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Pearl Harbor: Oral Histories Part 1

Lieutenant Ruth Erickson, NC, USN

… I was in my room by that time changing into uniform. It was getting dusky, almost like evening. Smoke was rising from burning ships. I dashed across the street, through a shrapnel shower, got into the lanai and just stood still for a second as were a couple of doctors. I felt like I were frozen to the ground, but it was only a split second. I ran to the orthopedic dressing room but it was locked. A corpsmen ran to the OD's [Officer-of-the-Day's] desk for the keys. It seemed like an eternity before he returned and the room was opened. We drew water into every container we could find and set up the instrument boiler. Fortunately, we still had electricity and water. Dr. [CDR Clyde W.] Brunson, the chief of medicine was making sick call when the bombing started. When he was finished, he was to play golf...a phrase never to be uttered again.

The first patient came into our dressing room at 8:25 a.m. with a large opening in his abdomen and bleeding profusely. They started an intravenous and transfusion. I can still see the tremor of Dr. Brunson's hand as he picked up the needle. Everyone was terrified. The patient died within the hour.

Then the burned patients streamed in. The USS Nevada (BB-36) had managed some steam and attempted to get out of the channel. They were unable to make it and went aground on Hospital Point right near the hospital. There was heavy oil on the water and the men dived off the ship and swam through these waters to Hospital Point, not too great a distance, but when one is burned... How they ever managed, I'll never know.

The tropical dress at the time was white t-shirts and shorts. The burns began where the pants ended. Bared arms and faces were plentiful. Personnel retrieved a supply of flit guns from stock. We filled these with tannic acid to spray burned bodies. Then we gave these gravely injured patients sedatives for their intense pain.

Orthopedic patients were eased out of their beds with no time for linen changes as an unending stream of burn patients continued until mid afternoon. A doctor, who several days before had renal surgery and was still convalescing, got out of his bed and began to assist the other doctors.

To read the full text of the account, click here


Captain John E. Lacouture, USN

… The night before Pearl Harbor, I was invited to a party with all the top admirals at the Royal Hawaiian, and Hilo Hattie put on her act and did her dancing and sang her songs, and we had a great time. The mother of a gal that I was with said, "Well, now no need your going back to the ship tonight. Come back and stay at my place. We've got plenty of extra rooms."

So I went out there and about seven o'clock in the morning, she came in and started shaking me. "Wake up, wake up! The Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor!" I said, "Are you crazy? Go away, I'm sleepy." She finally convinced me, so I jumped in my car and headed towards Pearl, and the roads were almost vacant. There were almost no cars on the road, and I go down to the landing, the officers' landing there, and the gig was waiting there for a captain of one of the other destroyers, which was just going out.

I couldn't believe it. All the battleships are overturned and all smoking, and all I could think of was all my [Naval Academy] classmates and everything, and what had happened to them. The commander who was captain of one of the other destroyers waiting there, his gig was ready. He said, "Jump in," as the ship came by. It had just gotten underway, and as they went down the channel, the Japanese second attack came in so we started shooting at them and they tried to sink the [USS] Nevada [BB-36], the battleship that had gotten underway……And they were trying to sink it in the channel. I guess one of the young ensigns ran it aground to keep it from sinking in the channel. And at the time they were bombing I think it was the [USS] Pennsylvania [BB-38] that was in dry dock there.
And we shot down, oh, at least one of the airplanes, and as we went by, all the planes, the seaplanes and the hangers and everything on Ford Island were burning. Just as we got out to the entrance of the harbor there, we did manage to sink a little Japanese miniature submarine.

To read the full text of the account, click here

Published: Wed Oct 12 11:07:09 EDT 2022