Pearl Harbor Attack

Action Report: Commander Battle Force

Admiral William S. Pye to Admiral Chester A. Nimitz (CinCPac)

I have attempted to be faithful to the original document: reproducing the form, spellings, and punctuation (including errors), with two exceptions: [1] ship names have been rendered in italics, rather than all UPPER-CASE, as in the original; and [2] the necessary use of a spell-checker to correct my typographic errors has undoubtedly 'corrected' spellings in the original.

(   09   ) c/o Fleet Post Office,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
January 9, 1942
From: Commander Battle Force.
To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Japanese Air Attack on Pearl Harbor,
December 7, 1941.
Enclosure: (A) Narrative by Captain H.C. Train, U.S.N., Chief of Staff to Commander Battle Force.
(B) Summary of Damage Sustained by Ships of the Battle Force.

1. Enclosures (A) and (B), which it is believed constitute a rather complete report of the subject action and the damages resulting therefrom, are submitted for the information of the Commander-in-Chief.



1. I was sitting in my cabin a little before 0800, when the general alarm sounded. My first thought was that the alarm had been set off by accident. I put on my blouse and cap, hurried on deck, and started rapidly toward the bridge.

2. Some time enroute between the quarterdeck and the bridge I felt the shock of something hitting the ship and saw a low-flying plane flash over the ship from port to starboard. As I arrived on the bridge I saw smoke and flames appear from the seaplane hangar on Ford Island.

3. Upon arriving on the bridge I sent for the Communication Watch Officer, Ensign K.B. Kohler, U.S.N.R., and the Staff Duty Officer, Lieutenant Commander C.F. Greber, U.S. Navy. I sent out a signal by flag hoist to ships in the harbor of Task Force ONE and TWO to get underway, and followed this by a signal to "sortie in accordance with Sortie Plan ES". This was duplicated by radio.

4. Lieutenant Commander Greber and Lieutenant Colonel Gladden then arrived on the bridge and I directed Lieutenant Colonel Gladden to go down to the telephone and communicate with Admiral Pye, and the other members of the Staff not on board, and tell them we had been attacked by Japanese planes and to return to the ship immediately. I told Colonel Gladden to have the telephone wire slackened off before trying to use the telephone, as we were listed to port and I feared it would carry away before he could telephone.

5. Lieutenant Commander Little, the senior officer on board the California, informed me that two torpedoes had hit the California on the port side, that she had listed 71/2°, and that he was attempting to gradually take off this list.

6. Shortly after getting out the two messages above referred to, a signalman called to me and said the Oklahoma had capsized. I went over to the port side of the bridge and saw that this had happened. I also noted an immense oil fire from some of the battleships astern of us and I first thought it was the West Virginia, berthed outboard in F-6, but later on learned it was the Arizona, which had been heavily torpedoed, bombed, and was burning. This thick smoke came down over the battleships berthed at the quays and interfered seriously with anti-aircraft fire.

7. As far as I can remember, no bombs hit the California until about 0845, when a high altitude bomb hit the starboard side just missing the bridge. The flame shot up past the flag bridge.

8. About this time the Neosho had just shoved off the Berth F-4 and I sent her a signal not to sortie. She replied that she was going to Merry Point.

9. Shortly afterwards the Nevada was seen to clear Berth F-8 and was standing down stream. I sent her a signal not to sortie until directed by Type Commander. I found out later that the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, had sent out a signal to ships in the harbor not to sortie, but I didn't know that at this time.

10. Admiral Pye, Captain Smith, Commander Hanlon, and other officers of the Staff returned to the ship and arrived on the Flag Bridge just about as the bomb mentioned above hit the California. Shortly after that I suggested that Admiral Pye had better go into the conning tower. He, Captain Smith, and I went into the conning tower and shortly thereafter three or four near misses, or possibly hits, shook the California badly.

11. While in the conning tower I looked toward the drydock area and saw the Shaw, on the floating drydock, burning fiercely, and the two destroyers ahead of the Pennsylvania in number one drydock also on fire. I found out later these were the Cassin and Downes.

12. As the Nevada was passing the California, Japanese dive and high altitude bombers concentrated on her; she was hit several times and a huge fire was then burning in her bridge. She grounded near the new drydock and later on got clear with the aid of yard tugs, proceeded across the channel and grounded again across and south of Ford Island, clear of the channel.

13. A message was sent to Task Force THREE, then at sea, that Pearl Harbor had been attacked from the air by the Japanese.

14. Destroyers started to sortie. The Phoenix and St. Louis stood out, the St. Louis passing close aboard.

15. I noticed that the Oglala had been hit and was slowly capsizing. Following the lull after the torpedo attack, the California was strafed and bombed by dive bombers and bombed by horizontal bombers.

16. The air attack seemed to terminate between 0915 and 0930. Shortly after that Admiral Pye said we had better go to another ship, as it would be impossible to get underway in the California. It was decided to go to the Helena, and the Admiral directed that the Chief of Staff, Operations Officer, Assistant Operations Officer, Gunnery Officer, and Aviator accompany him. Admiral Pye made the decision too, that we would report to the Commander-in-Chief for instructions before going to sea. Practically all radio communications had failed at this point.

17. Shortly before 1000 I left the Flag Bridge and went below to get a bag, preparatory to leaving the ship with the Admiral. The Admiral, Commander Hanlon, and I, and possibly others, got into a motor whaleboat and later transferred to a motor boat. We went to the Submarine Base and so informed the Commander-in-Chief, who stated he desired us to remain there. i then found that the Helena had been torpedoed and could not go to sea. The Honolulu also had been damaged by a bomb hitting the dock alongside.

18. From my observation, fire on all ships in the harbor was taken up very quickly after the first attack, which came without a semblance of warning. All officers and men I observed were cool and collected and went about their jobs of manning and firing the guns, attempting to salvage ships, or other duties in a calm and efficient manner. I do not believe any body of officers or men could have done better.

19. I personally observed no acts of individual heroism under fire.

H.C. Train,
Captain, U.S. Navy,
Chief of Staff, Battle Force.


December 24, 1941

MEMORANDUM for Flag Secretary:

The following report covers damage sustained by ships of the Battle Force, Pacific Fleet, resulting from enemy attacks on 7 December, 1941:





Commander, U.S. Navy,
Battle Force Material Officer.

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