"Sioux Cityan Tells Story of Pearl Harbor Experience"

Sioux City, Iowa--Written by a former Sioux City Journal Man

Destruction of 230 Apple Pies Reason To Hate Japs
Sioux Cityan in Navy Tells Story of Pearl Harbor

By Wesley Pedersen

Among American naval casualties at Pearl Harbor December 7, were 230 fresh pies—apple pies baked for men aboard a United States battleship by Second Class Petty Officer Jack Downing of Sioux City.

But that’s only one of the things that made Petty Officer Downing annoyed at Hirohito’s henchmen.

The same bomb that destroyed his freshly baked pies also caused the fracture of his right leg and injuries to his left leg and left two scars on his face. That doesn’t improve the Sioux Cityans attitude toward the sons of the rising sun.

United States forces—soldiers, sailors and marines—were not unprepared for the treacherous Japanese attack, explained Petty Officer Downing, son of Mr. and Mrs. M.L. Downing, 715 14th Street. Rather, he said, it was because the Americans had been so active in their defense preparations that the Japs’ sneak attack succeeded as well as it did.

Accustomed to Planes

Most persons, including the service men at Hawaii, had become so accustomed to the sight of American plane maneuvers, he said, that they took it for granted the approaching enemy planes were United States machines in practice defense flights.

When at 7:55 a.m., the Japanese launched their aerial assault, Petty Officer Downing was in the galley of the battleship on which he was stationed. He had just taken the 230 apple pies from the ship’s oven and placed new loaves of bread to bake. Three cooks also were in the galley.

At the sound of the alarm, all men rushed to battle stations. The Sioux City sailor went to his post at a large broadside gun, designed primarily for use in ship-to-ship fighting. Eight other men, including some of the ship’s complement of 90 marines, manned the gun, firing at planes.

Despite the intensity of the Japanese attack, there were no slackers at Pearl Harbor, said the Sioux Cityan. He readily admitted however, that he and the rest of his buddies had been frightened when the attack began. It required only a few seconds, though for the men to get “fighting mad,” he added.

Whenever members of a gun crew downed an enemy, they literally “hopped up and down” with satisfaction, Petty Officer Downing said. One sailor on shore, handed a rifle and told to shoot at the planes, pointed the gun skyward, fired –and fainted when the ship burst into flames after a bullet had struck its bomb load.

Suffers Wounds

When the gun he was manning could find no more targets with-in its radius, the Sioux Cityan said, he started for an upper deck to help an antiaircraft gun crew there. A he was going through the galley on his way to the deck with several others, an aerial bomb struck, destroying the new pies and hurling Petty Officer Downing 10 feet. When he attempted to rise, he found his left leg had been broken.

One of the men, he said, had been blown into a vegetable barrel. Only his face and legs were visible but he had escaped with only leg injuries.

Petty Officer Downing was hauled by another sailor to safety in a vegetable locker. He stayed there a half hour before medical help arrived. Then he was taken to a shore hospital and later to the Mare Island Hospital at Vallejo, California to recuperate.

Source: The Sioux City Journal, August 15, 1942 (photo included)

Transcribed by Connie Swearingen, Aug 2018

Original Writer, former Sioux City Journal man, Wesley Pedersen


Home Page