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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

USS California, Reports of Pearl Harbor Attack


Report of California, December 13, 1941
Report of California, December 22, 1941
U.S.S. California
 
    Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
December 13, 1941
 

From: Commanding Officer.  
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.  
 
Subject: Report of Raid, December 7, 1941.
 
Reference: (a) CincPac despatch 102131 of December 1941.

In accordance with reference (a) the following information is furnished herewith.

OFFENSIVE MEASURES TAKEN
0750 Sounded General Quarters and manned all battle stations, started setting Condition ZED.
0803 Commenced firing with M.G.s 1 & 2 (Ready Guns) on Torpedo Planes.
0810 Opened fire with 5" A.A. Guns #2 (Ready Gun) and #4 on Dive Bombers.
0825 Opened fire on dive bombers with 5" A.A. and fwd. machine guns, and continued intermittent fire until end of attacks about 0915.

DAMAGE TO ENEMY

At 0830, shot down one enemy dive bomber with fwd. machine guns which crashed in flames.

At 0832, one enemy plane shot down over Ford Island by either own fire or that of another ship.

OWN LOSSES AND DAMAGE

Five (5) officers killed.

Three (3) officers wounded.

Enlisted men - estimated 125 killed and 100 wounded. 37 dead and wounded have been positively identified. There are still 116 men missing.

0805 Two torpedoes struck port side, frame 100, making a hole about 40' long, extending from the first seam below the armor belt to the bilge keel.
0820 A torpedo struck port side, frame 47, making an irregular hole covering an area about 27' X 32', the top of which is some 6' below the bottom of the armor belt.
0840 Ship shaken by four (4) near bomb hits and splintered considerably by fragments.
0900 One (1) bomb (possibly a 15" A.P. projectile with tail vanes) struck abreast of Casemate #1, frame 59, penetrated to the second deck where it exploded in A-611, rupturing the forward and after bulkheads of the compartment, and the overhead into compartment A-705. The armored hatch leading into the Machine Shop was also badly sprung and could not be closed. A serious fire started about 0905 below main deck as a result.
0925 Plane 2-0-5 capsized and was sunk while removing from ship to remove gasoline fire hazard.
0930 Fire broke out on main deck, starboard side, "F" Division compartment and Casemates #'s 3, 5, & 7.
1002 Oil fire on surface of water enveloped ship, starting many fires and became intense on forecastle.

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT PERSONNEL

KEENER, J.C., S.K.1c, PEARSON, G., CSK(PA), and NEWMAN, J. CSK(PA) were outstanding in their work during battle in the ammunition supply and endangering themselves in pulling wounded to safety.

CELESTEIME, B., M.Att.1c., BACOT, J.D., M.Att.1c., and WALLACE, H., Jr., M.Att.2c. were outstanding in their work assisting the Medical Officer with wounded.

REEVES, T.J., CRM(PA), deceased, was outstanding in his conduct in that upon being forced to abandon Main Radio, at request of Gunner PHARRIS, he assisted in a burning ammunition passageway, attempted to continue the flow of ammunition until overcome by smoke and fire.

Gunner J.C. PHARRIS, although injured, was outstanding in his work to continue ammunition supply in spite of fire and other hazards, during which he organized and reorganized able personnel and personally provided ammunition while men were dying in fuel oil and in rescuing many men from oil and vapors.

Pay Clerk H.A. APPELGATE and PAVLIN, B.F., E.M.3c. went beyond their required duties in taking a boat and obtaining ammunition from other ships while under fire.

Boatswain S. OSMON, who, although injured, did outstanding work in directing repairs and the rescue of injured.

Ensigns W.W. WALKER, S.C. HALL, C.H. HALL, E.M. FAIN, R.D. KIRKPATRICK, R.B. GANFIELD, R.L. SETTLE, C.W. GUNNELS, Jr., C.J. LYDEN, A.T. NICHOLSON, Jr., T.P. MC GRATH, and T.J. RUDDEN, Jr., for exceptional work in fighting fires and rescuing many trapped personnel.. They displayed outstanding qualities of leadership, bravery, and coolness.

Commander J.D. JEWELL (MC), although burned about the face and arms from fires nearby his station, continued to administer effectively first aid without interruption.

BALDWIN, R.M., CY(PA) for his outstanding work in performing duties of Damage Control Officer in a very efficient manner while the First Lieutenant commanded the ship.

Ensign H.C. JONES and Ensign I.W. JEFFERY (both deceased) who organized a party and were attempting to get ammunition up by hand when killed.

FLEMING, W.S., B.M.1c., Gun Captain of 5"/25 gun #4, who, although wounded, continued to direct his gun crew and by his coolness and example under fire instilled confidence in the men about him.

WARD, D.E., B.M.2c. for bravery and coolness in action and in fighting fires and rescuing trapped personnel.

GARY, T.J., Sea.2c., (deceased) was killed while carrying out rescue work of men, after having rescued three or four.

The following officers and men conducted themselves in a distinguished manner in effecting the rescue of personnel trapped below decks in the Center Thrust Block Room, Forward Battery locker and Forward Distribution Room:
Ensign C.H. CHAMPION       Ensign W.A.J. LEWIS
Ensign C.A. LABARRE       Ensign L.S. TAYLOR
Ch.Elect. R.W. MILLER       *BLY, C.L. MM1c
HELDEN, E.W., MM1c       CAROUTTE, J.H. F1c
BEZVODA, S.F. EM1c       MAXWELL, G.R. EM1c
EBBERSON, L.F. F3c       PLUARD, F.D. F3c
ISENHOUR, R.A. MM2c       MINCKLEY, R.F. EM2c
NUNNELLEY, L.E. F3c       FLEMING, C.E. EM2c
BOTTOLFSON, R.L. F3c       TOTH, R.J. F2c
COON, R.V. EM3c       WAITE, J.E. EM3c
ROUNTREE, W.H. F1c       KOIPPLINGER, C.F. Bmkr2c
LITZ, C.L. EM3c       GREENBAUM, H. EM3c
GALYEAN, C.W. F3c       STREETER, C.L. EM2c
ILLIAN, E. EM1c       ALFORD, L.B. EM1c
SAMUEL, H. F3c       FRANCK, D.E. EM3c

An additional report of Distinguished Conduct may be made later when more facts are obtained.

OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST
At the time of the raid, Lieutenant Commander M.N. LITTLE, First Lieutenant, was senior officer present on board. He immediately took command and ordered battery manned and preparations made for getting underway. Lieutenant Commander F.J. ECKHOFF, Navigator, relieved the Officer-of-the-Deck and assisted Commanding Officer. Lieutenant Commander H.E. BERNSTEIN, Communication Officer, had the head of department duty aboard ship, rushed immediately to insure the keys for the magazines were broken out and ammunition supply started promptly and then took his station in the Conning Tower. The senior Gunnery Officer was Lieutenant G. FRITSCHMANN who manned Control and took charge of all batteries. All other officers aboard went to their battle stations and performed their assigned duties.

At 0845 Commander E.E. STONE, Executive Officer, returned to the ship and assumed command of the ship, and Commander Battle Force returned aboard.

At 0915 Captain J.W. BUNELEY, Commanding U.S.S. California returned to ship and assumed command.

At 1015 the order to abandon ship was cancelled, flames from the water having cleared the ship and battle stations topside were manned and a large number of men returned from the beach to resume work. The fire aboard ship was fought with all available fire equipment on board and much that was obtained from Ford Island - and extensive salvage operations were started. The ship was listing about 8° to port and the engineering plant was disabled. There was no light or power on board, and no water service, fresh or salt.

The conduct of all California officers and men during the attack and subsequent fire was excellent and cool and they performed their duties in the manner fitting the best traditions of the Naval Service.

J.W. BUNKLEY.

Copy to:
   Combatfor.
   Combatships.
   CBD-2.


BB44/A16-3  
  U.S.S. CALIFORNIA  
 
  Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 22, 1941
 
From: Commanding Officer.
to: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
 
Subject: Report of Raid (Revised), December 7, 1941.
 
Reference: (a) CinCPac Despatch 102131 of December, 1941.
(b) C.O. California Serial 1002 of December 13, 1941.

1. Since submitting reference (b), additional information has become available from a study of individual reports received from personnel of this ship and therefore makes desirable the submission of this revision of reference (b).

2. A complete report of damage is in the process of preparation as exact information in the premise becomes available.

AIR RAID ENGAGEMENT, DECEMBER 7, 1941
NARRATIVE

Prior to the air raid by the Japanese Air Forces on December 7, 1941, the U.S.S. California was berthed at Fox-Three, starboard side to with boiler #1 in use for auxiliary purposes. The Material Condition of the ship was X-Ray except voids A-146-V, A-148-V, A-184-V, A-186-V, A-188-V, A-137-V, A-139-V, B-119-V, B-123-V, and B-109-V, which were open preparatory to complete necessary maintenance work. The ship was fueled to 95% capacity. 400 rounds of 50 calibre ammunition were at machine guns #1 and #2. 50 rounds of 5" A.A. ammunition were in ready boxes. All other ammunition was in the magazines. Guns #1 and #2 had been designated as the ready guns. All 5"/25, 3"/50 and A.A. 50 calibre machine guns were completely ready for use and ready to load in all respects. The battery was not manned except machine guns #1 and #2.

The ship's senior line officer aboard was Lieut. Comdr. M.N. Little, U.S. Navy; Lieut. Comdr. H.E. Bernstein, U.S. Navy, was the officer with the Head of Department Duty.

The attack was marked initially by the bombing of facilities of the Naval Air Station, Ford Island, and a strafing of the ship at 0755. The General Alarm was sounded and General Quarters was ordered. Main Control was ordered to make all preparations for getting underway and by 0800 the main and auxiliary steam lines were warmed.

The ship's company went promptly to their battle stations, with the stations above deck under a strafing attack. Condition Zed was ordered set. Communications were established between Conn, Fire Control, Central Station, and Main Control, and their subsidiary stations. Before the strafing attack was over the torpedo planes commenced their attack on the battleships moored at the interrupted quays.

By 0805, 50 calibre machine guns #1 and #2 opened fire and were shortly followed by #2 and #4 5" A.A. guns. The shortage of ammunition immediately available at the guns were acute, and orders were issued to ammunition parties to expedite the service of it to the guns.

Before the foregoing order could be executed the ship was struck at 0805 with three torpedoes, two at about frame 110 port, the other at about frame 47 port. These torpedoes struck almost simultaneously and their effect due to the incompleted setting of Condition Yoke and Zed proved far reaching and disasterous. The ship commenced listing to port and the Commanding Officer ordered counter-flooding to limit list to four degrees.

Forward in the vicinity of Forward Ordnance Repair, by the rupture of fuel tanks, the third deck commenced flooding with fuel. The strength of the fumes were such as to overcome the ammunition party attempting to expedite the delivery of ammunition. The rupture of fuel oil tanks forward introduced water into the fuel system and before it was cleared, light and power was lost on the ship at a critical time. The flooding of compartments in close proximity to the torpedo hits prevented the necessary access to make possible some control of damage.

The instantaneous flooding of compartments on the third deck directly inboard of the forward torpedo hit was probably due to the fact that the man-holes to five (5) voids in that area were open. The voids noted in paragraph one were opened in order to inspect for possible leakage from fuel tanks, which had been filled when the ship fueled to 95% capacity. The five (5) voids starboard were closed by repair parties, the five (5) voids, however, on the port side were still open when the torpedo struck. The fuel oil tanks between the inner and outer voids were probably ruptured by the explosion and the oil probably driven up through the open man-holes of the voids into the spaces directly above them.

The Port Thrust Block Room C-106-E flooded rather rapidly after the torpedo hit at frame 110, due to either a ruptured deck or bulkhead, or both. The compartment was evacuated and a hatch in the trunk leading to it was dogged down. The pressure under this hatch was such, however, that the hatch was bulging and it is very probable that it carried away, flooding the Engineer's store room and gyro compass room C-304-A, which is immediately above the port thrust block room. No other main machinery spaces were flooded immediately subsequent to the torpedo hits. The Center Motor Room was eventually flooded by the ventilation duct carrying away.

The cause, therefore, of the flooding of the compartments in line with the after torpedo hit is not clearly established. There appears good reason to believe that either the tank tops of the fuel oil tanks in that area were ruptured or that the man-hole covers were blown off or buckled and that again the longitudinal bulkhead between the third deck spaces directly over the fuel tanks and the living spaces inboard on the third deck were either ruptured or severely strained and leaking. The prevalent opinion among men stationed on the third deck during the engagement, all of whom were driven out by the flooding and oil fumes, seems to be that flooding subsequent to the torpedo hit was probably through ventilation systems, few of which were secured. The time available between the sounding of the General Alarm and the time the repair party personnel in third deck areas were forced to evacuate their stations was totally inadequate for anything like complete setting of Conditions Yok! ! e and Zed. Only the most obvious openings such as doors and hatches could be secured and in some cases, even this was done in darkness and in the presence of heavy oil fumes which spread through the entire third deck area rapidly after the torpedo hits. This flooding through ventilation systems is probably due in part to failure to close the deck and bulkhead fittings of the systems and in part to the rupture of ventilation ducts themselves. In one case at least, that of the Center Motor Room, it was definitely established before the area was evacuated, that the ventilation duct itself was ruptured and water pouring through the opening.

The general flooding on the second deck and into the Machine Shop flat from that deck was due to the effect of the bomb hit at 0830 which hit abreast casemate #1 at frame 59, penetrated the main deck and exploded on second deck, and which completely destroyed the watertight integrity of the first and second decks between frames 26 and 100 approximately, and between the second deck and the machinery spaces (third deck) reached by the large centerline hatch about frame 65.

About 0810 Fire Control ordered all 5"51 personnel to assist in the 5" A.A. ammunition service. About 0815 Control ordered turret crews to assist in 5" A.A. ammunition supply. The effectiveness of Turret I and II was restricted in this capacity for access to the 5" handling rooms was cut off by the flooding of the lower handling room access trunks, and subsequently access via the forecastle and the third deck was blocked by the fire that developed from the bomb hit at 0830. Turret III personnel advanced along the partially flooded starboard ammunition passageway to frame 48. Oil was leaking through the door at frame 48. The fumes of fuel oil in Compartment A-518 made it untenable.

In the meantime an additional group was organized, Ensigns H.C. Jones, W.F. Cage, and I.W. Jeffery, to assist further in the ammunition supply. Repair V sent a party to assist in this supply.

About 0810 the light and power was off the ship. Ammunition was obtained from A-23 1-M and passes into Handling Room A-233-M and up Hoist #11, #21, #13, and #23 by hand operation. Men in this vicinity were overcome with fuel oil fumes and had to be removed. Gunner J.C. Pharris, with replacements from the broadside guns, succeeded in removing the overcome men and getting sixty-two rounds from magazines to the guns. Ensign E.R. Blair obtained, with a 10-hand working party, 1600 rounds of belted 50 calibre machine gun ammunition from the 50 calibre magazine in the torpedo hold forward before that compartment flooded. No further ammunition thereafter was available or obtained from the ship's magazines during the engagement.

The ship was badly shaken by either a near bomb hit or torpedo hit at 0820. Main Radio was flooded and abandoned. Compartment A-518 started to fill with fuel.

Three dive bombing attacks were made between 0815 and 0915, coming successively from the starboard bow, from ahead, and from port bow. The explosion of near hits along starboard side caused minor sized holed amidship between the armor belt and gallery deck. On the dive bombing attack, at 0830, a hit was made abreast casemate #1, frame 59, penetrated the main deck and exploded on the second deck starboard. This hit started a fire amidships on the second deck frames 51 to 77, main deck, frames 51 to 87, and in casemates #3, #5, and #7. This fire remained largely uncontrolled due to the loss of pressure on fire main and the lack of sufficient fire extinguishers to cope with it until tugs came alongside about 1015 to supply fire protection.

A horizontal bombing group had, at 0825, dropped four bombs which fell harmlessly between the bow and the Northern quay of berth Fox-Two.

Light and power, pressure on fire main were restored at about 0845 and maintained until 1000. Such restoration was effected by lighting off the after four boilers with cold oil and natural draft. During this process the after plant was isolated and was ready in all respects for getting underway at about 0910. Engineering plant was secured on orders to abandon ship.

At 0845, Commander E.E. Stone, Executive Officer, returned to the ship and assumed command of the ship, and Commander Battle Force returned aboard.

At 0900, Captain J.W. Gunkley, Commanding U.S.S. California, returned aboard. Lieut. Comdr. O.F. Naquin, the Engineer Officer, and Lieut. Comdr. K.V. Dawson, the Gunnery Officer, returned aboard about 0905.

At 1002 the Captain, with the approval of Commander Battle Force, due to the enveloping flame from fuel oil fire on surface of the water, ordered the ship to be abandoned temporarily.

At 1015, the order to abandon ship was cancelled, flames from the water having cleared the ship, and battle stations topside were manned and a large number of men returned from the beach to resume work. A large number remained to procure fire fighting equipment on Ford Island. The fire aboard ship was fought with all available fire equipment on board and such that was obtained from Ford Island - and extensive salvage operations of movable gear was started. The ship was listing about 8° to port. The engineering plant suffered no mechanical or electrical casualty that would have prevented its operation during the engagement. The fire in A-611, however, produced such heat and smoke in the forward engine room as to make its operation possible only with great difficulty.

DAMAGE RECEIVED - PERSONNEL
OFFICERS
Five (5) killed.            
Six (6) wounded.  
MEN
Forty-eight killed.  
Fifty-eight wounded.  
Forty-five missing.  
DAMAGE TO ENEMY

At 0830 shot down one enemy dive bomber with forward machine guns, which crashed in flames.

At 0832, one enemy plane shot down over Ford Island by either own fire or that of another ship.

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT - PERSONNEL

The following named men and officers were outstanding in their work during battle in the ammunition supply and in removing wounded:

SKILLMAN, J.H., Comdr.(SC) USN JEFFERY, I.W., Ens., USNR (Deceased)
CAGE, W.F., Ensign, USNR JONES, N.C., Ens., USNR (Deceased)
PHARRIS, J.C., Gunner, USN UNDERWOOD, R.C., C.G.M. (PA) USN)
NEWMAN, J., C.S.K. (PA), USN REEVES, T.J., C.R.M. (PA), USN (Deceased)
PEARSON, C., C.S.K. (PA), USN O'CONNELL, W.F., G.M.1c., USN
KEENER, J.C., S.K.1c., USN LONDON, J.F., S.K.1c., USN
BELL, C.R., G.M.3c., USN CLEVELAND, E., Sea.1c., USN
NIX, J.P., Sea.1c., USN BONTHIUS, R.C., Sea.2c., USN
DORAN, G.F., Sea.2c., USN  

For outstanding work in removing wounded trapped in either closed compartments or in compartments afire:

HALL, B.C., Ensign, USN HALL, C.H., Ensign, USN
WALKER, W., Jr., Ens. USN KIRKPATRICK, R.D., Jr., Ens., USN
SETTLE, R.L., Ens., USN MC GRATH, T.P., Ens., USN
CHAMPION, C.H., Ens., USN LEWIS, W.A.J., Ens., USN
GUNNELS, C.W., Ens., USN NICHOLSON, A.T., Jr., Ens., USN
RUDDEN, T.J., Jr., Ens., USN FAIN, E.M., Ensign, USNR
CANFIELD, R.B., Ens., USNR LA BARRE, C.A., Ens., USNR
LYDEN, C.J., Ens., USNR TAYLOR, L.S., Ens., USNR
OBMON, S., Boatswain, USN MILLER, R.W., Ch.Elect., USN
PRICE, E.V., C.E.M., USN CAMPBELL, E.R., C.E.M.(AA), USN
BELDEN, E.W., M.M.1c., USN BLY, C.L., M.M.1c., USN
BEZVODA, S.F., E.M.1c., USN MAXWELL, O.R., E.M.1c., USN
ILLIAN, E., E.M.1c., USN ALFORD, L.B., E.M.1c., USN
WARD, D.E., B.M.2c., USN FLEMING, C.H., M.M.2c., USN
ISENMOUR, R.A., M.M.2c., USN KOEPPLINGER, C.F., Bmkr.2c., USN
MINCKLEY, R.F., E.M.2c., USN STREETER, C.L., E.M.2c., USN
FRANCK, D.E., E.M.3c., USN COON, R.V., E.M.3c., USN
LITZ, C.L., E.M.3c., USN WAITE, J.E., E.M.3c., USN
GREENBAUM, H., E.M.3c., USN WILSON, K.L., E.M.3c., USN
GAROUTTE, J.H., F.1c., USN ROUNTREE, W.H., F.1c., USN
TOTH, R.J., F.2c.1, USN GARY, T.J., Sea.2c., USN (Deceased)
PLUARD, F.D., F.3c., USN GALYEAN, C.W., F.3c., USN
SAMUEL, H., F.3c., USN EBBERSON, L.F., F.3c., USN
NUNNELLEY, L.E., F.3c., USN BOTTOLFSON, R.L., F.3c., USN
BROOKS W.M., M.Att.1c., USN BACOT, J.D., M.Att.1c., USN
CELESTEINE, B., M.Att.1c., USN WALLACE, H., Jr., M.Att.2c., USN

For obtaining ammunition from other ships, under fire:

APPLEGATE, H.A., Pay Clerk, USN PAVLIN, B.F., E.M.3c., USN
For treatment of wounded although burned about face and arms from fires nearby his station:

JEWELL, J.D., Commander, (MC), U.S. Navy.  

FLEMING, W.S., B.M.1c., USN, Gun Captain of 5"/25 gun #4, who, although wounded, continued to direct his gun crew and by his coolness and example, under fire, instilled confidence in the men about him.

BALDWIN, R.M.,C.Y. (PA), USN, for his outstanding work in performing duties of Damage Control Officer in a very efficient manner while the First Lieutenant commanded the ship.

J.W. BUNKLEY.

Copy to: Combatfor
Combatships


Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II action reports,
the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.
2 September 2003