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Motor Torpedo Squadron ONE, Report for Pearl Harbor Attack



December 12, 1941 

From: The Commander, Motor Torpedo Squadron One.  
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet..  
Subject: Offensive measures taken during air raid - Narrative of.  
Reference: (a) CinCPac despatch 102102  
  1. In compliance with reference (a), the following report is submitted.

    "On the morning of 7 December, six vessels of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron One were nested in Berth S-13 at the Submarine Base. The remaining six were aboard the Ramapo awaiting shipment. Squadron personnel on board, were completing breakfast on the YR-20, a Submarine Barge serving as a tender for the squadron. PT vessels were moored alongside and ahead of the barge in three nests of two each.

    The Squadron Duty Officer, Ensign N.E. Ball, D-V(G), USNR., states that he was standing on the end of the barge when he noted numerous airplanes with the insignia of the rising sun, diving on the battleships. A chief petty officer near him remarked, 'they look like Japs'. An instant later the first bomb exploded and he realized they were Japanese airplanes. He thereupon, ran in the barge and gave the order 'man the guns'. He states that all men immediately responded.

    Machinists mates started the air compressors which are necessary to provide air for the two twin .50 caliber turrets on each boat. Ready ammunition was available at the guns, and other personnel regardless of rates, either manned the guns or started breaking out and belting more ammunition, all personnel of the squadron having had instruction and experience in turret and machine gun operation. Fire was opened with the minimum of delay on torpedo planes, which at that time appeared flying very low and close to where the PT vessels were moored.

    He further states, which has since been confirmed, that Motor Torpedo Boats were the first vessels to open fire on the enemy.

    Numerous observers both officer and enlisted, claim that they observed the tracer stream from guns of the PT-23 go into the underside of the fuselage of a Japanese torpedo plane carrying one torpedo, as it flew low over spar buoy #1, off Fuahua Island. This plane burst into flames and crashed near that point. The two gunners, VAN ZYLL DE JONG, Joy, GM1c, and HUFFMAN, George B., TM1c, USN., state that the plane was flying in a straight line away from their line of sight and they were able to maintain a steady stream of tracers into the underside of the fuselage, there being no deflection problem. Numerous observers also state that they observed the tracer streams from several FP guns pass into a torpedo plane without torpedo, which was flying over Magazine Loch toward Halawa. This airplane burst into flames and was then seen to fall in the vicinity of Halawa.

    Some difficulty was experienced in starting the air compressor on PT-23 and Tiller, Clarence E., MM1c, USN., with much persistence and zeal remained in the engineroom frantically working on the compressor until he finally got it started.

    Upon the arrival of Lieutenant J. Harllee, USN, Executive Officer, and during a lull in the attack, he ordered the boats to get underway and separate in order that a hit on one would not endanger them all.

    The Squadron Commander arrived during the last stage of the attack and immediately reported to Commander Base Force for instructions. This command was directed to proceed with six boats to the Pearl harbor entrance and patrol for submarines, three vessels to patrol inside and three outside. PTs 20, 21, 22 were assigned to patrol inside and PTs 23, 24, 25 to patrol outside. Patrol was carried out from about 1000 to sunset.

    During patrol the Squadron Commander, riding in the PT-24, accompanied by Ensign L.R. Hardy, D-V(G), USNR, and Ensign H.M.S. Swift, D-V(G), USNR., sighted what was believed certain to be a submarine periscope about six miles southwest of #1 channel buoy on a westerly course. It was observed for some time at about 1000 yards distance and appeared to be moving at a speed of about 10 knots. An attempt was made to signal one of the inshore patrol destroyers, about two miles south, but with no success. Speed of the PT-24 was immediately increased to full, and course changed to go close aboard the destroyer. A semaphore signal was sent, 'periscope sighted follow me. The destroyer immediately responded and was led to the area where the periscope was last sighted. Upon arriving in the vicinity several depth charges were dropped, the explosion of which seemed to lift the PT-24 out of the water. A later search of the area disclosed no evidence that the submarine had been struck.

    During the patrol, three target sleeves, one with release gear were picked up by the PTs 23 and 24. The sleeves were stamped 'Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia'. This is mentioned in view of the fact that some reports were heard that Japanese torpedo planes, when first observed approaching, were towing sleeves.

    After return to port the remainder of the night was spent in preparing torpedoes for firing. This was done under extremely adverse conditions, intermittent showers, air raid alarms, and blackouts. Torpedoes were completed and loaded by dawn and the six PT vessels sortied and took station outside the harbor".

  2. During the above period the conduct of all personnel of this squadron was most exemplary. All orders and actions were carried out cooly and calmly with no confusion. Personnel were subjected to periods of as long as 48 hours without rest and subsisting on emergency rations, without complaint.
  3. There were no losses or direct damages suffered from the attack.
  4. It is considered that the following personnel distinguished themselves by their conduct:
    1. Ensign N.E. Ball, D-V(G), USNR., Squadron Duty Officer. In view of his short period in the service and lack of experience, he is deserving of special merit for getting the guns manned, directing the fire and handling the situation admirably until arrival of superior officers.
    2. VAN ZYLL DE JONG, Joy, GM1c, USN - He is credited with assisting in the shooting down of one enemy torpedo plane. He also reluctantly turned over his gun station during the attack in order to make adjustments on other guns and during the remainder of the attack worked frantically to get all guns and turrets in operation.
    3. HUFFMAN, George B., TM1c, USN - He is credited with assisting in the shooting down of one enemy torpedo plane.
    4. Tiller, Clarence, E., MM1c, USN - He with much persistence and great effort, remained below in the engineroom during the attack, striving to repair the air compressor on the PT-23 so guns could be trained and elevated by power, with final success.
  5. It is also considered that the Submarine Base Torpedo Personnel are deserving of great credit for continuous work on PT boat torpedoes. Since 7 December, they have worked ceaselessly under trying conditions to get torpedoes of this squadron ready for firing.


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: Tue Mar 20 10:31:43 EDT 2018