- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 21:56
- Published: Sunday, 21 April 2002 00:00
When I got to my battle station, which was the aft repair party, the first explosion took place, knocking out all the lights. I tried calling my control station, but could not get an answer. In the darkness, I went for the doorway, which had a ladder on the other side leading down to the passageway between the number 3 and number 4 turrets. I straddled the opening of the doorway, waiting to see if the lights would come back on. At that moment, a terrific explosion took place that knocked me down the ladder in one big "swish". I landed on my feet at the doorway to the passageway, not knowing if I was hurt or not. I immediately checked my body for broken bones and bleeding. Since there was no light, I had to feel my body with my hands. Fortunately, I checked out okay.
When I stepped into the passageway, I was with about seven other men and three officers. The door to the base of the number three turret was dogged down for water tightness below the water line, so this had to be opened. The explosion that had blown me down to this area had also consumed most of the oxygen in the air and our breathing became very difficult. Some of the men began to panic and began hitting the door with their hands. I dropped down to my knees and was able to push the lower four dogs open with my hands. Fortunately, someone else opened the upper four dogs and we were able to open the door just as we were about to collapse from the lack of oxygen. The good air on the other side of the door revived us all. We closed the door to save as much air as possible.
As we stood in the darkness at the base of number three turret, we felt our feet getting wet from water seeping into the compartment. We held a short meeting as to what to do, because we had not been ordered to abandon ship. It was decided that one of the officers should report our condition to the bridge. This officer climbed up through the gun turret as the rest of us waited for him to return with his orders.
After what seemed like an eternity, he returned and told us to abandon ship, that the ship was on fire and appeared to be completely destroyed.
We climbed up through the gun turret and left the gun turret by way of the escape hatch located on the underside of the overhang portion of the turret.
As I swung out of the escape hatch, I had forgotten this turret was several feet above the deck. I did manage to swing to the ladder mounted on the side of the gun turret and climbed down to the deck.
Fortunately for us, the wind was blowing towards the bow of the ship. The smoke was very thick and black from the burning oil and could have made breathing very difficult if the wind had been in the other direction.
Once we were all on the deck, we regrouped again and decided to take the raft off the gun turret and throw it over the side for something to hold on to as we swam for shore. What we had all forgotten about was the oil on the water that was leaking from the ship. The oil was so thick on the water that it made it very hard to swim. The coating of oil on my skin made me tired, besides what I swallowed made me feel sick.
I knew I couldn't make it to shore so I swam for the aft quay. Again I was thankful to find two shipmates standing on the wooden bumper. They reached over and grabbed my hands, pulling me up just far enough to reach the top of the bumper. They told me I would have to make it the rest of the way by myself because there were others that needed help. Ordinarily, I would have dropped back into the water because I was so tired. But I knew my life depended on getting up on that bumper. With all the strength I could muster, I made the supreme effort and was able to pull and kick my way up to get on it.