Edward O’Donnell, associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, was recently featured in the PBS documentary special “Pearl Harbor, USS Oklahoma: Final Story.”
The documentary explores what happened to the USS Oklahoma, the only battleship to capsize during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941 and examines new details about what may have caused the ship to overturn. It features survivors of the USS Oklahoma, relatives of the victims, and historians such as O’Donnell.
O’Donnell offers insight on how the attack on Pearl Harbor fits into the category of days in American history where there is a big before and after effect: “For Americans, things are different on Dec. 8, 1941 than they were a few days earlier.”
According to the documentary, after the USS Oklahoma sustained severe damage from a Japanese midget submarine’s torpedo, the vessel capsized with the crew underneath in the overturned compartments.
“As the attack wanes, they start to hear people banging on the hull and these are men who are trapped in these compartments below decks. They’re taking wrenches, they’re taking flashlights and banging Morse code, trying to alert people,” O’Donnell offers in the documentary. “And pretty soon rescue crews are there, and they try using blow torches to cut through the hull of the ship.”
As the men inside begin to asphyxiate, O’Donnell explains “they eventually get high intensity drills and begin first to pop a lot of air holes so people can survive that way.”
Watch the full video below:
This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Kelsey Littlefield ’17