A Carrier Goes to Battle: Joe Rucker Saw It All
PEARL HARBOR, Feb. 13 (AP) - A gripping account
of war at sea and a spectacular but futile suicide plunge by a Japanese dive bomber, were
related at Pearl Harbor, by Joseph Rucker, veteran Paramount newsreel man, and only civilian
aboard a United States aircraft carrier that participated in the attack on Marshall and Gilbert
islands, February 1.
In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Rucker reviewed the
events of the momentous day with these cryptic, graphic phrases:
"Three a.m. An awful hour to get up. We are on a 'galloping ghost off the Oahu
coast.' The boys have nicknamed her the ghost because the Japanese have reported her sunk so
An Unearthly Noise
"Everyone is on his toes. All hands are busy. Now the general quarters sound. It
is an unearthly noise. A booming voice says 'Man your stations.'
"Everyone rushes to battle positions. The loud speaker orders covers taken off
the cockpits and rudders. Hands on the flight deck hasten to comply. Pilots get their last minute
instructions and dash for their planes.
"The plane handlers yell the plane numbers so the pilots and gunners are able to
find their right places without delay. The latter climb into the planes. The loud speaker shouts,
'Stand by to start engines.' A minute later the speaker hollers, 'Stand clear of the propellers,'
and then 'start engines.'
"The sudden roar is startling. The 'ghost' heels over at fast speed into the wind,
the first plane on the starting line. Two blue streaks from the exhaust pierce the darkness. The
pilot releases the brakes and the plane is off."
"The other planes roar seaward. Blue flames dot the sky, then the streaks converge
in perfect formation and disappear toward their objective.
All Hands Cheer
"It is the zero hour - daybreak now. Powerful glasses are trained on the island
in the distance. We watch for the first bomb blast. All hands cheer as the first column of smoke
is sighted and a dull blast echoes.
"Mechanics and refuelers already are preparing for the return of the first
squadron. They start landing. Bombs are wheeled out and attached. New ammunition is loaded.
Damaged planes are rushed below for quick repairs.
"A tall, curly haired pilot reports prosaically to his commanding officer that he
had just shot down two enemy planes, and had his own aileron controls shot away. He was not
worried, the same as the rest, just waiting to take off again.
"Word comes that torpedo planes might be useful for a kill. Off they go. I learned
later that they scored 100 per cent.
"Time has gone fast this afternoon. Now the Japs are just starting to retaliate
with their few remaining planes in this sector. Five twin-engined bombers drop from the clouds.
A gunnery officer comes in the 'sky control room' atop the mast, lets out a yell. 'Here they
come. Give 'em hell.'
"Our antiaircraft throws them off the course. The leader seems to be hit. They
overshoot the mark. Twenty heavy bombs land in the water on the port side. The concussion is
"The leader apparently is disabled. He tries a straight down suicide dive to
the 'ghost's' deck. He knew he was going to miss us. He managed to swoop level and attempted
to plow straight toward the deck load of planes.
"One of our gunners conked him. He crashed on the edge of the deck, the plane
wreckage flying in all directions, mostly into the sea.
"I learned later that some of the other four bombers with him also were
"Meantime, bomb fragments, with near misses, start a fire. A sailor rushes to
put it out pronto.
The Eye of An Eagle
"Now there's another attack. Two Japanese twin-engined bombers are up 2,000 feet,
our planes chasing them. A marine captain on the sky control yells an order not to shoot because
the American planes are in the line of fire. He had an eagle eye.
"The gunnery officer sings out to the captain 'Bombs are on the way, hard over.'
"The 'ghost' maneuvers quickly. The bombs drop off the starboard bow. A fighter
plane gets one of the Jap bombers. Antiaircraft gets the other.
"The smoke control lookout is still busy. He has been that way all day. He's the
guy who tells the engine room when the stacks are smoking. He also tells them other things. I heard
him on the phone line.
"He said, 'The No. 2 stack is smoking black. Enemy planes are diving. Bombs hit
the water. No. 2 stack is clear. There's a small fire on the port side. Now it's out. No. 5
stack is smoking black. Hang on, here are more bombs. Okay, No. 5 clear. The attack is over.
Take it easy.'
Congratulations Are On
"The attack ends. The pilots congregate in the wardroom for coffee. They have
fun swapping notes. One says he got a big one. Another reports he dropped a heavy one on a
tanker. Someone says he left a ship blazing from stem to stern. Another chimes in about a
terrific explosion in a land hangar. They are a happy lot. One says Japanese fighting planes
are no match for ours.
"Give these boys plenty of planes and they'll finish the job. We've men in our