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Robert Kronberger, 83, was then a 24-year-old petty officer first class in the Navy. He was in charge of a boiler room on the USS West Virginia at the time of the attack. Kronberger spent most of his career in the armed services and fought in both the Korean War and in Vietnam before retiring in 1970 as a lieutenant commander.

I WAS IN CHARGE of a boiler room on the port side of the West Virginia. Seven torpedoes demolished three boiler rooms. Then the lights went out, and the bulkhead seemed to be buckling, and everything began to fill up with water. I ordered my people out, and I got the hell out of there. My father and younger brother were also on the ship. When the bombs hit, my father had been underneath the number 3 turret, and my brother had been inside it. One bomb came down through the turret, but instead of exploding, it just split open. Had the thing gone off, it would probably have wiped out the whole back end of the ship, including me. I didnít see either one of them for three weeks. I knew my father was alive because people had seen him, but I didnít know where my brother was. I eventually found out he was alive, too. Our captain was killed, and we lost about 106 people.

I donít know if I would say I was angry when the bombing started. I just did what I was trained to do. When the lights went out, you did the same things you did when the lights were on. You secured your firearms and your space, got the people that you were responsible for out and tried to keep the ship from sinking. For the most part, we were too busy to even think about being scared, until it started to get dark. Everybody thought the Japanese were going to land. The army was still available but they didnít have the guns they needed to fight.

But the next day, after it was all over with, we started hating the Japanese. A lot of people had been hurt. When youíd start to look for people, youíd feel a lot of sickness in your body. Youíd wonder where your best friend was. Youíd worry about it. But it didnít stop you from doing the job that you were trained to do.
I had thought that if the Japanese attacked, they would probably do it down in the Philippines. But we knew that there had been Japanese submarines in the area. We had ready ammunition on most of the ships, and we had orders to sight first to shoot. I donít think that anybody thought that they would try it, the distance from Japan being so great. They were smarter than we thought they were.

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