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Navy White Boats at USS Arizona Memorial Honor the Past to Inspire the Future

Graphic of the USS Arizona Memorial

The 75th commemoration of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and other U.S. military facilities on Oahu is an opportunity for us to honor the courage, service and sacrifice of the U.S. military personnel present during the attacks.

Before USS Arizona Memorial visitors arrive at the resting place of the 1,177 Sailors and Marines who lost their lives aboard USS Arizona during the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, they ride on white boats – named for Sailors who embody the Navy’s four core attributes of toughness, accountability, integrity and initiative – that are driven by Sailors. Petty Officer 1st Class Wren Pettett is one of those Sailors. In the below video, Wren shares what it means to drive those boats so visitors can pay tribute to our Sailors from that “date which will live in infamy.”

U.S. Navy video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Laurie Dexter

Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John Finn

TB 39-1 John Finn (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)
TB 39-1 John Finn (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)

John Finn was a Sailor in the U.S. Navy who, as a chief petty officer, received the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War IL As a chief aviation ordnanceman stationed at Naval Air Station Kancohe Bay, he earned the medal by manning a machine gun from an exposed position throughout the attack, despite being repeatedly wounded. He continued to serve in the Navy and in 1942 was commissioned an ensign. In 1947, he was reverted to chief petty officer, eventually rising to the commissioned officer rank of lieutenant, until his 1956 retirement. In his later years, he made many appearances at events celebrating veterans. At the time of his death, Finn was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient and the last living recipient from the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Rear Adm. Samuel Fuqua

TB 39-2 Samuel Fuqua (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)
TB 39-2 Samuel Fuqua (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)

After a year at the University of Missouri and World War I service in the Army, Samuel Fuqua entered the U.S. Naval Academy in July 1919. Following graduation and commissioning in June 1923, he served onboard the battleship Arizona, destroyer McDonough and battleship Mississippi before receiving shore duty at San Francisco, California, in 1930-32. Lt. Fuqua served in other ships and shore stations during the mid-1930s, and was commanding officer of the minesweeper Bittern in the Asiatic Fleet in 1937-39.

After service at the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois, in 1939-41, Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua returned to USS Arizona as the ship’s damage control officer and first lieutenant, and was onboard the ship during Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, raid on Pearl Harbor. Though knocked unconscious by a bomb that hit the ship’s stern early in the attack, he subsequently directed fire fighting and rescue efforts. After the ship’s forward magazines exploded, he was the ship’s senior surviving officer and was responsible for saving the ship’s remaining crewmen. For his distinguished conduct and heroism at that time, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

During most of 1942, Fuqua was an officer of the cruiser Tuscaloosa. In 1943-44, he was assigned to duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and attended the Naval War College. Captain Fuqua was operations officer for Commander, Seventh Fleet in January-August 1945, helping to plan and execute several amphibious operations in the Philippines and Borneo area. Following the war, he served in other staff positions, and in 1949-50 commanded the destroyer tender Dixie. After service as chief of staff of the Eighth Naval District, he retired from active duty in July 1953, receiving at that time the rank of rear admiral on the basis of his combat awards. Rear Adm. Samuel Fuqua died  Jan. 27, 1987.

Lt. Cmdr. Jackson Pharris

TB 39-5 Jackson Pharris (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)
TB 39-5 Jackson Pharris (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)

For Lt. Cmdr. Jackson Pharris’ actions onboard USS California during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was awarded the Navy Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

In charge of the ordnance repair party on the third deck when the first Japanese torpedo struck almost directly under his station, Lt. (then Gunner) Pharris was stunned and severely injured by the concussion that hurled him to the overhead and back to the deck. Quickly recovering, he acted on his own initiative to set up a hand-supply ammunition train for the antiaircraft guns. With water and oil rushing in where the port bulkhead had been torn up from the deck, with many of the remaining crewmembers overcome by oil fumes, and the ship without power and listing heavily to port as a result of a second torpedo hit, Lt. Phairis ordered the ship fitters to counter flood. Twice rendered unconscious by the nauseous fumes and handicapped by his painful injuries, he persisted in his desperate efforts to speed up the supply of ammunition and at the same time repeatedly risked his life to enter flooding compartments and drag to safety unconscious shipmates who were gradually being submerged in oil. By his inspiring leadership, his valiant efforts and his extreme loyalty to his ship and her crew, he saved many of his shipmates from death and was largely responsible for keeping the California in action during the attack.

Capt. Donald Ross

TB 39-4 Donald Ross (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)
TB 39-4 Donald Ross (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)

Donald Ross enlisted in the Navy in Denver, Colorado, on June 3, 1929; graduated company honor man from basic training, San Diego; completed Machinist Mate School, Norfolk, Va. – first in his class and was assigned to USS Henderson on a China service run.

While serving in hospital ship Relief, Ross saw his first action (with the Marines) in Nicaragua in 1931. Advancing through the rates on the minesweeper USS Brant, destroyer USS Simpson and cruiser USS Minneapolis, he attained the rank of warrant officer and was assigned to USS Nevada.

It was on USS Nevada that Ross distinguished himself on Dec. 7, 1941, by assuming responsibility to furnish power under untenable conditions, to get the ship underway – the only battleship to do so during the Japanese attack.

“When his station in the forward dynamo room became almost untenable due to smoke, steam and heat,” reads Ross’ citation, “he forced his men to leave that station and performed all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned and secured the forward dynamo room and proceeded to the after dynamo room, where he was later again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Upon recovering consciousness, he returned to his station, where he remained until directed to abandon it.”

Ross was presented the Medal of Honor by Adm. Chester Nimitz on April 18, 1942, and was commissioned an ensign in June 1942. Later in the war, he also participated in the landings at Normandy and Southern France. Ross retired in July 1956 as a captain, after 27 years of consecutive active duty aboard every type of surface ship then afloat.

Chief Watertender Peter Tomich

TB 39-6 Peter Tomich (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)
TB 39-6 Peter Tomich (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)

By 1941, Peter Tomich had become a chief watertender onboard the training and target ship USS Utah. On Dec. 7, 1941, while the ship lay in Pearl Harbor moored off Ford Island, Utah was torpedoed during Japan’s raid on Pearl Harbor, Tomich was on duty in a boiler room. As Utah began to capsize, he remained below, securing the boilers and making certain that other men escaped, and so lost his life. For his distinguished conduct and extraordinary courage at that time, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor was on display at the Navy’s Senior Enlisted Academy (Tomich Hall). Later, the decoration was presented to Tomich’s family on USS Enterprise aircraft carrier in the southern Adriatic city of Split in Croatia, May 18, 2006 – 64 years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded it to him.

Cmdr. Cassin Young

TB 39-3 Cassin Young (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)
TB 39-3 Cassin Young (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meranda Keller/Released)

Cassin Young was one of the Medal of Honor recipients for his heroism and distinguished conduct in action while serving as commanding officer of USS Vestal (AR 4) during Dec. 7, 1941.

Cmdr. Young proceeded to the bridge and later took personal command of the 3-inch antiaircraft gun. When blown overboard by the blast of the forward magazine explosion of USS Arizona, to which USS Vestal was moored, he swam back to his ship. The entire forward part of the USS Arizona was a blazing inferno with oil afire on the water between the two ships; as a result of several bomb hits, USS Vestal was a fire in several places, was settling and taking on a list. Despite severe enemy bombing and strafing at the time, and his shocking experience of having been blown overboard, Cmdr. Young, with extreme coolness and calmness, moved his ship to an anchorage distant from USS Arizona, and subsequently beached USS Vestal upon determining that such action was required to save his ship.

Learn more about the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

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