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USS Oklahoma, Reports of Pearl Harbor Attack

USS Oklahoma; Report of 18 December 1941
USS Oklahoma; Report of Damage Sustained during Action at Pearl Harbor, 20 December 1941

U.S.S. Oklahoma
December 18, 1941.    
From: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Oklahoma  
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.  
Subject: Action Reports.  
References: (a) Combatships, Batfor ltr. A9/L11-1/0936 dated December 11, 1941, quoting Cincpac despatch 102102 of December 1941 and extract from Cincpac plain mailgram 111310 of December 1941.
(b) "Report of Rescue and Salvage Work" submitted by Lt. Comdr. W.H. Hobby, USN (Senior officer of the U.S.S. Oklahoma engaged in salvage work on that vessel) to Combatships dated 12 December 1941.
Enclosures: (A) Report of Commander J.L. Kenworthy, USN, Executive Officer of the U.S.S. Oklahoma, senior officer on board and Commanding Officer during the action at Pearl harbor 0755-0900, December 7, 1941.
(B) "Personnel engaged in salvage work on U.S.S. Oklahoma" commendations of, dated December 14, 1941, report of Lieutenant Commander W.H. Hobby, USN.


  1. The following is a collation of reports or statements of personnel of the U.S.S. Oklahoma who were in positions best to observe and interpret the sequence of events of the attack of Japanese planes on the U.S.S. Oklahoma and other naval units in Pearl Harbor beginning about 0750, December 7, 1941: The first indication of the attack was the explosion of bombs dropped at a low altitude (100-150 ft.) on the southwest hangar of Ford Island. Almost simultaneously therewith the ship was struck within a few minutes by three torpedoes on the port side at frames 25, 35-40 and 115. Those torpedoes were definitely seen approaching. The ship began to list to port immediately after the first hit. It heeled to angle of 45 degrees after the third hit. Two or three additional torpedo hits were felt. Great quantities of oil and water which covered the major portions of the weather decks were forced up by the explosions. The ship continued to heel rapidly and turned over through an angle of about 135 degrees in about eight to ten minutes.
  2. With the first warning of the attack the call was sounded to man the anti-aircraft battery and immediately thereafter the ship went to general quarters. Although the anti-aircraft battery was manned within a few minutes after the call and the ready ammunition boxes were being opened, because of the rapid heeling of the ship and the oil and water on the decks, it was impossible effectively to service the guns. The port ready machine gun opened fire, but was soon silenced by the force of the explosion and the oil and water thrown up by the first torpedo hit forward.
  3. Because of the condition of the Oklahoma, capsized and practically flooded, it has been impossible to ascertain the extent or details of damage sustained.
  4. Immediately after the overturning of the vessel salvage operations were undertaken and continued as along as the rescue of entrapped personnel was possible and salvage of material was immediately practicable. Thirty-two men were rescued by the salvage party, the operation of which is reported in detail in reference (b).
  5. The following is a summary of the latest recapitulation of the personnel of the Oklahoma dated December 15, 1951



    Officers 82  
    Ship's Company (USN) 1,179  
    Aviation Unit 15  
    Marine Detachment 77    
    Total 1,353  




    Survivors 59 840 899
    Wounded 2 24 26
    Known dead 0 22 22
    Missing 21 385 406
    Totals 82 1,271 1,353


  6. The conduct of the personnel of the Oklahoma was consistently and uniformly excellent during the action and in the salvage, rescue and other incidental operations thereafter. All personnel proceeded to their stations and performed their various duties calmly, cooly and quietly with effective efficiency. Approximately 60 officers and men made their way to the Maryland after the Oklahoma had capsized where they assisted in the manning and service of the anti-aircraft battery. The report of the performance of duty of the personnel engaged in salvage work on the Oklahoma, submitted by Lieutenant Commander William H. Hobby, USN., (the senior officer of the Oklahoma engaged in the salvage work), as well as the commendable work of that officer himself, is submitted for consideration as deserving of special notice or commendation. (Enclosure B).
  7. The circumstance that the personnel of the Oklahoma have been distributed among various commands with limited means of intercommunication and facilities for the preparation of reports has necessitated delaying forwarding additional reports of officers pending their being typed and copied for file.



cc: with copy of enc. (A)
  Combatships Batfor.


[Enclosure (A)]

    West Loch,
December 16, 1941.
From: Commander Jesse L. KENWORTHY, JR., U.S. Navy.
To: Captain H.D. BODE, U.S. Navy.
Subject: Surprise Enemy Attack and Sinking of the U.S.S. Oklahoma
  1. On Sunday December 7, 1941 the U.S.S. Oklahoma was moored outboard of the U.S.S. Maryland, starboard side to, at Berth F-5, Pearl Harbor, T.H. At approximately 0757 the word was passed to man the anti-aircraft battery and the sound of gun fire was heard. The word was again passed that this was a real attack and for all unengaged personnel to seek cover. I had started down the starboard ladder to the Wardroom country to go to my office when the first alarm came and immediately ran up the ladder to the starboard side of the upper deck to go to the Conning tower after calling for the crew to go to battle stations. As I reached the upper deck, I felt a heavy shock and heard a loud explosion and the ship immediately began to list to port.
  2. Oil and water descended on deck and by the time I had reached the boat deck, the shock of two more explosions on the port side was felt. In the meanwhile, general quarters had sounded and the crew had gone to battle stations and started "Zed" closures.
  3. As I attempted to get to the Conning tower over the decks slippery with oil and water, I felt the shock of another very heavy explosion on the port side. By this time the ship was listing from 25 to 35 degrees and was continuing to list further. It was now obvious that the ship was going to continue to roll over and I climbed over the boat deck toward the starboard side. Men were beginning to come up from below through hatches and gun ports and from them it was learned that the ship was filling with water in many spaces below.
  4. As I reached the starboard side, I met Lieutenant Commander HOBBY, the First Lieutenant, and with him concluded that the ship was fast becoming untenable and that an effort should be made to save as many men as possible. The word was passed for all hands to abandon ship and the men were directed to leave over the starboard side and to walk and climb over the ship's side and onto the bottom as it rolled over. At about this time another heavy explosion was felt on the port side and the ship began to roll over rapidly. The men went over the starboard side, climbing over the side and bottom and many went into the water to swim to the Maryland.
  5. After it became impossible to remain on the starboard side longer, I walked up the ship's side over the blister ledge and up over the bottom. The ship settled with the starboard side of the bottom above water and a portion of the keel and the starboard propeller shaft clear. Two motor launches were caught on the keel and propeller shaft aft. One of these was gotten off and sent after men in the water. Life jackets were removed from these launches and thrown to men who were still in the water waiting to be picked up by boats that had now come to the rescue. After all men were clear of the hull, I went into a boat and assisted in taking men from the water. When all men in sight had been taken from the water, we proceeded to the boat shed on Ford Island between the California and Maryland and sent wounded and those suffering from immersion via trucks to the dispensary. Boats at the boat landing were despatched to pick up personnel from the California and to search the along line of ships. Men arriving uninjured at the boat shed were sent to assist in putting out the oil and gasoline fires that had started around the fuel dock and near the boat sheds.
  6. I then proceeded along Ford Island toward the Maryland, where I met Captain BODE and other Oklahoma officers and with them proceeded to the naval air station administration building from where we later went to the naval ammunition depot at West Loch.
  7. Throughout the short period of the attack preceding the capsizing of the Oklahoma, the ship was subjected to torpedo fire from a large number of enemy planes approaching from the direction of Merry Point. The ship was further subjected to strafing attacks, and two flights of six each high altitude bombers approaching from the direction of the harbor entrance dropped their bombs from around 10 to 12,000 feet, which fell astern and clear of the overturned Oklahoma. The exact number of torpedoes that struck the ship is uncertain, but has been variously estimated from five to seven at points from about frame 50 to frame 115 port. No bombs are known to have struck on board for a certainty.
  8. While all of the gun crews were at stations immediately after the first alarm, and the ready ammunition boxes were being opened, fire was not taken up by the guns of the 3"/50 and 5"/25 anti-aircraft batteries as the ship listed so rapidly that the guns could not be effectively serviced. Oil and water on the decks made it additionally difficult for men to stay on their feet. Fire was taken up by the security watch on the 30 caliber machine gun on the port side of the superstructure deck but this gun was almost immediately placed out of service by the first torpedo hit forward.
  9. The conduct of the crew was excellent throughout. There was no evidence of panic and the men leaving the ship to go into the water were eager to get aboard the Maryland and to assist in the action there on the 5"/25 A.A. guns and pom-poms. A large number of Oklahoma men assisted both with the service of these guns and with the ammunition supply until ordered to Ford Island.




A-9/L11-1(02) December 20, 1941
From: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Oklahoma.
To: Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject: U.S.S. Oklahoma. Damage sustained During the Action at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Preliminary Report.
References: (a) Commander Battleships, Battle Force letter A-9/L11-1(0937) of December 11, 1941.
(b) BuShips Conf. letter C-EF13/A9(374); C-S81-3; C-EN28/A2-11 of October 28, 1941.
(c) Report of Rescue and Salvage work. U.S.S. Oklahoma, dated December 12, 1941 submitted by Lieutenant Commander W.H. Hobby, Jr. (Senior Officer of the U.S.S. Oklahoma engaged on Salvage work.) (To Combatships)
(d) Commanding Officer U.S.S. Oklahoma letter A9/L11-1(01) of December 18, 1941.

    1. This report of damage sustained by the U.S.S. Oklahoma as a result of the action at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 is preliminary to the complete report which will be made by the Navy Yard Pearl Harbor when the vessel will have been salvaged and detailed examination will have been possible.

    2. For convenience of reference the text below corresponds to the paragraphs and sub paragraphs of reference (b).

    1. U.S.S. Oklahoma
    2. 0800, December 7, 1941.
    3. Pearl Harbor, berth F-5, outboard of Maryland, port side to stream, stbd side to Maryland– depth of water 48-54 ft.
    4. Moored
    5. Drafts–31'1" (mean–approximately even trim–(afterward ship capsized.)
    6. Smooth water.
    7. Weather clear. Intermittent moving fleecy clouds, ceiling ranging from unlimited to 2,000 ft.
    1. Bombs. One estimated 500 lbs. either direct hit or very close aboard.
    2. (b) two believed from horizontal bombers (several small bombs, probably 100 lb, released by dive bombers fell 100 yards to port and astern of the ship. Other data not obtained.
    3. One bomb (500 lb) on or very close to port bow at frame 30 (1 above). One bomb (500 lb.) close aboard, port side, at frame 80.
    4. Not determined, inspection impossible.
    5. Point of impact not determined.
    6. No data.
    7. No data.
    8. Results and effect combined with effect of torpedo hits and not separable there from. Other details not determined.
    9. Gas reported in Central Station and on third deck, approximately amidships, but not in heavy concentrations. Probably some came from storage batteries in battery charging room which was flooded.
    10. Condition Zed was being set. Ship, third deck and below was practically in condition Yoke, at the beginning of the attack. Not possible to determine exact degree of closure under present conditions. Situation (rapid flooding) did not permit of correcting heel or trim or other measures listed.
    1. By best estimate, ship was struck by five airplane torpedoes fitted with impact exploder mechanism. No estimate of other data, except by comparison with known types of airplane torpedoes which is not a sound premise in the circumstances. The torpedoes were fired by planes from the port bow (straight shots) at an estimated range of 200 to 400 yards.
    2. Position of explosions estimated between frames 25 and 120 port side. The first three torpedoes are judged to have struck below the armor belt. The last two may have struck above the armor belt when the ship was listed to port 40 degrees or more. Impossible to obtain accurate data because ship capsized having rolled through an angle of about 135 degrees to port.
    3. None, except obviously of great explosive force. Great quantities of fuel oil and water thrown up by the explosion covered the weather decks.
    4. Five explosions with estimated time intervals between explosions in seconds as follows: First and second 10; second and third 10; third and fourth 20; forth and fifth 30.
    5. Noise dull, muffled, not of great volume. Causing much reverberation.
    6. None.
    7. None.
    8. Except for extraordinarily rapid heeling and flooding of ship it has been impossible to determine other effects of explosion, such as displacement of machinery, rupture of holding down bolts, etc.
    9. No data.
    10. Distribution of fuel and fresh water given in "Report of Rescue and Salvage Work" U.S.S. Oklahoma dated December 12, 1941 (ref. c)
    11. Not determined.
    12. Not determined.
    13. Not determined.
    14. Not determined.
    15. Ship was in condition yoke on third deck and below except for the few doors which might possibly have been open for necessary access with personnel actually working in such compartments. (ie: watertight doors closed at 1700 the day before (Saturday) were still closed except necessary access at 0800 (Sunday).
    16. Exact or approximate extent of flooding unknown but known to have been both extensive and rapid.
    17. Not applicable.
    18. Not applicable.
    19. None.
    20. Covered by B-10.


Copies to:

    CinC Pac (2) herewith
    ComBatFor (1)
    ComBatShips (1) 

    Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II action reports, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. 


Published: Wed Feb 21 10:35:46 EST 2018