Today’s Surprising Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The biggest loss for the U.S. Navy was the battleship Arizona which was a total loss with 1,177 dead. Miraculously, several hundred men did survive on Arizona. Carl Carson was out on deck on that beautiful Sunday morning, when all hell broke loose. “I was out on deck doing the morning chores… and I was working on Admiral Kidd’s hatch, shining brightwork and so forth. And all of a sudden this plane came along, but I didn’t pay much attention to it, because planes were landing at Ford Island all the time. But this was different. The chips started flying all around me, and I realized that this same plane was strafing me.
“When they flew between the ship and Ford Island, I could look up and see the meatball on the wings [ie. the Japanese rising sun] and I could see the pilot sitting up there. Now somebody hollered to get under cover. So I ran forward and tried to get under cover. The officer on deck, one of my division officers, ordered me back out to close the hatches. So I was out there closing the hatches when another plane came around about the same direction and strafed us. But I don’t think anybody that was out there working at the time got hit.
“Then I went forward and inside the ship and started back to my battle station. At that point a bomb went off. I learned later it was back about turret No. 4, about where I’d been working only ten, fifteen minutes before. Evidently it knocked me out, ruptured both my lungs, and I suffered smoke inhalation. All the lights went out, and I don’t know how long I laid there. But when I woke up I picked up a flashlight, which I guess had fallen out of somebody’s hand. And so again, I started down into my battle station. But at this point they wouldn’t let me in the door, the watertight door you’re not supposed to open in battle conditions. But I managed to wait for what seemed like it was about 30 minutes. And I finally outlasted the guy on the other side.
“When I got into the turret it was totally dark except for my flashlight. And one of my division officers, Ensign J. B. Fields said, ‘You’re a good boy, Carson.’ And he said that’s exactly what we needed. Strangely, there was no panic down there or anything, despite the smoke and water knee deep. And a bosun’s mate by the name of Tucker took the flashlight and ordered me up on the ladder to open the hatch into the upper handling room.
“But now I started to feel pretty sick, so they had a guy come up to hold me, to keep me from falling off the ladder until I got the hatch open. And then we all made it out of the lower handling room into the upper. We’d only been up there about ten minutes when Ensign Miller, the senior division officer, stuck his head through the escape hatch in the rear of the turret and told us to all come out on deck and help fight fires. But there was nothing we could do. The ship was a total loss. So Commander Fuqua and Ensign Miller both said we might as well abandon ship.
“Before I did, I ran into a friend of mine who was crying and asking me for help. I looked at him in horror. The skin on his face and his arms and everywhere else was just hanging like a mask. And I took hold of his arm. His skin all came off in my hand. And there was just nothing in this world I could do for that boy. That has bothered me all my life. Of course he died. He died later.
“Now they gave the word to abandon ship, and because the ship was sinking so low we practically stepped off the quarterdeck into the water. I was planning to swim over to Ford Island, but I’d forgotten how badly I’d been injured, in my lungs. So I swam out there about ten feet and I guess I must have passed out. I went down in the water, and everything was just as peaceful and nice that it would have been so easy to just let go. But I saw this bright light you hear about, and something made me come to. So I got back up to the surface of the water only to find oil all around, oil in my eyes and my teeth, just as fire was burning across the water toward me. I got back to the quay. Miraculously a man saw me down there just as the fire was approaching me. It wasn’t more than two feet away from me, and this man reached down and pulled me up out of the water. This man saved my life. I think he was a man from the Fourth Division. About now a motor launch came along, and I either jumped or fell into the motor launch, because they said they couldn’t stop on account of the fire. And they took me over to Ford Island.
“At Ford Island, I walked down to the barracks with the rest of the crew. About the time I got down there I must have passed out again, because my friends and shipmates took me over to the sick bay at Ford Island. They laid me alongside the bulkhead. While I was unconscious there a dud Japanese shell hit right in the center of the sick bay. The impact brought me to and I looked over. Another of my shipmates was laying across from me, and I realized he was holding his intestines in with his hands. And he looked up at me and said, “War sure is hell isn’t it, shipmate?’ And I said, ‘Yeah it is.’ Then I discovered I wasn’t bleeding anywhere, so I got up and walked out of there.”
As the awful morning wore on, Arizona turned out to be the most disastrous loss. Her fires, explosions, and sinking killed 1,103 officers and men out of her total crew of 1,400 and the total death toll eventually reached 1,177. The casualties on Arizona accounted for more than half of the 2,403 deaths suffered by the U.S. at Pearl Harbor that day.
Culled from: Graveyards of the Pacific
Morbid Sightseeing in the Pacific!
Of course, the only reason I really want to go to Hawaii is to visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial where you can view the rusting remains of the ship as it lies in the harbor. You too?