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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Salvage of USS West Virginia (BB-48); Report of

Related Resource: USS West Virginia Report of Pearl Harbor Attack


Source: Wallin, Homer N. Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal. (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1968): 342-355.

   U.S. NAVY YARD  
   Pearl Harbor, T[erritory of]. H[awaii].  
 C-L11-1/BB48/Ser.01161    June 15, 1942

  From: The Salvage Officer
  To: The Commandant, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, T.H.

   Subject: USS West Virginia, Report of Salvage of.

 Reference:  a. Salvaging of the USS West Virginia - Report of progress, March 16, 1942
   b. Salvage Bulletin #38, May 26, 1942.
   c. Salvage Bulletin #40, May 30, 1942.
   d. Salvage Bulletin #42, June 5, 1942.
   
1. The USS West Virginia [BB-48] was floated on May 17, 1942, and placed in Drydock #1 on 9 June, 1942. The draft was 33 feet forward and 33 feet 5 inches aft, and the ship was approximately on an even keel. In order to clear the docking blocks in Drydock #1 at least one foot, it was necessary to cut their height down to 33 inches.

2. Original Condition of the Ship: The West Virginia was sunk and rested on the hard bottom in the outboard berth of F6, with a list of about three degrees to port. The draft was 50 feet 6 inches forward and 40 feet 10 inches aft. Exploratory work by divers had revealed very extensive damage in the midship area, port side. In addition, divers had found that the rudder had been knocked off and was lying on the bottom, and that the steering engine room was considerably damaged. A serious oil fire had burned on the West Virginia for about thirty hours following the December 7th attack, and had caused extensive damage throughout the ship. For about three quarters of the length of the ship all of the deck plating above the second deck and some of the bulkheading was seriously buckled from the heat. At the time of the attack on December 7th, the ship had on board approximately seventy percent of its capacity of fuel oil and was fully loaded with fresh provisions and meat. The records of the West Virginia indicated that there were approximately seventy bodies on board the vessel.

3. Scheme of Salvage: In view of the divers' findings that at least three torpedoes had struck the ship in the midship area alone it was deemed likely that the torpedo protection had been seriously ruptured. Further, it was found that the hull structure above the armor belt in this area was very extensively damaged. The ship had reported that torpedoes struck in this area after the vessel was listed 20-30 degrees to port.

4. In view of the nature and extent of the damage to the West Virginia it was apparent that the ship could not be raised without the use of patches to shut off the inflow of water. It was therefore decided to install one large cofferdam-type of patch in the midship area, frame 61½ - 97½. This completely covered the damage resulting from torpedoes and bombs striking in this area both below and above the armor belt. Also, a similar patch, it was decided, would be installed over the forward torpedo hit, at frame 43-52. In the case of the torpedo hit in way of the rudder and steering gear room it was decided to isolate this area by watertight doors and to utilize air pressure if necessary to reduce the amount of flooding. The salvage scheme adopted and carried through was therefore as follows:


a. Install a cofferdam patch over torpedo damage on the port side at frame 43-52.
b. Install a cofferdam patch over the damage to midship area, port side, frame 61½ - 97½.
c. Isolate steering engine room area by watertight doors.
d. Pump out the vessel, using about ten large pumps (10") to gain control over the inflow of water.
e. After gaining control, stop off leaks into the hull and improve tightness of patches, watertight doors, watertight covers, etc.
f. Apply Air pressure to tanks and voids on the port side to empty or partially empty those that were ruptured.
g. Pump out all intact tanks and voids on the port side and empty starboard tanks and voids correspondingly.
h. Apply air pressure to flooded areas aft in order to reduce the amount of water in those areas.
i. Remove all weight possible, such as water, oil, stores, provisions, meat, ammunition, personal belongings, furniture, trash, wreckage, etc.

5. The above scheme of salvage was carried out as planned, but somewhat further than contemplated in the matter of weight removals in order to reduce the draft sufficiently to get the vessel in Drydock #1. The original intent was to place the vessel in Drydock #2 (which has 42 feet of water over the blocks at mean low water) as soon as the dock was vacated by the [USS] California. However, the military situation required that Drydock #2 be kept available, except for very short intervals, in order that major vessels damaged in action could be expeditiously handled. For this reason the progress of salvage operations in the later stages called for every possible means to reduce the draft to permit drydocking in #1, - even contemplating, if necessary, some delay in docking in order to attain a suitable draft to accomplish this end. This decision was made despite the fact that it was fully recognized that the West Virginia was very vulnerable to sinking or even capsizing in case of reflooding because of failure of the large patch due either to injury from collision, air attack by the enemy, or even weakening due to Teredo [a type of marine worm that eats wood] attack.

6. Design of Cofferdam Patch: The Navy was very fortunate to have had available at Pearl Harbor the personnel and equipment of the Pacific Bridge Company, contractors for new drydocks, new bomb-proof powerhouse, etc. This company is very experienced in cofferdam work and has been quick to adapt their practices and experience to ship salvage requirements. With the cooperation of various officers of the Salvage Division of the Navy Yard, the Pacific Bridge Company worked up the detailed design of the cofferdam patches for the West Virginia. A print showing the general design will be forwarded to the Department by the Commandant of the Navy Yard together with progress photographs of the installation of the patches. Suffice it to state here that the patch is made up in sections of about 13½ feet long. Each section is about 50 feet in height and is made up of steel, wood and concrete. The patch extends down from above the existing water line to below the turn of the bilge. At the bottom point it takes a right-angled turn so that it extends under the bottom and is pulled up snuggly against the bottom. The end sections of each patch are shaped to fit in snuggly against the damaged shell. The patch is planked vertically with four inch material. The net clearance between the armor and the inside of the patch is about eighteen inches.

7. In order to eliminate shoring below the armor belt each section has three steel vertical strength members. These are twenty-four inch "I" beams running vertically about twenty feet to a point just above the lower edge of the armor belt. On each beam a bracket is welded and this bracket takes up on the underside of the armor belt to take the upward thrust. There are ten wooden strength members (wales) running fore and aft; these are 12" X 14" timbers. These members are shored directly to the armor on four foot six inch centers and above the armor to special steel members resting on the armor belt.

8. Installation of Sections of Patches: The thirteen and one half foot sections of the cofferdam patches were installed once at a time on a schedule calling for one to be installed each day. Slight negative buoyancy was obtained by placing a lead weight in an angle bar frame attached to the outside near the bottom of each section. This lead weight was removed when the section was in place and used for the next section. All of the installation work was handled with the assistance of the Pacific Bridge Company divers, who did a masterful job of properly securing the sections and subsequently making them relatively watertight.

9. The sections were secured to the hull by means of four horizontal rows of steel hook bolts. Holes were burned into the hull with an underwater gas torch for insertion of the bolts. The outer end was passed through the patch structure and was drawn up snug against the side by large butterfly nuts on the threaded outer ends of the bolts. Proper distancing of each section from the hull was maintained by the required structural shoring between the hull and the wales of the section. Many of these shores (about 18 to 24 inches long) took up against the armor belt. These shores varied inasmuch as the armor belt had been displaced as much as fourteen inches from the original molded lines. Installing the patch in relatively narrow sections (eleven joints in the large patch) allowed the patch to follow both the lines of the ship and curvature due to damage.

10. The armor belt was found to be badly askew but nevertheless furnished excellent backing for shores. The chief difficulty in shoring was to find suitable structure above the armor belt in the midship area to shore against, - this for the reason that all of the hull plating in the midship area above the armor belt was missing or badly damaged. Shell plating that had been blown out was removed previously by underwater cutting. An ingenious scheme for shoring in this area was devised by setting ten inch "H" beams vertically on end on top of the armor with the lower end of the beam kept flush with the outer edge of the armor by means of heavy angle bars which were welded to the "H" beams but not to the armor. A hook bolt was fastened by divers back of the armor. Above the water's edge the "H" beams were backed by steel shapes which acted as struts between the "H" beams and the structure of the ship. These vertical members were tied together fore and aft by welded angles and channels. When thus secured and spaced about every eight feet they furnished a very substantial means against which to shore sections of the patch to take the pressure as the water was pumped down.

11. The joints between the patches were made tight by using old rubber hoses for gaskets and by drawing up the adjoining sections by means of threaded bolts run though lugs on each section. These were spaced vertically about every three feet.

12. Use of Concrete in the Patches: The forward patch consisted of three sections and the after patch of eleven sections. After these sections were all installed, the next operation was the pouring of concrete, which was required to seal off the patch along the bottom and take the bottom reaction of the steel structural members and at each end. The concrete was of a rich mixture (about one cement to three and one half aggregate) and was mixed on a barge on which had been installed a contractor's cement mixing plant. The crawler crane which was also on the barge handled the two yard buckets to transfer the concrete from the mixer to the hopper feeding down into the patch. Concrete was poured, of course, underwater by the Tremie process used by the contractor in drydock construction; ten inch Tremie pipes were placed at about ten foot intervals. The concrete was installed about four feet deep along the bottom of the patch for its whole length and the ends of the patch had a fore and aft thickness of four feet. The total amount of concrete used in both patches was 325 cubic yards or about 650 tons.

13. In order to take the weight of the sections in drydock after the water had been pumped down there were two 1-¼" steel rods running vertically from each twenty-four inch "I" beam (six rods for each section) at the bottom of the patch to an angle iron welded between the vertical "H" beams or to the ship's plating where it was intact. In order to provide access for divers into the patch, doors were fitted, - one on the three section patch and four on the eleven section patch. After the concrete was poured and all shoring completed the doors were secured.

14. Unwatering of the Ship: As in the case of the [USS] California, the pump capacity which was installed was more than adequate for the estimated inflow of water. The 440 volt electric Pomona and Peerless deep-well pumps (10") and several Jaeger 10" gasoline pumps were used, a total of nine. Two deep-well pumps were installed in the large patch and one in the small patch. In the later stages these were changed from electric to diesel driven in order to have them operative on the trip to the drydock.

15. Before the patches were installed considerable pumping was done to circulate water through the ship for the purpose of removing water long stagnant, - together with gas (H2S) contained therein. All main watertight doors and hatches were opened in order to insure free flow of water throughout the main spaces of the ship. Also, a number of the pump suctions were set at low levels, in trunks and other areas to which various compartments could be drained. For instance, one deep-well suction was sett in D-117 through a hole burned through the first platform deck with an underwater cutting torch. Drainage holes were burned through the shaft alley bulkheads so that water from the boiler rooms and other spaces could drain to the pump through the main drain manifolds.

16. Two stages of pumping were considered; first to unwater the third deck by mass pumping and second to unwater individual compartments either by direct pumping or through the ship's drainage systems. Due to extensive damage to the third deck bulkheads in way of the patches there was little if any watertight integrity down to the third deck and the water in the patch had to be lowered to this level before the third deck could be made dry.

17. As soon as the patches were considered reasonably tight the unwatering of the ship was commenced, - May 12, 1942. The water level within the ship and patches was rapidly reduced four or five feet, but at this point the inflow almost equaled the pumping capacity. This difference in head, however, showed up at points of inflow, and it was a matter of a day or two for the divers to find the larger leaks in the patches, through open ports, etc., and to remedy them. Continuous effort was devoted to improving the watertightness of the patches and of stopping off leaks through holes in the ship. Much of the leakage was not in the patch itself but through damage in the areas contiguous to the patches, open seams, shrapnel holes, loose rivets, scuppers, etc. As the points of inflow were taken care of the water level within the ship was reduced rapidly and the ship came afloat on 17 May 1942.

18. After the third deck was uncovered a number of small Barns (3") pumps were connected up to the various storerooms and small compartments. Pumping out of the lower compartments continued unabated until the ship was ready for drydock. The unwatering of these lower spaces has proved most difficult and slows the unwatering of the ship, principally for the reason that the spaces cannot be drained to other areas, and small pump suction must be brought to each individual compartment.

19. Removal of Oil: There was a very large quantity of free oil within the West Virginia and early steps were taken to remove the same prior to reducing the water level. A floating Wheeler System took suction in various places throughout the upper decks and spaces on the West Virginia and was operated continuously for four or five weeks before the ship pumping was commenced. This resulted in removal of most of the fuel oil in the ship as a result of which there was considerably less oil nuisance on the decks and bulkheads as the ship was pumped down. In the later stages of pumping an additional Wheeler System was installed on the quarter deck to assist in the removal of oil from lower spaces such as engine room bilges, boiler rooms, etc. About 40,000 gallons of loose oil were removed by the Wheeler System.

20. During salvage work about 800,000 gallons of oil were removed from the oil tanks of the ship. The oil from the tanks was pumped into fuel oil barges by use of the West Virginia's fuel oil transfer pumps operated by air. In many cases air pressure was applied to the tops of the tanks in order to assist the pumps. In order to keep the ship approximately on an even keel no oil or water was removed from the starboard tanks or voids unless a corresponding amount had been taken from the port side, in the emptying of tanks and voids. When it became necessary to lessen the draft of the ship to a point permitting the docking in Drydock #1it was necessary to reduce the amount of oil or water in damaged areas to the very minimum. The pumping arrangement was such that spaces on the port side which were open to the sea through side damage were drained outboard into the patches and picked up by the pumps which took suction from near the bottom of the patches. In order to reduce the water level in such spaces the pup suction were finally set down to within about four inches of the concrete in the bottom of the patches. Inasmuch as some flooding of tanks and voids was through the bottom of the ship or through holes in bulkheads near the tops of these spaces it was apparent that such areas would not drain. In order to reduce their water level a combination of air pressure and individual pumps was utilized. The air pressure was used to force the water out of the holes which permitted flooding through the bottom of the ship. Pump suctions (3") were used to remove water which wold not drain into the patches; air pressure was oftentimes used to assist the pumps.

21. Hazard of Capsizing: Due to the fact that no drydock was available when the ship was fully afloat there came to exist a hazard that certain events might cause resinking of the ship and possible capsizing. The possibility of capsizing in case of failure of the large patch (which might occur in case of an air attack) was clearly recognized. As the ship rose higher and higher this condition was accentuated, due primarily to the fact that the whole midship area of the port side above the armor belt was entirely open, and the decks down to and including the second deck were collapsed. Watertight doors and hatches in this area were useless, and fore and aft of this area most of them were required to be open for the passage of suction hoses, air hoses, light leads, steam leads, etc. However, an air-raid bill was worked up to insure that as many watertight doors and hatches as possible would be closed in the event of such an emergency. Several other precautions were taken, such as: (a) construction of two seam patches and one section patch to be available on the crane barge for placing over ruptures in the cofferdam patches, and (b) having available for counterflooding eight to ten voids on the starboard side with men assigned for the quick operation of sea valves. Fortunately the air raid which might have occurred was stopped off Midway and none of the precautions were actually necessary.

22. Emptying of Double Bottom Tanks, etc: Fresh water tanks, innerbottom tanks, etc., were emptied by the use of ship's pumps operated by air. It was the general rule to operate ship's pumps and ship's facilities to the maximum possible extent with air in lieu of steam.

23. Removal of Ammunition: All ammunition was removed from the ship and most of the ordnance stores. The ship's force handled the removal of ammunition unusually well. Sixteen- inch shells were hoisted by the barge crane through the top of the turrets in the case of the upper stowages; the shells from the handling rooms were hoisted through the ammunition handling hatches. The five-inch shells were brought up by the regular ammunition hoists operated by air drills (corner type); in the later stages 5"/25 shells [shells for secondary battery guns with bore size of five inches and in which the bore was 25 calibers long, viz., 125 inches] were passed by hand. Powder and ordnance gear were hoisted through various hatches by means of small air driven winches (tuggers) installed on the topside.

24. Removal of Meat: Considerable apprehension was felt over handling approximately 70 tons of meat which was assumed to be in a bad state of decomposition. Some thought was given to pumping water at high pressure through the meat rooms so that the meat would be taken up by the water and discharged through a 10" pipe over the side. A modified arrangement of this kind was tried and although it did not prove wholly effective it reduced the odor (a disagreeable part of the task) to a point which was quite acceptable. The meat itself after being flushed with water had the appearance of ashes and its texture shreddy. This was shoveled up and placed in ten gallon cans (gas mask containers) and hoisted by air winches to the quarter deck and dumped into the garbage lighter alongside. All in all the removal of decayed meat and dairy products was not really so disagreeable as was anticipated.

25. Removal of Stores: Small air driven winches were used to hoist canned goods, flour, etc., to the weather decks. These materials were then loaded on wheel barrows and dumped into the lighters alongside. The canteen stores and flour were most unpleasant to handle and it was necessary for the men working in the storerooms involved to wear protective masks. The canned goods were generally in a bad state due to the corrosion of the cans which in many instances permitted deterioration of the contents and the generation of gas and disagreeable odors.

26. Toxic Gases: As in the case of the [USS] California and the [USS] Nevada there existed a considerable hazard due to the presence of toxic gases. The principal offender was hydrogen sulphide, H2S (sewer gas), which was generated in the contaminated stagnant water. It was found that the most serious gas concentrations occurred in storerooms containing a large amount of paper or where there was a large quantity of cardboard containers. Numerous cases of oxygen deficiency were found and some cases of carbon monoxide.

27. Precautions Taken Against Toxic Gases: A systematic procedure for testing for toxic gas was employed, and was in charge of Lieutenant Commander C. M. Parker (MC), USN, who is a specialist in industrial gas hazards. A large bulletin board was kept marked up to indicate to personnel which compartments were safe and which should not be entered without proper mask protection. Although extraordinarily high concentrations of gases were found on the West Virginia (two hundred thousand parts to one million) there were no persons overcome by gas. If the concentration reached the points of 20 parts in a million, as shown by detectors, the space was considered unsafe except with a rescue breathing apparatus or suitable face plate with air lead.

28. Ventilation: In order to combat the gas hazard and to permit work to go on with the least possible delay there were installed a large number of exhaust ventilation units. As the water was pumped down these were connected up to the ship's ventilation pipes so that all parts of the ship could be reached and the toxic gases withdrawn.

29. Recovery of Bodies: During the salvage operations sixty-six bodies were recovered from the West Virginia. These were found widely scattered throughout the ship. In most cases they were in an advanced state of decomposition, and considerably dismembered. As in the case of the California the bodies were handled in heavy canvas bags made for the purpose; when drawn tight at the top for closing the odors emitted were negligible. By this means the bodies were removed from the ship at various times almost unnoticed by the working parties on board.

30. There were evidences that some of the men had lived for considerable period and finally succumbed due to lack of oxygen. In the after engine room, several bodies were found lying on top of the steam pipes, which areas were probably within the air bubble existing in that flooded space.

31. Three bodies were found on the lower shelf of storeroom A-111 clad in blues and jerseys. This storeroom was open to fresh water pump room, A-109, which presumably was the battle station assigned to these men. The emergency rations at this station had been consumed and a manhole to the fresh water tanks below the pumps had been removed. A calendar which was found in this compartment had an "X" marked on each date from December 7, 1941 to December 23, 1941 inclusive.

32. Removal of Personal Effects and Trash: All personal effects, furniture, etc., were thoroughly soaked with fuel oil and in some cases had been burned. As in previous salvage jobs it was necessary to remove all such material either as scrap or for reconditioning. The West Virginia force handled the removal of trash in a very expeditious manner by using wheel barrows on the lower decks. They attached shackles to four points on the barrows so that hooks from the hoist line could pick up the wheel barrows and raise same to the weather deck through open hatches. From this point the barrows could be wheeled on to trash lighters and dumped.

33. Condition of Main and Auxiliary Machinery: The condition of the main propulsion plant and the auxiliary machinery throughout the ship was approximately the same as in the case of the California. There was more free oil removed from the West Virginia than from other salvaged vessels and as a result there was less deposited on the decks, bulkheads, electrical machinery, etc. The program of removing the electric motors and sending same to the Navy Yard for reconditioning locally or elsewhere was proceeded with as the water level was reduced. Yard workmen were available in large numbers to assist in the removal and reconditioning of mechanical machinery, machine tools, instruments, etc. This fact insures that a larger percentage of the instruments and delicate installations such as gyros, fire control equipment in plot, etc., have been subjected to less corrosion than in the case of the California. "Tectyl" was used freely as a preventative agent on mechanical parts of the fire control instruments, pumps, turbines, etc.

34. The main machinery spaces were well cleaned down before the vessel was docked and preliminary steps were underway to disassemble main generators and main motors. It appears certain that the job of rewinding these units will get underway very soon and will proceed at a good rate.

35. All in all, the condition of all mechanical machinery is good to excellent, and it is anticipated that it can be reconditioned 100%. All electrical machinery requires rehabilitation and the present decision is to rewind all vital items. It is expected that the rewinding work will be done in part at the Navy Yard here but mostly under contract on the West Coast.

36. Structural Damage: Pumping down of the drydock revealed the full extent of the damage to the hull of the West Virginia. The damage on the port side amidships from the turn of the bilge to the boat deck, is so extensive as to beggar description. All of the ship's structure in this area, including a number of the armor plates, requires renewal. A detailed damage report will, of course, be submitted by the Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, but a general listing of the damage appears pertinent to this Salvage Report. The general damage is as follows:

  1. One Torpedo Hit at Frame 46: This torpedo struck the armor belt about three feet above its lower edge and burned into the armor a circular groove 18"-20" in diameter for about 270 degrees. The pressure wave from this torpedo blew in the hull structure below the armor belt some eight to ten feet, but did not disintegrate the material as is usual in the vicinity of a torpedo warhead detonation. The armor belt itself is pushed in some six to eight inches. The third deck is buckled up and ruptured, and indicates an inward movement of about two feet. One armor plate is cracked.
  2. Torpedo Hit at Frame 70: This torpedo also struck the armor belt, about four and one half feet above the lower edge. Circular grooves indicate that the torpedo struck a joint and cased the lower edge of the after plate to move inboard about ten inches more than the forward plate. Four armor plates in this vicinity show cracks. It appears that the armor belt at this point has moved inward in the neighborhood of two feet. The damage below the armor belt shows that the hull down to the bilge keel has been blown in and collapsed, but all of the shell material seems to be present. This would indicate that the detonation of the torpedo warhead did not occur in contact with this structure.
  3. Torpedo Hit or Bomb Near-Miss at Frame 81: Another torpedo struck at frame 80. Although there was no clear markings to show that the torpedo struck the armor belt it seems likely that such was the case. The damage below the armor belt was not believed to be sufficient for close proximity to torpedo detonation; in fact it is considerably less than the corresponding damage of (a) and (b) above. However the shell above the armor belt at frame 81 is ruptured and opened inward. This would indicate that the torpedo struck rather high up on the armor belt, or detonated before striking. Prior to drydocking it was considered that the damage above the armor belt at frame 81 was caused by a bomb near-miss. However, this could have been caused by a pressure wave from a torpedo explosion or from a large bomb near the lower edge of the armor. There is evidence that a bomb struck the top edge of the armor belt,and probably exploded ten or twelve feet below that point. The armor at this point has been pushed in six inches or more.
  4. Torpedo Hit or Bomb Near-Miss at Frame 94: The damage here is very similar to that at frame 80, except that the damage above the armor belt extends further fore and aft. It is my present opinion that this torpedo (or large bomb) detonated well up on the armor belt. The lower edge of the armor belt has been pushed in at least ten inches.
  5. Torpedo Hit Above the Armor Belt at Frame 68: At frame 68 the armored second deck has been blown downward on to the third deck and the main and upper decks are collapsed. Before the ship was unwatered the extensive damage in this area was attributed to a large bomb which passed through the foretop and entered this area. However, when the second deck was unwatered and the full damage revealed it did not seem possible that a bomb could have caused such serious damage to heavy armored structure. It was therefore concluded that a torpedo must have entered above the armor belt at this point. This conclusion was confirmed during the removal of wreckage when a torpedo air flask, fully intact, was discovered in this area.
  6. Torpedo Hit in Steering Gear Room: This torpedo apparently struck the rudder at its midheight and knocked it off the ship. The rudder has been recovered in two parts, the line of rupture being at the midheight. The bottom of the steering gear room, must over the rudder, was blown open and considerable damage was sustained by the ram levers, cross head, rams, etc., The rudder stock is still missing but search by divers is being continued. The stern post is badly broken and a new steel casting is required. The trimming tank area on both sides is opened up, particularly on the port side. There was no apparent damage to propellers or shafting. While the damage to the steering gear is severe and will require considerable replacement of materials and work, it would seem that the damage is less than is ordinarily expected from a first order detonation of a torpedo warhead. However, inasmuch as the after portion and the engine compartment of the torpedo was found on the bottom it is certain that the damage resulted from a torpedo hit.
  7. Bomb Hit Through Foretop: A large bomb passed through the foretop, down through the flag bag, boat deck, etc., and presumably exploded on the main deck or second deck, port side. It was originally believed that the explosion of this bomb caused the very extensive damage suffered by the ship on the port side. However, now that it has been proved that a torpedo explosion occurred on the second deck, might permit the conclusion that this bomb was of little or no consequence. As a matter of fact, an unexploded 15" shell-type bomb was found on the second deck in this area. It is therefore my opinion that the bomb which passed through the foretop was a dud and that the terrific damage sustained was caused by the torpedo hit over the armor belt at frame 68.
  8. Bomb Hit on Turret III: One of the 15" shell-type bombs struck the top of Turret III, aft towards the starboard side. This bomb passed entirely through the top plate and into the turret but failed to explode. It was badly broken up. I believed that the parts of this bomb were packed and sent to the Navy Department.
  9. Damage on the Starboard Side Due to Contact With the [USS] Tennessee: Upon drydocking it was found that some damage had been sustained at the point of contact with the Tennessee, when that vessel was squeezed against the quay as the West Virginia settled in the water after pivoting on the port bilge. This damage is comparatively slight, although voids were opened to the sea by a dozen or more pulled rivets.

37. I think that the causes and effects of the various aspects of damage in the midship area of the West Virginia is a matter for careful study, and any conclusions are pretty much a matter of individual opinion. Based on the above it is my present opinion that the West Virginia was struck by six torpedoes and two large bombs, or by four torpedoes and four large bombs. The torpedoes, it would appear were shallow running torpedoes,although some of them may have struck when the ship was well listed over. The maximum list attained by the ship was about twenty-eight degrees.

38. Damage from Fire: Very extensive damage was suffered from fires which burned for nearly thirty hours. Most of the fire was from oil floating on the surface of the water, both inside and outside the ship. The water level on the inside was three or four feet below the main deck on the starboard side and the fires on the surface of the water there caused serious buckling of main deck plating. In large part this will require renewal and/or straightening.

39. The direct contact of torpedo and/or bomb explosions against the armor belt caused the third deck to absorb considerably more energy than is usually the case in way of torpedo explosions. As a result the damage to and on the third deck in the midship area is very extensive. This damage extended to #5 torpedo bulkhead which is pushed in as much as two feet in boiler rooms two and four. Also, there is considerable buckling and failure of bulkhead stiffeners, bracket, etc.

40. Extent of Structural Damage and Time to Repair: The time required to make good the structural damage to the West Virginia depends upon numerous considerations such as, availability of material, number of structural trades available, handling of armor, etc. Obviously the armor belt in way of the damage must be removed and the whole structure from the shell to torpedo bulkhead #5 inclusive must be replaced in large part. It seems that five armor plates are cracked and all or most of these may require renewal; also, it may be found that some of the armor keyways of others are broken open so as to require replacement of the armor plate. The bottom of the ship under the turn of the bilge is rumpled considerably and is pulled up in way of torpedo bulkhead #5. The docking keel is pulled up by six to eight inches. It is not blown out at any place and is damaged comparatively less than in the case of the California.

41. With material and men available it would seem that the structural job on the West Virginia would require some four to six months. A large part of this work can be deferred until the vessel reaches a mainland yard, especially most of the renewal and straightening of main and upper decks. The time required for the steering gear job is anybody's guess at this stage and depends primarily on the delivery of new parts such as stern post, rudder stock, crosshead, etc.

42. The Yard is being pressed to have the West Virginia in condition to vacate the dock if emergency requires. It is likely that the inner bulkheads can be made tight to permit refloating of the vessel after a period of about three weeks in dock. Although structural repairs can best be done in dock, it would be possible to handle the work so that only the outer layers need be done in dock and the inside layers competed thereafter. While this would not be the most efficient way of doing the job it would cut down the total drydock period to approximately ten to twelve weeks.

43. Temporary Quarters on Ford Island: In order to house the West Virginia's crew near their work and to avoid loss of considerable time in boat transportation, a temporary barracks was constructed on Ford Island. A walkway from the West Virginia to Ford Island was carried on floats on the water. This arrangement paid high dividends and permitted a very satisfactory arrangement for handling the crew of the ship and added considerably to the morale of the working organization.

44. Electrical PowerCompressed AirSteam: The electric power was furnished to the ship through leads from Ford Island. Steam was furnished by the tug ex-Navajo and piped through the ship in temporary piping. Compressed air was generated by about six large air compressors on the boat deck and on the main deck, and distributed from an accumulator.

45. Personnel Assigned to the West Virginia: The officer assigned as the principal assistant to the Salvage Officer was Lieutenant Wilfred L. Painter, CEC-V(S), USNR, who had direct charge of all aspects of the work including coordination with the ship's complement. Prior to the completion of the California salvage Lieutenant Emile C. Genereaux Jr., DV(S), USNR, was in direct charge of the West Virginia work but due to his assignment to the [USS] Plunger job he was relieved by Lieutenant Painter. Other officers assigned were as follows:

A. Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Rhodes, USNR, was in charge of facilities such as steam, air, portable lights, etc., of all electrical and mechanical machinery. In general, he assisted the Salvage Officer as Machinery Assistant.

B. Lieutenant (jg) James W. Darroch, DV(G), USNR, and Lieutenant (jg) Earl H. Liedstrand CCV(S), USNR, were assistants to Lieutenant Painter in charge of certain details of installation of patches, setting of pumps, furnishing ventilation, operation of pumps, drain lines, etc.

C. Also, Lieutenant (jg) Wilbert M. Bjork, DV(G), USNR, and Ensign Edgar S. Beauchamp- Nobbs, CCV(S), USNR, assisted part of the time with the above-mentioned officers in performing similar duties.

D. Lieutenant Commander James A. McNally, USN, although not specifically assigned to the West Virginia he was of assistance to the Salvage Officer in planning machinery work and the reconditioning of electrical and mechanical units.

46. The performances of the above officers in all aspects of the work from design of cofferdam patches to installation of same, operation of pumps, removal of wreckage, removal of oil and water, etc., was of the highest order. They carried on the work with outstanding devotion to duty, enthusiasm, and high courage in the face of unusual hazard from toxic gases, dangerous wreckage, etc. I have recommended letters of commendation for Lieutenant W. L. Painter, Lieutenant (jg) J. W. Darrock and Lieutenant (jg) E. H. Liedstrand in view of their excellent work throughout the whole period of actual salvage operations.

47. The great success attained in salvaging the badly damaged West Virginia is in great part due to the personnel, experience and excellent cooperation of the Pacific Bridge Company, contractor for the new drydocks at this Navy Yard. Their work on design, installation, and upkeep of the cofferdam patches was of inestimable value. The underwater work performed by their divers in the fitting, attaching, and securing of the cofferdam patches was an outstanding achievement in underwater work. Officers who viewed the work after docking expressed astonishment and marveled at the immensity of the achievement. I am preparing for the signature of the Commandant a letter to the Pacific Bridge Company expressing the appreciation of the Navy Yard for their fine work. This letter will make special mention of those representatives of the company where were outstanding in the West Virginia work, such as; the local manager Mr. Jack Graham, the supervisor in direct charge of the West Virginia work, Mr. Les Freeman, the rigging supervisor, Mr. Bert Rice, the design superintendent Mr. Fred Crocker, and design assistant Mr. James Foster.

48. The Pearl Harbor Repair and Salvage Unit rendered valuable assistance in operation of pumps and in removing and reconditioning certain auxiliary machinery. Due to the transfer of many of the officers and a considerable number of the men from this area it was not possible for this unit to assist in the same degree as they did on the California.

49. The various shops of the Navy Yard assisted in their specialties in the salvage work, especially in the operation of the air compressors and ventilation blowers. The work on the ship would not have been possible without the installation of a tremendous ventilation system for the removal of toxic gases. Most of this work was performed by Navy Yard workmen and coordinated by the Shop Superintendent's office.

50. The officers and crew of the West Virginia turned out a record of work and accomplishment which will probably never be equaled. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander W. White, USN, and the Ship's Superintendent, Lieutenant Commander L. J. Knight Jr., USN, and many other officers were on the job at all hours to do the part of the salvage work assigned to them and to render assistance which might be required for any purpose. Unfortunately the shortage of enlisted men which has recently prevailed here, prevented the building up of the crew of the West Virginia. The maximum number in the crew did not exceed three hundred and seventy. Sixty of these were Marines, who assisted in their traditional spirit and were always willing to do nothing less than their share of the work, and then some. With the small crew available the West Virginia work was carried along rapidly so that before drydocking the removal of the larger part of the wreckage and trash, all of the ammunition, and much of the stores and provisions had been accomplished. I should mention also, that the initiative and spirit of the West Virginia resulted in the recommissioning of the officers' galley which was operated continuously from April 27, 1942, to feed on board the ship three meals a day to all of the ship's officers and crew. I have prepared a letter for the Commandant's signature expressing appreciation of the excellent co-operation and assistance rendered by the officers and crew of the West Virginia in the salvage of that ship.

51. The above is in general the story of the salvage of the West Virginia, which may well be designated as a most difficult salvage job successfully completed. All hands assigned to the work performed their part intelligently, co-operatively and effectively. A successful outcome was never in doubt.

 cc.  Comserfor.
   Mgr.
   Prod. Off.
   Plann. Off.
   Shop Supt.

[signed] 
 H. N. WALLIN



Another Source: Salvage Officer, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, report of 15 June 1942, World War II action reports,
the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.
25 May 2001