Edmund “Eddie” Brooks was born in San Pedro, CA in 1918. As a young boy, Eddie delivered newspapers to the USS Argonne. Upon enlisting with the US Navy in 1939, Eddie found himself stationed on the Argonne. Saturday December 6, 1941, Eddie spent a good part of the day and evening on the USS Arizona working out with the boxers. Paul Neipp, a San Pedro High School buddy stationed on the Arizona asked Eddie to stay for dinner. He stayed for dinner, watched a movie with the crew and left the Arizona to go back to his ship. That was the last time he ever saw his San Pedro High School buddy Paul Neipp.
December 7th at 7:55 a.m., the first wave of Japanese planes began to bomb the US fleet. By 8:10 a.m. the USS Arizona was destroyed and all of Eddie’s friends aboard were lost. The USS West Virginia had suffered several hits from torpedoes and bombs. Fire and rescue volunteers were called to aid the West Virginia. Eddie, Al Fryman, Leon Hall, John Romanchuck and Mr. Fredericks volunteered. The rescue equipment was locked and bolted. One of the men ran for the keys. Eddie grabbed a crowbar and broke the lock off. They gathered up the rescue equipment and breathing apparatus and headed for a motor whaleboat.
Eddie saw men frozen with fear, some dropping to their knees praying and others crying. All Eddie knew was that he was mad and wanted to fight! They loaded their equipment into the motor whaleboat and headed to battleship row and the USS West Virginia. They were the first rescue craft out into the bay. As they were on their way, two Japanese planes dove on them, firing their machine guns. Eddie turned to the two planes and shook his fist at them! He was saying the Lord’s Prayer and cussing with every other word. All of a sudden, both planes were shot down! Years later, he would meet the man who shot those planes down. They made it to the bow of the West Virginia, boarded and started pulling men from below deck that were covered with oil. One man had his eyes blown out from the concussion of the explosions. “What happened,” he asked. Eddie told him “We have just been attacked by the Japanese.” The man said, “Oh my God,” and passed out. Eddie remained on the USS West Virginia for the first and second wave of attacks rescuing men and loading them into a motor launch.
After dropping the injured off at the Navy Receiving Barracks, they were once again under fire from Japanese planes. They took cover next to some lumber piles just as a jeep pulled up loaded with ammo and a disassembled Browning water-cooled machine gun. It was Eddie’s former National Guard Unit from San Pedro, 251st Coast Artillery Battery E! Eddie and his former National Guard Unit used a rope to hoist the machine gun and ammo onto the roof of the Navy Receiving Barracks. Because of his training in the National Guard, Eddie was able to assemble the machine gun. Eddie fired on the last few Japanese planes leaving Pearl Harbor that evening. That ended December 7th. Eddie would finish his time in the Navy and return to his hometown of San Pedro, CA where he would eventually marry and raise a family.
Story published in From Pedro to Pearl: In Memory of Our Father Edmund “Eddie” R. Brooks, Pearl Harbor Survivor by Carolyn Brooks Wood, daughter.