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USS Vega, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack

 
AK17/A1g-3
U.S. NAVAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICE
U.S.S. VEGA
December 10, 1941
From: Commanding Officer.
To: The Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District.
 
Subject: Action - Report of.
 
Reference: (a) U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920.
  1. In accordance with the provisions of reference (a), the report of the action in which this vessel was engaged on Sunday, December 7, 1941, is submitted herewith.
  2. This vessel arrived in Honolulu on the afternoon of Saturday, December 6, 1941, and moored to berth 31 A at 1251 that date. Directly ahead of the Vega a Matson Line freighter, S.S. Diamond Head was moored and directly astern the S.S. Permanente, under charter to the Matson Navigation Company, was moored. A clearance of approximately ten or fifteen feet existed between the ships ahead and astern.
  3. Shortly after 0800, December 7, 1941, explosions were heard in the direction of Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter a message was received from the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, advising all ships present of a Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. General Quarters was sounded immediately and 3" and 5" ready boxes were filled to capacity. Stevedores in the process of discharging cargo assisted in the transfer of ammunition.
  4. About 0830 Japanese bombers were seen circling the city and headed in the direction of the docks. Japanese insignia on the planes was plainly visible through glasses. The initial formation consisted of six planes flying in a "V" formation. This ship opened fire with its 3" A.A. guns. An unknown ship, believed to be the United Netherlands Navigation Company steamer, the S.S. Clipfontaine, approaching the entrance to Honolulu channel also opened fire. This formation of planes circled back over the city without, as far as is known, dropping any bombs.
  5. At about 0930 another formation of planes approached overhead and commenced circling, evidently in preparation for a dive bombing attack on the waterfront docks and oil tanks. This ship resumed fire on this formation and apparently was joined by shore batteries at the harbor entrance. This formation released several bombs one of which apparently dropped on the Honolulu Gas Company property; a second dropped astern of this ship and about 30 yards away in the channel; and a third struck Sand Island approximately 300 yards from the Vega. Concurrently a burst of machine gun bullets was seen to strike the water off the port bow of the ship.
  6. A total of fourteen rounds of 3"-23 caliber were fired. One burst was seen to rock one of the planes badly and appeared to bring about a marked change of course of the formation.
  7. At approximately 1020, a small bomb or shrapnel fragment landed on the pavement on the starboard quarter of the ship, distant about 200 yards, injuring a number of civilian workmen.
  8. It was noted that the undress white uniforms of the ship's company stood out in sharp contrast to the dark gray paint of the ship, thus making conspicuous targets for machine gun fire.
  9. It is considered that prompt and effective action was taken by all personnel and particularly by the Executive Officer who was commanding officer at the time of commencement of the raid.
  10. Inasmuch as the Commanding Officer of the ship was ashore when the raid commenced and returned aboard at 1005, this report is to be regarded as a combined report of the Commanding and Executive Officer.

[signed]
K.L. FORSTER.

CERTIFIED A TRUE COPY

/signed/
A.C. SMITH,
Commander, U.S. Navy.

CONTRACTORS
Pacific Naval Air Bases
Contracts Nos. 3550 and Nos. 4173

Kauhua Island,
Navy Yard,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.

December 15, 1941.

From: W.C. Marr, Traffic Manager, Pier 31-A.
To: Lieutenant Richard Holdbrook Administration Building, Pearl Harbor.
Subject: OFFICER AND CREW - U.S.S. VEGA.

All of us at Pier 31-A who were present on Sunday, December 6, 1941, had an opportunity to witness at first hand the performance of the officers and crew of the U.S.S. Vega, and I had been directed by Mr. Marr to bring the following to your attention.

This ship was manned at the beginning of the first raid and guns were in action immediately. As a matter of fact, their guns were in action on every raid before the anti-aircraft batteries at Sand Island went into action.

During the final raid, occurring about noon, five ships apparently attempted to attack the oil installations of the various oil companies immediately adjacent to Pier 31-A, as well as the shipping tied up at this pier and neighboring piers. The U.S.S. Vega went into instant action and it is our considered judgement that only accurate and sustained fire by the personnel of this ship saved these oil installations and ships from considerable damage. One enemy plane was seen to wobble badly, and it is our belief that this plane was badly hit. The Vega kept these planes at a high altitude so that what bombs they did release fell harmlessly in the water or at Sand Island, across the channel.

By carbon copy of this letter we are expressing the sincere thanks of the entire personnel of this department to the officers and crew of the U.S.S. Vega, and this letter is sent to you for such action and commendations as you may deem fit to extend.

CERTIFIED A TRUE COPY.
/signed/
A.C. SMITH,
Commander, U.S. Navy.
W.C. Marr,

/s/ By. H.J. RODDEWIGG.

OFFICE OF THE COMMANDANT
Fourteenth Naval District
and
Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

December 15, 1941.

From: Assistant Port Director N.T.S. Aloha Tower.
To: Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District.
Subject: Air Raid Attack by Japanese.
Reference: (a) District Memorandum 10 Dec., 1941.
  1. In accordance with district memorandum dated 10 December 1941, the report of the activities in Honolulu Harbor Sunday 7 December, 1941, as observed by this officer is submitted herewith.
  2. This officer arrived in his office on the 9th floor of Aloha Tower about 0800 Sunday and observed the attack being made on Pearl Harbor. Very shortly thereafter and about 0830 a formation of planes was observed coming toward Honolulu Harbor from Pearl Harbor, just outside of the shore line. This formation consisted of six planes in "V" formation. They circled toward Honolulu Harbor and upon their approach were immediately fired upon by the U.S.S. Vega, which was moored at Pier 31. The bursts from the Vega were sufficiently close to cause these planes to veer from their course seaward.
  3. At this time the SS Jaegersfontain was off the entrance of Honolulu Harbor attempting to enter the harbor. As the net was closed it was necessary for them to wait for an approved entry. While preparations were being made for this entry another formation of planes approached the harbor and apparently intended to bomb the Jaegersfontain. All during this time the U.S.S. Vega was firing on this formation, with their bursts sufficiently close to obviously throw them off their mark.
  4. It is the opinion of this officer that the prompt and efficient manner in which the U.S.S. Vega went into action, unquestionably saved the waterfront of Honolulu from sever bombing with the resultant damage.
CERTIFIED A TRUE COPY

A.C. SMITH,
Commander, U.S. Navy.
/s/ C.G. PELL

AK17/A15
Serial (11)M

U.S. NAVAL TRANSPORTATION SERVICE
U.S.S. VEGA

January 7, 1943.

From: Commanding Officer.
To: The Secretary of the Navy.
Via: (1) The Commandant, Thirteenth Naval District.
(2) The Chief of Naval Operations (Naval Transportation Service)
Subject: Request for consideration for an award of a ship citation.
Reference: (a) AlNav No. 238 of November 7, 1942.
Enclosure: (A) C.O. report of action December 7, 1941, (AK17/A16-3 of December 10, 1941)
(B) Pacific Naval Air Base Company letter of December 15, 1941.
(C) Assistant to Port Director Naval Transportation Service letter of December 15, 1941.
  1. It is requested that, in accordance with reference (a), the Navy Department Award Board give consideration of the request for the issue of an award of appropriate insignia to the U.S.S. Vega for its action taken at the time of the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, T.H., December 7, 1941.
  2. Enclosures (A), (B), and (C) are for review of the board of the action engaged in by this ship December 7, 1941. In addition to these reports, the present Commanding Officer desires to invite attention to a fact not covered in any of the above enclosures and which is deemed to be an outstanding performance of duty above that described in these aforementioned enclosures. The present Commanding Officer was the Acting Commanding Officer during the raids and personally ordered and observed the performance and the accomplishment of this additional incident.
  3. This ship commenced discharge of cargo from deck load and uncovered holds shortly after arrival at Pier 31-A, Honolulu, T.H., about 1300, December 6, 1941. Included in the cargo was 130.3 tons of explosives which had been put aboard at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. By authority of the Bureau of Ordnance, this was loaded in #1 cargo hold for this voyage. There is no method of flooding or sprinkling this hold except via fire hose through main hatches and a steam smothering system (useless when hold is open). The explosives were made up of the following:
  4. 720 tanks - 5"25 loaded and fuzed
    117 tanks - 5"/51 smokeless powder
    217 boxes (686 ctgs) 3"/50 loaded and fuzed
    2340 - 5"/38 AA projectiles loaded and fuzed
    17 - boxes (68 ctgs) 3"/50 target ammunition
    5060 pounds bulk catapult powder (in 46 boxes)

  5. At the commencement of the raid this ammunition was in the process of being discharged from #1 hold to Pier 31-A, Honolulu, T.H. One freight car load of shells was alongside the ship and a partial freight car load of powder was being loaded. Work was stopped automatically on going to General Quarters. A little later and about coincidentally with the first flight of enemy planes over Honolulu, it was decided to move the two aforementioned cars of ammunition from alongside #1 hold and to get the balance of the ammunition out of that hold which was then open. Men from the ship assisted by longshoremen volunteers on the dock pushed both cars manually up and around the dock into an area where they would be of less menace to ship, pier, and warehouses. It was during this period that the civilians were wounded on the pier and fire had started in the adjacent Honolulu Gas Company property. A winchman and hatch tender were provided from ship's company and with the whole-hearted assistance of those civilian stevedores who remained aboard, the discharge of the balance of this ammunition was resumed into another car. This was completed about noon and all freight cars were sent on their way to Naval Ammunition Depot, Oahu. Later that afternoon an urgent telephone call was received from Pearl Harbor directing that the ammunition be sent to Pearl Harbor as soon as humanly possible. It was the great and justifiable pride and satisfaction that this command was able to report that the ammunition had been discharged and was already on its way.
  6. No particular credit is requested for any individual officer or man but if any ship insignia is to be granted to individual ships, it is believed such an insignia would be of great pride to a ship of this class and to the morale of its personnel.

A.C. SMITH.

[END]

Published:Mon Jan 04 09:01:14 EST 2016