Remembering HER...Part 1...Remembering December 7th...by Bruce Tarleton

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Part 1 of a 3 part series of the most iconic attack of December 7th.

She was 24 years old when she died. In an age of technological advancements, she was getting old. But don't tell that to her crew. They will tell you she had a punch. She could throw a 14" 1,400 lbs armor piercing shell 34,000 yards at 2,700 feet per second. She was a force to be reckoned with. Apparently, the Japanese felt the same way.

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She was commissioned October 17, 1916. The second ship in the Pennsylvania class of Battleships, She was an improvement over her sisters in the Nevada Class.  And She was formidable.  4 sets of triple 14 inch 45 caliber guns, 22 5-inch 5 1-caliber guns; four 3-inch 50-caliber guns; and two 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes.  Her armor at its maximum thickness was 18 inches.  She was built during a time when ocean warfare was the same as it had been for hundreds of years, designed to slug it out on the open sea.

She could not deploy to England during the first world war, as she was an oil burner. A new class of warship. Fuel oil was scarce in England. So She spent the last days of that conflict patrolling the waters off the US east coast. But She was not without her glory. She was the lead escort for the convoy carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference in December of 1918.

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She had a rich life. Operating from the East coast, to the Caribbean, to Europe, the Mediterranean, transiting the Canal, and operating up and down both coasts of South America. She hosted President Herbert Hoover for a two week tour of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in 1931. And She was the Flag ship of Admiral Nimitz in 1937.

By that time She was conducting most of her exercises and Fleet problems in the Pacific waters from the West coast to Hawaii, and as far north as Alaska. As tensions between the US and Japan mounted, She joined with many of her sister ships as part of the Pacific Fleet, based from Pearl Harbor.

And this is where She was found that morning, 73 years ago.

Her death was both swift and lingering. Swift in that She sank less than 15 minutes after the first air raid siren sounded on board at 0755. At least 8 bombs landed on her in the opening moments of the attack. The last bomb glanced off the Number 2 Turret, crashed through the deck and exploded in a black powder magazine, which in turn set off adjacent smokeless powder magazines. The explosion was caught on film, and is an icon of that fateful morning. The fires touched off by that explosion burned for two days, a lingering reminder for all to witness.

1,400 men were on board that morning, 1,177 perished. The single greatest loss of life that morning. 37 sets of brothers served on her. 23 of those sets perished together. Only one set of bothers survived. More than 1000 of her crew rest with her on the bottom of the harbor, forever entombed in the great lady.

Some of her sisters fared better that day. The USS Nevada actually got underway. But the ferocity of attacks, as she made her way out of the harbor, forced her captain to beach her, rather than have her sink in the channel, blocking it. The California and West Virginia were sunk. The Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee received moderate damage. The Oklahoma capsized, but was raised, stripped and sold for scrap.

The others were raised, repaired, and sent to sea. They got their revenge at the Battle of Surigao Strait in October of 1944. They remembered. They remembered what happened to them that morning in 1941. They remembered what happened to their sister. For She was not with them. She was back at Pearl. On the harbor bottom. With her crew.

And each time they returned to port, they could see her. Her mast sticking up. A gun turret still visible. For several years there were barges close by, as equipment was removed, shells unloaded, powder removed, damaged metal cut away. Until only a few bits of the great ship were left to be seen. But they knew She was there. With her crew. And each time they passed her, going to sea or coming home, they rendered Honors. And they still do today.

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Because they remember HER.

 


Submitted: December 06, 2014

© Copyright 2021 btarl63. All rights reserved.

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