Pearl Harbor

Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

The following article is a brief description of events at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941


  • At 0712 local time, Sunday, December 7, 1941, the destroyer USS WARD advised that she had been attacked by an enemy submarine and that she had counter-attacked with depth charges. She was subsequently credited with sinking the attacking submarine and her Commanding Officer, Lt. W.W. Outerbridge, was decorated. This was the first action of that memorable morning.
  • At 0755 enemy aircraft were seen approaching from the northward and attacks on Ford Island and ships in the harbor were begun immediately thereafter.
  • At 0842 a Japanese midget submarine was sunk in Middle Loch by ramming by the USS MONAGHAN and by gunfire from the USS CURTISS after resurfacing.
  • At 0910 dive bomber attacked the battleship PENNSYLVANIA, and the destroyers CASSIN and DOWNES, all in number one Drydock. the PENNSYLVANIA was struck by one five-hundred pound fragmentation bomb at frame 83 starboard, about eight feet, about eight feet in from the side of the ship. This bomb exploded on the upper deck and caused heavy personnel casualties. The CASSIN was struck by a 100-pound incendiary bomb which passed through the ship and exploded next to the DOWNES. This opened the DOWNES’ oil tanks and ignited oil. Another incendiary bomb exploded between the two destroyers and a third bomb struck the director platform of the DOWNES and exploded in the chart house.
  • Heat of the oil fires caused detonation of five-inch ammunition and warheads on the DOWNES, doing great damage. The PENNSYLVANIA was easily repaired, but the CASSIN and DOWNES were abandoned after being re-floated and removed from the Drydock. About fifty percent of their machinery was recovered and used in new hulls. Another bomb hit the west wall of the dock and cut the crane rail. Also, flames from the CASSIN and DOWNES damaged the forty-ton Drydock crane.
  • In the same attack (0910), planes heavily bombed the YFD-2(located just Ewa of number three Drydock) containing the destroyer SHAW and the tug (YT-9) SOTOYOMO. The SHAW was hit by three bombs (200-300 pounds) which exploded below decks, rupturing the forward fuel tanks and scattering burning oil. Heat from the oil fire was the probable cause of the ensuing explosion of the forward magazine, which wrecked the hull as far back as Frame 56. One of the most famous pictures of the war was of this explosion, taken from Ford Island. The tug SOTOYOMO was wrecked by the fire and explosion. The YFD sank from holes in her bottom caused by approximately five bombs, four of which affected her watertight integrity. Her watertight compartments were pierced by 155 fragments.
  • At 0758 the USS HELENA and the USS OGALALA were attacked at Baker 2, 1010 Dock. At the attack, the HELENA was moored inboard of the OGALALA and was struck on the starboard side by an aerial torpedo which passed under the OGALALA. The pressure wave from this explosion pushed in the OGALALA’S port bilge and caused flooding. The OGALALA got underway and moved astern of the HELENA alongside of 1010 Pier, where she capsized and sank. The HELENA was not heavily damaged and was quickly repaired, after Drydock. During the above described attack, an enemy bomb struck 1010 Pier at Baker 3 doing damage to the concrete. This was probably a 500-pound armor piercing type bomb.
  • At 0758, the USS MARYLAND was attacked at Berth F-5, where she was moored inboard of the OKLAHOMA. She was struck by two bombs forward. The first bomb exploded on impact; the second entered the port side below the water line and exploded, causing considerable flooding and putting the bow down about five feet.
  • In the same attack (0758), the USS WEST VIRGINIA was heavily damaged and sunk at F-6 by probably six torpedoes and two large bomb hits. The torpedo hits wrecked the port side. There was also great damage from the bomb hits and from the oil fires. The WEST VIRGINIA was moored outboard of the TENNESSEE and took the brunt of this attack. Evidence was subsequently found to indicate that three men survived below decks until 23 December 1941.
  • When the WEST VIRGINIA settled to the bottom of the harbor she squeezed hard against the USS TENNESSEE, which was moored inboard, and pushed her hard up against the forward quay, causing hull damage. In order to release the TENNESSEE it was necessary to remove about half of the reinforced concrete of the quay. TENNESSEE was also struck by two 15-inch armor piercing projectile type bombs and burned severely by oil fire on water from ARIZONA.
  • Greatest damage of all was sustained by the USS ARIZONA, moored at B-7 which was struck by one torpedo and probably seven bombs, one of which was probably 1,000 – 2,000 pounds and went down the stack. Another is believed to have penetrated to the black powder magazines, destroying the whole ship’s forward structure in the resulting explosion. The ARIZONA is still on the bottom with 1100 bodies in her. She sunk in 0758 attack.
  • The USS OKLAHOMA was berthed at F-5, outboard of the USS MARYLAND, and was struck by four aerial torpedoes. She capsized and sank at approximately 0810.
  • The USS NEVADA was moored astern of the ARIZONA at Berth f-8 and was struck by one torpedo in the initial (0758) attack. She was able to get underway at approximately 0855 and proceeded down South Channel. She was heavily attacked by dive bombers at approximately 0910, opposite YFD-2 and sustained five or six bomb hits. Two of these bombs passed through the ship and exploded, causing heavy flooding. She was beached on Waipio Peninsula, southeast of Beckoning Point and opposite of Hospital Point.
  • The USS CALIFORNIA was berthed at F-3 and was heavily damaged in the initial (0758) attack. She was struck by two torpedoes on the port side while one large bomb near miss opened a hole on the port side. Another near miss caused minor damage on the starboard side. A third bomb passed through the upper deck and exploded on the second deck, causing extensive damage. She settled slowly and sank three days after the attack.
  • The USS VESTAL was moored alongside the ARIZONA at Berth f-7, but got underway after explosion of ARIZONA’S forward magazines. She was beached on Aiea Shoal at Berth C-3 after having been struck by two 15-inch armor piercing projectile type bombs.
  • The USS CURTIS was moored at X-Ray 22, and was struck by one heavy armor piercing bomb, which exploded amidships, causing extensive damage.  Also a Japanese plane crashed on her starboard crane. This could well have been the first of the Kamikazes.
  • On the opposite side of Ford Island from the most extensive damage along Battleship Row, the USS UTAH and the USS RALEIGH were attacked. The UTAH at F-11 was probably struck by three aerial torpedoes on the port side and was sunk. She was subsequently rolled over to clear the channel, but was left on the bottom. There are still 58 of her crew entombed aboard her.
  • The USS RALEIGH was moored at berth F-12 and was struck by aerial torpedo at about Frame 56 on the port side below the armor belt. She was also hit by one 15-inch projectile type bomb which passed through several decks and went ou the port side, exploding in the water causing hull damage. She did not sink.

Courtesy of WO1 Jack Hammett, USN (Ret) who was Stationed at US Naval Hospital, Pearl Harbor, T. H.