A Story of Survival (Remembering All Who Served)
Robert R. Sellers, Seaman 2/C
U.S.S. Honolulu (CL-48), Dec. 7, 1941
I reported aboard the USS Honolulu April 16th 1941 and was assigned to the 1st Div. That manned and maintained the forward three turrets. They were 6 in.47 caliber guns that were designed for surface action. They were not anti aircraft guns. On the morning of Dec. 7th1941 we were tied up in the navy yard port side to the dock at the first finger pier across from the submarine base with the USS St. Louis tied to our starboard side and I was a mess cook at the time. A mess cook does not cook but sets up the tables for the meals being served and assists the ship cooks at the steam tables. He also cleans up the mess deck afterwards. On this morning we were almost finished with breakfast when people started running aft through the mess hall yelling Japanese planes were bombing us. At that point we heard the explosions and gun fire and at the same moment the general alarm sounded. The word was passed to go to your battle stations, mine was on the shell deck of the #2 turret.
When I arrived at my battle station I put on the sound powered head phones. I was the phone talker and could talk to the turret officer and the turret captain and also to the powder handling room. In the gun chamber where the turret officer was located they had a periscope through the top of the turret and could see what was going on around us so they were passing the word to us about what was going on outside telling us about the battleships being hit and sunk and on fire so that didn’t do much for our nerves. Someone brought the Sunday comic section when they came to General Quarters I tried to look at it. I must have picked it up and set it down at least a dozen times. Finally I gave up. Then we received the word to secure everyone but the phone talker and go to top side and handle the lines for the St. Louis, they had power and were going to get under way. Our engine rooms were down and we were unable to get under way. So I was left alone on the shell deck and then the phone went dead and then I was really alone. I knew there wasn’t any reason for me to even be there but no one gave me permission to leave.
There was a couple lulls from the noise for awhile. I sat down on the deck with my head under the shell tray for what reason I don’t know but all at once there was one big explosion and the ship went up and down. I didn’t think it would ever settle down. I did not know what had happened until later. A 250# armor piercing bomb from a dive bomber that missed the ship by 15 ft. and went through 141/2 inches of concrete of the dock and exploded underneath. There was no one killed but it caused a lot of damage to the hull and magazine handling room was leaking a bit. The bomb hit at frame 40 abreast the #2 turret. We were all very lucky that it wasn’t closer to the ship. I left the shell deck about noon. I never did get permission to leave.
When I got on top side it was a very sickening sight to see all the damage and fires over on battleship row.It is believed that we shot down one plane. During the attack the Honolulu expended 250 rounds of 5 in. ammo. 4500 rounds of fifty caliber and 2800 rounds of 30 caliber. We entered dry dock Dec. 13th to repair the damage and left Pearl Harbor Jan. 2nd convoying some ships back to San Francisco and on Jan.30th 1942 we left San Francisco to escort the first American troops to Australia.
During the war the USS Honolulu earned 9 battle stars in the S. and S. W. Pacific,1 star for Pearl Harbor in the American defense, 1 star Philippine Liberation medal and a Philippine Presidential unit citation and the Navy Unit commendation ribbon. The Honolulu sunk one cruiser ,four destroyers and four planes and bombarded eight different Islands. The Honolulu was torpedoed three times. The first time we lost eighty feet of our bow and we were torpedoed again the first day of the landing at Leyte , P.I. The Honolulu in the first year and a half of World War 11 had developed an interesting reputation. Through some turn of fate, the ships directly astern of her habitually suffered from enemy action. The Northampton, Achilies, Helena and H.M.S. Leander were all either damaged or sunk while steaming in the number two position, by receiving a direct hit. Also a number of firsts can be chalked up on the Blue Goose’s record. She made the first trip to Melbourne after December 7th; was in the first bombardment of Kiska; covered for the first American landings in Alaska; and fought in the first night battle using radar exclusively to control firing. I was aboard from April l941 to March 1946. She was mothballed in Philadelphia, Pa. And put in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet 1947 and was scrapped at Sparrow Point,Md. August 19,l960.
“By perseverance, study, and eternal desire, any man can become great.”
-GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON, JR.