|UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET|
|BB48/A16-3||BATTLESHIPS, BATTLE FORCE||10/2k|
|U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA|
|December 11, 1941.|
|From:||The Senior Surviving Officer, U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA.|
|To:||The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.|
|Via:||The Commander Battleships, Battle Force.|
|Subject:||Action of December 7, 1941 -- Report of.|
|Reference:||(a) Article 712, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.|
|Enclosures:||(A) Statement of Lt.Comdr., J.S. Harper, U.S. Navy.|
|(B) Statement of Lt.Comdr., T.T. Beattie, U.S. Navy.|
|(C) Statement of Lt.Comdr., E.E. Berthold, U.S. Navy.|
|(D) Statement of Lt.Comdr., D.C. Johnson, U.S. Navy.|
|(E) Statement of Lieut., L.J. Knight, jr., U.S. Navy.|
|(F) Statement of Lieut., C.V. Ricketts, U.S. Navy.|
|(G) Statement of Lieut.,(jg) H.B. Stark, U.S. Navy.|
|(H) Statement of Lieut.,(jg) F.H. White, U.S.N.R.|
1. In accordance with the instructions contained in reference (a), the following report of the action of December 7, 1941, is submitted:
By this time I had reached the Quarterdeck, and the ship was beginning to list rapidly to port. I proceeded along the starboard side until just forward of Number Three Turret, when there was a third heavy shock felt to port. The planes on top of Turret Three caught on fire, and there were flames all around the Turret Top. The quarterdeck sentry informed me that the Captain had already gone to he bridge, so I remained aft to assist in extinguishing the fire around Turret Three and on the quarterdeck. There was another heavy explosion at this time, that threw me flat on the deck. During all this time the ship was continuing to list to port, and at that time of this latest shock, I should estimate that the list was about 20° or 25° (this is purely an estimate). I called to the sound power telephone watch to tell Central to counterflood, but do not know whether or not this word got through.
Immediately following this latest explosion, I saw a flash of flame about fifteen feet high somewhere forward on the Arizona and had just gotten to my feet again when there was a terrific flash of flame from the Arizona, this second flash being higher than the foretop. Burning debris of sizes from a fraction of an inch up to five inches in diameter rained on the quarterdeck of the West Virginia.
During all of the above the ship's batteries continued firing, and shortly after the Arizona explosion, the list on the West Virginia stopped and she gradually started right herself. Meanwhile, efforts to push overboard the burning embers on the quarterdeck and to extinguish the fire on top of Turret Three and in the planes was continued. There was another heavy shock, distinguishable from the shock of the ship's own guns firing, and it was reported that a large fire had broken out amidships. I went in to the deck-house and found the repair parties already working against a fire, but without much success, as the fire increased by leaps and bounds. At this time, a Telephone Talker said "Central Station says Abandon Ship". As it was evident the fire fighting party had no chance to extinguish the fire, they were ordered to leave the ship. The fire had by then, from all appearances, from aft, isolated the after and forward parts of the ship. I went out on the port side of the quartered, and seeing on boats on that side went over to the starboard side. By this time the stern of the Tennessee was burning, and a wall of flame was advancing toward the West Virginia and the Tennessee from oil on the water from the Arizona. I looked around and saw no one else aft on deck and then I dove overboard and swam to the Tennessee. On getting on deck of the Tennessee I found about ten West Virginia people gathered under the overhang of the Tennessee's Number Three Turret. As the Tennessee people were busily engaged in fire fighting but in no need of any extra help, I took the West Virginia people over the starboard side on to the pipe-line to help in extinguishing the fire that had started in the rubbish and trash and oil covered water between the Tennessee and Ford Island. Several of our people that were hurt were loaded into a truck and taken to the dispensary. I then brought the truck back to that part of Ford Island opposite the Tennessee and kept on with efforts to extinguish the fires among the trash and oil on the water. More and more West Virginia personnel kept arriving at this point, some by swimming, some by hanging on to wreckage, and, I think one whaleboat load.
After the fires in the water were out, I went back by the pipe-line climbed up a Jacob's ladder to the forecastle of the Tennessee and went up on the bridge and reported to the Commanding Officer of that vessel. The West Virginia at this time was blazing furiously amidships, and the Commanding Officer, Tennessee wanted to know if the magazines of the West Virginia were flooded. I assured him they were. Finding the greater part of the personnel of the West Virginia's A.A. battery on the Tennessee, I gave instructions that they were to remain on board under the orders of the Tennessee.
O then returned ashore, visited the survivors of the West Virginia, who were lodged in the Bachelor Officers Quarters, Ford Island, and in a bomb shelter. While there, I learned that the Navigator, Lieut-Comdr., T.T. Beattie, and a working party had returned aboard ship to assist in extinguishing the fire, so I gathered up a working party from among the personnel who were able and unhurt and went back aboard the West Virginia.
Fire fighting parties, in relays, continued efforts against the flames, which finally were extinguished Monday afternoon.
2. Throughout the entire action, and through all the arduous labors which followed, there was never the slightest sign of faltering or of cowardice. The actions of the officers and men were all wholly commendable; their spirit was marvelous; there was no panic, no shirking nor flinching, and words fail in attempting to describe the truly magnificent display of courage, discipline, and devotion to duty of all officers and men. Some examples of outstanding performance of duty are:
Lieutenant Commander J.S. Harper, U.S. Navy, the First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer, who by prompt action in counter-flooding prevented the WEST VIRGINIA From capsizing. He continued at his post in Central Station until forced to abandon it by the entrance of water, then abandoned it through the Conning Tower escape hatch and even then made a search through the ship before abandoning it.
Lieutenant Commander T.T. Beattie, U.S. Navy, the Navigator, who remained at his post alongside the Captain throughout all the action and made extreme and strenuous efforts to get the Captain, wounded, to a place of safety and to a first-aid station. Lieutenant Commander Beattie then returned aboard and continued in attempts to extinguish the fire on board.
Lieutenant Commander D.C. Johnson, U.S. Navy, the Communication Officer, who remained on the bridge, under fire, aided the Captain when the latter was wounded, and was untiring in the work afterward.
Lieutenant W. White, U.S. Navy, the Assistant Damage Control Officer, who was ashore at the beginning of the action, but returned aboard and performed prodigies in the attempt to extinguish the fire. His untiring and intelligent efforts were an essential aid to getting the fire finally under control.
Lieutenant C.V. Ricketts, the Senior Gunnery Officer aboard, and regular Secondary Battery Control Officer, who, as his battery was not firing, busied himself with aiding the Damage Control Officer in counter-flooding, in caring for the Captain when wounded, in attempting to get additional ammunition to the Anti-Aircraft battery, and was unsparing of himself in his efforts during the action and during the fire-fighting which followed.
Lieutenant F.H. White, D-V(G), U.S.N.R., who aided by MILLER, Doris, Mess Attendant second class, U.S. Navy, was instrumental in hauling people along through oil and water to the quarterdeck, thereby unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost.
Ensign H.W. Sears, D-V(G), U.S.N.R., who was ashore when the attack started, made his way back to the Navy Yard, but could only get aboard the U.S.S. PHOENIX. As that vessel started out, Ensign Sears asked the Commanding Officer if he needed a turret officer. The answer being in the negative, Sears, as the PHOENIX passed near the U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA, dove over the side and swam to the WEST VIRGINIA.
Boatswain E.R. Weaver, U.S. Navy, who made himself unusually valuable in effecting repairs and fighting fires during the action, and then continued untiringly afterwards.
Because the above named people are particularly mentioned, it must not be construed that the actions and work of their shipmates and associates was any less valuable or less courageous. The entire ship's company is deserving of the highest commendation, both for their work on December 7th and on the days following. All the ship's company, officers and men, ask is another chance at the enemy. Their devotion to duty and their performance of duty have given new meanings to those phrases.
3. Statements of various officers are enclosed herewith.
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