William Locke was living in the Gulfport Naval Home in 1999, when he shared his memories of Pearl Harbor with us. In this episode, he recalls with pride being assigned to the battleship U.S.S. Pennsylvania, in 1939, the flagship of the Pacific fleet. He remembers how they were sent to Hawaii for a three-month training mission at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, a place they had heard of, but knew little about.
That three-month assignment stretched into two years and Locke was waiting for their return trip stateside, at which time he would be discharged and on his way home. History had other plans.
Locke recounts the events leading up to the “Day which will live in infamy.” How he and a friend left the ship that Saturday to watch a University of Hawaii football game. He recalls waking up the next morning as Japanese dive bombers began to attack the fleet. During the battle, Locke looked on as the low-flying enemy planes relentlessly attacked anything that moved. He describes feeling helpless and relates how a shipmate’s body saved him from an exploding bomb.
After the attack, Locke compiled damage and casualty reports for the Navy. He explains how the U.S.S. Pennsylvania’s trip to dry dock for routine maintenance the day before, saved them from a torpedo, but how claims from the Japanese of sinking what they thought was the Admiral’s ship, lead his parents to think he was dead for ten days. He also discusses the horrible things he witnessed and why his memories still haunt him today.