16 Days

steve mcmanus
3 min readDec 8, 2021

It was worse at night…

Clifford Olds, 20; Ronald Endicott, 18; and Louis “Buddy” Costin, 21 — U.S. Navy

In the winter of 1941 the U.S. Navy kept a significant portion of its fleet in Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Filley & Company, Inc.

Nestled among the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma and the USS Tennessee, the USS West Virginia was anchored in the harbor off the southwestern shore of Ford Island across from Pearl Harbor station in approximately 40 feet of water. The West Virginia, or “WeeVee” as it was affectionately named by its sailors, was a 624 foot, 32,600-ton Colorado class battleship that was commissioned in 1923.

U.S. Navy

When the Japanese navy attacked, the West Virginia was hit by five aircraft-launched torpedoes and two aerial bombs but because of the quick thinking of a Navy lieutenant, the ship sank upright in her mooring. The draft of the ship was just over 30 feet, so the ship sank a little over 10 feet.

The Monkey Bar today

The night before the attack, three young sailors on shore leave were enjoying themselves at The Monkey Bar in the Pearl City Tavern.

U.S. Navy

Now that the West Virginia was sunk, the three men found themselves in complete darkness in a sealed compartment in the bow section of the ship. Unsure of what lay beyond the hatch they started taking turns banging on the bulkhead with a wrench. They had no idea if anyone could hear them and didn’t know if anyone was coming to help. No one was coming.

Using flame or steel to cut into the ship was exceptionally dangerous and that type of rescue approach was therefore abandoned. As the days went by, the three sailors kept banging around the clock. People could hear it on Ford Island and in Pearl City. Someone started playing music over loudspeakers hung on the telephone poles on the streets near the harbor shore.

It was worse at night,” said Marine Corps bugler Dick Fiske. “You’d hear bang-bang-bang, then stop, then bang-bang-bang from deep in the bow of the ship. It didn’t take long to realize that men were making that noise. Pretty soon nobody wanted to do guard duty, especially at night when it was quiet. It didn’t stop until Christmas Eve.”

Six months later, “Three bodies were found on the shelf of storeroom A-111, clad in blues and jerseys. This storeroom was open to fresh water pump room A-109, which was apparently the battle station assigned to these men. The emergency rations at this station had been consumed and the manhole cover to the fresh water tanks had been removed. A calendar which was found in the compartment had an ‘X’ marked through each day from December 7, 1941, through December 23rd, inclusive.” (From the salvage report filed by Commander Paul Dice during body-retrieval efforts in May 1942).

Their official date of death was listed as December 7th. Not December 23rd. Their 16 day ordeal was not recognized.

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steve mcmanus

Producer and Writer of the online radio show Forbidden America. Writing an online TV interview show set for production in 2021. An emerging Voice-Over Talent.