[This report has three parts appearing in chronological order:  an article by Jerry describing his experiences during the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that led to America’s declaration of war against Japan; the story of Jerry at Tarawa; and four postscripts (including an article from Fortitudine, Newsletter of the Marine Corps Historical Program,  shedding valuable light on the sometimes overlooked Battle of Buariki, the last engagement during the Battle of Tarawa), all of which update Jerry's report as of 19 August 2013 and, subsequently, to 27 November 2013.]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
With Jerry Wachsmuth’s permission, his article focusing on events 
he experienced at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 begins this report.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Why we were at Pearl Harbor
Jerry Wachsmuth, USMC
I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on November 24, 1939.  I went through Boot Training and Sea School in San Diego, California.  On February 17, 1940, I was given orders to go on board the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), at that time the flagship of the United States Fleet.  This was at about the same time that Admiral James O. Richardson hoisted his flag on the ship as Commander-In-Chief, United States Fleet.  The ship was moored off San Pedro at the time.
On April 2, 1940, the United States Fleet headed toward Hawaiian waters for maneuvers.  We were scheduled to return in May, but, on May 27, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold Stark ordered the fleet to stay there because of the deterrent effect the fleet’s presence might have on the Japanese going into the East Indies and China.  In July the Export Control Act was invoked.  This involved the imposition of restrictions on the export of fuel, iron and scrap steel to Japan.  A lot of things were going on at this time.  On September 27, 1940, Japan formally joined with Axis powers, Germany and Italy. 
Admiral Richardson wanted to return the United States Fleet to the West Coast.  In my opinion, he pressed his case too hard with President Roosevelt, and, on February 1, 1941, he was replaced by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel.  If Admiral Richardson had prevailed, the fleet probably would not have been a victim of a surprise attack as the Japanese would hardly have sent their carriers as far as the West Coast. 
The USS Pennsylvania (Length 608’ -  Beam 102’ -  Draft 28’ 10” - Top speed around 16 knots) was commissioned on June 12, 1916. The USS Pennsylvania came back to the Bremerton Navy Yard in October 1940 for general maintenance and overhaul.  In December 1940, the ship returned to Pearl Harbor and surrounding waters where we stayed until after the attack on December 7, 1941.  In and out of the harbor, the USS Pennsylvania was often moored off Lahaina, Maui and cruised nearby waters performing training exercises, gunnery and so on.  Usually half of the larger Navy vessels were out to sea, and the other half was in port at any given time.
Macintosh HD:Users:john:Library:Caches:TemporaryItems:msoclip:0:clip_image011.png
USS Pennsylvania  (BB-38)
Flagship of the U.S. Pacific Fleet before the Pearl Harbor attack
PENNSY lower left 10XII41
Aerial view of USS Pennsylvania (lower left) at Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941
Altitude:  approximately 2,500 feet; NOTE: streaks of oil in the water
On December 7, 1941, the USS Pennsylvania, along with the destroyers Cassin and Downes, were in Dry Dock #1 alongside 1010 dock.  With the dry dock drained, the Pennsy had her screws off permitting work to be done on the shafts.  At the same time, the bottom was to be scraped and painted. 
Macintosh HD:Users:john:Library:Caches:TemporaryItems:msoclip:0:clip_image013.png
USS Cassin  (DD-372)
USS Downes  (DD-375)
Downes & Cassins      Pearl Harbor.jpg
USS Downes (DD-375) - USS Cassin (DD-372) - USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) 
in Drydock #1, flooded to fight flaming oil in basin;
 smoke in distance is from USS Arizona
At 0755 hours I was in the showers located on the main deck in the forward part of the ship.  This is the same deck that housed the Marine Detachment compartments.  I could hear sounds of some commotion and noises coming in through the portholes.  At about the same time, “General Quarters!  All men man your battle stations!” was sounded. Along with this, someone yelled into the showers, “The Japanese are in the harbor.”  I grabbed my towel, which was the usual attire when going to shower, and ran to my compartment.  Here I stopped only long enough to grab some clothing and raced up to casemate #8 where my battle station was on the #8 - 5”/51 caliber broadside gun.  Here I got dressed.  There were 14 men on the gun crew.  Now we could clearly hear and see the cause of the noises.  We were on the port side of the ship so our view was out across the Navy Yard toward Hickam Field.  We had a good 180° view, so we could also see out to the aft of the ship.  Planes were coming down at and below masthead level and dumping their lethal loads.