Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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The battleships Tennessee (BB-43) and West Virginia (BB-48) were moored together on "Battleship Row" when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. West Virginia was struck by up to nine enemy torpedoes, tearing open her midships and forward hull and wrecking her rudder. She initially listed severely to port, but quick counterflooding by her crew allowed her to settle to the bottom on a relatively even keel. Her Commanding Officer, Captain Mervyn S. Bennion, was one of over a hundred of her officers and men killed in the raid.

 

West Virginia, sunk, largely full of water and further damaged by fire and bombs, was subsequently the subject of a massive salvage operation and a very thorough modernization. She did not return to active service until mid-1944.

 

USS Tennessee, the inboard ship of the pair, was hit by two bombs, which disabled her second and third 14" gun turrets but caused no further serious damage. She was set afire in several places by burning debris when USS Arizona , moored just astern, exploded. Her hull plates were also damaged by oil fires. Tennessee was wedged tightly between the sunken West Virginia and her mooring quay and had to be blasted free. She was given initial repairs at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard and steamed to the west coast for further work later in December. Five of her crew were killed in the attack.