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USS Medusa, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack

[Included in this report are the changes requested by USS Medusa's report of 10 January 1942]



U.S.S. Medusa

December 16, 1941

From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via: The Commander Base Force.
Subject: Report of Action of 7 December, 1941.
Reference: (a) Art. 712, U.S. Navy Regulations.
(b) CO Medusa Conf. file ARI/A16/0592 of 13 Dec. 1941.
Enclosure: (A) Copy of reference (b). [not included]
(B) Report of Lt. Comdr. John F.P. Miller, USN, of action of 7 Dec. 1941.
(C) Report of Ensign F. Loomis, (SC), USN, of action of 7 Dec. 1941. [not included]
(D) Report of Ens. C.M. Parker, USNR, of action of 7 Dec. 1941. [not included]
(E) Print of Pearl Harbor indicating moorings of ships in vicinity of Medusa, sunken submarines, and destroyed planes. [not included]
[(F) Report of Ensign R. M. Rocktaschel, U.S.N.R., of action of 7 Dec., 1941]
  1. In accordance with reference the following report of action of 7 December 1941, is submitted. In order to preserve proper chronological order the report of Lieutenant Commander John F.P. Miller, USN, Repair Officer, and Commanding Officer at the time of the action is first quoted in full:

    "About 0755 I heard a loud explosion, and looking out the port of my room, saw what appeared to be the hanger on the South end of Ford Island in flames and a large column of smoke reaching into the air.

    The General Alarm was sounded immediately and all hands went to General Quarters. On my way to the bridge I gave the magazine keys to the Gunner's Mate on duty with orders to open the forward magazine, then the after magazine.

    Enemy planes appeared to make a simultaneous attack – the bombers attacking Ford Island coming from the Southwest, and the torpedo planes coming from the Southeast.

    On reaching the bridge orders were given to the engine room to get ready to get underway immediately. I then proceeded to the Signal Bridge where Mr. Foley was in charge of Fire Control. He was mounting two .30 caliber machine guns, one on each end of the Signal Bridge.

    At approximately 0805 the first shot was fired by the Medusa from #5 3" A.A. gun. From this period on I have no estimate of time but both A.A. guns and both machine guns kept up a continuous fire during the attacks. The majority of planes attacking the Medusa-Curtiss sector were flying at an altitude of not over 400 feet; a few were not over 100 feet. During the attack it was reported that a submarine periscope was sighted about 1000 yards on our starboard quarter or about 500 yards astern of the Curtiss. I gave orders to open fire on the periscope – shortly afterward the Curtiss opened fire. The submarine fired a torpedo at a small dock astern of Curtiss. The submarine then broached to the surface with conning tower in plain sight. Many shots could plainly be seen hitting the conning tower from both the Medusa and Curtiss. While being shelled, the submarine appeared by be backing toward the Curtiss. About this time the Monaghan (DD354) was seen standing down the channel west of Ford Island on course approximately 230° True. She headed directly for the submarine at about 15 knots. The order cease firing was given when Monaghan was abeam of the Curtiss. She appeared to pass immediately over the submarine and dropped two depth charges. The first charge appeared to drop right on top of the submarine as the volume of water shooting into the air was heavily colored with a black substance. The second charge did not have the black coloring. The Commanding Officer of the Monaghan should be commended for the promptness with which he made the attack, and the excellent seamanship displayed in very restricted waters.

    I definitely saw four (4) planes shot down. One fell on the boat deck of the Curtiss and burst into flames; one dropped bomb close to the stern of the Medusa and immediately thereafter disintegrated as the result of a shell hit which I believe was made by Medusa #6 A.A. Gun. (A welcome sight).

    One flew over the bow of the Medusa about 200 feet in the air and was met by a barrage from our .30 caliber machine guns and a strong barrage from Destroyer Mine Division Three. This plane fell in the water about 1500 yards on our port beam and was picked up next day by a lighter.

    One fell on the bank astern of the Medusa where the engine and a part of the wing appear to be imbedded in the bank.

    The courage and conduct shown by the officers and men who came under my personal supervision was of the highest order especially when one considers the surprise element which entered into the attack.

    The only casualty reported during the attack was BESS, D.N., Sea2c, who received a lacerated left arm from bomb or anti-aircraft shell fragment. He was immediately removed to the Sick Bay for treatment."

  2. As soon as practicable after the depth charging and bombing in the vicinity, a thorough inspection for watertightness was made and the ship was found to be sound. Steam was raised and all preparations made to slip the buoys and get underway.
  3. Inquiries were made of Curtiss and Raleigh as to assistance required. A portable submersible pumps was furnished Curtiss. The acid tanks on the boat deck were drained, acid carboys and inflammable gas cylinders removed to Pearl City Landing. An armed patrol of twelve men was sent to this landing to take charge of the vicinity, including the Pan-Air Landing. This patrol established contact with a company commanded by Captain Gallagher, U.S.N., from Ft. Shafter. All boats making our gangway were fuelled and the crews fed.
  4. Twenty-one Springfield rifles were lent to Captain Gallagher's detachment. 40,000 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition, for which this ship has neither guns nor mounts, were distributed to the Nevada and ships of Mine Division Three of Mine Squadron TWO.
  5. A party of technicians, headed by the Repair Officer, visited the Raleigh and tapped the Utah for the purpose of rendering any assistance possible.
  6. About 1415 a party of three young civilians was observed taking pictures of ships in this vicinity from the point of land directly ahead of this ship. A boat was sent out with four armed men immediately and arrested these men. They were turned over to the Army Sergeant (Cane) who had come to borrow the rifles.
  7. The conduct of the Medusa's officers and crew was splendid, and each man aboard performed deeds which in ordinary times would single him out for the highest commendation. The following officers and men are particularly recommended for commendation for display of high qualities of leadership while under enemy fire and exposed to falling fragments caused by the heavy anti-aircraft barrage then being laid down by our own forces, and for their cool action whereby severe losses were inflicted upon the enemy:

    Lieutenant Commander John F.P. Miller, U.S. Navy - The Acting Commanding Officer, for his excellent work in directing the efficient fighting of the ship.

    Lieutenant Commander Ehrewal F. Beck, U.S. Navy - Forward Gun Control Officer.

    Ensign Clyde M. Parker, U.S. Naval Reserve - After Battery Officer..

    Ensign Robert M. Rocktaschel, U.S. Naval Reserve - Forward Battery Officer.

    Ensign (T) Charles T. Foley, U.S. Navy - Fire Control Officer directing the firing of the Anti-aircraft and Machine Gun batteries.

    Ralph L. Anderson BM1c, U.S. Navy [Delete "Ralph L. Anderson, BM1c, U.S. Navy: and substitute "Harry L. Alexander, BM1c, U.S. Navy"].- Boatswain's Mate-of-the-Watch and #5 - 3 inch Gun Captain, aided by #1 Machine Gun, shot down a Japanese plane which landed in the water near Pan-American Air Ways Landing.

    William C. Malome, BM1c, U.S. Navy - #6 - 3 inch Gun Captain, for excellent conduct of local control. His first shot at the submarine was high, so he dropped the sight scale to "O" and registered four hits with the next four shots. Also shot down one plane over Waipip Peninsula and possibly another that crashed in to USS Curtiss.

    [Add "Edwin P. Carter, EM3c, U.S. Navy - #2 - 30 Caliber Machine Gun Operator].

    Robert A. Purvis, EM1c, USN - #1 - 30 Caliber Machine Gun Operator. Shot the tail off a Japanese plane resulting in its crashing off the Pan American Air Ways Landing.

    Crew of #5 - 3 inch Gun:

      COMBROWSKI, Michael M. BM1c, USN.
      HOLLOWELL, William C., CM1c, USN.
      HACKER, John E., Sea1c, USN.
      DINWIDDIE, Ralph H., Sea1c, USN.
      LAMB, Bruce, Sea1c, USN.
      BINSTROM, Clyde M., F3c, USN.
      BAIN, Alexander, Sea2c, USNR.
      LATKA, Edward J., Sea2c, USN.
      SYLER, Milton E., Sea2c, USN.
      FUERHARDT, William A., Sea2c, USN.

    Crew of #6 - 3 inch Gun:

      ANDERSON, Ralph L, BM1c, USN.
      MARKEY, Peter F., Sea1c, USN.
      THOMAS, William B., Sea2c, USN.
      PAYNE, Wilmar W., Sea1c, USN.
      DRWIEGA, Andrew, Sea1c, USN.
      MC PHEETERS, George C., Sea1c, USN.
      JONES, Olen D., Sea1c, USN.
      POWELL, Henry C., Sea1c, USN.
      BOYDSTON, Harvey L., F2c, USN.
      DINWIDDIE, James H., Sea1c, USN.
      SANCEDO, Alfonso, Sea2c, USN.

    Theo. R. Porterfield, QM3c, USN - Motor Launch coxswain.

    There is not the slightest bit of protection for gun crews or control party on this ship, yet there was not the faintest trace of hesitation on the part of anyone to expose himself.

  8. Lieutenant Commander George R. Cooper, USN, the Executive Officer, suffered scalp laceration from flying fragments while passing near Nevada on his return to the ship. He was hospitalized ashore, and returned to the ship in the afternoon.
  9. The Medusa claims official credit for one submarine and two planes destroyed.
  10. The quick action and excellent seamanship of the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Monaghan (DD354) as noted above in the report of Lieutenant Commander Miller is highly commendable.





Three explosions occurred before the general alarm was sounded. On my way forward to my general quarters station I noted that all the men were hurrying to their stations in a quiet and orderly manner. There was no confusion or shouting save for the duty Boatswain's mate's calling as he passed the work continuously.

Upon reaching my General Quarters station on the forecastle the gun crews had already started clearing the guns for action and the ammunition supply party were rigging the hoist to the forward magazine.

There was no ammunition in the ready boxes for either gun, #5, three inch anti-aircraaft, or for guns #1 and #2, the five inch battery. There was some delay in getting ammunition from the magazines. While waiting for the ammunition the two forward hatches, #0-18 and #0-30, were closed and dogged down by the gun crews and the ammunition supply party.

The first ammunition to come from the magazine was for the three inch gun, and, upon receiving it, gun five immediately opened fire.

Until the first lull gun five expended the ammunition as fast as it was received. During this lull enough ammunition was brought up to fill one of the ready boxes, fifty rounds. Also during this lull the machine guns were broken out and carried to the signal bridge. Ammunition for these guns was brought up from the magazines via the hoist and carried by hand up to the signal bridge.

On the second attack, part of which was directed at the ships lying in the vicinity of Berth X-23, all regular anti-aircraft guns were manned and supplied with ammunition and were firing. It was on this attack that the plane, having been set afire, deliberately crashed into the U.S.S. Curtiss just abaft the after stack. Immediately following this crash several planes concentrated n this immediate area. One bomb hitting the Curtiss on the fantail, two falling approximately twenty-five feet off the starboard bow of the Medusa, and two more falling just off the port quarter of the Medusa.

Two other planes nosed down to dive bomb the Medusa and the destroyers on our port hand. Both of these were brought down. One cut in two just before starting to level out and crashed on the east bank on this loch. Neither of these planes released their bombs.

Immediately following this attack word was received that an enemy submarine was loose in the harbor. Upon receiving this word orders were given to bring up ammunition and powder to supply the five inch guns. Up to this time all effort had been concentrated on supplying ammunition to the three inch gun and the machine guns.

The submarine was sighted as it rounded the stern of the Curtiss and started up this loch. At first only its periscope was visible and it was immediately fired upon. Gun #1 was loaded and ready for firing with the exception of the primers which were stored in the pyrotechnic locker and by the time these were procured it was too late to use this gun. However, the machine guns and gun six opened fire on the submarine with three inch anti-aircraft projectiles as solid shot was not available. The submarine went behind our stern and then either by turning around or by backing down started out of the loch back to the main channel. When it came into the training field of gun #5 part of the conning tower was visible above the water. As it neared the stern of the Curtiss a destroyer came down the main channel and made to ram it. The Submarine's conning tower was on the starboard side of the destroyer. After passing over the submarine the destroyer released a depth charge and the submarine was no longer visible above the surface of the water.

From my station it appeared that the submarine had been hit several times with the projectiles from our three inch guns and from the guns firing at it from the Curtiss. Gun five was unable to fire more than three rounds at the submarine because of the small field of vision, having the bridge hide the submarine directly after it was first sighted and on the submarine's return trip the destroyer cut into the line of sight after the three rounds had been expended.

During this time all the Browning Automatic Rifles were broken out and rushed up to the signal bridge with what ammunition was in the armory.

Attention was then again concentrated on the planes in the air which were making isolated attacks and were forming into formation to leave the scene.

Ammunition was then brought up and the ready boxes of all guns were filled to capacity. Ammunition was also brought up to fill the ready boxes for all the machine guns and the automatic rifles on the signal bridge.

There was only one casualty during the battle and that a laceration caused by falling shrapnel on the left arm of BESS, D.M., Sea2c, U.S.N., a member of the crew of Gun #2. Gun #5 expended 43 rounds of ammunition and suffered no casualties, although the breech stuck three times.

The conduct of all the men in the forward battery and under my supervision on the forecastle was admirable and beyond all reproach. This was especially noticeable in the crew of Gun #5 which did all the firing done by the forward battery and whose crew, the most part of which, is made up of men who have never fired before.

Ensign, U.S. Naval Reserve,
Forward Battery Officer

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. 


Published: Wed Feb 21 09:10:20 EST 2018