Dead Ships Sail Again

Workers examine the upturned hull of USS Oklahoma, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. USS Maryland is behind her, note the float remaining on her turret catapult from a destroyed seaplane. Photo in the collection of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

Location: Peral Harbor, Territory of Hawaii

On the afternoon of 7 December, 1941, there were twenty-one ships in Pearl Harbor that had been damaged. Of those, twelve were sunk or grounded. After the cessation of rescue operations, the focus switched to salvaging the ships damaged in the attack. The operation was led by Captain Homer N. Wallin. Herculean efforts were needed in the cases of some ships, with 20,000 hours logged by divers alone over the next year. The ships afloat were able to be simply drydocked as space became available, or sent back to the US mainland if in good enough condition. Sunken or grounded ships required holes to be patched, and water pumped out to refloat them, before drydocking. The most impressive feat was the righting of the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma, requiring a massive pulley system to be set up attached to Ford Island, next to which she had been berthed. Eventually, all but two of the ships were raised, with USS Utah and USS Arizona remaining in the harbor to this day, and of the rest, only Oklahoma was not returned to service.