National Geographic : 2001 Jun
(Continuedfrom page 89) I blew reveille at 5:30. Because it was Sunday, we could sleep half an hour late. And then I sounded chow call at 6:30. Ihad just gotten permission to sound col ors when we see all of these planes, a flock of them, and they had torpedoes on them. "And by the time you saw that red ball on their wings, those torpedoes hit. The force of the explosions blew Stanley Bokowski and me across the ship to the starboard side, 118 feet away, and covered us with oil." West Virginia absorbed nine aerial torpe does, which killed 106, including her captain. The Arizona took a bomb. It penetrated the forward magazine, igniting more than a mil lion pounds of ammunition, virtually vapor izing more than a thousand men. "It was the most hellish fireball," says Fiske. "Then somebody hollered, 'Abandon ship!' And so a bunch of us went to the forward bow and dove off. And that's all I remember till we landed on Ford Island, about 40 yards away. "I know I got there, because I was soaking wet, covered with oil. But why couldn't I remember the swim? There was fire in the water, but why the hell can't I remember, just those 40 to 50 yards? I keep wracking my memory." In minutes flaming oil raged across Pearl Harbor, and smoke towered so high and thick that the Japanese pilots lost their targets and had to come around again. By then they were picking their way through blistering anti aircraft fire, but they had crippled the heart of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at its moorings. Despite their obsession with oil, the Japa nese committed a costly blunder when they failed to destroy ship-repair facilities and oil storage tanks, brimming with 190 mil lion gallons. The loss of the tank farms, said Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, then commander of the Pacific Fleet, "would have forced the withdrawal of the fleet to the coast because there wasn't any oil anywhere else out there to keep the fleet operating." Charles Christensen, now retired in Louisville, Kentucky, was a fireman 2nd class on the U.S.S. Argonne, a repair ship moored to Pearl Harbor's Pier 1010. Before the attack waves ended, he was recruited to assist with survivors who had been plucked from the water. I If JAP"