Friday, December 7, 2018

Pearl Harbor: First Blood! A Sailor’s Story

MikeBo’s Blog
Sunny 80°F/27°C at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Rain 49°F/10°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buonagiornata miei amici,

When I sat down at my computer to write my book, LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow, Target! in 2016, I realized it was an incomplete story.  The story that my father told me and my 
brother as we grew up concerned a U boat attack on his convoy off the coast of England in August
USS Arizona Under Attack
Pearl Harbor 1941
1944. LST 920’s sister ship, LST 921 lost half its crew when it was torpedoed by the U 667, and a British escort ship, LCI(L)99 was blown out of the water by a second torpedo aimed at my father’s ship. LST 920’s Captain, Harry N. Schultz disobeyed a strict war-time order to not break away from the convoy for any reason! After repeated messages to his command requesting permission, and in spite of repeated orders to the contrary, Captain Schultz disobeyed that wartime order, in order to rescue survivors from the two ships. My father, who served as Schultz’ Executive Officer aboard the 920, never understood his Captain’s decision to deliberately disobey a wartime order to facilitate that rescue. Captain Schultz never confided any of his previous wartime experiences. It was only many years after the war, when I was researching my book and communicating with Schultz’s family, that I  became aware that the seeds of his heroic decision were planted at Pearl Harbor, on Sunday December 7, 1941.

And that, gentle reader, is my contribution to the many anniversary stories you will see on this seventy-seventh anniversary of the day that Franklin Delano Roosevelt called A Day Which Will Live in Infamy!

Sunday Morning December 7, 1941 was the perfect day in a Pacific Island paradise, until about 8
Destroyer Jarvis
o'clock that morning!  While my parents and other Americans were listening to their radios or looking at their maps to see where Pearl Harbor was located, World War Two, for Petty Officer Harry Neil Schultz, had already begun. Schultz was at Pearl Harbor, aboard the Destroyer USS Jarvis (DD 393) when the first Japanese bombs started falling on the U.S.  fleet.

In their all-out attack, the key targets for the Japanese were the battleships. They sank Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. USS Arizona still rests on the bottom, a war grave with more than a thousand valiant souls still aboard. In the midst of all of this flame and carnage, one scrappy destroyer, USS Jarvis, escaped to fight another day, and took her fair measure of vengeance on the attackers.

Harry N. Schultz was the oldest of seven sons born to Mr. and Mrs. Herman Schultz of 801 “A” Street, Pasco,  Washington. Pasco is inland, about 200 miles east of Seattle. By October 1943, five of the Schultz brothers – Harry, Dick, Carl, Arthur and Elmer would be in uniform serving their country, and the two youngest Schultz boys – Paul Herman, 13 and Harold Eugene, 6 would be waiting their  turn to serve. Harry had enlisted in the peacetime Navy in 1937 and was assigned to the Jarvis right
Schultz in 1937
after his basic training. When an article appeared in the Pasco Herald, praising the elder, immigrant Schultzes for their contribution to the war effort, Harry’s younger brothers were in various military branches on various wartime assignments. Arthur, 28, was a Sergeant in the Army in North Africa.  Brother Richard, 26, was a Corporal in the infantry in North Africa. Carl Schultz, 22, was in the Army Signal Corps in Australia and brother Elmer, 18, was also in the Navy.  Even though he planned on making the Navy his career, a commission as an officer was the farthest thing from Schultz’ mind on the morning of December 7, 1941.

The Destroyer Schultz served aboard was named for a heroic Navy Midshipman, James C. Jarvis, who served in the fledgling U.S. Navy during an early conflict with France. Midshipman Jarvis was born in 1787 and appointed as a Midshipman from the State of New York in 1799. As was the custom of the day, Midshipman Jarvis went to sea aboard the famed frigate Constellation. In 1800, what the history books describe as a quasi-war, broke out between the fledgling United States and its revolutionary benefactor France over freedom of the seas for American shipping. A similar dispute with Great Britain would later lead to the War of 1812. During its battle with the French frigate La Vengeance Deux in February 1800 young Jarvis was ordered aloft to secure the Constellation’s mainmast. At one point he was ordered down for fear the mast might topple. The young midshipman disobeyed the order yelling down to the officer who gave the order, My post is here. I can’t leave it. The mast crashed down, and Jarvis went over the side with the rigging and was drowned. He was 13 years old.

On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Schultz was aboard the second destroyer named for Midshipman Jarvis (DD 383) moored next to another destroyer, the USS Mugford (DD 389), and their tender, USS Sacramento, a converted 1914 vintage gun boat. The after-action reports of all three ships show the Japanese attack beginning at 0758 on that Sunday morning. General Quarters was immediately sounded, and all three destroyers opened fire on the attacking aircraft. The ship’s log notes that the ship’s anti-aircraft machine guns commenced firing at 0804 hrs, with the Jarvis’ five-inch gun firing the first shot of any five-inch gun in the harbor 60 seconds later.

USS Jarvis was credited with shooting down four enemy aircraft during its escape from Ford Island to the open sea. It is believed that Jarvis was the first to draw enemy blood on that bloody Sunday. Among the seamen receiving special commendation for their action during the Pearl Harbor attack was Quartermaster First Class Harry Neil Schultz, who had been with the Jarvis since it was commissioned in 1937. So much for the wartime myth, that the Americans at Pearl Harbor were so surprised by the suddenness and ferocity of the Japanese attack, that they drew no Japanese blood on that long-ago Sunday. The crew of the Jarvis shattered that myth almost immediately.

About two weeks later, the USS Jarvis left Pearl Harbor along with the carrier Saratoga as part of the Task Force assigned to relieve the Japanese attack on Wake Island. But, in a controversy that resounds to this day, that mission was scuttled, and the Japanese took Wake Island on December
The Wilson Brothers
23rd. In January 1942, while on an anti-submarine patrol the Jarvis rescued 182 survivors of a Japanese torpedo attack on the fleet oiler Neces. By July 1942, Schultz and the Jarvis were on their way to the Solomon Islands to take part in the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7th. In the Jarvis’ crew with Harry Schultz were two young brothers, Lans and Billy Wilson. It would be their fate in the later action at Guadalcanal that would enter into the fateful decision by Shultz later in the war to disobey his orders. The transport ships that Jarvis was escorting came under heavy attack by the Japanese and the Jarvis took a Japanese torpedo but remained afloat. Nine of the 26 attacking Japanese planes had been able to penetrate the American defenses. Following  that battle, the Jarvis steamed to Tulagi where seven wounded crewmen were transferred to a hospital on shore. Quartermaster Harry Schultz went ashore with them to make sure they were cared for. That assignment saved his life.

The Jarvis’ skipper, Lt. Commander William Graham, Jr. then ordered the Jarvis to steam for Sydney, Australia for repairs, unwittingly ordering his ship into the maelstrom known as the bloody  Battle of Savo Island. Shortly after, she steamed across Iron Bottom Sound and ran into the approaching fleet of Japanese Admiral Mikawa’s heavy cruisers, which had mistaken the Jarvis for an American heavy cruiser. As she continued to steam westward, the Japanese again attacked her with a force of 31 planes, raking her with machine gun fire and torpedoes. USS Jarvis went to the bottom of Iron Bottom sound at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on August 9th with all hands. The two Wilson brothers, Billy and Lans were among the 233 crew members who died that day. The loss of Jarvis’ shook  Quartermaster Harry Schultz to his core. In one fell swoop, the Japanese had wiped out his entire family of shipmates.

Rising through the ranks, Schultz earned his commission in 1944, and took command of USS LST 920, a tank landing ship that saw action in Europe and the Pacific. Schultz  was one of only three
Harry Schutz in 1945
members of the LST’s crew of 110 or so who had ever been to sea. Commissioned in June 1944, LST 920 along with its sister ship LST 921 made a safe journey across the Atlantic during late July and early August 1944, and on August 14, 1944 was headed, in another convoy, from Milford Haven, Wales to Falmouth, England, when the convoy was attacked by the German submarine U 667.  The first torpedo broke LST 921 in two, and the second torpedo which was aimed at my father’s ship, blew the British escort ship LCI(L)99 out of the water.

The three attacked ships shared a common history. All three; the two LSTs and the British escort ship had been built at the same shipyard in Massachusetts – the Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard. The crews of the two LSTs trained together at Camp Bradford, Virginia prior to their commissioning. In fact, in a coincidence eerily reminiscent of the ill-fated Wilson brothers aboard the Jarvis, twin brothers were serving aboard the LST 920 and LST 921. Aboard the LST 921 was Seaman  Jerry Hendrixson, twin brother of LST 920 Seaman Harold Hendrixson. Unlike Lans and Billy Wilson, who were lost off Guadalcanal, the Hendrixson brothers were eventually reunited. I’m sure that Captain Schultz was also mindful of his other shipmates from the Jarvis, who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor only to be lost off Guadalcanal. Thus, was put in motion for Schultz’s life-saving decision.

Following the attack on his convoy, Schultz twice ordered Radioman Fred Benck to send messages to his Command requesting permission to return and rescue survivors. Twice, his request was denied. Finally. Schultz made his decision. The order was repeated, DO NOT BREAK CONVOY! Schultz responded, TO HELL WITH HIM! LST 920 turned and returned to pick up survivors from her sister ship, LST 921. When the LST 920 eventually reached Falmouth, Captain Schultz was ordered ashore to face a court-martial. Disobedience during wartime, will not earn the offender any medals for valor.  However, Harry Schultz argued that an ancient law of the sea – rescuing the survivors of a maritime disaster – takes precedence, even in wartime. He was exonerated and returned to his ship.

LST 921 survivor  John Abrams told me many years later, We were left, all by ourselves feeling helpless. We all knew that the German sub was still in the area. Just as all hope seemed lost, we saw your dad’s ship coming back. We all realized that Captain Schultz had disobeyed orders to come back to get us. I owe my life to that man!

      Mike Botula

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at]

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