The U.S. Navy Log Story of the Month December 2014
STORY OF THE MONTH DECEMBER 2014
“We were in the Bremerton Navy Yard and we escaped, we were the only battleship not sunk at Pearl Harbor.”
- Lieutenant Harry W. Patch, Jr.
“I enlisted and I got on the wait list to join the Navy in early 1940. I had to be on the wait list because at that time they were not taking that many people. And also you had to have a recommendation from the chief of police, the parish priest and your high school principal attesting to your character before they let you in,” World War II Veteran Lieutenant Harry W. Patch, Jr. shared with the United States Navy Memorial film crew in Virginia during the summer of 2014.
Before enlisting in the Navy, Patch was interested in radio repair and electronics and had a radio operator’s license. His interest in radios would follow him throughout his service. Patch recalled, "I went to recruit training at New Port, Rhode Island…I got sent out to the Colorado and was in the deck force for about a week. They found out I had a radio operator’s license so they put me on the radio gang. It was a 40 man radio gang, and I was the junior man so I made coffee for everybody.” Patch would serve in the radio gang on the USS Colorado BB 45 and due to his radio operator’s license and prior knowledge of Morse code; he could stand watches because he already knew how to operate the machinery. He remembered fondly one conversation he learned of concerning the Colorado’s upcoming role in the fall and winter of 1941. He remarked, “In September of ‘41 the Colorado went to Bremerton Naval Yard for an overhaul. And that’s a story by itself because we belonged to Battleship Division 4 and the flagship was USS West Virginia. It was the West Virginia’s turn to go into the Navy Yard and the Chief of Staff came over to check out the flag quarters and went back and a marine that came back told me he overheard the Chief of Staff telling the Admiral, ‘You won’t like the Colorado, it was never meant to be a flagship, the flag quarters are terrible.’ So the Admiral made the command decision, ‘Ok, send the Colorado back to the Navy Yard and we’ll stay here.’ As a result, the West Virginia was sunk. We were in the Bremerton Navy Yard and we escaped, we were the only battleship not sunk at Pearl Harbor.” Patch would soon be on his way to the Pacific War, but not aboard the USS Colorado. Patch would be sent to the USS Spica (AK-16) and assigned as a Direction Finder Operator.
He remarked about his memory of December 7th, 1941, “I was on watch and copied the message, ‘Air raid at Pearl Harbor, this is no drill’, and the Captain said, ‘I don't believe it, I don't believe it’, and I said, ‘Captain believe it, they are saying it over and over, Air raid at Pearl Harbor, this is no drill.’” Patch would serve in the Pacific throughout the War and continued his service until 1962.
To hear the story of World War II Veteran, Lieutenant Harry W. Patch, Jr. come alive; view his detailed experience that has been digitally archived by the Navy Memorial. The United States Navy Memorial honors Lieutenant Harry W. Patch, Jr, featured within the series titled, Tales from the Navy Log, Story of the Month. Each month, this series honors a Veteran’s story recorded by the Stories of Service Program at the Navy Memorial. To learn more about this story and to explore the Navy Memorial Tales from the Navy Log Archive, visit the Navy Memorial Stories of Service site.