- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 November 2015 02:53
- Published: Wednesday, 12 January 2000 00:00
Donald Gay Stratton
Seaman First Class on 7 December 1941
I was born on a farm outside of Inavale, Nebraska on 14 July 1922. After going through the school system at Red Cloud, Nebraska and graduating in 1940, and being voted "The best all around athlete of that year", I joined the US Navy in October 1940. I was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Center for boot-camp. After training, I was sent home for a week and then back to Great Lakes and from there, by train to Bremerton, Washington to board the USS Arizona BB39.
The Arizona was dock-side, being worked on by ship-yard workers with electric cords laying all over the decks, welding cable likewise, air-hoses and all the equipment it has to have to get repairs of all kinds done. We stood a lot of fire watch on board as welders and yard workers were working 24 hours a day.
7 December 1941 was a Sunday morning like any other, or so we thought. We were up and around and having breakfast. I had finished eating and picked up a few extra oranges in my white hat to take to a buddy in sick-bay, where my incinerator partner had gone the day before, (touch of jaundice). His name was Harl Nelson from Rouston, Arkansas. He did not survive.
I went to my locker for something (in the bakery passage-way), between No. 1 and No. 2 casemates. I came out on deck via No. 2 casement to the forecastle deck and some sailors on the bow of the Arizona were shouting and pointing to some planes that were bombing Ford Island. I looked and saw the bomb blasts and thought I saw the water tower on Ford Island topple over.
For some reason we recognized the planes right away as Japanese. I started immediately for my battle station, which was sight setter in the Port AA director. Seems as though everyone had seen this on deck and manned battle stations. Of course, General Quarters sounded, THIS IS NO DRILL - MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! We were being strafed, torpedoed, dive bombed and hit by high-altitude bombers. There was ready box ammunition behind every AA gun, which we started firing immediately at dive bombers and later at the high-altitude bombers, which our shells never reached, as we could see the bursts very short of targets. Running short on ammunition, and Ensign Lomax (our Director Officer) went to see if he could speed up ammunition supply, never saw him again. He did not survive. About that time, the ship was hit with something that shook the ship very badly, could have been a 2000 lb. bomb that hit the starboard-side right aft of the No. 2 turret, or could have been a torpedo, as I saw, from my vantage point two torpedo wakes headed right for the Arizona. Only the good Lord knows where they wound up. Then the horrendous explosion that blew about 110 feet of the bow off, with a fire ball that went 400 - 500 feet in the air, which engulfed the whole forward half of the ship.
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