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On December 7, 1941, Petty Officer Robert (Bob) Norman was sitting on his bunk aboard the battle ship USS Nevada docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese launched their sneak attack on the naval base.

The ship was torpedoed and hit with ten bombs sinking it into the shallow harbor.

After the second wave of attacks and while the ship was on fire, Bob climbed up the outside of a mast to rescue a stranded ensign who had been critically injured. In so doing Bob’s clothes caught on fire, scorching his back as he strapped the ensign to a stretcher, tied it to the mast, and slowly lowered it down to the deck—all the while bullets and bombs were flying around their heads.

That ensign, Joseph Taussig, like Bob, survived and had a long, fruitful career in the US Navy.

As Captain Norman finished his career he held two of the navy’s top four medals for bravery. He was awarded a Bronze Star for a rescue off North Vietnam, and the Silver Star for his actions during the Pearl Harbor attack.

Robert Norman was 93 when he died August 19, 2013. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.

Full Interview Transcript

Chapter 01 – 1:04 Introduction

Announcer: December 7, 1941, Petty Officer Bob Norman was sitting on his bunk aboard the battleship USS Nevada when the Japanese launched their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

The ship was torpedoed and hit with ten bombs, sinking it into the shallow harbor.

While the ship was on fire, Bob climbed up a mast to rescue a stranded ensign. In so doing, Bob’s clothes caught on fire, scorching his back as he strapped the ensign to a stretcher, tied the stretcher to the mast, and slowly lowered it down to the deck. Bullets and bombs were flying around his head the whole time.

As Captain Norman finished his career he held two of the Navy’s top four medals for bravery: He was awarded a Bronze Star for a rescue off North Vietnam, and the Silver Star for his actions during the Pearl Harbor attack.

Robert Norman was 93 when he died, August 19, 2013, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

But now you can hear Captain Norman tell his story of surviving the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on

Chapter 02 – 1:38 The Iowa Connection

John Erling: Today’s date is November 24, 2009. My name is John Erling. Bob, if you’d state your name and your age, please.

Bob Norman: Robert J. Norman, most people call me Bob. My age is eighty-nine and three- quarters.

JE: Your date of birth?

BN: 12/8/19.

Captain Robert Norman

A desire to “see the world through a porthole,” landed him right in the middle of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

JE: Where were you born?

BN: Earlville, Iowa.

JE: Where are we recording this interview?

BN: We’re recording this interview in my office in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

JE: So you were born in Iowa, where did you grow up?

BN: Well, I grew up in several different locations in Iowa. My dad was an Illinois Central Railroad man, run the railroad stations.

JE: Your father’s name?

BN: Milton Myron Norman.

JE: Was he a native of Iowa? BN: Yes, he was a native of Iowa. JE: And your mother’s name?

BN: Marjorie Johnson.

JE: She was a native of Iowa as well?

BN: Yes, um-hmm (affirmative).

JE: Beyond high school, did you go to college then out of high school?

BN: I went to college, Iowa State. I went to college under a Navy sponsorship in Iowa State.

JE: And what made you choose Navy?

BN: Oh, I was going to join the Navy when I was a seventh- and eighth-grader in school. I had heard all about seeing the world through a porthole and progressed through my high school years. And one week after I got out of high school I was in the Navy.

JE: Then what happened?

BN: Well, I went to training, the Navy training school in Great Lakes, Illinois.

JE: And how long—

BN: Then after I went through with the boot camp and what have you, I was assigned to the

USS Nevada, a battleship.

JE: This would have been what year?

BN: Nineteen thirty-seven.

JE: And you would have been seventeen, eighteen years old?

BN: Seventeen years old.

Chapter 03 – 1:50 The Day Before

John Erling: So you were assigned to the USS Nevada?

Bob Norman: That’s correct.

JE: At seventeen?

BN: That’s correct.

JE: Talk to us about that. As a young man…?

BN: Well, I went aboard that ship with twenty-five other sailors that had gone through and graduated from the Naval Training Center in Great Lakes. We went aboard the USS Nevada in the US Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.

None of us had ever seen a ship that big and never seen the ocean, but we were all gung-ho. We were going to be sailors and were going to be military.

We went aboard this ship after a train ride. We rode the train from Chicago to Seattle.

And then ferried from Seattle to Bremerton. We went aboard this ship and we were all assigned to different divisions in the ship.

I was assigned to the Fourth Division. There were three ships in our division: the Oklahoma, the Arizona, and the Nevada, known as Bat Div 1. We trained with the other two ships at sea and we moored in our assigned keys in those days, alongside of Fort Island. Fort Island was an island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. That was the day before—

JE: Before December 7, 1941?

BN: Yeah.

JE: The day before.

BN: We did not get liberty until late that night, Saturday night. We had to exchange ammunition. We were exchanging fourteen inch projectiles that day, Saturday after we came into port. We started in taking our heavy munitions and putting them up on deck to put them on barges and send them to the Pearl Harbor Ammunition Depot.

That’s what we did, we worked till well after dark. And then, of course, we turned in and then Pearl Harbor hit.

JE: That was Saturday night, December 6 of ’41.

Chapter 04 – 4:36 The Day of Attack

John Erling: So then Sunday morning, talk to us about waking up Sunday morning and what it was like. What did you do?

Bob Norman: Sunday morning was different than weekday nights because reveille doesn’t go until seven o’clock. I was the petty officer in charge of my division at that time. I got my people roused up and they all went to have breakfast.

When they finished breakfast, they reported to their work stations on the topside, cleaning stations for Sunday and getting things ready for church services.

When Pearl Harbor hit at five minutes to eight, I was sitting on my bunk. I had dungaree pants on and a pair of rubbers on. I didn’t even have my shoes on, sitting there reading the paper. My crew was up doing their work. And the band that lived in the quarters right below us had gone up to the topside and set up the town colors.

Well, the first thing I knew, the band threw their instruments down the damn hatch and run down yelling that we were under attack.

About that time, General Quarters was sounded.

JE: General Quarters? What does that mean?

BN: General Quarters.

JE: It was sounded, tell us what that means.

BN: Well, General Quarters, the officer of the deck told a junior officer of the deck to sound General Quarters, and he pulled the alarm, the general alarm. And then they passed the word that this was no drill, we were under attack and to man your battle stations immediately!

JE: You were sitting on your bunk when you heard all this?

BN: Yeah. I was off of my bunk long before—

JE: Tell us what you were doing then, as you heard this news coming down. What was your first—

BN: Well, I wanted to get my crew up in the turret, turret four, where they belonged. Oh, I was fighting my way to get up to the topside and the band was coming down and all kinds of people coming down, so it was difficult.

JE: And you were trying to work your way up?

BN: But I got on topside where my crew was and we manned the turret. But you don’t fire fourteen-inch guns at the airplanes. But we manned our turret.

JE: Can you explain to us what a turret is?

BN: Well, a turret is an armored cover for a fourteen-inch gun. It fired a projectile that weighs fourteen hundred pounds. These projectiles were down in the bowels of the ship in magazines, along with bags of powder that were put into these guns and then fired. And they project the projectile through the gun.

Well, first of all, we got word that they wanted to take the lines in, we were going to get underway.

JE: Did you observe the bombs and the planes that—

BN: Yeah, oh yeah, oh—

JE: Tell us about what you saw.

BN: All day long. We had one torpedo bomber hit us with his torpedo. We saw that. Hit us in fourth quarter. Then we had bombs dropping all around us. They were hitting us and there were near misses, so we had a lot of fire on board. We got word to go to different damage control stations to assist in the putting out of fires and taking care of casualties, what-have-you, and bringing the lines in so we could get underway.

Talk about getting a battleship underway, the fire rooms needed a good two hours to get steam up in the boilers, a good two hours. Well, they didn’t have that. There’s always a hot water steaming to provide power for generators and ship service deals, there’s always one boiler on.

Well, we were fortunate, about six o’clock that morning, put another boiler on the line to take the place of the one that was firing, they were going to shut it down. They did shut it down and the other one came on line just before eight o’clock. So that

left us with two boilers that were hot when the word came that we were going to get underway. That was a plus.

And getting the wires in, heavy wires that tie up battleships, that’s quite a chore.

I’ll never forget, we had a chief warrant bosun on there by the name of E. J. Hill. E. J. was a tough hombre, he’d put forty-three years in the Navy. And he knew what he was doing.

And I was over there getting lines in on my deck and he was up on the boat deck and he come running down, yelled down at me, “Take those lines down! We’re going to go to sea and we may need them to tow somebody with.”

We were just pulling the wires down and throwing them down. These wires were two and a quarter inches thick, so they were big, heavy wires. So anyway, we flicked them down in the stern, had them ready in case we went to sea so we could tow somebody.

Subsequently, that chief warrant bosun went up with the folks up by the anchor windows and gear up there and a bomb hit up there and killed him. We lost a lot of people.

Chapter 05 – 7:30 Heroic Rescue

John Erling: How many people did you lose?

Bob Norman: We had 65 fatalities and 285 were injured. My back was all burned.

JE: And how did that—

BN: And I got a Purple Heart for that.

JE: And how did that happen?

BN: Well, that happened when I climbed up the foremast, which was burning, to rescue a junior grade lieutenant that got his leg blown off and they couldn’t get him down, so—

JE: What was it you climbed up on?

BN: I climbed up masts, the leg of the masts. The fire was burning through the bridge structure so you couldn’t go in the normal inside of the navigational position up to where his position was. So I climbed up the outside.

We got him on a stretcher and lowered him down the outside to the boat deck and they took him back where the injured were.

JE: How did you sustain your injury?

BN: The bridge structure was burning and I was working on him and working climbing up and it was burning on my back. I had to go back down to the signal bridge and get some line so I had to climb that again after I got the line.

JE: And the fire was burning on your back. Were you in such a state of mind that you didn’t feel any pain?

BN: Wasn’t worried about that, no. Never worried about that. We had people killed and injured on the five-inch battery. That’s why I was up there on the boat deck. My people were relieving these people who were killed on the guns and injured on the guns and taking over shooting the guns.

JE: When did you have to finish your work? Before the pain—

BN: I didn’t go to sickbay for two or three days.

JE: I can’t imagine this fire is on your back. Did it go around your whole body?

BN: No it got my back and burned my shirt off the back.

JE: But your skin was burned?

BN: Well, sure.

JE: And you kept working—

BN: Well, we had work to do.

JE: All of this is going on hours after the attack.

BN: Yeah, hours after the second attack. We had two attacks.

JE: Then you’re pulling in your lines. Were there casualties all over the deck? BN: Yeah. We were underway then, going down, down the bay, going to sea. JE: How many hours after the attack were you underway?

BN: The first attack we were probably alongside of the Oklahoma. Then the second attack hit and we were run aground alongside of a dry dock that had a destroyer in it. And that destroyer took a direct hit and the magazines blew up and the force of that hit and the resulting wind damage blew us back out in the bay again. Then we got tugs alongside and pushed us over into where we finally sunk.

JE: Were you taking on water—

BN: Um-hmm (affirmative).

JE: …all along—

BN: Right.

JE: …from that torpedo?

BN: Yes, we had that isolated.

JE: Wha—

BN: Damage control had that isolated.

JE: Okay, what was it that ultimately sank the ship?

BN: We run aground and then it took us three days to really sink. Water coming in. Those ships in those days used to go through the shipyards and they put in new wiring systems in and piping systems in and cut holes in the walls, the bulkheads, in other words, and the ceilings and decks and they never closed them up. Put paint over them.

So the water that was coming in the ship softened up the paint and then came right through the holes. And so it took us three days to really take on water.

JE: And then again, the water came in to the ship because?

BN: Well, if, we’d taken on water because of two or three near misses that hull of the ship. And also, where the torpedo was it wasn’t that watertight. But we had near misses that put holes in the sides of the ship that took on water.

JE: So it took three days for the ship to sink?

BN: Yeah. To sit on the bottom. We didn’t totally sink, we were down to the main deck. We were grounded in a cane field down there. The cane would rustle with the wind blowing it and there were all sorts of things coming in on the radio for the Japanese were attacking and they were coming through the cane fields at us, and what-have-you.

So, we were taking up positions on the rail of our ship, with guns we got out of the armory, and firing at them.

At the same time, we were still putting out fires. We didn’t get our fires put out for two or three days. At least two or three days.

And what we had to eat then, we had a tugboat, in those days they weren’t diesel electric, they were steam tugboats. And went alongside and he provided the steam for us. We had to set up tables on the main deck and got a couple of big kettles. The galley was smashed all to hell but we got a couple of steam kettles out of the galley and cooked rice. Had some canned salmon, opened a can, dumped it on the table, and that’s what we ate.

JE: Tell us about leaving the ship.

BN: I finally left the ship in five days. Went over to the beach. The first place I went to was the PX, and got some clothes. They were handing out clothes, dungarees and dungaree shirts and skivvies and what-not. So I got a couple of suits to wear, get out of the ones I had on.

Then I headed for the submarine base café. I heard about the submarine base restaurant. I went over there and, sure enough, they served pancakes and eggs. I had three orders of pancakes and eggs.

Then I got up, went back, found my boat, back to ship.

JE: You caught your boat back to the ship?

BN: Well, there were boats going back and forth to the different ships.

JE: From the ship to the dock?

BN: Um-hmm (affirmative).

JE: So you were ferrying back and forth?

BN: Oh yeah. There was all kinds of boats going. JE: All right. So then you went back to your ship. BN: Yeah.

JE: The USS Nevada?

BN: That’s where I belonged.

JE: What about the burns on your back? When did you have that—

BN: Well, I got those taken care of. I had the ship’s dispensary. Finally, a corpsman got ahold of me and patched me up.

JE: You probably have scars to this day from that.

BN: Well, some of them. One here, see that?

JE: Yeah.

BN: That’s a scar.

JE: From the burns?

BN: A burn scar, yeah.

JE: Yeah. Then you come back to the ship?

BN: Yeah, I was a bosun mate and I was in charge of a certain portion of that ship. We had a responsibility of getting that ship patched up and getting it back to the States.

Now, what was happening all that time was that the seamen and the firemen and the third class petty officers on all of those ships were being transferred to the destroyers and the cruisers that needed the bodies to fill out their complement. When we left the States, none of us had a full complement. We never had a full number of people. Most of the battleships were badly, badly damaged, like the Arizona. The Arizona only had twenty- five, thirty survivors.

They took a big baseball field with the bleachers and paired it off up there on the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS—and when people would survive from those ships and got off the ships they would report into those areas where they would sit on the bleachers. They took care of them and wrote their orders and all that kind of stuff. Gave them clothing.

On our ship, we only had first class petty officers and only a few second class and chiefs left.

Chapter 06 – 5:30

Knew Japan Would Attack

John Erling: How many did you have on the USS Nevada before the attack.

Bob Norman: Well, we had nineteen hundred.

JE: And of the nineteen hundred, how many casualties?

BN: Well, 65 fatalities and 267 went to the hospital.

JE: When this bombing is going on there’s chaos?

BN: No chaos. Everyone knows what the hell they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to go.

JE: And everybody did that? BN: You’re damn right they did! JE: Yelling and screaming?

BN: No yelling and screaming. None whatsoever.

JE: So it was great training that these men had?

BN: Train, train, train, train, train, train, then all of a sudden you need it.

JE: And you have nothing but praise for those men?

BN: Oh, hell yes, all of them. Not only my ship. All the other ships were the same way. They all trained good, all of them. And we had very few officers on board. Wasn’t any of our senior officers on board, they were all on shore.

JE: Why were they on shore?

BN: Liberty. When we came in Saturday they all went ashore. And a lot of the chief petty officers did. A lot of the families were out there. In those days, the families would come out on the passenger ships.

JE: Of the officers of your ship—

BN: Um-hmm (affirmative).

JE: …that had gone on shore, did they all survive?

BN: They survived.

JE: They all survived?

BN: Um-hmm (affirmative).

JE: So then they started, obviously, coming back?

BN: Oh yeah, they came back, reported back.

JE: Immediately.

BN: The commanding officer reported in and the executive officer and the gunnery officer and his chief engineer.

JE: What were you doing then, as you went back to the ship? It was grounded…?

BN: They were trying to get the water pumped out and trying to get the fires put out. They were going to have to patch the torpedo hole. We worked diligently on a huge, big patch, the shipyard did too. And shifting a lot of rock and things out from underneath the ship. We worked on all kinds of things but most of it just cleaning up and pumping out the water. The engine rooms and fire rooms all had to be cleared of water and oil and what- have-you. And then the engines all had to be cleaned because we were going to use those engines to bring us back to the States.

We also took the ammunition off the ship that was left there on board, the heavy ammunition, the fourteen-inch. Not very much five-inch was left on board, that was all fired.

JE: You think you downed any planes from the fire?

BN: Oh yeah, we got six planes accounted for from the Nevada.

JE: When the planes were coming in did you know they were Japanese planes immediately?

BN: Humpf (snort), immediately!

JE: Because—

BN: The minute I stepped out front on the deck I knew they were Japs.

JE: And they were quite low?

BN: Hell yeah, you could see the pilot when he pulled away from strafing us and dropping his torpedoes. Oh yeah, that was well-known. Of course, we all knew that the Japanese were going to be hitting us, we didn’t know where.

JE: You didn’t—

BN: We didn’t think it was Pearl Harbor. Oh, hell yes, we knew that months in advance. When we laid there at San Pedro on the long beach, watched shipload after shipload of scrap metal go to Japan. All of us said, “There goes another load of ammunition for us. We’ll get it.” And we got it.

JE: Well, then on December 7, 1941, if they knew that Japan was eventually going to strike, why was the Navy not in high alert?

BN: That’s not in my pay grade. We all knew what the hell was going on.

JE: Well, weren’t you wondering?

BN: Well, sure you’re wondering. But we have a job to do and you do your job.

JE: Right.

BN: What are you going to wonder to? Or who are you going to tell it to?

JE: But it wasn’t on everybody’s mind that today the Japanese could attack. I mean, you just didn’t think that way, I guess.

BN: Well, sure, we had no concrete evidence that they were going to shoot at us. In fact, none of us ever gave it a thought, anybody gave it a thought that they were going to come at Pearl Harbor. Nobody.

JE: You could have picked other places that you thought you might have been attacked?

BN: Well, hell, look at Guam, and the Philippines, all those places. Midway, Wake Island, all those places were subject to it.

JE: This was the lowest on the list, Pearl Harbor?

BN: Sure as hell was. And nobody can ever tell me that our intelligence people didn’t know that there was a fleet at sea from the Japanese. With six damn carriers and cruisers and

destroyers that disappeared. We had patrol planes out on our way but they didn’t patrol to the north. Patrolled to the south and the east and the west but they didn’t go to the north.

JE: Where the fleet was?

BN: Where the fleet was. And that’s where they came in, the north.

JE: And I guess you might wonder why weren’t they patrolling the north?

BN: Well, because that wasn’t their day to patrol the north. We had destroyers out there. We had destroyers all over Hawaii, and one of them or two of them even picked up the submarines. Hell, they had seventeen submarines out there in addition to their aircraft.

JE: Well, as your men looked back even months later and even as you discuss it today does it anger you that—

BN: No it didn’t anger us, that was our job to do.

JE: But if they had gone to the north?

BN: No doubt about it, you can read about it in all kinds of reports. You don’t need Bob Norman’s reports on it.

But anyway, we were geared to go to war. It was stupid to go to war with all your damn ships in one pile in Pearl Harbor. Two hundred and fifty combatant ships there. That don’t make any sense, does it? No. Not any, not any.

Chapter 07 – 4:38

USS Oklahoma – USS Arizona

John Erling: When did we get the USS Nevada moving again?

Bob Norman: Well, we had it all ready to go into dry dock in May, May the first. The Saratoga, one of our oldest carriers took a torpedo hit right off of Pearl Harbor. She got the dry dock before we did, so we had to wait for her to get patched up and get out of there and then we went in.

And then we steamed back on our own steam, own power, to Bremerton. I guess we got back somewhere around the last part of June.

I was a warrant bosun by that time, I was the bosun of the ship then when we did that. I had made chief petty officer and then I made warrant and stayed on the ship. So I stayed on the ship until we had it put all back together again in October of ’42.

JE: Let’s talk a little bit about—

BN: Okay.

JE: …the condition of the other two ships, the Arizona

BN: Oh, well, nothing—

JE: Did you know—

BN: Not much to talk about. The Arizona was blown up and it’s still there with all of her crew on board, except for, I think there was twenty-six survivors. We have one that still lives in Morris. And one that lives in Oklahoma City, survivors of the Arizona. That’s the Arizona Memorial. And the Arizona is right underneath it. Now that’s the Arizona.

The Oklahoma, we went by the Arizona, there she blew up and blew fire and shrapnel and everything all over us and started a lot of fires on us as we went by the Arizona. We got up to the Oklahoma, and she’d already rolled over. They, I think they eventually got her uprighted so they could pump her out and float it. Sometime, it was the latter part of ’42, I guess it was. They sold her to a company that was going to scrap her and they lost it at sea, went on down.

JE: Did you what was happening to the Oklahoma and Arizona as you were under attack?

You probably didn’t.

BN: Well, we went right by them. We saw it all. Went right by them, we knew they were gone.

JE: Yeah.

BN: Yeah.

JE: The USS Nevada was the most fortunate because you didn’t take the fire that the other two ships took. Is that true?

BN: We had nineteen bombs hit us, not counting the near-misses. We only had one torpedo.

The Oklahoma had sixteen torpedoes.

JE: Was that because of your position? The way you were moored?

BN: The initial attack of torpedo bombers, upper level bombers, we were at mooring. And we got hit with the torpedo and a couple of big bombs in the bow and one went down in the mess hall, one went through the mess, while we were struggling to get underway.

Then when we got underway there was a period of about forty-five minutes or an hour between wave number one and wave number two. And, of course, they came in and wave number two saw us underway, they wanted to sink us in the harbor. And they really laid it onto us.

But when you see the other ships—the West Virginia took several bomb hits and was burning. And the Maryland was the same way. California had took three or four torpedoes and bombs and burning. The Pennsylvania was tore all up in dry dock.

JE: But was the USS Nevada one of the only ones who could actually sail out of there?

BN: Well, yes, I guess so. Combatant ships, well, now, I shouldn’t say combatant ships, major ships like the battleships, she was the only one that could do that.

The destroyer now, a lot of destroyers got underway much later and got the hell out of there. Of course, the aircraft carriers weren’t there. And that was a big plus. Both were delivering airplanes to Wake Island and they got in trouble with heavy seas and whatever and they couldn’t get in. So they missed getting those.

And the submarines, for some damn reason, they never went close to the submarines and the sub base. We had something like sixteen or seventeen submarines and they didn’t hit them. They didn’t hit them.

They didn’t hit the shipyard. The only damage the shipyard got was a big hole in its smokestack, and we put that in it with our six-inch broadside guns. Unbelievable. In the dock areas of the shipyard the Oglala, a wooden ship was tipped over, hit and bombed and tipped over.

They dropped a couple of bombs a couple of cruisers were in there, but that’s all. One of the oil tankers was loaded with old PT boats going out to war and they never touched them.

Chapter 08 – 2:48 Torpedo Damage

John Erling: The Oklahoma and Arizona were attacked in such a way—

Bob Norman: One bomb, one bomb on the Arizona went down through the stack and down into her magazines and her magazines exploded. That’s what sent her down.

JE: So that was kind of like the heart of the ship?

BN: Only one of us. When you got bombs that get into the magazines you’re in trouble. That’s why ships are built with an iron box. And inside that box is the engine rooms and the fire rooms and the magazines. And the box is made up of fourteen-inch iron. It’s to protect all of those vital parts of the ship.

JE: When you say their magazines, what do you mean, magazines?

BN: A magazine is a compartment that munitions was stored in. And when you need them on topside they’d hoist to the topside to their guns. That’s the magazines. They have

five-inch shells, six-inch shells, and fourteen-inch shells, bags of powder, all in the magazines. When we need them there are people that man the magazines and send it up by the hoist to the topside.

JE: So that bomb hit and just blew up all that ammunition.

Then talk to us about the Oklahoma. That too could not survive the attack.

BN: No.

JE: Then I guess—

BN: Well, she got hit with six torpedoes and just tore the hell out of her portside and she tipped over.

JE: Yeah.

BN: Rolled over.

JE: Why didn’t the same thing happen to the USS Nevada?

BN: One torpedo went underneath us and one hit us. But in the Oklahoma they had six of them, six torpedo planes were hitting them. But, you see, the Oklahoma was in a hell of a lot different position. I’ve got pictures of that. Not showing your battleship rolling, show you where the torpedoes come down. Torpedo airplanes came in. That’s why the Oklahoma got so many.

Well, the West Virginia got four of them too.

JE: How many torpedoes do you think were shot at the USS Nevada?

BN: Two! One miss and one hit.

JE: That was it?

BN: Yeah. The Arizona didn’t get any torpedoes.

JE: You stayed with the USS Nevada then until it got back to Bremerton, Washington, and then what happens to you?

BN: Well, I stayed there and worked on the ship, tore it apart, put it back together, and worked with the shipyard workers. And then we were building up a crew and they all stayed on the beach in barracks buildings. And we had training sessions with the crew and putting the ship back together.

JE: Well, I’m telling you, your story is absolutely admirable. And anybody who hears your story has got to admire it and say, “Thank you,” for what you did in three wars. And now I find out in Iraq too.

BN: Yeah.

JE: So you were actually in four wars.

BN: That’s right.

JE: We’re in total awe and we salute you for what you did.

BN: Well, I appreciate that.

Chapter 09 – 0:33 Conclusion

Announcer: This oral history presentation is made possible through the support of our generous foundation-funders. We encourage you to join them by making your donation, which will allow us to record future stories. Students, teachers, and librarians are using this website for research and the general public is listening every day to these great Oklahomans share their life experience. Thank you for your support as we preserve Oklahoma’s legacy one voice at a time, on

Production Notes

Interview with Robert Norman

Program Credits:
Robert Norman — Interviewee
John Erling — Interviewer
Mel Myers — Announcer

Honest Media
Mel Myers — Audio Editor

Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Douglas Miller — Art Director
Mark DeMoss — Webmaster
Laura Hyde — Upload Coordinator

Date Created: November 24, 2009

Date Published: December 2, 2016

Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.

Tags: Battleship, USS Oklahoma, USS Arizona, USS Nevada, Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USS Iowa, Japan attack, December 7, 1941, Naval ship yard, military base, Ford Island, Japanese bombs

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Norman, Robert. "Robert Norman: U.S. Navy Captain, Pearl Harbor Survivor" Interview by John Erling. Voices of Oklahoma, November 24, 2009,, Accessed June 21, 2024