Pearl Harbor Day

Local guy is in Hawaii for the Pearl Harbor anniversary, survivor of the attack. He was aboard battleship U.S.S. Tennessee, which was moored inboard of U.S.S. West Virginia and directly in front of the Arizona on Battleship Row … he and his crewmates ran *below decks* after the first torpedo hit on Tennessee and two more torpedos hit on their way down to knock them down the stairs, because at general quarters their duty was to light the six main boilers ….

From the local news:

“I have forgotten everything else — my memory isn’t very good — but Pearl Harbor is very vivid to me.”

Stuck in the bowels of the ship, Berg and his crewmates could not see the attack unfold — relying entirely on reports sent over the communications system from the man on the pilot deck.

“He was describing the scene, what was going on, and that was the devastating part,” Berg said.

“He told about the West Virginia sinking, the Arizona had fires on it and the Oklahoma … was turning over and they were bombing other ships near the shipyard. I am relaying all of this information to the other five guys that [were] in the boiler room.”

Shortly after 8 a.m., a bomb hit the forward ammunition magazine of the Arizona, causing a massive explosion.

“It just shattered the front end of the ship,” Berg said.

“The explosion was so great that it caused concussion down our smokestack down into our boiler, which blew the fire [from] the six burners on each boiler … out into the operating space and I guess singed a lot of eyebrows.”

The flames were gone in a flash, being sucked back into the smokestack after a few seconds, Berg said.

The USS Tennessee was hit by two bombs at about 8:30 a.m. but by 9:30 a.m. was ready to get underway thanks to the efforts of the eight boiler crews below.

Berg would not emerge topside until later that night, he said.

“We had already drank the 5-gallon bucket of water that we keep in every fire room,” Berg said.

“They sent me topside to refill it and it was already dark.”

When Berg emerged, he observed a scene straight out of hell.

“Honolulu was completely blacked out and the only light there was [originated from] the fires on the West Virginia … and the Arizona.”

In addition to the vivid memories made during the attack, Berg said he also keeps a memento reminding him of that day: a copy of a Stradivari violin that escaped damage during the attack because it was hidden beneath his pea coat in his quarters below the waterline.

Berg said that as a member of the Port Townsend Community Orchestra, he still performs on the instrument he once smuggled aboard the USS Tennessee.

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One Response to Pearl Harbor Day

  1. Joe Wheeler says:

    I have a friend here in Olympia that was D Day plus 2. For years he had a war souvenir: one of the banners that hung behind Hitler during his famous Nuremberg 1938 night speech in the hall of lights. He sold it several years ago to a collector.

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