Roy Daly (Noah Vernau Photo)
When Roy Daly enlisted in the Navy as an apprentice seaman in 1936, the 18-year-old Neches, Texas, native had decided he “just wanted to see what it was all about.” Daly, now 95, says that while he doesn’t remember as much about his years in the military as he used to, there is one particular day in America’s history he hasn’t forgotten.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Daly was stationed on USS Maryland during the attack on Pearl Harbor, a date that has lived in the thoughts of Americans ever since.
“Well, about 8 o’clock Sunday morning, I think it was, the Japanese planes come over and bombed us,” Daly said. “I was on a ship tied up to a dock, there was a training ship tied up beside of us.
“The Japanese had a torpedo that they rode on the water and guided it. … That ship to the side of us took the torpedo; it sunk, one to the bottom.”
Daly said he mostly kept to himself during his days in the military, and while many lives were lost during the attack, he does not remember losing any close friends. According to the U.S. Navy website, the capsized ship next to Daly’s was USS Oklahoma, which suffered nine torpedo hits that resulted in more than 400 casualties. USS Maryland was moored inboard of USS Oklahoma and was largely protected by her when Japanese torpedo planes struck, losing four men.
Daly said neither he nor the men he was with had any warning of an attack that day. What stands out most vividly in his memory, he said, was an approach of what appeared to be a manned torpedo.
“We didn’t know that (we were under attack), far as I remember, until they hit us,” he said. “They had a man ride a torpedo underwater, and come up and knocked a hole into the side of us.”
Daly said he and the others aboard USS Maryland were trapped for two days. He said that while he doesn’t remember being scared, he joked that it would be a pretty safe guess considering the situation.
“You feel like you need help,” Daly said.
“We had a hole knocked in a battleship, in a room, and it was full of water the whole time,” he said. “(It) was about three more feet of water, and it pinned us in there, and we stayed there I think two days before they could roll that ship away so that we could get out.”
“We had depth chargers aboard our ship, and radar where you see down under the water, way down under the water,” he said. “We saw ships coming up alongside of us, and they dropped a torpedo on it, and I guess it blew them up because we never did see them anymore.”
“Then we come to the Navy yard in Bremerton, Wash., with that room full of water,” he said.
Daly said he guesses the air tight doors between each compartment is what kept the ship from sinking on its way to Bremerton, where the ship was later repaired.
Daly’s granddaughter Robbie, whom Daly raised in Roswell with his wife Bonnie, shared what she remembers Daly telling her while she was growing up.
“I remember he always said he didn’t think he’d make it out alive,” Robbie said. “He always told me they were told they were sending another torpedo their way, and that he was sweating bullets, that it was hard to sleep.”
“He’s always been my hero,” she said.
When Robbie asked Daly if he thought God had been looking out for him, Daly laughed, “He must’ve been, because I’m still around.”
The attack on Pearl Harbor did not deter Daly from remaining in the Navy, where he was a cook for 15 of his 19 years in service. He retired from the Navy in 1955.
On Feb. 7, 1963, Daly married Bonnie Fay in Roswell. The couple enjoyed 49 years of marriage before Bonnie passed away late last year.
Daly owned Gateway Cabinet Shop in the late 1970s, before eventually moving the store to his backyard as he neared retirement.
In retirement, Robbie explained, Daly spent many happy hours engaged in his favorite hobby: fishing.
“I’ve always called him Popeye the Sailor Man. He’s my man,” Robbie said. “He lived his life to where he wanted to retire and go fishing. And he always got the biggest fish.”