World War II Veteran: Ervin Bostwick

Time Frame: ca. 1940's

Ervin Bostick lived with Grandfather on a farm near Shenandoah and went to country school. He served aboard the USS New Orleans from 1938-1945. His story includes the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Coral Sea battle, Midway and the landing of the Marines at Guadalcanal. There were about 1,000 men aboard the ship that was 588 feet long and 61 feet wide.
IPTV, 2008

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We were in the Navy yard and there was a big hammerhead crane over us. I have pictures here I can show you but anyway, when they attacked us that's where we were. The ship was in the Navy yard. We went to battle stations. About 8:05 when they called to battle stations. We didn't have any power on our ship because they were working on the ship in the Navy yard. They were welding and burning so we had to taken all the ammunition off and we had to pass the ammunition by hand while the attack was going on. There were only, I think there were 10 dive-bombers were the only ones that we had to fight off. We had to pass ammunition by hand because all our power was off. We got hits in the forward part of the ship but no bad damage. Then right after that we started working, but we could see the planes, we were close, we could see the planes coming down and hitting the battleships, the Arizona and all of them. I was on a 1.1 gun.

What's that like?

It's a pom-pom, it was a gun we got from the British. It wasn't as accurate as what we've got, after a couple months we got 40 mm and 20 mm guns on there. It was pretty good. But like I say we didn't have any power on the ship.

What was your position on the gun?

I was gun captain on the 1.1 20 mm. We don't know whether we hit planes or not but we kept them away from us pretty good.

Did you have any idea that this was going to happen?

No. Well in a way. In Pearl Harbor we would patrol, with our boats go out and patrol around the harbor and everything. Because you know we had put oil embargo on Japan, so something was going to happen because if you cut off a supply for a country then they are going to have to do something. Its like if you went down here to a grocery store and they said well you can't have the groceries for your family...The Japanese had, we knew the Japanese were going to do something, but we didn't know they were going to get us at that time in Pearl Harbor. After that they kept us real busy because our battleships were sunk and our cruisers had to go out and be with the other ones. We were in 17 battles the cruiser was. We were in the Coral Sea battle, the first battle. And we lost the Lexington, one of our carriers there. The Lexington was sunk and we picked up oh, about 50 percent of our crew, of her crew.

Picked them up out of the water?


What's that like?

Pretty bad. They were burned, some of them were burned pretty bad. 4 of them, we lost 4 of them overnight. They got burned real bad and then they have to come over to our ship in the salt water, it was pretty bad for them. Then after that we went into the Midway battle, she was in the Midway battle. That was a turning point in the war for the Navy at that time.

Where were you during Midway and what were you doing?

Midway battle? Coral Sea battle I was in the turret one. Midway battle I was still on the turret one. It's our 8 inch turret, we had 8 inch guns on that, so I was way down under. Why, after that we were in different engagements but we went to Guadalcanal when the Marines were landing on Guadalcanal. We were waiting, the Japanese were sending ships down to supply. We'd go up and get their ships. At that time I had just been transferred from the turret back to the after part of the ship in the repair division. Our job was to keep the ship afloat after she was hit. The fore repair party was all killed in the engagement, and I was in the after repair party. But all the men that were in turret one that I knew, that I had been with for 3 years, they were all killed because that turret went down and the whole front part of the ship went down, close to 135 feet of the ship was blown off and she went down. See, a torpedo from the Japanese destroyers, this was a light engagement, hit our powder rooms and it blew off the whole front part of the ship. In fact as it was going down the front turret one hit one of the screws as it was going down. "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" had "the ship that rammed itself".

Tell me about that, the ship that rammed itself.

Well, this part would go down, and as we went by it hit the screws, the gun sticking out of the turret hit the screws of the ship. We went to [?] which was right close to Guadalcanal, we went aground and up a river. Then we cut trees down and floated them across the river using them to shore up our bulkheads so that we could go down to Sydney and get a false bow put on our bulkhead, Sydney, Australia to get a false bow. It was kinda hairy at that time it was pretty rough.

Did you have confidence that the ship would stay afloat?

Well we were hoping it would, we didn't know at times. We were very fortunate. There were 4 cruisers built when ours was: Astoria, the Quincy, [?] and the New Orleans, the other 4 got sunk during the war but we didn't, we were fortunate, very fortunate, very lucky.

Tell me again the name of the ship?

The New Orleans, the USS New Orleans. She was a good ship. Then we went down to Sydney, Australia. We had to back down a little bit because the storm would come up and we didn't want the water hitting our bulkheads. We were there about 3 months, in the meantime up in [?], Washington they were building a new front end of the ship. When they got us a false bow put on at Sydney, we went on up to Washington, Seattle, Washington, right off Seattle, and they had already had the false bow built and the big turret put in with 8 inch guns and we just went in dry dock, cut off the false bow that was put on, and they put us back together and send us out to sea again.


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