Vic Lively, Texan, Pearl Harbor Survivor

On December 6, 1941, the day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate First Class Victor H. Lively, stationed on the battleship USS Nevada, went ashore to Honolulu to buy Christmas gifts for his family. The last thing on anyone's mind was war. Those gifts were never to be placed in their hands.


   USS Nevada


Shore leave lasted from noon to midnight. The procedure was to walk up the gangplank to the main gate, show the pass, and catch a taxi into town. He remembers paying about twenty-five cents to ride in a new DeSoto cab.


Vic describes Honolulu as a quaint town where the tallest building was three or four stories. There were nightclubs and dance halls, but Vic spent his time walking around, looking at the shops and eating snacks at one of many sidewalk cafes. "Hawaii was full of Japanese spies at that time," he adds.


The attack came early Sunday, December 7. Vic heard the alert, "Man the battle stations!" His post was in the foremast of the Nevada where he served as director of operations for broadside guns. Broadside guns were designed to shoot horizontally at ships, not vertically at planes, so they were powerless in the fight against the attack that raged from above. "If I'd had a .22 I could have shot planes - that's how close they were," Vic remarks. "The bombs and guns sounded like hell."


The battle had been going for about an hour when, during a lull, he started to climb down from the observation tower. A bomb suddenly hit the spot below him, killing everyone there. He couldn't help but think that had he started down a few seconds earlier, he would have been killed, but death did not have its way with Vic.


Of the 1700 crewman aboard the Nevada, about 150 died, most of whom were topside. Fire and smoke, and body parts were everywhere. Even the water was on fire. Vic watched men jumping from the mast of the Oklahoma into the fiery water. The only injury Vic received was a burn on his hand when he grabbed a hot railing. When he was able to get below decks, he helped tear up sheets for bandages and pump out water


Of the seven ships on battleship row, only the Nevada was able to back out and get under way thanks to the foresight of Lt. Comdr. Donald K. Ross, later Admiral Ross, who ordered the Nevada moored by itself at one end of the row. The others were rafted together by twos and couldn't move. As the Nevada pulled away, it was followed by Japanese planes and became a singular target for Japanese bombers and torpedo planes, "thick as flies," Vic says.


The ship was badly damaged, by that time, and it began to list. The Nevada was going to sink. Orders came to pull it onto the sandbar at Hospital Point to avoid blocking the harbor entrance.


  damaged USS Nevada 



Hearing the reports of the attack, his family agonized for his safety. All they could do was wait and pray. Shortly after the attack, each sailor was given a postcard to send home. However, Vic's postcard was delayed in the mail and it took two or three weeks to get to Texas.


After the attack, the Nevada limped to Bremerton, Washington, where crews of two to three thousand worked day and night to complete massive renovations to the stricken battleship. Upon return to the Nevada, Vic saw a completely new ship. And his broadside guns had been removed.


How did this boy from Slocum, Anderson County, Texas come to join the Navy? It was spring in his senior year at Slocum High School when he saw an article in the paper about navy recruiting. The navy, Vic surmised, was a "good way to get off the farm". The family had a large garden that yielded produce to sell to city folks in Palestine. Peas, watermelon, blackberries, and peaches from a ten acre orchard, corn, cantaloupe, and cotton. They had three hen houses for 1,000 laying hens. Those little ladies produced forty-eight dozen eggs per week. Vic's father was quite a salesman and had become the supplier for a number of grocery stores in the area. They sold milk and butter as well as produce.


Those were the days, Vic later decided, when a man and wife could live off a piece of land in America with the help of six sons, four daughters, and a bit of hired help without worrying about high taxes and government regulations. Self-sufficiency is a wonderful commodity called freedom.


Vic hitched a ride to the naval recruiting station, took a test, passed, and signed up. There was no war and no hurry about much. It was September 3, 1940 when he began his service. The train ride on a Pullman coach took six days to reach San Diego Naval Training Station. After training, he shipped out on the aircraft carrier Saratoga to reach his assignment, the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor. Manning those 40mm guns did leave time for peace-time recreation. Since Long Beach, California was the Nevada's homeport, the ship sometimes anchored ten miles off the coast. Visitors like Bob Crosby and Ray Anthony would take boats out to entertain the troops. Even actress Lucille Ball paid a call. For more home grown entertainment, Vic, on guitar, and others formed a seven string band and got permission to play cowboy and pop songs over the ship's PA system



  Vic and friends on USS Nevada

They had "Saturday Smokers" such as boxing, wrestling, pie eating contests, quiz contests, and movies. "Okinawa Recreation" was comprised of drinking two hot beers, although Vic was not a drinker.


On leave, back home, he met a pretty girl, Merle Wolf, whose family lived about "five fields" away. They married October 1942. To avoid the censor's black pen, Vic and Merle developed a secret code in their letters. His family tells the story of how he informed them of the ship's next secret stop by telling then that it had the "same name as Papa"; they looked on the map and knew he would soon be in the Marshall Islands.



One day someone told Vic he had a visitor. There in front of him was his younger brother Everett. Everett was a gunner on a B-29 who flew many missions over Tokyo. He was based on an island when the Nevada pulled up offshore with the rest of the fleet. Somehow Everett found out which ship was the Nevada and arranged a visit.


As the war progressed, the Japanese became desperate and hit the Nevada with Kamikaze raids, killing 15 of the 120 marines who served onboard manning 20mm anti-aircraft guns.


Vic felt like the Forrest Gump of WWII in the sense that he happened to show up at every important event of the war. He was everywhere. A local newspaper wrote a headline once calling him Victor Lively and talked about the Nevada and her role in the Normandy Beachhead on D-Day. The Nevada was at Cherbourg, Toulon, Marseille, Algiers, and Corsica. In the Pacific they sailed to Okinawa, Saipan, Guam, Leyte, and Attu.

Vic saw the famous raising of the flag in Iwo Jima atop Mt. Suribachi.


When the A-bombs hit Japan, the Nevada was six hours out of the Philippines. The sailors knew that this signified the war's end. That ship never saw such revelry. After five years, eleven months and thirty days, Vic was discharged on September 2, 1946.



Vic Lively and wife Merle



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BB36/A9/A16 U.S.S. NEVADA 10-jls

CONFIDENTIAL December 15, 1941.

From: Commanding Officer.

To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.

Subject: Report of December 7, 1941 Raid.

Reference: CINCPAC Despatch 102102 of December 1941.

1. The following report is submitted in compliance with reference (a).


a. Enemy air attack first observed at 0801. General quarters sounded immediately. Two machine guns forward and two aft were already on continuous watch. The 5" antiaircraft battery was partially manned for routine daily 0800 battery and fire control check.

b. At 0-802 machine guns opened fire on enemy torpedo planes approaching in port beam. One plane was brought down by machine gun fire and crashed about 100 yards off Nevada's port quarter. One plane dropped a torpedo which struck the Nevada on the port bow.

c. At 0803 (about) 5" AA. battery opened fire, local control, as guns were manned, and without waiting for control to be manned. These guns fired at torpedo planes, low altitude and high altitude bombers. Fire from these guns as well a .50 caliber machine guns, was almost continuous until 0820 when the attack slackened somewhat.

d. During the periods mention above, at a time undetermined, but probably about 0803, the port 5" broadside battery opened fire on low flying torpedo planes; members of the Nevada crew state that this battery scored a direct hit on one of these planes, the shell probably striking the torpedo, resulting in the disintegration of the plane in midair.

e. Firing was intermittent until 0830 when a heavy bombing attack was made. Both AA. batteries opened continuous fire on enemy planes until 0908. At this time the attack slackened.

f. About 0915 the 5" AA. battery opened fire intermittently on enemy planes to the eastward. These planes, as far as is known, made no direct attack on Nevada.


a. Officers and members of the crew vary in their accounts of the number of enemy planes seen brought down by gun fire. It is probable that at least five planes were destroyed in the vicinity of the Nevada.

b. One torpedo plane was destroyed by .50 caliber machine gun fire about 0-802 and fell about 100 yards on the Nevada's port quarter. The plane had not dropped its torpedo. A considerable number of person saw this plane destroyed.

c. Before getting underway at 0840, the forward machine guns are believed to have brought down three enemy torpedo planes that were strafing. These planes were said to have been hit within 200 yards of the ship.

d. It is reported among the crew that one enemy torpedo plane was brought down by a direct hit from the 5" secondary battery, exploding the torpedo and blowing the plane to bits.

e. Just before grounding off Hospital Point, three enemy planes, probably dive bombers, were fired upon until a range of 200 yards was reached. members of the crew observed these planes to crash, one in a cane field toward Ewa, one near the Naval Hospital and one in the channel.


a. The list of killed, wounded, and missing has been previously forwarded.

b. Damage to Nevada.

1. Hole in Forecastle Deck at frame 15, six feet outboard of the ship's center line to starboard, from bomb hit. Staterooms wrecked below, impossible to tell how far down the bomb traveled due to water level six feet below Forecastle Deck. Sides of trunk to paint storerooms deflected inward considerably, water fills trunk within six feet of Upper Deck. Size of hole in deck about 12 inches in diameter, just aft and to starboard of paint storeroom trunk, and aft and inboard of after starboard hawse pipe, through wearing plate.

2. Hole in Forecastle Deck at frame 15, 8 feet from center line of ship to port, 12 inches in diameter caused by bomb hit, depth of penetration unknown due to flooding on deck below. This hit and the hit above apparently went through to the second deck and caused fires in the Officer's Quarters. The force of the explosion also caused considerable deflection upward of the Forecastle Deck in this vicinity. On the port side, about 15 feet from the center line, the deck is split and deflected upward from frame 13 to frame 21. All of the Officer's Quarters forward of the Wardroom are either badly damaged or completely destroyed by fire. The hole is aft and to port of paint storerooms trunk, and aft and inboard of after port hawse pipe, through wearing plate.

3. Hole of approximately the same size as the previous two hits, about three feet in from the port waterway, frame 25. This is outboard of the anchor windlass capstans. The bomb probably went through the Wardroom to the second deck before exploding. The deck inboard of this hole is deflected upward about 4 feet and split across the center line at a point about 6 feet aft of this hole. The deck is also split aft on a direct line from this hole to frame 32, as a result of this and apparently other hits. Across the Forecastle Deck in this vicinity the entire deck from port to starboard is deflected upward considerably. The two anchor engine vertical shafts are bent forward at about an angle of 20 and the top of the capstans apparently flew upward with the deck, and hit the two outboard gun barrels of No. 1 Turret. The vertical shaft on the portside has broken away from the one coming up from below. The Main Deck in the Wardroom has been blown upward from below, and the Wardroom is a tangled mass of deck, supporting beams, and stanchions. The port skylight hatch at frame 25 has been blown partly clear of the deck wreckage.

4. There is some reason for believing that a much larger bomb than the ones noted previously struck the Forecastle Deck at a point ten feet to port of the ship's center line at about frame 27, just forward of No. 1 Turret, and went through to the second deck before exploding. The Forecastle Deck at about frame 29 is bent sharply downward from about three feet to port of the ship's center line to a point about 8 feet inboard of the port waterway. Due to the size of the opening in the upper deck at this point it is difficult to determine the exact outline of such a hit, but the great wreckage indicates an extremely large explosion. The forecastle is also split forward from frame 265 to frame 22 at a point 3 feet to port of the port skylight hatch. The entire forecastle deck from frame 26 is bent upward and forward to about frame 22. From the starboard side at frame 26 at a point four feet inboard of the waterway the deck is broken open and deflected upward and inboard a distance of approximately 21 feet, at which point the deck is split fore and aft from frame 23 to frame 31. At the outboard point the deck is split fore and aft from frame 25 to frame 30. The deck winch at this point was blown upward at an angle of 25, but remained intact. The seems to be no other indications of bomb hits on the Forecastle other than the very large bomb hit or several smaller hits which apparently went through as described above. One of the reasons for being very sure that there was such a large bomb hit is the size and number of fragment holes which have penetrated the Main Deck from below at frame 25 to port of center line. Both the Wardroom and the Junior Officer's Country below appear to be completely wrecked.

5. Considerable damage was done by one bomb, of apparently about the same size as the two forward ones in the Forecastle, which struck the deck just forward of the port AA. director, coming down at an angle of about 30 to the perpendicular, from about 3 points forward of the port beam. This bomb continued downward through the port wing of the Navigation Bridge, and the Signal Bridge, penetrating into Casemate 6. There was no damage sustained to any part of the mast structure above the Sky Control Shack. Sky Control Shack was completely burned out, very little being salvaged from it. Sky Control deck was punctured in several places from metal fragments from below and the starboard side is badly warped from the fire below. Apparently no damage of any kind was sustained by any of the three mast supports. The only damage suffered by port AA. director, except for broken glass, appears to come from external heat, and this is very minor. The stack structure above the Boat Deck has suffered very little; mostly holes caused by an exploding 5" AA. Ammunition Ready Box at about frame 567 on the starboard side just outboard of the stack. This bomb was apparently 12 inches in diameter, and it hit the Sky Control Deck at frame 62 port, about 6 feet outboard of a point where the port after tripod pierces the Sky Control Deck just above and outboard of the chart house. Range V (Forward Rangefinder) is apparently undamaged, but the deck aft of it is warped slightly by heat. The Navigation Bridge structure was completely burned out from below. The deck of the Navigation Bridge is deflected downward considerably at the vicinity of the wheel. There is also a burned out part of the deck inside the Navigation Bridge aft and to starboard of the forward mast support. Nothing of any value remains in the Navigation Bridge. The heat of the fire from below apparently caused the deck of the Navigation Bridge inside of the Chart House to burn completely through and fall clear leaving a hole the size of the interior of the Chart House plus about three feet further to starboard and all the way aft. The rest of the deck to starboard is badly warped, and although the starboard after tripod leg is very badly burnt externally, it does not appear to have suffered any structural damage or deflection. The starboard bridge gyro repeater and pelorous has been practically destroyed by fire. Absolutely nothing remains of the Chart House, except a partial shell. The Conning Tower structure has suffered no damage.

The bomb hit just forward of the port AA director penetrated through the Navigation Bridge, the Signal Bridge, the Boat Deck inside of the Captain's Office and exploded on the Upper Deck inside of Casemate 6 against the forward edge of the stack, blowing a hole downward through to the Main Deck to the Officer's Galley and back to No. 2 boiler uptake. The explosion blew up through the Captain's office; and forward into No. 4 Casemate, starting a fire which spread through the Captain's quarters and up to the Signal Bridge, navigation Bridge, and Sky Control. The fire spread to the Boat Deck and set off the AA. Ready Box previously mentioned. The flag bags on the Signal Bridge were burnt out, as were the life jacket lockers. A hole of approximately 30 feet square amidships was burned in the deck of the Signal Bridge beneath and aft of the Chart house. The four compartments on the Signal Bridge were completely wrecked by fire. Nothing of value remains inside of them. Practically all of the Chart House deck hangs down through the hole in the Signal Bridge. This hole extends also through the top of the Captain's quarters and is about the same size there as on the Signal Bridge. The entire enclosure on the Boat Deck, which held all the Captain's quarters and office, was completely destroyed, mostly by the fire, and partly by the explosion from below in No. 6 Casemate. Everything of value therein has been destroyed, including all the records in the Captain's Office. A safe in the Captain's Cabin appears intact, although badly scorched on the outside.

The explosion also blew out a seam amidships of the stack on the portside for a distance about 4 feet just above the Boat Deck level; splinters were also blown through the stack from below and a number of rivets were blown out. Casualties sustained to the starboard 5" AA. Battery during action were loss of air ramming at Nos. 1, 5, and 7 AA. Guns. No. 5 was due to a rupture in the air line due to vibration. The uptake from the Officer's Galley was badly damaged by the explosion.

When the bomb struck the Upper Deck at Casemate 6, frame 65, and exploded, it ruptured the stack back as far as frame 688 port, and pushed the smoke pipe in all the way to the top. The explosion blew out the bulkhead between No. 6 & 4 Casemates, and bulged out the bulkhead to No. 3 Casemate. The Canteen was completely destroyed by fire and the explosion blew a hold overhead into the Captain's Office and Cabin. A fire was started in No. 4 and No. 6 Casemates which was extinguished before it did an excessive amount of damage. The Upper Deck in the after starboard corner of Casemate 4 was badly warped downward; hammock nettings, lockers, Canteen, and drinking fountain were destroyed. Stanchions and overhead beams in the vicinity were pulled away from the deck. Ship's Service Office was badly damaged by fire. The explosion blew back into the Incinerator Room damaging some pipe in its forward end, blowing two holes in the after bulkhead of the Incinerator Room, one particle passed through the Bakery, penetrated the Dynamo Trunk on the portside and continued through the after bulkhead of the Dynamo Trunk into the Galley.

This explosion of the bomb on the Upper Deck, Casemate 6, blew a hole about three feet square through the Main Deck in the after portside of the Officer's Galley. The Officer's Galley was wrecked; as was the Dry Cleaning Room. The after bulkhead of the Dry Cleaning Room blew back into the laundry and the port bulkhead blew out into the 6th Division living space (B-171-L). Very little damage was done in the Laundry, or living space B-171-L. Ventilation system 1-68-2 in the port forward part of the laundry was wrecked. The after bulkhead of the Officer's Galley on the starboard side was pushed back slightly into the Laundry Distribution Room. A fire main riser at frame 66 port was broken just above the upper Deck; this helped keep the fire main pressure down until it was discovered and the valve closed on the third deck. This, however, was after most of the fire had been extinguished.

6. A bomb hit the Boat Deck, about frame 80, just aft of the ventilator trunk to the Evaporator Room, about 12 feet to starboard of the center line (about one-half way from stack to break of the boat deck.) it apparently struck some obstruction on the Boat Deck where it appeared to have exploded, blowing a hole through the Boat Deck into the Galley and deflecting the Galley Deck downward somewhat. It is understood that there was some exposed five inch AA. ammunition laid out on the Boat Deck at this point which exploded at this time. this might account for the failure of the bomb to go deeper into the Ship. The Boat Deck was sprayed very heavily with exploding fragments which went through the after part of the stack, and ammunition hoist inboard of AA. Gun No. 7, the Evaporator Trunk Ventilator, and the Ventilators directly aft and inboard of it. Fragments also pierced the starboard forward tripod of the Main Mast, Starboard Galley, Skylight Hatch, the Deck Locker on the Steel Deck, and the fuse setter aft of No. 7 AA. Gun. Some fragments even pierced the after Search light Platform. The hole in the Boat Deck is about 12' across and 6' fore and aft. The explosion wrecked the ranges along the forward bulkhead of the Galley, and many flying fragments ruined the center table. Some pierced a few of the steel kettles, they also pierced the starboard bulkhead, and the force of the explosion deflected it outward toward No. 10 Casemate. The oil tanks on the portside were not damaged. All of the other equipment in the Galley was very badly damaged, possibly beyond repair. The explosion blew open the starboard door of the Galley in Casemate 9, starting a fire which apparently swept the entire casemate, and all of the instruments on gun No. 9 were burned up. Very little of any value is left in No. 9 Casemate. on the Main Deck inside of the Crew's Reception Room, the overhead was deflected downward from the explosion in the Galley. All the beams fore and aft were bent downward, cracked, or broken, except the one on the far port side.

7. There was a torpedo hit at about frame 42 port, even with the forward edge of No. 2 barbette, which tore a hole in the lower blisters A-32-V, and A-34-V. Upper blisters A-66-V and A-68-V were also ruptured. The hole was from frame 38 to frame 45 in length, and about 300 feet in depth. Another small split opening was found at about frame 36 extending about ten feet down from the second deck and about three feet in width. The explosion is believed to have penetrated the lower blisters to fuel tank A-14-F, and then to void A-426-V, to magazine A-424-M. It is believed that many compartments in the vicinity were damaged by this explosion and that practically all of the compartments forward of frame 60 and below the Main Deck are now flooded. The flooding spared aft along the second deck down into practically every compartment below the second deck so that it is believed that all the compartments except those aft of frame 122 are now flooded with the exception of certain storerooms and compartments which may have been completely water-tight.

8. The Engineering Department suffered few, if any, casualties from bomb or torpedo hits. Boilers are believed to be in good condition except for salting up, du to trying to keep steam up using salty feed water when the feed bottoms became contaminated by flooding from above.

The damage expected to other equipment in the machinery spaces will result from boiler priming or salt water immersion. electric wiring above the main deck is destroyed in the way of any fires. Piping is in fair condition except where actually destroyed by explosion or fragments.

5. SUMMARY. From the above it is apparent that the Nevada suffered at least six (6) bomb hits and one torpedo hit. It is possible that as many as ten bomb hits may have been received by the Nevada, as certain damaged areas are of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb. However, direct evidence is not available to determine the exact number. The holes created. by bomb hits indicate that all, with one possible exception, were 12" in diameter (very Nearly). It is possible that all were of that size. Some may have not exploded or may have contained less explosive than others.

6. The damage, while considerable, should be capable of speedy repairs once the ship is afloat and alongside a dock in the Navy Yard.


a. The Commanding Officer finds it extremely difficult to single out individual members of the crew as deserving of special praise. Every officer and man aboard, without exception, performed his duties in a most commendable manner and without regard to personal safety. The courage and spirit of the antiaircraft gun crews, where bomb hits caused most of the casualties, was of the highest order. Every man on the ship carried on in accordance with best traditions of the service.

b. It is considered that Lieutenant Commander Francis J. Thomas, U.S. Naval Reserve, the Commanding Officer during the greater part of the attack, it deserving of special commendation. This officer got the ship underway within forty minutes and headed down channel. Although the Nevada had been torpedoed and had received one or two bomb hits, Lieutenant Commander Thomas correctly decided that it was urgently necessary to get underway to avoid destruction of the ship due to the proximity of the Arizona which was surrounded with burning oil and afire from stem to stern. Through the action Lieutenant Commander Thomas coolly and calmly fought the ship despite many bomb hits and casualties. After the attack and for two days afterward, Lieutenant Commander Thomas performed damage control duties in a most creditable manner although near the point of exhaustion by his two days of strenuous work.

c. Chief Boatswain E.J. Hill, U.S. Navy, killed in action, is deserving of the highest commendation possible to be given for his skill, leadership and courage. At the height of the attack he led his line handling details to the quays, cast off the lines under fire, and then swam back to the ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. His performance of duty and devotion to duty was outstanding.

d. Ensign J.K. Taussig, jr. U.S. Navy, is deserving of the highest commendation for his extraordinary display of courage, leadership, and devotion to duty. Being the senior officer present in the AA. battery, he immediately took charge of that battery and directed its fire even after damage had severed all cables between his director and the battery, and he had been very seriously wounded by a bomb explosion. Despite efforts of the personnel of the AA> director to take Ensign Taussig to a battle dressing station, he refused to leave his station and insisted on continuing his control of the AA. battery and the continuation of fire on enemy aircraft. He was finally removed from the director by the director crew and hospital corpsmen who had been sent for. It was necessary to lower Ensign Taussig by lines in a stretcher to the boat deck, as other means of descent had been cut off by a serious fire in the bridge structure. it is considered that Ensign Taussig's actions were beyond the call of duty and that his performance of duty is deserving of recognition.

e. Ensign T.H. Taylor, U.S. Navy, took station as battery officer on the port AA battery. At this station he afforded an outstanding example of leadership, devotion to duty, and valor. Under fire from strafing attacks, bomb explosions in the immediate vicinity, and serious fires that exploded one ready ammunition box in the starboard 5" AA battery wounded by fragments, burned, shell-shocked, and completely deafened due to broken eardrums, he continued to direct the fire of his battery in an effective manner. his presence of mind in playing a hose on the ready ammunition boxes that were becoming a red heat from the proximity of fires, avoided heavy damage in the battery. His activities are deserving of the greatest praise.


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