Pearl Harbor battleships after WWII: part III

(part three of a three-part series)

USS Maryland (BB-46)

Commissioned in 1921, USS Maryland was one of three Colorado-class battleships.

mary'(USS Maryland before WWII.)

The attack

USS Maryland was moored at position F-5, with USS Oklahoma tied up outboard. The terrible pounding USS Oklahoma received served to shield USS Maryland somewhat.

Mary0900(USS Maryland at 09:00 during the attack, with the capsized USS Oklahoma outboard. Smoke in the background is coming from USS Arizona.)

One of USS Maryland‘s seaplanes, which had been ashore during the attack, crashed on 7 December 1941 when attempting to find the Japanese fleet.

Repairs and WWII

USS Maryland did not require immediate drydocking. By 16 December 1941, the US Navy largely had a complete picture of the damage to USS Maryland. The battleship had been struck by two heavy armor-piercing bombs. The second hit obliquely near the waterline and caused flooding forward, increasing the draught 5′. The flooded compartments were isolated and partially dewatered. On 20 December 1941, less than two weeks after being hit, the captain of USS Maryland reported that the ship was ready to fight if needed in an emergency. By Christmas Eve 1941, all the battleship’s electronics were again operational. On 30 December 1941, 23 days after the attack, USS Maryland departed Hawaii and sailed to the USA’s west coast.

USS Maryland‘s good luck on 7 December 1941 later proved something of an obstacle to modernizing the battleship. Once USS Maryland arrived at Puget Sound, WA; the battleship was tasked with fending off a possible Japanese attack against the mainland USA, and placed in “Ready-2” status, meaning it must be available for combat at two day’s notice. This limited modernization efforts, as any shipyard job that took the vessel out of action had to be started, done, and finished in 48 hours or less.


(USS Maryland in February 1942, the first time an attack victim made a combat patrol.)

None the less a limited upgrade was done, including removal of the aft “wastepaper basket” mast. USS Maryland was declared fit for combat on 26 February 1942, only 81 days after the attack, the first casualty of the attack to be fully returned to service. USS Maryland took part in almost all of the Pacific war including the battle of Midway, then the Tarawa, Apamama, Kwajalein, Saipan, Leyte Gulf, and Okinawa battles.

After Okinawa, with the Japanese navy largely destroyed, USS Maryland received a modernization upgrading the radars, superstructure, and 5″ AA guns. Damage from two kamikaze hits was repaired. It was intended that this would make the battleship ready for the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands, which was cancelled when Japan surrendered. USS Maryland was doing post-shipyard skakedowns when WWII ended.

marywwii(USS Maryland in mid-1945 near the end of WWII.)

USS Maryland after WWII

USS Maryland made five operation “Magic Carpet” voyages after WWII, returning 8,000 servicemen back to the USA. The fifth “Magic Carpet” mission ended in Seattle, WA on 17 December 1945.

mary14Nov45SanDiegoMC(USS Maryland at San Diego, CA in late 1945 during a “Magic Carpet” voyage.)


maryaug46magiccarpet(Above two photos: USS Maryland after operation “Magic Carpet”.)

For the first part of 1946, USS Maryland was largely idle. On 15 April 1946, USS Maryland tied up at Puget Sound, WA; which would be the battleship’s final home. At this time the crew began to be whittled down. On 16 July 1946, USS Maryland was declared “in commission but inactive”. The remaining crew began preparations to mothball the vessel.

maryalabh1946(USS Alabama (BB-60) and USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) at Puget Sound, WA in September 1946. The foremast of USS Maryland is visible behind the warehouse on the pier.)

On 3 April 1947, USS Maryland formally decommissioned and was assigned to the NDRF (National Defense Reserve Fleet). The mothballed battleship remained in reserve for over a decade, with the Korean War coming and going with no reactivation order.

maryWV11Feb59sun(USS Maryland on 11 February 1959.) (via Bremerton Sun newspaper)

In 1959, the US Navy decided to get rid of all the mothballed Colorado class. On 1 March 1959, the ex-USS Maryland was stricken off the US Navy’s inactive rolls and made available for scrap auction. On 8 July 1959, the Learner Company of Oakland, CA won the scrap rights and contracted Todd Shipyards of Alameda, CA to do the actual scrapping.


(The mothballed and rusting USS Maryland in 1959. By then, the Korean War had passed and the USA was in the very earliest stages of it’s involvement in Vietnam. At this time, USS Maryland was one of the most obsolete WWII warships still in the National Defense Reserve Fleet. The old battleship had largely been picked clean, note that all sensors and some light guns are missing and the Mk12 radars have even been removed from the Mk37 directors, leaving empty “H” brackets. As a final indignity, the ship’s nameplate is coming off the lifelines.)

During the summer of 1959, the ex-USS Maryland was towed to California and broken up there that fall and winter.

maryAug59alameda(The ex-USS Maryland in August 1959, after having been towed to Alameda, CA.)

maryTodShipyardAug59(The ex-USS Maryland being broken up at Todd Shipyard in late 1959.)

USS California (BB-44)

Commissioned in 1921, USS California was the second of two Tennessee-class battleships.

cal(USS California before WWII. The “clock” on the aft wastepaper basket mast is not actually a clock (note it only reads 1-10) but a 1920s-era device for one battleship to signal another the range to a target. This was from an era when radios were still not universal and radar was almost unheard of. These obsolete devices were progressively removed off US Navy battleships in the late 1930s and then during WWII.)

The attack

USS California was moored at position F-3 and was the southernmost battleship that day. USS California was separated from the rest of Battleship Row by the oiler USS Neosho, which was moored to a non-battleship pier on Ford Island.

USS California was hit by two torpedoes on the port side aft, one torpedo on the port side forward, and five bombs in the forward and amidships area. Internally, there was a large fire amidships, extinguished only when the battleship sank. As the ship settled lower in the water, another fire was started on the aft weatherdeck by burning fuel from USS Arizona.

At 09:25, it was attempted to crane off one of the seaplanes to prevent it from starting on fire. The seaplane sank in the harbor. Another seaplane was destroyed by strafing or bomb shrapnel, and the third successfully made it to Ford Island.

At 10:02, with USS California on fire and sinking, the abandon ship order was given. By 12:46, the battleship was underwater aft, with the keel near or on the seafloor. Several other warships came alongside to try and stop the battleship from sinking completely, but this was not successful.

CalifDec8(Taken from the Ford Island control tower on 8 December 1941, the morning after the attack, USS California sits sunk. Further away, the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma can be seen, and USS Arizona is still on fire.)

Repairs and WWII

Efforts to repair the battleship began almost immediately after the fire extinguished itself. The submarine rescue ship USS Widgeon (ASR-1) and minesweeper USS Bobolink (AM-20) came alongside late in the day of 7 December 1941, to cool the hull and begin inspections. The destroyer USS Tracy (DD-214) joined them overnight.

By 8 December 1941, USS California had settled with the water covering up to the boat deck level, and listing 8° to port.

To refloat the battleship, a major concern was that it was resting on an underwater precipice and might fully capsize. The forward mast structure and some secondary guns were removed to move the centre-of-gravity lower.

calFeb42(One of USS California’s wastepaper basket masts being removed in February 1942.)

This work started almost immediately, for example efforts to remove 5″ AA guns off USS California commenced on 9 December 1941. Four Mk13 5″ AA guns off of USS California were transferred to the US Army in January 1942, along with a Mk19 gunnery director off the battleship. These were used in an AA emplacement, designated “Anti-Aircraft (Naval) Position No.1” at Hickam Army Airfield, and manned by US Army soldiers. This battery became operational on 9 February 1942. It saw no use during WWII. The facility was placed in reduced status in 1944 and demanned at the end of WWII. The guns were scrapped in 1946. Nothing remains of the site as the US Air Force later built Hickam AFB’s on-base housing over the area. It’s thought that either at least one other Mk13 off USS California was used in a makeshift Navy-manned AA emplacement on Ford Island, along with some of USS Arizona‘s 5″ guns. This was not completed until after Japan’s carrier force was smashed at Midway, and was maybe never fully operational. In April 2007, a utility company unearthed the remains of it while laying underground cables on the island.


By mid-February 1942, patches had been installed on the holes in USS California‘s hull. The main 14″ guns were extracted from the turrets to be cleaned ashore, and also to further lighten the ship. In February/March 1942, a wooden cofferdam was built around the battleship to permit dewatering.

calFeb42a(One of USS California’s main guns being extracted in February 1942. The water is up to the level of the “Y” and “A” turret roofs.)

cal10Mar42no3(The temporarily de-gunned “X” turret in March 1942, with shoring lumber for the cofferdams which can be seen at the extreme lower righthand side of the photo.)

On 4 April 1942, just shy of four months since the attack, the de-gunned USS California was successfully refloated. The battleship was immediately pushed to Pearl Harbor’s Drydock #2.

cal9Apr42(USS California in drydock on 9 April 1942, about four months after the attack.)

Following structural repairs, USS California was undocked in June 1942. Again in the water, the cleaned 14″ guns were re-installed. The battleship then departed Hawaii.

From June 1942 to January 1944, USS California was completely rebuilt at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, WA, becoming almost completely unrecognizable from the pre-war design.

calWWII(The completely changed appearance of USS California after the 1942-1944 rebuild.)

Now again in the fight, USS California participated in the Marianas, Tinian, and Leyte Gulf battles. In 1944 a kamikaze seriously damaged USS California, keeping the battleship out of action until June 1945. USS California participated in the Okinawa invasion and ended WWII as the cover vessel for a minesweeping flotilla in the China Sea.

USS California after WWII

USS California participated in the landing of the occupation garrison on the Japanese home island of Honshu in late September 1945, remaining there until mid-October. From there, the ship made postwar flag-showing visits to British Ceylon (today Sri Lanka) and South Africa.

The US Navy had decided to shift both Tennessee-class battleships to the Atlantic Fleet after WWII. The modernization at Puget Sound had resulted in USS California‘s beam being several feet too wide to safely transit the Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks. Therefore the battleship had to go the “long way” home, south through the Indian Ocean, past Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, and north through the Atlantic. USS California arrived in the eastern USA in December 1945.

cal7Dec45(USS California on 7 December 1945, the first post-WWII anniversary of the attack.)

The US Navy had since decided that both Tennessee-class ships would be mothballed, and both were sent together to Philadelphia, PA to concentrate ashore spare parts in one port. After the 1945 Christmas and New Years standown, USS California began inactivation in early 1946.

In May 1946, both Tennessee-class battleships were drydocked together. The hulls and engines were prepared for long-term inactivation, and the light (anything less than 40mm) guns were removed. The 40mm mounts were covered with “cocoons” or encased in vacuum-formed blown plastic.

callocation(Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 29 August 1946, warships are 1) USS California 2) the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-44) 3) the battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) 4) the cruiser USS Olympia (IX-40) 5) the cruiser USS Los Angeles (CA-135) and 6) the cruiser USS Chicago (CA-136). All were being prepared for lay-up or mothballing. Only USS Olympia survives today in 2015, now a museum ship.)

On 7 August 1946, USS California formally decommissioned. The crew had been whittled down to about a third of it’s standard size, and other than a few dozen guests hardly anybody attended the ceremony. The battleship was assigned to the Atlantic reserve fleet, and tied up in Philadelphia alongside the mothballed USS Tennessee. While both ships were of about equal sophistication after their modernizations, the cumulative damage USS California had sustained during the Pearl Harbor attack, during WWII, and in a non-combat collision was taken into account and most likely, the mothballed USS California was being kept as a possible parts cannibalization source if USS Tennessee was ever reactivated (it was not).

After the end of the Korean War in 1953, the need to retain the ex-USS California began to be questioned. When preparing the FY59 naval budget in 1958, the US Navy notified Congress that it would have no further need for the battleship, which by now was starting to rust and deteriorate despite the efforts of NISMF (Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility) at Philadelphia.

On 1 March 1959, the US Navy struck USS California off the inactive rolls and made the battleship available for scrap auction. Bethlehem Steel obtained it, and on 10 July 1959 the ex-USS California was towed to Sparrows Point, MD where it was scrapped that summer.


(USS California (right side of the pier) being scrapped in 1959.)

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)

Commissioned in 1916, USS Pennsylvania was the leadship of her two-unit class, the other being USS Arizona.


(USS Pennsylvania before WWII.)

The attack

USS Pennsylvania was the only Pearl Harbor battleship not on Battleship Row on 7 December 1941, instead being in drydock. The battleship was thus immune from torpedo attack.

USS Pennsylvania was hit by one heavy armor-piercing bomb which destroyed an AA gun emplacement, the 5″ casemate gun beneath it, and caused internal structural damage. USS Pennsylvania also sustained light smoke and shrapnel damage when the nearby destroyers USS Downes (DD-375) and USS Cassin (DD-372) blew up and burned.

Penn10Dec(USS Pennsylvania on 10 December 1941, three days after the attack. The drydock was flooded during the attack to extinguish USS Downes and USS Cassin, the wrecks of which can be seen in front of the battleship’s bow. Pearl Harbor’s water is coated with fuel oil from USS Arizona.)

Repairs and WWII

USS Pennsylvania was quickly patched up and departed Hawaii on 20 December 1941, the first attacked battleship to leave Pearl Harbor. USS Pennsylvania moved to California to guard against a feared Japanese attack against the mainland USA, then was removed from the active rotation for a major overhaul done by Mare Island Shipyard, CA between October 1942-February 1943.

Like many of the Pearl Harbor victims, USS Pennsylvania was extensively modernized and altered. New radars and AA guns were added, the masts changed, the superstructure reconfigured, and other changes were done.

pennww2(USS Pennsylvania, in the final configuration, recovering a seaplane during WWII.)

During WWII, the remodeled USS Pennsylvania participated in the Aleutians, Gilbert Islands, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Marianas, Wake Island, and Okinawa operations. Off Okinawa in August 1945, USS Pennsylvania was torpedoed and almost sank. The battleship was taken in for emergency repairs and missed the rest of WWII.

USS Pennsylvania after WWII

At the end of WWII, USS Pennsylvania was in declining material condition, primarily from the heavy damage from the 1945 torpedo but also from almost four years of non-stop use. The ship’s crew referred to the battleship as “Old Falling-Apart”.

On 4 October 1945, USS Pennsylvania set sail for the USA from Guam, where the torpedo repairs had been done. On 17 October, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there was a serious situation when one of the propeller shafts came disconnected from it’s engine. If the shaft were to be completely thrown, a huge hole would obviously be opened directly into the engine room, almost assuredly sinking the battleship. It was necessary for scuba divers to use underwater torches to cut off the entire shaft (including it’s propeller) near the hull junction, allowing it to sink. Vibrations caused by running an uneven number of shafts caused some “slow leaks”. Leaking water, USS Pennsylvania arrived at Puget Sound, WA a week later.

pennafterwwii(USS Pennsylvania in early 1946, during the brief period inbetween the end of WWII and operation “Crossroads”.)

Even before the propeller shaft incident, it had already been decided that USS Pennsylvania was not desired for either the active or reserve fleets. An expensive refit would have been needed to even bring the battleship up to mothballing standards, and in any case with USS Arizona lost USS Pennsylvania would have been a one-ship class, judged uneconomical from a training and spare parts viewpoint.

On 2 February 1946, USS Pennsylvania was one of the first selected candidates for the operation “Crossroads” atomic tests. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was instructed to just patch the battleship up enough to safely make a one-way voyage to Bikini Atoll.


(USS Pennsylvania near Jefferson Point, WA on 15 March 1946, after being selected for the “Crossroads” nuclear weapons tests.)

pennstrip(Before the “Crossroads” tests, the US Navy stripped some items not relevant to the test results off USS Pennsylvania. Here, spare mooring lines are laid out on the “A” turret’s roof. The light AA guns in the tubs atop “B” turret have been removed. Wooden crates on the quarterdeck await equipment from below decks.)


(Looking aft towards the amidships searchlight platform, two of the twin 5″ gun turrets have been removed and white circular plates installed over the resulting holes. Crates full of equipment from below decks await being taken ashore, and one of the ship’s small boats is on the pier.)

Operation “Crossroads”

For the two “Crossroads” tests, USS Pennsylvania had 50% each of fuel oil, aviation gasoline, and diesel generator fuel aboard. The 14″ gun magazines were about half full with live rounds. The drinking water tanks were full, less a small amount used by the crew in the final days before the tests. There was 1,630 tons of ballast loaded to simulate the weight of equipment stripped off at Puget Sound.

penn1946lastphoto(The small skeleton crew which sailed USS Pennsylvania to Bikini Atoll in 1946.)

Once at Bikini Atoll, the crew was evacuated to the transports USS George Clymer (APA-27) and USS Rockbridge (APA-228), anchored about 21 NM away.

Test “Able” 1 July 1946

This was the airburst test. USS Pennsylvania was about a mile away from the intended target (USS Nevada) but because the bomb missed it’s intended detonation point, USS Pennsylvania ended up being slightly further away than intended. The battleship faced the nuclear detonation between 200°-220° relative bearing (port side far aft).

pennable(The  actual Mk3 used for the “Able” test. It was the fourth atomic detonation in history, the third from a usable bomb, and the second Mk3 “Fat Man” built; the first having been dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.)


(The target array for test “Able”. The bomb missed the intended target ground zero (USS Nevada) and detonated as indicated by the red X.)

The 23kT Mk3 atomic bomb detonated at 520′ altitude. The immediate effects on USS Pennsylvania were the thermal flash of intense heat and the blast wave. Because of the distance, the effects were somewhat muted by the time they reached USS Pennsylvania. Light steel plating in the foremast structure was slightly dented in, and the smokestack’s outer casing was slightly caved in from the direction of the blast. Mushrooms (air vents on the weather deck leading below) were dented in. Searchlights and several of the radars were damaged, and the IFF antennas were destroyed. The lead-computing optical sights for some of the Mk4 40mm guns were destroyed. Several liferafts were blown overboard.

No damage of any type was noted to the Mk10 14″ main guns; be it turrets, magazines, or guns themselves.

The stern seaplane crane and the catapult were already inoperable since the 1945 torpedo damage and could not be evaluated but appeared relatively sound.

Internally, all six boilers showed distortion, probably from the atmospheric overpressure traveling down their air intakes. The US Navy estimated that they could have been operated for a brief time at reduced performance in a real-world situation, and that three of the six were easily repairable.


(USS Pennsylvania during test “Able”. The white lines on the bow were to allow observers to measure any post-test draught changes from a safe distance through binoculars.)

The only damage from the thermal flash was a small fire started by US Army equipment sat the weather deck to test the effects; after igniting several life rafts thrown loose, this fire burned itself out with no damage to the battleship itself. Otherwise, besides some scorched paint, there was no heat damage.

USS Pennsylvania‘s pumps, electric generators, anchors, rudder, auxiliary diesels, ventilation fans, galley equipment, interior lighting, and even laundry were all test-operated satisfactorily after test “Able”. The fallout from test “Able” was (by 1940s standards) low as the airburst threw much of the radioactivity into the upper atmosphere.

Test “Baker”

This was the underwater test, history’s first nuclear detonation in water. This time, there was no chance of the detonation being “off target” as the bomb was suspended in the water beneath an amphibious ship, LSM-60 (which was vaporized). USS Pennsylvania was about 1,100 yards away, viewing LSM-60 almost dead astern.


As the 21kT blast happened underwater, there was no thermal flash. Instead, a massive hydrostatic shock wave traveled out towards the target ships, slamming into them at great speed.


(The “Baker” detonation. As it was underwater, the mushroom cloud in this case is actually a huge column of seawater. The white disc is the underwater shock wave expanding outwards; at this particular moment it had just slammed into the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga.)

To nobody’s surprise, the area of the aft hull affected by the WWII torpedo hit experienced serious damage. The seams of the repaired rectangular hull section began leaking. Other minor “slow leaks” related to the torpedo damage, unrepaired after WWII, increased in rate. All four shaft seals were damaged, and the one which had experienced the mechanical problem in 1945 was leaking. The battleship’s main air compressor was destroyed, as it’s compartment flooded from the failing torpedo patch. The steering motor room was flooded with radioactive seawater, but it was unclear if the rudder post seals failed, or if the motor room simply filled up with water flowing down from the failed torpedo damage patch area. After the “Baker” test, USS Pennsylvania took on an additional 4′ of draught aft and a ½° starboard list, from flooding.

All of the boilers experienced shock damage, as did one steam turbine.  It was estimated that the damage to some of the boilers was repairable and that, given the state of the hull, USS Pennsylvania could have again made steam, limited to 15kts for a short time, in a real-world scenario.

Internally many lightbulbs shattered. The freon lines in the galley freezer burst.

The two Mk37 gunnery radars were unable to move, it was estimated that the shock had warped their mounting rings. Several of the ship’s radios were destroyed.

The optical rangefinder in the “A” 14″ turret was damaged. The two uppermost 14″ turrets had their electrical systems shorted out, but the “Crossroads” team was unable to tell if the water came from the base surge or from the immediate decontamination efforts. Otherwise, there was no damage to the main armament. Several powered 40mm mounts were shorted out by seawater.

Compared to the other battleships at Bikini, USS Pennsylvania came away with much less damage than USS Arkansas and IJN Nagato (both sunk outright), the seriously damaged USS Nevada, and moderately damaged USS New York.

The most serious issue after the “Baker” test was invisible radiation. A phenomenon not predicted before the test was “base surge”, a rolling wall of massively radioactive fog, water droplets, and pulverized coral dust which coated every nook and cranny of all the ships. USS Pennsylvania was extremely radioactive after the “Baker” blast, and was placed in the upper 50% group by way of contamination.

Finally, it was logged that USS Pennsylvania‘s wardroom dining china had shattered from the “Baker” shock wave.

After the “Crossroads” tests

On 28 August 1946, USS Pennsylvania‘s final, skeleton crew which had sailed the battleship to Bikini was dispersed to other ships. The following day, the US Navy officially decommissioned USS Pennsylvania.

Following the cancellation of the third (“Charlie”) test, the ex-USS Pennsylvania was towed to Kwajalein. Throughout 1947, the damaged battleship sat there at anchor. Some studies were done on the hull to record the rate which radiation dissipates. CINCPAC, the head command of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, ordered that the battleship not be returned to Pearl Harbor.

On 10 February 1948, the ex-USS Pennsylvania was towed to deep water and scuttled by opening the aft seacocks.


(The radioactive ex-USS Pennsylvania is scuttled on 10 February 1948.)


(The end of the battleship USS Pennsylvania.)


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