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WWII veteran recalls harrowing day
Oct 31, 2013 | 53 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim Delaney photo
Billy Hobbs, who will be 90 years old in April, is a Pearl Harbor survivor and will be honored with other veterans on Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Refugio County Museum. The public is invited to share in the celebration.
Tim Delaney photo Billy Hobbs, who will be 90 years old in April, is a Pearl Harbor survivor and will be honored with other veterans on Saturday, Nov. 2, in the Refugio County Museum. The public is invited to share in the celebration.
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Tim Delaney photo
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin's third extra on Dec. 7, 1941, announces martial law after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Oahu. Billy Hobbs, a Woodsboro resident, is a survivor of that attack and will be at the Refugio County Museum on Saturday, Nov. 2, with other veterans to celebrate Veterans Day.
Tim Delaney photo The Honolulu Star-Bulletin's third extra on Dec. 7, 1941, announces martial law after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Oahu. Billy Hobbs, a Woodsboro resident, is a survivor of that attack and will be at the Refugio County Museum on Saturday, Nov. 2, with other veterans to celebrate Veterans Day.
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REFUGIO – Billy Hobbs remembers getting up for general quarters, always a “half hour before sunup,” he says.

At 7:53 a.m. that Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, the first wave – 183 planes – began its first wave of bombing and strafing.

Hobbs, who lives in Woodsboro, was a Second Class in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Utah, which was docked at Pearl Harbor. The Utah was an old battleship that had seen service during the United States occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914.

Now, the Utah was used for training.

The Utah was hit early by three torpedoes and was rolling over.

Hobbs said he had to crawl and climb out of the ship going upward, which used to be downward.

He managed to jump into the water in the nick of time.

“The California was directly across (Ford Island) and was sinking,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said “a machine gun nest was cutting loose and the machine gun got away from the gunner,”

“It raked that ship I was on. It was a 50 caliber,” he added.

He said the mishap ended up killing some military personnel.

And 35 of the 300 aboard the Utah lost their lives in the Japanese attack.

“Most were officers, because they were trapped,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said he was sent to help the medical personnel and was helping to peel and cut off skin of the burned victims.

“I couldn’t take anymore of that,” he said.

So the nurse there told him to get a mop and bucket.

He did mopping for a while until he was out of sight of doctors and nurses, and “I snuck out.”

“That night, I stayed on an old ship – a repair ship from China,” he said.

“The next day in chow line, and officer came by and got me and another guy,” Hobbs said.

They jumped in a Jeep and came upon a Japanese plane that had crashed.

“We got the bodies out,” Hobbs said.

Three more days passed, and Hobbs said they were cleaning up.

He then was assigned to the USS Detroit, a light cruiser “and never went back,” he said.

“We went on a convoy and ended up in a task force,” he said.

That force escorted ships to Samoa.

“We mostly tried to stay out of trouble,” he said.

After that, they made port in Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.

“We stayed there for 10 months,” he said.

After that, his crew sailed to South American ports.

But Hobbs never went back to Hawaii.

The USS Utah, is still sunk in the harbor. In 1972, a memorial was erected near the ship.

Twenty-one U.S. ships had been sunk or damaged. Most U.S. planes had no chance to take off and 188 were destroyed with 159 damaged. More than 2,400 Americans had been killed. The United States declared war on Japan the next day, ending American support for isolationism.

Although the Arizona, Oklahoma and Utah were beyond repair, the Maryland, Tennessee, Helm, Honolulu, Curtis, and Vestal, were repaired within three months. The remaining damaged ships were eventually repaired and some modernized before the end of the war.

Hobbs said he will be 90 years old in April.

This Saturday, Nov. 2, Hobbs and numerous other veterans will be honored with a special exhibit at the Refugio County Museum in an early celebration of Veterans Day.

In addition, music and other activities will be on hand. The public is invited to come by to view the exhibit and greet our veterans.
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