Rank and organization:   Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. California.
Place and Date:
Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941.
Entered service at:
Birth:   26 June 1912, Columbus, Ga.
Citation:   For conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty while attached to the U.S.S. California during the surprise
enemy Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December
1941. In charge of the ordnance repair party on the third deck when the
first Japanese torpedo struck almost directly under his station, Lt. (then
Gunner) Pharris was stunned and severely injured by the concussion which
hurled him to the overhead and back to the deck. Quickly recovering, he
acted on his own initiative to set up a hand-supply ammunition train for
the antiaircraft guns. With water and oil rushing in where the port bulkhead
had been torn up from the deck, with many of the remaining crewmembers
overcome by oil fumes, and the ship without power and listing heavily to
port as a result of a second torpedo hit, Lt. Pharris ordered the shipfitters
to counterflood. Twice rendered unconscious by the nauseous fumes and handicapped
by his painful injuries, he persisted in his desperate efforts to speed
up the supply of ammunition and at the same time repeatedly risked his
life to enter flooding compartments and drag to safety unconscious shipmates
who were gradually being submerged in oil. By his inspiring leadership,
his valiant efforts and his extreme loyalty to his ship and her crew, he
saved many of his shipmates from death and was largely responsible for
keeping the California in action during the attack. His heroic conduct
throughout this first eventful engagement of World War 11 reflects the
highest credit upon Lt. Pharris and enhances the finest traditions of the
U.S. Naval Service.
This data was extracted from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, U.S. Senate, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973)