The Buzz

The Forgotten Story of How One U.S. Battleship Fought Back During Pearl Harbor

The bomb explosion in casemate No. 9 killed 26 men and two officers. One officer, Lt. Cmdr. J.E. Craig, was probably passing through the compartment to carry out assigned duties aft. Lieutenant (j.g.) Richard R. Rall of the medical detachment was killed at the battle dressing station in the warrant officer’s mess. One man, tending the donkey boiler on the dock that supplied steam to the ship, was killed, probably either by a machine-gun bullet or by the bomb hit on the dock on the starboard side of the ship.

Captain Cooke stated, “The conduct of all officers and men was of the highest order. There was no flinching. There was no necessity of urging men to action. Rather was there perhaps in some cases over zeal in the matter of expending ammunition. The Commanding Officer would be glad to recommend each individual participating in the action for distinguished conduct, but recognizes that this cannot well be done.”

Both Winsett and the USS Pennsylvania went on to serve throughout World War II. Winsett completed a 20-year career with the Navy and retired as a chief petty officer. After Pearl Harbor he was transferred to a new ship, the destroyer USS Foote. Winsett’s World War II service included seven campaigns. He witnessed the raising of the U.S. flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima as well as the invasion of Okinawa.

After the propeller screws were replaced on the Pennsylvania, she sailed back to Bremerton, Washington, for immediate repairs and was overhauled in San Francisco in 1942. She participated in the Aleutian Campaign in 1943, where she engaged in the shore bombardment at Holtz Bay, Attu, and Chicago Harbor. As she retired from Attu, she maneuvered at full speed to avoid a torpedo attack from the Japanese submarine I-31, which was subsequently sunk by the destroyers USS Edwards and Frazier.

In January 1944, the Pennsylvania bombarded Kwajalein atoll in support of the Marine landings there. The following month Pennsylvania steamed boldly into the lagoon at Eniwetok with her batteries blazing away at enemy installations. Later that morning she bombarded Engebi in support of the assault waves hitting the beach. After Engebi was secured, she steamed to the vicinity of Parry Island, where she took part in the bombardment in support of those landings. At Guam, she fired more ammunition than any other warship in U.S. naval history during a single campaign. Pennsylvania earned the nickname “Old Falling Apart” because she expelled so much steel that she appeared to be actually falling apart.

“Old Falling Apart” ended her service in July 1946 as a target ship during atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Chief Petty Officer Winsett retired from the Navy in 1960 and began work at the U.S. Post Office from 1960 and retired as postmaster in Rio Grande, N.J. in 1975 He passed away in February, 2015 at the age of 94.

First-time contributor Brian H. Wright is a resident of Fort Myers, Florida.This first appeared in the Warfare History Network here.

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