9:45 A.M., less than two hours after the first wave had commenced the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the pilots of the second wave had
finished their job and turned to fly back to their carriers north of the
island. In their wake
they left Pearl Harbor in ruin, black smoke filling the blue sky. The surface of the harbor's normally calm waters was
covered with a thick layer of burning oil.
USS Arizona was a total loss, still burning with only a small
portion of the bridge appearing above the water's surface.
The Oklahoma had capsized to port, sinking into the mud of
the harbor "bottom-up" and carrying more than 400 men to a
watery grave. Likewise
the California sank at its moorings, 100 sailors and Marines dying
with their ship. Commander
Mitsuo Fuchida, who had led the raid, returned to Japan a hero.
Below is the map he presented to Emperor Hirohito in his after
action report. The long red
arrows show the torpedo strikes. One slash indicates minor damage. Three
slashes represent major damage.
An "X" marks those ships that were sunk.
Fire crews worked feverishly to extinguish the flames
around the Tennessee. The
big battleship's guns had fought throughout most of the nearly two-hour
battle, and her engines were at last running.
But the USS West Virginia listed heavily, pinning the
giant battleship against the two concrete quays to which Tennessee
was moored. Unable to move,
the Tennessee was trapped and surrounded by a burning sea in
addition to the fires aboard ship from damage sustained in the battle.
Because the Tennessee was one of the least damaged however,
the wounded were taken to her galley where emergency treatment was being
administered on every table.
the USS Maryland had suffered similar serious damage, but was still
afloat. Next to her was the
upturned hull of the USS Oklahoma, the giant warship now a total
loss. Despite later salvage
attempts she would never sail again.
The USS Pennsylvania in dry dock nearby was also damaged,
but would sail again. Incredibly
so would the USS California which was raised from a sunken position
that left little showing but her superstructure at the end of the day on
Tennessee and USS West Virginia
Maryland and USS Oklahoma
On the northwest side of Ford Island, the
USS Utah had sunk up side down; it's mast digging into the mud to keep the
barnacle-covered hull above water. Inside was trapped the bodies of 54
men. Survivors huddled in trenches a short distance away on the
the din of battle quieted between the waves of enemy airplanes, two of the
survivors heard tapping from inside the up-turned hull. Machinist Stanley
Semanski and Chief Machinist Mate Terry Mac Selwiney realized someone had
survived and was trapped in an air pocket. From the nearby USS Raleigh
they obtained a cutting torch and returned to the over-turned ship to
locate the exact point of the noise's origin. On the other side of the
thick metal Fireman Second Class Jack Vaessen struggled to remain
conscious in a pocket of stale air. He used the last of his ebbing
strength to beat on the hull with a wrench. When at last the torch cut
through the metal he saw daylight. Soon several hands were reaching into
the upturned hull and pulling him to safety. His was the first such rescue
at Pearl Harbor that day.
additional sailors were similarly rescued from the overturned USS Oklahoma
later in the afternoon. On December 8 as the rescue efforts continued, two
groups of eleven and thirteen men each were pulled to safety from holes
cut in the hull of the Oklahoma. Sadly, when the big battleship was
righted, raised and towed into dry dock six months later, the bodies of 20
more sailors were found inside. Scratches on the bulkhead showed that some
had survived for two weeks while awaiting the rescuers who were never able
to reach them.
badly damaged Nevada was aground near Hospital Point, water filling its
metal hull. She had made a valiant run to escape the inferno at Battleship
Row before she was grounded to keep her from sinking. After repairs the
valiant Nevada would return to the war to serve in both theaters. She was
one of the Navy ships that supported the D-Day invasion at Normandy in
In her old age the Nevada was assigned the
inglorious role of target ship, a task similar to that of the USS Utah
prior to the attack at Pearl Harbor. On July 31, 1948 US Navy submarines
and aircraft finally did what the Japanese had failed to do a Pearl
Harbor, sending the now old and worn battleship to the bottom off the
coast of Hawaii.
repair ship USS Vestal was also aground at Aiea Landing, the same area
where crewmembers from the Nevada had planned on an afternoon swim before
their world was turned upside down. Throughout the harbor other American
ships sat in ruin, smoldering into the night sky. In addition to the loss
of all seven battleships on Battleship Row, the damage to the dry docked
battleship Pennsylvania, and the total loss of the
battleship-turned-target-ship USS Utah, six cruisers were damaged along
with four destroyers. Among the hardest hit were the destroyers USS Cassin
and USS Downes. Both were damaged beyond salvation. Only a few parts were
salvaged to help the Navy rebuild its other ships.
Beyond a doubt however, the saddest and
most shocking sight at Pearl Harbor was the burning hulk of the pride of
the Pacific Fleet, the USS Arizona. The fatal blow that had crashed
through the mighty battleship's decks to penetrate and ignite the forward
magazines had been struck with such force that few men were able to find
shelter or safety. She sank quickly, precluding any opportunity for escape
but for a very few fortunate survivors. On December 7, 1941 a total of
1,511 sailors were assigned duty on the Arizona. Only 334 survived the Day
of Infamy. As many as 945 went down with their ship and remain entombed
within to this day. (One hundred and twenty-four members of the crew are
buried as "Unknowns" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the
Though mostly submerged from the gaping
hole where a Japanese bomb had nearly split her in half, fires from the
USS Arizona burned into the night, and in the days afterward.
When the sun finally went down on The Day
of Infamy, the sky continued to be lit by the fires across the harbor.
Sailors worked into the night fighting fires and seeking for survivors,
all the while preparing defenses in the event of another attack.
There would be no second attack, just as
there would be all too few survivors. The surprise at Pearl Harbor had
been complete...and deadly. In addition to the sinking of 21 ships in the
harbor, on the ground nearly 200 planes had been destroyed where they were
parked. The most tragic loss, however, was the loss of life. More than
2,400 Americans were killed including 2,001 sailors, 109 Marines, 231 Army
personnel, and 54 civilians. In addition, 960 more Americans were missing,