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USS Helm, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack





U.S.S. Helm

December 11, 1941.

From: The Commanding Officer.  

To: The Commander in Chief, U.S. PACIFIC FLEET.  

Subject: Action during air raid on December 7 – Report on

Reference: (a) CinCPAC desp., 102102 December 1941


  1. In compliance with reference (a) the following report is submitted:
    1. NARRATIVE    

0726    Underway from berth X-7 for deperming buoys at West Loch. All hands at special sea detail stations. Both boats manned and in the water with instructions to follow the ship to West Loch. All magnetic compasses and chronometers had been left in the Blue preparatory to deperming.

0755    Turned into West Loch channel and headed up toward deperming buoys.

0759    First enemy plane sighted in shallow dive over Ford Island, headed northwest. Observed first bomb hit on hanger at southwest end of Ford Island. Called crew to General Quarters. Executive Officer went below to assist in opening magazines and getting ammunition to guns.

0800    Torpedo planes sighted approaching from direction of Barber's Point. They passed over West Loch channel and dropped torpedoes either in North Channel or across the island. Targets for these planes appeared to be ships in berths F-9 to F-13. The planes came in low, and several strafed the ship. All bullets missed the ship by a few feet. No fire was opened, since the forward machine guns which could bear were coated with preservative grease and had to be cleaned before they could fire.

0800    Backed engines and commenced maneuvering ship out of West Loch channel to head for entrance.

0805    Opened fire with after machine guns at planes over the main channel, followed shortly by the forward machine guns firing at passing torpedo planes.

0807    Opened fire with 5" battery. No hits observed.

0810    In main channel steaming toward entrance. Fire from port after machine gun, manned by HUFF, W.C., GM.2c, 337 00 90, hit plane approaching from south. Plane veered sharply, caught fire, and crashed behind trees near Hickam Field. Ordered all boilers lighted off.

0813    Passed gate vessel.

0817    Sighted conning tower of submarine to right of channel, northward of buoy #1. Gave orders to open fire, pointer fire, but submarine submerged before guns could get on.

0818    Increased speed to 25 knots, cleared entrance buoys, turned right.

0819    Submarine conning tower surfaced.

0820    Opened fire on submarine off Tripod Reef, bearing 290 distance 1200 yards from buoy #1. No hits observed, but there were several close splashes. Submarine appeared to be touching bottom on ledge of reef, and in line of breakers. While still firing at submarine it apparently slipped off ledge and submerged.

0820    Main contact relay on power panel of steering motor short circuited due to loose pigtails. Bridge lost steering control. Orders were given to shift to hand steering, commenced maneuvering ship by engines. Main circuit breakers opened, taking all light and power off ship for about one minute.

0820    Made plain language contact report of Submarine to CinCPAC on 2562 Kc.

0821    Men on after guns and amidships observed torpedo pass close under the stern on a northwesterly course. Report of this did not reach the bridge.

0824    The shift to hand steering was completed.

0830    Steaming on various courses and speeds off harbor entrance, steering by hand, firing intermittently at enemy planes, and searching for submarines, numerous large splashes being observed close at hand. One plane under fire from forward machine guns was observed to veer sharply away and may have been hit.

0900    Destroyers commenced sortie.

0915    Small enemy fighter plane approached ship from astern (northwest), in medium glide and dropped two bombs, which exploded in water 50 yards off port bow and 20 yards off starboard bow. Plane was sighted by after machine gun crews while close in on dive. They opened fire, but apparently did not hit plane. Ship was swinging rapidly to port, which probably caused bombs to miss. Ship shook violently and all forward part was deluged with water. Steering casualty had just been repaired, but shock shorted relay again and hand steering was continued. Cyro rotor tumbles; all repeaters out. Choke coils tubes and resistors in sound gear burned out; echo ranging inoperative.

0920    (about) Received orders by TBS to patrol sector 3.

0930    Shifted steering motor power to diesel generator; regained bridge control of steering.

1000    Reported to ComDesRon Four that ship was patrolling sector 3. Continued patrol until orders were received at 1215 to rendezvous on Detroit.

1100    Sound listening watch heard screws on starboard quarter. Ship circled for attack but lost contact. No depth charges dropped.

1215    Received orders to join Detroit. Ceased patrolling.



  • Offensive measures taken:
  1. 5" and .50 caliber fire at all enemy aircraft within range, after 0805. Fire was slow due to necessity of breaking ammunition out of magazines and belting all but a small amount of .50 caliber ammunition. Total of 90 rounds 5" and 350 rounds .50 caliber was expended.
  2. 5" fire at enemy submarine off Tripod Reef at 0820.
  • Damage to enemy:
  1. One plane shot down by machine gun fire at 0810. One plane possibly hit by machine gun fire at 0830.
  2. Possible fragment hits on conning tower of submarine at 0820.
  • Own losses and damage:
  1. Losses:
  2. There were no losses or injuries to personnel.
  3. Damage:
    1. Steering casualty at 0820. This was not the result of enemy action, and was probably caused by vibration incident to heavy backing while clearing West Loch channel and shock of gun fire.
    2. Damage as result of bomb near-misses at 0915:
      1. Seams below water line on starboard side forward sprung. A-15, A-301, A-401, and A-402 flooded. These compartments were closed off and pumped out during the afternoon.
      2. Steering gear inoperative due to phase relay breaking loose on panel and short circuiting main contact relay which had just been repaired from previous casualty.
      3. Cyro rotor tumbled; all repeaters inoperative. This casualty rendered impossible effective director control of AA fire, due to absence of own course component. All magnetic compasses had been landed preparatory to deperming.
      4. Welded seams around director pedestal on director platform cracked on three sides where pedestal is secured to top of director tube. At the time, this damage did not render director inoperative. On the following day, these seams cracked open further due to high speeds and heavy seas, until director was in imminent danger of going overboard. Shored up director on all sides, reported situation to ComDesRon Four, and was directed return Pearl.
      5. Choke coils, tubes, and resistors in QCB power unit in sound room burned out, rendering echo ranging inoperative. Listening facilities not affected.
      6. Sheared rivets and burned out tubes in rectifiers in main radio room. Temporary repairs effected immediately.
      7. TBS contactor relay on motor generator knocked out of adjustment.
      8. FS smoke generators jumped tracks, breading air line connection.
  • Conduct of personnel:
  1. Throughout the attack the conduct of personnel was of the highest order. Men of the engineer force and torpedomen turned to without orders belting Machine gun ammunition and breaking out powder and projectiles. The spirit evidenced by all hands was a true "fighting spirit"; the Commanding Officer knows of no instance where this was not the case.
  • Other items of interest.
  1. At the time the attack commenced, the ship's two boats, containing together 7 men, were just rounding Waipio Point. These boats were strafed by enemy planes; one boat had about 15 bullet holes in the hull just above the water line. The crews beached the boats and took shelter on the beach, first in a wooden shack and later in a cave near the beach. About five minutes after the ship had cleared West Loch channel, enemy planes heavily bombed the channel. It seems reasonably certain that these bombs were intended for the ammunition dump on Waipio Peninsula. The boats' crews remained in Waipio Point until about noon, when they reported to the hospital landing and assisted in transporting casualties from Ford Island.
  2. While the ship was patrolling off the entrance, numerous splashes were observed in and around the channel entrance. Some of these were large and may have been caused by falling mines; however, no aircraft were observed close to the water.

[signed] C.E. CARROLL

Copy to: ComBatFor


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 Feb 20 11:22:21 EST 2018