On a perfect Sunday morning, Signalman Edward Istvan was reading the local paper on the bridge of the USS San Francisco.
Istvan had no idea anything was up until he saw planes diving out of the blue.
"A complete surprise," he said. "Nobody had given an alarm that we could hear."
Moments later, it didn't matter. It was obvious they were under attack by the Japanese.
"It was like a Saturday matinee Old West movie with all the guns going off," Istvan said. "Heck, I was just 19!"
He watched one of the most important battles in history unfolding right before his eyes.
The ship's five-inch guns were not on the ship. They were having their barrels realigned after a disastrous training exercise.
"We were at the range and we didn't hit anything," Istvan said. "They were going to demote all the gunners. Eventually, they figured out the problem was with the guns."
Off duty with no weapon, he watched the entire attack from the bridge.
"I saw the torpedoes slamming into the hulls," he said. "They weren't after us; they were after the big boys and the carriers."
The "big boys" were the battleships. The Japanese sunk four and severely damaged four others. The carriers were out at sea.
"We weren't scared. We were in shock," Istvan said.
He said he now knows they had been training to fight the Japanese all along.
"We knew it was coming. We just didn't know it was coming like this," he said.
Years later, he's not angry about the attacks, just puzzled.
How had we been caught so flat-footed? Radar picked up the incoming aircraft and was ignored. We sunk a Japanese mini-sub at the mouth of Pearl Harbor that morning. We had aircraft and subs patrolling the waters around Hawaii.
"I don't know. I don't know," Istvan said. "I don't think it's sinister. It was human error but the more you think about it, the less likely it was human error."
He served out the war on the San Francisco, participating in 17 major battles.
He was heartbroken when he learned the ship was sold for scrap in 1959.
"It was my home for the war," he said.