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The First Battle
August 24, 1942

"All of a sudden all hell broke loose, you could see the gunfire going up. I think I shouted ‘ENTERPRISE under attack,’ or something. Meanwhile everyone else was shouting. And sure enough, you could see these dive-bombers coming down on the ENTERPRISE. It was hit. All of a sudden, the planes were coming our way and attacked us. I think that it was just a matter of minutes.... a total of about eight minutes of action. It’s the old story about it being like an eternity. A couple of things stand out to me very clearly. One Japanese plane went down the side of the ship. Again this was the first new battleship they had seen out there. He was just staring at it. I could see his eyes, and I could see his face; and he was just trying to get a fix. I thing what he wanted to do was hope he would get away and report exactly what the ship looked like. He was very close, close enough to see his face; and all of a sudden, he got hit. I think one of the 20mm got him."

-Larry Resen

 

"The engagement only lasted seven minutes. It seemed like hours at the time. But we went down into the wardroom; and we secured; and I remember going through and talking to the men in my division in the starboard battery. We had 165 men and seven officers. The seamen were manning these machine guns -- 50 calibers and 20mm, and they were the most excited and proud people. They fought like they had knocked down every single plane in the ocean. They real problem came after that. We were all claming having shot down about 350 aircraft, and really there were only about 75. The Japanese did suffer a terrible loss that afternoon. But we became men. The maturity of our seamen and our officers after that, the change in maturity and attitude and way we approached problems, was entirely different. We had grown up in seven minutes."

-Rear Admiral Julian T. Burke, USN (Ret)

 

"The really funny thing happened right after the shoot. There were brass cartridges everywhere, which had to be picked up, and new ammo brought up to ‘get ready for the next attack’ which thankfully didn’t materialize. Apparently our air strike had caused sufficient damage so that the enemy couldn’t launch a second strike either. Peace and quiet returned as bedlam left. Abruptly, one of the seaman gunners named Tony, an Italian from Upstate New York, straightened up and cried out, ‘Jeepers creepers, my enlistment expires today!’ The bosun’s mate chided him, ‘Now Tony, relax, you know you’re going to ship over (re-enlist)!’ Tony replied, somewhat tenaciously, ‘The hell I am, I can still smell the horseshit on the plow!’ That really broke the tension. Sailors were laughing and rolling on the deck. There we were, about 10,000 miles from Tony’s farm, in the bright blue Pacific, South that is, having just survived a major air attack, and Tony could still smell the ‘horseshit.’ And he probably could! I guess we all thought more of home and family later that bright sunny afternoon!"

-Captain Edward F. Gallagher, USN (Ret)


1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina Commission
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Last updated: July 18, 1999.