Alford, John, SKC

Deceased
 
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Last Rank
Chief Petty Officer
Last Primary NEC
SK-0000-Storekeeper
Last Rating/NEC Group
Storekeeper
Primary Unit
1940-1941, SK-0000, USS California (BB-44)
SK-Storekeeper
Five Hash Marks

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Texas
Texas
Year of Birth
1917
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Kenneth Kaplan (Ken ), LT to remember Alford, John, CPO.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Bremerton, WA.
Layed to rest May 10, 2001 in Bremerton, Wa.

Date of Passing
May 04, 2001
 
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Resting In Peace
   
Other Comments:

In addition to torpedoes and bombs, John Alford contended with the threat of suffocation and being trapped aboard an abandoned battleship.

Alford had just finished breakfast and was brushing his teeth aboard USS California when the call came for battle stations.

"I remember thinking, 'What a heckuva time for a drill,' " he said.

The battleship was hit forward and aft by two Japanese torpedoes in the early minutes of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

As Alford rushed to his battle station in one of the ammunition handling rooms, the ship also was hit by a bomb that struck the upper deck.

"But it knocked a lot of dust loose, so our first thought was they were using some kind of gas," he said. "It turned out it was just dust."

Alford and three other sailors made it into the ammunition storage room and, as they were trained, locked the door so the compartment would remain air tight and water tight.

"With the ship flooding, that's when you appreciate water-tight integrity," he said.

But a door on the other side of the compartment was locked from the outside. Alford and his three shipmates were trapped.

"We were stuck in there for about four hours," he said.

The California and its crew, meanwhile, were in growing danger. A number of manholes and ventilation ducts had been opened for a planned inspection, and this caused the flooding

to quicken.

Alford later learned that crew members began flooding the other ammunition holding areas, or magazines, to try to prevent the crippled battleship from listing too far to one side.

They tried to flood the one that held Alford and the other sailors, not knowing it was occupied, but the controls malfunctioned. Had they worked, Alford said, he and his shipmates would have drowned.

At the same time, a large mass of burning oil drifted down Battleship Row, threatening to set the ship afire. The order was given to abandon ship. Alford and the other three heard it but they were trapped and no one topside knew it.

"I never prayed so much in all my life," Alford said.

They knew the air supply was low, so all of them couldn't yell at the same time. One sailor did the yelling, continuing until finally a gunners mate in the turret above them heard.

As the ship continued flooding, some sailors came down the ladder and someone grabbed a wrench and began trying to knock the lock off the door.

"We pushed with all we could push and they pulled with all they could pull and got the door open," Alford said. "The water came in and then we got out."

Alford went topside and for the first time saw the destruction.

"The first thing I saw was the Oklahoma at the stern of the California ? it was upside down," he said.

Nearly 100 of the California's crew members were killed during the attack, including some Alford knew well. One of his jobs afterward was to go through lockers to remove the belongings of those who'd died.

The California slowly sank, coming to rest on the bottom of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 10. The ship was raised and repaired at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Throughout the years, Alford showed visitors two things he found on Ford Island after the attack: a red piece of metal, part of a downed Japanese fighter; and a small but heavy piece of rust-covered shrapnel.

He signed every check he wrote with his name, followed by "Pearl Harbor survivor."

And until heart troubles began to affect his strength, Alford would on every Dec. 7 take a donation of money down to the Salvation Army, giving it in honor of the men who gave their lives in the attack.

On May 4, 2001, one month after his interview for this story, John Alford died peacefully in his sleep at home, surrounded by his family. He was buried with military honors on May 10.
   
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 Duty Stations
US Navy
  1940-1941, SK-0000, USS California (BB-44)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Attack on Pearl Harbor
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