Voices of the Pacific
Amanda Thompson, Oral History Consultant
William Arthur Rodda was born March 25, 1921 in Marinesco, Michigan, but moved to Sutter, California shortly after where he was raised.
William Arthur Rodda was born March 25, 1921 in Marinesco, Michigan, but moved to Sutter, California shortly after where he was raised. As the Great Depression hit the country, Rodda looked for any job to help his family and with an upcoming war, the Navy seemed like an option. After boot camp in San Diego, he was assigned to the USS Nevada and set out for Hawaii in May, 1940. On the morning of December 7, 1941, he awoke at 5 a.m. with the rest of the crew and began sweeping the deck. As the ship’s band played the last note of the National Anthem, the explosions began and chaos ensued.
We went to the battle station right then, number four turret. Hollering out to the guys down [on] the shell deck, and hollering down to 'em, "The Japs are attacking us,” and of course I can't say the words they used, what they said. They didn't believe us and well, in just a few seconds, the loudspeaker come on and said it wasn't a drill and that the Japs were attacking us.
The USS Nevada was the only ship to get underway during the attack. It steamed down the harbor along Battleship Row until it reached the channel. By this time, the attacking Japanese planes swarmed to sink it and block the harbor entrance. The men of the USS Nevada decided it would be best to ground the ship at Hospital Point.
I got told to go up on the boat deck and fight fire. And then the water quit running, we lost pressure. We started hauling the dead guy’s back to the fantail. I didn't know ‘em personally. I knew their faces…The boat deck, the fifth and sixth divisions, the ones that lost most of 'em. That's where the bomb hit, up there back of the anti-aircraft guns…We thought they were coming back. They should have, actually. They could have really pounded us if they'd come back.
That evening, the rumors ran rampant regarding the possibility that the Japanese would return for an invasion of the island. The aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, home-ported at Pearl Harbor, but out on maneuvers, sent back planes to scout the Japanese fleet. They began to land on Ford Island, but before many of them reached the ground, the sailors in the harbor open fired on them as they thought they were the Japanese returning.
I went down to the turret and laying down there after dark, and all of a sudden, all hell broke loose up there. I went up to see what was going on. Our own planes coming in from the ENTERPRISE and they shot some of those down. And heard all this shooting and I hurried up and got back up on top side and these planes coming off the ENTERPRISE and everybody opened on'em. They had their running lights on too, but they must have gotten -- they was gun happy by then, some of 'em, trigger happy.
The USS Nevada was repaired and put back into service in October, 1942. It served as a convoy ship in the Atlantic and was present during the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944. After further repairs, she was then sent to the Pacific for the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
After the war, the USS Nevada was used as a test ship for nuclear bombs. When the first sinking attempt failed, the Navy tried one more time and succeeded. In May, 2020, the USS Nevada was discovered three miles underwater and 65 miles southwest of Hawaii by the cultural resource management firm, Search Inc. Although the Navy was aware of the proximity of the location of the ship, its final resting place was not discovered until just a few months ago.
William Rodda transferred to the USS St. Louis for the duration of the war and spent most of his wartime experience in the Africa campaign. He returned to the USS Arizona Memorial in 1994, when this oral history was recorded.