Holiday Routine – U.S.S. Vestal Daily Employment Schedule for Sunday, 7 December 1941

Holiday Routine – U.S.S. Vestal Daily Employment Schedule for Sunday, 7 December 1941

The document I discovered during my research on Cassin Young was yellowed and tattered with age. Some sailor had the presence of mind to keep a copy of it in his personal possession as a reminder of the day that would live in infamy. But the document is rich in information and adds color to the story to those who know its purpose.

In my time in the Navy, that document would be known as the Plan of the Day. It is the proposed plan for the unit for that particular day and is prepared in advance by the ship’s Yeoman. The issuer is the ship’s executive officer, and this plan sets up the expected sequence of events and gives assignments.

The executive officer.

The Commanding Officer’s chief assistant is the executive officer, who is detailed as such by the Secretary of the Navy. The duties of the executive officer may be compared to those performed by a general manager and personnel director of a commercial plant. He is thoroughly informed as to the policies of the Commanding Officer and sees that these are carried out by his subordinates is such a way as to insure the military and general efficiency of the ship. The executive officer has no authority independent of the Commanding Officer, and the details of his duties are regarded as execution of the captain’s orders. While executing the orders of the Commanding Officer, he takes precedence over all other officers, including the officer of the deck.

When on board ship, the executive officer is always on duty. He must be familiar with every part of the ship and is responsible for the arrangement and coordination of all ship’s work, drills and exercises, personnel organization, policing, and inspection. He is charged with the maintenance of cleanliness, good order, efficiency, and the neat and trim appearance, insofar as these things apply to both ship and crew.

The executive officer is the relief Commanding Officer, and, in battle, has a separate station, usually in secondary ship control.

We know from the document that it was issued for the USS Vestal. On December 7th, the vestal was tied up outboard of the USS Arizona in preparation for work that would start on Monday December 8th.

From an article written by Glenn Barnett

“On Saturday, December 6, 1941, the repair ship USS Vestal eased alongside the USS Arizona at her berth at Pearl Harbor. Vestal moored herself outboard of the battleship, port side to port side. The Arizona had just returned from maneuvers and had scheduled some long overdue maintenance. She was due to move into dry dock the next week. The Vestal would begin the routine of rewinding the armatures of the battleship’s huge electric motors and other tasks that would shorten her stay in dry dock.

The crews of both ships settled down for a relaxing weekend. Scheduled work on the Arizona would begin Monday. For Seaman First Class Henry Emlander, Sunday was a day to sleep in. Aboard the Vestal only a month, he was still finding his way around. Assigned to the print shop, he also bunked in that compartment, forward on the port side, three decks down.”

The captain of the Vestal was also on board that morning. Commander Cassin Young was the previous Executive Officer of the Submarine Base at New London. He had been given this assignment at the end of his long career which placed him on the other side of the world. After moving his family to California, on November 14, he sailed from LA on the Lurline, arrived at Honolulu on Nov 19. He reported on board on the 19th and had eighteen days of experience under his belt on the morning of the 7th of December.

The Executive officer was also named Young. L.T. Young was a Lieutenant Commander and had been with the ship for some time. He probably understood the unique nature of the ship well and certainly knew the crew. The USS Vestal was a repair ship that had just steamed back from the Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California – making the journey across the Pacific Ocean – and back to Pearl Harbor.

The schedule begins with the words Holiday Routine

Holiday routine is a relaxed state where normal ships work is suspended. A repair ship is typically a busy environment. The Vestal was a very old ship by the time it found itself outboard the Arizona. Starting life as a collier (coal ship). Launched on May 19, 1908, Vestal was placed in service as a fleet collier. She served in World War I when she was deployed to Queenstown. There, she provided services for ships of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla – and stayed there for the duration of the war. Eventually she would be converted to a repair ship and would service the fleet between the wars in the Pacific Ocean.

Despite the words “holiday routine” ship’s functions still need to be conducted.

0630 Reveille. Even on an off day, there is work to be done. Call all hands, pipe UP HAMMOCKS, serve out coffee, light the smoking lamp.

The cooks have already been up for hours baking and preparing the morning meal. Night watch-standers are finishing their rounds and the engine-rooms are making sure the flow of electricity and steam are ready for the demands of the day.

0700 Breakfast for the crew. Those men on board are given the opportunity to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and traditional Navy chow. From the Navy Cookbook:

Breakfast

Fruit: Fresh, frozen, evaporated, dehydrated, or canned fruits or fruit juices are used for appetizing as well as nutritional reasons. In one form or another, fruit is a welcome starter for the day, but need not be served for breakfast if it would be more useful in improving other meals.

Cereal: Cereal is a fuel food and has the advantage of being a carrier for milk. Serve hot or cold cereal depending on the supply, the climate, food habits of the men, or need for variety.

Main Dish: The main dish may be ham, bacon, eggs, sausage, creamed dried beef, fried mush, French toast, hot cakes, or other satisfying breakfast dishes. Do not have the same thing on the same day each week. If fried mush or French toast are on the menu, syrup, jam, or jelly should be served.

Bread: The bread should be varied as much as possible. Toast, rolls, cornbread, biscuits, coffee cake, doughnuts, and pan bread are some suggestions.

Jam or Jelly: Jam or jelly may be served in place of butter occasionally.

Beverage: The beverage may be either milk, coffee, tea, or cocoa.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ref/CookBook/cookbook-2.html

The officer’s mess would serve made to order food in the Wardroom. On this particular day, Commander Young (skipper) was preparing to go golfing and probably had a light meal.

0800 – Muster on Station – submit reports to the Executive Office. Turn to and clean up ship. Liberty for the Starboard Watch and sections #1, # 3 & #4 on the Port Duty Bill

Vestal Assumes Military Guard

A Military Guard ship would be an assignment issued to a vessel from the Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA). In this case, the higher unit for Vestal would be the USS Argonne. Vestal would be responsible for routing any orders and military communications between herself as the lead Guard ship and the Argonne. There were to be four guard mail trips that day.

In fact, there were probably none. And Commander Young would miss his gold date.

From the article written by Glenn Barnett:

“The Vestal was already one of the oldest ships in the fleet in 1941. She had been launched during another era, as a collier in 1909. Even as she slid down the ways at the New York shipyard, she was becoming obsolete. The world’s navies were converting from coal-fed engines to cleaner, far less smoky fuel oil. In 1913, Vestal was converted for use as a repair ship, though ironically she continued to burn coal in her boilers until 1921. Other colliers were also being converted at this time. The collier USS Jupiter became the Langley, America’s first aircraft carrier.

“In 1927, Vestal was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. A leisurely cruise (her top speed was 16 knots) through the Panama Canal brought her to San Diego where she began her depression era service to the fleet. Belt tightening in the armed services kept older ships like Vestal working for longer periods of time than they had been designed.

“In May 1940, the Pacific fleet moved its headquarters from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. To the United States this was a defensive move aimed at protecting national interests in the Philippines and the Far East. To the Japanese, moving the American fleet 3,000 miles closer to their shores was a provocative act of aggression.”

The routine of a peacetime Sunday quickly took a turn as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The ship sprung into action, manning every gun from the 5-inch (130 mm) broadside battery to the .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on the bridge wings. At about 08:05, her 3-inch (76 mm) gun commenced firing.

What happened next was a fight for survival.

Two bombs intended for more valuable battleships on Battleship Row hit the USS Vestal.

One bomb struck the port side and penetrated through three decks. The bomb passed through a crew’s space and exploded in a stores hold. The explosion started fires that necessitated flooding the forward magazines.

The second bomb struck the starboard side. This bomb passed through the carpenter shop and the shipfitter shop, and left an irregular hole about five feet in diameter in the bottom of the ship.

Survival became the primary focus of the USS Vestal crew, while anti-aircraft fire became secondary. A bomb hit the nearby USS Arizona. Almost as if in a volcanic eruption, the forward part of the battleship exploded, and the concussion from the explosion literally cleared Vestal’s deck – sending Vestal’s gunners and crew overboard.

Among the men blown off Vestal was her commanding officer, Commander Cassin Young. The captain swam back to the ship, however, and countermanded an abandon ship order that someone had given, coolly saying, “Lads, we’re getting this ship underway.”

With fires on board the Vestal and after two bombs had struck the repair ship, the Vestal crew cut the mooring lines with axes, freeing her from the Arizona, and she got underway, steering by engines alone. A tug, the captain of which had served aboard the Vestal just a few months before the attack, pulled Vestal’s bow away from the inferno engulfing Arizona and the repair ship, and the latter began to creep out of danger.

The Plan for the day was shredded in the chaos of the day.

But the Commanding Officer and crew reacted with a spirit that best exemplifies the nature of the American Navy in times of chaos.

USS Vestal, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack

AR4/L11-1/(066) U.S.S. Vestal 10-trb December 11, 1941.

 From: The Commanding Officer.

To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

 Subject: Report of action on December 7, 1941, in accordance with references (a) and (b).

 Reference: (a) Art. 840 Navy Regs.

 (b) Cincpac conf. desp. 102102 of Dec. 1941.

1.At about 0820 a torpedo was seen to pass astern of the Vestal and it apparently hit the Arizona whose bow extended about 100 feet beyond the Vestal. The Arizona also received a bomb hit forward almost simultaneously. Immediately following these the Arizona’s forward magazine exploded. This explosion started fires aft and amidships on the Vestal. Shortly after the Arizona was observed to be settling and the fuel oil between Vestal and Arizona was ignited.

2.At 0830 orders were given to make preparations for getting underway – this had been anticipated by the Engineer Officer. At 0845 the forward lines were cut, the Arizona’s quarterdeck was awash, and Vestal got underway on both engines, no steering gear. Tug pulled Vestal’s bow away from the Arizona. The Vestal started to list to starboard and was taking water aft. She was maneuvered to position with south end of McGrew’s Point bearing 30°, distance 910 yards and at 0910 anchored in 35 feet of water.

3.Soundings and draft readings were taken continuously; these showed the ship was settling aft and continuing to list to starboard. Draft aft increased to 27 feet and the list to 6 ½°. Because of the unstable condition of the ship due to large amount of free surface, the knowledge that we had two holes in the hull – subsequent inspections showed only one – ship being on fire in several places and the possibility of further attacks, it was decided to ground the ship. At 0950 got underway and maneuvered to position with Old Aiea Railroad Station bearing 73° true and West Tangent of McGrew’s Point bearing 320° true; ship grounded. Number 2 white spar buoy close aboard on starboard side amidships. Ship’s head 092° true. Depth of water forward 11 feet, amidships 18 feet, aft 27 feet. Draft forward 15 feet, aft 29 feet.

4.Offensive measures.1.At 0755 sounded general quarters. Manned the 3″ anti-aircraft and 4 – 5″ broadside and 2 – 30 caliber machine guns. At about 0805 opened fire with 3″ anti-aircraft gun and both machine guns. After firing three rounds, 3″ anti-aircraft gun breech jammed; breech was cleared and one additional round was fired when blast from Arizona magazine cleared gun station killing one man. Machine guns continued firing on enemy planes until they withdrew.

2.3″ anti-aircraft and after machine gun both fired at plane which released torpedo at Arizona and turned toward Vestal. This plane was seen by crew of the machine gun to burst into flame and disappear over Ford Island, this was substantiated by others in the vicinity. Whether the plane was hit by gun fire from Vestal or adjacent ships is not known.

5.Identified dead – Six

Unidentified dead – Three, one from 3″ anti-aircraft gun platform and two from stern of Vestal. These men may have been either Arizona personnel blown over by magazine blast or members of Vestal after gun crews; they were burned beyond recognition.

Missing – Seven.

Hospitalized – Nineteen. About twenty per cent of those hospitalized are seriously injured suffering primarily from burns and fractures.

  1. The conduct of all officers and enlisted personnel was exemplary and of such high order that I would especially desire to have them with me in future engagements.
  2. 1.The USS Vestal was struck by two bombs at about 0805 December 7, 1941, while moored port side to port side of the USS Arizona berthed at Fox 7, Pearl Harbor, T.H. One bomb struck the starboard side at frame 44 penetrating three decks, passing through the upper crew space, GSK stores A-16½, A-14½, and exploding in GSK stores lower hold A-9. The fire main and electric cables in crew space were cut. W.T. hatch to A-14½ buckled and stores in GSK stores and lower hold set on fire and wrecked. As far as can be ascertained there are no indications that this bomb or fragments caused any rupture in the hull.

2.The second bomb struck at frame 110 port side, passed through the carpenter shop, shipfitter shop, shipfitters locker room (D-1½), fuel oil tanks D-80-P-F and D-82-P-F and left an irregular hole in the hull about 5 feet in diameter just inboard of the bilge keel. The above spaces (D-1½) flooded up to the level of the carpenter shop with fuel and water.

3.Due to the bomb explosion forward and fire and water in GSK stores, practically all stores are damaged, the extent cannot be ascertained until completion of removal. Heat from this fire necessitated the flooding of the forward magazine containing 100 rounds of target and approximately 580 rounds of service 5″ ammunition.

4.Damage as a result of the magazine explosion on the Arizona and the resultant fires on the Vestal were three life rafts, 6 mooring lines, 1 gangway, rigging and blocks and paintwork burned, stanchions bent, port lenses and windows broken.

[signed]

  1. YOUNG.

Copy to: Combasefor.

Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II action reports, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.

The Vestel would eventually be repaired and assigned to the forward areas of the war.

She would help heal the battered fleet after the battles in the Guadalcanal theater and her Captain, Cassin Young, would find himself in charge of the USS San Francisco CA 38. Just as he had found himself on the deck of the Vestal a mere eighteen days before the Pearl Harbor attack, he would find himself on the bridge of the San Francisco nine days after reporting aboard as she sailed into history against a superior Japanese fleet.

He, along with others, would lose his life that night but his legacy would live on for generations.

Mister Mac

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