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Interviewee: Ralph Jones
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: March 24, 1999
P: This is Julian Pleasants. The date is March 24, 1999, and I am at the home of
Ralph Jones. Mr. Jones, when did you first join the military?
J: August, 1937.
P: Did you enlist?
P: Why did you decide to join the Navy?
J: Well, it was awfully cold in North Carolina. In about 1930, I had a cousin come
home who was on leave from the Navy. Here, nobody had any money or
anything like that. People were hungry and what have you and, here [was] this
very pleasant fellow was with a beautiful, immaculate white uniform on. He had
money in his pocket, he was one of my favorite cousins, and I thought this would
be a wonderful place to be. I kept thinking about it and, in 1935, I was waiting
over at the road for a school bus to come by and take me to school. I had put
some water on my hair to comb it, and it was so cold that when I put my hand up,
my scalp had frozen. I turned around and started back to the house and about
halfway back, I said to myself, well, you are only twelve years old, but at the first
possibility, the first possible time that you can join the Navy, you are gone. I
graduated from high school weighing 102 pounds. I was sixteen years old, so I
had to wait a couple of years anyway. I finally managed to get in the Navy.
P: Where did you grow up?
J: Hendersonville, North Carolina.
P: That is in the mountains, so it is a little colder.
P: When you joined, where did you do your training?
J: I went to the Naval Operating Base [NOB] in Norfolk, Virginia, and I thoroughly
enjoyed myself. The military drill was just a form of dancing, and the precision of
it was just beautiful. Besides that, the USS Yorktown, which was our first really
modern carrier-we had the Ranger, but it was not anything much-had just been
commissioned. Here I am, a little old boy from the mountains and had never
dreamed of seeing anything like this, and they had brought it over to NOB. It was
tied up to the dock there and, of course, it had a constant stream of visitors with
all of the young fellows who were there for their primary training, boot camp. I
went over to that ship from one end to the other and from top to bottom. Every
time I had a spare minute, I went over to visit that ship. I fell in love with aviation
so when I completed my boot camp, that was the thing that I was aiming for, to
get into aviation.
P: Did you?
J: I did. I finished boot camp, and they put me in a service school to train me for
radio. I had expressed no interest whatsoever, and it drove me crazy. I could
not stand all of the noise, and I did not like to stand watches and that sort of
thing. They were determined to make a radio man out of me. They exposed me
to a typewriter, and I was rather fascinated with that. I made myself use the
touch system. I refused to look at my hands. Anyway, I was going nuts trying to
stay out of this radio business. There is always some wise guy around, and this
fellow named Miller said to me, you want out? I said, yes, I want out of this
business. I said, this is crazy. He said, well, all you have to do is flunk. I said,
what? He said, yes, you flunk one week, and they will give you another week; if
you flunk then, you are out. I said, that is good news to me. So, I flunked, and
this chief warrant officer, who I later on encountered as a full commander, after
the war was over, Calabiene, did not even look up at me. He said, Jones, you
flunked; I will give you one more week. I said, thank you, sir. I turned around,
went out and flunked. I never saw him again, but he had so impressed __ the
fact that he had never even looked at me that I felt that I did not ever want to see
him again anyway. So, I went down to the receiving ship, which is a place that
they pull men who are to be transferred somewhere, and I started mess cooking.
This was a real adventure because this mess hall fed about 8,000 people three
times a day.
P: You are still at Norfolk?
J: I am still at Norfolk. How detailed do you want this?
P: Just go ahead.
J: It is kind of funny.
J: Anyway, I got in there and here were these immense things they called
"coppers," which had a steam jacket around them, and you would put in about
eighty or one hundred gallons of beans, and then you would turn the steam on,
and it would cook. All it did was heat them up. Then, the cooks were frying
chops and that sort of thing over on the grill. I was putting flour on for them, and I
was just having a ball seeing all of these strange things happen and the next
thing I know, the cook said to me, Jones, the commissary officer wants to see
you. I said, oops! He said, no, no, it is all right; go over there and see him. I
went in, and this fellow said to me, hey, the cook [is] out there telling me you are
doing a real good job. He said, how would you like to stay here in Norfolk and
strike for cook? I got my nerve up and said, I am sorry, Commander, but I really
have no inclination to cook. I said, whatever I do, I just work at it. I said, but
Norfolk is the last place I want to be. We had a name for Norfolk. Anyway, they
kept me around there for about ten days, and then they shipped me out on a
transport named the USS Vega. It charged down through the Gulf Stream at a
magnificent seven knots, and we went into Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for a few
hours. We went on down to Coposola in the U.S. Canal Zone and stayed three
days at one end, and then we went through the [Panama} canal and stayed three
days over at Balboa. It was most interesting because over on the Atlantic side, it
was shallow, so we only had a tide of about a foot and a half; but over on the
Pacific side, we had deep water, so we had a tide of about twenty feet. It was
absolutely incredible to realize that they are about forty miles apart. You had that
difference. Anyway, I was mess cooking again because I was making a lot of
money at it. I was just an apprentice saving, and I was making $21 a month plus
$5 for mess cooking. Every two weeks, they had payday, and I had twenty
people who all contributed fifty cents a piece. That was another $20 a month. I
I was fortunate [that] the ship's yeoman, which is the secretary, sat at my
table. He liked me and had a list of ships to go to and, lo and behold, here was
the Langley. I signed up for the Langley, and the one place in the world that I
had really wanted to go [to] was to Honolulu. We made our leisurely way up to
the west coast of Mexico and went into San Diego. This was a heady experience
for a little old boy like myself. I had been to Washington, D.C., out of the
mountains, and that was the only place I had ever been. Well, I had come down
and spent several months in Florida in the wintertime, in a little town called
Weirsdale down here, and made $3 a week, room and board. I was driving a car
for this old man and his wife. Anyway, back to San Diego. The Langley was
really a weird looking ship, and it was anchored out off of North Island. We
called it "swinging on a hook." We stayed there two weeks. Then, we up-
anchored and as fast as we could go, we went to Honolulu. My world was
complete because I was going exactly where I wanted to go. We got out there
and when we first sighted Honolulu, I think it was the [most] beautiful sight I had
ever seen. We were coming in from the east, and it was early in the morning. I
went up on the flight deck and looked. Here were these precipitous mountains
and the beaches and what have you. It took us half a day to go around the south
end of Oahu and go into Pearl Harbor. When we got into Pearl, lo and behold,
there was a hula troop dancing for us. I went in as a deck walloper; in other
words, I was working on deck.
P: Let me interrupt you for a second. Tell me a little bit about the Langley because
you said earlier that this was really the first aircraft carrier?
J: No. That was the first ever in our Navy, the first ever in the world, the Langley. It
was named for a man named Langley [Samuel P. Langley, secretary of the
Smithsonian Institution, experimented with catapult launching of aircraft-
unsuccessfully (1903) and in competition with Wright Brothers] who had
developed the carrier concept. He had started out; he would have a scout plane,
a little sea plane, on a battleship. They would take a crane and lift it off into the
water, and it would fly around and scout and then come back and land. Then,
they would bring it back on. Finally, he developed a catapult, and he could
catapult it off of the aft turret on battleships. I did not see that. I came along
after that. But the Langley, at that time, was right on its way out. It became a
sea plane tender. I will not explain that to you.
P: Tell me a little bit about the Langley. How big a ship was it? How many men?
J: It was about 600 men. As a major ship, or a capital ship, is concerned, it would
have been about the size of a cruiser. In fact, it had started out as a carrier. It
carried coal to the fleet. They had just brought it in and converted it and made a
carrier out of it. Back in the early days of naval aviation, anytime anyone went
through flight school, they had to qualify in every type of plane the Navy had: sea
planes, land planes, carriers, what have you. The airplanes back in those days
were just glorified kites anyway; they were not really very good for anything doing
but going out and scouting a little bit. They were just beginning to develop
torpedo planes and dive bombers and fighters and that sort of thing. Anyway, I
was working on deck.
P: What year this was?
P: Still 1938?
J: Yes. February of 1938. I was not very interested in working on deck, and I had
such little experience with a typewriter that I was thunderstruck when a fellow
came up to me and said, come here; I want to show you a job. You might like
this. He said, be the navigator yeomen. I said, no, no, I cannot do that. He said,
oh yes, just go down here and look at this. So, I went down, and I had always
been very interested in guns. I was a crack shot. The navigator's office was in
the armory. The navigator turned out to be a really nice fellow. All I had to do
was type up the ship's log every day and take it around to the watch officer and
have him sign it. By ten o'clock in the morning, my work for the day was over
with, so I roved that ship. I went through every office in it. I went down in the
bow of the ship and watched how they operated the throttle and generated
electricity and watched the gyroscope, which controlled all of the what we called
"repeaters" in different places where they needed to know what direction we were
going. The navigator was the nicest guy. When we went into the port or had our
gunnery drills or anything like that, I was always on the bridge where I could just
reach out and touch the commanding officer. I was right in the heart of things. I
am telling you, it was fun. I stayed on there for a year and a half.
P: What would a typical log be like? What would you have in the daily log?
J: Watch officers log in people who came aboard, who were being transferred
aboard or being transferred off the ship, or whatever was happening. If we had a
drill, he would note that. If we were traveling, he would give the latitude and
longitude. Anything that happened, he had to report it.
P: By time of day?
J: Oh yes. Sure. They had four-hour watches. They would give our destination
and whether we were going to get there, how fast we were getting there, and
what have you, places that we were, give "fixes" as they were called as to where
P: Let me go back. I forgot to ask you how did the Depression affect you and your
J: Well, my parents were glad that I had a place where I could have a steady
income because when I first got out of high school, I took the first job I could get,
which was working in a hosiery mill. I made $8 a week for sixty hours [over] five
and a half days. After four months, I was supposed to be getting twelve dollars a
week. The foreman only made $18. Anyway, I asked them about it after I had
been there five and a half months. This foreman, who was the general
manager's son, did not like me, so he fired me. I went downtown. It was a very
depressing thing. The movies cost thirty-five cents, and I just went to a matinee
at one o'clock. I walked out of the theater, and I was standing by the box office,
wondering where I was going to go next. The manager of the other theater-they
were affiliated to each other-came walking by and said, hey, Jonesy, what are
you doing now? I said, nothing. He said, how would you like to be doorman of
the theater? I said, well, how does it pay? He said, twelve dollars a week. I
said, you have hired yourself a man. The main reason he liked me was because
I was small, and they had a little uniform, and it fit a small person. It looked like it
had been tailored for me. That was a wonderful job. I really hated to leave that
to go in the Navy, but I did.
P: You were probably lucky to get those jobs.
J: I was very fortunate. My parents were just scratching. It was a real relief for
them when I went into the Navy and got out of there.
P: Let me go back and ask another question about your basic training. How difficult
J: Oh, it was just fun. We had some classes on knot tying and that sort of thing, but
it was mainly military drill, and I fell right into that. We were about forty people in
our group, and at the end of two weeks' time, we were clicking right along. It was
just a lot of fun.
P: So, that was a positive experience for you.
J: Oh, heavens, yes.
P: You know it is not for most people.
J: Oh no. Everybody loved it. [Laughing.] No, we had a good time together. We
slept in hammocks, and it was quite an experience at night to go in to rig your
hammock. You had to pull it real tight so that your body did not sag because if it
did, it hurt your back. When you have managed to get in that thing, you were just
as snug as you could be, and it was so comfortable, particularly in cold weather.
P: Okay. Let me get you back up to Pearl Harbor. You are keeping the log, and you
worked at that job for how long?
J: Let us see--1938 and part of 1939. In 1939, in the beginning of the year, we
went up to Alaska and cruised around up there and then back down to Mare
Island and went through major overhaul for six months. That is just above San
P: Still on the Langley?
J: Still on the Langley. Then, the Langley went down and joined the whole fleet.
We went up into the Dominican Republic and operated with a couple of
squadrons of airplanes because we were tending by that time. Then, we went
over to the New York World's Fair. It was very interesting because anytime I
wanted to go to a Brooklyn Dodgers game, they had stacks of free tickets for
everybody in the Navy. Have you ever heard of Bill Robinson, the dancer?
P: Sure. Mr. Bojangles?
J: Bojangles came on board our ship and danced for us. Anyway, we turned
around and went back out to Honolulu and all of a sudden, I got a chance to
transfer off onto to Ford Island, an island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.
P: Was this Hickam?
J: No. That was Army. That was next door. But you had an airfield and in addition
to that, when major ships came in, they docked at Ford Island. Pearl is like this.
These are called "locks," which are little intrusions up like that. They put
destroyers and small ships up in these locks. Right here, running east and west
was Ford Island. Major ships came in, and they nested. In other words, one
would tie up on the south side of Ford Island, and then another one would tie up
to that ship. Anyway, I got this chance to go to a squadron. By this time, I could
type very well. So, I went to a squadron, and it was marvelous. Our working
hours were from seven in the morning until one in the afternoon, and then we
P: So, you were not assigned to a ship anymore?
J: No. I was in a PBY squadron, which was a sea plane that is used for scouting
and air/sea rescue and that sort of thing, a wonderful little airplane. I went [with]
one squadron and stayed in that one awhile. Then I got raided, so they had to
transfer me to another squadron. I went to this squadron, which was VP-22.
This was one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me because it was a
perfect squadron. Everybody in it liked everybody else, and everybody worked
with each other. We were really, truly, an outstanding squadron. One of the
people who had just been promoted to lieutenant was Thomas H. Moorer, who
later became Chairman [of the] Joint Chiefs of Staff for two terms. He was the
only person who ever served two terms as Chairman [of the] Joint Chief[s of
Staff]. Interestingly enough-I will jump ahead a little here just to tell you, we had
one four-star admiral, one three-star admiral, and four two-star admirals come
out of that squadron. We had twenty captains come out of it. Over half of the
enlisted men got commissions when the war started. A truly outstanding group
of people, and I loved it. It was so much fun. I did not work a minute. It was just
P: Were you anticipating World War II?
J: We were watching. We were very, very conscious of the fact that we were out in
the middle of the Pacific, and Japan was over there rattling around. Incidentally,
they pulled a real good psychological job on us, though, because for about six
months before the war started, they sent a training ship into Honolulu. Anybody
else, we would have them over at Pearl, but not a Japanese ship. This Japanese
ship tied up downtown, right by the Aloha Tower, and this horde of little tiny men-
about five feet four was the tallest, and they deliberately chose small people-all
of them had cameras. None of them would talk to you. All of them would just
look holes right through you if you tried to say anything to them. The ship that
they were on was one that they had captured from the Russians in the Russo-
Japanese War (1904-1905). People were saying to each other, hey, you ought
to go down and see that Jap ship; man, if that is what their Navy is like! Here
was a ship that was way over forty years old. I went down and walked along,
and the Japanese would stand up on the deck and stare at me, unsmiling and
clouds of steam coming out; this very amateurish-looking, little three-inch gun
was the only thing they had on it. It stayed there until about two weeks before
the war started. Then, it just very quietly picked up and left.
P: Did the government of the United States authorize them to come into Pearl?
J: Oh sure. There was no way we could have prevented them because we were at
peace with each other.
P: Were they there to do some ?
J: They were there up in the mountains taking pictures of Pearl Harbor and what
have you. All the military installations, they were out in the open. Something you
have to understand is that in the Navy, if you go to a foreign port, they give you
hospitality. You go in. You get supplies and what have you. They have
ceremonies and all that sort of stuff. If you are British and you come over in our
port, we take care of you. If you are Argentinian, we do. If you are Russian, we
P: But at that time, Roosevelt, by 1940, had cut off a lot of trade with Japan: would
not trade them any more steel, would not trade them any more iron, and oil was
embargoed a little later. That was a crucial change in our relationship.
J: Oh yes.
P: I am surprised they would not ask them to leave.
J: Well, the thing about it is [that] we had ships over there, too, not in Japan--but we
had a lot of them in an Asiatic fleet that were in the Philippines, which was not
too far away from Japan. Also, in China, we had a lot of ships in there, too, in
our Asiatic fleet because we still had that bad business with the way we were
treating the Chinese, which was really theft.
P: Let me get you up to December 6, 1941.
J: I have to give you a little background. We got to worrying about the Japanese
fleet. So, about eight months before the war started, we brought our fleet out
there, and we put them down at Maui, in what was called "Lahaina Roads." The
water there is over is about 3000 feet deep. Here they are anchored out in
Lahaina Roads, very exposed on all sides. So, Admiral Kimmel, who incidentally
was a fine gentleman, decided to move into Pearl. Boy, was that exciting! What
they would do [is] they would come in every Friday afternoon. The fleet came
into Pearl, and the battleships would come in and, then, they would turn around
and aim out and tie up to Ford Island. They would nest.
P: He felt this was a better protection for them because they had a submarine net?
J: Oh yes. They would come in and tie up and rig awnings over the poop deck and
over the up forward. It was beautiful! A battleship is just a mind-boggling thing to
see. That weekend, there would be wall-to-wall people downtown. It was
amazing to me, but the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps all got along beautifully
together. All day Saturday and Sunday was this mob of people downtown. Then
on Monday mornings, the battleships would steam majestically out to sea and go
through their war maneuvers and that sort of stuff. This went on for several
months. Everybody was still very excited about it and enjoying it. We had no
inkling anything was going to happen. An interesting thing is that, in what we call
"war college," people from all kinds of navies-from France, from England, from
Germany, from the United States-all those places would get together. Then,
they would have these exercises. One of the exercises was that they had this
mock-up of Pearl Harbor, showing all of the terrain all the way around and that
sort of thing. These people would speculate on what would be the most effective
way to attack Pearl Harbor. Well, guess what they decided? An air attack. The
plans were available to anybody and everybody and every Navy in the world, of
what to do.
P: Why didn't Kimmel make better preparations to prevent an air attack?
J: There is some background to that. There were two brothers who were in cahoots
with each other in Washington, and one of them was head of communications.
They both wanted to be admirals, so they pulled some power play. Kimmel and
General Short, the Army commander, were saying, hey, give us some more
information, and they did not get it. It was there, and it should have been sent to
them, but these two people blocked it. I have forgotten what their names were,
but I have a book somewhere or other with it in it. We seemed to be fairly
comfortable, and the only aircraft carrier out there was the Enterprise. Of course,
[Admiral] Bull Halsey had that. Bull was quite a character, one of the few people
I ever met in the Navy who I really despised.
P: That was the only carrier at Pearl, right?
J: That was the only one there at that time. The rest of them were scattered
around. He would go out and go on maneuvers with them every week, too. Bull
was only about five feet five, and he cursed at people. I did not like him at all. I
worked temporarily for him later on. I will tell you about that later. We were
really relaxed and enjoying ourselves on December 6. My squadron had the duty
on December 7, so I had to come back aboard.
P: So, what did you do that Saturday night? Do you remember?
J: Oh, I went over and partied until five o'clock.
P: In the morning?
J: In the morning. Sure. All I had to do was sleep all day Sunday anyway, and I
had already rested up the night before. I came back aboard. I did not have to go
down to the squadron because I was not flying. I was ground personnel. My
squadron set out their patrols in a fan shape, to the north incidentally, more than
any other direction. Here I am, up in the barracks just sound asleep. The
battleships were tied up to the south side of Ford Island, and they are about 100
yards in front of my barracks just like this, and my barracks were just like that.
The first thing I knew, I heard an explosion. I popped up on my elbow, and I said,
what in the world was that? Somebody else who was on ground crew there said,
oh, shut up and go back to sleep. About that time, boom! That first one had
gone through my hangar roof. I will not tell you exactly what I said. I said, the so
and so Japanese are on us.
P: So, you knew right away?
J: I knew exactly what it was. I jumped out of bed, and I ran out on top of the roof
on this three-story building. That had been some dive bombers, that had
dropped the bombs. By this time, of course, the machines were strafing and
what have you. I looked to the West, and I could see this string of airplanes
coming around. I said, oh my God-torpedoes! They came across the western
end of Pearl and circled over the Navy yard. Their torpedoes had to be dropped
from less than forty feet or they would porpoise; in other words, they would come
up and down in the water. If they dropped them below forty feet, though, they
could set them at thirty feet and hit the very bottom of the ships. So, they turned
and started dropping their torpedoes. I was looking right down the track at the
torpedoes, and they were coming right toward me. Then, they were hitting
battleships and exploding. The torpedo planes were going right over my head,
and I looked one Japanese pilot right in the eye. I swear, if I had a brick, I could
have tossed it up and let him run into it and knock himself down.
P: You had no weapon at all?
J: Oh no. No, they did not hand those out very freely. This went on for about
twenty minutes, and then it lulled. Of course, by this time, there were clouds and
clouds of smoke. Directly in front of me, the California and the West Virginia
burned and were putting out great volumes of smoke. Just to the east of them,
the Oklahoma capsized. Just to the east of it, the Arizona exploded. I was
looking right at it, and it just jumped out of the water, a tremendous explosion,
and then it settled back. I got dressed as fast as I could, and I thought I better
get down to the squadron. I went down below and starting running down the
road to the squadron and about halfway there, a bomb dropped in the street
about fifty feet in front of me and exploded and left a pretty good sized crater.
The strangest thing was, I was not frightened at all. I was just surprised by the
fact that when a bomb explodes, it creates a vacuum. It does not knock you
back. It sucks you into itself. Is that not amazing? Anyway, I got down to the
squadron. What people were down there had gotten into a ditch alongside the
hangar, but I went inside. I thought, somebody better stay with the telephone.
So, I just stayed with the telephone. I wanted to see what was going on anyway,
so I stuck my head out the hangar door. One little old sailor, not a very bright
one, but he had gotten a tractor, and he was going around all by himself hooking
onto planes that were on fire and taking them over to one place and hooking all
the others that were not on fire and taking them to a different place. He won the
Navy Cross. So, I got involved.
[End of side 1A]
J: You did not see many planes, except some that were strafing, but there were a
lot of explosions. We did not realize what it was, but we thought it was just
incidental to all the ships being on fire. But what it was [was that] they had a
high-altitude squadron coming in at 10,000 feet, and they were dropping bombs
on us. Actually, we only saw anything for about the first twenty minutes. Then,
after that, it was just incidental here.
You have never seen such confusion in your life. Right in the middle of this, I
stuck my head out of the hangar door, and here came two officers. One of them
was this commander friend of mine, who became one of my lifelong friends, and
the other one was the admiral. The admiral was in a blue and red bathrobe,
made out of an old blanket, and he was absolutely babbling to himself. This
commander was the most impressive person I have ever seen in my life. He is a
very handsome man and had a Georgia accent, and he looked like he was on his
way to inspection. He was dressed beautifully and behind him, the admiral was
coming behind him saying, how many planes have we got left, Kenny? How
many planes have we got left? The admiral did not know what was going on, so
he would say to him, admiral, I am going to find out right now. He was about that
excited about it. They were walking along on the ramp, though, so I stepped out
and I said, excuse me, Commander. Good morning, Commander. Good
morning, admiral. [Laughing.] You do not do it that way; you do it in reverse.
P: You saluted him?
J: I saluted him and spoke to him first, and I said, Commander, I believe if you
would walk inside the hangar, you would be safer. He said, that sounds like a
good idea. So, they came in, and I took him the telephone. He made some calls
and that sort of thing. He asked me some information, and I gave it to him. He
said to me, what is your name? I told him and two days later, I was on the
admiral's flag, but that is another story.
P: Were you warned about a possible attack?
J: People had spoken casually about it, but we had taken no precautions or
P: So, you were not in a state of alert or readiness?
J: No. Nothing like that. Not only that, but they had not even put up torpedo nets
around the ships. They could have hung nets that would have saved all of that.
P: What about the reaction of your friends?
J: Wait a minute. Let me back up here just a minute. Right in the middle of
everything, there are two battleships burning, the California and the West
Virginia. The Oklahoma is capsized. The Arizona has exploded and sunk. From
the eastern end of the island, all of a sudden, here comes the Nevada. Here is a
battleship, and it has sixteen-inch guns. Here, it starts steaming up through the
harbor. I said, what in the world are those stupid people doing out there
wandering around. About that time, [the] number three turret, which is the third
one back-there are two forward and two aft-just turns right around and fires two
rounds of armor-piercing shells at downtown Honolulu. One of them killed a
friend of mine's daughter. The other one ended up in the mayor's lawn. They
had a hard time covering that up.
P: There were a lot of shells by the Americans that ended up
J: Yes, but battleships. Those are the only ones that the battleships fired.
P: Why were they under power at that point? Why were they moving? Because
they could not have gotten under way -
J: Oh no.
P: They must have just been coming in.
J: No, they were anchored. I mean, they were tied up. This was Sunday afternoon,
and they did not even have steam up.
P: That is what I mean.
J: The Nevada hurriedly got the steam up, and then it went on down to the west
end of the harbor and beached itself out over on a shelf over there. It was
fortunate that they did because they would have sunk in the channel, and they
would have bottled the whole fleet up. I think they should have court-martialed
everybody with that.
P: They should have stayed where they were.
J: Some stupid chief quartermaster got the ship under way in, and he got a
decoration out of it when he should have been court-martialed.
P: Now, in the early part of the attack, did you see any of the Zeros [Japanese
aircraft at Pearl Harbor] when they came in and did strafing?
J: Oh yes. They were right down on my level.
P: Not just the ones that were bombing but the ones that were also doing strafing.
J: Oh yes. They were flying in all directions.
P: How long did the actual attack itself last?
J: Fifty-five minutes.
P: And that was the only one?
P: What would have happened if Yamamoto [Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese
fleet commander] had sent a second attack?
J: They would have destroyed us. Unfortunately, for the Japanese, their admiral
had been very reluctant to take on this attack because he had four or five
carriers, and it was a deal that if we had been able to intercept and what have
you, it would have been a disaster. But his airmen came back to their ships, and
they were so ecstatic over their success that they begged him to let them come
in again [for] a follow-up attack. He refused. He wanted to get his carriers and
get them out of there rather than having us sunk. Now, something very
suspicious, as far as I have always felt, was that the Enterprise normally would
have been in the port, and it would have been sunk. But they gave the excuse
that one of the cruisers was having problems, and they were going to have to
escort it in. So, it had stayed at sea. But right in the middle of the attack, they
always flew their planes off a carrier when it came in and put them down on the
airfield so that they could have all kinds of room to work on them, for
maintenance and that sort of thing. Then, when the ship went out again, they
would fly out about 100 miles to sea, and it gave them practice doing their dead
reckoning navigation and that sort of thing. Then, they would land on the carrier
and go about their business. But that was the first time I had ever seen it that
they were not in port on the weekend.
P: So, do you think the government of the United States and Roosevelt knew about
this attack, knew it was coming?
J: Why do you ask me things like that? Everybody says that there was some_
going on there, and FDR was a devious person. I would not be a bit surprised,
but there has never been any evidence that was conclusive about anything like
P: But certainly, Kimmel and Short did not know?
J: No. They were begging for information, and it was being denied.
P: So, you do not blame Kimmel and Short?
J: No, I do not.
P: Okay. What was the immediate reaction after the attack was over? What were
people saying and doing?
J: There was complete chaos. It took us a week before we brought any order out of
the disorder whatsoever. Then, we were so damaged that they could have come
back again if they had known to do it.
P: Well, this is not your purview, but I just wondering if you knew why all of the
planes at Hickam Field were parked right next to each other.
J: They just always had been, and they did not have revetments [barricades against
explosives] for them anyway, or some few of them. Incidentally, I could just raise
my eyes a little bit and look, and I could see all of Hickam Field because it is
south of Pearl. Have you ever been to Pearl?
J: Well, you know where Hickam is, right next door. That was ridiculous for them to
build bases that close together anyway.
P: Now, when the attack was over, did you realize the extraordinary significance of
this attack? Did you realize that we were now at war?
J: Oh, heavens yes. There were no questions about that.
P: Did you notice much American return fire? I know we had a few planes in the air,
and there was some anti-aircraft firing.
J: They had standard operating procedures, and they put up an anti-aircraft barrage
with their five-inch guns. But, their proximity fuses were set for 5,000 feet, so
they had a beautiful layer of anti-aircraft. It just blotted out the sun almost.
Everything was above or below it. We shot down about thirty-five of their planes.
The interesting thing was that the Enterprise sent their planes in, and they came
in right in the middle of this. They were saying, hey, hell of a drill going on! The
next thing they knew, the Japanese were shooting them down, and we were, too.
P: Yes. We knocked down some of our own.
J: Oh, we knocked quite a few of them down.
P: When the attack first came, somebody looked up and said, boy, this is really an
authentic drill! Everybody was so surprised.
J: Oh yes. A lot of people said that, just like the air group from the Enterprise. Hey,
boy, that is a hell of a drill!
P: There were early warnings. The radar saw the first wave of Japanese planes--
like 350 planes.
J: A soldier saw it, and he tried his best.
P: Nobody paid any attention.
J: Nobody paid any attention to him.
P: Plus, they apparently sunk a Japanese sub, and nobody -
J: Now, wait a minute. That two-man submarine at the channel mouth, a destroyer
saw it, and he knew exactly what it was. He tried his best [for] a couple of hours.
He was depth-charging it and everything. There were a couple of hours that he
was on the radio screaming his head off, and the duty officer did not do anything.
I think they should have court-martialed him.
P: At that point, let us just say that they had taken that warning. That still would not
have been enough time to prepare for that attack, would it have?
J: No, but we could have been a lot better off than we were.
P: What is the long-term military impact of this attack?
J: I think we have been a lot more nervous ever since. We realize now that, in this
day and time, you would not have five minutes warning.
P: Do you think it really crippled the war effort? Fortunately, the carriers were not
there, but we lost all of those battleships and some cruisers and destroyers. It
really set us back, in terms of, at least, the war in the Pacific.
J: Let us put it this way. Battleships were already dinosaurs; it was probably the
best thing that could have happened to us because it kept those things out of the
ocean. It was not until much later in the war that they even used them. In some
of the landings, they would have battleships lie back off about ten miles and lob
shells in and that sort of stuff. There were many times that they dropped their
shells right in among our people, too. But, World War I was the last gasp of the
P: Japan, on the same day, invaded Hong Kong and Singapore and the Philippines.
Did you think that we might not win this war, that the Japanese were taking all of
J: It sure looked that way for a while. They were doing whatever they wanted,
wherever they wanted to. We were fortunate that they did not come on after us
again, but that they diverged themselves down toward Australia. They had a lot
of ambitions, as far as Australia was concerned.
P: Let me get back to Pearl. You mentioned one case of heroism, this guy who was
pulling the planes out of danger. Did you observe any more cases of either
J: Well, there was some little sailor, and I never did find out what his name was, but
there was a little old airplane there that had a gun mount in the rear cockpit, and
he grabbed a machine gun and ran out there and set it up. Boy, he was
potshoting away like nobody did. I saw him. He hit one of them. I never did find
out what his name was, and I have always felt a little guilty that I did not find out
who he was and write something up and get him a decoration.
P: Was there an effort to rescue people from the Oklahoma and the Arizona?
J: Oh, Lord yes. Right from the beginning, they were doing their best to get them
out. They actually cut some holes in there and they found that when they did
that, though, they had an internal explosion.
P: An acetylene torch, where something set it off?
J: Yes, and there were fumes in there, and the fumes would explode and kill
whoever was anywhere close by. Finally, they did cut some holes in the
Oklahoma and rescue some people there.
P: Were a lot of men jumping over the side trying to swim to the island? Did you
see many of those?
J: Oh yes.
P: Because I am sure some of them were either in oil or were burned.
J: Oh, Ford Island was covered with them. But, let me get back to Commander
Craig. You talk about a fine gentleman. His quarters were right down within 100
feet of the Arizona. Now, this man was always very calm. He got up and got
dressed in no time flat. He told his wife, I am going to go take care of the war;
you take care of the family. He had three children. One of them was six weeks
old. Her name was Sal. So, he picked the admiral up and started taking care of
the war, and his wife got up and told her two older children, now, you all do not
come out of the house; take care of Sal. She got up and went out and waded out
through coral and was dragging survivors off of the Arizona. That is what that
family did. Do you want to hear anymore?
P: Sure. What did Moorer do? Did you observe him during this time?
J: Tom Moorer?
J: My squadron had gotten back off of Advance Base on Saturday, so all of the
flight crews had liberty, and they were all ashore. So, he was not involved in this.
Later on, the move we made toward the Japanese [was] we took twelve planes,
just gathered the good ones of the ones that were left over from all of these
different squadrons, and the flight crews from my squadron took these planes.
They took off out in the middle of this thing to relay information back as to what is
going on. It was a spy mission. In six weeks time, ten of those airplanes were
shot down, and Moorer was in one of them. Tom-a big, burly, strong, wonderful
gentlemen-everybody loved him; he was a very gruff sort of fellow. They got
shot down, and they made their way ashore on one of the little islands. His radio
man had a head wound. They were going to have to move as fast as they could,
and Tom Moorer carried his radio man; for two solid days, he carried that man.
Needless to say, his crew would kill you if you said anything against Tom Moorer.
Anyway, they made their way down to Australia. When they shot these ten
airplanes down, they had only killed six men. It was remarkable. They ended up
in Perth, Australia. Nelson, a first-class radio man, and this co-pilot on this plane
ended up together in Java. Here, of course, everybody was frantically trying to
get out of there, so they were reported missing in action. They went over to a
school house, and at this Dutch school, it was printed in Dutch, they found a map
in this textbook of the Pacific. So, they went down, and they managed to find a
boat. I do not know how they got it away from whoever it belonged to, but they
took off and started island hopping. They did not know where they were, but they
South of a general idea and kept moving. Of course, they were not accurate
over about thirty or forty degrees, to which way they were going. They worked
their way down and worked their down. It took them ten months, and those two
fellows ended up in Australia.
P: And never got captured the whole time?
J: No. But, the thing about it is, [with] all these head hunters and everything down
there, they did not know what kind of reception they were going to get, so they
had to worry about that. All these natives out there hated the Japanese. They
would do anything they could to screw them up. So, this squadron got back to
Australia, and then the Navy, in their infinite wisdom, was bringing brand-new,
fresh squadrons out here that knew nothing about the Pacific and putting them
there. They took this squadron, took them back, re-equipped them, and sent
them to Alaska. Dumb, dumb, dumb!
P: Do you have any more stories about Pearl? Well, I will tell you what. Let us go
on to Midway and then, if you think of these other ones, we will come back to
them. What happened to you after Pearl? What was your next assignment?
J: I went on Admiral [Mark] Mitscher's Flag, working for Commander Craig. In no
time flat, he and I were very, very close friends. We had a pool of 800 men, and I
had been recommended to him also because I knew all about handling
personnel, and he did not. So, the first day I came in the flag unit, I found out I
was working for him. Actually, we were a receiving ship for fifteen squadrons
and five ships, so there were about 6,000 men involved. This fellow who had
been doing this there, he did not know what he was doing but everything he did,
he made a card on it. I came in, and I took one look at it and said, oh my God,
have you done such and such? No. Have you done such and such? No. I said,
oh Lord! By noon, the first day, I had a basket just absolutely overflowing with
things to be assigned, so I went in to Commander Craig's office and said,
Commander, I am Jones, the new unit yeomen in the flag unit. He said, oh yes, I
had you transferred up here. I said, oh? He said, yes, Commander O'Burn tells
me that you know everything there is to know about personnel. He said, I will be
quite frank with you. He said, I do not know the first thing about it, and I am not
going to take time to learn. He said, anything you put in front of me, I will sign.
He said, in effect, do not say anything to anybody else about this, but you are
commanding this whole thing. So I said, oh, and swallowed hard. In the
meantime, he had taken his stuff out. He just signed, K. Craig, K. Craig, K.
Craig, on all of this stuff. I took him at his word. One of the first things I did was
get an __ to give commissions to first-class and chief pay officers. By this
time, I was first-class. So he said, take care of that. So, I recommended thirteen
men for commissions, and they all got them.
P: Including you?
J: No. He asked me why I did not [recommend] myself. I said, oh Captain, I am
[voice mumbles]. He said, oh no, you will be an administrative officer. I backed
down. It was kind of funny because in no time flat, he and I got to be such great
friends. I would go in, and we would have somebody do something wrong, and
he had to do, what was called, go to mast. In other words, he would go in front of
the commanding officer, received a hearing and then punishment. I would go in
and say, Captain, do you have a minute? He always looked at his watch and
said, yes, I have. I said, well, can you hold mast? He said, yes, can you get
everybody together? I said, they are out here waiting already, Captain. He
would say, okay, let us see what is going on here. So, I would show him the
report slip and the man's record and that sort of thing, and he would say, all right,
now, what do you know about this? I would tell him what I knew about the man
and what the report meant and that sort of thing, and he would say, okay [clap],
run him in. He would always [clap] his hand one time [and say,] run him in. I
would turn around, and I would take one, two, three steps and on that third step,
he would say, Jones? I would say, yes sir. He would say, tell me, what would
Commander O'Burn have done in a case like this. I would come back over and
look at him, and I would say, well, taking this and that and the other into
consideration, I think he would give him five days bread and water. He would
say, okay, run him in. So, I would bring him in, and guess what he got? Five
days bread and water. It got so funny because one time, I went back out. On
the way back in, and I said, Chief __ you are going to get five days. After it is
over with, that chief is out there waiting on me. He said, hey, how did you know
that? I said, oh, just an educated guess. I said, I just know which way he jumps.
But he was the operations officer, and he was one of the chief tacticians behind
the Battle of Midway.
P: Now, what ship are you on at this point?
J: I was on Admiral [Mark] Mitscher's Flag.
P: Which was what ship?
J: Fleet Airwing II. It was an airwing.
P: Okay, but were you on a carrier?
J: No. I was on Ford Island.
P: You are still on Ford Island?
J: I am still on Ford Island.
P: So now, when did you get on the carrier?
J: I did not go back on a carrier.
P: You never got to Midway?
J: I got to Midway, but I flew out there. I am going to tell you about that right now.
P: Okay. Go ahead.
J: Anyway, it was kind of funny. People could not understand how Commander
Craig knew everything he knew. I was very military with him ordinarily, but I
would go down and say, Captain, do you have a minute? He would say, yes. I
would close the door, and then I would go over and sit down in the chair and say,
Captain, let me tell you what I heard today! [Laughs.] And, I would tell him
everything. People were scared to death of him because he knew everything
that was going on. Anyway, we had a command center, which is a bomb shelter
down on the east end of Ford Island, and he spent a lot of his time down there.
Of course, he had an office the second doorway from mine. I would go down to
the command center, and they had a Marines __ door and that sort of stuff, but
I just walked right on through. I was one of few people who could walk in and out
of that place when I wanted to. I walked in one day, and he was sitting down in
front of his plotting board, and I said, good morning, Captain. He said, good
morning, Jones. Boy, he said, we will have a big battle. I said, yes sir. He said,
I am going to have to go out to Midway about Tuesday. He said, do you see
these Japanese forces here and then here and then up there. He said, they are
converging on Midway; we are going to have a big battle out there.
P: Let me interrupt you. Now, did he get this information--through magic? You
remember that they broke the Japanese code yet?
J: I know. I never have found out, but he was pretty cagey. He would have figured
it out anyway. I leaned over and said, excuse me, Captain. I said, will you do
me a favor. He said, sure, what is it? He looked up at me, and I said, take me
with you. He said, Jones, you are crazy, but boy, could I use you! He said, you
are going. So, we loaded up in a PBY on Tuesday and flew out to Midway. They
had a bomb shelter there, so we went down and got all organized and
everything. Our forces started gathering and what have you. The Japanese kept
closing in and everything, and the battle started (June 4-7, 1942). He put me
down at this desk, and I sat in the same chair for four days and four nights. I
would get up to go to the bathroom. Other than that, I lived in that chair. They
would bring food to me. All the reports would come in, and I kept the log
because it was Craig's deal, and I was doing it for him. So, all of the action, all of
the damage, all of the people and their names that were involved, and that sort of
thing, came across my desk, and I wrote this all up.
P: Were you near the Japanese attack? The planes on Midway destroyed a bunch
of the carriers.
J: It was 400 miles in all directions.
P: So, those attacks were not near where you were?
J: No. I was listening to them on the radio but, occasionally, the Japanese would
send a few planes over. It was so surprising to me because they were trying to
hit our gasoline dock. They would bomb, and there would be this ka-woomp!
Things would shake a little bit. It was always so amazing to me. I really
examined that ceiling because the ceiling, right in the middle of a solid place like
this, there would be a little dust go trickling down like that. I was like this, waiting
for it to fall in on my head. It was actually very dull for me because I did not see
daylight. I did not step foot up the ladder, but I stayed down there and recorded
this whole thing.
P: Were you aware of the importance of the battle?
J: Oh yes. I knew exactly where everything was. I knew which direction they were
and what was happening to the other ones, when the Yorktown got sunk (June 7,
1942) and all that sort of thing. Of course, we slaughtered their carriers.
P: They had better carriers than we did, did they not?
J: They had good carriers. I would not say better. Theirs were very good. Now,
ours were rather different than theirs.
P: The key, though, is not the carriers; it is the air battle.
J: Now, they had the Zero, which was a much better fighter plane than ours, but
with their other planes, ours were superior to theirs. The only thing about it is, we
had lousy torpedoes, and they had good ones. Now, we had managed to
improve ours, but when the war first started, when our torpedoes hit, they would
P: When the battle was going on, at the very end, the pilots who made the crucial
strike on the Japanese carriers were kind of lost and almost out of fuel. Were
you in communication with them, or could you hear them on the radio?
J: Oh yes. I could hear the whole works.
P: What were the pilots talking about under those conditions because they were
looking for the carriers, and they were about to run out of fuel. At some point,
you have to turn back.
J: Oh, they were asking for us to turn the radio on so that they could hone in on us.
You had what is called a radio compass, where you just tune in on a frequency,
and the needle would point like that. Then, you just turn this way and follow the
P: But, did you know where the Japanese carriers were?
J: Sure. I had reports all of the time.
P: But, the planes had difficulty finding them, I guess.
J: Finding what?
P: The carriers.
J: Oh. Once they knew where they were, they would send in reports, and we knew
exactly where they were. We knew which direction they were going and,
approximately, the speed. Why, we had people in there plotting their courses.
We got constant reports on their change of course and change of speed and that
sort of thing.
P: What was the reaction when you realized that they had sunk, what, three of the
J: We were right pleased. But, I will tell you one story that is real funny here, about
the Battle of Midway. There was this little ensign, named Doug Davis. Before
the war started, he was dating this Chinese girl from a very wealthy family, a
beautiful girl. One day, Captain Cogswell called him into the office. Captain
Cogswell was very soft-spoken, but I could hear every word they said because
they were only about that far away from me. So, Doug Davis, everybody called
him "Chicken" because he looked something like a chicken. He had a sharp
nose and a receding chin, and he just kind of eased around all of the time.
People were a little bit contemptuous of him, to be quite truthful. That included
the enlisted men. When they gathered all of their plane crews and everything up
to go down to the South Pacific, they left Doug behind. He would fall a little
short. So, lo and behold, comes this Battle of Midway, they grabbed everything
they could and threw it in there. So, they made him a plane commander and
gave him an enlisted pilot to go with him. They get out there, and they are
operating at night. He locates this Japanese force, and it is a bunch of troop
transports. The moon was up. They were right here, and Doug was back here.
Now, he is in the dark of the moon, and the moon was silhouetting them. So, he
said to his co-pilot, now I will tell you what-and he spoke just about like this
[softly]-now, we are going to make a torpedo run on that big ship there; now, get
set and when I tell you to drop, drop it. So, he got down low on the water, ready
to go and everything. He came in, and he said, drop it. The guy could not do it.
So, what did they do? They sailed over this thing and by this time, by the time
they were a little distance away from them, they were shooting at them. Here
they are, in a hail of bullets, so they go out, turn around and that sort of stuff. Lo
and behold, he is turning back in, and this guy says to him, hey, what the hell are
you doing? He said, oh, we are going to come around again. He became known
as "Come-Around-Again Davis." Anyway, in this gentle, soft voice like this, he
said, now, this time, let us get it so that all you have to do is push this button
here. By this time, they have aroused the Japanese, though, so they come in
gliding again. They dropped the torpedo, and they sank this huge Japanese
ship. The primary ship that they were trying to protect, Doug nailed it. So, he
sailed all the way in, came back in and landed. Of course, the plane was riddled
with bullet holes.
So, he got the Silver Star. Everybody said, hey, look at this; Chicken Davis got
the Silver Star. That was pretty good. Pretty soon, something else happened,
and he got the Navy Cross and, you know, the Navy Cross is next to the top.
From that time forward, they had a __ who came out from the Bureau of Naval
Personnel who would give little blurbs about people getting decorated. Well, I did
not see him until the end of the war. When I did, he had seven rows of ribbons.
He had foreign decorations. He had three Navy Crosses. I told him, good God,
Doug, you had to be stupid to get one of those things; you must be a real
dummy! He said, well, yes, I guess I am. By this time, I was an aviator also, and
we were sitting around one day playing bridge in the radio room. He is dealing
the cards. He is my partner. This lady came in; she was real excited and said,
oh, Mr. Davis, they want you up in Officer's Records right away. He said, yeah?
What for? She said, oh, they have another decoration for you. He said, well,
what is it? She said, it is the air medal. He said, what is it for. She told him, and
he said, oh hell, I got that one a long time ago; what do you bid? He never did go
P: I guess they did not call him "chicken" anymore, did they?
J: No sir. He got as many decorations by himself as the whole rest of the squadron
put together. You know what? I am going to have to back up a little bit.
Commander Cogswell called him in his office. I am where I could listen. He said
to him, Mr. Davis, you are a reserve officer. He said, you know, you just do not
understand regular Navy officers; we never date Oriental women. I looked out of
the corner of my eye and see old Doug standing there. He is kind of stiffed over
like this, and he is not saying a word. So, Cogswell went up one side of him and
down the other. I thought to myself, boy, he is really being put in his place. Well,
guess what? A week later, he married her. She was from a very, very wealthy
family. Beautiful. You know what? He got a bad fitness report out of that. Lo
and behold, when all of these other people were making captain, he retired from
the Navy as a commander.
P: He never made captain?
J: He never made captain with all of these ribbons. I was furious. They should
have given it to him just for what he had done. It was so funny because one of
the places that he got so many decorations was, they had this crazy guy that had
this squadron of B-24s out in the Pacific. This guy would do a lot of low-level
bombing and that sort of stuff. With B-24s? Boy, that is lethal.
P: They are too slow.
J: Yes, and you cannot bail out of them. There is no way out of them. I almost got
stuck in those things. This one fellow from VP-22 reported in to that squadron.
He was telling me later on that when he got there, Doug came up to him and
said, hey Jack, I am so glad to see you here; I am going to try to get you in my
[End of side 1 B]
J: Anyway, old "Come-Around-Again Davis" got this fellow in his crew, so they went
out on this low-level attack on this Japanese airfield. They came in, dropped
their bombs and that sort of stuff. Of course, back in their waist hatches, they
had fifty-caliber machine guns back there. Here this guy is back there, [makes
machine gun noises], blasting away at all of these Japanese who were on the
ground and everything. They pulled out of it, and this fellow said, he went, whew!
About that time, over the earphone, he said, well, fellows, we are going to come
around again and give them another little squirt. And, they did it. Jack said, oh
my God, we were like lace by the time he got finished with us. You know what?
Davis never got a scratch. One thing he did not get was a Purple Heart. He got
everything. He did not get the Congressional Medal [of Honor], but he got
everything else but that. But, it was so funny. He is a very close friend of mine,
and I talk to him quite a bit now. Getting back to after the Battle of Midway, we
went back to Pearl. Commander Craig was a star because he had done such
outstanding work there at Midway. He had everything you could imagine. He
was handsome. He was an athlete. He was a brilliant person. All of a sudden,
he got orders to go to Admiral Nimitz's flag. Boy, that was the sign that he was
on his way up. His relief was a notoriously lazy fellow, so Craig called me in. He
said to this fellow, I tell you what; Jones, here, knows whatever to do. He said, I
do not ever do anything. He said, he takes care of everything. This fellow said,
do not change it; do not change it. So, here he was going through the process of
changing the command and everything. He was telling everybody good-bye and
what have you, so I was waiting for him to say something to me because we had
been pretty good friends.
He sprung something on me. You always detach at ten o'clock in the morning. It
came to five minutes until ten. I heard him get up out of his office and walk down
to the Admiral's office, stayed about five minutes and came back, and went into
his office. Boy, I am sitting behind my desk, and I will tell you, I was crying. He
had not said a word to me. Now, he came out of his [office]. All of a sudden, my
door opened and he kind of hid behind it, and he backed all the way across the
passageway against the wall. I walked out, and I walked over and across. I said,
damn you-I was just [with] tears streaming-I thought you were going to leave
without saying anything to me. He said, well, no, no, no; you do not understand.
He said, what I wanted to ask you is that, how would you like to go to Admiral
Nimitz's Flag? I said, oh my God. I said, Captain, you have not given me any
time to think it over. No, I said, I will tell you what; I am a big frog in this puddle,
but I would be a little one over there. I said, I think I will just stay here. He said,
well, any time I can ever do anything for you, let me know. All of a sudden, they
had this __ that anybody, regardless of their rank, could go to flight school. I
said, that is for me. So, I applied.
I called him up, and I said, Captain, I tell you what; I have applied for flight
school. I said, can you exert any influence for me? He said, well, I will talk to the
boys about it. I did not know it, but he immediately, as soon as he hung up the
telephone, he got out and drove all around the service force and walked in-
because a guy who went to flight school with me worked in service force's office-
he walked in and told them, I am Commander Craig; I am in Admiral Nimitz's
flag. Boy, let me tell you something. When something like that happens,
something happens. So, he said, I have a man I want to go to flight school.
Within ten minutes time, my orders were in the mail. It was so funny because
there had been a lot of shifting around, and they were organizing a new
squadron. They had this very nervous red-headed lieutenant commander. I
have forgotten what his name was, but he was very nervous about things. Here I
am, trying to get his office set up for him, and he is bothering me all of the time. I
never liked for an officer to answer the telephone. I wanted to do that. It was my
job. But, he would grab it all of the time. So, I called Craig up about ten o'clock
in the morning, and he was going to call me back. Well, I thought he was just
going to make a phone call or something. I did not realize he was going to go
down there and really put their feet in the fire. So, here I am, waiting for the
telephone and that sort of stuff. This damn lieutenant commander here, is in his
office. It was about one o'clock, and I was getting a little nervous about the
whole thing. All of a sudden, that gun answered it. He stepped out, and his eyes
were that big. He was staring. Hey, he said, that is for you; it is from Admiral
Nimitz's office. I said, oh yes. I picked up the phone and said, Jones speaking. I
said, oh yes, Commander, how are you? What did you find out? Oh, I
understand. Oh yes, well, that is fine. I hung up the telephone, and I am telling
you, that man was scared to death of me because I was dealing with Admiral
Nimitz's office. He could not understand. I was very offhand about it because
this was just a buddy, and he could not understand that.
P: So, once you went to flight school, what happened to you?
J: Oh, I went back to flight school. It took me eleven months to get through it. I got
my commission, and then I started flying for this advanced aerial navigation
training school. Lo and behold, they moved us to Oklahoma because the
weather was clear so much of the time there, and we were doing celestial
navigation, you know, nighttime, [navigation by] the stars and that sort of thing.
Lo and behold, I stayed there for two-and-a-half years in Oklahoma, and I had a
marvelous time. I met and married my wife. Then the end of the war came,
while I was there in Oklahoma. I was just on the point of going to Hutchinson,
Kansas, and going through B-24 school myself, [and] lo and behold, the war
P: What was your reaction when you heard about the dropping of the first bomb on
Hiroshima (August 6, 1945)?
J: As I say, I and a whole bunch of the other fellows were on the point of going back
up to Hutchinson, Kansas, and then getting B-24s and going back out into the
Pacific. It was a complete surprise to us. No one had any idea that anything like
this was going to happen. All of a sudden, the war was over, and it gave you
kind of an empty feeling. I mean, all of us said, things were not completed. We
had not brought it to a conclusion. They scattered us in all kinds of directions. I
ended up coming down to, what is now Patrick Air Force Base. My wife had a
college education, and I wanted one, too. So, I got out of the Navy.
P: Now, when the war ended, were you elated that you did not have to go back and
fly a B-24?
J: Oh sure.
P: In retrospect, when you look back on the war, there has been some criticism that
they did not need to drop two bombs, that one bomb would have been enough.
J: Well, I think we did it wrong. My feeling is, we should have told the Japanese,
now look, we are going to demonstrate a weapon that we have; we are going to
drop it on an uninhabited island, one bomb, and let you see for yourself what it
will do. We will drop one and unless we have immediate surrender, we are going
to start dropping them on you. I do not think we should ever have dropped one
on a city. I thought that was criminal.
P: Did you think that at the time?
J: Yes, and a lot of other people did, too.
P: But, you were still glad the war was over?
J: Oh yes.
P: What do you think of the Memorial of the Arizona at Pearl Harbor? Have you
been back to see that?
J: Oh yes.
P: What do you think of the Memorial?
J: It is just there.
P: Do you think it was a good idea to make a Memorial out of a sunken ship?
J: Oh, I think so. Do you know that the only admiral killed in World War II was on
the Arizona? Admiral Kidd (Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd).
P: When you went back for the first time, what were your feelings as you saw it?
J: To Pearl?
J: I have been back twice. Here is a little something to think about. I have been
telling my family and friends about the Battle of Pearl Harbor many times. My
son had heard it a lot. So, on the fiftieth anniversary, my wife and I went back
out. My son was on his way to the Philippines; he travels an awful lot, so he
made arrangements to come stop by and spend a few days with us in Honolulu.
I was having one of my conversations with Admiral Craig. He was living up in
Georgia by this time. I said, hey Ken, are you going to go back out for the
fiftieth? Incidentally, he had retired as a rear admiral, and he had commanded a
carrier division, which is three carriers in the European area. Anyway, I said, are
you going out for the fiftieth? He said, no, I am not going out. He said, I was just
out there in April, and I do not want to go again; besides, I have this other trip I
have to take. He said, are you going? I said, yes, I am going. I said, I really
want to get there because my son is going to come out. I said, he has heard me
talk about the Battle of Pearl Harbor so much; I want to take him over on Ford
Island and really show him where I was, show him the whole thing. I said, I
guess I will have a hell of a time getting over on Ford Island, and he said, no, you
will not. He said, Sal, remember the six-week-old child?, has married Admiral
Larsen, who is commander-in-chief for the whole Pacific fleet. So, I got out there
and started trying to contact her. Do you know what? In the downtown phone
directory, there is not one single telephone, except one to the officer's club at
Barber's Point, that has anything to do with the Navy. Is that not incredible? So,
I called them, and they looked it up for me and gave me a number.
I called Admiral Larsen's office. An Army lieutenant colonel answered,
because the whole Pacific was his command. So, I got nowhere. I waited, and I
called again. This time, an Army captain answered. I got nowhere. Finally, I
said, now, what am I going to do. I know what I am going to do, so I called
Admiral Craig in Georgia, and I said, Ken, I cannot break through the outer limits
out here. I said, give me a telephone number. He said, try this one out, and he
gave it to me. So, I called. Lo and behold, Sal answered. It was their own
personal telephone number. She said, let me tell you what to do; just look in the
regular phonebook, and look for C. R. Larsen, no rank or anything. She said,
that is the way we list our phone numbers. She said, I was wondering where you
were. I said, well, I had a hard time finding you. Well, she said, sure, we will get
over there. I went down to where they have the huge flag at Fort Shafter, and
Admiral Larsen was there and had the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of
Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chief. It was kind of funny because they had
a ceremony out here and that sort of stuff. Then, they had a little lull, and I was
right up front where they were. They got down off here and came around behind
here, so I walked over and introduced myself to Admiral Larsen. He said, oh,
there you are; we have been wondering where you were. He said, Secretary of
Defense, Secretary of the Navy, Chairman of the Joint Chief. Oh, he said, there
is Sal right there; she is going to take care of you. She arranged to come pick us
up the next day. She came out to Waikiki and picked us up the next day. We
drove out, and we went straight through the gate; she took a plate with four stars
on it and set it up in the window. We still had trouble getting over on Ford Island.
But my son, by this time, was fairly impressed. So, we went over on Ford Island
and went down to where their quarters had been. Lo and behold, here is a
ceremony. [We] go down there, and the commander of submarine forces is down
there; he was a rear admiral. They were having a little ceremony, so my son was
very impressed when this fellow was very deferential to me. We went over the
whole thing. Of course, the buildings had been torn down, but I could show him
exactly where they had been and where the battleships had been. At long last,
he was impressed.
P: What went through your mind as you were sitting there, fifty years to the day after
J: Well, it was just like it had been the day before. I was right at home. The old
hangar was still down there, and I managed to see that. Of course, it was in
terrible disrepair. They were clearing all of the buildings off of Ford Island. They
were going to put up quarters over there.
P: Was Pearl Harbor the most memorable experience in your life?
J: Oh heavens yes. By far.
P: Were you glad you were there?
J: Well, no it was not, either. My plane crash was my most memorable experience.
P: Tell me about that.
J: When I got out of the Navy and started back to college, I was here in Florida
anyway, so I just came down and went to the University of Florida. My wife had
a good job in Jacksonville, and we bought a house up there. So, I joined a
reserve squadron. After all, I worked two days a week and got four days pay,
and I had an airplane anytime I wanted one to fly up to North Carolina for the
day. So, it was a great deal for me. Everything was fine. All of a sudden, they
were calling us to active duty. I went on active duty.
P: What year?
J: This was 1951.
P: Okay. Korean War.
J: Yes. So, I ended up being an instructor. I was pretty good. Anyway, we had
PVs, which are a difficult airplane to fly, but I could really handle that sucker.
They were going to make me a plane commander. We were getting P2Vs,
though, so they started checking me out in a P2V. This idiot, who was exec of
the squadron, I was out flying with him one morning, and he did some very
dangerous things, some very stupid things. We caught on fire over the St. John's
River about seven miles south of the naval air station. We had this commanding
officer of another squadron who had just come along just to see what it was like
on the plane. So, I told Whirley, hey, why do we not let the captain sit in [the] co-
pilot seat on the way up. I said, I will sit on the radio man's table. I said, I can
see everything from there. He said, oh, good idea. I said, Captain? Boy, he
dashed up and sat down in the co-pilots seat and strapped himself in. I parked
myself on the radio man's table and looked forward, outside out front. All of a
sudden, I felt this [popping sound] concussion. I turned around and looked.
They were big airplanes. This cloud of smoke was floating up, so I jumped up
and ran back there. All of the electronics gear were sparking in all directions.
So, I ran up and grabbed Whirley by the arm. I jerked him around the seat and
said, hey, get on the ground, quick; we have a serious electrical fire back aft.
Lo and behold, there was a little air field right there. Well, he just turned and
steered in, and I had myself planked down. All of a sudden, I could see trees
going by like that. We were just over the end of the runway. All of a sudden, he
added power, and he kept it on. I leaned forward, what the hell is going on? He
was dragging the runway. He was going to go and then come back. Stupid.
Anyway, he started climbing up. I started to reach the fire, grab everything and
pull it off. But, by that time, we would have flown right on into the woods. So I
said, oh, this stupid bastard is going to kill us. Sure enough, we got up to 400
indicated, which is actually 500 and, all of a sudden, the belly of the airplane
drew up __ out. It lifted us up another 100 feet and turned us over on our
back. All he could think of to do was add full power, and then he sat there and
held that. Well, when you do that, when you add full power, your nose moves in
this direction. We were on our back. What do you think it did? It pulled it down.
We went into the ground in a forest 250 miles an hour at a forty-five degree
angle, and we cleared a path twenty feet wide and a quarter-of a-mile long
through a forest. It killed seven. Two of us lived through it.
P: How about the pilot?
J: Oh God. I have pictures of him, too. He sat through fire that melted the body of
the airplane. I spent a year-and-a-half in the hospital, and I was retired.
P: Why do you think you survived? If you had been in the co-pilot seat, you would
have been killed.
J: Oh, I would have been killed right away. The thing about it is, there was this
partition right behind. It had a little padding like that, and I just glued myself to
that. So, when the plane hit, I went like this on that padding. It slowed me down
P: It cushioned you.
J: At that, I still tumbled and flew through all these woods. There were trees this
big. We just shattered them and plowed them back. That was an experience.
Now, that was the most memorable.
P: What kind of injuries did you have?
J: I had a skull fracture here, a basal skull fracture. My face [had] third-degree
[burns]. You can see my hands were. My left leg [had] third-degree [burns]. I
had seven ribs, my jaw, and this arm broken, twice here and eight times here.
My hand was broken. I had a compound fracture here and all kinds of internal
injuries on my right-hand side. I had punctured my right lung and smashed my
left kidney and ruptured my bladder. I almost cut my right foot off. I almost
gouged my left eye out.
P: But other than that, you were okay?
J: Yes. I am in fine shape. It was kind of funny. This little sailor in the back, it just
kind of [makes sound], popped him out. It cut him from right here to here and
right across here and right there. It did not do another thing to him. All of a
sudden, here he is out in the middle of a swamp with a whole woods on fire, and
he was no help at all. I recovered enough in a few minutes that my arms were
just kind of tied in a knot behind my back. All of a sudden, I could taste mud. We
were in, kind of, a boggy area. I said to myself, I will be damned; we have
crashed, and I have survived. Then, I heard this moaning, and I opened my
eyes. I was lying on my right side. The fellow in front of me was lying on the
right side in the same direction. His name was Logwood. It was stenciled across
the back of his shirt. He was the radio man. As he breathed out, he would
groan. So I said, I better help him. I tried to get up, and I could not. I yelled up
there, and I said, shut up, Logwood; I cannot do anything for you, but somebody
will be here pretty soon. Anyway, to make a long story short, they did send a
crash crew up there. It took them about thirty minutes to get there, but they took
us in to the naval hospital on the naval air station. There were four of us who
were still alive, who were very badly injured and then this kid named Bartlett, who
was not hurt at all. They took a look at us, and the whole medical team at the
naval hospital over in Jacksonville there had shown up for it. They came out,
and they gave all of us intravenous [medication] and that sort of thing and what
have you. Then, they started looking, and they said, well, let us see; this guy has
the best chance; let us try him; let us concentrate on him first. They did, and he
died. Then, on this one, they concentrated, and he died. Then, this one, they
concentrated on, and he died. And, it was just me left over. I had the least
chance of any of them, and it never one time occurred to me that I might die. So,
I confounded them.
P: On that note, let us end. I want to thank you for your time, Mr. Jones.
[End of Interview]