UNITED STATES FLEET
DESTROYERS, BATTLE FORCE, PACIFIC FLEET
U.S.S. Cassin (372)
Pearl Harbor, T.H.,
December 13, 1941.
||The Commanding Officer.
||Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
||Air Attack on Pearl Harbor, T.H., December 7, 1941.
||(a) Art. 712, U.S. Navy Regulations.
- At approximately 0750 Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, as I stepped from my cabin to go below to breakfast, my Chief Gunner's Mate, E.L. JAMES, dashed into the passageway and said, "Captain they are here, bombing Hickam Field".
- I stepped aft and out the starboard passageway door and about 100 feet away from the starboard side of #1 drydock facing inboard, and at an altitude of approximately 100 feet I saw an airplane with large red discs on bottom wings. I ordered JAMES, E.L., C.G.M., to sound general quarters and started for the bridge. JAMES had the word passed as there was no power on the general alarm.
- The Cassin had no 5"/38 caliber guns ready for service as ordnance alterations being accomplished rendered them inoperative. Men were despatched to the Navy Yard to see if parts could be obtained. The .50 caliber guns were prepared at once.
- About 0800 I saw another plane come down in a glide to about 75 feet on a course paralleling drydock #1 on port side facing outboard. It turned slightly in the channel and dropped a torpedo definitely aimed at the California from a distance of not over 200 yards. The plane kept going and disappeared from sight.
- A few moments later the Helena opened fire, followed by the Pennsylvania. The Cassin and Downes opened up with .50 caliber machine guns.
- The Executive Officer, Gunnery Officer and Communication Officer were ashore, as was the JA talker. By voice I called down to gun #2 to expedite obtaining breech plugs at the yard if possible and ordered men to seek protection of gun shelters, as I had no guns to fire. Many of them stayed well out to see what was going on. Others assisted repair party who led out hoses and stood by for handling damage.
- About 0810 a Japanese plane crashed over the trees near the hospital, passing low (parallel to the Pennsylvania and Downes) with a tail of flame 50 feet long.
- A few minutes later five high altitude (12,000 feet) bombers passed overhead from forward aft and let go large bombs. These were let go after they passed overhead of drydock #1.
- Shortly, I saw Captain C.D. SWAIN, U.S. Navy and Lieutenant Commander B.E. MANSEAU, U.S. Navy coming down to the drydock. I went out to meet them and was requested to close up both destroyers preparatory to flooding drydock even though about 30 ports below main deck forward were off on Cassin preparatory to blanking and shell plating on both destroyers forward was off preparatory to replacement by heavier plating.
- All hands except the machine gunners were directed to close up the ship as well as possible. This was done from lower decks up which later facilitated abandoning as closure was practically completed and most men were on main or forecastle deck. Power cables led from one compartment to another and had to be cut. Also leads from large portable blowers forward had to be disconnected.
- After I returned to the bridge I saw another group of five high altitude bombers pass overhead the same as in paragraph 8 above.
- About 0830 the Pennsylvania called by semaphore and sent a message "Senior destroyer officer report aboard". This message was interrupted by signalmen having to lie down due to terrific gun fire from enemy and own ship and came in two attempts.
- About this time Lieutenant (jg) J.D. PARKER, acting commanding officer of Downes, requested permission to open fire with 5"/38 caliber on blocks which I immediately granted. His #3 gun was assembled in time to fire two shots before he was hit.
- Closure being well underway and .50 caliber shooting rapidly I started from bridge for the Pennsylvania. I had secured phones and called to signalman to notify Ensign F.M. CULPEPPER I would be right back. When I was almost to bow of Pennsylvania the Downes was hit by a small bomb on after deck house. Smoke and dust were rising as I ran along the dock.
- The 3"/50 caliber on the Pennsylvania quarterdeck were firing fast, quietly and efficiently.
- I climbed amid terrific blasts of fast shooting guns to Pennsylvania conning tower then to next level above to Captain C.M. COOKE. He asked me if we were preparing for flooding of dock stating that even without propellors he wanted to get it flooded. I told him "Yes" and left. Apparently Captain SWAIN and Lieutenant Commander MANSEAU had not seen the Commanding Officer of the Pennsylvania regarding flooding at the same time they saw me.
- At sometime between by arrival at brow of Pennsylvania and my departure the Downes had apparently been hit again at about 0850 and hug flames were rising all over her and on starboard side of Cassin. A hug hole in dock abreast of Cassin's stern was emitting clouds of smoke.
- I skirted this hole on the double realizing from the nature of the flames that the fire could not be fought successfully. I later found out that there was no water at all with which to fight the fire. #3 .50 caliber gun was on fire due to lack of cooling water. There was none in men's washroom due to interrupted service from Yard. As soon as I was past this hole I started waving for men to get off. The word had been passed to abandon ship, which word was repeated all through the ship. The men were all converging toward brown from forward and aft. I kept shouting for the men to "step out" as the flames and heat as I passed the stern of Cassin were terrific and I feared a magazine explosion. I arrived at the brow as the last group of men came off. I estimate that there was another five minutes in which men could have gotten off. Ensign CULPEPPER was the last man off. I thought there was a hole in the brow, which I later found was caused by a small bomb which dropped through just a few feet ahead of Ensign M.E. CALLICOTT, USNR. This bomb went through the ship without exploding. I believe another small bomb hit in galley passage, but am not sure.
- Within a few minutes the first hose arrived from the yard then others. The first six or eight hoses I kept on the port side of the Cassin, because wind was carrying flames over the Downes and I tried to get a concentration of hoses on Cassin's depth charges and torpedo tubes to keep them from exploding. Nine of the twelve torpedo warheads melted off.
- It was necessary to move back from the dock several times due to heat and to fragments from several small explosions which followed each other at close intervals.
- About 0915 there was a terrific explosion on the Downes and flames shot about 60 feet in the air, which was filled with fragments. Hoses were practically torn away from fire fighting parties consisting of men from Cassin, Downes and yard employees. All hands retreated from the dock and sprawled on the road. Lieutenant (jg) PARKER, a few feet to my right, was hit and TALBERT, C.L., F1c of the Cassin, to my left, was hit. I at first thought PARKER's neck had been badly cut due to large amount of bleeding and seeing a small truck stop close by, I directed him and TALBERT to get in and go to the hospital. Within a short time he was back, minus his coat and with his head bandaged, rejoining the fire fighting forces. I believe his hospital corpsman fixed him on the spot.
- The fire on the Cassin was brought under control about 1045. The Gunnery Officer arrived shortly after we abandoned ship and joined Lieutenant SPEER, of the navy yard, at one end of the Cassin. Both of these officers did excellent work.
- Commander L.P. LOVETTE, Commander Destroyer Division FIVE and the Executive Officer of Cassin arrived while the fire was raging. With one quick look, the Division Commander told me to take charge of Cassin and Downes as he would got at once to Reid or Conyngham to sortie. Emergency signal for sortie had been hoisted before Downes and Cassin were hit (neither had a mast). Commander LOVETTE returned in about ten minutes from Cummings to tell me he would go out on her and would take 25 men from Cassin to include the best gunnery and torpedo personnel. About 60 went to the Cummings, but 40 were returned.
- It has not been possible as yet to salvage .50 caliber ammunition remaining or to check on amount expended.
- The conduct of the men was superb, particularly the quiet over all supervision by the Chief Boatswain Mate, J.T. STRATTON, who seemed to be everywhere at the same time directing closure and abandoning. At no time was there any fear or panic, but merely rage not only at enemy attack but at inability, after months of training, to be able to return the fire. The entire crew behaved in accordance with the best traditions of the Service.
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.