Remember Pearl Harbor
Seventy-four years ago, just before 8 a.m. Sunday Dec., 7, 1941 six Japanese aircraft carriers, stationed 230 miles off Oahu, launched an array of aircraft intent on inflicting damage to American assets at Pearl Harbor, particularly to battleships, aircraft carriers, and parked aircraft. Oahu, home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the largest concentration of U.S. forces in the Pacific with about 50,000 American troops. There were more than 90 ships at anchor when the attack began. Of the eight prime targets —the battleships – seven were moored at Battleship Row on the southeast shore of Ford Island, and USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) was in drydock just across the channel.
Unfortunately, the surprise and ferocity of the attack made launching ships and defensive aircraft nearly impossible. The first wave of assault lasted about half an hour followed by a short lull before the second wave of attack began. During that first assault a small number of planes were launched, and in the lull USS Nevada (BB 36) managed to get underway, despite being badly damaged. As she steamed through the channel toward the open ocean, the harbor control tower realized Japanese forces were trying to sink her, hoping she’d block the narrow entrance to Pearl Harbor. She was ordered to beach herself to keep the channel clear, which she did at Hospital Point.
In just under two hours, 21 Pacific Fleet ships were damaged or sunk: the battleships USS Arizona (BB 39), USS California (BB 44), USS Maryland (BB 46), USS Nevada (BB 36), USS Oklahoma (BB 37), USS Pennsylvania (BB 38), USS Tennessee (BB 43), and USS West Virginia (BB 48); cruisers USS Helena (CL 50), USS Honolulu (CL 48), and USS Raleigh (CL 7); the destroyers USS Cassin (DD 372), USS Downes (DD 375), USS Helm (DD 388), and USS Shaw (DD 373); seaplane tender USS Curtiss (AV 4); target ship (ex-battleship) USS Utah (AG 16); repair ship USS Vestal (AR 4); minelayer USS Oglala (CM 4); tug USS Sotoyomo (YT 9); and Floating Drydock Number 2. By happenstance, there were no U. S. carriers in port at the time of the attack, however, in addition to the ships that were hit, 188 aircraft were destroyed and 159 were damaged.
Despite the wreckage, most of the damaged or sunken ships were repaired and back in service for the war within just two years. However, USS Arizona was considered too badly damaged to be salvaged and serves as a memorial to those lost.
The attack on Pearl Harbor not only united the nation and propelled it into World War II; it also made a lasting impact on U.S. Navy Sailors and the Pacific Fleet. In the years since the air raid, countless buildings have been named in honor of Pearl Harbor Sailors as a way to commemorate their actions during the attack. Sixteen individuals’ names have been bestowed on ships, with some being used multiple times. Undoubtedly each of those commands have inherited the fighting spirit of their namesake and connected us with our collective history. That link will continue when the future USS John Finn (DDG 113) is commissioned next year, 75 years after the date, which lives in infamy.