Home » Tips and Tricks » “This Is No Drill”: A Highly effective Firsthand Account of What Actually Occurred at Pearl Harbor

“This Is No Drill”: A Highly effective Firsthand Account of What Actually Occurred at Pearl Harbor

Wednesday, November 16th 2016. | Tips and Tricks

this-is-not-a-drill-pearl-harborCourtesy USS Arizona Memorial Photograph Assortment/Nationwide Park Service, Inset: Courtesy Donald Stratton

It has been stated that when an previous individual dies, it is sort of a library burning down. For the previous seventy five years, I’ve tried to share what I keep in mind of World Struggle II, however a day will come once I can not converse. Then what is going to develop into of the whole lot I skilled on December 7, 1941? That’s why I wrote this account.


A bit after 5:00 a.m. The overhanging deck on board the USS Arizona

I awoke on my cot. I stowed the cot away, then went to bathe. Afterward I dressed within the garments that sailors wore on Sundays—pressed white shorts, a white T-shirt, and my sailor’s hat. At 5:30, reveille sounded over the intercom. Belowdecks, males headed to the showers.


5:50 a.m. Open waters, 230 miles north of Oahu

A Japanese armada gathered. The assault pressure consisted of six plane carriers, two battleships, two heavy cruisers, one mild cruiser, 9 destroyers, eight tankers, and three submarines that escorted the carriers. The ships turned east into the wind and elevated their velocity to 24 knots.


Between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. Open waters, 230 miles north of Oahu

Japanese carriers launched 183 planes from their decks. The primary wave of planes included fifty one dive-bombers, forty torpedo bombers, forty nine horizontal bombers, and forty three fighters.


6:30 a.m. Pearl Harbor

Chow name sounded, and I ate typical Sunday fare: espresso, powdered eggs with ketchup, fried Spam, pancakes. The USS Arizona was certainly one of 185 ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet moored in Pearl Harbor that day. That quantity included eight battleships, two heavy cruisers, six mild cruisers, 29 destroyers, and numerous auxiliary vessels (like tankers, restore ships, and a hospital ship). Due to poor climate, the fleet’s three plane carriers remained at sea.

6:forty five a.m. Outdoors the doorway to Pearl Harbor
The USS Ward fired on an unidentified sub. It sank, and the destroyer completed her with depth costs. The Ward reported the sub’s sinking to authorities at Pearl Harbor, however the report was handed so slowly that no alert was given to different ships within the harbor.

Shortly after 7:00 a.m. Opana Level Radar Station on Oahu’s north shore
Military privates Joseph Lockard and George Elliot accomplished a shift, however Lockard stayed to provide the extra inexperienced Elliot further coaching on the radar gear whereas they waited for breakfast. A big blip appeared on the display. Personal Lockard concluded it was a formation of planes approaching Oahu. On the similar time, Japanese carriers launched a second wave, which included seventy seven dive-bombers, 36 fighters, and fifty four horizontal bombers.
Ten minutes later, Personal Lockard notified Fort Shafter, however the operator informed him that personnel had gone for breakfast. On Lockard’s radar display, the blip was now one hundred miles north of Oahu and shutting. At 7:20, the operator referred to as again, and Lockard answered. Lockard’s superior officer advised him that a squadron of American planes was arriving at Pearl Harbor that morning and the blip needed to be them.

this-is-not-a-drill-pearl-harborCourtesy USS Arizona Memorial Photograph Assortment/Nationwide Park Service

7:forty a.m. Skies above Oahu
Captain Mitsuo Fuchida led the primary wave of Japanese planes alongside the island’s north shore. 9 minutes later, his radioman signaled for the assault on Pearl Harbor to start.

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7:fifty one a.m. Wheeler Subject

Japanese Zeros attacked plane, hangars, and buildings on the airstrip.


7:fifty three a.m. Ewa Mooring Mast Subject

Enemy planes struck the airstrip as Fuchida radioed on broadband “Tora, Tora, Tora,” which meant a “lightning assault” and alerted his superiors that a shock assault had been achieved.


7:fifty five a.m. Pearl Harbor

I used to be belowdecks whereas prep for morning colours sounded. At first of every day, a signalman within the Pearl Harbor tower raised a white-and-blue “prep” flag. This signaled the colour guards on the ships to boost their American flags. Seven battleships have been moored on Battleship Row, alongside the southeast shore of Ford Island. Ford was a small island within the harbor, reduce in half by a runway. The Arizona was sandwiched between the island on one aspect and the restore ship Vestal on its seaward aspect.

As I stepped into the sunshine on the forecastle deck, I heard the drone of plane engines and bombs exploding on Ford Island. A number of of us ran to the bow to see planes on the runway bursting into flames and the water tower toppling over. The lads pointed overhead. Craning my neck, I acknowledged the pink “meatballs” on the silver wings of the planes doing the bombing: Japanese Zeros, emblazoned with the nation’s Rising Solar disk. They circled in determine eights like birds of prey. We ran to our battle stations.

I sped up metal ladders to get to my station. As I used to be operating, I felt a wallop on the ship’s hull, adopted by a muffled explosion. I raced up one ladder to the radio shack, up one other ladder to the sign bridge, up a 3rd ladder to the bridge, and eventually up a fourth ladder to the sky management platform.

I appeared over my shoulder on the harbor, which was in chaos. A Zero bore down, splintering our deck. It flew so low, I might see the pilot taunting me with a smirk and a wave. The air protection alarm sounded, adopted by basic quarters: “Consideration! Consideration! Consideration! Man your battle stations! That is no drill! That is no drill!”

The deck was a frenzy of sailors. As Lauren Bruner raced up the ladder towards me, a Zero fastened its sights on him. One shot hit the again of his decrease leg. He limped onto the platform, a path of blood following him. The remainder of our group spilled into the metallic enclosure, referred to as the director. This was our station and the place we—Harold Kuhn, Russell Lott, Earl Riner, George Hollowell, Alvin Dvorak, Fred Zimmerman, Frank Lomax—directed the antiaircraft weapons. I set the dials within the director that engaged the gears to set the sights of the weapons. We loaded the ammo and fired on the Zeros. However they have been flying so low, we risked hitting the Vestal on one aspect and our males on Ford Island on the opposite.

We turned our sights on the excessive-altitude bombers and fired at a ninety-diploma angle. We despatched volley after volley of fireside, however the Japanese bombers have been too excessive and our shells couldn’t contact them. It was like boxing an opponent whose attain was twice what yours was. Regardless of what number of occasions you swung or how arduous, you may by no means hit again. All of the whereas, you have been getting pummeled.

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We took so many hits, and never simply our ship. From a hatch, I watched Japanese planes circling earlier than coming straight down Battleship Row. I noticed the Tennessee and the West Virginia take hits. I witnessed the Oklahoma lurch to at least one aspect, then roll over and sink. I noticed a fireball within the dry dock the place the Pennsylvania was.

The whole fleet was being destroyed earlier than my eyes. Nice billows of black smoke have been consuming up the blue sky. Torpedoes slammed towards our hull, spewing geysers of water. Ships have been taking over water, itemizing, capsizing. From these ruptured ships spilled oil that congealed when it hit the water and caught hearth. It appeared the entire harbor was in flames. The hellish sight of blacks and reds and yellows, devouring every little thing. The sulfurous odor of burning gasoline. The acrid odor of exploding gunpowder.

And the noise—it was deafening. One explosion adopted one other, and after every you might hear twisted metallic writhing, letting out probably the most wretched sound, as if it have been in agonizing ache. As quickly as one dive-bomber dropped its torpedo, it pulled away whereas one other aircraft swooped right down to strafe us. Machine gun bullets ricocheted off metallic. The screams of our males, their our bodies engulfed in flames. And the fury of our personal antiaircraft weapons reverberating inside our metallic cubicle so loudly, I felt my eardrums would burst.
With every bomb that hit, the ship shuddered. One other bomb whistled, and we braced for impression. Nevertheless it hit the Vestal as an alternative. The restore ship was in flames, and its crew was making an attempt to extinguish them.

We have been sitting geese. Not simply the Arizona, however each ship within the harbor. And there was nothing we might do. With few exceptions, our planes, which the Japanese hit first, by no means received an opportunity to get off the bottom. We couldn’t head to open waters, as a result of it took two and a half hours for the boilers of a battleship to fireside up. So we threw our shells into the sky, hoping shrapnel may shatter a cockpit, rupture a gasoline line, clip a propeller. It was all we might do. Shoot and hope. And with every burst that fell brief, we misplaced a bit extra hope.

Zeros strafed the ship, their bullets ripping up the deck and shredding any sailors on it. With every move, the Japanese pilot smiled or waved. The whole thing of them have been cowards and murderers. With no declaration of conflict, they waged warfare on us. With out warning. With out mercy. With out conscience. We took one other hit, which thundered via the ship. It struck the starboard aspect, however it didn’t explode. On the similar time, I noticed two torpedo wakes heading instantly towards us. I braced for the impression. Which by no means got here. One other fortunate break. Till seconds later …


eight:10 a.m.

A fantastic sucking sound, like a whoosh, rocked the ship with concussive drive. A 1,760-pound armor-piercing bomb, dropped from 10,000 ft above, had penetrated 4 metal decks to the ammunition journal. The blast blew a turret into the air, which then got here crashing again onto the deck. Black smoke spewed out of the ahead smokestack, and an increasing fireball shot 500 to 600 ft into the air, engulfing these of us within the director. The blast showered the Tennessee with tons of twisted metallic and the twisted elements of our males.

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As flames shot by means of the 2 openings of our enclosure, we tried to take shelter underneath a number of the gear. However the flames discovered us. On the deck, males stumbled round like human torches. Others jumped into the water, and once they did, you possibly can hear them sizzle. James Cory, one of many Marines on board, recalled what he noticed from the quarterdeck: “These individuals have been zombies, in essence. They have been burned utterly white. Their pores and skin was simply as white as should you’d taken a bucket of whitewash and painted it white. Their hair was burned off; their eyebrows have been burned off … Their arms have been held away from their our bodies, they usually have been stumping alongside the decks.”

Whereas that horrific scene was unfolding under us, billows of black smoke pushed into the place we have been, stinging our eyes, filling our nostrils, our throats, our lungs. We coughed out smoke, unable to catch our breath as a result of the hearth had burned off our oxygen. The compartment we have been in all of a sudden turned claustrophobic, and two males bolted out the door. I might by no means see them once more.

As we felt our approach alongside the metallic partitions, the warmth scorched our palms. The metallic flooring was so scorching, we might really feel the warmth by way of the soles of our footwear. We hopped on one foot, then the opposite. As soon as on the outer platform, we moved towards the ladder. However flames from under leaped up the steps and barred our escape. There was no means down, and the metallic platform we have been standing on was rising hotter.

I checked out myself. My T-shirt had caught hearth, burning my arms and again. My legs have been burned from ankle to thigh. My face was seared. My hair was singed off, and a part of an ear was gone. I stood in a stupor till a breeze parted the smoke, revealing a sailor on the Vestal. It was Joe George, who was following orders to chop the strains that tethered his ship to the Arizona so they might head to open waters.

We referred to as to George, motioning for him to throw us a monkey’s fist, a light-weight heaving line knotted round a metallic ball and hooked up to a thicker rope. If we might safe a rope between the 2 ships, then maybe we might make it to the Vestal. I checked out my arms. Sheaths of pores and skin had peeled off and have been draping over every arm. I tore off one size of pores and skin and threw it on the ground of the platform. Then the opposite. The remaining tissue was a webwork of pink and white and purple, some black, all of it throbbing. My focus narrowed to George and the ball in his hand. He threw it, nevertheless it fell brief. He gathered up the road and lobbed once more. Brief as soon as extra. George was maybe the strongest man within the harbor, an All-Navy boxer. He was the one man with a prayer of getting that line to us—if he couldn’t do it, then nobody might.

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this-is-not-a-drill-pearl-harborCourtesy USS Arizona Memorial Photograph Assortment/Nationwide Park Service
George collected the rope as soon as extra. For a 3rd time, he tossed it with all his power. It sailed from one wounded ship to a different, throughout flames, smoke, and carnage. I tracked it with my eyes and caught it within the air. I tied the rope to the railing, cinching it tight, and George secured his finish. The rope stretched 70 ft to span the water under us, which was forty five ft down, slicked with gasoline that had caught hearth. Our solely hope was to make it to the Vestal, hand over hand throughout the rope. However the flesh had been burned off all of our arms, and utilizing these uncooked fingers and palms can be at greatest excruciating, and almost certainly inconceivable.

The primary in line was Harold Kuhn. He wasn’t as badly injured as the remainder of us, and so he would check the rope to see if it will maintain. We seemed down on the flames that swept between the 2 ships. Then we checked out George on the Vestal; his captain was subsequent to him. The officer barked an order, however George stood defiant, obvious at him. The officer left. George waved Kuhn over. As Kuhn made his approach throughout the rope, it began to sag. We recoiled on the sight. A sagging line meant the descent can be steeper, and we’d need to go uphill on the finish. George referred to as out to Kuhn, and the remainder of us echoed him: “You can also make it!” “Come on, now!” “Hold going!” If Kuhn couldn’t do it, how might we in our situation? However he made it. Kuhn made it!

A Japanese Zero caught sight of us on the Arizona. We bumped into the director to take cowl. Not one of the bullets hit us—this time. It was now or by no means.

I began hand over hand throughout the road, feeling a surge of adrenaline. The uncovered tissue on my legs and arms felt the warmth from the burning oil under me. The ache was excruciating. However someway my arms stored going. Perhaps I felt I might be letting the lads down if I gave up. Or maybe I knew that if I let go of the rope, the remainder of the lads won’t make the try. George prolonged his hand to me as he snatched me from the flames.

One after the other, every of us miraculously made it to the Vestal. We hadn’t fallen. And we hadn’t been hit by machine gun hearth. We had assist from the great Lord, I’m positive of that. One factor is for sure: Had Joe George not stood up for us—had he not been a insurgent and refused to chop the road connecting the Vestal to the Arizona—we might have been cooked to demise on that platform. If anybody deserved a Medal of Honor that day, for my part, it was him. And I do know a minimum of 5 others who would second that.

We waited on the Vestal as George and a number of other males minimize the mooring strains. However earlier than the ship left for open waters, its males flagged down a motor launch. We Arizona escapees have been helped into the launch, which introduced us to shore and medical assist.

As I appeared again on the harbor billowing with smoke, seeing the Pacific Fleet destroyed the place they have been moored, staring on the stays of the Arizona engulfed in flames … the devastating sweep of it was an excessive amount of.

Now I need to save from that fireplace one thing of my reminiscences of the Arizona seventy five years in the past, in order that my grandkids and all the youngsters after them can perceive why it issues.

this-is-not-a-drill-pearl-harbor-3by way of Barnes & Noble

Editor’s observe: After struggling burns over greater than sixty five % of his physique, Donald Stratton spent ten months recovering in army hospitals. He was medically discharged from the Navy in 1942, however one yr later, he re-enlisted within the army and served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Stack within the Pacific. He spent most of his postwar profession working for a diving firm that helped construct oil rigs. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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