I am posting this in honor of my Uncle “Gus” (Gordon Gustafson) this Veteran’s Day 2012, who survived the bombing at Pearl Harbor on the battleship Tennessee, next to the Battleship Arizona. This was sent to me by my cousin, Grace Gustafson Harding.
The story of my Dad written up in Hawaii…….
“‘General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations,’ interrupted the prayer meeting my buddy Vendrick and I were having on the third deck of the Battleship Tennessee, prior to attending divine services on the quarter deck. We thought it was a strange time for a drill until the second frantic call to general quarters was interrupted by the first bomb blast that hit our ship. The time was about 0800 hours.
“Wide-eyed we ran for our battle stations. I remember saying to Vendrick, ‘If I don’t see you down here, I will up there.’ There was another thud or blast as I headed for my damage-control battle station on the starboard side of the third deck. We were dogging down the hatches when they were opened from the other side so they could carry the first casualty through on a stretcher. Now things were getting more real.
“Then they passed the word, ‘Engineer of Number 2 Motor Launch, man your boat on the double!’ That was me, so I headed up the ladder for topside where flames and smoke from the Arizona (right behind us) greeted me. I ran to the boom and rope ladder where 2 Motor Launch lay in flames of burning oil from the Arizona. It would have been suicide to carry out that order.
“Choking in smoke, I ran back to my battle station via my locker, where I grabbed all my T-shirts to use as bandages, or possibly filters, to help our breathing. From there on, it was fighting fire and carrying ammunition until the second attack was over at about 10:00 a.m. We prayed that they would not come back for a third attack and take over the Island.
“The Tennessee took two direct armor-piercing bomb hits, but remained the only battleship afloat apart from the Pennsylvania in drydock. The reason we didn’t blow up like the Arizona, might be the fact that our catapult (located on top of Number 3 Turret) for launching reconnaissance sea planes, was turned at an oblique angle to facilitate room for the planned chapel services. The armor-piercing bomb hit the catapult and exploded, rather than possibly penetrating the magazine below, loaded with powder kegs for the turret …
“This might be the reason I’m still around to celebrate the 60th anniversary after 50 years of missionary service.'”
– Gordon Gustafson, 80, Bradenton, Fla., retired missionary, Cadence International