- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 23:27
- Published: Thursday, 22 May 2003 00:00
Francis Marion Falge
Lieutenant on 7 December 1941
USS Arizona: Assistant Damage Control and Assistant First Lieutenant - Battle Station Central Station
Note: All assigned to Central Station are still entombed on the ship. Falge was ashore at the time of attack.
Francis "Frank" Falge, 92, enlisted in the Navy in 1919, and was one of eight Sailors to go to the first Naval Academy Preparatory School on board USS Oklahoma, anchored in the Hudson River off Newport, R.I. This group called themselves the "Eight Okies," and went to attend the Naval Academy in 1920.
Falge graduated in June 1924 and went into the reserves as an Ensign, working as a lighting technician on the West Coast in the 20's and 30's.
In February 1941, Falge, then a Lieutenant, was recalled to active service as the war in Europe escalated. He was ordered to Pearl Harbor and stationed aboard the USS Arizona. "The atmosphere in Hawaii was very laid back," Falge said. "The U.S. wasn?t expecting to enter the war. However, there were many signs that war was coming, but were not interpreted as such."
Falge said many strange occurrences took place in the months before the Japanese attack. His family had rented a house in Lanikai from a German couple named Kuehn, but only on the condition that the Falge move out by August 1.
They moved out earlier than that, much to the Kuehns' dismay.
"Mrs. Kuehn said her plans hadn't materialized," the retired captain said. "Of course, we suspected them, but nothing happened until December 7, and (the house) had remained vacant from that time we gave it up."
Falge, who is currently writing his autobiography, later found out that the husband was Bernard Kuehn, the Nazi head espionage on the U.S. territory, and the home was the signal house used by the Japanese during the raid.
On November 29, Falge and some friends went to eat dinner at a Japanese restaurant. The lady running the place said it was too late, but the Arizona's gunnery officer was able to convince her to let them in. "As we were eating, we heard all of these war chants going on," said Falge. "I think that was very obvious that the Japanese knew (about the upcoming attack)."
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."
USS ARIZONA CREW MEMBER BURIED
The man who had been the oldest surviving crew member of the USS Arizona has been laid to rest with shipmates in the hull of the battleship that sank during Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. National Park Service divers placed the cremated remains of Capt. Francis Marion Falge, 96, of Carmel, California, in a gun turret near the stern of the ship during a ceremony, Wednesday, April 26, 2000. He died January 21. Since the end of World War II, 14 other Arizona survivors have chosen to be buried with shipmates killed in the December 7, 1941, attack. Some 945 sailors went down with the ship and have remained entombed there since the Sunday morning assault that drew the United States into war.
"This is very sacred ground," said Falge's son, Roger. Roger Falge, who was 12 at the time, said his father was on shore leave attending Mass at the time of the attack. A Navy lieutenant, Falge quickly went to the harbor and helped in rescue efforts for the next several days, his son said.
Of the 334 sailors from the Arizona who survived, only 50 are believed to be still living. Falge was the oldest member of the USS Arizona Reunion Association when he died. Officers and sailors who served on the Arizona after its commissioning in 1916 and before its sinking are eligible to have their ashes scattered in the waters over the ship. But only those assigned to the Arizona at the time of the attack are eligible for interment in the hull of the ship. This includes those who were on leave from the ship at the time of the attack.
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.