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NEWS | Dec. 9, 2016

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard helps remember USS Oklahoma

By Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & IMF Public Affairs

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The legacies of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) and the battleship USS Oklahoma became linked on December 7, 1941, as shipyard workers were among the first responders to come to the aid of the stricken ship shortly after the onset of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Civilian shipyard workers organized by Julio DeCastro were credited with rescuing 32 Oklahoma crew members from the capsized battleship. In the months following, the shipyard restored the ship to a normal position in one of the most challenging salvage operations in Navy history.

Seventy-five years later, Sailors assigned to PHNSY & IMF stood by eight framed photographs recounting the history of Oklahoma from the day of the attack until the ship entered dry dock at the ship in 1944. These photos were selected by PHNSY & IMF and the National Park Service to represent the ship at the time of the attack, but also the difficult task of salvaging the capsized battleship.

Oklahoma was struck by at least five torpedoes in the opening moments of the attack, capsizing within fifteen minutes. Given the extent of the damage inflicted on the nearly 30-year old ship, the Navy never seriously considered returning Oklahoma to duty. There was, however, considerable material that could be salvaged and reused on other ships. Following the more pressing requirement to repair lesser damaged ship, the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, predecessor to PHNSY & IMF, turned its efforts towards righting Oklahoma.

A complex system of 21 electric winches, hauling blocks and pulleys were constructed near the water’s edge on Ford Island adjacent to Oklahoma, Using 42 miles of one-inch wire, the winches exerted a combined strength of 345,000 tons of pulling force. Cables ran from the winches, through the blocks, out over a row of 40-foot A-frame towers built on Oklahoma’s hull, and finally to pads welded to the ship.

The ship was refloated on November 3, 1943 and on December 28, she entered the Navy Yard’s recently completed Dry Dock Number Two for additional repairs. Oklahoma was decommissioned September 1, 1944 and the ship’s hull was sold for scrap a year later. On May 10, 1947, Oklahoma’s final voyage began, under tow, heading for the West Coast. The ship sank in a storm the following week.

"The shipyard’s contributions in World War II may have begun on December 7, 1941, but they continued throughout the war," said Command Master Chief Roger Schneider, Command Master Chief for PHNSY & IMF. "These photos help to tell part of that story, and also help our Sailors to understand that what they do in the Shipyard today is directly linked to the heroes of 75 years ago."

PHNSY & IMF is a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command and a one-stop regional maintenance center for the Navy's surface ships and submarines. It is the largest industrial employer in the state of Hawaii with a combined civilian and military workforce of over 5,000. Strategically located in the mid-Pacific, the Navy’s largest ship repair facility between the West Coast and the Far East is about a week of steam time closer to potential regional contingencies in East Asia than sites on the West Coast.

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