STATEMENT OF: - Lieut. (jg) H.B. Stark, USN., U.S.S. West Virginia
Attack by Japanese, December 7, 1941.
Shortly before eight o'clock on Sunday morning I was in my room double george on the half deck. Double george is the third stateroom counting from aft on the starboard side of the half deck, in the third watertight compartment from aft. As I was getting up from my bunk I heard the call for "Away Fire and Rescue Party", followed immediately by General Quarters. This was followed almost immediately by two or three violent explosions in quick succession. The ship started listing to port right away. Grabbing an armload of clothes I ran forward and found only one man on the half deck manning the repair phone. Between us we started closing watertight doors working from aft, although we did not check the after door leading to the airplane crane, which normally should be shut. As I dogged down the door forward of my room I heard something let go in the compartment, some leak starting violently. By that time there were a few more men in the compartment above. The large watertight hatch over that space was dropped and I crawled out through the escape scuttle. As I did I skidded over to port and landed in about four feet of water with a scum of fuel oil. I decided to work my way along the starboard side of the third deck to see if counter-flooding was being accomplished. To my mind there was no danger of sinking in shallow water but there was great danger of turning over on the port side, as the port list was getting greater. As I dropped down into the trunk to the steering motor room, fire and grains of burning powder showered around me. With the help of a marine sentry the slight fire was extinguished but we could not completely shut the hatch leading down to the steering motor room--it seemed jammed although almost shut. I sent the marine up to shut the hatch over me as I undogged the starboard door. When I stepped into the mess attendants' compartment someone helped me shut the door. At that time I first noticed that it was completely dark except for a glimmer of a flashlight forward. I groped my way along the deck to the next compartment through the open door and found damage control gear locker. Puccio SeaF3/c, I think, had broken into the locker and was hunting for counterflood cranks. he found one and I found one, also a flashlight. I told him to flood forward while I did aft. I ran back into the after compartment and started cranking. We worked for some time on three voids, I believe, but were unable to build up any pressure before the men starting falling to the deck. The valve setting were on open, we could not lift any, and the men were all passing out. I grabbed someone and told everyone to haul somebody out the starboard hatch on the quarterdeck just aft of the break of the deck.. Then, again I remember nothing until I was under the overhang of turret two, my turret. My head ached terrifically, I could not breathe and all my extremities tingled as if they had been asleep and were just being wakened. Finding out from the CTC Crawford, that no one was in control, I started for that station with the starboard AA guns firing in my face, it seemed to me. That was the first time I realized the AA guns were firing. I ran into Lieut. Ricketts on the boat deck by number three AA gun and asked him if he needed men. He said, "Yes, on the AA ammunition supply." I noticed several AA officers on the battery and it was functioning wonderfully, I got back under the overhang of the turret, but the hatches were closed. I passed out in the exertion of opening the right tail hatch, but was able to tell Crawford to get men on the AA ammunition train. How long I lay there trying to breathe I do not know until Crawford returned, told me that the ammunition train was flooded, that all boat deck ammunition was exhausted and that the Captain had ordered, "Abandon Ship". I made sure that my turret was evacuated, then remember hitting the water from the forecastle. I tried to swim but was too weak. Glover, E.R., FM2c, and Bircher, H.C.., SeaF1/c of my division held me up and dumped me into a life raft. The next I definitely remember I was on Ford Island at the dispensary.
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