Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Sortie of the USS Nevada


The USS Nevada steams down the channel at Pearl Harbor, flag flying and guns firing

Sortie: In siege warfare, a sortie, or sudden issuing of troops against the enemy from a defensive position, can be launched against the besiegers by the defenders. An armed attack, especially one made from a place surrounded by enemy forces. The term has been adopted from the French past participle 3rd group verb, verbs ending in -ir, with the gerund ending in -ant, "sortir", "to leave" or "to go out" with a specific purpose.

EDWIN J. HILL - Cape May's Forgotten Hero - Part 1

There’s a small monument dedicated to Ed Hill just off the Washington Street Mall in Cape May, N.J. As a former Cape May resident who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Hill was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions during the Japanese attack against the American fleet that began World War II.


Having lived in Cape May for a number of years, I frequently noticed the small plaque, and as the 50th anniversary of the date approached, considered doing a profile of the hometown hero who gave his life in one of the most epic battles of our times.

I looked up Hill’s medal citation and read about his Pearl Harbor exploits in some history books, but no one in Cape May really knew anything about him, other than what was written on the marker.


"Chief Boatswain E. J. Hill, U.S. Navy, killed in action, is deserving of the highest commendation possible to be given for his skill, leadership and courage. At the height of the attack he led his line handling details to the quays, cast off the lines under fire, and then swam back to the ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. His performance of duty and devotion to duty was outstanding."

A search of the files of the area newspapers failed to find a single obituary for Hill, or any news story what-so-ever. The clipping files and back issues of the Atlantic City Press, Camden Courier Post, Philadelphia Inquirer and Evening Bulletin files, now at Temple University library, were all checked to no avail.

Only the Courier Post had a single index card on Hill in their archives, which noted that a news story was published on December 17, 1941, but the librarian said that their files no longer went back that far.

I called every Hill in the telephone book who lived in Cape May or near by, but none were related to or even heard of Ed Hill, who died at Pearl Harbor. No one at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post knew anything about him, and the public affairs officer at the Cape May Coast Guard base couldn’t tell me anything. Nor could anyone at the Cape May city clerk’s office, tell me who placed the monument to Hill at the Mall, so no one would forget him.

The public library of Philadelphia gave me the phone number of the Pearl Harbor Survivor’s Association (PHSA) in Orlando, Florida, but the number was no longer in service.

Then I called Donald M. Goldstein, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Goldstein, co-authored a number of books about Pearl Harbor, including “At Dawn We Slept,” “Pearl Harbor,” “December 7, 1941” and the most recently published, “The Way It Was – Pearl Harbor – The Original Photographs,” which contains a photograph of Chief Boatswain Edwin J. Hill.

Goldstein had the number of the Vice President of the PHSA, but had misplaced it on his desk. “Where did you say you’re calling from?” he asked. “Ocean City, New Jersey. Why I used to work there at the Chatterbox restaurant and hang out at Tony Marts and Bay Shores nightclubs when I was in school,” he said.

Then Goldstein came up with the phone number of Flora Higgins, a North Jersey librarian who had the phone number of Lee Goldfarb, the VP of the PHSA. Goldstein also suggested that I talk to Joe Taussig, who lived in Washington, or Annapolis, and Donald Ross, in Washington State, both shipmates who served with Hill aboard the USS Nevada and knew him personally.

Mrs. Higgins did indeed have Goldfarb’s number, and Goldfarb had a computerized listing of all the PHSA members, including one from Ocean City, another from Sea Isle City and others from Avalon and Wildwood Crest. He also gave me the PHSA members from New Jersey who served on the Nevada, whose phone numbers I obtained from the public directory.

Goldfarb, who served on the minesweeper USS Oglala at Pearl Harbor, also suggested I call Merrill Stoffer, a PSHA Army veteran from New Jersey who is taking 53 people to Hawaii in December for the official ceremonies, and Roy Emeroy, in Hawaii, “who has more information in his computer than the Pentagon.”

If they couldn’t help me Goldfarb also gave me an 800 number at the Pentagon. I knew I was now on the right track.

Ray Emeory in Hawaii, did indeed have a lot of information in his computer. When I phoned he was outside in his yard, but he quickly switched to a telephone closer to his computer and pulled up a file on Ed Hill.

According to is files, Emeroy said Edwin J. Hill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1894. He was married, with three children, and his wife lived in Long Beach, California.

“Seven was not his lucky number,” Emory said, and when I asked why he noted, “Well, he was 47 years old when he died a 0907 on December 7, and was given body bag number 7”

Emeroy also noted that a destroyer escort was named after him – the USS Hill – DE141, which his wife, Mrs. Catherine Hill launched at the Consolidated Steel Corporation plant in Orange, Texas on February 8, 1943. That ship has since been decommissioned.

Emeroy assured me that Captain Donald Ross, whose number he provided, could tell me more about Hill since Ross served with Hill on the Nevada, and also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day, but lived to tell the story.

First I called Long Beach, California information and obtained the phone number of Mrs. Edwin Hill, but it was the wrong Mrs. Hill.

After two days of trying I finally got through to Captain Donald Ross in Port Orchid, Washington. Now 80 years old (in 1991) Ross’ Medal of Honor is the senior combat award in the service today. He has been decorated longer than any other man alive.

“Sure I knew Ed Hill very well,” Ross said. “We were both warrant officers on the Nevada. I still take flowers to Ed’s grave whenever I’m in Hawaii.”

Ross gave me the address of Hill’s daughter, Catherine, and her married name, Mrs. Roggeveen, who lives in Long Beach, California.

Mrs. Roggeveen was glad to talk about her father when I contacted her at her Long Beach home, and she was able to explain the Cape May connection and a better portrait of the man.


“He was a quite man, a career Navy man,” she said, “a man of the people. He was born in Philadelphia, one of eight children, five of whom owned summer homes in Cape May. They’re all deceased now, except for one, my uncle William Hill, who lives in North Miami, Florida.

“My father joined the Navy as a teenager when his mother died,” explained Mrs. Roggeveen, “and met my mother, his wife, who was also named Catherine, in Cork, Ireland, where she was from. They met at a party in Cork when his ship, the USS Pennsylvania was in port there during World War I. The Pennsylvania, and the Nevada, were both battleships. He was always a battleship man.”

“In the old Navy,” she explained, “Long Beach, California was the home of the fleet. Now it’s all over, but that’s where we lived for the two years at a time when he was at sea. When he had shore duty, we went back to Philly and Cape May, where many of our relatives lived. Until recently, the Hill family has always had a home in Cape May, particularly the Windsor Hotel.”

[Note: The Windsor Hotel, on Beach Drive at Congress Street, was one of the large old, clapboard hotels that was purchased by Rev. Carl MacIntyrie, and was destroyed by arson. A new condo called the Windsor is now there today.]

“I last went back to Cape May eight or ten years ago,” she said, “when they dedicated a street to my father.”

Mrs. Catherine Roggeveen is the oldest of three children born to Edwin and Catherine Hill. She has two brothers.

The final irony of her life however, is her husband, John E. Roggeveen. “I met him on a blind date near the end of the war,” she recalls. “It turns out that he was an officer on the Nevada. So he took me aboard one night for dinner and I got a chance to meet some of my father’s shipmates.”

Mrs. Roggeveen has possession of her father’s Medal of Honor, and has plans to lend it to the Long Beach public library for a display during the 50th anniversary observances.

“And I’m very glad,” she said, “that there’s a monument to his memory in Cape May, which he loved so much.”

Mrs. Roggeveen’s uncle, Edwin Hill’s youngest and last surviving brother, William Hill, now lives on 35th street in North Miami, Florida with his wife Rosalie. Now 92 years old, he is a little hard of hearing, but still feisty as he described to me his early family life.

According to William Hill there were eight children born to John J. and Ellen Hill. They lived on the corner of 23rd and Diamond streets in North Philadelphia. There were five boys and three girls – William, David, Francis, Edwin, John, Rose, Ellen and Mary.

When asked about Cape May, he said, “Our summer home was in Cape May. Some of us ended up living there, and if Eddie had a home it was Cape May. He loved Cape May and always came home to Cape May when he was on leave.”

“His registered mailing address was the Hotel Windsor, which my sister owned,” said Hill, “but Ed lived at our home just up the street from the hotel on Congress Street, the second house from the corner, going west. The house is still there.”

The Old Windsor Hotel however, was destroyed in a suspicious fire after the Hills sold it.

“My sister Rose Furey, who was married to Dr. Charles Furey, ran the hotel, and I helped her,” Hill explained, “and my aunt operated it before her. I first came to Cape May in 1911, the same time as Ed, when he was 14 years old.”

“Eddie was a family favorite, even aside from being a war hero,” relates William Hill. “Eddie liked to sail my cat boat. I had a 28 foot racing cat, which was kept down at George Roseland’s dock at Schellenger’s Landing. That’s at the end of Washington Street. We used to race with friends who had similar boats.”

“At that time,” Hill said, “Cape May was purely a seasonal resort. It went with the seasons, from the first of June to the first week of September. The town had a population of 2471 when we maintained our house on Congress Street.”

“Ed was the Navy’s number one Bos’n,” said Hill, pronouncing Boatswain, as they say it in the Navy. “Whenever they had a new ship to break in they’d put him on it to get it ship-shape. They named a destroyer after him, as well as Camp Hill, in Farragut, Idaho, a Naval Training Base.”

And they have a street named after him and a monument dedicated to him on the Washington Street Mall in Cape May.

“But no,” Hills says with a pause, “I don’t suppose many people in Cape May today know who Edwin J. Hill was or what he did.”


ED HILL – PART II

“He that outlives this day and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named.” Shakespeare, Henry V.


“Ed Hill was the Senior Warrant Officer and Chief Bos’n’s Mate on the USS Nevada when I came aboard on 18, November 1940,” recalls Captain Donald Ross, of Port Orchid, Washington, who survived two hours of Hell in Paradise, then lived another 50 years as testimony to those who died at Pearl Harbor.


Hill and Ross were warrant officers on the USS Nevada, a top-of-the-line battleship, then in port at Pearl Harbor, on the Island of Oahu, Hawii. Both men would find themselves at the crossroads of history, at a choice assignment in paradise, then be suddenly thrust into combat without any advance warning. And in the first hours of World War II, they would take action above and beyond the call of duty, help initiate the fist offensive action against the enemy and save their ship.

“I was a Warrant Machinist, in charge of what they called ‘junk’ – the machine shops, metal smiths, hydraulics, generators, electricity, that sort of thing,” Ross explained, “while Hill was the Senior Warrant Officer and Chief Bos’n, with many years of service. He was also the Advancement Officer and in charge of training, all through the deck divisions. And he knew more about damage control than any 1st Lieutenant.”

“Hill was also a wonderful leader,” remembers Ross, “not only for the men, but for the other officers, who respected him. He was the most outstanding man on the ship, in fact any ship I’ve ever been on.”

“On the morning of December 7, I saw him walking on deck when I first came up from below,” Ross recalls. “He had his breakfast and was getting things ship-shape for church service on the aftdeck. He had a junior officer on his first watch and whenever he had a junior ensign on duty always gave him the best bos’n mate. That would be Mister Solar, a good man who also had 18 or 19 years in the Navy.”

The junior ensign on his first watch was Joseph Taussig, Jr., son of Vice Admiral Joseph Taussign, Sr. The elder Taussig, in April 1940, had testified before Congress that if trends continued war with Japan was inevitable.

Young Taussig, then 21 years old, was fresh out of the U.S. Navy Academy at Annapolis. Today, at 71, he is the last Pearl Harbor survivor on active duty, with the title of Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy for Safety, appointed by President Reagan.

“I remember Ed Hill very well,” Taussig said from his Annapolis, Maryland home. “He was a big, bald headed man who we thought was older than God. He was very concerned about training young officers on the ship, and we all admired him. He won about every sailing award in the Navy and he loved to teach us how to sail.”

“I was an admiral’s son,” relates Taussig, “and Mr. Hill took pains to make sure that I didn’t get into any trouble. When I was on watch he would always be standing behind me looking over my shoulder.”

“I don’t know much about his personal background,” Taussig said, “except that I do known that no man makes chief warrant officer without being totally outstanding.”

Taussig remembers that, “On December 7th I was on my first deck watch. I didn’t see Mr. Hill, but I knew where he was. He was standing behind the number 3 turret. I knew because bos’n mate Adolofo Solar told me. Mr. Solar always kept me posted to where Mr. Hill was because I knew he was somewhere in the vicinity, keeping tabs on me.”

On assuming duty as watch officer of the deck that morning Taussig ordered a second boiler engine fired up. Although he didn’t know it at the time, that order, which seemed so insignificant at the time, would assume monumental importance later in the day.

One book speculates that Taussig was merely looking for something to do, while another reports that he wanted to give the hot engine a break since it had been supplying the ship with power for four days.

Today Taussig remembers differently. “I had the second boiler fired up for two reasons,” he said. “I wanted it up because I didn’t like to be a ship that couldn’t get underway. I had been in the California earthquake in 1933, which made me conscious of a threat, so I tried, at all times, to be prepared. So whenever I took over the deck, I always fired up another engine.”

“The second reason,” he said, “is that when I was at Annapolis, the mechanical drawing instructor, E. J. “Gus” Fee, predicated that I wouldn’t graduate. But I did graduate, and he was the engineering officer on the Nevada. So ordered the other engine fired up just to make him mad, and let him know I was the officer on deck. So in my 21 year old mind, that was one of the reasons – to make Gus mad.”

Taussig’s biggest problem that morning was rather trivial. “We were getting ready for morning colors, and my big problem at the time was the flag. I didn’t know what size flag to fly.”

Early that morning, 19 year old 3rd class bos’n mate Kenneth Herndon emerged into the morning light from below the freshly painted gunmetal gray hull of the Nevada. The Nevada was the last of a row of battleships. Tied up in front were five other battleships – the Arizona, Maryland, Tennessee, Oklahoma and West Virginia. The Admiral’s flagship, the California, was set off by itself further up the channel. Together they were referred to as Battleship Row.


On the other side of Ford Island was the training and gunning practice ship Utah, while the Pennsylvania was in dry dock. Around Ford Island was the rest of the Pacific Fleet, except for the carrier task force, one day’s sail away, returning from Wake Island.

Without air support from the carriers, the Admiral didn’t want the battleships to leave the safety of the harbor. The skipper of the Nevada was ashore, as were the Captains of five of the other six battleships. The Nevada wasn’t scheduled to go anywhere, and all was quiet, except for the sounds of the ship’s orchestra, which was tuning up on deck, waiting to play the national anthem during the 8 a.m. flag raising ceremony.

“I was making arrangements to play football with 3 division, recalls Herndon, now 70 years old and living in Clayton, New Jersey. “We had this inter-division football leagues and we were tied for the championship. We were going ashore and were waiting for this launch just before morning colors when the attack started.”

“Sure I knew Mister Hill,” recalls Herndon. “He was my boss. He was chief warrant bos’n, and all the people on the deck force came under his direction. He was very strict, just and very knowledgeable. He had over 20 years in the navy at the time of the attack. Hill was a leader, its just that simple. He was respected by everybody, up and down the ranks. The admirals had just as much respect for him as I had. That’s the kind of gentleman he was. He ran a tight ship.”

Not knowing what size flag to fly, and too embarrassed to ask the veteran Mister Hill, Taussig quietly sent a man forward to see what they were going to do on the Arizona. A single bugler stood ready on most ships in the harbor, but on the larger ships, like the Nevada and Arizona, whole ship’s orchestras were assembling to perform the national anthem as the flag was being raised.

On the Nevada, bandleader Oden McMIllan and his 23 musicians waited patiently. The band’s intermittent offbeat sounds rang out briefly as they tuned up, then stopped. A bird’s squawk broke the silence, church bells chimed in the distance.

The serenity of the moment, overseen by Chief Bos’n Edwin Hill from gun turret number 3, would bely the fact, he would die in the next hour and a half, but not before taking his ship on the shortest, most memorial, historic and unscheduled sortie in the annals of the US Navy.

At 0755, military time, five minutes to eight, blue flags were hoisted, signaling the official routine would commence in five minutes. As those assembled on the aftdeck waited patiently, they were distracted by some specks that appeared in the sky to the southwest.

The swarm of plane that appeared like insects or a flock of birds to the naked eye, were first picked up on radar a half-hour earlier. They were reported by the young soldiers who thought them suspicious, but the superior officers believed them to be either an expected group of B-17 bombers or advance planes from the carrier task force at sea.

McMillan and his musicians saw the planes bearing down on the other side of Ford Island. They heard muffled explosions and saw clouds of dirt and dust rise in the distance. At first they thought it was merely target practice, or perhaps some hot shot army pilots showing off.

At precisely 0800 the blue flag came down, McMillan tapped his baton to strike up the band and the first notes of the “Star Spangled Banner” rang out across the harbor. As the first notes sounded a plane came in low over the water and dropped a single torpedo aimed at the nearby Arizona. The band continued playing as the plane zoomed in, up and over the Nevada’s fantail, spraying the deck with machine gun bursts as it pealed off. But the machine gunner managed to miss the entire band and marine guard standing at attention in two stiff rows. The flag however, half-way up the mast, was shredded with holes.


McMillan kept conducting however, and the band didn’t miss a beat. According to Walter Lord, in his book “Day of Infamy,” “It never occurred to him that once he had begun playing the National Anthem he could possibly stop. Another plane flashed by. This time McMillian unconsciously paused as the wood teak deck splintered around him, but he quickly picked up the beat again.”

“The entire band stopped and started with him,” wrote Lord, “as though they had rehearsed for weeks. Not a man broke formation until the final note died. Then everyone ran wildly for cover.”

The ship’s bugler looked at Taussig, then began to blow general quarters on his own initiative before an order was issued, but the sounds of the explosions and madness muffled the music. Taussig grabbed the horn out of the enlisted man’s mouth and pulled the alarm bell. Then he repeatedly shouted into the PA system, “All hands general quarters, air raid, this is no drill!”

As the men scampered around the ship, some of the musicians carefully placed their instruments in their cases before putting on their helmets and running to their battle stations.

According to reports, one of the first things that Edwin Hill did was to grab a machete and cut the ropes holding up awnings that covered the guns along the deck, which permitted them to return fire almost immediately. In the course of the battle the Nevada gunners were credited with downing six Japanese planes.


“I had just finished breakfast when the alarm sounded,” recalls Francis Ritter, now 78 years old and living in Wenonah, Deptford Township in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Originally from Southeast Philadelphia, Ritter was a radioman 3rd class aboard the Nevada. “I was getting ready to go to the church service, mass, which was to be said on the aftdeck, just after morning colors. I didn’t hear the PA system, so when the alarm sounded I ran up on the bridge. I assumed it was a fire drill, but an officer nearly knocked me down. “Don’t you realized they’re Japs,” he said. I almost got shot and didn’t know it. Then went to my battle station.”

Also up the mast was a sailor in the Nevada’s crow’s nest with a .30 caliber machine gun. He was the first man to return fire and winged a torpedo bomber as it headed directly for the ship, giving the Nevada a brief reprieve. “Here and there other guns joined in,” noted Lord, “but at first there were pitifully few.”

Another plane flew in low over the harbor towards the Nevada and was hit by blazing guns, veered off smoking and crashed into the water to the cheers of the crew. But the plane wasn’t hit until after it had dropped its torpedo, which they could see as it silently swept towards the ship. It’s explosion rocked the Nevada, sheared a whole the size of a small house in its side, and forced a list to port, which was quickly corrected by counter flooding maneuvers.

Then two bombs exploded on the bridge, one severely wounding Taussig, who lost a leg. He would spend the rest of the war in the hospital but he refused to be relived of his duty as gun control officer and directed the rest of the battle from a stretcher.


“I was below deck when the attack began,” remembers 73 year old John Gornick, of Lakehurst, New Jersey. “I was a signalman 3rd class, and my battle station was on the signal bridge, but when I arrived we took a bomb that went right through the bridge and exploded in the Captain’s quarters below. Flames came up and eventually we had to leave the bridge.”

A gigantic explosion in the forward magazine of the Arizona then knocked a dozen men off the deck f the Nevada, some of whom were picked out of the water by a small motor launch delivering Lieut. Commander Lawrence E. Ruff back to his ship.

Ruff had left the Nevada at 0630 that morning with the ship’s priest, who heard confessions and said mass aboard the hospital ship. The mass was quickly concluded when the attack began and Ruff commandeered the launch to take him back to the Nevada. The little boat was strafed by a Japanese Zero as it made its way across the harbor, but Ruff was truly horrified by what he saw on the short trip.

Before the smoke cleared he could see the Oklahoma capsized, the West Virginia a tangled, burning mass of steel, the California listing to port, the Maryland and Tennessee trapped by burning vessels, the Utah overturned and the Pennsylvania helpless at dry dock, all under attack. The Arizona, completely engulfed in flames, was sinking rapidly.

In the ten minutes it took Ruff to cross the harbor, by 0810, the backbone of the Pacific fleet was destroyed, five of the Navy’s best battleships were sunk or sinking, and the rest of the fleet was in jeopardy. Of all the battleships in the harbor, only Ruff’s ship, the Nevada, remained seaworthy, with damage from one torpedo and two bombs.

“When I came down from the mast I fought fires,” recalls Ritter, “and I helped out with injured and made myself available until I took over a field radio, one of our only means of communication at the time.”

Since the torpedo that hit the Nevada had knocked out the electric elevators on the port side, Chief Bos’n Edwin Hill organized a line of sailors that passed ammunition up from below deck by hand. “I went down from the signal bridge and gave them a hand passing the ammunition. You must of heard that song, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” well that’s what we did,” said Gornick.

Kenneth Herndon, whose football game was called on account of war, first went to his battle station, a turret gun. “But we didn’t have any ammunition,” he said, “so there was no use staying there. The torpedo had taken out our power, so I went down to the magazines to get .50 caliber ammunition.”

The ammunition elevator on the other side continued functioning however because Warren Machinist Donald Ross did everything he could to keep it going. Down below, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism. His citation reads: “When his station in the forward dynamo room of the USS Nevada became almost untenable due to smoke, steam and heat, Machinist Ross forced his men to leave that station and performed all of the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned to his station, again and again, until directed to abandon it.”

Up above, in charge of the deck, Chief Bos’n Edwin J. Hill would also earn the Medal of Honor that day, while Ensign Taussig, directing the return fire, would earn the Navy Cross. Herndon recalls that, “Tausig put on quite a show that day. He refused to leave the guns up there on the foredeck.”

Taussig however, discounts his own heroism, saying, “I lost a leg and received the Navy Cross because my sailors took care of me. I got all the credit and they did all the work. But Hill earned his medal for personal heroism. He’s a true American hero.”






EDWIN J. HILL – PART III

“I remember Mister Hill very well,” recalls William West, now 73 years old and living in New Providence, New Jersey. “He cam e up through the ranks and was the Chief Bosn’n, which is probably as important a position as the Captain.”

“He was a fine man,” recalled West. “I was an officer, a 90 day wonder they called us, but he came up through the ranks. He was somebody you could look up to. A fine and upright professional navy man. He was good looking, straight as a ram-rod, and commanded respect from everyone who knew him. He was a brave man, what every navy man should be. Everything about him was navy, and everyone respected him, from seamen to admirals. And you called him Mister Hill, by God.”

“At 0800 when the attack began, I was in my bunk,” says West, who was then a 23 year old assigned to emergency radio #3. “I had been on watch earlier and got to bed at 2 a.m., so when the general alarm went off and I woke up I went to my station with three other seamen. Since we were below the armored deck we were still operating when the other two radio rooms were knocked out.”

West recalls, “We got underway with the help of Mister Hill, who cast off the lines.”

With Captain Scanland and his executive officers ashore, Lieut. Commander Francis Thomas, the damage control officer was the senior officer on board. He was below deck and went to Central Station when the attack began, but after Lieut. Commander Ruff came aboard, he left a yeoman in charge there and climbed the 80 foot ladder tube to confer with Ruff in the conning tower.

As the swarm of planes veered off to the north, leaving smoke, flames, sunken and sinking ships, dead and wounded men in their wake, the officers took stock of the situation. Of the five torpedo bombers shot down in the first wave of the attack, the Nevada’s gunner had recorded two of them. All was quiet for another 15 minutes as some sailors attended to their wounded shipmates while others fought fires, loaded their weapons and began to receive orders from officers who were beginning to assume command.

As they surveyed the situation, Lieut. Commanders Thomas and ruff suddenly found themselves in a peculiar situation. Under normal conditions a battleship needs a Captain, a navigator, harbor pilot, a full compliment of officers and 2,000 crewmen, four tug boats and two and half hours to get its engines fired up hot enough to get underway.

The Nevada, at the moment, met none of those requirements, except for the hot boilers, which Ensign Taussig had been thoughtful enough to order fired up when he assumed watch duty that morning. And yet the big battleship was capable of getting underway because Mister Hill had loosed the lines and freed the hip form the mooring quays during the last few minutes of the first attack.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, “For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the fleet in Pearl Harbor, by the Japanese forces on 7 December, 1941. During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boastswain Hill led his men of the line-handling details of the USS Nevada to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to his ship.’

As Lord put it in his book, “Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill had climbed down to the mooring quay, cut loose an ammunition lighter along side, and cast off…Hill had to swim to get back on board, but after 29 years in the Navy he wasn’t going to miss this trip.”

Swimming through the burning oil from the sinking Arizona nearby, Hill climbed aboard the Nevada as both Thomas and Ruff agreed that the Nevada was a sitting duck where she lay, and a 0830 Thomas recorded in the ship’s log: “Urgently necessary to get underway to avoid destruction of the ship.”

So they ordered their ship into action, and the skelton crew prepared to get underway.

In Washington D.C., 27,000 fans sat in Griffith Stadiu, John F. Kennedy among them, watching the Washington Redskins take a 20-14 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles. During the game, Associated Press reporter Pat O’Brien received a strange message from his office to keep the game story short since it was unimportant. O’Brien wired back quickly, “what do you mean the Redskins’ last game of the season is unimportant?”

The reply came back: “JAPS JUST KICKED OFF. WAR NOW.”

But the fans and players weren’t told because the typically Washington stadium policy forbid the broadcast of non-sports news over the PA system. Fans in the stands eventually began to realize something was up however when various military brass and prominent politicians were continually paged and told to call their offices. So the word spread and before the game was over people realized that the biggest battle of the day was being fought at Pearl Harbor.

ED HILL – PART IV – The Second Wave.


As suddenly as the attack ended, another began. At 0830, just as the Nevada was getting underway, a second wave of fighter bombers appeared on the horizon in close formation, bearing down on the fleet. Among the planes in the second wave were 50 Aichii Type 99 bombers from the Japanese carrier Kaga, that were directed by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, to their specific target – the Nevada.

Coming in over the water in single file formation, Fuchida let up a little on his throttle to allow a specially trained bomber to take the lead. When the bombardier dropped his bombs, the entire squadron would follow suit.

As they bore down on the Nevada however, cloud cover, or possibly smoke from the burning ships obscured his sights, so they flew past and came around for another run. ON the second pass, smoke again covered the lucky Nevada, so the flight of bombers hit their secondary target, the Maryland instead.

Kenneth Herndon remembers, “Chief Quartermaster Sedburry had assumed control of the bridge, and was at the helm, and between him and the duty officer Thomas, and Bos’n Hill, who took care of the lines, anchor and gangways, we got underway.”

Ruff, acting as navigator in the conning tower, established two landmarks on Ford Island to help him maneuver the Nevada into the open channel. The Nevada’s log notes that they were officially underway at 0840.

It was something like making a K-turn out of a tight parking spot.

Lord wrote: “In the wheelhouse Sedburry backed her until she nudged a dredging pipeline strung out from Ford Island. Then ahead on the starboard engines, astern to port, until the bow swung clear of the burning Arizona. Now ahead on both engines, with just enough right rudder to swing clear of stern too. She passed so close to the Arizona that Commander Thomas felt he could light a cigarette from the blazing wreck.”

As they passed the Arizona, Ritter and Gornick, in the ammunition line, had to hold the explosives they were clutching close to their bodies, their backs to the fires so they wouldn’t explode.

West, in the Nevada’s radio room, couldn’t reach anyone on the Arizona, which was sinking quickly. One Arizona radioman, Glenn Lane, had been in the water since the forward magazine explosion had knocked him into the water at 0810. He knew when exactly because that’s when his watch stopped. He was trying to swim around the burning ship through oil slicked water when he saw the Nevada bearing down on him.

“Suddenly he saw it right before his eyes,” wrote Lord. “The Nevada swinging out...and getting underway…moving down the harbor. It seemed utterly incredible. A battleship needs two and half hours to light up its boilers, four tugs, a Captain to handle the whole intricate business. Everybody knew that, yet here was the Nevada,...pulling away without tugs, no skipper at all. How cold she do it?”

Lane swam over to meet her. Some one tossed him a line and he was pulled on board, along with two other Arizona seamen. Hill assigned them to a five inch gun on the starboard side.


Seeing the Nevada underway, steaming down the channel, her guns blazing, had an astounding effect on the rest of the fleet. On the USS Tern, baker 1st class Emil Johnson saw the Nevada and thought, “Well, there’s one that’s going to get away.”

On a warehouse roof, storekeeper 3rd class Jack Rogo had a box seat view of the battle and later recalled, “The panoramic view of Pearl Harbor was breathtaking. To my right was the USS Shaw, all twisted in her dry dock. To my right on Ford’s Island lay the wreckage of our seaplane hangers with their windows all blown out, and our seaplanes a tangled wreck. To my left was Battleship Row. I can’t remember the names or positions of the ships now, but they were all damaged, listing, sunk and some turned bottom up. Behind me, I could see the bottom of the USS Utah rising up from the water, …and the damaged fantail of the USS Curtis…But ahead of me was the USS Nevada, listing…steaming out to sea, although it never made it.”

Wrote Lord in his history, “So she was on her way, and the effect was electric….Where ever men stood, their hearts beat faster. To most she was the finest thing they saw that day. Against the backdrop of thick black smoke, Seaman Thomas Maimin caught a glimpse of the flag on her fantail. It was only for a few seconds, but long enough to give him an old fashioned thrill. He had recalled that “The Star Spangled Banner” was written under similar conditions and he felt the glow of the same experience. He understood the words of Francis Scott Key.”

Donald M. Goldstein, the University of Pittsburgh professor and co-editor of “The Way It Was – Pearl Harbor – The Original Photographs” (Brasseys, Macmillan, 1991), wrote “The single event during the attack that most attracted photographers was Nevada’s gallant effort to sortie from Pearl Harbor. The sight of the ship emerging from the shambles of Battleship row and proudly standing down the channel stirred the hearts of thousands. Nevada and her brave crew provided a much needed psychological lift for the Americans.”

Goldstein’s book includes a photo of Chief Boatswain Hill and Lieut. Commander Thomas. The caption for a photo of the Nevada reads; ‘Nevada proudly stands down the channel during her famous sortie. Just moments later she came under attack by 21 Aichi Type 99 carrier bombers from the Kaga.”

The whole harbor watched as the Nevada took center stage. Five planes dived towards the USS Helena but saw the Nevada steam out of the smoke and suddenly swerved in mid-attack to converge on the much coveted battleship instead. “As the Nevada steamed on,” wrote Lord, “all the Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor seemed to converge on her.”

“Moving slowly down the channel,” wrote Gordon W. Prange, Pearl Harbor’s most prolific historian, “was a potential victim so satisfying that seaplane tenders and even light cruisers faded into insignificance – the Nevada, doggedly plunging towards escape. The opportunity not only to bag a battleship but to cork the channel made the Nevada the target of a lifetime.”

When Japanese flight commander Fuchida saw the Nevada emerge from he smoke and haze of Battleship Row he was quoted as saying, “Ahh, good!...Now just sink that ship right there!”

Lieut. Commander Ruff later said, “The Japanese bombers swarmed down on us like bees. Obviously they were trying to sink us in the channel.” But the second wave of planes were fighter bombers and not torpedo planes, and the bombs were not as precise as the torpedoes, so those that missed the ship by only a few feet exploded harmlessly in the harbor, spraying the Nevada with water instead of flames.

One ensign estimated that ten or fifteen bombs missed the Nevada before one eventually penetrated the deck and exploded near the ship’s galley, and it took a few passes before a dive bomber found the range on the only moving target it the harbor.

[Note: One other ship did get underway during the attack]

“Soon she was wreathed in smoke from her own guns, from bomb hits, from fires that raged amidship and forward,” wrote Lord. “Sometimes she disappeared from view, when near misses threw huge columns of water high in the air. As Ensign Belano watched from the bridge of the West Virginia, he saw a tremendous explosion erupt somewhere within her, blowing flames and debris far above the masts. The whole ship seemed to rise and shake violently in the water...Another hit on the starboard side slaughtered the crew of one gun, mowed down most of the group forward. The survivors doubled up as best they could, thee men doing the work of seven.”

“The bombs jolted all hell out of the ship,” Ruff later recalled. “My legs were literally black and blue from being knocked around by the explosions…I could see the Japanese bombs, big black things, falling and exploding all around us.”

The Nevada continued to cruise down the channel, past the Tennesse, trapped against Ford Island by the burning West Virginia, its inch thick layers of pain fueling the fires. Once past the Maryland and the overturned Oklahoma, its hull bobbing in the water like the shell of a turtle, the Nevada came up on the California, Admiral William S. Pye’s flagship.

Although most everyone in Pearl Harbor were glad to see the Nevada underway, even apparently the Japanese circling above, neither Admiral Pye nor Captain Scanland wanted the Nevada to leave the harbor. Scanland didn’t want his ship to go to sea without him and Pye was afraid the Nevada would be sunk in the channel.

Pye later reported, “…Having been informed that there were submarines in the channel, and being aware that if she (the Nevada) were torpedoed that might block the channel, I sent her a signal not to go out.”

Although his own flagship was listing and about to go down, one of Pye’s last orders, as he told his own men to abandon ship, was for the Nevada to stay in the harbor. Thomas and Ruff, on the bridge, saw the signal, and navigational problems called for their immediate attention.

“The Nevada was well beyond Battleship Row and pretty far down 1010 Dock when she encountered another obstacle,” wrote Lord. “Half the channel was blocked by a long pipeline that ran out from Ford Island to the Turbine, laying squarely in midstream. Somehow, Quartermaster Sedburry snaked between the dredge and the shore. It was a fine piece of navigation.” Like threading a needle.

In his office on shore Admiral Patrick Bellinger was on the telephone to General Frederick Martin when he saw the Nevada passing opposite his administration office window. Planes were swarming all over it as Bellinger said, “Hold on a minute, I think there’s going to be a hell of an explosion.”

“The Japanese obviously hoped to sink the Nevada in the entrance channel and bottle up the whole fleet,” Lord concluded, “and by the time she was opposite the floating drydock, it began to look as they might succeed. More signal flags fluttered on top of the Naval District water tower – “Stay Clear of Chanel.” Still lying on a stretcher near the starboard director, Ensign Taussign was indignant. He was sure they could get out. In fact, he thought the ship was all right. She just looked in bad shape, only because someone down below was counter-flooding the starboard bow instead of the stern.”

“Sitting by his five-inch casement gun, Marine Sgt. Inks had a different idea,” reported Lord. “He had been in the Corps forever and knew trouble when he saw it. He was gloomingly muttering that the ship would never get out.”

“Now Ruff faced a dilemma,” wrote Prager. “He cold not disobey orders and take the Nevada out, but equally he cold not leave her in the channel to block traffic.” After consulting together, the officers in charge – Ruff, Thomas, Sedberry and Hill formed a consensus, deciding to take the ship as near as possible to Hospital Point and beach her on the east side of the channel.

Hill told Ruff that if radio communications were lost, to wave his hat as a signal to drop anchor.

The Japanese continued their ferocious attack as hill stood exposed on the foredeck preparing to drop anchor.

According to Lord, “Chief Boatswain Hill, who had cast off a long 30 minutes before, now went forward to drop anchor. Another wave of planes dived at the Nevada in one final, all out fling. Three bombs landed near the bow. Hill vanished in the blast. The last time Thomas saw him he was still working on the anchor gear.”

Taussig said hat Hill’s assistant, Mister Solar, was killed in the same blast.

A few minutes later, at 0910, Thomas cut the engines and nosed the Nevada into the soft mud at Hospital Point, near a sugarcane field. The wind and current caught her stern and swung her completely around. Ruff waved his had and the anchor dropped into the harbor. The battleship, as recorded in the log, “was grounded between the floating dock and channel buoy #24, starboard side to the beach on an even keel.”

Japanese flight commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who had come in with the first wave, and signaled “Tora, Tora, Tora,” to announce that the attack was a complete surprise, stayed throughout the entire battle. He acted as an observer after his own bombs and ammunition were exhausted, and directed the second wave of bombers towards the Nevada. He was also the last plane to leave Pearl Harbor.

Because the second wave of bombers focused on the Nevada, many of them did not hit their primary targets – the fuel oil tanks, dry docks and shipyard, Fuchida unsuccessfully argued for a third attack and if they had done so, the US Pacific fleet would have had to retreat to California for repairs and routine service.

As Fuchida’s plane headed off, Lieut. Commander Ruff ordered damage control parties stepped up, left the conning tower and made his way to the quarterdeck where he greeted Captain Scanland, who came aboard at 0915 and briefed him.

The sortie had lasted 30 minutes, 3 officers and 47 men, including Mister Hill and Mister Solar were killed in action, and 5 officers and 104 men were wounded, including Mr. Ross and Ensign Taussig.

The fires on the Nevada would burn for days but the ship was saved. The Arizona, on the other hand, lost more than half of its contingent of 2,000 men.

“After we beached, we expected a land attack, but that never came,” recalls John Gornick. “All in all, everything turned out pretty good for us. We got away.”


PART IV - STANDING A TIPTOE - December 7, 1941

John Gornick was transferred to a large cruiser, the USS North Hampton, which was sunk at Guadacanal. “I prayed a lot,” said Gornick, who had no plans to celebrate his survival at Pearl Harbor 50th anniversary celebrations. “I’ll watch it on TV,” he said.

Francis Ritter went on to serve on two carriers, both of which were sunk from under him, the Lexington at the battle of Coral Sea and the Hornet at Santa Cruz, off Guadacanal. The former radioman became an amateur Ham radio operatior who occasionally talks with other Navy vets, including some former Nevada shipmates, via the Ham radio. “I had a buddy on the Arizona, radioman Wes Bishop, who is still down there buried with his ship,” said Ritter, who is still bitter about the battle. “We got campaign medals, but Pearl Harbor was a debacle that we shouldn’t be honored for. We were caught with our pants down even though radar picked them up coming in. But hat was just thrown to the wayside. We should have been warned.”

Ritter even has a letter, postmarked December 5, 1941 from Pearl Harbor, which he sent to his girlfriend, now his wife, telling her, “If the Japs are going to hit, they’re going to hit us now.”

William West resents the Japanese, but not for Pearl Harbor. “I don’t have any animosity for Pearl Harbor,” he says, ‘it’s time to forgive and forget. But I do hold it against them for not opening their markets to us like we opened ours to them.” West did not go to Hawaii, but did attend a local ceremony.

Kenneth Herndon stayed with the Nevada. He saw it overhauled at a shipyard near Seattle, Washington, and took her back into action, shelling the beaches at Normandy during the D-Day invasion of France in 1944. “Then we went back to the Pacific,” says Herndon, who has a book about the ship, “The Epic Story of the Ship that Wouldn’t Sink – the Battleship Nevada” (Valley Press, Fallon, Nevada), by Brig. General David C. Henley.


Since the Nevada was used as atomic bomb test ship, it couldn’t be used as scrap because of radioactivity. “The Japs couldn’t sink her, and the atom bomb didn’t sink her, and the men assigned to scuttle her in the Pacific had a hard time of it too,” says Herndon.

Retired after 20 years in the Navy, Herndon received his special Pearl Harbor campaign medal with a number of other veterans during special ceremonies at the half-time of the 1991 Army-Navy football game.

Captain Donald Ross and Joseph Taussig were special guests of honor and gave speeches at the official ceremonies at Pearl Harbor during the first week of December. There was some controversy however, over whether the Japanese should have been invited to participate.

It really didn’t matter, according to one veteran, who noted, “They weren’t invited the first time and showed up anyway.”

Besides, all of the major hotels on the island of Oahu, where the ceremonies were held, were owned by Japanese. What they couldn’t destroy with bombs a half century ago, they eventually bought with Yen.

According to Captain Ross, Chief Bos’n Edwin Hill’s body was recovered on the port side of the ship at Hospital Point by a 2nd class pharmacist mate. “When I picked up his body,” he later related to Ross, “there wasn’t a bone that wasn’t broken.”

Hill was buried nearby at Punchbowl cemetery. Captain Ross places flowers at the grave whenever he is in Hawaii, and Hill’s daughter, Mrs. Catherine Roggeveen, visited the grave and said, “At the end of the war my mother was given the choice of having my father’s grave moved to Washington D.C. or leaving it in Hawaii. Although she had never been there she heard it was beautiful and decided to leave him there. The Punchbowl cemetery is an inactive, shallow volcano, and is very beautiful, so I think she made the right choice.”


Hospital Point, where the Nevada was run aground at the end of its infamous sortie, and where Edwin Hill met his death, is now a national historic landmark known as Nevada Point.

On December 7, 1991 in Cape May, N.J., where Edwin Hill learned to sail and considered his home away from the sea, the local veterans held a small ceremony at the monument dedicated to him on the Washington Street Mall.

But as Hill’s old shipmate William West said, “I’m afraid that everyone is going to forget all about us on December 8th.”


MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION

HILL, EDWIN JOSEPH
Rank and organization; Chief Boatswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 4 October, 1894, Philadelphia, Pa. Accredited to: Pennsylvania. Citation: For distinguished conduct on the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boatswain Hill led his men of the line-handling details of the U.S.S. Nevada to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to his ship. Later, while on the forecastle, attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs.

USS Nevada (BB-36), Acton Report 7 Dec. 1941
File//C/WINDOWS/Desktop/bb36-Pearl.html


The destroyer USS Hill was named after Ed Hill

The attack lasted two hours and resulted in the loss or damage of twenty one ships of the American Pacific Fleet, 188 aircraft destroyed and 159 damaged (mostly on the ground), 2,403 dead and 1,178 wounded. Of the Battleships hit only three were not recovered: USS Arizona was damaged beyond repair and was left as a memorial to those that had died, USS Oklahoma was raised but not thought worth repairing and USS Utah was considered to be too old and obsolete to be worth raising.


AFTER ACTION REPORT
Report of December 7, 1941 Raid.
CINCPAC Despatch 102102 of December 1941.
Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.

OFFENSIVE MEASURES TAKEN.

Enemy air attack first observed at 0801. General quarters sounded immediately. Two machine guns forward and two aft were already on continuous watch. The 5" antiaircraft battery was partially manned for routine daily 0800 battery and fire control check.

At 0802 machine guns opened fire on enemy torpedo planes approaching in port beam. One plane was brought down by machine gun fire and crashed about 100 yards off Nevada's port quarter. One plane dropped a torpedo which struck the Nevada on the port bow.

At 0803 (about) 5" A.A. battery opened fire, local control, as guns were manned, and without waiting for control to be manned. These guns fired at torpedo planes, low altitude and high altitude bombers. Fire from these guns as well a .50 caliber machine guns, was almost continuous until 0820 when the attack slackened somewhat.

During the periods mention above, at a time undetermined, but probably about 0803, the port 5" broadside battery opened fire on low flying torpedo planes; Members of the Nevada crew state that this battery scored a direct hit on one of these planes, the shell probably striking the torpedo, resulting in the disintegration of the plane in midair.
Firing was intermittent until 0830 when a heavy bombing attack was made. Both A.A. batteries opened continuous fire on enemy planes until 0908. At this time the attack slackened.

About 0915 the 5" A.A. battery opened fire intermittently on enemy planes to the eastward. These planes, as far as is known, made no direct attack on Nevada.

DAMAGE TO ENEMY.

Officers and members of the crew vary in their accounts of the number of enemy planes seen brought down by gun fire. It is probable that at least five planes were destroyed in the vicinity of theNevada.

One torpedo plane was destroyed by .50 caliber machine gun fire about 0802 and fell about 100 yards on the Nevada's port quarter. The plane had not dropped its torpedo. A considerable number of persons saw this plane destroyed.

Before getting underway at 0840, the forward machine guns are believed to have brought down three enemy torpedo planes that were strafing. These planes were said to have been hit within 200 yards of the ship.

It is reported among the crew that one enemy torpedo plane was brought down by a direct hit from the 5" secondary battery, exploding the torpedo and blowing the plane to bits.
Just before grounding off Hospital Point, three enemy planes, probably dive bombers, were fired upon until a range of 200 yards was reached. Members of the crew observed these planes to crash, one in a cane field toward Ewa, one near the Naval Hospital and one in the channel.

OWN LOSSES AND DAMAGE.

The list of killed, wounded, and missing has been previously forwarded.

Damage to Nevada.[For complete After Action Report see: next blog entry]

SUMMARY. From the above it is apparent that the Nevada suffered at least six (6) bomb hits and one torpedo hit. It is possible that as many as ten bomb hits may have been received by the Nevada, as certain damaged areas are of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb. However, direct evidence is not available to determine the exact number. The holes created. by bomb hits indicate that all, with one possible exception, were 12" in diameter (very Nearly). It is possible that all were of that size. Some may have not exploded or may have contained less explosive than others.

The damage, while considerable, should be capable of speedy repairs once the ship is afloat and alongside a dock in the Navy Yard.


DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT OF PERSONNEL.

The Commanding Officer finds it extremely difficult to single out individual members of the crew as deserving of special praise. Every officer and man aboard, without exception, performed his duties in a most commendable manner and without regard to personal safety. The courage and spirit of the antiaircraft gun crews, where bomb hits caused most of the casualties, was of the highest order. Every man on the ship carried on in accordance with best traditions of the service.

It is considered that Lieutenant Commander Francis J. Thomas, U.S. Naval Reserve, the Commanding Officer during the greater part of the attack, is deserving of special commendation. This officer got the ship underway within forty minutes and headed down channel. Although the Nevada had been torpedoed and had received one or two bomb hits, Lieutenant Commander Thomas correctly decided that it was urgently necessary to get underway to avoid destruction of the ship due to the proximity of the Arizona which was surrounded with burning oil and afire from stem to stern. Through the action Lieutenant Commander Thomas coolly and calmly fought the ship despite many bomb hits and casualties. After the attack and for two days afterward, Lieutenant Commander Thomas performed damage control duties in a most creditable manner although near the point of exhaustion by his two days of strenuous work.

Chief Boatswain E. J. Hill, U.S. Navy, killed in action, is deserving of the highest commendation possible to be given for his skill, leadership and courage. At the height of the attack he led his line handling details to the quays, cast off the lines under fire, and then swam back to the ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. His performance of duty and devotion to duty was outstanding.

Ensign J.K. Taussig, Jr. U.S. Navy, is deserving of the highest commendation for his extraordinary display of courage, leadership, and devotion to duty. Being the senior officer present in the A.A. battery, he immediately took charge of that battery and directed its fire even after damage had severed all cables between his director and the battery, and he had been very seriously wounded by a bomb explosion. Despite efforts of the personnel of the A.A. director to take Ensign Taussig to a battle dressing station, he refused to leave his station and insisted on continuing his control of the A.A. battery and the continuation of fire on enemy aircraft. He was finally removed from the director by the director crew and hospital corpsmen who had been sent for. It was necessary to lower Ensign Taussig by lines in a stretcher to the boat deck, as other means of descent had been cut off by a serious fire in the bridge structure. It is considered that Ensign Taussig's actions were beyond the call of duty and that his performance of duty is deserving of recognition.

Ensign T.H. Taylor, U.S. Navy, took station as battery officer on the port A.A. battery. At this station he afforded an outstanding example of leadership, devotion to duty, and valor. Under fire from strafing attacks, bomb explosions in the immediate vicinity, and serious fires that exploded one ready ammunition box in the starboard 5" A.A. battery. Wounded by fragments, burned, shell-shocked, and completely deafened due to broken eardrums, he continued to direct the fire of his battery in an effective manner. His presence of mind in playing a hose on the ready ammunition boxes that were becoming a red heat from the proximity of fires, avoided heavy damage in the battery. His activities are deserving of the greatest praise.

Among others that should be mentioned are –

Lieutenant Lawrence E. Ruff, U.S. Navy, for his invaluable assistance as acting Navigator to Lieutenant Commander Thomas, and assistance in an excellent performance of ship handling.

Chief Quartermaster R. Sedberry, U.S. Navy, for his calm and effective handling of the wheel and his foresight in ordering the engine room to prepare to get underway before the arrival of officers on the bridge.

Solar, A., Boatswain's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy for his initiative in effective handling of the AA. battery, early opening of fire by that battery until battery officers arrived, and his skill in keeping his own gun firing almost continuously at enemy planes. His leadership, initiative, and valor were beyond the call of duty, and his death by fragments was keenly felt.

Neundorf, W.F., jr., Seaman First Class, killed in action, as gun captain of No. 6 A.A. gun, gave an example of leadership, skill, and bravery that is remarked upon by all who observed. it.

The Commanding Officer believes that all members of the crew of the Nevada who were aboard during the attack are deserving of special praise, and the courage and spirit of the crew both during and after the attack cannot be over-emphasized. The performance of duty of the Medical Department under the difficult conditions is most gratifying, and the members of that Department exhibited the same courage and devotion to duty under fire as any other member of the crew. The dead and wounded were quickly and effectively handled.

[signed]
F.W. SCANLAND.

TO COMMENT ON THIS STORY CONTACT Billkelly3@gmail.com

After Action Report

UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET, BATTLEFORCE
BATTLESHIP DIVISION ONE
U.S.S. NevadabBB36/A9/A16
December 15, 1941.
From: Commanding Officer.
To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Report of December 7, 1941 Raid.
Reference: CINCPAC Despatch 102102 of December 1941.

The following report is submitted in compliance with reference (a).

OFFENSIVE MEASURES TAKEN.

Enemy air attack first observed at 0801. General quarters sounded immediately. Two machine guns forward and two aft were already on continuous watch. The 5" antiaircraft battery was partially manned for routine daily 0800 battery and fire control check.

At 0802 machine guns opened fire on enemy torpedo planes approaching in port beam. One plane was brought down by machine gun fire and crashed about 100 yards off Nevada's port quarter. One plane dropped a torpedo which struck the Nevada on the port bow.

At 0803 (about) 5" A.A. battery opened fire, local control, as guns were manned, and without waiting for control to be manned. These guns fired at torpedo planes, low altitude and high altitude bombers. Fire from these guns as well a .50 caliber machine guns, was almost continuous until 0820 when the attack slackened somewhat.

During the periods mention above, at a time undetermined, but probably about 0803, the port 5" broadside battery opened fire on low flying torpedo planes; Members of the Nevada crew state that this battery scored a direct hit on one of these planes, the shell probably striking the torpedo, resulting in the disintegration of the plane in midair.

Firing was intermittent until 0830 when a heavy bombing attack was made. Both A.A. batteries opened continuous fire on enemy planes until 0908. At this time the attack slackened.

About 0915 the 5" A.A. battery opened fire intermittently on enemy planes to the eastward. These planes, as far as is known, made no direct attack on Nevada.

DAMAGE TO ENEMY.

Officers and members of the crew vary in their accounts of the number of enemy planes seen brought down by gun fire. It is probable that at least five planes were destroyed in the vicinity of theNevada.

One torpedo plane was destroyed by .50 caliber machine gun fire about 0802 and fell about 100 yards on the Nevada's port quarter. The plane had not dropped its torpedo. A considerable number of persons saw this plane destroyed.

Before getting underway at 0840, the forward machine guns are believed to have brought down three enemy torpedo planes that were strafing. These planes were said to have been hit within 200 yards of the ship.

It is reported among the crew that one enemy torpedo plane was brought down by a direct hit from the 5" secondary battery, exploding the torpedo and blowing the plane to bits.

Just before grounding off Hospital Point, three enemy planes, probably dive bombers, were fired upon until a range of 200 yards was reached. Members of the crew observed these planes to crash, one in a cane field toward Ewa, one near the Naval Hospital and one in the channel.

OWN LOSSES AND DAMAGE.

The list of killed, wounded, and missing has been previously forwarded.

Damage to Nevada.

Hole in Forecastle Deck at frame 15, six feet outboard of the ship's center line to starboard, from bomb hit. Staterooms wrecked below, impossible to tell how far down the bomb traveled due to water level six feet below Forecastle Deck. Sides of trunk to paint storerooms deflected inward considerably, water fills trunk within six feet of Upper Deck. Size of hole in deck about 12 inches in diameter, just aft and to starboard of paint storeroom trunk, and aft and inboard of after starboard hawse pipe, through wearing plate.

Hole in Forecastle Deck at frame 15, 8 feet from center line of ship to port, 12 inches in diameter caused by bomb hit, depth of penetration unknown due to flooding on deck below. This hit and the hit above apparently went through to the second deck and caused fires in the Officer's Quarters. The force of the explosion also caused considerable deflection upward of the Forecastle Deck in this vicinity. On the port side, about 15 feet from the center line, the deck is split and deflected upward from frame 13 to frame 21. All of the Officer's Quarters forward of the Wardroom are either badly damaged or completely destroyed by fire. The hole is aft and to port of paint storerooms trunk, and aft and inboard of after port hawse pipe, through wearing plate.

Hole of approximately the same size as the previous two hits, about three feet in from the port waterway, frame 25. This is outboard of the anchor windlass capstans. The bomb probably went through the Wardroom to the second deck before exploding. The deck inboard of this hole is deflected upward about 4 feet and split across the center line at a point about 6 feet aft of this hole. The deck is also split aft on a direct line from this hole to frame 32, as a result of this and apparently other hits. Across the Forecastle Deck in this vicinity the entire deck from port to starboard is deflected upward considerably. The two anchor engine vertical shafts are bent forward at about an angle of 20° and the top of the capstans apparently flew upward with the deck, and hit the two outboard gun barrels of No. 1 Turret. The vertical shaft on the portside has broken away from the one coming up from below. The Main Deck in the Wardroom has been blown upward from below, and the Wardroom is a tangled mass of deck, supporting beams, and stanchions. The port skylight hatch at frame 25 has been blown partly clear of the deck wreckage.

There is some reason for believing that a much larger bomb than the ones noted previously struck the Forecastle Deck at a point ten feet to port of the ship's center line at about frame 27, just forward of No. 1 Turret, and went through to the second deck before exploding. The Forecastle Deck at about frame 29 is bent sharply downward from about three feet to port of the ship's center line to a point about 8 feet inboard of the port waterway. Due to the size of the opening in the upper deck at this point it is difficult to determine the exact outline of such a hit, but the great wreckage indicates an extremely large explosion. The forecastle is also split forward from frame 26 to frame 22 at a point 3 feet to port of the port skylight hatch. The entire forecastle deck from frame 26 is bent upward and forward to about frame 22. From the starboard side at frame 26 at a point four feet inboard of the waterway the deck is broken open and deflected upward and inboard a distance of approximately 21 feet, at which point the deck is split fore and aft from frame 23 to frame 31. At the outboard point the deck is split fore and aft from frame 25 to frame 30. The deck winch at this point was blown upward at an angle of 25°, but remained intact. There seems to be no other indications of bomb hits on the Forecastle other than the very large bomb hit or several smaller hits which apparently went through as described above. One of the reasons for being very sure that there was such a large bomb hit is the size and number of fragment holes which have penetrated the Main Deck from below at frame 25 to port of center line. Both the Wardroom and the Junior Officer's Country below appear to be completely wrecked.

Considerable damage was done by one bomb, of apparently about the same size as the two forward ones on the Forecastle, which struck the deck just forward of the port A.A. director, coming down at an angle of about 30° to the perpendicular, from about 3 points forward of the port beam. This bomb continued downward through the port wing of the Navigation Bridge, and the Signal Bridge, penetrating into Casemate 6. There was no damage sustained to any part of the mast structure above the Sky Control Shack. Sky Control Shack was completely burned out, very little being salvaged from it. Sky Control deck was punctured in several places from metal fragments from below and the starboard side is badly warped from the fire below. Apparently no damage of any kind was sustained by any of the three mast supports. The only damage suffered by port A.A. director, except for broken glass, appears to come from external heat, and this is very minor. The stack structure above the Boat Deck has suffered very little; mostly holes caused by an exploding 5" A.A. Ammunition Ready Box at about frame 67 on the starboard side just outboard of the stack.

This bomb was apparently 12 inches in diameter, and it hit the Sky Control Deck at frame 62 port, about 6 feet outboard of a point where the port after tripod pierces the Sky Control Deck just above and outboard of the chart house. Range V (Forward Rangefinder) is apparently undamaged, but the deck aft of it is warped slightly by heat. The Navigation Bridge structure was completely burned out from below. The deck of the Navigation Bridge is deflected downward considerably at the vicinity of the wheel. There is also a burned out part of the deck inside the Navigation Bridge aft and to starboard of the forward mast support. Nothing of any value remains in the Navigation Bridge. The heat of the fire from below apparently caused the deck of the Navigation Bridge inside of the Chart House to burn completely through and fall clear leaving a hole the size of the interior of the Chart House plus about three feet further to starboard and all the way aft. The rest of the deck to starboard is badly warped, and although the starboard after tripod leg is very badly burnt externally, it does not appear to have suffered any structural damage or deflection. The starboard bridge gyro repeater and pelorous has been practically destroyed by fire. Absolutely nothing remains of the Chart House, except a partial shell. The Conning Tower structure has suffered no damage.

The bomb hit just forward of the port A.A. director penetrated through the Navigation Bridge, the Signal Bridge, the Boat Deck inside of the Captain's Office and exploded on the Upper Deck inside of Casemate 6 against the forward edge of the stack, blowing a hole downward through to the Main Deck to the Officer's Galley and back to No. 2 boiler uptake. The explosion blew up through the Captain's office; and forward into No. 4 Casemate, starting a fire which spread through the Captain's quarters and up to the Signal Bridge, Navigation Bridge, and Sky Control. The fire spread to the Boat Deck and set off the A.A. Ready Box previously mentioned. The flag bags on the Signal Bridge were burnt out, as were the life jacket lockers. A hole of approximately 30 feet square amidships was burned in the deck of the Signal Bridge beneath and aft of the Chart house. The four compartments on the Signal Bridge were completely wrecked by fire. Nothing of value remains inside of them. Practically all of the Chart House deck hangs down through the hole in the Signal Bridge. This hole extends also through the top of the Captain's quarters and is about the same size there as on the Signal Bridge. The entire enclosure on the Boat Deck, which held all the Captain's quarters and office, was completely destroyed, mostly by the fire, and partly by the explosion from below in No. 6 Casemate. Everything of value therein has been destroyed, including all the records in the Captain's Office. A safe in the Captain's Cabin appears intact, although badly scorched on the outside.

The explosion also blew out a seam amidships of the stack on the portside for a distance about 4 feet just above the Boat Deck level; splinters were also blown through the stack from below and a number of rivets were blown out. Casualties sustained to the starboard 5" A.A. Battery during action were loss of air ramming at Nos. 1, 5, and 7 A.A. Guns. No. 5 was due to a rupture in the air line due to vibration. The uptake from the Officer's Galley was badly damaged by the explosion.

When the bomb struck the Upper Deck at Casemate 6, frame 65, and exploded, it ruptured the stack back as far as frame 68 port, and pushed the smoke pipe in all the way to the top. The explosion blew out the bulkhead between No. 6 & 4 Casemates, and bulged out the bulkhead to No. 3 Casemate. The Canteen was completely destroyed by fire and the explosion blew a hole overhead into the Captain's Office and Cabin. A fire was started in No. 4 and No. 6 Casemates which was extinguished before it did an excessive amount of damage. The Upper Deck in the after starboard corner of Casemate 4 was badly warped downward; hammock nettings, lockers, Canteen, and drinking fountain were destroyed. Stanchions and overhead beams in the vicinity were pulled away from the deck. Ship's Service Office was badly damaged by fire. The explosion blew back into the Incinerator Room damaging some pipe in its forward end, blowing two holes in the after bulkhead of the Incinerator Room, one particle passed through the Bakery, penetrated the Dynamo Trunk on the portside and continued through the after bulkhead of the Dynamo Trunk into the Galley.

This explosion of the bomb on the Upper Deck, Casemate 6, blew a hole about three feet square through the Main Deck in the after portside of the Officer's Galley. The Officer's Galley was wrecked; as was the Dry Cleaning Room. The after bulkhead of the Dry Cleaning Room blew back into the laundry and the port bulkhead blew out into the 6th Division living space (B-171-L). Very little damage was done in the Laundry, or living space B-171-L. Ventilation system 1-68-2 in the port forward part of the laundry was wrecked. The after bulkhead of the Officer's Galley on the starboard side was pushed back slightly into the Laundry Distribution Room. A fire main riser at frame 66 port was broken just above the Upper Deck; this helped keep the fire main pressure down until it was discovered and the valve closed on the third deck. This, however, was after most of the fire had been extinguished.

A bomb hit the Boat Deck, about frame 80, just aft of the ventilator trunk to the Evaporator Room, about 12 feet to starboard of the center line (about one-half way from stack to break of the boat deck). It apparently struck some obstruction on the Boat Deck where it appeared to have exploded, blowing a hole through the Boat Deck into the Galley and deflecting the Galley Deck downward somewhat. It is understood that there was some exposed five inch A.A. ammunition laid out on the Boat Deck at this point which exploded at this time. This might account for the failure of the bomb to go deeper into the Ship. The Boat Deck was sprayed very heavily with exploding fragments which went through the after part of the stack, and ammunition hoist inboard of AA. Gun No. 7, the Evaporator Trunk Ventilator, and the Ventilators directly aft and inboard of it.

Fragments also pierced the starboard forward tripod of the Main Mast, Starboard Galley, Skylight Hatch, the Deck Locker on the Steel Deck, and the fuse setter aft of No. 7 A.A. Gun. Some fragments even pierced the after Search light Platform. The hole in the Boat Deck is about 12' across and 6' fore and aft. The explosion wrecked the ranges along the forward bulkhead of the Galley, and many flying fragments ruined the center table. Some pierced a few of the steel kettles, they also pierced the starboard bulkhead, and the force of the explosion deflected it outward toward No. 10 Casemate. The oil tanks on the portside were not damaged. All of the other equipment in the Galley was very badly damaged, possibly beyond repair. The explosion blew open the starboard door of the Galley in Casemate 9, starting a fire which apparently swept the entire casemate, and all of the instruments on gun No. 9 were burned up. Very little of any value is left in No. 9 Casemate. On the Main Deck inside of the Crew's Reception Room, the overhead was deflected downward from the explosion in the Galley. All the beams fore and aft were bent downward, cracked, or broken, except the one on the far port side.

There was a torpedo hit at about frame 42 port, even with the forward edge of No. 2 barbette, which tore a hole in the lower blisters A-32-V, and A-34-V. Upper blisters A-66-V and A-68-V were also ruptured. The hole was from frame 38 to frame 45 in length, and about 30 feet in depth. Another small split opening was found at about frame 36 extending about ten feet down from the second deck and about three feet in width. The explosion is believed to have penetrated the lower blisters to fuel tank A-14-F, and then to void A-426-V, to magazine A-424-M. It is believed that many compartments in the vicinity were damaged by this explosion and that practically all of the compartments forward of frame 60 and below the Main Deck are now flooded. The flooding spread aft along the second deck down into practically every compartment below the second deck so that it is believed that all the compartments except those aft of frame 122 are now flooded with the exception of certain storerooms and compartments which may have been completely water-tight.

The Engineering Department suffered few, if any, casualties from bomb or torpedo hits. Boilers are believed to be in good condition except for salting up, due to trying to keep steam up using salty feed water when the feed bottoms became contaminated by flooding from above.

The damage expected to other equipment in the machinery spaces will result from boiler priming or salt water immersion. Electric wiring above the main deck is destroyed in the way of any fires. Piping is in fair condition except where actually destroyed by explosion or fragments.

SUMMARY. From the above it is apparent that the Nevada suffered at least six (6) bomb hits and one torpedo hit. It is possible that as many as ten bomb hits may have been received by the Nevada, as certain damaged areas are of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb. However, direct evidence is not available to determine the exact number. The holes created. by bomb hits indicate that all, with one possible exception, were 12" in diameter (very Nearly). It is possible that all were of that size. Some may have not exploded or may have contained less explosive than others.

The damage, while considerable, should be capable of speedy repairs once the ship is afloat and alongside a dock in the Navy Yard.

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT OF PERSONNEL.

The Commanding Officer finds it extremely difficult to single out individual members of the crew as deserving of special praise. Every officer and man aboard, without exception, performed his duties in a most commendable manner and without regard to personal safety. The courage and spirit of the antiaircraft gun crews, where bomb hits caused most of the casualties, was of the highest order. Every man on the ship carried on in accordance with best traditions of the service.

It is considered that Lieutenant Commander Francis J. Thomas, U.S. Naval Reserve, the Commanding Officer during the greater part of the attack, is deserving of special commendation. This officer got the ship underway within forty minutes and headed down channel. Although the Nevada had been torpedoed and had received one or two bomb hits, Lieutenant Commander Thomas correctly decided that it was urgently necessary to get underway to avoid destruction of the ship due to the proximity of the Arizona which was surrounded with burning oil and afire from stem to stern. Through the action Lieutenant Commander Thomas coolly and calmly fought the ship despite many bomb hits and casualties. After the attack and for two days afterward, Lieutenant Commander Thomas performed damage control duties in a most creditable manner although near the point of exhaustion by his two days of strenuous work.

Chief Boatswain E. J. Hill, U.S. Navy, killed in action, is deserving of the highest commendation possible to be given for his skill, leadership and courage. At the height of the attack he led his line handling details to the quays, cast off the lines under fire, and then swam back to the ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. His performance of duty and devotion to duty was outstanding.

Ensign J.K. Taussig, Jr. U.S. Navy, is deserving of the highest commendation for his extraordinary display of courage, leadership, and devotion to duty. Being the senior officer present in the A.A. battery, he immediately took charge of that battery and directed its fire even after damage had severed all cables between his director and the battery, and he had been very seriously wounded by a bomb explosion. Despite efforts of the personnel of the A.A. director to take Ensign Taussig to a battle dressing station, he refused to leave his station and insisted on continuing his control of the A.A. battery and the continuation of fire on enemy aircraft. He was finally removed from the director by the director crew and hospital corpsmen who had been sent for. It was necessary to lower Ensign Taussig by lines in a stretcher to the boat deck, as other means of descent had been cut off by a serious fire in the bridge structure. It is considered that Ensign Taussig's actions were beyond the call of duty and that his performance of duty is deserving of recognition.

Ensign T.H. Taylor, U.S. Navy, took station as battery officer on the port A.A. battery. At this station he afforded an outstanding example of leadership, devotion to duty, and valor. Under fire from strafing attacks, bomb explosions in the immediate vicinity, and serious fires that exploded one ready ammunition box in the starboard 5" A.A. battery. Wounded by fragments, burned, shell-shocked, and completely deafened due to broken eardrums, he continued to direct the fire of his battery in an effective manner. His presence of mind in playing a hose on the ready ammunition boxes that were becoming a red heat from the proximity of fires, avoided heavy damage in the battery. His activities are deserving of the greatest praise.

Among others that should be mentioned are –

Lieutenant Lawrence E. Ruff, U.S. Navy, for his invaluable assistance as acting Navigator to Lieutenant Commander Thomas, and assistance in an excellent performance of ship handling.

Chief Quartermaster R. Sedberry, U.S. Navy, for his calm and effective handling of the wheel and his foresight in ordering the engine room to prepare to get underway before the arrival of officers on the bridge.

Solar, A., Boatswain's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy for his initiative in effective handling of the AA. battery, early opening of fire by that battery until battery officers arrived, and his skill in keeping his own gun firing almost continuously at enemy planes. His leadership, initiative, and valor were beyond the call of duty, and his death by fragments was keenly felt.

Neundorf, W.F., jr., Seaman First Class, killed in action, as gun captain of No. 6 A.A. gun, gave an example of leadership, skill, and bravery that is remarked upon by all who observed. it.

The Commanding Officer believes that all members of the crew of the Nevada who were aboard during the attack are deserving of special praise, and the courage and spirit of the crew both during and after the attack cannot be over-emphasized. The performance of duty of the Medical Department under the difficult conditions is most gratifying, and the members of that Department exhibited the same courage and devotion to duty under fire as any other member of the crew. The dead and wounded were quickly and effectively handled.

[signed]
F.W. SCANLAND.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Predicted Attack


Pearl Harbor Survivor Predicted Attack


Pearl Harbor veteran Francis Ritter holds a letter, postmarked December 5, 1941 from Pearl Harbor, which he sent to his girlfriend, now his wife, telling her, “If the Japs are going to hit, they’re going to hit us now.”

“I had just finished breakfast when the alarm sounded,” recalls Francis Ritter, now 78 years old and living in Wenonah, Deptford Township in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Originally from Southeast Philadelphia, Ritter was a radioman 3rd class aboard the Nevada. “I was getting ready to go to the church service, mass, which was to be said on the aftdeck, just after morning colors. I didn’t hear the PA system, so when the alarm sounded I ran up on the bridge. I assumed it was a fire drill, but an officer nearly knocked me down. “Don’t you realized they’re Japs,” he said. I almost got shot and didn’t know it. Then went to my battle station.”

Also up the mast was a sailor in the Nevada’s crow’s nest with a .30 caliber machine gun. He was the first man to return fire and winged a torpedo bomber as it headed directly for the ship, giving the Nevada a brief reprieve.

When I came down from the mast I fought fires,” recalls Ritter, “and I helped out with injured and made myself available until I took over a field radio, one of our only means of communication at the time.”

Francis Ritter went on to serve on two carriers, both of which were sunk from under him, the Lexington at the battle of Coral Sea and the Hornet at Santa Cruz, off Guadacanal. The former radioman became an amateur Ham radio operatior who occasionally talks with other Navy vets, including some former Nevada shipmates, via the Ham radio. “I had a buddy on the Arizona, radioman Wes Bishop, who is still down there buried with his ship,” said Ritter, who is still bitter about the battle. “We got campaign medals, but Pearl Harbor was a debacle that we shouldn’t be honored for. We were caught with our pants down even though radar picked them up coming in. But that was just thrown to the wayside. We should have been warned.”

The Sortie of the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor


One of the most neglected aspect of the numerous histories, documentary films and movies about Pearl Harbor is the half-hour sortie of the USS Nevada, and the remarkable stories of the men without a Captain who got their ship underway and began the first counter-attack by US forces in World War II.