Rebuilding the US Pacific Fleet
July 21, 2017
After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the American naval base on the island of Oahu, the Navy was left with a fleet that was significantly damaged and unfit for the coming war. At first glance, the damage done to the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor may have seemed a lot worse than it was, but it would still be some time before the first of the severely damaged battleships would return to service.
The December 7th, 1941 assault left two mighty battleships completely destroyed and beyond salvaging, and while the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) suffered minimal damage, the remaining vessels at Battleship Row required extensive repair.
Restoring the US Pacific Fleet
With the USS Nevada (BB-36), West Virginia (BB-48), California (BB-44), Tennessee (BB-43), and Maryland (BB-46) all in need of serious repair, the first of the American battleships that were damaged wouldn’t be seen in action again for several months.
February of 1942 saw the return of the Tennessee and Maryland, which together suffered a loss of nine crewmen and less-severe damage. Upon their return, each vessel supported different divisions and took part in different battles throughout the war. The Maryland’s first big battle took place at Tarawa in October of 1943, though she did serve as a support vessel at the Battle of Midway. When the Tennessee returned to service after being repaired and modernized, it did so as a support for the invasion of Guadalcanal. It later assisted in the attack on the Marshall Islands and, towards the end of the war, the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
After the first of the damaged battleships returned to service, it wasn’t until October of 1942 that the Nevada was fully repaired after suffering the loss of 60 crew, six bomb strikes, and one torpedo hit. Six months after her repair and return to service, the Nevada took part in the invasion of Normandy before being sent back to the Pacific to assist at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
In 1944, after the United States shifted the tide of the Pacific Theater at the Midway Atoll, the West Virginia and California re-entered service. The first was the California, which lost 100 crewmen in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her mission was to take part in the Leyte operation and invasion of the Philippines before being sent to Okinawa after minor repairs in early 1945.
Six months after the California was returned to service, the West Virginia set sail once again. Her first notable action upon her return to service was participation in the invasion of the Philippines and Battle of Leyte Gulf. She continued operations in the Philippines before being called for service at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Though the United States Pacific Fleet suffered great losses on December 7th, 1941, it wasn’t long before the ships started returning to action in the Pacific Theater, causing many to wonder if Japan really had succeeded in its goal on December 7th, 1941.