Tai Sing Loo was the official Navy photographer of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this excerpt from Air Raid: Pearl Harbor edited by Paul Stillwell, Mr. Loo provided a unique account of his experiences that day.
On the 6th of December, Saturday afternoon, I had made arrangement with [Platoon] Sergeant [Charles R.] Christenot to have all his Guard be at the Main Gate between 8:30 to 9:30 o’clock Sunday morning to have a group of picture taken in front of the new concrete entrance as a setting with the “Pearl Harbor” for Christmas card to send home to their family.
Sunday morning I left my home for Pearl Harbor after 7:00 o’clock. I was waiting for my bus at corner Wilder Avenue and Metcalf Street.
Saw the sky full of antiaircraft gun firing up in the air, I call my friend to look up in sky, explain them how the Navy used their antiaircraft gun firing in practising, at that time I didn’t realize we were in actual war. Our bus stop at Bishop and King Streets. We heard the alarm ringing from the third story building of the Lewers & Cooke, Ltd.
I was great shock with surprise the war are on. Watching many Japanese war planes attacked Pearl Harbor, dropping bombs right and left on dry docks and Ford Island. Suddenly terrific explosion. Fire broke out. I was very calm and waiting for the opportunity to get a ride to the Studio to get my camera. I was at the Main Gates standby with Marines. Guards at the Main Gates were bravery and cool headed to keep the by-standing away for safety and clear traffic. There were the young, fighting marines. We were under fire. The Japanese planes painted in aluminum, Red Ball under each wing, flew very low toward the Main Gates. I wish my Graflex with me. I would had a wonderful close up shot of the Japese.
Again the Japese flew around the Navy Housing Area and turn back, head direct to Hickam Field, very low to drop a bomb to the Hangars, with terrific explosion, set fire the buildings. More planes flew direct the dry dock. Suddenly, I saw one plane had a hit. It flew direct toward West Locke Stream of smoke screen. Now this my opportunity to get in the Yard, one of the Leadingman of Machine Shop drove in his automobile.
I hop in, he take me to the Studio and pick up my Graflex Camers to take some picture, second thought I change my mind, reason is because first place I didn’t had no order, the second place I didn’t had my famous Trade-Mark helmet on. I had a new English Helmet from Singapore, given by Admiral [Orin G.] Murfin a year ago, so I’m afraid some one will make a mistake me as a Jap and shot me down.
I went up to the Administration Building everythings OK. I met Mr. Wm. McIlhenny and Mr. W.C. Bohley at the stairway. We talk and both went toward the dry dock. I went to the Supply Dept. and saw many boy had a Steel Helmet on, so I went to see Lt. Cdr. Supply Officer for permission to hat one, the size are too large and heavy for me so I select one smaller size, painted green and white stripe.
I went direct to the dry dock to help put out the fire on U.S.S. Cassin had the depth charges on her stern the U.S.S. Pennsylvania bow between Cassin and Downes. I knew it was very dangerous it may exploded damaged the dry docks and the Pennsylvania. We put our hoses directed the depth charges keeping wet. An Officer came near by said keep up the good work we had out hose right at it all the time, and I turn around and saw Lt. [William R.] Spear, order all men stand back, some things may happen, so I obey his order and ran back toward U.S.S. Pennsylvania, sudden really happen the terrific explosion came from the Destroyer few people were hurt and some fell down.
I notice some large pieces of Steel Plates blew over the dry dock when I turn around and look, afterward I notice two extra hoses without nozzles, so I went to the Fire Station and brought back 2 volunteers pointed direct the depth charges, I call for more volunteers to help me clear and straighten up the hose around the First Street to clear for traffic at the same time purpose to gave the fire fighter a chance to extended the hose across over the bow of Pennsylvania to fight the fire at the Downes on Starboard side. Here come another Fire Engine from Submarine Base, I direct them to place their engine and connect this Hydrant # 151 and direct them to the depth charges, so every things are well done and successful accomplishment their service.
A few words of my appreciation and vote of thanks and successful credit to Lieut. Spear, in charge with his gallant spirit to kept his staff and volunteers calms, right at the job to see the depth charges were wet and kept away the fire. The Marines of the Fire Dept. of the Navy Yard, are the Heroes of the Day of Dec. 7,1941 that save the Cassin and Downes and U.S.S. Pennsylvania in Dry Dock No.1. …..
Of his busy day on December 7, 1941, Mr. Loo wrote, “Every Kind Deeds its return many, many time Folds.”