Resurrecting the USS Oglala

October 05, 2017

On December 7th, 1917, exactly 24 years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Oglala (CM-4) began her service in the US Navy. Over the course of her naval career, the Oglala sailed under three different names, including the USS Massachusetts and the USS Shawmut.

During World War I, under the name USS Shawmut, she worked to counter German U-boats by laying minefields in the North Sea. The North Sea Mine Barrage was intended to cut off Germany’s access to the Atlantic from the North Sea.

In order to avoid confusion between her name and that of the USS Chaumont (AP-5), a transport ship, the USS Shawmut was renamed Oglala in January of 1928.

The USS Oglala and Pearl Harbor

On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the Oglala was stationed outboard of the light cruiser Helena (CL-50), which was alongside Ten Ten Pier. Like many ships moored at the harbor on that particular quiet Sunday morning, her crew was either just starting their work day or preparing for shore leave in Honolulu. Then, at 0755, explosions began throughout the harbor, and everyone immediately knew that something was horribly wrong.

USS Oglala

USS Oglala (CM-4) capsized at Pearl Harbor

Many ships were able to take up arms against the aggressors and the Oglala was among them. Not long after opening fire on incoming Japanese planes, a Nakajima B5N2 “Kate” torpedo bomber released part of its payload that detonated between the Oglala and the Helena. The damage caused by the torpedo was severe, and made even worse by the Japanese fighters that strafed her while she listed and started to flood.


Commander Roland E. Krause made the decision to move away from the Helena and tie the Oglala directly to the pier, but it was too late. By 1000, after the crew had been ordered to abandon ship, she had rolled toward the dock, causing further damage to her bridge and main mast. All of the Oglala's crew survived the attack, and while she was badly stricken, she was far from the end of her service.

Resurrecting the Oglala

USS Oglala

USS Oglala (CM-4) after refloating

In the salvage operations that followed the Pearl Harbor attack, the Oglala was one of the vessels deemed sufficiently intact to try and save. After multiple attempts, she was righted in the spring of 1942, and on June 23rd, was refloated. While in dry dock, crews had difficulty keepnig her steady due to flooded pumps that were used to keep her afloat.

On July 1st, after a series of repairs, the Oglala was floated for a third and final time and by December of 1942, she was ready for conversions. Ongoing delays in her refitting caused her to miss the scheduled completion date of February 1st, 1944, and it wasn’t until April 24th, 1944 that the Oglala finally returned to service, as an engine repair ship.

Once back in service, the Oglala assisted in operations in New Guinea as well as the Battle of Leyte. She remained in San Pedro Bay until January of 1946, when she was ordered to San Francisco. On July 8, 1946 the USS Oglala was decommissioned, and on the 11th, she was stricken from the Navy Register.

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