World War II Veteran Russel Winsett (March 4, 1920 – February 22, 2015) recalls manning an anti-aircraft gun on the USS Pennsylvania on December 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor as the Japanese aircraft attacked.
So you heard the signal for general quarters, you get to your machine gun, had you seen planes in the sky? Did you know what was happening, or was this just chaotic?
Well, all I could, I could hear a lot, bombing and everything,guns shooting but I had no idea what was going on.
I talked to some Pearl Harbor survivors who said, you know, their impression was, it was exercises, it was some kind of practice that the Americans were doing.
But you had an idea from all the noise you were hearing that this was for real?
This was for real, because where we sat in dry dock was up above most of them in the water you know, you could see a lot but, I knew I knew it wasn’t no drill, I knew it was for real.
So you man that 50 caliber machine gun, you bust open the ammunition box so you actually have something to shoot at them, and then what are are you shooting at what are you seeing as you look out on that scene.
Well, actually I couldn’t see too much, could you was, had a band around you to hold you up to the gun, and I couldn’t see much except when the plane would come in my scope there, I didn’t know what was going on. I could hear a lot and it was pretty scary.
As far as what that looked like,the number of planes that were coming through or how much time you had to react if you actually saw something. I imagine there’s probably nothing that can prepare you for that?
Well, you figure you see two or three come over and strafing you knew there’s gonna be more, so you just sit and wait for them, that’s all we could do.
How close did those planes come to where you were?
Oh, I’d say some of them a 100 feet, come up around the bow of the ship.
And you could see markings on those Japanese planes?
Oh yeah, I could, I could even see the pilots with a Japanese grin.
You could see the face of the pilot?