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 gases, and nearly all of it was extremely dirty.
Photographs of the Post Attack Ship Salvage, 1942-1944
Click on any thumbnail for larger view
Under Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal (left), with Rear Admiral William R. Furlong (right), Commandant of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, and another officer, on board the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma (BB-37), at Pearl Harbor on 6 September 1942. The ship was then in the early stages of salvage. Note the two battleships in the background, moored alongside Ford Island. They are Pennsylvania (BB-38), in center, and either Maryland (BB-46) or Colorado (BB-45). NH 83994
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. NH 64486
Captain Homer N. Wallin (left), Salvage Officer, and Lieutenant Commander W. White, Commanding Officer of USS West Virginia, on board the ship while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor in 1942. They are wearing the "tank" suit coveralls and knee-length rubber boots used by Pearl Harbor salvage team members when engaged in particularly dirty work. NH 64490
Photographer's Mate 3rd Class T.E. Collins resting on the lower whaler of one of the 21 timber righting towers. 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 lbs. per square inch. An oxygen mast had to be worn at all times. Note his mask, tank suit, boots, gloves, and camera. NARA #80-G-276601
Ductwork installed to ventilate the capsized USS Oklahoma's starboard side blister during salvage work. Photographed 11 December 1942, as the ship was being prepared for righting. Note the lugs welded to the blister side, to which the righting cables will be attached. NH 63920
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. NH 64303
Salvager adjusting the discharge hose from a submersible pump in the sunken USS Oklahoma'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. NH 64304
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. NH 63919
Removal of a dud Japanese bomb found in USS West Virginia while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor. The bomb is visible at the bottom of the view, half-buried in grime. NH 64305
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. NH 63921
Floating crane removes the sunken USS California (BB-44) "basket" mainmast, while she was under salvage at Pearl Harbor on 13 February 1942. NH 55038
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. NH 83056
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. NH 64483
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. NARA #80-G-13154
Last Updated 26 May 2001
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