THE USS NEVADA PATTEN BROTHERS
As the nation approaches the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, my cousin, Clarence Floyd Patten, III (Col., U.S.M.C., retired) and I submit the following article for publication. If you want to publish this article, I would provide you with the photo below as a JPEG file at 300 DPI. I may be contacted at Patten124@aol.com or 317-508-7761.
Thank you for your consideration.
December 7th, 1941 Was a Day of Infamy for Six Patten Brothers. As the nation approaches the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, veterans should be proud to know that six Patten brothers were there that fateful day on the battleship USS Nevada.
The Patten brothers from rural Iowa began joining the Navy in 1934. During peacetime, they were allowed to serve on the same ship. By January 1941, seven brothers, Gilbert, Marvin, Bick, Allen, Ted, Ray and Bruce, were serving in the engine room of the Nevada. In September, their father, Floyd, joined the Navy and the Pattens were recognized as the Navy’s largest family. In October, Ted’s enlistment was up and he returned to civilian life working in Long Beach, California.
On the weekend of December 7th, the Nevada was coming into port, but was directed to wait until the aircraft carrier Lexington cleared the entrance to Pearl Harbor as she left port. When the Nevada reached its docking place on Battleship Row, the Arizona was moored where the Nevada normally docked. For that weekend and eternity, they traded places.
The disaster that caused the death of 1,177 sailors and Marines on the Arizona has deservedly been well documented. The story of the six Patten brothers on that day also merits remembrance.
Gilbert was standing in line to purchase toiletries from the ship’s store waiting for it to open at 08:00. He counted the sailors ahead of him and decided to come back later. He was never known to have a great deal of patience! Allen had finished night duty and was eating breakfast. Marvin was in a skiff going ashore for duty. Bick, Ray and Bruce were below deck.
Allen’s recollection of that morning was later published in their hometown newspaper, the Lake City Graphic. “I got up and showered about 7 a.m. and at about 7:45 a.m. I sat down to breakfast. I remember it was a ‘dog’ sandwich and beans. Then some of the other B Division sailors and I sat around drinking tea and coffee and discussing the Rose Bowl and who would win the football game Duke or Oregon. Then something strange started happening and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was just past 8 a.m., we were three decks down and the Nevada started shaking like a three or four scale earthquake. The porthole was open and I heard a rat-a-tat-tat sound like a machine gun. We were all very confused; it had been such a nice serene morning. We thought it odd that someone might be practicing with their guns. Then the B Division mess cook, Henry, he was just a kid, 18 years old yelled down to us. ‘Hey, you guys, we’re being attacked.’”
Years later, Bruce recalled the beginning of the eventful day to a Battle Ground, Washington newspaper, the Reflector. He was a Boiler Tender; three decks down on the Nevada, when general quarters sounded before 8 a.m. “All hands man your battle stations!” ordered a voice on a loudspeaker. “On the way to my battle station, I found one of my brothers arguing with a Chief Petty Officer,” said Patten. His brother was insisting to the Chief that Japanese planes were overhead. The Chief was yelling that he was tired of all the rumors about an attack. “Then the first bomb hit and ended the argument,” Bruce said.
The first wave of Japanese planes attacked at 0753. They bombed and torpedoed the Arizona anchored near the Nevada. A bomb struck near Marvin’s boat that was leaving for the shore. Bodies flew in every direction. A bomb exploded where Gilbert had been standing at the ship’s store. All those who were still in line were killed.
At the stern of Battleship Row, the Nevada’s gun crews were marginally faster than other ships in getting into action and had beaten off all but one of the low-flying Japanese Kate torpedo bombers. Nonetheless, the last Kate sent a single torpedo into her bow opening up a 40- by 30-foot gash.
With a large hole blown in the Nevada’s side, Lieutenant Ruff, the officer in charge, ordered the Nevada to prepare to get underway. Due to its proximity to the Arizona, he feared the explosions and fires would spread to the Nevada.
Again, Allen recalled. “Part of the crew was on liberty, and only one of the ship’s six boilers was lit and on line. Thick ropes held the ship tightly in place. An axe cut through the hemp mooring lines, and by 8:18 a.m., we had all six boilers off in ten minutes – record time. The Nevada was underway in 18 minutes, steaming through billowing smoke, which was pouring from the Arizona.”
Lieutenant Ruff directed the Nevada to proceed and she steamed toward the open sea to escape further attacks by Japanese planes. The sailors on the other ships cheered as they witnessed the Nevada pull out of its berth in Battleship Row. It was a morale boost for them to observe one of their ships underway.
Allen continued. “Our skipper was making a run for the channel at 18 knots, but when the Japs spotted us we really took a pounding. The first of three 500 pound aerial bombs struck the Nevada mid-ship. It sounded like a big stick of dynamite going off with a thundering noise, and then a torpedo struck the portside and the Nevada came out of the water two feet just like somebody lifted it up.”
Lieutenant Ruff soon realized the Nevada’s foray to escape would fail due to her additional damage. He ordered the ship to run aground before she sank. Except for his quick decision and action; crewmen below deck, including the Patten brothers, would have suffered the same fate as the sailors trapped below deck on the Arizona when she sank. Lieutenant Ruff saved their lives and the lives of all the crewmembers below deck.
Later, Allen recalled the scene. “I went topside for the first time an hour after the Japanese attack began and I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had been tied up next to the USS Arizona and as I looked across Pearl Harbor to Battleship Row, the sight was incredible. Ford Island was engulfed in fire and smoke. I saw a nightmare. The Arizona had sunk, the California was ablaze and sinking, the Pennsylvania was in dry dock and burning, the Oklahoma and Utah were capsized. The Japs had left and the fleet was in ruins.”
The Patten brothers’ sister Martha Sporleder and her husband lived on an Iowa farm. They had a battery-powered radio and that afternoon, they were gathered in the kitchen. The fall harvest was completed and the family was listening to WHO when the Des Moines radio station announced the attack on Pearl Harbor. They did not have a telephone.
In Long Beach, Ted Patten entered a café with his lunch bucket and sat next to his fellow workers. There, he first heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He immediately left for the nearest Navy station to seek news about his brothers. He also reenlisted in the Navy.
Since the 8th of December, Martha’s husband, Ernest, trekked daily to the Western Union office at the railroad station seeking a message on her brothers. On December 10th, a telegraph from Ted simply announced, “All okay.”
In June 1942, the eighth Patten brother, Wayne, joined the Navy and they continued to serve their country during World War II. They served aboard ships that were involved in the Battle of the Coral Sea, Battle of Leyte Gulf and Battle of the Philippine Sea (the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”). The eight brothers and their father’s Navy careers totaled 124 years of service to their country. Today, the two youngest brothers, Bruce and Wayne, survive.
Bruce shares a special status with few remaining World War II sailors. He was aboard the Nevada during the attack on December 7th, 1941 and Bruce was aboard the destroyer USS Wren within 300 yards of the battleship Missouri when the Japanese surrendered on September 2nd, 1945.
This article was authored and contributed by Clarence Floyd (VJ) Patten, III (Col., U.S.M.C., retired) and Dale E. Sporleder, nephews and grandsons of the Patten brothers and their father. VJ and Dale have also published a book, 124 Years Before The Navy Mast - The Patten Family, which details the Patten brothers’ Naval experiences during World War II. The book may be ordered over the Internet at www.lulu.com/content/438110 or www.Lulu.com or from Huntington Publications, 5089 Huntington Drive, Carmel, IN 46033. Dale may be contacted at Patten124@aol.com or 317-508-7761. Other information on the Patten family is available at www.rootsweb.com/~iaohms/military/patten_brothers.html and www.pattenpending.com.
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