THE PERSONAL STORY OF SURVIVAL AT PEARL HARBOR OF JOSEPH L. PIKE, USS PENNSYLVANIA



My ship, the USS Pennsylvania, was in drydock that morning. I caught a launch about 7:15 to go ashore to a Catholic mass, which was located in a gym near the main gate. We arrived and were seated when the explosions started. We thought it was in the cane field. We stepped outside to see what was going on -- and found out in a hurry! The Japanese planes were going right over our heads making their torpedo runs. As soon as they saw us they started strafing. Three of us started for the ship, but one was shot in the stomach. We ran across a playfield, took off our jumpers and laid in a ditch for a few seconds. We saw high-level bombers flying over, but it seemed most of them were missing their targets. John McMahon and I went to the fleet landing but there were no boats, so we started running through the yards. The marines made us seek cover in the foundry, but it was all glass -- and you know what was happening. The glass was showering all over. We just took off and got back to the ship.

I was fuse-setter on gun #2, a .25 caliber 5-inch antiaircraft. We fired one round, but it did not go back into battery. We needed hydraulic pressure but could only get air pressure. Our crew was split, with our captain, Brown, being sent to gun #7, since he was a new captain. Unfortunately, that gun was destroyed. I was filling in as a second loader on gun #4. Before the war, no gun had stripping crews or more than three second loaders.

We were on cribbing in the drydock, and the vibration of the guns was very bad. Also, any misfires we had we were dropping over the side into the empty drydock. Someone suggested flooding the drydock to help absorb the shock if one or more exploded, but fortunately none did.

We had been towed out of drydock on December 4th, and the destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes had been brought in where we had been, with the Pennsylvania aft. The previous position must have been the one the Japanese had before the attack. They automatically torpedoed the ten-ten dock where we were on the 4th. I think they discovered where we were, but when the USS Nevada got underway they concentrated their firepower on it.

We undocked on December 12th, departed Hawaii on December 20th and arrived in San Francisco December 29th.

Joseph L. Pike, 5-17-99


1999 taskforce-17@msn.com