PEARL HARBOR AND USS ARIZONA MYTHS
The top three myths about the USS Arizona are in no particular
- She is still in commission.
- A bomb falling down the stack and detonating the boilers
- All 14" guns were removed for use in coastal batteries.
All of these are totally false, yet several authors who should
have known better have included these falsehoods in their books. To address
- She is not in commission.
- She was placed "in ordinary" at Pearl Harbor
on December 29,1941, and was stricken on December 1, 1942. (Source – Dictionary
of American Naval Fighting Ships – Published by USN.)
2. She was hit by 2 bombs (of 10 dropped) none down the stack.
The fatal bomb hit forward, between #1 and #2 turrets, detonating the forward
magazine and causing the forward decks to collapse. The "down the stack"
theory is disproved by several facts:
- The deck over the boilers is intact to this day.
- The boiler uptakes are visible.
- If the boilers had exploded, the deck would be gone.
- The screen that was over the top of the stack was found
intact in the harbor.
- A bomb falling down the stack would have pierced the screen.
- A boiler explosion would not have caused the forward decks
to collapse as they did.
- The "down the stack" theory is perpetuated by
the notion that the superstructure was blasted forward as shown in well-known
- This was actually caused by the collapse of the decks below
the superstructure. (Source is – Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
– several other publications and inspection of the photos of the ship.)
The actual mechanics of the fatal bomb hit are as
- The bomb was a converted 16.1" naval shell.
- It hit just forward and to the side of turret #2.
- It started a large oil fire in the forward part of the
- The oil fire ignited over 1,000 pounds of black powder
for the aircraft catapults, which was kept in a small magazine between
#1 and #2 turrets.
- The explosion of the black powder caused the forward
main magazine to explode, destroying the forward part of the ship.
3. Contrary to popular belief all 14" guns were removed,
three of the twelve 14" guns remain in place.
- The existence of the turret and guns is clearly supported by overhead
photography, such as the picture on page 55 of the12/91 issue of National
- The removed guns were used in shore defense batteries.
OTHER INTERESTING FACTS:
- After she was stricken all of her superstructure was removed, both for the
scrap value and because it was a hazard.
- Admiral Arthur W. Radford, CinPacFlt, started the tradition of hoisting
the US flag over the ship March 7, 1950.
- The Memorial over the wreck was dedicated on May 30, 1962. It does not rest
on any part of the ship.
- Oil is still leaking out of the ship, a few drops at a time.
- Due to structural damage from the attack and 60+ years of rust, the Arizona
is reportedly nearing the point of collapse.
- The Arizona and Utah are the only two ships that were not salvaged after
- The USS Utah capsized during the attack and was partially righted afterwards
to clear a berth.
- The Arizona was left on the bottom because she is the tomb of about a thousand
men and was obviously beyond repair.
- The Utah was a target ship and had no military value, so there was no point
to expend the effort to salvage her.
- The Utah was placed ‘in ordinary’ and transferred to the Pearl Harbor Base
Force December 29, 1941, placed out of commission, ‘not in service’ September
5, 1944 and stricken November 13, 1944.
- Although the ‘Dictionary of American Fighting Ships’ says the
USS Utah is a tomb of an ‘unknown number of men’ some simple math shows there
are 60 men inside (6 officers, 58 enlisted killed, 4 buried ashore).
- There is a Memorial on Ford Island beside her berth.
- The third ship that did-not return to service was the USS Oklahoma BB-37,
she capsized during the attack and was righted and raised in 1943.
- By that time there was little need for more old slow moving battleships
and reconstruction would have taken to the end of the war.
- She was decommissioned September 1, 1944 and essentially
everything above the main deck was removed. Her guns were installed on the
USS Pennsylvania and her hulk remained at Pearl Harbor until after the war.
- The Oklahoma was sold as scrap December 5, 1946 and sank
under tow May 17, 1947, 540 miles out from Pearl Harbor enroute to San Francisco
- Two other hulls were destroyed at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, The destroyers
USS Cassin DD 372 and Downs DD 375. The ships were bombed and destroyed in
- Officially the ships did not die at Pearl Harbor, as the machinery and weapons
were fitted to new hulls and launched in 1943.
- The Arizona and Utah are not the only hulks at the bottom of
the harbor. Five LST's (43, 69, 179, 353 and 480) were destroyed in an ammunition
handling accident and resultant explosion on May 21, 1944.
- Their hulks still remain in the west lock of Pearl Harbor.
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