The fleet’s ‘superbowl’: December 7, 1941

January 26, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: history, journalism.

When Mickey Ganitch woke up on the morning of December 7, 1941, he wasn’t thinking about the possibility of war with Japan. Instead, he was thinking about football. Specifically, his thoughts focused on the game in which he would be playing that day.

Ganitch was a signalman on the USS Pennsylvania, which is sitting in drydock at the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii. He was a member of the ship’s football team — something he took great pride in — and that team was scheduled to play the team from the USS Arizona that afternoon for the fleet championship. It was “our superbowl,” he said.

The team had scheduled an early practice that morning, and they had suited up in their pads and were almost ready to leave the ship for the football field. It was shortly before 8 o’clock. The weather was clear and pleasant, a great day for a football game.

Then the alarm sounded. The Japanese were dropping bombs on the naval base, Ganitch was told. Don’t joke about something like that, Ganitch said.

It was no joke.

Still in his pads, Ganitch scrambled up to the highest point in the ship — the “crow’s nest” — where his pre-arranged assignment was to see what he could see and get the word to the proper place on board the ship. What he saw almost defied belief.

Smoke was rising from various points around the harbor. Airplanes — Japanese Zeros — were starting high and diving low, dropping explosives. Some of the planes were swooping down so low that Ganitch could see the tops of them for a few seconds.

Ganitch stayed in the U.S. Navy for the next 40 years and today, at 102 years old, is one of the last survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His was a birds-eye view of the entire harbor and the attack as it unfolded. He tells a fascinating story about that day, about what he saw and about his subsequent war service on Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast. It’s a story well worth listening to.

Photo: Smoke pours from the USS Arizona, one of the battleships sunk by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

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