Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor Pt 2.

The United States Pacific Fleet

Led by Admiral Husband Kimmel and described as the most powerful force in the Pacific and a great threat to the Japanese Navy in it's efforts to conquer the rest of the Pacific. This fleet consisted of many different types of ships, all of which I shall try to describe in this article. I will also try to organize a "Order of Battle" on the day of the fateful attack to give you an idea who was in command and where the ships were and other things.

The Battleships 

The Battleships were still the pride of the United States Navy, and had some of our best officers and sailors aboard them in 1941 and for the duration of the War. At the time however, several Battleships were not near or around Pearl Harbor, and I would like to account here their whereabouts before going into the specific ships at Pearl that were attached to Battleship Force, Pacific Fleet. The New Mexico Class had three ships, New Mexico, Idaho and Mississippi, they had been part of the fleet, but had been transferred to the Atlantic, thereby probably saving them from being damaged or destroyed at Pearl Harbor. Arkansas New York, and Texas were also all in the Atlantic as well, they were the three oldest Battleships and Arkansas herself was nearly 30 years old, but all three ships were either on active patrol against Germany or in refit. The brand new North Carolina class Fast Battleships, were laid up still, having difficulty with vibration. The Colorado was the only ship actually assigned to the Pacific Fleet not at Pearl Harbor and it was in California having minor work done.

That brings us to the ships actually at Pearl. They were from various classes, the oldest being the Nevada class, with Nevada and Oklahoma being the ships of this class, they were a notable class as they introduced a concept called "All or Nothing" armor principle, which meant that the vital areas of the ship were heavily armored, with either end of the ship being lightly armored. They also were the first US warships to come equipped with triple turrets, which as the picture below shows allowed them to be relatively stocky looking ships but also had a 4 turret arrangement which was also to be kept up until the fast battleships were built.

The next class was the Pennsylvania Class, which needs no picture here, the iconic picture of Arizona and the sheer recognizable nature of the class is belied by the fact they were built differently from Nevada in that they had 12 x 14 inch guns in the same 4 turret arrangement. They were also slightly faster and better armored than Nevada. Pennsylvania also served at this time as Flagship of the Pacific Fleet and therefore would be where Admiral Kimmel would fly his flag if the fleet was at sea. The class had served well during the interwar years, but on December 7th, Pennsylvania was in Drydock and Arizona was next to USS Vestal on Battleship Row.

The other two classes represented were the Tennessee Class (Tennessee and California,) and the Colorado Class's, Maryland and West Virginia. The Tennessee class was pretty much run of the mill, though I expect if I said that to a sailor or officer from either ship, I would likely eat teeth. Both ships were built post WW1 and unlike the first two classes had unique lattice masts with the fire control directors atop them, this was held over for the Colorado Class as well. The major difference in these two classes belonged to Colorado and her sisters, they were equipped with 8 16 inch guns, the heaviest armament in the US Navy until the North Carolina class commissioned with their 9 16 inch guns. These then represent the Battleships of the Pacific Fleet, I provide a picture of the Colorado Class for some perspective though, this is West Virginia in 1934.

On December 7, 1941, these were the ships that were the primary targets of the attacking force of Japanese planes, fortunately, thanks to weather, and a few other factors, the carriers were away! As was one of our best Admirals, Vice Admiral William F Halsey.

The Carriers 

 The Carriers were soon to become the last capital ships available to the US Navy, and it was fortunate that they were at various ports of call and the like during the attack. I will not go into as great a detail as I did with the Battleships, but the primary carrier to look at would be the USS Enterprise CV-6, commanded by temporarily promoted Vice Admiral Halsey, who was commanding Carrier Division 2 as well as all of the Carriers of the Pacific Fleet. There were three carriers attached to the fleet in total, the other two were first two fleet carriers of the US Navy, Lexington CV-2 and Saratoga CV-3, all were away at this time, with their air-wings available almost immediately post December 7th and Halsey also carried the fight to the enemy. Among other orders, Kimmel had made it clear that if Halsey ran into the Japanese he had orders to engage. Halsey was so keyed up, according to Time Magazine his operations officer actually got into an argument, but Halsey silenced him stating that he would take full responsibility for all actions. It was all over by the time Halsey got back to Pearl, but that was enough, the rest is history when it comes to the Carriers. I have one image here of Enterprise for historical purpose.

Credit sources on Pictures to my favorite website for pictures, NavSource and a few other places as well.

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