My Dad, Marcus Klein, was a Survivor of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, and a Submarine Combat Veteran of WWII. His dream was that I serve, and I did from 1968 to 1978.
When I was growing up in Honolulu in the 1950s, just about all of the men in my parents circle of friends were combat veterans. I was fortunate to be in the constant company of many who understood that the price of freedom is commitment and personal sacrifice. And they were all willing and anxious to pass the importance of these values on to me, and I was an avid listener…and I wanted to be like them, especially my Dad.
Part of Mom and Pop and all of their friends and shipmates enduring legacy and gift to me/us is the preservation of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and a national identity…which may seem quaint today, but something I believe helped make freedom the way we know it today, possible. We were a “Melting Pot.”
Today, it seems, that many aspects of these freedoms are taken for granted by many, not understood by many, not valued by many.
If we do not remain forever vigilant, and diligent…many of our freedoms will be lost. Each day I become less confident that there is the ability to save these freedoms for future generations. We are rapidly losing history’s important lessons.
The passing time, for me, brings a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices of those who came before us. They conveyed their virtues and values by words…and, more importantly, by their acts and deeds…unlike much of what we see in our society and culture today.
Thank you to all who served and all who lit the path for me to follow.
Flight Deck Officer aboard USS Mount Vernon (LSD 39), Deployed 1973 (“What are they going to do to me, put me on an LSD and send me to WestPac?”
Pop in Saipan. He also spent time in New Guinea building an R & R Camp.
Pop and his friend from the Japanese Navy, Mr. Fuji (Pop was a Pearl Harbor Survivor Pop was proud of his relationship with Mr. Fuji.
Setting the Watch onboard Elliot (DD967). She was my second ship and I was the Junior Department Head, Navigator. Brought her from Pascagoula to San Diego through the Panama Canal in 1977.
My Steaming buddy, Andy Porter (RIP) in Olongapo. I was never alone on Liberty. Andy was always with me.
Andy and I as Shore Patrol at a ship’s picnic by Subic City.
USS Mount Vernon (LSD 39) prior to commissioning.
Balao returning from a War Patrol
Pop’s Ribbons. My favorite from the time I was 7 years old was the World War II Victory Medal (second row, far left)
Rick Baker visiting me at USNA when he was at TBS
Hoover Grads…Rick Baker, Jim Nuss, me
Each year, on June 26, Induction Day, or I-Day for the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1972, I send this reminder to my Naval Academy Classmates and Company Mates of the Seventeenth Company…Seventeen, Mighty Mean…How Many Do You Want Sir? Our resolve was being newly formed…
49 years ago today…and counting. It is amazing how fast June 26 now arrives each year! What do you recall of that warm summer day in Annapolis in 1968?
I checked in about 1345 that day so most of you were veterans by the time I got there. Of course the Napsters had at least a day on the rest of us which gave them an incredible head start. “Don’t salute me, I’m your classmate!” I think I heard Dave Coleman, Jim Walker, or John Sexton mumble a few times that day.
I was delivered to the front door of the LA Area by Steve Grenfell, Class of 71. Steve was a Turnback from the Class of 1969 and son of retired Vice Admiral E.W. Grenfell. Admiral Grenfell was one of my heroes when I was growing up as a Navy Junior in Pearl Harbor and Norfolk. Admiral Grenfell served as both ComSubPac and ComSubLant in the 1950s and 1960s and was my dad’s boss on a number of tours of duty. Whenever the Admiral got a Command, pop would get orders and he would serve on the Admiral’s Staff.
I made my first of many trips over the years, from San Diego to Dulles Airport on June 22, 1968 and Admiral Grenfell was there to pick me up. I spent a few days in the DC/NOVA area. The big politics of the day was the Civil Rights Movement…Resurrection City, and RFK had been recently assassinated, on June 6.
On the morning of June 26, Steve Grenfell, returning with the Class of 1971 in September, drove me to Annapolis from Alexandria. We stopped for a coke at a little place on West Street before Steve delivered me to my date with my destiny.
After I made my way through the check in process in the Library Assembly Area, I was told to stand out in the sun and wait for further instructions; and while I waited, to memorize everything on a card I had been handed when checking in. I studied the card closely and memorized everything on it except a few numbers down in the corner…something called an “alpha code.” Why bother to memorize numbers? They couldn’t be that important! Little did I know that that was my new Unique Identifier.
A second classmen asked me if I had memorized the card and I responded that I had…he then asked me what my “alpha code” was…and it was there, Classmates, that I received my first taste of the temper of the Class of 1970, and how important a few numbers could be. One of the reasons that I wanted to leave San Diego State College (now SDSU), where I attended for a year while waiting to get into the Academy, a school of 30,000 plus students, was that it was a place where I was just a number!
Onward, as I marched up to 3-4 with a group of others (going to different floors/Decks) where my new bald roommates were marking up their new gear…Jack Kennelly and Cliff Kelly. The only rack left was the top one so it looked like that would be home for a while. Across the passageway were Collin Huddleston and John Jarnagin. Five weeks later John would leave and Cliff would move in with Collin…and I would get a bottom rack. For the rest of our stay at USNA, the Jarnagins were family. I still hear from John at Christmas. When we received our class pin, I bought 2. I gave one to my mom, and one to Mrs. Jarnagin. You might remember John’s dad was a retired Navy Commander and they loved the Academy. A few years ago, Mrs. Jarnagin was going through her belongings, found my pin, and sent it back to me for safe keeping. I gave it to Janie.
It would be weeks (months) before we really knew our way around…it was so easy to get lost in Bancroft Hall. It was all so new and strange. Youngster ladders we could not use, curved walks we could not walk on, Second Class Doors we could not pass through…First Class Alley and Second Class Alley…Lots to learn, while being harassed constantly.
How did we, as a group, get selected to be together in the same plebe summer platoon and become Seventeenth Company 72? There we were, late in the afternoon in that sweltering Annapolis Summer heat.
Over 4 years we dropped from about 38 guys to 19 and ended up as a pretty successful group overall. Seventeenth Company 72’ers were tops in academics our last semester, Brigade field ball champs, pretty decent in drill and second or third in Colors. And today as a group we have in our ranks lawyers, PhDs, business executives, and a Four Star Admiral. Who would have thought 49 years ago?!
June 26, 1968 was the beginning of an eventful summer and the introduction to so many new things. Forty Fives, M-1s, memorizing names and rates, iced tea (with no sugar or lemon), uniforms, uniform races, come arounds, accountability, folding laundry, new habits and ways of do things, and friendships that last a lifetime. If I think about specific events, I can actually still feel some of the excitement…
It was quite a culture shock and by the end of that first day, I was ready to go back to San Diego State…except for the fact that if I returned to civilian life I would be Draft Status 1A, and I would be in Nam within a year…so there was a little more incentive to “gut it out.”
And so it began…
- Memorization, physical exertion, isolation, deprivation
- Unbearable heat and humidity without air conditioning
- Haircuts every 3 days
- Windows with no screens (do any of you remember screens? How did we keep from falling out of the windows?)
- Rifle Range (and Dum Dum walking down a live range)
- Tailor Shop Parties
- Slide rules
- Alpha codes
- Writing your Alpha Code on your new “clothing” with a magic marker
- Snow flake drill (Night One)
- That awful Gong
- White Works Charlie
- Dixie Cups
- Combination Caps
- Tying a neckerchief and hanging it in the closet with shoes tied to the ends
- Platoon Leaders (Dollarshell and Hash/Watson and Casteel)
- Being associated with groups, Third Battalion, Company F, Platoon 17
- Wings, Decks, Overheads, Bulkheads, Racks, Ladders and Heads
- Napsters marching us down to get the big box full of new stuff in the 3rd Wing Basement
- Calling Napsters sir (don’t call me sir)
- Mass Sings at Mahan Hall
- Marching back from Mahan Hall in the rain, wearing raingear in 90 degree 90% humidity weather
- Talent Show (won by Third Batt in Mahan Hall)
- Eating ice cream with a shoe horn
- Cookies from Steerage and water, the first treat of Plebe Summer
- TWLs for the first time…Weekend of July 4, 1968
- Pushups and bracing up
- 3 inches of the chair
- Eyes in the boat
- Shoving out (I never had to do it to my recollection)
- Green Bench (that either)
- How long will it take us to get a Dixie Cup on the chapel dome?
- No sir, How Long is a Chinaman (No longer politically correct)
- Reef Points and all of its content
- Sheet Posters
- Pep Rallies
- Mokes (Branch)
- Hardly a moment to yourself
It was the beginning of our resolve “ Seventeen,mighty mean…how many do you want, Sir?…I’ll be thinking of you all day Classmates.
June 7, 1972…the first day of the rest of my life…The Day I graduated from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis. Annual Letter to Seventeenth Company
Thirty years ago, on June 7, I sent the following letter of reminiscence, and thanks to my Seventeenth Company Classmates at the United States Naval Academy, explaining what they and Annapolis mean to me, and how it and they inspired, and continue to inspire me today.
They all hear the story every year, and if I am late getting it out, I usually hear from a few of them. We spent four years, institutionalized (indentured), together..,..38 of us on June 28, 1968, living together for 4 long years on the Second Deck of the Seventh Wng of Bancroft Hall. On Graduation Day…Wednesday, June 7, 1972, we were 19 strong, and ready to become New Ensigns and Second Lieutenants…it truly was “The first day of the rest of our lives.”
Not only was graduation from USNA one of the proudest moments in my life, but in my parents’ life as well. It was my father’s dream…a submarine veteran of World War II and a Pearl Harbor Survivor, that his son graduate from Annapolis. It was instilled in me from my earliest recollection, that I would someday be a Midshipman, and I owned that ambition. I now realize that beginning my adult life having accomplished my greatest boyhood ambition, graduating from Annapolis, was a blessing in so many ways.
So here is my story to the men who are as close as brothers to me, we learned to tolerate a lot together…including each other 🙂
I first reported my recollections and confessions of Graduation Day to you back on June 7, 2002, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of our departure from the arms and loving wings of our guardian angel and protector, Mother B. It was an institutional life style we enjoyed together for 4 years…a lifestyle that more closely resembled life in a medium security prison than it did a college or university. We had a “free ride,” but it was not so much like a scholarship, but more like indentured servitude.
On June 7, 1972, we were “getting out of this place” forever, as Midshipman. During that final June Week, we marched in our final Dress Parade on Historic Warden Field.
That June Week, in the Summer of ’72, we packed our personal belongings into those big cardboard sea chests (Earlier graduating classes had wooden sea chests. The wooden sea chests stopped with the Class of 69). Everything we needed to live, all in one cardboard box, after 4 years at NAVY.
So once again Classmates, here are my recollections and thoughts of June 7, 1972…you may tire of hearing it, but I will never tire of telling it.
Play it again (and again and again), Sam…
June 7, 2017
Congratulations Classmates…45 years ago today, we had no idea where life would take us, but we were ready for whatever the world would throw at us. In 1972, the year 2017 was far outside of most of our “planning horizons.” I remember certain parts of June 7, 1972 as if it were yesterday, as I know you do as well. A recent conversation on Facebook asked “who was our graduation speaker?” I could not remember (Melvin Laird). And other moments of that long awaited day, remain vivid. 1968 to 1972…For four long years. June 7, 1972 seemed like a day that would never arrive…but it had…and I was still a Mid!
Our first 3 years at the Academy were quite an academic challenge for me. We had some great minds in Seventeenth Company (I think we were number one or two in the Brigade in Academics First Class Year.) Unlike all of you (except maybe Jay :-), I lived for the first 3 years with uncertainty about whether or not I would have the QPR to remain semester after semester let alone the QPR required to graduate. Every day was an academic challenge for me and I had low confidence and anxiety everyday about my future as a Midshipman…day after day, month after month, year after year…which is, I am sure, one of the reasons I have fairly frequent dreams about being back at the Academy, or aboard ship getting ready to deploy.
So, from a 1.71 First Semester plebe year QPR with an “F” in Chemistry (and an Academic Board number), to flunking Youngster Cruise (and an Academic Board appearance, and a repeat of Youngster Cruise…which took me to Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Da Nang, South Vietnam)…to a 1.29 first semester Second class year with an “F” in Naval Engineering and a “D” in Wires (and an Academic Board number)…to an unsatisfactory professional review by the MPA on USS Guam on my First Class Cruise Med Cruise and an Academic Board number and probation for the first semester of First Class year…lucky for me the Navy needed officers in 1972, timing is everything! With all of that, my class standing was 666.
It wasn’t until the First Class Year (I ended up with a 3.0 our last semester at NAVY) that I felt truly confident that I would fulfill my lifelong dream, and the dream of my father, and graduate from USNA. I know that the reason I made it was the tutoring and support of Eric, Nic, Harry, RD, Bob, Mark, Cliff, Jim, Kimber, Tom…probably every one of you at one time or another over the four years. As it turned out, one of the most valuable things you all taught me was how to teach, and teaching has been a skill that has served me well over the years. I believe the reason I am able to make complex issues easy for students to understand, is I had all of you as teachers as a Midshipman, each of you using different styles, techniques, and examples. It was not the professors and officers of the faculty who were my greatest teachers and greatest influence, but it was all of you. Thank you Classmates!
Back to June 7, 1972.
I remember very vividly the March to the Stadium on June 7, 1972. It was a march we had made together as Members of Seventeenth Company about 20 times in the previous 4 years (3 to 4 home football games a year and 3 graduations come to mind). As we approached that bridge where we crossed a creek (was it Weems Creek?) I heard the familiar command “break step on the bridge.” (Resonant Frequency, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, etc.) .
At that moment, on that sunny Annapolis morning of June 7, 1972…at that instant…as I looked down at the pavement as we all “broke step on the bridge”…the thought that began to run through my mind:
“I made it.”
The moment was surreal. My lifelong ambition had been accomplished. Everything else from that point forward in life, was going to be gravy. To this day, this event remains the most vivid “aha moment” of my life, and one upon which I called upon at various times over the last 45 years.
As the thought, “I made it,” echoed in my mind, I also felt an incredible surge of confidence which has served me well throughout my adult life. A confidence which let me report aboard ship some 90 days later as the Repair Officer onboard Mt Vernon (LSD 39), not knowing how to repair anything mechanical, now in charge of all things mechanical except main propulsion on a US Combatant…and knowing that my lack of experience didn’t matter, because I could handle it, I would figure it out…USNA had taught me to be confident…and I was too naïve to know any better at that point. My graduation itself was proof to me, that I could do anything I wanted to do, if I just wanted to do it bad enough. I know the primary reason I graduated from USNA is because I wanted to graduate from USNA.
Admiral Calvert once told us that graduating from the Naval Academy would be one of the most significant events in our life, and that has been the case in my life experience. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t have at least a fleeting thought of the time we spent together at Annapolis.
As I mentioned, I still dream every few weeks or so about being at the Academy. I think it is a mild form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The dreams are almost always about returning to Bancroft Hall after some period of leave of absence…and almost always, I am about to be late for formation and I can’t find my uniforms…I used to think that maybe it’s a good thing that I could not find them because I think those uniforms might be a little tight…not that I weigh that much more (I actually weigh about 2 pounds less), but the pounds have shifted a little. Lately I have had a few dreams where I had to report to a ship to deploy, thinking…how is my business going to make it without me for 6 months?
It was my dad’s dream for me that I graduate from the Academy. He himself had wanted to attend the Academy, but ended up enlisting in 1940 and retiring in 1970 as a CWO-4. On June 7, 1972…Harry gave my Dad a hat to toss in the air as we tossed ours. Right up until my Dad passed away, I talked to him every year about how on June 7, 1972, he tossed a hat into the air with all of us. And now, after 45 years, Harry is a retired 4 Star Admiral…who would have thought, those 45 long years ago?
Good friends and good memories of days long since gone, and youth fairly well spent! Yes, Seven June, was the First Day of the rest of my life, and yours too I would wager (have you ever known me to wager, beyond an Army B-Robe?).
To all of you and yours, have a great June 7th Classmates. I’ll be thinking of all of you.
These are the stories of my childhood, and the words of my father…From Pop’s firsthand account of December 7, 1941…
“The USS Honolulu started backing out and they dropped this 500 pound bomb thru the deck and it split the seams so she never got out. Some ships got out, I don’t know which ones but St. Louis got out. I ran on the wrong ship hoping to go to sea but it was interesting and scary…very scary! To stand there and see your entire fleet, the greatest fleet in the world on the bottom, tore your heart out. We were invincible, we thought. Nobody could do this to us.”
Marcus G. Klein, USN…Pearl Harbor Survivor
What comes to mind for you when you think of December 7, 1941? When I think of December 7, 1941, one word comes to mind…
Imagine, if you can, the sheer terror of those who lived it, and through it, and how they must have felt, as they witnessed the waves of Japanese planes attacking our Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and our Air Forces at nearby Hickam Field at 7:00 AM that Sunday morning. (Hickam and the Naval Base Pearl are now a Joint US Facility)
It was a quiet Sunday morning, and then…
As I learned from Mom and Pop, and later from my studies of Naval History at the Naval Academy, surprise was the first successful objective of the Japanese Fleet that morning.
The US was fortunate, or it was “Divine Providence” that our carriers were at sea that morning. They were spared the destruction.
Aircraft carriers were not battle tested and the Battleship was thought to be the ultimate weapon by many naval strategists. Of course a main target for the Japanese that morning was “Battleship Row.” The devastation of our battleships presented an opportunity for aircraft carriers which then became instrumental to our success in the Pacific, and the entire war effort.
Aircraft carriers to this day are one of the primary components of our worldwide naval strategy. They were a relatively new weapons platform with new and untested strategies and tactics in 1941.
For those who were experiencing the attack, it was hard to imagine what was going on around them, at first.
Pop thought it was a drill…there was an initial lack of comprehension, followed by confusion, disbelief, and then, it was all about Duty. The task at hand: run into the fire, and not away from it. That is exactly what our servicemen and women did that morning. Duty…leave your family for the unknown.
Imagine the terror, not knowing if the attack would continue to the general Population around our key military installations on the Island, and not just the military resources, personnel and assets.
Imagine the terror, not knowing if the attack was a prelude to a full scale Japanese invasion of the Hawaiian Islands. The Japanese Army had a very bad reputation and the stories of how they treated prisoners of war in China were horrific. Describing it as rape, pillage and plunder would have been a dramatic understatement. Add torture, dismemberment, and desecration of the human body, and you have a better idea. They were not pleasant captors. And the thought of a follow up invasion to the initial attack was a real concern.
In fact, US currency in use in the Hawaiian Islands during the War was marked so that in the event the Japanese did invade Hawaii, and capture US currency, the currency with Hawaii printed across its face, could be deemed nonnegotiable by the US Government, and thus not contribute to the Japanese war effort.
Note that HAWAII is stamped on the left and right sides of the dollar bill.
Note H A W A I I across the entire back of the dollar bill.
These were known as Hawaii War Dollars
Imagine the terror, and apprehension, of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines as Duty called them to abandon family and loved ones.
There was no time for preparation or long, or even short good-byes. Service members had to do whatever it took to get back to their duty station immediately, be it their ship, or one of our numerous military installations on the Island…Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field, Bellows Field, Fort Shafter.
Duty called. It had to be an agonizing decision, not knowing what would happen to those they loved. Leaving their family and friends behind to fend for themselves.
Imagine the terror, as friends and relatives on the Mainland US, who had loved ones stationed in the Islands, heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was unthinkable. Their first thought was probably about the survival of their loved one, and on its heels to the country as a whole, and what would happen next, what would President Roosevelt say? It was a day that would live in Infamy.
Imagine the continuing terror of not knowing who survived the attack and who didn’t, and being separated by thousands of miles with no telephone service, no Internet…no way of knowing?
Below is a treasured family memento, the telegram my grandparents in Detroit sent to my Dad and Mom on December 8, 1941.
It is faded and frayed, but still readable…”Are you OK.”
In 1941, there was little long distance telephone capability, no e-mail, no text messaging or Facebook…no instant communication to ease the anxiety of families and friends who had loved ones in the Hawaiian Islands that day.
It says: “Are you both safe? Wire us collect.” It was sent on December 8, 1941
While it is difficult, if not impossible to imagine the terror, I feel I know as well as anyone who was not there, the terror and apprehension of that day. It was baked into the fabric of our family.
It was my good fortune to be raised in the company of fairly young adults who experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor first hand, and who had to grow up quickly. Both my Mom and Dad, and my mother’s Mom and Dad…my aunts and uncles, and their friends and families were there, and the attack on Pearl Harbor was not only a seminal event in all of our lives. I heard their stories many times as a young boy, living in a post WWII Honolulu, right outside of the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor, and across the street from Block Arena, on Center Drive.
Mom and Pop’s story of that day, and beyond, is an amazing one, like so many stories from that infamous day.
They met in Hilo, Hawaii in January of 1941. Pop was a sailor, a Jewish kid, 23 years old, from Detroit, Michigan. Mom was a 17 year old local girl (Hawaiian, Portuguese, English, and a little Chinese for good measure some say). They were married on June 28th, 1941 in Honolulu, by a Justice of the Peace.
On Sunday Morning, December 7, 1941, they lived in Navy Housing Area 3 (NHA 3) on Ninth Street, a few blocks outside of the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor.
My Mother’s parents lived in a little frame shack on “P Road” in an area known as Damon Tract, which is now close to where the Honolulu International Airport is located.
Mom and Dad’s survival story of December 7 and the rest of the War is an amazing series of events. They were married for over 64 years, bound together by many things, including their experience from 1941 to 1945, their separations, and all that they endured together, and apart…for each other, and for us.
On December 7, 1941, young Sailors (E-4 and below) were not allowed overnight Liberty, unless they were married.
Bluejacket’s Manual defines LIBERTY as permission to be absent from a ship or station for a period up to 48 hours. For this reason, Pop was not aboard ship on that Sunday morning but at home with Mom. Had he been single, he would have been aboard his ship, the USS Medusa, a repair ship (Pop always described it as a Battleship Tender) and he would have been killed as his battle station was the crow’s nest, which was completely destroyed in the attack by friendly fire (again, according to Pop). The joke in our family over the years was how by being married, Mom saved Dad’s life.
USS Medusa – Pop’s Battle Station, the After Crow’s nest was destroyed…by friendly fire, according to Pop.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was an awakening for the American People. As a nation, we did not want to be involved in the storm that was becoming a World War. But when our Fleet was destroyed, as President Roosevelt said, a sleeping giant was awakened and the United States of America recovered to defeat not one, but two formidable enemies, and it was “Unconditional Surrender.”
The Japanese were committed to victory, honor, and to the emperor. As a young boy (I am 67 years old as I write this), I remember how eerie and unbelievable it was when I learned of pilots who were willing to sacrifice their lives and fly their planes into our ships, killing our sailors and themselves in the process. They were the suicide bombers, the Kamikazes. The Kamikaze pilots would leave their bases with their fuel tanks half full (probably half empty in this case). They had enough fuel to reach their target, and no fuel to return.
As unbelievable as that idea seemed to me as a boy, the concept seems mild today when we look at the present day suicide bombers. And the Japanese avoided killing innocents, which is the objective of today’s suicide bombers. How the world has changed.
“Happy Pearl Harbor Day” is a Family Tradition
Every year since I left home when I was 19 years old in 1968 to attend the United States Naval Academy, I called my Dad on December 7th to wish him “Happy Pearl Harbor Day,” no matter where I happened to be in the world. One year I was deployed in the Western Pacific and in the Philippines at the proverbial “tip of the sword.” We talked about Pearl Harbor and where he and Mom were that day, and what they were doing. I loved to hear my Dad retell the story, year after year. I know it made him feel good to tell it.
I keep this story alive to honor all of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, and the most important Pearl Harbor Survivors in my life, my Mom and Dad, and their Shipmates and their families. December 7th has always been a day of remembrance in the Marcus and Lani Klein family.
The following is our family version of the events of December 7, 1941 and the thoughts and sharings of some of those who were there that day. December 7, 1941 was the start of much more hardship to come…for our country, our citizens, and our Armed Forces.
Each year I review and add to this story of my family’s memories of December 7th, 1941. These memories were related to me and my sister Debbie by Mom and Dad, not only on December 7 each year, but often over the years, in different places and at different times, and in different company, as many of Mom and Dad’s good friends were also Pearl Harbor Survivors, Submariners, and Survivors of the War.
This is my memory of others’ memories, and expressing it each year is my way of keeping Pearl Harbor Day alive for me. Perhaps it will stimulate your own thoughts, memories, and imagination…and your own Pearl Harbor Story. There was once so many to tell.
My mother and father were both, always proud to say that they survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the aftermath…Sub school in New London, and Submarine war patrols in the South Pacific…and the rest of the World War II.
We lost Pop in 2005, and Mom passed away in August of 2013. December 7th, 1941 was a defining moment in their young lives, and a significant influence in mine, even though it took place almost 8 years before I was born.
Mom and Pop were members of the “Greatest Generation,” and I was fortunate to be raised in the constant company of many who understood that the price of freedom is commitment and personal sacrifice. And they were all willing and anxious to pass the importance of these values on to me and my sister.
Part of Mom and Pop and all of their friends and shipmate’s enduring legacy and gift to me/us is the preservation of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and a national identity…which may seem quaint today, but something I believe helped make freedom the way we know it today, possible.
Today, it seems, that many aspects of these freedoms are taken for granted by many, not understood by many, not valued by many. If we do not remain forever vigilant, and diligent…many of our freedoms will be lost by many. Each day I become less confident that there is the ability to save these freedoms for future generations. We are rapidly losing history’s important lessons.
The passing time, for me, brings a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices of those who came before us. They conveyed their virtues and values by words…and, more importantly, by their acts and deeds…unlike much of what we see in our society and culture today.
That powerful national identity began to come into focus for many on December 7, 1941.
Pop Volunteered for submarine duty and graduated from Sub School in New London, and spent the rest of the war on the USS Balao in the South Pacific.
My Mom was almost 89 when I visited her on December 7, 2012, her last Pearl Harbor Day, at the nursing home. We “talked story” about December 7, 1941 and about Pop, and about how I would call him and wish him a “Happy Pearl Harbor Day” every year. As usual, she brought up “the day I was born story.” This was the end of an almost lifelong ritual for me…except to continue to write about it.
“Happy Pearl Harbor Day?
According to Pop, you bet.
Happy to have survived. And happy to live in the United States of America.
What does Pearl Harbor mean to you?
Over the years, different members of our many online communities have shared their memories and Pearl Harbor stories, and we would love to hear yours, if you are so inclined. If not, I understand, but please wish everyone you see today a “Happy Pearl Harbor Day.”
So this is my story, and I am sticking to it!
Happy Pearl Harbor Day to everyone.
For more of the history of this time:
Pop remained in the Navy and he and Mom remained in the Islands after the War. I was born in 1949 at Aeia Naval Hospital. In 1952 Pop was transferred to the USS Nereus in San Diego, where we lived until 1956, when our family was transferred back to Pearl Harbor after a 4 year tour of duty in San Diego on the USS Point Cruz, which was deployed most of the time to Korea and vicinity in the early 1950s.
My sister and I were raised beneath the shadow of World War II. Pearl Harbor, quite literally, was in our backyard…and the attack on December 7, 1941, was still a present memory in 1956 for most adults.We grew up in Honolulu, where our young family lived in Navy Housing (NHA-1), right outside what was then the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor, and right next to what was then the Main Gate to Hickam Field. At the time, NHA 1 served as Junior Officer’s Quarters. My first attempt at earning spending money was shining sailors’ shoes at the bus stop in front of those gates. About a block away was an old two story, frame building…cream/ flesh color paint…with a big sign on the roof “Fourteenth Naval District Library.”
In 1956, Pop was a Chief Warrant Officer (W-2) when he was transferred to the Commander of the Submarine Force Pacific (SubPac) staff as Special Services Officer for COMSUBPAC, Rear Admiral Elton Waters Grenfell
Pop also served as the Varsity Basketball Coach for the Submarine Force, Pacific. Athletic programs were big in the Armed Forces in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.
Block Arena – outside the Main Gate on Center Drive
Hawaii had not yet obtained statehood and was a US Territory (you had to get “shots” when you traveled there from the “Mainland”). My sister and I spent a lot of time on the “Sub Base Pearl”, as living in Hawaii in those days was still sort of like living on a foreign military outpost.
The Duplex and Fourplex structures were made of cinder blocks. NHA 2 and NHA 3 were Enlisted Quarters and were of frame construction, shared with the termites. NHA 1, 2, and 3 were right outside of the Main Gate of Pearl Harbor.
Most of the people living on Oahu then were Pearl Harbor Survivors, all with their memories, thoughts and conversations to curious children who loved the military, and who loved their country.
Prior to moving back to Pearl Harbor, Pop’s ship was the USS Point Cruz and it was sent up to Bremerton Washington for decommissioning. I was six years old and One Saturday morning, Pop took me out to the “Mothball Fleet” and out to a pier where a huge naval warship was berthed…the USS Missouri. She was decommissioned, but we were allowed to go onboard. Pop walked me to the forecastle and right to the center where a big bronze plaque was embedded in the wooden deck. It was the spot where the war ended and at 6 years old, my Dad wanted me to experience it. It was here he explained to me the concept of unconditional surrender. 3 months later the family was off to Hawaii.
Special Services Pearl
As the Special Services Officer for the Submarine Force, Pop was in charge of the Officers and Enlisted Clubs, swimming pools, hobby shops, movies, athletic facilities, recreational cabins at Barbers Point, and other recreational facilities. It cost a dime for a haircut, and a dime to attend the movie on the Sub Base. It is at the old sub base movie theater there that I saw the premier of Run Silent, Run Deep starring Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable. I still have the pens they gave away as mementos of the movie.
How the world has changed. As a cultural/social aside, in the 1950s our living room furniture in our Navy Housing Quarters consisted of a rattan couch, two rattan chairs, two rattan end tables, a small round rattan coffee table with lahala mats covering the hardwood floors.
After school and during the summer we would go out to play and stay out for hours, attired in shorts, no shirt and barefoot or at the most, “go-aheads”. Back then, you could buy a small bag of dried squid for a nickel…ling hi mui was also a favorite. Li Chi, mangos, papayas, guavas, star fruit, liliquoi (passion fruit) and coconuts were pretty easy to find growing in different places around the Island.
When I was in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades (1956-1958), we lived on Third Street and then Center Drive in NHA 1 and I attended Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary School. Our classrooms were war surplus Quonset huts and we had concrete bomb shelters in our backyard.
Throughout Navy Housing, there were bomb shelters…constant reminders of Sunday, December 7, 1941.
To reinforce the time context, chronologically…in the 1950s, WWII and the attack on Pearl Harbor were still recent history and in the memory of most adults. My parents were young adults during the War, and it was a defining event, if not THE defining event of their lives and generation. It was spoken of often over my life in a number of different social circles.
In the summer of 1959 we moved from Center Drive in Navy Housing to Foster Village on Salt Lake Blvd. The entrance to Foster Village was right across the street from Radford High School. Mom and Pop purchased the home for $20,000. It was “Single Wall Construction,” built on a slab, no garage, no heating system, and no ownership of the land (No Fee…purchased with a 99 year ground lease).
Moving to Foster Village required that I change elementary schools. I attended Aliamanu Elementary School in 5th and 6th grades in 1959/60. Aliamanu was right across the street from Salt Lake Crater, which was, back then, a large lake (at least it seemed large to me back then). Today it is the Honolulu Country Club and Golf Course.
As a student at Aliamanu, I was the Captain of the JPOs (Junior Police Officers) and my JPO Advisor, who later in his life was a State Senator, was Jumbo Joe Kuroda. At the end of our street in Foster Village was a sugar cane field…acres and acres of sugar cane. The end of the street was not a “cul de sac” but a dead end with a barricade and a ditch. The ditch was easily jumped and was on the edge of the cane fields…where I was forbidden to go but went anyway, exploring and spending hours of my youth.
In 1961, Pop was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia…into this pre-civil rights south marches this Jewish family of 5 from Hawaii. Fish out of water 🙂
After my Dad, VADM Grenfell was one of my first heroes (pictured here as a VADM). Not because of his great accomplishments, serving as COMSUBPAC and COMSUBLANT, and serving as a submarine skipper in the Pacific during WWII, but because those accomplishments are what allowed him to be elevated to the rank of Admiral. Going to the Naval Academy, becoming a Naval Officer, and yes, becoming an Admiral. Pop explained that military officers were the closest thing there was to being a Knight. I had the good fortune growing up, to be surrounded by many combat veterans of World War II.
My Dad’s dream for me was that I attend the Naval Academy and become a commissioned officer in the US Navy, and it was all I ever knew or thought I wanted to be.
Motivated and encouraged by my father and Admiral Grenfell, I aspired to be an Admiral, not knowing what an Admiral actually did, but knowing that the route to get there, at least back then, usually began at the Naval Academy.
I was fortunate, and on June 28, 1968, I entered the Naval Academy with the Class of 1972.
A few years back I found some old 8mm home movies (not Super 8) of the Class of 1972 Parents Weekend, which I had digitized. If you are interested, the clip features some of the beautiful sites of the “Yard,” the Midshipman’s term for the Academy…and lots of marching. Also included in this clip is a scene with Mom, Dad, and VADM and Martha Grenfell.
When I turned 13 (over 54 years ago), I had my Bar Mitzvah at the Commodore Levy Chapel at the Norfolk Naval Station. Pop was on the Staff of ComSubLant at the time, as the Athletic Director and Morale Officer. Vice Admiral and Mrs. Grenfell attended my Bar Mitzvah and their gift to me was a gold pendant of the Ten Commandments. The Admiral presented it to me with his calling card. He told me the message on the calling card was more important than the gift, and not to lose the card….which I have to this day.
For more Stories of the history of this time:
After the Attack, Sub School, and Submarine War Patrols in the South Pacific…Interview with a Survivor
I interviewed Pop about 25 years ago and asked him questions about December 7, 1941, and about his World War II Experience, especially Submarine War Patrols in the South Pacific.
His descriptive, first hand account of the attack on Pearl Harbor…From the moment he realized we were under attack, is chilling.
I had heard many stories about the War over the years, growing up…many often corroborated by other veterans of the War…men and women with whom I had great respect as a boy. My knowledge of our family history allowed me to ask in depth questions, and probe Pop’s long term memories. Here is what we recovered and transcribed from that interview:
Saul: Name a couple of the events you will always remember in your life.
Pop: My first war patrol
Saul: Your first war patrol?
Pop: Pearl Harbor.
Drawing straws for submarines that had sunk that I would’ve been on
Saul: yes things you will always remember. What else ?
Pop: VJ Day. end of World War II. I was in San Francisco.
Saul: What were you doing in San Francisco?
Pop: riding in a jeep with a bunch of waves. We were going down market street screaming and raising hell.
Saul: how were you so lucky as to be with all the waves?
Pop: I just happened to meet them by the street. I was, at that time, a first class petty officer yet was unusual to run with them because normally they wouldn’t have anything to do with me because they were all officers. That was interesting.
Saul: they picked you up?
Saul: where did they take you or is that something you’d rather not put on tape?
Pop: no I don’t know. I don’t remember. You know that’s a long time ago and it isn’t that exciting now. It was then. Your mother had already left Honolulu.
Saul: so you were in San Francisco? How come?
Pop: I came back from Saipan and was rebuilding what they call refit overhaul of the submarine.
Saul: So let’s run back to what you were doing in Saipan.
Pop: I was on a relief crew. I went in there on the submarine Balao and I got off onto the Fulton which was a big submarine tender. She tended about 20 submarines and I was in the 81st division which was the relief crew. My boss was called Reesey Cooper. He was a chief petty officer. He made Ensign six months before, but he didn’t know it. See you never got word. Things went on that you didn’t know about. In fact we made a liberty in San Francisco on the Balao and the shore patrol came in and gave us hell! We were making too much noise! This was the end of the war and they said you guys are making too much noise! Then they said you Chief, you’re the one who’s the ring leader! And then he says incidentally you made ensign and Reseey responded with, “I did? Well I didn’t ask for the damn thing. He said I’m the chief!” but they said no you’re not, you’re an ensign you got to act like a gentleman. But he never changed. And he did a lot for me. He was good to me but I was his leading snipe, lead crew.
Saul: after the war did you ever see him again?
Pop: yeah, a couple of times in Pearl Harbor. He was always in trouble. He had the shore patrol in Pearl Harbor and took the duty chief and went to town and got smashed up so he got a court-martial. But ol’ coop was like that. He didn’t care about anything.
Saul: so you were in Saipan, World War II started, you went to sub school?
Pop: I was in Pearl Harbor when the war started. 10 days of my life was lost there’s no records. I came to the base and I jumped in and stole a whale boat and went out toward the Arizona and picked guys out of the water. I threw a line out over the stern and said hang on and I’ll pull you and we got straight and I went over the side. I had my uniform on…a pair of white pants and skivvies T-shirt. That was it.
Saul: no shoes?
Pop: yes shoes, no money. I got over to the beach where the Pennsylvania was in dry dock and the Casin and the Downs were in the same drydock. There’s pictures of that and I did a lot of things. I put a water hose on the bow of the Pennsylvania. They didn’t have the fire stuff they have today and we wanted to keep it from burning. So I got to thinking you know this is foolish. I’m out here busting my buns and nobody’s here to supervise. After all remember you’re a sailor and you got to have leadership and I didn’t have any. Should’ve taken the bull by the horns and been my own leader, now that I look back. So went on the USS Honolulu. She was getting ready to get underway and I thought well at least I’ll get on a fighting ship. She got hit with a 500 pound bomb. Went through the dock and split the seams open. Didn’t get hurt so the quarter deck, the master of the day says “where you from”? It was the Medusa and I was a metalsmith. He said we can use you. The harbormaster passed the word when I ran in the gate. You can’t get back to your own ship. There’s no boats running. Go wherever you can to be of help. This is a good place to go so I went where I was gonna get three meals a day and the sailors chipped in their clothes. I had clothes they called DC-discarded clothing — the guys that went to jail they put them in the brig I had those things. The guys chipped in some money so I could buy a toothbrush things like that.
Your mother didn’t know. She was living outside of housing and she didn’t know if I was living or dead. Finally one of the yard workers got a message to her but all this time I’m broke you know for 10 days. So when I left there I got a letter from the commanding officer of the Honolulu that I reported aboard the time that I worked and a commendation for what I had done. Then they took me on a boat back to the Medusa that was on the other side of the Island. I went on board and the master at arms met me at the gangway. They called for the master at arms. I was the only guy alive on the ship of about 600 men that didn’t make it back alive! You know they thought I was dead! So the kids, all my shipmates, my shop was right off the wall where the quarterdeck was. They all came running. Hey Klein, look at your battle station! It was the after crows nest that was blown to hell! So if I’d been aboard I’d have been killed by the destroyers alongside of us that was firing over the Medusa into the kamikazes. The Curtis was a seaplane tender next birth from us.
Saul: when you were on the Honolulu what did you do?
Pop: I worked in the metalsmith shop. They sent me down with the crew members that were metalsmiths and we went and we had to put all the insulation off the bulkhead so we could find these cracks. It was a lousy job because it was spun glass and it itched. They put a radio, a wire you know you get these connections that cables go through from one compartment and waterproof really and they’ve got a little antenna there and we had the radio on and water was up to here where we were working.
Saul: up to your waist?
Pop: yes we had to get it pumped out but we had to shore it before we pumped it out. A lot of people don’t understand what you’re talking about you know this navy.
Saul: what did you use to pump it? out D250s? Handy Billings?
Pop: no we didn’t have anything in there at that time. We were plugging it up so it wouldn’t come in but when we got ready to pump it would pump. They probably were handy billings at that time but anyhow that’s what we worked on. Getting that thing done and it was a miserable job because of the spun glass. So we had the radio in there and we hear columburn, was the big announcer, and he says it’s been rumored that Pearl Harbor has been bombed with heavy loss of life. And that’s it. Here we are with water up to there and we know Pearl Harbor was bombed and it was lots of people killed. I saw them killed. But the United States didn’t know. Then when I finally (this jumps ahead from what happened) when I finally went back to Detroit to submarine school and at the time I was on a train and had the flu. I was pretty sick. The Red Cross came aboard at different stops to check on me. I had 10 days leave before I went to sub school. So I went to Marine City, Michigan where my folks were. Before I got on the train we were at the train by the office of ONI which is Naval intelligence and warned that we were not to divulge anything that happened in Pearl Harbor.
People would ask questions and you don’t tell them anything. Now this is the government talking “we’d like to tell but you couldn’t. So when I got back to Michigan my dad is working for the government and set me up to speak after I got better. I was sick for a while. So he set me up to speak at one of those meetings for the people building the Sherman tanks. I said I can’t tell anything I was told not to. Well they had an Army colonel and he said he’d sit in the front row and he says I’ll censor if they ask anything, I’ll shake my head if you can. So I went and told them what we did what happened and he cut me off at times but most of the time he just let me talk and then I went to sub school.
Saul: ok but we’ll come back to talking about when you went away to sub school. Let’s go back to when you were in the Honolulu.
Saul: you were working in the metal shop and you had water up to your waste and you’re listening to the radio and so you worked there for 10 days or so huh?
Pop: yeah actually 10 days. That was before they sent me back to my ship the Medusa which was anchored on the other side of Fort Allen. The only hit was my battle station, the upper crows nest.
Saul: so you got back to the Medusa and then what happened?
Pop: I was to resume my duties as metalsmith. Actually I was a fireman first which is like third class petty officer and I’ve already made third class but the war started and you didn’t have time to go do the paperwork. They gave me my rating paperwork and put it through.
Saul: Did you already put in the request for sub school?
Pop: I put in for sub school every month if there was an opening. I guess the executive officer was tired of seeing my application, my request. A sailor can always put a request in. The second request I had in was for for the Black Hawk. Black Hawk was not a submarine. It was a battleship repair just like the Medusa was. It was in the Asiatic station and when he joined the Navy sailors “oh glee, I wanted to go to the asiatic station because they heard all these fascinating stories. They saw the movies they made of it.
Saul: you go there you never come back.
Pop: that’s right. Yea, you don’t really know but some of them came back.
Saul: most of them married an oriental girl and opened a bar.
Pop: They married — a lot of them married what they called White Russians. Some of them were refugees from the czar that settled in that area. I worked for one Charlie Cobb at the subbase. He was stationed there. He married a White Russian. A nice woman I met her. He was my chief but he put in for it and he was out there when the war started. It was pretty hard for some of them to get back you know so much when on there. But as I was exempt, I didn’t go there thank God. I was better off where I was because I didn’t know when I have gotten back if I’d have gone there.
So I did get my submarine school but it was in July, the war started in December so I worked on the base. One of the jobs we did we had what they called working parties.
Each ship was assigned so many men to these working parties and then the working parties were run by different chiefs and officers and the one I was on was recovering bodies from the Arizona, California, different ships. The bodies were in the water and we’d take a body that we’d pick up and put in a burlap sack. This was a horrible thing but if we had a torso two hands and two legs that was a body. You didn’t know who it was. They weren’t that straight with the name tags but after that came out we all had to wear name tags, metal name tags.
Pop: dog tags. Okay yeah I didn’t have to. I don’t remember that they had them at that time. You know this goes back a few years. I did have them. I gave them to my daughter Maile I think or Deborah for Dylan. One of them
Saul: I think I have them
Pop: you might have them
Saul: so you were picking up bodies — how many ships lost?
Pop: Yeah picking up bodies and putting them in burlap sacks. I don’t know if you know where the Arizona was but it was almost in the middle of the Harbor alongside Ford Island. We had a big 30 foot motor launch and we towed them in the water, the bags over to Pearl city and they picked them up in trucks, the bags.
Saul: sharks follow you?
Pop: oh no I never saw a shark in Pearl Harbor in all the time I was there and I used to swim. I was on the swimming team for the Medusa. Never saw sharks. They may have been in there but I never saw them. So anyhow we took them over there and put them up on what was called the Red Hill which is now Punchbowl the cemetery. So you don’t know what’s in there, who’s in there. It’s guess as guess can, one of those things. At least they were buried. Every body we found was buried. There were bodies we didn’t find. There’s bodies that are still on the Arizona submerged with the ship. They’re in a compartment. You ain’t gonna get em out of those compartments. I finally was anxious to leave. You can only get so much of that and you don’t sleep nights. You see you grabbing an arm and putting it in a bag. Who can stand stuff like that?
Saul: so how many working parties? Did you have to go out every day and do that?
Pop: every day, every day, every day we went out and reported to working parties. Sometimes it’s different jobs but I always seemed to get these damn recovery of bodies. There were other ships alongside battleship row that had bodies that we had to get out. Now the ship was sunk just so far and they had bodies. You asked me how many ships were lost. I don’t know I think we had 11 battleships at that time. As a young kid we used to sit on the boat deck of the Medusa and watch the battle fleet come in. When they’d come in on Friday we could name each battleship by distinguishing characteristics like the California had a wire mast. You could tell that one. Some of the newer ones had the tripped mass, metal.
Saul: do you have numbers
Pop: yeah, oh yeah. We didn’t go by numbers. I don’t even know if they had them. After the war started they took the numbers off. Even the submarine I was on in the war.
No identifying recognition at all because if we were sunk, they didn’t want anybody to know.
Pop: so I was 285 but there was no 285 on my submarine. It was when I got out there but later there wasn’t. That was there in 1941 after the war started.
Saul: so December 7 then you put in for sub school and you stayed on the Medusa until July. There you had odd jobs to do. You made fireman first?
Pop: right, which is the same as third class.
Saul: how much were you getting paid
Pop: I think at that time I was getting $68 per month, big pay! I was married, wasn’t easy
Saul: where was Mom living?
Pop: in Damon track which was right next to Hickam Field there.
Saul: with her parents
Pop: yeah I lived there too with them. The only reason I wasn’t on the ship when the war started was because I was married and married men got overnight liberty. If you weren’t married, you had to be back to the ship by midnight. So when the war started the word went out on the radio right away. All men return to their ships. In my case I ran down to Dillingham Boulevard. We were three doors from Dillingham Boulevard. Next door on the Other side of Us was P road.
Saul: you were at grandma and grandpas or navy housing?
Pop: at grandma and grandpas house which was right across from navy housing on the other side, area one. But next to us was navy warehouses. So I ran. Dillingham blvd was just a narrow 2 lane road. Some officer was coming down like hell with his car returning to the base. He stopped and picked me up. I had my white pants on and my skivvies shirt.
Saul: That was like P road 2 or 3 miles from Pearl Harbor? “P” Road where you were?
Pop: About 2 miles
Saul: Wasn’t too far?
Pop: Yea, about 2 miles. So we ran. We got up. We didn’t even get in the base and they came. A plane came down straight on Dillingham blvd. I guess they dropped a load of bombs and flying all over, trying to keep people from coming back onto the base. The guy, I think he was a lieutenant drove off into the cornfields. The area, which is now housing, I don’t think had houses there back then. I remember we went into the cane fields. I’m going back and trying to remember every detail. Hickam I know was on the left-hand side. We went past and jumped out of the car and left the car there. We ran towards the gate- the main gate into Pearl Harbor. And the Marines at the gate said go wherever you can be of help. You can’t get back to your ships. Boats aren’t running. The all 10 dock was right there about 100 yards maybe from the gate. You’d come back from liberty on the bus or car or whatever and you go down on the dock which was a great big dock and every ship.
Saul: floating platform where the boats would come up?
Pop: no, they’d come up and they’d pick up sailors and they’d call out “Medusa” and all these sailors jump in the boat. “Curtis”…
Saul: but they weren’t running.
Pop: no not on that day, they weren’t running. See this is regular. So it was funny–I get down there and he says go anywhere you can be of help.
Saul: so you went down to the boat docks and the boats weren’t running.
Pop: right. So he says go wherever you can be of help. There were about 12 of us down there and we ran towards 10-10 dock towards the officers club which was down about 200 yards. And that’s where the navy action overhaul area was. In fact, the Honolulu was pulled in a berth there and the St. Louis. The St. Louis got underway. She was in the berth next
Saul: she got out of the harbor?
Pop: yea but the Honolulu started backing out and they dropped this 500 pound bomb thru the deck and it split the seams so she never got out. Some ships got out, I don’t know which ones but St. Louis got out. I ran on the wrong ship hoping to go to sea but it was interesting and scarey…very scarey! To stand there and see your entire fleet, the greatest fleet in the world on the bottom, tore your heart out. We were invincible, we thought. Nobody could do this to us.
Saul: but we were. We made a come back.
Pop: made a come back, but Saul, it was hell going thru it. What we did and to be part of it and some of it you can’t even document. You can’t prove it. Can you imagine. I think when I get mad sometimes that I can’t get my records to show what I did. And I see guys getting the congressional Medal of Honor doing, I think, a lot less, Purple Hearts, what have you, but you got to remember I knew guys that were on ships that were sunk and they lost their records. Bill lei old went to prison but he’s got his records of Japanese prisons, but his records on ship were all lost.
Saul: so you went down from one dock to another and what, grabbed a whale boat or something?
Pop: I saw a royal boat along–you know, they used to leave the whale boats tied up to the yard arm and there was one there that nobody— well, nobody was checking on whale boats (chuckles). So I, and I was an engineer, so I asked one kid “can you steer it”? He said he’d be the ( dock set)
We went out towards the Arizona and there was still a lot of action going on in the harbor and then we got strafed. I swam over to the Oklahoma, which was turned over. Now I knew the old Oklahoma was a mine layer and I climbed up. We had a hell of a time climbing up. The bottom was kind of slippery. You ever see a ship turned over, scummy slime but we got up on the dock. The Pennsylvania was in dry dock and forward of it and in the same dry dock with the Casin and Downs which were two destroyers.
There was another one there that a friend of mine was on but it wasn’t in there. They have what they call a railway they bring ships up on there and then others are dry docked and I grabbed a fire hose. You know your grandfather was a fireman retired and he always said when there is a big fire wet the building down next to the fire to protect it. So I’m wetting down the Pennsylvania with the hose but it wasn’t burning. The Casin in the same dry dock was burning. Finally when the fire hit the (main gas line), it blew up and we were down there. In Balboa Park there’s a painting and it shows Pennsylvania, Casin and Downs and there’s 3 sailors down there with a fire hose, and you can’t distinguish who they are, but the kids, even today would say “hey Klein, did you see your picture? Somebody painted it”. It’s a fact. Some guy got this from the history books or someway, but that’s where I was. When the Casin blew up, (the magazine) there was debris all over. The corrugated metal on the pipe shop on the side came flying off the percussion so I was scratched up a little. The last I saw the hose was flopping all over. The other guys helping me with the hose was gone and that’s when I ran down to the Honolulu and got on. The Honolulu was under a jurisdiction but it was a hell of a day. That night we had air raids going on all night long. Anybody, a dog would move out there and he was dead. We were all so jumpy. And the sentries were jumpy.
Saul: you didn’t know if the Japanese were going to come back.
Pop: that was the other thing. We had the word that the Japanese were landing in Eva Beach and they had trucks going with bunches of marines up to Nanakuli. Well hell, they were way far from Pearl Harbor. Who knew what was going on. Nobody. We wasted a lot of man power. I was trying to think. Someone was at Bellows field on the other side of the island. But that was a problem. There was too much excitement. Too much going on that people had no control over what was actually happening. So then when I got under there, at least I was under someone’s control and when you are a young sailor in the navy, you want to be under someone’s jurisdiction. You can’t be running around on your own. That was part of my experience going into detail on some of it. I want to forget most of it.
War patrol was not too bad. I enjoyed the camaraderie aboard the sub. After all, that was my sub! It was a different life all together. Interesting life. We had favorite names for each other, ya know and we lived in tight quarters. I lived under the #7 main ballast tank vent. The vents about this big. It’s got a fan under it and when they dive, the vent opens and the tank floods and the oil that leaks in the pan runs, it runs out of the pan and under the bunk under the pan…that was my bunk. And I’d be sleeping when, in the morning, they’d dive just for a trim dive. When they dive, I would be spitting hydraulic fluid out of my mouth because it would just run on you. It didn’t hurt anything, it was just messy. That was part of submarine life. The toilet, if you didn’t know how to flush, the toilet could blow the shit in your face! We’d kid about it you know and when they’d blow a tank when we were submerged, the whole boat would stink. You can imagine (Laughing). But you get used to all this stuff and its part of the life.
Saul: So you, in July, how did you get to California, the mainland from Hawaii?
Pop: I went on a transfer, the Brekenridge.
Saul: Were they worried about Japanese submarines?
Pop: Oh sure. They zig-zagged all the way for us. And being an engineer, I stood watches. You didn’t ride free in anything. So I…that wasn’t as bad as the one I went out to the Pacific to catch my ship. We know there were Japanese subs. We were zig zagging. You always worried about Jap subs.
Saul: You were on the Breckenridge. Was Mom with you?
Pop: No, not then
Saul: You were headed to go to sub school?
Saul: So you were standing engine room watches?
Pop: Right. She was there in Pearl.
Saul: She was still in Honolulu?
Pop: Yeah, but I had to stand watch because I was an engineer.
Saul: so you were standing watches and they were zig zagging. What kind of engine? What kind of plant?
Saul: Stern Plant? What did they burn?
Pop: Oil. Crude oil. It’s funny. I told them
Saul: Navy Crude or something?
Saul: Black oil?
Pop: Oh yea, tar. I told the guy I’m a diesel engineer. Down here you’re a mixed steam engineer. So I stood watches. You had to learn it. You know. And I didn’t like the idea of being below the water line (chuckles) with Japanese subs running around.
Saul: Yea, no kidding.
Pop: But they didn’t fire. We never got fired at.
Saul: How long did the transit take?
Pop: 6 days which is normally a 5 day trip.
Saul: But you were zig zagging so it took longer.
Pop: Longer, yea, longer
Saul: So where did you land?
Pop: San Francisco. That was another thing. Sub had Mare Island come in because we were going to submarine school. They had the transportation to pick us up and segregate us from the guys that were just going service gram.
Saul: Did you make liberty in San Francisco?
Pop: yea, well I was sick. I was coming down with the flu. George Gall, who was 1st class, I was a fireman, he took a liking to me. We got along. He sang and he and I used to go in the bar and they’d say, hey Klein, sing! So I didn’t play the uke then, but I could sing without the uke. The drinks would come free for the guys I was with just to keep us there to entertain. So George Gall, we went in the hotels to spend the night, waiting for our train. We had priority travel home. I got the thing in my file that says, this man has been out of the United States for so long and he was going to return to the Pacific. So number one priority for transportation. That’s when you had to have these things, so if you ever want one, look in the file and find all that stuff that I’m told “You ought to get rid of that shit”. But it means something to me.
Saul: Yea, me too.
Pop: yea, anyways, George went to the local drug store and he got all kinds of drugs and cough drops and he is feeding me this stuff. And he is on his way to sub school. Now this guy came from the Asiatic station and he was on a destroyer out there. He was a rough and tumble. Anyone that’s at the Asiatic station was a rough sailor, and he was. But he liked me because I sang. We stayed friends for a long time after the war.
Saul: you met him where? You just met him on the ship coming across?
Pop: yea and then we may have met. Worked on a working party there at the base before we got on the ship. But we became very good friends. Your mother even knows George. He came to our house when we were in Pearl. Some acquaintances you meet you keep for a long time. He was one of them. But I’ll never forget when we came back in the hotel. I never thought I’d see him again. He comes walking up to that hotel. He got me the room there. He was 1st class and made a lot more money than I did and he’s got all these drugs, over the counter drugs. He is trying to doctor me. He was with me on the train ride all the way to Chicago. We changed in Chicago. We went to the grand trunk to Detroit and he went on to New York I guess. Then I met him in sub school. We met again. It was interesting.
Saul: how long did sub school last?
Pop: 6 weeks
Saul: So how long did you stay in Detroit before you went to sub school?
Pop: I think I had 10 days leave.
Saul: you had leave, huh?
Pop: I went to sub school and when I came back, I went to Key West, Florida. They had what you called old, old boats…really old submarines. And we rode those just to learn submarines. Had no relation to the submarines we were going to. We were going to the Cadillac of the fleet and these were the model T’s of the fleet! When they’d dive, you could see the red light that would ooze thru the seats if you went down too deep. They were miserable. No bunks. You lied on the floor. Normally you didn’t stay out over night. You operated all the day then back in at night. And everything done by hand. If you want to dive, you had to pull the lever. On our boat, it is all hydraulics, but it was interesting to see how things had changed.
Saul: Old boats
Pop: Yea, old boats. I was, I forget, 013. I think they lost a couple of these too. The R boats were old ones also. They fought the war in the Aleutians. We used everything we could. I knew guys on the R boat. They were miserable. They slept on decks and wherever they could. They made lengthy war patrols. So anyhow, it has been a long time since I even talked about it.
Saul: So sub school…how long did it last?
Pop: 6 weeks
Saul: 6 weeks?
Pop: Yea, there’s two parts to that. 6 weeks to learn how to be a submariner and I think it was 4 weeks for engineering school if you were going to be an engineer. Then you went to radio school if you were going to be a radio man. So I went to engineer school. Old Patty Rand was my chief. I remember all these guys. We had a guy they called him princess navy. He was a chief. He never went to war. He ran the sub school. You know in those days, a chief had a lot of power. This guy was an ex chief for the china fleet. He lined us all up…chiefs, most of us were chiefs then.
Saul: you weren’t a chief in sub school
Pop: no, no, no
Saul: after sub school?
Pop: yea. I made chief when I went to the Balao right after that. I made chief on the Balao, but most of these guys like Gall, he was a chief. But they had all these chiefs and he says…he talked with a Polish accent…and he’s telling them there will be no fooling around. There’s a war going on. And one of the chiefs says “How would you know? You never left the states. You’ve been here all the time. We just came back from the war!” They transferred his ass out for
Pop: Yea, he was funny. I got special liberty once to buy your mother a fur coat in New York so I couldn’t complain. They gave me time off. Yea, sub school was ok.
Saul: So what happened after sub school?
Pop: She came back. While I was in sub school, she came back. And we got a light housekeeping in new London Connecticut with a Jewish family that owned the laundry on bank street which was the main drag. Real nice. They treated us real nice. Your mother came in by train. I was late to meet the train and she wondered if I left her, if I was gonna meet her and here she was, just a 17 year old kid and she traveled all the way across country over the ocean by herself. Ya know, on a transport. She had a lot of nerve, a lot of guts. When we look back, and some of the things she pulls now, you think what we went thru together. It was a lot.
So we lived with these people. They gave us a shelf in the icebox. We had the bedroom next to the father and mother and daughter, and, the whole family was in there. Oh I think we were there about 4 or 5 weeks. New London was nice. We enjoyed it there and then I got orders to Key West. I took your mother back to Marine City, Michigan and she stayed with granny and deedee till I got back from Key West. Then I got orders to the Balao. I tried to buy my way to the Cisco, another sub going in at the same time. It’s good that I didn’t. One run and she’s sunk. On the way to Australia. The Balao went thru the whole war and ended up after 10 war patrols. That was good.
Saul: Lucky boat, huh!
Pop: Didn’t do a lot of tonnage.
Saul: Stayed away from all that. Skippers were smart. That’s the way to do good!
Pop: Right (chuckling) Skippers were smart. They sank their share, but nothing like some of them did. They had no tears on their (Wild Bill) ya know, did what they had to, to get by.
Saul: Brought the crew back.
Pop: I was in there. Brought my favorite officer back. It was old Kimmel. Tom Kimmel’s dad was the admiral when the war started. He got a general court martial. 4:00 in the morning and we’d be sitting there up in the control room and he’d tell wild stories about old Tom Kimmel. His brother was also in submarines, Manny Kimmel. Then my very closest friend was Schaefer. You knew Dick Schaefer. So we had a good crew and oh, we got along good together. So we went on to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Your mother came up with me or I sent for her. I forget. And I got WWI housing. We had to put paper up against the door to keep the air out.
Saul: Cuz it was cold?
Pop: Ahhh… 40 below zero and your mother had never seen that kind of weather!
Saul: she’s from Hawaii then had to live in 40 below weather!
Pop: I put a box in the window. We didn’t have a refrigerator, so I put a box in the window. I insulated it with anything I could and we put our milk and stuff in there. The first time your mother opened the milk carton, it had a cap on it, ya know, like when the cream comes up. She washed clothes in the bathtub and had to hang them on the line. She really was like an old pioneer woman while we were back there.
Saul: You spent 3 months there?
Pop: yea, at least 3 months, maybe more.
Saul: 6 weeks of sub school, then what?
Pop: I think it was 2 weeks at (we know this should be the engineer school he spoke of earlier in this interview. Other than that, there were 17 min of just static on the tape).
For more Stories of the history of this time:
On the 50th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, 25 years ago…my dad, Marcus G. Klein, Pearl Harbor Survivor, gave his First Hand Account of December 7, 1941, to my wife Janie Klein, and transcribed by my sister, Deborah Klein Smith.
“Today is December 7, 1991. Fifty years ago today, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I’m going to try and tell my story, the best that I can remember, of the events that occurred on that day to me.
Red Thompson and his wife Babe lived in an apartment somewhere in the “Macully” district, outside Waikiki.
“Uncle Red” and “Aunt Babe” were friends and shipmates of mom and pop from during and after WW II. Uncle Red was a retired Chief (or maybe a Warrantr Officer), and his birthday was January 1.
New Years Day in 1956, 57, 58, and 59 were spent visting the Thompsons…on Uncle Red’s birthday.
Back in those days, everyone had fireworks, and on New Years Morning there were always lots of unexploded “cracker balls” and fire crackers…and many firecrackers with no fuse…which could be broken in half to light the gunpowder inside…a great pass time for a 7 and 4 year old…and of course, we were not allowed to do this…which we did none the less 🙂
One New Year’s Day, Aunt Babe gave us a collection of about 16 children’s classic books. The first books Debbie and I ever had, all to ourselves…except the Blue Jackets Manual Dad had given me when I was about 4.
Debbie and I were fortunate to be raised in the company of many of the Greatest Generation.