Prologue Magazine

Winter 2011, Vol. 43, No. 4

Remembering Pearl Harbor . . . 70 years later

By Lopez Matthews, Zachary Dabbs, and Eliza Mbughuni

Aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941: left to right, USS West Virginia, USS Tennessee, and USS Arizona. (Franklin Roosevelt Library)

The Japanese navy's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, is etched in the memories of generations of Americans. The story has been told many times in print and on film.

Seventy years ago, even as Japan's envoys to Washington were receiving last-minute instructions from Tokyo for their meeting with the U.S. secretary of state, Japanese aircraft carriers and battleships stealthily moved into position in the Pacific northwest of Hawaii.

Most of the U.S. battleships in the Pacific were in port at Pearl Harbor, and U.S. fighter planes were clustered together on their airfield—making easy targets for an enemy. American soldiers and sailors had enjoyed another peaceful Saturday night, and early risers were waking up to a sunny Sunday morning.

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A sighting of unidentified planes by radar station operators minutes before the attack was discounted by an officer at the command center headquarters, squandering time that could have been used to prepare defenses. Suddenly, planes bearing the red sun swept in, and the bombing began. Before the day was over, 2,403 Americans were dead, and our Pacific Fleet was in ruins.

Even in this time of crisis, however, records were being created on board the ships docked in Pearl Harbor—records that are now part of the holdings of the National Archives. These are firsthand accounts from the logbooks of the U.S. Navy's ships and stations compiled from 1941 to 1978. And they provide some insight into the events of the day—before, during, and after the attack— through the eyes of those who witnessed it.

The day—the one that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would "live in infamy"—started out routinely, as the deck logs show. To maintain an accurate description of events as they happened, the assigned officer placed entries into the log every four hours. The intervals are found at the beginning of each entry as seen in the excerpts below. For instance, before the first entry from each ship you will see the number 4–8 or a variation thereof. This represents the time period from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Navy ship deck logs are the "running record" of all events that occur aboard a naval vessel. Deck logs were, and are, kept for both legal and administrative reasons. Generally, the deck logs document a ship's movements and encounters along with the accidents, injuries, deaths, disciplinary actions, and provisions of her crew.

In addition, the names of the ship crew members were also included in the logs when mustered in or when charged with a crime. The vast majority of these entries document routine functions carried out aboard a ship, yet those entered at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, also capture elements of the shock and confusion brought by the Japanese attack.

On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the logs begin with routine entries, noting the reception and inspection of provisions. The USS Chew, USS Conyngham, USS Cummings, and USS Maryland were loading provisions, mostly ice cream, milk, and ice. The Chew received 10 gallons of milk and 4½ gallons of ice cream; the Conyngham received 6 gallons of ice cream; the Cummings received 15 gallons of milk and 7 gallons of ice cream; and the Maryland received 2,000 pounds of ice.

At around 7:55 a.m., crew members of the Conyngham reported an attack by Japanese planes and had to conduct emergency repairs on the main engines. By 8:08 a.m., crew members had opened fire on the Japanese planes, using all of their machine guns. The deck log reports that they shot down at least three enemy planes. A cease-fire was reported at 11:04 a.m., and between noon and 4 p.m., crew members of the Conyngham rescued their comrades whose ships were destroyed, pulling more than 30 people from the waters.

Although heavily damaged, the USS Maryland was also active in the rescue efforts. The ship was able to rescue 25 survivors from the USS Oklahoma, transferring some to the USS Solace. Meanwhile, the USS California was nearly destroyed, and its crew was ordered to evacuate as burning fuel oil on the surface of the water threatened the ship. However, the flaming oil slick cleared the ship, and the crew returned to battle mode.

Log entry for the USS Conyngham:

4–8
Moored as before. 0630 Received the following provisions for use in general mess, inspected at [sic] to quantity by Lt (jg) J.R. HANSEN, USN., and as to quality by PARCHESKI, P.C., PhMlc., from Dairyman's Association Ltd.: ice cream—6gals. 0755 Japanese planes commenced bombing Pearl Harbor Area. Held general quarters, manned all guns, commenced breaking out powder. Commenced emergency repairs on main engines to get underway. Captain on the bridge.

[signature]
J.R. HANSEN
Lieutenant (jg), USN

8–12
Moored as before. At 0808 opened fire with 5" guns (#4 and #5 in local control) at Japanese planes over Ford island and with all machine guns on attacking planes as they flew low past the nest heading to Northward from vicinity of Ford Island. At 0813 attacking plane shot down by combined fire of nest and crashed in vicinity of CURTIS. At 0818 opened fire with 5" guns (#1 and #2 in director control) at horizontal bombers passing overhead in direction of Schofield Barracks. At 0825 opened fire with fwd 5" and machine guns at planes strafing nest from direction of Pearl City. At 0826 planes crossing low ahead of nest to NE were taken under fire; one burst into flames and crashed in clump of trees in Aiea Heights and exploded. At 0830 plane diving toward Ford Island from NE was shot down by combined fire of nest. At 0855 opened fire at planes strafing ahead and astern. At 0908 one plane attacking on stbd bow was shot down by nest and crashed in directions of Schofield Barracks. At 0920 opened fire on planes diving from port side of nest. 1045 REID got underway and stood out of channel. 1100 opened fire with #1 and #2 guns on planes attacking on port bow. 1104 Ceased firing. Rounds fired gun #1, 20; gun #2, 24; gun #4, 30; gun #5, 40; machine guns 2500 rounds.

[signature]
J.R. HANSEN
Lieutenant (jg), USN

Log Entry for the USS California:

4 to 8: Moored as before. 0621 YG-17 came alongside to port. . . . [lists men leaving ship for shore patrol] . . . 0750 Japanese planes without warning attacked units of the United States Fleet and U.S. Naval Air Station, Ford Island. Sounded General Quarters and manned Battle Stations.

[signature]
A.T. Nicholson, jr., Ensign, U.S. Navy.

The capsized USS Oklahoma lies next to a slightly damaged USS Maryland. (Records of Joint Committees of Congress, RG 128; ARC 306553)

8 to 12: Moored as before, U.S.S. OKLAHOMA berthed outboard of U.S.S. MARYLAND at berth F-4, was hit by three or four torpedoes. Naval Air Station, Ford Island was bombed. 0803 ship's of the U.S. Pacific Fleet opened fire on attacking planes. Opened fire with 50 caliber machine guns #1 and #2 at one torpedo plane. 0805 struck with one or two torpedoes port side at frame 110. 0810 made preparations to get underway. Opened fire with 5" A.A. guns #2 and #4 on dive bombers. Ship commenced listing to port. 0815 U.S.S. OKLAHOMA capsized. 0820 ship was struck at frame 47 with torpedo. 0825 opened fire with 5" A.A. battery at horizontal bombers. Ship shaken by four near bomb hits. 0830 bomb struck topside abreast casemate #1, frame 59, penetrated main deck and exploded on second deck causing large fire. Ship listed 8° to port, commenced counter-flooding starboard voids. 0845 Executive Officer returned aboard and assumed command vice First Lieutenant. Commander Battle Force returned aboard. 0845 U.S.S. VESTAL underway. 0847 U.S.S. MONOGHAM and NEOSHO underway. 0900 ship violently shaken from cause undetermined and there followed a large issue of smoke from starboard side gallery deck. 0914 U.S.S. NEVADA and FARRAGUT underway. 0905 captain returned aboard. 0920 U.S.S. PENNSYLVANIA bombed. 0922 U.S.S. NEVADA bombed and afire midstream. 0925 U.S.S. ALWYN and ST. LOUIS underway. 0925 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA plane #2-0-5 capsized while getting off ship. 0930 fire broke out on main deck, starboard side, "F" Division Compartment and Casemates #3, 5, and 7. 0930 large patch of fuel oil between berths F-3 and F-4 was ignited and commenced drifting toward ship. Lowered plane 2-0-4 over the side, plane taxied to Naval Air Station, Ensign S.M. Healy, U.S.N.R., pilot. U.S.S. NEVADA engulfed by flames in vicinity of foremast. 0945 U.S.S. OGALA capsized. 1002 Captain with approval of Commander Battle Force ordered the ship to be temporarily abandoned due to enveloping flames of fire of fuel oil on surface of water. 1015 flames from fire on water having cleared ship, the order to abandon ship was cancelled and ship battle stations were remanned and fire on main deck starboard and casemates fought. Attack resumed by enemy aircraft. Ship commenced settling with about 10° list to port. Secured engineering plant. USYT NAKOMIS came along starboard side forward to assist in fighting fire. Commander Battle Force shifted flag and staff to Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T.H. Navy Yard fuel oil barge came along port side to pump out fuel oil tanks and lighten ship. 1140 U.S.S. PHOENIX stood out.

Log Entry for the USS Cummings:

4 to 8.
Moored as before. 0400 Received the following fresh provisions for use in the General Mess: from Dairymen's Association, Ltd., 15 gallons of milk, 7 gallons of ice cream. Inspected as to quantity by Lt. (jg) J.B. CARROLL, USN, and as to quality by R.G. VLIET, CPhM, USN. 0629 Secured the special security watch. 0630 Received the following fresh provisions for use in the General Mess: from Oahu Ice and Cold Storage Co., 300 pounds of ice. 0758 Air Raid. Japanese planes commenced torpedo attack on battleships in Pearl Harbor. Sounded General Quarters.

[signature]
J.B. CARROLL
Lieutenant (jg), U.S. Navy.

8 to 12.
Moored as before. Manning battery at General Quarters. 0803 After machine guns opened fire on Japanese Torpedo Planes. 0808 Opened fire on horizontal bombers with main battery. 0810 Commenced preparations for getting underway in accordance with signal flying on signal tower. 0811 Opened fire on dive bombers with main battery. 0820 Lull in air attack. Ceased fire. 0840 Opened fire to repel straffing attack. 0842 Following machine gun fire from after machine guns, glide bomber was observed veer away from ship with smoke trailing from it; it passed over Planning shop and disappeared in cloud of smoke issuing from Drydock #1. 0900 Sighted twelve scattered planes over Ford Island. 0903 Air raid resumed. Opened fire with main battery. 0910 Dive bombers attacked ships at Pier 19, bombs fell in water near ship, ahead and astern, within 25 yards if ship. As a result of bomb fragments, three casualties occurred as follows; the first two of which were subsequently transferred to the Naval Hospital, Pearl Harbor for further treatment, following first aid treatment by R.G. VLIET, CPhM, USN: GROUND, Orla L., 372 12 45 f3c, USN, suffered a wound, left lower lef #2576, condition not serious; MOORE, Grover C., Jr. 256 33 15, Seal, USN, suffered a lacerated wound in the left scapular region #2563, condition not serious; Smith, Fred A., 310 84 65, GMlc, USN, suffered a superficial wound in the right thigh #2576, condition favorable. Commander L.P. LOVETTE, USN. Commander Destroyer Division FIVE reported aboard to Commander Destroyer Squadron THREE for temporary duty, the CASSIN, flagship, Destroyer Division FIVE having been destroyed in drydock by bombing. 0920 A Karigane Fighter Plane was observed to break into heavy smoke as it veered in direction of West Loch. 1000 Opened fire to repel horizontal bomber attack from southward. 1002 Gunfire from main battery knocked wing off horizontal bomber. 1015 . . . officers from U.S.S. Case, unable to return to their own ship, reported on board to Commander Destroyer Squadron THREE for temporary duty. SHED, J.W., CRM (AA), USN reported on board for temporary duty from U.S.S. PREBLE. 1040 Underway in accordance with general signal directing sortie and verbal orders of Commander Destroyer Squadron THREE, proceeding out of harbor on various courses at various speeds on boilers #1 and #2; Captain at the conn Navigator on the bridge. Standard speed 15 knots. 1102 Passed channel buoy #1 a beam to starboard, and commenced observing International Rules of the Road. 1120 Changed speed to 10 knots; changed course to 200°T, distant about 1700 yards. Maneuvered to attack. 1127 Dropped three depth charges. Maneuvered to make second.


The logs also documented the confusion caused by the surprise attack, recording false reports and tense investigations of unidentified ships and sonar contacts. The USS Maryland received erroneous reports that a group of Japanese troops had parachuted into Barbers Point Naval Air Station and onto the North Shore of Oahu island. In this log, the crew even gave descriptions of the mysterious group, describing them as wearing blue overalls with red emblems.

Many of the logs contained detailed accounts of the damage caused by the attack. In the two-hour attack, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was left nearly in ruins, with 8 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 188 airplanes destroyed. The log of the USS Medusa notes that the USS Utah settled on its port side after being attacked. It also reported ships that were hit by air torpedoes and sank. Many also reported their own success, including the USS Dale, which recorded prominently that the ship was able to shoot down an enemy aircraft. The Maryland reported crew members performing several diving efforts to repair damaged parts to save the ship.

The deck log of the USS Maryland for December 7, 1941. (Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, RG 24)

Log Entry for the USS Maryland:

04–08
Moored as before. 0640 Received aboard from Oahu Ice and Cold Storage Co., of Honolulu, T.H. 2000lbs. of ice for use in ships ice boxes. 0750 Japanese planes commenced bombing attack on yard. Dive bombers. 0752 Sounded General Quarters. U.S.S. OKLAHOMA hit by unknown number of torpedoes. Control shifted to conning tower.

[signature]
J. B. Thro
Ensign, U.S. Navy

08–12
Moored as before. Commanding Officer restored Lieutenant (jg) Nelson H. Randall, C-V(S), USNR; and Ensign James A. Parks, Jr., D-V(g), USNR, to duty. Commenced getting up steam and making all preparations for getting underway. 0805 Opened fire with 1.1" battery, the 50 caliber machine gun battery, and the 5"/25 caliber battery had opened fire in that order shortly before. 0810 U.S.S. OKLAHOMA alongside to port listed to port until lying on starboard side with keel showing. 0815 Conning tower took steering and engine control. 0838 Stood by all lines. 0839 All ready boxes refilled during lull. 0840 Received report that an enemy submarine was inside Pearl Harbor. 0848 U.S.S. NEOSHO underway from fuel oil pier directly ahead of this vessel. Various destroyers standing out of harbor. 0855 Commenced firing with 5"/25 caliber battery. 0857 U.S.S. NEVADA getting underway, U.S.S. OGALA getting underway. 0858 U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA settling, fire appeared on or near U.S.S. TENNESSEE. 0859 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA listing to port. 0900 Opened fire with remaining A.A. Batteries. 0909 Received one and possibly two bomb hits on forecastle on amidships line about frame 10, detailed report of damage to be given later, and about three near misses on each side and ahead of bow. 0914 Torpedo air compressor reported out of commission, lost air pressure on Port 5"/25 caliber battery. Burning enemy plane fell on U.S.S. CURTIS. 0925 Recommenced firing. 0928 Slight fire on forecastle and signal bridge out. Received report that Rear Admiral W. S. Anderson came aboard at 0905. 0930 Lull in attack. 0936 U.S.S. PHELPS standing out. Japanese submarines reported inside and outside of Pearl Harbor. 0940 U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA abandoning ship. 50 caliber magazines flooded. 0943 Turret three (3) covered with flames from burning oil on water. 0945 Received report that enemy planes massing south of Pearl Harbor. 0947 Received from CincPac all battleships remain in Pearl until further orders, channel probably mined. 0949 Catalina patrol bombers taking off. 0950 U.S.S. OGALA sank alongside 1010 dock. 0955 Fire under control around quarterdeck. 1005 U.S.S. SOLACE underway, U.S.S. SHAW in floating drydock enveloped in flames. 1009 Commenced firing on enemy aircraft. 1012 Commenced pumping in forward trunks. 1022 Floating drydock sinking, explosions on U.S.S. SHAW. 1029 Report of casualties, one (1) officer dead, 1 one enlisted man dead, one (1) enlisted man wounded. 1025 Parachute troops reported near Barbers Point. 1034 Submarine reported 10 miles south of Barbers Point. 1039 U.S.S. CUMMINGS underway. 1040 Explosion on U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA. 1044 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA settling. 1051 Enemy submarine sighted by U.S.S. SOLACE. 1055 Commenced firing on enemy aircraft coming from port side. 1100 Enemy reported approaching towards Pearl from South. 1150 Commenced firing. 1104 U.S.S. PHOENIX standing out. 1105 Cruiser and Destroyer standing out. 1106 450 rounds of 5"/25 caliber expended up to this time. 1107 Commenced firing on enemy planes on starboard beam. 1112 Enemy tanker reported to southward. 1114 Commenced firing on enemy planes. 1119 oil fire on water around U.S.S. WEST VIRGINIA getting worse, approaching stern of this vessel. 1124 Opened fire on plane on port quarter. 1127 Eight enemy ships reported at Latitude 21° 10' N, Longitude 160° 16' west. 1127 Commenced firing at enemy planes, expended 15 rounds 5"/25 caliber. 1137 Parachute troops reported landing on North Shore. 1143 Report received enemy troops wearing blue coveralls with red emblems. 1145 Called away fire and rescue party to assist in rescue of U.S.S. OKLAHOMA personnel.

[signature]
H. W. Hadley
Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy

Rescuing survivors near the USS West Virginia after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. (80-G-19930)

12–16
Moored as before, 1201 Parachute troops reported landing at Barbers Point and enemy tankers reported four (4) miles off Wainae. 1204 Flames from oil fire coming forward along port side. 1229 Sighted enemy planes on port beam, enemy submarines reported south of Pearl. 1327 Sent 400 rounds 5"/25 caliber ammunition to U.S.S. CALIFORNIA. 1350 Oil fire astern of U.S.S. TENNESSEE. 1355 Commenced firing on enemy planes. 1400 No change of draft of ships in last four (4) hours, 7 feet down by bow, 3½° list by starboard. 1428 Secured boilers #5-6-7 and 8. 1441 U.S.S. CALIFORNIA reported settling with list to port, U.S.S. HELENA down by bow. 1445 U.S.S. BOGGS standing in. 1446 Received 15000 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition from West Lock. 1458 U.S.S. DEWEY standing out. Pumping in forward trunks not showing progress. 1501 Planes reported overhead, very high. 1508 U.S.S. CURTIS reported sighting submarine. 1525 U.S.S. BEHAM dropping depth charges to north channel. 1523 Two unidentified planes sighted on starboard beam. 1529 Unidentified plane sighted on starboard bow. 1538 Three navy Bombers landed at Ford Island and Hickman Field. 1551 Mines reported between Diamond Head and Barbors Point. 1553 Two (2) Battleships and many destroyers reported sighted at Latitude 21° 21' longitude 158° 37'.

[signature]
H. W. Hadley
Lieut-Comdr., U.S. Navy

The deck log of the USS Dale for December 7, 1941. (Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, RG 24)

Log Entry for the USS Dale:

04–08
Moored as before. 0758 Waves of torpedo planes, level bombers, and dive bombers marked with Japanese insignia attacked Pearl Harbor; Sounded General quarters set condition affirm lit off boilers #1 and #2 and #4. Breaking out ammunition.

[signature]
F.M. Radel
Ensign, U.S. Navy

08–12
Moored as before. 0810 opened fire on planes with machine guns followed by main battery. 0815 One enemy plane believed shot down by machine gun fire from USS DALE. 0825 Boilers #1, #2, and #4 cut in on main line. 0836 Underway on various courses and at various speeds proceeding out of Pearl Harbor. Ensign F.M. Radel, U.S.N. Commanding Officer, following named officers and men absent:- Lt.Comdr. A.L. Rorschach, U.S.N. Lt. R.L. Moore, Jr., U.S.N. Ensign K.G. Robinson, U.S.N. Ensign D.J. Vellis U.S.N., Ensign L.C. Huntley, U.S.N.R. Ensign M.D. Callahan U.S.N.R. EDWARDS, G.L. CMM U.S.N. WARREN, R.H. F.C.lc U.S.N. COULSON, S.E.M. 2c, U.S.N. SMITH, J.V. Sea lc. U.S.N.FALCONER, D.D. Ylc., U.S.S.N. NEHRING, R.A. F.C. 3c, U.S.N. GAWBILL, M. M.M.lc, U.S.N. ENGLISH, J.F. M.M.lc, U.S.N. JENNINGS, A.V. F.2c, U.S.N. 0844 Stopped while USS MONAGHAN dropped two depth charges on what was thought to be an enemy submarine near USS CURTIS. 0848 Changed speed to 25 knots proceeding out of channel. 0907 Passed Pearl Harbor entrance buoy #1 passed from Inland to International waters. 0909Established off shore patrol in sector #1 on various courses and at various speeds maneuvering to avoid strafing and bombing attacks. 0911 Shot down enemy dive bomber with .50 Caliber machine gun fire. 0959 Investigated small boat carrying small white flag with several Oriental passengers. 1114 Joined up with USS WORDEN (CDS-1) on course 340°T, 328°psc, speed 11 knots. 1149 Formed column, order of ships in column WORDEN, ALWYN, DALE, AND FARRAGUT: on course 271°T, 260°psc, speed 25 knots.

[signature]
F.M. Radel
Ensign, U.S. Navy

12–16
Steaming as before. 1200 Changed course left to 076°T, to close USS DETROIT. 1205 Steadied on course 076°T 065°psc, speed 27 knots. 1228 Formed inner anti-submarine screen on three light cruisers. DALE on station nine course 245°T 065°psc, speed 20 knots. Commenced zig zagging plan #2. 1238 USS FARRAGUT left formation to investigate reported landing of enemy at Nanakuli beach. 1244 USS FARRAGUT returned to formation. . . . [series of course changes] . . . 1345 Opened fire on planes of undetermined nationality. 1346 Ceased firing. 1351 Changed fleet speed to 25 knots. 1410 Burned out L.P. pinion bearings on port reduction gear; proceeding on starboard engine speed 22 knots. 1440 Changed speed to 10 knots maximum available speed about 15 knots. 1458 Changed speed to 15 knots fleet speed 20 knots. DALE dropping astern formation. 1503 Sighted patrol plane bearing 150°T. Average steam 400, average rpm 156.1

[signature]
F.M. Radel
Ensign, U.S. Navy


Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris Miller at a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942. (208-NP-8PP-2)

One thing missing from the logs, are the many acts of heroism that reflect the spirit of patriotism among nearly all who served the military during this period. One sure example of heroism missing from the logs is that of Cook Third Class Doris "Dorie" Miller, assigned to the USS West Virginia. Like many of the African Americans who joined the Navy, Miller was stationed in a position where he would never engage in a combat situation.

However, during the attack, Miller became more than just a cook. After retrieving his ship's mortally wounded captain, Miller manned a 50-caliber Browning antiaircraft machine gun. Miller fired at the Japanese planes until he was ordered to abandon ship. The inexperienced Miller shot down between four and six Japanese planes. For his efforts, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, becoming the first African American to receive that citation. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, personally presented the award to him.

Following the devastating attack, Congress declared war on Japan, bringing America officially into World War II. All of the Pearl Harbor battleships save three, the USS Arizona, the USS Oklahoma, and the USS Utah, were raised, rebuilt, and put back into service during the war.

Log Entry of the USS Chew:

4 to 8.
Moored as before. Received the following provisions for the general mess inspected as to quantity and quality by Ensign W.H. HARTZ, Jr.: from Dairyman's Association Ltd., 10 gals. milk, 4½ gals. ice cream. 0757 Suffered surprise air attack by Japanese torpedo and bombing planes. Sounded General Quarters and manned anti-aircraft battery. Light and heavy Japanese bombers crossed Pearl Harbor at high altitude scoring direct hits on various fleet units.

[signature]
W.H. Hartz Jr., Ensign, USNR.

8 to 12.
Moored as before at General Quarters. 0803 Commenced firing. 0811 Continuous attack by Japanese bombers and dive bombers. Three inch AA gun scored direct hit on one dive bomber, demolishing plane in mid-air. Hit observed by executive officer and various members of the crew. Two other probable hits scored, one in tail assembly of dive-bomber. There appeared to be three waves of attacking planes—torpedo planes, high altitude bombers, dive bombers. Made all preparations for getting underway. 0814 Cut boiler No. 2 in on main steam line. 0934 Bombing attack ceased. 1000 Underway for defensive sea area on various courses at various speeds. Captain conning; navigator on the bridge, degaussing coils cut in, crew at General Quarters. 1020 Passed entrance buoys conducting search for enemy submarines. 1030 Made supersonic contact, 1000 yards west of entrance buoys: commenced attack, released one depth charge. No explosions heard. 1052 Released four depth charges; three explosions heard. 1100 Mustered crew on station. Following officers and men absent through circumstances beyond their control: Lieut. (jg) C.F. MacNISH, USNR, Ensign J.F. MORRISON, USNR . . .

1114 Received MINNEAPOLIS motor launch alongside and following officers and men came aboard: . . . [another list of names, includes ships they came from, e.g. USS Alwyn, USS Dale] . . . 1142 Made supersonic contact in western half of defensive sea area. Released two depth charges. Average steam 250; average rpm 126.6.

[signature]
W.H. Hartz Jr., Ensign, USNR.

12 to 16.
Patrolling as before. 1214 Made supersonic contact in defensive sea area. Dropped two depth charges, one explosion heard. 1243 Relieved USS WARD of patrol duty in defensive sea area. 1515 Made supersonic contact in defensive sea area west of entrance buoys. Dropped four depth charges, two explosions heard. Average steam 250; average rpm 74.1.

[signature]
W.H. Hartz Jr., Ensign, USNR.

16 to 20.
Patrolling as before in condition of Readiness 2. 1630 Following officers and men reported on board: . . . 1845 Sounded General Quarters. 1905 Secured from General Quarters."


With time, old wounds heal and memories fade, leaving important events reduced to a point in a timeline. The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of those rare galvanizing events that united the nation behind a single cause. Such an episode was not to be repeated in American history until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Through these entries drawn from deck logs—created as routine administrative documents—modern readers can get a sense of the shock, surprise, and confusion felt by the soldiers and sailors who experienced this pivotal moment in American history firsthand.


The authors, members of the Holdings Management Division, were part of the team that processed Navy Deck Logs, 1941–1979, between October 2009 and October 2010 at the National Archives at College Park.

Lopez D. Matthews, Jr., joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 2009. He earned his bachelor's degree in history from Coppin State University in 2004, a masters degree in public history in 2006, and his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Howard University in 2009.

Zachary Dabbs joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 2009. He received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2007 and earned a masters degree from New York University's archival management program in 2009.

Eliza Mbughuni joined the National Archives and Records Administration in 2008 as a student while working for a masters degree at the University of Maryland College, College Park. She received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2004.


Note on Sources

The deck logs of vessels at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, are part of the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24. The records are located at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland, in the Modern Military Branch. Logs included in this article were from the following ships: USS Chew (DD-106), USS Conyngham (DD-371), USS Cummings (DD-365), USS Dale (DD-353), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Medusa (AR-1), and USS California (BB-44).

Every effort has been made to produce a faithful transcript by retaining the capitalization, punctuation, and overall structure of the document. However in order to preserve space and improve readability the authors have silently corrected spelling errors and have omitted long technical descriptions and long lists of names.

In addition to the deck logs, the authors consulted Alan Brinkley, The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009); Lawrence Dunbar Reddick, "The Negro in the United States Navy During World War II," Journal of Negro History 32 (April 1947): 204; and the Naval History and Heritage Command web site (www.history.navy.mil).

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

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