Pearl Harbor – December 4-7, 1941
By Vincent L. Anderson
On this date I had the 2000 to 2400 hours duty as orderly for the Executive Officer, Cdr. W. M. Dillon. The Corporal of the Guard posted me on duty at 2000 hours at the Executive Officers quarters and I reported in to Cdr. Dillon and took my position in the hallway outside his quarters that had a small table and telephone.
About 2030 hours I received a call from the Officer of the Deck, Ensign E. M. Price, that there was a communication man from Ford Island with a secret dispatch for the senior officer afloat and as the Captain was ashore would I come down to the Quarter Deck and bring the communication man to the Executive Officer to accept the dispatch. I first notified Cdr. Dillon who was in his quarters reading and then went and brought the communication man to the Executive Officer, who signed for the dispatch. I then took the communication man back to the Quarter Deck.
When I returned to the Executive Officer’s quarters, Cdr. Dillon handed me a sheet of paper with the names of each of the Division Officers and asked me to find them and have them report to his quarters immediately. I found the Division Officers and informed them that the Executive Officer wanted to see them immediately and they were with Cdr. Dillon when I was relieved at 2400 hours. I never learned what the secret dispatch said. However, the following morning, Friday, December 5, 1941, at 0445 hours preparations were started to get us underway and at 0728 the Lexington got underway and left Pearl Harbor. And at 0940 hours the Lexington landed eighteen VSB planes of Marine Scouting Squadron 321, and at 1103 hours started landing her own air group. Then we found out we were to deliver this Marine Scouting Squadron to Midway Island.
The Lexington crew had no prior warning that we were going to leave Pearl Harbor on Friday, December 5, 1941. However, the only other aircraft carrier in the Hawaiian area at this time was the U.S.S. Enterprise which had left Pearl Harbor on Friday, November 28, 1941, to deliver the Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-211 to Wake Island, and was returning to Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, shortly following the Japanese attack.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, I had the 0800 to 1200 hours duty as Orderly for the Executive Officer, Cdr. W. M. Dillon, and was posted on duty on the open bridge. At that time the Lexington operating with Task Force 12, was set in condition of readiness III in the anti-aircraft batteries and damage control. Cdr. W. M. Dillon and the ship’s captain, Frederick Carl Sherman were together awaiting our morning flight patrol to take off. At approximately 0815 a ships communications man approached and gave me a dispatch from, “CINCPAC to All U.S. Navy Ships Present Hawaiian Area,” that read, “AIRRAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NO DRILL”. I immediately took the dispatch to Capt. Sherman, who read and showed it to Cdr. Dillon. Capt. Sherman immediately went into the closed bridge and over the ship’s loudspeakers informed the entire crew we were now at war with Japan. General Quarters was sounded immediately and I was relied and immediately reported to my General Quarters station as a loader on Gun 6 (a 5″ 25 cal. AA Gun).
Now For the Rest of the Story:
In 2001 I came in contact, through the U.S.S. Lexington CV-2 Minutemen Club, with Capt. James B. Johnson, USN (Ret.), a U.S.S. Lexington CV-2 Coral Sea Battle Survivor. He served aboard the Lexington as an Ensign in 1941 and 1942 in the Communication & Intelligence Division. We corresponded both by telephone and email, initially about the search for Amelia Earhart of which we both had some interest and both had done some research. When we discussed our respective duties aboard the Lexington I told him of my December 4, 1941, duty as orderly for Cdr. Dillon and the secret dispatch and as he was a Communication & Intelligence officer on the ship I asked if he had seen the dispatch. He told me he had not seen it but, on the early morning of Friday, December 5, 1941 the Communication & Intelligence Division Officer, Lieut. Comdr. W. Terry, met with all his officers, including Ensign James B. Johnson, and told them that before they would return to Pearl Harbor they would be at War with Japan, but he did not elaborate he just made this comment as a statement of fact.
Another side light of my conversations with Capt. James B. Johnson was what he told me about the day, February 20, 1942, when Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, shot down five of nine Japanese bombers that were attacking the Lexington near Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands Area. I had told him I saw O’Hare shoot down all five as our antiaircraft Gun Battery four was on the port side and the attack was on the starboard aft and we could not fire. He told me that at that time he was an observer on the flight bridge and when O’Hare landed after shooting down the five Japanese bombers, O’Hare told his plane captain James Shinn AMM3c, to refuel and rearm his plane immediately as he wanted to get back in the air. The Air Officer on the flight bridge then told his talker to notify O’Hare he had done enough for one day and when O’Hare was told he shook his fist at the Air Officer.
And Yet another Story:
In June 1951, then Lt. Cdr. James B. Johnston was the Civil Administrator of the Northern Mariana Islands and on June 30, 1951 he accepted the Last Japanese Surrender of World War II on Anatahan Island.
Lieut. Cdr. Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare became the Navy’s first flying ace when he single-handedly attacked a formation of nine heavy bombers approaching his aircraft carrier on Feb. 20, 1942. Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he managed to shoot down or damage several enemy bombers. On April 21, 1942, he became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II.
O’Hare’s final action took place on the night of Nov. 26, 1943, while he was leading the U.S. Navy’s first-ever nighttime fighter attack launched from an aircraft carrier. During this encounter with a group of Japanese torpedo bombers, O’Hare’s Grumman F6F Hellcat was shot down; his aircraft was never found. In 1945, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS O’Hare (DD-889) was named in his honor.
A few years later, Col. Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, suggested that the name of Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport be changed as a tribute to Butch O’Hare. On September 19, 1949, the Chicago, Illinois airport was renamed O’Hare International Airport to honor O’Hare’s bravery.