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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
USS Downes, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack
U.S.S. Downes (DD375)
December 17, 1941
The Commanding Officer.
The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Report of Action with Japanese Aircraft During Attack on Pearl
Harbor, T.H., December 7, 1941.
(a) U.S. Navy Regulations, Articles 712, 873(6).
(A) Statement of Lieutenant W.O. Snead,
U.S. Navy, Executive Officer, U.S.S. Downes.
(B) Statement of Lieutenant (jg) J.D. Parker, U.S. Navy, Senior
Officer on Board during Attack. [not attached]
- At the time of the surprise attack of Japanese aircraft on
fleet units in Pearl Harbor, T.H. during the forenoon of December
7, 1941 the U.S.S. Downes was docked in drydock No. 1,
Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor. The Downes and Cassin
occupied the southern end of the dock with the Downes
to starboard. The Pennsylvania occupied the remainder
of the dock astern of the two destroyers. The wind was from about
225 relative, force 2. The ship was receiving steam, electricity,
fresh and salt water from Navy Yard sources. Navy Yard work was
in progress on the stern tubing, strut bearings, shell plating
forward, replacement of tripod mast with stick mast, and various
minor jobs. Large sections of the shell plating had been removed
on both sides forward preparatory to replacement with heavier
- The following officers were ashore on authorized liberty:
Lieutenant Commander W.R. Thayer, U.S. Navy, Commanding; Lieutenant
W.O. Snead, U.S. Navy, Executive Officer; Lieutenant W.A. Hunt,
Jr., U.S. Navy, Engineer Officer; Ensign J.B. Balch, U.S. Navy,
Gunnery Officer. Four members of the crew were absent on authorized
liberty leaving a total of 142 enlisted men and five officers
on board. Lieutenant (jg) J.D. Parker, U.S. Navy was the Duty
Officer and senior officer on board.
- The offensive weapons of the ship were in the following condition:
- 5"/38 caliber guns. Breech plugs and tripping
latches removed for an approved BuOrd alteration.
- 5"/38 caliber ammunition. 310 rounds removed to Naval
Ammunition Depot to permit yard work in connection with depth
charge stowage. The remainder of the 5"/38 ammunition was
distributed throughout all magazines.
- .50 caliber machine guns. Dismounted and stowed in locker.
- All belted .50 caliber ammunition removed to Naval Ammunition
Depot to permit yard work. Remainder of .50 caliber ammunition
in forward magazines, unclipped.
- Twelve torpedoes with war heads fitted in tube mounts with
air flasks bled down.
- Eight depth charges in racks.
- Six F.S. tanks charged and mounted.
- Several battle telephones under repair.
- The following account of the action is based upon reports
submitted to me by all officers and men on board during the attack.
While the action in the later stages was very rapid and the ship
subjected to several bombings in rapid succession, it is believed
that the essential facts can be set forth with reasonable accuracy.
- The attacking planes were sighted coming in out of the clouds
at about 0755 by several men on deck including the Chief Petty
Officer with the day's duty. The C.P.O. with day's duty immediately
had general quarters sounded and notified the duty officer, Lieutenant
(jg) J.D. Parker, U.S. Navy. The crew proceeded to their stations
quickly, set condition Afirm, except where prevented from so
doing by the temporary ventilation ducts forward, checked closure
of sea valves, and began intensive efforts to prepare the ship
for fighting. The machine guns were quickly prepared for firing
and work was begun on assembling the breech plugs of the 5"
battery. Ammunition details broke out ammunition for both the
machine guns and the 5"/38 caliber. As there was no belted
.50 caliber on board, two magazines of this ammunition were obtained
from the Cassin in order that fire might be opened as
soon as possible. Yard power was lost at 0810 which necessitated
passing much of the 5" ammunition up by hand. Ammunition
passers worked in total darkness until flashlights could be obtained,
and as a result no tracer ammunition was located for the machine
guns. Men not occupied, which included men of the engineers force
and most of the 5" gun crews, were turned to belting machine
gun ammunition. The speed with which this operation was carried
out was most gratifying. The machine guns were firing within
15 minutes of the start of the attack. The 5" guns crews
were retained in the ammunition supply and belting details until
their guns could be made ready to fire.
- After loss of yard power at 0810, several men of the engineers
force under Chief Machinist's Mate JOHNSTON and Chief Electrician's
Mate RAIDY succeeded in starting the emergency diesel generator.
As the ship was in drydock, it was necessary to connect a hose
to the fire main to supply circulating water to the diesel. This
was done by the light of the battle lanterns. At 0823, the power
and light load was taken by the emergency diesel generator. Switches
were thrown to supply power to the ammunition hoists. The hoist
for gun No. 2 was used thereafter in bringing up ammunition.
- During the first hour the Downes was untouched. The
first attacks were made by torpedo planes against the battleships.
These were followed a few minutes later by horizontal bombing
attacks on the battleships. During these attacks the Downes
opened fire with machine guns, but the range was too great for
effectiveness and fire was stopped. The horizontal bombers attacked
in groups of about five planes each, at an altitude of about
9,000 to 12,0000 feet.
- With the loss of yard power, no power was available for the
operation of the 5" battery or director. However, as soon
as gun No. 3 could be made ready (about 0845), it was loaded
by hand and fired. This was a test shot to see how the ship would
stand the shock of firing while drydocked. The test successful,
Ensign Robinson, who had been in charge of the forward machine
guns, took charge of gun No. 3 and stood by to open fire in local
control. Ensign Stewart had been sent to control the after machine
guns. Ensign Sebbo took control of the forward machine guns.
Ensign Comly was in charge of the ammunition details. Lieutenant
(jg) Parker directed operations from the bridge.
- At about 0850, there was a lull of some six minutes. Lieutenant
(jg) Parker was asked at this time if the Downes was ready
for the dock to be flooded. After a quick check, he replied in
the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, dive bombers attacked the
ship. Three dive bombers came from the Southeast in a steep dive.
They were immediately taken under fire by the forward and after
machine gunners. Attempt was being made to get 5" gun No.
3 on the horizontal bombers attacking the battleships. Almost
simultaneously with the first bomb hit, this gun got off one
shot at the horizontal bombers. At 0827 the dive bombers dropped
an incendiary bomb, which hit in the drydock between the Cassin
and Downes about abreast of gun No. 4. Two men were killed
outright. Fire enveloped the after part of the ship instantaneously.
The diesel fuel oil tank was ruptured and set afire, and the
emergency diesel generator stopped. The ship was now without
power or lights. Flames spread very rapidly covering the after
deck house and gun shelters. The heat was intense. The incendiary
material used was described as a yellowish-green liquid. Fire
hoses were quickly manned by the repair party and gun crews aft
and water turned on the flames. The initial flow of water was
inadequate; after this had been corrected, it was found that
water was ineffective, spreading rather than reducing the fire.
It was soon evident that the fire was out of control. The
engineroom was abandoned at 0912. Lieutenant (jg) Parker ordered
the abandonment of the after part of the ship, however the flames
were already driving the men off the ship. Orders were given
to flood the after magazines, but it is not known whether this
was accomplished or not. A few seconds later, at about 0920,
the situation then being hopeless, Lieutenant (jg) Parker gave
orders for all hands to abandon ship. Shortly after orders had
been given to abandon ship another incendiary bomb hit between
the Cassin and Downes abreast the bridge structure
setting the quarterdeck and the forward part of the Downes
afire. Lieutenant (jg) Parker attempted to make a personal check
to see that all men were off the ship but was prevented from
doing so by the flames, and was forced to leave himself. The
flames, fed by diesel and fuel oil as well as the painted surfaces
of the ship, and fanned by the wind, swept diagonally across
the ship, setting it on fire from bow to stern.
- Most of the men escaped over the brow which was located on
the 02 deck just forward of the chart house but some men, finding
themselves trapped aft, were forced to escape over the sides
into the drydock. As the last survivors were leaving the ship
a bomb, believed to be a small high explosive one, struck the
bridge completely destroying the director platform, bridge, and
- having released their bombs, the Japanese then made a strafing
attack on personnel on the dock, but none were injured. Upon
completion of these strafing attacks, some of the Downes
men proceeded to the windward side of the dock to man yard fire
hoses, others assisted in removing the wounded to the hospital
or first aid stations, while several others, including two gunner's
mates proceeded to the Marine Barracks to assist in giving out
arms and ammunition. Two of the latter obtained guns and ammunition
and returned to take up stations where they might fire on attacking
- Soon after the ship was abandoned, a terrific explosion occurred
amidships, at torpedo tube number 3. After the fire had been
extinguished it was discovered that the warheads in tube 3 had
blown up leaving a large hole in the side and main deck in the
vicinity of the tube mount and demolishing the number 2 stack.
Fragments of the tube mount were found on the bow of the U.S.S.
- The powder in the forward magazines blew out through the
sides of the ship, however most of the projectiles and the .50
caliber ammunition in the forward magazines were apparently unharmed.
- The men who manned the hoses on the dock displayed unusual
courage. Some of these men had already been badly burned on the
ship and were later hospitalized. The 5" ammunition in the
gun shelters exploded, sending out frequent showers of metal
fragments in all directions. lieutenant (jg) Parker and several
men tending hoses were injured by these fragments. The explosions
became so dangerous that, for a few minutes, it was necessary
to abandon the hoses, which, however, were futile against the
fire at that time. Later the hoses were concentrated on the sterns
of the two ships to save the depth charges.
- One depth charge of the Downes dropped into the dock,
but all others were later removed, apparently in a serviceable
condition. The torpedo warheads on the torpedoes in mounts number
1 and 2 melted off.
- Flooding of the dock was considerably delayed, commencing
sometime after both Downes and Cassin had been
abandoned. The flames were brought under control after the dock
had been flooded, and the fire was extinguished in the late afternoon.
- The conduct of the officers and crew in these trying circumstances
was magnificent. Each officer and man did his job. All are deserving
of the highest praise. It is difficult to single out individual
men or acts of bravery among such a fine crew, but the conduct
of the following was outstanding:
- Lieutenant (jg) J.D. Parker, U.S. Navy.
As Senior Officer on board, Lieutenant Parker commanded the Downes
during and for some time subsequent to the attack. He displayed
leadership, good judgement, resourcefulness, coolness, and courage
to the highest degree. His handling of the emergency under the
most trying conditions was above reproach. With utter disregard
for his own safety, he remained on the ship until further efforts
to insure that all personnel had left the ship were blocked by
the fire. After leaving the ship, he engaged in fighting the
fire. During this phase, he suffered head injuries from flying
fragments, but after first aid treatment he returned to continue
fighting the fire.
- Ensign R.L. Stewart, U.S. Navy.
Ensign Stewart was placed in control of the after machine guns.
Together with the two after machine gunners, he remained at his
station and continued firing until the entire machine gun platform
was enveloped in flames. He suffered a broken foot when forced
to jump to safety. In spite of his injury, Ensign Stewart commandeered
an automobile and made several trips to take injured personnel
to the hospital.
- Riley, John B., C.B.M.(PA), U.S. Navy.
Exemplified the highest type of leadership. Always cool, self
reliant, and resourceful, he refused to leave his station after
being badly injured, he continued to fight the fire from the
- Cradoct, Henry E., C.G.M.(PA), U.S. Navy.
Cradoct was largely responsible for the speed with which the
machine guns were mounted, ammunition belted and supplied to
the machine guns, ammunition gotten up for the 5" battery,
and 5" guns number 2 and number 3 made ready to fire. His
leadership, coolness, knowledge of his specialty and of the ship,
energy, and loyalty are deserving of the highest commendation.
Both officers and men considered his work to have been outstanding.
- Odietus, Michael G., G.M.1c, U.S. Navy;
Schulze, Curtis P., G.M.2c, U.S. Navy.
These two men did a splendid job of getting 5" guns number
2 and number 3 ready to fire as quickly as possible. When the
ship caught fire Odietus tried to connect the hose on dock single-handed,
but was unsuccessful. After abandoning ship, they both proceeded,
on their own initiative, to the yard marine armory to assist
in giving out arms and ammunition. They were issued two Browning
Automatic rifles by the Marines and returned to take up stations
to fire upon enemy planes.
- Johnston, Charles B., C.M.M.(PA), U.S. Navy.
Knew his job thoroughly and did it. He was cool, collected, and
courageous. Successfully fought minor fires in the engineroom,
ordered men to abandon engineroom when flames were out of control,
then fought flames on deck until forced to leave the ship. He
undoubtedly saved the life of Raidy by rolling him on deck to
smother the flames which had caught on his clothing.
- Raidy, James M., C.E.M.(AA), U.S. Navy.
The spirit shown by this man was remarkable. He fought the fire
on the topside until nearly everyone else was off the ship and
his person set on fire by an incendiary bomb. After abandoning
ship he manned a hose on the dock. He was taken to the hospital
with severe burns.
- Richardson, Shirley W., C.Ph.M.(AA), U.S. Navy;
Blaszak, Adam A., Ph.M.3c, U.S. Navy.
Both men performed their duties in an excellent manner during
the engagement and afterwards. Blaszak continued dressing a man
at after battle dressing station with flames all around outside.
He barely escaped in time. Richardson tried to lead several men
off the ship, but they were lost.
- Hite, Lewis, G., B.M.1c, U.S. Navy.
Displayed real leadership. Instrumental in saving life of Kemp,
whom he led part way off ship. Returned to connect fire hoses.
Chased other men off ship in time to save them.
- Ernst, William, M.M.2c, U.S. Navy.
Tore Kemp's burning shirt from him. Passed word in crew's washroom
to abandon ship when after part of ship was on fire. After leaving
ship proceeded to lumber pile in yard to stand by fire plug there.
- Skjerven, Mylo H., Y.2c, U.S. Navy.
His presence of mind and training saved the Muster Rolls and
Transfer and Receipt Book, the only records saved from the ship.
- Hooke, Charles M., Sea.1c, U.S. Navy;
Stadelman, Elmer S., Sea.1c, U.S. Navy;
Foundation, James J. Jr., Sea.1c, U.S. Navy;
Thompson, Eric L., Sea.1c, U.S. Navy
Hooke and Stadelman on the forward machine guns and Foundation
and Thompson on the after machine guns displayed remarkable courage
and coolness in the face of grave danger. They all fired whenever
a target was available notwithstanding the fire, strafing and
bombing to which the ship was subjected. They way they remained
at their posts was superb.
- Rau, Armand F., Jr., Sea.1c, U.S. Navy.
Displayed complete disregard for personal danger and a high degree
of loyalty when he was the first to volunteer to handle the hose
on the dock even though large splinters were being thrown out
of the dock by the explosions on the ship.
- Kwolik, Edward T., F.2c, U.S. Navy.
This man remained on the ship in the face of grave danger even
after being ordered off in order to keep a fire hose on the after
engineroom hatch. His conduct permitted the men in the engineroom
- Postlethwaite, Paul O., Sea.2c, U.S. Navy.
This man was injured while checking the setting of condition
Afirm prior to reporting the ship ready for the dock to be flooded.
He continued in his duties, fighting a fire in the ship then
fighting the fires from the dock until hit by fragments and wounded
severely. He was forced to leave the ship over the fantail.
- The ship was lost, but the Commanding Officer has naught
but praise for the officers and men of the crew who fought her
under such unfortunate circumstances. They did their utmost to
inflict damage on the enemy, working against almost unsurmountable
odds. They did all in their power to save the ship from fire.
They showed that they were real shipmates with a concern for
each other's safety. They were loyal and determined. Their primary
concern during the engagement was to get the guns in action,
and their biggest regret was that they couldn't meet the enemy
in a fair fight at sea. I am proud to have commanded the U.S.S.
U.S.S. Downes (DD375)
December 17, 1941
The Executive Officer.
The Commanding Officer.
- I was not on board during the Japanese air attacks on fleet
units in Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 having
left the ship on authorized liberty the previous evening.
- I received the radio announcement of the order for all naval
personnel to return to Pearl Harbor at about 0830 and immediately
made hurried preparations to return. As I entered my car I saw
a group of planes, about five, make a dive bombing attack on
Pearl Harbor. I saw no more attacks as my attention was focused
on getting back as quickly as possible. Unfortunately a traffic
jam about half-way to Pearl harbor delayed me for what seemed
to be at least half hour.
- On reaching the dock I found both the Downes and the
Cassin enveloped in smoke and flames from bow to stern.
Both ships had been abandoned. Some of the Downes men
came up to me and told me that most of the crew had been saved.
A few seconds later Lieutenant (jg) Parker, his head bandaged
where he had been hit by flying fragments, came up and warned
me about explosions, which had been taking place on board. The
explosions continued, and were forced to leave the dock temporarily
- A few minutes later we returned to the dock where several
hoses, manned by men from the Downes and Cassin,
were being played on the Cassin. Explosions were still
taking place with consequent grave danger to the men, and inasmuch
as the fire was beyond control, I suggested to the Division Commander,
who had just arrived, that the men be directed to clear the dock.
The Division Commander directed that all men be cleared off the
dock immediately. After the explosions decreased the hoses were
concentrated on the sterns of the two ships to prevent flames
from getting at the depth charges. Lieutenant (jg) Erly of the
Cassin did fine work in saving the depth charges.
- Ensign Stewart, whose foot had been broken when he was forced
to jump from the after machine gun platform of the Downes,
drove up in a borrowed car and said there were many injured men
in the vicinity of the floating drydock. He drove there followed
by Ensign Sebbo in a yard truck and me in my car, but when we
arrived all injured had been removed. While in the vicinity of
floating drydock, several enemy planes at high altitudes were
taken under fire by ships in the harbor but apparently escaped
over the city of Honolulu. After the dock had been flooded the
flames on the Downes and Cassin were brought under
control. As soon as the fires subsided, several yard workmen
boarded the two ships to direct hoses on those parts still burning.
These men did excellent work in the face of great danger. I understand
that one of them was severely injured by an intended [sic]
- From my own observations of their work on the dock and from
accounts of their conduct on the ship, I feel that the officers
and men of the Downes are deserving of the highest praise.
There were numerous instances of personal bravery and disregard
of danger. Their courage and determination to do all they could
was magnificent. The crew stood by the ship until there was no
hope of saving her or of inflicting damage on the enemy. They
did everything possible to save the lives of their shipmates,
who were lost; many more would doubtless have been lost had not
so much coolness been displayed. The statements from the members
of the crew are unanimous in praising the work of all hands in
this distressing engagement. They did all they could to fight
the ship. One leading Petty officer expressed the general situation
most aptly, "I never felt so helpless in my life!"
- Lieutenant (jg) Parker displayed the highest qualities of
leadership. His handling of the difficult situation is above
reproach. He displayed sound judgment, coolness, courage, and
bravery. Even after being injured by a flying missile from the
ship, he returned to direct the fire fighting parties on the
- The determination of the Downes crew to avenge the
loss of their ship will make them valuable members of any crew.
It is extremely regretable that they could not have had the chance
to prove their worth under more favorable circumstances.
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy.
Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC
action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II
the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration,
8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.