister, who worked at the police station. >> there was fire all over the water. the whole place was on fire, about 10 feet high.
that was the oil from the ships that got damaged. the oil went out and it caught on fire. it was burning about 10 feet high. then there were bodies all over the place, floating. then, my ship -- the first thing they did with my ship was tell them to quit firing at the planes overhead -- they were our planes, looking for a place to land. then i noticed that the ship had riflemen all around the perimeter of the ship, and their orders were to shoot anything that moves. it was just getting dark about that time. they did, they fired at all the boats trying to come to our ship, until they got close enough to where they could hear
the guys hollering and they knew they were americans. they fired -- shot everything, like they said, anything that moved. >> i was topside, and the ships had been firing through the first phase. thousands of rounds of ammunition created a lot of smoke, a lot of water vapor. and a giant rainbow -- a perfect rainbow appeared in the sky right over the harbor. i will always remember that. it was inspiring. bill: you are looking at pictures of survivors of the pearl harbor attack from the 75th anniversary ceremony out in hawaii this past wednesday.
according to the national park service figures, there were about 100 survivors on hand for wednesday's event. by the way, you can watch the full ceremony in its entirety at 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. we are going to continue to take your calls for about another 50 minutes or so. we have three ways to join the conversation. we also welcome our radio listeners. the phone lines this morning -- we also welcome your comments on twitter. send us a tweet and post your facebook comments. joining us this morning as paul travers, the author of
"eyewitness to infamy -- an oral history of pearl harbor, december 7, 1941," which includes many accounts from more than 200 interviews with pearl harbor veterans. paul travers, welcome. thanks for being here. paul: it is my pleasure to be here today. but more important, it is an honor to be here to pay tribute to the men and women of pearl harbor. that is what i did in the book. bill: your book -- it starts with stories your dad told you when you were growing up, but take us back to 1979. you start to broaden that out. you put ads in the newspaper looking for pearl harbor veterans. what prompted that? paul: here i am in 1979, approaching 30 years old, a college graduate with an english degree, a minor in american history. the dream of every english or journalism major is to write a book. i thought you write what you know about. hefather's stories --
referred to himself as an eyewitness, not a survivor. he never went into detail. i thought, let me try to expand on it. i took out a small classified ad inquirer,"ladelphia "the new york times," "the washington post," and of course, "the baltimore sun." it was one of those little typo classifieds buried deep inside the classified ads, and to my surprise, i got a pretty good response. people that were interested in being interviewed and documenting the oral history of pearl harbor. then, in 1980, my father, who is with the 27th entry regiment, he comes home and tells me he met murdo watson. she is my unsung hero of pearl harbor.
the unsung -- she was an army nurse at schofield station hospital. so he says, myrtle is willing to tell you her story, and what a compelling story she had. bill: back in 1979, oral histories were not that common. what did you do -- write things down -- record people? paul: both. what you just said, i am not the pioneer of oral histories for pearl harbor. back then, i did some research. there were not a lot of books on oral histories of pearl harbor. i thought maybe i have a good topic. i was the first one to see it through to the end, and compile a book -- an oral history book with narratives from pearl harbor survivors, and once my contact, myrtle watson -- she was actively involved in the pearl harbor survivors association -- she opened the door for me through the chapter. they vouched for me with the
national association to get my foot in there, and that really opened the floodgates, allowing me to collect a mountain of oral histories. bill: you write in the book you were fascinated as a child by your dad's pearl harbor stories. why do you think that one battle has stayed so important in the minds of the veterans you interviewed? clearly, many of them went on to other battles and other things during the war. paul: yes, they did, and in speaking with all the pearl harbor veterans and survivors, their main theme is to remember pearl harbor to keep america alert. that is probably the mantra you will hear from everyone of them. because it was a surprise attack. their theme is, keep america vigilant. that is what it is all about to the pearl harbor survivors. let's not let this happen again, and it did happen again at 911.
it is not the same situation, but we also have to keep vigilance to defend our freedoms here. bill: and you come to this with some military experience yourself, correct? paul: yes, i do. i was in the marine corps in the mid-1970's. i attribute it to part of my father's legacy as the son of a pearl harbor survivor. he was a role model. my brother and i both served in the military, my brother in the army and i was in the marine corps. bill: here you were, able to get people to open up to you. why do you think that was? paul: i think the main reason why, i told him i wanted to tell a human interest story. i am not specifically looking into heroics in the battle. i want to show the human side of the pearl harbor experience. i think i accomplished that. the first narrative i have is william, what a great job he had.
paradise, he is backpacking, surveying the island. then i end with melvin, burying the dead. bill: why did you make that first one that particular individual? paul: it set the scene for a paradise, aopical vacationland. when my dad finally enlisted, to him, it was an all expense paid vacation to hawaii. of course, a year later, it turned into a nightmare for him and the other pearl harbor veterans. bill: our guest is paul travers, the book is "eyewitness to infamy -- an oral history of pearl harbor, december 7, 1941." this was originally published in 1991, on the 50th anniversary. after that, did more veterans contact you? paul: yes, after the book was first published in 1991, i had a number of veterans contact me,
and i went out and got their narrative. i said there were no guarantees there would be an update to the book. i guess good karma -- maybe the angels of pearl harbor were looking out for me. a few years ago, i got a letter from the publisher, the book had been out of print, but they said, are you interested in doing an update? i jumped at the chance because it was an opportunity to update many of the people i had interviewed and add new ones. bill: how main new updates have you added? paul: i believe there is four. i mentioned to some other people that have probably been on the national news lately like lauren gruner and don stretton. they get bylines in the book for their heroics -- their escape from the battleship arizona. bill: we have calls waiting for you. andrew is in college park, maryland. go ahead. caller: i saw this documentary -- other people must have seen
it -- it was evidently a documentary about when they were just inventing radar, and they pointed out -- they had just created radar and it worked. ok? they had all the stations of radar out in the pacific, they were watching this, and they saw all these planes coming toward s pearl harbor from japan. the people that ran the radar station knew exactly what they saw. all the bosses told them to stand down, we're not paying attention to this, it is a new technology. it just seems so funny, you know. they say the same things, often times, with these other attacks. people try to let law enforcement know they had information. i guess it is a miracle when they foil these attacks because they claim to have foiled many, many attacks, and i'm sure they have, but it is just so funny how human intelligence, or whatever it is, does not catch up with technology.
bill: did we miss things on radar that morning? paul: no -- joe lockhart and george elliott were manning the radar station. they saw the planes coming in, relayed the message back to headquarters, and it was dismissed as the b-17's flying in from california. i believe some of the historians made reference to earlier in the week, on various shows, we knew the japanese fleet was on the move, but we did not know where. it took everybody by surprise that they were sailing across the northern pacific, and launched the attack, probably about 250 miles north of oahu. i like the -- the caller mentioned human intelligence -- technology does not fail in these events. it is human intelligence that fails. the same thing with the condor response.
the submarine. the word goes out and sinks the submarine. to message is relayed back headquarters, and of course, it is lost in the paperwork. bill: and they just recently discovered some of that some -- some of that submarine. paul: yes, they did. they actually believe a couple of the submarines got inside the submarine net at pearl harbor and inflicted damage on the battleship oklahoma. bill: let's hear from bill next in muskegon, michigan, on the line for paul travers. go ahead. caller: yes, the question i have is -- i was in the navy, and i am retired. i have been to the arizona monument two times, and what surprised me was the number of people who had last names -- the dead --
the sullivan brothers -- disaster. bill: what is your question about that? caller: my question is how did it happen that the arizona ended up with so many people with a last name on one ship? was it the sullivan brother incident that change that? paul: yes, i believe it was the sullivan brother incident. prior to that on board these battleships, you had a large contingency of men, 1300, 1500 men aboard these ships, and a lot of times you have brothers and cousins who served aboard the same ship together. to answer your question, there were a lot of relatives aboard the ships, the battleships. that is why you see a lot of the same names on the monuments --whether it be the arizona or the oklahoma. bill: another question about the utah on facebook.
if you want to send us a comment on facebook, post it at facebook.com/c-spanhistory. this is a comment about the utah from david. who says that, i recently found something about december 7, 1941, that kind of disturbs me. we all know about the arizona and the monument to honor all the men who died. did you know there is another battleship sunk on december 7 with 59 men trapped in it, the uss utah? it is still at the bottom of pearl harbor with those 59 men but it is being allowed to rust and deteriorate, unrecognizable as a ship of any kind, let alone a battleship. to me -- this is david writing -- to me this is a travesty. those men need to be brought to the surface and honored with a burial site. paul: to a certain extent, i agree with him, to a certain
extent, not. with the utah, you have a similar situation with the arizona. so many men were trapped inside. there was no chance of getting men out of the arizona or utah without, you know, casualties, among the yard workers or the navy personnel. ships like the west virginia, which lost a large number of men, and had men trapped inside -- they could raise that ship, but the value of the utah was basically nil because it was an outdated battleship, mainly used as a target ship. all the guns were covered over on deck. it was probably best to leave it as-is as a memorial to those men. they knew her the men were inside. -- they knew who the men were inside. the situation with the oklahoma, when they raised the ship a year later, they could not identify
the things. it is a different situation. with the technology and forensics, they are, through dna, starting to identify the sailors that were aboard the oklahoma, bringing them back home for proper burials and closure for the family. bill: you started gathering your oral history stories in 1979. your first edition is published in 1991. when did you first get to pearl harbor? what was your reaction when you saw it for the first time? paul: i was in pearl harbor back in 1974-1975. that visit probably -- because i went back and did all the historic sites because i have a connection with my father -- that was probably a catalyst that said, look into this a little further and see what you can do. that is probably, you know, where the seed for the book was germinated, back on that trip to hawaii in 1974. bill: what year did your dad pass away? paul: my dad passed away in 2009.
i, kind of, refer to him as the poster boy of the pearl harbor survivors and the greatest generation. if you read his narrative, it doesn't tell the whole story because that is one of the part of the deals i had to do with some of these pearl harbor survivors -- i could not tell the whole story -- the whole story to them was what they did after pearl harbor. bill: sure. paul: they deferred recognition to other people -- bunk mates, shipmates, soldiers, sailors, especially those that paid a higher price than they did, whether they made the supreme sacrifice or were actually wounded. my father was actually wounded. that ended his military career. he spent a couple of years in veterans hospitals, finally discharged from valley forge hospital in 1947. mary the girl of his dreams that he met when he was on leave war and turned this
into an economic engine. bill: more of your comments and calls coming up. our guest is paul travers, his book "eyewitness to infamy: an oral history of pearl harbor, december 7, 1941." we want to show you next some of the oral histories that have been gathered by the national park service. >> we saw the arizona when they hit in, and it lifted the ship clear out of the water. then it took about seven minutes to sink, completely sink. but the worst part of it was all the crewmen on the ship were trying to get off because they were all burning, but they were a little hesitant about jumping in the burning sea also. everything was afire in the sea, too. the poor fellas that jumped off
in that burning water -- most of them never did make it to shore. the ones that did make it to shore, we personally witnessed it. they were burnt so bad that the skin was falling off their face, and their buttocks, falling off their whole body, like you had dipped them in a fat of -- in a vat of grease. you never heard such screening screamingreening -- in all your life. it was just like hell on earth, i guess. during the second wave, the fellows -- they did a marvelous job. actually, it was a miracle the way they got everything together, because we had no guns. they were locked up in the cellar over there. but those fellows on those ships
-- god bless them -- they stood there until they all got killed. >> on the port side, out by the half deck -- as i got out there, i looked. i couldn't believe the smoke, the rumbling, the machine guns going, the explosions, and here comes the fire in the water and the oil coming from the west virginia and the arizona, which was right behind us. and, holy cow, you are a kid, 17 years old -- i was scared to death. standing there, watching that oklahoma roll over -- a -- andhip rolling over all the guys that are on there,
scared to death. and then seeing all the oil in the water and the fire, and now and then we could see the west virginia, down looking at the california. california was a head of us and she was sitting at the bottom. i don't know. worst day of my life. >> a dive bomber came and dropped a torpedo. pearl harbor is not some great, big harbor, so i can see the torpedo land. and the airplane, instead of going up and getting hit by the aircraft, turned around and hold the surface of the water, and it came straight for me. i looked and looked, and i said
wow -- that must be a japanese airplane. it has round circles on the wings. i was very angry. after i realized that was a japanese airplane, i said what are my ancestors doing here -- they are killing our american soldiers. i am an american, too. they are killing my fellow citizens. >> i still recall seeing torpedoes hitting the battleships, and geysers -- every time a torpedo would hit, a geyser, 300 or 400 feet high , of water, would spring up. i still cannot put it out of my mind. what i had seen happened that day. >> it is beyond description in many respects. it was plain hell.
bill: paul travers, it is difficult to listen to some of those stories from those men -- hard to watch them. how hard was it for you to sit there and interview some of them? paul: some of it was very, very difficult. i have goosebumps on my arm listening to some of the se stories. the real impact was when i got home and started transcribing the stories, and put them down on paper. because then you have an opportunity to not only read the lines, read between the lines, and then you realize what an emotional roller coaster these men and women were on. mica said, the impact, and -- like i said, the impact, and once the book is published, you get your book, you sit down and read it again, these are some amazing stories -- ordinary people in extraordinary times that did extraordinary things. bill: our guest, paul travers -- his book "eyewitness to infamy" -- we welcome your calls.
@c-spand us a tweet history. let's go to joe in north carolina. caller: yes, my question is when they first come in, they hit wheeler airfield. i wonder how many planes were destroyed and how many lives were lost? bill: question on wheeler field. paul: part of the battle plan was to take out the airfield. the exact numbers at that field i do not have, but what i do know is the number of planes we lost was almost equal to the number of japanese planes that launched their attack. we lost -- approximately 190 planes were destroyed, and there were probably another 160 planes that were damaged. add those up, and it was about
360 planes in those two waves launched from japanese carriers. the devastation at battleship row -- that was a big blow. also, the japanese had a sound battle plan. they took out the airfields, and basically eliminated the air force that we had there. bill: next up, russell in --river falls, wisconsin. caller: hello, paul. paul: hello. caller: lieutenant russell nelson, retired. paul: i know lieutenant colonel russell nelson. it is a pleasure to hear your voice again. caller: congratulations on the reissue. as i recall, you gave me a copy of the book as a retirement gift, and i read it several years ago. it should become a standard work on pearl harbor and with the reissue, it will. just wondering -- i do not recall reading any of the py boat survivors.
the pt squadron was there. i think they knocked down to japanese aircraft. did you interview any of those fellows? paul: no, i did not. that was one aspect where i did not get any narrative, and like i said, i tried to present the whole spectrum of events at pearl harbor, and i was beating the bushes for people that were on the pt boats, but i had no luck with that. caller: you, i remember my dad t boater, so a little commercial there. a book thattion, was brilliant, do you have a comment on it? paul: which deals with? caller: all the leading up -- all the classified material they never got to -- paul: i have kind of the same opinion of many historians -- we
knew there was going to be an attack. we had broken the japanese military and the diplomatic codes. the war warning was sent on november 27 to the island of oahu, so they knew. there was a state of readiness, if not a state of war was coming. i find it ironic the war warning was sent november 27, and the japanese fleet had sailed for hawaii on november 26. so, i believe until you know, some hard evidence comes first -- first person accounts of seeing classified information was waylaid or mislaid -- i would say once the wheels of fate get put into motion -- there are things that happened. you look back in hindsight and say yeah, we could've done better with human intelligence. bill: since your first
publication in 1991, the advent, growth of the internet, facebook, research through google, wikipedia -- have you found there is more information that has come to light, particularly on the japanese side of things, that has caused you to go back and revisit some of the stories that you have published previously? paul: no. on the american side, i would say no. like you just said, on the japanese side, over the years, probably since the 50th, there has been more information about the japanese tactics, but from the american side, i do not think there has been that much new information revealed, other than, say, for instance, the oklahoma. they re-examine the damage done, on the armor plates, and they decided that could not have been done by the dive bombers. that has to be done by a bigger weapon. the japanese submarines entered pearl harbor. bill: former marine and graduate, you are a master of
business at pepperdine. you spent part of your career as a historian for the maryland park service. paul: that led to a book, so it seems like wherever they plan to me, i find a historical seed that eventually generates my interest. there has been two books there. up inhere is martin next boerne, texas. welcome. caller: yes, paul. i would like to share -- first, i had a question earlier, if you ever had interviewed anybody -- and a gentleman, i got a book signed with my wife when i played golf with him in the 1980's -- he built the tanks in the mountains above pearl harbor. his name was jim, and he was actually on the hawaii highway department when i met him in 1980. as he pointed out, the japanese
-- ian toll was on earlier. -- the japanese, if they were really wise, they would have bombed our fuel facilities. i had the pleasure -- i am a retired navy captain, civil engineer corps, served and long in the 1950's,am but i actually had a reserve trip in the late-19 70's, went through those tanks when they were being repaired, sandblasted it, and restored. they were top-secret, as far as i was concerned, back in the 1950's. anyway, ironically, when i got off active duty, going back to chicago, i worked for two gentlemen. one was at school field barracks. a second lieutenant, gordon ray, and another gentleman who ended up his career in the air force as a civil engineer, and he is written up -- roy gillett. he died may 12, 2006, a year to the day i moved to texas.
i have lived here 12 years now. what are the chances of a young guy getting off active duty and working for two guys from pearl harbor, one of them a hero that was written up? anyway, did you talk to anyone that had the experience that this jim charis would have had regarding building those secret fuel facilities? paul: no, i am not familiar with jim charis. i wish i had been familiar with him, at least 25 years ago, right? that is an interesting part of the pearl harbor story. if there was a flaw in the japanese tactical battle plan, it was what they did not attack -- field tanks, tank farms. bill: you think they had an idea they were there? paul: yes, and also the dry docks. they said that was a major tactical flaw, in that they left
the dry docks basically intact. the navy and the civilian yard workers, they could resurrect fleet. bill: how quickly did the fleet begin to repair and restore raft?e seac paul: ships themselves? bill: yeah. paul: the work -- yardwork began almost immediately, but the battleships -- it took anywhere from a year to two years before they were refitted, outfitted, and return to combat. it was a long time without the battleships. of course, there were new battleships, you know, being built during that time. i guess those battleships may have actually been obsolete by the time they were rendered back into action, but they served well in the pacific. they served gallantly in the pacific. and you had new battleships coming up that were bigger -- more firepower, to take their place. really, thehat got,
economic engine. bill: in the u.s. paul: right. what the yard workers did -- the civilians -- rosie the riveter for the ladies. bill: did you talk to some of the civilian workers? paul: yes i did. they had the same attitude military people had -- we are in this together, here to do a job. we are part of your team. there is no me, only we. bill: let's go to bernie, who is in howard beach, new york. caller: my question basically was answered a little while ago, but i want to be clear. i know there was a war alert -- at least i thought there was a war alert that went out -- we did not know where they were going to attack. was kimmel -- did he have an alert in hand -- did he sign off on it -- did he receive that
alert, and if he did, and he did nothing about it, as in warning the people who manned the radar that anything coming in had to be reported. was he court-martialed for this? bill: ok, we talked a little bit about admiral kimmel, but in response to this question. paul: yes, they received the war warning. you had the roberts commission after the attack, investigated it. --y historians, many hurl many historians, many pearl kimmel was thes, scapegoat. they were reduced in rank. and forced to resign shortly after in disgrace, basically. then, the kimmel family had to
work to clear the name of their father, but unfortunately, the general passed away shortly after that. some people say he died of a broken heart. there was no -- the court-martial findings were negligent for misconduct in the line of duty, but basically that is what they were saying. someone had to be blamed for the attack. bill: efforts had been made in congress to clear his name posthumously, even as i recall, within the last 10 years or so. paul: yes there have been, and those resolutions have fallen short -- they did not get enough votes passed to restore kimmel to original ranks. bill: our guest is paul travers. the book is "eyewitness to infamy." you have an introduction that by republish in this edition a retired admiral, who writes in part, "you will find no mock heroics here. people act like people displaying discipline and comradeship engendered in
military service, along with the normal gripes and naivety of youth and wholesome diversity of our countrymen." tell us about who this admiral is and how did you find him? paul: he is unable legend. -- he is a naval legend. i had the book finished, needed an introduction. all the admirals and generals that were high rank at that time, they are gone. i am down at the naval academy library doing some research. atentioned to the librarian the front desk -- do you know anybody? and he starts laughing. he has this mischievous grin on his face, and he said i have a name for you, but i do not think it will work. i said who is it, and he said admiral kemp, and he lives near you, down the road in northern baltimore county in maryland. i said, ok, it is worth a shot. admiral, he is very
inclusive, secretive, he has a small inner circle and does not suffer a full is like myself lightly. wrote a letter to the admiral, a week later i got a phone call that says come down and see me. i went down there and we spoke and the admiral -- you have to read his story. he wrote a book. he was aboard a ship. he believes he was bait for the japanese to get us into the war. i call him the old swashbuckler because he reminded me so much with a pencil thin mustache. he was doing reconnaissance in the south china sea right before pearl harbor. bill: dangerous waters back then. paul: yes. once war broke out, he helps evacuate high-ranking officers, and then he is given orders to sale.
him, three officers, and a filipino crew are being chased by the japanese throughout the western pacific. 4000 miles, three months later, they show up in australia, and it was his escape from the japanese -- it is probably one of the greatest escape stories and -- in naval history. you have to look up the admiral. quite an individual, a gallant, courageous individual. bill: paul travers collected oral histories in his book "eyewitness to infamy," and the national park service over the years has done very much the same thing -- collecting video eyewitness stories to pearl harbor. more of your calls coming up, but first, a look at some of those stories from december 7, 1941. >> the birds were very difficult to take care of because the sailors wore short sleeves and shorts a lot of times. a lot of them were badly burned. those that went in the oily waters -- they had to push the water away.
it was burning them, so they would come up take a breath, sometimes they would take a breath of flames. >> a lot of times we did not have a bed for them. we put them on the floor in the hallway until we had places to put them. there were hammocks all over the place. we tried to put seats down and whatnot to make them comfortable. them.just was notfor not space for them. you could not get the stench off your body or your clothing. it worked into you. >> our first day, we would try to treat them, determine if we were going to put them in surgery, the burn ward, and if it was serious pain, you would give them a shot of morphine, and then you put an m on their forehead so they would not get it twice or too quick. you were only supposed to do it every four hours. if they had a tourniquet, you are supposed to put a t on their forehead so people would not bandage over it.
if they were really bad, and we knew they were bad, and we knew they were not going to make it, we did not put the m on their forehead. we would move them to where they would be comfortable. >> there was all this material in the water that transferred from one ship to another. it was really terrible. we had a lot of our boats on the water -- boats that belonged to the different ships, but they had been trying to get people from the shore to their ships who had been out the night before, and there were a lot of sailors blown into the water, and they were trying to pick them up. there were so many different things demanding their attention that they just took all of these different jobs as best as they could. >> we finally got out to the
arizona. i think about the first thing we saw were ashes blowing off the ships. i said, i know where they are coming, i can't stop them. i don't have a dustpan or nothing. i just sank down and shed a few tears. a lot of the men had burned down to the deck -- they were just little piles of ashes because the ship burned so long, so hot. >> we had hundreds of bodies floating around on battleship row, off utah, along the bay. they would go out with grappling hooks and bring them over to the dock. first, they were trying to identify them by their names on their shorts. you have your name stenciled on your shorts and t-shirt. then they realized somebody else might have somebody else's shorts or t-shirts, which you did, you know?
then they got a dentist down there. the coroner cut down both sides of their teeth and the dentist would take down all their teeth, everything. make a plan of their teeth, so that is how they identified them. >> officers were buried in caskets -- regular caskets. enlisted personnel were buried in wooden caskets. they were too small for them. in the two weeks that followed, i was on the board detail, and we were pulling waters out of the water and getting all types of recoveries. many of the bodies would not fit in the coffins, so we had to do whatever we had to to get the body in there. >> they might have had several mortuaries, but they did not have enough coffins for the hundreds of people that were killed. they started making the coffins out of any lumber they could get. they opened up all the lumber companies on the island at that time just to make coffins.
they had this one coffin, written in red across the side of it, it said body parts only. bill: national park service is oral history on pearl harbor. our guest is paul travers, who has his own book about oral histories, "eyewitness to infamy," and those are hard stories to hear -- burying the dead, which you write about in your book. paul: very emotional. i have two gentlemen -- melvin bacon and melvin faulkner. bacon was aboard the utah. after he jumps overboard, swims to ford island, and the next day he is assigned to burial detail. he said it was one of the toughest things in his life. he said the only time he ever cried during the war is when they took a break one time, after the gentleman just described -- they had to stuff the bodies and pine caskets, they are sitting and taking a break and they hear taps
drifting over the makeshift cemetery. he said it was the only time he cried during the war. bill: pretty touching stories. we have a number of calls waiting for you. kevin, illinois. caller: thank you, sir. i am very fortunate. i was an early baby boomer, and i happen to have teachers and professors of history that literally, throughout the textbooks at the time, and i followed their lead. when i am curious about is -- it is my perspective that throughout the years, even back when i was in school, pearl harbor was basically jumped over. there was nothing covering the -- about the battleships and ships that were destroyed, and strategically, how the fuel tanks were left, and the aircraft carriers were out. as history has gone by, political correctness and everything, it is almost a
forgotten thing with youngsters. if you ask them, you know, do you know about pearl harbor, a lot of them will say yeah, it was like 9/11, and that is pretty much all they knew about it. i was just wondering what your thoughts were on that situation, and the textbook companies that just -- i know it has to do with political correctness, but what are your thoughts? paul: i agree with you wholeheartedly. pearl harbor has been passed over to a certain extent. if there is one thing important about a collection of oral histories, it connects us with our history, our heritage, but more importantly, it connects us with our humanity. people read the stories. you might not be a history buff, but it opens up a portal -- you find something that is interesting, investigate that, before you know it, it is like connecting lights and it
illuminates the whole event for you. you realize the sacrifice that these men and women went to. when i write narratives -- people trapped in ships, people picking up parts of bodies, it should be a lesson in every american classroom. that is for sure. to follow up, myrtle watson, the army nurse, who i call the first lady of pearl harbor -- her narrative was so compelling it was actually used in a world war ii textbook for middle and high school students. there was -- pearl harbor was not completely forgotten, just maybe largely overlooked by a lot of americans and textbook publishers, and school curriculums for sure. bill: let's hear from california. sandra, go ahead. caller: yeah, mr. travers, nice to talk to you. i want to know how many battleships that were raised other than the three we know about -- the arizona, utah, the
oklahoma -- have been raised and are museums today? i come from california. we have the uss iowa -- it used to be in northern california. it is down in san pedro as a museum now. i was wondering, to your knowledge, how many that have been raised are museums today in the united states? paul: none, to answer your question. of course, the arizona and utah are still there. the oklahoma went under, being towed back to the united states. and of us getting -- kind of fitting ending -- bill: it sunk on the way back. paul: yeah, it was being towed. no battleships today that were at pearl harbor are museums. the last war ship at pearl harbor was the uss phoenix, which was sold to argentina in the 1950's. bill: what was the fate of that? paul: it was sunk during a battle of the falklands with
great britain -- another fascinating footnote. the only other remaining worship that was on the island in december of 1941 was a coast guard ship, which today is part of downtown baltimore. every december 7, they have any emotional song on the decks. there is one other ship that was at pearl harbor, the yard tug that was recently renovated. it is part of a museum today. those are the last two ships. i invite listeners -- get on your computer, type in coast and read about these tremendous histories of these ships. bill: where is the museum in arkansas? paul: little rock. bill: here is roy in fairfield, california. caller: good morning. thank you for this conversation.
i have two quick things if you would comment on -- i understand the japanese did not bomb the fuel tanks for fear of smoke obscuring targets in the harbor. and my second question is, i also understand that most of the film, while it was moving instills, with the japanese film, went down at midway. paul: yeah, that is correct, probably on both parts of the question. yeah, you blow up the tank farms, you will obscure the targets. but there was talk -- there were two aerial attacks, and the commanders wanted to launch a third attack and yamamoto said no. as far as the film going down, most of the bulk of the film went down when the carrier was put to the bottom of the sea at
the battle of midway. bill: i want to let our caller the japaneseowed newsreel, a tiny fraction of the film that is available. it aired earlier in the program. you can see that in our video library at c-span.org. let's go to jerry, atlantic city, for paul travers. caller: paul, thank you for all of this information and presentation. but i have to revisit the issue commanders at the pearl harbor station on december 7 -- kimmel and short. i remember doing a research paper when i was a freshman in college, which was shortly following the incident at pearl harbor, and i did an awful lot of research, and the thing that has been striking me over the years is this -- that the standard operating procedure for receipt of messages of a
significant nature was that upon receipt, wherever they were received on station, those messages had to be transmitted directly to the war department for decoding and then for analysis, and then, as needed, communications back to the stations in question with instructions. i always felt there was an omission in that procedure, and wanted to know whether you had anything more to add to this particular issue, particularly in light of the fact that you mentioned in your previous comments that the two had to be scapegoated. bill: a quick response from paul travers. paul: yes, you were correct, there was a breakdown in the processing of classified information. you know, we weren't at war. the commanders had this war warning. they knew war was imminent.
as far as, you know, the regular troops handling information -- it did not have a sense of urgency. because here we are on a weekend on a tropical paradise. it is sunday. the fleet is at rest. some people are going up into the town -- most of the soldiers and sailors are coming back from a night in town. there was some lack there in processing -- not necessarily decoding, but forwarding that information to the powers that be. bill: the book is "eyewitness to infamy. our guest is paul travers. we appreciate you joining us for the 75th anniversary of pearl harbor. paul: it has been a pleasure, and i would like to say as we take the final step with these pearl harbor survivors, before they fade from our memories, their voices will resonate loudly, and we have to remember -- remember pearl harbor. keep america alert. i thank you for the opportunity
to be here today. bill: thank you. announcer: december 7, 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the japanese attack on pearl harbor. almost 2400 americans were killed and 1200 wounded and his surprise attack led to the u.s. entry into world war ii. coming up next, a ceremony commemorating the anniversary at the national world war ii memorial in washington, d.c. andevent honored veterans arizona senator john mccain gave the keynote address. this is an hour. >> ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. go through the reading of the veterans, introducing them, and will present the quilt of valor. if the veterans can stand, please do so, if not, remain in your chairs. the first is mr. william flatters. barracksd at schofield
in hawaii in december 1939, part of battery b and later changed to the 89th field artillery. he was there during the attack and later boarded the ship as a toner to write in 1942 to go guadalcanal until evacuated in 1943. he received the purple heart and bronze star and an adriatic pacific campaign medal. >> the second survivor is mr. friedman k johnson. joining the navy at the age of 19. onwas on the uss st. louis december 7, 1941 in pearl harbor when they came.
they were the second ship out of the harbor. from there he was transferred in november 1942, going to the transfer station in san francisco bay and starting on the uss i what. mr. freeman k. johnson. our next is harold mainer. the -- join the navy on october 20, 1940. the ship was stationed and damaged at pearl harbor on the have impact in ladies and 1941. gentlemen, mr. harold mainer. our next is lieutenant general -- united states retired -- graduated in 1945. he separated
from the army in 1946 return to serve after president harry truman's executive order to integrate united states forces in 1948. theent on to serve in korean war and the vietnam war. theventually rose to command of general in 1978. our next is edward davis. he listed in the united states toy in 1940 and was assigned schofield barracks, honolulu, hawaii. on he witnessed firsthand the december 7, 1941, bombings taking place. he was involved in intense combat on the island of guadalcanal and the philippines.