Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941
Salvage and Repair of USS California, December 1941 - October 1942



The second sunken battleship to be successfully salvaged and returned to service was California. She was more seriously damaged than was USS Nevada, the first battleship salvaged. Not only had California's hull been holed by two torpedoes and a bomb, she was also fully submerged to the main deck level and partially underwater at the upper deck. This required that the salvage team construct large wooden cofferdams around her deck edges to bring the ship's effective waterline above the water. These structures covered her port side, forward, and completely surrounded her after deck.

It was also necessary to greatly lighten the ship, so California's "basket" mainmast and nine of her twelve 14" guns were removed, as well as lighter guns, ammunition and much other material and supplies. Much of the latter was in a badly decayed condition, adding to the difficulty of the recovery work. These problems were further compounded by the need to remove human remains and some 200,000 gallons of oil that permeated the ship's interior. As with all other salvage work, cleaning the ship was a massive task and toxic gases and fire were constant risks. At one point, gasoline fumes in California's forward compartments exploded, opening more holes.

Work on California forged ahead during the winter of 1942. As divers penetrated the ship, closing manholes, hatches and other openings, it was found that her basic watertightness was reasonably good, eliminating any need to put patches over her two large torpedo holes. Once preparatory measures were complete, pumps were able to remove the water inside the ship, and keep ahead of remaining leaks, an indication that her loss would have been prevented in the first place if adequate pumps had been available. California was refloated on 24 March 1942 and entered Pearl Harbor's Drydock Number Two on 9 April.

Once in Navy Yard hands, California's wounds were repaired and her steam and electric powerplant was refurbished, a job involving very creative electrical skills. Commander Hyman G. Rickover, later to win fame as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy", was a leading figure in putting the ship's electric alternators and motors back into operating condition. The battleship left drydock on 7 June. After more repairs and reinstallation of her main battery guns, she departed Pearl Harbor on 10 October 1942. Puget Sound Navy Yard then took her in for a massive reconstruction, returning her to the combat fleet in early 1944.

This page features views related to the salvage and repair of USS California following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

For other images related to the salvage and repair of USS California

For views of USS California during and shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack

Other views of the salvage of ships sunk or severely damaged in the Pearl Harbor raid


Click photograph for larger image.

Photo #: NH 64486

USS California (BB-44)


Members of the Salvage Division discussing her salvage at Pearl Harbor, circa February-March 1942. Those present are (from left to right):
Chief Shipfitter J.M. Ephland, Master Diver;
Lieutenant Wilfred L. Painter, Officer in Charge of Work;
Commander John F. Warris, Temporary Commanding Officer, USS California;
Captain Homer N. Wallin, Salvage Officer;
Lieutenant James W. Greely, Assistant Salvage Officer;
Lieutenant Wilbert M. Bjork, Assistant Salvage Officer; and
Lieutenant James W. Darroch, Assistant Salvage Officer.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 101KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: NH 64487

Salvage of USS California (BB-44), 1942


Removal of one of the sunken battleship's 14"/50 guns from turret # 3, circa early February 1942.
View looks aft, with the ship's fantail aircraft crane in the left middle distance.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 118KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: NH 55037

USS California (BB-44)


Preparing to lift the sunken battleship's "basket" mainmast, using a large floating crane, while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor on 12 February 1942.

Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph,NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 122KB; 590 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 55035

USS California (BB-44)


The sunken battleship's "basket" mainmast is lifted free after it had been cut away during salvage operations at Pearl Harbor, 13 February 1942.

Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 165KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: NH 55038

USS California (BB-44)


Floating crane removes the sunken battleship's "basket" mainmast, while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor on 13 February 1942.

Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 117KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: NH 55034

USS California (BB-44)


Pumping out the ship after installation of a cofferdam along her bow's port side, while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor on 27 February 1942.

Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 122KB; 595 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 55036

USS California (BB-44)


Refloating operations, while the ship was under salvage at Pearl Harbor on 30 March 1942.
Note cofferdam installed along her port bow and forward turrets with guns removed.

Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin, USN(Retired).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 156KB; 595 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 84009

Salvage of USS California (BB-44), 1942


View from off the ship's port quarter, 4 April 1942, during refloating operations. Note the large wooden cofferdam erected around her quarterdeck.
The island of USS Enterprise (CV-6) is visible in the left distance.

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of The Honorable James V. Forrestal.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 89KB; 740 x 600

 
Photo #: NH 83070

Salvage of USS California (BB-44), 1942


View from astern after the ship had been refloated, showing the ship's slight trim to port and the extensive wooden cofferdam erected around her quarterdeck, 5 April 1942.
USS Lexington (CV-2) is visible in the left distance, drydocked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard.

Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 102KB; 740 x 610

 


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions





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