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Carl M. Pickett

The Baltimore Sun

Carl M. Pickett, a Pearl Harbor survivor who later became vice president of Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co., died Monday of pneumonia at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The Annapolis resident was 87.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Mr. Pickett was aboard the destroyer USS Ralph S. Talbot moored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

"When the attack started, I opened the hatch and saw a [Japanese] Zero coming right toward me," Mr. Pickett wrote in response to a Midwestern high school student who had asked him about his memories of the attack.

"I can't recall any first thoughts other than to get to my battle station, No. 2 gun. I was scared, but I didn't have time to be scared. Below deck, I had to pass ammunition from the hoist to the gun," he wrote.

Mr. Pickett explained that destroyers were usually moored in groups of four, but on Dec. 7, the Talbot was tied to two other destroyers.

"One ship kept its engines running while the other two had shut down their engines, or were 'cold.' We were attacked on a Sunday at 8 a.m., and it lasted until noon," he wrote.

"As a fireman, someone who fed the boilers oil, I then proceeded to get the boiler (one was being repaired) steaming so we could get underway," he wrote.

"Our ship did not sustain any real damage during the initial attack. The battlewagons, or battleships, sustained the worst damage. Luckily, all the aircraft carriers were out to sea."

An hour after the attack began, the Talbot put to sea, while downing an enemy airplane.

"Rumors were flying fast and furiously about what happened to the battlewagons. We knew that not all of them were lost, but we didn't know why they hadn't gone to sea," he wrote. "We were led to believe they didn't leave the harbor because they were sweeping the harbor for mines before attempting to leave."

Mr. Pickett said they later learned that the battleships couldn't get by other severely damaged or sunken battleships.

"Once we got out of the harbor, we ran from spot to spot as we got different messages about where the Japanese had landed. Often, these messages had false information," Mr. Pickett wrote.

Three days later, after searching for enemy submarines, the Talbot returned to Pearl Harbor. As the ship slowly steamed to port, its crew members lining the rails were shocked at the extensive damage.

"It was a sad sight to see," Mr. Pickett told The Sun in 1996, after attending a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Roger B. Taney, the last surviving vessel of the attack, which is docked at Pier 5 in Baltimore.

Mr. Pickett remained aboard the vessel for the remainder of the war and participated in most of the major Pacific naval campaigns before returning to the United States in October 1945.

"Throughout the duration of the war, our ship engaged in about 13 or 14 major battles," he wrote.

"He didn't tell us a whole lot about it," said his daughter, Susan Pickett Rodger of Severna Park. "It really wasn't a great memory for him."

Mr. Pickett was born and raised in Carroll County and was a graduate of Sykesville High School. He was working as an orderly at Springfield State Hospital when he enlisted in the Navy in 1940.

After being discharged in 1945, he went to work for Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. in Baltimore.

"He worked his way up from ... inspecting boilers on the Eastern Shore and then went to the company's office in Philadelphia," his daughter said. "He was later chief inspector in Baltimore and Cleveland, and then was promoted to company headquarters in Hartford."

After retiring in 1982, Mr. Pickett moved from Farmington, Conn., to Annapolis.

He was an active member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and for years attended reunions of his shipmates.

Mr. Pickett was a member of Severna Park United Methodist Church, Severna Park Rotary Club and Freedom Masonic Lodge in Sykesville.

He enjoyed gardening, powerboating, crabbing and fishing.

Mr. Pickett's wife of 62 years, the former Pearl Yohn, died in 2006.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Barranco & Sons Funeral Home, 495 Ritchie Highway.

Also surviving are two sons, Ronald M. Pickett of Annapolis and David M. Pickett of Leesburg, Va.; two brothers, Norman Pickett of Westminster and Richard Pickett of Sykesville; a sister, Margaret Golliday of Tallahassee, Fla.; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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