Attack at Pearl Harbor by Japanese Planes on December 7, 1941 – Battleships, Battle Force After Action Report 3



  U.S.S. MARYLAND, Flagship
  December 19, 1941
From: Commander Battleships, Battle Force.
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Attack at pearl Harbor by Japanese Planes on December 7, 1941.
Reference: (a) CO West Virginia ltr BB48/A16-3 of Dec. 11, 1941., with Combat ships lst end A16-3,(0974) of Dec. 13, 1941.
(b) CO Maryland ltr BB46/A16/0f10/(0229) of Dec. 15, 1941.
(c) CO Tennessee ltr BB43/A16-3/(0157) of Dec. 11, 1941.
(d) CO Pennsylvania ltr BB38/A16-3/(01535) of Dec. 16, 1941.
(e) CO California ltr (1002) of Dec. 13, 1941.
(f) CO Arizona ltr BB39/A16 of Dec. 13, 1941.
(g) CO Nevada ltr BB36/A9/A16(Nev-10) of Dec. 15, 1941.
Enclosure: (A) Berthing Plan of Battleships on December 7, 1941.
(B) Radio Log of Commander Battleships.
(C) Signal Log of Commander Battleships.
(D) Report of Captain W.R. Carter, U.S. Navy, Chief of Staff to Commander Battleships.
(E) Report of Lt.Col. R.R. Robinson, U.S.M.C.
(F) Report of Comdr. E.P. Kranzfelder, U.S. Navy.
(G) Report of Comdr. W.F. Fitzgerald, jr., U.S. Navy.
(H) Report of Comdr. W.V. Hamilton, U.S. Navy.
(I) Report of Comdr. L.S. Sabin, jr., U.S. Navy.
(J) Report of Lt.Comdr. D.H. Johnston, U.S. Navy.
(K) Report of Lt.Comdr. R.G. Lockhart, U.S. Navy.
(L) Report of Lt.Comdr. C.F. Horne, jr., U.S. Navy.
(M) Report of Lieut. E.P. Holmes, U.S. Navy.
(N) Report of Lieut. R.S. Mandelkorn, U.S. Navy.
(O) Report of Lieut. (jg) K.W. Patrick, U.S. Navy.
(P) Report of Ensign P.H. Dunkle, U.S.N.R.
(Q) Report of Ensign W.O. Beach, U.S.N.R.
(R) Report of Ensign F. Johnson, U.S.N.R.
(S) Report of Ensign C. Koeningberger, jr., U.S.N.R.
(T) Report of Ensign W.S. Bradway, jr., U.S.N.R.
(U) Report of Ensign C.H. Bradford, jr., U.S.N.R.
(V) Comments on Fire-fighting.
  • On the occasion of the treacherous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, battleship ready guns opened fire at once. They were progressively augmented as the rest of the antiaircraft battery was manned as all battleships went to General Quarters with commendable promptness. This resulted in an early and great volume of antiaircraft fire. Considering all the circumstances, including the necessity for local control in the early stages of the attack, the control of fire was gratifyingly good as attested by the fifteen to seventeen enemy planes which were brought down. That such an antiaircraft fire could be inaugurated and sustained in spite of the difficulties resulting from early damage by torpedoes and bombs and great and menacing oil fires is a tribute to the courage, constancy, efficiency and resourcefulness of the officers and men. not only were they maintaining a sustained and aggressive fire whenever the enemy threatened, but they were engaged in valiant efforts to save the ships, prevent their capsizing and fighting large and menacing oil fires, enveloped in dense clouds of smoke. Severe structural damage and flooded magazines made replenishment of ammunition a serious problem, in overcoming which great courage and ingenuity was exhibited.
  • Commander Battleships’ endorsement on the detailed report of the West Virginia was forwarded separately, reference (a). Detailed reports of other ships, references (b) to (g), inclusive, were forwarded direct to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet with the exception of the U.S.S. Oklahoma whose report has not yet been received. Individual reports by members of Commander Battleships’ staff are forwarded herewith as enclosures (D) to (U), inclusive. Radio and signal logs of Commander Battleships are forwarded as enclosures (B) and (C) respectively. The signal log is known to be incomplete. That is probably true in less degree of the radio log.
  • Situation at beginning of attack. The battleships were disposed as follows: (See enclosure (A)).

Pennsylvania in drydock.
California in Berth Fox 3.
Maryland in Berth Fox 5 inboard.
Oklahoma in Berth Fox 5 outboard.
Tennessee in Berth Fox 6 inboard.
West Virginia in Berth Fox 6 outboard.
Arizona in Berth Fox 7 inboard, with the U.S.S. Vestal outboard.
Nevada in Berth Fox 8.

  • Movements of ships. During the action the Nevada got underway and was bombed while standing down the channel. The Vestal managed to clear the side of the Arizona and stood up to the northeastward in the channel. The positions of the berths and the approximate course of the Nevada and Vestal are shown on enclosure (A).
  • Description of attacks. The attacks were made apparently in four overlapping waves commencing at about 0755, and lasting until about 0915 as far as attacks on the battleships were concerned. it was noted that the last attack continued on the ships in the North Channel until about 0920.
  • The first attack, from about 0755 until shortly after 0800, was apparently a dive bombing attack or low altitude bombing attack, the objective being the Air Station on Ford Island. it is estimated that between five and ten planes made this attack. While this attack was in progress the second attack was made by torpedo planes commencing a minute or two before 0800 and continuing for ten or fifteen minutes. It is estimated that about eight to fifteen planes made the attack, coming in from the southeast at about 200 feet altitude and launching the torpedoes at an altitude estimated form 15 to 75 feet. The objective of this attack was the battleships and it is believed that all outboard ships at the berths with the exception of the Vestal were hit at least once. Apparently the torpedo which hit the Arizona passed under the Vestal. It was noted that during this attack a strafing attack was made from the rear cockpit of the torpedo planes.
  • During the latter part of the torpedo plane attack, dive bombing attacks were made from various directions. it is difficult to estimate the number of planes engaged in the dive bombing attack. The California estimated nine; the Tennessee estimated forty. it is probable that the correct number is about the average of these two. During the dive bombing attack it is believed that three types of bombs were used: light, medium, and incendiary. Numerous hits were made on the battleships resulting in considerable smoke and fire. A number of bombs fell near the battleships causing damage from fragments and splinters. During this attack many of the planes barely cleared the tops of the ship after releasing their bombs.
  • The fourth and last attack was a high-altitude horizontal attack during which heavy bombs were dropped. it is estimated that this lasted from about 0825 until shortly after 0900. The damage from these bombs was serious. it is believed that at least some of these bombs were converted fifteen or sixteen-inch shells. They penetrated with about 20-inch holes, low order detonation, and very little flame.
  • Action taken. When the attack first started, the Chief of Staff, Operations Officer and Assistant Material Officer were on board the flagship, Maryland. Other members of the Staff returned to the ship as soon as practicable, all arriving on board either during the action or shortly thereafter. Commander Battleships arrived on board about 0905 and immediately took general charge not only of the salvage and rescue work of the battleships but also assisted in retransmitting messages received from the Commander-in-Chief addressed to various light forces.
  • Material damage. Battleships have been requested to submit detailed reports of material damage, which will be forwarded upon receipt. The following is a preliminary summary of damage incurred by Battleships, Battle Force:
  • Nevada — the ship was struck by a torpedo at frame 40 port, at about the turn of the bilge, and by five bombs forward, of which two were heavy bombs. The anchor machinery and neighboring ship’s structure is wrecked, and the foremast is burned out from the bridge superstructure to the main deck. The ship is hard aground, in water shoaling from 9 fathoms forward to 2-1.2 fathoms aft. Within the ship, water is above the main deck forward, and above the second deck aft. The starboard screw has been damaged by grounding.
  • Oklahoma — The ship was struck by a number of torpedoes estimated at from 3 to 5, on the port side, and by an undetermined number of bombs. The almost immediate loss of stability caused her to capsize to port. Due to the shallowness of water at her berth, the upper works struck the bottom, and have kept the ship from capsizing completely. At present the starboard side of the ship, from the keep to about 15 feet above the turn of the bilge is above water. She is about 150° from upright. As far as is know, magazines were not flooded and fuel tanks are intact, except for those hulled by torpedo hits.
  • Pennsylvania — The ship was struck by a bomb in way of the starboard after antiaircraft battery. Damaged antiaircraft gun has been replaced, and as has the wrecked broadside gun below. Fire from destroyers forward in drydock caused no more than superficial burning of paint on the bow of the Pennsylvania.
  • Arizona — The ship was struck by a number of torpedoes estimated at from one to three, on the port side, and by three bombs from dive bombers. one bomb struck the face plate of No. 4 turret, was deflected, and exploded on the third deck; one penetrated just forward of the stack, and one went down the stack. The ship broke in two as a result of the explosion of a 14-inch powder magazine, probably abaft turret number 2, and a fierce fire ensued, which ravaged the portion of the ship still above water. The portion of the ship abaft the stack was relatively undamaged, and is aground in water four feet over the main deck.
  • California — The ship was struck by two torpedoes at frame 110 port, and by one torpedo at frame 47 port, and by from three to five bombs in the waist and forward part of the ship, one or more of which caused serious fire in the crew’s living spaces, which gutted that portion of the ship before it was flooded. The ship is now resting on the bottom, in water almost up to the boat deck level.
  • Tennessee — The ship was struck by two 15-inch A.P. bombs. One striking the center gun of No. 2 turret, cracked it. The other two guns are operable. The second, striking the rear left side of the roof of turret No. 3 pierced the roof plate, damaging the catapult, roof plate, roof girder, rangefinder, and rammer of the left gun. Repairs are underway.

The heat from the blazing Arizona, astern, and fuel oil afire on the water, started a fire in officer’s quarters aft, with subsequent damage to wiring, airplane machinery, and warping of shell plating aft, causing cracks and opening of joints. Repairs are underway on all of these items, including blanking shell airports aft in the affected area.

During the above fire, the ship flooded the after group of magazines. these were found to have suffered no damage when they were unwatered.

The stern airplane crane has been operated on full load but not on overload. A dead load shot has been fired by the after catapult.

Main deck plating aft is somewhat buckled due to heat, and the planking is charred. Repair is not considered urgent to prepare the ship for sea.

The Tennessee was pinched between the West Virginia and the forward interrupted quay. There is no evidence of excessive strain of the ship’s structure. Armor belts have been examined and found tight.

    • Maryland — The ship was struck by a light fragmentation bomb on the forecastle deck forward, which blew a hole about 12 feet by 20 feet in the deck, and caused minor structural damage in the compartments on the main deck below. This has been repaired.

A 15-inch A.P. bomb entered the water on the port bow close aboard, and pierced the shell at the twenty-three foot water line, near frame 11, exploding in compartment A-103-A, sail and awning stowage, causing widespread structural damage and flooding. Repairs are underway to make the ship seaworthy.

The torpedo air compressor rooms were flooded incident to this hit, placing both compressors out of commission. A steam air compressor has been installed in the ship to provide H.P. air until these compressors can be repaired. Small arms and .50 caliber machine gun magazine was flooded by the ship.

      • West Virginia — The ship was struck on the port side by 4 torpedoes, one bomb struck in the waist on the ship on the port side, and one struck the roof of turret No. 3, blew out its base plug and burned. Counter flooding prevented capsizing, but fire gutted the ship from the waist forward. The ship is aground, with water well over the second deck. The after magazines were flooded by the ship but it is uncertain whether or not the forward magazines were flooded.
      • General notes on material.
  • Information available at present indicates that machinery and fireroom spaces have incurred little or no damage from explosion or fire. On the Nevada, Oklahoma, Arizona, California and West Virginia the engineering plants are submerged.
  • The fires in the forward portions of the West Virginia and Arizona have caused warping and collapse of a considerable portion of structure.
  • Planes were ship based on the following ships: West Virginia, California, and Oklahoma. The West Virginia’s planes were destroyed by fire. one engine and propeller may be salvaged. California’s planes: 2-0-4 was taxied to the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, after the bombing; 2-0-5 was thrown overboard as a fire hazard; 2-0-6 sustained minor damage. The Oklahoma’s planes were lost, although one was hoisted in after 48 hours submergence. This plane was so covered with fuel oil as to be unserviceable. Some parts including the engine will be salvaged.
  • The need for adequate splinter protection for topside personnel was vividly demonstrated. For example, the protection afforded by the King Board bulkheads provided considerable protection so far as it went. These bulkheads were pitted by many .50 caliber bullets and fragments. in no case were the bulkheads which were inspected holed. However, the protection afforded was inadequate. There should be gun shields, or better still, gun turrets. In the case of the Nevada, a bomb hit the boat deck and wiped out most of the personnel because no protection was afforded from inboard.

The need for splinter protection with lateral, all around, and overhead protection has been stressed by Commander Battleships in previous correspondence and the attack on Pearl Harbor served to emphasize its urgent necessity.

  • Commander Battleships’ previous correspondence regarding the turret roof armor was verified by the piercing of the turret top in the case of the West Virginia and Tennessee.
    1. Fire-fighting, rescue and salvage. As stated in paragraph 6 above, Commander Battleships upon his arrival took general charge of fire-fighting, rescue and salvage work. Burning oil from the Arizona was being carried on the surface of the water surrounding the Tennessee-West Virginia group and at times on the Maryland and capsized Oklahoma. The YG17 upon the initiative of her commanding officer, Chief Boatswain’s Mate, L.M. Jansen, U.S. Navy, took aggressive action in fighting the fire, taking station at the quarter of the West Virginia and maintaining her position there in spite of dense smoke and flame. Commander Battleships directed the Tern to assist and later when the Widgeon reported to assist in the rescue work on the hull of the capsized Oklahoma, directed that vessel to fight the fire. Later, the Bobolink was also directed to assist. These vessels kept the fire under control throughout the night and with the assistance of the Navajo on December 8 succeeded in extinguishing the fire in the West Virginia. These vessels were then directed to fight the fire in the Arizona which was gotten under control before dark the night of December 8.

The California was listing dangerously to port. The Nevada, which had gotten underway from her berth, and had been bombed in the channel, was beached in order to prevent sinking or capsizing.

Rescue work on the hull of the capsized Oklahoma was initiated by Commander Battleships and directed by Commander E.P. Kranzfelder and Lieutenant Mandelkorn of Commander Battleships’ staff, assisted by officers and men of the Oklahoma, men from the Rigel and Navy Yard Pearl Harbor and fire and rescue parties from the battleships. As a result of these efforts 32 men were rescued alive from the hull of the Oklahoma. See Enc. (V).

    1. Care of Survivors and Replacement of Ammunition. Shortly after the engagement, Captain H.D. Bode, U.S.S. Oklahoma, was directed to take charge of the survivors of the damaged battleships, then at Naval Air Station, Ford Island, and to contact Naval Ammunition Depot, Oahu and to arrange for the replacement of the ammunition expended. This officer, assisted by survivors from the Oklahoma, set up headquarters at West Loch and took over the responsibility of replacing ammunition, not only to the battleships but to other vessels in the harbor and Navy Yard, augmenting the force at Naval Ammunition Depot, Oahu.
    2. Personnel losses. (a) The following is a personnel table indicating the total officers and men attached to the ship prior to the attack, the number of casualties, the number of survivors, and the name of the senior surviving officer on each ship. The reports on which these figures are based are being corrected daily.
  On Board 1 Dec. Killed Injured Missing Survivors Senior surviving officer
Ship Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men Off Men
Maryland* 108 1496 2 1 0 14 0 1 106 1480 Capt. Godwin
W. Virginia 87 1454 2 25 0 52 0 130 85 1247 Cdr. Hillendoetter
Tennessee* 94 1372 0 4 1 20 0 2 93 1337 Capt. Reordan
California* 120 1546 3 45 3 58 2 56 112 1382 Capt. Bunkley
Pennsylvania 81 1395 2 17 0 30 0 6 79 1340 Capt. Cooke
Arizona* 100 1411 2 54 5 39 47 1059 54 259 Cdr. Geiselman
Oklahoma 82 1270 0 20 2 30 21 415 59 805 Capt. Bode
Nevada 94 1390 3 34 5 104 0 16 85 1236 Capt. Scanland
Total 766 11334  14  200  16  347  70 1685  674  9086  
* Includes Flag personnel attached.
  • (b) The following named Division Commanders and Commanding Officers were killed:
  • Rear Admiral I.C. Kidd, U.S. Navy, Commander Battleship Division One.
    Captain F. Van Valkenburgh, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Arizona.
    Captain M.S. Bennion, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. West Virginia
  • Conduct of personnel. In separate correspondence Commander Battleships has submitted to the Commander-in-Chief a report of the distinguished conduct of various individuals, as well as the ships’ companies in general. Commander Battleships cannot, however, conclude this report without paying homage to the universal exhibition of courage and magnificent fighting spirit by absolutely all the personnel of the battleships. Their conduct was in accord with the highest traditions of the Service.


The Official Navy Department Statement regarding the Pearl Harbor Attack published One year after (1942) Reply

Seventy Five Years ago (1942) The Navy Department released a statement on the events that had transpired nearly one year before on December 7, 1941. The world was vastly different in those days when it came to the press and communications. The magnitude of the damage in Pearl was probably not understood fully by the people back home. After reading this report, I am not sure they were even then aware of how bad the attack was. The largest casualty was the strategy that had been built around the giant Battleships of the line that formed the core part of the nation’s defense. While most of the battleships were salvaged, none of the ones present would serve in a leading capacity against the Japanese Fleet. Aircraft and submarines that were freed from their limitations under the older doctrines would turn the tide and account for many of the decisive victories that would come in the next three years.



Washington, D. C., December 5, 1942

New York Times, December 6, 1942.


On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft temporarily disabled every battleship and most of the aircraft in the Hawaiian area. Other naval vessels, both combatant and auxiliary, were put out of action, and certain shore facilities, especially at the Army air bases, Hickam and Wheeler Fields, and the Naval air stations, Ford Island and Kaneohe Bay, were damaged. Most of these ships are now back with the Fleet. The aircraft were all replaced within a few days, and interference with facilities was generally limited to a matter of hours.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, two surface ship task forces of the Pacific Fleet were carrying out assigned missions at sea, and two such task forces were at their main base following extensive operations at sea. Discounting small craft, eighty-six ships of the Pacific Fleet were moored at Pearl Harbor. Included in this force were eight battleships, seven cruisers, twenty-eight destroyers and five submarines. No United States aircraft carriers were present.

As a result of the Japanese attack five battleships, the Arizona, Oklahoma, California, Nevada and West Virginia; three destroyers, the Shaw, Cassin and Downes; the minelayer Oglala; the target ship Utah and a large floating drydock were either sunk or damaged so severely that they would serve no military purposes for some time. In addition, three battleships, the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Tennessee; three cruisers, the Helena, Honolulu and Raleigh, the seaplane tender Curtiss and the repair ship Vestal were damaged.

Of the nineteen naval vessels listed above as sunk or damaged, the twenty-six-year-old battleship Arizona will be the only one permanently and totally lost. Preparations for the righting of the Oklahoma are now in process, although final decision as to the wisdom of accomplishing this work at this time has not been made. The main and auxiliary machinery, approximately 50 per cent of the value, of the Cassin and Downes were saved. The other fifteen vessels either have been or will be salvaged and repaired.

The eight vessels described in the second sentence of paragraph three returned to the Fleet months ago. A number of the vessels described in the first sentence of paragraph three are now in full service, but certain others, which required extensive machinery and intricate electrical overhauling as well as refloating and hull repairing, are not yet ready for battle action. Naval repair yards are taking advantage of these inherent delays to install numerous modernization features and improvements. To designate these vessels by name now would give the enemy information vital to his war plans; similar information regarding enemy ships which our forces have subsequently damaged but not destroyed is denied to us.

On Dec. 15, 1941 only eight days after the Japanese attack and at a time when there was an immediate possibility of the enemy’s coming back, the Secretary of the Navy announced that the Arizona, Shaw, Cassin, Downes, Utah and Oglala had been lost, that the Oklahoma had capsized and that other vessels had been damaged. Fortunately, the salvage and repair accomplishments at Pearl Harbor have exceeded the most hopeful expectations.

Eighty naval aircraft of all types were destroyed by the enemy. In addition, the Army lost ninety-seven planes on Hickam and Wheeler Fields. Of these twenty-three were bombers, sixty-six were fighters and eight were other types.

The most serious American losses were in personnel. As a result of the raid on Dec. 7, 1941, 2,117 officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps were killed, 960 are still reported as missing and 876 were wounded but survived. The Army casualties were as follows: 226 officers and enlisted men were killed or later died of wounds; 396 were wounded, most of whom have now recovered and have returned to duty.

At 7:55 A.M. on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese dive-bombers swarmed over the Army Air Base, Hickam Field, and the Naval Air Station on Ford Island. A few minutes earlier the Japanese had struck the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe Bay. Bare seconds later enemy torpedo planes and dive-bombers swung in from various sectors to concentrate their attack on the heavy ships at Pearl Harbor. The enemy attack, aided by the element of surprise and based on exact information, was very successful.

Torpedo planes, assisted effectively by dive-bombers, constituted the major threat of the first phase of the Japanese attack, lasting approximately a half hour. Twenty-one torpedo planes made four attacks, and thirty dive-bombers came in in eight waves during this period. Fifteen horizontal bombers also participated in this phase of the raid.

Although the Japanese launched their initial attack as a surprise, battleship ready machine guns opened fire at once and were progressively augmented by the remaining anti-aircraft batteries as all hands promptly were called to general quarters. Machine guns brought down two and damaged others of the first wave of torpedo planes. Practically all battleship anti-aircraft batteries were firing within five minutes; cruisers, within an average time of four minutes, and destroyers, opening up machine guns almost immediately, averaged seven minutes in bringing all anti-aircraft guns into action.


From 8:25 to 8:40 A.M. there was a comparative lull in the raid, although air activity continued with sporadic attack by dive and horizontal bombers. This respite was terminated by the appearance of horizontal bombers, which crossed and recrossed their targets from various directions and caused serious damage. While the horizontal bombers were continuing their raids, Japanese dive-bombers reappeared, probably being the same ones that had participated in earlier attacks; this phase, lasting about a half hour, was devoted largely to strafing. All enemy aircraft retired by 9:45 A.M.


Prior to the Japanese attack 202 United States naval aircraft of all types on the Island of Oahu were in flying condition, but 150 of these were permanently or temporarily disabled by the enemy’s concentrated assault, most of them in the first few minutes of the raid. Of the fifty-two remaining naval aircraft, thirty-eight took to the air on Dec. 7, 1941, the other fourteen being ready too late in the day or being blocked from take-off positions. Of necessity, therefore, the Navy was compelled to depend on anti-aircraft fire for its primary defensive weapon, and this condition exposed the Fleet to continuous air attack.

By coincidence, eighteen scout bombing planes from a United States aircraft carrier en route arrived at Pearl Harbor during the raid. These are included in the foregoing figures. Four of these scout bombers were shot down, thirteen of the remaining fourteen taking off again in search of the enemy. Seven patrol planes were in the air when the attack started.


This is one of the first pictures of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. A P-40 plane which was machine-gunned while on the ground. (AP Photo)

There was a total of 273 Army planes on the Island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941. Very few of these were able to take off because of the damage to the runways at Hickam and Wheeler Fields.

It is difficult to determine the total number of enemy aircraft participating in the raid, but careful analysis of all reports makes it possible to estimate the number of twenty-one torpedo planes, forty-eight dive-bombers and thirty-six horizontal bombers, totaling 105 of all types. Undoubtedly certain fighter planes also were present, but these are not distinguished by types and are included in the above figures.

The enemy lost twenty-eight aircraft due to Navy action, and the Army pursuit planes that were able to take off shot down more than twenty Japanese planes. In addition, three submarines, of forty-five tons each, were accounted for.

The damage suffered by the United States Pacific Fleet as result of the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, was most serious, but the repair job now is nearly completed, and thanks to the inspired and unceasing efforts of the naval and civilian personnel attached to the various repair yards, especially at Pearl Harbor itself, this initial handicap soon will be erased forever.

Mister Mac

All or Nothing 4

Radical and Revolutionary

Those were words used to describe one of the greatest Battleships ever to sail the seas in defense of freedom. The USS Nevada (BB-36) was the second IS Navy ship to be named after the 36th state and was the lead ship of the two Nevada-class battleships. Her sister ship was the USS Oklahoma.

A grand ship

Her keel was laid on November 4th 1912 and when she was launched a short two years later, she represented a great leap forward in almost every technology associated with dreadnoughts. The three key technologies that made her both radical and revolutionary were features that would be included in every future US battleship (as well as many of their subsequent enemies).


Three radical revolutions

The first was the development of the three gun turret. These monsters were 14” superfiring canons that could place a concentrated firepower on any ship in existence and pound through the armor protecting their inner skins.Nevada was built with two three gun turrets and two two gun turrets giving her a slight edge over anything built before her time.

The second part of the revolution was her conversion to oil rather than coal. Previous dreadnoughts and most other ships built at the end of the sail era were powered by coal. While coal was a leap forward in its own way, the need for refueling placed serious limitations on fleet movements. When the Great White fleet had sailed in previous years, it was a dramatic show of the US capability to extend itself into previously difficult areas. The Japanese particularly were alarmed by the ability of the fledgling fleet to exert such a powerful influence.

Coal or Oil

But the need for coaling stations around the world was a weakness that would impact the fleet’s ability to stay on station. Plus, coal powered ships were very manpower intensive. First, the colliers were required to constantly be in motion and manpower was a key method to moving the coal from point a to point b. Second and more important, large engineroom crews were required to fuel the boilers underway.

Ship design was affected by having more logistical support for the larger crew which reduced the amount of space for other critical items. Third, coal is not as as efficient as oil in a naval environment. Conversion of the fuel to energy was not nearly as great resulting in lower steaming days and shorter distances.

“using oil gave the ship an engineering advantage over the earlier coal-fired plants,as oil is much more efficient than coal because it yields "a far greater steaming radius for a given amount of fuel". The ability to steam great distances without refueling was a major concern of the General Board at that time. In 1903, the Board felt all American battleships should have a minimum steaming radius of 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) so that the US could enforce the Monroe Doctrine.”

Using oil would result in replacing 100 firemen (stokers) and 112 coal passers with 24 enginemen. This would eliminate crews quarters saving weight for other items and reducing the amount of fresh water and provisions that a ship would need for extended operations.

Ability to take hits

The third revolution was the new placement of armor. Instead of spreading thin armor over all areas, Nevada focused on critical areas such as the magazines and engines.


This radical change became known as the “All or Nothing” principle. Protecting the vital innards of a ship was never done before the “Standard Battleship” design was adopted. The idea was that if you protected the ammunition, steering and engines of the ship, she could better survive any type of attack known at the time. (Note: prior to Billy Mitchell proving the tactic’s vulnerability to air power tactics, the Navy was still focused on surface and sub surface attack strategies.)

All three of these radical designs and ideas would set the stage for the major battles to be fought in the century of surface warfare. Nevada would go on to fight in both World Wars and prove the reliability of the builders who designed and made her.


A real fighter

She rose from the mud of Pearl Harbor to help our troops in both theaters of operations.


She served faithfully throughout the war ending up victorious in Tokyo Bay.

Even in her dying days, she showed her unwillingness to give up. After being involved in two nuclear tests, she was used as a target vessel for the USS Iowa which ultimately failed to sink her. Her end came at the end of an air launched torpedo.


The daring designers and innovation that created her are hallmarks of the American spirit. A need was identified, methods were created to overcome the need, and we had the national will to execute and operate this technology. American know how and capability were employed to create something that set the stage for victory. The real question is, could we do it again?

Someone famously said that the world is no longer a game of “Battleship” because of newer technology.

Sadly, they trivialize the vision that still needs to be present in an increasingly dangerous world. The greatest threat to our future is ignorance of the past and the leap forward in technologies represented by American power projection. In the history of mankind, there have always been dictators and tyrants. Nations have coveted the lands and resources of other nations. The weak get chewed up and spit out by the strong. Projecting weakness to pacify your opponent only encourages them to build bigger weapons to ensure your complete subjection.

America has been great because it understands the changing nature of power and power projection. Having leaders willing to support that is and will be the link to a secure future.

God Bless America, and Thank you to the Men who sailed a great ship, USS Nevada BB 36



Mister Mac

Humbled 1

I like to think that I have done my share in life to try and protect the things that I cherish. My Navy time, my service to the communities I have lived in as well as Churches and other groups. But every once in a while, I get the chance to be humble again. You run into something that has given so much to this country without fail that you are barely able to contain what it really means.

That something for me today was the first time I have been able to tour the USS Wisconsin BB 64 in Norfolk VA at the Nauticus Museum


I have been a huge fan of Battleships since I was a kid. I don’t know why for sure since none of the three generations before me ever served on one. But I do remember building the models as a kid. Missouri, New Jersey, Iowa and of course Wisconsin were the big daddies. 16 “ guns fore and aft. The Alabama and North Carolina were also pretty high on my list and although slightly smaller, they packed just as big a punch.


I can only imagine what the citizens of any country would have imagined to see one of these big boys showing up off of their coast. I know that when they were fired for the last time in the Gulf in 1991, it probably made a distinct impression on the guys who received incoming fire that never even saw her fire.

Top that off with the Tomahawk cruise missiles that showed up late in her career, and you had a formidable weapons platform.

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Add to that arsenal the Harpoon launchers, CWIS anti missile defense, 5” 54 caliber twin mount guns and capacity to add hundreds of small arms, and you have a surface ship that will show your intensity in no other way possible.

In the same museum, you get to see the history of the US Navy form its early days. I met a man who like me relishes a good story.


He told me the story of the USS Pennsylvania, one of the old sailing ships built before the Civil War. It was built in the Philadelphia Naval shipyard and was completed in 1839. The ship was built in a time of great financial challenge and only made one voyage. That voyage was to the Norfolk shipyard where she was to be clad with copper on her bottom. The financial situation got increasingly worse and the project was buried and never completed.


When Virginia was succeeding form the Union, the ships in the Norfolk Naval shipyard were set on fire to keep them from falling into the hands of the Confederates. The ill-fated Pennsylvania was one of those ships. This 120-gun ship of the line never fired a shot in defense of her country. As in so many cases, short sighted politicians last their vision at just the wrong time in America’s history.

I suppose it’s a gamble. Ships like the Iowa class battleship (including the Wisconsin) served this nation for many years and had battle decorations from World War 2 through Gulf 1. She saved many lives and supported the Marines and Navy through many battles. What if the peace mongers had stopped her and her sisters from being completed?


Well, I recommend a visit to the floating monuments to our Naval Power. Take your kids. It may be the last we see of America’s Naval predominance. It will be good for the kids to know what might have been.


Mister Mac

Blinders? Why no, these are my new leadership Goggles! 1

For over a century the leadership of the U.S. Army and Navy were in agreement about how the United States coast would be managed: the Army would defend the beaches and out to the range of their coastal guns, and the Navy would protect anything beyond that range. The advent of the airplane challenged that arrangement. The new theory was that the U.S. Army Air Service’s airplanes could attack an enemy fleet far from the range of the coastal guns, the airmen wanted to take over that mission. The only problem they had was that up to that point no airplane had ever actually sunk a battleship.

In May 1921 men and aircraft from various units arrived at Langley Field, Va., to prepare for the Ostfriesland bombing trials. Designated the 1st Provisional Air Brigade, this unit was commanded by Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell during the bombing trials. At the time, the largest bomb available was a 1000 pounder which most experts agreed would never be able to achieve the goal. Special 2000 pound bombs were created just in time for the events about to begin.

Billy Mitchel

The Navy leadership was particularly keen to disprove the claims by the outspoken Mitchell. The Chief of Naval Operations just prior to this period had actually disbanded the naval air services at the conclusion of the first World War.


Admiral William S. Benson said “I cannot conceive of any use that the fleet will ever have for aircraft,” and that “the Navy doesn’t need airplanes. Aviation is just a lot of noise.”

Billy Mitchell was a firebrand and a visionary. He was a leader and air service pioneer in the First World War. He was also not diplomatic and could not understand why men who were endowed with a reasonable amount of intelligence could not see the wisdom of investing in a technology that would allow them to leap into the future.

Even the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels mocked Mitchell. As he was preparing to retire after a long service in some fairly progressive service he said:


“I would be glad to stand bare headed on the deck or at the wheel of any battleship while Mitchell tried to take a crack at me from the air. If he ever tries to aim bombs on the decks of naval vessels, he will be blown to atoms long before he gets close enough to drop salt on the tail of the Navy.”

In the eyes of the Navy and most of the civilian leadership, the test was a complete waste of time. The Battleship had emerged as the backbone of the Navy and defender of the seas. Military strategy had been wrapped completely around the relative strength of these floating fortresses. Most importantly, Secretary Daniels and his congressional supporters had made a huge investment in the battleship concept. The very thought that a $20,000 aero plane could sink a $40,000,000.00 battleship was beyond anyone’s ability to believe. Anyone but Mitchell and his supporters.  Some people are convinced that is why the Navy did everything it could to influence the outcome of the test that were about to begin.

Mitchell's Bomber 1921

In Mitchell’s view, the test was supposed to determine whether a battleship could be sunk by aerial bombing. That was also the question that congress wanted answered. The Navy took the position that it was merely a test to determine how much bomb damage a battleship was capable of absorbing.

The rules were set by the Navy and made it as difficult as possible for Mitchell. The ships needed to be sunk in deep water which meant 100 fathoms or more. The Navy said no to two locations with sufficient depth close to the shore and instead insisted on a location 50 miles out to sea from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The base the bombers would eventually use (Langley) was further west by 50 miles. This resulted in a two hour flight for the bombers (1 hour each way) which would further limit the bombers time over target.

Ludicrously enough, no aerial torpedoes could be used and the air service was only allowed two hits with its heaviest bombs. This statement comes from the after action report:

The torpedo plane was not used in the tests and there is little reliable information available concerning torpedoes fired by aircraft. The mining effect of bombs dropped close to the side of a vessel brings up the question as to whether or not the torpedo is as desirable a weapon for aircraft as bombs. The torpedo has certain advantages over bombs and certain disadvantages. It can be fired with accuracy from great[er] distances than bombs, but is much more expensive to manufacture and is more complicated to handle. For a given weight of projectile the bomb carries a much heavier explosive charge than the torpedo.” I wonder how long it took for the Japanese delegation to stop laughing.

An inspection team would be allowed to go on board each ship between each hit to carefully inspect the damage. Just to make sure the deck was sufficiently stacked, the Ostfriesland was the main event specifically since she had been built with watertight compartments that were specifically designed to withstand multiple direct hits and still survive.


But Mitchell had a few tricks up his sleeve too. Instead of directly attacking the ships with his powerful bombs, he would aim them to the sides of the ships. Then when the underwater explosions would occur, it would cause damage to the hull by the force of the water being shocked by the bombs. This made the Navy rule of no more than two hits null and void.

During highly publicized tests held in June-July 1921 off the Virginia capes, the Navy and Army studied the effects of bombing on ships taken from the German navy after World War I. During the tests, Navy inspectors tried time and again to interfere with Mitchell and his crews. Delays, extra long inspections, changes in rules and so on forced Mitchell to continue to adapt in order to be successful


The climax came on July 21, 1921, when Army Air Service bombers attacked the last ship, the powerful German battleship Ostfriesland. These tests, General Mitchell stated, would prove that bombs dropped from airplanes could easily destroy “even the most modern of battleships.” Furthermore, they “demonstrated beyond a doubt that, given sufficient bombing planes — in short an adequate air force — aircraft constitute a positive defense of our country against hostile invasion.”

The official after action report (From a Naval observer) stated”:

“The Ostfriesland tests began with an attack by Navy planes dropping thirty-three 250-pound bombs, scoring eight hits, followed by eight 550-pound bombs, making four hits. The Army then dropped eleven 600-pound bombs registering one hit. An examination of the vessel after these attacks showed that she had sustained little damage from direct hits with the exception of a hole in the starboard side of the forecastle made by a 600-pound bomb, which put out of commission the two 5-inch ammunition hoists directly under it; but the mining effect of the bombs that dropped close to her had damaged her considerably under water, and several compartments were leaking. She had gained water during the night and the following morning was three feet down by the stern, with a list of 5 degrees to port. Engine and fire rooms were partially flooded, when the attack with 100-pound bombs was launched.


Five of these were dropped and three direct hits were made on the main deck causing no vital damage to the ship or battery. However, her fighting efficiency might have been affected by a large hole on the starboard side of the forecastle, taking in water. By noon she was down five feet by the stern and one foot by the bow.


In the final attack, seven 2000-pound bombs were dropped, none of which hit the vessel. The possible effect of the explosion of this type of bomb on deck, or between decks, could not therefore be ascertained. Three of these bombs were close enough to do extensive damage to the hull. The most effective bomb detonated close under the port quarter, throwing water up under both sides of the hull. She immediately began to settle rapidly by the stern, listing heavily to port, water entering through injuries on deck, broken air ports and through gun ports. She turned completely over and went down by the stern at twenty-two minutes after the first 2000-LB bomb was dropped.”


Billy Mitchell standing with two unidentified men on deck of battleship USS “Indiana” surveying the considerable damage caused by a 300lb. bomb dropped from a plane.

The Navy officers were shocked. But soon there were cries of “Foul” and for years afterwards the Battleship club claimed that Mitchell had violated the “rules and destroyed the value for the tests. In their minds, it was a senseless demonstration that clouded their real purpose of showing how a battleship could absorb multiple direct hits.

Congress and the public saw it differently of course. The test proved what Mitchell had claimed. The birth of modern aviation power in the nations arsenal can truly be marked by the sinking of this ship.

After touring the Pacific, Mitchell returned in 1924 and submitted a report that stated the defenses at Pearl Harbor were almost nonexistent and the military build-up by the Japanese made war only a matter of time.

Never one to keep silent about inadequacies in the Air Service, Mitchell was court-martialed in late 1925 for public criticism of the policies of his superiors. He resigned his commission the following year but kept up the campaign for an independent air service until his death in 1936.

Mitchell did not live to see his ideas vindicated in World War II. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1946 as an early architect of American airpower.

The Navy resisted for a few more years but eventually newer voices were heard and soon early aircraft carriers were built. Based on the events at Pearl Harbor, we all owe a debt of gratitude to that firebrand Mitchell for speaking up even in the face of adversity.

Even after the tests, the Battleship Club was not done bragging about their place in history. The program for the Army-Navy football game on November 29th, 1941 included a picture of the Battleship Arizona. “It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs” the caption said. The program did not include any mention of the events off the Virginia Capes in 1921.


Eight days later, the Japanese, in a sneak attack that violated all the rules, sank the Arizona at its moorings at Pearl Harbor.

The only role she played in the following World War would be to stand as a stark reminder that not seeing the dangers that are coming at you does not eliminate them.


Think about that today as you do your strategic planning for 2012. Do your leaders have their blinders on? Do your visionaries have a voice to tell them about the things they don’t want to hear?

Mister Mac 7/21/2011