Veteran shares memories of attack on USS New Orleans
The day was shaping up to be a typical one in paradise, but within a few short hours, four of his closest friends would be dead.
Still in his baseball uniform from practice, Sam Brayfield headed up to the well deck on the USS New Orleans docked at Pearl Harbor. The crew was preparing for an afternoon game on Dec. 7, 1941.
While some servicemen were lounging around, others were holding maneuvers in the midst of training.
That is when the confusion and chaos began, Brayfield said.
“They were bombing and I said ‘Boy the Army is playing rough today,’ and then there came the dive-bombers,” Brayfield said.
It was the attack that launched the United States into World War II. Caught off-guard, it took several minutes to figure out what was going on.
“They had to go over our stern and we could see the big red ball on the side of the airplane and then we knew we were in trouble,” Brayfield said.
His commanding officer yelled “All hands to battle stations” and Brayfield headed to the powder room.
Passing ammunition to the guys below, Brayfield said they did their best to fight back.
“That is when Chaplain (Howell) Forgey came by, patted us on the shoulder and said ‘We won’t have services this morning, but praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.’ That caught on all over the country,” he said.
Everything they had learned the last three years seemed to fade away as they went into action.
“There was a lot of hollering and screaming. I was scared to death, but we got our act together and we made a good showing,” Brayfield said. “We kept a lot of fire going. I don’t know if we hit anybody.”
About an hour passed before the bombing stopped, Brayfield said.
“The whole harbor was ablaze, so we went up and picked guys out of the water,” he said. “The first one they passed up was my very best friend. I lost a lot of good friends.”
Brayfield said the Japanese had a one-track mind, but they made two critical mistakes.
“The number one mistake they made that day was that they attacked us, but that night we were issued small arms and we stayed up all night because we thought they would have a landing,” Brayfield said. “We laid there and they didn’t do it.”
With hospitals full and many wounded, the landing force would have wiped them out, he said.
Pearl Harbor was one of the many war stories Brayfield has lived to tell. He retired from the Navy in 1945. In 1991, he moved to the lake area.
Looking back on the attack, Brayfield says he can’t help but think of his fellow shipmates that never returned home.
“I love to talk about it now, but I didn’t before,” he said. “I still get tears in my eyes when I think about the guys on my ship that died. I was so young but after that battle, we were grown men.”
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