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USS Vestal, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack

AR4/L11-1/(066) U.S.S. Vestal 10-trb
    December 11, 1941.



From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Report of action on December 7, 1941, in accordance with references (a) and (b).
Reference: (a) Art. 840 Navy Regs.
(b) Cincpac conf. desp. 102102 of Dec. 1941.
  1. At about 0820 a torpedo was seen to pass astern of the Vestal and it apparently hit the Arizona whose bow extended about 100 feet beyond the Vestal. The Arizona also received a bomb hit forward almost simultaneously. Immediately following these the Arizona's forward magazine exploded. This explosion started fires aft and amidships on the Vestal. Shortly after the Arizona was observed to be settling and the fuel oil between Vestal and Arizona was ignited.
  2. At 0830 orders were given to make preparations for getting underway – this had been anticipated by the Engineer Officer. At 0845 the forward lines were cut, the Arizona's quarterdeck was awash, and Vestal got underway on both engines, no steering gear. Tug pulled Vestal's bow away from the Arizona. The Vestal started to list to starboard and was taking water aft. She was maneuvered to position with south end of McGrew's Point bearing 30°, distance 910 yards and at 0910 anchored in 35 feet of water.
  3. Soundings and draft readings were taken continuously; these showed the ship was settling aft and continuing to list to starboard. Draft aft increased to 27 feet and the list to 6 ½°. Because of the unstable condition of the ship due to large amount of free surface, the knowledge that we had two holes in the hull – subsequent inspections showed only one - ship being on fire in several places and the possibility of further attacks, it was decided to ground the ship. At 0950 got underway and maneuvered to position with Old Aiea Railroad Station bearing 73° true and West Tangent of McGrew's Point bearing 320° true; ship grounded. Number 2 white spar buoy close aboard on starboard side amidships. Ship's head 092° true. Depth of water forward 11 feet, amidships 18 feet, aft 27 feet. Draft forward 15 feet, aft 29 feet.
  4. Offensive measures.
    1. At 0755 sounded general quarters. Manned the 3" anti-aircraft and 4 - 5" broadside and 2 - 30 caliber machine guns. At about 0805 opened fire with 3" anti-aircraft gun and both machine guns. After firing three rounds, 3" anti-aircraft gun breech jammed; breech was cleared and one additional round was fired when blast from Arizona magazine cleared gun station killing one man. Machine guns continued firing on enemy planes until they withdrew.
    2. 3" anti-aircraft and after machine gun both fired at plane which released torpedo at Arizona and turned toward Vestal. This plane was seen by crew of the machine gun to burst into flame and disappear over Ford Island, this was substantiated by others in the vicinity. Whether the plane was hit by gun fire from Vestal or adjacent ships is not known.
  5. Identified dead - Six

    Unidentified dead - Three, one from 3" anti-aircraft gun platform and two from stern of Vestal. These men may have been either Arizona personnel blown over by magazine blast or members of Vestal after gun crews; they were burned beyond recognition.

    Missing - Seven.

    Hospitalized - Nineteen. About twenty per cent of those hospitalized are seriously injured suffering primarily from burns and fractures.

  6. The conduct of all officers and enlisted personnel was exemplary and of such high order that I would especially desire to have them with me in future engagements.
    1. The USS Vestal was struck by two bombs at about 0805 December 7, 1941, while moored port side to port side of the USS Arizona berthed at Fox 7, Pearl Harbor, T.H. One bomb struck the starboard side at frame 44 penetrating three decks, passing through the upper crew space, GSK stores A-16½, A-14½, and exploding in GSK stores lower hold A-9. The fire main and electric cables in crew space were cut. W.T. hatch to A-14½ buckled and stores in GSK stores and lower hold set on fire and wrecked. As far as can be ascertained there are no indications that this bomb or fragments caused any rupture in the hull.
    2. The second bomb struck at frame 110 port side, passed through the carpenter shop, shipfitter shop, shipfitters locker room (D-1½), fuel oil tanks D-80-P-F and D-82-P-F and left an irregular hole in the hull about 5 feet in diameter just inboard of the bilge keel. The above spaces (D-1½) flooded up to the level of the carpenter shop with fuel and water.
    3. Due to the bomb explosion forward and fire and water in GSK stores, practically all stores are damaged, the extent cannot be ascertained until completion of removal. Heat from this fire necessitated the flooding of the forward magazine containing 100 rounds of target and approximately 580 rounds of service 5" ammunition.
    4. Damage as a result of the magazine explosion on the Arizona and the resultant fires on the Vestal were three life rafts, 6 mooring lines, 1 gangway, rigging and blocks and paintwork burned, stanchions bent, port lenses and windows broken.


Copy to: Combasefor.

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.


Published: Fri Mar 16 09:17:51 EDT 2018