- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Created: Monday, 18 October 1999 00:00
- Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 November 2015 02:52
John MacRay Baker
Sergeant, US Marine Corps. on 7 December 1941
Submitted by Russell J. McCurdy
From: USS Arizona Action Report - 13 December 1941
On December 7, 1941, at approximately 0800 I was seated at the breakfast table in the Marine compartment on the USS Arizona. The first thing I knew of the attack was when I heard the air raid alarm, some seconds later I heard an explosion in the distance and machine gun fire. Our anti-aircraft guns came into action, I think, a little before General Quarters sounded. I started up the starboard ladder, and as there was considerable congestion there, 2nd Lieutenant Simensen, USMC forced his way up the ladder which led through the Casemate #9; the gun was already manned and I heard Corporal Bond yell train out to 90. I followed Lt. Simensen up the starboard ladder of the tripod mast under a hail of fragments and machine gun bullets. Just as the Lieutenant reached the first platform of the main mast and stepped clear of the super structure there, a bomb hit somewhere on the quarterdeck below, a fragment from which, or possibly a machine gun bullet, struck him in the mid-section and he dropped in front of me ; he was dead almost instantly. I made it to the control station, Secondary Aft, where I was range keeper operator, Group Three. Major Shapley, Corporal Nightingale, and several others were there. Less than a minute later what seemed to be a very large bomb, went directly down our stack. A tremendous shock shook the ship and she seemed afire at once.
The Major shouted we might as well go below as we were no good there; I was the first, I think, to start down the ladder. When I reached the search-light platform someone hollered, "You can't use the ladder"; whereupon K.D. Goodman, who had been in the Secondary Aft, jumped from turret 3 and I found out later that he had made it sustaining only slight injury to his ankle. The boat deck was a mass of wreckage and fire; several men who had been killed were lying there. I ran down the Officer's ladder to the Quarterdeck. The first person I saw was Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua; he was very calm and aiding men over the side - - these men who had been burned so severely were barely able to stand, and many apparently could not see, they would not have made it to shore if it had not been for the presence of mind of the Commander. He was assisting two wounded men. I took off my clothes to swim for it. His calmness gave me courage and I looked around the deck to see if I could help. Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua ordered me over the side and I saw Corporal Bond burned black on the ship as I looked back from the quay; he was still on his feet. I also saw Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua still on the quarterdeck aiding men over the life line and directing others who were shocked too badly to move to abandon ship. There is no doubt in my mind that many men would never have reached safety except for the superb manner in which Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua kept control of the situation, for there was a constant hail of splinters and the ship was being machine-gunned constantly.
Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua was exposed to all this and yet refused to leave the ship as long as he could help the men who were injured.
I swam for Ford Island and halfway there I saw Major Alan Shapley struggling with Corporal Nightingale in the water; they were too far away for me to reach them, but I could see that the Major was very tired and was risking drowning by hanging on to Nightingale, both of whom had on full clothing. I learned later they had been "blown" from the ship into the water. I reached Ford Island safely and made for shelter.
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