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Skagit River Journal

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Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
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Pearl Harbor, 0755, 7 December 1941

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©2002, updated 2010

      U.S.S. Ramsay, DD-124, courtesy of this site. The Ramsay was named for Francis Munroe Ramsay, born in the District of Columbia 5 April 1835, was appointed Midshipman 5 October 1850. After training in Preble and in St. Lawrence, he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1856. On 23 March 1863, he assumed command of Choctaw, a gunboat, for duty in the Mississippi Squadron. In that gunboat, he participated in Yazoo River operations during April and May. He participated in amphibious assaults on Fort Fisher 24 December 1864 and on 13 January 1865, and in subsequent attacks against Fort Anderson and other forts along the Cape Fear River. In April, he assisted in removing torpedoes (mines) from the James River and was present at the capture of Richmond.
      After the Civil War, Ramsay served in many and varied positions afloat - as Fleet Captain, South Atlantic Squadron and as commanding officer of Guerriere, Ossipee, Lancaster, and Trenton. Ashore, he served at the Naval Academy, at Newport, in London as naval attaché, and at Boston and New York as commandant of the Navy Yards. In 1889 he became Chief of the Bureau of Navigation and remained in that post until his retirement 5 April 1897. He was promoted to rear admiral on 5 April 1894, and died in Washington, D.C., 19 July 1914. (More information at this site
      The Ramsay had a displacement of 1,060; length 314'5"; beam 31'; draft 10'3"; speed 33.5 knots; complement 133; armament 4 4", 2 3", 12 21" torpedo tubes; class Wickes. It was laid down 21 December 1917 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; launched 8 June 1918; sponsored by Miss Mary Virginia Ramsay, granddaughter of Rear Admiral Ramsay; and commissioned 15 February 1919, Comdr. H. H. Norton in command. It was decommissioned and scraped on Nov. 21, 1946, after being awarded three battle stars during the war.
      A special note to Dr. Ross Hanchett: Just as I never forget Pearl Harbor day, I will never forget the birth of Ross Hanchett, the son of my dear friends, Val and Franki Hanchett, on Dec. 7, 1976. We are all very proud of him, and I wish that his grandfather, Ross Hanchett, the elder, was alive to share our joy in his success. Happy 34th birthday, Doctor.

      Victor Andrew Bourasaw was born in Festus, Missouri, on Nov. 30, 1901. He left home in his early teens to mine boron by hand near the Old Mines District on the Mississippi river. At the end of the summer of 1922 he had his fill of wearing out his arms and he bummed a ride with a friend to the Great Lakes Training District in Chicago to visit military recruiters. He said years later that he could not get into the Army because he was more than two months shy of his 21st birthday and he did not have his parents' permission. The Navy recruiter was not such a stickler. He entered Victor's year of birth as 1900. After 19 years of duty, Victor was a chief petty officer on the destroyer, U.S.S. Ramsay, at Pearl Harbor on the early morning of Dec. 7, 1941. We have not found on the Internet anywhere as complete a first-hand description of the destruction and aftermath of that day at Pearl Harbor. I was always proud of Dad, not only for being a Pearl Harbor survivor and a fine sailor, but for his record-keeping and memory. He left school after his freshman year of high school, but he and mother (who left school after the eighth grade) taught me to read and write and perform simple arithmetic before I entered the first grade.

Vic Bourasaw's diary
      This is a diary of what I saw that Day of Infamy, 7 December 1941. Ordinarily I would have been home in Honolulu but my ship had the "Ready" duty beginning at 0800. Our liberty was up at 0730. I came aboard about 0735 and went down to our (chief petty officer) quarters. There were eleven of us CPO's. We were sitting around shooting the breeze and having our morning cup of mud (coffee).
      There was some blasting as one of the chiefs remarked, starting at 0755. I got up and looked out from the forward hatch and what I saw caused me to say: "fellows man your stations we are being bombed by the Japs!"
      I saw first the U.S.S. Utah turning over with two (fish) torpedoes in her and Jap dive bombers giving her hell.
      We had received a set of new awnings when we arrived in port Friday. I sent the first man I saw to the galley with orders to get every knife and cleaver he could find there. When he reported back to me, he had an armful. We passed them out to the men and we cut our brand new awnings down. I would judge we had our guns firing at the yellow bastards in under ten minutes time.
      At a few minutes before eight the Japanese had begun an air raid on Pearl Harbor and Hickman Field. The hangars at Hickman were set afire and all the grounded planes strafed; also numerous oil tanks were set afire, burning for two days and nights. The Utah (battleship) and the Raleigh (Omaha-class light cruiser) were hit by torpedoes launched by special torpedo planes and dive bombers. They dropped bombs of all kinds, incendiary, shrapnel and high explosives. then I saw the hangars at Hickman Field and Ford Island ablaze, and the Raleigh listing, many men in the water, oil covered water and it was afire in many places.

(Pearl Harbor)
      The map above, from this fine site will help you locate landmarks and ship positions the morning of December 7.

      There were some flying fortresses [B-17 Bombers] arriving from the mainland. It was heart rending to see them coming in with a Jap riding astern of one only a few feet. The gunner and tail gunner just sitting there, taking it, not a round of ammunition to fire back. We brought one down as he finished strafing one of gallant fortresses. He fell in shallow water just a few feet away on our port side.
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      When we got underway we left in such a hurry we left our boats (2) in port. I told the coxswain to be sure and be over there when they picked the plane up and get me a souvenir from it. Well he did; a big piece of the pilot's parachute. We were the third ship out of the harbor. The following is as I saw it.
      Sunday Morning, Dec. 7, 1941. This morning at a few minutes before eight the Japanese began an air raid on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field. The Utah and the Raleigh was hit by torpedoes launched by torpedo planes and dive bombers. Bombs of all kind — incendiary, shrapnel and high explosives — were dropped. The hangars on Ford Island and Hickam Field were set afire and all the grounded planes staffed. Also numerous oil tanks were set afire, burning for two days and nights.
      About 0815 a submarine was discovered inside of the harbor astern of the Medusa and the Curtis (two destroyer tenders). A nest of destroyers were alongside of the Medusa, and all were taking pot shots at [the sub's] conning tower. One 3-inch shell hit her bow and tore it off. She then submerged and reappeared again. The Monaghan, DD-354, had got under way and made for her, ramming her and letting go two depth charges. A mighty cheer went up from the crews of the ships around. Of course she has never reappeared since. Unfortunately the Monaghan ran her bow onto the beach on Ford Island and she had to back her engines full speed and, at that, had difficulty backing off.
      The Ramsay crew [Victor's destroyer] acted like veterans under fire. Each man to the lowest rating did his duty and did it well. Am proud to be a member of a crew like this.
      The enemy aircraft, having dropped their bombs, now turn to strafing. They sure are bum shots. We were strafed five times and have only one bullet hole to show on the ship, through the rail on the flying deck.
      It was terrible to have to go through that oil-covered water on the way out, seeing our shipmates struggling in it and not being able to help them. We threw life buoys to the ones we saw that needed one.
      We found submarines in wait outside. We dropped depth charges as did the other destroyers. The navy authorities are sure that we got four subs. The subs evidently were waiting for the battleships to come out but of course they never did. It would have been suicide. We have heard that the West Virginia and the Oklahoma were damaged. We could see the West Virginia listing considerably as we were leaving port. All this morning the destroyers were busy tracking down subs, pounding them with depth charges. All this morning destroyers are busy tracking down subs, pounding them with depth charges.
      Afternoon 7 Dec: Two o'clock, dropping depth charges. We must be getting some for there are usually bubbles and oil. 1430, no word yet from Task Force One, who went to engage the enemy. Still dropping ash cans [depth charges]. Are now in Condition Three at 1500. Two light air attacks on Pearl harbor between 2000 and 2100. Very little sleep for the crew tonight.
      Monday 8 Dec: Everything quiet at 0800. Some of our battle force returning from tracking down the Japs. They look okay. God hope they found them and sent them down to Davey Jones's Locker.
      1400 the U.S.S. Enterprise and a squadron of cans [destroyers] arrived to fuel and take on ammunition. Made several contacts at intervals dropping more ash cans. About a third of each twenty-four hours we are at general quarters; the rest is watch, 4 on and 4 off.
      Tuesday 9 Dec: A Jap sub sighted off Diamond Head at 0645. Destroyes dropped a number of ash cans. Ramsay dropped eight. Hope we got him. The rst of the day was rather quiet. No attacks or contacts during the night. However, when we do turn in, it is boots and saddles.
      Wednesday 10 Dec: 0430 Air raid alarm, went to general quarters. No air riad. All Clear 0540. All was quiet during fore and afternoon. At 2000 the first of 37 flying fortresses landed at about 10 minutes intervals. They are from San Diego. Boy does it cheer one up to see them come in. Anything with any weapons at all looks good. All hands are taking good; let's get 'em.
      Thursday 11 Dec: All was quiet this a.m. At 1000 the first of 35 flying fortresses arrived from the mainland. 1400 the U.S.S. Chew, DD-106, picked up a sub and dropped two depth charges, bringing the sub to the surface and she went down to Davey Jones Locker. The Chew made another run on it and let her have four more ash cans for good measure. Goodbye sub. It is a sight to see the crews on our cans cheering when we get a sub.
      How we all would love to get word off to our families that we are okay. Oh, for a newspaper. Keeping close watch for subs. Everyone, on coming on the topise, becomes a lookout willingly.
      Friday 12 Dec: We have outer patrol at 1200, made 30 knots. An army plane has a sub spotted. The U.S.S. Breeze got there first. She dropped five ash cans. Hope she got it. She is in our division. The other two destroyers in our division are the Montgomery and the Campbell.
      Good news. We are expected to to in port. Gee, hope we get a few hours liberty anyway. Suppose we will take on stores, furel and ammunition and come back out. Entered port just before sunset. What a sad sight was unfolded before our eyes. We thought we had only lost one battleship, and one damaged. Instead there is the Nevada grounded at the end of the inter channel at the edge of a cane field. The Oklahoma bottom side up at the dock. The Arizona a burnt out hulk. The California and West Virginia settled in the mud. Two destroyers, the Cassin and the Downes blown up in the big dry dock. The U.S.S. Shaw, another destroyer, wrecked on the marine railway. The Utah upside down. Hickam Field and Ford Island a complete wreck. The Ogalala sunk alongside the Helena, a cruiser. Coffins stacked stories high, waiting the bodies of our shipmates and buddies of the the Army and Marines. God! All these caught in the foulest deed ever committed against a nation. The Ogalala was sunk by a torpedo that passed beneath her keel, striking the Helena, the concussion busting in her sides.
      The fire that burnt for two days and two nights that we thought was the oil tanks burning, was the Arizona. A gallant old ship, had a lot of shipmates on her. The Japs thought they were getting the Enterprise or the Lexington when they were bombing the Utah. Thank God there wasn't any of our carriers in Pearl Harbor that morning. The Utah had moved over to the Enterprise berth as she left Saturday morning.
      We worked past midnight taking on stores and ammunition; never saw a more willing bunch of men, every one gritting his teeth and saying to himself, let's get it aboard and get going, go get those bums. A real blackout is challenging every few steps by a determined marine.
      Saturday 13 Dec: This morning at 0600 we shifted berths to Pearl City. We were to go ashore at 0930 just as the boat made the gangway. All boat traffic was stopped in the yard as a submarine was in the harbor. Two PT boats came alongside and got depth charges [from us]. They are hunting for the sub. Traffic restored at 1330. Got ashore soon after. Got home and found the family okay. Hazel and Jerry [wife and son] had moved in with Dixie [Dixie and Lloyd Latimer lived in Burlington for many years on Rio Vista]. My, what a happy meeting. We three thank God that each one was alright.
      Sunday 14 Dec: Underway 0600. Patrol duty. During the night we convoyed an inter-island steamer to Kawaii. On our way back we made contact and sank a big Jap sub. All hands cheered as each bubble came up. The rest of this week spent patrolling.
      Friday 19 Dec: Had harbor gate duty. 0600 Saturday. 20 Dec. underway for Pearl City. Liberty at 1300, expiring at 1700.
      Sunday 21 Dec: Underway. 0830 dropped eight ash cans. Plenty of oil and bubbles. 1130 had contact but lost it. 1210 an rmy plane spotted Togo, indicating the spot by diving on the sub. Dropped eight depth charges. We all cheered as the oil and bubbles coming to the surface. After noon and evening, all is quiet. Went to general quarters at sunset and then station condition two. All hands is wishing for a scrap.
      Monday 22 Dec: Convoyed an oil tanker down to Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Lots of planes patrolling overhead; must be a convoy or task force coming in.
      Tuesday 23 Dec: We had a good laugh at the Montgomery. An Army plane spotted a "sub" and dropped two bombs on it.. the Montgomery made a run on it, letting go eight ash cans. Up comes a huge black [actual] fish. The cans and the other planes were ribbing the Montgomery and the plane, such as "how's fishing down there?" Ha!.
      Wednesday 24 Dec: Patrolling off Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head. We were all wondering if we will meet Tojo in the form of Santa Clause tonight. Ha!. As usual, we went to general quarters at sunset and set Condition Two afterwards.
      Thursday Christmas Day: Had a swell dinner, with turkey all the trimmings. Spent a quiet, peaceful day at our battle stations. No contacts. General quarters at sunset and then Condition Two for the night.
      Friday 26 Dec: In port for stores, fuel and depth charges, and we hope, mail, and of course, liberty. Liberty at 1300. My, how we all enjoy few hours ashore. Found Hazel and Jerry fine. They had a nice Christmas, considering the circumstances. Santa Claus was good to Jerry (age six). His eyes was just dancing with delight when he showed he his toys. God grant that he will have to face a war and thank God he isn't old enough to realize what it is all about. Back aboard at 1830.
      Quite a few hours afterwards, while away aboard ship, shooting the breeze about our youngsters — seems like most of the men, older ones have kids or one at least. A Hawaiian girl that lives next door to us sure got a drag with me. Brought me over a shot of Alky. The liquor stores have been closed since Dec. 7th. In our court, there are the following families. The landlady is a Chinese, plus one Japanese, one Hawaiian, three haoles (whites), one Filipino. And everybody gets along swell. Jerry plays with Kay, the little Japanese girl, almost always. Do I kid him about his "girlfriend." Dixie worries about Lloyd so much when he is on a patrol. Back aboard at 1830.
      Saturday 27 Dec: One more day in port. We painted the sides and the waterline. The ship looks swell. gallant crew and a swell ship, she is. Work is progressing at a fast pace aboard the ships, the grounded ones. The Raleigh has been in dry dock and out, almost he Helena and the Ogalala is righted. Red Hill and desolate and barren hill in back of Airea has been made into s cemetery for the victims of the Dec. 7 attack. It is to be made into a beautiful national shrine. Liberty same as yesterday.
      Sunday 28 Dec: Underway at 0600. My, what a wonderful spirit this crew has. and we hear the same holds true on the rest of the ships. The "Old Man" [captain] has given the crew a radio, a strong short wave; we get the states so plain. Oh yes, we listen in on Tokyo each evening about 2100. My, how they can stretch the truth. General quarters follow by Condition Two [submarine patrol] at sunset.
      Monday 29 Dec: Thought much of my mother [Louise Palmer Martin Bourasaw] today, it being her birthday. Thank God she isn't on this old troubled earth. Usual routine aboard ship.
      Tuesday 30 Dec: Convoyed three ships out a few hundred miles north. Do not know where they are headed. Of course they are loaded plenty and valuable cargo.
      Tuesday 31 Dec: Contact at 0930. Dropped 12 ash cans. Plenty of oil and bubbles. He has plenty far to go down if we got him for the water is over four miles deep at the spot. [I] had the mid-watch. We had a swell time beating our gums over our pot of mud. Talking over some of the New Years we had spent.

(U.S.S. Arizona burning after the attack)
U.S.S. Arizona burns after the attack

      In the future, we will update Vic's diary to include recently discovered sections about his work in 1944, convoying ships to North Africa, and his early service in the South Pacific in 1923-24. Victor retired from the Navy in 1946 and moved to Skagit County with his wife Hazel and young sons, Jerry and Noel. He passed away on Feb. 11, 1882, after living in Sedro-Woolley for 34 years in a Jimmy Stewart-style It's a Wonderful Life. Vic would have been proud on Pearl Harbor day of 2001 when the American Legion George Baldridge Post #43 of Sedro-Woolley opened up their new club lounge (link is repaired). He was commander there in 1958.
      I always marveled as a boy how my father reacted to Japanese after we moved to the Skagit Valley in 1947. Living originally on Swan Road northeast of Mount Vernon, near Japanese farmers, he and mother immediately made friends with them. After 1948, when we moved to Sedro-Woolley, in the Utopia District, he kept up those friendships and sponsored the first Japanese member of our Legion post. He and mother instilled in my brother and me the importance of treating people of each race and background the same, and not to hold grudges from World War II. If you or your relative has a memory of Pearl Harbor, we welcome you to email us with their thoughts so we can share them in future issues. If you would like to read more about the U.S.S. Arizona, we direct you to this terrific site by Phil Dine, who shares a letter from his uncle, John George Dine, who died on the ship. You can find many photos and details there. And here is a Journal site about the history of the Sedro-Woolley American Legion, George Baldridge Post No. 43, which we compiled in December 2001. We plan to update it in 2011. And you might want to keep in mind that the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor is slowly sinking in the soft soil and $34 million is needed in donations to shore it up and create room to house the many donated mementos.

(U.S.S. Airzona Memorial)

Above: U.S.S. Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor

Right: Vic Bourasaw when he was chairman of the Loggerodeo festivities in connection with the American Legion; Barber Hank Geary behind him, who still lives above his old barber shop on State Street when not snowbirding down south.
(Vic Bourasaw)

Story posted on Story posted Dec. 7, 2000, last updated Dec. 1, 2010 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 16 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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