100 Year Old Pearl Harbor Survivor Wayne Shelnutt

August 17, 2015
by Jason Alghussein

Check out this excellent article by Pete Mecca of the Rockdale News about Pearl Harbor Survivor Wayne Shelnutt. His account of the attack is quite fascinating.

He served aboard the Battleship USS California, flagship of the Pacific Fleet. Shelnutt mentions that on December 5th, 1941 someone on his ship spotted a submarine.  They spent the night searching for the submarine, but did not find it. Eventually they returned to Pearl Harbor on December 6th.

The report of a submarine sighting near Oahu on December 5th should have put the base on alert. This is important news that we have not read elsewhere. We have not been able to find any information to confirm this account, but it fits with other stories about submarine sightings on December 5th.

In At Dawn We Slept:The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor By Gordon W. Prange, there is mention of destroyers spotting submarines.

Somewhere between 1430 and 1530 on December 5 the destroyer Selfridge made an underwater contact but lost it.  Another destroyer Ralph Talbot, picked it up about five miles off Pearl Harbor, reported it as a submarine, and asked permission to depth-charge. But Selfridge, the squadron leader, refused, informing Talbot the intruder was a blackfish. Sniffed Talbot's skipper: "If this is a blackfish, it has a motorboat up its stern!"

It is now known that the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) submarines were in position on December 5th. They were waiting in crevices and canyons below the surface between the Hawaiian Islands. The outcome of the attack may have been different if Pearl Harbor shared communications about these various submarine sightings.

The Pearl Harbor Attack

Shelnutt describes how he was drinking his morning coffee when the attack began.  He mentions how he was spared, when the rest of his gun crew was ordered below decks to retrieve ammunition as a torpedo struck.

Shelnutt remembers the torpedo hits on the California as well as the bombing of the Arizona. Read about his life after the attack and how he spent the night sleeping on the ground, before moving to a tent.

Great stories shared by Mr. Mecca and Mr. Shelnutt.  Thank you both.




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