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Pearl Harbor Honor Flight
Survivors written accounts.

The following individual recollections have been told to and recorded by Jay Carraway, President Emeritus of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Chapter 138.

“Pearl Harbor, One Last Goodbye” is available for purchase




Pearl Harbor Honor Flight

Pearl Harbor Honor Flight Presents

 

Pearl Harbor Honor FlightHarry J. Simoneaux, Sr.  USN USS Whitney

On December 7, 1941, I was stationed aboard the U.S.S.Whitney AS-4, a submarine tender in Pearl Harbor. On that Sunday morning I was preparing to get into a small boat to go to church when I looked up and saw planes flying above the ships in Pearl Harbor. I said to others. “Look at the ! I thought they didn’t fly on Sunday”. Then a plane dropped something. I thought they were Navy planes dropping sand bags until I saw the first bombs explode and saw the “red ball” on the planes and a building blew up. The same plane came toward my ship, shooting a spray of bullets. My companions and I “hit the deck”. After noting they were Japanese planes, I ran below decks and shouted “Everybody, man your battle stations, the Japanese are attacking”. No one believed me and said, “Awe go …” but when they heard the ship’s guns firing and the explosions, they decided to believe me. I had seen the first bombs fall.

As a Chief Damage Controlman, I was about to board the U.S.S. Arizona to help rescue fellow sailors, when a bomb struck the battleship. The blast kept me from boarding the ship and saved my life. If the explosion had happened a few minutes later, I would have been blown up with the ship’s crew of the U.S.S. Arizona.

Later in the day, I went to the destroyer, U.S.S. Cassin, DD-372 and the light cruiser, U.S.S. Detroit, CL-8 to help in the rescue efforts. By the end of the day my white uniform was pitch black.

I was so affected by the horror of it all, that I was anxious to fight to help. I was privileged to be in Tokyo Bay on V-J Day to experience the surrender of Japan.

Pearl Harbor Honor Flight salutes:

John RutledgeJohn W. Rutledge  MU3c  USS California

On December 7, 1941, I was a member of the Band on the U.S.S. California, BB-44. and was at the Aft Deck, ready to sound Colors, when we heard the Japanese planes overhead, and heard the sound of the change of pitch of the engines. They had started their dive to release their bombs on Ford Island and the battleships moored next to Ford Island. The first bomb dropped was either a dud or a delayed action bomb because it did not explode. We were all very surprised because it was very strange to have anything dropped from a plane, especially on a Sunday morning. We were all accustomed to planes, but never that many, and making a dive on a live target..

When the second bomb exploded, and blew the hanger on Ford Island away, we realized something was wrong, then we saw the “Rising Sun” on the wing of the next plane. General Quarters was sounded, and the band members ran to their assigned battle stations. I didn’t make it to my battle station because the ship was hit by two torpedos that caused the ship to heave upwards, and I was blown over the side, into the water which was covered with burning oil. We swam under water to the Ferry Slip on Ford Island, where they had dropped a knotted rope down into the water so that we could climb up to land.

I hobbled to where the Photo Lab was located, and they handed me a K-20 camera, loaded with a 50 foot roll of film. I spent the next several hours taking pictures of all of the damage. My film, along with all of the other photographers’ film, was forwarded to the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. so I never got to see any of the pictures that I had taken.

I had a Federal Transportation Drivers License for heavy equipment, so I spent the next two days in the cab of a 2.5 ton truck, hauling everything needed, wherever it was needed. Most of the equipment was 50 Caliber machine guns placed wherever there was room for them. I slept in the truck, and ate meals, composed mainly of sandwiches, in the truck until I was no longer needed.

Within a weeks time, our whole band was transferred, en mass, to the Administration Area, on the hill behind the Submarine Base, and was assigned to the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area (JICPOA) for duty. The reason for the transfer was that our band was more educated than the normal sailor and several of us could type. We were immediately sworn in to Top Secret Positions, and put to work in the Military Code section, breaking codes fo JICPOA. We learned that all six officers ini that section had been assigned duty in Japan, and were fluent in then Japanese language.

These were the people that solved the Japanese code that gave us a tremendous advantage in the Battle of Midway. Our Band members, along with all of the others that worked in JICPOA, were given a Commendation for our part in that Battle. By the way, the ratings of our whole band was changed from Musician to Yeoman 1st Class when we were transferred to JICPOA. I spenttwo yeas in that assignment, and then was transferred back to the US along with P.E.Leonard, under orders to Flight School. Leonard and I both won our Navy Wings as Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP 1st Class). Later, we were both given a temporary Commission as Ensign, USN(T). We both worked our way up to LCDR.

During the attack of the California, one of our band members was killed, so we had only 25 members of our band remaining when we were transferred to JICPOA.

Pearl Harbor Honor Flight salutes:

John MobleyJohn M. Mobley  AR1, USS Medusa

My day on December 7, 1941 began at about 6:00AM when I climbed out of my hammock and made my way topside to the officers motorboat swinging from the boom on the Medusa’s starboard quarter. I was coxswain of this boat and would ready it for Sunday’s activities. Sunday would be a normally active day for the motorboat as many of the ship’s officers would  be coming and going to the Pearl Harbor boat landing docks for visits to families, girl friends, and other destinations like churches and golf courses. After readying the boat I was lounging around on the Boat Deck waiting for my boat to be called away, when the Boatswain’s Mate asked me to help hoist in one of the 40′ crew motor launches, which had lost a rudder. My task was to operate the lift winch that raised the boat up from the water to the boat deck, a height of about 40 feet.

It was at this moment that the Japanese struck. The first planes I saw were diving on the airplane hangars on Ford Island. We all thought it was just an early morning bombing practice by our own planes but suddenly, one of the sailors lounging around idly watching the boat hoist operation exclaimed, “God Damn, he dropped something”. I looked up and spotted a long black object falling away from one of the Jap planes over Ford Island. This certainly got our attention but still thinking these were our planes, we were not unduly alarmed. But then, a fraction of a second later, the falling object struck the hangar on Ford Island with a huge whump and a mushroom cloud of black smoke erupted from the hangar. Almost simultaneously, a Jap plane roared by within feet of our fantail and headed for the old target battleship, Utah. As he passed our stern, the rear gunner strafed our boat deck and fantail gun mounts. Others followed close behind and the rear gunners of each plane raked us with small caliber machine guns as they passed close astern. These were the planes that attacked the Utah, Raleigh and Detroit, two light cruisers, all berthed to the quays around Ford Island, on the opposite side of Battleship Row.

Immediately after the first bomb hit the hangar on Ford Island, all hell broke loose on every ship in the harbor. Everybody scattered to his battle station. My GQ station was first loader on the port 5″ 51 caliber deck gun on the fantail. I arrived just in time to receive another burst of machine gun fire from torpedo bombers crossing our stern on the way to dropping their torpedos aimed at the Utah, Raleigh and Detroit. Tracers splintered the teak, the deck around the aft boat deck and fantail but miraculously failed to hit anybody.

Since the flat trajectory of the big 5″ deck guns made them useless in an air attack, my gun crew was dispatched to help the 3″, 50 caliber anti-aircraft gun on the boat deck. I fell into the line of loaders passing up shells from the magazines to the ready boxes, which had been opened and emptied of target ammunition by that time. It was about this time, some twenty to thirty minutes after the attack began, that one of the Jap midget submarines surfaced between Ford Island and the exit to the channel from the harbor to the ocean. Our 3″ gun fired two shots at the sub, completely missing the first one, in fact so widely, that we couldn’t spot where the shell hit. Then, we realized that we had failed to reset our range to zero for a close-in target like the sub. The resulting elevation error caused the shell to pass well above both the sub and the end of Ford Island, directly in line with Hospital Point adjacent to the ship yards. The next day, “Clapper’s Comments”, a column in the Honolulu Star showed pictures of shrapnel holes in a number of cars in the lot. Naturally he blamed the Japs. Of course, we kept our mouths shut.

About the time we fired the second round, a destroyer that had gotten under way and was heading for the exit channel altered his course and rammed the midget sub, sinking it instantly. I think the destroyer was the Monaghan. The destroyer’s momentum carried her on across the channel and ran it aground. While backing off, some quick thinking crewmen broke off a fire hose on the bow and put out a fire burning on a barge that was moored just ahead of the ship. I was impressed, and to this day, my memory of that single episode stands out.

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