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USS Utah BB-31/AG-16

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USS Utah (AG16) during the attack on Pearl Harbor

USS Utah at Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the USS Utah was berthed on the north eastern side of Ford Island. She was an obsolete battleship being used as a bombing target and training ship at Pearl Harbor. The men on her topside noticed three planes shortly before 8:00AM which began dropping bombs at the southern end of Ford Island.

According to the action report, all of Utah's guns were covered with steel houses, the machine guns were stowed below in storerooms, and the ammunition was secured in the magazines. The ship was defenseless against the Japanese attack.

Capsized Utah in Pearl harbor

At 8:01AM a torpedo hit the Utah and she began to list. Another torpedo hit almost immediately and the list increased. It became apparent that the ship would capsize and the order was passed to abandon ship. By 8:12 the mooring lines had snapped and she capsized. Returning planes began to strafe the men in the water.

Peter Tomich had ignored the order to abandon ship. He stayed behind to stabilize the boilers to prevent an explosion. For this selfless act, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

Utah Memorial

After some of Utah's survivors had reached Ford Island, they heard a knocking sound coming from the Utah. Volunteers returned to the ship while the strafing continued, and with a cutting torch were able to free Fireman John (Jack) Vaessen.

Photo above, right, shows the bow of the Utah, where she capsized in her berth. Over sixty men from the Utah died during the attack and all but four remain inside the hull. The wreck was later moved closer to Ford Island and a land based memorial placed next to it. Photo to left shows the Utah memorial on Memorial Day May 31, 2004.

U.S. Navy Photographs

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Damage report on USS Utah
Enclosure C to
CINCPAC action report Serial 0479
February 15, 1942

"Utah struck by two, and possibly three, aerial torpedoes capsized at berth. Ship is within a few degrees of being exactly upside down."