USS West Virginia veteran Ed Carstens' version of the events at Pearl Harbor

 

The following is an account of my experiences while aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48).  My name is Ed Carstens and at the time of the attack I was a f/3c. It all started thusly. 7:55 AM and I was at my muster station alongside turret #3 waiting for the bugler to sound a call for colors. Facing the channel waters I suddenly saw two aircraft flying low and heading straight for my ship. I thought it was an exercise of sort as they roared up and away. But then, two other aircraft, also flying low, were heading for my ship. Watching their antics, I saw two objects fall from their craft making a tremendous splash. Suddenly, I spotted two wakes headed for the ship and surmised they were torpedoes. By the time I got the word "Torpedoes" out of my mouth, they had hit and exploded. General Quarters was sounded and I headed for my battle station, located on the second deck in the bow section, as a member of a damage control party. After descending to the second deck, I made my way forward on the port side where the torpedoes were exploding. Learned later that we had been hit with eight plus two bomb hits. By the time I reached my battle station, the ship had begun to list to port. It certainly didn't help that all the portholes were open allowing water to enter and help flood the ship. I arrived at my battle station along with 4 other crewmen and a warrant officer, and we waited for further orders. But having lost communication with the bridge, we decided to go aft and lend assistance where needed. Entering the adjacent compartment, we heard a terrific explosion which knocked all of us off our feet and scattering us like ten-pins. Going back to the compartment we had left, we found a gaping hole from a bomb hit. Had we not left, I wouldn't be here to write this. We made our way to sick-bay and proceeded to evacuate the lame and disabled. This took the better part of almost an hour. By the time we got the last man out to safety, we were sloshing in fuel oil that was chest high and had seeped in from ruptured fuel tanks. At this point, I passed out from the fumes and upon recovering, found myself being supported by 2 shipmates topside. After assuring them that I was able to navigate on my own, they directed me to a launch that was tied up to the bow and told me to get off the ship. Easier said than done, as the second attack wave had arrived and was in the process of finishing the job of destroying as many ships as possible. In between strafing attacks, I finally made it to the launch in which was a coxswain and a mess attendant who was vomiting his insides out. In an attempt to move the launch and head to land, we discovered the propeller was damaged and of no use. Man the oars, which we did, but to no avail as the current carried us to the already over turned Oklahoma resting with her keel up. We made an another attempt to head the launch to the submarine base across the channel just as more aircraft were strafing everything in sight, including us. Fortunately, we were not hit, though the bullets were piercing the water on both sides of the launch. It was then that we saw a crash boat approaching from the sub base, casting a line and towing us to the base and dry land. It was then that the realization of what happened set in and the feeling of fear caused my body to tremble as never before. After taking a gasoline bath to remove the fuel oil from my body, and getting clean clothes from the lucky bag, I settled down as best I could for 3 days at which time I received orders to report aboard the USS New Orleans (CA32), a heavy cruiser. This also was torpedoed in the battle of Tassafronga in Nov. '42 and lost its' bow. But that is another story. This then is my story.



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