Skip to main content

The Navy Department Library

Related Content

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 West Virginia - Reports by Survivors of Pearl Harbor Attack

USS West Virginia

Lieutenant Commander T. T. Beattie wrote as follows:

About five minutes to eight I was in the wardroom just finishing breakfast, when word came over the loud speaker from the officer-of-the-deck, "away fire and rescue party." This was followed immediately by a second announcement over the loud speaker, "Japanese are attacking, all hands General Quarters," and the general alarm was rung.

I heard several dull explosions coming from other battleships. Immediately I left the wardroom and ran up the starboard passageway to the bridge. The Captain was just ahead of me and proceeding in the same direction.

At this time the ship listed at least five or six degrees and was steadily listing more to port. The Captain and I went to the conning tower, our battle stations, and at this time dive bombing attacks started to take place and numerous explosions were felt throughout the ship. Upon testing our communications with central station and to the guns we found they were disrupted. I suggested to the Captain as long as no communications were in the battle conning tower that we leave there and attempt to establish messenger communication and try to save the ship. We went out on the starboard side of the bridge discussing what to do. During all this time extremely heavy bombing and strafing attacks occurred. The ship was constantly shaken by bomb hits.

The Captain doubled up with a groan and stated that he had been wounded. I saw that be had been hit in the stomach probably by a large piece of shrapnel and was very seriously wounded. He then sank to the deck and I loosened his collar. I then sent a messenger for a pharmacists mate to assist the Captain.

Just then the USS Arizona's forward magazines blew up with a tremendous explosion and large sheets of flame shot skyward, and I began to wonder about our own magazines and whether they were being flooded. I posted a man with the Captain and went down to the forecastle where a number of the crew and officers had gathered. I got hold of a chief turret captain to check immediately on the magazines and to flood them if they were not flooded at this time. Large sheets of flame and several fires started aft. Burning fuel oil from the USS Arizona floated down on the stern of the ship. Just then the gunnery officer, Lieutenant Commander Berthold, came aboard and I asked him to try to flood the forward magazines. Shortly thereafter I was informed that the after magazines were completely flooded but that they were unable to flood the forward magazines as the water was now almost to the main deck.

At about this time a large oil fire swept from the USS Arizona down the port side of the USS West Virginia. We had no water on board as the fire mains and machinery were out of commission and we were unable to do any fire fighting at all. I got into a motor launch to go to the stern of the ship to investigate the fire. The smoke was so heavy that I could not see aft of the bridge. As I got into the boat a sheet of flame swept on top of us and we barely managed to get free of the fire. I then had the boat take me aft. The burning oil on the water swept by the ship and I managed to return to the quarterdeck. I realized then that the ship was lost.

The attack lasted approximately thirty minutes. We were able to fire all our ready ammunition on the anti-aircraft batteries, but were unable to replenish it as the ship was flooded. I then told the men on the quarterdeck, with the exception of a small working party, to leave the ship. I believe at this time that all the wounded had been taken off the ship and it was extremely dangerous for anyone to remain aboard; that nothing could be done to save the ship and shells from the secondary batteries were constantly exploding due to the intensive heat of the fire midships.

The conduct of the crew and officers was outstanding. There was no confusion and every man and officer did his duty as well as he was able under the conditions.

Lieutenant (jg) H. B. Stark wrote as follows:

Shortly before eight o'clock on Sunday morning, I was in my room double george [room GG] on the half deck. Double george is the third stateroom counting from aft on the starboard side of the half deck, in the third watertight compartment from aft. As I was getting up from my bunk I heard the call "Away Fire and Rescue Party," followed immediately by General Quarters. This was followed almost immediately by two or three violent explosion in quick succession. The ship started listing to port right away. Grabbing an armload of clothes, I ran forward and found only one man on the half deck manning the repair phone. Between us we started closing watertight doors working from aft, although we did not check the after door leading to the airplane crane room, which normally should be shut. As I dogged down [closed] the door forward of my room I heard something let go in the compartment, some leak starting violently. By that time there were a few more men in the compartment above. The large watertight hatch over that space was dropped and I crawled out through the escape scuttle. As I did I skidded over to port and landed in about four feet of water with a scum of fuel oil. I decided to work my way along the starboard side of the third deck to see if counter-flooding was being accomplished. To my mind there was no danger of sinking in that shallow water but there was great danger of turning over on the port side, as the port list was getting greater. As I dropped down into the trunk to the steering motor room, fire and grains of burning powder showered around me. With the help of a marine sentry the slight fire was extinguished but we could not completely shut the hatch leading down to the steering motor room; it seemed jammed although almost shut. I sent the marine up to shut the hatch over me as I undogged the starboard door. When I stepped into the mess attendants compartment someone helped me to shut the door. At that time I first noticed that it was completely dark except for a glimmer of a flashlight forward. I groped my way along the deck to the next compartment through the open door and found the damage control gear locker. Puccio, S.F., 3c, I think, had broken into the locker and was hunting for counterflood cranks. He found one and I found one; also a flashlight. I told him to flood forward while I did aft. I ran back into the after compartment and started cranking. We worked for some time on three voids, I believe, but were unable to build up any pressure before the men started falling to the deck [overcome by fuel oil fumes?]. The valve settings were on open, we could not lift any, and the men were all passing out. I grabbed someone and told everyone to haul somebody out the starboard hatch on the quarterdeck just aft of the break of the deck, Then, again I remember nothing until I was under the overhang of turret two, my turret. My head ached terrifically, I could not breathe, and all my extremities tingled as if they had been asleep and were just being awakened. Finding out from my CTC [Chief Turret Captain]., Crawford, that no one was in control, I started for that station with the starboard anti-aircraft guns firing in my face, it seemed to me. That was the first time I realized the anti-aircraft guns were firing. I ran into Lieutenant Ricketts on the boat deck by a number three anti-aircraft gun and asked him if be needed men. He said, "Yes, on the anti-aircraft ammunition supply." I noticed several anti-aircraft officers on the battery and it was functioning wonderfully. I got back under the overhang of the turret, but the hatches were closed. I passed out in the exertion of opening the right tail hatch, but was able to tell Crawford to get men on the antiaircraft ammunition train. How long I lay there trying to breathe I do not know until Crawford returned, told me that the ammunition train was flooded, that all boat deck ammunition was exhausted, and that the Captain had ordered "Abandon Ship!" I made sure that my turret was evacuated, then remember hitting the water from the forecastle. I tried to swim but was too weak. Clover, E.F., G.M. 2 c, and Hitcher, H.C., Sea. 1c, of my division held me up and dumped me into a life raft. The next I definitely remember I was on Ford Island at the dispensary.


Published: Wed Jul 22 12:09:32 EDT 2015