- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 04:35
- Published: Monday, 27 December 1999 00:00
Vincent James "Jim" Vlach, Jr
Yeoman on 7 December 1941
Submitted by Jim Vlach
Vincent "Jim" Vlach enlisted in the Navy 12 June 1937 at Omaha. After completion of training and Class A School at San Diego, was assigned to USS ARIZONA (BB-39) and reported 30 August 1937. Left Navy 11 January 1941 but reenlisted 6 February 1941 since draft board was getting close. Requested ARIZONA and reported 4 April 1941.
Married Jeanne C. Norton 2 March 1940. One month later, 2 April 1940, ARIZONA and other West Coast Fleet Units departed for the Hawaiian area for Fleet Problem XXI. This was to be a six week event but was extended to six months due to the international situation. ARIZONA then left for a few days in the home port of San Pedro and then to Bremerton, WA for repairs. This six months in the Hawaiian area and then a few months on the West Coast became the pattern.
In August 1941, the Vlachs decided Jeanne should travel, at their expense, to Hawaii. However, Jim found that the ARIZONA was due to return to the mainland about mid-December 1941. He obtained permission to go ashore to send a telegram notifying her not to come out. As he entered the door to MacKay Radio Station, he changed his mind and sent "Come on Out. Love Jimmie." This decision did not make sense in view of available information; however, it meant the difference between life and death for Jim. If not sent, he would have been on board and would have been at his battle station in the 16" thick conning tower where all were cooked.
Jeanne arrived September 3, 1941 on SS MATSONIA. As a result, Jim was ashore the morning of 7 December 1941 when the Japanese started their attack on Pearl Harbor at approximately 0755. By the time Vlach and four others from the ship arrived at the Navy Yard shortly after 0900, they were not permitted to return to the ship. Abandon ship was in progress.
Vlach was involved in preparing casualty and muster roll reports and was among those retained with the "Vessels in Ordinary, USS ARIZONA detail" to close out the ship. Some of our personnel were involved in salvage work on our sunken ship. This ended on 30 March 1942 when the "close out detail" was transferred to USS UTAH (another ship that had been sunk). The transfer to UTAH was the signal to Base Force that we were available for reassignment.
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