The Lucky Vessels of Pearl Harbor
October 11, 2017
Just under 100 ships were stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese flew in and launched a surprise attack on the unsuspecting naval base. While the main targets for attackers were the eight battleships along Battleship Row and in nearby drydocks, that didn’t keep the surrounding vessels safe from Japan’s bombs and torpedoes.
With bombs being dropped and torpedoes being launched, it wasn’t surprising that nearby destroyers and other vessels were damaged the attack. But even amidst all the chaos, there were a handful of American vessels that somehow avoided being destroyed.
These vessels were what many would consider lucky, possibly the only sign of luck to emerge from the devastation of December 7th, 1941.
USS Honolulu (CL-48)
A Brooklyn-class light cruiser, the Honolulu suffered minor damage to her hull from a near-miss bomb. Her repairs lasted until January 12th, 1942, at which point she escorted a convoy to San Francisco. Over the course of the war, she took part in the Battle of Tassafaronga, Battle of Kolombangara, Battle of Peleliu, and the Battle of Kula Gulf. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Japanese torpedoes nearly sank her.
After the war, she was decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1959.
USS Hull (DD-350)
After sustaining minor damage at Pearl Harbor from one near-miss bomb, this Farragut-class destroyer quickly joined the war effort, serving in strikes against Japanese bases in the Solomon Islands. After repairs in 1943, she was sent to the Aleutian Islands for training maneuvers. Unfortunately, her service was cut short when she was lost to Typhoon Cobra in 1944.
USS Tangier (AV-8)
Maybe the luckiest vessel of the Pearl Harbor attack, the seaplane tender survived several near-misses. Despite minor damage, she remained in service to rescue survivors from the sunken battleship USS Utah. The Tangier was used in the Coral Sea and around Wake Island and was eventually sold to Union Minerals & Alloys Corporation six years after the war ended.
USS Pyro (AE-1)
While many ships suffered from the bombs that were dropped, the Pyro, an ammunition ship, was almost struck by a Japanese dive-bomber. Suffering minor damage, she remained in service and ferried ammunition from the west coast until September of 1942. The Pyro crossed the Pacific frequently, providing aid to Australia and other outposts on outlying islands.
After her service, Pyro was decommissioned in 1946 and sold to the National Metal and Steel Company in 1950.
USS Helm (DD-388)
When two bombs just narrowly missed the USS Helm, the Bagley-class destroyer suffered minor damage. During Pearl Harbor, she was responsible for spotting HA. 19, a Japanese miniature submarine that got snagged on a reef in the Pearl Harbor inlet. Though fire from the destroyer failed to sink the sub, one Japanese sailor drowned while trying to escape and the second became the first Japanese prisoner of war.
As a member of the USS Saratoga task group, the Helm took part in a range of battles during the war. Ultimately, she survived her service and was decommissioned in 1946 and scrapped a year later.
USS Rigel (AD-13)
The Altair-class destroyer, the Rigel survived Pearl Harbor with minor damage from near-miss bombs and went on to serve in Australia, New Caledonia, and New Guinea, transporting munitions. Ultimately, the Rigel avoided most major battles in the Pacific, instead serving as support and transport. One year after the war ended, she was transferred to the Maritime Commission and disposed of.