- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 23:27
- Published: Thursday, 22 May 2003 00:00
On the next night, Falge was told by a pilot friend from the USS Enterprise that "something" funny was going on, because a load of Army and Marine planes were on the "Big E..." The Arizona and the Enterprise left port December 1 for their weekly maneuvers, like they did every Monday, but the Enterprise and its two destroyers escorts instead headed west for Wake Island. The Arizona began performing maneuvers of its own, then received a radio report saying there was a Japanese sub in the area.
"The captain ordered full speed and followed a zigzag course to evade the sub," Falge said. The next day, however, the ship received a message belaying the submarine report."
On Thursday, Dec. 4, the Arizona's gunnery officer reported a submarine sighting, had his five inch guns trained on it and asked permission from the captain to fire. Adm. Isaac Kidd, embarked on the Arizona at the time, and the captain denied permission, based on, Falges' belief in the ongoing negotiations between Japan and the U.S. in Washington.
"Later on, I asked the lieutenant what he saw," said Falge. "He said he was never so sure of seeing a Japanese sub in all his life."
The Arizona returned to port on Friday, and on Saturday, the captain had the customary inspections. Kidd spoke to the crew following the inspection, saying that the ship was headed stateside for overhaul. "That proved he wasn?t knowledgeable of a serious war threat," said Falge.
On December 7, Falge and his family went to church. Then the world turned upside down for the Lieutenant as Japanese warplanes suddenly attacked the island base and destroyed much of the fleet there.
Falge arrived at the harbor at about 8:45 a.m. The Arizona was already on the bottom, still at its moorings, and the second wave of bombers were overhead. All he could do was commandeer a boat and pick up survivors from nearby Ford Island.
"The damage was terrible, unbelievable," Falge said. "I never thought it could happen."
"That night, some of us went to the Tennessee and fought fires adjacent to the Arizona," he continued. Falge was also at Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. In April 1945, Falge returned to the States and worked in Washington for the remainder of the war. He separated in September 1945 and currently resides in Carmel, Calif. Looking back at the war, Falge believes it couldn't have ended any other way. It could have taken years to defeat the Japanese with invasion of the main land," he said.
When asked what the most profound effect of the war was, the retired captain sat silently, reflecting on the terrible time five decades ago. After much thought, he could only say it was exciting, unable to find the right words to describe his feelings.
He did, however, pass on advice to today's tomorrow's leaders. "Keep your powder dry. The nuclear threat is constantly present and could even get worse, as little people like Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Libyan Col. Mohmmar Quaddafi consider their power as pre-eminent."