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Interview with Richard M. Paull [1/30/2002]

Tom Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II Veteran Richard M. Paull. Mr. Paull served with the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific Theater, and he was on board the battleship USS Nevada when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Mr. Paull's highest rank was motor machinist second class. I am Tom Swope, and this recording was made at Mr. Paull's home in Parma, Ohio, on January 30, 2002. Dick was 79 at the time of this recording.

Richard M. Paull:

I joined the Navy December the 4th, 1940, downtown at the Cleveland post office. I was sworn in, went to Great Lakes, did my basic training there, and then I went on the Nevada at around February of 1940 --

Tom Swope:

'41?

Richard M. Paull:

I mean '41, and I was -- we were there in the Navy Yard, she was getting something fixed on her, and then in April we went to the Islands, Hawaiian Islands. We got out to the Hawaiian Islands about -- it took us about two weeks to get out there because the Nevada only could go 15 knots. You know, the big battleships, they weren't fast like a cruiser. And went to the Islands, and it was a beautiful place out there. I loved it.

And, then on December the 7th, it was a beautiful Sunday morning. I was -- I got up early to get ready to rig an awning up above the deck from the lifelines to the big turrets on the quarterdeck, and that was to have church services. After that, I could go ashore. That's what I was waiting on. And during -- just before colors went, I was looking at the guys coming back from overnight liberty, and just -- I looked up and I seen three planes come in. I couldn't believe it. I said to my buddy, I said, "What's the matter with those guys?"

Then all of a sudden I seen the red meatball underneath the end of their wings and I knew right away it was Japan. And, the funny thing of it is that when we were out to sea for three weeks, we went through general quarters two times, and then after it was over, they said unidentified submarines were in the water. Right there we knew they were Japanese, and they never did anything. I don't know if they reported it to Kimmel. He was the man in charge out there, and Short was the Army and Kimmel was the Navy.

And those guys got blamed, but they shouldn't have got blamed. They was doing everything they could possible. Because Roosevelt told them to tighten security, so they got all the planes together, and close together where they could, you know, see them all the time. And when they come over, they just must have had a field day because they bombed those planes. They didn't have to -- If they were scattered, they wouldn't have lost so many, so that was sort of stupid there.

And I don't blame those two men, Kimmel and Short, because it wasn't their fault, but they lost -- they relieved them of their duty right away, which I thought was very bad. Anyway, we all ran to our battle stations. Mine was in the number six turret. I mean, the number three turret. That was up to stern. You have three and four at the stern, then one or two. That's the largest turrets, the 16-inch guns. And we went down there, and then they sent us right up right away because we didn't have no ammunition, and you couldn't have used the big guns anyway.

The day before, when we come in, when we come in on Friday, that Friday morning early, we took all of the big powder bags -- they were round cylinders, they weighed 100 pounds, about that tall -- they took those. All day long we were getting them off the ship, and so, luckily, we didn't have no powder bags. If we had had them on there, I knew that ship would have blew up. That was just like an atomic bomb when those blew up, 100 pounds of black powder, each bag.

Anyway, we took them all off like I say, and then, the reason why, it was for security reasons. That's the reason why. And then one source was that they didn't -- they were old, they wanted to put new powder bags on. So then, like I say, that morning we were so surprised, and the day went so fast.

It was a little bit over two hours, I'd say two hours and ten minutes of constant bombing. The first planes came in were torpedo planes, and they had the radioman in back of the pilot. He was shooting these 50-caliber bullets at us. That's what I was afraid of. They were just bouncing off the turrets. The tripods were all full of holes. Them tripods on the mast of the ship are about that big around, and they were just peppered. So, the closest I think I could have been killed, I don't know how many times, but the closest was a young sailor in front of me dropped over. He hit my leg and his leg was cut off here, but he was hit someplace else, and he was dead instantly.

So then, during the battle, I was -- most everybody on the ship was fighting fire, at least once or twice, and then they got relieved, somebody else goes. The whole shitting decks were burning up. The boat deck was a mess. That was the first thing we did was, the officer on the deck was a young officer, I'd say about 21, ensign, and he didn't know what to do at first, so the boatswain mate said, he gave orders to pipe down, defuel, general quarters, so he give them orders to pipe it down, and then the ensign says, "Go down into your living quarters, get all the blankets off the bunks," so that's what we wrapped the dead sailors in, you know. Wrapped them up in blankets and we stacked them on the fantail, which they never get hit on the fantail. They don't go after the fantail. They always go up forward when they bomb.

And so, we took all the blankets off, and as the stretchers came down from the upper deck, put them -- wrapped them in blankets and stacked them on the fantail. And same way with the wounded, until we was able to get them over the side. And some of those guys, I saw the skin was really falling off of them. And ...

But, you know, that whole time, I wasn't even scared. It seemed like you was in a shock, like, you know, until later. But it was -- that two hours, like I say, went pretty fast. Then like I say, some time I was up on the boat deck fighting fires. The bridge was a mess, and there was no deck up forward. That was all inflamed. The wooden decks -- you know, we had wooden decks, and all you could see was steel girders. And like I say, it lasted about two and a half hours or so. And then after we got off the ship -- We had to swim. When they -- They didn't sink -- They sunk the Nevada, but two seagoing tugs pushed us into the beach. That was around the end of Ford Island.

I have got a picture of it here. We come out here. Here's where we was going down, and we got over -- first we was over someplace else here, then they told us to get out of there. We got around the end of Ford Island. Right in here were two seagoing tugs, pushed us into the beach and held us there for about a day and a half until they got her anchored into the ground. Once they got her anchored into the ground, they dug -- well, first they dug holes in the sand. That's all sand beach. The land was sand there, and we took turns digging, I remember, and we dug large holes deep into the ground, and they had three-inch or better cables, steel cables that connected the ship. They buried them in and then put concrete over them. It must have been down at least six foot or more into the ground. That's how they got her anchored, and then the tug stayed there for about a day and a half to make sure that was solid. They worked on her all night.

And the next day, I was on the working party with one of my lieutenants in my division, and there was two sailors and myself. We went out to the Nevada, aboard the Nevada just to look, and then I found myself a forearm from here on down that was there up on -- by the bridge, and I just couldn't believe. Everything was a mess up there. Just unbelievable.

And, we got one torpedo -- Somebody said we got two, I heard, but I know we had 10 bomb hits. We had two bomb hits and a torpedo before we got under way, but 10 bombings. They just tear up everything. And another thing, it was so smokey that day, and you know Pearl Harbor, it's warm there, you know. Even at night it's warm. You can lay on the beach and it wouldn't bother you. And so, that day there was so much smoke in the harbor, it just blocked out the sun and it got real cold. I remember going on a working party later, going out there, after we got off of it, and I was freezing. I just had a T-shirt on and shorts.

And then that night, I think it was around about seven o'clock that night or six, it was getting near dark -- well, it was dark from the smoke in the harbor. It just blocked out. When you don't have no sun, it starts getting dark. And anyway, that's when I went over at the marine barracks, they gave me a pair of khaki pants and a shirt, and a T-shirt.

I took a bath, then they gave me those, then I slept on a bowling alley. There was a bowling alley over there at the liberty landing, close to the marine barracks there, and I slept in there for three days, and then I went out to sea. I volunteered. They had a note the second day on the bulletin board. We were supposed to read the bulletin board to see what we do, all the men from the Nevada, because we were scattered different places there to sleep. And, then I went to sea on the Saint Louis, the USS Saint Louis, which was a fighting ship. We was torpedoed twice on that ship. We went back to the States to get a new bow put on, went right back out and got torpedoed again, but fortunately it was in the bow where -- they couldn't go very fast, only about seven knots. Otherwise, it could go almost 30 knots at cruising, like a cruiser.

And we was in a lot of battles out there; Guadalcanal, Bougainville. And then I was in a lot of cities, like over in Japan we stopped at -- after when the war was about over, we went in to Shantou, China, a few of those other ones, went up near -- after the war was over we went near Japanese, Tokyo Harbor there. And then I got over -- I was sent to Guam to work on a -- it was an aviation supply ship. I worked on there, and I worked in the engine room, and then I was discharged from there and sent back to the States.

Tom Swope:

What was your job on the Nevada?

Richard M. Paull:

I was a first class seaman. We took care of the decks, then when I went on board the Saint Louis, I got put in the engine room, worked in the engine room all the time, which I liked a lot better. And it didn't bother me to be below decks. I know that one time we got our bow knocked off, I was thrown up in the air. I should have been laying down, but it happened so fast, and I grabbed one of them solid phone booths down there so we could get in there and talk to the bridge or something if you didn't have earphones on, and smashing one of my fingers, and, you know, I grabbed that. That's the first thing you do is grab for something. And, so, I liked the Saint Louis. It was a good ship. They fed you a lot better than I got on the Nevada. We liked to eat. And, then I liked to be off the decks working in the engine room, learning about stuff, the engines and stuff. And that's where I was, the forward engine room on there when it got hit. It was pretty close. Yeah. So, and I was -- I got an honorable discharge in 1946. I got out of the Navy, and then -- During the Navy I was sent back to diesel school, I was sent back for three months to learn about engines, then went right back out. I met my wife here, and she wasn't married yet when I came out, and then, so we got married in April of '47, so we were married almost 55 years. We have been here about 33 years. And, it was a good experience in the Navy. I enjoyed it, you know. If I was a young man, I would go in there again, even though I know what would have happened, but, you know ...

Tom Swope:

Let me take you back a little bit. Do you remember what you were doing on December 6th, on that Saturday?

Richard M. Paull:

On December 6th, that Saturday, we was unloading those powder bags, those 100-pound.

Tom Swope:

So you were on board ship?

Richard M. Paull:

I was on board ship.

Tom Swope:

You didn't go into Honolulu that night?

Richard M. Paull:

No, I didn't go, no. And anyway, we couldn't. We had to be back by midnight. Unless you was -- you had a wife over there or something, then you could have. Officers always got overnight liberty and weekends there. They didn't have to come back. We always had to be back at midnight aboard ship.

Tom Swope:

Do you remember the feeling when you realized it was the Japanese attacking that morning?

Richard M. Paull:

You know, I knew it right away, but I did things automatically. I think I was in shock like, you know. I wasn't afraid, never afraid, you know, until -- it got to me a little bit later, but I was never afraid when it happened. Whatever I had to do, I did, and I think like everybody was fighting fires at one time, and like I say, we were right up in the dead end stacking them on the fantail, and even the moon -- That was the worst thing, seeing the moon and waiting to get off, for some boat to take them off. So, it was -- it was an experience I can never forget, you know.

Tom Swope:

You said you were just 20 feet away from the Arizona when it blew?

Richard M. Paull:

When it blew up, yeah, and it killed one of our men. He was from my division, too. He was chief boatswain mate, and he taught me a lot of things, like tying knots and stuff. We were supposed to learn all about that, you know. And he went down to get off -- to get our lines off of the stern of the Arizona, then he got back up and when he got back up on deck, he was blown off and it killed him. His name was Calvin Hill. And I even got a little book some guy gave me, a real true story about Pearl Harbor, and it was mentioning him climbing back on board ship, he was killed. It's amazing that we -- like I told you before, like we only had not near the men as these other ships did, you know. I think it was 57 to be total exactly. And one of my men that was in my division was killed, one of us, and I went through boot camp with him.

Tom Swope:

How many men were on the Nevada?

Richard M. Paull:

Nevada, there was over 1,000, or around 1,000. The Arizona had 1,777 men. I don't know if it says on here. No, it don't.

Tom Swope:

Where were you when the Arizona blew?

Richard M. Paull:

I was on the fantail back here when it blew up. And you know, I couldn't hear just normal talking. I couldn't hear. I didn't have no earplugs or anything. I should have took something, cotton if I could have gotten it, and stuck it in your ears. It took me almost three days or more before I got my full hearing back. It just, the concussion was something else. You wouldn't believe it. I didn't get the concussion like a lot of those -- like if you was up forward, it blew them down or knocked them down, the sailors, because I was down below, you know. I had like a seven-foot wall. You have got a ladder you are going up to the boat deck, seven or six foot, and so that is what -- you didn't get the concussion, but the noise just was something else.

Tom Swope:

What about the -- Who made the decision to get the Nevada under way?

Richard M. Paull:

It was a lieutenant, and he was the only one back there that -- with that -- that wasn't even a full lieutenant. All the rest were ashore. They go golfing. They live practically on the golf courses, those officers. And he decided to get it under way, and when we did get under way, we was about halfway out, you know, about halfway out in here someplace, when they said beach it. And we went and beached it. It was that -- Nevada Point they called it. Nevada, orders from, was it, contact, "Get out of that channel. Run up on the beach." That's what they did. But then later they did a daring thing. Two tugs got us off of there and pushed us around, right around here on this side of Ford Island, and that's where they pushed us. I have got some pictures of that.

Tom Swope:

What was your feeling when the Nevada got under way?

Richard M. Paull:

You know, I still -- I still wasn't scared. I was doing everything I had to do, you know. Like I say, they really went after us then with bombs, and we got -- somebody said we had two, but they might have got us with two torpedoes later, another one later, I don't know, but I know we had the one. That's when -- And that hole, I looked at it the next day, and it was 35 feet wide. You could drive two cars in that, like a two-car garage. That's what one torpedo would do to a ship. And you know, those bulkheads were 16, 17, 18 inches thick, steel. How a torpedo could penetrate that, I don't know. It's something. And you can imagine when that black powder blew up in the Arizona. It just, shock waves. It was just -- it's unreal the kind of explosion that it makes. It's hard for me to describe it, but it was -- In fact, some of the guys got blown off on deck up there because the concussion was so bad. I don't know if anybody got killed, but like I say, we only had -- at the end only had 57 men. That's amazing. And I was always out in the open. I never was under cover, you know, and they were -- I was mostly afraid of the 50-caliber bullets. One of them would go through you, it would tear you up, you know, and that's where we lost some of those, I think, from that. I don't know if anybody was on the forward deck at the time. We couldn't use our large turrets. Like I say, we took the ammunition off the day before because, you don't fire those in the harbor. You use machine guns. We didn't have too many. There weren't too many machine guns up there on the deck, but they did get some more later on all the ships, them pom-pom guns they call them, and they could knock a plane down in a hurry. And, but, that was an experience, like I say, I'd never believe. You read what this guy said. He seen what was going on. I couldn't see everything. Here's a video. You don't realize what's going on, you know. And, we was just scrambling around doing things. So that's just about it.

Tom Swope:

Do you know if you shot down any planes that day?

Richard M. Paull:

I didn't. Oh, yeah, the Nevada shot down planes, yeah. How many, I don't know, but I know they shot down because they was on those -- they had some pom-pom guns on there, and they are rapid-fire. I know they must have. The old casemate guns they have, they used them. I think they shot down a couple planes, some of the guys in there. Those were the four-inch guns I believe. They are on what they call casemates. They are on the side of the ship. When you are eating, and you are where we ate, we could see those guns out there, but they were 02, and they was going to do everything, overhaul those guns. They was thinking about it, prior to Japan, but they was a little bit late. And I read in the Detroit Free Press paper -- I don't know if you ever heard of that paper. My brother sent me a paper, my brother Bill, he was in the service, and it said that Roosevelt and -- What's that guy from, the premier from England? Churchill. -- Churchill knew that the Japanese was going to attack Pearl Harbor and they didn't do anything about it.

Tom Swope:

Do you think that's true?

Richard M. Paull:

I believe it. I do, because they sent word. Just like we picked up submarines, unidentified submarines in the waters. They knew what we was doing. They was around us all the time. Then, when I got aboard the Saint Louis, the first action we went, we was up in the Aleutians, and there was Japanese up there, and there was a harbor that was surrounded by land. We was shooting up and then we had planes spotting us. They was pretty accurate with those shells. And then after we secured that place -- Kiska, it was up in Kiska. We was up there three months, then we went out of there, and then just before the Midway battle, we went to -- They told us don't come, just stand off on the Midway battle. Then after that battle -- That was mostly planes, that wasn't ships. They had us stand off in case they needed us. Then we went out to the Guadalcanal, then from then on -- Guadalcanal was almost taken. The Marines and Seabees -- You know, those Seabees, they had to go in there and build bridges and everything. They was right in there with the Marines. They are great guys. I talked to a few of those out there. And, so like I say, we would go up a slot out there, they would be laying on both sides of us, and they were enemy land, but you didn't have any guns or anything. They was just like whatever, the natives that were on there, and you could see both sides at one time as you are going. I think that's where Kennedy got torpedoed, out in that area, and we would go up to Bougainville, Kula Gulf, and then after we was up there for two or three days, then we would come back, get more fuel or whatever, and then we would go up again, same thing. But, we had planes spot these convoys, Japanese convoys, and we wouldn't go up the minute that they saw them, but they waited until the next day, then seen they were coming again, then we went up where they was going. And, so ...

Tom Swope:

When were you at Guadalcanal? Was that the beginning of that battle?

Richard M. Paull:

We got out to Guadalcanal, like I say, this was I think the first part of -- the end of '42 I believe, or first part.

Tom Swope:

They had been there for a few months probably?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. Then after -- like when we got the bow the second time we come back, that's when I got transferred to diesel school here in Cleveland, out on Ridge and -- Ridge and Dennison. Yeah, Ridge and Dennison. You know where that is.

Tom Swope:

Yeah.

Richard M. Paull:

I'll tell you a funny thing, how I met my wife there. I was in the barracks. I wasn't going to the beach, ashore, whatever you call it that night, and the phone rang. This young girl says, "Is so and so there?" I said, "Just wait a minute." I didn't even look for the guy, then I got back and I was making talk with her, you know, and she said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Nothing," and she said, "Why don't you come up to Sykes (ph) tonight? There's a firemen's ball up there in Vinsen (ph)," and my wife (handed) me there with five of her girls where she worked, five of her friends. That's how I met her. So if I wouldn't have went up, I probably never would have married her. So, fate is funny, you know, how you end up in this world.

Tom Swope:

After the attack of Pearl you had to somehow get word to your parents that you were okay?

Richard M. Paull:

I was only allowed to write "I am okay" and a few other words, and it was sensored. From then on, everything was censored. You couldn't send anything. And, I never got a -- I think it was at least three months before I got a letter from my mother. So, I was glad I went through the war. I mean, it was something -- I was proud, and it was something to think. You learn a lot when you are in there, you know. You grow up in a hurry, because like I say, I was pretty young then.

Tom Swope:

You were also at Okinawa?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

Any memories of Okinawa?

Richard M. Paull:

I was on Okinawa. Went in there, I worked in the maintenance, in the Navy Air Force. We set up a base there. And, it took us -- must have took us at least three months to get it set up, and they built a runway there and everything, and I worked like on the big trucks, you know, stuff like that, the jeeps, and it took us a month before we even had a galley set up. We ate K rations, and then we finally got a galley set up. And then when the war ended, I was still there. Then I was sent to Guam, and that was it. From there I was discharged.

Tom Swope:

Ken Churchill?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

What do you remember about that?

Richard M. Paull:

Well, he was on the Saint Louis with me, in the generating room with me, where I was. He was one that worked with me, or was relieved. He would relieve me sometimes on watch, and he was killed later. I think about three months after I got off the Saint Louis, they got hit, over close to Guadalcanal, one of them islands over there. It was raiding, and he was standing fire watch up on the upper deck. We all had to stand some kind of fire watch. They need men on top side. That's where we served, and that's where he got killed. A bomb came right down through and killed him. So, yeah, I knew him. He was a nice guy, a younger man than I was. But, you know, he was so timid. We tried to take him ashore and get him a date or something, but he was just off the farm, a corn field out in Iowa, and I never will forget. He was the nicest -- real nice, worked hard, you know, lots of fun.

Tom Swope:

You were in Japan then after --

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. We went in to the harbor. We went in like, on the sea, went in, there's land on both sides, for something. They wanted to take some kind of orders in there, then we left I think about six hours, we pulled out of there.

Tom Swope:

So you didn't spend any time there?

Richard M. Paull:

No. I did in Shantou, China. Then there is another one I was in, I saw there. You had Bougainville, a lot fighting up there. Okinawa, Guam. I was on Guam. Torpedoed in Kula Gulf.

Tom Swope:

What can you tell us about that?

Richard M. Paull:

That night, like I say, that's where I was in the forward generating room when it took me off the deck and brought me down. I was bracing myself, but then the ship came right up to me like I was floating like a feather, because when the ship gets hit like that, torpedoed, if it gets hit up forward, it will go down, the whole ship. And another thing that night, I thought it really got damaged because water came down those -- we had those big air -- it would suck air down in there, and right at the break of the deck on the part before it goes up to the bridge, those screens were there, and all that water -- when the ship got hit, 10 feet of water went up over that deck. And I thought, you know, at first, this was it. I thought we got hit down there because it was, you know, shook you up pretty much.

Tom Swope:

That was the Saint Louis?

Richard M. Paull:

That was on the Saint Louis.

Tom Swope:

Any other vivid memories of any of these other engagements?

Richard M. Paull:

Well, like they brought up a Navy ship, Langley ships they call them, and over there, we went down to Australia to get them and then we pick them up, we went up to Guadalcanal. And you know, on the first night out it got sunk. Couldn't believe it. In fact, the day before we went up the slot to fight, look for Jap ships, I got acquainted with a couple of the guys, and they invited me to come aboard one day, so I went aboard and they gave you a little rum I think it was. They get that every day, a ration of rum. And then there was -- What's that island now? Espirito Santo. It's right next to Guadalcanal, and we used to go ashore. I think that's where I met the guys, and they would give you beer, sometimes two, but it was so -- it made you have a headache. It had formaldehyde in it. But the Marines, when they give you $20, I could have sold it $20 a can to those guys out there, but the Marines were the nicest guys I ever met. They were tough, you know. One time we took some of them down to New Caledonia for an R and R, and I set on the deck by the turrets there, the forward turrets with them, and their eyes, they looked like fighting men, you know, because they fight on that Guadalcanal. That was terrible. I think Okinawa they said had 25,000 men lost on there. That's a lot of men. When we went there, there was nothing there. A lot of blown up stuff. They told us don't -- when you -- don't go up in the hills because -- and touch the Japanese, dead Japanese. They was laying on the ground. We saw them laying on the ground. One of my friends poked one. I said, "Don't. Something could explode, kill you. They might have a booby trap on them." So I just didn't want to touch them, but they were just laying there on the ground. I knew there was some. There's a lot of caves there in those islands. I don't know, some -- like Iwo Jima, they had a lot of caves in those places, and it was hard to get those guys out of there. In fact, I was -- we was so close on this one island -- It wasn't Guam. It could have been Guam. We went to Iwo Jima that one time just for, you know, and it was just a lot of rocks there. The island was full of rocks. You couldn't raise anything on that island. So, I went a lot of places, but it was a good experience, you know.

Tom Swope:

Did you ever get any entertainment on board ship?

Richard M. Paull:

No, no entertainment. In fact, we didn't get anything. We had radios, but you couldn't get a lot of stuff on there. Down in the engine room they had them, but I think it was almost a year once where I worked on duty four hours, and off I think four, and off eight. Yeah, we worked four, off eight, and right back on again, and just constantly. You got in a routine. You didn't think about anything else. In fact, we had a record player, we would play a lot of records, and old songs and stuff, until they wore out. We played those all the time. The guys would play cards, you know, to amuse themselves. And at night down by the laundry -- I never gambled, but some of them guys would gamble, and I know this one guy on the Nevada used to gamble. He was from Texas, a little guy, and he had me send a money order, I go ashore and send it to his sister. So, that guy, he had -- in his bunk, inside of his pillow, he had all the tens and twenties, the two dollar bills. That's all we had. We never seen one dollar bills in the Navy, always two dollar bills, and he would have those in his pockets, you know, pinned here. He had money on him. He had a lot of money. I don't know whether he got off the Nevada or if he got killed or not. I don't know. Don't remember. He was in my division, too.

Tom Swope:

Any other memories of buddies that you remember from the ship?

Richard M. Paull:

Bill Short. I still write him a letter once in a while. He worked in the engine room with me, and he was -- Bill was a very smart mechanic. He taught me a lot of things on there. And I used to -- He lived by San Francisco there, in one of them suburbs, and he took me over to his house. We would go over there every time we come ashore and his mother would cook for us. And then I know he had a motorcycle. He said, "Max," -- he always called me Max -- he says, "Let's go to Sacramento." We went to Sacramento on the motorcycle, and that's another time I could have been killed. We was coming back. We was at a dance there, dancing with some girls there, and then we left to come back. It was early morning, and we went into a skid and I could just remember him saying, "Jump," you know. Before I could think what the hell to do, the cycle went over, and he had crash bars on. That's the only thing that saved our legs. But my whole buttons -- you know, you have got buttons up here on the Navy -- I didn't have any buttons. I was sliding. I didn't turn over or nothing. I held, tried to hold up. My hands were burned and raw. And Shortly, he got a hand brake, the one on the right I think, that's the one that you -- the foot and the hand brake work together, and that ran right into his leg down here, below his knee, the fat part of his leg. And you can get a discharge from that, a bad conduct discharge, but he never got anything. They had him up in the dispensary and he got a little infected, but then they had penicillin, the liquid type where they pour it on the wound. That's what they used to use over there because if they had to operate on appendicitis, they had to keep pouring it because it does not heal in those islands, it's so damp, the climate is. Nothing will heal. So anyway, he was in the sick bay for about three weeks I think, and he was all right. He healed up good. He's still got -- He lives in Las Vegas, and that's where the last time I was out there we saw him, about six years or so ago, but he writes to me all the time, and he's still working. I don't know why. He's making all kinds of money.

Tom Swope:

He needs to if he lives in Las Vegas. Do you have memories of your homecoming when you finally got home and saw your folks and friends?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. When I came home, I didn't even tell them until I got to Chicago, and when I got to Chicago, I wanted to buy a new tailor-made pants, uniform, because I only had the one and I wanted another one, and I waited there I think overnight, stayed overnight, and that run me about $25 then, which was quite a bit in those days, you know, because when I first got a job here in Cleveland, it was a dollar an hour until I got up to a better job. Anyway, I called my dad. He was an operator on the railroad in Baltimore, Ohio. That's when I took off, and then, I said I am coming home. I didn't know what time I am going to get in there, so he found out what time I left. He knew right away, and he was there to meet me, in Willard, Ohio. Do you know where Willard is? That's where he was a telegraph operator. So, he wanted me to be that, and my one brother did. In fact, two of my brothers. I had two brothers. But I met Rosemary and I wanted to get out of there. So, that's -- probably if it wasn't for Rosemary, I probably would have ended up, which was a good job, an operator. They make pretty good money. My one brother that lives in Willard yet, he gets $3,000 a month pension. He just retired a few years ago. I forgot how many years now.

Tom Swope:

Were your brothers in the service?

Richard M. Paull:

My brother Walter, when I came home, the oldest brother, he had a good job. He was down at the Plum Brook in Sandusky, and he was in charge of a whole office there. He was always pretty smart. Never much college educated, but he was very intelligent. And when I walked in there, he couldn't believe when he saw me because I didn't tell him. And, these ladies, there was a lot of girls at these different desks. They said, "There's somebody out here says he's your brother," and he says -- but the girl says, "I don't believe him." When he come out, he couldn't believe it. He was dancing all around. Like I say, he was in the Seabees later. When I left, that was in '43, early, he joined the Seabees. Why he left that good job, I don't know. He was married and had one child.

Tom Swope:

He certainly didn't have to go.

Richard M. Paull:

No, he didn't have to go. It was sort of like the government there, and they begged him to stay, stay. And on these islands, Seabees had to go in and destroy communications, set up bridges over -- if they had to get over a body of water or something, that's what he did. He worked right there in Guadalcanal, and then when I saw him, he was on a beach, this island called Espirito Santos. That was just -- it was less than a quarter mile across from Guadalcanal. That's where I went out there to look for him, and he was on there, but I couldn't get hold of him because we wasn't there long enough because we was in and out, you know. And, so, like, I think one of the best memories is that raising the Nevada. It took -- I wasn't there, but they took an hour, I mean a day, and -- what do I mean -- a year and about three months to raise her. And they floated her first, then they had to do a lot of work inside. And how they ever sealed up those gapping holes in the side, I don't know. And then a lot of decks, they had to put all new decks up forward. There wasn't any decks there at all anymore, and all those angle irons underneath, they were all twisted. You can imagine what they looked like from those bombs, you know. They were very destructive, those bombs. And, that's what -- that's the best news, when I found out that the Nevada went to Normandy then and bombarded with those big shells. That was a battle. There's a lot of soldiers and Marines got killed there I think, mostly soldiers. Then they was in a couple other battles I know over on the east there. I forget what other place, but I knew they were there at Normandy. Oh, they went up and -- oh, she was also at Okinawa, before I got there, and they was bombarding it, Okinawa. How they ever did that. They must have worked hard on her. Well, we didn't have no damage in the back, and I guess the screw was all right, you know, and of course them big drive shafts. I worked on the Nevada, and they have the drive shaft, the screws were at least that, then you had like spring bearings underneath, and I used to have to go in there and check them. They call them shaft alleys. That was right there in the generating room where I worked. So, I am proud that I went into the service, you know. It was an experience for me.

Tom Swope:

When you think back to December 7th, does anything else come to mind as a particularly vivid memory?

Richard M. Paull:

On December the 7th, like I say, these wounded sailors, you know, there was so many of them was wounded, and the skin would just fall right off of them. That was mostly from the bombs, flash fire. And, oh, another thing, when we got under way -- I want to show you. We was on fire, but we was up pretty good there. We weren't sinking, but we had a lot of hits, and these tripods up here, they were just full -- they go all the way down to the decks -- they were just full of holes.

Tom Swope:

And --

Richard M. Paull:

Here's where the Nevada was sunk, and where they pushed us over. Two seagoing tugs, a large tug pushed us in and then they held us to the beach there for, it was better than a day. But, Hawaii was a beautiful place to be at sea.

Tom Swope:

Yes.

Richard M. Paull:

I love -- We used to go out on the other side where Frank was, and there was like when these small rail trains, just little trains, narrow-gauge rails, and we'd go out to a beach, and we would get beer, we could buy beer out there and swim, you know, but you had to watch yourself because I almost got drug out from the tow. It would drag you if you don't get in, then you find you are outside.

Tom Swope:

You mentioned in here that the masts were bent over on the Arizona and all that?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. It was -- When we left the Arizona, it was total flames. You just could not believe a large piece of steel could burn like that. It was like a matchbox, and it looked a mess. We could feel the heat when we went by it, you know. And, another thing, I read a little story about a guy that was in the water. He got blowed off in the water, and this ensign was in a captain's gig and a couple other guys going around picking up sailors, and they picked up this one sailor, and he was full of oil, you know, because the oil was -- all that oil out there was in the water, just coming up, some of it six inches deep or more of oil, and the guys would swim, then bring their head up and tried to get underneath the oil. Anyway, they picked this one up, and this officer, an ensign says, "Sit down over there." He said, "I don't want to get it dirty." He said, "Get over there," sort of swore at him. Anyway, later on this sailor found out where this guy lived in Hawaii. He was living in Hawaii, and he called up and his wife answered and he says, "I want to see if there's a certain" -- he said, "Is this a certain officer, they used to be in the Navy at Pearl Harbor?" and she said, "Yeah," and he says, "I was one of the sailors he picked up," and then, when he come to the phone, he couldn't talk, he broke up. You know, the officer, he couldn't talk to him. And then, they took this officer out and his wife out for lunch, and then they talked, the two. There was two guys. Yeah, but he was just covered. I don't know what ship he got blowed off of, but there was a lot of guys trying to get to Ford Island. They jumped off the ship, or blowed off. Instead of coming aboard, they couldn't get back up on if there wasn't a ladder there, and we didn't really know they were in the water sometimes, you know, because everything was so smokey and stuff. You couldn't see anything.

Tom Swope:

What was it like that night, the night of the attack on the island? What was the mood like that night, feeling on the island?

Richard M. Paull:

We was all in shock mostly. I was hungry. I was interested to get something to eat, because I hadn't had anything since morning except an orange or an apple. This one boat, it was from the Saint Louis, was a little whale boat, they had fruit for us. They came up to us where we were and gave us fruit, and that was the only thing I had. Then, like I say, it probably wasn't late, but it was pretty dark when I got there because, on land there, when they -- the Marines, we had a bowl of soup and I think a sandwich or something, but we were hungry. I was hungry. You know, when you are young, boy, you get hungry.

Tom Swope:

Yeah.

Richard M. Paull:

So, it went fast, you know, when you are busy doing stuff, you know. Like I say, I was taking wounded, putting them on the fantail, fighting fires. Somebody was fighting fires all the time. Then I helped lower a lot of the boats over. Went up on the boat deck, and whatever that officer said do, you did. So it was something I can remember. Sometimes I can remember it real good, you know. It's something, it never goes out of your mind, different things. Especially, like I say, I was on the USS Saint Louis and we got torpedoed there, then we got another one later, but it sort of like bounced off the bow and did a little damage to the ship, but not like it did the other one. The other one just tore it all apart, back to the guns, the forward guns. It was leaning over where it was knocked off. And, they shored that -- We went back in, on the Saint Louis. It was hit. They shored up the whole front end with concrete where that gapping hole was, the bulkheads, the doors, you know, going from one department to the other, so when we was traveling, the pressure of the water might break them open.

Tom Swope:

Right.

Richard M. Paull:

So they sealed that up. Then we got back, it took us a little while, I think about two weeks to get back, slow. Then another thing, we was at sea once, some guy, he was just, oh, about 10 feet from me. I was standing up, but over towards the turret, he was up more towards the gunnels that were along the water. I was off the deck. He got sucked right off by that wave. It took him off, and we spent four or five hours looking for him. They had planes searching. They couldn't find him. But there's such big waves, you know. You could look one time and see him, next time you couldn't. You would see something, but like I say, that was another tragedy that shouldn't have happened. So from then on, nobody was supposed -- was to get a suntan, laying on the deck getting a suntan.

Tom Swope:

Is that what he had been doing?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. Just, we was going about like I say, 15 knots or whatever, and those swells, when they come up, they will -- and they are big -- they will go right up high. See, a battleship goes this way. Like say here's the forward part of the ship, it will go this way, where a cruiser goes down like this. But you get a little bow-headed up here. We're moving, you can feel it. But, as it came up, this way and went down, water came up, just took him right out. But I was standing up. I saw him go over. I thought we would get him, but you couldn't. Those whitecaps and the waves were probably at least that high, three or four feet high out there in the ocean. Then, we buried a couple of guys at sea on the Saint Louis, got killed, but they just -- what they do, they bury them right at sea. We can't embalm them. We don't have the facilities. We build a thing up, and I was standing about 10 feet. They had him wrapped in canvas, you know, white canvas, like heavy stuff. They pull the trigger or something, slides right in the water. That's something I couldn't get over very well, either, to see a guy, one of our shipmates go over like that. But, things happen like that. He got hurt in -- We have a hangar deck on the Saint Louis, and he got part of his body in there when it opened up. Somebody closed it. Somebody closed it and he had his legs dangling over. We was watching a movie down in the hangar deck, and nobody could see us, and that's how he lost his life. I didn't know the guy. I knew he was on, like I say, he was on board ship, but in another division where you don't know a lot. You just know your own division. Sometimes you meet other guys, you get acquainted with in the engine room and stuff, and on fire watches. Everybody has to stand a fire watch one time or another at night aboard ship. So, yeah, I wouldn't give my experience up for nothing, but I did go through, you know, in life, a lot of tragedy. I saw a lot of good things happen, too.

Tom Swope:

Do you think that covers it?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah.

Tom Swope:

Anything else come to mind?

Richard M. Paull:

Oh, nothing about -- Like I say, I enjoyed those liberties at -- seeing those over in China, like Shantou and Shanghai. I was in Shanghai Harbor, went in there and had an overnight liberty, and the food, I thought I would get Chinese food, but it was like all white Russians owned these restaurants, and we had hamburgers and stuff like that. I even took a hamburger out to my buddy in a ricksha. He looked so skinny, he needed something, so I took him out, and I gave him two dollars. He would take me everywhere. He took me -- and my buddy that was with me, he had one, too. He would take us wherever we wanted to go, sightseeing around. And you know, the next night, I had another liberty, he was right there waiting on me, about four o'clock in the afternoon. Yeah, those were good experiences, seeing the world, part of the world. And I wanted to go back to Hawaii this last time, but my wife's back is not that well, and she can walk all right, but then after about half an hour of walking -- she fractured her lower vertebrae a few years ago and now she has arthritis in there. So, I wanted one last time to go back to Hawaii. I love that place. It's beautiful. It's changed a lot since I was there. Of course there was only two hotels on the beach there. One of them, we used to swim in front of that, but it wasn't a good place to swim because too much coral. It was hard on your feet.

Tom Swope:

It sure is pretty.

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah, it is. You know, the stupidest thing, when the Japanese came in there, I mean bombed us that morning, they seen all these planes lined up together, you know, they just bombed them, shooting machine gun bullets at them, dive down low, but they did that. They used to have them scattered all over the field, you know, but then Washington said get all the planes together, keep close security on them. That was a bad thing. So ...

Tom Swope:

You said they were worried about sabotage from people that -- the Japanese people that lived on the island?

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. You know, I believe that they had sabotagers looking at Pearl Harbor every morning, because that's all open land around there, and anybody can come up there, and I think that they knew Pearl Harbor was going to be bombed, then they got word back to the Japanese some way. How they did it, I don't know. Yeah.

Tom Swope:

What did you think of that movie?

Richard M. Paull:

It wasn't -- It was a good love story, but the only -- showing parts of the actual battle, you know, and them planes don't come down like this here in between ships, so, it was --

Tom Swope:

Flying between buildings?

Richard M. Paull:

They don't do that, because, you know, when them planes come in, when I saw them, they was about 150 feet up over the liberty landing, and then they had to get down a little bit, then they took up, just pulled that throttle right back to their guts to get back up so they wouldn't hit the mast. They released their -- the first ship -- Like when I got under way -- I don't know if I told you. I should have told you this. When we got under way, when we got under way, we went by the Arizona, tried to get -- we could feel the heat. The heat was terrible. And then the next ship was the Oklahoma, it was turned upside down. I couldn't believe it. They were tapping on the bottom, the next day when I was on a working party going around the harbor, with their belt buckles. And they had torches up there, and how many they got out of there, I don't know. But then, it was the Oklahoma there, and inside the Oklahoma was the Maryland. The Nevada was, and the Arizona was the only one that didn't have any -- well, the Arizona had a repair ship, a small repair ship next to her, and then the next two ships were the Maryland and the Oklahoma, then there's another one I couldn't believe. The West Virginia went straight down like this. Didn't roll over, but sort of leaned towards the inside where the Tennessee was. This was a battleship. These are all battleships. And then, let's see, yeah. So, there was only -- I forget, there was seven battleships in the line, and there was eight of them sitting there that day, then the Pennsylvania was in dry dock. She got a hit right down through the middle. And then towards the end, going around the end by Ford Island, on the other side of Ford Island, the California was going down there, but she wasn't leaning or -- I couldn't believe it. The next morning when we was on the working party over to that ship -- I was telling you I was on board the Nevada -- she was turned upside down, completely upside down. And they raised every one of those ships. It took about a year and three months before they got back on the Nevada to get her to go back to Seattle.

Tom Swope:

So what did you do in the working party?

Richard M. Paull:

Well, we was -- first we was keeping our eyes out for anything, like floating guys that would come up, or dead.

Unidentified Speaker:

You had dead bodies?

Richard M. Paull:

We was the first ones aboard the ship since the day before. And they got -- Two seagoing tugs were still holding them in there. Yeah, it took I'd say over a day before them tugs could -- before we anchored into the ground. In fact, it took a good day. Those cables were big wire cables, then they wrapped them on the fantail and they -- they have a thing in there, a round thing in the deck, you know, and they ran them around there, same way on board. You know, they got her secured somehow there. I don't know, but I knew that's what -- I was digging right afterwards, just digging into the sand as fast as you could. Somebody from Ford Island brought over some shovels. But, it was unbelievable how Hawaii could get so chilly. If we wouldn't have had that sun, this would be like Alaska. We would freeze here.

Tom Swope:

Yeah.

Richard M. Paull:

You know, when we were up there, we only had, this one time, I think it was two and a half, three hours daylight. Midnight sun.

Tom Swope:

That time of the year, right.

Richard M. Paull:

Right, when we were up there.

Unidentified Speaker:

(Unintelligible.)

Richard M. Paull:

I couldn't see anything.

Unidentified Speaker:

Yeah, right.

Richard M. Paull:

I come up every day, every morning from my night watch after I had showered for breakfast or whatever, and then I would just look around, set a little bit, then I'd go down below. I just wanted to see what it was like. We had a liberty when we was up there, Kodiak, Alaska, and they had one bar. That thing was long, but the streets were all mud, and when I come back, mud all the way up, and the officer was on leave or something. We would take off our shoes. We weren't fooling anyone. I had to soak them in the shaft alley. I told you about the shaft alley. That was by the forward engine room there, or the after engine, this was, and I soaked them I forget how long, a week to get the dirt out of the blues. But this bar, they had like wooden walks up there. This bar was so long, we went in, got a couple beers, looked around, and that was it. So I had a lot of experiences that I wouldn't have found if I stayed in Attica, Ohio. I went to Sandusky. That's where I enlisted. My father took my brother and a friend of mine, Bill Ward, and another, Maynard Miller. Well, I was the only one that passed the physical and the examination, you know, the written examination.

Unidentified Speaker:

They didn't want anybody then if you weren't very, very --

Richard M. Paull:

They were strict. You had to get whatever, something, then you would come back later. And this Maynard Miller, he didn't join the Navy. If he would have joined, he probably would have been living today, but he was in the Army and he got killed during the Army. And so, he had bad luck there. Like I say, in the old post office building downtown there, that's where I was sworn in. I never will forget. I can still remember today, so clearly. "Hold up your hand. You are going to be in for six years." I thought it was four years enlistment, and it was before, I didn't know. And he said, "If you don't want to go, hold your hand down." I was that far. I said, "I am going."

Tom Swope:

He changed the rules on you.

Richard M. Paull:

Yeah. I said I'd join the Navy. The guy down there in Sandusky, he didn't say anything about six years. He said I am going on the train down there, on the way up, got off the terminal tower, and then the bus came over and picked us up. We stayed in the area hotel. It was right north of the cathedral I think at that time. Bullets flying all around me. I wasn't worried about the bombs. Machine guns, hundreds of them. Just one of them would kill you, rip you in two. Like when they just -- (demonstrating sound effect) -- they'd just cut you in two. Some of the guys, their legs were blowed off. Had to take them back. (The interview was concluded.)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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