December 14, 1941
|The Commanding Officer
|The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
|Brief Report of the Japanese Attack of December 7, 1941
|(a) Your restricted dispatch 102102 of December
|(A) Copy of C.O. announcement to officers and crew by general announcing system, dated December 11, 1941. [not included]
(B) Helena Mailgram 140115 of December 1941.
(C) Medical Officer's Casualty List. [not included]
- The following brief report of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is submitted in compliance with reference (a). Considerable study has been made of this attack in an endeavor to eliminate conflicting impressions, and arrive at concrete conclusions, particularly with reference to times, numbers and types of planes, damage inflicted to the enemy, punishment received, etc. Statements have been collected from all key men and officers. Heads of Departments have surveyed these reports, and, from these and their own observations, have submitted a correlated report representing their own department conclusions to the Commanding Officer. This report is based on the Commanding Officer's own observations and conclusions after a review of the reports submitted by Department Heads. Evidently any report submitted at this time will have to be augmented as a further and more complete study is made.
- Offensive Measures Taken.
- Planes were observed over Ford Island at about 0757. These were recognized as Japanese planes when at an altitude of about 4000 feet. The Officer of the Deck as promptly notified by C.A. FLOOD, S.M.1c, on watch on the signal bridge. This man has had recent duty on the Asiatic Station, and identified the character of the planes immediately. Ensign W.W. Jones, U.S.N., Officer of the Deck, without delay, turned on the general alarm and passed word over the general announcing system, "Japanese planes bombing Ford Island, Man all battle stations, break out service ammunition". (This time is fairly accurately fixed by the signalman in charge of watch, C.A. Flood, who was standing by the "Prep" signal for 0800 colors. It is confirmed by the Engineering log and also by H.F. Korloch, C.T.C., U.S.N., who had just relieved as gangway Security Watch; also by Ensign J.J. Armstrong, U.S.N.R., and Ensign W.W. Jones, U.S.N., who were in the process of relieving as O.O.D.). Helena guns were in action about 0801.
- Ammunition was expended approximately as follows: Five inch 375 rounds; 1.1"/75 3000 rounds; .50 caliber 5000 rounds.
- Enclosure B outlines attacks, phases, and results.
- Damage inflicted on the enemy. As outlined in Enclosure B.
- Own losses and damage.
- Direct Hit. One torpedo observed to be fired by a torpedo plane flying low over the southern tip of Ford Island was fired at the Helena at a range of about 500 yards. This torpedo was fired about one minute after general quarters had been sounded, and about one and one-half minutes after the Japanese planes were sighted over Ford Island. Our crew were running for their general quarters stations. This accounted for a large loss of personnel by flash burns from the explosion and from concussion in passageways. No guns were yet in action and therefore no opposition to the Japanese plane. The torpedo struck with a violent explosion on the starboard side at approximately frame 75 about 18 feet below the water line.
- Near Hits by bombs. About four near misses from bombs received from which there were a few fatal casualties and many minor injuries to personnel.
- One strafing attack from which little damage was received. This was due to the very early period of the engagement in which the attack occurred. This attack was delivered just prior to the torpedo hit noted above, and was about the time general quarters were being sounded (0757), and for this reason the men had not reached their exposed machine gun stations on the top side.
- The damage received, and measures taken to meet it is listed by departments as follows:
- The major damage affecting the Gunnery installations were to fire control and power wiring to both main battery and 5" anti-aircraft battery. The major portion of wiring passing through the engineering spaces flooded as a result of torpedo hit are now unserviceable. Auxiliary power sources are available, and in general only auxiliary fire control circuits are available. Minor material damage was inflicted by bomb splinters and machine gun bullets.
- The initial torpedo hit put out of commission the turbo generator then in use. Prompt action by the Engineers in starting and cutting in the forward Diesel generator made power available to all gun mounts within one or two minutes. Considerable difficulty was experienced in attempts to maintain fire control circuits during and subsequent to the action. On four occasions electrical fires resulted in the Plotting Room and on another occasion in the forward distribution room. These fires were quickly and efficiently put out. During periods of actual firing power was always available at the mounts.
- Most casualties to personnel were caused by flash burns from the torpedo explosion. Other casualties inflicted during the attack included:
Two men (trainer and number one loader) on mount I of the 1.1"/75 suffered powder burns from the blasts of the 5" Mount I.
Two men (the pointer and one loader) of Mount I of the 1.1"/75 suffered injuries, the pointer from powder burns from the blast of No. II 5" Mount, the loader, a flesh wound in the arm by bomb splinter.
On Mount III of the 1.1"/75 the trainer was killed by bomb splinter. The second loader suffered wound in shoulder from machine gun bullet, the gunner's mate suffered minor wound on face under left eye from glancing machine gun bullet.
On Mount IV of the 1.1"/75, the gunner's mate received minor wounds upon arm, nose, and chest from bomb splinters.
Bomb splinters from near miss on starboard quarter inflicted casualties as follows to men in vicinity of .50 caliber machine guns aft: One gunners' mate second class killed, two seaman first class wounded, one officer (Ensign P.V. Thompson, USN) wounded.
- Damage sustained:
- Compartments flooded due to torpedo hit at approximately frame 75 starboard side below the armor belt.
Boiler room Boiler room B-1-1
Boiler operating space B-2
Boiler room B-3-1
Boiler room B-4
Port shaft alley
- Fuel tanks flooded by torpedo hit at approximately frame 75 starboard side below armor belt.
Diesel Fuel Tank
|Reserve Feed Tanks
- Fuel oil seepage and fire hazard on third deck causing securing of compartments frames 61-82
Ice Machine Room.
Provision Issue Room.
- Paint Locker A-203-1A – Shock ruptured many cans of paint causing fire hazard. Paint locker is secured until adequate cleaning has been completed.
Smoke Screen Generator – frame 150 – Shock weakened foundation and carried away air supply lines.
Sick Bay Area – frames 39-49 third deck – Flooded to depth of about 6 inches with water due to open drains and settling of the ship and lack of sufficient firemain pressure on eductors of forward drains. This was corrected after the action.
- Distortion of midsection of the ship.
- Indications show force of explosion forced third deck up in the vicinity of frame 75.
When docking, indications show keel forced down one foot in vicinity of frame 75.
- Services to forward part of the ship (bow to frame 61) ruptured in forward fire room:
- Fire main.
- High pressure air.
- Drainage main.
- Ventilation power.
Frame 61 – Plotting Room – leakage via armored cables.
Frame 61 – Distribution Forward – leakage via armored cables.
Frame 82 – Boiler room B-5-1 – Starboard lower corner showed buckled plates but not ruptured. Only leakage through #1 shaft gland and one pipe flange.
- Numerous shrapnel and missile holes throughout the structure above the water line on the starboard side.
Shock and blast carried away many fittings, light bulkheads and deck lockers.
- Action taken:
- Flooded compartments, boiler rooms and fire rooms
– bulkhead 61 in the Plotting Room was shored.
– bulkhead 82 in boiler room B-5-1 was shored.
All hatches and watertight doors closed to flooded areas.
- Services forward:
- Jumper hose connection over flooded spaces provided fire main pressure forward.
- Jumper power leads over flooded spaces provided ventilation forward.
- Sick Bay Area – drains closed and plugged – flooded area closed. Battle Dressing Station Forward moved to Wardroom.
- Isolated third deck area – frames 61 to 82 – because of fire hazard. Oil seepage extended throughout third deck in this area to about 4 inches. This was relieved by removal from the ship of fuel oil forward and aft, and by removing ammunition, thus decreasing the draft.
- Damage Control – General Comment:
- The personnel of the C&R Department report that upon hearing of the bombing of Ford Island they proceeded to their general quarters stations and set condition afirm as soon as possible. The time required for setting condition afirm was 8 minutes, approximately.
The torpedo hit placed out of commission power and fire main pressure. Also apparently started fires on the third deck. The fire was the explosion blast venting from the engine room via engine room hatch, passage B-306-L, and hatches 81 port and starboard to the second deck. The remainder of the blast was vented via the boiler rooms and stack uptakes.
Repair parties entered passage B-306-L putting out small burning particles. There was no general fire. The flooded compartments were isolated and bulkheads were shored.
Repair parties assisted the wounded and the battle dressing stations in whatever manner requested.
The men attempted to hook up the fire main to the dock but were stopped because of the second attack. Later, they were unable to locate plugs on the dock.
Gas Masks and protective clothing were issued to the crew as soon as possible.
Power and fire main jumpers were placed. Compartments were patrolled and void soundings taken continuously. The fire main was out of use about 17 minutes.
Repair I assisted in sending 1.1" and .50 caliber ammunition to forward guns from forward whip hoist.
In general the personnel of the repair parties conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, being extremely versatile in carrying out their own duties and assisting in whatever manner they could other activities. The highest praise belongs to each and every one for a duty well done.
- Damage repaired during and after action.
- Fire main forward of after boiler rooms. This was partially restored by Repairs III and I running jumpers between risers 3 and 6. Firemain pressure was restored to ice machines on Monday, December 8, by running a jumper direct to this machine.
- Main Drain: The after section from #3 Fireroom throughout the after part of the ship was restored by closing the after out-out valve in the forward engineroom by its remote control from the 2nd deck. Unfortunately, while the forward room was flooding, and before the cutout valve was closed, the bilge suction in the port shaft alley, being either partially or fully open – this cannot be determined – allowed this room to flood. later, however, when the situation in #3 fireroom (flooding, through the gland of #1 shaft) was brought under control, the port shaft alley was pumped and restored. It was necessary throughout the period the Forward engineroom was flooded to keep #3 Fire and Bilge pump on the bilges of #3 Fireroom.
- Electric Power and Lighting served by #2 Distribution Board: As #2 Distribution Board was blown out by the torpedo explosion all its power and lighting outlets went dead. jumpers were run by the Electrical Division to restore essential circuits.
- Damage that can and must be repaired to make vessel seaworthy
- Remove propellers from #1 and #4 shafts. (To enable vessel to proceed with #2 and #3 shafts without drag.) Propellers are not damaged.
- Restore evaporator plant. This requires supply of auxiliary steam for air ejectors and exhaust steam for heat. The electric power has been temporarily restored by cutting in on #1 Distribution Board.
- Restore main drain throughout ship. Damaged in #1 engine room.
- Restore fire main. Damaged in #1 engine room and possibly in #2 boiler room.
- Port auxiliary steam line. (This may not be damaged, however.)
- Auxiliary exhaust line through forward engine room.
- High pressure air line through forward engine room.
- Leads from #2 Distribution Board and all electric leads running on starboard side of #1 engine room are destroyed. It is essential that as many as possible be restored to enable 5" and 6" battery to be fired in the designed manner.
- Sound-power telephone circuits 2JZ, 2JV, 3JV. Temporary leads may be used to restore these circuits.
- Damage that will require an extended period to repair.
- All machinery in #1 engine room.
- All machinery in #1 Boiler Operating space. (Salt water immersion damage.)
- All boilers in #1 and #2 Boiler Rooms. (Salt water immersion damage). The extent of damage to #3 boiler may be larger than merely salt water immersion damage due to its position relative to the torpedo hit.
- #2 Distribution Board and #2 generator, and electrical leads to and therefrom.
- Main steam and other steam and fresh water drain piping.
- All reserve feed bottoms and fuel-oil tanks on starboard side and bottom. Some port side tanks may be damaged, the exact status unknown at this time.
- Distinguished Conduct of Personnel.
- Every man and officer observed on this ship conducted himself in a meritorious and exemplary manner. All were cool, determined, resourceful, vigorous and individually and collectively conducted themselves with no hint of confusion or hysteria and with no thought of danger to themselves. To point out distinguished conduct would require naming every person I observed. The following quoted report of one Gunnery Division Officer is indicative of all:
"Subject: Distinguished action, report of.
1. Because every man of the 5th Division did his duty I feel it impossible to mention or commend any single person without a resulting injustice to the others. But in fairness it seems nothing but proper to commend GREENWALD, R.D., Sea1c, U.S. Navy who died at his station as trainer during the action. Other commendations must include the entire roll call of the crew for the 5th Division.
- The functioning of all engineering personnel in reestablishing electric and steam power, repair of damaged systems to prevent further damage, the securing of machinery to prevent fire, the rescue of injured personnel was in accordance with the high standards of the United States Navy. Not a single instance of faltering on any task as noted; on the other hand, many men performed tasks other than their regular ones with skill and despatch.
Had not a single order been issued – and very few had to be, in fact, – it is believed that every job would have been carried out by someone who saw the need for the task. This reveals the intelligent discipline that is standard throughout the ship. The orders that were necessary to issue were those that required timing, and they were carried out fully, quickly, and well.
The Forward Boiler personnel on watch proved to be a typical example of American courage and discipline. An explosion blew out a fuel tank behind the steaming boiler; the personnel knew not what it was but proceeded to put to rights a distorted situation in the dark with guns firing, water pouring through a bulkhead, and super-heater temperature alarms and horns blowing due to short circuits. With all this they continued their work of securing the fireroom with water up to their chests before abandoning. After abandoning the room they dogged down the hatches and reported to the Repair III party for further duties.
- Enclosure (A) represent the opinion of the Commanding Officer at this time. it is anticipated that a supplementary letter will be forwarded giving specific instances of heroism after opportunity is offered to make a full and concise study in detail. Recommendations at this time would be premature and would result in injustice to many whose individual acts have not yet been uncovered.
- Other Items of Interest.
- The Commanding Officer was on board, and was on the bridge within 2-3 minutes from the arrival of Japanese planes. Most of the damage done to all ships was during the first few minutes of the attack and before any offensive action was offered. Once gun opposition was in full swing, Japanese planes were noted to turn away from gun fire, or keep at a respectable altitude. It was noted on this ship that subsequent bombs dropped at the ship were off the bow or quarter, and not throughout the midship section where the 1.1" battery and 5"/38 battery were belching forth a continuous stream of fire. It was also noted that planes headed directly toward the Helena turned from her fire and diverted the attack to the Downes, Cassin, and Shaw in drydock. On another occasion Japanese planes were noted to try and wiggle out of Helena fire and dropped their bombs wildly off the starboard bow, during the same wave that bombed the Nevada as she was rounding 1010 pier on her way out.
- (1) The importance of protective clothing against flash burns was forcefully demonstrated.
(2) There is no reluctance of personnel to the use of steel helmets since they have once been under fire.
(3) The vicinity of the signal bridge and pilot house is untenable during full action of all A.A. batteries. 4. (4) The present location and arrangement of the sky control station is almost untenable during full action of all A.A. batteries.
(5) Splinter protection must be provided for exposed personnel.
(6) Present location of sky lookouts is unsuitable. They must be centrally located in immediate vicinity of sky control officer.
(7) All hands now have a high respect for the 1.1"/75 battery even though our installation as yet has no directors or power control and even the cooling water must be pumped by hand.
(8) No time was wasted in waiting or going for magazine keys.
The locks were immediately broken on all magazines, ready locker, and clipping rooms necessary for immediate ammunition supply. Service ammunition was already at every gun (including turret guns) within the few minutes required for the Gunnery Officer to slip on a few clothes and reach his control station.
(9) Ammunition was broken out and delivered to other ships and stations during and immediately after the engagement as follows: to U.S.S. California 25000 rounds of .50 cal. (about 5000 rounds already belted and belting links furnished for remainder); to U.S.S. California (later) one .50 Cal. belting machine; to U.S.S. Cachalot 1000 .50 Cal. metallic belt links; to U.S. Naval Air Station, 14 Naval District, 15000 rounds of .30 Cal. and 10000 rounds of .45 Cal.; the guns on top of adjoining buildings in Navy Yard several thousand rounds of either .50 caliber to .30 caliber.
(10) During the early part of the action men were requested by the Oglala to assist them in servicing their forward gun. Three men went and assisted until the vessel sank at which time they jumped into the water and swam back to Helena and continued their duties on board this vessel. Likewise two men were requested and sent on board to handle their lines aft. These also later swam back to the ship.
(11) The individual initiative and adaptability of our men was truly amazing. In very numerous instances men were assigned duties and tasks for which they had no previous instruction or training and they performed them like veterans.
(12) On one occasion the Mount Captain of a 5" mount requested the officers and men of the Oglala please clear the Bridge because he desired to fire through it. This was done.
- The Torpedo explosion occurred about one minute after General Quarters was sounded; men were, therefore, on their way to Battle Stations. Many did not arrive; some were killed, and some were injured. No. 3 boiler was auxiliary boiler, the forward engineroom being used as auxiliary engineroom, the #2 generator as auxiliary generator. When the torpedo hit the engine room all light and power went off the ship. The men continued through the darkness to their stations. They stand-by diesel watch, machinist mate and electrician's mate, started #1 diesel and had it on the line within one minute. The bus-tie from Boards 1 and 3 to Board 2 tripped automatically so power was restored to #1, 3, and 4 boards by this generator. The crew of the after diesel (#2 diesel) started their engine within another 2 minutes and the electric plant "split" so that #1 engine was serving its board, and #2 serving boards 3 and 4. This action was taken to prevent loss of power aft due to fact that bus-tie connections between the #1 and the 3 and 4 boards ran through the damaged, flooded engine room. This action on the part of the electrical and diesel personnel was in accordance with doctrine established in the past.
As steam power was entirely lost on the ship after the torpedo hit, means had to be taken to light off the after boilers and establish auxiliaries there. The most important auxiliary, of course, being the Fire and Flushing pump to restore fire main pressure. The After Boiler personnel had no lights due to a relay on a lighting panel having tripped due to the explosion. Using hand emergency lanterns they could find no sprayer plates in the boiler space. Chief watertender Westbrook waded through about two feet of oil, and through the pungent smoke of the explosion that still lingered in the sealed-up, non-ventilated spaces of the third deck to the Boiler Cleaning Station in the Ice Machine room to obtain a supply. These he delivered to the After Boiler personnel who then lighted off #6 boiler using natural ventilation. As the explosion had thrown #1 shaft out of position wrecking the shaft coupling in #3 fireroom and distorting the stuffing gland between the flooded engineroom, the firing of #6 boiler and the water level rise under the boiler resolved itself into a race against time. The M Division Officer had opened all auxiliary stops between boiler #6 and the after engineroom. When the boiler pressure reached 50 PSI he cut in the Fire and Flushing pump to supply the fire main. A short while later he started a Fire and Bilge pump on the main drain to keep #3 fireroom bilge water level below the boiler. Boilers 5, 7 and 8, were meanwhile, being drained down to steaming level, and when drained, were lighted off.
While the after boilers were being readied for steaming, the Forward Boiler Operating personnel were securing #3 boiler and the Boiler Operating Space machinery.
Ensign Westphal, the B Division Officer, and chief watertender Westbrook, were on their station in time to take charge of the securing of the room. Before the room was secured, they were up to their chests in water. Westbrook observed the time they abandoned the room as exactly 0800. Water and oil were almost to the third deck level in #2 fireroom by this time.
Forced draft blowers in the after boiler rooms were running about 0830, and as steam pressure was raised to 500 PSI steps were taken to get main machinery ready to get underway. #3 generator was warmed up and, after considerable difficulty, was put on the line. Feed water was getting low, and only bottoms B-954-W and 955-W were found to be good. As these ran dry, make-up feed water was taken from the dock.
The after engineroom machinery was tested out, engines 2 and 3 rolled 6 times in each direction, and then the Engineer Officer went to the Bridge to report condition of readiness, which was, to run at 10 knots for about 5 hours, at the end of which time feed water would have been expended. He recommended that the ship not get underway.
- Most of the casualties consisted of flash burns from high explosive and occurred chiefly in the following compartments: B-305-2L, B-306L, B-203-2L and B-204-1L. Other casualties occurred in the forward boiler room operating spaces, firerooms No. 1 and No. 2 and in the forward engineroom where the torpedo struck. Six wounds were caused by splinters and machine gun strafing, two of which were fatal. Two fractured bones were treated. Of the 100 casualties received; 50 injured were transferred to the Naval Hospital, 26 were killed outright and sent to the morgue, and 21 retained on board under treatment. Subsequently 5 hospital cases have died bringing the total dead to date to 31. Civilian workmen on the pier assisted in evacuating the injured.
- Settling of the ship caused flooding of sick bay by water backing up through the drains of the isolation ward shower, venereal treatment room and sick bay head. These were plugged and the forward dressing station was transferred to the Wardroom.
- The Helena was moored at 1010 pier, berth two, port side to dock, heading 210 true, with the Oglala secured to the starboard side. The Oglala was later shifted to a vacant berth astern of the Helena (about 0850).
[Mailgram reformatted with punctuation, lower case, etc. for readibility]
|Commanding Officer, USS Helena
|Date 14 DEC 1941
|Mailed at Pearl Harbor, T.H.
Air attack December seven in three general phase periods. Times approximate.
First phase 0757 to 0820. Second phase 0900 to 0940. Third phase 1105 to 1115.
First phase: dive bombers about 12000 feet, diving from southerly direction toward Ford Island and battleships west side of south channel; about twelve to fifteen planes. Followed almost immediately by torpedo planes in section of three attacking battleships and cruisers, and by other group of about ten dive bombers attacking Pennsylvania, dry docks, and cruisers east of south channel, from south westerly direction. Followed shortly by two groups of horizontal bombers; one group about twelve planes in tight vee of vee at 15000 feet, course about 020 true; formation opened out when AA burst close; observed to release bombs which fell in ragged pattern in south channel and vicinity of battleships west of south channel. Other group horizontal bombers, course about 070 true, 14000 feet, passed over Helena; bomb drops not observed.
Observed light bombers and at least one fighter strafing during torpedo attacks; second phase consisted two general attacks by dive and glide bombers. First attack came from about 170 true from Helena; at least three groups, five each, rather steep dive--about 60 degree, in single file heading directly for Helena. At about 4000 feet, leader, followed by about four, changed to his left and headed for Nevada, then near floating dry dock. Then about five continued toward Helena and four very near misses observed by Helena, one on dock abreast bridge, two close on starboard bow, and one close on starboard quarter. Remainder believed to have attacked Pennsylvania, destroyers, and Nevada. Second attack about ten glide bombing from direction about 110 degrees true, dive angle thirty to forty degrees, five in very loose vee toward Helena, of which none reached release point for Helena. Two veered to left smoking, and fell one near hospital, one beyond hospital; one veered to his right and disappeared in direction about 060 degrees true; two veered to left and attacked with remaining planes on Pennsylvania, destroyers, and particularly Nevada, on which at least two hits observed. During this period, one lone torpedo plane flying parallel this vessel and headed directly for dry dock caisson, under fire this vessel, exploded and disintegrated in air on starboard quarter. Also during this period, group of planes observed to bomb battleships across channel, approaching from direction mountains to north.
Third phase: one group about six or eight horizontal bombers passed over Helena, course about north 15000 feet; no bomb drops observed. About same time, two or three light bombers, 1000 to 2000 feet, in direction of port quarter. One of latter fired on by after 1.1" and machine guns. Within few minutes, group of planes crossed from port quarter to starboard quarter at considerable distance; fired on by our 5" for few rounds out of range; identified as our Army P40 and ceased fire; no apparent results.
Seven planes on which this vessel fired believed destroyed as follows:
First phase -- one torpedo plane crossing stern after crossing to west of Argonne, part fuselage blown off, caught fire and fell to north in channel before dropping torpedo. Phase two -- one torpedo plane headed toward caisson mentioned above. Two dive bombers of first attack observed on fire; one fell near water tower Ford Island, other far side Ford Island or possibly channel beyond. Two glide bombers in second attack, as mentioned above, and one plane passing along starboard side heading about toward Shaw or Nevada burst in flames when abeam and fell in direction slightly to right of Pennsylvania and well beyond.
/S/ C. S. RADFORD, ENS. AUTHENTICATED __________________USN RADIO OFFICER
Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II action reports, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.