- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Sunday, 22 November 2015 00:36
- Published: Friday, 23 May 2003 00:00
Donald Alexander Graham
Aviation Machinist's Mate on 7 December 1941
Statement of Aviation Machinists Mate, First Class Donald A. Graham
From: USS Arizona Action Report - 13 December 1941
On hearing the explosions and gun reports, Wentzlaff, E., A.O.M.2/c, came in saying we were being attacked and bombed by Jap planes. The air raid siren sounded, followed by the General Quarters alarm. I stepped outside the shop and started to my general quarters station on the quarterdeck, shouting "Let's go."
It seemed as though the magazines forward blew up while we were hooking up the fire hose, as the noise was followed by an awful "swish' and hot air blew out of the compartments, There had been bomb hits at the first start and yellowish smoke was pouring out of the hatches from below deck. There were lots of men coming out on the quarterdeck with every stitch of clothing and shoes blown off, painfully burned and shocked. Mr. Fuqua was the senior officer on deck and set an example for the men by being unperturbed, calm, cool, and collected, exemplifying the courage and traditions of an officer under fire. It seemed like the men painfully burned, shocked, and dazed, became inspired and took things in stride, seeing Mr. Fuqua, so unconcerned about the bombing and strafing, standing on the quarterdeck. There was no "going to pieces" or "growing panicky" noticeable, and he directed the moving of the wounded and burned men who were on the quarterdeck to the motor launches and boats. He gave orders to get the life rafts on #3 barbette down, supervised the loading of the wounded and burned casualties, assisted by Ensign J. D. Miller who set a very good example for a younger officer by being cool, calm, and collected.
The signal gang, quartermasters, and all hands on the bridge went up-- as the signal men were trying to put out a fire in the signal rack and grabbing signal flags out to hoist a signal, the whole bridge went up, flames enveloping and obscuring them from view as the flames shot upward twice as high as the tops. A bomb hit on the starboard side of the after 5 inch guns and anti-aircraft gun, and got most of the marine crew and anti-aircraft crews. It seemed as though one bomb hit the port after the anti-aircraft crew and came down through the casemate and Executive Officer's office.
After the big explosion and "swish," the men painfully burned and wounded, dazed beyond comprehension, came out on the quarterdeck. I had to stop some of them from entering the flames later on and directed them over to the starboard side of the deck to the gangway for embarking, encouraging them to be calm.
The Vestal, tied up alongside the port side, did not seem to get hit hard and started to get underway, so I stood by to cast off lines on the quarterdeck portside and cast off their bow lines as the Lieutenant Commander on her wanted to save the line to tie up to one of the buoys. Assisted by a seaman from #4 turret, we rendered the bow line around and cast her off. Then getting the small life raft on #3 turret barbette port side off and over the port stern, the water and oil being on deck, and the ship settling fast, we got orders to embark in the motor boat at the starboard stern quarter, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua and a few others still being aboard. We landed at BOQ landing, Ford Island. Smith, B.M.2c, USN, boat coxswain, made many trips for wounded and burned men being delivered by Lieutenant Commander Fuqua, still on board.
Courage and performance of all hands was of the highest order imaginable, especially being handicapped by adverse conditions and shipmates being blown up alongside them. There was no disorder nor tendency to run around in confusion. The coolness and calm manner of Lieutenant Commander Fuqua and Ensign J. D. Miller instilled confidence in the surviving crew.
On December 7, 1998, 57 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral William G. Sutton, Commander, Naval Base Pearl Harbor recalled a few of the men who survived the attack, whose actions exemplified the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment. "Aboard the Arizona, Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class Donald Graham braved intense flames and machine gun fire, to release the lines connecting the battleship with the repair ship USS Vestal. Graham's actions allow the Vestal to get underway to safety."
Donald Graham was awarded the Navy Cross for his action 7 December 1941
"The Navy Cross is presented to Donald A. Graham, Aviation Machinist's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy, for exceptional courage, presence of mind, and devotion to duty and disregard for his personal safety while serving aboard the U.S.S. ARIZONA (BB-39) during the Japanese attack on the United States Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941. Although his shipmates were leaving the blazing U.S.S. ARIZONA, on his own initiative Aviation Machinist's Mate First Class Graham faced the intense fire on the deck, severe bombing and withering machine gun fire of enemy strafing planes to release lines connecting the battleship with a repair vessel, U.S.S. VESTAL, thus aiding the latter in getting underway. The conduct of Aviation Machinist's Mate First Class Graham throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Navel Service."
Information researched and compiled by I. B. Nease and N. A. Nease and provided on USSARIZONA.ORG free of charge.
May not be reprinted in any form, other than educational use, without prior written permission of the author.