From Pearl Harbor to 9/11
Thursday, June 6, 2019
“Jesus, what the hell did we get into here?” is what Earl W. Stevens questioned upon seeing the devastation of Pearl Harbor for the first time. Stevens described his time in the military in an interview with the National Museum of the Pacific War on September 28, 2001. “When we first got there it was still smoking. And ships was in there getting repaired and all shot up. They hadn’t up righted anything yet of turned anything over or started taking anything apart.” Stevens witnessed this destruction at the age of 16 from the deck of U.S.S. Luraline. At his side was his older brother Charles who had enlisted in the Navy with him along with a third brother and their father in Denver on the same day. “My Dad and my three brothers we all jointed together the same day.” Earl Stevens’ father was sent to Florida for basic training, his other brother was sent to Boston, while he and “Chuck” were sent to Pearl Harbor.
The attack on Pearl Harbor
“We [Chuck] went through boot training together and he went on board the ship the same time I did. We came across from San Diego to Pearl Harbor on the U.S.S. Luraline, a troop ship, and went on board the New Mexico.” Both Earl and Chuck were assigned duties as electricians. “There was five sets of brothers already in E Division, all electricians. And we made the fifth set of brothers and they never broke us up until for about a year after we went aboard and they started breaking up these older sets of brothers that have been on there.”
Airel View of the USS New Mexico
Earl Stevens was assigned to work as a gun electrician and to assist with interior communications on board the U.S.S. New Mexico. Stevens’ duty as a gun electrician meant he spent almost all his time near the guns in case their firing mechanisms needed sudden repair. “Every time they blew a GQ, general quarters, you had to bet up on the guns. You know, you had to get up there. So I didn’t have any permanent station to report to. I just went up to one of the guns then said, ‘Here I am’ and they said ‘OK.’ They knew what gun I had got to, you know, so if they needed me they could call me. SO I just floated around the topside deck then.”
Stevens’ time on the U.S.S. New Mexico saw him spend time in Fiji, Australia, the Philippines, and many spots in-between. Stevens returned stateside to San Pedreo to assignment on several minesweepers. “Every day I took a minesweeper out in the harbors, me and a boatswains mate and he would do his part of the mine sweeping. I would test all the electrical degaussing and that stuff to sweep all the mines. We took one of them out every morning, brought is back every afternoon and then if they needed any work done on there on the system I checked they, you know they take are of it and if not they sent them…over to sweep all the harbors of the world I guess. I did that for several months and they put me on an AKA [amphibious cargo ships] and I went around to the East Coast.”
Stevens stayed with the Navy through the Korean War at which point he served on the U.S.S. Rowan. He retired from the military due to a dependency discharge in “’49 or ’50.” Stevens’ interview with the museum was conducted roughly a month after the terrorist attacks of September 2011, an event he said reminded him a great deal of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
This piece was researched at the National Museum of the Pacific War’s Nimitz Education and Resource Center.