Obit of the Day: World War II “Phone Talker”
When the USS Vestaldocked at Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941 Ambrose Ferri and the crew of the repair ship had no idea what awaited them. The next morning at 8:00 a.m. Japanese aircraft flew in from the Pacific. At 8:05 the Vestal began firing its guns while at the same time two bombs tore through the hull. Five minutes later they watched in horror as their neighbor in port, the USS Arizona “seemed to rise up out of the water, then she sank” taking over 1100 men with her.
Ferri was the “phone talker,” responsible for delivering messages from the radio room to the ship’s commander Cassin Young. Commander Young, who was literally blown off the deck of the Vestal when the Arizona exploded, swam back to the ship and made his way back to his command. As Ferri continued to provide Young with updates on the ongoing attack by the Japanese, the Vestal was sinking in the stern. Young and the chief engineer worked to keep the ship afloat and eventually beached themselves leaving the ship available to be repaired and returned to service. Commander Young received the Medal of Honor for his role at Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Ferri left the Navy after the end of World War II but was called back during the Korean War and remained in service until 1966. In 1962, he served aboard the USS Thetis Bay which took part in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After he retired he served as an administrator in the recruiting office at the Great Lakes Naval Station, just outside of Chicago.
Recently, Mr. Ferri would speak to students about his experiences at Pearl Harbor. He was 92 years old.
(Image courtesy of Pearl Harbor: Remembered)