From: Oregon, USA
December 28, 1941
Location: 100 miles west of Kuching
Attached to: TF 5
Mission: Surface Combat
System Damage: 25
Float Damage: 0
Orders: Rendezvous with other damaged ships, including CVL Zuiho. Proceed back to Japan for repairs.
Damage report, destroyer Hibiki:
One bomb struck on starboard side aft of torpedo mounts. Fires now mostly under control. Eight crewmen dead, eleven injured. Vibrations damaged bearings on starboard shaft, speed reduced by five knots.
Excerpt from "Twelve Islands to Freedom" by Frank Barnwell, Scriveners Publishing, London, 1958
...and so I was still aboard the ship when it sortied from Kuching. I spent a restless night trying to get comfortable on my bags of rice. The night was warm, but I was still grateful for the blanket I had been given, as it made a tolerable mattress.
In the morning Taiki brought me some food, mostly rice and some fish. I really wanted to ask him where we were and what was going on, but since he spoke as much English as I spoke Japanese it didn't seem like that would get me anywhere.
I was about to suggest some more cards when suddenly a klaxon went off. Taiki dashed out and slammed the door behind him, but didn't take the time to lock it. After just a moment I felt the deck vibrate as the engines increased speed, and a moment after that I heard guns begin firing. Stuck in my little room I could not tell what was happening, but soon enough I felt the vibrations from near misses.
I don't mind saying that for the first and only time of the war I was praying that our chaps were off their game. I was all in favor of sinking Japanese ships, mind you, but not any that I happened to be on at the time.
Suddenly there was a huge bang. The bomb hit close enough that the concussion in my little room knocked me silly for a moment. When I collected my wits I went to the door and edged it open. Outside everything was chaos. Not far away a section of the rail was gone and there was a hole in the deck. Fires licked up from beneath, curling around the edges. Not far from me was a body, or part of one anyway. Crewmen were running around like mad, but I got no sense of panic. They were a disciplined bunch, I give them that.
Looking out past the rail I could see a small island maybe half a mile off. Well, Frank, I said to myself, it's now or never if you want to get off this tub. No one was paying any attention to me at all, so I strode to the rail like I belonged there and swung a leg over.
Right then I looked to the side and saw the executive officer looking right at me. He looked at me, then out at the island, then back to me. He nodded once. I grinned, threw him a salute, and did my best dive right off the rail.
After swimming a bit I stopped and looked back. The destroyer was moving off, trailing smoke. I could see a few other plumes of smoke rising in the distance.
"Good luck, chaps," I murmured, then turned and swam the rest of the way to the island without looking back.
Hibiki takes a hit! Note the increase in crew experience from the beginning of the war just three weeks ago (from 71/66 to 74/66)