The Last Pearl Harbor Survivor
YT-153 was a 65 Ft. Motor Tug, assigned to the 14th Naval District at Pearl Harbor. As a harbor tug, YT-153 performed whatever duties were required of a small, powerful and rugged vessel. On the morning of 7 December, she was headed out of the harbour to deliver a pilot to the USS Antares, just outside the entrance. At the helm was the tug's master, BM1 Ralph Holzhaus. Holzhaus later recorded the events of what turned out to be a busy morning in the ship's log narrative (Author's note: transcribed exactly as written, with no attempt to correct spelling or punctuation errors):
At 0645, The YT-153, which was the duty tug, got underway with pilot OTTERSON, for enterance buoys to bring in the USS ANTARES. When we were about five hundred yards past buoy #4 my engineer said, "aren't those funny looking planes. I believe they are Japanese planes. There is a big red ball on every one of them."
I then became alert and looked aft. to see a bomb explode in the vicinity of the Hickam field Hangers. The crew and myself were stunned for a moment. In a very few seconds there seemed to be planes all around us. The first actual thing I saw fall was a small yellow training plane, which I believe was from the John Rogers Air Port. At that moment pilot OTTERSON ordered me to come about, and return to YardCraft. When I was steady on the reverse course, all I could see was smoke and fire. We sure thought every thing was finished for the 153, for at that moment a plane machine gunned at us, missing by a bout 15 feet to Starboard. I am sure he would have gotten us if it had not been for four motored bomber with a U.S. insigna, that was just coming in for a landing. The "Jap" then turned his on the bomber, to our relief. I then looked out to port, and saw another yellow plane hit the water.
Pilot Otterson then ordered me to steam closer to shore. We all put on life jackets, and cut loose the life raft for use. We steamed along towards Ford Island, and all had a good session of swearing. We could see that the Navy Yard and Ford Island were both catching hell. When just about even with the hospital, Ludwig, who was stationed next to me with a pair of binoculars spotted a periscope, going around buoy #19, towards north channel. All I could think of was to run him down, and after him we went. When I thought I had him he pulled his periscope down. The water being kind of murky, I couldn't see him below. I cruised around slow hoping he would raise his periscope again. When we were up to about even with F-10, I looked back to see the Curtis and Medusa, firing into the water. I couldn't watch, as I had to steer the tug through all the timbers and drifts from the UTAH, who was on the starboard side down.
Master Holzhaus provided a timeline in addition to the narrative:
The encounter between YT-153 and a Japanese submarine appears to be the prelude to the well-documented engagement in the North Channel between I-22tou and the USS Curtiss and Monaghan. According to this scenario, by attempting to ram the submarine, the tug forced it "to the surface...so that it could be destroyed." In a local newspaper story written about Holzhaus long after the event, it was claimed that the tug actually did ram the submarine, causing damage that forced the conning tower up out of the water. But is this what really happened? Placing the YT-153's story in the context of other nearby events may reveal something entirely different and even more profound.
Sun. Dec. 7, 1941.
0645-Underway for entrance buoy. Pilot #1 to assist ANTARES TO port.
0720-Buoy #1 Rapue, MM1c., sighted Japanese dive bombers diving at Hickam field.
0725-Observed Jap plane shoot down yellow cub training plane.
0726-Came about to return to Yard Craft on orders from Pilot Otterson.
0730-Jap plane shot down second yellow civilian training plane. Jap plane machine gunned Y.T. 153. No hits. Bullets paralled tug 15 feet to starboard. Same plane then attacked four motored bomber coming in for landing at Hickam Field.
0745-LUDWIG, BM2c sighted submarine periscope about 2 feet above water at buoy #19 heading into north channel. Changed course to run down periscope. When about 50 yards from periscope it was pulled down. Slowed speed on same course. Periscope did not show again.
0755-Moorings F10N observed gun fire from CURTIS & MEDUSA into water apparently at submarine. DD 354 then steamed over spot.