Quotulatiousness

December 7, 2017

The battleships of Pearl Harbour

Filed under: History, Japan, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Last month Naval Gazing ran a three-part series on the US Navy battleships at Pearl Harbour on the morning of 7 December, 1941, their post-attack fates, and later careers in World War 2. Part 1 was about the initial Japanese attack:

In Pearl Harbor on December 7th were eight battleships: Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, California, West Virginia and Maryland. All of them were of First World War vintage, representatives of what was known as the Standard Type. These were ships commissioned between 1914 and 1923, all of broadly the same size, and the first ships designed for long-range combat using an all-or-nothing armor scheme. All had four turrets, and all but West Virginia and Maryland mounting 14” guns. (They had 16” guns instead.)

Pearl Harbour at the beginning of the attack, Battleship Row at the top (the waterspout is the first torpedo hit on the USS West Virginia)

All of the ships except Pennsylvania (which was in drydock) were moored along Ford Island in the famous ‘battleship row’. I’m going to focus on the stories of the individual ships during the attack, moving north to south. The attack began at 0748 on Sunday, December 7th, and a total of 353 Japanese aircraft were involved, in two waves.

A map of Pearl Harbour before the attack

The second post in the series covered the salvage of the damaged US Navy battleships:

When we left Pearl Harbor, it was the evening of December 7th, and most of Battle Force was on the bottom of the harbor. But what happened to the ships afterwards? We’ll go through the ships in the order which they returned to service (if they did) and then look more broadly at the use of the survivors during the war.

Battleship Row, 8 December 1941. Left-to-right: Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennesee, West Virginia, Arizona.

Maryland was the first ship ready to go to sea again, albeit with some damage. Tennessee was slightly behind her, as she was wedged by the West Virginia. Both ships were sent to Puget Sound at the end of the year, and repairs were completed in February. Pennsylvania was sent to San Francisco at the same time, returning to duty in March. All three ships (along with Colorado, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Idaho) served as part of TF 1, the backup to the carrier fleet until after Midway. Tennessee and Pennsylvania were sent to the states for comprehensive refit, running 8/42-5/43 and 10/42-2/43 respectively. Both received the standard upgrade, a reconstructed superstructure resembling those on the fast battleships (although there was less work done on Pennsylvania than the others), 5”/38 secondary guns in place of the former mixed secondary battery and upgraded fire control. Tennessee was also blistered against torpedoes, restricting her to the Pacific or a long journey around South America. Maryland was never refitted.

Part 3 discussed the Pearl Harbour survivors at the battle of Leyte Gulf:

The invasion began on Leyte Island in October of 1944, and triggered the largest naval battle in history, the battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese, who had long planned for the ‘Decisive Battle’ between their battleships and those of the US, planned a counterattack on the US landings in three main groups. Their carriers would come in from the north and draw off the US carriers covering the invasion, while two groups of battleships would sneak up on the invasion fleet from the east, passing through the Philippines and pincering the US transports from the north and south.

USS Pennsylvania leads a column of battleships into Lingayen Gulf.

The northern group (basically without planes after severe losses in June during the Battle of the Philippine Sea) managed to draw off Admiral Halsey. He’s often criticized for this, but in fairness, he was tasked with destroying the Japanese fleet, and the US didn’t realize how badly the carrier air groups had been hammered. The center group (with the faster battleships) had been detected, and appeared to have turned back after Musashi, Yamato’s sister ship, was sunk. They in fact resumed their course, and their encounter with escort carrier group Taffy 3 is the stuff of legend, but also a matter for another time.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress