Naval History and Heritage Command

Today in Naval History
December 7

1941 - In one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Japanese attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and nearby airfields and installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
On This Day

1796

In his Eighth Annual Message to Congress, President George Washington urges Congress to increase naval strength.

1941

In one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Japanese attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and nearby military airfields and installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and remove the U.S. Navy's battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empires southward expansion. The U.S. is brought into the World War II as a full combatant.

1941

As the Japanese attacked Midway Island, 1st Lt. George H. Cannon remains at his post until all of his wounded men are evacuated, though severely wounded himself. Because of his dedication to his men, Cannon dies due loss of blood from his wounds. For his "distinguished conduct in the line of his profession", Cannon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941

During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, commanding officer of USS West Virginia (BB 48), with concern only in fighting and saving his ship, strongly protests against being carried from the bridge. For devotion to duty and courage during the attack, Bennion is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941

Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, commanding officer of USS West Virginia (BB 48), evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Bennion is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941

Ensign Francis C. Flaherty remains in his turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see the escape, thereby sacrificing his own life. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Flaherty is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941

Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill leads his men of the line-handling details of USS Nevada to the quays, casts off the lines and swims back to this ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he is blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. Chief Hill earned the Medal of Honor that day for his distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

1941

Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Glenn Fuqua rushes to the quarterdeck of USS Arizona, where a large bomb hits and penetrates several decks, and the explosion starts a severe fire and also stuns and knocks him down. Upon coming to, he begins to direct the firefighting and rescue efforts. A tremendous explosion forward appears to make the ship rise out of the water, shudder and settle down by the bow. Flames envelope the forward part of the ship and spread, as wounded men pour out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite the mayhem, Fuqua keeps calm under pressure and continues to direct the firefighting efforts so that the wounded could be taken from the ship, and in so doing inspires everyone who sees him. Realizing that the ship cannot be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he orders the crew to abandon ship. Fuqua remains on the quarterdeck until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he leaves the ship with the last boatload.

1941

Rear Adm. Isaac C. Kidd immediately goes to the bridge and as the commander of battleship division one, he courageously performs his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until his flagship, USS Arizona, blows up from magazine explosions and he is killed by a direct bomb hit on the bridge.

1941

Ensign Herbert C. Jones organizes and leads a party in supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the USS California after the mechanical hoists were put out of action. Jones is then fatally wounded by a nearby bomb explosion and when two men attempt to take him from the area which was on fire, he refuses to let them, saying, in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.”

1941

Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John William Finn mans a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in an exposed section of the parking ramp, while under heavy enemy machine-gun strafing fire. While painfully wounded, he continued to man the gun and return the enemy’s fire throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks. He was at last persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention after being specifically ordered to do so. After receiving first-aid, the chief returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. Chief (later Lieutenant) Finn earned the Medal of Honor that day for his extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

1941

As the mechanized ammunition hoists are put of action in USS California, Chief Radioman Thomas James Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assists in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the antiaircraft guns until he is overcome by smoke and fire, resulting in his death.

1941

As his station in the forward dynamo room aboard the USS Nevada becomes almost untenable due to smoke, steam, and heat, Lt. Cmdr. Donald Kirby Ross forces his men to leave the station and performs all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returns and secures the forward dynamo room and proceeds to the aft dynamo room where he is again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Again recovering consciousness, he returns to his station where he remained until directed to abandon it.

1941

As the compartment in which the air compressor is located aboard USS California begins to flood, as a result of torpedo hit, the crew decides to evacuate the compartment, but Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Robert R. Scott refuses to leave, saying words to the effect, “This is my station and I will stay and give them air as long as the guns are going.”

1941

USS Utah begins to capsize as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing. Chief Watertender Peter Tomich remains at his post in the engineering plant until he sees that all boilers are secured and all of the crew in the fire room have left their stations, and by so doing loses his life.

1941

Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, commanding officer of USS Arizona, gallantly fights his ship until his death, when a direct bomb hits on the bridge and the ship blows up from magazine explosions.

1941

Seaman 1st Class James Richard Ward remains in his turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see the escape, thereby sacrificing his own life. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Ward is awarded the Medal of Honor.

1941

Aboard USS Vestal, moored to USS Arizona, Commander Cassin Young proceeds to the bridge and takes personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. The forward magazine of Arizona explodes and the blast blows Cmdr. Young overboard. He swims back to his ship, which is afire in several places, settling, and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and having been blown overboard, he calmly moves the ship to an anchorage distant from Arizona, which is a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships. Young subsequently beaches Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.

1941

While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Cook 3rd Class Dorris Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assists in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later mans and operates a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge. For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Miller is awarded the Navy Cross.

1944

The 7th Fleet forces land the 77th Army Infantry Division on the shore of Ormoc Bay. Kamikazes attack the Task Force, damaging several U.S. Navy ships. USS Ward (APD 16) is scuttled after being hit by a kamikaze.

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