December 11, 1941.
||Lieutenant Levi J. Knight, Jr., U.S. Navy.
||The Navy Department.
||U.S.S. West Virginia-- Loss of.
- On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was on authorized shore
leave, residing with my wife at the Hotel Pleasanton, Honolulu, T.H. At
about 0810, I arose and began to dress for breakfast, at the same time I
heard the distant sound of gunfire. This made no impression [on] me at the
time, as I knew there was a TASK FORCE at sea. A few minutes later, I heard
a radio broadcast from the room above directing that all Army and Navy
personnel and police report to their stations at once, as the island was
under attack. My wife confirmed what I had heard and Mrs. Killeen, wife of
the Supply Officer, rapped on my door and gave further confirmation of the
word over the radio.
- I proceeded to Pearl Harbor at once in a car in company with Gunnery
Officer, Supply Officer and the Executive Officer of the Boise. As we
approached Pearl Harbor, I noted large columns of black smoke arising from
the harbor, and as we drew closer, formations of large black bombing planes
flying in a direction away from the harbor. As we passed Hickam Field, it
was under attack by dive bombers. I observed several direct bomb hits on the
hangars, and fragments of planes, wings, etc., were thrown into the air. The
planes attacking Hickam Field were smaller than the flack horizontal bombers
and were a silver gray or aluminum color. I noted the red sun device of
japan on their wing tips.
- On arrival at the Officer's Club Landing in the Navy Yard, I had to wait
for a boat for approximately five minutes. As there was none within hailing
distance at the moment, I had time to observe the following facts: The Oklahoma
had capsized, and nothing was visible but her bottom. The California
was sunk with a heavy list to port, and it appeared that the West
Virginia was sunk (from a distance). The West Virginia and Arizona
were on fire as indicated by heavy smoke columns. A number of ships were
putting up a heavy anti-aircraft barrage, particularly those in the Navy
Yard, and the Maryland and Tennessee.
- A boat was hailed by the Executive Officer of the Maryland and I
embarked in it, in company with Maryland, California, and West
Virginia officers. This boat made the Maryland first, then the California,
and finally the West Virginia. I arrived on board in company with the
Gunnery Officer and Supply Officer at about 0845 or 090. At this time the
ship had already been sunk, and the forecastle, on which I landed, was only
a few feet above the gunwale of the motor launch. The ship was on fire
amidships, with choking black smoke driving personnel on the topside
forward. As I started to go aft, I encountered the First Lieutenant, who
then gave the order to abandon ship, as senior officer present on the
forecastle. I then jumped in a boat which was along side, and after picking
up all the men the boat would hold, we cleared the side. As we cleared the
side the oil along side caught fire, and a sheet of flame covered the water
and seared the side from about amidships all the way to the stem. The boat
proceeded across the harbor and landed at Huahua point.
LEVI J. KNIGHT, JR.
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy.
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