Trapped Inside the USS West Virginia...


Courtesy War History Network - Clifford Olds 20,  Ronald Endicott,18, Louis “Buddy” Costin, 21


I just had an email where someone asked me, "Where do your book ideas come from?"
I have to back the cart up just a wee bit to answer...

It was an offhand conversation I heard from my parents when I was a wee kid.

How there were men, sailors, trapped in a capsized ship at Pearl Harbor, and how they would tap,tap,tap on the overturned hull to talk in Morse code to their supposed rescuers...and because of pressure implosion, if the rescue men attempted to make openings in the hull, the trapped sailors would be crushed.

My parents were small town Canadians and in the WWII war years that was about as accurate as the information got.

They assumed it was the USS Arizona.
It wasn't.
They assumed the pressure story was true.
It wasn't.
It was the capsized USS West Virginia, and three sailors that were trapped under water in the bow Stores compartment, and how they tapped with dog wrenches day and night from December 7th to 24th to try to seek help and be rescued from their underwater tomb.

Armed guards stationed near the wreck would hear this endless tapping, knowing from their superiors that there was no structural way to rescue those sailors. If a hole were drilled into the hull, the water would rise and drown the men before they could reach them. Those guards listened to those taps for 17 nights. I wouldn't take a million dollars for what their dreams were like after the war.
That casual tale talked about with my parents seared in me for decades that horrific visual.
And it wasn't until I saw a replay of a documentary in 2015 showing the capsized hull of the USS Oklahoma that the image hit home to me in a literary way.

What were those hours like for those men?
Were their thoughts, actions so horrendous that none dare imagine?
I decided I would figuratively return to Pearl Harbor, December 1941 and dive into those air pockets and find out for myself.
I needed to know.
I needed to feel that horror.
And I wanted to tell the tale of what I saw and felt.

Therein lies the seed of a book.

It is just that simple and just that hard.

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