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History

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY&IMF) finds its roots in the 1800s, as the world's navies explored and established ports throughout the Pacific Ocean. As early as 1820, the interest of the U.S. government in the Sandwich Islands followed the adventurous voyages of its whaling and trading ships in the Pacific. In historic records of this time, what is now known as Pearl Harbor was referred to as "Wai-Momi," literally, the "Water of the Pearl" or "Pearl Water."


In 1868, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet visited the islands to look after "American interests." In 1891 Pres. Benjamin Harrison urged Congress to develop and improve Pearl Harbor as a naval station. In response to growing multinational interests in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy sought bases for its expanding fleet.

When Hawaiian King Lunalilo died in 1873, negotiations were underway for the cessation of Pearl Harbor as a port for the exportation of sugar to the U.S. duty free. It was during the reign of King Kalakaua that the U.S. was granted exclusive rights to enter Pearl Harbor and to establish a coaling and repair station. Congress passed an act officially creating Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Territory of Hawaii in May 1908, and authorized nearly $3 million to help build it.


The period from 1908–1919 was one of steady and continuous growth. The Act of 13 May 1908 authorized the enlargement and dredging of the Pearl Harbor channel and lochs "to admit the largest ships," the building of shops and supply houses for the Navy Yard, and the construction of what would become Dry Dock #1. The dry dock was ceremonially opened to flooding on 21 August 1919, by Mrs. Josephus Daniels, wife of the Secretary of the Navy.

December 7, 1941, “a date that will live in infamy,” was a defining day in the history of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Forces of the Imperial Navy of Japan targeted the U.S. Pacific Fleet, including ships undergoing repairs at the shipyard. In Dry Dock #1, the flagship of the fleet, USS Pennsylvania and two destroyers were attacked from the air. While the destroyers were damaged beyond repair, Pennsylvania received only moderate damage, thanks to the heroic efforts of George Walters, a shipyard employee who was operating a portal crane operating by Dry Dock #1. Running his crane back and forth, Walters was able to block the view of Pennsylvania from attacking aircraft, while using the crane to point in the direction of the attackers. Other shipyard employees like Douglas Frias dodged machine gun fire before coming to the aid of small boats carrying the dead and wounded from stricken warships. Twenty men from Yard Shop 11 began the exhausting job of cutting through bulkheads in different parts of the capsized USS Oklahoma.  Lead by leading caulker and shipfitter Julio DeCastro, the team labored tirelessly, ultimately liberating 32 sailors from otherwise certain death. The shipyard earned to its motto “We keep them fit to fight” in the days and months following the attacks of December 7. Yard workers labored tirelessly to return ships damaged in the attack, including the monumental righting of USS Oklahoma. 

 

On May 27, 1942, USS Yorktown, one of the Pacific Fleet’s few aircraft carriers, limped into Pearl Harbor. The ship had been badly damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea and was in need of extensive repair. Time was not a luxury enjoyed by the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. Chester Nimitz. Cryptographers working in Building One of the shipyard had broken the Imperial Navy communication codes, and learned of an impending attack on Midway Island. Nimitz had the opportunity to surprise his adversary, but he needed Yorktown to help spring the trap. Although three months was projected to fully repair the ship, Nimitz gave the shipyard commander three days. More than 1,400 workers swarmed over Yorktown around-the-clock to make repairs, and within 72 hours, Yorktown was underway. Yorktown and her aviators played a pivotal role in the Battle of Midway, sinking two adversary aircraft carriers while crippling a third.


Ever since establishment more than 100 years ago, PHNSY&IMF has seen the world's navies transition from sail to steam to nuclear power. Shipyard workers supported our nation's defense in conflicts in Korea; Vietnam; the decades-long Cold War; operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield; and more recently operations Iraqi, Enduring Freedom and the Global War on Terror.

The shipyard has stood poised and ready to provide support to the Fleet, not only in times of war, but also in times of peace, responding to any situation, anytime, anywhere. USS Denver, an amphibious transport ship operating near Hawaii collided with another Navy vessel in 2000. Shipyard divers, engineers and trade professionals were able to return the ship to sea in 13 days. In 2005, USS San Francisco, an attack submarine, slammed into an uncharted undersea mountain about 350 miles south of Guam. A total of about 270 shipyard workers came to the aid of the submarine, spending more than 11,650 man-days of unscheduled work to make the vessel seaworthy.

Through it all, generations of our heroic workers have played a key part in the history of Hawaii and of the U.S., forging a legacy without parallel with their blood, sweat and determination.

We Keep Them Fit to Fight!!