Posts Tagged ‘USS Oklahoma’

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

Finally off to war…

Uncategorized, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 12 2011

I just wanted to take a moment today to commemorate the 67th anniversary of Flier finally leaving Pearl Harbor on her way to the front.

We don’t know where she was assigned to go: it’s likely that she was part of the advance force for the upcoming battles in the Marianas.  Wherever she was headed, she was assigned to top off her tanks at Midway Atoll.  Since Midway was 1300 miles closer to the front than Pearl, that top-off could make a difference in amount of time or distance allowed to spend on patrol.

Pearl Harbor, now two years into the war, was busting at the seams.  They had only JUST (as in the last two weeks before this date in 1944) finished floating the last casualty of December 7 that was planned to be reclaimed.  The Arizona was going to remain as a memorial, and so was the Utah (albeit unintentionally.  The Utah was simply too old and useless to waste wartime resources to even float enough to salvage.  After all, before December 7, she had been a target ship, a ship the active warships shot dummy torpedoes and guns at to practice aiming and firing.  She was, however, capsized in a main traffic lane. THAT was going to be fixed.)

Nope, the workers at Pearl Harbor, had finally, after two years of engineering, designs and labor,  figured out how to roll the USS Oklahoma over, float her and drag her into drydock.  (Sadly, drydock would reveal that the damage was beyond worth of repair.  The great battleship was, for all intents and purposes “Totalled”.  She was moved to a quiet part of the harbor until 1946 when she was sold to a scrapper.)

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Fascinating example of the engineering ideas that rolled this battleship over. The date on the photo is correct: March 1943. It would still take until December 28, 1943 before she was able to float on an even keel reliably enough to tug her into drydock. Flier would have been there to see that final step.

Another view of the rolling over of this behemoth, taken a few days later. You can see Oklahoma sitting at about a 30-degree list and the cranes with their lines are now on Ford Island. In a rather ironic end to the story, the salvager that purchase Oklahoma was located in San Francisco, and had to tow the hulk of Oklahoma to California. A storm hit about 500 miles out of Pearl Harbor, and Oklahoma did not make it. Despite all the engineering and efforts, Okie chose to remain on the bottom. Which, I guess, is a fitting end for a warship.

The business of war never stopped, and neither was Flier.

Captain Crowley, by this time, was one of the most experienced submarine Commanders.  A Naval Academy grad of 1931, he already had commanded the USS S-28 through five blisteringly cold patrols in Alaska’s dangerous seas.  He’d commanded submarines out of Pearl Harbor, New London, San Diego, and Dutch Harbor, as well as through the Panama Canal.  Despite his experience, there was one major American Submarine port he’d never been to yet: Midway.

But dozens of submarines were in and out of Midway every week.  The channel going into the harbor was narrow, but deeply dredged, and straight, angled due north a 000 degrees.  All you had to do approach from the south, wait for the pilot to come on board, then drive straight north until through the coral wall that surrounded the base.

How hard could this be?