Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The End of Pearl Harbor Salvage Efforts

"This Day in History"

September 23, 1944

Japan attacked the United States Navy harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  The week after the raid a salvage organization was formerly established for one of history‚Äôs greatest salvage jobs.  Captain Homer N. Wallin commanded the salvage efforts for over two years.  United States Navy and civilian divers completed about 5,000 dives and spent around 20,000 hours underwater.  The dives focused on recovering human remains, documents, ammunition, and other items from the ships damaged in the harbor. 

Divers standing in front of a decompression chamber.
Pearl Harbor Salvage Operations, official U.S. Navy Photograph.
Due to the attack five battleships, two destroyers, a target ship, and a mine layer were sunk or so severely damaged that they were considered a total loss.    Three ships that never returned to service due to their damage were USS Oklahoma, USS Utah, and USS Arizona.  In 1942, four ships were refloated and placed back into the active fleet to help defeat Japan.  These ships included USS Nevada, USS California, USS Oglala, and USS West Virginia.

USS Oklahoma righted about 30 degrees on March 29, 1943.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) was a battleship present in Pearl Harbor during the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack. The Japanese bombardment hit the battleship with two bombs and several torpedoes, and though she was saved from capsizing, she still sank to the harbor bottom. Her crew was on board, and over a hundred souls were lost. 

"The conduct of the crew and officers was outstanding.  There was no confusion and
every man and officer did his duty as well as he was able under the conditions."

-- Lieutenant Commander T. T. Beattie

She entered the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for repairs and was modernized at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, emerging in July 1944 fully functional. She rejoined the Pacific Fleet on September 23, 1944. 

USS West Virginia in drydock at Pearl Harbor on June 10, 1942, for repair.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Hoga (YT-146), a tug boat, was also present during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. She was able to not only successfully avoid devastating damage, but assisted with rescue and firefighting operations on the battleships that were damaged. She remained in Pearl Harbor after the attacks, assisting with continued debris clean up, salvage efforts, and patrols of the shore. 

The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum is continuing its efforts in bringing Hoga to the Arkansas River in the near future, where tours will be available. Currently, the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum houses USS Razorback (SS-394) and a museum dedicated to continued education in not only World War II vessels, but different vessels throughout American history. Come down and take a tour and learn something new!

Author: Nicolette Lloyd


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