‘A different person’: Pearl Harbor veteran recounts experiencePublished 1:00am Saturday, December 7, 2013
BATH – Frank Clark Jr.’s ship, the U.S.S. Hull, was docked in Pearl Harbor for extensive maintenance on Dec. 7, 1941. A 19-year-old Clark worked in the boiler room.
“It was 160 degrees down there most of the time,” he said.
That morning, the boilers were off.
The attack concentrated on battleship row, not the six destroyers moored northeast of Ford Island, which sits in the middle of Pearl Harbor.
According to the Department of the Navy’s records, the Hull came under attack at 7:58 a.m. when two enemy planes crossed within 50 yards of the ship’s bow.
The commanding officer reported destroying four planes before a lull came at 8:30 a.m. Two bombers flew about 10,000 feet above the Hull and opened fire.
The planes broke formation and dropped their bombs in a nearby cane field.
The second dive-bomber attack started 15 minutes later.
“All attacks except one was broken up,” reported the commanding officer.
Clark, now 91, said little about the attack except that all but one of the battleships were sunk.
“War makes a different person out of anyone, I don’t care who he or she is,” Clark said.
He remembers how anxious everyone was to spring into action after it.
“It takes about an hour to get a boiler ready before you could put steam on the engine,” he said.
Once they were ready, Clark said the Hull joined six more destroyers and four heavy cruisers at sea.
“We went all day just as wide as you could go,” Clark said. “That night, we came upon the Yorktown and Enterprise. We damn near sunk our own ship.”
When the Hull came up on the Enterprise, each assumed they were the enemy. His commanding officer’s orders were to shoot at the Enterprise.
“And then if that didn’t do the job, ram them,” Clark said.
His destroyer escorted the Enterprise into Pearl Harbor. After an exhausting day and night in the boiler room, Clark said hearing they were returning to shore gave him the best feeling he’d had all day.
Clark served six years in the Navy. He said he joined to avoid being drafted into a different branch.
“I took the Navy because I was raised out here in this water,” he said. “I knew what water was all about.”