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USS Pennsylvania BB-38

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USS Pennsylvania astern of the destroyers Cassin and Downes after Pearl Harbor attack.

USS Pennsylvania in drydock at Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the battleship USS Pennsylvania was in the Navy Yard drydock, with the destroyers USS Cassin and USS Downes just ahead of her. According to the action reports, at about 7:57 explosions were heard on the end of Ford Island and with a second explosion, the realization came that an aerial attack was in progress. The battleships came under attack but the Pennsylvania was out of reach of the torpedo bombers.

General quarters was sounded and the crew proceeded to battle stations, some breaking locks off the ready ammunition boxes when necessary. Shortly after 8:00 she became one of the first ships to commence firing at the Japanese planes as her anti-aircraft guns were put into action.

During the attack, George Walters, a shipyard worker, ran the large dock crane back and forth along its track attempting block the path of the low flying Japanese aircraft with the boom. Gunners on the Pennsylvania, with her view blocked, being below ground level in drydock, used the location of the boom as a warning to indicate the direction of the incoming aircraft.

Photo above shows the Pennsylvania and heavily damaged Cassin and Downes after the drydock was flooded. The crane can be seen on the dock. The damaged USS Helena can be seen between the Pennsylvania and the dock. In the distance, to the left of the Pennsylvania are the battleships, Maryland and capsized Oklahoma. Photo source: Navy Photographer's Mate Harold Fawcett, National Archives Collection.

The Japanese bombers began to target the Pennsylvania and the destroyers, Cassin and Downes. Shortly after 9:00, a bomb hit the hit the boat deck of the Pennsylvania, and the explosion starting fires on the ship. Fires also raged on the destroyers ahead of the Pennsylvania which spread by oil in the water, to her bow. The action report by C. M. Cooke, states that “the bomb explosion caused the death of about 26 men and two officers. ....Total number of wounded was 29.”

USS Shaw, Helena Pennsylvania, Cassin and Downes in drydock

Fire damage to the USS Pennsylvania sustained during Pearl Harbor attack.

Photo to the left shows damage to the hull of the Pennsylvania.

Photo to the right, taken on December 10, 1941, shows the position of the ships in drydock. In the top left is the damaged USS Shaw at an angle in the sunken floating drydock YFD-2. The damaged cruiser USS Helena has been relocated to Drydock Two for repairs (center). At the bottom in Drydock One is the Pennsylvania and the heavily damaged Cassin and Downes.

U.S. Navy Photographs, National Archives Collection.


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Damage report on USS Pennsylvania
February 15, 1942

"Pennsylvania one bomb hit in way of after 5-inch gun starboard side. The vessel was in drydock No. 1. The damage from bomb explosion was considerable but not of a vital nature, although there were a large number of casualties and one gun was put out of commission. The damage did not extend below the second deck."


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