The USS Henderson got underway right
after midnight Dec 7, 1941. We were in the
the outer channel of Pearl Harbor when the
Japanese attacked. Their planes flew
right over the top of us at 200 to 500 ft.
We went to GQ (General Quarter) and were firing at
the Jap planes with 50 cal machine guns,
which we had (2) two, I was manning one
of the 50s and the Henderson was credited
with shooting down one Jap plane.
We were also fired on by a small
Jap sub at the entrance of Pearl Harbor.
Link to original
PEARL HARBOR - DEC. 7, 1941
The following is information surrounding the day that
will live in infamy, from conversations I had with my
father, Laurence Selbach. He was the only enlisted navy
person (Gunner's Mate) on the USS Henderson a trans-
port carrier. His captain a merchant seaman wanted
to pull up anchor and leave Pearl Harbor on Dec.-6,
but the command wouldn't let the Henderson leave
until Dec.-7, so after midnight on Dec.-7 they pulled
up anchor. After they pulled out another ship pulled
into their spot next to the battleships. As stated in
the hand written accounts by my father. They were
in the outer channel of the harbor when General
Quarters was called. At that time he was below
deck. When he reached the 50 cal machine gun, there
was a young kid frozen to the gun. He knocked the
kid away, unjammed the machine gun, and fired on
the attacking planes. My father said the Henderson
might have been credited with downing one plane.
Classified orders had the Henderson pursue a zig-zag
course up to the Gulf of Alaska. There a Navy ship
escorted her to San Francisco. She was equipped with
more armament and return to Pearl Harbor at the
end of December. What my father saw was the ship
that pulled into their spot was sunk and the wreck-
age of ships were still smoking and smoldering.
My father thought to himself - Larry, I'm not go-
ing to live through this war. He was wrong of
course because his son was writing this historical
Foot note: My father's brother, Walter Selbach, was
also in the Navy and was a casualty of
the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
The son of the WWII veteran wrote of what his father told him
when his son and he were going thru his old military papers prior
to his passing. The unsigned hand written letter was written
from the WWII Veteran, Laurence Jacob Selbach.
Now come the questions.
Where had Henderson been berthed? Which ship taking her place
was sunk? What was Henderson carrying that she went home by
way of the Gulf of Alaska to pick up an escort back down to
San Francisco? Was she alone or with any other ships?
USS Henderson (AP-1) was a veteran troop transport
having carried troops to Europe during WWI, to China in the
1920's, and was making regular runs to the Philippines in
the period before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Many military transports operated without significant arms
during the peacetime years. The Henderson's captain was wise
to seek a 1st class gunnery mate to tend a couple of 50s,
albeit inadequate for a wartime footing. It is not a stretch
to assume she was carrying homebound men, hence the particular
need for warship escort.
As Henderson (AP-1) was at sea by the time she received
her new orders, a route north -- into waters occupied by
the Japanese fleet -- could be simply because: that first day,
the Japanese fleet was though to have attacked from the
south or west of Pearl, and going northeast would have been
thought to put the troopship out of harms way of both the carrier
fleet and submarines. She made it though the Japanese submarine
blockade around the Hawaiian islands, probably escorted
partway by one of the destroyers that sortied during the attack.
It must have been a harrying experience to travel alone when the
escort turned back. Going into the Gulf of Alaska is not
a stretch if her initial orders were to receive armament
at Seattle. We don't know what warship she picked up
for escort, but it might have been from our northern forces.
The shipyards around Pubic Sound were soon dedicated to repair
damaged Pearl Harbor warships, so, diversion back to her
original port of San Francisco Bay is reasonable.
Henderson made 20 troop carrying voyages during 1942-43.
She was then refitted as hospital ship, Bountiful (AH-9),
supporting Peleliu, Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The shipname was assigned
to new construction, DD-785 (1945-1980).
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About this page: selbach - Son's notes of recollections.