Earl Gene Johnson
USS West Virginia
When the war started I was a seaman 2nd class and on board the USS WEST VIRGINIA. I was on mess cook duty in the fourth division and was clearing the tables off when I heard an explosion and the ship raised up and then started settling down. About the same time the warrant housing mate came running through the compartment saying the ship had been bombed. We dropped everything and headed for general quarter stations. By the time I got to my station the hatch was closed and screwed. I ran back to the third turret and got in just as the hatch was being secured. I threw my lighter and ring in a drum filled with water. Bombs and torpedoes were hitting the ship and the power went off so we had no communication with the outside. We felt around in the dark until we found the ladder leading up to the top of the turret. Another torpedo hit the ship and we could hear water coming in the outside of the turret. When I got to the overhang of the turret and looked down I saw some sailors laying on the deck and made my way to the starboard side of the West Virginia and got on the Tennessee that was tied up beside us. I slid down a mooning line from the Tennessee and with another sailor we got a motor launch out in to the harbor. Oil and fire was so bad we could hardly see. We found one sailor in the water that was in bad shape. We rushed him over to the sub base and laid him on the ground and started back to ship row. Smoke and fire got so bad, we had to beach the launch on the tip of Ford Island. I jumped on a pickup truck that was circling the Island picking up sailors and taking them to the Armory. I was standing in line to get a gun and ammo when an officer came up and told me to go to the base hospital because I had a hole in my leg. When I got to the hospital and looked inside, I knew they were too busy to take care of a little hole so I found a rag and tied it around my leg. I saw the ferry zigzagging across the harbor. When it got to the dock I got on it and went to the main landing. A temporary hospital was being set up on the dock. A medic cleaned my knee, put three metal clips in it and put a bandage on it. There were some guys digging fox holes and they gave me a rifle and some sandwiches and put me in the fox hole. Late at night a flight of planes came over and everything in the harbor that could fire did. The next morning we went down to the dry dock where the Pennsylvania was in dry dock. I worked on it a few days until the USS Lexington came in to port. I went on the Lexington until it was sunk in the Coral Sea. Then I came back to the States and went on the USS Thomas Stone. We were on our way for the invasion of North Africa but were torpedoed on the way over there. In the Straits of Gibraltar an English corvette was sent out to tow us in to Algiers. When we reached Algiers, fighting was going on at the outskirts of the city. We were pulled up to dock where we were unloaded. We were at general quarters all that night. We were pulled in to the harbor the next day and a storm came up November the 23rd and blew us up on the beach. I finally got shore duty until December 10th 1944, came back to the States in January 1945, went to the USS Columbus until I was honorably discharged in May of 1946.
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