Aboard the Nevada, the band has just struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner." The musicians stoicly continue, waiting for the last note to wane before they -- for cover.
The Oklahoma overturns. The California drops to the bottom without capsizing. The West Virginia takes heavy hits and settles to the shallow bottom.
The Arizona dies spectacularly. A huge armor-piercing bomb smashes through its deck into the forward magazine. A fearsome explosion lifts the ship from the water. One survivor describes it as an "earth-ending sound."
"Men came pouring out from the direction of the Marine compartment," recalled another survivor, sailor E. L. Wentzlaff. "They were terribly burned, shocked and shrapnel-wounded. Many went over the side."
A funeral sheet of black smoke envelopes the Arizona's crumpled superstructure. Of 1,400 men aboard, 1,117 are killed.
That explosion snuffs out fires on the Vestal, a repair ship parked next to the Arizona. About 100 men from the Vestal are thrown overboard, including its commander, Cassin "Ted" Young. He climbs out of the harbor, an oily sea creature that blocks the gangway as his crew starts to abandon ship.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" he yells at histartled men. They return to their stations.
FIGHTERS ROAR over Wheeler, Bellows and Hickam fields, where the Army Air Corps has parked its planes in neat, vulnerable lines. It is as easy as a practice run.
"We tried to get the planes ready, tried to load them with ammo, but it was impossible," said Raymond F. James, a 21-year-old tail gunner at Hickam Field. "We ran down the flight lines, but the Japanese planes were strafing and bombing. The Japs flew really low. They weren't more than 10 feet off the ground."
On the battleship Nevada, 21-year-old Ensign Joe Taussig scrambles up the mast to his battle station, where he can direct gunfire from 50 feet up. His gun crews are firing before he gets there.
felt a very, very strong blow in the bottom of my feet. It turned out to be a bomb. . . . Ten or 15 seconds later, I felt a sharp blow in my hip. My left foot was under my left armpit. There was no particular pain. I just felt it was a hell of a place for a foot to be.
"I figured, broken leg. I thought I'd stay right there." Over his swearing protests, a corpsman lowers him by ropes down the burning superstructure. A taxi is commandeered to take him to the hospital, and "I bled all over the back seat of this guy's taxi. I got his name and address to make sure he got compensated." Ensign Taussig will lose his leg. The base chapel at Hickam Field is hit. So is the enlisted men's new beer hall. The guardhouse is shattered, releasing the prisoners, who promptly man a gun to shoot back.
There is a pause, and at 8:40 a.m. the second wave of 170 planes arrives over Oahu. By then, there is more action underneath their wings. Men in aloha shirts and bathing trunks have found ammunition and are firing guns even as their ships burn. On the Raleigh, Capt. Bentham Simons directs his crew dressed in blue pajamas; on the West Virginia, Ensign Thomas Lombardi wears a tropical dinner jacket and black tie.
The sky is splotched with black bursts of anti-aircraft fire. The first attack wave lost only nine planes; the second wave will lose 20.
THE MAN IN CHARGE of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. H. E. Kimmel, is the telephone when the first bombs fall. Kimmel slams down the phone and runs outside.
From his home in Makalapa Heights, he has a picturesque view of Japanese planes circling in figure eights as they bomb his ships. A neighbor glances at the admiral's face and sees him in "utter disbelief and completely stunned."
"The sky was full of the enemy," Kimmel said later.
Kimmel rushes to headquarters. As he stands at a window, a spent .50-caliber machine gun bullet pops through the glass, strikes him on his white uniform and falls harmlessly to the ground, according to historian Gordon W. Prange. Kimmel picks it up and murmurs, "It would have been merciful had it killed me."
The defense of Hawaii also was a job of the Army, under Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short. According to historian Prange, the general confronts an aide and demands, "What's going on out there?"
"I'm not sure," the aide replies. "But I just saw two battleships sunk."
Short stares at him, incredulous. The general snaps, "That's ridiculous!" and walks away.
IDYLLIC PEARL HARBOR is reborn as hell. Great, ravenous clouds of smoke . . . ships at sickly angles . . . water turned into fire . . . battle-station horns mix with the rat-tat of guns and the thump of bombs in a cacophony of battle.
"They bombed the hell out of us," said Charles Winkler, a crewman on a tugboat that combed the harbor to rescue the living and retrieve the dead.
Men are anxious to fight back: When two destroyers ask for 55 volunteers to try to sail, they have to shove back 200. One ensign throws his binoculars at a diving Zero.