Well, today is December 7 - Pearl Harbor Day. Remember Pearl Harbor!
is the call, or at least it used to be the call. So, they have a
few shows on TV about the history of this day, fewer, it seems, each
year - and, of course, they talk a lot about the USS Arizona.
I started talking to my wife Dot about it and about a guy I used to
work with - Oree Weller - Boeing Customer Engineering in the 10-80 Bldg
in Renton. He was in the crow's nest (actually battery control) -
up on the mast of the Arizona when the ship was struck by bombs and
exploded. It sank beneath him. He was 19 years old.
I remembered all that (very accurately, it turned out), from the
stories he told me - it was back in the 1978 - 80 time period, about 40
years ago. Haven't seen him since.
So - the power of the Internet - while watching a TV show about Pearl Harbor, I looked him up.
Oree had sadly died, it turned out, back in 1993, and is buried in Bellevue.
Oree Cunningham Weller
Birth: Sep. 17, 1922
Death: Sep. 7, 1993
Oree was born 17 September 1922 in Houston, Harris Co., TX.
He died 7 September 1993 in Bellevue, King Co., WA.
He was a Pearl Harbor Survivor (assigned to the USS Arizona).
And then I found a history Oree had written about his time in the Navy
and the events of December 7. Wow - what a find! A terrific
first hand snapshot of a time in history and an historic day. I
wound up reading it, and then a second time out loud to my wife and I
thought others might enjoy it as well. It's quite
spell-binding. He started as a Seaman Second Class and wound up
as a Lt. Cdr.
Remember Pearl Harbor! WELLER, Oree Cunningham
Seaman Second Class on 7 December 1941
by Lieutenant Commander Oree C. Weller, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)
I first saw Pearl Harbor in July 1941 as part of a motley gang of
ten apprentice seamen coming from boot camp at San Diego. We arrived on
board the fleet oiler USS Neosho (AO-23) and made a clockwise circuit
of Ford Island; to starboard was a massive gray ship. Four turrets of
three 14-inch guns each were trained fore and aft. a polished tompion
with a star in the center plugged each of the muzzles. Awnings of
amazing whiteness stretched over the quarterdeck and forecastle. Boats
and launches went to and fro amid sounds of whistles, bugle calls, and
bells. In raised letters on the stern, both port and starboard, I saw
"ARIZONA." In my mind then, were the words, "That's my ship."
Instinctively, I felt a kinship that I have never lost. In her huge but
gracefully shaped bulk was a beauty that was never equaled by any other
Upon berthing of the Neosho we boots went first to the fleet landing
and then got a ride in a 50-foot motor launch with the letters "ARIZ"
on its bow. We watched in awe as the boat crew gunned the engine and
maneuvered out of the slip to head for the Arizona. In retrospect, I
rather suspect that we were deliberately giving a bit of a show of
seamanship; even so, we were properly impressed. The coxswain had his
white hat down upon his brow, a regulation two fingers above the bridge
of his nose. The launch made a neat "two bell" landing ("engine back"
and "engine stop") at the ship's port gangway.
A rag-tag lot we were as we went aboard. The fleet uniform of the day
at that time was tropical undress white, which was low-cut oxford
shoes, black socks, white shorts, skivvy shirts and white hat. We were
in full undress white (with the usual boot camp tailoring), high-topped
black shoes, and neckerchiefs. Boots we were. After negotiating the
accommodation ladder to the port side of the quarterdeck, we were
mustered in. The messenger on watch was delegated to show us to our
My buddy and I were dropped off in an area devoid of anything that
looked remotely habitable. We were standing looking at each other
somewhat expectantly when the messenger returned. When we asked where
our bunk was, he pointed to some hooks attached to the beams in the
overhead and a railing installed on a near bulkhead. The hooks were for
hanging our hammocks, and the railing was to support our seabags. The
"bathroom" (we were still not completely indoctrinated on the nautical
nomenclature) for the first three pay grades was the seaman's head
forward on the main deck.
Cold tap water ran at the long sink and in a nearby cubicle. The tap
water was both fresh and salt water and you soon found out which tap
was which. A jacketed steam line was installed in the cubicle and was
the means to heat water in your bucket.
Soon we were directed to the ship's store, where we bought galvanized
steel buckets. Soon each of us went to go to the boatswain's locker to
get a brass nameplate with our name on it and have it riveted to the
bucket. Next, the bucket had to be shined with bright work polish and
steel wool. From then on, I lived with that bucket, bathed with that
bucket, washed my clothes in that bucket, brushed my teeth and shaved
with that bucket. And when I was done with any of the jobs, the bucket
had better shine brightly before it was secured to the jackstay upon
which the seabags hung.
Pending our final divisional assignment, we learned we were to be
identified as the X division. We would take our meals with various of
the ship's divisions and would find out which division immediately
prior to the meal. As many prewar sailors remember, messing was done in
division living spaces. So if we newcomers didn't find out where a
particular division mess was in time, we missed that meal. Nobody told
us where any other division was located; we were on our own. There was
a method in this madness, however. We learned the ship and we learned
that the traffic patterns were "up and forward on the starboard side"
and "down and aft on the port side."
Of course, we stuck out like sore thumbs with our high-topped shoes and
long white trousers. Those made us dead giveaways as boots, and we had
to take the consequences. As a result we soon borrowed scissors,
needle, and thread. The long whites became short whites, and a bribed
ship's cobbler turned high-tops into low-cut oxfords. Our education was
beginning. Years later, I was taught in a class for Navy instructors
that one learns best by doing. We boots did exactly that.
I was assigned first to the 6th division, whose berthing spaces were
shared with the 5-inch/51 caliber casemate broadside guns. It was here
in the 6th division that I first began to appreciate that the ship
existed primarily as a platform for the guns. amenities for the crew
were always sandwiched in and were to not interfere with the guns. My
own view was that the requirement was right, and nothing in the past 50
years has changed my mind. The ship comes first.
I was transferred after a time to N division, the home of the
quartermasters. One would have thought that I was in hog heaven. Not on
your life. I still didn't have a bunk; I swung my hammock from billet
hooks in the overhead and stowed my seabag on a jackstay with my shined
bucket laced to it. The billet hooks descended into the crew
compartment from the overhead frames; a pair was assigned to each man
with a hammock. The longer of the two in a pair accommodated the foot
of a hammock; the shorter the head. At the call of "Hammocks," around
1900 in the evening, we were permitted to take our hammocks from
stowage (called "nettings") and rig them for sleeping.
Following the chaplain's prayer, we could sack in. Lights went off at 2100, and we could sleep uninterrupted until reveille.
Getting up in the morning was often another thing. While squawk box was
available and used for announcements, passing the word for reveille was
the province of the boatswain's mate. It was always difficult to be
roused from a sound sleep at the ungodly hour of 0530. The strident
call, "All hands on deck, all hands arise, all hands ready to turn to"
echoed through the crew spaces. Woe to those who failed to heed. The
first time a man was called, the second time the master-at-arms swung a
bat (not unlike a cricket bat) and swatted the hammock in the general
region of a man's kidneys. The second time someone had to be called
twice, the MAA flipped his hammock over and dumped him on the deck,
some six or seven feet down. The third time someone needed a repeat
call the MAA sliced his foot lashings.
Each of us needed those foot lashings to lash up the hammock and stow
it in the nettings. Thus the offender went quickly down to the
boatswain's locker and got two fathoms of half-inch line. Those two
fathoms cost him two hours of extra duty, but no matter now; he had a
bigger problem. Quickly, he replaced the slashed foot lashings. He made
an eye splice, trimmed off all of the "Irish pennants," and seized the
splice end neatly. Now he was ready to lash hammock and stow it
properly. If the reluctant riser made it prior to 0700 he was lucky; if
not, he was faced with two more hours of extra duty. All of us soon
learned to get up on time.
Each Friday was set aside for field day, a thorough scrubbing of
everything in sight in preparation for the Saturday morning captain's
inspection. When I was transferred into the N division, I was assigned
to the navigator's yeoman. I could type fairly well and the yeoman saw
a good chance to foist off all the "dog-work" such as typing up the
smooth deck log each day and running around the ship getting the
signatures of the various officers of the deck who had been on watch
the previous day.
The navigator's office was on the boat deck immediately forward of the
smokestack. Insofar as cleanliness was concerned, the navigator's
yeoman was even more meticulous than the 6th division boatswain's mate.
The file drawers had to be removed from the fixed desk and the standing
four-drawer file and the drawer cavities thoroughly scrubbed.
The dogs on the battle ports had to be polished and steel wool used to
shine the grooves in the dog threads. The desk, which was covered with
green linoleum, had to be polished to a high sheen. The deck, covered
in red linoleum, had to be scrubbed and waxed and shined with a heavy
bristle brush on a long handle. This implement weighed about ten
pounds, and swinging it to and fro to bring out the wax shine was
called "swinging the admiral." The face plate of the light switch had
to be buffed to a mirror sheen with Wiz polish and a soft cloth.
You had to be thorough, for if you got a demerit you could forget liberty that Saturday following the inspection.
One Friday that I recall, I was particularly thorough. The file drawers
were removed and I painted the cavities white with paint cadged from
the paint locker. A steam line that ran through the overhead of the
office required my standing on the desk to wipe it clean. The battle
port dogs never shone as brightly. I repainted the solid pane of the
battle port with fresh gray paint. The office was immaculate, and I was
ready for the inspection party. The following morning I was standing
stiffly at attention when the commanding officer, Captain Franklin Van
Valkenburg, (KIA 7 Dec 1941 posthumous CMOH) strode smartly up the boat deck with an
entourage that included his yeoman, the first lieutenant, and the
Saluting smartly, I reported the navigator's office ready for
inspection. Nodding briefly, the captain entered. Looking around
briefly, he jumped up on the desk and ran his white glove the length of
the steam pipe. It came away clean, and I was barely able to hide the
smirk of supreme satisfaction. He examined the file drawer cavities and
complimented the paint job. One more success like that and I would be
in need of a new jumper to contain my swelling chest. Pausing for a
moment, and appearing to be ready to depart, the Captain noted the
switch for the small oscillating fan mounted on the bulkhead above the
door. He reached over and switched the fan off. When the blades spun to
a stop, he saw a thick fringe of greasy dust on the leading edge of
each dirty and corrosion-covered brass blade. The yeoman quickly noted
the discrepancy, and I forgot about liberty.
Liberty in Honolulu in those days of the summer of 1941 was fair, but
not all that attractive. Once you had seen Waikiki, and paraded up and
down Hotel Street, all that was left was North Beretania Street. Even
that could pall in time. The Army-Navy YMCA was at one end of Hotel
Street, and Wo-Fat's bar was at the other. In between was a mélange of
bars, tattoo parlors, naval tailors, locker clubs and assorted other
establishments. On any given day, Hotel Street was filled with Navy
white, interspersed with spots of Army olive drab and Marine green. The
ebb and flow of the crowds was as predictable as the waves at Waikiki.
Pockets of white hats would be gathered at the entrance to a tailor
shop next to the Alexander Young Hotel. An Asian girl, yelling "Hot
Doggie Doggie!" would be dispensing hot dogs at ten cents a crack. Down
the street and in an alley was ten-cent beer, and 25-cent hard liquor
drinks could be had at the Log Cabin.
Around the corner from Wo-Fat's were the brothels. Wo-Fat's provided
the liquid courage for the younger sailors to make this necessary rite
of passage to become full-fledged sailors of the United States Fleet.
The most famous among these establishments was the New Senator Hotel;
all of these places catered to the more casual physical wants of the
more experienced and obviously older sailors of the fleet.
The fee was $3.00 and the experience was almost guaranteed to last less
than five minutes. The girls were professionals sent out from the
mainland and could "turn a trick" in a flat three minutes. Many of them
worked four rooms simultaneously. In one room the "customer" would be
undressing, in the second room another man would be in the bed, in the
third room one would be re-dressing, and in the fourth the maid would
be tidying up and laying out fresh towels.
In those months prior to 7 December we went on condition watches while
under way. At some point during each deployment we exercised at general
quarters. In October we were engaged in exercises as part of the
Battleship Division One when the Oklahoma (BB-37) plunged her bow into
the port side of the Arizona. The garbage bins were hung there and when
the Oklahoma hit, there was garbage all over the place. She had a
ram-shaped bow that did a neat job of slicing Arizona's hull open below
the waterline. The damaged compartments were quickly sealed off and a
collision mat positioned over the hole in the outside hull. One would
have thought that we would have been dispatched immediately to the
Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for repairs. Instead we were directed to remain
and operate for another three days. When we were released and headed
for port, the dry dock at the head of Ten-Ten Dock was open and ready
for us. We were repaired quickly. Somebody knew something but wasn't
We deployed to sea for the last time, as it developed, on Monday, 1
December. We exercised, as usual, at various drills and saw nothing
untoward, nor were the rumors any more rampant than usual. We did
carry, however, anti-aircraft ammunition in the ready boxes at each gun
mount during that deployment. The ammunition was struck below to the
magazines as we entered port on the following Friday, 5 December. As
usual, we held field day. The decks were holystoned, the bright work
polished, including the dogs on the hatches to the ammunition ready
lockers. I even shined the blades of my fan and wiped down my steam
pipe. A little paint touch-up here and there, and I was ready. Since my
section had the duty on Friday, I busied myself getting my inspection
uniform ready, including a spit shine on my shoes. Satisfied, I went to
the movies that night on the fantail.
Following breakfast on Saturday, we prepared for inspection. I checked
the navigator's office thoroughly. I heard a strange noise and looked
up. Coming through the overhead was a spinning drill bit that was
dislodging crumbs of the cork lining of the overhead. To my horror,
after the drill was withdrawn, red-lead paint began to drip steadily
onto the desk. I threw a cloth rag on the desk to catch the drippings
and dashed up to the signal bridge above the office. Crews from the
Vestal (AR-4), a repair ship that was moored alongside, had come aboard
and were building a shack-like compartment on the after end of the
It was intended to house radar equipment that would be installed during
our upcoming overhaul on the West Coast. I raised as much of a ruckus
as I could and pleaded with the workers to hold off the red lead until
after the inspection. Repair ship workers were always amenable to
knocking off work and agreed. I ran back below, cleaned up the mess,
gave the desktop another quick polishing, and was ready for the
skipper. I got a passing mark and was rewarded with my liberty card.
While ashore I had a hamburger, did some Christmas shopping, had a few
beers, and wandered here and there. When I eventually got back aboard
ship, I went below and rigged my hammock for the night.
Sunday morning was clear and bright with few, if any clouds; there was
little or no breeze. Since mail had arrived from the States the day
before, I quickly finished breakfast in our below decks compartment and
went up to the navigator's office. I had just started to read the first
of two letters when I heard the air-raid alarm. "What the devil?" I
thought and went out onto the boat deck.
Suddenly, from over the submarine base diving tower and flying very low
above the intervening water, a plane zoomed over the Nevada, which was
moored at quays astern of us. The plane was so low that I could see the
pilot's head above the red circle of the rising sun painted on the
fuselage. Someone called, "Hey, it's the real thing; it's the Japs." We
soon heard the general quarters alarm, and all hands scrambled toward
their battle stations. Bombs and torpedoes began to drop. I went back
to the navigator's office and secured the battle ports, then headed for
I climbed the port-leg ladder of the tripod mast. I reached the
searchlight platform as the first bombs began to hit the Arizona. I was
somewhat numbed by the explosions. Instinctively, I guess, I continued
up to the secondary battery control, which was the control center for
the 5-inch broadside guns. In this action, they were useless since
there were no enemy ships to fire at. I donned my sound-powered phones
and attempted to contact the bridge or the conning tower.
About this time the whole forward part of the ship exploded. The
concussion threw all of us, some seven or eight marines and myself, to
the deck. The mainmast vibrated as though undergoing an earthquake.
Flames burst through the smoke as the ammunition in the magazines
continued to explode and fuel oil from ruptured tanks ignited. The
noise of the ammunition explosions and the fuel fires was deafening. I
continued to try to make contact with the bridge or any other stations
on my phone circuit with no success. There was no way to tell anyone
that we were "out of business" in the mainmast and no way to get
permission to leave our station. Since it was obvious that we could do
nothing where we were, we decided to go below. There was no consensus
decision; each of us decided individually. I carefully removed my head
phones, disconnected the phone wire from the jack, coiled the wire,
stowed the phone and headset in the proper stowage box and began to
When we emerged from the boxy structure at the top of the mainmast and
onto the platform that led to the mast's supporting legs, we were
immediately confronted with the devastation forward. As I stared around
in awe at the destruction, I noticed the smokestack. My cleaning
station included a portion of the stack just outside the navigator's
office. My first thought was "My God, we're going to have to scrape and
paint it." There have been persistent rumors that the Japanese dropped
a bomb down the stack. However, there were gratings across the stack
throat that were subsequently found undamaged. There was no bomb down
I descended to the boat deck and found everything in flames, then
jumped to the starboard quarterdeck. Lieutenant Commander Samuel G.
Fuqua, the ship's first lieutenant, (CMOH), was there and some men were trying
to extinguish some of the fires with little success. At one point, we
had to take cover beneath the overhang of number three turret to escape
machine-gun strafing. There were many men, some burned beyond
recognition, lying on the quarterdeck. We tried to make them as
comfortable as possible, which wasn't much.
One of those shipmates was Charles Brittan, a fellow boot camp sailor
with whom I had traveled from San Pedro to Pearl. His eyes were burned
and he could neither see nor speak. I recognized him only because of a
small tattoo, no larger than a 50-cent piece, on his right shoulder; it
was a picture of a bird in flight. He was burned all over his body so
severely that he died before he could be put aboard the motor launch
from the hospital ship Solace (AH-5), which was by now alongside on the
We tried to remove the cork life rafts that were hanging from the
barbettes of turrets three and four. The hole pins were tightly in
place and frozen from removal by coat after coat of peacetime paint. A
50-foot motor launch from the Solace was tied up to our starboard
quarter, and pharmacist's mates were busily loading the burned and
wounded men into the launch.
With no water pressure, no way to fight the ship, no useable life
rafts, and not knowing the conditions below decks, we concluded that
there was little reason to remain. I followed the order from the turret
three officer, Ensign Jim Miller, to abandon ship. I removed my shoes
and socks and placed them together. With my white hat lying on top of
them, I carefully slid them beneath an ammunition ready box and then I
went over the starboard side and into the fuel-covered water.
My intention was to swim to the officer's club landing on Ford Island,
some 150 yards away. I swam underwater for awhile, until I had to come
up for air. When I came to the surface and saw the rapidly approaching
flames from the burning oil, I gulped a lungful of air and went down
again. I swam as long as I could in the direction that I hoped led to
the O-Club dock, but by now I was really afraid that I wasn't going to
The second time I came up, I stayed up. The thick layer of fuel oil
made swimming difficult and the difference in my swimming speed and
that of the advancing flames was rapidly approaching zero. I was losing
ground. I happened to look to my right side; a white launch, the hull
of which was covered with oil, was approaching me. It was another
Solace 50-foot launch, and as it slowly swung by me, someone extended a
boat hook. I grabbed it and hung on while several hands pulled me
aboard. The coxswain offered me the sleeve of his white jumper to wipe
the oil from my mouth and another launch crewman, a pharmacist's mate,
handed me a wad of gauze for my eyes. I wasn't hurt or burned; I was
just covered with fuel oil from head to foot. I was scared, and I was
numb. Obviously, however, I was relieved. I sat on the thwart of the
launch and breathed heavily. I had been saved on a day when many others
With Pearl Harbor, an era in the Navy came to an end. The Navy and Navy
life would never be the same. The pomp and ceremony, the casual life
beneath white awnings on the quarterdeck, the bugle calls and
boatswain's calls for passing orders, the striking of the bells of the
watch - all were either gone or much less important after that one day
in December. There is still some pomp, and now and then you can find a
boatswain's mate who knows how to make a fancy line work and
"McNamara's lace," but they are few and far between. Much is the loss
of this fine period when a Navy man was a sailor man first and a
Submitted by Russell J. McCurdy
Information researched and compiled by I. B. Nease and N. A. Nease and provided on USSARIZONA.ORG free of charge.
May not be reprinted in any form, other than educational use, without prior written permission of the author. Notes
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration
presented by the United States government to a member of its armed
For their actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 15 sailors in the
U.S. Navy (from seven ships and one Naval Air Station) were awarded the
Medal of Honor. A 16th Medal of Honor was awarded to a Marine for
an encounter that day, at a Naval Air Station on Sand Island in the
Hawaiian Islands. The 16 recipients held a wide range of ranks,
from seaman to rear admiral. Eleven (69%) received their awards
Oree Weller mentions several
and I researched their histories.
Captain Franklin Van
Capt. Van Valkenburg was the commanding officer of the Arizona,
and was the man who found the dirty blades on the fan in the
Navigator's office after Oree presented the space for inspection. On
December 4, the battleship Arizona went to sea in company with USS
Nevada (BB-36) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) for night surface practice and,
after conducting these gunnery exercises, returned to Pearl Harbor
independently on the 6th to moor at berth F-7 alongside Ford Island.
Both Captain Van Valkenburgh and the embarked division commander, Rear
Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, spent the next Saturday evening, December 6, on
board. Suddenly, shortly before 08:00 on December 7, Japanese planes
initiated their attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Van Valkenburgh ran
from his cabin and arrived on the navigation bridge, where he
immediately began to direct his ship's defense. A quartermaster in the
pilot house asked if the captain wanted to go to the conning tower—a
less-exposed position in view of the Japanese strafing—but Captain Van
Valkenburgh adamantly refused and continued to man a telephone.
A violent explosion suddenly shook the ship, throwing the three
occupants of the bridge—Captain Van Valkenburgh, an ensign, and the
quartermaster, to the deck, and blowing out all of the bridge windows
completely. The ensign managed to escape, but Captain Van Valkenburgh
and the quartermaster were never seen again. A continuing fire, fed by
ammunition and oil, raged for two days until finally being extinguished
on December 9. Despite a thorough search, Captain Van Valkenburgh's
body was never found; all that was ever retrieved was his Annapolis
Captain Van Valkenburgh posthumously received the Medal of Honor — the citation reading:
Medal of Honor Citation:
For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete
disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl
Harbor T.H., by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As commanding
officer of the U.S.S. Arizona, Capt. Van Valkenburgh gallantly fought
his ship until the U.S.S. Arizona blew up from magazine explosions and
a direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life.
In 1943, the destroyer USS Van Valkenburgh (DD-656) was named in his honor.
Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd
During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Rear
Admiral Kidd was the Commander of Battleship Division One and the Chief
of Staff and Aide to the Commander, Battleship Battle Force. At his
first knowledge of the attack, he rushed to the bridge of USS Arizona,
his flagship, and "courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer
Present Afloat until Arizona blew up from a magazine explosion and a
direct bomb hit on the bridge which resulted in the loss of his life."
Admiral Kidd's body was never recovered and to this day he is
considered missing in action. U.S. Navy salvage divers located his
Naval Academy ring fused to a bulkhead on Arizona's bridge. A trunk
containing his personal memorabilia was found in the wreck and sent to
his widow. Rediscovered in the attic by his children, both the
trunk and its contents are now displayed in the museum at the USS
Admiral Kidd posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor citation:
For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and
complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in
Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese Forces on December 7,
1941. He immediately went to the bridge and as Commander Battleship
Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer
Present Afloat until the USS Arizona, his Flagship, blew up from
magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge, which resulted
in the loss of his life.
A Fletcher-class destroyer, Kidd (DD-661), was commissioned in his
honor on April 23, 1943. The second ship named after him, Kidd
(DDG-993), lead ship of four Kidd-class destroyers, was commissioned on
March 27, 1981. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, Kidd
(DDG-100), was the third ship named after him and was commissioned on
June 9, 2007.
Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua
Samuel Glenn Fuqua (October 15, 1899 – January 27, 1987) was
a United States Navy rear admiral and a recipient of America's highest
military decoration — the Medal of Honor — for his actions in World War
II during the attack on Pearl Harbor.He led crews fighting fires on board the Arizona.
Samuel was born October 15, 1899, a
native of Laddonia, Missouri and entered the United States Naval
Academy in July 1919, after a year at the University of Missouri and
World War I service in the Army. He retired from active
duty in July 1953, receiving at that time the rank of rear admiral on
the basis of his combat awards. He died January 27, 1987, in
Decatur, Georgia, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in
Arlington, Virginia. His grave can be found in section 59, lot
Medal of Honor citation:
For distinguished conduct in action, outstanding heroism, and utter
disregard of his own safety, above and beyond the call of duty during
the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7
December 1941. Upon the commencement of the attack, Lieutenant
Commander Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. Arizona to
which he was attached where he was stunned and knocked down by the
explosion of a large bomb which hit the quarterdeck, penetrated several
decks, and started a severe fire. Upon regaining consciousness, he
began to direct the fighting of the fire and the rescue of wounded and
injured personnel. Almost immediately there was a tremendous explosion
forward, which made the ship appear to rise out of the water, shudder
and settle down by the bow rapidly. The whole forward part of the ship
was enveloped in flames which were spreading rapidly, and wounded and
burned men were pouring out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite
these conditions, his harrowing experience, and severe enemy bombing
and strafing, at the time, Lieutenant Commander Fuqua continued to
direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded
and burned could be taken from the ship, and supervised the rescue of
these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such
excellent judgement, that it inspired everyone who saw him and
undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives. After realizing that
the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving
officer aboard, he directed that it be abandoned, but continued to
remain on the quarterdeck and directed abandoning ship and rescue of
personnel until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been
saved, after which he left the ship with the (last) boatload. The
conduct of Lieutenant Commander Fuqua was not only in keeping with the
highest traditions of the Naval Service but characterizes him as an
outstanding leader of men.
Seaman Second Class Charles Brittan
Charles was Oree's shipmate and fellow boot; Oree found
him during the carnage and recognized him from a small tattoo on his
shoulder. He died before he could be evacuated, and subsequently,
his body was never recovered; his brother Thomas
Alonzo Britton served with the US Marines on the battleship USS Nevada
and was also killed during the December 7th attack at Pearl Harbor. Like his brother Charles, Thomas' body was never found.(Details).
Ensign Jim Miller
Jim Dick Miller, an ensign aboard the battleship Arizona
who ordered Oree to abandon ship, was one of the last men to leave the
crippled vessel and received the Navy Cross for valor during and after
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, has died. Mr. Miller died at
his home in Coronado, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2000. He was 82.
In a naval career that lasted more than 30 years, Mr. Miller retired as
a captain, the highest rank held by any Arizona survivor. His voice is
still heard in the recorded narrative at Honolulu's Arizona Memorial.
Mr. Miller attended Navy submarine school after Pearl Harbor and, after
graduating in June 1942, was stationed on the Sargo-class submarine
Spearfish, first as chief engineer, then executive officer and finally
commanding officer. That submarine sank 26 ships in the Pacific. Mr.
Miller was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.
After the war, he took on a variety of assignments including a 1946
Arctic expedition, commanding officer of the Razorback, a Balao-class
submarine; and command of submarine divisions in San Diego and then
Pearl Harbor. He commanded the submarine tender Bushnell, based in
Florida during the Cuban missile crisis, and served on the staff of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His final duty post was as commander of
the Gulf sub-area of the Military Sea Transportation Service based in
But Mr. Miller would always be linked to the Arizona. His voice
dramatically recalls memories of that fateful Sunday morning sneak
attack on Dec. 7, 1941, in the narration at the Arizona Memorial in
In 1991, he appeared with NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw on a special
program marking the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack. In an
interview that year with Maclean's, Canada's weekly newsmagazine, Mr.
Miller offered a vivid recollection of the attack:
"I ordered my men out of the (gun) turret to fight the fires and take
care of the injured," he recalled. "The whole forward part of the ship
was burning. I remember the ship's cook walking out through the wall of
flames saying, 'Help me, help me.' He was on fire, but he was still on
his feet. I helped to get him in a boat. Those who were on their feet
and injured, it was from the tremendous fire or shrapnel. It is all
vivid in my mind."
"I did not see any of the attacking planes. The noise must have been
terrific, yet the noise is not pressed into my mind. I recall walking
down the deck, and some machine-gun bullets were digging in the wood
right alongside me. They must have come from a plane passing over. The
bullets were hitting the deck about two or three feet away from me. But
in that condition, you really don't worry -- the surprise aspect of the
thing is most vivid."
Mr. Miller was in the last boatload that left the Arizona, which sank
that day. 1,177 lives were lost on the Arizona in the attack, with 1102
men still aboard.
2020 Robert Bogash. All Rights Reserved.