Remarks made to his ship's company by
Captain Ellis M. Zacharias, Sr. of the cruiser USS SLC upon her return to patrol duty after a visit to Pearl Harbor.
Neither the Captain's name nor the ship's name were printed in the original article due to security reasons.
I have called you together for several reasons. First of all, there are things which I feel you want to know, and there are several things which you ought to know. I appreciate exactly how you feel and have felt the past few days. We have had a tremendous shock. I have been through such an experience before, and I know your feelings and reactions. I am, therefore, very deeply consoled by the fact that recovery is very quick and I can see that you have recovered from it. I make reference to my experience in the big Japanese earthquake in Yokohama in 1923 where everything there was very little in this case, but you will have your opportunity and satisfaction very soon.
You have now had a chance to talk over the things you saw in Pearl Harbor, and speculate about this and that. I would suggest that you forget about those things of the past and concentrate on those which now lay before us, as there is much to be done. We have had two dispatches, one from the Commander-in-Chief in which he stresses somewhat the same things I am going to discuss now, and one message from the Chief of Naval Operations along the same line. The Commander-in-Chief's message reads as follows: "Your actions have been splendid; we took a blow yesterday. It will not be a short war. We will give many heavy lows to the Japanese. Carry on." The dispatch from the Chief of Naval Operations says, "While you have suffered from a treacherous attack, your Commander-in-Chief has informed me that your courage and stamina remain magnificent. You know you will have your revenge. Recruiting stations are jammed with men eager to join you". Those are facts.
Regardless of results of the raid on Pearl Harbor, the effect of what took place there is going to be greatly beneficial to us for many reasons. First of all, there is nothing that could have consolidated public opinion and expedited our future plans of operations in the United States as quickly as this did. There is nothing which could have brought out simultaneously all of the countries of South America in joint action with the United States. The cooperation of South America was one of the essentials for the successful completion of this war. Therefore, these two things, vitally necessary for a successful conclusion of our plans, we have now.
We have lost one battleship and sustained some damage to others but in this connection it is to be noted we have not lost a single weapon which is now considered far more important. I refer to aircraft carriers, heavy cruisers, light forces and submarines. In connection with the recent activities - the damaging of a few of our battleships, the sinking of the two British battleships at Singapore and the sinking of the enemy battleship HARUNA and another battleship badly damaged in Philippine waters, I think that we can safely feel that the temporary loss of these battleships is not going to affect us one iota. We are strengthening and perfecting our program for the defeat of the Japanese here and everywhere. You will note that they did not get a single carrier or cruiser and barely touched any of the light forces. They are going to be very much surprised and disappointed in this revelation. I know this to be a fact from certain information that I have. If they should come back again, and I doubt very much that they will (although this is always possible), get what is in store for them.
We have already stepped up production in weapons all over the United States which we will use so successfully against the enemy. Bombers will be coming out in greater numbers than we can use. I am not telling you these things to ease your mind but I want to impress upon all of you that we have not lost anything. I hope that what I have told you will impress you and convince you of this point and stop any concern. We have a particular job to do right now and our part in this work is very important.
I must compliment every one of you for the manner in which you have worked, the spirit which you have shown, and the stamina which is inherent in every one of you. I have noticed, and I have watched carefully, the manner in which everyone has "snapped back" and particularly the manner in which you are eating.
Our job right now is to protect this ship which we are escorting---to protect her from surface vessels and attacks from the air. The destroyers are doing an excellent job in protecting the heavy ships from submarines and they are doing it so well that I am afraid they have seen a lot which were not there. However, that is the way to do it--see everything, even to the extent of seeing a little to much. A blackfish might turn out to be a submarine. We must not relax--every report must be investigated carefully and to the limit and that is what we are attempting to do. With each additional report coming in now, I have noticed that the action taken has been handled a little more calmly each time, which shows that all responsible are doing the job that is required of them. It is a fact that such a manner of carrying out your work will result in the extermination of the submarines. I say this confidently, because when you think of what a big job they have you will realize how difficult it is for them to carry on their work--when you realize that a submarine below the surface, hearing the propellers of a ship, does not know whether it is a destroyer about to drop depth charges; or, if the submarine is on the surface at night, it does not know whether he has been picked up by special apparatus. He is in a tough spot. These submarines have already shown a desperation by coming to the surface during daylight which action is against all practical procedure. In these instances these submarines have been spotted by the planes which have proceeded over them and dropped depth charges, reporting hits. This indicates to you that they are now desperate, which will hasten their extermination. Hereafter, when you hear reports that submarines are in the vicinity, do not let it cause any undue excitement. By being an example yourself will react favorably upon other. Of course, there is always a chance of a submarine getting in a lucky hit as they did on one of our destroyers in the Atlantic--the REUBEN JAMES. But when you consider the number of days and months these destroyer and other forces have been working in the Atlantic against submarines, with this single casualty it stresses just what I have said.
I want to say a little about censorship. Censorship is solely for the purpose of protecting you by preventing valuable information from reaching the enemy. You do not always realize what is valuable to the enemy, but it is a fact that the location of a single ship - the fact that a certain ship has been sunk or damaged might be extremely valuable. Censors do not desire to evince interests in men's personal affairs. In reading letters the purpose is to eliminate any possible reference to vital matters of interest to the enemy. For that reason the censors' job calls for them to look for specific items, but there is no possibility of causing any man any embarrassment. There should be no objection to censoring - my mail will be censored as well as yours. I happen to know someone was critical of censorship and I hope that by now he has changed his mind. I received a letter recently from one of my ex-shipmates, now married, in the light forces on the East Coast. He was one of my best box-fighters on the RICHMOND and should have had a fleet belt. In his letter he gave me the present location of the individual members of the boxing squad as he now knew them to be; he had too much in his letter about the locations so they had to clip this information out.
You can be assured that plans for operations are now being made out by very competent authorities and I have utmost confidence in their success because our forces afloat have the best in the Navy, and there are no better commanders in the world. You therefore have nothing to fear about any of the steps which they take. Do not discuss any unfounded rumors that you hear. Don't listen to rumors or let them affect you. I will try to keep you advised by press news and loudspeaker of any events taking place in which you might be interested. I know you will feel better about it if you are kept informed and that is what we are going to try to do. As you may have noticed, we have taken immediate steps as necessary to make everyone as comfortable as possible under increased watches. We realize you will do a better job when you are comfortable. I noted you were helping out when I saw the long line outside the barber shop waiting to get haircuts. The reason the uniform was made optional was because of the possible limited activities of the laundry. Situated below decks, it is not easy to work down there. When the situation warrants, all hands, to maintain the proper degree of cleanliness, may have to resort to the use of buckets to take care of their underwear and socks, dungarees and outer clothing. However, I think we will be able to get back in routine which will enable the laundry to handle the needs of the ship. The purpose of keeping clean is to avoid sickness. It is much better to have prevention than to cure a thing after it has started. Cleanliness is a great virtue. I have noticed that during the night watches something in the way of food is necessary. We have already instituted hot cocoa which I understand has met with great favor. We are going to try hot soup and then, if necessary, something else. We are trying them out with a view to determine which is the more popular. I note that outside of regular meal hours we will have to be careful about the care of utensils. We must try, as far as possible, not to use a cup or dish used by someone else. They must be washed and sterilized. In case of bad weather it is desired to emphasize the necessity for taking the proper care of the men at the guns, making them more comfortable. We have already taken steps to place weather shields around the guns, which will give the gun crews protection from spray and wind, and, if necessary, we will make particular arrangements for their further comfort. If you are comfortable we expect that you will do your job in a better manner. Anyone having suggestions along this line should bring them to the attention of the Executive Officer.
Life preservers were issued to you for several reasons. You will find that they are your best friend and comforter under many different conditions. All of you now have them with you in case of a sudden engagement. We are not pessimistic as to the safety of the ship but we know that it gives you a greater feeling of security in submarine waters. Everyone should wear a life preserver at such times. You will find them useful as something soft to sit on, to use as a pillow, if allowed to sleep at your station. As you have found out in the weather we have already encountered, they have a large amount of warmth in them. Names of individuals should be stenciled upon life preservers in case they are misplaced and those picked up about the decks should be turned over to the officer of the deck for return to the men to whom issued. Take good care of them and make any repairs to them as soon as it becomes necessary.
One more item for your protection are the life rafts. We have ample life rafts to take care of many more men than we have on board. They are secured in various places with manila lines and at all life rafts there have been provided two sharp knives which can be used to cut the rafts adrift. It is comforting to know that if that extreme necessity arises you have but to pull out the knives and cut the lashings holding the life rafts. They will float clear themselves.
Since the declaration of war we have been taking it easy regarding upkeep and cleaning and we will continue to take it easy, but this must not allow uncleanness to creep in. Keep your living spaces as clean as possible. Do not throw cigarette butts or refuse about the decks. Put them in the proper receptacle intended for that purpose. This is essential for cleanliness, health, morale, and it is expected that all hands will give careful attention to this matter.
There are many things needed on board so I want everyone of you to take up with your heads of departments or division officers the list of those things that we need so that we will be complete in every respect. There are quite a few things we want to get and after that we will be ready for anything and ready to undertake any task assigned to us with confidence and ability.