of Pearl Harbor Day - Dec 07, 1941
by Melvin Sepulvado
"Dedicated to my beloved Grandson, Ryan Roye,"
Written Dec. 07,
name is Melvin Sepulvado. I am a native of Louisiana having been born in Zwoiie,
Louisiana, Sabine Parish. I was raised in Natchitoches Paris and finished high
school in Marthaville, Louisiana. This is my eye witness and survivor account
of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 07, 1941, by the Japanese Navy.
finishing high school in 1939, I enrolled in a trade school in Natchitoches, Louisiana,
studying to be an electrician. It was a two-year course. I attended this school
for fourteen months. I became discouraged since I had no money, nor did my parents,
so I quit the trade school and took a job with a local electrical company. I worked
as a helper at $.25 an hour, and I had to pay one dollar a day for room and board.
This might be hard to believe, but this was in 1941 before the war started, and
jobs were hard to come by.
became discouraged again, so I applied for a Civil Service jog as an electrician's
helper. Within three week, I received a telegram from New Orleans, Louisiana,
informing me that they could place me on a job in Hawaii, at Pearl Harbor Navy
Yard as a shipfitter's helper at $.75 an hour. I had never heard of Pearl Harbor,
nor had many other people, at this time, in 1941 before the war started. I was
ecstatic since this was three times what I was making as an electrician's helper.
I did not know what a shipfitter was. I had not even seen a ship. I had never
been out of the state of Louisiana, and I had never ridden a train, the principle
mode of transportation at the time. In all of my enthusiasm I rushed to respond
to the job offer. I sent them a telegram, advising them that I would accept the
job. I was then 20 years old. Within three hours I received travel orders and
a train ticket about a foot long, to San Francisco, California. I boarded the
train in Natchitoches and began my journey to the West Coast where I was supposed
to board a troop ship for the voyage to Hawaii. I was terrified that I would get
lost or get on the wrong train, since there were transfers and stopovers along
When we got to Fort Worth, Texas, we had a stopover, and I met
a boy from South Carolina. He was also going to Pearl Harbor to work and was an
experienced traveler. We stayed together, became good friends, and I felt so relieved
that I was not going to get lost.
arrived in Hawaii in August, 1941, and started working at Pearl Harbor. I was
just overcome with the beauty of the island; everything was so peaceful and the
climate was really nice. This was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.
Navy had a welding school in the Navy yard and I became fascinated with the welding
trade, so I enrolled in the school and became a welder, a trade that followed
until I retired in 1982 from Dow Chemical Company in Freeport, Texas. I was working
six days a week at first, so on the Sunday morning of December 07, 1941, at 7:55,
I was in my bunk asleep when I heard the zooming of airplanes overhead, and deafening
sounds from explosions and concussions. I rolled out of my bunk and walked to
the door at the end of my barracks. I opened the door and looked up and there
was a Japanese Zero fighter plane about 100 feet flying overhead, firing its two
guns - one in the nose of the plane and one in the tail. At this time it was strafing
the planes, which were on the ground at Hickam Field, just a short distance from
my barracks. Well, we knew at this time that we were under attack by the Japanese.
shortly, Martial Law was declared, and all the men in our reservation were ordered
to go down into the Navy Yard where the Japanese were bombing and torpedoing or
warships. We were ordered to take shelter in our respective shops while the air
raid was in progress. We tried to get the military to give us some army rifles,
so we could defend ourselves and w could probably have shot at an d killed some
of those Japanese pilots, since they were flying so low, but they would not let
us have any. I never have understood why they ordered us right into the line of
fire, without any way to defend ourselves. We all would have been killed instantly
if the Japs had hit our shop with a bomb.
Japanese were attacking with dive-bombers, fighter planes, horizontal bombers,
and torpedo planes. The fighter planes were used to strafe our planes on the ground
where most of our planes were that Sunday morning. The horizontal bombers and
torpedo planes were used to damage and sink the large warships.
less than three hours, 130 ships had been heavily damaged or sunk. The smoking
ships that were hit started burning, since they had a lot of oil in their huge
tanks. The smoke was so black and dense that I just covered the whole area of
the Navy Yard, and it looked like twilight. It was such an eerie sight. There
was so much confusion; no one seemed to know what to do. There were so many injured
military personnel, who were being transported to the hospitals, that they did
not have enough ambulances, so they just used any kind of vehicle that was available.
the raid was over, we were ordered out to the repair basins to start repairing
the damaged ships. We had to start working twelve and fourteen hours a day, seven
days a week, for about three years. After the raid we could only work, eat, and
sleep. We could not go anywhere since Martial Law was in effect, and there was
a total blackout for several months. Martial Law continued for three years.
soon as the war started, our supervisors advised us that they would rather we
would keep working to help repair the damaged ships, and the ones which were sunk
and raised. They told us if we would agree to do that, they would give us a deferral
from Military Duty, so this is what I did. (More about this later).
worked at Pearl Harbor during the entire war (forty-seven months, to be exact)
helping to repair the ships which were damaged or sunk during the bombing of Pearl
Harbor on December 07, 1941. Also, we had to repair a lot of the ships which were
damaged during the Pacific Naval battles with the Japanese, taking back all the
islands the Japs had taken during the war: Guadalcanal, the Philippines, Wake
Island, Guam, Okinawa, and others.
November 1945, after the war ended, I was reclassified 1-A and recommended for
military duty, while still there in Pearl Harbor, working for the Navy. I was
ready to perform my duty in the military, but it was obvious to me hat the Navy
had kept me there working at Pearl Harbor for four years, and they did not need
me anymore, so they turned me over to the army. My contention then, and still
is, that I would have much rather gone into the military service while the war
was going on.
entered the army, there in Hawaii, in November 1945, and took my basic training
at Schofield Barracks. After finishing my basic training, I was shipped to New
Caledonia for occupation duty there. I served a year, then was shipped back to
Californian where I was honorably discharged at Camp Peal in January, 1947.
leaving Pearl Harbor, I was awarded a "Certificate of Honorable Service"
from the Navy for my part in helping to win the war. I am very proud of this award,
as I worked very had over there and under some of the most horrible working conditions
you could imagine, working on and repairing the ships, which had been sunk and
were raised, and on all of the ships which were damaged during all the Naval battles
the Navy had with the Japanese throughout the war.
Melvin Sepulvado (signature)
Melvin's grandson, Ryan Roye is the son of Mack L. Roye's nephew and serves in
the USMC reserves while attending the University of North Texas. He will graduate
from UNT in the spring of 2005.
HERE to view photos of Pearl Harbor