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In Harm’s Way

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As we go into the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor I am posting a number of older articles about the ships and men who endured that attack. During the attack eighteen ships were sunk or damaged, over 2000 Sailors and Marines aboard the ships along with Army personnel ashore were killed. Of the Sailors and Marines, over half lost their lives when the battleship USS Arizona blew up.

But amid the carnage and chaos a number of ship got underway. They were an odd collection; a battleship, two modern light cruisers, an elderly light cruiser and a collection of destroyers, destroyer minesweepers and destroyer minelayers. Yet in the midst of the din and bloody chaos of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor these ships, sometimes with only the most junior of officers in charge got underway and took to sea in order to seek out and engage the Japanese.

Their sortie is dramatized in the Otto Preminger film In Harm’s Way. 

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/477483/In-Harm-s-Way-Movie-Clip-Twelve-Bat-Blind-Ships.html

For the first forty minutes of the attack only two ships were underway. The USS Ward which had sunk the Japanese midget submarine outside the harbor entrance an hour before the attack began. The USS Helm was in the main channel as the attack began. They were joined over the next two hours by other ships.

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The USS Nevada was the only battleship to get underway that morning and though she did not get out of the harbor, her example served to inspire those on the battered ships in the harbor and ashore. Nevada’s commanding officer and executive officer were ashore, along with many other senior officers. But that did not stop the officers still aboard from getting the great ship underway. Her Damage Control Officer, Lieutenant Commander Francis Thomas was a reservist, he took command and as the senior officer present on the ship got her underway. As the ship sailed past the blazing wrecks along Battleship Row the second wave of Japanese attackers set upon her. Heavily damaged Thomas realized that if the Japanese succeeded in sinking Nevada in the narrow main channel it would bottle up the fleet for months. Thomas skillfully grounded the now blazing ship off Hospital Point where she sunk into the mud.

The modern light cruiser USS St. Louis was moored outboard of her sister ship USS Honolulu at the Naval Station. Her sortie was enabled by members of her crew who chopped down the gangplank and cut water lines to the shore. Under command of Captain George Rood she got underway at 0931 and was the first cruiser to get underway.

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The St. Louis was joined by her sister ship USS Phoenix and the elderly light cruiser USS Detroit which was moored on the far side of Ford Island. All three ships survived the war, and in a curious footnote to history, the Phoenix was sunk in the 1982 Falklands war as the Argentine ship General Belgrano.

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The cruisers were joined by a number of destroyers, often under the command of junior officers. The USS Blue got underway under the command of Ensign Nathan Asher, who had just three other ensigns with him as that ship got underway. She was joined by Monaghan, Dale, Henley, Phelps, Farragut, MacDonough, Worden, Patterson, Jarvis and Aylwin also under command of a junior officer, Ensign Stanley Caplan. Henley left without her commander under the command of Lieutenant Francis Fleck Jr.

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The cruisers and destroyers were joined by a number of elderly former destroyers which had been converted to Destroyer Minesweepers or Minelayers. The Ramsay, Breese, Trever and Perry all got underway, Trever also minus her commanding officer.

Some of the ships formed in a vain search for the Japanese strike force while others conducted defensive anti-submarine operations in the waters off Pearl Harbor.

The fact that all of these ships were able to get underway and navigate through the chaos of the attack, often under the command of junior officers and without key crew members was a testament to the courage and initiative of US Navy Officers and Sailors. It is a courage and initiative still in evidence today.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, leadership, Navy Ships, US Navy, world war two in the pacific

In Harm’s Way: The Ships that Got Underway at Pearl Harbor

They were an odd collection of ships. A battleship, two modern light cruisers, an elderly light cruiser and a collection of destroyers, destroyer minesweepers and destroyer minelayers. Yet in the midst of the din and bloody chaos of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor these ships, sometimes with only the most junior of officers in charge got underway and took to sea in order to seek out and engage the Japanese.

Their sortie is dramatized in the Otto Preminger film In Harm’s Way. 

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/477483/In-Harm-s-Way-Movie-Clip-Twelve-Bat-Blind-Ships.html

For the first forty minutes of the attack only two ships were underway. The USS Ward which had sunk the Japanese midget submarine outside the harbor entrance an hour before the attack began. The USS Helm was in the main channel as the attack began. They were joined over the next two hours by other ships.

g32445

The USS Nevada was the only battleship to get underway that morning and though she did not get to sea her example served to inspire those on the battered ships in the harbor and ashore. Her commanding officer and executive officer were ashore, along with many other senior officers. However her Damage Control Officer, Lieutenant Commander Francis Thomas, a reservist took command and as the senior officer present on the the ship got her underway. Then as she was battered by the second wave of Japanese attackers he skillfully grounded her off Hospital Point to keep her from being sunk in the narrow main channel.

LL lv PHUSS St Louis passing Battleship Row

The USS St. Louis was moored outboard of her sister ship USS Honolulu at the Naval Station. Her sortie was enabled by members of her crew who chopped down the gangplank and cut water lines to the shore. Under command of Captain George Rood she got underway at 0931 and was the first cruiser to get underway.

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USS Phoenix sortie at Pearl Harbor

She was joined by her sister ship USS Phoenix and the elderly light cruiser USS Detroit which was moored on the far side of Ford Island.  Phoenix survived the war only to be sunk in the 1982 Falklands war as the Argentine ship General Belgrano.

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The destroyer USS Blue got underway under the command of Ensign Nathan Asher, who had just three other ensigns with him as that ship got underway. She was joined by Monaghan, Dale, Henley, Phelps, Farragut, MacDonough, Worden, Patterson, Jarvis and Aylwin also under command of an junior officer, Ensign Stanley Caplan. Henley left without her commander under the command of Lieutenant Francis Fleck Jr.

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Others too got underway, The USS Mugford was the duty destroyer and got underway quickly, as did Cummings. The Ralph Talbot was underway by 0900. Conyngham got underway in the early afternoon. Perhaps the most interesting story was the USS Selfridge which got underway manned by a composite crew of 7 different ships.

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The cruisers and destroyers were joined by a number of elderly former destroyers which had been converted to Destroyer Minesweepers or Minelayers. The Ramsay, Breese, Trever and Perry all got underway, Trever also minus her commanding officer.

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Some of the ships formed in a vain search for the Japanese strike force while others conducted defensive anti-submarine operations in the waters off Pearl Harbor.

The fact that all of these ships were able to get underway and navigate through the chaos of the attack, often under the command of junior officers and without key crew members was a testament to the courage and initiative of US Navy Officers and Sailors. It is a courage and initiative still in evidence today.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, movies, Navy Ships, US Navy, world war two in the pacific

Forgotten on the Far Side of Ford Island: USS Utah, USS Detroit, USS Raleigh and USS Tangier

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.

USS Utah AG-16 in 1935

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.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, Military, Navy Ships, world war two in the pacific