STATEMENT OF:- Lieut. Comdr. E.E. Berthold, U.S. Navy, Gunnery officer, U.S.S. West Virginia.
I was ashore at the Pleasanton Hotel during the night of 6-7 December, 1941. The first information I received about the raid was over the radio from one of the Honolulu commercial radio stations. This was about 0800, 7 December, 1941. The approximate wording of the first announcement that I heard was, "Oahu is under attack by the enemy".
Upon receipt of the above announcement, I started for Pearl Harbor in a private car taking along Lieut. Comdr. Killeen (SC), U.S.N., Lieut. L. Knight (Chief Engineer, West Virginia) and another officer from a cruiser.
Traffic was comparatively light on the roads and we soon came in sight of the heavy black smoke from oil fires in the Pearl Harbor area. Upon approaching the vicinity of Hickam Field enemy planes were seen and one hangar received a direct hit and burst into flames as we passed. Evidence of other hits could be seen in Hickam Field. Enroute to and after reaching the Officers' landing in the yard, more low flying enemy dive bombers were seen diving and flying over ships and their immediate vicinity. By the time we reached the Officers' Club Landing (about 0845) the Oklahoma was already capsized, the West Virginia could be seen settled on the bottom, and the Arizona was down and covered with heavy oil fire smoke.
A couple of minutes after reaching the landing, we embarked in a Whitney(?) motor launch and made the forecastle of the West Virginia which could be easily reached directly from the motor launch. Upon reaching the forecastle, heavy smoke and fire covered everything on the ship abaft Turret Two. The oil on the water alongside to port was also blazing and moving forward rapidly toward the bow.
The first Officer I contacted on the forecastle was Lieut.. Comdr. Beattie (the navigator). He suggested that I flood the forward magazines (the after magazines were already flooded). I started below and reached the second deck level through hatch at about frame #52. The second deck was already flooded from port to and slightly beyond the amidships line thereby blocking further progress to A-420 on the third deck which I was trying to reach. I have not been able to find out if anyone succeeded in flooding the forward magazines before I attempted to do so. I do not believe they were intentionally flooded. However, I do know that the 3rd deck spaces were completely flooded in the vicinity of frame #50 at about 0850 or 0900. This indicates that the 3rd deck and everything below must have been under water.
Failing to reach the 3rd deck level, I returned to the forecastle through the darkened smoke filled compartments on the second and main decks. I saw no one in these spaces at this time.
Upon again reaching the forecastle, dense black smoke covered that area and the forecastle was ordered abandoned by Lieut. Comdr. Harper. We embarked in motor launches which were alongside and shoved off with oil on the water burning only a couple of feet under the stern of the motor launch and moving toward the bow of the West Virginia. Several men were picked up from the water before proceeding to disembark ashore at the old Magazine Island Landing.
After sending several men to the hospital and first aid stations for treatment, the rest of the party of about 90 men and 10 officers proceeded to the Receiving Station in the yard.
Shortly after arriving at the Receiving Station I was ordered by Comdr. Peterson (C.O. Receiving Station) to organize machine gun and armed guard details to cover the naval housing area and certain adjacent sections of the navy yard.
All men and officers with whom I had any contact conducted themselves in a highly satisfactory manner and did everything in their power that they were ordered to do or that the occasion demanded.
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