Ens. George Macartney Hunter

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George MaCartney Hunter

Birthplace: Fort Covington, New York
Death: 1984 (65-66)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Tracy Gould Hunter and Florence Clara Hunter
Husband of Eleanor Hunter

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Ens. George Macartney Hunter


George Macartney Hunter was born in Fort Covington, New York on January 18, 1918.  He was the second of two sons born to Florence C. Macartney and William T. G. Hunter.  His father died the same year he was born, resulting in both sons being raised by their mother.  All primary and secondary schooling was attended in that rural, northern New York town.  In most part due to their remarkable mother, the boy’s early years were spent quite carefree and full of adventure in the St. Lawrence River Valley that stretched along that portion of the US-Canadian border.

           Hunter attended Cornell University in 1936 and graduated in 1940 with a degree in Economics.  In his last year at Cornell, he earned spending money by working as a laboratory assistant for the physics department.  It was in casual conversation with the laboratory’s professor that Hunter’s future plans were discussed.  The wise professor spoke of the coming “storm” in Europe and advised that he felt it would behoove a young man to voluntarily enter the armed forces and have a “seat at the table” rather than to wait and be drawn into the vortex with limited options.

           Hunter liked and respected this fellow and decided his advice was correct.  Following graduation he volunteered for the Navy and was commissioned in the US Naval Reserve.  Hunter attended various officer training courses and then was eventually assigned to the Gunnery Department aboard USS West Virginia (BB-48) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 
Awoke this morning at 0730.  Moe, Heavy, York, and myself had a golf match scheduled and planned to leave the ship at 0930.  I lay sleepy-eyed in my bunk for some time.

           At 07:45 the General Alarm sounded followed by “Away Fire and Rescue Party”.  I cussed a bit about having to turn-to; these alarms usually secured before one was able to dress and reach his station.  Consequently, I was in no particular hurry to get dressed. 

           Suddenly the General Alarm sounded again; and, simultaneously, a terrific explosion rocked the ship.  Vail, Hine, and I looked at each other; “This is war!”, said Pete and started topsides on the double.  I headed for Sky Control but it was tough going as the ship listed heavily to port almost immediately.  On reaching the second level in the mast, I met several of the men coming down.  All communications and transmission to the guns had been lost with the first explosion (later reports stated that the West Virginia had taken four torpedoes to port).

           We abandoned Sky Control and went down to the boat deck.  Extra hands were needed to convey the shells to the starboard guns; the entire port battery had been put out of commission by the “fish”.  There was no air pressure and all ramming was done by hand.  In the excitement the shells were fired without setting fuses.

           Pearl Harbor was a devastating sight.  Forward of the West Virginia the Oklahoma lay bottom up.  Inboard of her the Maryland was putting up a tremendous volume of fire.  I wondered what the “rump-rump” noise was and suddenly realized it to be the Maryland’s 1.1” guns which proved extremely effective.  Astern of us the Arizona was a mass of flame.  The sky was rapidly filling with AA fire, but high altitude Jap bombers flew directly overhead in perfect formation.  They came in waves, five to each formation.  We counted at least ten of these groups.

           Our 5” guns were firing on these bombers as they came in on the starboard bow.  As ammunition started to run out I went forward to the starboard hoist.  It was inoperative and Nolen, our Chief Gunner’s Mate, was futilely attempting to contact “Supply” on the sound powered phone.  I started back on the boat deck and was knocked down by the muzzle blast of our own #3 gun going off.  Unhurt, however, and I continued to the ship’s service phone on the after bulkhead of the foremast.  It was dead when I picked it up.

           During this time Hank, Freddy White, and Mr. Johnson had been directing the guns.  When we fired the last of our 30 rounds everyone left the boat deck, and, on orders from Mr. Ricketts, went over the side to aid in manning the Tennessee batteries which were doing a splendid job.  Word came down about this time that the Captain had been killed by strafing on the bridge.  Mr. Ricketts and Mr. White tried unsuccessfully to bring him down; it didn’t matter anyhow.  Several of these officers were trapped by the fire on the bridge and rescued by Hank Graham.  He climbed up on the starboard crane and threw them a line attached to a fire hose.  This they secured to the bridge while Hank secured the other end to the crane; they all came down hand-over-hand.

           We had been under attack for 15 minutes at this time and the harbor was a living hell.  Astern of us the Arizona’s forward magazine had blown up; the Vestal alongside of her had been hit squarely amidships.  Smoke was spreading rapidly over the harbor.  Very shortly the day became as black as night; it was terrifying beyond means of description.

           We had scarcely left the boat-deck when a large bomb hit the foremast, glanced off, and came down on the boat-deck.  We would all have been killed had there been any ammunition left for the guns.  Learned later that a dud had hit directly on the top of Turret III.  It killed several men but Archie, Turret JO, escaped uninjured.  Still, those yellow bastards were bombing with hairline accuracy,

           At 0830 a huge fireball started aft of frame 90.  Fortunately Bauer had flooded the after magazines, doubtlessly saving hundreds of lives.  We began to remove the wounded from below decks, putting them in motor launches which came alongside to port.  It was a horrible business, but the men did a magnificent job.  In the midst of our rescue work Jap fighters began strafing the ships.  We would continue working until the planes started diving, then all hands would take shelter under the forward turrets or below deck.  I believe the strafing got only one man; it was more severe on the Tennessee and other ships.

           About this time one of the Masters at Arms ran to me for aid in rescuing men in the after turrets.  We were shorthanded, so I called for 10 volunteers from the Tennessee; 20 responded.  Just as we were ready to start out word reached me that all hands still alive had gotten out of the turrets.  This was a typical example of the existing confusion.

           At 0925 the First Lieutenant ordered “Abandon Ship”.  Several men jumped over the starboard bow, a completely unnecessary action as we had launches alongside to port.  I directed them to the last launch and finally jumped for it myself, believing I was the last man to leave the ship.  However, we learned later that several officers and men were still aboard.  They left the ship much later and for the Naval Air Station.

           We had no sooner shoved off from the ship than it was encircled by a mass of flames, apparently caused by oil in the water (the Tennessee was now fighting fire as desperately as she was the less concentrated plane attacks).  The water was jammed with small craft as we proceeded to the dock forward of the Castor.  All the seriously wounded had previously been removed to the hospital.  We held somewhat of a muster among the trees back of the dock and were transported to the receiving station.  The men were covered with oil and grease, so we all had showers and helped ourselves to clean clothes in the issuing room.  My only possessions at this time were (1) my charmed Waltham, graduation gift from Gould and Milky; still running; (2) A soiled cap; and (3) my skivy shorts (I had kicked off my shoes in case it had been necessary to take to the water).  We were cleaned up by 1030 and all hands had some hot chow.  During the meal Jap planes conducted sporadic raids.  During one of them, York dropped, to the deck as ordered, but took his tray with him and calmly continued to eat.

           After hasty chow, I made a trip to Pier #14 and picked up 2 cases of 30 caliber; small arms ammunition that was much in need at the Receiving Station.  Back to the Receiving Station again and everyone was counting noses; we began to realize how grand it was to be alive, people shook hands, smiled, and began cracking a few jokes.

           The Gunnery Officer was put in command of a machine gun company.  He gave me eight men and two Lewis guns to set up in the Arena.  They were certainly an assorted crew; one gun crew consisted of a RM 1/C, a Yeoman, a MM 2/C, and one GM 3/C.  Of this group, one man had fired a machine gun before; I didn’t know a damned thing about them.  However, we located the guns, fired test rounds, and got well squared away.  Parachutists had attempted to land at Barber’s Point but none had reached the ground alive.

           After stationing these guns I returned to the receiving station and mustered along with the remaining officers of the West Virginia.  At 1200 we returned to the Tennessee to fight the fire.  Since there were more than enough men for this purpose, Mr. Nixon, our Air Defense Officer, ordered all AA personnel to remain aboard the Tennessee and assist in manning their batteries.  (Both ships were equipped with the standard 5”-25 caliber, Mark XIX Director System, so there was no difficulty when we relieved the Tennessee men.)

           I stood by with the Starboard Battery Officer the remainder of the afternoon.  Things quieted down in the evening and the major job was fire fighting; the Arizona was pouring out intense smoke and flames.  We learned at this time that many of our officers and men had gone to the Naval Air Station (NAS) where they had aided in racking up machine gun bullets, repairing

damaged planes, etc. (The enemy had bombed only one hangar containing 17 PBYs, a considerable loss).

           Sunday evening the AA battery remained at GQ, and I began standing watch and watch as starboard battery officer.  About 2030 we sighted two planes coming in low to starboard without running lights.  Identification was impossible so all ships opened up with a terrific AA barrage that turned the sky over the harbor a bright red.  Both planes were downed and both pilots killed.  They were our own Enterprise planes which had not complied with the emergency recognition signals.  It was a terrible tragedy but perhaps all hands learned a valuable lesson.  Since then, all controlling units have notified us well in advance of all incoming, friendly, planes.  The remainder of the night passed quietly enough (total blackout, of course), only scattered strafing being reported.  Dead tired as I was, it was impossible to sleep with that horrible carnage so vividly in mind.  In my off watches I sat in the JO mess with other officers, talking over the day’s events.

           The Maryland their hero in a Seaman 2/C who was playing with a 50 Caliber machine gun when the fireworks started.  He open fire and brought down the first torpedo plane to attack the ship.

           Another story concerned an Army private from Fort Shafter who went aboard the Oklahoma early Sunday morning to visit a Marine friend.  He was caught with the rest of them when the Oklahoma capsized, but was later rescued and sent to the Tennessee.  There he proceeded to work like a fiend and, when things quieted down, begged to “Fight it out here!” as he put it.

           Then someone told the fate of the Jap pilot brought down on Ford Island.  He escaped from his burning plane and, pistol blazing, attempted to get by a Marine sentry.   The sentry never drew his gun; he walked straight into the Jap and plunged into him 17 times with a bayonet.

           The storytelling and wild speculation ended the most amazingly dreadful day of my life.  I was somewhat surprised at my own reactions.  Death from the sky is a terrible thing and God knows I was a scared youngster.  However, the mind seems to assume a fatalistic viewpoint and one finds himself carrying on in quite a normal manner.  I have nothing but praise for the heroic bravery of American sailors on this historic date.  There was great confusion, it cannot be denied, but those who knew what to do did it in a manner that gives the greatest cheer to a discouraging situation.  Six battleships, the pride of the Pacific, were practically destroyed today.  Three others were damaged but will be in action again soon.  God willing, my chance to hit back will come aboard this ship with it’s splendid complement of officers and men.

P.H. – December 8, 1941 Monday

           We went to GQ at 0430 this morning, but no attack was made.  Rumors have started concerning our outlying Pacific possessions.  The rumor that Cavite, Guam, and Wake had been taken was denied in official circles.  It was also denied that either the Lex or Enterprise were sunk.  Intelligence claimed the sinking of two enemy carriers and one destroyer.  This confirmed the reasoning that Sunday’s raiders were carrier planes (we still believe that there were Stuka bombers with them.)

           The morning passed with a rapid organization of repair forces throughout the Fleet.  As I watch this Navy go to work, again I am proud to be where I am.  We were caught with our pants down like the overconfident, complacent, individuals we are, but we’ll come through in the end.  The attack has raised our morale 1,000 fold; these men want only a chance to hit back and, meanwhile, they are slaving day and night to put the Fleet in shape again.  We mustered the West Virginia crew this morning; they are going to stay aboard as Tennessee sailors until further notice; the beautiful West Virginia is no more.  We officers are now assigned regular Condition watches (Port Battery Officer, Watch I).

           Still dead tired and without sleep.  No alarms today but everyone was under considerable tension tonight with our planes flying around.  The best available estimate of enemy planes bagged Sunday is 30.

P.H. – December 9, 1941 Tuesday

           I slept fine last night and awoke with a new hold on life this morning.  Somehow, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before in this Navy ours.  And I have a hunch that if my number wasn’t up Sunday, I’ll pull through this war O.K.

           Went over to the Sub Base this morning and bought clothes; khaki uniforms for Wee Vee sailors at last!  They are rationing clothes at the stores; two uniforms, six pairs of socks, four sets of underwear, etc.  Brought some cigarettes back to the men.  I ran into Parker from the Oglala whom I had never hoped to see again; he thought the same about me.  Everywhere on the beach old friends are clasping hands; we have a common bond which can never be broken.

           Worked on the Battle Bill this afternoon; considerable reorganizing on the Tennessee to take in officers and men of the West Virginia. and a few survivors from the Arizona.  Received word that Mac had died today; the only officer casualty besides the Captain.  We estimate enlisted losses at 200.

           Today and tonight mainland planes have been pouring in.  Again the enemy failed to attack us.  They have failed to follow up their one devastating blow; every second we become stronger in the air, that is the superiority so vital to our defenses.  All quiet tonight.  I’m praying the clipper that left today will speedily bring relief from the awful dread that mother must be suffering from.  That is, perhaps, the toughest part of war.

P.H. – December 10, 1941 Wednesday

           We had another alarm about 0930 this morning; I maintain the radars are picking up “ghosts” again.  We are busy now in reorganizing and regaining.  Our men are just getting cleaned up now; they have no decent sleeping facilities.  The conditions must be remedied quickly for our physical well being.

           Japanese reports underestimate the damage at Pearl Harbor; neither they nor the people at home must know the true state of affairs for a long time.  All information is closely guarded, mail censored, of course. 

           The Maryland was moved to the docks today; it will be some job to free the Tennessee.  When the West Virginia turned sideways she locked us against the quay.  We are salvaging valuable equipment from West Virginia; and some personal effects.  All my gear is under water so I am making no effort to recover it (was pleasantly surprised to have this excellent pen returned today by a shipmate who had borrowed it last Saturday).

           Other officers of the Wee Vee are on duty at the Naval Air Station, the receiving station, and as airplane spotters for the Army.  We are indefinitely attached to the Tennessee, but without written orders.

           Had the 2000-24000 tonight.  The sky was full of searchlights aiding our planes that are constantly coming in (I don’t like those lights).  Meanwhile cruisers, destroyers, and Submarines move in and out of P.H.

P.H. – December 11, 1941 Thursday

           New Battle Bill goes into effect this morning.  These condition watch crews are really on the ball; we would almost welcome a return engagement.

           Received word this afternoon of a magnificent feat performed by the Saratoga.  She brought over twice the normal plane capacity by keeping 100 planes in the air all the time.  This was done on a record run and to top it off, she continued West, not stopping at Pearl.

           We hear reports of the gallant stand of our Marines in Guam; they’ll never be taken alive.  On Johnson Island they allowed landing forces to come within 100 yards of the beach before opening up with a 5” battery; what a massacre!

           This afternoon we began breaking up the quay in an attempt to get underway.  The piledriver continued working all night.  I had the 00-0400; received one “alert” signal at 0330, but nothing developed.  Perhaps it was Secretary Knox arriving from Washington to survey the damage.

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Ens. George Macartney Hunter's Timeline

Fort Covington, New York
Age 66