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Ernie's House of Whoopass! December 07, 2010
December 07, 2010

Impressions And Actions On U.S.S. Oklahoma.

Lieutenant Commander William M. Hobby, Jr., wrote as follows: On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, the OKLAHOMA was secured at berth F-5, Pearl Harbor, outboard of the MARYLAND and starboard side of the MARYLAND. Commander J. L. Kenworthy was senior officer on board, and I was second in command. At about 0800 I heard the word over the loud speaker to man the anti-aircraft battery, then shots from an indeterminate direction, then a second time the word to man the antiaircraft battery for a real attack. As I was going topside the word was passed to man all battle stations. I ran up the starboard side out to the main deck aft by the break of the deck. Before I reached the main deck aft there was a din of gunfire and explosions from all directions.

I started up the ladder from the main deck aft to the anti-aircraft gun platform on the starboard side; at this point I felt what I believe was the first torpedo hit -- a dull thud and a powerful reverberation, on the port side, and the ship began listing to port. I started back down with the idea of getting to Central and directing the flooding of the starboard blisters, but almost immediately there was a second torpedo hit and then a third and the ship listed more; at this time streams of men were pouring up through hatches to the topside. A second or so later, at about the time I was back down to the main deck aft again, came the fourth torpedo hit, and the ship continued to list to port -- at least a twenty degree list at this time, I estimate, and still listing. I directed petty officers near me to spread out over the length of the ship and keep the men as orderly and calm as possible. I sighted Commander Kenworthy on the starboard catwalk and made my way to him and told him that I thought the best now was to save as many men as possible, that it was now impossible to make further watertight closures and establish any further watertight integrity. He agreed and we both passed the word to abandon ship. I called to men on main deck aft to attempt to get to work on the loud speaker.

Although there were now hundreds of men on the starboard side, the general conduct of all hands was quiet and calm. There was an explosion around the port side of the forecastle, which I thought was a bomb hit. I worked my way forward and Commander Kenworthy worked his way aft. There was another shock and concussion and vibration and fuel oil splashed in streams over everything topside. This was either another torpedo hit or a large bomb hit close aboard. The ship continued to list over to port, now about 30 degrees, or more, I thought. I entered # 1 casemate to see about the escape of men from below to topside. Men were still coming out through casemates, and thence out through gun. ports to the catwalk and onto the side. When no more men were to be seen in casemates, I climbed up through a gun port and out over the side; the ship was capsizing and the angle was about 90 degrees. I pulled myself along the side and bottom as the vessel keeled over; the ship finally settled when the mast and stack apparently hit bottom, with an angle of approximately 145 degrees, starboard side uppermost.

I sat on the bottom at about frame 60; hundreds of men were along the hull making their way to the water's edge. Keenum C. W., CBM, joined me and rendered much aid in steadying the men and directing them to swim to the MARYLAND, to the Ford Island Landing, or to a motor launch, depending on the location of the men. The air attack continued and bombs were dropping nearby, but none struck the OKLAHOMA after she capsized. All men who reached the topside were apparently saved, swimming either to the MARYLAND, the shore, or to a motor launch. There were many cases of men aiding others to swim, and in some cases actually towing them to shore or the MARYLAND or a boat. The general conduct of the crew continued to be excellent. I saw the OKLAHOMA officers and men who boarded the MARYLAND go to the MARYLAND anti-aircraft battery and aid in the anti-aircraft fire on the MARYLAND. I saw Boatswain Bothne acting as coxswain of a motor launch and picking up men and taking them to Ford Island landing. After all others had cleared the hull of the ship, as far as we could see, Keenum and I made our way out to the bow. I discarded shoes and uniform, expecting to swim in, at this juncture Boatswain Bothne approached in a motor launch, having already landed one load of men. There were about fifty men in this second load. Keenum and I entered the motor launch. The boat made the dock and unloaded all but Boatswain Bothne, four men, and myself. OKLAHOMA men on the dock were handling lines of a tanker which was getting underway, and some of them boarded the tanker upon being told that the tanker needed more men to go out on her. Other men on the dock were asking where they could go to aid in anti-aircraft fire; all seemed to be thinking of how to fight rather than seeking safety.

I remained in the motor launch, and with Boatswain Bothne and four men patrolled up and down the line facing the OKLAHOMA, WEST VIRGINIA, and ARIZONA, looking for survivors to pick up from the water. By this time it appeared that all men had reached shore and the water was clear of men. We patrolled for about twenty minutes (estimated), until it seemed that the attack was over, or at least that no more bombs were being dropped that we could see, and we could see no more enemy planes. Then we took the motor launch across the harbor to the Mine Dock landing. Here were survivors, other boards, and Navy Yard personnel along the dock. A truck driver volunteered to drive those of us without clothes to the Receiving Station for clothes. We drove there, and I obtained dungarees, shoes and a white sailor's hat. Then the truck returned me to the landing. I commandeered a motor boat and returned to the hull of the OKLAHOMA: Others were on the OKLAHOMA and still more were coming aboard as I arrived. With several men I went over the hull discussing possibilities of salvaging those still alive inside. Commander Kranzfelder, Lieutenant Commander Benson, Lieutenant Commander Henderson were now on the hull. Also Boatswain Bothne and twenty or thirty men from the OKLAHOMA who had returned. I believe that all returned at approximately the same time. Thenceforth we concentrated on salvage work for the rescue of survivors trapped inside. I remained on the hull or inside the hull for the next sixty hours as senior OKLAHOMA officer on salvage work. A detailed report of salvage work is submitted as a separate report.

Chief Machinist, Second Class, W. F. Staff wrote as follows: Sunday morning at 0750 on 7 December 1941, I was in the Carpenter Shop when the general alarm was sounded. I immediately went along the starboard side of the third deck to my battle station. I felt several explosions on the way to Repair II. When I got to Repair II I took my phones and went to get a flashlight but they were locked up so I went on down to A-28, the forward air compressor room, and started to set Zed. There was an electricians mate and a fireman also Centers, J.P., MM2/c and myself in the compartment. When the lights went out the fireman and electricians mate started to go out the zed hatch which had been set by repair II; they were yelling and screaming. Water and fuel oil was coming down the hatch. I tried to stop them from opening the hatch but couldn't. The next thing we knew we were all under water and oil. Centers and myself were the only ones that came up. It took us some time in the dark to find out that we were back in A-28 and the ship had capsized. We then tried to get into the linen storeroom. It was on the starboard side and was out of the water. A-28 was about half full of oil and water. The storeroom was locked and it took several hours to beat the lock off with a wrench that we found on the air compressor. We could not get into the storeroom as gear must have wedged against the door. We tried to get into a small storeroom which was on the overhead, but it was also locked and we could not get into position to beat the lock off. About Monday noon we heard tapping and we answered them. After so long they were right overhead and we could hear them talking. When they started to cut into us it let out our air and we were under air pressure; the water came up as our air escaped. The water came up and ran out the hole they were cutting and they left. But we still had about six inches of air space. We tried the linen room again and it gave a little. Apparently the water had cleared the gear from the door, we went in and started tapping again. The rescuers soon got out to us again and we left the ship at 0200 Tuesday morning. I wish to thank these men for their hard work in rescuing us: Keenum, CBM, Thomas, SF1c, and Harris CM2c.

I am compiling the many spirited responses to yesterday's Airman Doe incident, and will post them tomorrow.

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