December 7, 1941
As recalled by Werner K. Bauer, on 12-9-41
Sunday morning I lay in my upper bunk looking up at my clock that Uncle Walter and Aunt Ann had given me. The time was seven-thirty. Laying there with my hands clasped behind my head, I was trying to decide where I was going to hike that day. I was disappointed with myself because I had not roused out at dawn and started my hike.
Oh! But it felt good to relax. I had spent the entire preceding day standing over a drawing board, graphing the results from the many tests on our ship’s boilers, and I was still tired from this work. At seven-fifty I was still relaxing in my bunk.
At 7:55am “Fire & Rescue” call sounded, followed by the words “Away fire and rescue party”, over the loud-speaker system. Startled, I jumped to the deck, ripped off my pajama trau and pulled on dungaree trau and shirt. My roommate, Dan Hazelton, woke up asking, “What is this?”
Instantly, his question was answered as we felt the ship shake from the explosion of the first aerial torpedo which penetrated the skin of the ship. This torpedo entered the ship at about frame one-hundred on the port side. “Man your general quarters stations” was passed on the loudspeaker system. I grabbed the first pair of shoes I saw, my new white moccasins and ran to Main Control.
There were but a few firemen about the hatch leading to the 3rd deck. I must have gotten to my station, Main Control, in less than a minute. Some of my men were already on station and were uncoiling their telephone headsets in preparation for manning them. There was not time to say much of anything. I remember Ross - YM 1/e asking me, “What is this?” I replied “This is it.” Everyone present knew what these words meant.
In Main Control we sensed the beating the ship was taking. Everything shook. I think there were seven hits in rapid succession - within 20 seconds. Each hit shook the ship violently, from end to end. And with each successive explosion, the ship listed more to the port side. All the bells in Main Control began ringing. I answered each phone, “Main Control” but got no response from the parties on the other end of the line. One call did come through; I think it was from Lippencott F 1/c. The men at the evaporators wanted permission to “dog” the evaporator compartment down. I immediately granted permission. The explosions from the first bombs broke lampshades and sent glass showering over us in Main Control. Shortly all the lights went out. As the lights went out, the words “Abandon Ship! Abandon Ship!” came over the loudspeaker system.
In the dark my men ran up the ladder. The ship had a bad hit and we were sure she was on her way over. Everyone was tense! There were 10-12, or maybe more men in Main Control. They were Walker - Chief Electricians mate, Daugherty - Fireman second, Ross - Yeoman first. Also present were Zeuhlke MM 1/c, McGreugor BM 1/c, Gaines EM 1/c, and Ballow EM 1/c. Chief Walker and I left after all the other men had gone up the ladder. Walker and I stood at the foot of the ladder wishing each other good luck.
On the dark 3rd deck ,machinist Kent was ably taking charge of the men, keeping them calm while, one by one, they climbed up through the small armored hatch feeding up to the 2nd deck. Black fuel oil began pouring in, and the men were having a difficult time getting up the slanted deck to the ladder. I went back down to Main Control to get two battle lanterns. I unhooked the lanterns from their overhead support and tried to take them up the ladder, but I could not make the grade with both lights, as the ladder was slanted against me by the list of the ship. I did make it to the third deck with one lantern, but it proved little or no use.
It seemed the men took undue time climbing the hatch to the second deck. At the end of this line of men seeking topside was tall, serious, Ensign Jack Armstrong, dressed only in striped pajama pants.
Once up this hatch, I found this deck as congested as the third. Here my men had to pull themselves through a cargo hatch combing without the aid of a ladder. Men were jammed about the bottom of this hatch, waiting their turn to climb topside. I ordered some of the men to go aft through officer country to one of the hatches there. They informed me there was a fire aft which prevented them from doing this. I had several men extend their arms so they could pull me up the slanted second deck. By this time, my new white moccasins were soaked with oil and had no traction whatsoever.
Going aft, I observed the fire that prevented the men from going up the starboard junior officers’ hatch. Returning to my room, I kicked off my moccasins, put on tennis shoes, and grabbed my steaming hat and my wallet. I think it must have been about 8:10am by this time.
I left my room on the double, heading for the before mentioned cargo hatch. Just beyond the hatch, in the after part of the A division living compartment, I saw two men prone on the deck. With the help of John Liskick - Boilermaker - 2nd, I tied these men on a mess bench and saw to it they were passed topside. One of these men who was wedged under a row of lockers, and was suffering from severe shock was Mitchell - Machinist 1st, station leader of my forward engine room upper level. The next time I saw him was Wednesday morning; he had returned from Ford Island hospital and was in perfect health.
After the last man had gone up the cargo hatch, I went up. From there I went to the main deck, and the forward deck. Here I saw 50 or more Marines standing fast on the outside of number 3 casement bulkhead. With the understanding in mind that all men were to abandon ship, I was surprised to find these men standing here. I ordered them to abandon ship and get to Ford Island. They asked , “How?” I yelled, “SWIM!” As soon as I said this, they ran hurriedly up the foc’s’sle and disappeared over the side.
When the Marines left the casements I saw three wounded men lying on deck. With the help of two men who stayed with me, I tied these men on mess benches and had the wounded carried to the USS Tennessee. Walking in midship direction, I came on a central hatch that led down to a living compartment, whose deck was strewn with wounded and dead men. With the help I had, it was almost an impossibility to get the wounded up the ladder. I cut back to the casement to the open deck looking for men to carry on the job of evacuating the wounded. Now I wish I had those Marines that I had ordered over the side to carry out the job I had just come across. Fortunately, there were other good men about who could be mustered to help remove the injured men.
Now I proceeded forward on the main deck to seek supervision and orders which I hoped I could perform. Like so many others in these moments, I wanted something to do, some kind of orders any kind of orders which might result in saving lives or equipment. On the main deck forward I found CMDR Beatty, USN, who asked two other ensigns and me if we knew how to flood the ammunition storage magazines. The other ensign replied that they did know how to flood the magazines, and they were assigned to flood magazines 1 and 2 . I was assigned to flood magazines 3 and 4. I proceeded aft going below decks through a number of compartments because by this time the top deck was on fire in several spots, fueled by oil from our own ship and the other ships’ storage tanks, and aided by a strong prevailing wind from the stern of the ship. Because I personally felt about 65% sure of how to carry out the mission I was on (flooding the ammunition storage magazines), I announced in the first below decks compartment that I entered, “Does anyone know how to flood the ammunition magazines?” I was in luck. Chief Carpenters Mate CCM Aldrich, USN. stepped forward and said that he was a member of damage control, and flooding the magazines was something he knew how to do well. In a case like this it was one of his jobs. The two of us proceeded with dispatch to the Second deck aft and manually cranked open the eight large valves; allowing sea water to rush into two magazine compartments which stored 16 inch diameter shells and powder bags for the ship’s after four 16 inch guns housed in turrets three and four. On opening these valves we saw a number of minor pipe leaks which should have been expected considering the terrific pounding the ship had taken for the last two hours. Opening these valves took quite a bit of effort . Chief Aldrich and I found it best to open one valve at a time. He or I would start the operation and complete approximately 50%, then let the other finish the process. We became very good friends doing this one task together. I will always be thankful that I lucked onto him when I did!
The starboard side compartment where I found Aldrich was filled with about 30 good men who were perplexed as to what to do next. Some were stunned and some were getting sicker by the minute from the dense CO2 gases being emitted from fires engulfing the ship. These fires were being fed by bunker C fuel oil from our ruptured fuel oil tanks. Fortunately, Aldrich, USN, was a large, husky, good -natured man in good shape. He was willing to pitch in and do everything possible to save the ship.
He and I and many others stayed aboard ship until mid afternoon, fighting fires and trying to seal up the ship as tight as possible to keep the prevailing winds from fanning the fires until we were relieved by officers and crew who had been ashore the previous night. Our relief had a hard time getting from Honolulu to Pearl Harbor due to traffic jams and general confusion.
We survivors had had no breakfast or lunch, and with all the excitement, we hadn’t missed nourishment. We were not very tired, but we were dirty, mainly from black, heavy oil.
We were taken by launch to the Submarine Base, where we first washed off the bunker C fuel oil with coal oil, then did our best to wash off the oil and coal oil with strong soap, before suiting up with one clean set of skivvies, one khaki shirt, and trau and cap cover, and one pair of shoes all purchased on credit from the Sub Base Post Exchange.
Ashore, rumors had it that the Japanese invasion forces were to land that night. This made me feel a prized possession at this time would be my officer’s Colt 45 pistol and a good supply of ammunition. But by this time, my sidearm was four feet below water and oil in my officer’s state room onboard the Wee Vee. Wee Vee was the nickname for the good old USS West Virginia.
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