USS Utah BB-31 in 1920s
When you visit Pearl Harbor most eyes are drawn to the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial on Battleship Row. On the mooring quays the names of the Battleships California, Oklahoma, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee and Arizona mark the places where the proud Battle Force of the U.S. Pacific fleet was moored on the fateful morning of December 7th 1941. Movies such as Tora! Tora! Tora!, In Harm’s Way and Pearl Harbor have recorded the attack in varying degrees of accuracy for audiences worldwide in the 1960s, 1970s and 2000s. All record the attack on Battleship row and the attacks on the Army Air Corps at Hickam Field but all overlook the former battleship moored on the west side of Ford Island, the two elderly light cruisers and the Seaplane Tender moored nearby.
Of course these ships hold little interest to most people, they were elderly, Utah had been converted to a gunnery training ship years before and the Omaha Class light cruisers Raleigh and Detroit were obsolescent and after Pearl Harbor would serve in the backwaters of the Pacific war. The Tangier a new Seaplane Tender occupied the berth aft of Utah.
The USS Utah AG-16, ex-BB-31 was one of the early U.S. Navy Dreadnought battleships of the Florida Class. Utah was 521 feet long, displaced 21,825 tons and mounted 10 12” guns making her comparable to British Dreadnoughts of the Neptune and Colossus class and slightly inferior to the German Helgoland class. Utah was commissioned on 31 August 1911 and served at the Vera Cruz incident where a Naval “battalion” of 17 officers and 371 her prevented the delivery of arms from Germany to Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta. The in the clash with Huerta’s forces the sailors distinguished themselves earning 7 Congressional Medals of Honor.
Utah served as part of the U.S. Battle Squadron sent to operate with the Royal Navy operating out of Ireland conducting convoy protection missions and preparing to engage the German High Seas Fleet if called upon. Utah served from 1919-1931 as a battleship conducting training and goodwill missions to Europe and South America before being converted to a gunnery training and target ship (AG16) in 1931 per the stipulations of the Washington Naval Conference. In 1941 she was modernized and equipped with weapons being installed on modern destroyers before resuming training duties with the fleet at Pearl Harbor.
On the morning of December 7th Utah was moored on the West side of Ford Island and at colors the ship was struck by a torpedo forward and began to heal to port. With the flooding causing the list to increase the senior officer on the ship, LCDR Isquith the Chief Engineer ordered Utah abandoned and while most of the crew was able to escape some were trapped below including Chief Water Tender Peter Tomich who remained below to ensure that the boilers were secured and his sailors safely out of the boiler rooms. Tomich was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his sacrifice. By 0812 the mooring cables had snapped and Utah lay on her beam sinking into the harbor her war over. 6 Officers and 58 crewmen died the majority trapped in the ship. The ship would be partially righted to clear an adjacent berth in 1944.
The Raleigh and Detroit were Omaha Class Light Cruisers 555 feet long, displacing 7050 tons and mounting 12 6” guns and 10 21” torpedo tubes and were capable of 3 knots. This made them more heavily armed than the contemporary Japanese Nagara Class or the British C, D or E Class light cruisers and larger than all but the two ship E Class. However by the beginning of the war they were inferior to all newly constructed ships.
USS Raleigh CL-7 fighting to stay afloat
The cruiser Raleigh took a torpedo that caused her to list so sharply that it was feared she would capsize, however the heroic efforts of her crew and service force craft and sailors kept her afloat and allowed her to fight another day. Most of her war would be fought in the Aleutians and following the war she would be decommissioned and scrapped.
USS Detroit CL-8 1945, final configuration
Detroit was able to get underway during the attack and avoid damage to join other ships which had escaped to form an ad hoc task group to find the Japanese strike force. She would also serve in the Aleutians through 1944 when she became flagship of the Replenishment Group servicing the U.S. Carrier Task Forces of the 3rd and the 5th Fleets. She would be present in Tokyo Bay for the signing of the peace treaty ending the war. She too would be decommissioned and scrapped shortly after the war.
Tangier would serve in many parts of the Pacific as a mobile base for PBY Catalina’s which conducted reconnaissance, anti-submarine and search and rescue operations in support of the fleet for the duration of the war. She was decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1961.
USS Utah Memorial (Google Earth)
Today a monument is located on Ford Island near the rusting hulk of the Utah. It replaced a bronze plaque which had been placed on the wreck in the late 1940s. The Memorial was officially dedicated on Memorial Day 1972. The monument is not listed on most tourist brochures and the memorial attracts few visitors. I was able to visit the memorial in 1978 while on a Navy Junior ROTC Cadet Cruise to Pearl Harbor and back. The official USS Utah association website is linked here: http://ussutah.org/ and the Historical Naval Ships Association webpage on Utah is here: http://hnsa.org/ships/utah.htm and the Naval History and Heritage Webpage is here: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-u/bb31-y.htm
The Raleigh, Detroit and Tangier have no memorials. Despite the anonymity of these ships and the men who served on them they all played a role in the war and they should not be forgotten.
33 responses to “Forgotten on the Far Side of Ford Island: USS Utah, USS Detroit, USS Raleigh and USS Tangier”
Thank you so much for this post! As a lover of the “forgotten” things of WW2. be they men, ships, planes, armies, or theatres of war, I developed an interest in the lesser known sides of WW2. (The Aleutian Islands theatre is one of my favourite topics, that and Dieppe.) I have always been frustrated by people glibly naming the battleships lost at Pearl, and always excluding USS Utah. Yes, she had been converted to a gunnery training ship, and yes, she carried the ignominious title of AG, as opposed to the proud BB (battleship) title. But she was born a battleship, and she still bore her battleship name when she was lost. Her frequent exclusion is even more galling when you realise that one of the MOH handed out for bravery at Pearl went to Peter Tomich (as you cover above), an immigrant who gave his life to save his fellow engineering crew. (For more info on the MOH winners, check out http://genealogytrails.com/ww2/PearlHarborMedalofHonor-pg01.html ). I hope there are some special ceremonies for the 70th anniversary next year – coverage was rather sparse today. As the old saying goes, “Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it”. Thank you, Padre, for remembering an event so easily overlooked in today’s story-of-the-hour news coverage.
Mr. Erickson sent me here to read this one … wow … the power of the lesser-known stories. I simply never knew.
Reblogged this on Padresteve's World…Musings of a Passionate Moderate and commented:
Friends of Padre Steve’s World
Since we are remembering the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor this week here is an older post about some of the lesser known ships that were attacked on the far side of Ford Island during the attack. They were not the Battleships, they were a former Battleship converted to a gunnery training ship and target ship, a tender and an a pair of obsolete Light Cruisers. However, they too like their ore famous sisters on Battleship Row endured the assault of the Japanese First Air Fleet on that Sunday that will live in infamy.
My first entry to Pearl Harbor,was Feb. 1960. I visited Ford island when we left some of our Landing Craft there in 1963,while we went out to be used as lab rats in SHAD experiments.
I was very upset that the USS Utah was so ignored. Those men died just as horrible a death as the men on the Arizona.
I’m glad to see they now get a little recognition.
I remember visiting the Utah in 1978. I felt the same way
I realize this is an old, 3 1/2 year old, post, but I felt the need to tell you that it is one of the VERY few places to find info on the Tangier. Thank you.
Glad to do it. Ships like Tangier are often forgotten
Also a bit late, but little known fact is that the remains of the baby daughter of one of the crew remains interned in the hull. The father was intending to spread the baby’s ashes at sea but never got the chance.
My Father was a photographer on board the USS Tangier on Dec 7 1941 And witnessed this terrible event. I do not know to this day if any of the film or still pictures were taken by him. Could someone help me?
You might want to contact the Naval Historical center or the Pearl Harbor museum to see if they have anything that your father might have taken in an official capacity from Tangier. It would be interesting to see if they have anything on hand. Best of luck to you.
Since Tangier was moored astern of Utah there is a very strong possibility that he took the iconic photo of Utah rolling over.
Thank You. I will try them
I just visited the USS Utah and it’s incredible sad that it is being forgotten. There needs to be a bus that can take people from the USS Arizona to the USS Utah. I am going to write the governor. These men have sacrificed their lives and should not be forgotten. Thank you for your article.
I haven’t been to the Utah since 1978, her case is sad, so forlorn and forgotten. Thanks for your post and I hope you can get some results.
It was rather eerie to see no one at the Utah memorial after being packed in at the Arizona. It really does need to be better publicized, and accomodations made so the public can access it.
An important point is that the Utah’s sacrifice may well have affected the long term outcome, as if the attacking pilots had ignored her as per their orders, they would not have “wasted” torpedoes on that side of the island, and done more damage to the active duty ships on and near Battleship Row.
I was there in 1978, it is a forlorn site, especially with how pack the Arizona is. I wish they would do more with her resting place
It is October 17, 2016. I am a 98 year old ex radioman aboard the USS Detroit at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. Still Kicking!
Sir, thank you for your service and keep kicking! Blessings always!
God Bless you Sir! 5th Daughter of your ship mate HT Craig V. Gates!!
Frank did you know my grandfather he was also a radio man on the Detroit during the attack, last name Whitlock ..
I hope you are still kicking, sir. If you get this, could you let me know if you remember my grandfather, Einar Juel, who was 51 at the time of Pearl Harbor and on the USS Detroit then and throughout the war. All blessings.
My Dad was on the USS Detroit that December day too; his name was Charles J Rollins of Everett MA.
Padresteve~~I had the privilege to visit the Utah in 1990. At that time, you could not get onto Ford Island without a Military ID card. I had one , so my wife & I could drive over the bridge. It was odd that when I inquired at the ‘gate’ to cross over the bridge, as to the location of the Utah,the young female Army guard knew nothing about the location of the site.
Here’s a link to the Infant that’s still on the wreck.
Thanks for taking the time to shed some light on a forgotten piece of history.
I remember those days, when I saw Utah there wasn’t even a bridge to Ford Island. We took a Navy launch to go across from the Naval Station to Ford Island…
Pingback: #PearlHarbor75: Remembering the USS Oklahoma and the USS Utah [VIDEO] - Victory Girls Blog
don’t know if anyone has pointed this out, but one obvious reason few “tourists” visit the utah memorial is that a military id is required to get there.
lived in Pearl 1955-59 as a child, Only memorial for the Arizona was a pipe sticking up with a brass plaque. Utah had nothing. My dad was on the USS wright another seaplane tender that came into harbor early morning on the 8th. That day he went with a rescue crew to the Utah said they saved a few. He was the ships diver. Last time I saw the Utah was 1958 and it was still intact.
I passed the wreck while on a sailboat. i was 12 years old in 1973 and living at Fort Shafter on Oahu. there was a lot more of the wreck back then and if I can locate the pictures we took i will post them.
Today, December 6, 2017 I visited the USS Utah for the interment of two of the sailors who were on Her the next day in 1941. The two individuals were LCD Clark Simmons (USN Ret) and PO1 Harry Halstadt, The old ship is still there on the bottom on the west side of Ford Island and Mother Nature is eating away at Her. It was a very moving ceremony and my wife and I were honored to have attend. We live on Oahu so I’ll get a few pictures and post them.
Hi.. Your article has an error on the number of crew which died on the USS Utah. The correct numbers are 6 Officers & 52 crew as verified by the Naval History and History Command as per this recent update – https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/u/utah.html
An error was introduced in the 2nd edition of the DANFS history which incorrectly raised the total to 64. After my inquiry on the 2 different death tolls, the Command did additional research and found the error and corrected the total death count as per the URL I’ve included in my reply.
Thank you. Since the article is old I was not privy to the research you did to get DANFS to make the change. I appreciate that. I read a comment a more recent book on the German High Command that history is also going back and finding new data that corrects or clarifies things that were initially reported. Truth and history depend on it. Thank you again.
Padre Steve, It is now becoming the 80th Anniversary of the attack as I am writing this and my uncle, Lansing Sharp was a crewman on the Raleigh, having reported aboard in 1938 and remained with the ship through the Aleutians Campaign. He was a Water Tender (boiler specialist) and rose through the ranks on Raleigh all the way to Chief Water Tender when he was discharged in 1945, I believe.
I served in the Submarine Service and was Homeported at Pearl Harbor in 1967-1969 on USS Mariano G. Vallejo. Our first berth on arriving at PH was F-12 which just so happened to be the berth the Raleigh was tied up on Dec 7th, according to the Brass Plaque at the berth when we were there. That berth was at the aircraft carrier piers which were not in port. It is why the ships were attacked, the Japanese expected the carriers and attacked whatever was there, unfortunately it was those obsolete ships, as pointed out in your excellent story. The Utah was a rusting hulk even when I was there in the 60’s. But one time the USS Enterprise tied up at that berth while I was there. Of course it took up several of the berths since it was so big.
That was just after the Arizona Memorial and before the Utah Memorial. I ddi get to see the Utah Memorial from a distance when I was touristing in 2016, and it is a nice though small memorial. It is not accessible as it is on Navy Base Property, while the Pearl Harbor Memorial and Arizona are part of the US Park Service Property.
A story told by my mother was that her brother worked on the hull of the Utah from after the attack until Christmas trying to cut holes in the hull, initially for rescue, but that very quickly became recovery for those lost on Utah. Lansing never talked to anyone about his wartime experiences, except maybe my mother. It very deeply affected him. He died one month after reaching 65 and retiring from Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati.
Edwin, Thank,you so much for sharing this deeply moving story about your uncle. I am of the firm belief that that the stories of him and others must be shared, otherwise they will be forgotten. That cannot be allowed to happen.
I visited Arizona and Utah as a Naval Junior ROTC cadet in 1978. Both were deeply moving. I have not been to Missouri, at least yet. Sadly, so many men like your uncle did not live long enough.
Again, thank you so much for sharing.