3 Sons of Schulenburg

A tribute to three of the many who were part of America's Greatest Generation

Tom Baumgarten - Diary

December 6, 1941
We had Captain's inspection and were notified that we had won the Rear Admiral Wm. A. Moffet trophy for finishing the fiscal year without any accidents. I went to Honolulu for recreation and received two silver dollars in changing a large bill. My shipmate and I kept them as good luck charms because there were very few of them out there.

December 7
I woke up about seven this morning and went to breakfast. As I finished I went back to wake the late sleepers. After doing this, I headed back to the topside. As I was going up the ladder, I heard a plane idling as though it was going to land. But I knew it was heading in the wrong direction to land, so I figured it was making a forced landing. As I stepped out on deck, I saw the plane drop a torpedo; but paying no attention to the plane, I thought it was a practice raid until I saw the "fish" hit the USS Arizona and send a spray of water high into the air with an ear-bursting report. Then I noticed the planes and the Rising Sun insignia. The ship was at general quarters, but everyone was surprised that they could hardly act.

By the time our guys were in action, I saw three planes go down in flames. One was heading for our ship with a torpedo, but a destroyer on our port side made a direct hit on the bomber and it flew to pieces in the air. A large bomb was dropped, evidently at us, but missed by about 150 yards and hit the channel. It sent a cloud of water rising into the air about 200 feet.

Meanwhile, I saw about 20 planes send torpedoes into the battleship across the channel. The Arizona was split in half and was afire. The Oklahoma had turned over, and the California and West Virginia were sitting upright but on the bottom. The Nevada pulled out but was sunk in the channel not more than 500 yards up the stream. The Pennsylvania was hit by a large bomb, but she was in dry dock and no serious damage done.

The planes were bombing and strafing the ship when one bomb was dropped between our ship and the docks (about four feet distance between the two). It went off about 10 feet under water and split our side. Not much damage done. The planes were then forming for a second attack, and all hands were busy trying to dig out more ammunition.

The second attack was not much, as the Army's fighters were in the air now and were really on their tails. The second attack came but was over in less than 10 minutes, as the Japanese had dropped all their bombs and probably thought they had enough fun for one day. However, they must have been very much surprised when they returned to their designated spots to land on their carrier. She was nowhere in sight, except "Davey Jones" saw her and logged her in his book as she passed the 100-fathom line. Discovering this sad situation, they split up, and each man was on his own to land and try to escape. Marines at several outposts encountered the escapees and several were captured, but most of them were killed.

Evidently there were three groups of enemy aircraft that attacked Hickam Field, Pearl Harbor and NAS at Kaneohe Bay. I would say at least 30 planes took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The victims (enemy) were found to be heavily clothed, wearing civilian clothes, and carrying large amounts of American money. No explanation of this strange occurrence was ever given. We were so busy fighting and being on alert for another attack that we completely forgot about eating. It was late in the afternoon before we had anything to eat.

All men were on watch during the night and hoping the Japanese would come back, as we were ready for them. In fact, we were so itchy that one of our own planes coming on late at night was shot down.

We were ashamed and disappointed for letting the enemy surprise us like he did. But everyone was glad that we were finally in the war, and the sooner we defeated the enemy, the sooner we would be able to visit the "Homeland".

December 8
Vigil watches are being kept throughout the islands, and all unites are on the alert. Tugs and fireboats are still trying to quench the fire that is still raging at the battleship docks. No evening action today.

December 9
Tugs and fireboats are still hard at firefighting. We were hoisting out on dawn patrol at 0500 to scout the area. I saw all damage done at the three bases from the air, and I can say one hit for the Japanese and one error for the U.S.

January 6
To this day we have been in the air every day on two patrols lasting five hours each. It is tough schedule but is necessary to keep the enemy out of the waters.

At 0600 this a.m., Ensign B. M. Stevenson and I were taking off in the Pearl Harbor Channel for a dawn patrol. It was quite dark, and a motor launch crossed our path just as we cleared the waters. Our mail float hit the boat, and our plane crashed and turned over and began to sink. My machine gun broke loose from its stowage and hit me in the face. The next thing I knew I was under water (with very little breath) trying to climb through the wreckage that was blocking my escape. After several gulps of salt water and no air, I put forth every effort and proceeded to kick my way out. It seemed hours before I reached the surface, where I inhaled the most valuable chemical I know-air. I pulled the cords that discharged gas into my life jacket and looked for the pilot. He was clinging to a wing-tip float unhurt.

Then I began checking where the blood was coming from on my face. Three cuts were bleeding, and several knots on my head were aching. A stomach full of salt water and a cool early morning breeze added to my already shaking body. I often wondered what it was like in a plane crash, but here I experienced a near drowning sensation and an exciting crash.

After getting treatment and dry clothes at the hospital, I went back to the hangar to discover a new plane waiting for me to put into commission, plus a crowd of "questioners."

January 12
Nothing but flying up until now. We are getting under way now that our damage is repaired (split side from the bomb). After we got to sea, it was announced that we were convoying seven transports of evacuees to San Francisco.

January 16
Patrolling for the convoy every day to keep the course clear of submarines. Dropped a large, well-padded medical supply package on the Dutch Merchantman in our convoy. A lady was having a baby. There was a doctor aboard, but not the correct medical supplies. Last report, good shot at hitting the ship with the much needed supplies; both patients are fine.

January 22
Arrived San Francisco safe. The old Golden Gate Bridge looked good.

January 23
Into the navy yard for more guns and repairs.

January 26
Leaving port today for Melbourne, Australia. Nine troop and supply ships loaded with soldiers and ammunition.

February 4
Submarine was spotted and sunk today.

February 10
Am now a "Shellback." Crossed the equator and was initiated.

February 13
Pulled into a beautiful French island of Bora Bora for fuel. Rejoined convoy in the afternoon.

February 16
Another submarine sighted, too close for comfort, and sunk.

February 26
Arrived Melbourne, Australia. Went to see what the place was like. This is what I found-an overgrown country town; the most friendly people in the world; about two girls to every man (lots of them really beautiful); and the Australians hate the English and are in hopes that the U. S. will take possession of the Australian Commonwealth at the end of the war. Found that their preparation for war was backward and slow; that their drug stores are called "chemists;" left-handed driving on the street and right-hand automobiles; and that it took half a day to learn the value of their money.

The diary ends abruptly here. Tom's aircraft was not lost at sea for another three-and-a-half months. Ironically, the whereabouts of the rest of his diary, just as the whereabouts of the plane and crew are unknown.

This portion of the diary is on display at the Schulenburg Historical Museum. The text is also contained in a book by Florence Hertel Farek titled WORLD WAR II Memoirs. © Copyright, 1998, Florence Farek.

 

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