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USS Tennessee BB-43

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USS Tennessee at Pearl Harbor

Sunken USS West Virginia, the damaged USS Tennessee, and the sunken USS Arizona  in Pearl Harbor

The USS Tennessee was berthed in Battleship Row on the south side of Ford Island, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

She was in a nested pair with the USS West Virginia and since she was moored inboard, she was protected from the torpedo attack. To her stern was the USS Arizona, and the USS Maryland was just ahead of her, berthed inside to the USS Oklahoma. According to the action report, at about 7:55 AM, Japanese planes were seen dropping bombs on Ford Island.

The Tennessee went to general quarters and began setting condition Zed which was a watertight general quarters. Following the bombing of Ford Island, the planes began to torpedo and bomb the battleships. Within five minutes after the first attack, the Tennessee began to fire on the enemy planes with her anti-aircraft batteries and machine guns. C.E. Reordan wrote in the action report that it was believed that the Tennessee shot down four enemy planes.

The Oklahoma, West Virginia, and California were hit by torpedoes soon after the attack began. The fires on the Arizona and West Virginia started fires on the Tennessee and there was great danger from the raging oil fires on the water. The Tennessee was hit by two bombs around 8:30. The Tennessee had steam up and was ready to get underway by about 9:30. At 10:30, an attempt was made to move her forward and away from the burning Arizona but she was trapped by the sunken West Virginia.

Turret damage to the USS Tennessee after Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

The crew of the Tennessee fought bravely during the Japanese attack and continued to fight oil fires on the Arizona and West Virginia which threatened the Tennessee, continuing the hazardous firefighting efforts throughout the night.

The top photo shows the three battleships after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Starting from the left is the sunken USS West Virginia, the damaged USS Tennessee, and the sunken USS Arizona.
Photo to the left shows bomb damage to turret #3 and catapult.

The USS Tennessee underwent repairs and modifications and she rejoined fleet March 1942. She went on to provide shore bombardment for the landings at Tarawa, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam,Tinian, Leyte, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. She participated in the last battleship to battleship action in the battle of Leyte Gulf.

Photo used are official U.S. Navy Photographs, NHHC Collection.


"Tennessee two bomb hits (probably 15-inch shell type). One of the bombs struck the center gun of No. 2 turret causing a large crack which necessitated replacement of the gun. This bomb exploded and did considerable local fragment damage. Another similar bomb struck the top of No. 3 turret and penetrated same in way of a riveted joint. This bomb was a dud and did no serious damage except for putting one rammer out of commission. The Tennessee suffered serious damage aft in officers' quarters due to fire resulting from the great heat caused by the oil fire starting from the Arizona. The shell plates around the stern were somewhat buckled and joints broken." - Damage report on USS Tennessee Enclosure C to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 February 15, 1942.


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