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Commander Minecraft, Battle Force, Reports for Pearl Harbor Attack

Commander Minecraft, Battle Force report of 7 December 1941
Commander Minecraft, Battle Force report of 28 December 1941




Pearl Harbor, T.H.,

December 7, 1941.

From: Commander Minecraft, BATTLE FORCE.
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Via: Commander Battle Force.

Japanese Plane Attack on Pearl Harbor;
Morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941.

Narrative by Commander Minecraft, BATTLE FORCE, Rear Admiral William R. Furlong, U.S. Navy, in U.S.S. Oglala, sunk by torpedo.

  1. At about 0800 this morning, Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was on deck of my Flagship, U.S.S. Oglala (CM4) and saw the first enemy bomb fall on the seaward end of Ford Island close to the water. This one did not hit the planes parked there. Another fell immediately afterwards in the same vicinity and caused fires near the water. U.S. planes were on the ground nearby and later flames flared up from structures at that end (south end) of the island.
  2. The next bombs fell alongside or on board the seven battleships moored at "F" moorings on the east side of Ford Island.
  3. Japanese planes flew within fifty and one hundred feet of the water and dropped three torpedoes or mines in the channel on a line between Oglala and the seaward end of Ford Island. A torpedo hit the Oglala and the Helena, which were moored abreast at berth two at ten-ten dock with the Oglala outboard of Helena. Fire was opened by Oglala and Helena antiaircraft battery.
  4. I at once signalled Commander-in-Chief that these three objects mentioned above which had just been dropped might be mines because they were dropped in the middle of channel. They could have been torpedoes or mines because no plume went up from them, whereas, plumes over one hundred feet high went up from bombs that hit close alongside of battleships.
  5. I then hailed two small contractor tugs which were working with dredges across the channel from Oglala to give assistance to haul Oglala aft of the Helena in order that Helena could sortie. I obtained submersible pumps from the Helena but then discovered that there was no power in the Oglala because of the hit which flooded the fireroom, and she could not use her pumps.
  6. One Japanese plane was shot down over the harbor and came down in flames to seaward of Ford Island but probably on land. There was no trouble distinguishing Japanese planes because the red Sun painted on the side showed plainly.
  7. Meanwhile planes were strafing as well as bombing. Planes kept coming for quite some time making it difficult to estimate number. I saw four battleships hit with bombs and fires broke out. I saw one battleship turn over. There were six to ten enemy planes visible at any one time over the harbor.
  8. The Nevada got underway and passed out of channel near where I had seen the three mines or torpedoes fall. When she arrived in this vicinity her bow apparently hove up as if she had passed over a mine and about a minute later two bombs fell, one of which hit her starboard topside throwing up flame and smoke and the other missed close along the port side throwing up a plume of water.
  9. During all this, as these dive bombers flew within five hundred to a thousand feet of the Oglala, we were given an excellent opportunity to fire our anti-aircraft battery and did so for over an hour, the Helena firing over us.
  10. The Oglala was got astern of the Helena with help of tugs mentioned in paragraph 5 and was hauled and pushed into the pier and secured with many wires and manila lines. As all compartments were closed below she settled slowly.
  11. At this time I ordered the two tugs which were assisting the Oglala to go to the assistance of the Nevada which was then in the channel between the floating dry-dock and seaward end of Ford Island.
  12. On the second attack I saw a bomb drop which hit the forward part of the Pennsylvania or in the dry-dock ahead of the Pennsylvania. Two destroyers of Destroyer Division FIVE were in the dock ahead of the Pennsylvania, and flames went up from them.
  13. Another Japanese plane was hit and fell in flames seaward of 1010 dock possibly falling near the entrance of the channel. It went down in a streak of flame as did the first one mentioned. Of the two planes that I saw shot down in this part of the harbor one was in flames after passing over the battleships from north to south about 2,000 feet altitude; the other plane shot down flew over the harbor at about 2,000 feet in the same general direction but closer to 1010 dock and pier, and was engaged by vessels on this side of the harbor. Guns operable by hand proved particularly advantageous, especially where power was knocked out of the steaming fireroom by torpedoes.
  14. Following the bombing of the Pennsylvania, I saw a bomb fall near or on the destroyer in the floating dry-dock. This destroyer was later in flames.
  15. Meanwhile the Oglala had taken a list of about 40°, the wire lines to the dock parted and her port upper deck rail was so far under that she might sink suddenly at any moment. I ordered all hands to abandon the ship shortly after 9:00 a.m. The only ones remaining being the guns' crews and myself. The Oglala kept up the anti-aircraft fire until the ship's list was at such an angle that the men on the machine guns were sliding off the deck and the angle was too steep to longer stick on the deck and serve the 3" gun. During this last period the Japanese planes were strafing us, not bombing. As the ship was about to turn over I ordered the guns' crews to leave the ship and left with them. The machine guns were slid off the top of deckhouse to the pier as the ship went over and were set up on the pier.
  16. The guns' crews manned their battle stations promptly and stood to their guns during bombing and strafing as if at target practice, keeping up a continuous fire at enemy planes during the bombing and strafing. The signal force manned their bridge stations and sent signals during the action; one to sortie and one to the Nevada warning her of mines during which time the bridge was struck by machine gun bullets. The man on the fires when the fireroom was flooding very promptly turned off the oil fires and no one suffered oil burns. The names of personnel involved will be reported in a separate list.
  17. Four men were wounded. One man was wounded seriously, the other three slightly. No other casualties.
  18. At about 0900-0930 the four ships of Mine Division TWO of my command sortied from Pearl Harbor.
  19. I then reported for further duty to the Commander-in-Chief with my staff.
  20. Above dictated at 1100 a.m.



U.S.S. Oglala

Immediately after the Oglala sank in the forenoon, men from her crew (about 75%) were pooled and details sent to various other units of the Fleet; among them a party to both the Pennsylvania and Helena to assist those ships in manning their batteries, 45 men to the Tennessee to assist in fire fighting, 30 men to the Mugford, which ship went to sea soon thereafter, and repair parties were also sent to the Pennsylvania and Helena. Approximately 75 men were sent to the Naval Ammunition Depot at West Loch. In addition, the Oglala's medical personnel assisted in receiving and distributing dead and wounded men from the battleships being landed at the end of 1010 dock.

Commencing Monday, December 8, working parties were sent to various activities ashore and afloat. The crew, officers and men, were split up and assigned to various ships and activities in the 14th Naval District.


Mine Division ONE, now in overhaul at the Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, did not have their .50 caliber ammunition on board due to welding work in the magazines. Ammunition was promptly borrowed from a nearby ship and fire was opened with their .50 caliber antiaircraft batteries within 15 minutes from the time of the commencement of the attack. Fire was promptly opened at the commencement of the attack with their .30 caliber machine guns, ammunition for which was on board.

In addition to the above action men from Mine Division ONE, were sent, after the bombing started, to the Pennsylvania, and were on board when that ship was bombed. Three of these men from the Tracy and one from the Pruitt are still missing. One of the bodies recovered from the Pennsylvania shows evidence of being ZACEK. Three other bodies from the Pennsylvania are at the hospital but their identity has not been definitely established. The four men that were missing from the detail sent to the Pennsylvania were the following:

KEITH, G.R. RM3c 381 34 02 Pruitt
PENCE, J.W. RM3c 321 30 25 Tracy
BIRD, J.A. Sea1c 376 19 51 Tracy
ZACEK, L.J. F2c 368 50 90 Tracy

From Mine Division ONE, men were also sent to fill up the crews of other ships, namely: Cummings, New Orleans, Whitney and California.

DM/L9-3L11-1(89430) TB-BB
28 December 1941

From: The Commander Mine Craft Battle Force.
To: The Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Compilation of Reports of Ships of Mine Divisions I and II and USS Oglala with respect to Japanese Planes observed shot down, December 7, 1941.
  1. At the time of the Plane and Submarine attacks on Pearl Harbor, the four ships of Mine Division One were in the Repair Basin at Berths 15 and 18 which is in the Navy Yard east of Ford Island, and the four ships of Mine Division Two were at buoy D3 in Middle Loch, to the west of Ford Island. From these two vantage points separated by the width of the harbor, an excellent view of the attack was obtained. This report is made as the result of a conference in which officers from all the ships of a division were present with the Commander submitted by individual ships. This conference was for the purpose of eliminating duplication of reports and determining as near as possible after check and recheck the exact number planes seen to fall by these eight vessels and by the Commander Mine Craft in the Oglala, the latter vessel being at the pier of 1010 dock near the middle of the harbor and between the two divisions.
    (Pruitt, Sicard, Preble, Tracy)

    One olive colored medium sized bomber in flames passing over Repair Basin at 300 to 400 feet from northeast to southwest, gliding down. Seen by Ensign A.A. Richards in Pruitt.

    One fighter plane about 100 feet over Sicard heading parallel to pier, i.e., 210°, being hit by 30-caliber Lewis & Brownings of Pruitt and Sicard, smoking, maneuvering wildly and losing altitude rapidly, just missed hitting roof of Boiler Maker Shoyp, must have fallen in Navy Yard. Seen by Commander J.F. Crow of Mine Division I in Pruitt about 1030. Also seen by B.V. Holder, Fire Controlman 2c, in Pruitt.

    One fighter passed over Preble and Tracy at altitude of 80 feet from north of east heading toward seaward end of Ford Island, smoke coming out of him, would fall on seaward end of Ford Island or in water near it. Seen by V.B. Holder, Fire Controlman 2c, on watch in Pruitt.

    One fighter in flames all over body came from north of east, passed over Tracy and Preble, 150 feet altitude, cut across building 67 and went down behind it in direction of Hospital. Seen by V.B. Holder, Fire Controlman 2c, in Pruitt.

    One plane hit by vessels near Submarine Base, Torpedo of plane exploded, blowing plane to bits but tail came down. Seen by men of Sicard coming from their quarters at Receiving Barracks to their ship.

    On plane shot down by Marines with rifles at Main Gate. Seen by Sicard's men coming by gate from barracks to Sicard.

    One plane, silver color, flew approximately over 1010 dock from northeast to southwest at 30 feet altitude over Oglala and Pennsylvania, apparently falling near Hospital.

    One plane shot down by .50 caliber machine guns of destroyer Cummings, moored outboard of Preble; Tracy's and Preble's men helping to man Cummings' guns. Seen by Lieutenant Commander H.D. Johnston, Commanding Officer of Preble. Also reported and seen by Tracy, Ensign L.B. Ensey of Tracy.

    (Gamble, Montgomery, Breese, Ramsay)
    At Buoy D-3 in Middle Loch
    During latter half of attack stood out of harbor.

    Ramsay underway at 0855 following Monaghan and one other destroyer out, among first ships to go out. Ramsay shot down a plane near buoy #6. The plane was coming up the channel from southeast; after being hit, burst in flames and glided down toward Fort Weaver.

    The following five planes were flying low over Middle Loch from east; they were fired at variously by Gamble, Breese, Montgomery and Ramsay. Gamble at 0925 shot down with .50-caliber machine gun one plane passing over Division at 800 feet altitude, falling in water 1,000 yards on port beam of ship in Middle Loch. This was one of group flying from eastward and leveling off over Middle Loch after attacking Battleships. Seen to fall also by Ensign M.J. Silverman of Montgomery, also seen to fall by Lieutenant A.B. Coxe, Jr., of Breese.

    Breese at 0913 hit a dive bomber aft of pilot's cockpit with 3"/23 gun, fuse set 3 seconds. Plane fragmented in air, forward section with motor falling and burning for some time on north shore of Waipio Peninsula, west of Beckoning Point. Seen by Lieutenant Commander H.F. Stout, Commanding Officer of Breese, who stood by gun and followed tracer into plane at short range. Seen also by Lieutenant A.B. Coxe, Jr., Executive Officer Breese. Seen also by Montgomery.

    One plane seen by Montgomery to have wing knocked off crashed on west bank of Middle Loch. Reported by Lieutenant Commander R.A. Guthrie commanding Montgomery.

    One plane reported a seen by Ensign M.J. Silverman of Montgomery as shot down by machine guns of division, falling in water off Beckoning Point. This may be same as preceding plane and the two reports will be counted as one.

    One plane fell on shore near Pearl City, seen by Montgomery. Seen by Lieutenant A.B. Coxe, Jr., of Breese.

    One plane fell in water near Pearl City, falling between pier and buoy D-7. Seen by Montgomery. Seen also by Lieutenant A.B. Coxe, Jr., of Breese. Montgomery sent boat to pick up Japanese pilot swimming in water; he sank.

    Commanding Officer of Breese, Lieutenant Commander Stout, saw Curtis shoot tail off one plane, but did not see where it fell.

    One plane dove into and burned on Curtis. Seen by several ships of Mine Division II.


Oglala fired at planes at close range with 30-caliber machine guns and one 3"/50 caliber gun. One plane, flying northeast to southwest over Battleships, seen in flames at about 1500 to 2000 feet altitude when passing over seaward end of Ford Island, would probably fall at Fort Weaver or in sea. Seen by Rear Admiral W.R. Furlong in Oglala, probably hit by Battleships or cruisers and destroyers anchored north of Ford Island.

One plane flying northeast to southwest over Navy Yard side of channel in flames at 1500 to 2000 feet altitude, when passing above Oglala, would probably fall at sea or on Fort Weaver. Seen by Rear Admiral W.R. Furlong in Oglala. 1.1 guns in battleships and cruisers were seen to be putting up rapid and heavy volume of fire.

The above eighteen enemy planes were seen to fall by above personnel of Mine Divisions I and II and the flagship Oglala. Some of these may be reported by other vessels. Of the eighteen observed, at least five were given the final blow by Mine Division II in Middle Loch and a sixth was shot down by Ramsay as she stood down the channel.


By Breese

While Breese was patrolling off Pearl Harbor at 1180, a motor torpedo boat reported a periscope to Breese. At 1115 Breese dropped two depth charges, no results. Bearings: Barber Point (297°(t), Diamond Head 078°(t), and Hickham Tower 357°(t). However, at 1135 in same vicinity, Breese picked up sounds of submarine and dropped two depth charges, second of which brought up oil and debris. Breese knows to distinguish oil from brownish color that some times comes up from depth charge upon detonation. There were positive indications of oil and some debris. A second attack here a few minutes later with four deeper charges gave no tangible results. Several other destroyers depth charged in this locality following the Breese first attack.

By Gamble

At 1204 on sound contact with submarine dropped three depth charges, 168 True from Diamond Head light distant 2.5 miles.

By Ramsay

Monday, December 8, a few minutes after noon, Ramsay depth charged submarine on excellent sound contact 11 miles due west of Barbers Point. Reports bringing up positive oil bubbles. Heard submarine again about 20 minutes later and depth charged again, deepest charge 250 feet; got positive oil indications again.

Rear Admiral, USN
Commander Minecraft Battle Force

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: Tue Mar 20 10:39:17 EDT 2018