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15th Jul 2021


Klem, Werner

Posted on 14 September, 2021 by in ,


This Bio of Werner Klemm’s memories of the Dec. 7th 1941 attack on  Pearl Harbor is being written 28 April 2020 by Larry Martin from notes and memories of a 2015 interview at his home in Port Richie Florida.  Werner had asbestos related breathing difficulties from the Navy.  He passed away in 2016.  I think I was at his home in Port Richie about three times.

Werner was born in Germany in 1923.  His father came to America before the rest of the family.  Werner came here in 1927.

Werner tells about being in the CCC in early 1940 cutting large trees and putting up fences in Wyoming in sub-zero temperatures.  He heard that the Navy had dropped the enlistment age to 17 so he hitch hiked to Bozeman in 30 below zero temperatures to enlist in late 1940.

Werner went to San Diego California for Boot Camp.  He felt Boot Camp was quite easy compared to chopping trees in sub zero temperatures.

He was stationed aboard the USS Dobbin a Destroyer tender about 200 yards astern and starboard of the USS Arizona.  I have about five first hand accounts of the Pearl Harbor attack but he and a man named Colin McKenzie who was aboard the USS Pennsylvania give the best accounts of the attack.  Werner’s ship was also attacked one time killing many sailors and several were Werners personal friends.  The attack started at about 7:55 local time lasting about two hours or until about 10 am.  By 9am  Werner was asked by another sailor if he would act as guide a 36 ft Whale boat while the other man was the Motor Mechanic so they could pick up burned and dead sailors in the oily, burning water.  For the next five days Werner had very little sleep (just cat naps).  He said that he did not know if the men were dead or alive and the skin came off of many of the men.  He was within only a few feet of the burning Arizona, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Shaw and many others.  The Arizona just had a single bomb that hit the ammunition area killing almost 1,200 sailor instantly.  Werner said that the West Virginia took the most hits from the Japanese.  Werner was station aboard the last “coal fired”  boiler ship in the Navy which was the USS Blackhawk as a Boilermaker.  He said the that many ships were fitted with racks of 30.6 WW I rifles the 1903 Springfield to repel a land attack by the Japanese.  All of the men felt that they would be invaded by the Japanese.  I (Larry Martin) had a friend named John Jakubowski   who I was in the Navy with in the 1960’s had the same asbestos damage that Werner ultimately died of.  It killed my friend John in 2014.

Werner stood the same type of boiler watch that I did aboard the USS Amphion AR-13 in the 1960s.





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