Paul Goodyear was standing on a signal bridge on the starboard side of the USS Oklahoma in 1941 when bombs started falling from the sky and torpedoes zeroed in.
Explosions, screams, chaos and gunfire shattered the calm morning of that Dec. 7, and within 12 minutes, the massive battleship rolled over and capsized, trapping hundreds of men belowdecks.
Sixty-three years later, Goodyear can still hear their cries and tapping for help.
Goodyear, 86, and a dwindling number of survivors returned to the site of their most haunting memories to honor the 429 men from the Oklahoma and nearly 2,000 others who died in the Japanese sneak attack that plunged the United States into World War II.
“There’s a great bond between us,” Goodyear said.
Goodyear was a 23-year-old petty officer in 1941 whose life was saved when, after he jumped into the burning waters of the harbor, someone threw him a line from the USS Maryland and he was able to pull himself up.
The USS Oklahoma suffered the second-highest number of Pearl Harbor casualties behind the USS Arizona, where most of its 1,177 killed crewmen remain entombed after the ship sank.
“I could see the torpedo coming and I was yelling at the gunner to shoot the bastard down,” said Goodyear, of Casa Grande, Ariz.
Day of remembrance
The anniversary will be marked with simultaneous ceremonies Tuesday aboard the USS Arizona Memorial above that sunken battleship, and on shore. Each ceremony was to feature a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m. — the minute the attack started.
Goodyear, head of the USS Oklahoma Survivors Association, joined four other survivors and about two dozen friends and family Monday evening for the unveiling of a permanent exhibit on the Oklahoma.
Although they were pleased with the small exhibit in the Arizona museum, survivors of the USS Oklahoma are pressing for a permanent memorial.
“I’ve written every congressman,” said George Brown, 83. “I’ll doubt I’ll ever see it.”
Goodyear said he also wants the USS Arizona Memorial’s named changed to the Pearl Harbor Memorial or the Memorial of the Pacific.
“The kids on the Arizona died one of the most merciful deaths known to man, whereas the kids on the Oklahoma suffered one of the most horrible, traumatic demises known to man and yet no one knows the Oklahoma was here,” he said. “They suffered casualties and they should be remembered, but there were other ships there too and that’s our beef.”
The National Park Service, which operates the Arizona Memorial, said it is considering changing the name and broadening the museum’s scope.
When it sank, the Oklahoma was anchored off Ford Island on Battleship Row in the middle of the harbor, next to the USS Maryland. The Oklahoma took the brunt of the torpedoes, leaving the Maryland relatively intact.
The Oklahoma was refloated in 1943 and sold for scrap after the war, but it sank in the Pacific while being towed to California.
Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged, and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, about 2,390 people were killed and about 1,178 were wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona site.