SUNDAY IN HELL: PEARL HARBOR MINUTE BY MINUTE






A powerful and surprising new history published beginning 11 November 2011 in e-book and print-on-demand forms.

Effective 1 April 2014, Open Road Integrated Media purchased E-Reads and now manages the approximate 1,200 titles E-Reads held, including Sunday in Hell, Pearl Harbor Minute by Minute.


Background and Excerpts

A Surgeon’s Unforgettable Emergency Recall to Duty

The Sinking of the SS Cynthia Olson

The Capsizing of USS Oklahoma



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The Sinking of the SS Cynthia Olson

© Bill McWilliams

On Sunday, 7 December 1941, at approximately 0830 ship’s time, 0730 hours Hawaii time, the pride of the Matson Line’s cruise ships, the SS Lurline, was en route from Honolulu on her normal, northeasterly course. She was sailing her routine, twice-a-month triangular route from Hawaii to San Francisco to Los Angeles and return, carrying an almost full load of more than 800 passengers.

The Lurline’s Chief Officer, Edward Collins, stopped by the radio shack to have a chat with the officer of the watch, "Tiny" Nelson. Nelson was listening intently to communications traffic. Only a minute or so elapsed when Nelson began writing out a message on the typewriter. As he was listening and typing he called Collins’ attention to read it.


SS Lurline on her maiden voyage - 1933
(San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park)

The message was an SOS, the international emergency signal, from the 2,140-ton steam schooner SS Cynthia Olson, a ship constructed by the Manitowoc Ship Building Company in Wisconsin, in 1919, and in 1941 operated in the lumber trade on the Pacific Coast. But on this day, en route from Tacoma, Washington since 1 December, she was under charter to the U.S. Army Transport Service, carrying lumber to Honolulu. This first message stated she was under attack by a surfaced submarine. The message was also picked up by a shore-based station on the Pacific Coast. "Tiny" transmitted a reply and the exchange with Lurline continued.

One of the cargo ship’s final messages to Lurline stated they were under torpedo attack, and Collins asked Nelson to confirm the word TORPEDO. The brief reply stated it WAS a torpedo. "Tiny" had heard an earlier Cynthia Olson transmission giving her position in latitude and longitude, and he estimated her position as approximately 300 miles, bearing five degrees true, almost due north of Lurline.

The day before sending the SOS, the Cynthia Olson, captained by Merchant Marine Master Berthel Carlsen, was 300 miles off San Francisco, under way at 10 knots, when unknown to her crew, the Japanese submarine I-26, submerged at periscope depth and searching for potential targets, spotted and began tracking her. Commander Minoru Yokota, captain of the I-26, had been ordered to accompany I-10 in reconnoitering the Aleutians, then after 5 December, to deploy to a point between San Francisco and Hawaii to report on American fleet units carrying reinforcements to Hawaii. Lastly, I-26 was to destroy enemy merchant shipping after hostilities began.


Imperial Japanese Submarine I-26 (Captured Japanese Photo)



SS Cynthia Olson (Fr. Edward J. Dowling, S.J. Marine
Historical Collection, University of Detroit Mercy Library)

The mission’s duration sharply limited the big submarine’s available space, including her hangar, because she was crammed with food and other supplies. Because of her overstuffed hangar, cargo and supply space, she carried only ten, old sixth year torpedoes of the seventeen she was capable of carrying. The submarine continued following the Cynthia Olson southwest during daylight hours, while I-26’s navigator plotted the schooner’s projected course. Yokota planned to surface at night, swing wide around her flank, pass her, and position his submarine along her projected course, to intercept and attack her at the moment hostilities were to begin on Oahu.

The morning of 7 December, the submarine, having once more submerged to periscope depth prior to sunrise, intercepted the ship at exactly the projected point along her track. After Yokota established her nationality, I-26 surfaced, and fired a warning shot. Cynthia Olson’s radio operator sent an immediate SOS, and the crew swung out her lifeboats. A shore station in California picked up the SOS at 0938 Pacific time, which was 0738 Hawaiian time, ten minutes before eleven Japanese fighters began devastating machine gun and cannon strafing attacks, which included incendiary rounds – on Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. Carlsen and his crew must have been profoundly shocked when I-26 surfaced. The submarine was larger than their ship. Through binoculars the ship’s officers were seeing a Junsen Type B.1 scout submarine 356 feet long and 17 feet abeam, 2,584 tons, and sufficient height – 31 feet – to hangar a collapsible seaplane that could be launched from a forward mounted, compressed air catapult, although on this mission the seaplane was left behind. The sleek, fast submarine was more than 100 feet longer than the Cynthia Olson. The I-26 carried six forward torpedo tubes, an aft-mounted 140-mm (5.5-inch) deck gun, and two 25-mm antiaircraft machine guns.

The seaplane I-26 normally took on her sorties, weighed 3,500 pounds, carried a crew of two, a payload of 340 pounds, and a rear-mounted 7.7-mm machine gun. The relatively light wood and metal-framed, cloth-covered wings and tail aircraft, had a top speed of 150 miles per hour, but normally flew at speeds near 85 miles an hour. When readied for launch, the wingspan was 36 feet. The engine was a Hitachi Tempu 9-cylinder, 340 hp, and the floatplane could remain aloft a maximum of 5 hours with an operating radius of 200 miles.

From a range of approximately 1,000 meters, I-26 fired 18 rounds from her deck gun at the American ship, but the Cynthia Olson remained afloat. Twenty minutes after firing the first shot I-26 received another broadcast the submarine captain had been expecting. From the Japanese Carrier Striking Force’s airborne mission leader, came Commander Mitsuo Fuchida’s attack signal, "To-ra, To-ra, To-ra." Yokota ordered the submarine submerged and I-26 fired a torpedo at the damaged target. The torpedo passed astern of the intended victim because the crippled ship was still making headway. The failure to hit Cynthia Olson with the single torpedo, caused Yokota to reassess his tactics. Only nine torpedoes left, and considerable time and distance remained on the assigned station off the United States’ west coast. Yakota surfaced I-26 again to open fire with her deck gun – this time with 29 more shells. The Cynthia Olson began settling. Yokota, concerned about a possible American air attack, decided the ship was sinking and I-26 departed after being in the area a total of approximately two hours.

The Cythia Olson’s log of her final minutes, picked up by listening stations, preceded her radio operator’s last transmission to Lurline, and read:

0720 Watch relieved for breakfast. [dead reckoning navigation] 1200 miles West of Cape Flattery, WA. Last position 1450 (degrees) 35' (minutes) W Longitude, 330 20' N Latitude, Cr (course) 2780, speed by log 10.4 Knots, Wind from SE, force 3, with low Easterly swell, clear, 15 miles visibility, stratocumulus clouds.

0725 Sighted submarine periscope, swung out boats, Onboard 33 Seamen, 2 U.S. Army Soldiers, total SOB (souls on board) 35.

0738 Under attack from surfaced submarine, sending SOS, answered by Matson’s SS Lurline. All crew abandoning ship in lifeboats.

For the Cynthia Olson’s radio operator, time was running out after thirteen minutes. Undoubtedly, he was one of the last to leave the ship. The last message he sent to Lurline, confirming the torpedo attack, was sent before the surface attack that was fatal to his ship. The sequence of events also makes clear the captain of the Cynthia Olson, Berthel Carlsen, did not command "All engines stop" when the first warning shot was fired. Nor did I-26 hold its fire until the ship was abandoned. Emergency messages had continued while the submarine’s rounds repeatedly slammed into the stricken ship – until she could no longer stay afloat.

The Cynthia Olson’s Merchant Marine crew of 33 men, augmented by two regular Army privates, radio operator Samuel J. Zisking and medical technician Ernest J. Davenport, were never found. Records of Japanese submarine operations later disclosed I-26 picked up no survivors. Records did disclose that Commander Shogo Narahara, the captain of Japanese submarine I-19, on Monday, 8 December, surfaced his boat when it passed through the area where the Cynthia Olson went down – and gave food to survivors in lifeboats. How many, if any, survived the sinking, and got into their boats but simply never made it to safety or were never found, and perished? No one will ever know. The vast Pacific keeps its answers in the deep - forever.

She went down approximately 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii, while the first wave of the Japanese strike force was savaging American military installations on Oahu and the Pacific Fleet’s ships in Pearl Harbor. She was the first American flagged merchantman sunk by the Japanese in World War II.

Less than 45 minutes after "Tiny" Nelson received the Cynthia Olson’s SOS at 0915 Hawaii time, Lurline’s skipper, Commodore Charles A. Berndtson, received word of another message, this one from Oahu. First transmitted from Ford Island at 0758 Hawaii time, 0858 on Lurline, the message was relayed around the world, and would become one of the most famous messages ever dispatched: "AIR RAID, PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NOT DRILL."

In those minutes listening to and answering desperate calls for assistance from a ship too distant to save, and hearing the stunning broadcast from Oahu, Lurline sailed from peace into war. Nothing would be the same the remainder of this voyage to San Francisco - or ever - for her, her passengers and crew. What’s more, Commodore Berndtson and his officers now knew there was at least one enemy submarine, possibly more, lying in wait for their ship, between Lurline and San Francisco. She had no Navy escort, as her Matson Line sister ships had in traveling the routes from Hawaii to Manila and other Southeast Asian ports, and back to Hawaii. Much daylight remained and wartime precautions had to be taken without panicking the passengers.

Epilogue

The SS Lurline safely arrived in San Francisco on 10 December 1941, was rapidly converted to a troop ship, and on 16 December departed San Francisco Bay as convoy guide in Convoy 2005, the first troop ship convoy to leave the West Coast after the United States entered World War II. Following her in the three-ship column were her two Matson sister ships, the Matsonia and the U.S. Army Transport Monterey. Leading and escorting the convoy as submarine screens in Task Group 15.6 was the cruiser USS St. Louis (CL-49), with the "Lucky Lou’s" captain and convoy commander, Captain George A. Rood, on board; the destroyers Lawrence (DD-250), Preston (DD-379) and Smith (DD-378).

Imperial Japanese Submarine I-26 became one of the most notorious Japanese submarines of World War II. The morning of 13 November 1942, while engaged in one of several patrols following the sinking of the Cynthia Olson, I-26 raised her periscope to see the already heavily damaged cruiser, San Francisco (CA-38 ) crossing her path in torpedo range. The American task force of three cruisers and three destroyers was zigzagging, headed for repairs at the Island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. The other two cruisers were the Helena (CL-50) and Juneau (CL-52), like San Francisco, both damaged as a result of a fierce Naval battle in Guadalcanal’s waters during the hours after midnight.

This time Commander Yokota "snap-shot" three torpedoes that missed San Francisco. One continued on course and at 1101 hours struck the Juneau amidships. The Juneau had been heavily damaged by a torpedo which exploded in her port side during the night engagement. The explosion was believed to have broken her keel and killed 17 crew members. She was 12 feet down by the bow, listing slightly to port and struggling to maintain 18 knots, when I-26’s torpedo exploded close to the same area she had been struck by the torpedo early in the morning. About one minute later, Juneau’s main magazine violently exploded, which broke her in half, killed most of her crew, and she sank in about 20 seconds. Among her crew were the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, two of whom survived the explosion and sinking and were in the water among a total of approximately 115 men - but perished with many others before they could be rescued.



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Excerpt: A Surgeon’s Unforgettable Emergency Recall to Duty

© Bill McWilliams

Introduction

The following is a short story excerpted from three chapters of the manuscript Sunday in Hell: Pearl Harbor Minute by Minute, which, among numerous other stories in the manuscript, includes the attack on Pearl Harbor as seen from the perspective of the people on the receiving end of the bitter surprise. This is about Major Leonard D. Heaton, MD, and his wife Sara Hill Heaton, and their young daughter Sara Dudley Heaton – who years later met and married Pres Mayson, a graduate in the West Point class of 1955. It also provides a glimpse into the December 1941 beginning of the evacuation, by sea, in convoys, of more than 20,000 people from the island of Oahu. The passengers on the first three convoys, which left Honolulu on 19, 26 and 31 December respectively, each escorted by a cruiser and destroyers, included some wounded and widows of the attack, military dependents, tourists (including two college football teams) "trapped" on the island by the attack, non-essential government employees ordered to leave the islands, and passengers from two of three outbound Pan American Airways Clippers, which had left San Francisco and were on round trips toward the southwest Pacific when the attack occurred. The first two evacuation convoys had to go through Japanese submarines ringing Oahu, and operating on nine stations, near our major port entrances on the US west coast.

All source notes have been removed from this manuscript excerpt, but are in the book. Virtually all sources for this story are primary sources.


 
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Eleven A6M2 "Zeke" fighters from the first wave of 183 Japanese aircraft from Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s Carrier Striking Force, began ravaging Naval Air Station Kaneohe first – at 0748 hours, followed moments later with 25 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers and 14 Zekes on Wheeler Field, with the remainder of 18 Zekes and 26 Vals targeted against Hickam Field (Bomber Command), Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor, on Ford Island, and Mooring Mast Field at Ewa, a Marine Corps Air Station. In the meantime, 40 Nakajima B5N1 Type 97 "Kate" torpedo bombers were descending, and 40 additional Kate high level bombers, flying at approximately 10,000 feet pressed toward the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor. The Japanese intended to destroy the Navy’s PBY long range patrol aircraft based at Kaneohe to keep the Americans from finding the Japanese surface force - the Army Air Force fighters on the ground at Wheeler Field and the Navy and Marine Corps fields to ensure the Japanese maintained air superiority over the island while the raid was in progress.

Schofield Barracks, located next to Wheeler Field, also appeared to be under attack with the 39 Vals and Zekes flying in the area; however, other than isolated individual strafing attacks, on targets of opportunity, the Japanese did not specifically target Schofield and the 25th Infantry Division. Nevertheless, there were several first-wave strafing attacks at Schofield, on the Engineer, Artillery and Infantry quadrangles, the post hospital, and at least two attacks on officers’ quarters. Unquestionably, the Japanese considered military housing areas valid, though lower priority targets. As a result of attacks at Schofield and various other locations, two 25th Division soldiers were killed and seventeen were wounded.

Major Leonard D. Heaton, physician and surgeon at Schofield’s Army Hospital, and two other Army physicians, both captains assigned to the Schofield Hospital, were stunned to find themselves dangerously close to becoming casualties in two strafing attacks in the Schofield housing area. After dodging a Japanese fighter on the first firing pass down Major Heaton’s street, by going inside the house, the three doctors and Sara Hill Heaton, his wife, again stepped outside – then had to scramble for cover inside the house a second time. Throughout the Sunday morning moments of shocked disbelief, their young daughter, Sara Dudley Heaton, was in their officers’ quarters in bed, ill. Leonard Heaton wrote in his diary:

Sunday – Dec. 7, 1941: The best and happiest days of our lives went up in the smoke of Pearl Harbor, Wheeler Field, and Hickam Field today. I wonder if, when and how they will ever return.

I was standing with Capt’s Bell and (Harlan) Taylor in front of my quarters about 8 o’clock this day. We were about to get in the car to pick up Col. Canning and thence to Queen’s Hospital to attend a lecture by Dr. Jno. Moorhead of N.Y. who has been talking of traumatic surgery. We hesitated before entering the car because our attention was called to the great number of planes in the air and some very loud distant noises. Soon one plane came quite close to us and in banking to come down our street I distinctly saw the rising sun insignia on his wings. Soon he was coming down the street with machine guns blazing away at us. We rushed into the house.

As long as I live I shall never forget my feelings and emotions when I saw and realized that these were Jap planes and that we were in for the real thing. Something we never thought could ever happen to us here due to primarily our great naval force and implicit faith in such.

Back in the house Sara Hill inquired of the situation and I told her. Sara Dudley was sick with the nasal bronchitis and in bed. The four of us went back out on the sidewalk. Then we distinctly saw dive bombers and bombs over Wheeler Field and much black smoke in the direction of Pearl Harbor. There were many planes by now all over and around us. I remarked as must have many others before us in situations like this, "Where are our planes?" Whereupon another Jap plane came down our street spraying everything and everybody with machine guns. We rushed back into the house again and at this time I got an urgent call to come immediately to the hospital. I hurried off after comforting Sara Hill and Sara Dudley as best I could. The first wounded had arrived from Wheeler Field and we immediately set our operating teams in action.

The attacking Zekes that swept through the Schofield housing area left an indelible mark on the Heaton family’s lives, and a souvenir to remind them of that day. An empty shell casing from an expended 7.7-mm machine gun was ejected from the aircraft and landed in their front yard, a family keepsake and reminder for the generations. Dr. Heaton wrote much more in his diary on 7 December, after working tirelessly among the four surgical teams throughout a long, bloody day on into early evening - struggling to save lives. Many could not be saved.


The Wheeler Field hangars and aircraft on the flightline burn during the Japanese first wave attacks by 25 Val dive bombers and 14 Zekes. The view, taken by the camera of a Japanese aircraft, looks south, roughly parallel with the axis of attack by the Zekes, which peeled off from the north after the Val dive bombers had begun their attacks from west to east along the flightline. From nearby Schofield Barracks, Dr. Heaton and his family were seeing these heavy clouds of black and gray smoke rising from Wheeler Field.

Saving Lives and Counting the Losses

When the tally of killed and wounded was finally complete, in reality not until many days afterward, 2,335 military and 68 civilians had been killed or died of wounds, a total of 2,403. In addition, 1,143 military and 35 civilians were wounded, or 1,178 total. The totals included "friendly fire" dead and wounded. The devastating total of 3,581 killed and wounded, plus an unknown number who received minor wounds and medical treatment and weren’t recorded, or didn’t bother to seek medical attention, tell nothing of the human suffering and family losses. Exploding bombs and torpedoes, and powerful, fire- setting machine gun and cannon rounds, plus exploding ammunition magazines, fires feeding on huge oil tank ruptures and attendant massive fuel spills from ships, parked aircraft loaded with fuel and fuel storage areas, resulted in shattered and dismembered bodies, making many of the dead impossible to find or identify, and maiming many of the wounded for life.

A thoughtful examination of the attack’s aftermath clearly indicates the Japanese fighters and dive bombers specifically targeted fire stations, and the red-painted fire fighting equipment and their crews, with the military purpose of permitting their incendiary and tracer rounds to cause as much damage by fire as possible. Deep penetrating, high-explosive bombs and torpedoes tore through heavy armor plating on ships to both set massive fires and cause flooding. Armor piercing, tracer and incendiary rounds penetrated thinner armor plating on ships, and tore through key targets of all types on airfields, with devastating effects. The tactics and selected weapons loads paid off for the attackers.

The threat of fire on board ships is always a matter of great concern, a reason for frequent inspections and improvement of equipment, fire fighting and damage control drills. Ships are in fact enormous, high-powered, high-energy-driven floating cities loaded with hundreds of thousands of gallons of flammable fuel, and Naval combatants are literally floating arsenals and ammunition depots with redundant safety systems, partitions (bulkheads), and procedures designed around them to avoid catastrophe.

There were numerous fires on airfields, but few were as deadly and massively fatal as on the ships. Fires on ships, and on the surface of oily waters injected a different kind of horror into that day, and into the tortured memories carried in the years ahead. The images of the walking dead seen on the Arizona and men struck down or trapped by exploding bombs and horribly burned or nearly consumed by fire on the battleships West Virginia, Nevada, California, and Pennsylvania; the destroyers Shaw and Downes; the repair ship Vestal, moored to Arizona when the attack began; and the seaplane tender Curtiss. Some were burned to death before the eyes of their comrades and others who could only stand by helplessly, unable to reach them, bodies burned beyond recognition, and others burned beyond any hope of surviving, unrecognizable and lingering in slow deaths.

The tidal wave of casualties coming from ships, airfields, the city of Honolulu, and outlying areas at first seemed beyond comprehension and initially overwhelmed temporary available transportation, aid stations, designated medical treatment centers aboard damaged and sinking ships, receiving clinics, hospitals, the hospital ship USS Solace, ambulance and volunteer transportation, doctors, nurses, emergency rooms, operating rooms, pharmacies, morgues, cemeteries, and casualty identification and notification systems. While total bed capacity at the existing military and civilian hospitals was far more than sufficient to eventually absorb the influx of wounded and dying, it came at the expense of convalescing patients who had to move to make room.

Scheduled training and no-notice exercises prepared military and civilian doctors, nurses, medics, ambulance, firemen and supporting medical staffs to respond calmly and professionally to the stream of casualties, but it was, in some instances, impossible to keep up with the numbers pouring into the primary and back-up treatment centers. The number of severely wounded inevitably increased beyond the capability to give them immediate, possibly life-saving treatment. As the streams of dead and wounded poured off the ships, airfields, and other locations, the task of identifying the dead, dying, and the units or ships they came from was all too often impossible. The urgency of getting the badly wounded to treatment overcame on-site note taking or record keeping. Many men carried no identification, frequently because it was left behind when they rushed to battle stations or fled impossible circumstances. Some volunteered to assist on other ships such as Pennsylvania, turned up missing, and it took days to find out what happened to them. Many of the wounded couldn’t be found by their unit supervisors and commanders for days, and in some instances, men were declared dead who were only slightly wounded, and instead were "missing" somewhere in a hospital.

Many men were dismembered in violent explosions, their bodies separated from any form of identification they might have carried. Others were burned beyond recognition, along with any hope of identification. The recovery and rescue work, official records, and accounts of efforts by doctors, nurses, medics and volunteers tell the story. Both the Army’s Hawaiian Department, Office of the Department Surgeon, and the Navy’s Medical Department at Pearl Harbor were well prepared and responded magnificently to the crisis they confronted.

Immediately, at the Hawaiian Department’s Station Hospital at Schofield Barracks – which serviced Wheeler Field - the Station Hospital at Hickam Field, and Tripler General Hospital in Fort Shafter, as casualties began coming in, sixteen civilian surgical teams, previously assigned and organized, were dispatched to various hospitals to assist in the care of battle casualties. Additional people promptly went to open up Kamehameha School and Farrington High School as auxiliary hospitals. The same day, the Hawaiian Department issued orders to open St. Louis College as a hospital. Plans for the conversion of these schools into hospitals had previously been made, and if the battle had continued their use as auxiliary hospitals was available. Four Provisional General Hospitals and six Hawaii District Hospitals, added to three large military hospitals offered the possibility of 3,472 normal beds available, with emergency and expansion beds totaling 5,340 and 7,009 respectively – more than enough to accommodate the influx of wounded that day.

At the Station Hospital at Schofield Barracks, the second largest of the Army hospitals on Oahu, Doctor Heaton, Medical Corps and Chief of Surgical Services, arrived at the hospital minutes after he was recalled to duty. For months he and the men and women in the hospital planned and prepared for such an emergency. The Hospital staff rapidly cleared convalescent patients from beds to make room for the arriving wounded. In his diary he described what he and his operating teams faced beginning just thirty minutes after the first bomb fell on Wheeler Field:

The first wounded arrived from Wheeler Field and we immediately set our operating teams in action. We worked all that day up until early evening. I had already set up 4 of these teams on paper and they started to function as all were present. We were not caught short on personnel or equipment. Such wounds!! – eviscerations of brains, neck, thorax, abdomen – traumatic amputations, etc. No burns of any consequence. No cardiac or neurological operated cases… Surgical teams at Schofield Barracks worked tirelessly, treating 117 wounded that day. The speed with which the wounded were handled and the calm thoroughness of their treatment had much to do with the saving of life and limb. Thirty-eight of them died, most having arrived with fatal wounds. No cases of gas gangrene developed or caused deaths, a form of deadly infection in wars past, and a tribute to a new, simple life-saving procedure begun by Dr. Heaton and later recognized and used throughout the Army.

Epilogue

On Friday, 19 December 1941, the first of more than 20,000 people began an exodus by sea from the island of Oahu to the West Coast, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The great majority were military dependants ordered to leave the islands following the attack. Three convoys carrying more than 5,000 evacuees left Honolulu in December, and sailed through waters patrolled by six Japanese submarines in the vicinity of Oahu and nine more on stations off the West Coast. The crews and passengers on the convoys’ two to three passenger liners knew of the submarine threats, were aware of several sinkings which had occurred in the days following the attack, and didn’t know their planned destinations when they departed Honolulu. Their five to six day voyages were filled with tension, though a cruiser and and one or two destroyers provided escort as submarine screens for each convoy, depending on the number of ships in each. The evacuations continued on through the summer of 1942.

On Friday, 20 February 1942, Sara Hill Heaton and Sara Dudley Heaton, wife and daughter of Major Leonard D. Heaton, the Army surgeon at the North Sector General Hospital in Schofield Barracks on 7 December, left Oahu for the mainland on the Matson Liner, SS Lurline. On an island with a population still deeply worried about another air raid, or worse, an anguished Dr. Heaton wrote in his diary the night after his wife and daughter departed Honolulu into waters still haunted by Japanese submarine attacks.

What can I write – all I love near aboard the Lurline at 10:45 AM today. Oh God please please help me to bear up under this cross. And God please be with them every step of the way. Sara Hill held up well and I would have too but Sara Dudley started crying and then I was literally torn to shreds – this is almost like going thru the Valley of the Shadow of death – but I pray God that it is his will that in some distant day we shall draw together again. I can’t write more – tears just can’t be held back.

Three days after they left Honolulu on the Lurline, Japanese submarine I-17 shelled the oil production facility at Goleta, California, north of Santa Barbara. En route, Mrs. Heaton wrote in her diary, describing the convoy and conditions similar to those experienced by Joey Border, the wife of Ensign Robert L. "Bob" Border, a crewmember on the USS Tennesse, and other passengers in the December 1941 convoys. "…9 beds in a stateroom…put on and told to keep on life belts…1700 women - 800 children and quite a number of men…sea sickness…twins and other babies born en route…heard some women lost babies…zigzagging." The relatively large convoy she described in part in a simple diagram in her diary included a destroyer in the lead, the SS President Garfield on the port bow of Lurline; on her starboard bow was the British-owned Curnard Line’s giant, 901 foot-long, 45,647-gross ton HMS Aquitania, which took her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England in May 1914, and was built to carry 3,230 passengers as a grand ocean liner.

A cruiser was in the formation, beyond Aquitania, and the SS President Grant was on the starboard abeam of Lurline. An unnamed transport and another cruiser were off Lurline’s starboard quarter, and the 13,788-gross ton Navy transport Wharton (AP-7), was off Lurline’s port quarter. Astern of Lurline came the aircraft transport USS Kitty Hawk (AKV-1), which in early February had carried a load of airplanes to Pearl Harbor to replace those lost in the 7 December attack - and another destroyer off the starboard quarter of Kitty Hawk. Mrs. Heaton described Navy and Army airplanes overhead, escorting the convoy from Honolulu "for some distance, then disappeared." When they were en route the Grant broke down, which slowed progress considerably. Then, because of the submarine threat off the West Coast, the convoy veered considerably off the great circle route, all of which stretched five days into nine. Sara Heaton was heartened and the passengers were cheered considerably to see a Catalina PBY aircraft meet and begin escorting the convoy into its San Francisco destination.


Lieutenant General Leonard D. Heaton
Surgeon General, US Army, 1959-1969



Sara Hill Heaton’s husband completed a distinguished 40-year career as a surgeon in the Army, devoting his life to healing and saving the lives of soldiers and their families. The first surgeon in the Army to become a lieutenant general, he was named the Army’s Surgeon General from 1959 to 1969, which spanned in part the Vietnam War. During that period he became President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal physician, and provided devoted treatment to retired General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in the days before he died in 1964.


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The Capsizing of USS Oklahoma (BB-37)

© Bill McWilliams

Background and context: At 0815 hours the morning of 7 December 1941, the Oklahoma, completed her 90-degree roll onto her port side, struck by four torpedoes in the first minutes of the attack on the Pacific fleet. She hesitated, while all her compartments and superstructure continued rapidly filling with oily water, and then continued rolling to port. Hundreds of men were trapped below decks, desperately trying to save themselves and their shipmates as Oklahoma continued to settle nearly inverted.

The savaging of the Fleet had begun 21 minutes earlier, at 0754 hours, while attacks were already in progress at Kaneohe Naval Air Station beginning at 0748, Wheeler and Hickam Fields, Mooring Mast Field, at Ewa, the Marine Corps Air Station, and Naval Air Station Pearl harbor, on Ford Island. At the southeast end of Ford Island the first bomb fell 200 yards short, in shallow water, as the first Japanese torpedo bombers were charging toward Oklahoma, low across the waters of Pearl's Southeast Loch.

By 0815, seventy-five feet astern of Oklahoma, the battleship West Virginia (BB-48) had already been struck by torpedoes and bombs, was afire and sinking, her captain mortally wounded, while below decks several of West Virginia's crew members, on their own initiative, were opening valves to counter flood on her starboard side to avoid capsizing. About 375 feet off the bow of Oklahoma, the battleship California (BB-44) was already beginning to settle, struck by torpedoes and bombs. Astern of the Arizona, (BB-39) which was moored seventy-five feet astern of West Virginia, the Nevada (BB-36) had also been struck by at least one torpedo.

At 0808, while Oklahoma's crew members were fighting a desperate battle to escape their rapidly capsizing ship, the Arizona, already hit by one torpedo, suffered a violent explosion which broke her back. A 1,765-pound bomb released from approximately 10,000 feet by a Nakajima "Kate" level bomber penetrated her weather deck between the Number I and Number 2 turrets, slashing downward through multiple decks into her forward magazine, where it triggered the huge, fatal, secondary explosion. The death toll on Arizona would eventually rise to 1,177 men. The violent explosion literally blew approximately 100 crewmen and the captain of the repair ship Vestal (AR-4) overboard, rained body parts and deadly pieces of steel on surrounding ships, and started a raging inferno that threatened the battleships Tennessee (BB-43) and Nevada.

The huge fires on board Arizona and West Virginia made circumstances increasingly dangerous for men trying desperately to save themselves and others, for the waters around the battleships were accumulating thousands of gallons of fuel oil gushing from the battleships' ruptured tanks, oil relentlessly pushed down the battle line toward the harbor entrance by the outgoing tide and a wind from the east northeast.

Across the main channel to the east, and on the west side of Ford Island other ships' crews were also waging desperate fights to avoid losing their ships and shipmates while fighting enemy raiders bearing down on the harbor from seemingly every direction.

Before the last Japanese aircraft exited their target area approximately 1000 hours, 18 of 94 ships in Pearl Harbor had been heavily damaged or sunk, and 2,335 military and 68 civilians had been killed in the harbor, on airfields and in surrounding communities. In addition 1,143 military and 35 civilians were wounded, and uncounted numbers received unreported minor wounds. On the mortally wounded Oklahoma, 429 men died, 986 survived, 32 of them rescued in three frantic, harrowing days of hunting for sounds coming from inside her upturned hull.

Two of her crew posthumously received the Medal of Honor, having sacrificed their lives trying to assist others to safety from their overturning, rapidly flooding gun turrets, by holding flashlights: Seaman First Class James Richard Ward of Springfield, Ohio and Ensign Francis Charles Flaherty of Charlotte, Michigan.



Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island. View looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right center distance, in the first moments of the attack. Note the absence of flak bursts, an indicator of complete tactical surprise, though ships’ crews were manning battle stations and were en route to guns. A torpedo has just hit the West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. In the lower left is the seaplane tender Curtiss. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.


The story of the Oklahoma chaplain and the Marine private is one of many, brief, never-before-told stories of courage, sacrifice and valor that terrible morning.

The Oklahoma (BB-37), the Chaplain and the Marine Private

Chaplain, lieutenant junior grade, Father Aloysius H. Schmitt this day was to serve his last Mass on board Oklahoma. The following week, he would have been transferred over to duty on shore. He had gone three decks down to prepare for the service and to hear confessions. Suddenly, in a matter of moments it seemed, he felt four tremendous explosions. Four torpedoes had struck the port side of the Oklahoma. The lights went out when the second one hit. Father Al, with those in the compartment with him, made their way out and tried to get up to the starboard side where they hoped they could find an open porthole. They did.

Al Schmitt assisted men out the porthole. He earlier tried to get through, pushed upward by men inside and pulled by men outside, and couldn't. When they recovered his body weeks later, they learned he had attached some of his ecclesiastical gear to his belt, and that was prohibiting him from getting through the porthole. Realizing there were other men who had come into the compartment and they were prevented from escape, he had men outside push him back in, and those inside pull him back, where he continued to help others to safety.

Four weeks after the attack, in a Protestant service in San Francisco, a Jewish sailor told how he lived because a Catholic Chaplain had pushed him out a porthole.


Chaplain Aloysius Schmitt Memorial Plaque at St. Mary's Cathedral in Dubuque IA, which
indicates when he was pastor there, and when he enlisted in the Navy as a chaplain


St. Mary's Cathedral in Dubuque IA

For more than one reason, another crewmember who was the last to see Father Al alive carried vivid, indelible memories throughout his life. Marine Private Raymond J. Turpin, born in Waterloo, Alabama, the ninth of ten children in the Turpin family, served on one of the starboard side secondary batteries, a 5-inch broadside gun not normally used in defense against an air attack when the battleships were at sea. On this day, in port, his gun's limited usefulness in an air attack was exacerbated by a rapidly capsizing ship and the battery's location on the side nearest the USS Maryland, opposite the side being attacked by the torpedo bombers.

In the frantic, violent few minutes leading to the death of Oklahoma, Ray Turpin three times narrowly escaped death, helped save five other men, escaped to the Maryland; while covered with oil, fed ammunition to a new, four-barrel antiaircraft machine gun crewed by some of his shipmates who had also escaped and joined that great ship's gun crews; watched with excited pride as his shipmate- gunner poured fire into an already smoking Japanese attacker; and spent much of the rest of the battle in a shower, then in hospital pajamas.

While such memories are often sources of lifelong thankfulness, wry good humor and sometimes great pride, in battle they are tempered by other, terribly painful and frustrating memories difficult to bear. For Ray, the most painful of all was to watch helplessly through the porthole at a compartment rapidly filling with water as Oklahoma continued slowly rolling to her death, and Father Al, the last man in the compartment, declining to take his hand in a second desperate rescue attempt, saying "Someone tried earlier to pull me out and I couldn't get through. I'm going to see if there are others needing a way out." Ray remembers Father Al's face, how close he was and yet so far, barely three or four feet, and an eternity.

Having cleaned up on a Sunday morning, dressed in his marine khakis, gone to breakfast and returned to the marines' compartment on the third deck, on the starboard side, near Oklahoma's stern, Private Ray Turpin, like everyone else on board, was momentarily stunned when he heard "Air attack! Man all antiaircraft batteries! This is no shit!" The shocking language he had never heard over the ship's speaker system, never expected to hear, and the serious urgency of the voice, energized him and everyone in his compartment though he couldn't believe the turn of events on a Sunday morning. Since this wasn't a call to general quarters, and instead they were under air attack, all of the secondary battery crews made for the second deck, where they had to run forward toward midships, then go down through a hatch onto a ladder to the third deck, and take cover during the raid.

While they were en route the first torpedo struck Oklahoma. Immediately thereafter came the call, "General Quarters! Man your battle stations!" The reaction was swift and automatic, and for the first time, probably saved Ray's life. He and the other gunners reversed course, and headed back up to the second deck, ran aft toward the stern, up the ladder they normally climbed to reach the weather deck (main deck), out the hatch, then raced forward toward midships, and their battle station, the secondary battery.

As Ray and five other men were running forward toward their gun they could hear an aircraft roaring low overhead behind them, near or just beyond the ship's stern. The sound caused him to glance over his right shoulder as he ran. He saw the attacking airplane, a Kate torpedo bomber, pulling up to avoid collision with Oklahoma's, Maryland's, or perhaps West Virginia's superstructures.

The man running behind Ray hollered at him, "Were you hit?"

Unaware of what transpired behind him, he replied, "No, why'd you ask?"

The voice behind him shouted, "He strafed us!"

As the Japanese aircraft flashed up and over the Maryland, the Kate's rear-facing gunner, consistent with mission plans, opened fire with his 7.7-mm machine gun, and raked the deck on which Ray Turpin and his shipmates were running.

A startling revelation. This was real, all too real. Neither Ray nor the other five men slowed down. His life may have been saved a second time when the Kate's gunner missed him.

The Oklahoma was fatally wounded by the second torpedo, which knocked out electrical power, communications, and brought complete darkness to the men fighting for their lives below the weather deck. Worse, because the ship's speaker system and sound-powered telephones were knocked out when electrical power failed, the command to "Abandon ship!" had to be passed by word of mouth. More than a few men in passageways below the weather deck never heard the command, and consistent with all the drills they had participated in, continued downward toward the third deck, until it became obvious they had better extricate themselves to survive.

Topside, where it was becoming increasingly obvious the ship was going to capsize, crewmembers made decisions to leave without ever hearing the "Abandon ship" order. When the ship's list was approaching forty-five degrees and continuing, Ray Turpin had already made up his mind she was going to roll over. He also decided he had no desire to jump or dive into the water as hundreds of other shipmates were doing, in spite of the continuing air attack. The huge volume of oil spilling from Oklahoma's ruptured fuel tanks was not only a deepening scum on the surface on the port side, which he couldn't see, it had permeated the water and was appearing on the starboard side. Men who dove or jumped into the water between the Oklahoma and Maryland, were surfacing and swimming, covered with oil. Adding to the grim scene in the water between the two ships was more oil from the torpedoed West Virginia's ruptured tanks, drawn toward and around Oklahoma's hull by the wind and outgoing tide.

Just before the list reached forty-five degrees, Ray simply walked down the starboard side of the ship from the railing near and below his assigned secondary battery, and sat down at the intersection of the ship's starboard side and blister. (A blister is a built-in or modified-in bulge, which creates a void external to the hull of a man- of-war to protect its hull against mines, bombs, and torpedoes.) He sat facing toward the stern of Oklahoma. He could see the bows, main batteries and superstructures of West Virginia and Tennessee. Looking between the two ships, he could see Arizona, directly astern of Tennessee approximately seventy-five feet. He sat momentarily frozen, considering what to do while the air raid's fury swirled above and around him.

The thunder of Maryland's guns drew his attention. He turned, and looked upward over his left shoulder to see high above, six Kate horizontal bombers in formation, tracking up the battle line from the southwest. Maryland's and Tennessee's gunners who saw the formation early enough to elevate and apply sufficient lead to their guns were firing at the approaching wave of raiders. He saw their bombs release almost simultaneously, one from each, and plunge toward the ships astern of Oklahoma. Transfixed, he watched the bombs fall, and one disappeared into Arizona in the vicinity of her number 1 and 2 turrets. One explosion followed a moment later by a gigantic explosion tolled the death knell of Arizona. He felt the instantaneous rush of hot wind past him and stared in shocked disbelief at the huge puff of black and gray smoke mixed with a giant mushrooming fireball, as debris, bodies, and body parts lifted high in the air and rained on the quarterdecks of the torpedoed and burning West Virginia, the largely obscured repair ship Vestal, moored stern-on adjacent to Arizona, and the thus far relatively unscathed Tennessee.

In his field of view looking past the stern of Oklahoma toward the shattered Arizona, men were walking up Oklahoma's side and hull as she rolled further, then sliding down or jumping into the oily water. A strange, surreal scene. Others pulled from the water after escaping from the upper decks were beginning to climb up the rotating hull as she continued to roll and settle. Suddenly, among those he could see while gazing toward the stern of the ship, he heard men hollering, some calling for help. He became aware men were calling for help from inside a third deck porthole, and others standing around the porthole were responding reaching inside to grab hands and arms, attempting to pull men through the porthole.

The ship was continuing to roll slowly but relentlessly toward ninety degrees. He instinctively got on his feet and moved further aft to assist them. Rescue activity was already frantic when he arrived, and, one by one Ray, and men he didn't know, pulled five to safety through the fifteen-inch porthole. Unknown to him, before he arrived to help, one of those the rescuers attempted to save was Father Al.

None of the five were easy, though the young men attempting to escape certain death were generally small and slender. The men inside the compartment had nothing to stand on or brace themselves against. Helping, giving a boost from inside the compartment, was Father Al. All the men striving to be rescued could do was be lifted up by men inside with them, who perhaps were already treading water if they had nothing to stand on. The men being rescued grasped the outer edge of the porthole with their hands, held on, and pulled up part way toward the porthole. They couldn't possibly "chin themselves" through the narrow opening. One or more men standing or kneeling outside on each side of the porthole would grasp wrists, then forearms, then upper arms, pulling them up high enough through the porthole to get arms underneath their armpits, then around their chests, working them ever higher until they could pull their waists, hips and legs completely through and get their footing on the side of the ship. Then the rescuers reached for the next man.

One taller, heavier, young sailor was in a desperate circumstance. Ray and another man began pulling him up, but he was overweight and his broader width and size were wedging him in the porthole, although his potential rescuers had straddled the porthole and were pulling him agonizingly higher, step by step, raising him far enough to get their arms around his chest while other eager hands pulled up on his arms. The rescuers were pulling, tugging and rocking back and forth from side to side, with all they had. While they pulled and moved him from side to side, Father Al pushed from below.

They could hear the sailor's body bearing the extended pressure, his joints and bones hyper-extending, popping and cracking, and with one man on each side at his back, were rocking him from side to side trying to pull him through. His body was emerging from the compartment black and blue with scrapes and bruises. He was in great pain, but cried, "Don't stop! Keep pulling!" With great relief they finally pulled him free, and he, like the others was quick to leave the porthole and abandon the ship, which was now on its side, about to roll further, while Ray Turpin reached to no avail for the hand of the last man he could see inside the compartment, Father Al.

When the good Father left to look for others he could help, Ray hesitated, waiting for what seemed a long time. He was hoping to see him reappear. He didn't, and he would never see him again. Ray Turpin had done all he could. He had to leave to save himself. Reluctantly turning away, he saw a heavy, approximate three-inch in diameter mooring line which tied Maryland and Oklahoma together.

From beyond his location on Oklahoma's now-horizontal starboard side, the line ran up at an incline from a tie further toward the stern of the capsizing Oklahoma, angling upward toward Maryland's weather deck, almost directly below the bridge of Maryland. The line, which normally ran almost level spanning the standard eight- foot space between the two ships, was now under great and increasing tension as the Oklahoma settled lower on its port side, its upper deck and superstructure compartments continuing to flood at a rapid pace. The rolling Oklahoma was literally pulling Maryland away from the quays to which she was moored on her starboard, Ford Island- side, and downward ever so slightly into a shallow list to port.

Ray was determined. He was not going to jump into the oily water. The line would be his salvation, and while the battle raged, he started across, up at an angle, hand over hand, hanging below the huge line, hands nearer the Maryland, with feet wrapped over the line, holding fiercely and climbing with his hands and arm strength. His head was hanging down so he could look back and slightly to his left, toward his goal. He was almost there, nearing the ship, when he heard "Cut the line!" shouted from an officer on Maryland's bridge. To his utter astonishment and frustration, when he glanced back to see where the line disappeared over the edge of Maryland's weather deck, there stood a chief petty officer poised with a fire axe in his hands.

"But Sir!" the chief shouted back at the officer, "There are guys on the line!"

Without hesitation came the more loudly shouted reply, "Cut the God damn line!"

Also without hesitation, and with Ray Turpin looking on helplessly at a bad dream, the chief turned and with three or four heavy swings of the axe, the huge line abruptly parted under great tension. It propelled Ray Turpin back a short distance toward the Oklahoma as he fell approximately fifteen feet into the oily water with heavy, coiling, entangling rope falling on top and submerging him. He didn't know what happened to the men coming behind him on the mooring line, but he was stunned by his fall and at the same time suddenly fighting to free himself from the tangle of rope pulling him further beneath the surface of the oil-blackened water.

Somehow, holding his breath, he struggled free, swam furiously upward, and lunged for the surface, where he emerged, nearly exhausted, covered with a coat of oil and gasping for air. Turning around while treading water, he looked further forward toward the bow of Maryland and caught sight of a one-inch rope line dangling down her side. He tried to swim toward it, but he was so exhausted he was in danger of going under. A tall, lanky sailor who was a powerful swimmer saw him struggling and came to his aid. He helped him to the line, and Ray, now re-energized, attempted to climb it hand over hand. He couldn't.

When he gripped the line, no matter how hard, and started to pull upward, his hands slipped down. He looked more closely at the line. The lower end had oil on it, probably from men who had already pulled themselves to safety. The tall, strong-swimming sailor once again came to his aid, and literally boosted him high enough that he could grasp the line above its oiled surface. The instinct for survival and adrenalin took over, and Ray Turpin, now oblivious to his exhaustion, rapidly climbed hand over hand, straight up the ten to fifteen feet, and with no one on the Maryland's weather deck to grasp a hand or pull on the rope, he somehow climbed aboard and got to his feet, still covered with oil.

He glanced around, and everyone on the ship's deck was busy, heavily engaged in the fight against the raiders. He wanted to get into the fight, saw a gun crew operating a recently installed 1.1-inch, four- barrel, antiaircraft machine gun, part of the "upgunning" and strengthening of the Fleet. He walked toward it, and to his surprise, three of the men on the weapon were marines from his Oklahoma gun crew. One was the trainer, who was a small, energetic, aggressive fighter firing the gun. Another was the pointer. He knew two of them by their last names, Fuller and Alexander. The third man was dropping loaded ammunition clips into the guns, which maintained a high rate and volume of fire when the trigger was pulled.

"Can I help?" Ray asked above the noise.

"Yeah, grab some clips, load 'em, and drop 'em in the guns when the others empty!"

Ray felt reinvigorated. He was finally fighting back at the raiders who had so devastated his ship, obviously killed many of his shipmates, and tried to kill him and his buddies. Still oily and wet, he watched in admiration as the feisty little Oklahoma gunner, operating a Maryland gun, successfully poured fire into a low flying Japanese aircraft that was already trailing smoke, and was turning north toward the area of Pearl City, probably to crash and burn. He couldn't see the final result, for more than one reason.

Ray felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned to see a Maryland doctor, the ship's senior medical officer, a physician and Navy lieutenant commander, standing behind him. "What happened to you?" he asked.

"Sir, I just came off the Oklahoma."

"Oklahoma? What happened to the Oklahoma?" he asked.

Ray pointed toward where the great ship had been visible only minutes earlier, "It's sunk."

The doctor, who obviously had just come on deck for the first time since the attack began, looked in the direction of the main channel, where Oklahoma had been moored, and for a moment stared in disbelief. "My God!" he exclaimed. Then, beckoning Ray, he said, "Come with me. I want to examine you."

The doctor, Lieutenant Commander John F. Luten, had undoubtedly been setting up Maryland's primary aid station below decks after general quarters sounded, probably treating the first wounded on the Maryland, and perhaps some of the oil-soaked men scrambling off the Oklahoma. From his training and experience at sea, he certainly knew an oil-soaked body was not only not good for the lungs and heart, but was also a potential matchstick under the right conditions. What probably he didn't know yet was Japanese machine gunners had tracers loaded at intervals in their machine gun belts. Ray protested, to no avail, while the doctor led him to the ship's primary aid station below deck.

After telling a busy corpsman (medic) to clean the oil off the young marine, he needed to examine him, the doctor left the aid station. The corpsman seemed to remain preoccupied, paying little attention to the task the doctor had given him. The battle was still raging topside, so Ray took advantage of the opportunity to continue the fight, left the aid station, and returned to the gun where the crew was firing at every raider they believed to be in range. His second attempt to join the fight was no more successful than the first.

Shortly, Dr. Luten reappeared at the same 1.1-inch battery, this time in no mood to be evaded. "What are you doing here? I told you to get cleaned up. I want to examine you. Come with me," and he took him below again, to the aid station.

This time, the ship's senior medical officer gave the corpsman a more forceful, direct order. "I told you to clean this man up. I'm going to examine him." Duly chastised by the sharpness of the doctor's tone, he told Ray to take off his clothes, get in the shower, and wash off the oil. When he handed the corpsman his wet, oil-soaked khaki's, the corpsman lifted them above the large medical trash basket, about to let go, whereupon Ray protested, "What am I going to wear?"

"When you get out of the shower I'll give you a pair of pajamas."

And so it was that a young marine who had acquitted himself with such courage, bravery, and typical Semper Fi pride, in a morning filled with frantic dashes to battle stations, violent explosions and almost unending sounds of battle, fear, blood, terror at the thought of drowning, desperate rescues, suffocating oil in the water, and near- death experiences, spent the rest of the 7 December air raid fighting in hospital pajamas, apparently quite healthy.

When at 1100 hours that morning the last, single, low-flying enemy aircraft suddenly roared across the ruins of the Pacific battle line before returning to its carrier, Ray Turpin's initiation into World War II was complete. Before the day ended, he was on Ford Island, dressed in Navy "utilities," the traditional sailor's dark blue bell- bottom trousers and lighter blue shirt, and slept in an aviation hangar that night. When he left two days later, he was still in Navy utilities, and firmly convinced he wanted to leave battleships for good, for marine aviation. He did, and never looked back, except for the memories of a good priest of incomparable courage and valor, other brave young Americans who risked their own lives to save others, chance events that intervened to save his life, desperate young sailors he helped save; and a strong, brave young sailor he never knew, who twice came to his rescue.



The overturned USS Oklahoma (BB-37), right, and Maryland (BB-46), left. In the background white smoke rises from West Virginia (BB-48) as her fires are brought under control after the attack. Arizona (BB-39) burns fiercely in the background. Note that rescue operations are underway on the upturned hull of Oklahoma and the main deck of Maryland. (USS Arizona Memorial, National Park Service)




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