Resurrected Giants: The Battleships That Rose To Fight Again
During the course of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States incurred many losses. Over 2,000 servicemen perished, never to continue the fight against the enemy that defiled their homeland. Like those members of the US military who lost their lives during the Japanese surprise attack, several of the Navy’s monumental battleships were also sunk and severely damaged, but unlike their crewmen, some of them were salvaged and repaired.
Demonstrating the fighting spirit of the United States, these behemoth vessels of the US Navy incurred tremendous damage during the Pearl Harbor attack but rose from the ruins to fight another day.
This Tennessee-class vessel was launched in 1919. Two years after launching, she was dubbed flagship of the Pacific Fleet and Battle Fleet, seeing little action aside from fleet exercises and sports competitions until 1941.
Moored at the southernmost berth of Battleship Row, California was struck by two torpedoes shortly after the Japanese launched their attack. The torpedoes caused serious damage, leading to flooding of the center motor and port thrust block rooms. Before the damage could be assessed, a 551-pound bomb was dropped into the ship, exploding on the armored second deck and setting off an anti-aircraft ammunition magazine. A second bomb ruptured hull plates, causing further flooding.
The USS California suffered over 100 casualties and, after three days of flooding, sank into the harbor. On March 25th, 1942, the vessel was refloated and repairs commenced. On July 15th, she rejoined operations in the Pacific Theater.
USS West Virginia
This Colorado-class vessel launched in November of 1921. Just over twenty years later, moored at berth F-6 in Battleship Row, she was hit by seven Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedoes on her port side. The initial hits dislodged the rudder and punctured the hull, allowing additional torpedoes to enter the vessel and explode on the armored second deck. Additional bombs were dropped on the West Virginia, and while neither detonated, the second destroyed the Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane and knocked the second floatplane over, causing gasoline to spill and ignite.
The vessel was engulfed in flames fueled by oil for 30 hours as the original torpedo damage caused flooding. Quick action by Lt. Commander John S. Harper and four damage-control parties prevented her from capsizing, though saving the West Virginia was a lost cause. Orders to abandon ship were given by the vessel’s dying captain,but Harper, now the ship’s commander, ordered countermeasures to fight the spreading fire and save as many crewmen as possible. At about 2:00 PM, almost six hours after the attack began, Harper ordered the ship abandoned as she sank.
On May 17th, 1942, the USS West Virginia was refloated for repairs, which were completed in time to rejoin the war. After being modernized with upgraded weaponry, the West Virginia participated in the Philippines invasion and in the Battles of Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.