Great Falls Historical Society, VA website

 

GREAT FALLS HISTORICAL SOCIETY
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

Interview with
Capt. Burdick Brittin
by Jean & Roland Tibbetts
(December 6, 1992 and February 13, 1993)

   JT: — Jean Tibbetts
  RT: — Roland Tibbetts
CBB: — Capt. Burdick Brittin
   JT:

This is Jean Tibbetts for the Great Falls Historical Society's Oral History Program, conducting an interview with Roland Tibbetts. And we are going to be interviewing Burt Brittin, first name Burdick. Do you have a correction for that? Or is that — ?

CBB:

That's good.

   JT:

I will proceed with the initial part of the interview to identify Mr. Brittin's background, and his basic history. And then we will turn the interview over to Roland, who will ask questions relevant to his experience in Pearl Harbor, the dramatic Pearl Harbor incident on December 7th, 1941.

  RT:

Fifty-one years ago tomorrow.

   JT:

Fifty-one years ago tomorrow. This is December 6th, 1992. And your name again is Burdick Brittin. Do you have a middle name, Burdick?

CBB:

I don't — I never use it. Burdick H. Brittin if you want something. That's as far as I'll go.

   JT:

Historically, that's as far as you will — ?

CBB:

That's as far as I will go. (Laughs)

   JT:

You're living now at 1030 Millwood Road in Great Falls, is that right?

CBB:

Yes. That is correct.

   JT:

And you live with your wife Trudy? And tell me, Trudy's name is Gertrude, I assume?

CBB:

Gertrude. But Trudy, she's always been —

   JT:

Always been known as Trudy. And you and Trudy have been married how long?

CBB:

— I'd say it's — '43. We got married in 1943.

  RT:

That's 49 years.

CBB:

Forty-nine years.

   JT:

Forty-nine years. Do you have the date in 1943?

CBB:

September 27th.

   JT:

That's great, Burt.

  RT:

A date burned in — (Laughs)

   JT:

In memory. We know.

CBB:

And she still speaks to me.

   JT:

Well, I can understand that. (Laughs) I can understand that. And you have how many children?

CBB:

Three sons.

   JT:

Three sons. And do you happen to have their birthdates handy? Would you like notes to refer to?

CBB:

That's pretty good. I mean, do you want me to say it out loud?

   JT:

Yes.

CBB:

1947, 1952, 1958.

   JT:

And that was Peter B.?

CBB:

Peter Bruce, Michael Darnell, and Christopher Mark.

   JT:

Michael was born in 1952, and Chris was born in 1958?

CBB:

Yes.

   JT:

We don't have any months for those children, and days?

CBB:

They're around here someplace, but I don't happen to have that.

   JT:

I see. You're detail oriented. I can see that, Burt. Your wife is not from this area?

CBB:

No. Trudy was born in Munich, Germany. And emigrated from there with her mother and dad. They came in at Ellis Island. Can you imagine that?

   JT:

Oh, Ellis Island?

CBB:

So Trudy is one of the few people around, I guess —

   JT:

One of the last, I imagine, before they closed?

CBB:

Yes.

   JT:

How exciting.

CBB:

We're going to go visit it sometime.

   JT:

Oh, yes. Wasn't it last year, or the year before, they had a big celebration event, and another one coming up.

  RT:

She was a child then?

CBB:

Yes. She was. Yes.

   JT:

Now, you met where? Tell us something about that.

CBB:

Down — on my last year of college, I was, in the summer I was a lifeguard. No, not a lifeguard, a policeman, at a place called Bay Head, New Jersey. It's a pretty snobbish place right on the coast, where you had to be a member of the community in order to swim there. Pretty high falutin.

And Trudy was down. I was, as I said, a policeman for the summer. And she — what does a woman do who takes care of children?

   JT:

An au pair?

CBB:

Au pair, okay. For a doctor's kids. And I tried to get a date from her all summer. And finally, at the end of the summer, she let me go out with her once. As a matter of fact, Jean, it's true. That's the one date we had. Then the war came, and I had ten days away from the ship in September '43. And we got married. (Laughs)

   JT:

My goodness!

  RT:

And it's still going. That's amazing.

   JT:

Now, you said you were a policeman. How did you get in the Navy so quickly?

CBB:

I would have — I could have been a lifeguard. I was a big swimmer. I could have been a lifeguard. Or, for $5.00 more a week I could become a policeman. So I became a policeman, because I was big on money in those days. (Laughs)

   JT:

I see. But what — were you in school then?

CBB:

I was going to be a senior at college.

   JT:

I see. And you went to Union College?

CBB:

Union College, New York.

   JT:

And you majored in?

CBB:

Political science.

   JT:

Political science. How interesting. Then, after that, during —as soon as the war came out, I assume you volunteered for the Navy? Is that right?

CBB:

I was supposed to have gone to work for the Standard Oil Company when I graduated from college. And I had always wanted to work in the foreign field. And through a little bit of nepotism, I had an interview with Standard Oil. And they were going to give me a job in New Jersey, which wasn't very foreign. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, "Oh, I don't like that. You're going to put me in personnel work in Bay Way, New Jersey.Along about the same time, the Navy was advertising, if you have your college degree, and can pass our physicals, and all these good things, you can become an ensign. And you see the world for a year. That's the only obligation there is.

   JT:

Now, what year is this?

CBB:

That was 19 — well, I graduated in 1940. So it had to be that fall.

   JT:

That fall of 1940? Just for the record, Burt, I note that you have on your biography, your date of birth is January 21st, 1917, and you were born in Lorraine, Ohio. Also, for the record, I would like just to note your parents, and if you can, tell us where they were born?

CBB:

Oh, yes. My mother's name, Emma Louise Heinkel. Brittin. And my father's name Howard Darnell

   JT:

And they were born where?

CBB:

Philadelphia. Both of them.

   JT:

Both of them. I see. And they moved out to Ohio?

CBB:

He was in the YMCA. And they used to shift him around. That's how I was born in Lorraine. I never — and left there when I was about six months .old. Maybe something to do with the rent. I don't know. (Laughs) And I've never been back.

   JT:

I see. Well, I think we have pretty much a background. Do you have anything you want to add to this that I may not have noted?

CBB:

Except that this is a beautiful place to be interviewed.

   JT:

Thank you, Burt. Great Falls is a beautiful community. We all are in agreement on that.

CBB:

Sometimes, the one who is doing the interviewing is a pest. (Laughs) But generally she's all right.

   JT:

It's my job, Burt. It's my job. I'm going to turn you over to the friendly side of the family in just a moment. If you can't think of anything else, we do have your children, and their birth places, and their names noted. And your wife Trudy's name, and birth, and what-have-you. And your parents.

So I think we have covered the background. Do you have anything you would like to add to this background before we proceed?

  RT:

Well, I was going to ask him what, Burt, in background, anything here deserves - what stands out most in your mind about your personal history prior to 19 — prior to Pearl Harbor, let's say?

CBB:

Oh, I think this. I went to a - I was sent to a — two years to a pretty fancy prep school in New Jersey.

  RT:

Lawrenceville?

CBB:

Heady, which is just about eight miles from Lawrenceville. And then, when I went to college, Union College is a small men's college, very old. And very expensive. Both places I shouldn't have been able to stay there, because my father, being a YMCA secretary, didn't make very much money. But they gave scholarships on that basis.

  RT:

The YMCA?

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

Great.

CBB:

So that helped. And then I was active athletically, so that — that helped a bit.

  RT:

Swimming? Or — ?

CBB:

Swimming, primarily. Yes.

  RT:

Well, okay. Why don't you take it from the time you — you have told us how you happened to get in the Navy. But don't hesitate to go into detail on these, because I think the detail is what makes it very personal..

CBB:

Well, I did apply for that Navy program to see the world for a year. And in order to get to that school, you had to pass certain preliminary courses. And I did that. I was scared to death of navigation, because it's mathematics. And I avoided mathematics all the way through — well, even my graduate work, I never — I always avoided mathematics.

So I took a course that summer before I went off to midshipman's school, on celestial navigation, run by the Coast Guard. And it's the only thing I had to do, just work on that course. And so I learned all the vocabulary and how to do it.

And by the time we went to midshipman's school, I was the expert on celestial navigation. Me, an ace in mathematics. One little incident, that midshipman school was an old battleship in New York Harbor. And one of my close friends, his name is Bill Blum, he was Dutch, and he and I, alphabetically we were close together. And we were sitting, taking an exam. I'll never forget this. He apparently glanced over at my paper. He was just sitting right beside me. Or the instructor thought he did, and he was called from the room. And he was gone. They threw him out. He ended up in the British Air Force. And we were so close —

  RT:

The RAF, you mean?

CBB:

Yes. One of my sons' Godfather was Bill Blum. And every time we go to Europe, not every time — we go to Europe, we see him. Netherlands. He lives in theNetherlands

And just a fine man. That was one little —

  RT:

Interesting twist, yes. Well, we might also mention, I think all this is just excellent. So you're on the Board of Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution?

CBB:

I was.

  RT:

What year, roughly, was that?

CBB:

Oh, for about five years.

  RT:

Late in your life?

CBB:

After I retired.

  RT:

After you retired. And you're on the board of directors of Mary Baldwin College.

CBB:

Same thing.

  RT:

American Society of International Law -

(Interruption of tape)

   JT:

Okay. We're resuming.

  RT:

Well, we're back at the battleship at New York Harbor for training, I think.

CBB:

Well, graduation day for me, well, the day we got our Commissions, a pretty fancy affair, parents and girlfriends, and all that kind of thing were present. And we had a dinner party at the Pierre which I organized, about six of my friends, and their family, and that kind of thing.

One fellow was late. I couldn't understand that. Being impatient, I went out to the — where the entrance of the restaurant in my white uniform, just looking for them. And a couple walked up and said, "A table to two, please." That brought me back to reality very quickly. I mean, there I was, resplendent in a white uniform with my —

  RT:

Oh, they thought you were now a waiter, eh? A waiter? (Laughter all around)

CBB:

Then I had a couple months free after I got my diploma. And I worked on a turkey ranch up in Vermont.

  RT:

You mean they didn't put you right into the Navy then?

CBB:

No. I mean, we had about two months wait.

  RT:

You were waiting for a call?

CBB:

And then they sent me to sea on a cruiser to Norfolk and back. And that was the *** ***. I remember. Thanksgiving morning we were anchored in New York Harbor, and I was swabbing down the decks along with all the other midshipmen.

And it was black, and it had snowed some, you know, just a miserable thing. And there I was. I could see where my family lived, you know, right there in New Jersey, and lout in the middle of — "What the hell am I doing here?" But I got some good advice. I wanted to get on a destroyer or a submarine. Primarily I wanted to get on a combat type ship. And so, the only way to do that was to apply for torpedo school, which I did. And that school was out in Key Port, Washington, the State of Washington, on the Straits of Juan de Fuga. And we spent three months there at that school learning all about torpedoes, and how to fire them, and how to take them apart, and put them together.

Six of us climbed Mount Rainier. We had to take a course on weekends at the mountain. And finally did it. And it's the only mountain I really ever climbed, except some of the lesser Alps of Switzerland. But that was a big one for me, and still is.

One of my sons, Michael, he's a lawyer here in Washington, his hobby is mountain climbing. He has climbed the three largest mountains in the western hemisphere. In Argentina, and McKinley up in — and Rainier.

  RT:

That's 14,000, and 20,000, I think.

CBB:

24,000, the one down in South America, yes. McKinley is 20,000, isn't it?

  RT:

Yes. Rainier is about 14,000, I think. That's fantastic. He hasn't gone over to Nepal yet? He hasn't gone over to the Himalayas yet?

CBB:

No. He can't get the right party together.

  RT:

Good. (Laughs)

CBB:

I had orders, after completion of that school, I had orders to an old four pipe destroyer of World War I vintage operating out of Seattle, and that didn't please me very much. And somehow or other, somebody in authority decided that I should go to a real destroyer. And so in October

  RT:

194 — ?

CBB:

1941. I was sent out to Pearl Harbor to join the USS Aylwin. Which I did.

  RT:

What was your position there?

CBB:

I was a torpedo officer and assistant communications officer. I was junior one, naturally.

The other one had about 15 officers. Four of us were Naval Reserve officers. I was one of them. About 300 men, the crew. The dimensions, about 330 feet long, and 30 wide. It was like a pencil, almost. The class that the Aylwin was in, extremely fast for surface ships, 39 knots, which goes around — that's pretty — And a good range. It carried five, five inch guns, and eight tubes of torpedoes.

When we — as very junior officers, we were loaded with work, including correspondence courses in your spare time. So getting ashore at Waikiki or Honolulu was very rare, indeed. But this, the night of the sixth, these other Reserve Ensigns and myself had the night off. So we could stay in Honolulu until Sunday evening, which was pretty splashy.

  RT:

That was a Saturday and a Sunday?

CBB:

Yes. So we went down to Waikiki, and spent the afternoon swimming. Met some girls in Waikiki who agreed to have dinner with us. And dancing at Louie Chou's, which is a famous old restaurant, still in use. I saw it last year.

I was the big spender that night, and ran out of money, truthfully. Somehow the others all stayed. I left to go back to the ship about 1:00 in the morning, which I did.

  RT:

How did you get back? On a bus, or what?

CBB:

A bus or taxi. Something like that, yes.

  RT:

That was quite a distance, actually, from Honolulu to Pearl Harbor.

CBB:

Yes. You want the part about December the seventh, then?

  RT:

Sure. Go ahead. That's fine.

CBB:

We — oh, the ship was moored at buoys, out in Middle Lock. East Lock, West Lock and Middle Lock. And all within 1,000 yards, or 1,500 yards of where the battleships were moored at Fort Island and on up in there.

Our division, four ships, as I said, were in Middle Lock. I was asleep that morning, looking forward to spending a lot of time in bed to catch up. But I was awakened by what I thought was anti-aircraft gunfire. And I thought, 'What a hell of a time to have a rehearsal for — " that noisy kind of —

And I looked out the porthole. And there was at that time the old battleship Utah, that was rolling over on its side.

  RT:

What a thing to see.

CBB:

Yes. She was about 1,000 - about a half a mile from us.

  RT:

So you realized instantly what was going on?

CBB:

Something was dramatically wrong. So I ran out on deck. And people were — people were calling at general quarters.

  RT:

At that point no — there had been no general quarters ringing up until that point?

CBB:

By the time I got out on deck was when I think general quarters went off. The Japanese planes were very active allover the area. As we got some guns manned, we fired at them like everybody else was.

For records purposes, they credited the Aylwin with shooting down, probably shooting down, three Japanese planes.

Of course, everybody claimed —

  RT:

Shooting at the same plane?

CBB:

Yes. So that -

  RT:

You don't know —

CBB:

I think there was something like 100 airplanes taking place — the raid, but if you add up all the probables, why, it was around 450.

  RT:

Then the actual losses were quite low?

CBB:

Yes. Yes. One little vignette there, it became very obvious that we were very short on crew. That half, at least half the crew, per haps even more than that —

  RT:

Were gone?

CBB:

Were ashore. They had families living ashore just like the senior officers did. And that there were only four officers aboard. Four ensigns. And we were the four Naval Reserve ensigns.

  RT:

You covered a lot of territory, from Alaska, to Hollandia, to Guadalcanal, Grenal, Guam, Philippines, Okinawa —

CBB:

That Japan stripes there, that's when — that's when we got hit with a kamikaze. I was out on deck when we got under way with the senior ensign acting as captain. I was actually third in line of the four ensigns. My work that morning had to do with cleaning, clearing the decks of a lot of extraneous material, including the life boat, the ladder for getting on and off the ship, barrels of drum oil for lubrication of ship.

Just roll them all over the side. While I was doing that the ship got under way. One bomb pushed our stern over towards one of the buoys, and one of our propellers was hit by the buoy, which caused the ship to vibrate from there on in.

At one point I was out there in my white uniform. And one Japanese plane came by firing its machine guns, and I thought I was the target. But why he missed, I don't know. It was a very close thing. And we started to turn around to get out of the harbor.

And the ship ahead of us, the Monahan, in our — In our position, I spotted a small submarine, an attack submarine, and — to the surface, we stopped just astern of the Monahan. And he sank the submarine.

Meanwhile we passed by the Monahan heading for the harbor exit. Our guns were firing as much as they could with just half, less than half the crew aboard. AB an aside, we fired at some planes that were pretty high. And after the raid, why, there was a hue and cry that they were also attacking Honolulu. The fact is that like lots of other ships, we were firing in an undisciplined way. And I, myself, was sure that at least our shells were some of the shells that hit Honolulu. I think several ships were in that situation.

We — I know that for a fact that we did hit two planes. One of them crashed into a larger ship, the Curtiss. It set off a fire. But we had hit that plane, caused it to dive, when it hit the Curtiss.

We got out of the harbor, and were assigned one particular area to search for submarines. As each destroyer got out, they were assigned a different area.

While we were patrolling our area, a whale boat came out with some officers aboard. And through our binoculars we could see that it was the captain and the exec of our ship, was in that whale boat.

And then a unique thing happened. The officers of the whale boat naturally wanted to get aboard the Aylwin. The captain, acting captain, Stan Kaplan, he refused to stop. Here he is, a boot ensign, refusing to stop to pick up the captain. And we stayed on our patrol.

After it was all over, we — the ship received a commendation for that particular action, along with other things, that we did the right thing, not stopping. The worst situation for a ship, a combat ship, is to be stopped in the water. And that's what he prevented happening. So it was a quite an — quite an event.

  RT:

Did you eventually pick up the captain?

CBB:

No. Never did. One or two of the cruisers was able to get out, as well as several of the destroyers. And we formed up on signal to proceed and search for the Japanese.

They formed a line of attack about four miles between ships, going at very high speed, maybe 30 knots.

Going to the southwest. We were wrong. The whole fleet was, because the attack had come from the north.

But nonetheless, we continued on our search to the southeast. The only food that we had was some bread, and a few things like that. Fruit. Because there was none - no cooks were aboard.

We steamed on at that high speed into the night. And about halfway through the night I was up on the bridge. And we saw a ship coming towards us at high speed. Thank heavens somebody had the sense to exchange identification flashlight. And it turned out to be one of the ships in our squadron.

As we — I was all ready to shoot torpedoes. Maybe I was. But as it flashed by us, the signal came to us, 'Where are you going?" And we responded saying, "On assigned search task." And then as he went over the horizon he sent us, "Recommend you turn around and follow us," which we did.

We had missed a very important message when the message had turned us around. We just didn't have the people to handle the communications. If we had kept going, we would still be there in the South Pacific someplace without any fuel.

We got back in the harbor that afternoon.

   JT:

Which harbor, Pearl?

CBB:

Pearl Harbor.

   JT:

You went back to Pearl Harbor?

CBB:

Oh, yes. We really had to because of our propeller problem. We went into drydock immediately. And they took a rear damaged propeller off, and put a new propeller on. It has two propellers for a ship like that.

They put us back in the water, loaded us up with fuel, food, people. The captain didn't even talk to us, the ensigns. Later on, he was found to be pretty incompetent. Now, maybe I might get to that story a little bit later on.

But that was the end of Pearl Harbor. By that time the carrier, the Enterprise, had gotten back from Wake Island. And so we had a carrier available to us.

The next year the war was purely a defensive operation in the Pacific. The two principle, we could say three principle battles that took place, Midway, Coral Sea, and I guess the Aleutians, also, were involved. We — the rest of the time during that period, we were involved in making raids on various Japanese islands, or islands that the Japanese had taken over, and trying to. Act as though we were a big Navy, when in fact we were a very small Navy.

By ship count, the Japanese were way ahead of us, the number of carriers, battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. They just were ahead of us. They were very skillful, too.

One of the islands that I recall that we hit defensively was that of Eniwetok. And we had an assignment which was rather unusual, I thought, and that was we were -the atoll was in our series of islands in a — surrounding a shallower part of the Pacific. We were assigned an island to knock all the trees down with our five inch shells, which - our duty was, which we did.

We were never assigned like that again. It was just that one time. Another time, Kwajalein, which I think is the largest atoll in the world, about 100 miles long, about 50 miles wide.

Our division was sent inside the atoll to shoot at the Japanese who were holed in the major islands of the atoll. And the division commander, after the four of us were in there, said, "Be very careful of spikes that you'll run across made from the vegetation of the islands." Just as he said that, why he — his ship itself hit one, and had a leak.

Also, we learned the hard way that you can't have ships outside, and ships inside firing at the islands, because any ricochet, why, it could hit one of your friendly ships. So that, later on the war, we didn't do that anymore.

The Coral Sea battle, which was the first of the major battles, it was tragic, but it was also successful, because it blunted the Japanese thrust towards Australia. This took place, Coral Sea is near the New Hebrides, and some other islands up there.

We had three carriers, and I think around 15 destroyers. No battleships. A couple of cruisers. The — we both, the Japanese were looking for us, and we were looking for the Japanese. We both knew that they were there.

And finally we joined in battle. But the Japanese did get in close to us, and did some damage. They hit the Lexington pretty hard with bombs, and it slowed our whole attack scheme.

We also hit the two carriers of the Japanese. But nothing was hit as hard as the Lexington, which we were steaming with. Dive bombers would come down over the Lexington, and then swoop off to get some distance away from us.

They flew very low in the water. And two or three times one would come directly at us, and lifted its wing. It.had gone over just to escape. And I wasn't the only one, but the officers, we all had to wear a .45 caliber pistol. And I fIred at the these airplanes with a.45 pistol, which made me feel pretty good, because it did absolutely nothing.

When the —

  RT:

The Lexington didn't survive that, right? We lost the Lexington.' Did we? Fire, or something?

CBB:

When the Lexington got through the first flurry of the attack, they felt they had things under control, and we started heading further south to get away from the Japs. Then internal fires got to an ammunition section of the Lexington, and she had to stop.

One of the ships in our division at twilight was ordered to torpedo the Lexington to ensure that she would sink, and not float. Several of the ships were in — that did occur. She sank. She was a favorite ship in the Pacific, and it was hard to watch her go down.

We ended up with about 100 survivors aboard. A lot of ships were picking up the survivors, about a crew of about 2,000 on a carrier.

  RT:

And they had pretty heavy losses, too, don't you think?

CBB:

Pretty heavy what?

  RT:

Did they lose quite a few on that ship? I think they did.

CBB:

One — in regard to the ones that we had aboard, a lot of them were pilots. And they were scared to death of being aboard a little ship like the Aylwin. We always thought that destroyers were pretty safe, because of the speed, and that kind of thing. So we had these officers, these men aboard, all of them wishing that they were someplace else, rather than on a destroyer. We did offload them at Tongatabu, one of the islands southwest — no, southeast of Fiji. They were real glad to get off.

It was about that time that we received orders to go at flank speed to return to Pearl Harbor. We all did. One of the carriers, I think it was the Hornet, had been hit. And she left a stream of oil in the water, which was easy for an airplane to pick up and pursue. So, beside the orders to get out of there, we also wanted to get out of there.

So we went at top speed. I guess was 3,000 miles, maybe 2,000. Well, across it's about 3,000 miles from Coral Sea to Hawaii. We got there, went into port, and you could tell there was something developing which was very close in time.

As soon as we got alongside of the dock, why, people rushed aboard ship, and all of the ships returning from Coral Sea, food, oil, ammunition, other things, people, were all thrown aboard the ship. And we spent about 24 hours in port at Pearl, and nobody went ashore. We were just getting ready for going back to sea.

We got under way, and we headed north towards Midway. This was where the — community had figured out the Japanese code, so we had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. They had a massive fleet, just something like four. major carriers, and well, you could read about that battle in any book.

We were with the Enterprise. The way we steamed, why, we formed a circle around the carrier. You might be two miles away from the carrier, or a mile, but you kept her in the middle of a circle. Plus, you could fire at an airplane coming in to attack her from a greater distance from the carrier.

  RT:

Submarine attacks, too.

CBB:

Oh, yes. The Hornet was sunk in the battle of Midway. The Japanese lost four of their principle carriers. It was a complete surprise, our tactics, our strategy was. The Japanese weren't prepared for what did happen.

We caught the carrier, the Japanese carriers, with their planes were on deck, starting to fuel, refuel, to get back to attack the Midway again. They just never got off.

We pursued the major units to — for another day and a half, a couple days. And then, son of a gun, the order to take — to rendezvous —

(Resumption of interview
following interruption.)

CBB:

Before leaving the battle of Midway, I should tell you one more event that took place earlier on during the time that we were very defensive, because we were such few ships.

We were steaming one day, and the admiral in charge called for an exercise of a surface battle. And one of our ships was sent our over the horizon to act as the attacking force. Everybody in the task force knew it was an exercise except the captain of the USS Aylwin.

And I was the torpedo officer up on the bridge. And we all told him, the exec, the officer on the deck, and this lowly ensign, that this was an exercise. But he insisted on putting the primers in the torpedoes, getting the torpedoes ready to fire.

Even the chief petty officer, torpedoman got involved. He said, "It shouldn't be. This is an exercise." The captain wouldn't listen to anybody, and he fired a torpedo.

The exec then got on the radio, voice radio, and told them what had happened, told the fleet, and the fleet alternative, the Aylwin told the attacking ship to get the hell out of there, because of the torpedo.

   JT:

Do you have that captain's name?

CBB:

Kweeg. (Laughs)

   JT:

How do you spell it?

CBB:

That's captain? Good Lord. I'll — I'll think of it. We were ordered back to Pearl Harbor?

  RT:

For that reason?

CBB:

We were ordered to proceed immediately back to Pearl Harbor. An investigation was held. And I had, as an ensign, to testify in opposition to the captain of my ship, which is pretty tough to do.

He was — we were sent back as unfit for combat duty. We got to Pearl Harbor, and he was taken off the ship, and I never saw him again.

Back to Midway, I was — I had started mentioning the fact that we had proceeded to the west chasing the Japanese. The chase was given up because of fuel requirements of our own fleet units. At that time, we received orders to proceed north to rendezvous with a tanker. It was just the Aylwin itself, and go to the Aleutian Islands.

  RT:

Can I interrupt here? On the Midway, did you or the other ships actually come into direct contact with any of the Japanese fleet? Or was it strictly an air engagement?

CBB:

It was air and submarine.

  RT:

And submarine? You didn't see any of the Japanese fleet?

CBB:

No. But we saw the debris as we proceeded west, where they had been, where they had sunk that kind of thing. We saw all that.

  RT:

Any people still in the water?

CBB:

Not many. There were a lot of dead people around, service people.

  RT:

All right. You went on the Aleutians, then?

CBB:

Yes. The Japanese, just before Midway had also landed at the Aleutian Islands, and Adak, Kiska, Attu, and they had raided Dutch Harbor and Kodiak Island of the Aleutian chain. Our effort was to rendezvous with other ships being sent from the west coast to rendezvous up there, to defend against the Japanese.

One of the little oddities that happened was that he had been clothed and supplied for tropical work. The Bering Sea was not really tropical. It was terribly cold. It was a time when the weather was the worst that we had ever experienced.

It happened sometimes when you would get up in the morning, or be on duty early in the morning, when it got daylight, you could see that the ship was covered with ice, which is a very dangerous thing, because of the weight being shifted to up into the upper works of the ship.

One time, to give you an example, we heard an airplane. And by God, we got to general quarters. And sure enough, out of the fog, a Japanese float plane coming right at us. And we ordered the guns to fire. Nothing happened.

The plane, the pilot must have seen us at the last minute, because he lifted his wings, and he flew over and disappeared again. And it was the tremendous cold that prevented — an ice that prevented the guns from being fired.

  RT:

You said that the islands were the third most important engagement you had, that is. And yet, I wanted to ask you why Attu, Kiska were so important?

CBB:

They were so important psychologically for the States, because it was American territory that they were on, the Japanese. And it was relatively close to the Pacific coast, maybe 2,000 miles, something like that. And—

  RT:

So that might have been an in between staging place for them?

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

Between — if they were –

CBB:

That was their idea.

  RT:

I see. Can we go back to the Coral Sea a second? You mentioned you went back to Pearl Harbor from there. You didn't mention anything about the out come. I know it's one of our victories. But how much did you see? Did you see again anything of the Japanese fleet itself?

CBB:

No.

  RT:

Did you have any gun exchanges, firing exchanges?

CBB:

No. No air.

  RT:

You were pretty much still protecting, your job was to protect the carrier?

CBB:

Yes. Yes.

  RT:

There were more — we had how many carriers? You said two carriers?

CBB:

We had three carriers.

  RT:

Three carriers there.

CBB:

One was sunk.

  RT:

And then we lost the Lexington, and the hornet was hit.

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

And what was the third one?

CBB:

The Enterprise.

  RT:

The Enterprise. Okay. Go on. So we're leaving Attu now.

CBB:

Well, at Kiska — is a long — is a long period for us to be there. We — our one assignment we had, which was repeated, it just went on forever, there was — only had to be one destroyer off the coast of Kiska, which is the major holdings.

We would go out there, and at night we would fire one gun, five inch gun, and different points, to different points on the island. And we would do it right straight through the night just to keep them awake, and for us to try to irritate them.

It got so that on that assignment, why, you'd fall in your bunk and you would go to sleep —

  RT:

Keeping you awake, too?

CBB:

No. You'd get used to it. When the guns would go off, why, you'd just ignore it. well, this went on for months.

  RT:

Months, well.

CBB:

Oh, yes. And finally, we made the landing on Attu, which was a pretty bloody, tough one. And Kiska, they had already left the island by the time we go ashore.

One sidelight on the ship, we — the new captain, the one that came aboard because the other one was unfit for duty, he was a paper pusher. And he noticed that we were eating an awful lot of food. We were in the red, you know, by some money, supply —

And he was going to stop that. He was going to make us eat less. So when he did, it was really stupid. He said there would be two meals a day, one at 10:00, and one at 4:00, something like that, to cut down on the food consumption.

Well, it sounded as though that was fair. Everybody is in the same boat. But it wasn't fair, nor was it intended to be fair. What was intended was that the officers continued to have their three meals a day —

  RT:

Oh boy!

CBB:

And the enlisted men had to have two meals a day.

  RT:

Well, that was great for morale, right?

CBB:

Wait! What he didn't know was that one of the seamen aboard, his uncle was the Secretary of the Navy, Sullivan I guess his name was. And he had written to his uncle about this food business.

So we got back, we got into Seattle finally, and orders came in for that captain to leave the ship immediately. So we had two crazy skippers in a row, two captain Kweegs.

  RT:

They really did happen, didn't they?

CBB:

Oh, yes.

  RT:

Where did you go from - you went from Aleutians back to Seattle?

CBB:

Not back to. We went in it to get damage repair.

  RT:

Or, to Seattle, then?

CBB:

To Seattle. Yes. Bremerton, as a matter of fact.

One of the things that happened was that up there in the Aleutian — up there in the Bering Sea, not my favorite part of the world, at all, we had a couple of small carriers with us. And one day they shot a couple of planes off, and they went right in the water.

And we were a plane guard, which is right astern of the carrier. We had to pick these pilots up. You would have had about three or four minutes in that water, and you're gone. And one of them just lost his strength as he was trying to climb up the netting.

And I went down, and I got wet, too. And that water was .awful cold.

  RT:

Did you get him?

CBB:

Yes. We got him. We got him.

  RT:

Do you get a commendation for that, I suppose?

CBB:

No. It was -

  RT:

Routine? (Laughs) The water actually was probably close to freezing then, right?

CBB:

Yes. 34, 36. It was after the Aleutians, we came south, and ended up eventually back at Pearl Harbor. And it was like just as though somebody had built an entirely new fleet, the number of battleships, new battleships, carriers, cruisers, destroyers. About four to five times as many as we had when the war started.

So, it was Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Humalu, Hollandia, Truk, Saipan, Guam. They were all at our initiation. We were the attacker. We would just have a great mass of strength.

  RT:

Those were major engagements for ground forces. Where there, besides Midway and Coral Sea, were there any other major naval battles of the war?

CBB:

Not major. The Commodorski's was a good one.

  RT:

It was one of the straits of something, they came down through the straits. Where was that?

CBB:

Oh, that was Guadalcanal? Yes. Savo. The Island of Savo.

  RT:

That was early, too, wasn't it? Where they were supplying Guadalcanal?

CBB:

That's right. How can I forget Guadalcanal?

  RT:

We were there, too.

CBB:

Yes. It was a scary time. Let me tell you one little anecdote to relieve the pressures of the time. Guadalcanal, a large island, and the island close to it was, good Lord —

  RT:

New Guinea?

CBB:

No. It was a very small island. I'll think of it. Tulagu, the island of Tulagu. There is a very narrow strait going through there.

  RT:

Mariana's is what we were thinking about before. Mariana's I think? Go ahead.

CBB:

No. This is Tulagu I'm talking about. After the island was secured, that is Guadalcanal, why, the Army was given control of Tulagu, and the Marines, U.S. Marines had control of Guadalcanal. We were — we were operating out of Guadalcanal, and going north up towards Savo and the other islands, why, we would go up in a little strait between Tulagu and Guadalcanal.

The Army, one of the first things it did, was build outhouses out over the water, maybe 50 yards out, shallow water. They had to build maybe 15 to 20 outhouses all in a row down the coast.

Well, when we saw that, I was then getting pretty senior in destroyers, and I was just one of the many who thought this was a great idea, we would get underway at dawn. And we would time our entry through that narrow strait so the Army troops getting up, going up to the john, we'd be then going about 25 knots with a great big tremendous wave.

You could go down there. You could see all these — popping up. Get the hell out of there!

  RT:

Dirty tricks. (Laughs)

CBB:

Finally we got a communication from the Army saying, "Stop that."

  RT:

Hopefully. (Laughs) What else stands out, incidents? Life on the destroyer, or life at the — :

CBB:

Oh, one time — one time in the Solomons, Guadalcanal, we were sent up with three other destroyers in a hurry to get up there to some — some skirmish, or some battle. And the leader, the lead destroyer that was gung ho, saying, "We're going to go out. We're going to blast them."

And all of a sudden, his ship began turning around in circles. Because the propeller, the rudder had jammed. So he didn't even go anyplace. The three of us went off on, went on up.

  RT:

Well, tell us a little bit about life aboard a destroyer in wartime when you were out there? How long were you out before you could come back? And what did you do while you were aboard your ship? And how were living conditions, how were relations between sailors, and what have you?

CBB:

A very high degree of discipline. The reason — and the reason is that it doesn't take too much time for anybody at sea to realize that what they do depends on the life of somebody else on that ship. They had very high, very high morale, despite captains like we did have.

The actual routine for the officers and the men was to stand one watch in three.

  RT:

Four-hour watches?

CBB:

Four hours. And then you'd miss the next eight. And then a four watch. And then, sunrise and sunset, you also had general quarters.

  RT:

Just to keep people in shape?

CBB:

Well, it's the most dangerous time of the day.

  RT:

I see. It wasn't for just practice. It was to keep -

CBB:

Oh, no. It was for air raids.

  RT:

I see.

CBB:

And then, if there was something, if we were to go into combat, why, you had general quarters anyway. So you — so, what free time you had, you got some sleep.

The — one of the things the Japanese did, very skillfully, they would at night they would send a search plane out and drop a flare, maybe eight or ten miles away from the test, from us. And of course, that would wake us, the whole fleet, go to general quarters.

And then the plane would go away. Maybe an hour and a half later it would come back and drop another flare.

  RT:

So general quarters again?

CBB:

Another GQ. Very tiring.

  RT:

We were doing the same thing.

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

What else? How — food generally in the Navy I know was always good?

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

You had no alcohol aboard ship?

CBB:

That's right.

  RT:

How long were you usually out most of the trips, from port to port?

CBB:

I'd say 60, 70 days was not unusual.

  RT:

Two months you were out?

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

Boy, that's a lot of fuel. You refueled at sea, then, right?

CBB:

Oh, yes. Refueled at sea. Including mail, the whole bit.

  RT:

Food? All supplies? Fuel?

CBB:

That is one thing we did on destroyers, a reserve ship would come out and deliver all the mail to one destroyer. And that was the destroyer's job to distribute it to the fleet.

What we did, what a lot of destroyers did, we would approach a cruiser or a carrier to deliver mail, said, 'We have mail for you," because we were under way, at sea. And they'd say, "Roger." Then we'd say, 'We have no ice cream," or 'We have no —

  RT:

Whatever you needed? (Laughs)

CBB:

Yes. And we'd stay back there.

  RT:

Wait until they gave in? (Laughs)

CBB:

That worked pretty good.

  RT:

What did you use bridge's board to take it across, or what?

CBB:

Oh yes, Yes.

  RT:

And of course, mail for a carrier must have been absolutely enormous.

CBB:

Well, ammunition, food, and all those —

  RT:

So everything went across on lines?

CBB:

Oh, yes. Yes. We had a destroyer — we had an exec as the number two officer aboard ship on the Aylwin —

  RT:

Executive officer.

CBB:

And he had been — he was aboard from the time the war started until about two and half, three years later. He was thoroughly disliked, for a cause. And when it came time for him, he was ordered off to another ship. He called me. I was then a senior lieutenant. And he wanted a cruise box made. That's a normal thing for the officers to have a cruise box with all their stuff.

  RT:

Like a foot locker?

CBB:

Like a foot locker, yes. But they made them right aboard the ship. He got me, and he said that because he had been aboard so long, and he loved the ship, that he'd like to have a real lovely cruise box made.

So I got a hold of the ship fitter, and the carpenter, and told them what the exec's wishes were. That's all I did. I said, "Do you suppose — you've got to make one, and this is all he wants."

And by God, it came time, we got to some atoll, and put the whale boat in the water. And up on deck came this beautiful, beautiful cruise box. Just great wood, great varnish, lots of knots on it, you know, the rope and everything. Gorgeous. And it was lowered into the whale boat. The exec went down. And they shoved off.

Well, the carpenter's mate, and the ship fitter were there on deck. And I went over to them, and after the exec left I said, 'What the hell happened? That's a beautiful thing." And he said, "Mr. Brittin, don't worry. The screws are only that long."

  RT:

Oh, God. (Laughs)

CBB:

Showing about an inch. So they had the last word.

   JT:

You think it all fell apart?

CBB:

Oh, I know it did. No screw's going to hold.

  RT:

Okay. So we're, let's say towards the end you're down in the — toward the end of the war. And you — it was the called the striking Japan. Japan strikes.

CBB:

All right. Before that, let me tell you, we were in the Philippines.

One of the — we, of course, were successful in the Philippines. But it was the first time the Japanese really used kamikaze planes, that is, planes that had a pilot, and the pilot knew it was a one-way trip, and his idea was to hit ships.

We also ran across terrible, terrible storms. This was just after I left the ship, so I was not on board. But that typhoon off the Philippines that tore off the forward parts of flights decks of carriers, so the carrier was worthless.

  RT:

One — one ship turned over, right? Was it the —

CBB:

Three destroyers, the Spence, the Monahan, and the Henley were all sank in that typhoon. The ships, destroyers, were going 75 degrees in their role, including the ship — my ship lost a whale boat, lost one of the smoke stacks, lost three people, including the chief engineer.

  RT:

Washed overboard?

CBB:

Yes. A brutal, brutal storm. The worst that I have ever run across.

  RT:

Am I wrong, I thought we had lost maybe a cruiser, or we lost a good-sized ship, bigger than a destroyer, I thought, that rolled over.

CBB:

Well, the Pittsburgh the first - the forward part of it.

  RT:

Oh, I see. Was that it? It wasn't — I seem to remember a picture of the bottom of the ship, like a "Life" magazine picture. Just — of course, it looked terrible, and these guys were trapped. And we had a lot of loss of life.

I thought it was one ship that rolled over there, and it was very bad. If you don't remember it, maybe my memory's faulty. Okay. So now, let's go on where — at this point we have moved up, and we are at Guam and Okinawa, and we're ready to take strikes at Japan.

CBB:

One of the things that happened at Saipan — Guam, Saipan, Tinian, there was a very vicious battle on land in Saipan, which was the first one we hit. And we were assigned to shoot flares, five inch flares, so that our troops would be —

  RT:

Could see?

CBB:

The captain of one of the new cruisers, he said to the admiral that these flares were silhouetting his ship, that they were endangering his ship. And the admiral came back, and he said, "If you think that you're in danger, leave."

  RT:

Obviously they were more important to those guys hitting the beach.

CBB:

You're damn right. That's where the Army ,an Army unit, refused to move ahead.

  RT:

In Saipan?

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

Well, those were tough, some of those were terrible battles, because the Japanese fought to the last man, right?

CBB:

That's right.

  RT:

And they holed up in caves, and I remember the pictures of — they had flame throwers to get them out of the cave.

CBB:

That's right.

  RT:

Did you usually in these other engagements, when you said they weren't sort of sea battles, they were — did you stand offshore and shell in each of these, pretty much?

CBB:

Oh, yes.

  RT:

There were landings, and you would provide support.

CBB:

Wherever there was a landing and we were there, we fired, we fired our guns.

  RT:

How accurate could you fire?

CBB:

Very accurate with a five inch. You could hit a truck.

  RT:

Really?

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

From five miles out? Oh what?

CBB:

Oh, not that far. Maybe three miles inland. The guns were built to go nine miles. But for a truck, or something like that, three miles is pretty good.

  RT:

Amazing.

CBB:

Well, after the Philippines, and then you have Tinian, Guam, we had, at Guam we had a strange assignment. Before — we were still up in Saipan working up there, and they sent us down with an underwater demolition team aboard. And what they did, we were all by ourselves, at Guam we went to the beach that they wanted us to go to.

And these underwater demolition team men, they got underwater. And they went to the beach, real close to the land, and trying to find mines, and that kind of thing. But there was — you knew the Japs were allover the place on Guam.

  RT:

On the island?

CBB:

And there were these guys.

  RT:

Just offshore. Those are gutsy guys, and their losses must have been real tough.

CBB:

Yes.

  RT:

Well, okay. Well, let's see. You were — you were during the strike period, and a kamikaze. did hit your ship, right?

CBB:

That's right.

  RT:

And you got wounded?

CBB:

That's right.

  RT:

And that resulted in, what? Four months, you said? Three months in the hospital?

CBB:

No. Four months before the war ended. I was something like seven months in the hospital. And a quick way to get —

  RT:

Why don't you describe that a little bit. What happened? Did a piece of a plane, or a bomb, or what? Did you get burned, or what? If you don't mind.

CBB:

No, it's all right. This is a new destroyer, a different destroyer, that I went to about six months earlier.

  RT:

Had you moved up to the — by then, I suppose?

CBB:

No.

  RT:

Still a lieutenant, senior grade?

CBB:

Yes. We were the picket for the task force, which means you're 40 miles up ahead of the task force. A couple times we'd see Japan, we got that close to it. On one of these runs, four destroyers together .is a picket.

   JT:

Did you say this was a new ship? Another ship?

CBB:

Yes. The USS Kidd. I was exec.

  RT:

So you moved up to executive officer?

CBB:

Yes. And we were, as picket, we fired quite frequently, planes corning down from Japan, and their planes also going to Okinawa. But we were hit at the waterline. Say, this was the ship. We were here — just behind the bridge, this plane hit right at the water's edge there, and went through the ship.

And the bomb blew up on the port side. And the hull was all shot from the starboard side. So we — we took a lot of water. We lost 35 people killed, and something like 75 wounded. It was as high as —

The captain was also hit. And he was immobile. He was on his back, he couldn't — so I took command. I was hit in the leg, in the stomach, and then near my — near my spinal cord. But I could get around.

So I took command. And drove about 30 hours proceeding south, getting out of there, at slow speed. Of all things, I fainted after that, and somebody else had to take command. And then I was operated on on a hospital ship. I don't remember leaving the ship and going to the hospital ship, and all that stuff. And then I began to use a little parade of hospitals. They were afraid of my neck. They were afraid of the —

  RT:

Spinal column?

CBB:

Yes. And there was a lot of internal bleeding in my leg that took time to — and I ended up in the hospital in Philadelphia.

And it was about eight or nine months after being hit that I was considered fit for duty again.

  RT:

The war was over then?

CBB:

Yes. The war was over.

  RT:

You must have been hit very close to the end of the war, then, right? Were there strikes?

CBB:

April. April.

  RT:

And the war ended in August. They gave up in August, right? Signed in September.

CBB:

September?

  RT:

It was early September, I think. The second atom — both atom bombs went off in August.

   JT:

That was the end of the war, in August.

  RT:

Yes. But they didn't sign on the New Jersey, or what was it, the New Jersey wasn't it, came up, and they signed the —

CBB:

Missouri.

  RT:

Missouri, yes. They were sister ships. But, yes, the Missouri came up — Tokyo harbor. Well, you didn't — you said you got close to the Sea of Japan. You seem to be in pretty good shape today. No permanent damage?

CBB:

My personality is —

  RT:

Been damaged severely, right? (Laughter) Excuses. Excuses. Your wife wouldn't go along with that, I suppose.

Tell me, how much did you see Trudy between 1941 and 1945?

CBB:

Not many times at all.

  RT:

Was she in Hawaii, or was she in California?

CBB:

She was in California?

  RT:

San Diego?

CBB:

No. No. San Francisco.

  RT:

San Francisco? Your ship was out of San Francisco?

CBB:

No. No. If we hit San Francisco, we were lucky. We went once to Seattle, and I guess maybe twice to San Francisco.

  RT:

What was your homeport, or didn't that make any difference?

CBB:

Pearl Harbor.

MS. NICKLES:

Did you have any problems having a German wife at that time?

  RT:

That's an interesting question.

CBB:

Yes. Let me tell you. You don't know Trudy, but you've got to meet her. She's — she's so damned honest. It was the year, year and a half later during the war when I got a week's leave, the ship is in port getting some new — so I got a week's leave. This was up in Seattle. And Trudy came up from San Francisco. And we decided to go on our honeymoon. You know honeymoons, how they are.

And to get to the Canadian border, we went by train. We got up to Vancouver. Our target was Victoria, which is a great place. And at the Hotel Vancouver, I was going to go first class.

They had no room, no room in the inn. It was late at night. This poor Trudy, and me. And finally, he said, "Okay. There's a show room you can use." And so, the big hotel, I don't know if you've ever been out there, but there's a big hotel. He said, 'Yes. We'll take you. All right. Follow me. And he opened the door, and there was this tremendous hall, great big thing for — for, you know, businessmen to show their wares, and all that kind of thing. In one corner, there's this double bed. (Laughter)

But the one I wanted to tell you about Trudy being so bloody honest, we were coming back from Canada, and she fell in love with Victoria. I was a great place. We get to the border, and Trudy of course, she was not an American citizen.

  RT:

And she had a German accent, I suppose?

CBB:

No. She had no accent. But when — I told her, I said, "Now, we're going to be stuck at customs. And just sweet talk your way through it." And she said, "Oh, no. I can't do that." And so the inspector came along, and nationality, and Trudy said, "German." Good. Good, it was almost how to spend a week at the border there before getting back in. the States. She wouldn't — she wouldn't budge.

  RT:

And even though she was married to you — did you have evidence of that with you?

CBB:

What, of — ?

  RT:

Of Trudy being your wife? I mean, you didn't have any birth certificate, marriage certificate you carried around with you?

CBB:

No. No. No.

  RT:

So they had reason to be concerned. (Laughter) And the war was still on then, right?

CBB:

Oh, yes. Yes.

  RT:

So you didn't see her, certainly, very often.- You were really gone for about four years, right? Most of four years?

CBB:

Yes.

   JT:

Burt, on Pearl Harbor Day you steamed out of Pearl Harbor. Did you get back soon after that? Or how long was it before you went back to see what had happened?

CBB:

We were about 36 hours out, the next day.

   JT:

So you came back, then? A day or so later?

CBB:

Yes. We were ordered back.

   JT:

What was it like when you went back at that time?

CBB:

Complete devastation.

   JT:

Complete?

CBB:

Oh, it was just depressing. Very depressing.

   JT:

That's descriptive, but give us a little detail.

CBB:

Well, battleship row, they were all on the bottom, or rolled over. You know, a battleship's a big ship. And there was one battleship that tried to get out, the Nevada. And she's hung up on this — on one side of the channel, going out.

Airplanes, Fort Island, where incidentally we lived for a year, or Trudy lived for a year many years later, there was just wrecked airplanes all over the place at Fort Island, which is a Navy airbase.

   JT:

Did you get off the ship and walk around offshore?

CBB:

Just after we got back?

   JT:

Yes.

CBB:

No. We were — we were — everything was thrown aboard us that we had to have, and we got underway, after they fixed our propeller.

   JT:

So you just had a chance to see from the harbor what the damage looked like.

CBB:

And the thing — and actually you want to be — you want to be at sea. You might have other ideas of what you could do while you're ashore, but you know that if you're going to be hit, it's better to be out at sea.

   JT:

When was the next time you were able to get ashore at Pearl after that?

CBB:

Coral Sea. The Coral Sea battle. And we get these orders to rush back up to Pearl Harbor. And we were there, again, about 36 hours.

   JT:

So you didn't get on shore again?

CBB:

No.

   JT:

When did you get on shore?

CBB:

I think it was Dutch Harbor.

  RT:

So that's like almost in —

CBB:

— in Alaska.

  RT:

Were you almost a year —?

   JT:

No. I mean, when were you back on shore to talk to people in Pearl?

CBB:

Oh, good Lord. Dutch Harbor, that's America there. But she wants Pearl Harbor.

   JT:

Yes. I wonder if you had had a chance to talk to people who had gone through it on shore.

CBB:

I would say another month after.

   JT:

Okay. A month later you got on shore on Pearl Harbor?

CBB:

Well, no. It — let me see, when the hell was Coral Sea? We had — I don't remember the dates of Coral Sea and Midway. Midway was in May, wasn't it?

  RT:

I think so.

CBB:

Yes. And Coral Sea was about a month before that. And it took us — we were out there at least three weeks or so before.

   JT:

So maybe six months later you got back?

CBB:

More like four months, I would guess. Four or five months.

   JT:

And what was it like on land at Pearl then?

CBB:

A lot had been done.

   JT:

Things were sort of back to normal, or—?

CBB:

Yes. No. Not normal, but back — a lot had been done.

  RT:

The hulks were still there, a couple of them, right?

CBB:

Oh, yes.

  RT:

The Arizona, of course, was sunk. And what, the Nevada and the (sic) Arizona were terribly, I think, permanently damaged, weren't they? Did they ever to — ?

CBB:

No. The Maryland and the California were terribly hit.

  RT:

Five out of six of them were hit.

CBB:

Right.

  RT:

Now, thank goodness, of course, we didn't have the carriers in Pearl Harbor, or we really would have been in desperate, terrible shape, right?

CBB:

That's right.

  RT:

What — was there — did we luck out? That wasn't strategy, particularly, was it?

CBB:

That was luck.

  RT:

That was luck, right, that they didn't happen to be there, but everything else was there. Because at Pearl Harbor, if they had caught our carriers instead of our battleships —

CBB:

It would have been a different war.

  RT:

It would have been a different war.

   JT:

Well, what I'm leading up to is, had you talked to people, then, I could understand everybody was on a war footing. Everybody was very sensitive to security in that area, I imagine, at that point.

When you and Trudy went back last year to the celebration. Can you tell us something about that?

CBB:

Well, it was — the population was dense. Not stupid. It was just one hell of a lot of people.

 

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