Today is December 7 and we remember that fateful day 79 years ago.

Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands was a quiet place as the sun rose on that beautiful Sunday morning of 1941. The base was peaceful, but that peace was about to be shattered. 

Among the thousands of American sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor on that Sunday morning, many of them would never live to see another sunrise. Among the many ships on Battleship Row was the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37). The crew had been preparing for an inspection, which was to take place on the morning of Monday, December 8. As a result, many doors and hatches were wide open on that fateful day. 

Little did the crew know that as dawn broke, a Japanese air armada was hurtling toward them. The Japanese had planned on giving their declaration of war 30 minutes before the attack began. But due to the slowness of their code machines and typists, the message didn’t get to Washington until the attack was over. The first wave of the Japanese attack force swept over Pearl Harbor at 7:48 a.m. and achieved complete surprise. Not only had the battleships been parked in a row at anchor along Ford Island, but the American fighters on Hickam Field had been parked wingtip to wingtip. 

The first wave of 183 planes was led by the slow and vulnerable torpedo bombers. Since they were not under fire, they searched out battleship targets as in an exercise. Meanwhile, dive bombers hit Hickam and Wheeler Airfields. The second wave, consisting of 170 planes, attacked American facilities on Ford Island and Bellows Field.

The USS Oklahoma was berthed at Fox 5 on Battleship Row next to the USS Maryland. The officers of the watch called the crew to battle stations having witnessed the attacks beginning elsewhere in the harbor. Ensign Herb Rommel, the 4th Division officer, called the crew to General Quarters. Rommel saw the cruiser Helena get slammed with a torpedo and jumped onto the General Announcing System. 

“This is no shit, God damn it! They’re real bombs, Now get Going!” As another officer fumbled with the keys to the ammunition lockers, the call went out that would live forever: “Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This is no drill!”

At 7:56 a.m. the Oklahoma was hit simultaneously with two torpedoes 20 feet below the waterline between its smokestack and mainmast. Four minutes later, she was hit with a third torpedo which penetrated the hull. Her boilers punctured and she began to list heavily. At that moment, she was slammed with two more torpedoes and she began to capsize.