December 17, 2004
Oroville Mercury May 15, 1945
One Ship Sunk, Another Hit But Sailor Escapes
Survivor of the West Virginia sunk by the Japanese in the Pearl
Harbor attack, Stanley Way, Boilermaker 1/c of the U. S.
Navy , went back into battle aboard the Minneapolis only to have
that ship nearly torpedoed from under him. Way, with 15 other men,
was on the third deck of the West Virginia when a Japanese bomb
and six torpedoes struck, all on the port side of the ship. The
lights went out in the boiler room, and almost before they could
realize the general quarters order was anything but a drill. Way
and his companions found themselves swimming desperately, trying
to keep their heads above the fast rising water and oil. The hatch
had been closed, as it always is immediately GQ is sounded, and
the men were trapped. The water had risen until it was only three
feet from the overhead before the hatch was “undogged,” and the
men rescued 15 minutes before the ship sank. Way said he hadn’t
had time to think about anything except keeping his head above water.
Ship Loses Bow
Taken off the West Virginia, the men still had no time to worry
about what they had been through for they left the sinking ship
by means of ropes stretched to the Tennessee, which had been set
ablaze in the attack. Once on board the Tennessee they fought fire
for hours. Later, when they were resting at a naval air base, the
reaction set in, Way said. The main reaction was utter exhaustion.
Assigned to the Minneapolis, Way went through the Coral Sea and
Midway battles and seven smaller engagements. Then the Minneapolis
became the flagship of a cruiser task force sent to stop the Japanese
in their final attempt to reinforce Guadalcanal. That was the famous
Fourth Salvo Battle. In it the Minneapolis was hit by a torpedo
that sliced off the ship’s bow. Way had left the boiler room just
five minutes before a second torpedo hit amid ship blowing up six
boilers. All of the men below were killed. Way was the only one
of a group of eight men standing on the second deck, who was uninjured
when the boilers blew up.
She Limps Home
Blazing away at the Japanese ahead of her, the Minneapolis had been
attacked from behind by about 12 Japanese ships, Way said. He added
that none of the Japanese ships got away. With only two boilers
left, and no bow, the Minneapolis limped into Tulage Harbor where
the men repaired the boilers and fashioned a makeshift bow out of
coconut palms. It took the ship three months to the states. Its
first start home had ended two days later when the engines failed
and a tug had to be sent out from Tulage to bring the Minneapolis
back. After nearly a month of further repairs, it made the successful
trip home. After reaching the states, Way was given a 30-day leave
before he was assigned to the George F. Elliott, a troop transport
that took men to south Sea Islands. Later Way was stationed in New
Caledonia, where he spent 19 months before returning home this month.
Way wears the Silver Star for five major battles, three bronze stars
and the Pre-Pearl Harbor star. His campaign ribbons are for the
American, South Pacific-Asiatic and Pre-Pearl Harbor theatres. He
also wears a bar signifying four years good conduct. He has a brother
in the service, Seaman 1/c George E. Way Jr. aboard the USS Iowa,
one of the Navy’s new battlewagons. Petty Officer Way and his bride
the former Miss Eileen Hinshaw of Oroville, left for Plummer, Ida.
on their honeymoon following their marriage here Friday.
Oroville Veterans Memorial Committee member Phil Laws told me
this about Dec.7, 1941 “ We were on the Air Craft Carriers USS Ranger
on December 7th, we had just passed a Japanese Merchant
ship off the Coast of Florida, it was loaded with antennas. Less
than 1 hour later we got the word about Pearl Harbor, we immediately
turned around and sent up our planes. We soon found an oil slick,
lots of debris and empty life vests, but no ship. Did it go down
with all hands, scuttled by the crew? Later we heard the Japanese
were ordered to do this if detected.” A Mystery of War; Phil served
through out the war. Ending upon the USS Wasp, an Essex type carrier
off the coast of Japan, 1945. By now he was a crewman on a TBM Avenger
Bomber. His duty was Radioman, rear gunner and other duties. One
day nine Kamikazes attacked his ship, all was shot down but one
bomber did sneak in and a bomb hit his ship killing 89 men and wounding
190. Asked about the Atomic Bomb, he said it saved many lives.
Does anyone know about Eileen or Stanley Way?