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USS Vestal AR-4

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Pearl Harbor attack - USS Vestal AR-4

USS Vestal at Pearl Harbor

The USS Vestal berthed in Battleship Row on December 7, 1941, the morning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. She was a repair ship and was moored outboard to the USS Arizona to provide repair services to the battleship.

According to the action report by Commander Cassin Young, general quarters was sounded at 7:55. Shortly after, the crew opened fire with the anti-aircraft and machine guns at the attacking Japanese aircraft. Commander Cassin Young took personal command of the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun. Then the Vestal was struck by two bombs which were probably intended for the Arizona. The first bomb went through three decks and the explosion started a fire. The second bomb left a hole 5 feet wide in the hull.

When the Arizona’s magazine exploded, an oil fire began to rage between the Vestal and Arizona. The concussion of the blast knocked men off the Vestal's deck, including Commander Young, and someone gave the order to abandon ship. However, Young swam back to his ship, countermanded the order and made ready for the Vestal to get underway. The badly damaged ship was now on fire in several places and beginning to list, yet at about 8:45 AM she pulled away and anchored off McGrew Point, a safe distance from the Arizona, which had become a blazing inferno. Soon after, the commander had her grounded on Aiea Bay. For his actions during the attack, Commander Young was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Photo shows the listing USS Vestal on Aiea Shoal after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While still damaged, she sent welding crews to the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma to cut into the hull and free the trapped men.

The Vestal was repaired by the middle of February 1942. She served in the South Pacific where she repaired many warships damaged in battle until the end of World War II, including the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, and battleships USS South Dakota, USS North Carolina and USS Washington.

U.S. Navy Photograph

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

"Vestal struck by two bombs (probably 500 pounds). One bomb hit forward and exploded in the steel shape storage, which stopped a large part of the fragments and minimized damage considerably. The other bomb struck aft and exploded in the hold, causing a large number of fragment holes through the shell. Flooding aft caused the after part of the vessel to submerge almost to the main deck. The vessel was alongside the Arizona when the raid commenced and was beached at Aeia to prevent further sinkage. Temporary repairs have been completed during a short stay in drydock, and permanent work will be completed when a dock is available."