William Ernest Dean (c. mid-late 1940s)
F3/c on 7 Dec 1941
b. 17 Aug 1917 - d. 14 Jan 1996
Story & Photo Submitted by Sharon Miller
William E. Dean, BM1c was given liberty on December 6, 1941, a Saturday night. With his best friend Al, they headed for uptown Honolulu. Much later in the evening his friend decided to head back to the ship, but William was not going back to the ship, after all, he had a hard earned over-night pass.
William spent the night at the YMCA. He was awakened early on December 7, 1941 to the drone of low-flying planes, to exploding shells and plaster falling from the overhead.
The entire Pacific Fleet had been in Port with the exception of four aircraft carriers. Of the more than ninety ships based at Pearl Harbor, the battleship were the first targets of the Japanese zeroes. For half an hour they concentrated on these ships, two were sunk and five were seriously damaged. The USS Arizona lay at the bottom, never to surface again, a bomb had penetrated her forward turret. With her went 1177 personnel, including the whole of William's 1st Division and his best friend Al Booze.
From the YMCA, William and other sailors crammed into cabs and were sped to the Navy Exchange Building. Here, an Emergency Survivor Office had been set up. William was given duty on a motor launch for that day, to relay messages between locations on the harbor to the ships; to pull bodies from the water; anything that needed doing.
William never spoke about this day. His daughter Sharon stated "By viewing the condition of his sailor uniform that he wore that day, one can only imagine what he and other's went through on December 7, 1941."
William was assigned temporary duty on the USS Tennessee. Once the USS Tennessee was patched up enough to head back to Bremerton, WA to the shipyard's for repair, he applied for a boatswains mate opening on the USS J. Franklin Bell and was accepted.
William joined the Navy in 1934, and retired in 1956 as a Commander. He passed away in 1996.