Title banner: Pearl Harbor * Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal

Ships Sunk At Pearl Harbor

There was a general feeling of depression throughout the Pearl Harbor area when it was seen and firmly believed that none of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbor would ever fight again. The scene to the newcomer was foreboding indeed. Nevada was near the entrance channel and was a sorry spectacle to greet the eye of the new arrival. Yet she was the best of the lot. It did not seem possible that Shaw or California, and especially West Virginia and Oglala, would ever be able to take part in the war. Yet we had embarked on a long war and most of these ships were yet to prove their mettle. In fact, even though Shaw, Cassin, Downes, and Oglala were officially reported as lost, they eventually fought against the Japanese.


Shaw was in Floating Drydock Number Two when hit by three bombs from the same dive-bombers that attacked Nevada about 0850. The first two bombs came from port to starboard and apparently hit just aft of 5-inch gun number 1. They penetrated the forecastle and main decks and exploded with a low order of detonation in the crew's mess on the first platform deck. These bombs, according to Japanese records, were the 250 kilogram type, and were in part responsible for severing the bow forward of the bridge.

The third bomb was of the same type and passed through the bridge. It exploded in the wardroom pantry, and ruptured the fuel oil tanks, scattering burning oil throughout that portion of the ship. The heat from this oil fire caused the forward magazines to blow up. This wrecked the forward part of the ship as far back as frame 65.

When the floating drydock sank, the forward section of the ship went down with it, but the area from frame 60 aft was buoyant and remained afloat. There was considerable flooding of the forward boiler rooms, and the after boiler rooms had 10-15 inches of water. This entered through leaks in


the periphery of bulkhead 106 but was controlled by the portable gasoline pump procured next day from the Navy Yard.

Image: 80-G-32769 USS Shaw in Floating Drydock Number Two, showing damage after magazine explosion demolished the ship just forward of the bridge.
USS Shaw in Floating Drydock Number Two, showing damage after magazine explosion demolished the ship just forward of the bridge.

Shaw was originally reported as a total loss but its machinery was in good condition. It was only from frame 65 forward that the vessel was severely injured. Accordingly, the forward part was entirely cut off and the portion abaft frame 60 was docked on the Yard's marine railway on 19 December. At that time the Navy Yard took measurements for the fabrication of a false bow. This was installed on Shaw on 26 January 1942 when the ship subsequently was docked on Floating Drydock Number Two.

The Navy Yard scrapped the bridge area of Shaw and installed a temporary mast and. ship control station. The vessel was undocked on 4 February, and after a few trials departed for Mare Island on 9 February. She was the first severely damaged vessel to put to sea, and there was great jubilation at Pearl Harbor to see her leave under her own power only two months


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39746 USS Shaw burning in Floating Drydock Number Two.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39746
USS Shaw burning in Floating Drydock Number Two.

after she was given up for lost. She was under command of Commander W. G. Jones.

Soon she became a first-line destroyer and took an active part in World War II. She performed a variety of duties common to a destroyer from the fall of 1942 until the end of the war. These duties ranged from bombardent of enemy islands to picket duty. She ran aground on a reef near Noumea, New Caledonia in January 1943 but was freed and drydocked after six days. Before World War II ended, Shaw won eleven battle stars, including those for the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands in 1942, Guadalcanal, Leyte Operation in 1944, and the Southern Philippines in 1945.


This floating drydock was subjected to a heavy blitz about 0850. The Japanese planes were dive-bombers dropping 250 kilogram bombs, five of which fell near the floating drydock. She was submerged for protection.

Four of the bombs impaired her watertight integrity. At least 155 holes were welded or plugged by divers before she was raised on 9 January 1942.


She had rested on the bottom of Pearl Harbor for over a month at an angle of over fifteen degrees. Besides the damage from fragments she suffered from the fires which occurred on Shaw.

This floating dock was restored to service on 25 January 1942, and the next day she docked Shaw as her first customer since the morning of 7 December. For some time she operated on a limited basis because of a large hole which had not yet been repaired. It was not until 15 May that she was considered as good as new.


This small tug was in the floating drydock with Shaw. It appeared to be a total loss, and little attention was paid to her at first. Her name was against her, as it sounded Japanese. However, Sotoyomo commemorates a part of the war-like Sioux tribe of Indians. The tug proved that it was properly named.

It was taken in hand by the recently arrived Pearl Harbor Repair and Salvage Unit, under command of Lieutenant Commander K. F. Home. The organization's original name was Destroyer Repair Units I and II and was composed of about 6 officers and 60 men, all of whom were specialists. They were housed and messed separately from the rank and file of the Salvage Organization. While Sotoyomo was their first assignment, they also proved their worth later in floating the famous Cassin and Downes. To them was added a group of about seventy other ship salvage experts.

The Sotoyomo was totally submerged. She suffered severely from Shaw's fires and had some fragmentation damage. The Navy Yard ordered spare parts for the vessel which did not arrive until late in the summer. However, it soon assumed full-time duty as a small much-needed tug at Pearl Harbor.


These two vessels were a sorry spectacle indeed, as can be seen from the illustration on page 207. They were docked forward of Pennsylvania, and were the victims of serious fires, much fragmentation, and precautionary flooding of the drydock. After the attack Cassin and Downes were reported as total losses. The big question seemed to be how to get them clear of the


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39747 Downes (upright) and Cassin in Drydock Number One.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39747
Downes (upright) and Cassin in Drydock Number One.

drydock. They had gone through every kind of ordeal which ships could be subjected to, from bomb hits to severe fires, to explosions, to fragmentation damage, etc. These vessels were the only ones of the Pearl Harbor group that suffered all the kinds of damage enumerated, for which reason they are given special attention.

The bombs which struck or exploded near Cassin and Downes were the 250 kilogram type and were dropped by both high-level and dive-bombers. Incendiary bombs were not dropped as was reported originally by ship crews.

High-level planes were active in the area at about 0815, but it was not until 0850 that ten or fifteen dive-bombers approached. About ten of these attacked Nevada while the remainder covered the ships in Drydock Number One and in the floating drydock. At this time a hit was scored on Cassin. It went out through the bottom of the ship at frame 140 and struck the drydock floor between Cassin and Downes, starting a fire immediately. A few


minutes later a bomb struck the edge of the dock on the starboard side, and another on the port side. These hits cut off the water supply of the Yard and also the electric power. A second bomb struck Cassin and passed through the ship in the vicinity of frame 60. The fragments from this bomb penetrated both ships and their fuel oil tanks. By this time the oil fires extended the full length of both ships, and both were being abandoned when the second bomb landed. The third bomb hit Downes and demolished the director platform, the bridge, and the charthouse.

The fuel oil fires eventually reached the depth charges and the torpedoes. Without adequate water the fires raged on both ships and in the drydock. The Yard desired to flood the drydock as early as 0815 but no action was taken for an hour. At that time Cassin came afloat astern and pivoted on her forefoot. This, together with the free surface, caused Cassin to become unstable. She fell over on Downes. The fuel oil fires caused havoc before the water level was high enough to protect the hulls of the two ships. The fragments from the first bomb penetrated the oil tanks of both vessels and loose oil fed the fires which were started. The thick black smoke, which is characteristic of burning fuel oil, prevented the crews from fighting the fires which engulfed both ships.

Explosions on Downes were the cause of much of the damage. The bomb hits were not in themselves of real account. The explosions were caused by fuel oil tanks becoming overheated, by 5-inch ammunition in ready boxes, by the powder in the forward magazine, and either by torpedo air flasks or torpedo warheads. Regardless of which part of the torpedoes was the real culprit, one of the assemblies was found in the yard seventy-five feet from its starting point. The force of the explosions was sufficient to wreck everything in its path. The most severe damage on Downes was caused by a torpedo explosion near the after stack. Here a large hole in the deck and side resulted.

The damage to the hulls of the two destroyers from oil fires, the toppling of Cassin, and explosions, etc. was extensive. Both vessels were pocked with holes. As for Cassin, the flat keel was warped and was about 18 inches above the baseline, the hull was hogged (raised in the middle) from 10 to 17 inches, the bow was about two feet high, and both struts were out of position. The shell plating of Cassin was badly wrinkled especially on the starboard side.

Downes was in worse shape as regards longitudinal strength. The bow was nearly 40 inches high, the stern 40 inches low, and the hull twisted and


Image: 80-G-32431 USS Cassin.
USS Cassin.

hogged. The plating was badly wrinkled from fire and strain, and damaged by many fragments.

Both vessels, on later examination, showed that their main propulsive machinery was in relatively good shape, as were the hull fittings and machinery throughout. However, the aluminum plating of Downes' deckhouse was completely destroyed and the corrosion-resisting steel panels of the deckhouses of both ships were badly wrinkled.

Lessons learned included the following for vessels in drydock in a war zone:

a. Portable pumps should be available.

b. Means should be provided by the Yard to fight oil fires.c. Rescue breathing apparatus and flame proof clothing should be near at hand.

d. Torpedoes, depth charges, and warheads should be removed.

e. If circumstances dictate that the dock should be flooded, care must be exercised in maintaining correct blocking under the ships.


The newly named Pearl Harbor Repair and Salvage Unit went to work to restore the floatability of these ships. They patched up hundreds of fragment holes on both vessels and on Downes they put in place some large sections of deck and side which had been blown out by the explosions. They used electric welding after fitting steel patches to suit the contour. At the same time the unit removed much of the machinery and put some in a state of preservation in suitable Navy Yard storage.

When Pennsylvania was taken out of the drydock on 12 December Downes was set on correct blocking, but Cassin was left in a toppled state until holes could be patched on the port side. Cassin was righted on 5 February, at which time patches were electric welded on the starboard side. She was floated and removed to the Navy Yard on 18 February. In the meantime Downes was floated and removed from the drydock on 6 February.

There was wide diversity of opinion as to the proper disposition of these ships. The Salvage Officer felt that in view of the dire scarcity of ships Cassin and Downes could be used for limited escort or patrol duties. Some felt that the machinery and suitable hull fittings should be preserved and installed in new hulls. Eventually the forces afloat agreed with the opinion of the Navy Yard that the hulls be scrapped and the machinery and usable fittings and parts of the vessels be sent to Mare Island. To this the Bureau of Ships and the Navy Department agreed.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 37471 USS Downes afloat, being removed from drydock, 6 February 1942. Note wrinkled plating.
USN NR&L (MOD) 37471
USS Downes afloat, being removed from drydock, 6 February 1942. Note wrinkled plating.


It was ordered that both ships be scrapped after removing from them all the machinery and parts that would be helpful to Mare Island. It was important that these be properly labelled before the parts were sent in various ships to the building yard. The scrapping of Downes was completed in drydock in August 1942 and of Cassin in October 1942. Mare Island Navy Yard completed the ships in November 1943 and February 1944 respectively. They then left the West Coast to look for Japanese ships.

Cassin was fortunate in her assignments, as she took part in the campaigns which brought the American flag to Marcus Island, Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Luzon, Iwo Jima, Palau, and the Philippine Islands. Cassin won seven battle stars and the Navy Occupation Medal for Asia.

Downes, which went to sea first, won four battle stars. Besides winning the Navy Occupation Medal for Asia, she participated in the taking of Saipan, Marcus Island, and Luzon. Both ships gave a good account of themselves after they were given up as "lost" on 7 December.


The refloating and drydocking of Nevada showed unmistakably that such work should be under the direction of a person familiar with floatability, trim, list, and stability. The availability of a technical group knowing these facts about a particular ship as well as about the strength of various bulkheads is important to a satisfactory outcome. As was clearly shown later, the same applies to all ships which are flooded with water or filled with oil, ammunition, and stores. The close cooperation which existed between the Salvage Officer and the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard was of invaluable assistance in finding a satisfactory solution in the case of all vessels which were sunk at Pearl Harbor.

At this time, the Assistant Salvage Officer was a reserve officer named George M. Ankers. He had had some practical experience in Alaska but was quite unfamiliar with large naval vessels. Through hard work he progressed in the Navy from Junior Lieutenant on the Nevada job to Captain in the Bureau of Ships in charge of all salvage work.

In addition to Lieutenant Ankers and Carpenter Mahan, other officers and men became available. Most of these were reserves who, as on regular shipboard duty, were assigned specialty jobs and continued on that specialty. Thus some had charge of cleaning, or of diving work, or of pumps, or of


internal watertightness. These specialty officers progressed from ship to ship under salvage, while the Salvage Officer, himself, covered all projects, but spent most of his time on the ship destined for early drydocking.

Nevada was beached to prevent sinking on 7 December. She was located near the entrance channel with stern up against the shore and bow in deep water. Her draft when flooding of compartments had been completed on the following day was about 48 feet forward and 391/2 feet aft at high tide, which was about two feet above zero. This position was maintained by several anchors laid out astern, and she remained in such position until refloated in February. Her list at the time was about two degrees to starboard. This was to prevent any possibility of the ship's sinking in the channel which connected Pearl Harbor to the sea.

The Salvage Officer, Captain Homer N. Wallin, was optimistic with respect to Nevada as she had reciprocating engines as compared to the electric-drive battleships California and West Virginia which were in much worse shape. But, he was taken aback somewhat by the words of the new Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet, who, when viewing Nevada for the first time, remarked that satisfactory salvage seemed impossible and that we should not be over-optimistic. It should be stated here that when Admiral Nimitz arrived on 31 December 1941 he wanted very much to be shown the various "wrecks" in the harbor. Captain Wallin, who was then the Senior Material Officer of the Battle Force, was assigned to him for this purpose. What Admiral Nimitz saw was a ship entirely filled with water, with her bridge and forward controls entirely burned out, and with the forecastle wrecked by the bombs which exploded beneath. No wonder he was pessimistic!

Nevada was struck by a torpedo at frame 41 about 0810 about fourteen feet above the keel. The innermost torpedo bulkhead held but the joints permitted considerable flooding below the first platform. The original list was four to five degrees but this was soon corrected by counterflooding. The ship had started warming up the machinery and was able to get underway at 0840. While underway near the Air Station the signal was received that the ship should not leave the harbor but should continue to the west side of Ford Island.

About 0950 five bombs hit the ship almost simultaneously. Two struck the forecastle near frame 15. One passed out through the side of the second deck and caused near-miss damage. The other exploded within the ship after penetrating the structure near the gasoline tank. This caused


Image: Nevada's movement during raid
Nevada's movement during raid


gasoline leakage and vapors in that part of the vessel. This added to the many fires and the difficulty of extinguishing them. Another hit was near number I turret inboard from the port waterway. It blew large holes in the upper and main decks. A fourth bomb struck the port director platform in the foremast and exploded at the base of the stack on the upper deck The fifth bomb exploded directly over the crew's galley, at about frame 80.

New fires broke out immediately. They were intense around the foremast, the officers' quarters forward, and the crew's galley. The forward magazines were flooded, and by mistake the after group was flooded too. When the fires burned themselves out, the foremast structure containing the bridge was entirely destroyed. Air from the intakes was smoky and caused the boiler rooms to be abandoned.

Flooding was progressive and emanated primarily from the "bull ring" where the main ventilation air intakes were located. By Monday nearly the whole ship was flooded including the machinery spaces. This flooding continued for a month; only a few compartments were found partly dry when the ship was eventually drydocked.

The new Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet was concerned about the flooding of the after part of the vessel where practically no damage had occurred. He therefore requested a report for the benefit of future operations. Nevada's officers pointed out that the progressive flooding was due to the following causes:

a. Ventilation trunks permitted water to spread from the "bull ring" to various parts of the ship. There were inadequate closures in the ventilation system.

b. The second deck was not watertight. As water spread on the second deck it reached spaces below through hatches and other openings. The second deck should have a large number of transverse bulkheads to prevent water from traveling forward or aft.

c. There was leakage around piping and electric leads passing through armored decks and bulkheads.

d. Although it was found that practically all "X", "Y", or "Z" closures were properly closed during the action, the flooding of the ship converted Nevada into a salvage job instead of a repair job.

Salvage work commenced promptly. The bomb holes forward were covered by wooden patches externally as shown in the illustration on page 217. These are known as "window frames" and are held close to the hull plating by hook bolts manipulated by divers. Of course the water pressure assists.


As the water level is lowered the inflow of water was partially stopped by stuffing rubber mats and kapok material in the bomb holes and using shores to tighten them. In one instance a steel patch was welded by divers in way of a serious leak.

Where the torpedo hit, there was one void and two liquid layers of fuel oil. This was minimal protection against torpedoes and exists in major ships only forward and aft of vital spaces. The damage from the torpedo was roughly 48 feet long by 25 feet in depth. Over this it was proposed to fit a large patch, but it was found that internal bulkheads in this area were reliable and would prevent the spread of flooding. Although the seams and butts of the inner bulkhead were opened somewhat as a result of the explosion, the flooding from this torpedo hit was not enough to scuttle the ship or cause serious flooding.

The large patch was made up at the Navy Yard and made to fit the upturned bottom of Oklahoma, the sister ship of Nevada. It was delivered in early January but it was unwieldy for handling. Immediately dredging was resorted to and part of the docking keel was removed by dynamite charges. Divers were busy for a month to fit the patch but it was finally given up and the intact bulkheads properly shored and backed up with water pressure. The patch would have projected at least two feet below the keel, and therefore presented a docking problem. It was ascertained after docking that the blister had blown outboard about two feet, and, unknown to the divers, prevented the patch from seating properly. The large hole was therefore left open to the sea and the internal bulkheads were depended upon for restricting the flooding.

Gradual reduction of the water level in the flooded ship was accomplished by suction pumps ranging in size from 10 inches to 3 inches. As spaces were unwatered prompt steps were taken to plug holes used for drains or sanitary discharges. The ship's crew also cleaned compartments of oil and refuse as the level receded. Personal property was guarded, classified information was turned over to a central point, and steps were taken to assure proper care and preservation of electrical and other equipment.

Ammunition and stores were removed from the vessel, as was oil and fresh meat which was very smelly by this time. The ammunition was sent to the ammunition depot for reconditioning.

Credit should be given to the Acting Commanding Officer for the efficient work performed by the twenty men of the ship's force who remained to handle the salvage work. His name was Commander H. L. Thompson. The


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39749 USS Nevada, showing bomb rupture on bow, forward of turret I.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39749
USS Nevada, showing bomb rupture on bow, forward of turret I.

working force, which was recruited from the Receiving Ship and from the Salvage Division, performed valiantly in removing stores and ammunition. Oil was pumped into oil barges by the fuel oil pumps in the machinery spaces. These were operated by compressed air furnished by the compressors on barges alongside. The suction pumps on the oil barges were of considerable help. The valves for fuel oil lines were traced out by sense of feel by the divers.

The Engineering Officer should not be overlooked, as he was a true optimist. He predicted that Nevada would sail to the West Coast under her own power. It sounded fantastic at the time, but his prediction was correct, not only for his own ship but for all the sunken ships except Cassin and Downes. His name was Lieutenant Commander George E. Fee.

Naturally the living spaces and other compartments were a real mess. These areas had been under water for two months, and the contents of the compartments were strewn about. The first requirement was general washing down with sea water; thereafter a hot caustic solution was used to cut the oil which had permeated all materials and all spaces which were open.


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39750 Window frame patch for Nevada in Shipfitter Shop.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39750
Window frame patch for Nevada in Shipfitter Shop.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39762 USS Nevada in drydock, showing window frame patch in place.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39762
USS Nevada in drydock, showing window frame patch in place.


It was determined early that the proper uniform for men of the salvage crew and ship's crew were rubber boots and a one-piece overall. These permitted the men to wade in oily water and to contact oily objects. Again, care was taken to guard all personal belongings and official papers.

Unwatering was a step by step process, in order to give the salvage crew time to plug leaks and to give the working crew time to clean up the spaces which were unwatered. Care was taken later when the ship was afloat to reduce to a minimum the free water surface. The use of small suction pumps in lower spaces facilitated this purpose.

The electrical gear held up remarkably well. At least ninety-five percent of it was salvaged, at least for temporary or limited duty. As the machinery spaces became free of water the motors were removed and sent to the Navy Yard for drying out and reconditioning. On account of the number involved, a Honolulu firm was requisitioned to assist with the work. Even the delicate electrical instruments like ammeters and wattmeters were found to be satisfactory and capable of salvage if prompt steps were taken for their proper preservation following unwatering. About this time "tectyl" was "discovered" by the salvage crew although the Bureau of Ships had become familiar with it before. Generous quantities of "tectyl" were used by all ships beginning with Nevada.

"Tectyl" is the trade name of a liquid substance which does wonders for machinery submerged in salt water. It not only absorbs what water remains, but furnishes a thin protective film over all parts. The treatment should be given before the air is allowed to cause corrosion after the removal of salt water.

The electrical wires or leads were found in relatively good shape. They could be dried out and used satisfactorily. The vital leads were finally replaced by the Navy Yard when the ship was sent to the Yard.

At about this time two fatalities occurred on Nevada due to poisonous gas. On 7 February Lieutenant James S. Clarkson removed a cap from the air test fitting of the steering engine room. He was in a trunk which had limited space and air volume. Several men went to his rescue, but too late as escaping gas killed him. Machinist Mate DeVries who reached him first, later died at the hospital. In all, six men were overcome by the gas. At once a Board of Investigation was called, and the Navy Yard chemist ascertained that the gas was hydrogen sulfide. It is odorless in high concentrations and acts without warning; it originates in stagnant water which has a quantity of paper products in the pressured space. Thereafter frequent


samples of air were taken for analysis, and temporary ventilation was greatly increased on all ships under salvage. Confined spaces were not entered without wearing rescue breathing apparatus.

Besides the temporary ventilation which was provided as spaces were unwatered, temporary lighting lines were run. Both were essential for the efficient performance of the work.

As weights were removed and water was pumped out, Nevada gradually came afloat. She floated on 12 February and was drydocked in Drydock Number Two on 18 February. It had been the original intention to drydock the vessel in Drydock Number One which is a smaller dock and has less clearance over the sill. This was given up gradually as trouble was encountered with fitting the large patch over the torpedo hole forward. As recounted, the patch was finally discarded and the magazine bulkheads were depended on for relative watertightness. The holding bulkheads were backed up by water introduced in the magazines. This water was pumped out as the vessel took up on the blocks of the drydock.

The operating forces, especially Admiral Nimitz were concerned lest Nevada sink in the channel when jostled by the tugs which conveyed her to drydock. To forestall this, gasoline pumps were kept running and there was no re-sinking. Accordingly, on 18 February Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Furlong stood at the head of the drydock to show their support of salvage work. A commendation was received from Admiral Nimitz for all hands whose hard work and persistence made possible the satisfactory outcome of the operations.

The work of the divers is worthy of mention. Much of the diving forward could be done with shallow water diving outfits, which were widely used until it was discovered that the water was polluted. Nevada divers were helpful in finding the valves in machinery spaces and operating the right ones to permit the transfer of fuel oil from the ship's tanks to the oil barges. All of this work was done underwater and without lights. The ship had only two divers but they made 80 dives. Widgeon and Ortolan had over a dozen divers each and together they made over 150 dives. Even the Destroyer Repair Unit had a few divers who participated in the salvage work. Of major importance were the four civilian divers of the Pacific Bridge Company who made 160 dives for over 950 diving hours. In all over 400 dives were made on Nevada totaling over 1500 diving hours. The divers performed all manner of work from underwater cutting with oxy-hydrogen and electric torches to hydraulic and syphon excavating, to using


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39780 evada, showing torpedo damage to port side.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39780
Nevada, showing torpedo damage to port side.


dynamite to remove sections of the docking keel, to the use of hand and pneumatic tools for drilling and setting patches. They also did much interior work for pumping operations, adjusting watertight closures, etc. The successful accomplishment of all assigned diving tasks without casualty or injury was the result of excellent supervision on the part of Lieutenant Commander H. E. Haynes, who was in general charge of all diving, plus Gunner Duckworth of Widgeon, Gunner Arnold Larson of Ortolan, and Carpenter Mahan of the Salvage Division.

The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard took Nevada in hand once she was in drydock. The torpedo hole was temporarily made watertight. The bomb damage was also repaired, although it was necessary to build a new structure and new decks in various locations. The galley was made suitable for limited service. The damaged starboard shaft and propellers, and the rudder, were put in temporary good condition. These were damaged as the ship backed into the shore at Waipio Point. The six boilers were all rebricked, reinsulated, and properly tested.

The Navy Yard worked assiduously on Nevada and the vessel was undocked on 15 March 1942. The main and auxiliary machinery was thoroughly overhauled and tested. All Navy Yard work was completed on 22 April 1942. On that date Nevada joined a convoy for the West Coast and set sail for Bremerton, Washington. She traveled on her own power with both screws in use, arriving at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 1 May 1942.

There the ship was thoroughly overhauled and modernized. She left Bremerton before the end of the year with a bristling array of modern antiaircraft guns. She participated in the Aleutian Campaign in December 1942, and later took an important part in the landings in France. Thereafter she joined forces in the Pacific and took part in the campaigns which brought victory at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Japan itself. Here was a ship which at one time looked like a total wreck but now was a formidable foe of the Axis Powers.

Nevada won seven stars in World War II as follows: one star for Pearl Harbor-Midway, one star for the Aleutian operations, one for the Invasion of Normandy (including bombardment of Cherbourg), one star for the Invasion of Southern France, one star for the Iwo Jima Operation, one star for the Okinawa Gunto Operation, and one star for the Third Fleet Operations against Japan. She also received the Navy Occupation Service Medal ( Asia clasp).

While Nevada was noted for the accuracy of her main battery of 14-inch guns.


These were used in bombardment in France and in the island campaigns against Japan.


The Salvage Organization studied all jobs which lay ahead and came to some conclusions regarding the salvage of each particular ship. As a result there was little difference of opinion as the work progressed. The officers and men of the Salvage Division, the Navy Yard, and the Pacific Bridge Company were all included.

While work was proceeding on Nevada, the wooden cofferdams for California were well underway, and the patches for West Virginia were being put in place. Moreover, personnel were transferred from a ship which had been completed to the next ship scheduled for drydocking. Thus Lieutenant Ankers and Chief Carpenter Mahan were transferred, among others, from Nevada to California. The Salvage Officer, Captain H. N. Wallin, divided his time among all ships and concentrated on the one that seemed most in need of his services. Part of the officers of the Salvage Division are shown in the picture on page 224. This picture was taken on California during the planning for that ship's salvage.

The crew of California affectionately referred to her as "The Prune Barge," because that state produced a large quantity of prunes for export. It did not seem possible that the old "Prune Barge" was helpless on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The salvage of California was studied by many interested persons.

The salvage of California was somewhat similar to the work on Nevada, but the first ship was damaged much more severely and recovery of human bodies was involved. It was the recommendation of experts from Washington that a sheet steel bulkhead be driven entirely around the ship. But because of the nature of the bottom of the harbor, it was decided that the first work should be to close the torpedo holes with concrete patches. Before that could be done, it was necessary to wall off the water by driving steel sheet piling around the torpedo holes. But, as work progressed it was decided to reduce leaks through these holes from the inside and to eliminate entirely the patches on the outside.

While Nevada lost some men, none of the bodies were in the ship. All


men had been blown overboard or killed near the impacts of the bomb hits. In the case of California, however, it was assumed that about fifty bodies remained in the ship.

Another important difference was that the whole quarterdeck and a part of the forecastle of California were underwater. While Nevada was driven by reciprocating engines, California was electric-driven. The experts at hand figured that the salvage of electric-drive battleships would require at least four years. All in all, then, the salvage of California was a much more difficult job than the salvage of Nevada.

California was struck by two torpedoes and one bomb. Serious damage was done by a bomb near-miss and minor damage resulted from bombs which exploded at a distance. A bad fire resulted from the bomb which struck the ship before it was stopped by the armored second deck. The vessel sank over a period of three days. This fact indicated that the torpedo bulkheads were reasonably intact.

Flooding of the ship was progressive due to open manholes, ventilation systems, and ruptured pipelines. Water and oil permeated the ship and caused abandonment of fire rooms and engine rooms. Unfortunately a serious oil fire from Arizona swept down upon California at 1000 on the day of the attack. This caused temporary abandonment of the ship and interfered with the steps being taken to keep the ship afloat. Except for this, California would no doubt have been saved from sinking.

The list of the vessel was to port, and at one time was nearly sixteen degrees. There was considerable concern lest the ship turn turtle as Oklahoma had done, or that she slide into deeper water on the port side. In order to reduce the list, counterflooding was resorted to, and two boiler rooms on the starboard side were purposely flooded. The Commanding Officer, Captain Joel W. Bunkley, asked the Material Officer of the Battle Force, Captain Wallin, if flooding by hose of the outboard starboard blisters would not be helpful, and this step was taken. The result was that the list to port was greatly reduced. It was about five and a half degrees eventually.

Unlike Nevada, California was not in battle condition at the time of maximum damage. Although attempts were made to assume condition Zed after the surprise attack was begun it must be realized that passing from X-ray to Zed at breakfast time on a Sunday morning was no easy task. The fact that unwatering showed many Zed closures open substantiates the fact that the ship never attained the proper closure.

A number of the manholes of the port blisters were off or were loose,


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39751 Part of salvage crew discussing salvage of USS California. From left to right are: J. M. Ephland, CSF, Master Diver; LT. W. L. Painter, USNR, Officer in Charge of Work; CDR J. F. Warris, USN, Temporary Commanding Officer; CAPT H. N. Wallin, USN, Salvage Officer; LT G. W. Greely, USNR, Assistant Salvage Officer; LT W. M. Bjork, USNR, Assistant Salvage Officer; and LT J. W. Darroch, USNR, Assistant Salvage Officer.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39751
Part of salvage crew discussing salvage of USS California. From left to right are: J. M. Ephland, CSF, Master Diver; LT. W. L. Painter, USNR, Officer in Charge of Work; CDR J. F. Warris, USN, Temporary Commanding Officer; CAPT H. N. Wallin, USN, Salvage Officer; LT G. W. Greely, USNR, Assistant Salvage Officer; LT W. M. Bjork, USNR, Assistant Salvage Officer; and LT J. W. Darroch, USNR, Assistant Salvage Officer.


which contributed to the loss of the ship. This permitted fuel oil to flow up from the fuel tanks near the torpedo hits and eventually to find its way to the lower parts of the vessel. This together with non-closure of 8-inch fuel lines and ventilation ducts, permitted gradual seeping of fuel oil and water to vital parts of the ship.

California was well designed. The holding bulkhead near the torpedo holes was adequate to its task. Except for a few discrepancies in the location of fuel oil lines and water lines the ship was entirely able to withstand the punishment received on 7 December. Staying afloat for three days and drydocking without a single patch attests to the toughness and ability of the ship. Adequate pumping, if it could have been supplied at the time, would have kept the vessel afloat.

The two torpedo hits at frames 46-60 and frames 95-100 respectively were the most serious damage sustained. The torpedo protection at these areas is approximately 11V2 feet deep consisting of five bulkheads. In each case the inboard bulkhead was practically intact. The torpedo hits were below the armor belts.

The near-miss forward was a serious threat because of the 3000 gallons of gasoline carried in this area for the seaplanes and for the motorboats. The gasoline lines were not ruptured although some leaks occurred. Most of this gasoline was drained out during salvage operations. Flooding was general in this part of the ship, and that put the bow down several feet. A "window frame" patch was installed over the hole blown by the near-miss on the level of the first platform deck. This was effective but was blown off a few days before docking by the explosion of gasoline vapor in the area. The explosion was severe and did additional damage to the structure. Fortunately all hatches and doors were tightly closed and dogged at the time of the explosion. It is likely that a naked light, possibly with defective wiring insulation, caused the explosion. Later, additional ventilation was provided to prevent such explosions. Some additional areas were opened to the sea, but it was possible to isolate the damage and to proceed without attempting further patching. By this time it was ascertained that the pumps in use were more than enough to keep up with the water which found its way into the ship.

A 250 kilogram bomb did considerable damage at about 0845 on the day of attack. Although it killed a large number of people, it did not directly affect the ship's stability or floatability. It entered at the starboard upper deck level at frame 60, passed through the main deck, and exploded on the


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39752 Removal of one of the 14-inch guns from USS California.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39752
Removal of one of the 14-inch guns from USS California.

armored second deck. It caused a great deal of structural damage and a fire which was difficult to extinguish on account of the failure of water pressure at that time. The smoke from this fire, which was fought with carbon dioxide extinguishers by men using old type rescue breathing apparatus, infiltrated the second and third decks. The smoke found its way into the forward engine room through the ventilation system. By causing the abandonment of the engine room it had a bad effect on the fortunes of the ship. The fire was finally put out by three minesweepers which came alongside.

A few high-level bombs were dropped on the starboard side, but these had little effect on the ship aside from slight damage from near-misses and some fragmentation damage to smoke stacks and starboard anti-aircraft guns.

After three days the ship came to rest with a list to port of about 5 1/2 degrees with a draft of about 43 feet forward and 57 feet aft. This put sea water over the port side forward and over turret IV on the quarterdeck. The ship was settled deeper in the mud than anticipated.

The first requirement was to unload the ship. This was partly accomplished by the removal of all guns from the turrets except turret IV which


Image: 80-G-38812 Salvage operations on California showing removal of water from forecastle.
Salvage operations on California showing removal of water from forecastle.

was below the water level. Eventually the ship and flag conning towers were taken off, the broadside guns removed, and the mainmast, which had previously been recommended for removal, was cut off at the base and taken off the ship. Plans were made to remove all safes aboard, the catapults, the boats, the cranes, and the anchors and many shots of anchor chain.

While this was being done a wooden fence-like cofferdam was erected


around the quarterdeck, and in the forecastle area, which was flooded. The thickness of the timbers depended upon the pressures which were encountered; they varied from four inches to eight inches. The cofferdam was usually installed from barges in thirty foot sections. Each section was made watertight at the deck coaming, was braced by divers against fixed objects, and was fitted with bins for sand bags to overcome the positive buoyancy of the lumber. The weight of the sections was taken by a fore and aft timber which rested in the waterway. The heights were sufficient to prevent seawater from entering in case a greater list was experienced or if the vessel should take a starboard list when afloat.

About this time, material from the mainland began to arrive. The most important were the electric deep-well centrifugal pumps up to twelve inches in diameter. Although the ship received power from Ford Island it was self-sufficient with generators, air compressors, and drying out machines. These were set on the upper deck or some other dry spot on the ship.

The Navy Yard received some mechanics from the mainland who were extremely useful in the heavy workload ahead. Among these were carpenters to fabricate the cofferdams and make them tight against water pressure.

Most of the work was done by divers at this and later stages. A large part of it was done by the Pacific Bridge Company, which fabricated and installed the wooden cofferdams. Their six divers were kept busy bracing and making watertight the cofferdam around the quarterdeck. When the water level inside was below that outside, the flow of water was checked by stopping small leaks. At the deck coaming and between sections a soft material, or pudding, was used to attain watertightness. This was usually oakum enclosed in canvas.

Other divers were busy below decks plugging sanitary drains, ruptured piping, sea scuppers, and ventilation lines. The closing of all ports was one of the most important tasks. They also closed off the leakage resulting from open or loose manhole covers. This was done by driving shores or wooden wedges in ruptures admitting seawater or oil.

One big job efficiently performed by divers was the closure of gun ports on the port side. The Navy Yard made strongbacks which permitted the closures to be drawn up tight. After removal of guns it was hard to make the closures watertight except by strongbacks and wedges.

When the electric and the gasoline-driven centrifugal pumps were placed in the various trunks and compartments the water was circulated to overcome stagnation. This was kept up everyday. It was then discovered that the out-


flow of the pumps was greater than the inflow of water, and it was decided that with additional plugging it would be possible to float the vessel without patches over the torpedo damage.

The lowering of the water level was kept in step with the removal of stores and oil, the care and preservation of the equipment which was uncovered, the removal of human bodies, and the cleaning of the compartments which were unwatered. A definite schedule controlled this work. As soon as turret IV was above water, inspection was made of turret rollers. It was found that aside from slight corrosion and discoloration the rollers and their paths were perfectly all right.

The Salvage Division never did get enough men to do a satisfactory cleaning job although men from the Receiving Station were added from time to time to augment the ship's force available. The amount of cleaning which is necessary in a sunken battleship is well-nigh incalculable. The maximum number required was about 500 men; at first only 6 officers and 48 men were available.

As the ship was pumped down in accordance with the schedule, divers plugged leaks in the structure and steps were taken to preserve machinery. A hot caustic solution was applied to machinery equipment as well as to all surfaces immediately after original wash-down with seawater. This was followed by fresh water, and machinery items were treated to a bath of "tectyl" to prevent corrosion. Many items were put on a barge and sent to the Navy Yard. They were tagged for identification under the able direction of Lieutenant Commander J. A. McNalley who was in charge of preservation and identification. Eventually these items were sent to the Navy Yards at Puget Sound and Mare Island, but those needed for the homeward voyage were retained at Pearl Harbor. Because of the large number of electric motors on California all those not needed for the voyage to the mainland were preserved in place aboard ship. Lieutenant J. W. Darroch was in charge under Commander McNalley, and did a good job of preserving and drying out these electric motors.

On the second and third decks of California a number of human bodies were encountered. It was the practice to stop the pumping in time to leave about two feet of water above the deck. The bodies were then floated into large canvas bags. These were securely tied and transported to the Naval Hospital at Aiea for correct identification and burial.

The removal of oil, ammunition, and stores went on continually. About 200,000 gallons of free oil were collected from various compartments. The


free oil had a good effect in protecting machinery items from the seawater although, of course, it was also responsible for causing loss of life and the abandonment of certain battle stations. Stores were easy to remove when the water level permitted. The refrigerator spaces containing fresh meat were a notable exception. Ammunition was a valuable factor in reducing weight, especially the 14-inch shells and powder.

Mention should be made of the oil-skimming operation, which was followed in all ships. This was a part of the free oil recovered, and was used at all times particularly before final pumping at any deck level. All classified information and personal effects were turned over to the Commanding Officer for proper handling and disposal.

The experience aboard Nevada warned of the danger of toxic gases. Great care was taken to avoid subjecting the men to this danger. Before any compartment was entered the air was analyzed by the Yard expert, Lieutenant Commander C. M. Parker (Medical Corps) of the Industrial Department. He was available at all times and was a frequent visitor to the ships under salvage. Lieutenant Ankers and Carpenter Mahan were charged with watching for gas hazards. One of these officers was aboard at all times. Temporary ventilation was furnished for all spaces and temporary electric lights were installed in all compartments. All men were outfitted with boots and coveralls.

As the machinery spaces were emptied, great care was taken to preserve the electric-drive alternators and motors. It was hoped they would be usable for the voyage to the mainland. The mechanical parts were washed out with fresh water and "tectyl." The electrical parts were cleaned and dried. The instruments in the control room were sent to the Navy Yard as quickly as possible following removal from the instrument board.

Shortly after docking Commander Hyman G. Rickover arrived from the Bureau of Ships. He had a plan for reconditioning the electric-drive machinery and had consulted with General Electric and Westinghouse Companies as well as with the Puget Sound Navy Yard. He held a conference on 11 April. He had with him a representative of the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Mr. McConnell, and Mr. C. E. Wilson of the General Electric Company. It was decided that electric motors which were subjected to high voltages could not safely be dried out and re-impregnated. This method was only suitable for low voltages especially in a ship which was twenty years of age at that time.

It was not long before General Electric had fifty-three men working on


one alternator and two motors. It was their estimate that the electric machinery necessary for a trip to Puget Sound could be completed in about four months. It was decided that one set, consisting of one alternator and two motors, would be cleaned in place and dried out for the voyage, and finished while other work was being performed at Puget Sound. All vital wiring and instruments were replaced at Pearl Harbor. The machinists, electricians, and riggers from the Puget Sound Navy Yard were partly responsible for the fine record made.

The turbine end of the electric-drive machinery gave no important trouble although it required the usual attention due to corrosion in some degree and the presence of fuel oil.

As for the boilers which had been submerged for four months, they were found to be in good condition although, as done on Nevada, it seemed best to rebrick and test them.

California came afloat on practically an even keel or a slight list to port on 24 March 1942 and was placed in Drydock Number Two on 9 April 1942. At that time her mean draft was about forty feet. Before docking, the wooden cofferdam around the quarterdeck and on the forecastle were removed from the vessel. As customary, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and the Commandant of the Navy Yard were at the head of the dock to welcome California. In the spring of 1942 the office of Fleet Maintenance was established under Rear Admiral C. A. Dunn; after arriving at Pearl Harbor he was never absent from significant events in the salvage operations.

California remained in dock, subject to seventy-two hours notice, until 7 June 1942. During this time the Yard made permanent structural repairs to almost all the ship's damage. After a few trial trips she left Pearl Harbor under her own power on 10 October 1942 and arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 20 October 1942. There she was modernized and fitted out with forty 40-millimeter Bofors in quadruple mounts and forty-eight 20-millimeter Oerlikons in single mounts. The ship was entirely new with greater beam, greater stability, greater protection, and 154 miles of new electric cable.

Credit for the successful salvage of California has to go to the Navy Yard personnel as well as to the Salvage Division. Of the former we must not overlook the Planning Officer, Captain Fred M. Earle, and his able assistants. In the Salvage Division, by far the hardest worker and the one who set the pace for all others was Lieutenant Wilfred L. Painter. His


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39748 California just as the drydock emptied, 9 April 1942.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39748
California just as the drydock emptied, 9 April 1942.

assistants were Generaux, Bjork, Greely, Walker, Ankers, and Mahan. The Manager of the Navy Yard, Captain Claude S. Gillette, was helpful at all times, especially in reconditioning the electric-drive machinery, with which he was intimately familiar since he had served as Engineering Officer in one of these ships. We must not forget Lieutenant Commander J. A. McNalley who did so much in preserving and reconditioning all machinery parts and electric motors. He was a real optimist! The Pearl Harbor Repair and Salvage Unit under Commander Horne was on the job during most of


California's salvage and did much good work in cleaning and preserving electric equipment as well as stringing temporary lighting cables.

California remained at the Puget Sound Navy Yard somewhat less than one year. After that she joined the Fleet and participated in the Marianas Campaign, bombarded Saipan under Rear Admiral J. B. Oldendorf, and bombarded Guam under Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly. She was a part of the American forces at the famous Battle of Surigao Strait in which she, on 25 October 1944, pumped over sixty 1500-pound projectiles into a Japanese battleship of the Fuso class.

Thus, U.S.S. California came out of a watery grave and won seven battle stars against the forces of Japan before World War II ended. They were for Pearl Harbor-Midway, the Marianas Operation (Saipan, Tinian, Guam), the Leyte Operation, the Luzon Operation, the Okinawa Gunto Operation, and for Third Fleet's Operation against Japan.


Here was a ship much more severely damaged than California or Nevada. Salvage was getting harder as the work progressed. Few there were in the early days after the Japanese attack who believed that West Virginia would ever float again, much less be a formidable ship against Japanese sea power. Yet, so it turned out to be!

The pet name for this formidable ship was the "Weevie." Most of the crew and officers were transferred to other ships and only a skeleton crew remained on board. The high command was hard pressed for experienced men to man the ships of the fleet, and after all, it did not seem reasonable to assume that "Weevie" would ever fight again.

The vessel was hit by as many as seven torpedoes; the exact number is questionable because of the extent of damage on her port side. At least three torpedoes struck below the armor belt and one or more hit the armor belt knocking it askew. Seven armor plates and their keys were ordered by the Puget Sound Navy Yard. One or possibly two torpedoes entered the ship through the holes made by the first torpedoes when the vessel was listed about 20 to 30 degrees. These exploded on the armored second deck; and one hit the steering gear and wrecked the area aft, besides knocking off the rudder. Two bombs struck the ship but fortunately they were both duds.


The torpedoes virtually opened up the whole port side. It was the composite opinion that a patch was required over the two major holes extending from the waterline to the turn of the bilge. One such concrete patch was needed at frames 43 to 52, and another of ample proportions from frames 61 1/2 to 97 1/2. The steering area could be isolated, and the rudder picked up from the bottom of the harbor in due course.

The torpedo bulkheads were severely damaged. The holding bulkhead was ruptured far more than in the case of California, and the intervening transverse members were badly accordianized.

The bombs which struck 16-inch turret III and the foretop respectively did little damage. Both were the armor-piercing type of 15-inch projectiles.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39753 tUSS West Virginia, showing distortion in armor belt and damage above and below on port side looking aft.t
USN NR&L (MOD) 39753
USS West Virginia, showing distortion in armor belt and damage above and below on port side looking aft.


The first passed through turret III's top but failed to explode within the turret. The other passed through the foretop and was found later unexploded in the debris on the second deck.

Serious damage occurred due to an oil fire which was not extinguished for thirty hours. Part of the oil was washed in from Arizona and part of it came from the ship itself which was about 70 percent loaded with fuel oil. This fire caused warping of a large area of deck and bulkhead plating amidships. A peculiar aspect of the fire was that when it was put out in one area it broke out in another.

West Virginia suffered some damage from being pinched by Tennessee when that ship wedged against the forward quay. Some damage to the bilge amidships was caused. But this may have prevented West Virginia from capsizing in the early stages of the attack before counterflooding was effective. In any event it reduced the amount of heel.

Salvage work began while similar work was underway on Nevada and California. The experience which the salvage crew gained on those two ships was useful for the West Virginia job.

One significant aspect of the work was the use of underwater concrete. By this time, too, the electric driven deep well pumps of up to a ten-inch discharge, were available. Also, the gas hazard was recognized and steps were taken to consult Commander Parker of the Medical Corps frequently. In fact, regular tests were run in various parts of the ship, especially those recently unwatered, to assure that the air was safe before men entered without gas masks. By this time, too, the men had regular "tank" suits, as coveralls were now called, which were laundered continuously by a contractor in Honolulu. Men engaged in particularly dirty work were furnished knee-length rubber boots which were readily cleanable. A picture of the Acting Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander White, and the Salvage Officer is shown on page 240 in the garb which was regularly used.

The underwater concrete was a great success. It extended from above the waterline to below the turn of the bilge. This material was used to seal the ends of the large patches as well as the bottoms of each individual patch. Its efficacy was proved by the fact that in drydock it stuck so well to the hull of the ship that small dynamite charges were required to break the concrete loose. We were extremely fortunate that the Pacific Bridge Company was present and available to handle the design and installation of these patches, and to make the large number of dives which was necessary to make the patches watertight.


It is not practicable to give a complete description of the concrete-sealed patches, but some information should be included. In the first place, the patches were usually in thirteen and a half foot sections. Each section was about fifty feet long or deep. The bottom portion followed the contour of the ship, and the patch was pulled up snugly by means of hook bolts spaced horizontally every twelve feet or so. The hook bolts were spaced by divers and hooked into the side plating through holes burned by an underwater gas or electric torch. These bolts passed through the patches and were fitted with butterfly nuts. The mud which covered the bilge was washed away by waterjets. The bilge keel was cut away where it fouled the patch, but in most instances the patch fitted over it.

The joints between patches were made watertight by using old rubber hose for gaskets, and drawing one patch to another by lug bolts.

The patches were made of four-inch planking. The 4-inch steel "I" beams and the 10-inch steel "H". beams were set vertically. This ingenious structure took the inward thrust of the patch as shown in the illustration on page 237. Fore and aft wales of 12" x 14" timbers were spaced about four and a half feet apart. These members were shored directly to the armor belt. Negative buoyancy at the time of placement was obtained by a lead weight placed on an angle iron shelf on the outside of each patch. The clearance between the armor and the inside of each patch was about eighteen inches. This gave sufficient room for a person to work between the armor and the patch. The forward patch had one door and the after patch three doors for divers to pass from the outside to the inside of each patch. After concrete was poured these doors were secured.

The final operation was the pouring of the underwater concrete to seal the bottoms of all sections and the sides of end sections. All were poured in succession from a steel barge on which had been placed a mixing machine. The concrete was a rich mixture consisting of one part cement to three and one-half parts of aggregate. The contractor utilized the Tremie process which he used in drydock construction. Ten-inch Tremie pipes were about ten feet apart. Care was taken, as is usually the case, that the concrete mixture did not disintegrate in the water. The concrete was installed about four feet deep along the bottom of each patch and at each end. In all 325 cubic yards, or about 650 tons of concrete were used.

As soon as the concrete patches were finished the deep-well pumps were started to reveal large leaks in the patches, or elsewhere. It was easy to exceed the inflow when the leaks were rectified by the divers. Soon the


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39754 West Virginia, showing lower portion of patch. Projecting steel beam was fitted under the armor belt.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39754
West Virginia, showing lower portion of patch. Projecting steel beam was fitted under the armor belt.

salvage crew was in command, and it only remained to reduce draft by removing weights still in the ship.

These weights consisted of free oil which was skimmed from the surface of each level by use of a skimmer operated by an electric motor. Fuel oil, which totaled about 800,000 gallons, was also removed. About 40,000 gallons of free oil was picked up by the skimmers. This was only half of the free oil in California. However, West Virginia had only 70 percent of its fuel oil aboard whereas California had 100 percent. The fuel oil was taken out by ship's pumps operated by air, as in California. All of the


16-inch shells and powder were sent ashore. This was a sizable weight. Many of the regular stores and canteen stores were landed also. Experience proved that the removal of fresh meat and dairy products was an unwholesome job, but a new method was devised. This consisted of pumping sea water into the compartments for several days, after which the meat was in shredded form and could be removed in its original bags without a noticeable stench.

The hazard of capsizing was always present because of possible failure of the concrete patch due to an enemy air attack or structural failure. Steps were taken to prevent this, especially when the ship was enroute to the drydock. Temporary patches, similar to a collision mat, were made to draw over any damage which might be sustained.

We asked to drydock in Number One instead of Number Two Drydock, if possible, because of the long time that West Virginia would require to make even temporary repairs. It should be understood that Number Two was a much larger dock with a greater depth over the sill and blocks. Therefore it had to be available for damaged ships returning from a fray with the Japanese. The use of Number One Drydock established our goal for a draft of approximately thirty-three feet, which was hard to attain for this severely damaged ship. But it was reached by removing the fresh water from the double bottoms and all unattached weights on board.

Air pressure was used extensively in West Virginia. It was tried out successfully in the area near the steering mechanism, and elsewhere wherever isolation of damage was possible.

Human bodies were handled as in California and were taken out almost unknown to the working parties. Sixty-six bodies were found throughout the ship. Several bodies were found lying on top of steam pipes which were in the air bubble existing in the flooded areas.

Three bodies were on a lower shelf of a storeroom near a fresh water supply. These men were clad in blues and jerseys. They presumably died from lack of oxygen. A calendar indicated that they had lived from 7 December to 23 December. They had consumed the emergency rations which were available at the battle station, which apparently was the fresh water pump. This area had not been flooded.

Great care was taken with the main propulsion plant. Little oil was allowed to percolate into the main units, and as they were unwatered prompt steps were taken toward preservation. The General Electric Company and Puget Sound working parties on California became available and


went to work promptly on West Virginia. They reconditioned the steam end without much trouble, and were able to start at once on the alternators and motors. As a result West Virginia had all her electric-drive machinery restacked and rewound before the voyage to the mainland. This was the biggest job ever undertaken on a ship afloat.

West Virginia came afloat on 17 May and was received in Drydock Number One with blocks cut down to thirty-three inches on 9 June 1942. At that time she was practically on an even keel although she had been heeled to a maximum of twenty-eight degrees. When the salvage crew started working on her the draft was 50 1/2 feet forward and nearly 41 feet aft, with a list to port of about three degrees.

It might be observed that the smaller pumps were used to reduce the water level in storerooms and smaller compartments. Even the Barnes three-inch suction pumps were put to work, as were the four-inch and the six-inch suction pumps. The 440 volt Pomona and the Peerless ten-inch deep-well pumps were extremely effective in reducing the ship's water level.

Adequate ventilation was a must in West Virginia in order to reduce the gas hazard. Temporary lines were run by the Pearl Harbor Repair and Salvage Unit and hooked up to the ship's ventilation system. Temporary lights were rigged by the same crew, as lower compartments were unwatered.

Nearly all electric motors and auxiliary machinery were saved. This was due to the care exercised by Commander McNalley's crew. Preservation was the watchword. All vital items were reconditioned at the yard; all others were retained on the ship for delivery at a West Coast Navy Yard.

As usual, personal effects and classified material were turned over to the ship superintendent by order of the Commanding Officer. Great care was exercised, especially when personal lockers were emptied of their contents.

The enthusiasm and spirit of the crew deserves high praise. The commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander W. White, and his first assistant, Lieutenant Commander Levi Knight, were fine leaders and performed through the months most admirably. They, with less than 500 men at any time, tackled almost a hopeless job. Yet they were able to clean up the ship, remove the dead, take off every weight that could be moved, set up and man an anti-aircraft battery of nine machine guns, and reduce the draft to permit docking in Drydock Number One. At the same time they established temporary living quarters on Ford Island, built a walkway to the ship, recommissioned the officers' and crews' galleys aboard ship, and from 27 April served three meals a day to all hands.


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39755 Salvage Officer, Captain Homer N. Wallin, USN, and Commanding Officer of West Virginia, Lieutenant Commander W. White, USN.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39755
Salvage Officer, Captain Homer N. Wallin, USN, and Commanding Officer of West Virginia, Lieutenant Commander W. White, USN.


The Navy Yard's design and planning specialties were important to the success of salvaging West Virginia. Various shops also applied their talents to the work. Without them the operation of air compressors and ventilation blowers would have been greatly handicapped.

The Navy was fortunate indeed to once again have the personnel and the experience of the Pacific Bridge Company. Their abilities in diving work and in design and installation of the patches was an achievement which excited the admiration of all. Without them the work could not have been done. Gratitude was expressed to Messrs. Graham, Ginella, Freeman, and Rice who handled the outside work and to Messrs. Crocker and Foster who did so magnificently in design.

The Salvage Division itself was on the job constantly. No harder worker or more devoted man could be found than Lieutenant Painter who had been in charge of the California work, and who relieved Lieutenant Generaux so he could take the Plunger job. Lieutenant Painter was everywhere and spread enthusiasm and initiative. He was a Civil Engineer rather than a ship man. He was killed in Greece after the war by an explosion aboard a private yacht. His loss was a real one to his profession.

Other Salvage Division officers who stood out were Lieutenant commander Charles W. Rhodes, a machinery and electrical expert; Darroch, Liedstrand, Bjork, and Beauchamp-Nobbs, acting as Lieutenant Painter desired, especially in the installation of patches, the setting of pumps, opening of drain lines, and ventilation. During this time Commander McNalley spent only a small portion of his time aboard ship, but he was always active in reconditioning mechanical and electrical machinery.

Some reference has been made to the work of divers. Without them it would have been impossible to salvage West Virginia. They performed hazardous work, both inside and outside, without a casualty. These men came from the Salvage Division, West Virginia, Widgeon, the Submarine Base, the contractor, and the Navy Yard. In all from January to June, 527 dives were made totaling nearly 1400 hours. Nearly half of the hours underwater were done by the contractor. Credit for the fine record achieved goes to the meticulous officer in charge of all diving, Lieutenant Commander Haynes and his assistants who were Calhoun, Ephland, and Suggs.

In drydock West Virginia received the attention of the Navy Yard. It was agreed that the ship could be undocked to make way for any battle casualty, but none appeared. The electric-drive machinery was the governing job, so final repairs in lieu of temporary repairs were possible in most cases.


The Navy Yard did a great deal of work on West Virginia before her departure for the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

She sailed under her own power, as was the habit of Pearl Harbor's sunken ships. She was modernized by the Puget Sound Navy Yard with greater torpedo protection, increased stability and floatability, and a vastly improved anti-aircraft battery.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39756 USS West Virginia approaching drydock, 8 June 1942.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39756
USS West Virginia approaching drydock, 8 June 1942.

Because of the unusual features of the salvage of West Virginia the full account is included as Appendix E for those who desire to read it.

West Virginia left the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 4 July 1944 and took up the fight with the Japanese at the famous Battle of Surigao Strait where she poured ninety-three 16-inch projectiles into the Japanese Fleet. Before this she helped the landings at Leyte by bombardment. Later she took part as flagship in the Mindoro Operation, and still later she participated at Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. She was present on 2 September 1945 when the Japanese surrendered formally on board Missouri. West Virginia was


the first of the "old" battleships to steam into Tokyo Bay and to anchor off the Japanese capital. Such is the history of the ship which was "lost" on 7 December at Pearl Harbor. She had won five battle stars.


After California and West Virginia, Oglala, ("Lalie" for short) was indeed a small ship, but she presented to her salvors new problems. She was on her side and almost submerged, she was an old ship designed in 1906, her construction permitted a maximum of free water, and her stability during salvage was of the worst. Because of the uniqueness of Oglala' s damage she became a historic ship in salvage operations.

Image: 80-G-177097 USS Oglala, preparing to sink pontoons, 5 April 1942.
USS Oglala, preparing to sink pontoons, 5 April  1942.

In the previous thirty-five years she had a checkered career. She was built by the Cramp's Shipyard in Philadelphia as a coastal passenger vessel between Boston and New York with the name of Massachusetts. She displaced about 4,200 tons and made twenty knots which made her very popular on the "Old Fall River Line" in those days of limited transportation.

In World War I she was taken over by the Navy and converted to a


minelayer with the name of U.S.S. Shawmut. She rendered heroic service in helping to lay the North Sea mine barrage. At the end of that war she was reconverted into a seaplane tender, as aviation was regarded as the weapon of the future and the Navy was about to make the three historic seaplane flights to Europe. This assignment continued until 1928 when she was again converted into a minelayer with a new name. She was given the name of Oglala, which is derived from a formidable tribe of the Sioux Indians.

On the morning of 7 December Oglala was moored outboard of Helena at "Ten-Ten" dock of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, an eight foot camel separating the two ships. An airplane torpedo, fired from 500 yards, passed under the shallow draft Oglala and exploded against the starboard side of Helena causing great damage in her machinery spaces. The pressure wave from the explosion ruptured the lower port shell plating abreast of Oglala's fireroom. Although watertight closures had been rather well secured, the crew of this old vessel was unable to isolate the flooding. The ship gradually took aboard large quantities of water and finally capsized to port about two hours after the explosion.

The Commander of the Mine Force, Rear Admiral William R. Furlong, was aboard Oglala at the time and saw that the sinking of his flagship alongside Helena would foul the cruiser and prevent her removal from the dock. He therefore commandeered several tugs to pull Oglala clear and alongside the dock. In that position every effort was made to save Oglala but she finally capsized with her masts and top hamper resting on the dock. As she rested on the bottom only the middle area of her starboard side was above water at the two foot tide which was the maximum at Pearl Harbor. Fortunately the crew suffered no loss of life nor serious injury.

Oglala was initially written off as a total loss. Any planning for her future pertained to getting her clear of "Ten-Ten" dock by fair means or foul. For the next several months manpower and material were made available only for salvage and repair work of the highest priority. The only work done on Oglala during these days was to remove her masts and topside structure, with the thought of preparing her for beaching or for burial at sea. The purpose was to free the urgently needed dock site.

To accomplish this worthy objective, much thought and discussion was involved. A logical and simple method was to unwater the flooded areas by means of compressed air, at least sufficiently to float the vessel on her side, and then tow her to the beach, to drydock for further handling, or out to


sea for sinking. But tests soon proved that the ship's hull would not hold enough air pressure to utilize this method.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39757 Pontoons surfacing near bow of Oglala, 11 April 1942.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39757
Pontoons surfacing near bow of Oglala, 11 April 1942.

The next proposal was to rig four large lifting barges with multiple steel cables. It was found that this would require many alterations to the barges for proper subdivision of compartments, suitable piping for flooding and pumping, and very special arrangements to protect the barges when they were subjected to a heavy and eccentric lift. Because all this would divert manpower and material from urgent work, this method died aborning.

Then, it was proposed that the easiest solution was to blow the ship up with dynamite, and with the help of underwater divers and cutters to pick up the pieces for urgently needed scrap. While this method sounded within the realm of reason, it had serious drawbacks. The required crane service was more valuable elsewhere, and divers who were experienced in underwater cutting were at a premium. Of importance too was the possibility of serious damage to the dock from this drastic treatment.


Finally after three or four months it was determined that all of the methods which seemed to promise an easy way out were unworkable or impracticable. So somewhat in desperation the decision was made to undertake the orthodox procedures of first righting the ship, refloating her, and then drydocking her for repairs. All of this was accomplished within a period of about three months but not without many problems and interesting episodes.

The righting of the vessel was primarily a parbuckling operation. Ten submarine salvage pontoons, each of eighty tons lifting capacity, were sunk inboard and attached to destroyer-type anchor chains which girdled the ship. The chains were positioned under the hull by divers, and their free ends were secured to large steel stoppers which had been welded to the starboard side above water. In addition, compressed air up to three pounds pressure was injected into the hull to remove as much water as it would; two barges were heavily anchored outboard to exert a rotational pull by means of winches which were placed aboard; and two 75 ton hydraulic jacks made ready at the dockside to push against the deck edge if required to start the rotational movement. All preparations were meticulously made, and this part of the resurrection of Oglala was scheduled for 11 April.

A large number of interested observers were present, including Admiral Nimitz and the Navy Yard Commandant, Rear Admiral Furlong, as usual consistently supporting and encouraging the salvage tempo by being present at every significant event. In spite of an enthusiastic audience the righting operation was a failure, the first of several mishaps in the Oglala job.

The cause of the failure was that several of the pontoons broke loose and rose to the surface when their chain bridles parted at the welds. However, it was observed that plenty of power was available to do the job. So the defective bridles were discarded and the pontoons re-rigged more securely for a second try on 23 April. This was entirely successful, although the initial list was about twenty degrees to port. Various steps were taken to reduce the list, including dredging, and new hitches by the pontoons. In a few days the list was less than seven degrees. This was considered acceptable for the next step, which was refloating.

At this point the ship was sitting on the bottom in about forty-five feet of water, so very little of its remaining structure was visible. The wooden deckhouses had been removed, so only a few feet of the bow and a bit of the superstructure amidships were above water.

The method of refloating was the same used successfully on California


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 38594 Rear Admiral William R. Furlong, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and Captain Homer N. Wallin inspecting the salvage operations in USS Oglala.
USN NR&L (MOD) 38594
Rear Admiral William R. Furlong, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and Captain Homer N. Wallin inspecting the salvage operations in USS Oglala.

and West Virginia -- that is by extending the shell of the vessel upward from the deck edge to a point above high water. This was accomplished by the wooden fence-type cofferdam which was secured to her gunwale. Then with sufficient pumping capacity and gradual control of the inflow of water the ship is sure to float in obedience to Archimedes' Principle. The salvage crew had definitely learned that successful salvage work follows the proper application of the immutable laws of nature.

Extending the shell upward is basically a simple operation although usually beset by obstacles and design complications. A fence type caisson of wooden vertical sections was bolted to the waterway coaming. In this case they ranged in height from six feet to twenty-six feet, and the thickness varied from four inches to ten inches to withstand the maximum computed water pressures. These high pressures necessitated a great amount of shoring from the inside to insure no failure at critical periods. A point of interest, too, is that for the floating cranes to properly position the thirty foot sections of heavy lumber in deep water required negative buoyancy. This was


attained by placing a large number of sand bags in boxes built into each section.

While the caisson sections were being installed the diving detail was busy securing an 18 by 20 foot wooden patch over the ruptured shell area. Also they were active in closing all hull openings and calking cofferdam sections. A tremendous amount of first class diving work was performed under excellent supervision. During the Oglala salvage some 15 to 18 divers were available, mostly from Ortolan. They made 542 dives totaling nearly 2,000 hours under water. The divers experienced not a single injury or casualty in this work. The water level was lowered about three feet per hour, and at 1000 on 23 April 1942 Oglala came afloat. This was a proud moment for the salvage workers and for Oglala, but she still had several ordeals to withstand.

Calculations had been made which proved that with the vessel afloat her stability, both transverse and longitudinal, would be questionable and would soon become negative as the draft was further decreased. There were several reasons for this. An important one was that we had added over 1,300 tons of cofferdam, sand ballast, shoring, and pumps high above the ship's deck

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39757 Oglala's cofferdam completed, 8 June 1942.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39757
Oglala's cofferdam completed, 8 June 1942.


edge. Another was the large area of free water surface, especially on the open mine deck.

In order to improve transverse stability it was decided to remove the anchors, some 350 tons of sand bags, a few of the higher shores, and considerable loose water which was trapped in various locations. But improvement was meager because it required the removal of 150 tons of main deck weight to gain one inch of righting arm. Under existing conditions Oglala was certain to be cantankerous regardless of mathematical manipulation. This fact became clear as the pumping continued. The ship kept on an even keel until the draft was reduced to forty feet at which time she took a port list of eight degrees.

Additional topside weights could have been removed but it was decided that this should await further developments, and it was fortunate that we did. On the night of 25-26 June the Salvage Officer was awakened by the mess boy on watch at a Makalapa bachelor domicile with the dolorous announcement that "the Og-la-la, she is sinking again." What had happened was primarily a lesson in longitudinal stability. First a forward pump stopped when its gasoline line became clogged. This permitted the inflow of water to exceed the outgo at the bow because the other pump in that location took suction several feet higher. As the bow went down a bit some of the water surged forward. This further increased the draft forward and caused still more water to surge toward the bow. The surging water carried some clothing and debris which clogged the strainers of both pumps, thus compounding the situation. Within a half hour the cumulative effect was that the bow reached the bottom in forty-eight feet of water, and the rest of the ship soon followed, ending up with a starboard list of 8 degrees.

After strenuous work in tightening up the shoring and stopping leaks for three days the ship came afloat again on an even keel. But still another chapter of Oglala' s ordeals was near at hand. On 29 June while the writer was walking on the top of the cofferdam's stern section he felt a movement of the timbers, and within moments the whole section tilted sufficiently to let in large volumes of water, and again to sink the ship. Removal of the stern section disclosed another "practical" departure from design specifications, in that steel tie-rods between the ship's structure and the bottom of the cofferdam had been omitted. Somebody in the field assembly gang guessed that the two 10 by 12 timbers, inside and out, would be adequate.

Within two days the vessel was afloat again and scheduled for the trip to the dry dock two days later, namely 3 July. Except for some very efficient


fire fighting this would not have occurred, for in the early evening of 2 July a spectacular fire raged on the interior water surface fed by oil and gasoline. The oil-soaked timbers of the cofferdam were soon aflame. The picture was ominous, but several fire brigades were soon on the scene and extinguished the flames within a half hour without serious damage. Another sinking of Oglala was avoided, and next day she was in the drydock starting a new career. The fire started from a splash of gasoline on a hot exhaust pipe during refueling.

Again, the machinery was entirely reconditionable, especially the reciprocating main propulsion drive of Oglala. The electric motors were treated to proper care and preservation by the people in charge of this specialty. It had been learned that electric motors and modern wiring subjected to submergence could be preserved and dried out without too much difficulty. Deep submergence, on the other hand, might show satisfactory characteristics in a non-humid atmosphere, but high potential lines were sure to break down ultimately in sea service. All important wiring was renewed by the Navy Yard before the trip to Mare Island.

Oglala had a mean draft of about sixteen feet prior to sinking whereas it was over 39 feet when drydocked. Except for inherent instability the draft could have been further reduced. Great care was taken to avoid damage to the deck edge caissons which had dried out considerably and required constant tightening of shores. Such damage could come from tugs or their lines on the way to the drydock. Stability could be affected by accelerated movement in any direction due to the large amount of free surface in the ship. All hazards were guarded against, and the trip to the drydock was made in fair weather with a minimum of difficulty.

The interesting details of getting a delicate and potentially unstable ship into drydock must for brevity's sake be omitted here, as must also a multitude of details concerning the righting, refloating, and repair. For those especially interested most of the story can be found in the files of the Navy's Ship Systems Command. Suffice it to say that as far as salvage operations were concerned the challenge presented by Oglala covered the whole gamut of technology and experience and its successful outcome gave to all personnel involved a sense of great satisfaction.

After temporary repairs at Pearl Harbor she soon sailed away unescorted, under her own power, for reconditioning at Mare Island. However, it was decided that the Los Angeles Shipbuilding Company would do the job and refit her as a repair vessel for diesel propelled craft which by that time


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39758 USS Oglala raised.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39758
USS Oglala raised.

abounded in great numbers in the far reaches of the Pacific. The Board of Inspection and Survey had been called in to check Oglala's physical condition, especially because of the over-age and the wear and tear of hardy service and the debilitating ordeals of salvage operations. After a rigid inspection the Board reported favorably on her general strength and capability for further service. In February 1944 a fine and almost new repair ship, named Oglala, sailed for the South Pacific for duty, and in due time moved with the fleet to Hollandia and Leyte. She was an important unit of our sea forces, rendering essential services to her sister vessels and their crews on their steady approach to Japan.

At present Oglala is a part of the Maritime Reserve Fleet at Suisun, California. She is standing by awaiting a call to service.

The Navy Yard was active in furnishing a large number of studies on Oglala, especially those pertaining to floatability versus stability. Mr. Hastrup of the Navy Yard was especially valuable in this regard.

The successful outcome of salvage operations was due as usual to the assistance rendered by the Pacific Bridge Company, and to the constant


effort of the rescue ship Ortolan and its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Latta. He was relieved by Lieutenant Holland, who was just as efficient. Gunner Arnold Larson was always on the job, assisted by his friend, Boatswain Walsh. All three of these men were active later with their ship in the Guadalcanal area.

The Salvage Division was fortunate in having Lieutenant M. L. McClung in direct charge. Lieutenant Commander Rhodes took charge of the machinery preservation on Oglala. At various times, especially after West Virginia was placed in dock, a number of officers were available for other salvage work in the Pacific, including Greely, Liedstrand, Bjork, and Brady.

Oglala became a valuable vessel to the fleet, but at one time she was written off as a total loss. The lesson to be learned is that in time of disaster or adversity human nature is impressed by all that is wrong or baneful, and not by the good still remaining. The old ship Oglala, when drydocked, was ninety percent repairable. All the other ships rescued from the waters of Pearl Harbor showed similar percentages, and all of them proved it by helping defeat the enemy responsible for the 7 December attack.


This submarine was not present at Pearl Harbor when the surprise Japanese attack occurred, but the Salvage Division inherited a job when Plunger was docked on the Marine Railway and fell over to port on 17 February 1942. The blocking of the Marine Railway was repeatedly immersed in oily water and had therefore gathered a coating of oil which made the blocks unstable. The result was that Plunger came to rest on the floor of the dock at a list of only a few degrees. The Marine Railway was knocked off its tracks. It was assumed that severe damage had occurred to the tracks or to the wheels. In any event, the dock was immobilized.

The Commandant of the Navy Yard finally asked the Salvage Division to take over the job. Reference has been made to the fact that Lieutenant Emile Generaux was taken off California and assigned to Plunger. He was reputed to be a rigger of more than ordinary capabilities, and he proved this on the submarine job.

Fortunately a finger pier paralleled the Marine Railway, and this gave almost a straight pull for the purchases which Generaux rigged to Plunger. The rigging for the pull was of large proportions as about 2000 tons had


to be skidded along the floor of the dock, or the floor itself had to move. Before lightening the ship several test pulls were made to insure that the rigging and the motive power were sufficient.

To reduce the pull required, the lead ballast and the water were removed from the submarine. With this weight removed it was found that upon movement of the ship into deep water, the rigging at hand was quite sufficient. As the vessel entered the water the movement became easier as is naturally the case. Of course, it was well that the concrete cross member had been removed, and that a sliding shoe had been placed on the port side to ease the vessel outboard when leaving the cradle. To facilitate this, a buoyancy tank with about 30,000 pounds lift was installed over the shoe as it was assumed that the track or wheels on that side were collapsed.

In the meantime the Navy Yard made calculations on floatability and stability. These were used to good purpose. When Plunger was almost afloat the lead ballast and ballast water were replaced in the ship to insure positive stability when freely afloat. In addition about fifty tons of pig iron were loaded into the vessel. Plunger had been pulled about forty feet before the ballasting material was added. Then the pull was resumed, and Plunger floated off the drydock apron into deep water after the vessel was pulled about thirty feet.

The work on Plunger was of little account. The apron of the Marine Railway was put back into the position which it would have when retracted. While considerable work was originally expected, it was found that work by the divers in positioning the rails and some minor repairs were all that was required. The Marine Railway went back into regular use on 3 August and U.S.S. Barker was docked on schedule.


The Japanese planes which passed over the officers' boat landing at Merry Point seemed to concentrate their torpedoes on the battleships which were moored outboard near the northern end of the line. West Virginia was hit by as many as seven torpedoes, Arizona was sunk at her berth, and Oklahoma received from five to seven hits. Early in the onslaught she was put out of action and capsized at her berth.

It was realized that the salvage of this ship would require a combination of the steps taken on West Virginia and Oglala. The size of Oklahoma and


her general condition made salvage questionable, although it was deemed important to rid the harbor of a derelict and to make the berth available for other ships. Accordingly, plans were made by the Salvage Division to right her and to refloat her for further disposition.

As early as May 1942 the Navy Department indicated a desire that Oklahoma be salvaged. Contractual arrangements were therefore made with the Pacific Bridge Company so that the company could get suitable priorities on required material, and at the same time could hire the right men for the job. A scheme of salvage was therefore drawn up which divided the responsibilities between the Navy and the company. In short, the scheme provided that the ship should first be righted and then floated to a drydock for repairs.


The righting of a ship weighing about 35,000 tons was no easy task. It was accomplished by various means. The important element was, of course, the installation of shore winches on Ford Island. These twenty-one electric winches were anchored in concrete foundations and operated in unison. Each electric winch was capable of about a twenty ton pull through a flexible one-inch wire cable operated through a block system which gave an advantage of seventeen. The three-inch cable, in order to increase the leverage, passed over a wooden strut arrangement which stood on the bottom of the ship about 40 feet high. Then the cable divided into four "cat tails" which were secured to lugs welded to the shell of the ship at frame stations. Calculations indicated that the hull strength was adequate. To assist the twenty-one winches it was at first proposed that submarine salvage pontoons be used on the port side. This was given up because of the difficulty of proper attachment, and the presence of mud. The air pressure proposed inside the hull seemed ample.

The air bubble method accounted for almost 20,000 tons of weight initially and was highly effective. It was used on the starboard side after the oil had been removed through the bottom. This totaled about 350,000 gallons of the 1,000,000 gallons originally in the ship. It was placed in oil barges as it was pumped out by three-inch steam reciprocating pumps and air-driven pumps. A steam blanket was used to prevent explosions from oil vapors. This was provided for by having ex-Navajo moor alongside and furnish steam and electric power.

The air bubble was divided into five parts to prevent loss of air pressure


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39759 Start of righting operations of Oklahoma, 8 March, 1943.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39759
Start of righting operations of Oklahoma, 8 March, 1943.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39760 Righting of Oklahoma in 130° position, 8 March 1943.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39760
Righting of Oklahoma in 130° position, 8 March 1943


for the whole ship at a crucial time. The air pressure was about 11-12 pounds, so that the water level was blown down to about twenty-five feet below the surface. This lightened the ship's weight considerably.

There was a large amount of weight in the ship which could have been removed prior to righting or refloating, but difficulty of access made this impracticable. About one-third of the ammunition was taken off but none of the 14-inch projectiles. Some of the machinery was removed from the dry evaporator pump room. The blades of the two propellers were taken off, more to avoid damage to them than to reduce weight.

The above methods assumed that Oklahoma would roll instead of slide. Tests, including soil tests, were made to check whether restraining forces should be used to prevent sliding toward Ford Island. It was indicated that the soil of the after two-thirds of the ship facilitated rolling; but the bow section rested in soupy mud which surely permitted sliding. To prevent this about 2200 tons of coral soil were deposited near the bow section, and anchorages along the port side were given up as not necessary.

Consideration was given to some dredging and removal of mud on the starboard side prior to righting, but this was deferred to assure that the vessel would rotate rather than slide. When Oklahoma was righted with a list of about fifteen degrees to port the excess soil under the starboard side was washed away by high pressure water jets operated by divers.

During and prior to the righting operation, care was taken that all purchases were equalized. This was accomplished by the use of strain gauges on the hauling wires at each bent or strut. The one-inch flexible cable was speeded up or slowed down to equalize these strain gauges. Observation posts were established on barges to note the effect of righting movements, and especially to note whether the ship was rotating or sliding.

The wooden bents became less effective as their leverage decreased when the ship gradually assumed a position approaching ninety degrees. When the list was about sixty-eight degrees to port the bents or head frames were cast off and floated clear. From then until the ship reached thirty degrees to port the pull was directly on the lugs welded to the port shell. Then the hauling cables were secured to the ship's topsides, especially to strong portions such as barbettes and the starboard crane foundation.

The ship rolled as desired. The stern section traveled a greater distance than the bow section toward the quays. This was because of the greater area of the stern. In any event, the vessel came to rest with a mean draft of 49 1/2 feet at high tide (high tide is something less than 2 1/2 feet above mean low


water). The list to port was only 2 degrees and 10 minutes. The behavior of the ship was in strict accord with the models which were constructed and tested before salvage operations were begun. Oklahoma was right side up by 16 June 1943, the work having started 8 March 1943.


When Oklahoma was nearly upright, divers investigated the damage on her port side. They found that the port side was pretty well opened up from torpedo explosions which occurred before and during capsizing. They cut away structural wreckage and took necessary measurements for temporary patches. The topside damage was apparent; contact with the bottom had broken off the masts and most other superstructure.

The divers found that a large patch was required from frames 43 to 75. This patch was 130 feet long and 571/2 feet high as it extended well under the turn of the bilge. In addition, several patches were installed, usually of

Image: USN NR&L Lifting of Section I of the five-section main cofferdam patch for Oklahoma.
Lifting of Section I of the five-section main cofferdam patch for Oklahoma.


wood and sealed with Tremie underwater concrete. For instance, one went between frames 31 and 43, another between frames 74 and 96.

The large patch was in five parts and was primarily steel and wood as shown on page 257. It was sealed by underwater concrete at the ends as well as at the bottom. The sections were made watertight by puddings between the sections. Again, underwater concrete was essential. In all over 1000 tons of concrete were poured. Hook bolts were used by the divers in drawing up the patches to the hull of the ship.

The main deck aft was underwater, but not enough to prevent refloating. However, in order to increase the waterplane area and in order to improve the stability during refloating a wooden cofferdam like Oglala and California cofferdams was installed from frames 85 to 115.

In the meantime the divers were busy jetting out mud, closing drains and sanitary outlets, cutting sluicing holes, closing watertight doors and hatches, etc. In due time they followed the reduction of the water level and closed off the main leaks in the hull and the patches.

During the last period of righting the weight of the ship was reduced by about 3500 tons through using the buoyancy forward of frame 30 and aft of frame 115. This was done primarily by deep-well pumps which quickly removed the water in those areas.

Then 10 ten-inch deep-well pumps augmented by lesser pumps were more than enough to lower the water level in the ship, but by this time the Navy Yard was in possession of twelve-inch pumps, both electric and diesel. In the main patch eighteen and twenty-inch electric pumps were used at a later date. As in other ships, the water level was reduced according to schedule which permitted adequate testing for toxic gases, plenty of ventilation and lighting, and removal of the 400 or more human bodies which were in Oklahoma.

In order to insure positive stability, some ballasting by sea water was scheduled in the machinery spaces. Great care was exercised by the Salvage Superintendent to insure that the ship would come afloat with a minimum of list. Actually she came afloat on 3 November 1943 with a mean draft of about forty-six feet and a starboard list of twenty-six minutes. The list was increased to about one degree to starboard and so maintained by pumping water from the port engine room to the starboard engine room. The hauling tackles were removed after the ship came afloat and the various leaks were well in hand.

Thought was given to the damage caused by teredo worms on patches


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39763
USN NR&L (MOD) 39763
Oklahoma salvage operations, 20 September 1943.  View looking forward on port side.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39764 USS Oklahoma after refloating, 3 November 1943.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39764
USS Oklahoma after refloating, 3 November 1943.


after long submergence. This was found to be negligible, as was the teredo damage to the teak decking of the ship.

For the purpose of refloating very little weight was removed. However, prior to drydocking, attention was given to this important consideration. It was not practicable to remove stores, but anchors, chain, remaining oil, and so on were taken ashore. Mud in the ship was jetted to electric pumps by water jets in the hands of divers.


The ship was placed in Drydock Number Two on 28 December 1943 with a mean draft of thirty-six and a half feet and a list to starboard of nearly three degrees. The list was purposely put on the vessel in order to favor the port side and its patches. In order not to lose buoyancy the introduction of water to attain the desired list was not permitted; instead four submarine salvage pontoons, each having a lift capacity of eighty tons, were used on the outside of the main patch.

The total draft of Oklahoma was nearly thirty-nine feet because the main patch extended several feet below the keel. During the trip to the drydock the electric-driven pumps were replaced by diesel-driven. The list was taken off in drydock and the ship settled on the blocks provided without undue

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39765 Port side view of Oklahoma four days before entering drydock.;
USN NR&L (MOD) 39765
Port side view of Oklahoma four days before entering drydock.


incident. The pontoons were removed, and the patches were likewise taken off to expose the damage which the ship had sustained. This is seen in the illustrations on page 262. A strict fire watch was maintained on board.

The Navy Yard employees were quick to start with temporary repairs. They worked from inboard to obtain watertightness of the hull inasmuch as the drydock was available for emergency dockings of damaged major ships of the fleet. Thus the drydock had to be vacated on seventy-two hours notice. However, no emergency developed, and Oklahoma remained there for several months. During her time at the Navy Yard she was stripped of guns and some of the auxiliary machinery. The ship was unloaded of ammunition and stores. She was decommissioned on 1 September 1944 and sold for scrap for $46,000 on 5 December 1946 to the Moore Drydock Company. On 10 May 1947 she left Pearl Harbor under tow of two tugs but was lost in a storm at sea about 500 miles northeast of Hawaii on 17 May 1947.

Much of the early salvage work was performed by divers under Lieutenant Haynes. This work was difficult and hazardous, but no serious casualty occurred to the naval divers or to the civilian Navy Yard divers. Only one casualty marred a perfect record of the contractor's divers.

Exterior steel work by divers was done with oxy-hydrogen torches; interior work with the oxygen-carbon arc. Precautions were taken to avoid explosions from fuel oil and gases. No serious explosions occurred although several small ones were experienced without serious injury. In all about 1850 dives were made with a total of 10,300 man-hours underwater.

Credit for a great job must go to the Salvage Superintendent, Captain F. H. Whitaker and his corps of assistants. The Navy Yard should be included as should the Pacific Bridge Company which had shown their proficiency in previous salvage jobs. The work of this company in setting up the winches, in making the soil tests, and in designing and installing the various patches is beyond calculation. The feats performed could not have been done without the cooperation of such men as Messrs. Graham, Ginella, Crocker, Davenport, Freeman, and Bisordi. Also, we should include the old Salvage Organization. It was they who made detailed plans of Oklahoma's righting and refloating.

In addition to Captain Whitaker, we should give credit to naval officers who spent time and energy in the long and arduous project. Among these who should be mentioned are the following: Greely, Liedstrand, Lindstrom, Tell, Baker, Leech, Morris, Calhoun, Chase, Keenum, Minor, Nordquist,


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39766 Port side view of Oklahoma four days before entering drydock.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39766
Damage to port side of Oklahoma after removal of patches in drydock. View looking aft from about frame 35.

Smith, Urbaniak, Hendon, Snow, Arbogast, Hall, McDonald, and Smith. To these must be added the enlisted personnel who assisted with the work, and also the Commandant and the Manager of the Navy Yard, Admiral Furlong, and Captain Paine, who were an inspiration to those entrusted with the project.

Captain Whitaker's complete story of the salvage of U.S.S. Oklahoma may be found in the Transactions of The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Volume 52 (1944). The original estimate dated 18 July 1942 may be found as Appendix F of this book. This is the estimate prepared by the Salvage Division while West Virginia and Oglala were being salvaged.


This ship presented about the same problems of salvage as Oklahoma. However, she was a much older ship and was used only for aircraft target practice. She did not occupy a berth essential to the fleet. Some thought was given to using an air bubble to float the hull to the drydock for scrapping, but this idea was abandoned when it was revealed that Utah would not


hold enough compressed air to make a safe trip to the drydock across the channel.

It was originally intended that the ship should be salvaged immediately after Oklahoma, but there was considerable doubt whether the time, energy, material, and cost warranted the operation. The ordnance gang under Lieutenant Commander Stelter and Gunner Manthei had already removed from this ship, and other disabled ships, considerable ordnance material. This

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39767 Bow of Utah
USN NR&L (MOD) 39767
Bow of Utah

consisted of anti-aircraft guns, ammunition, small arms, etc. Most of the fuel oil had already been pumped out through the bottom.

The decision was made by the Navy Department to forego salvage work on Utah as the space was not needed and economy did not warrant further work. The matter was taken up anew in 1956 when the Commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District pointed out that carriers of the Essex class had insufficient space in which to transfer ammunition, special weapons, and guided missile components. The removal of Utah would facilitate such essential transfers. The cost of salvage would be about $4,000,000 whereas


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39768 Utah with righting headframes in place, 15 November 1943.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39768
Utah with righting headframes in place, 15 November 1943

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39769 Utah during first pulling period, 8 February 1944
USN NR&L (MOD) 39769
Utah during first pulling period, 8 February 1944


the 7,000 tons of recovered steel would bring only about $30-$40 per ton. The Commandant showed, however, that the salvage of Utah would remove an obstruction from the channel and would obviate the necessity of building a new berth for the aircraft carriers.

This view was concurred in by the Service Force, the Fleet Maintenance Officer, and by the Pacific Fleet. The plan was to use the refloating of

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39770 Utah at the completion of first pulling period showing blister cut away to provide fairlead to hitch pads. Ship is in about 68° position.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39770
Utah at the completion of first pulling period showing blister cut away to provide fairlead to hitch pads. Ship is in about 68° position.


Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39767 Utah in final position, 37° 45' to port, 13 March 1944.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39771
Utah in final position, 37° 45' to port, 13 March 1944.

Utah as a training project for harbor clearance. The ship had already been partially righted. The list to port had been reduced to about thirty-eight degrees, but she sat in water which nearly covered her hull.

The Bureau of Ships stated that since the decision of 1944, by the Chief of Naval Operations, the material required for righting the ship had been disposed of by sale, that the divers were no longer available, and that the project would consume one and a half to two years. Further, funds were not available and if the work was to proceed it should be under funds appropriated for the purpose.

The Chief of Naval Operations did not favor further work on Utah but had no objection to using the ship for training of divers and harbor clearance. He saw no emergency requirement which would warrant the project. He was probably influenced by the argument advanced a few years earlier that the final resting place of some fifty-eight men should not be disturbed. It was proposed that a survey be made to determine whether a new pier


tangent to Utah could not be built for mooring and servicing aircraft carriers.

In any event Utah still remains at Pearl Harbor. She rests on the bottom although in a slightly different position than the bottom-up position she originally assumed. The Chief of Naval Operations has been consistent in his decision of April 1942 that because of the minor military value of Utah any salvage work should be directed toward her ultimate use as scrap.


There was no thought of raising Arizona because of her military value, but the divers and other salvors spent a lot of time investigating the wreckage. At one time it was believed that the after part of the ship was reasonably intact and that it could be raised if the underwater cutters could satisfactorily disconnect this portion from the rest of the ship.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39772 USS Arizona, 10 December 1941.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39772
USS Arizona, 10 December 1941.


The Ordnance Section was successful in removing from Arizona in the early days a great deal of the anti-aircraft battery with its ammunition. Much other ordnance material was recovered from the ship even as late as November 1942. The oil which fouled the harbor was gradually removed as it was released from the ship's opened tanks.

Practically all of the survey conducted in the summer of 1942 had to be performed by divers, mostly from the inside of the ship. It was found that the bow portion was buoyant, the after portion relatively intact, but the central portion of the ship was badly wrecked. Lieutenant Ankers, assisted by Ensign Beauchamp-Nobbs and Carpenter Urbaniak make a thorough survey. Gunner Manthei recovered considerable ammunition from turrets III and IV. The 14-inch guns, except from turret II, were removed and offered to the Army.

Image: USN NR&L (MOD) 39773 Members of the diving crew emerge from water-filled compartments of Arizona.
USN NR&L (MOD) 39773
Members of the diving crew emerge from water-filled compartments of Arizona.


It was decided that nothing further should be done toward salvaging Arizona, but that the ship should remain as a memorial to the men who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. The hull of the ship is the final resting place of about 1100 men, including Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd.

In due time the topsides of Arizona were removed, and all projections from the hull were cut off by divers. A memorial structure was built transversely over the hull of the ship. It is supported by two concrete girders which weigh 250 tons each. This rests on concrete piling. The structure is 185 feet long with a width of 27 and 36 feet respectively at the ends to 14 feet at the center. The assembly area accommodates 200 people.

The memorial is reached by a boat landing, and access is gained by formal stairs at the harbor end. Included is a carillon and a shrine. The shrine has a marble wall on which are inscribed the names of the men who were lost on Arizona on 7 December 1941.

This structure is a fitting memorial to the 2335 service men who were lost and the 1143 who were wounded on 7 December. It is painted white and is surmounted by the American Flag which flies day and night. The memorial is visited by many Americans and foreigners visiting Pearl Harbor.


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