Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
Paul A. Willis began his Navy career on 15 April 1936, when he enlisted in Seattle, Washington. After completing recruit training at San Diego Naval Training Center, he was assigned to the battleship USS Maryland. He returned to San Diego in August 1937 for training in stenography, completed in December, then rejoined Maryland during its refit in Bremerton, Washington.
Willis served on Maryland until December 1939, taking part in the ship's November 1938 transit of the Panama Canal. After being detached, he was assigned to the staff of Captain D.E. Cummings, commanding officer of USS Tennessee. In early 1940, the ship participated in a joint Army-Navy exercise in Monterey Bay, California. Small groups-Willis's included a medical officer, signalman, and radioman in addition to himself-made practice beach landings.
Transferred to the Flag Allowance of Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet (CINCUS), Admiral Husband Kimmel, he reported to flagship USS Pennsylvania in February 1941. Promoted to Yeoman First Class on 16 February, he became the Flag Secretary's Yeoman. Willis was serving in Hawaii on Kimmel's staff at the time of the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941. When Admiral Chester Nimitz arrived as Kimmel's relief on 25 December, he retained all of Kimmel's staff. Willis continued his service as Flag Yeoman at Pearl Harbor, part of a staff that grew from 30 to 900 by the end of the war.
In June 1946, Willis returned to the states for the first time since 1940. After three months of leave, he reported as a Chief Yeoman to Commander Amphibious Force Pacific (COMPHIBPAC) to assist in establishing a type command for the various amphibious forces. Willis served with COMPHIBPAC until 20 August 1951, when he was transferred to San Diego Naval Training Center. Assigned to the Administrative Command Personnel Department as Chief in Charge, Willis oversaw the transfer of personnel to and from the Training Center.
After three years at San Diego, Willis reported to Commander First Fleet, where he assisted in setting up a Readiness Section to direct fleet readiness responsibilities for CINCPAC. He served on the staff of Commander First Fleet until 8 August 1956 when he was transferred to the Fleet Reserve and subsequently retired with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains personal and official papers of Chief Warrant Officer Paul A. Willis. Most of the material in the collection relates to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is arranged in four series.
Series I, Biographical Information, contains a character sketch of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz written by Willis as well a summary of his own Navy career.
In Series II, Correspondence, are letters written by Willis. Many of them are letters to the editor of various publications seeking to rebut articles about the Pearl Harbor attack. In them, Willis recounts his own version of the attack and discusses the military leadership in Hawaii. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.
Series III, Official Documents, contains copies of officer and enlisted personnel rosters and telegrams sent from CINCPAC in December 1941. The documents are arranged chronologically.
The final series, Miscellaneous, holds news clippings related to the attack on Pearl Harbor and Willis's Navy career. Also included are photocopies of photographs showing officers serving in the Pacific during World War II, battleships of the Pacific Fleet, scenes of the damage at Pearl Harbor, and Willis. The text of a 1987 presentation by Willis to the South Bend, Washington, Kiwanas is included as well. This series is arranged alphabetically.
This collection should be cited as Papers of Paul A. Willis, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
0.2 cubic feet
3 July 2003