The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caught the USNavy off guard but ultimately failed to cripple its war effort at sea, thanks to a massive salvage effort that began almost as soon as the smoke cleared. But did you know how long it took for the US Navy to repair the damages from the attack?
The US managed to refloat most of the battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor after 20,000 hours of underwater repairs. Ships recovered in the Philippines included the USS West Virginia, USS California, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, and USS Pennsylvania.
The Surprise Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was unexpected, but Japan and the United States had been threatening war for years.
The US was particularly dissatisfied with Japan’s increasingly belligerent attitude toward China. The Japanese government believed that the only way to solve its economic and demographic problems was to invade and take over its neighbor’s import market.
Japan declared war on China in 1937 to achieve this goal, resulting in the Nanking Massacre and other atrocities.
American officials imposed a slew of economic sanctions and trade embargoes in response to this aggression. They reasoned that if Japan did not have access to money and goods, particularly essential supplies like oil, it would be forced to rein in its expansionism.
Instead, the sanctions strengthened the Japanese resolve to stand firm. Despite months of negotiations, neither Tokyo nor Washington DC would budge. War appeared to be all but unavoidable. (Source: History)
The Pearl Harbor Attack Aftermath
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor crippled or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and over 300 airplanes. Airfields and dry docks were also destroyed. Most importantly, 2,403 sailors, soldiers, and civilians were killed, with an additional 1,000 injured.
However, the Japanese were unable to cripple the Pacific Fleet. By the 1940s, aircraft carriers had surpassed battleships as the most important naval vessel, and all Pacific Fleet’s carriers were away from the base on December 7. Some had returned to the mainland, while others were transporting planes to troops stationed on Midway and Wake Islands.
Furthermore, the Pearl Harbor attack had left the base’s most vital onshore facilities intact, including oil storage depots, repair shops, shipyards, and submarine docks. As a result, the United States Navy recovered from the attack relatively quickly. (Source: History)
The USS Arizona
The Japanese strategy was straightforward: destroy the Pacific Fleet. The Americans could not fight back because Japan’s armed forces spread across the South Pacific. After months of planning and practice, the Japanese launched their attack on December 7.
Japanese planes filled the sky over Pearl Harbor around 8 a.m. Bombs and bullets rained down on the moored vessels below. A 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in the battleship’s forward ammunition magazine at 8:10. The ship exploded and sank, trapping over 1,000 men inside.
The surprise attack was over in less than two hours, and every battleship in Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Utah, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee, and USS Nevada, had suffered significant damage. Except for the USS Arizona and USS Utah, all were eventually salvaged and repaired. (Source: History)
Image from Britannica