Posts Tagged ‘USS Nevada’

Pearl Harbor Aftermath

Uncategorized | Posted by Rebekah
Dec 09 2011

The aftermath of Pearl Harbor was an overwhelming task. Only the drydocks, Fuel farm and Submarine Base were untouched.  Unknown to those recovering from the attack, they’d only suffered two-thirds of the total plan.  The Japanese had planned to send a third wave, which was assigned to destroy the fuel farm, and the drydocks, but, in December 1941, no one had yet managed to land on an aircraft carrier at night, which the third wave would be forced to do.  Since the second wave of Japanese planes had been shot down in a much higher number than the first surprise wave, the Japanese officers decided to spare their pilots for further fighting, rather than smash an enemy who was already fairly well destroyed.

It proved to be a crucial error.

With the fuel still intact, and the drydocks operations, the recovery effort began immediately.  The submarines at the Submarine Base were quickly fueled and sent to sea, assigned to sink anything flying the Rising Sun flag and report anyone else.  The Aircraft carrier Enterprise, nearly two days late getting to port (she was supposed to be in Pearl on December 6) entered on the 8th, and despite the wreckage of Pearl, the sailors managed to refuel her, restock her, and send her on her way in 24 hours, to protect what was left.  Pearl could still function, and her people threw themselves into recovery and support.

By some accounts, the burned and scorched oil was several inches thick in many parts of the harbor.  Ships that were only lightly damaged were quickly overhauled, fueled and sent to the States for final repairs.  Others, West Virginia, Oklahoma, California, would take longer.  Arizona and Utah’s fate was still unknown in those first days, and would end up resting in Pearl forever.

Edward Beach, who would become a celebrated submarine commander, and later author, recounted his feelings on nseein Pearl harbor in late May, 1942, nearly six months after the attack, in his book, “Submarine!”

“No one who saw it will ever forget the awful vista of Pearl Harbor. Although we had been prepared for it, the sight of four of our great battleships lying crushed in the mud staggered us.”

He further described the scene in his novel, Run Silent, Run Deep.

“The stench of crude oil was everywhere.  It struck my nostrils with almost physical pain.  The shoreline, wherever it could be seen was black; filthy; and the water was likewise filthy, and here and there a  coagulated streak of black grease clinging like relaxed death to bits of oily debris…The pictures showed a lot, but they could never show the hopeless, horrible desolation and destruction, the smashing, in an instant, of years of tradition and growth. 

California’s cage masts had seemed canted a bit peculiarly when we first caught sight of them, and now we could see why.  Her bow was underwater

 

 

…astern of her lay the bulging side and bottom of a great ship with one propeller sticking out of the water…this was Oklahoma…

 

 

another shattered sunken hulk showed its gaunt sides: West Virginia, once the pride of the fleet…a grimy dirty waterline, now high out of the water, showed how far she had sunk.  She was obviously afloat again, but horribly mangled. We could see some of the shattered side, gaping above the cofferdam built around it.

 

 

 

Abaft West Virginia, a single tripod mast stood in the water.  Below it a silent gun turrent, water lapping in the gun ports and around the muzzles of the huge rifles.  Nothing forward except a confused mass of rusty junk. A flag floated from the gaff of the tripod mast, symbol that the United States would never surrender. Arizona…”

It would take years.  By May, when Beach observed this scene, battleships Pennsylvania, Nevada, Tenessee, Maryland had already been recovered and sent to the States. Maryland and Tenessee were repaired and on patrol.   Pennsylvania, repaired, was testing of California.  Nevada was in Puget Sound being overhauled.

California would be refloated and on her way by June of ’42.

When  West Virginia was refloated in May of ’42, sixty-six bodies of her sailors were discovered.  While all the recovered ships had such sad recoveries to make, the Wee Vee had a few shocks within her.  The following is an excerpt from her salvage report.

29. Recovery of Bodies: During the salvage operations sixty-six bodies were recovered from the West Virginia. These were found widely scattered throughout the ship…

30. There were evidences that some of the men had lived for considerable period and finally succumbed due to lack of oxygen. In the after engine room, several bodies were found lying on top of the steam pipes, which areas were probably within the air bubble existing in that flooded space.

31. Three bodies were found on the lower shelf of storeroom A-111 clad in blues and jerseys. This storeroom was open to fresh water pump room, A-109, which presumably was the battle station assigned to these men. The emergency rations at this station had been consumed and a manhole to the fresh water tanks below the pumps had been removed. A calendar which was found in this compartment had an “X” marked on each date from December 7, 1941 to December 23, 1941 inclusive.

The “Wee Vee” would finally be stable enough to go to the States in May 1943, and would eventually participate in the Leyte Landings.

 Oklahoma would take months to roll over and refloat, and her hulk was still being salvaged when Flier entered Pearl Harbor December 1943.  She’d ultimately prove a total loss.

Utah, already an old target ship when she sank in the first moments of Pearl Harbor’s attack, was not to be salvaged. After Oklahoma was rolled over, the cranes were moved to Utah, rolling her over and out of the traffic lanes.  There, she was left to rest with her 54 lost crew, and the ashes of a baby girl.

Arizona, of course, never moved again.  Her hull was so shattered and broken it was thought she could not be salvaged even if she was refloated.  Nearly half of the Pearl Harbor casualties rested inside.  By the first anniversary of the attack, the decision had been made.  She would rest where she fell.

Her superstructure and guns were removed, to place most of her hulk underwater.  Her aft main guns became a battery protecting Kaneohe Bay.  Another set of guns, after being repaired, were placed on her sister Nevada, and fired against the enemy during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. (Today, yet another set of her guns lie rusting in the East coast.  The state of Arizona is seeking to bring them to her namesake state as a memorial.)

And the country of course advanced steadily into war, hundreds of ships running in and out of Pearl Harbor the whole time these repairs and salvages doggedly continued.  By 8 December, while Roosevelt and Congress declared war on Japan, the Japanese were landing on Wake Island, Guam, the Philippines, Thailand, and Maylasia.  By the time German and Italy declared war on the US and had the offer accepted and reciprocated on December 11, 1941, the Japanese military had expanded their reach beyond what most military strategists had assumed was possible so quickly. The American military, with their back broken in the form of battelships and destroyers, scrambled anything that could still move and sent it out on orders to conduct “unrestricted warfare.”

And the submarine, a curious misfit with little use on December 6, 1941, (according to some commanders) came into its own.

But Pearl wasn’t over.  The blame was beginning to settle.  But where? And on whom would it rest?

The following is film footage shot at Pearl just days after the attack

Day of Infamy: The First Pearl Attack…1932

Day of Infamy Project | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 04 2011

Day of Infamy Project: Longtime readers will recognize some of this post, thought I’ve found more information since I originally wrote this last year.  Still, for those who are interested, this is the first time Pearl Harbor was attacked, and it was not in 1941.  IT was in 1932.  The attack itself will sound familiar to those who are familiar with the MO of the December 7, attacks, and it should.  Admiral John H. Towers, who commanded the Air Forces of the Pacific during WWII, dined with a Japanese vice admrial in Tokyo in the 1950’s who had helped plan the attack on Pearl.  According to Towers, “He told me they had simply taken a page out of our own book!”

I’m also trying a Twitter Project for the months of November and December.  Leading up to December 7/8, I’ll be tweeting the events that lead up to Pearl Harbor and the attack itself.  Eventually, by mid-November, these tweets will be in real time.  i.e. I’ll tweet about the Japanese fleet leaving Japan ON the 70th anniversary of that happeneing on November 26, and we’ll track the attack fleet together. as they launch and attack.  Thus far, there are two feeds:

Twitter: Day of Infamy: Japan (To watch Pearl HArbor unfold from the Japanese point of view)

Twitter: Day of Infamy: Pearl (To watch Pearl unfold from Pearl)

Some of these Tweets will be stand alone tweets, others will link to articles, photos or things related to the attack on Pearl, some will link back here to blog posts I write (or ask guest authors to write)  But I think the ferocity of the attack can be experienced through Twitter in an interesting way.  We’ll see.  If you’re not into Twitter, that’s okay, a lot of that information will be here still.  And look for more Day of Infamy tweets.  Washington DC up next.

In honor of all who lost their lives in the opening salvos…we retell the story.  And in the retelling, we’ll remember.

 

It was a quiet Sunday morning.  The winter storms that routinely lashed the sea northeast of Oahu were at it again, pouring rain on Kahuka Point and obscuring most of the horizon with low clouds, though right over Pearl Harbor, the sky was clear.  The fleet lay at anchor, in the neat double rows on Battleship Row, at the small Submarine Base, and even in the dry docks, having their hulls scraped and checked for the corrosion that the saltwater carved into their sides.

The sun had only just risen.  A minimum of crew was on call.  Some were in their racks, sleeping off the effects of the night before.  Others were already out, attending early Mass and church services.  A few were already stumbling into kitchens and restaurants and Mess Halls, seeking that morning cup of coffee and a bite of breakfast.

Suddenly, airplanes shot out of the clouds, strafing the ground, dropping bombs on the peaceful ships at harbor.  In moments, the harbor was in disarray, men scrambling to gain their battle stations, but it was already too late.  The ships were already damaged, some severely, both at anchor and those in the dry docks.  Nothing was spared.

The planes headed back out to sea, and there, in the midst of the storm, a small group of ships waited for their return, hiding in the rain, safe from the eyes of radar.  The planes landed safely on the two carriers.

In the Bridge of the lead carrier, the admiral listened with satisfaction to reports of the damage.  When presented with the final report, he smiled, and signed it:

Adm. Harry E. Yarnell

USS SARATOGA

Sunday, February 7, 1932

In the beginning of the 20th century, the backbone of the Navy was the behemoth battleships and destroyers.    Battles consisted of larger and larger and larger ships and guns squaring off and blasting each other and their surroundings to pieces.  He with the largest gun (and support platform, i.e. the ship itself) generally won.  Aircraft Carriers and Submarines were considered little more than niche vessels which had limited uses, mostly reconnaissance for said big guns.

But one admiral, Harry Yarnell, believed that the Navy had more to fear from an aerial attack delivered from the deck of a carrier, than from ever larger confrontations between larger and larger ships and deck guns. During the annual combined Navy war games at Pearl Harbor, he set out to prove his point.  Every year, Yarnell’s ships in California would leave for Pearl, “attacking” the battleships stationed in Pearl.  (at this time the military’s main Pacific base was in San Diego, not Pearl Harbor, so Yarnell had the larger fleet.)  Usually, the radio traffic between the massive fleet would be intercepted by Pearl, their battleships would leave harbor, and everyone would “battle” out in the open sea.

In 1932, the Navy proposed the scenario that “the enemy” (in this case, the Pearl Harbor force, the smaller fleet) had taken over Hawaii, and Yarnell’s much larger San Diego fleet, was assigned to take out the Pearl fleet and recapture Hawaii.  Pearl prepared, searching the seas, the air, the radio signals, looking for the full strength of Yarnell’s fleet.

Yarnell did something totally unexpected: he left most of his ships home.  Taking only Aircraft Carriers SARATOGA and LEXINGTON out to sea with a small escort of three destroyers, everyone maintained strict radio silence and traveled miles away from the well-traveled shipping lanes. During the winter months, storms routinely popped up near Oahu, and inside one of those, Yarnell’s fleet hid, knowing the radar couldn’t see them through the storm.  To top it all off, he also decided to attack on Sunday, a day he knew most sailors would be off duty, and also most likely to be off-ship.  It would take a long time for anyone to fully man the waiting ships, or get them underway in defense.

The “bombs” and “strafing” were just flares and bags of flour, but the referees of the war games judged that Yarnell had been more than successful, sinking EVERY ship in Pearl Harbor, as well as figuratively destroying every land-based plane in Oahu.  In addition, 24 hours after the attack, using what few battleships that had already been at sea during the simulated attack, the Pearl Harbor team still hadn’t found Yarnell’s small fleet.  From Yarnell’s point of view, it had been a complete success, and he and his officers argued that, having proved the effectiveness of an aerial attack from a carrier, those ships should become more central to the plans of the military, instead of outlying support vehicles for the battleships.

But it was also an idea ahead of its time. The other admirals, who believed that the battleship was still the workhorse of the navy, protested the results, insisting that if this was a real scenario, their battleships would have found the aircraft carriers and destroyed them before they got near enough to do damage-especially a foreign fleet who would easily be spotted by the dozens of freighters, tankers and fisherman that routinely worked around the islands.

Yarnell argued his point, saying that in years past, during war games, when each team had one aircraft carrier, it was the primary point for both teams to “destroy” the other’s carrier, usually resulting in both teams losing their carrier early in the game. To him, it was obvious: in war the side with the most aircraft carriers would have the advantage, and more funds should be allocated to build six to eight carriers, rather than larger dreadnaught battleships and destroyers.

In the end though, the battleship officers won, and in the years between 1932 and 1941, the military and FDR ordered the construction of another twelve battleships but only four aircraft carriers, the YORKTOWN, ENTERPRISE, WASP and HORNET.  (and only the ENTERPRISE was supposed to be assigned to the Pacific Fleet, where Yarnell feared a Japanese attack.) The Navy was growing, but the retired Yarnell feared that it was growing the wrong sectors.

What few knew, was the Japanese paid attention to this particular war game, and the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu sent a detailed record to Tokyo about how the surprise was accomplished.  Records later showed that the Japanese War College studied this attack in 1936, coming to the following conclusion:

“In case the enemy’s main fleet is berthed at Pearl Harbor, the idea should be to open hostilities by surprise attack from the air.”

To give one a point of view on the growth of battleships in just 30 years (including WWI) these historical photos have been scaled to the right size for each vessel: from the Pre-WWI Utah to the USS Missouri, under construction on Dec. 7, 1941.