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Wallin, Homer N. Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal. (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1968): 297-327.

  • Theater of Operations--Pacific
Document Type
Wars & Conflicts
  • World War II 1939-1945
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials

USS Tennessee - Reports by Survivors of Pearl Harbor Attack

USS Tennessee

The Executive Officer of USS Tennessee, Commander Colin Campbell, wrote as follows:

At 0800 Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, I was at my residence in Waikiki, Honolulu, T. H., on authorized liberty. At about that time I heard what appeared to be gun fire, and which I first thought to be target practice of some kind. Shortly after, word came over the radio that Pearl Harbor was being attacked by Japanese planes, and all service personnel should proceed at once to their stations. I started immediately by automobile to Pearl Harbor, but the traffic congestion was such that I did not arrive until about 0915. I went to the Officer's Club Landing. Bombing planes were still attacking. I was finally able to commandeer a boat. The Tennessee was moored inboard of the West Virginia at berth F-6. The West Virginia had been sunk and was on fire. The Arizona, about 75 feet astern of the Tennessee had been sunk and was on fire, and oil was burning on the water. I landed on Ford Island and about 0940 was able to get aboard over a pipe line. I went to the signal bridge and assumed command until the arrival of the Captain about 1000. Lieutenant Commander J. W. Adams, Jr., who had the head of Department duty, had been in command and was on the signal bridge. The stern of the Tennessee was on fire, and fires were raging on the Arizona and West Virginia, threatening destruction of this ship. The officers on the bridge of the West Virginia informed me that her after magazines had been flooded, but that efforts had been made to flood the forward magazines, but as the second deck was under water they were not sure that they had succeeded. I told them that their magazines must be flooded at all costs, as this ship was relatively undamaged and must be saved. When the Captain came aboard be directed me to go aft and take charge on the quarterdeck, where I remained practically continuously supervising the firefighting on this ship and against the oil fires on the water coming from the Arizona, until about sundown Tuesday the 9th, by which time the oil fires on the Arizona had been extinguished by this ship and yard tugs. The fires aft on this ship were under control by about 1030 Sunday morning, but continued to break out sporadically for the next couple of days due to the intense beat from the Arizona oil fires. During this time our main engines were run ahead and the wash from the propeller very successfully helped wash the burning oil astern, assisted by hoses from this ship. The Tennessee was wedged between the sunken West Virginia and the forward quay, preventing any movement ahead. As long as the intense fires raged on the Arizona, the Tennesseewas constantly in danger.

For me to mention the especially distinguished conduct of any particular individual would detract from the bravery, calmness, and efficiency of all officers and men. The conduct of all hands was superb, and I am proud of every one of them. I cannot help, however, mentioning at this time the distinguished conduct of Lieutenant Commander J. W. Adams, Jr., the gunnery officer; and that of Chief Boatswain I. W. Adkins, who had charge of the repair party fighting the fires aft, and whose leadership and heroic conduct helped to save the ship by keeping the fires under control.


Published: Wed Jul 22 12:00:24 EDT 2015