Don Green, AE-1 1940-1943
Good evening, I'm Don Green retired Navy veteran & a
Pearl Harbor Survivor. My twin brother George also served on
the same ship as Storekeeper.
I was aboard the U.S.S. PYRO AE-1 an ammunition ship moored
at the ammunition depot West Loch Pearl Harbor on the morning
of Dec. the 7th.
The PYRO was one of two active ammunition ships in the
Her sister ship was the NITRO. We departed from Mare Island
on October 1st and arrived at West Loch a week later and
moored starboard side to NAD.
Liberty was granted and about a third of the crew and
officers went on liberty. That was a 3/4 hour trip to the
I was a 3rd class shipfitter and was the petty officer of
the watch for the period 00-04, known as the mid-watch on the
morning of December 7th.
It was quiet watch with the only activity the two
intoxicated sailors who returned to the ship. No charges were
We had on board 1,000 14" rounds (shells) and the
powder canisters of equal number.
These were to go to the USS Nevada BB 62 on Monday morning!
I was looking forward to going alongside this Spit &
and show off my skill at running steam winches to off-load
the ammunition shells.
Also on the pier were three box cars of ammo and a 250-ton
covered lighter floating astern of us also full of ammo.
I was relived of my watch and hit the sack in the forward
section of the ship and on the second deck.
Because of the climate we slept in our skivies with only
slacks, socks and shoes to put on when we got up.
I had sleep-in privilege so wasn't looking forward to
getting up! Then all of a sudden there were these very loud
What the HELL is the Army doing these exercises for on
Sunday morning? And then GQ was sounded.
I jumped into my slacks and shoes and hightailed it to my
gun station on a three inch 50 Caliber AA gun. We were
short-handed because of those on liberty.
I took the position of pointer and my partner took the
trainer position. As soon as the shells came up from the
magazine I started firing at Planes.
In the excitement we were firing at some of our own planes,
not knowing any had got off the ground!
We held up our fire but then all hell broke loose with four
planes making different approaches. Three had only machine gun
firepower but one had a BOMB.
The Captain sent word down to the boat deck for Ensign
Sperling to take some men and move the boxcars. In the
excitement, Sperling, waving his 45,
hollered "Five brave men, follow me to move the box
I watched the one plane approach from the bow to the stern
at about 500 feet above the masts. I could see his features,
with leather helmet and red scarf.
And then came the BOMB! I watched it come out of the bomb
bay! Being a nineteen-year-old sailor needless to say I was
scared to death!
And I ran from my gun station for safety! The bomb hit and
penetrated the cement dock and blew-up! I got back on the gun
and started firing, as did the 50 caliber machine guns.
We hit the plane and it was on fire as it went over the
The ship bobbed up and down for awhile and really shook-up
my shipmates below decks as several pipelines ruptured.
After this scare all became quiet and we settled down to
take a look at what missed our ship. Parts of the bomb were
rounded up to take back to to the U.S.
We stood guard for four days believing there would be a
landing before we gave, as requested, rifles to the USS
Honolulu and then departed for the U.S.
With shell fragments and a 14" dud that was a
battleship shell sold for scrap and had gone through the #3
turret on the battleship Tennessee.
On the fourth day out of Pearl Harbor in the wee hours of
the morning General Quarters sounded. You might know I was
But it only took a couple of seconds to get out of my bunk,
as I was fully clothed including a kapok life jacket. When I
arrived at the 3" mount the 5" gun had fired at a
which had fired a torpedo at us. As we were light-loaded
and riding high at the bow, the torpedo went under the ship.
As the torpedo was approaching the five-inch gun was
and the flash from the muzzle was taken as a hit. They
reported us sunk. The gun crew never got a second round off.
There was a "hang-fire". They filled the gun barrel
and waited for the Captain to order the breech opened 15
minutes later. When the breech was opened, first came the
shell and then the powder. The flash had blinded the gun
and everything went in backwards. No planes or ships came
to see if we were sunk. We maintained radio silence until the
planes off the coast of San Francisco could recognize
It was a welcome relief to be in safe waters.
I remained on board during several trips replenishing ammo
to Pearl Harbor. Following the replenishing trip we departed
with a task force of one cruiser, the USS Detroit,
and four 4-stack destroyers converted to minelayers to head
to Adak, Alaska. It was a bone-chilling and delicate job
loading those mines on those small ships. We got it done
and headed to Bremerton and then to the South Pacific and
New Hebrides to support our ships with ammo. While moored
there we off-loaded ammo from two cruisers,
the St. Louis & the Helena that had lost their bows
from enemy fire in the Java Sea. After several months we
headed back to Mare Island.
A dispatch was received to split any family members, so
with my twin brother on board, I had to go. My brother was a
disbursing storekeeper and had to stay.
We had three or four shipfitters. My twin remained on board
throughout the war.
I lost him in 1999 to cancer.