Journal notes kept by George Macartney Hunter, an officer with the U.S. Naval Reserve assigned to the USS West Virginia stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
"Pearl Harbor was a devastating sight. Forward of the West Virginia the Oklahoma lay bottom up."
P.H.- December 7, 1941 Sunday
Awoke this morning at 0730. Moe, Heavy, York, and myself had a golf match scheduled and planned to leave the ship at 0930. I lay sleepy-eyed in my bunk for some time.
At 07:45 the General Alarm sounded followed by "Away Fire and Rescue Party". I cussed a bit about having to turn-to; these alarms usually secured before one was able to dress and reach his station. Consequently, I was in no particular hurry to get dressed.
Suddenly the General Alarm sounded again; and, simultaneously, a terrific explosion rocked the ship. Vail, Hine, and I looked at each other; "This is war!", said Pete and started topsides on the double. I headed for Sky Control but it was tough going as the ship listed heavily to port almost immediately. On reaching the second level in the mast, I met several of the men coming down. All communications and transmission to the guns had been lost with the first explosion (later reports stated that the West Virginia had taken four torpedoes to port).
We abandoned Sky Control and went down to the boat deck. Extra hands were needed to convey the shells to the starboard guns; the entire port battery had been put out of the commission by the "fish". There was no air pressure and all ramming was done by hand. In the excitement the shells were fired without setting fuses.
Pearl Harbor was a devastating sight. Forward of the West Virginia the Oklahoma lay bottom up. Inboard of her the Maryland was putting up a tremendous volume of fire. I wondered what the "rump-rump" noise was and suddenly realized it to be the Maryland's 1.1" guns which proved extremely effective. Astern of us the Arizona was a mass of flame. The sky was rapidly filling with AA fire, but high altitude Jap bombers flew directly overhead in perfect formation. They came in waves, five to each formation. We counted at least ten of these groups.
Our 5" guns were firing on these bombers as they came in on the starboard bow. As ammunition started to run out I went forward to the starboard hoist. It was inoperative and Nolen, our Chief Gunner's Mate, was futilely attempting to contact "Supply" on the sound powered phone. I started back on the boat deck and was knocked down by the muzzle blast of our own #3 gun going off. Unhurt, however, and I continued to the ship's service phone on the after bulkhead of the foremast. It was dead when I picked it up.
During this time Hank, Freddy White, and Mr. Johnson had been directing the guns. When we fired the last of our 30 rounds everyone left the boat deck, and, on orders from Mr. Ricketts, went over the side to aid in manning the Tennessee batteries which were doing a splendid job. Word came down about this time that the Captain had been killed by strafing on the bridge. Mr. Ricketts and Mr. White tried unsuccessfully to bring him down; it didn't matter anyhow. Several of these officers were trapped by the fire on the bridge and rescued by Hank Graham. He climbed up on the starboard crane and threw them a line attached to a fire hose. This they secured to the bridge while Hank secured the other end to the crane; they all came down hand-over-hand.
We had been under attack for 15 minutes at this time and the harbor was a living hell. Astern of us the Arizona's forward magazine had blown up; the Vestal alongside of her had been hit squarely amidships. Smoke was spreading rapidly over the harbor. Very shortly the day became black as night; it was terrifying beyond means of description.
We had scarcely left the boat-deck when a large bomb hit the foremast, glanced off, and came down on the boat-deck. We would all have been killed had there been any ammunition left for the guns. Learned later that a dud had hit directly on the top of Turret III. It killed several men but Archie, Turret JO, escaped uninjured. Still, those yellow bastards were bombing with hairline accuracy.