Howard Quistorf
US Navy
Ford Island Naval Air Station

December 7, 1941, started out as any other Sunday morning  a beautiful warm day in Hawaii.  My duty section had just mustered and assigned to watches or any required maintenance on our aircraft.  I had just returned to our Armory and was sitting on a workbench lighting a Lucky Strike (green pack), when I heard an airplane go into a power dive.  The engine noise was unfamiliar, and just kept coming like he was just maybe out of control.  He finally pulled up and the bombs he was carrying went off leaving me to believe he had spun in.  Shrapnel went everywhere, holes in the bulkheads where I was sitting, oilcans leaking, etc.

I was off the bench and going full speed toward the door into our hanger, where one of the bombs he had dropped had gone thru the roof and was now stuck in the concrete deck in front of me.  The tail fuse had broken off and was laying along side the bomb.  I reversed my direction and headed for another door and stumbled out on the lawn alongside our hanger.  While lying there gathering my wits about me, another plane zapped across me and I could see the Red Suns on the underside of his wings.  My instant conclusion:  We were being "had" by the Japanese.

The first bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor had barely missed me by roughly 60 feet, but had cut one of our aircraft in half.  One of our men was in the plane at the time checking the guns and ammunition, but it had missed him too.  Scared?  Yes!  There was a 40-foot crater in the ramp where the aircraft had been.

My next move was into a neighboring hanger at top speed and to the point where we had just moments before held muster.  No one in sight but a new Ensign Pilot Duty Officer under the Duty Officers desk.  Not much help here.

I grabbed the keys to the squadron truck and dashed back to where it was parked and proceeded west around Luke Field toward the BOQ to pick up some of our pilots.  By the time I was abreast of the Utah, it had been torpedoed and was rolling over with the guys scrambling across her keel, still in their skivvies.  No way could I be of assistance.  The BOQ was a mess.  A concrete structure, full of men, women and children; no way could I find anyone to go with me.  I quickly returned to the truck and proceeded around the north end of Luke Field past Battleship Row.  Upon coming abreast of the Arizona, I was greeted by one hell of an explosion that killed the engine on the truck.  Parts of the Arizona flew over me and landed on the golf course.

I took off afoot running for my life toward the south end of the Island from where I had started only minutes before.  Upon my arrival thoughts were on survival.  So back to the Armory, grabbing a rifle and a bandoleer of ammunition with the intent of trying to swim to the cane fields and head for the mountains.  After a quick review of my intentions, I realized the gun and ammo were much too heavy, so decided instead to turnbuckle a machine gun tripod to a pad eye in the ramp and try to get one of these planes as they bombed and strafed us.  I rescued a 30 cal. Aircraft machine gun and a canister of ammo from one of our broken planes, locked it in place on the tripod and waited for the next move.

During this brief intermission, I rescued two more guns and more ammo.  It wasn't much longer until here they came again  the second wave.  They had returned to their carriers, re-armed and were back with just as much fury as the first.  Only this time I had settled down to where I figured it was "get even time".  Again they attacked from the west.  Coming right down thru the slot the first planes had taken.  I had positioned my guns in the middle of the ramp right in the middle of our busted up aircraft in hopes they wouldn't see me.  Like I figured, they were going to try to destroy the remaining aircraft.  But, the first one that tried, I opened fire when he closed to 100 feet and tried to hit the pilot.  After two of three bursts, he was over me and gone.  I turned to see him heading across the harbor toward the hospital where he crashed.

Not too many seconds later, another on the same flight pattern closed to 150 feet and two or three bursts, he was hit hard, headed toward the ferry landing and crashed.  My gun had overheated.  The front barrel bearing was red hot.  I changed guns, burning my hands in the process.

By this time, the noise from my machine gun had got my crews attention and seeing me out there alone, they crawled out of the ditch they had all dove into.  (It was being built for gas lines along the east side of Luke Field.)  If I had known it was there, I'd have jumped in myself.  By this time our skipper, Comdr. Massey Hughes, was standing in one of the hanger doors in his bathrobe.  Ready to start directing this operation.  Two or three more planes tried to finish off what was left of our aircraft.  I know I hit them too, but couldn't see where they went for the smoke.

That night everyone was alert, armed and dangerous.  After dark all hell broke loose again.  The Aircraft Carriers, that were normally anchored about 12 miles out, had for some unknown reason, been sent on a mission a week or two earlier.  They had returned and sent their aircraft into land on Luke Field.  They received an unfriendly welcome, which I'm sure they weren't prepared for. PT boats were racing up and down the bay dropping 650-pound depth charges on two-man submarines that had somehow sneaked into Pearl Harbor.  All this noise and confusion really screwed up my nights sleep.

The days that followed were unbelievable.

I did, however, end up with a Letter of Commendation for Heroism in the Line of Fire and was credited with shooting down one and one-half enemy aircraft.

I retired a Chief Petty Officer, into the Fleet Reserve in 1964, and retired on thirty years as a Warrant Officer with five battle stars.
Information provided by Lester Ritchie.