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

USS West Virginia, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack

Related Resource: Salvage Officer, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Report of Salvage of USS West Virginia, June 1942


 
BB48/A16-3
UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
BATTLESHIPS, BATTLE FORCE
U.S.S. West Virginia
 
10/2k
  Hawaiian Area,
December 11, 1941.

From: The Senior Surviving Officer, U.S.S. West Virginia.
To: The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
 
Via: The Commander Battleships, Battle Force.
 
Subject: Action of December 7, 1941 – Report of.
 
Reference: (a) Article 712, U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.
 
Enclosures: (A) Statement of Lt.Comdr., J.S. Harper, U.S. Navy.
(B) Statement of Lt.Comdr., T.T. Beattie, U.S. Navy.
(C) Statement of Lt.Comdr., E.E. Berthold, U.S. Navy.
(D) Statement of Lt.Comdr., D.C. Johnson, U.S. Navy.
(E) Statement of Lieut., L.J. Knight, jr., U.S. Navy.
(F) Statement of Lieut., C.V. Ricketts, U.S. Navy.
(G) Statement of Lieut.,(jg) H.B. Stark, U.S. Navy.
(H) Statement of Lieut.,(jg) F.H. White, U.S.N.R.

  1. In accordance with the instructions contained in reference (a), the following report of the action of December 7, 1941, is submitted:
  2. Throughout the entire action, and through all the arduous labors which followed, there was never the slightest sign of faltering or of cowardice. The actions of the officers and men were all wholly commendable; their spirit was marvelous; there was no panic, no shirking nor flinching, and words fail in attempting to describe the truly magnificent display of courage, discipline, and devotion to duty of all officers and men. Some examples of outstanding performance of duty are:

    Lieutenant Commander J.S. Harper, U.S. Navy, the First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer, who by prompt action in counter-flooding prevented the West Virginia From capsizing. He continued at his post in Central Station until forced to abandon it by the entrance of water, then abandoned it through the Conning Tower escape hatch and even then made a search through the ship before abandoning it.

    Lieutenant Commander T.T. Beattie, U.S. Navy, the Navigator, who remained at his post alongside the Captain throughout all the action and made extreme and strenuous efforts to get the Captain, wounded, to a place of safety and to a first-aid station. Lieutenant Commander Beattie then returned aboard and continued in attempts to extinguish the fire on board.

    Lieutenant Commander D.C. Johnson, U.S. Navy, the Communication Officer, who remained on the bridge, under fire, aided the Captain when the latter was wounded, and was untiring in the work afterward.

    Lieutenant W. White, U.S. Navy, the Assistant Damage Control Officer, who was ashore at the beginning of the action, but returned aboard and performed prodigies in the attempt to extinguish the fire. His untiring and intelligent efforts were an essential aid to getting the fire finally under control.

    Lieutenant C.V. Ricketts, the Senior Gunnery Officer aboard, and regular Secondary Battery Control Officer, who, as his battery was not firing, busied himself with aiding the Damage Control Officer in counter-flooding, in caring for the Captain when wounded, in attempting to get additional ammunition to the Anti-Aircraft battery, and was unsparing of himself in his efforts during the action and during the fire-fighting which followed.

    Lieutenant F.H. White, D-V(G), U.S.N.R., who aided by MILLER, Doris, Mess Attendant second class, U.S. Navy, was instrumental in hauling people along through oil and water to the quarterdeck, thereby unquestionably saving the lives of a number of people who might otherwise have been lost.

    Ensign H.W. Sears, D-V(G), U.S.N.R., who was ashore when the attack started, made his way back to the Navy Yard, but could only get aboard the U.S.S. Phoenix. As that vessel started out, Ensign Sears asked the Commanding Officer if he needed a turret officer. The answer being in the negative, Sears, as the Phoenix passed near the U.S.S. West Virginia, dove over the side and swam to the West Virginia.

    Boatswain E.R. Weaver, U.S. Navy, who made himself unusually valuable in effecting repairs and fighting fires during the action, and then continued untiringly afterwards.

    Because the above named people are particularly mentioned, it must not be construed that the actions and work of their shipmates and associates was any less valuable or less courageous. The entire ship's company is deserving of the highest commendation, both for their work on December 7th and on the days following. All the ship's company, officers and men, ask is another chance at the enemy. Their devotion to duty and their performance of duty have given new meanings to those phrases.

  3. Statements of various officers are enclosed herewith.

(signed)
R.H. HILLENKOETTER.


 
A16-3/(0974)
UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
BATTLESHIPS, BATTLE FORCE
U.S.S. Maryland, Flagship
 
10/2k
    December 13, 1941.

FIRST ENDORSEMENT to
West Virginia BB 48/A16-3
of December 11, 1941.

From: Commander Battleships, Battle Force.
To: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
 
Subject: Action of December 7, 1941 – Report of.
 
Enclosure: (I) CO West Virginia ltr. BB48/P15 of December 11, 1941.
(J) Combatships first end. thereto.

  1. Forwarded.
  2. Commander Battleships notes that the statements of officers herewith enclosed were in substantial agreement as to those points which more than one observed and that the personnel on board universally did their best to fight and save their ship under terrifically hard and hazardous conditions beyond anything ever before experienced.
  3. That they failed was because they were beset beyond human capacity. This to be noted particularly in the case of the Commanding Officer, Captain M.S. Bennion, who although mortally wounded and helpless continued to be concerned only with fighting and saving his ship. He was a gallant exemplification of the highest traditions of the Service and is recommended for posthumous commendation and official recognition.
  4. It also seems to have been generally observed that Lieutenant C.V. Ricketts was outstanding in bold and useful action and leadership, his activities taking place over a range considerably beyond his regular duties. Lieutenant Ricketts is recommended for official commendation and suitable recognition.
  5. Enclosures (I) and (J), herewith, recount the gallant conduct of Chief Boatswain's Mate L.M. Jansen in fight the West Virginia and Arizona fires with his lighter (YG-17), with recommendations of commendation and official recognition for him.

[signed]
W.S. ANDERSON


[Enclosure (A)]

U.S.S. Pennsylvania

Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
December 11, 1941.

STATEMENT OF LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JOHN S. HARPER, U.S. NAVY, DAMAGE CONTROL OFFICER AND FIRST LIEUTENANT, U.S.S. West Virginia


Subject: Report of Action, Sunday Morning, December 7, 1941.

  1. This report is made up from notes made by me about 1230 Sunday, December 7, 1941, following the attack upon the ships in Pearl Harbor, T.H.
  2. I had just turned out of my bunk about 0755 when I heard the word passed to go to General Quarters. At the same time I heard guns being fired. Almost immediately I felt the ship shake from a heavy explosion which seemed to be below and forward. I ran forward to my battle station to Central Station, proceeding via the starboard side of the second deck and down through an armored hatch into compartment A-420. During this time, I felt further heavy shocks to the ship, but I do not recall exactly how many. Men were proceeding to their battle stations with a minimum of confusion.

    Upon reaching the third deck in compartment A-420, I noticed water entering the port side through the junction of the port bulkhead and the deck. The ship at this time had a considerable list. I continued down in Central Station and upon reaching there heard Ensign Kelley, the Assistant Navigator, pass the word to set condition Zed. Ensign Kelley has had a battle station in central only a very short time and I consider his presence of mind in taking correct damage control action, although not one of his duties, to be highly commendable.

    The inclinometer at this time shows a list of approximately 15°, when reports were being received via the sound powered telephone from repairs II and IV that the third deck was being flooded from the port side. I immediately had the word passed over the loud speaker at the same time via the sound powered telephone to counter-flood all voids on the starboard side. At about this time all power went off the ship so that I do not believe the loud speaker system was operating.

    I received word from repair II and repair IV that they were commencing to counter-flood. For this quick action, Lieutenant Ricketts, Assistant Gunnery Officer and former Assistant Damage Control Officer, was deserving of the highest praise and commendation. On his own initiative and with the consent of the Commanding Officer, he left his station on the bridge and proceeded to the third deck for the purpose of counter-flooding the starboard voids.

    I noted that the pendulum inclinometer was off the scale to such an extent that I estimated a maximum list to port of 28°. The list eventually stopped and commenced to decrease so that at the time we were forced to abandon central station it had decreased to about 21°.

    Shortly after, or what seemed to be shortly after, as I now realize that time meant practically nothing, repair I reported a serious fire on the quarterdeck. They asked for water on the necessary fire main risers, but at this time communication with repair IV, Repair II, went out temporarily and I told repair I that they would have to send men below to try to communicate with repair II or IV and get them to open the necessary risers. Central never was in communication with repair III.

    At this time, water commenced to pour down the trunk leading to central station and the watertight door to that trunk was closed and dogged. However, the door was closed with one dog in such a position that it could not be tightened and water began to enter central. About this time personnel from Plot and the forward distribution room were entering central station through the starboard communicating door. These men were covered with oil and water but I do not recall any water entering through the door. Certain men banged and hammered on the port door from the trunk leading to central stating that there was water filling the trunk and wanted entrance into central. We asked how much water was in there and they stated that it was getting high. In as much as we still had communication and counter-flooding seemed to be taking effect, I refused to allow my men with me to open this door and directed the men outside to try to get through Plot and around to the starboard side in order to enter through the starboard door which was not yet leaking water. At the same time, I directed repair II to attempt to open the armored hatch above the trunk in order to let these men escape. Repair II reported back that there was about three feet of water above the hatch and they were unable to open it. I believe that these men were lost, as I am quite certain no further personnel entered central through the starboard door.

    Since central station by that time was filling rapidly with water, I directed all personnel except the telephone talker to evacuate via the armored tube leading to the conning tower. This was accomplished, Ensign Kelley being the last of this group to leave. The telephone talker, Rogers, yeoman second class, and I, remained there.

    Communication had been regained with repair II and Repair IV. About this time, Main Control came on the line and reported a number of men trapped in one of the engineering compartments, I do not recall now which one, and requested a repair party to attempt to burn a hole in the deck for the purpose of allowing these men to escape. I passed this work to repair IV and feel now that the correct information was given to repair IV regarding the exact compartment number. An acknowledgment was received for this word, but at this time communication with all but repair I failed, and since the port side of central station then had about six feet of water in it and water was rising rapidly, I decided to abandon central. Repair I was informed that central station was being abandoned. I sent Rogers up the ladder and followed immediately thereafter.

    I wish to take this opportunity of commending the coolness and the attention to duty of Rogers, who conducted all telephone communication without the slightest trace of excitement and in every was in the manner in which he had been taught.

    At no time throughout my stay in central station, was I able to get in touch with the captain by telephone, either conn or the bridge.

    Upon reaching the Flag Bridge, I was informed that the Captain was seriously injured. I saw him and reported to him that the list on the ship had been stopped, that the starboard voids had been counter-flooded and that the ship would remain upright. I then proceeded down to the forecastle and four Lieutenant Commander Beattie who informed me that I was the commanding officer of the ship (neither of us knew that the Executive Officer was on board and in the after part of the ship). There seemed to be a lull at this time and boats were alongside the forecastle for the purpose of evacuating the personnel. I told Beattie to take charge in the evacuation of the wounded, but not to abandon ship because I did not think it was necessary and that I was going aft to inspect the ship.

    I proceeded aft along the starboard superstructure deck and down on the quarterdeck. There appeared to be no fire there and I went below through the after starboard hatch. I found considerable smoke and talked to Williams, MM2c in charge of the repair patrol there. He informed me that the fire was out, but that oil between the Tennessee and the West Virginia was burning and that the port side of the Tennessee was on fire. I directed him to close all air and battle ports on that side and then to bring his party topside. I attempted to go forward again on the starboard side, but found my way blocked by flames approximately at the mainmast. I worked my way then up the port side of the quarterdeck, which was already about 4 feet underwater, and so up to the superstructure deck and to the forecastle.

    I then went below to the starboard side of the main deck and directed that all wounded men be placed in blankets, brought up to the forecastle, and placed in boats on the port side. Several men told me that various personnel were dead. I directed that they be left alone and moved out of the way. At this time, also, men were still being brought up from the second deck, the starboard side not yet being underwater. About this time a second strafing or bombing attack commenced and all exposed personnel were directed to seek cover. Boats left the ship and lay off in the water some little distance on the beam.

    When this attack seemed to be finished, evacuation of the wounded was then continued and I directed that the Captain be brought down and placed in the boat in spite of the fact that the pharmacist's mate said that it would be dangerous to move him. I determined on this action because I felt that the ship would have to be abandoned in the near future on account of fire. Evacuation of the wounded was continued through another burst of gunfire, but I do not know whether the West Virginia was being attacked or not. I went to the boat deck and saw that the port side was partly on fire and seeing that arrangements had been made to lower the captain the port side directed that lines be shifted to the starboard side which was clear of fire.

    About this time I looked aft along the boat deck port side in the water and saw that the entire water front was covered with oil and that flames were proceeding rapidly up the port side, having already passed the break of the deck. I ordered all hands to abandon ship, but at the same time directed that the boats stay near the ship until the last possible moment. I then went below on the starboard side of the main deck and passed the word All hands abandon ship immediately over the port bow. I am quite certain that at this time, no wounded were left below. I proceeded to the forecastle and shoved off all boats but one at the extreme bow. The fire, by this time, had reached the forecastle and was proceeding forward with great rapidity. I looked around and could see no one left on the forecastle with the exception of one or two officers preparing to dive over the starboard side into the water, and then I got into the boat and ordered it away. At this instant two ensigns appeared and jumped into the boat. The boat then cleared the ship and cleared the flames, by not more than three feet.

    We proceeded to the submarine base and disembarked, sending the wounded and a few shell shocked cases to the hospital. Lieutenant Commander Berthold was with me in the boat and since I began to feel the slight effect of shock, after we arrived on shore I requested that he take charge of the men and use his own judgment in any necessary steps. He directed a collection of all men into a group and then after getting coffee and sandwiches, evacuated the men to the Receiving Barracks. During this period Lieutenant Commander Berthold kept me informed as to what steps he was taking and at each instance I approved of them.

    I desire to invite the attention to the highly commendable conduct on the part of every officer and every enlisted man with whom I talked or had contact with or observed throughout the entire action. Although I have singled out two or three in the foregoing for special commendation, this only means that their action was forcibly brought to my notice and does not mean that equally meritorious initiative and action was not performed by every other officer and man.

    I particularly desire to comment also on the highly commendable work done by Lieutenant W. White during the period of salvage and fire fighting following our return to the ship on Sunday afternoon. Lieutenant White was not aboard during the majority of the action, arriving just a few minutes before it was necessary to abandon ship. From his actions in entering burning spaces and directing the fire fighting, I feel sure that his performances of duty under fire would have been equally as commendable as any other. Ensign Lamiman and Ensign Bergner likewise deserve high praise for their direction of salvage and fire fighting following the action.

[signed]
J.S. HARPER.


[Enclosure (B)]

Statement of Lieutenant Commander, T.T. Beattie, U.S. Navy, Navigator, U.S.S. West Virginia.

Attack by Japanese, Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.

About five minutes to eight I was in the wardroom just finishing breakfast, when word come over the loud speaker from the officer-of-the-deck, "away fire and rescue party". This was followed immediately by a second announcement over the loud speaker "Japanese are attacking, all hands general quarters", and the general alarm was rung.

I hear several dull explosions coming from other battleships. Immediately I left the wardroom and ran up the starboard passage way to the bridge. The Captain was just ahead of me proceeding in the same direction.

At this time the ship listed at least five or six degrees and was steadily listing more to port. The Captain and I went to the conning tower, our battle stations, and at this time dive bombing attacks started to take place and numerous explosions were felt throughout the ship. Upon testing our communications with central station and to the guns we found they were disrupted. I suggested to the Captain as long as no communications were in the battle conning tower that we leave there and attempt to establish messenger communication and try to save the ship. We went out on the starboard side of the bridge discussing what to do. During all this time extremely heavy bombing and strafing attacks occurred. The ship was constantly shaken by bomb hits.

The Captain doubled up with a groan and stated that he had been wounded. I saw that he had been hit in the stomach probably by a large piece of shrapnel and was very seriously wounded. He then sank to the deck, and I loosened his collar. I then sent a messenger for a pharmacist's mate to assist the Captain.

Just then the U.S.S. Arizona's forward magazines blew up with a tremendous explosion and large sheets of flame shot skyward, and I began to wonder about our own magazines and whether they were being flooded. I posted a man with the Captain and went down to the forecastle where a number of the crew and officers had gathered. I got hold of a chief turret captain to check immediately on the magazines and flood them if they were not flooded at this time. Large sheets of flame and several fires started aft. Burning fuel oil from the U.S.S. Arizona floated down the stern of the ship. Just then the gunnery officer Lt. Comdr. Berthold came aboard and I asked him to try to flood the forward magazines. I dispatched another gunner's mate to the forward magazines. Shortly thereafter I was informed that the after magazines were completely flooded but that they were unable to flood the forward magazines, as the water was now almost to the main deck.

I then sent word to Lieut. Ricketts and Lieut. (jg) White, who were now on the Flag Bridge with the Captain and told them that I was very anxious to get the Captain on the forecastle and send him to the hospital, and to get some lines and a stretcher and lower him down from the bridge. They sent word back that the Captain was very much against being moved and that he preferred to stay where he was.

I then saw the First Lieutenant on the forecastle and told him that I thought he was now the Commanding Officer and asked him if he had been able to close watertight doors and do any counter flooding. He told me that the ship was counter flooded, and central station had to be evacuated due to flooding. No other damage control measures were possible.

He then asked me to look after all evacuation of the wounded. I had the men on the forecastle search those parts of the ship which were still accessible for wounded men. Large numbers were brought on deck and loaded in the boats that were along side and were sent to Ford Island, the Solace and the Naval Hospital. During all this time the ship was being subjected to heavy dive bombing and strafing attacks. I then told the men on the forecastle whenever they saw an attack coming to get under cover. The ship had listed over about fifteen degrees and was resting in the bottom. Water level had risen to above the level of the main deck and it was impossible to get on this deck or below.

At about this time a large oil fire swept from the U.S.S. Arizona down the port side of the U.S.S. West Virginia. We had no water on board as the fire mains and machinery were out of commission and we were unable to do any fire fighting at all. I got into a motor launch to go to the stern of the ship to investigate the fire. The smoke was so heavy I could not see aft of the bridge. As I got into the boat a sheet of flame swept on top of us and we barely managed to get free of the fire. I then had the boat take me aft. The burning oil on the water swept by the ship and I managed to return to the quarterdeck. I realized then that the ship was lost.

The attack lasted approximately thirty minutes. We were able to fire all our ready ammunition on the A.A. batteries, but were unable to replenish it as the ship was flooded. I then told the men on the quarterdeck with the exception of a small working party to leave the ship. I believe at this time that all the wounded had been taken off the ship and it was extremely dangerous for anyone to remain aboard; that nothing could be done to save the ship and shell from the secondary batteries were constantly exploding due to the intensive heat of the fire midships.

Large quantities of fuel oil floating down from the U.S.S. Arizona were constantly catching fire and created a serious hazard to the Tennessee. With the ship's boats and several officers and men we attempted to get oil and debris that had collected between the ships. We worked for about an hour and a half and finally cleared out most of the oil and debris.

I saw the Executive Officer shortly thereafter on the quarterdeck and I reported to him what I had done. About 2:30 in the afternoon I left the ship with the permission of the Executive Officer and went over to Ford Island.

The conduct of the crew and officers was outstanding. There was no confusion and every man and officer did his duty as well as he was able under the conditions.

[signed]
T.T. BEATTIE,
Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy


{Enclosure (C)]

STATEMENT OF:– Lieut. Comdr. E.E. Berthold, U.S. Navy, Gunnery officer, U.S.S. West Virginia.

Attack by Japanese, Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.

I was ashore at the Pleasanton Hotel during the night of 6-7 December, 1941. The first information I received about the raid was over the radio from one of the Honolulu commercial radio stations. This was about 0800, 7 December, 1941. The approximate wording of the first announcement that I heard was, "Oahu is under attack by the enemy".

Upon receipt of the above announcement, I started for Pearl Harbor in a private car taking along Lieut. Comdr. Killeen (SC), U.S.N., Lieut. L. Knight (Chief Engineer, West Virginia) and another officer from a cruiser.

Traffic was comparatively light on the roads and we soon came in sight of the heavy black smoke from oil fires in the Pearl Harbor area. Upon approaching the vicinity of Hickam Field enemy planes were seen and one hangar received a direct hit and burst into flames as we passed. Evidence of other hits could be seen in Hickam Field. Enroute to and after reaching the Officers' landing in the yard, more low flying enemy dive bombers were seen diving and flying over ships and their immediate vicinity. By the time we reached the Officers' Club Landing (about 0845) the Oklahoma was already capsized, the West Virginia could be seen settled on the bottom, and the Arizona was down and covered with heavy oil fire smoke.

A couple of minutes after reaching the landing, we embarked in a Whitney(?) motor launch and made the forecastle of the West Virginia which could be easily reached directly from the motor launch. Upon reaching the forecastle, heavy smoke and fire covered everything on the ship abaft Turret Two. The oil on the water alongside to port was also blazing and moving forward rapidly toward the bow.

The first Officer I contacted on the forecastle was Lieut. Comdr. Beattie (the navigator). He suggested that I flood the forward magazines (the after magazines were already flooded). I started below and reached the second deck level through hatch at about frame #52. The second deck was already flooded from port to and slightly beyond the amidships line thereby blocking further progress to A-420 on the third deck which I was trying to reach. I have not been able to find out if anyone succeeded in flooding the forward magazines before I attempted to do so. I do not believe they were intentionally flooded. However, I do know that the 3rd deck spaces were completely flooded in the vicinity of frame #50 at about 0850 or 0900. This indicates that the 3rd deck and everything below must have been under water.

Failing to reach the 3rd deck level, I returned to the forecastle through the darkened smoke filled compartments on the second and main decks. I saw no one in these spaces at this time.

Upon again reaching the forecastle, dense black smoke covered that area and the forecastle was ordered abandoned by Lieut. Comdr. Harper. We embarked in motor launches which were alongside and shoved off with oil on the water burning only a couple of feet under the stern of the motor launch and moving toward the bow of the West Virginia. Several men were picked up from the water before proceeding to disembark ashore at the old Magazine Island Landing.

After sending several men to the hospital and first aid stations for treatment, the rest of the party of about 90 men and 10 officers proceeded to the Receiving Station in the yard.

Shortly after arriving at the Receiving Station I was ordered by Comdr. Peterson (C.O. Receiving Station) to organize machine gun and armed guard details to cover the naval housing area and certain adjacent sections of the navy yard.

All men and officers with whom I had any contact conducted themselves in a highly satisfactory manner and did everything in their power that they were ordered to do or that the occasion demanded.

[signed]
E.E. BERTHOLD.


{Enclosure (D)]

Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
10 December 1941.

From: D. C. JOHNSON, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy.
Communication Officer U.S.S. West Virginia.
To: NAVY DEPARTMENT.

Shortly before eight o'clock on the morning of 7 December 1941 the Fire and Rescue party was called away – immediately after, the General Alarm was sounded. I was in bed in my room and immediately put on by trousers, pants and shoes and came on deck by way of the J.O. hatch and proceeded up the weather deck ladder on the starboard side to the boat deck. By the time I arrived on the boat deck the ship was listed considerably to port making it difficult to move along the deck. Lieut. (jg) Freddy White was on the boat deck and was concerned about replenishing the supply of ammunition for the five inch anti-aircraft battery. I remained in the vicinity of the starboard anti-aircraft battery for about five minutes – during this time a flight of seven Japanese horizontal bombers flew over the ship at an altitude of about ten thousand feet in a Vee formation, their course was directly along the center line of the ship and they passed directly over head. The starboard anti-aircraft battery performed very creditably at this time. I particularly observed number three gun in charge of SCHMITZ, K. J., B.M.1c. There was no air on the battery and it was necessary to bring the guns to a level position each time to load – the ships list to port made it very difficult to serve the battery. SCHMITZ worked his crew in a very commendable manner and got out several well aimed rounds using local control but did not get a hit – the formation of Japanese proceeded directly overhead – I did not observe any bomb release from them. SCHMITZ work under the difficulties involved was in the best tradition of the service – I did not personally observe the other guns in the battery, but know they were making every effort to get out shots and some of them did.

After the planes passed over, I observed Lieut. Comdr. Beattie on the forecastle and reported to him there. Some time later, Lieut. Comdr. Beattie directed me to go to the bridge and bring the Captain down – Lt. Comdr. Harper appeared on the forecastle at about this time – at about this time wounded men were beginning to be brought on the forecastle and loaded in boats. I proceeded to the Signal bridge where I found Captain Bennion laying on a cot in full uniform wounded. I had brought a colored mess attendant [Doris Miller] with me - a very powerfully built individual, having in mind that he might pick the Captain up and carry him below. Lieut. Rickets was also on the signal bridge at this time and was also concerned with getting the Captain below. The Captain was carried on the cot to the top of the ladder leading down from the signal bridge – the cot sagged and almost broke – he was returned to the first position where I saw him – both moves were very painful and he requested to be left where he was. There are, of course, no facilities for getting a wounded man down from the signal bridge level, and the Captain was very seriously wounded. I returned to the forecastle and reported to Lieut. Comdr. Beattie that it was advisable to leave the Captain where he was. I went into one of the five inch gun casemates on the port side and directed the removal of two wounded men, using mess benches for stretchers – this operation was very laborious due to the slippery deck, ships list, and darkness in the compartment.

I had Ensign Lawrence embarked in a boat - he had been stunned from a blow on the side of the head – He was out on his feet and was mumbling as if in a stupor. Pay Clerk Westfall was also carried up and placed in a boat. Shortly after this time, Lieut. Comdr. Berthold, Lieut. Comdr. Killeen, Lieut. W. White and Lieut. Knight Appeared on the forecastle in civilian clothes, having come aboard in a boat. Within a very few minutes after this a wall of smoke and flame came along the port side of the ship and enveloped the forecastle. This fire was caused by oil in the water along the portside. At this time all hands on the forecastle abandoned ship, either in a boat from the port rail of the forecastle or by jumping in the water on the starboard side of the forecastle. I stripped off all my clothes and eased myself down on the starboard anchor and jumped in the water and swam to Ford Island. In the water with me I recognized Lieut. W. White, and Ensign Parlett. When I came out of the water, I reported to Commander Hillenkoetter, the Executive Officer, who was standing on the bank at the water's edge where I came ashore. When I swam ashore, it must have been about half past nine o'clock – I base this estimate on the fact that the above officers who came aboard in civilian clothes had come aboard after having returned to Pearl Harbor from their home in Honolulu. In other words I estimate that it must have taken the above officers an hour and a half to learn of the attack and actually perform the travel out to the ship.

After having been ashore for about an hour I returned aboard by crawling up a Jacob's ladder on the starboard side of the Tennessee, across the Tennessee and crawling along one of the Tennessee's broadside guns and dropping down on the main deck aft – the forward part of the ship was burning. Shortly after dark I went over to Ford Island with several other officers and about forty men – we spent the night in an empty building, returning to the West Virginia shortly after dawn.

RECOMMENDATION: I would very much liked to have had a powerful hand flashlight with me during the morning – I left my flashlight in my room at General Quarters but it wouldn't have been of much use – it was the standard navy issue and wouldn't have been very useful in the smoke filled compartments.

RESPECTFULLY
 
[signed]
D.C. JOHNSON, Lieut. Comdr. U.S. Navy
Communication Officer, USS West Virginia


[Enclosrre (E)]

U.S.S. Pennsylvania

Hawaiian Area,
December 11, 1941.

From: Lieutenant Levi J. Knight, Jr., U.S. Navy.
To: The Navy Department.
Subject: U.S.S. West Virginia – Loss of.

  1. On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was on authorized shore leave, residing with my wife at the Hotel Pleasanton, Honolulu, T.H. At about 0810, I arose and began to dress for breakfast, at the same time I heard the distant sound of gunfire. This made no impression [on] me at the time, as I knew there was a TASK FORCE at sea. A few minutes later, I heard a radio broadcast from the room above directing that all Army and Navy personnel and police report to their stations at once, as the island was under attack. My wife confirmed what I had heard and Mrs. Killeen, wife of the Supply Officer, rapped on my door and gave further confirmation of the word over the radio.
  2. I proceeded to Pearl Harbor at once in a car in company with Gunnery Officer, Supply Officer and the Executive Officer of the Boise. As we approached Pearl Harbor, I noted large columns of black smoke arising from the harbor, and as we drew closer, formations of large black bombing planes flying in a direction away from the harbor. As we passed Hickam Field, it was under attack by dive bombers. I observed several direct bomb hits on the hangars, and fragments of planes, wings, etc., were thrown into the air. The planes attacking Hickam Field were smaller than the flack horizontal bombers and were a silver gray or aluminum color. I noted the red sun device of Japan on their wing tips.
  3. On arrival at the Officer's Club Landing in the Navy Yard, I had to wait for a boat for approximately five minutes. As there was none within hailing distance at the moment, I had time to observe the following facts: The Oklahoma had capsized, and nothing was visible but her bottom. The California was sunk with a heavy list to port, and it appeared that the West Virginia was sunk (from a distance). The West Virginia and Arizona were on fire as indicated by heavy smoke columns. A number of ships were putting up a heavy anti-aircraft barrage, particularly those in the Navy Yard, and the Maryland and Tennessee.
  4. A boat was hailed by the Executive Officer of the Maryland and I embarked in it, in company with Maryland, California, and West Virginia officers. This boat made the Maryland first, then the California, and finally the West Virginia. I arrived on board in company with the Gunnery Officer and Supply Officer at about 0845 or 090. At this time the ship had already been sunk, and the forecastle, on which I landed, was only a few feet above the gunwale of the motor launch. The ship was on fire amidships, with choking black smoke driving personnel on the topside forward. As I started to go aft, I encountered the First Lieutenant, who then gave the order to abandon ship, as senior officer present on the forecastle. I then jumped in a boat which was along side, and after picking up all the men the boat would hold, we cleared the side. As we cleared the side the oil along side caught fire, and a sheet of flame covered the water and seared the side from about amidships all the way to the stem. The boat proceeded across the harbor and landed at Huahua point.

[signed]
LEVI J. KNIGHT, JR.
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy.


[Enclosure (F)]
STATEMENT OF: - Lieutenant C. V. Ricketts, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. West Virginia.

At about 0755 on 7 December, 1941, I was sitting at breakfast table in wardroom when assembly was sounded and fire and rescue party called away. Almost immediately thereafter as I was leaving the wardroom general quarters was sounded. As I went up the ladder to the starboard side of the quarter deck, I heard the word being passed by word of mouth that, "The Japs are attacking". As I reached the quarterdeck I felt the ship being hit. She was shaken some but I was not knocked from my feet. I thought then that instead of actual hits the vibration might be caused by bombs falling close aboard. I went up the starboard side of the boat deck to the AA battery, which was being manned. Ensign Hunter was present on the starboard battery and I told him to open fire as soon as possible. Ensign Hunter, incidentally, was attached to the 5" AA battery and that was his regularly assigned battle station. Ensign Graham, who is also in the AA battery was present during the firing although I don't remember giving him any actual orders or seeing him at that time. I then went to the Fire Control tower as I was the senior officer in the gunnery department aboard. The tower was locked so we broke it open. The Captain then appeared and as the ship was listing rapidly to port and I knew probably few C&R officers were aboard I said, "Captain, shall I go below and counterflood". He replied, "Yes, do that". I went down through times square where I picked up Billingsley, B.M.1/c., to help. We went to the main deck and aft on the starboard side and down to the second deck through the escape scuttle in the hatch in front of the Executive Officer's Office. The hatches in this vicinity were closed with escape scuttles open. Wounded were being brought up the hatches forward. The ship was now listing so heavily that on the linoleum decks it was impossible to walk without holding on to something. I reached the third deck by the ladder at frame 87 starboard and went forward to the first group of counterflood valves. Billingsley went aft and got a crank for operating the valves. When he came back, Rucker and Bobick, shipfitters from Repair III, came with him. Billingsley and I started B-163 counterflooding while the other men assisted at other valves. When I was assured that counterflooding was well underway, I told Rucker to counterflood everything on the starboard side until the ship was on an even keel. It was not long before the excessive list to port began to decrease. Rucker told me later that he had not previously received any orders to counterflood but he and Bobick decided that they should anyway and they actually opened the valves to two voids in Repair III. This action on their part, in my opinion, showed excellent initiative and judgement. A considerable number of men were in the starboard passageways on the third deck and I ordered them forward to A-420 to supply ammunition. From information received shortly afterwards I don't believe these men ever got to A-420.

I then went to the AA battery on the boat deck and found that all ammunition from the ready boxes had been expended. I went to time square and formed an ammunition train, opening hatches as necessary. However, when the hatch to the third deck A-420 was opened we found it to be flooded. This hatch was again closed and further attempts to obtain ammunition were abandoned. Ensign Ford, who was assisting me in this attempt then very properly used the ammunition train and other personnel available to evacuate the wounded from the second deck. At about this time someone told me that the Captain was seriously wounded and needed attention. I sent Ensign Jacoby and McKnight, S.F.2/c., forward to get a pharmacist mate to the flag bridge to the Captain. I then went to the flag bridge myself and found Ensign Vail and Ensign Delano with the Captain who was lying in the starboard doorway leading to the Admiral's walk. Lieut.(jg) F. H. White arrived shortly afterwards. I sent Ensign Vail to the boat deck with orders to send all our AA guns crews to the Tennessee to assist in firing. The Captain had a serious abdominal wound, a large piece of metal or other similar object apparently having passed through his abdomen. Leak, Chief Pharmacists Mate, arrived with a first aid kit and dressed the wound as best he could. We put the Captain on a cot and moved him under shelter just aft of the conning tower. He remained here during the second air attack. We had no stretcher but we obtained a wooden ladder about 8' long and put the Captain on it and lashed him to it and tied a line on each corner intending to lower him over the port or starboard side of the conning tower down to the boat deck. By that time however a serious oil fire had started, apparently in the galley, and heavy black smoke poured up over the bridge and boat deck forward. The boat deck had to be evacuated so we could not lower the Captain there. Neither could we lower him aft of the bridge because it was covered with fire. I went to the after part of the bridge to see if there was any avenue of escape. A serious oil fire had started, apparently in the galley, and was covering the forward part of the boat deck and the flag bridge with very heavy black smoke. The starboard after corner of the flag bridge was clear most of the time and I could see that the starboard side of the ship aft of the boat crane was clear of fire and smoke. By this time the fire had spread to the life jacket stowage under the after part of the bridge and flames were coming up through the bomb hole in the port side of the flag bridge deck. The signal flags caught on fire and I cleared out those in outboard end of the starboard flag bag. The personnel I had left with the Captain had been forced to leave him and come aft for air, and a knife to cut the Captain's lines loose from the ladder. As I was comparatively fresh I went forward and found him still lashed to the ladder, one end of which was up against the shield where the latest attempt had been made to lower him. He was still partially conscious. I returned aft and got Lieut.(jg)., F. H. White and two men and we went forward again, unlashed the Captain from the ladder, brought him aft and took him up to the navigation bridge, port side, where there was no fire and comparatively little smoke. On this trip to recover the Captain the area was completely obliterated with heavy black smoke except where a puff of wind would blow it aside. We got aft none to soon as fire from the lumber stowage shortly broke out and covered this area with flames. I left Leak with the Captain and the rest of us went to the starboard side of the flag bridge. By this time Ensign Graham was on the starboard boat crane. He passed us a line and secured his end to a fire hose which we pulled up to the bridge. The hose was connected to a fire plug on the Tennessee. Lieut.(jg) White, one enlisted man, and I attempted to fight the heavy fire on the forward part of the bridge but the pressure was not enough to have much effect. A party under the direction of Ensign Graham was by this time fighting the fire on the boat deck and after side of the bridge structure. About this time Leak came to me and said, "Mr. Ricketts the Captain is about gone." Knowing that we could do him no more good we, with the help of Ensign Graham, passed a line between the starboard boat crane and the flagbridge, secured it, and I ordered the men to go to the crane via this line. In the meantime Leak had gone back to the Captain but he was then dead. When all the men had left and Lieut.(jg) White was on the line I went down the fire hose to the crane. From that time on until relief fire fighting parties arrived we fought the fire on the boat deck, starboard casemates, and port side of the main deck forward. Ensigns Hine, Hazelton, Lombardi, Graham and some others did excellent work in this fire fighting.

The personnel that worked with me on the bridge I cannot commend too highly. They carried out every order promptly and enthusiastically, even when it meant danger to themselves. They did not attempt to abandon the bridge until ordered to do so. These personnel were: Lieut.(jg) F. H. White, Ensign V. Delano, Siewart, A. A., C.S.M., Leak, L. N., CPHM, and Miller, D., Matt,2c, Two or three other men, signalmen, I believe, were also present. Lieut.(jg) F. H. White is to be especially commended for his great help, many suggestions and disregard of personal danger. Ensign Graham and Ensign Lombardi provided us a means of escape by passing us lines from the starboard crane and by directing the fire fighting on the after side of the mast structure.

The Captain deserves the highest praise for his noble conduct to the last. Although in great pain he kept inquiring about the condition of the ship, whether or not we had any pumps running, etc. He was particularly concerned about the fires on board and the oil on the surface of the water. I assured him that everyone was doing everything possible to fight the fire and control the damage. He did not want to be moved and after the fire started kept insisting that we leave him and go below. For a short time after he was wounded it would have been possible to lower him down, but his wound was so serious I knew that he would be better off with as little handling as possible. Leak concurred with me in this opinion. However, when the fire broke out around the after part of the bridge structure I moved him regardless, because of the suffocating smoke and the approaching fire.

I have quite a number of recommendations based upon observation during and after the action. I would like to have the opportunity of submitting these at a later date as their compilation will take some time and I believe their basis makes their consideration desirable.

(signed)
C. V. RICKETTS.

ADDENDA:

Looking backwards I can see that I should have utilized more time between the first and second attack in attempting to get ammunition to all machine guns. It might have been possible to get some from the Tennessee for the after guns. Also I should have broken out marines with rifles and their ready ammunition. Such action might have helped repel the second attack.

(signed)
C. V. RICKETTS.


[Enclosure (G)]

STATEMENT OF: - Lieut. (jg) H.B. Stark, USN., U.S.S. West Virginia

Attack by Japanese, December 7, 1941.

Shortly before eight o'clock on Sunday morning I was in my room double george [room GG] on the half deck. Double george is the third stateroom counting from aft on the starboard side of the half deck, in the third watertight compartment from aft. As I was getting up from my bunk I heard the call for "Away Fire and Rescue Party", followed immediately by General Quarters. This was followed almost immediately by two or three violent explosions in quick succession. The ship started listing to port right away. Grabbing an armload of clothes I ran forward and found only one man on the half deck manning the repair phone. Between us we started closing watertight doors working from aft, although we did not check the after door leading to the airplane crane, which normally should be shut. As I dogged down the door forward of my room I heard something let go in the compartment, some leak starting violently. By that time there were a few more men in the compartment above. The large watertight hatch over that space was dropped and I crawled out through the escape scuttle. As I did I skidded over to port and landed in about four feet of water with a scum of fuel oil. I decided to work my way along the starboard side of the third deck to see if counter-flooding was being accomplished. To my mind there was no danger of sinking in shallow water but there was great danger of turning over on the port side, as the port list was getting greater. As I dropped down into the trunk to the steering motor room, fire and grains of burning powder showered around me. With the help of a marine sentry the slight fire was extinguished but we could not completely shut the hatch leading down to the steering motor room – it seemed jammed although almost shut. I sent the marine up to shut the hatch over me as I undogged the starboard door. When I stepped into the mess attendants' compartment someone helped me shut the door. At that time I first noticed that it was completely dark except for a glimmer of a flashlight forward. I groped my way along the deck to the next compartment through the open door and found damage control gear locker. Puccio SeaF3/c, I think, had broken into the locker and was hunting for counterflood cranks. He found one and I found one, also a flashlight. I told him to flood forward while I did aft. I ran back into the after compartment and started cranking. We worked for some time on three voids, I believe, but were unable to build up any pressure before the men starting falling to the deck. The valve setting were on open, we could not lift any, and the men were all passing out. I grabbed someone and told everyone to haul somebody out the starboard hatch on the quarterdeck just aft of the break of the deck. Then, again I remember nothing until I was under the overhang of turret two, my turret. My head ached terrifically, I could not breathe and all my extremities tingled as if they had been asleep and were just being wakened. Finding out from my CTC Crawford, that no one was in control, I started for that station with the starboard AA guns firing in my face, it seemed to me. That was the first time I realized the AA guns were firing. I ran into Lieut. Ricketts on the boat deck by number three AA gun and asked him if he needed men. He said, "Yes, on the AA ammunition supply." I noticed several AA officers on the battery and it was functioning wonderfully, I got back under the overhang of the turret, but the hatches were closed. I passed out in the exertion of opening the right tail hatch, but was able to tell Crawford to get men on the AA ammunition train. How long I lay there trying to breathe I do not know until Crawford returned, told me that the ammunition train was flooded, that all boat deck ammunition was exhausted and that the Captain had ordered, "Abandon Ship". I made sure that my turret was evacuated, then remember hitting the water from the forecastle. I tried to swim but was too weak. Glover, E.R., FM2c, and Bircher, H.C.., SeaF1/c of my division held me up and dumped me into a life raft. The next I definitely remember I was on Ford Island at the dispensary.

[signed]
H.B. STARK.


[Enclosure (H)]

U.S.S. West Virginia

Hawaiian Area,
December 11, 1941.

From: Lieutenant (jg) F.H. White, D-V(G), U.S.N.R.
To: The Navy Department.
SUBJECT: Statement of Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.

At 0756, approximately, I was in the wardroom when the Fire and Rescue party was called away by bugle. I ran to the quarter deck. The first thing I saw, on reaching topside was a Japanese plane over a ship, ahead of the West Virginia, from which a column of water and smoke was rising. As I ran forward, I stopped at the Deck office and sounded the general alarm just as the first torpedo struck the ship. In route my battle station in secondary forward I noticed no one in charge of the AA battery on the boat deck where the crews were manning the guns, so I remained there and took charge of the battery, breaking out the ready service ammunition, forming an ammunition train and getting the starboard guns firing, local control.

The ship had received three or four torpedo hits which threw oil and water all over the decks, which combined with the list to – approximately 25° – made footing very precarious. Due to the list of the ship, the port gun crews were brought to starboard as their guns would not elevate sufficiently. The air to the guns had gone out, which necessitated depression for hand loading. While the guns were in action, several bombs dropped on or near the ship, but the discipline on the guns was excellent. When the ammunition in the ready service boxes was expended, I went below to see if more ammunition could be brought up.

In passing through Times Square I picked up four hands from the secondary battery who accompanied me, going down the hatch from Times Square to A-605 then to A-511.

In A-511 water was up to the airports on the port side and extended to the centerline one battle port was not dogged down which one hand of my detail took care of. The starboard armored hatch from A-511 to A-420 was open, but A-420 was flooded to within a few inches of this hatch. A great many injured men were lying on deck or in the water in A-511, whom I ordered my detail to evacuate to Times Square. I returned to Times Square where Ens. T.J.F. Ford was in charge of secondary battery which was not at the moment engaged and ordered secondary battery personnel to evacuate all injured from second and main decks to Times Square. From there I returned to the AA battery where I reported to Lieutenant Commander D.C. Johnson that ammunition could not be brought up and informed him of the situation below deck.

Lieutenant Commander J.H. Harper saw me and told me to go to the bridge and bring down the Captain who was wounded. Lieutenant C.V. Ricketts, Ens. V. Delano, C.S.M. Siewert, D. Miller, M.Att.2c. and several signalmen were on the signal and flag bridges, in the immediate vicinity of the starboard admiral's walk where the Captain was lying. The Captain's abdomen was cut apparently by a fragment of bomb, about three by four inches, with part of his intestines protruding. The Captain deserves the highest praise, for although he was in great pain, his only concern was for the ship and crew. The Captain did not want to be moved, but he was carefully carried to shelter abaft the conning tower where Leak, C.Ph.M. administered first aid. Under direction of Lt. Ricketts, material to construct a stretcher on which to lower the Captain was procured, while D. Miller, Matt.2c. and I manned #1 and #2 machine gun forward of the conning tower.

A serious oil fire from the galley spread to the mast structure, with flame and thick black smoke preventing our lowering the Captain forward of the conning tower although an unsuccessful attempt was made. The smoke and flames prevented on from seeing more than a foot or two, and the heat was intense. I helped place the Captain on top of the search light forward of the conning tower and tried to untie the lashing which secured him to the improvised stretcher, but was unable to do so, I then went aft, groping my way to the other side of the signal bridge, bringing the enlisted men with me to look for something to cut the lashing. Lt. Ricketts was by the starboard signal bags and I reported to him and he went forward to take a look followed by Miller and me. The Captain's stretcher had slid aft, with the captain's head down and the lashing loosened. The four of us carried him aft and up to the Navigation Bridge where we laid him on deck under shelter of the port AA. director and out of the flame. The life jackets stowage and signal bags were burning by this time and Lt. Ricketts, Siewert and I threw burning flags over the side. A fire hose was sent up by heaving line which I used to try to fight fire but the pressure was insufficient. By this time the bridge was burning to starboard, and the signal bridge all over. Ens. Graham went up the starboard boat crane and sent over a line which we secured to the rail on the bridge and used to cross to the crane and thence to the boat deck. From then until relieved fought fire.

Lt. C.V. Ricketts deserves the highest commendation for his exemplary inspiration and leadership. Had he not counter flooded, it is almost certain the West Virginia would have capsized as did the Oklahoma. His presence of mind, cool judgement and complete disregard of personal safety are an inspiration to all hands.

(signed)
F.H. WHITE,
Lieutenant (jg), U.S.N.R.


{Enclosure (I)]
 
BB48/P15
UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET
BATTLESHIPS, BATTLE FORCE
U.S.S. West Virginia
 
    Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
December 11, 1941.
         

From: Commanding Officer
To: Commandant Fourteenth Naval District.
 
Via: Commander Battleships, Battle Force.
 
Subject: Barge YG17; Commendation of.

  1. The Commanding Officer desires to register his sincere appreciation for the services rendered by the Commanding Officer and personnel of the barge YG-17 during the time it was engaged in assisting to extinguish the fires aboard the West Virginia and the Arizona.
  2. Chief Boatswain's Mate L.M. Jansen, the Commanding Officer of YG-17, was first to place his barge alongside the West Virginia, and until the fire was completely extinguished, he kept his barge alongside regardless of the danger from fire and exploding projectiles, maneuvering to direct his streams of water to the places where they would be of most advantage.
  3. After the job on the West Virginia was completed, YG-17 went alongside the Arizona and again displayed the most praiseworthy qualities of courage, initiative and skill until that fire, too, was extinguished.

[signed]
R.H. HILLENKOETTER.


[Enclosure (J)]

P15/(0975)
FIRST ENDORSEMENT to
West Virginia BB48/P15
of December 11, 1941.

From: Commander Battleships, Battle Force.
To: Commandant Fourteenth Naval District.
 
Subject: Barge YG17–commendation of

  1. Forwarded.
  2. The conduct of Chief Boatswain's Mate L.R. Jansen on this occasion was personally observed by Commander Battleships who desires to add his high commendation of Jansen's conduct.
  3. The Maryland was closely berthed to the southwestward of the West Virginia-Tennessee nest. The West Virginia was outboard of the Tennessee. Closely to the northwestward of the West Virginia-Tennessee nest was the burning Arizona. The Tennessee was on fire. The West Virginia was seriously on fire and projectiles were exploding. There was a tremendous oil fire along the Arizona, Maryland and Tennessee, as wind and current were sweeping dense, black smoke and fire on the water from the Arizona southwestward to the West Virginia-Tennessee nest and from that nest to the Maryland.
  4. Upon his own initiative and with a promptness commensurate with the great urgency of the need, Jansen placed his barge against the West Virginia with his bow largely enveloped in dense billows of oil smoke and with the burning oil on the water around his bow.
  5. These dangers and at time apparently untenable conditions did not prevent Jansen and his gallant crew from playing their hoses upon the fire and thereby rendering signal service. They were later joined by other craft.
  6. Commander Battleships fully concurs with the report of the Commanding Officer of the West Virginia and recommends that Chief Boatswain's Mate L.R. Jansen receive suitable commendation and recognition for his gallant conduct.

[signed]
W.S. ANDERSON


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