VLACH, Jeanne Claire Norton

Jeanne Claire (Norton) Vlach

Wife of Vincent J. Vlach, Jr. on 7 December 1941
Submitted by Jeanne C. Vlach

Jeanne C. Vlach is the wife of Vincent (Jim) Vlach, Jr.
This is her story.

On 2 April 1941, one month after Jim and I were married, President Roosevelt ordered most of the Pacific Fleet to conduct exercises in the Hawaiian area. This was in response to aggressive moves by Japan. It was supposed to be a six week exercise but was extended to six months, at which time the ship (USS ARIZONA) would return to its home port of San Pedro, California for a few days and then go north to Bremerton, Washington for repairs. This became the pattern - about six months in the Hawaiian operating area and a short trip back to the mainland.

Transport at government expense to Honolulu was not authorized for battleship dependents since the home port had not been changed as it had for some cruisers. We became tired of the long separation and in August 1941 decided that I should pay my way to Honolulu even though the ship would probably return to the mainland in December.

A few days after I arrived, Jim found an apartment complex under construction on Cleghorn Ave. in the Waikiki area. The Chinese owner said we could have an apartment when construction was finished if we would paint the inside, which we did. Word got around on this apartment and several others from the ship moved to that location. One, Edith Crothers, wife of BM1c Lee R. Crothers arrived 5 December 1941 and a welcoming party was held for her on the evening of 6 December. Others at that complex were the Ralph Fowlers BM1c and the Everett Reids MM1c who observed his 24th birthday 6 December 1941. The Howard Watsons BM1c lived about one block from that complex.

The next morning, 7 December 1941, was a beautiful day, the type the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce likes to brag about. About 0800, the wife of a Chief who lived next door banged on our door hollering, "Turn on your radio; the Japanese are attacking Pearl Harbor and all military are to return to their duty stations!" I prepared an egg sandwich while Jim changed to his uniform. It took until a little past 0900 before they arrived at Pearl Harbor. By that time, they were abandoning the USS ARIZONA. It had been mortally wounded by a bomb which hit near Turret II and penetrated to a magazine which caused the destruction of the ship.

There were many explosions in the Waikiki area. Erroneous reports were made indicating the area was being bombed by the Japanese. It was later determined that those explosions were our ordnance exploding on ground contact. Fuses had not been set.

Remember the Arizona!
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