Lloyd H Snyder Music Education Fund
Honoring the Legacy of "Mr. Snyder"
Ewing High School First Director of Instrumental Music
Serving from 1957-1983
(Author's Note - This story was originally written in 1979 for an assignment for a journalism class during my undergraduate studies at St. Lawrence University. Although snippets appeared in the Trenton Times, December 7, 2006, this is the first time this interview has been published in its entirety.)

Lloyd Snyder - Early days with the Houston Symphony
Holding in his lap a charred, blackened mass of brass remotely resembling a French Horn, Lloyd Snyder recounted his experiences during the famous attack on Pearl Harbor.

Both he and his horn were on board the West Virginia, one of the battleships tied up in the harbor on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1944. Snyder came out of the attack unscathed but his horn did not. The horn is now useless musically but it is nevertheless one of Snyder's most prized possessions.

At the age of nineteen, Lloyd Snyder auditioned for the Navy's school of music since his family could not afford to send him to college. After one year of schooling at the Navy's base in Washington, he was assigned to band sixteen, aboard the battleship West Virginia in the Pearl Harbor fleet. Its duty in the fleet was to play for the entertainment of the enlisted men out on maneuvers. All musicians were assigned to battle stations as well. Snyder's battle station was located three docks below the water in a gang-way between the two sixteen inch gun turrets. His responsibility was that of stretcher bearer.

"Well, we had been eating breakfast and we finished at 7:30 a.m.. I then went back to the men's room (we called it the head). I was shaving, getting cleaned up to go into town to a church service.

While I was back in the head, a call came over the public address system which meant to me, "go to your battle stations". Everybody who was there at the time heard it like I did. "What the hell are they doing this on a Sunday morning, particularly in port", "Who's pulling a practical joke?" You know how fellows are, they'll moan and groan, but like obedient people we went where we were supposed to go.

"Now on board ship, everything must move in a counterclockwise direction, so that wherever you are you must get to your station by moving counterclockwise. If you don't you'll get in the way of somebody else and disrupt the flow of traffic. You have twelve to sixteen hundred men on board so everything has to move as smoothly as possible. So I proceeded to go down on the port side of the ship to get to my station.

"About that time I felt an explosion. I didn't know it was an explosion, I just felt some reverberation. Right at that moment a porthole cover flew across my path, and I realized that we were probably being ramrodded by another ship. I figured, well if we are being hit on this side by another ship, it would be foolish to go down on that side. So I just turned direction and came down the other side of the ship. But at that time apparently much more was happening and a lot of guys were scampering all around the place. I was just one of the many.

"When I finally got down to my battle station, there were around seven or eight guys already in the gangway. The warrant off officer was there and he gave the order to secure the two metal doors at either end of the gangway. We did. Nobody knew what was going on.

"We finally got the word that we were being attacked by Japanese airships. Shortly after that we lost our lights. The warrant officer had a flashlight with him, but soon after we lost communication with the top side. While all this was happening you could feel concussions. Those concussions were the torpedoes hitting into our ship, exploding on the port side. Anyone caught on that side was done away with in a hurry, I'm sure.

"When we lost contact with the top side, there wasn't much we could do except stay there. The ship was beginning to sink at this point and we could feel it.

"No, I didn't feel scared at the time. Maybe some kids might have, but I didn't. I sensed I was going to get out of it alright, I was thinking, "Boy I wonder what they're thinking about back home." They probably hadn't even heard about it at that time but that's how my stupid mind was working.

"Now the ship was sinking and listing (leaning to one side) at the same which meant that if it didn't stop we were definitely going to go under. The listing did somewhat bother me. You couldn't stand up without holding on to something. We were holding on to the overhead pipes.

"The concussions, the listing and the sinking finally stopped, and everything was silent except for the isolated explosions. At that point, the warrant officer said, "Let's get the hell out of here," and it was every man for himself.

"When I got to the top side I saw the destruction for the first time. Half of the ship was under water, the big guns were off their mounts and the Oklahoma had completely disappeared. But there was not one on deck to abandon ship except me. I then heard a voice yell out, "Get the hell in here!" The voice was coming from the paint locker. Everybody was staying under cover because the Japs were striking everything in sight.

"About that time there was large "whoosh" and we felt a lot of heat and flames. We scampered out of the paint locker because we knew that the paint would catch on fire. I've never seen so many men coming out from hiding places. It was like rats coming out of holes.

"We ran toward midship. There I met a friend from the band, Don. Don asked me if I could swim. I said yes. He told me that they were passing the word to abandon ship, the best way we knew how. We got to a place where we could jump between our ship and the Tennessee, and we jumped right over. I hit the water and I thought I would never be coming back up. There was a little flat boat tied up to the Tennessee so I held on to that for a while to get my breath. I decided that if I was going to swim to shore, I'd better take off my shoes. I got the first one out but I couldn't get the knot out of the other one. Darnit, there I was and I couldn't even get the stupid shoe off of my foot. I wasn't about to stay there all day so I started swimming with just one shoe.

"While we were swimming, we could hear quick noises, "phzzt, phzzt," all around us. That was the Japanese ships shooting at us. They had complete control of the skies, and so they were having their fun shooting at anything that moved."

Snyder made it to the shore and then proceeded to the Red Cross station where people were taking refuge. He stayed at that station for three days. After all of the fires on the ships subsided, all crew members were ordered to report to their ships for clean up. It was at this time that Snyder was able to retrieve his horn.

"When I went back to the ship to get the horn, there was an awful smell that I can never forget. I smell it whenever I go near a shipyard. Anyway, the ship was completely gutted, all black with burnt paint and so forth. When I found the horn it was partially submerged, and utterly destroyed. But it was the only souvenir I had and I wanted to keep it.

Since that time I've had some people take a look at it who thought that they might be able to repair it, but I wasn't really interested. It's very important to me just the way that it is."

Matt Van Wagner Copyright 1979, 2007

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