His story of the debacle: On Bow of Pearl Harbor Ship "I stood on the bow of my
ship in Pearl Harbor, Sunday, December 7, 1941, waiting for the signal to run up
the "Jack." As I waited I thought of how calm the morning seemed and how quiet
it was aboard ship. (Mr. Riggs was stationed on a destroyer.) After Old Glory
had been run up, most of the sailors were getting ready to go to religious
services while others were catching up on their sleep.
"At 8, the "Jack" was to be run up and the National Anthem played. It was just
7:57 when hell was loosed with a mighty fury. Suddenly smoke arose from Hickam
Field. This was not unusual because the practice bombings with dust or flour
sacks early in the morning raised a good deal of smoke. Everyone thought it was
just another practice.
"My position on the bow of the ship was ideal to see what happened. As I waited
I saw a plane dive down and the rising sun was very plainly visible on the
fuselage. About 150 yards from the Oklahoma, I saw a red object drop and I
realized it was "after fish." The splash of water nearly covered the entire
ship and the explosion was deafening."
Saw Expression on Face of Foe "Someone yelled, 'Get the _____ before he gets
you.' By this time I had reached the bridge and since my gun was already, I
prepared to fire. Several planes came so close I could see the expressions, if
you can call it that, on the faces of the yellow rats. My mates and I fired
almost in unison and we can safely say we paid the rats for a couple of our
"As more planes came over, more bombs fell. One went down the stack of a ship
and the boilers blew up. Men inside the ships had no chance to get out because
someone said, 'It can't happen to us; we are safe.' The officers in charge did
not listen to the story of a soldier who saw and heard strange aircraft approaching.
"Men were trapped in the hulls of the ships from 15 hours to 2 days. I saw some
of the men taken out after being buried in those half-sunken ships for 2 days.
They had no clothing on, they removed it to save themselves from being fatally
poisoned by the perspiration-soaked garments. They are alive today and back
fighting to pay the yellow rats back - with interest."
People Still Unaware of Urgency "You may say, 'I couldn't kill anyone,' but if
you had stood beside me and had seen your pals disappear in front of your eyes,
you could have killed every Jap in the world if you had been able. I wish I
were out there now instead of leaving the fighting for someone else.
"The shock I received when I arrived home was greater than the one I got at
Pearl Harbor. I could not have known there was a war if I had not just arrived
from the war zone.
"People were cursing the government because they had to curtail their driving.
Almost everyone was rushing to hoard sugar, coffee, and other products before
someone else got it all. They raved because there was a war which took some of
their luxuries away. Had they stopped to think of how coffee keeps some of
those boys on the front awake on watches and forced drives, they would not be
doing so much complaining. They would also be giving ten percent of their
income or more toward bonds which in reality is just a way to save for a day
when they will need it.
"When you take an eight-hour day off because you do not feel like going to work,
just pause and think of the boys out there who have been on duty for up to 24
hours or perhaps several days. Let's remember there is a war to be won, and we
can win it here as well as out there."
America Must Wake Up "I'm not a preacher, but I can't help expressing how
carelessly people take the effort which we are putting forth here at home. It
is in reality just as important as the man with a gun on Guadalcanal. I am
thankful I've been given the opportunity of doing a little bit here since I am
no longer fit for service.
"Just one thing, though - it happened at Pearl Harbor and it could happen right
here. Nothing is impossible and no one is safe anywhere today."
Mr. Riggs enlisted in the Navy in September, 1940. After a brief training
period in the states he was transferred to the Pacific Fleet at Hawaii. He was
permanently disabled in the Pearl Harbor attack and after six months in the Naval
Hospital at Mare Island, Cal., he received his Honorable Discharge. Returning
to his native Delaware County, he promptly got a job at Scintilla and has been
there since. He was one of the first two veterans of the present war to join
the Sidney Legion Post.
"All you can see are sand dunes, sand mountains, a few jack rabbits and some
small brush about three feet high, a few cactus plants and once in a while a
tall cactus tree. There are also a few rattlesnakes but they never bother
anyone. Also, a few desert rats of the four-legged kind.
"I am writing this out in the desert and it won't get mailed until the 23rd of
June, so you can see that we are quite a long way out of our camp." (The letter
was dated June 16.) He apologized for the condition of the letter which was
rather dog-eared and stained. The stains, he said, were caused by perspiration
pouring off of him as he wrote.