There’s really only one way to truly get the most information and best understanding of an event, and that’s to have been there, on the inside, as it unfolded. While the attack on Pearl Harbor happened over 75 years ago and most of the men who survived it to tell the story have since passed away, there are still first-hand accounts providing an opportunity to dig deeper into the history of December 7th, 1941.
Deck logs of US Navy ships have surfaced, reporting the events of that morning from the first sighting of Japanese craft. The logs of the USS Maryland, USS Solace, and USS Conyngham have been covered previously, which leaves the detailed logs of the USS Vestal and USS Dale, two lesser-known ships that survived the events of Pearl Harbor.
USS Vestal (AR-4)
A repair ship during World War II, the USS Vestal survived the attack on the Pearl Harbor but she did suffer serious damage. As the Japanese fighters and bombers flew in, the Vestal suffered multiple bomb strikes. To avoid sinking to the bottom of the harbor, the captain of the Vestal, Commander Cassin Young, ordered the beaching of the ship at Aiea Bay.
The logs of the USS Vestal confirm the time of the aerial attack, with the first bomb striking landing at 0805 on her port side. At about the same time, the Vestal opened fire on incoming Japanese fighters and bombers.
USS Dale (DD-353)
A Farragut-class destroyer, the USS Dale played a vital role during World War II, earning 14 battle stars by the time Japan surrendered and the war ended. The logs retrieved from the USS Dale report the start of the attack and her moving out of the harbor to patrol the entrance.
The logs of the Dale detail information about Japanese submarines, including one spotted near the USS Curtiss at 0844. The Dale fired her 50-caliber machine gun battery on incoming fighters. The acting commanding officer of the Dale, Ensign F. M. Radel, confirmed the downing of one Japanese plane, and several others reported two additional kills.
The key to completely understanding the events of Pearl Harbor and how the two-hour attack unfolded lies within historic documents such as these logs, which provide details that aren’t widely known.