PEARL HARBOR & WORLD WAR II
"On the aircraft carrier I was on, we had a torpedo plane that came in, and they were carrying bombs at the time. One got hung up in the under-carriage of the plane; it didn't drop out. They didn't know this. Every time a torpedo plane comes in and lands on deck, they signal for the pilot to open up the bomb bay so they can reload. By the time they saw there was a bomb in there, it was too late, and the bomb fell out on deck and blew up. It killed 60 or so guys. I was up in the radar area at the time, and I was sitting on a waste paper basket. The Navy waste paper baskets are a little bigger around than normal, and the vacuum from the concussion sucked my butt right down in that thing. The lights went out, and you couldn't hear; I mean, my ears were ringing! Just by falling out of the bay, the bomb blew up. It had already been armed somehow. I guess there was a propeller on the front that arms it or something, but anyway it didn't fall out, and they landed with the thing still in there, and it didn't even blow up then. When they opened it up on the deck, it dropped right out on the deck and blew up. That was part of the results of it. (Above photo)
"I knew the ship's photographer, and he gave me some. He wasn't supposed to, but he did. I don't remember the dates. It was in the Pacific, and I don't know which islands or anything we were operating near. It was with the Franklin also.
"This is when we buried some of the dead.
[At dawn on the 21st, (January '45) the carriers were again in position to hit Formosa's airfields at Takao, Toko, Toshein, and Koshun. Strikes were continued throughout the morning as carrier planes returned to refuel and rearm as bombs were expended. At 1328 a torpedo plane returning from a sortie over Formosa made a normal landing on the Hannah and taxied forward in the approved manner to a point abreast of the island. Suddenly a deafening, blinding explosion jarred the Hannah from keel to masthead. A gaping hole appeared in the flight deck where a moment before a plane carried three tired airmen toward its accustomed spot by the forward elevator. Within seconds the flight deck was covered in a mass of tangled wreckage, inert forms and burning pools of gasoline.]
[In 38 minutes the fire was out and a tired and gallant crew surveyed the damage to the injured ship. Below in the sick bay, seventy burned and bandaged men lay; some so seriously injured that within hours they would join the 37 men to whom no mortal aid could come.]
[On the afternoon of January 23rd, while the Hannah was enroute to Ulithi, burial services were held for the 7 officers and 43 enlisted men who lost their lives in the tragic explosion.]
"This is the Hancock. It was a CV at the time. After WWII, I guess they put the angle deck on it too, which they did to the Hancock, but the war was over with by then. This basically had one runway or flight deck.
This photo shows the damage under the front of the flight deck.
[Near Okinawa on April 7th, 1945, a Japanese plane skimmed through heavy fire in a low level attack that ended with the enemy cartwheeling sickeningly across her flight deck into the spotted planes of Air Group Six. His bomb hit the port catapult with a terrific explosion, followed by the blast of pent-up gasoline fumes as tanks burst under the onslaught of the Japanese juggernaut. Hit hard at both bow and stern the Hannah reeled once more under searing flames as the fire immediately spread to gallery and hangar decks. Many men were blown over the side by the initial explosion while others were forced to jump to the comparative safety of the open sea by the heat waves that spread over the flight deck. Once again the Hannah left the formation to fight against destruction. Wheeling in high speed right turns the skipper attempted to throw the three burning planes froward over the side and to dislodge the sixteen planes parked aft from their moorings as the carrier heeled with the wind and force of gravity. The Task Force Commander kept his force near at hand to fight off renewed attacks on the crippled carrier and in less than 50 minutes the Hannah was back in action, hurt and breathing hard, but ready for action. By heroic and skillful work the damage control party had the fire under control within a half-hour and planes returning from strikes were able to land aboard four hours later. At quarters next morning the ranks were thinned by 62 absentees 27 had been killed and 35 were missing in action as a result of the fires and explosions. On the 8th the destroyer English came alongside with Hannah survivors picked up form the water on the 7th. The Hancock and Cabot were detached from Task Group 58.3 on the afternoon of the 9th and ordered to Ulithi for repairs. Three hours after leaving the formation the Hancock crew gathered on the hangar deck in honor of the 27 men who were killed aboard the Hannah during the Okinawa operation. At 1515 their bodies were committed to the deep off Okinawa in solemn burial ceremonies conducted by Chaplain James J. Doyle.]
"This was a frequent occurrence. I think it was a divebomber. They were flown on our ship by Marine pilots. He missed the cable with the hook, and he ran into a barrier cable, which was much higher, and this was the result of that, I guess. I've seen pilots burn up in their planes when they couldn't get out and were killed.
"I had always wanted to get in the Navy since about l936, I guess. We went out to the West coast to see the fleet in San Francisco Bay. Since my dad was in the Navy, too, I was really enthusiastic about getting in the Navy, but I had to wait until I was l7. When I was l7, I was called up to go into the Navy and enlisted in the "regulars. They called me December 23, l940, and I went to Chicago for training. I stayed there for about three months, I think it was, and came home on what they called a "boot leave for about a week. I then went back to Illinois, and they assigned me to the USS Nevada. I had no idea what kind of a ship it was, but it was a battle ship. It was home-ported at that time in Long Beach, California, and that is where I went aboard it, in Long Beach. I believe we stayed there for about a week while the ship was being replenished with supplies, food, and clothing, and taking on fuel. Then, we left Long Beach and went out to Hawaii where we practiced gunnery and navigation and all sorts of funny things the Navy does. I was assigned to the fire control division which aimed and fired the big guns at sea, the l4-inch cannons. At that time I was either a seaman 1st or 2nd Class. I was assigned as a talker on a computer down in the main battery plotting room they called it, which was six decks below the water line and on the starboard side of the ship (which is the right-hand side of the ship). Anyway, some of the other fire control men were stationed up in the masts, the fore mast and the main mast which was the mast in the rear part of the suprastructure.
(Everybody relied on binoculars to see?) "They had binoculars, but they relied mainly on very powerful range-finders. These guns would fire about l2 to l4 miles away from the ship. At that time, there was no radar; they relied entirely on the range-finders. The ranges they would get, the way the ship rolled, the windage, and the elevation that they had to have were all sent down to the main battery plotting room, and it was worked through these computers and came out with an answer, and that is where they would aim the guns.
"Anyway, we would do a lot of that at Pearl Harbor, practicing, always practicing gunnery, shooting at targets towed by tugs and anti-aircraft targets that were towed by airplanes. We certainly got sick of that after a while; that was all we would do. We might go out for a week, or we might stay out for three days. It varied, but usually when we would go out we would stay for a week and come back for a week; it varied. When we came back, half of the crew would have duties; half of the crew would leave the ship. They could either spend their time enjoying themselves on the Navy base or going into Honolulu and going to Waikiki beach and just having a lot of rest and recreation, good times.
"One evening we were out cruising around after our practice firing the guns, and I had taken my shower and had eaten and everything. We were sitting just behind my living compartment out on the after-deck playing cards, and I saw this thing in the water bobbing up and down, or appeared to be bobbing up and down. I thought it was a periscope, and I mentioned it to the fellows. Well, I was contradicted about that, but I often wonder if maybe that was a Japanese submarine out there watching our operations. I never did find out really. They thought maybe it was a mop handle bobbing up and down that had come from another ship.
(Did you go out as a group with the other ships?) "Yes, we always came out of the harbor in a group. Not necessarily would all the battleships in the harbor go out at once, but sometimes they would. It was quite a sight. They would all have to go single file through the channel out of the harbor, and it was a slow process, plus all the destroyers that went out and all the cruisers. We would go out and operate sometimes as an entire group, but sometimes we would separate and go out amongst the different islands or something and do our own particular thing.
(The shells that you fired, they were pretty good size?.) "Yes, they were about 4 l/2 feet high and about l4 inches; they called them a l4-inch shell. When they would fire them, they would have about four or five powder bags behind the shell in the breach, and they would fire them. I can remember an experience once when they were firing at targets on the horizon towed by tugs. Did you ever hear of "holy stoning the deck? What they would do occasionally was take fire hoses and squirt the deck and get it all wet. Then they would sprinkle sand around. They had like a brick with a little indentation in the center of it, and they would put a broom handle in that. They would all line up on the deck, and they'd go back and forth, like sandpapering the deck. Anyway, they were doing this one time, and then we got word over the loud speaker to 'all hands stand clear' because they were going to fire the big guns. So I backed up against one of the bulk heads on the outside of the ship, clear of the concussion, and it fired, but when they fired the sand just came up off the deck, and it scattered. We were all wearing shorts, short pants, at that time. Man, it felt like buckshot hitting us! It was really something.
"A British battle ship, the HMS Warspite, had come in to Pearl Harbor from, I think, Saigon, China. It had been hit by Japanese bombs over there because they were involved in the situation before we were. Also a French destroyer, and I don't know the name of that, but I probably couldn't pronounce it anyway. I went aboard the British battle ship to see how they lived, and to me it was a little bit cruddy. I remember that they didn't wash their dishes all the time. They would take the dishes and scrape the food off and then rub their apron around on them to clean them off that way. Then they would stick them up on the overhead, and it didn't look too good to me. I also saw the bomb damage. I went aboard the French destroyer. I don't know if it was just escorting the British battle ship there or if it was damaged also, but I was kind of impressed with that because inside of it, in the living quarters, it was all painted blue, whereas our ships were all painted white inside. (Did they get repairs there? Were they repaired at Pearl?)
"Well, probably temporary repairs, so it could get back to where it was going for major repairs. This would all have been in the summer of l94l and into the fall. It was before we were involved in the war.
"You asked me before if I anticipated anything; (I had earlier asked if there had been any sign of war preparations) I didn't until a very few weeks, maybe, before the war started. They started tearing up the wooden decks on the Nevada and taking the boats off, the smaller boats, life boats and sail boats that they had on there, and the captain's gig. They replaced them with cork life rafts, large ones, that could hold about 25 or 30 people, I think. They were attached to the ship on the sides of the turrets or wherever there was room to put them. They started making gun tubs for new 20 and 40 mm machine guns and radar platforms which we hadn't received yet, so somebody was anticipating something, that something might happen. They also painted the ship from a light gray to a dark, dark gray. All the battle ships were undergoing the same changes at that time. Some of the ships did have radar on them. I don't know if the Arizona did or not, but some of them were just having them installed aboard ship, whereas we hadn't had any yet.
"This is nothing pertaining to the war, but it was on a Sunday morning that we were out on a sailing whale boat in the harbor sailing around, about four of us. We had a fellow in our division; what they called him was a coxswain. He was in charge of the boat that our division had, so we went out sailing with him because he knew what he was doing and knew about sailing a little bit. We were sailing around the harbor, and we were just coming back to the ship. We were crossing the channel that goes out into the ocean, or comes into the harbor, and some destroyers were coming down the channel into the harbor. This coxswain was steering the sailboat, and he cut across the line of destroyers, and it was pretty close, I would say within 30 or 40 feet. The skipper of that ship came out on the bridge and hollered through a megaphone down to this coxswain. He said, 'Do you know you're not suppose to cut in front of a line of destroyers? We can't stop. We can't back down.' He said, 'What ship are you from?' and our fella answered and said it was the Nevada. I don't know whatever happened, if he got put on report or what, but that was pretty close anyway!
"Shall we talk about Pearl Harbor Day.......I was up early that morning. (Photos) It was a Sunday; everybody knows that. There wasn't anything for me to do, but I guess I've always been kind of a spic-and-span guy, so I grabbed a broom and started sweeping down my compartment, just a little dust and papers maybe. I heard this strange noise outside in the harbor. We used to have patrol planes that would take off, seaplanes, and they would take off in the harbor and fly up over the mountains and go out on patrol. Well, I heard this strange noise, and I thought maybe one of them was taking off and having engine trouble. I went over to the porthole and looked out, but it was no PBY; that was the designation of the plane, PBY seaplane. Well, it wasn't one of those, but I could see this little low-wing airplane flying real close to the water. Then it gained altitude and flew up over the foothills to the mountains. Right after that, I was still looking out the porthole, and I saw machine gun bullets splattering on the water. I thought, 'Gee, just like the movies!' I thought they were having some kind of battle practice or something. I guess I had just gotten through thinking that, and all of a sudden there was a terrific explosion up ahead of our ship. I thought it was a torpedo that hit the Arizona, and there was fire, it looked like about 300 or 400 feet up in the air, and smoke, and out of this fire and smoke I saw a great big hatch cover. It must have been about 8 x 8 feet square, and it went sailing up through this. It blew it right out of the deck of the Arizona. I still didn't realize what the heck was really happening. (So your porthole was away from the island?) "We were tied up to Ford Island on those quays, and the port side where my living compartment was on the Pearl Harbor side, and I could see all this. That is where the planes came in, from the water side. A lot of the guys were still sleeping, and in the distance I could hear these heavy booms and explosions. I still thought maybe it was the Army or somebody having some kind of practice, but on a Sunday morning? Anyway, I hollered up to the guys in the compartment that were sleeping that we'd better get to our battle stations. General quarters hadn't even sounded yet, and I got ridiculed for that because it was Sunday, and we were supposed to be able to sleep in and all this stuff. I thought to myself, 'The heck with you guys; I'm taking off where I belong', so I ran down the port side of the ship forward. I had to run through some gun placements that we had that were manned by Marines, and then I had to cross over to the other side of the ship and then go down to my battle station, down six decks. I got down there, and somebody was always in the plotting room all the time anyway. There were a couple fellas down there, and I arrived, and we could still hear these explosions down there, now probably hitting ships in the harbor; I couldn't tell; I couldn't see. Pretty soon, here come the other control men down who had stations down there, and they were in their civvies, in their shorts, half dressed, no shoes on, and all that stuff. Anyway, we got the whole crew down there. The compartment I was in was about 30 feet long and maybe 25 feet wide, and the entrance to it was from the center of the ship into the one side of this room, and the other entrance was from the overhead up in a corner back toward the stern of the ship which just had a ladder going up to it. Anyway, they dogged down that hatch up above, and they dogged down the door to make them water-tight and everything. Our ship hadn't started to move yet, but the battle was progressing and getting worse. We were getting reports from the men, the fire control men stationed up in the masts, about what was going on up in the harbor. They told us that the Arizona, the ship right ahead of us, was hit and blew up, and the forward mast was leaning forward. The Oklahoma, which was up ahead of the Arizona, was turned over, and there was fire in the water. There were reports about firing at the Japanese planes that were just zooming the ships.
(When was it first said that they were Japanese who were attacking? Do you remember?) "It was probably after we got down there to our battle stations. I didn't know. I could see the red mark on the airplane, but I didn't know who in the heck it was. Actually, thinking back, we had some Dutch sea planes, patrol planes, that would come in there once in awhile, and they had a red triangle on their planes; it was a triangle, not a circle. I didn't know who it was or what it was or why it was. Anyway, by this time, we were fortunate enough to have two boilers on-line, which means they had steam up, and when they changed boilers they would drop those two off and bring two more up. It happened to be at a time when the other resting two were up on-line, and the ones that were on-line were going to be dropped off; they hadn't quite dropped off yet. We had four boilers up full steam, so we could attempt to get out of the harbor. Anyway, that is what happened. They didn't even get a chance to take the lines off the ship from the quays. I wasn't topside then, but I understand that they were taking axes and hatchets and cutting those lines. The ones they couldn't cut, the strength of the ship moving backward trying to get away from the Arizona broke these great big hawsers. There were l2 hawsers holding the ship to the quays, and it just popped them. That's a lot of power.
"So anyway, there was a dredge line behind our ship; they were dredging out part of the harbor. We ran into that, which didn't mean a hill of beans; we had to back away. Then we started pulling forward. We were getting all this information from the men up in the masts. We started pulling away past the Arizona, and as we passed the Arizona there was fire on the water. The heat was so intense down where we were that the switchboard started shorting out, the control switchboard down there. Then we lost our lights, and the battle lanterns came on which were red lanterns down there so you could just barely see. Then they went out, and the lights came back on. Of course, we didn't have any air down there; everything was shut off. Anyway, we got through the fire on the Arizona. The switchboard had shorted out, and we were hit with a torpedo on the port side just opposite the side of the ship from where the main battery computer room was, the plotting room. It started sinking slowly, and eventually we were told to abandon ship. If we were able to get out of the computer room, we were suppose to go up and help anybody on the guns that was killed or hurt or whatever. We went into the central steering room which was a door in the bulkhead in toward the center of the ship and from there the conning tower which leads up to the conning tower near the bridge top side. There was this big tube and a ladder that went straight up. I was the second guy up there through this tube which was full of smoke. I don't know how we could even hold our breath that long to get through all that smoke and still be moving. We got up to the top, and the grating was locked up there. This other fellow, that was ahead of me, and myself, we were hollering, just hollering for somebody to come and break this lock and let us out of there. Finally, somebody came into the conning tower and broke the lock. Incidentally, this tower was about l2 inches thick of armor plate; that's all the way around it and up above, and it just had slits in there to see through outside.
"So we got out, and I ducked underneath the #2 gun turret overhang which was in the rear behind the guns and underneath this turret. By then, the Nevada had nosed into the Navy yard at a point where the floating dry dock was which contained a destroyer; I forget the name of the destroyer right now. (Shaw) Anyway, we were nosed in there, and a Japanese bomb had hit this destroyer in the magazine, and it blew up. There are pictures that I have which show that explosion. Luckily, I was underneath this overhang of the turret because of all the stuff that was falling down out of the sky, metal, cork, and all kinds of things, and it seemed to last about five minutes.
"All the time this was happening, we had a big l000-pound bomb in our forecastle which was the front part of the ship, and the whole forward end of the ship was on fire. They were trying to fight the fire and put that out before it got to the magazines. Some Navy tugs came alongside our ship and tied up to us and pulled us across Pearl Harbor, across the channel entrance, over to the sugar cane fields. So we were right alongside the sugar cane fields, and that is where the ship sunk down to the main deck, right there. We sat there until about the latter part of January, I think.
"We had a cat walk built over to the sugar cane field, and all the hands that were able were given guns, rifles or pistols or something, to set up an emplacement over in the sugar cane fields in case the Japanese came in. We didn't know what they had out there at the time, and we were still worried about invasion and that type of thing. The position of our ship, as you came down the channel from the ocean into the harbor, we were sitting right there where we could look right down that channel and see anything that was coming in there. Of course, the ship was out of commission and couldn't do anything anyway, but we were given these guns and told to find a spot in the sugar cane fields in case anything happened.
"Several incidents happened after that. There was still a Japanese submarine that had gotten into the harbor. When we were over there in that position alongside the sugar cane fields, the submarine was between Ford Island and our port side. One of our destroyers was coming out of the harbor, and it spotted the periscope, so they rammed this Japanese sub. As they rammed it, after they went over it, they dropped some depth charges right there in the harbor. Anyway, I saw them when they sent a big floating dredge over to pick that thing up, and they took it over to the sub base and set it up on the beach. I went over to see that, and you could still see the Jap hanging in the conning tower. It was opened up like a tin can. His legs were still dangling down below; you could see that. I think there were two or three fellows in that.
(When the Nevada got under way, was the attack still going on? Were there still planes dive-bombing and so on?) "Yes, that was near the very beginning I would say. We got under way pretty quickly after things started. (Was there a lull in between?) "There was a slight lull. I didn't know why, but I found out later on that there was a second phase to their attack. It was just as bad as the first part I thought, and we didn't shoot many of their planes down.
"Incidentally, when we were sunk alongside the sugar cane field, some fellows were walking out into the field. Of course, it was so tall that you couldn't see anything, but they came across a Japanese plane that had been shot down. I still have a piece of the inner tube that came from the wheel of that plane. I don't know what ever happened to that pilot. The pilot was gone, but they found his finger that was torn off in the cockpit. Some guy took one of those small wooden matchboxes and put the finger in there, and he was going to keep it. He kept it so long until it should have been buried, and so he got rid of it!
"We spent a lot of miserable nights on board the Nevada. At night, to begin with, the mosquitos were terrible, and there were a lot of people with trigger fingers. You know, they would keep on firing at things they thought they saw. There were tracers flying all over the place all night long. We basically stayed on the ship all day long, but we were given barracks on the beach at nighttime.
"The clean-up process of refloating the Nevada was a big mess. They had to patch the torpedo hole. They built a patch over in the Navy yard and floated it over on a barge. They sunk it alongside the ship where the torpedo had hit, and they welded it under water and clamped it and everything. Then they brought about l5 great big Ingersoll-Rand pumps out and set them on the deck where they could, dropped hoses down inside the ship, and then started pumping it out. Boy, the oil and everything was just like a thick muck.
"There were fires for days, the ships and on the water and everything. The Arizona burned for about three or four days. (How far would you have been from that when you were sitting by the sugar cane field? How far did you get?) "It wasn't even a mile from where the Arizona burned. That's as far as we got. We didn't get out of the harbor.
(Photos/maps) "That is where we started. The dredge line was going across from here to there; what we backed into, you know. Then we came out alongside the Arizona here where the dotted line is, and then we got hit. The Japanese planes had a straight run pretty much right through here, so we got hit with a torpedo right about here. We proceeded, as we were slowly sinking, over to this point, and this is about where the floating dry dock was. It was the Shaw; the Shaw was the one that was hit where we nosed in and blew up. I don't know if that was meant for us or if it was meant for it. Anyway, that is what happened there. Then the Navy tugs pulled us across here, and this is where we sunk, headed toward the channel. This was the channel they didn't want to get caught in; they didn't want to block that off because then our ships couldn't get out. Actually, it was that narrow; if you got a battleship in there even parallel to the cut, you know, a ship couldn't get past it. There was one way in and out. That Japanese submarine was right about here, and it was blown up and rammed. We were getting hit by bombs right along as we moved. It was about at this point, I think, when I was up on deck, out of the conning tube here, and about here maybe I still remember seeing - they said they were reconnaissance planes - three Japanese planes, and they were flying over in this direction; the mountains were over here. Whoever was firing at them, I don't know, with 5-inch shells, if they wouldn't hit a plane, they were coming so close to them that the concussion from the shells exploding made the planes move over or were pushed over, but they wouldn't come down, unless maybe they came down in town or out in the ocean or something. The Utah was here; that was hit, and that turned over too. None of the other battle ships got started; none of them moved at all. We were fortunate; we were the only one who could. But I think that is what drew their fire; we started coming out, and they all started coming after us. I know we got hit with seven bombs and one torpedo and someplace along the line they said l5; I don't know how they ever got l5. One of these ships - I don't know which one it was - got hit with six torpedoes.
(Could you feel it when you were hit each time?) "Yeah, when a bomb would hit, you could feel a deep rumble; you knew you were hit. When that torpedo hit, I can remember the sensation there. I was sitting alongside a computer then and trying to say the Lord's Prayer. I really tried about six times, and I couldn't finish it; I couldn't concentrate. Anyway, a torpedo hit us, and it seemed like the ship just went straight up - it felt like about a foot or 2 feet to me - and then when it came down, it kind of came down in a wavy motion; it was a funny sensation. It was just a big explosion, but it wasn't as big an explosion as what I heard on that aircraft carrier.
"Anyway, during the clean-up, it was a big mess. The oil was thick; it was just like muck. We had to get down below decks and pull out all the clothing, mattresses, food, and loose gear, and bring it up to the top and throw it in a barge to just get rid of it. We would have to rinse all this oil off in kerosene. They would bring 55-gallon drums over full of kerosene. Boy, we were breaking out with boils and everything else; it was terrible. We had to get all the weight out of the ship as they re-floated it. The water would go down, and all of this stuff was in there, and we had to get it out of there. It was all just hand work.
"After they got it all out, anyway, I ended up in the hospital, and I was up there until March. (Hall later told me that one of the barrels that was being used to lift debris out of the ship had fallen on his hand and wrist and he was injured severely enough that he required hospitalization.) I thought I was going to miss the ship because, by that time, they had gotten the ship re-floated and got a lot of the junk out, and it was going back to the States. I just about had to beg to get out of the hospital, and they let me out. We came back to Washington, and there the ship was completely torn apart. The guns were taken off, the range-finders, everything was taken off, and they pretty much rebuilt it right there. That took a year, and during that time we were all sent to different schools, gunnery school and fire-control school, different "professional schools, in the State of Washington, and some fellows went back to the East Coast to technician schools or something like that. Basically, it was in Washington, but they sent them all over the place really.
(Did they keep the crew together, though? Did they plan on everybody coming back when the ship was ready?) "Most of the fellows came back to the ship. It didn't look like the Nevada that I knew at first. The masts had been changed, and the smokestack had been changed. There was a lot of newer equipment on there, more radar, more guns.
"From there, after we left Bremerton, Washington, we went down to Long Beach again, which was the first home port when I went aboard, and they put provisions on there. Nothing was said; none of the crewmembers ever knew what was going on. This was about l943, or just before the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. Anyway, we were taking on provisions and so forth, and we took off, and after about 25 or 30 miles they would tell us where we were going. We were going up to the Aleutian Islands because the Japanese had taken over some of the islands up there, and they wanted to keep them off. This was pretty close to Russia.
"Anyway, we went up there, and it was cold, cold. When you saw water freezing on the ship, it was cold! We spent 96 days up there at sea and finally got the Japs off Attu; that was the name of the island. We did some patrol work up there. A lot of these waters were even uncharted, and our ship did hit something down below; it was coral or something. After patrol duty was done, we came back to Frisco or maybe Bremerton, Washington again. Anyway, the ship went in dry dock to see what damage had been done down below. On the front of a battle ship, right on the bow down below, there was what almost looked like a big ball; it was round. That thing was caved in from whatever we hit; it was coral I guess.
"Well, I guess we replenished, and from there we were going over to the East Coast, so we went through the Panama Canal. That was a tight fit! The Nevada was one of the widest battleships they had. I forget the measurements now, but it was bumping sides all along. They kept it cabled up pretty good to these "donkeys they called them that pulled the ships through the Canal, so it didn't move much, but it got through. Maybe they made ships according to the width of the Canal; or maybe they made the Canal according to the width of ships - I don't know.
"Anyway, we went to the East Coast and up to New York, and our next assignment was to act as a guardian in convoy duty for the merchant ships and supplies that were going over for the invasion of Europe. We made two uneventful trips over to Ireland and returned. When we came back, I was transferred off the Nevada to the USS Alaska; it was the first battle cruiser we ever had, but I never got aboard her. I was assigned to the USS Hancock - that was "my own ship, you know - because they needed crews for the aircraft carriers at that time in the Pacific. I was already in radar then.
"I went aboard the Hancock in Boston, and it wasn't actually in commission yet; it was still being worked on. When they finished it, we went on our shakedown to the Caribbean area, to Trinidad. [On June 12th, 1944 the Hannah commenced here shakedown cruise to Port of Spain Trinidad, Brit. W. I. where she cruised off the coast of Trinidad and Venezuela for several weeks.] We came back, and everything checked out all right, so we eventually took off for the Panama Canal [August 8th] again and over to the Pacific Ocean and up to San Diego where we got some more aircraft onboard and went out into the Pacific. I think we stopped at Pearl for a day, and then from there we went directly over to where the "big war was going on.
"After all the oil that was on the water and in the harbor (Pearl Harbor), there was like a ring in a bathtub, you know, up against the rocks and everything. I had thought it would be there for eternity, but somehow they had cleaned all that up, probably with chemicals or something, and they'd cleaned all the oil up that was on the rocks, and that part of it was all right. Of course, the Arizona was still there, and the Utah, which had turned over. That was on the other side of the island. It was a target ship. We used to drop water bombs on that, our pilots. It was actually an old battle ship. They had put a big wooden deck on top and everything and made a target ship out of it. That turned over, and about 50 or 60 men were lost on that.
"I was in all the Mariana's 'turkey shoot'; you've probably heard of that. We had three kinds of planes. We had divebombers; that was a gull wing, F4U; I think they called them "gull wings in the Navy. Marine pilots flew those. We had the TBF which was a torpedo plane. That was my favorite; I just loved the way they flew. And then we had the F6F which was a fighter. I don't know how many of each we had on there, but if we lost any we were always replenished right away.
"Of course, we couldn't keep any logs, you know, so I don't know dates. If I come across anything, any papers.....Some place, I don't have it here now - it's down in Tennessee - I've got dates, plus I've got letters. Of course, I couldn't tell my mother and dad in the letters where we were; we couldn't say anything. (I was curious too about when you first came home after Pearl Harbor, not very many people had any experience yet. Were a lot of people interested in your story?)
"They were interested, but we weren't able to say anything. I can remember pulling into San Francisco, and we were instructed thoroughly that if anybody asked any questions not to say a word. It was really tight because they were always afraid of getting into enemy hands, you know, and anything could happen. They didn't want to let on how bad the damage was or anything like that. Of course, if I told my mother and dad something, I knew it wasn't going to go any further than that, which it never did, and they understood.
(You were talking about how they were changing the deck from wood to steel; did they have that done?) "I wasn't aboard ship when they had done that; I was already out of the Navy, the regular Navy. That had been done after I was off the ship and out of the Navy. I was in the Reserves then probably. I was surprised when they had done it because I didn't know they were going to, but it was quite an accomplishment and a nice thing to have done, you know. They finally scrapped it, and I was sorry to hear that. Boy, some of these ships - I know they cost a lot of money to keep up - but they are such pretty things, and I just hate to hear that they scrap them. I'm glad that they made some accommodations in some of these states for the battleships, like the North Carolina and so forth, and they do have a carrier some place down South there too. Incidentally, that carrier that is down South, and I don't know the name of it right now, during a Japanese attack on its task group, which was with other than the Hancock, a Japanese plane was flying close to the water, and it was a suicide plane. He flew right in the hanger deck underneath the flight deck right inside the ship and hit the opposite bulkhead and blew up. I think they have the propeller of that plane hanging up as you come aboard ship now. I think that is down in South Carolina some place.
"I had been aboard the New Jersey when I was in the Navy Reserves. I had to take a two-week cruise, you know, so I was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the New Jersey was in there at the time. It was just being taken out of moth balls because it was going back to Vietnam, so I had to install aircraft warning lights up in the masts of that doggone thing; that was way up there! I have a picture of that, I think, in one of these books. Denny was on that ship when he was in the Phillipines. The New Jersey was back in service, and he went aboard it just for a look around. I think I have a picture of him some place standing alongside one of these big shells. Boy, they are big! Sometimes inside those turrets, they will take the shells by the nose, and they will get it rolling on its hatch down below to move it around a little bit. I don't think they do that anymore. They probably do that more mechanically now than by hand.
(When you were on the carrier, your job was to monitor the radar?) "I was a radar operator. (Did you get involved in any of the landings when the Marines would land on the different islands?) "Our pilots may have, but me, as an individual, no. (How far away from the islands would you be when they would fly missions off your ship?) "We might be l5 or 20 miles away from an island. We would just steam in a certain pattern where the planes could operate, and they could find their way back and so on. Usually, when we were in an area like that where there were possible enemy attacks from the air or something, we always had what they called a C.A.P., a cap that was over the ship protecting. Then they would send other planes, like fighters, maybe over to the island, and if there were any Japanese ships around, torpedo planes, and dive bombers into the island or whatever. So, it was pretty well covered. Sometimes they would get through, and that was nerve-racking. (Yes, it must have been tense all the time.) "That is what sent me off really when I had this partial break down. But as it ended up - I don't know how I act or anything, but I guess I came out of it all right. (In an earlier conversation, Hall told me that he was scheduled to be transferred to a non-combatant ship as a break from the stress of his job on the Hancock. The war ended before the transfer took place.)
(You were telling me before about the Franklin...) "Yeah. The Hancock and the Franklin, and I don't know what other aircraft carrier, were operating in this area. There were usually three aircraft carriers in a task force, three battleships, and about six cruisers. We had at that time about 3 or 4 different types of radar. We had radar they called the SG that was basically for detecting something on the sea itself. Of course, if you could get an airplane in its way, it would show that too, but it was mainly for surface stuff. An SC was for aircraft, and that would pick up at a longer range, but it wouldn't tell you what altitude they were. They had another one they called an SN which would get the elevation and tell you how high it was, what direction it was coming, and we would always plot the speed. (So you were really at the nerve center of the whole ship...) "Yeah. I was in the radar plotting room. (Could you see outside?) "It was all darkened. Like I said, when that torpedo plane came in when it dropped a bomb on the deck and sucked me down into the waste paper basket, I had to open up the door to go out on the cat walk, and half the cat walk was blown away. It was a lucky thing I didn't fall right out, you know! (How long was the shift that you worked?) "Four hours. Sometimes it was four on and four off. If it wasn't too busy, it would be four on and eight off. (Did you have another battle station for when you were off?) "No, not as I remember. I was always in the radar room or down in my compartment or out of the way on the flight deck or something. I used to like to stand on the catwalk and watch them land. I was never able to spend much time with the pilots. They were always busy planning things, you know. It was very important for them to know what the heck they were going to do and then get back to the ship, you know. They were more or less by themselves. And we had three different types of pilots, fighters, divebombers, and torpedo, and they all had different assignments, so basically, unless you were a maintenance man on their plane or something, you didn't have much time to associate with them. They all seemed to be nice guys and everything, but we all just had our own duties. They were officers.
(Did you get involved in the Phillipines? Wasn't there quite a bit of activity down there?) "Yeah, we were involved in the Phillipines - all those big islands. I wish I had a log. If you could become acquainted with some kind of a Naval historian person that takes a special interest in Naval procedures and such. There might be a lot of information in those books that I gave you and maybe diagrams and maps and all kinds of stuff.
(So when you left Pearl Harbor on the Hancock, it was quite a while before you got back then?) "Yeah. We were re-provisioned from ships, tankers, provision ships. When you're on a capital ship like that, you usually keep moving or you're anchored out, and anybody that comes in to the beach is for naval business or something. The only time we got off was at a supply base, but it was way out in the Pacific some place, and all the ships would come in there if they needed repairs or supplies; they had the equipment to do it. I think the name of the island was "Mogmog (Ulithi?) Island. Different ships would send so many personnel over there. They had removed all the natives from there and put them on another island, and our guys would go swimming, and they would have beer that was real weak beer I guess. I would always trade my beer off for something else; there was something else, but I don't know what it was now. I liked to swim, and this water was just like if you were to step out the window and start swimming; it was that clear. It was beautiful! The Japs penetrated that place one night, sent planes in there; of course, they were shot down and didn't cause any damage. Maybe one ship got hit. That was the biggest base out there, I think, for repairs and replenishment. Otherwise, everything was done at sea.
(During the time of the Philippines, didn't one of the fleets get caught up in a hurricane?) "Oh yes. We were in the South China Sea; it was southwest of the Philippines. We got caught in one of these typhoons. That was the worst storm I've ever been in! I was on the carrier then, and it was so bad that the Japs weren't attacking, and we couldn't send any planes out. To keep our position, the ship had to head into the wind and into the waves. This was interesting. We couldn't make any headway because the wind was so strong. I was in radar at that time. I don't remember rolling so much because we were basically headed into the wind, but the waves! Some of the aircraft carriers had the front end of their flight deck torn off, and masts were collapsing on some of the ships. It was really, really something else. If you could see the way some of these ships were built, you wouldn't think this could happen, but on the side of an aircraft carrier they have elevators that bring planes up from the hangar. If you could see the way these things are constructed, you would say nothing could ever tear that apart. We had a couple ships where these elevators back here were ripped right off the ship. I don't know what ship it was, but I saw the whole forward end of the flight deck was ripped off by the storm.
"We lost three destroyers that night, I remember. Off hand, I can't tell you their names, but some place in history it would be in books. They don't know what happened because there was no SOS or anything, and the next morning they were missing; they were gone. It wasn't due to the Japanese; it was due to the storm. What they think is water got down the stacks and put out their boilers, and they lost power. They probably got broad side to the waves, and they just rolled over and went down. That was the whole crew of three destroyers lost that night. The storm lasted about three days, a little before and a little after, you know. Boy, that was something! On one of the aircraft carriers, some of the planes got loose inside; they always had those things tied down. They got loose inside and started sliding around, and they caught on fire, so they had to fight fires inside this one carrier. I don't remember us having any damage, but I know this happened on a lot of ships, a lot of damage.
(Did you have a lot of plane loss, as you recall, on these supporting-type missions?) "I never got into that too much, but we did have some losses, not only through mishaps aboard ship or anything like that, but losses over enemy territory. I had some pictures, and I don't know what happened to them. It was of our torpedo planes that they sent off the ship loaded with sea bags, canvass bags. What they were going to do is they had located prisoner of war camps over there in Japanese territory, and they loaded these sea bags up with clothing and shoes and food and everything, and these torpedo planes would fly over the prison camps and drop these things. I don't know how much of that stuff they ever got; the Japanese maybe used it all up. Anyway, some of those planes came off of our ship, and I have photographs of this. You can see the guys down in the yard and waving up; they knew they were our planes. I would say it was taken about 300 feet up off the ground, that close.
"Some time after the storm, after I had that slight breakdown, all the ships were ordered to go into Tokyo Bay, so we went into Tokyo Bay. I got a good look at Mt. Fuji; that was pretty. I could see over into Yokosuka, which was a Japanese naval base, and there was a battleship tied over there. The Americans had plastered that thing, and it looked like a burned out hulk. It wasn't sunk, but it was tied up to a pier. [The Hancock steamed into Tokyo Bay on the 10th of September, 1945. All hands were topside as she threaded her way through the buoyed channel, glimpsing on either hand the destruction wrought by her own planes in this. As the Hannah rounded the breakwater she passed the rusting hulk of a beached Jap destroyer deserted and lifeless in its last resting place. To port the heavy top hamper of the battleship Nagato loomed in the distance and soon watches on the bridge were able to make out the cranes and workshops of the battered Yokosuka Naval Base.] Anyway, I stayed there about two or three days, and because of my situation I was transferred to either the Idaho or the Iowa; I don't know the name of that ship. We came right back to San Francisco, Treasure Island, in fact. From there, I was sent home here for about two months; that was just before I was discharged from the Navy. I was discharged on March 6th, 1946 as a Radarman 2nd Class.
(Going back to the Nevada, did the captain and all the officers stay with the Nevada, too, after Pearl Harbor?) "Most of them did. Some of them went to other ships. I remember our captain, I think at the time our captain was Captain Scanlan, and he was transferred to another ship, and we got a new commander.
"On the day of Pearl Harbor, after we were pushed over to the sugar cane field, we were hit up forward by this 1000-pound bomb and had the terrible fire up there. Some of our officers were in town at Pearl Harbor; the captain wasn't on board, and the executive officer wasn't on board. I don't know when the captain came back, but the executive officer - I didn't like this guy anyway, I'm sorry - came back aboard ship, and he was drunk. He came back aboard ship by way of motor launch which is what crew members get into when they go on leave or shore duty or something. He came back aboard, and the first thing he did was order for somebody to get him a fire extinguisher, a big red fire extinguisher, you know. Somebody got him a fire extinguisher, and this guy, he didn't even open up the valve; he just walked over to the hole where the bomb had gone in, and it was still smoking and everything. He threw the whole fire extinguisher in the hole. He didn't even open it up. That's how drunk he was; he didn't know what he was doing. I think his name was Commander Baker. He was always a grouch. Every time we were on watch or something, and he would have to be there for some reason or other, he was always finding fault with everybody about anything they did or didn't do. He was just hard to understand. But most of the officers were pretty good, in peacetime too. We had several of the officers that were called '90-day wonders'. A couple of them, Ensign Murdinger was one of my division officers, and there was another one who had lost his leg - I see him once in awhile at a reunion - he was a real, real nice guy. As you go through some of these books, you will probably see something about them. When a bomb hit, he said the next thing he knew, his leg was up underneath his arm; this was at Pearl Harbor. He was in the same division I was in. His name was Joe Tossa. He ended up being Assistant Secretary of the Navy for awhile a few years back. He was a real, real nice, down-to-earth guy. He didn't act like a lot of the officers who were kind of highfalutin guys. He and this Murdinger that I mentioned were two real nice guys.
(The Nevada, that's the reunion? Are you able to get together yearly?) "Yes, they do it every year. Usually, it is on the westcoast some place, and it's kind of inconvenient. The last time, it was in Philadelphia where I hadn't been for a long time, and it's so crazy to get around that city when you're driving, especially when you're alone; I didn't enjoy myself too much there. Plus I was on my way down to see my friends in South Carolina, and I was in kind of a hurry.
(How about on the Hancock? With it being an aircraft carrier, were the officers aviators? Were they younger by then?) "They were about the same. I mean, as far as my age, they were always about the same distance in age from me on each ship throughout the time that I was in. We were always working together with the radar officers because they were in the radar room, too, and they had the final say in everything. When I was in radar - maybe you've seen on television this big round screen, like a plotting screen, where the guys are sitting behind it and marking up, writing backwards so the people on the other side can read it - I got pretty good at that; I did that, too. We would be connected with phones to radar operators on the set as to where this certain plane was, and we would mark it on there. We would keep marking it and find out where he was going in relation to the ship. The ship would be the center of the plot. If a bogey came on and would say 270, 50 miles, you would put a bogey, a certain kind of mark, and you could track that thing. Right from that room, you could send by radio to the pilots in our planes a certain vector, so many miles, if they were getting closer, and pretty soon they would have them in sight. You could hear all this over a speaker, you know.
(You mentioned the Mariana's 'turkey shoot' - were you in support of a landing at that time?) "It wasn't a landing. It was a search and looking for Japanese ships and planes to sink or shoot down. That went on for a couple days. Also we were chasing damaged ships and trying to finish them off. It was a busy time. Of course, in that situation you were only on four hours and then off four hours, but when you were off four hours you wouldn't know what had taken place, so you'd have to get the information from the other operators. I have pictures of the radar gang on the flight deck alongside the suprastructure. When they took one of these pictures, I happened to be on watch at the time, so then they took a picture of us later, and there were about eight of us in that group. The radar guys were all nice, a different class of people too.
(That was pretty high tech, the fact that you were using that kind of equipment; it wasn't like the old days of through binoculars. You had a little different view of things.) "Well, we weren't technicians, but we were operators, but as I said, it really got me down because we could see what was coming in on the plotting board and on the radar scope; we could see what was coming. Man! If we weren't getting reports that we shot down so many "Betty's or "Oscar's or whatever the heck they called the type of plane, then you start to worry. One night, I was off watch, and my buddy and I were up on the flight deck. They were loading planes with bombs and such. It was a beautiful night, and all of a sudden they picked up some bogeys, and it turned out to be a whole bunch of bogeys. I don't know where we were or where they were coming from or anything, but it was black, dark now; I don't remember any moon or anything. You couldn't see anything except the water alongside you, and pretty soon the outer perimeter of the ships, maybe destroyers, start firing. You can't see what they're firing at, but there were tracers going up. It always seemed to be close to the water because at nighttime I don't think they were doing much divebombing. So pretty soon, there was a big fire over here, and there was another fire over there. Pretty soon, there were about l5 or 20 fires all over the place. These were Jap planes that had been shot down. This guy and I were still standing out on the flight deck, and there were bombs sitting around in these carts that the guys had left there and went to their battle stations; as I said, I was just off watch. I saw these two white lights behind our ship, and I'm looking at this thing and wondering what the heck. It was getting bigger and bigger and bigger, but you couldn't make anything out because it was so dark; it was just these white lights. Pretty soon, they got so close you could see that it was either exhaust coming from the engines or they were on fire, one or the other. Well, it was a Japanese bomber! It was about flight deck height. It was not coming right exactly astern of us, but it was off to the side a little bit. This thing was coming, and it came right alongside the ship, and it got hit. Somebody hit it. I don't know if we hit it or some other ship maybe, and it went into the water and crashed. Right away, boom, and it started on fire. We knew three or five guys were killed in that thing; that's how close it was. It's these types of experiences that you never see in a lifetime, you know, that really make an impression. You think, 'There go five more people; even if they're Japanese, what a shame.'
"I think it was on the Hancock when I was standing outside the bridge in the suprastructure in the area of a 40 mm gun, and a bogey got in, one bogey. Man! He was way up there, and I could see him. Pretty soon, he started nosing over, and he started diving. When they are up that high, you don't know just what they're diving at; it could be another ship alongside you or something. So, the vapor was coming off his wing tips; boy, he was really coming, you know. All of a sudden, I saw this little black speck drop off the bottom of the plane, and that got bigger and bigger. I was standing there like a nitwit, you know, and pretty soon he pulled out of his dive and took off, but this bomb was still coming. I thought sure it was going to hit us. It didn't hit us; it went right alongside the port side of the bow and blew up in the water. I was outside in this gun tub-like thing, and I was saturated with water. As this Japanese plane took off, they didn't hit him and knock him down. There was a gunner in the back behind the pilot, you know, and he was firing his guns. He was that close that you could see him. That was an experience!
(While you were out on the ship all the time, did you get news about what was going on in the war? Were you able to keep up with things in Europe?) "Through the mail, my mother and dad were sending me Time magazine, and that was about the only inkling of an idea that I would get about what was going on around the world, not about back home necessarily. The radio out there would always come and go, you know. It would get strong and then fade out, and we just didn't have that much news out there, maybe what we got in the mail or maybe somebody would send newspapers; that's all; we were kind of kept in the dark.