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

USS Tangier, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack


AV8/A16-3 U.S.S. Tangier (AV8) (CAFS/ke)
    Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
January 2, 1942.

From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
 
Subject: Raid, Air, December 7, 1941, USS Tangier (AV8) - Report on.
 
Reference: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, Article 712 (1).
 
Enclosures: (A) CO, Tangier Conf. ltr. AV8/A16-3 (O1) to Cincpac, dated January 2, 1942.
(B) XO, Tangier Conf. ltr. A9/Os to CO, Tangier, dated December 11, 1941.
(C) PICTURES (14) Taken during Air Raid. (omitted)
(D) Chart No. 1 (Gun-fire chart). (omitted)
(E) Chart No. 2 (Blank - since no Ship's Track involved). (omitted)
(F) Chart No. 3 (Enemy planes seen shot down). (omitted)

  1. in compliance with reference (a) the above enclosures are forwarded herewith.

[signed]
C.A.F. SPRAGUE


[Enclosure (A)]
AV8/A16-3 U.S.S. TANGIER (AV8) (CAFS/ke)
    Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
January 2, 1942.

From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
 
Subject: Raid, Air, December 7, 1941, USS Tangier (AV8) - Report on.
 
Reference: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, Article 712 (1).

  1. At the time of the surprise air attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, this ship was berthed at F-10, Ford Island, with ship's head bearing 230° true; U.S.S. Utah moored at F-11 directly astern; U.S.S. Raleigh at F-12. All times local zone times:

    0755 - Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes commenced surprise attack on Fleet and Base at Pearl Harbor, T.H.

    0758 - General Quarters sounded, the first of the Japanese planes passed along port side of ship headed to Ewa, at about 400 feet, it's orange sun insignia clear, leaving no uncertainty that this was a real attack. Ship commenced firing as soon as men arrived on gun stations. Ship opened fire at 0800. It was the Commanding Officer's impression that this ship was the first to open fire or surely among the first. The first action by the Japanese planes observed, was a plane dropping bombs on the Air Station, loud explosions were first heard from Air Station where bombs were dropped on a hangar, full of PBY's, gutting the hangar. The first attack wave consisting of both dive bombers and torpedo planes, was estimated by the Commanding Officer to consist of from forty to fifty planes. The planes came in generally from 50° true, flying down Ford Island on the port side of Tangier. The only exception of this was the three torpedo planes that launched torpedoes at the Utah. These came in from the North.

    At 0803 - Three torpedo planes came in on our starboard quarter heading about South and dropped their torpedoes at the USS Utah. Observers aft differ as to whether all three torpedoes hit the Utah or whether two torpedoes hit the Utah and one slide between Utah's stern and this ship's stern. The Japanese must have had the most detailed information about this harbor, for none released their torpedoes until past White Spar Buoy #1, that is in 37 feet of water.

    At 0804 - U.S.S. Raleigh received bomb hit, causing her to sink down by the stern. She sank down level with her after deck and then held steady.

    At 0805 - U.S.S. Arizona, West Virginia and Oklahoma hit by torpedoes or bombs or both.

    This ship was firing full fire at Japanese planes flying down our port side, at about 300 to 500 feet altitude. None of the planes in this first wave appeared to make any deliberate attack on Tangier. Two groups of nine planes in "V" formation could be seen flying at between 8000 to 10,000 feet, directly over Pearl Harbor. It is believed that these planes were those which made the second attack. One hit was observed on a Japanese plane at this time, in engine section and white smoke spouted from his engine as he passed over Waipio Peninsula, at low altitude.

    At 0806 - Arizona exploded internally, foremast capsized, forward part of ship on fire.

    At 0811 - Utah sunk bottom up.

    At 0812 - Received despatch from CinCpac "Hostilities with Japan commenced with air raid on Pearl Harbor".

    At 0820 - In accordance with despatch orders from CinCpacflt, made preparations for getting underway.

    At 0830 - Ship ready for getting underway.

    The fury of the attack of the first wave of planes subsided. This ship and other ships were firing at the high altitude formation, but all bursts appeared short and no effect on the formation or planes could be observed.

    At 0833 - Received report Japanese submarine in channel.

    At 0843 - Enemy submarine sighted off starboard bow, distance about 800 yards. Opened fire with #1 A.A. gun (3"/50) fired six shots. USS Curtiss also firing five inch gun at submarine. 0844 ceased firing at submarine, due to fouling of target by USS Monaghan. 0845 USS Monaghan ran over location where submarine was sighted, probably ramming it and dropped two depth charges. This was a fine piece of work and the Commanding Officer of the Monaghan, in my opinion, should be commended for an excellent and rapid action.

    At 0850 - USS Nevada underway heading out channel, struck in bow by torpedo or bomb. A large explosion was heard and a pillar of smoke and flame rolled up for about two hundred feet from position occupied by Nevada. The Arizona is now violently afire, appears that oil tanks are burning. Arizona's smoke obscures damage on other battleships, forward of her.

    At 0850 - Second wave of attackers started coming in. From now on the Japanese planes made deliberate bombing attacks on Tangier. Shot off tail of one Japanese plane just as he had passed abeam to starboard. This plane crashed in Middle Loch in back of Curtiss and Medusa. The plane was hit by .50 cal Machine gun bullets and the tail was shot off by the 3"50 cal forward battery.

    Singled up all mooring lines.

    At 0855 - Riddled another Japanese plane, which went out of control and crashed on the shore line, near Beckoning Point. About this time a direct hit by bomb was observed on the USS Curtiss, starting a fire. Curtiss did excellent work in getting this fire out. Received from Signal Tower and by Radio another warning submarine reported sighted in North Channel.

    There was not as many planes in this wave, estimated about twenty seven.

    At 0910 - Third wave of bombing attack came in, again, about twenty seven planes. This might be delayed planes of second attack. Riddled another Japanese plane, flying up our port side, engine caught fire, then part of fuselage forward of pilot burst into flame, pilot got his plane around 90° to right and from the Commanding Officer's observation, deliberately crashed his plane into Curtiss. Plane crashed into Curtiss near after stack, into boat crane and A.A. gun station and started a good size fire.

    At 0913-0920 - Five bombs were dropped by five different planes at Tangier, one bomb dropping on Ford Island off our port bow, the pilot of this plane did not press home his attack as the other pilots did and dropped short before turning away. The other four planes dropped their bombs from about three hundred feet in a shallow dive. All four were fortunately, very close misses: two forward, one about fifteen feet off the starboard side and one about twenty feet off; two aft, about twenty and forty feet off. The Commanding Officer could observe the bombs forward from the time of release until they missed. At the time he felt sure they were going to be hits and was surprised that after they missed that there was no more damage to the ship than what took place. A dull thud was felt throughout the ship and I ascribe it to the fact that the bombs must have buried themselves in the mud, which muffled the force of the explosion. They appeared to be about 250-350 pounders. No plane dropped more than one bomb and no two planes dropped at the same time. The ship was struck in forty-two (42) places by bomb fragments, none serious. One piece struck window in pilot house, which fortunately was splinter proof glass and prevented glass from flying about. Only two fragments had sufficient force to penetrate the side of the ship. Inspection below indicated no penetration below the water line. Three men about deck were struck by fragments, but received only superficial wounds.

    Hits were observed from our gun fire on two more planes and it is entirely possible that these planes were forced to land, in that area between Pearl and Barber's point. This should be investigated. I definitely observed three planes, struck many times by our gun fire and saw the three planes crash, as reported above.

    No more planes came near Tangier after 0920.

    This ship expended the following ammunition:

    217 rounds of 3" 50 cal. (Fwd Battery).
    198 round of 3" 23 cal. (Aft Battery).
    23,000 rounds of 50 cal. Machine Gun.

    The conduct of the officers and crew was excellent throughout. The gun crews performed praiseworthily. The equipment worked without any casualty. Boatswain Wesley L. LARSON, USN., should be commended for his quick reaction and grasp of the situation, in his capacity as Officer-of-the-Deck, when the unexpected attack took place.

[signed]
C.A.F. SPRAGUE


[Enclosure (B)]
A9/Os U.S.S. Tangier (AV8)  
    Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
December 11, 1941.

From: The Executive Officer.
To: The Commanding Officer.
 
Subject: Report of engagement between USS Tangier (AV8) and Japanese airplanes on December 7, 1941.
 
Reference: (a) Article 948, U.S. Navy Regulations 1920.

  1. The following report is submitted in accordance with reference (a).
  2. On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Tangier (AV8) was moored to the finger piers of berth F-19, port side toward Ford Island. Berth F-9 ahead was unoccupied. Directly astern in berth F-11 was the Utah, headed away from the Tangier. The Raleigh was in berth F-12, ahead of the Utah. Ahead of the Raleigh was the Detroit in berth F-13. All of the above berths are on the Northeast, or Pearl City side of Ford Island.
  3. At 0755 on Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japanese single engine airplanes began bombing the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, on the south side of Ford Island. The Tangier (AV8) immediately went to General Quarters. Fire with all guns was opened shortly before 0800 on hostile single engine low wing monoplane torpedo planes attacking the Utah, Raleigh and Tangier from the north. The Utah was hit by torpedoes on the port side and turned turtle almost immediately. The Raleigh was also apparently hit on the port side and took a list to port. The Tangier was undamaged, although a torpedo was reported to have passed just clear of stern. At least five torpedo planes made drops in succession near the white spar buoy at the north side of the channel. The spar buoy was used as a dropping point. No apparent damage was done to the torpedo planes as they all turned right and retired at low altitude over Pearl City to the north. So far as is know the Tangier was the first ship to open fire on the enemy.
  4. After the torpedo attack there was a slight lull which was used to check all watertight doors, hatches, ports and fire hose. Damage control parties, ammunition supply, and belting parties where checked and redistribution of personnel made where necessary to eliminate bottle necks. Due to the previous attention to details practically no changes were made except to use the 5"-51 caliber gun crew and ammunition supply party to augment the 3" and .50 caliber machine gun ammunition and belting parties. The 5"-51 caliber gun not being an A.A. gun was of no value to us and the personnel were required as indicated above. During this time our boats in the water were used for rescuing Utah survivors.
  5. At about 0840 fire was opened with the 3" on a large group of planes at about 10,000 feet altitude flying over the clouds from the North toward Hickam Field. Their track was to the east of Ford Island. Sight was lost of these planes as they passed over the smoke from the burning ships on the South side of Ford Island. These planes apparently took a sweep out to sea, losing altitude, and made a glide bombing attack on the Navy Yard and the ships around Ford Island because shortly thereafter the Tangier was attacked by glide bombers coming in from the direction of Honolulu and the Navy Yard. At least six single engine low wing monoplanes either bombed or strafed the Tangier during the next ten minutes. Of these planes, one had its tail shot off by the 3" battery and landed in the water near the beach astern of the Curtiss, one was set on fire by machine gun fire and crashed into the Curtiss, one was shot down by machine gun fire and crashed in the water near the Pan American dock at Pearl City, and a fourth as seen to crash in the cane field on Waipio Peninsula. One bomb struck near the port quarter but did not explode until it hit the bottom, another just missed the bow, and a third landed on Ford Island. Nothing but superficial damage was done to the ship from these bombs. Several other planes were turned back from the volume fire put out by the Tangier.
  6. The 3" battery also took under fire at this time a squadron of horizontal bombers flying at about 12,000 feet altitude from the south to north. These planes dropped their bombs on Waipio Peninsula about opposite the west end of Ford Island.
  7. After this attack no other hostile aircraft came within gun range although the ship remained at General Quarters the rest of the day and all that night.
  8. The one utility plane on board and the airplane crash boat were hoisted out immediately after the glide bomber attack to reduce the fire hazard as both contained gasoline. The plane was sent to the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, and the airplane crash boat was tied up at berth F-9 which was empty.
  9. Inasmuch as the officers and men of the Tangier had never had the opportunity to fire the ship's guns except for test firing I think their performance on Sunday was one of the bright spots of a very sad day. I do not see how any one of them could have done his job better than he did, and that individually and collectively they should be commended on their performance of duty and their preparation for battle. It is noted that there were no machine gun casualties and the only time the guns stopped firing was when their ammunition was expended. This speaks exceedingly well for the maintenance personnel on the machine guns and the ordnance gunner.

[signed]
G.H. DE BAUN


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.
23 May 2001