Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941
Post-attack Ship Salvage



During the weeks following the Japanese raid, a great deal of repair work was done by the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, assisted by tenders and ships' crewmen. These efforts, lasting into February 1942, put the battleships Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee; cruisers Honolulu, Helena, and Raleigh; destroyers Helm and Shaw, seaplane tender Curtiss, repair ship Vestal and the floating drydock YFD-2 back into service, or at least got them ready to steam to the mainland for final repairs. The most seriously damaged of these ships, Raleigh and Shaw, were returned to active duty by mid-1942.

Five more battleships, two destroyers, a target ship and a minelayer were sunk, or so severely damaged as to represent nearly total losses. These required much more extensive work just to get them to a point where repairs could begin. Starting in December 1941 and continuing into February 1942, the Navy Yard stripped the destroyers Cassin and Downes of servicible weapons, machinery and equipment. This materiel was sent to California, where it was installed in new hulls. These two ships came back into the fleet in late 1943 and early 1944.

To work on the remaining seven ships, all of them sunk, a salvage organization was formally established a week after the raid to begin what would clearly be a huge job. Commanded from early January 1942 by Captain Homer N. Wallin, previously a member of the Battle Force Staff, this Salvage Division labored hard and productively for over two years to refloat five ships and remove weapons and equipment from the other two. Among its accomplishments were the refloating of the battleships Nevada in February 1942, California in March, and West Virginia in June, plus the minelayer Oglala during April-July 1942. After extensive shipyard repairs, these four ships were placed back in the active fleet in time to help defeat Japan. The Salvage Division also righted and refloated the capsized battleship Oklahoma, partially righted the capsized target ship Utah and recovered materiel from the wreck of the battleship Arizona. However, these three ships were not returned to service, and the hulls of the last two remain in Pearl Harbor to this day.

All this represented one of history's greatest salvage jobs. Seeing it to completion required that Navy and civilian divers spend about 20,000 hours underwater in about 5000 dives. Long and exhausting efforts were expended in recovering human remains, documents, ammunition and other items from the oil-fouled interiors of ships that had been under water for months. Uncounted hours went into cleaning the ships and otherwise getting them ready for shipyard repair. Much of this work had to be carried out in gas masks, to guard against the ever-present risk of toxic gasses, and nearly all of it was extremely dirty.

This page features selected views of the salvage of ships sunk or seriously damaged in the Pearl Harbor attack, and provides links to more extensive pictorial coverage.

For more images of the salvage of ships sunk or seriously damaged in the Pearl Harbor raid

For additional pictorial coverage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor


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 64303

Pearl Harbor Salvage Operations, 1942-43


Members of the diving crew emerge from water-filled compartments of the sunken battleship Arizona (BB-39), at Pearl Harbor, 25 May 1943. They are removing elements of the ships armament and other items for reuse.
Arizona had been sunk in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid. Her hull was left where she sank, after removal of most of her superstructure and salvage of her after 14" gun turrets and other guns.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 142KB; 740 x 610

 
Photo #: NH 63919

Pearl Harbor Salvage Operations, 1941-44


Divers emerging from a gas-filled compartment aboard one of the ships undergoing salvage, after the 7 December 1941 Japanese raid.
Note oily conditions, and face masks worn by the men.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 115KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: NH 63921

Pearl Harbor Salvage Operations, 1942-43


Divers standing in front of a decompression chamber, while they were working to salvage ships sunk in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.
Note warrant officer standing at right.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 112KB; 740 x 610

 
Photo #: NH 64304

USS Oklahoma (BB-37)


Salvager adjusting the discharge hose from a submersible pump in the sunken battleship's 14" magazine space, during refloating operations at Pearl Harbor, 12 November 1943.
Note oil-covered structure and 14" powder tanks; and headlamp worn by the salvage worker.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 158KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: 80-G-276601

Photographer's Mate 3rd Class T.E. Collins


After photographing the oil and mud smeared interior of the capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37) while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor, 18 January 1943. He entered the ship through Number Four Air Lock, where pressure was raised to ten (lb.?) per square inch. An oxygen mast had to be worn at all times.
Note his mask, tank suit, boots, gloves, and camera.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 110KB; 595 x 765

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
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 83056

USS Nevada (BB-36)


Entering Drydock # Two, at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 18 February 1942. Sunk as a result of damage received in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid, she was refloated on 12 February 1942.
Note oil staining along her hull, marking her waterline while she was sunk.

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

NHHC Photograph.

Online Image: 107KB; 740 x 605

 
Photo #: NH 64483

USS California (BB-44)


Just after she was placed in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's Drydock # Two, 9 April 1942. California had been sunk as a result of the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid and was refloated on 24 March 1942.
Note the mud on the ship's propeller shafts and struts and on the drydock floor below them.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 128KB; 595 x 765

 
Photo #: 80-G-13154

USS West Virginia (BB-48)


In drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 10 June 1942, for repair of damage suffered in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid. She had entered the drydock on the previous day.
Note large patch on her hull amidships, fouling on her hull, and large armor belt.
Photographed by Bouchard.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 101KB; 740 x 605

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: NH 63915

USS Oklahoma (BB-37)


Commencement of righting operations on the capsized battleship, at Pearl Harbor, 8 March 1943.
Photographed from Ford Island, where several large winches and tackle anchors were emplaced to pull Oklahoma upright.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.

Online Image: 132KB; 740 x 600

 
Photo #: 80-G-410534

USS Oklahoma (BB-37)


Ship righted to about 30 degrees, on 29 March 1943, while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor. She had capsized and sunk after receiving massive torpedo damage during the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid.
Ford Island is at right and the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard is in the left distance.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Online Image: 118KB; 740 x 605

Reproductions may also be available at National Archives.

 


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