HMS Warspite and the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Told by Lt.Jg Gerald L. Reese, transcribed by James Reese.
"In late 1941 the British ship Warspite tied up across from us (he was aboard the California) at 1010 dock. She had been in battle against the Germans and had some damage that was being temporarily repaired in preparation for going to Bremerton, Washington for permanent repairs. Some of the British sailors, I think about 20 or so, came over to the California to visit and tour and an equal number of us went over to the Warspite to visit and tour. I was lucky enough to be selected to go aboard her. I remember thinking that she was dirty, much dirtier than our ship and they served rum on board. However, we had great respect for the Brits as they had been in battle and we had yet to be tested. We spoke of many things but the one thing I remember was that they told me that US ships did not have enough anti-aircraft guns or protection. That did not really concern us at the time, but later it would prove prophetic. We all thought of the Warspite as a tough ship. The Warspite left Pearl Harbor on 4 August on her way to Bremerton."
December 7, 1941
"The next morning we were up early, 7 December 1941, sitting on the five inch gun stand reading the paper. We both looked up, Erbie Mills and me, at the sound of planes and saw a plane curving in at the end of Battleship row. He would have been coming sort of east and over the Nevada at the far end of the row. Fairly soon after, the general quarters alarm sounded and we were up and going at or before hearing it. My battle station was the port wing bridge 3 inch gun. I ran across the deck from starboard to port and started up the first ladder. I heard a plane and looked over my shoulder and it seemed very close. Close enough to touch and I watched as a torpedo dropped from its belly. He was coming straight in from over the submarine dock and heading straight at our port side. I knew the torpedo was going to hit and I thought it would throw me into the water or at least off the ladder. I wrapped my arms around expecting a huge blast and only felt a jolt. I continued up and up again to my station. My gun crew was already there when I arrived. We were frustrated that the gun was not operable as the ammunition was locked and the breech block was in the machine shop. (I have not information on how or who ordered them to go below and assist with the ammunition chain forming)
After being released from my gun stand we, my crew and I were told to go below and help move the ammunition up due to the power lifts/hoists being out. We went aft of our position to a great hatch. It was a double hatch that opened like a cellar storm door. It was located aft and below the boat deck, but under the overhang. On the port side was a large opening through which we could see the channel. When we arrived at the hatch we were met by Ensign Herbert Jones who was coming up the ladder from below. He recognized me, as we were friends, as he fell into my arms he said, “Reese, you can not go down there.” We told him we had been ordered to go below and assist with the ammunition and he repeated that we could not go down there. He was badly burned and looked like well down hamburger. Two other sailors and I lifted him up and out of the hatch and laid him on a pile of canvas to the part of the hatchway. At that point in time I felt we could be of more use on the guns and also felt that Ensign Jones was right. It was like looking down into a blast furnace. I asked for volunteers and three sailors went down into the fire and smoke and the rest of us, 3 total went back up to the boat deck. Before we left the hatch and climbed to the boat deck the USS Nevada steamed passed us on the port side in the channel. She was firing all guns and was encircled by smoke, it looked very surreal, like a newsreel.
We went back up and volunteered to help with the five inch guns. We ended up on the 5/25 number 7 on the starboard side with my friend Erbie Mills. I was assigned the pointer station. We stayed there until we were ordered to abandon ship. At one point we felt sure we hit a dive bomber and broke it in half with a non-fused “round-shot” out over Ford Island. We had fired four rounds at it tracking it over Ford Island and the four one is the round that hit it."
Added by James Reese, his son, " After the attack he stayed on the USS Pennsylvania for several days after which he was assigned to install and train Army personnel in the use of salvaged Navy gun. He flew coastal protection missions around Hawaii in B26s and then went to the USS Alabama. He spent time in Iceland and the Barent Sea attached to the British home fleet. After they were detached the Alabama sailed to Norfolk, then through the Panama Canal and on to New Habrides. "