Heroism of Our Force At
Pearl Harbor

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SOURCE: The Des Moines Register Newspaper
December 16, 1941


Washington, DC (AP)---Many individual actions of American heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7 were disclosed Monday by Secretary of Navy Frank Knox. He said:

"In the navy's gravest hour of peril, the officers and men of the fleet exhibited magnificent courage and resourcefulness during the treacherous Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor."


"Splendid Manner"

"The real story of Pearl Harbor is not one of individual heroism, although there were many such cases."

"It lies in the splendid manner in which all hands did their job as long as they were able, not only under fire but while fighting the flames afterward and immediately starting salvage work and reorganization."

"Prompt action saved many lives and a vast amount of material. Without exception, all ships and stations rose to the emergency."

"Less than four minutes after the first alarm, guns of the fleet went into action against enemy aircraft. Seconds later the first Japanese plane was shot down."

"To a recruit seaman aboard a battleship probably goes the honor of striking the first telling blow in the fleet's defense."

"Even before general quarters sounded, this youngster single handily manned a machine gun and blasted an attacking torpedo plane as it leveled against his ship."

"The dying captain of a battleship displayed the outstanding individual heroism of the day. As he emerged from the conning tower to the bridge, the better to fight his ship, his stomach was laid completely open by a shrapnel burst. He fell to the deck. Refusing to be carried to safety, he continued to direct the action."

"When the bridge became a blazing inferno, two officers attempted to remove him. But he ordered them to abandon him and save themselves. The latter found themselves blocked by the flames. Only the heroic efforts of a third officer enabled them to escape."

"He climbed through the fire to a higher level from which he passed one line to an adjoining battleship, and another to his trapped shipmates. By this frail means they made their way to safety."


Aircraft Tender Ablaze

"Entire ships' companies showed exemplary valor and co-ordination. Drama was thus crowded into a few seconds on board an aircraft tender moored at the naval air station, target of the enemy's fiercest bombing and strafing."

"With the ship already on fire from repeated high altitude attacks, her anti-aircraft batteries downed a plane which crashed in flames on deck. At this moment her captain observed the shadow of an enemy two-man submarine approaching within a few yards of the vessel."

"It was placed under fire. Hits were scored immediately and the submarine exposed her conning-tower."

"At that instant a destroyer stood down channel, passed directly over the submarine, and sank it with depth charges. Doubtless saved from this craft's torpedoes, the tender then shot down a second plane, which fell on land nearby."

"Men fought with the cool confidence that comes from complete indoctrination for battle. In one case, a single bluejacket manned a five inch anti-aircraft gun after his 10 battery mates had been shot down by a strafing attack."

"He would seize a shell from the fuse-pot, place it in the tray, dash to the other side of the gun, and ram it home. He would then take his position on the pointer's seat and fire."

"After the third such round, a terrific explosion blew him over the side of the battleship. He was rescued."

"At the several naval air stations attacked, crews dashed into the flames enveloping planes set ablaze by incendiaries, stripped off free machine guns, and with them returned the enemy's fire. In at least one instance an enemy craft was shot down."


Seaplanes Down Enemy Ship

"Two cruiser scouting seaplanes, their speed and maneuverability reduced by heavy pontoons, destroyed an attacking Japanese pursuit ship of thrice their speed."

"Simultaneously throughout the navy yard examples of personal heroism developed."

"Several workmen of Japanese ancestry deserted their benches to help the marine defense battalion man machine gun nests. Two of them with hands blistered from hot gun barrels, required emergency treatment."

"Cool as ice, the men who manned the navy yard signal tower from which flashed orders to the anchored fleet, carried out their assignment under a hail of machine gun fire and bombs from the enemy, as well as shrapnel from their own force's anti-aircraft batteries."

"None left his dangerous post. First to observe the invaders through their long-glasses from their high vantage point, they sent out the astounding air raid warning by visual signals."

"Then they settled into the complex business of transmitting the scores of orders to the ships that fought back at the attackers from their berths, or prepared to stand out to sea."


Swam Through Blazing Oil

"Men from ships out of action managed at any cost to return to the battle. There were the survivors of the capsized ship who swam through blazing oil to clamber aboard other ships and join gun crews."

"Crews from another disabled vessel swam into mid-channel where they were hoisted aboard outward-bound destroyers. Proof that getting back into battle took precedence over their own lives was the fact that the comparative safety of the shore lay only a few yards away."

"Lying in a hospital bed when the first air raid alarm sounded, one officer leaped up, brushed aside nurses and ran across the navy yard to his ship. he fought with such gallantry and zeal, despite his illness, that his captain recommended him for promotion."

"There was the case of the destroyer tender which lay alongside a dock undergoing major overhaul, powerless and without armament. Unable to assume an active defense role, she concerned herself with the vital task of rescue with her available ship's boats."

"One naval reserve ensign volunteered as skipper of a motor launch. With four men he proceeded across Pearl Harbor's reverberating channel through a hail of enemy machine gun fire and shrapnel."

"They saved almost 100 men from one battleship---men who had been injured or blown overboard into the oil-fired waters. The attack on this vessel was at its height as these rescue operations proceeded."

"Suddenly the launch's propeller jammed. Coolly, the ensign directed the work of disengaging the screw as flames licked around its wooden hull, meantime also supervising the picking up of more victims from the harbor. He captain cited him for 'initiative, resourcefulness, devotion to duty and personal bravery displayed.' "

"Four motor torpedo boats had been loaded aboard a fleet tanker for shipment. Their youthful ensign-captains put their power-driven turret machine guns into immediate action, accounting for at least one enemy raider plane."


"The Unsung Heroes"

"To the unsung heroes of the harbor auxiliaries must go much of the credit for helping stem the onslaught. Even the lowly garbage lighters shared the grim task. One came alongside a blazing ship which threatened momentarily to explode."

"Calmly the yard craft's commander led fire-fighting both aboard the warship and on the surface of the harbor. He kept his tiny vessel beside the larger one for 24 hours."

"Men's will-to-fight was tremendous. One seaman had been confined to his battleship's brig for misconduct a few days earlier. When an explosion tore open the door, he dashed straight to his battle station on an anti-aircraft gun."

"On the submarine base dock a bluejacket, carrying a heavy machine gun for which there was no mount immediately available, shot the weapon from his arms, staggering under the concussion of the rapid fire."

"Quick-thinking in the dire emergency probably saved many lives ---- and ships. An aviation machinist's mate aboard one ship saw that flames from the huge vessel threatened a repair ship alongside."

"He ran through the blaze and single-handedly slashed the lines holding the two ships together. Freed, the smaller craft drew clear."

"Only in the final moments, when remaining aboard appeared utterly hopeless, would men leave their ships. Then they went reluctantly. Once ashore, instead of finding some dry place to recuperate from their terrific pounding, they pitched emergency quarters as near their vessels as possible."

"And with portable guns they continued to fight; later they stood guard at the same camps as repair operations began on their ships, setting regular shipboard watches."


Ships Under Repair

"Like all treacherous attacks, the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese caught certain vessels of the fleet under periodic overhaul. While in this condition of repair, such ships were not able to utilize their offensive powers to the greatest effectiveness. These ships, therefore, turned to with a will at many useful purposes."

"One ship rescued, with its boats, hundreds of survivors thrown into the water by the force of explosions; meanwhile the surface of the water was becoming a raging inferno from burning oil."

"Other ships sent their repair parties to help the fighting ships keep afloat. Others sent ammunition parties to maintain the flow of powder and shells to the guns."

"Without doubt the whole spectacle was the greatest spontaneous exhibition of co-operation, determination and courage that the American navy has been called upon to make."

"The crew of one ship followed it around on its outside as it capsized, firing their guns until they were under water. Those same men stood on the dock and cheered as one of the more fortunate ships cleared the harbor and passed by, en route after the Japanese."

"Of all the accounts submitted on that memorable day, the record shows a continual demonstration of courage, bravery and fearlessness of which the American Nation may well be proud."

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