Jim McDavid

USS Pennsylvania


James (Jim) McDavid was born in Texas, 23 March 1921 and lived in Ft Worth when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy May 1941.
From Boot Camp in San Diego where he first saw the Pacific Ocean, he was sent to Long Beach, CA to board the battleship, USS Pennsylvania. From there the ship sailed to Hawaii and was in dry dock on the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack. The night before the attack, he attended the Battle of the Bands between the battleships USS Pennsylvania and USS Arizona, with two friends he joined the navy with and who aware assigned to the USS Arizona.
Both were killed when the Arizona blew up Sunday morning.

I was assigned to the six-A Division, which was a gunnery division and was a “hot shell man" on one of the 5-inch guns. A week before the Pearl Harbor attack, I was transferred to be a sky lookout where my battle station was in the crow's nest. It was here at the top of the ship where I looked out and saw two destroyers, the Cassin and the Downs in dry dock with the Pennsylvania get hit. I looked around and saw the destroyer Shaw in another dry dock get hit and go up like the Fourth of July. I had a front row seat where I saw planes flying by with the big red meatballs on their sides, other ships being bombed and then a 500-pound bomb hit the Pennsylvania with a delayed fuse on it. It went through the main deck and the casement deck, hit the armored deck, and rolled around down there for a while before exploding. At the end of the day, there were three battleships out of nine afloat and working. There were us, the West Virginia and the Maryland. We were sent to San Francisco and the other two went to Bremerton. We found out that in addition to the bomb damage our 5-inch guns had to be replaced. All the rifling was gone.

While in San Francisco for repairs, I was lucky enough to be transferred to the Electronics Division. The navy was starting to install radar on some of the ships and I would be working on them. I also had to learn Morse code and ended up living aboard the Delta Queen, a paddlewheel riverboat the navy was using for barracks and a code school. I lived on board and went to code school for two months. I made second-class petty officer in charge of all electronics above the main deck. When I got out of the navy, I went to work as a civilian at San Francisco Naval Shipyard and retired after 32 years where I was an Electronics Supervisor over radar, sonar and other electronics.

I spent the whole war on the USS Pennsylvania. We were one of the first ships to be hit at Pearl Harbor, went through the rest of the war without being hit again until we got to Okinawa. Hours before the war ended in August 1945, we were torpedoed as the sun was setting because Japanese planes were hard to see that time of day. We almost sunk but two fleet tugs sent divers down to close all the watertight doors and pump water out of all the flooded compartments. The tugs towed us back to Guam for some repairs and then on to Bremerton, Wash.

The USS Pennsylvania was the flagship of the navy, meaning we had the Admiral aboard. We were in engagements at the Aleutians, the Gilberts, the Marshals, and the Mariana’s. We would go to some of those South Pacific islands that looked so calm, but where the Japanese were embedded. When we got through with them, we had knocked down all the trees and killed as many Japanese as we could to make it easier for the marines. We earned 11 battle stars.

When the war was over, I still had two years to go because I had signed up for six years. I ended up being transferred to the USS Achilles and sailed from Stockton, CA to New Orleans, then on the USS J.C. Owens in Pensacola, FL. They were good ships, but nothing could take the place of the USS Pennsylvania, the "Fightiness Ship" in the navy. Sadly a few years after the war the Pennsylvania was taken to the South Pacific where she was to be destroyed by a bikini bomb. They could not sink her and finally she had to be scuttled.