Sunday, December 7, 2008

Remembering Pearl Harbor

My dad was on the U.S.S. Detroit, a light cruiser at Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack. I was only newly conceived in my mother's womb. She was in their small apartment in Oahu. The picture here is a Japanese recon photo published of the western side of Ford island. The caption is from another Detroit crewman, John Noyce Millner (you can see his comments by clicking on the picture): "Photograph of the western side of Ford Island and ships in moorings offshore, taken from a Japanese Navy plane during the attack. Ships are (from left to right): USS Detroit (CL-8); USS Raleigh (CL-7), listing to port after being hit by one torpedo; USS Utah (AG-16), capsized after being hit by two torpedoes; and USS Tangier (AV-8)."

Stories I remember are that they had to shoot the lock off the armament locker because the fellow with the key was nowhere around. Also they didn't have fuses for the anti-aircraft guns so they just pumped shells out which exploded at the peak of the trajectory (I gather) instead of being fused. Dad was contributing a little independent fire with a 30-06 rifle, probably not effective but good for the spirit when you're being attacked.

I always think that the John Wayne movie "In Harm's Way" is pretty much based on Detroit. Dad also had the con when Detroit was exploring North of the islands and was attacked by a Japanese submarine's torpedo. He ordered the ship to turn hard and that heeled the ship over some 60 degrees and dumped the Captain's breakfast in his lap. He was angry and came out yelling about the idiot who had turned the ship.

Luckily the Admiral embarked (the Detroit was the command ship of a Destroyer squadron) saw the whole thing and defused the situation by yelling down, "Well done son!" At least that's how I heard the story. Noyce Millner elaborates on the Detroit story with:

When the attack was over the Detroit got under way about 12:30 pm along with the USS St. Louis and a small group of destroyers with orders to proceed north and search for the enemy. After a three day unsuccessful effort the group returned to Pearl Harbor. What we saw was disheartening. Eighteen ships were sunk or capsized. Aircraft on the parking strip were burned. The hangars were destroyed. Many other ships were in various stages of damage. The surface of the harbor was covered with black oil, debris and floating bodies.

The Detroit left almost immediately to escort the commercial liners Coolidge and Scott which were transporting military wives children and some wounded to San Francisco.

My mom and I (on-board) were on one of those commercial liners that Detroit and her destroyers escorted to the mainland. I wasn't actually born until June 4th, 1942 the day of the battle of Midway when the Japanese carriers got their comeuppance. But that is another story.

1 comment:

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I wish we had gotten more first-hand information from Mom and Dad. But I can understand their not talking about it much. Living through the horrors of war must be an experience you'd rather forget.