Becoming a Sailor

USS Oklahoma (BB-37)

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Pacific Duty

Reflections

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Roy Boreen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in July 1920. During the Great Depression, his father worked as a cement finisher. Boreen had five brothers and three sisters in his family. He enjoyed winter sports and had skates and other gear to play them. He finished grammar school, but only completed one and a half years of high school. At that point, he went to work as a farm hand. Boreen’s father had served in the Swedish navy. His father desired that at least one of his sons become a sailor. In August 1938, Boreen joined the United States Navy. He was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Center for his boot camp training. Boot training was very active for Boreen. Sleeping in high hammocks took getting used to. His father wrote to him in Swedish while he was in the service. Immediately after boot camp, Boreen was assigned to the USS [Annotator’s Note:  the USS (BB-37)] which was in Puget Sound Navy Shipyard. He became a member of the ship’s 3rd Division Deck Force. 

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Roy Boreen spent a year and a half as part of the USS [Annotator’s Note:  the USS (BB-37)] 3rd Division Deck Force. Every Friday was spent cleaning the deck in preparation for inspection. The [Annotators Note: is a nickname for the USS Oklahoma] had ten 14 inch main battle cannons. His battle station was in the number three turret of the . Boreen had to lift 105 pound bags of powder that would be loaded behind the shell in the breech of the main gun. It took four of those bags of powder to fire a shell 20 miles. There were four divisions of deck forces. Besides battle duties, they also maintained ship cleanliness. Boreen also served as a mess cook during this time. He had to learn to watch for low head heights aboard ship. Later in life, he had four operations to assist with problems he had from head knockers. Traversing the ship’s torpedo blisters was particularly perilous from a low overhead situation. On Friday, 5 December 1941, the was out at sea for gunnery practice. She blew the target vessel out of the water and was ordered to stay out of port until the following Monday when a new target vessel would be available for her. Shortly after, her escorting destroyers picked up an unknown submarine contact, so the was ordered to report back to Pearl Harbor and prepare for an admiral’s inspection on Monday 8 December 1941. She arrived in Pearl Harbor early on the morning of 6 December 1941 and was moored outboard of the USS [Annotators Note: USS (BB-46)]. Boreen was working in the paymaster’s office and after the ship was secured, he and two guards went to the Pacific fleet flagship, the USS [Annotators Note: USS California (BB-44)], to pick up 120,000 dollars for the paymaster to distribute to the crew of the . Living in Hawaii was fun for a young sailor. The Thanksgiving luau in 1941 was particularly memorable. His brother was in the army and posted nearby so they visited often. The entertainment was good in the islands. He met his wife to be in Hawaii. He had a late night on 6 December before returning to the ship. The men aboard the had no idea that an attack was coming the next day. Boreen fell in love with his ship from the beginning. He was never seasick aboard her. He would have stayed on her through his whole career had she not been lost at Pearl Harbor.

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On the morning of 7 December 1941, Roy Boreen enjoyed an early breakfast of pancakes. After breakfast he went to the pay office to process some paperwork. Just before eight, he heard the alarm for General Quarters [Annotator’s Note: also known as GQ, this is sounded aboard a ship as the alert of impending danger. The signal tells the ship’s crew to man their battle stations and secure the ship for enemy action]. Hearing GQ, Boreen looked out a porthole and saw a torpedo airplane fly by. He spotted the rising sun on the aircraft and knew it was a Japanese plane. Boreen went to his battle station and began to close the nearby watertight doors. At that moment, an enemy torpedo hit the [Annotators Note: USS Oklahoma (BB-37)]and blew back the door that Boreen was closing. The hit was in an adjacent oil tank. Boreen’s face was covered with oil. He had to wipe the oil from his eyes to function. When he turned around, he saw water coming down from the hatch above him. Going up the stairs, he saw two shipmates. One of them was seriously wounded. With the water rising rapidly in the ship, Boreen looked above and the main deck hatch was about to be closed by other shipmates. Boreen shouted to the sailors above to hold the hatch for him and the two other shipmates with him. The wounded sailor and his mate said that the ship would not roll over so they chose to stay in place. Boreen evacuated the area and went on the main deck. The two sailors who stayed below deck were trapped and did not escape. On the outside of the ship, Boreen looked up and saw the Japanese attackers swarming above the American ships in the harbor. He saw a bomber unload its ordnance on the USS [Annotators Note: USS (BB-39)].  The ship went up in flames. When Boreen spotted a Japanese Zero fighter [Annotators Note: Mitsubishi A6M fighter aircraft, also referred to as a Zero] positioning for a strafing run over him, he jumped into the water and took shelter behind a mooring camel [Annotator’s Note:  a mooring camel is a floatation device stationed between ships or between a ship and a pier in order to prevent damage from inadvertent contact]. As the Zero fired on the capsized , Boreen saw many sailors on the exposed torpedo blister killed by the enemy fire. Boren swam to the USS [Annotators Note: USS Maryland (BB-46)] and climbed aboard. There he was cleaned up and given fresh clothes and coffee. He looked at his wristwatch and saw the time had stopped at four minutes after eight when he had jumped into the water. The second wave of Japanese attackers came in about 45 minutes after the first wave. After the attack subsided, there was a call for the survivors to muster on Ford Island. After the roll call, Boreen took note that he was the only survivor from the paymaster’s office. A crew of seven had been assigned there. That day had been beautiful to start but the skies were filled with dark clouds from the many oil fires burning in the harbor. Survivors and bodies were being recovered from the water. After the mustering on Ford Island, Boreen was given a rifle and sent to guard a camp from a potential Japanese invasion. It was a trigger happy evening as firing occurred frequently. Even aircraft from the USS [Annotators Note: USS Enterprise (CV-6)] that were attempting to land on Ford Island were fired upon by American defenders. The next day Boreen was assigned to the receiving station to take up the 900 survivors of the . During this time, he was ordered by the supply officer to generate the normal monthly financial return statement for the ship. With the documentation lost aboard the capsized ship, Boreen was still told in no uncertain terms to comply with the order. Going to the USS ’s [Annotators Note: USS (BB-38)] records office, he attempted to reconstruct the information for the . The Fleet Supply Officer aboard the told Boreen to stand down and that he would contact his ship’s supply officer for a waiver because of the extreme situation. Later, Boreen would refuse the offer of a promotion to serve with the former supply officer from the .

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After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roy Boreen was stationed at the Section Base until 1943. After that, he was sent to Midway as a Chief Petty Officer. He set up a supply department there on Eastern Island with the help of the Seabees [Annotator Note:  United States Navy Construction Battalions were referred to as Seabees as a result of the acronym CB]. After completing that task, Boreen returned to Sand Island where his commanding officer recommended him for promotion to Warrant Officer. After two years on Midway, Boreen was assigned to a jeep carrier. He sailed the USS [Annotator’s Note:  the USS (CVE-112)] for approximately two and a half years. In 1944, the [Annotators Note: USS Oklahoma (BB-37)] was righted in Pearl Harbor. Boreen was invited to take a photograph on the stairs he used to evacuate the ship on the morning of the attack. The photograph was used in war bond promotional drives. When the war ended, Boreen was serving on a large navy floating dry dock, the AFDB-1 [Annotator’s Note:  USS (AFDB-1)].  During the war, Boreen had harsh feelings toward the Japanese. After the war, Boreen continued to serve in the navy. He retired with over 21 years of service. He went on to work in the private sector and ultimately retired with his wife to North Carolina in 1982. His wife had served at Hickam Field in Oahu at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

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Roy Boreen felt that World War 2 did not change his values in life although the war did have an impact on his life afterward. He had several successful careers after his discharge from the navy. He felt that The National World War II Museum, like the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., are important. The crewmen on the USS [Annotators Note: USS Oklahoma (BB-37)] all seemed to know Swede Boreen [Annotators Note: Boreen was nicknamed Swede because of his Swedish heritage] because he worked in the pay office. He enjoyed working with the crew. Dealing with the large sums of money involved in the payroll was memorable to him. He has fond memories of Oahu except for the attack. He carries no survivor’s guilt with him as a result of the Pearl Harbor attack.

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