The first casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor happened a couple of hours before the Imperial Japanese Navy launched their surprise assault. The US Navy destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) fired on a Japanese midget submarine, killing the two sailors inside.
The First American Casualty of Pearl Harbor
On the American side, the first loss of life would happen at approximately 0755, just seconds after Japanese pilots started firing on the unsuspecting naval base. According to researchers, 17-year-old Warren McCutcheon, serving aboard USS Maryland (BB-46), was shot by an enemy gunner. The bullet pierced his heart, killing him instantly.
Warren McCutcheon was among the youngest servicemen caught up in the devastating attack. According to witnesses, McCutcheon was hit by strafing machine gun fire from a Japanese torpedo bomber in the first wave of the attack. The bomber was heading toward USS Oklahoma (BB-37), which was moored outboard of USS Maryland. McCutcheon had responded to the call to General Quarters and was stationed at a machine gun when he was struck by Japanese fire. The young sailor was hit and killed within 30 seconds of the start of the attack.
A Hometown Honors Its Fallen Son
Warren McCutcheon grew up in Gridley, CA and was still in his first year of service at the time of the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. At the time of his death, the young sailor held the rank of Seaman Second Class aboard USS Maryland. Though his service to the nation was short lived, in 1996 friends, family, and fellow service members gathered in his hometown to honor him with a 9-foot tall monument.
To help fund the memorial, residents of Gridley and the surrounding farm communities raised more than $15,000 to erect the granite monument, 2 50-foot flag poles, 6 25-foot poles, and landscaping around the site. The monument bears the inscription, “He had no warning – he had no chance,” words that chillingly describe his final moments.
More than 2,400 people were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. USS Maryland, moored along Battleship Row on Ford Island, suffered four deaths, including McCutcheon and another sailor, as well as two officers.
For his service, Warren McCutcheon was awarded a Purple Heart, a Combat Action Ribbon, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, a Distinguished Unit Citation, a Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the Navy Expeditionary Medal.