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Section 424



31 October, 1944


Refs   (a) NYPearl Itr. C-L11-1/BB, NYIO, Serial Y-02149, of 7 October, 1943 (War Damage Report).
(b) CO. ARIZONA ltr. of 17 December, 19-41 to Combatfor (Material Damage Report).
(c) CO. ARIZONA ltr. BB39/A16 of 7 December, 1941 (Action Report).
(d) CO. ARIZONA ltr. BB39/A9/L11-1 of 28 January, 1942 (Damage Report).
(e) CO. VESTAL ltr. AR4/Lll-l/(066) of 11 December, 1941 (Action Report).
(f) Roll of 35mm movie film, obtained through the Office of Strategic Services, of OSS ARIZONA on the morning of 7 December, 1941 -- photographer unknown.
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The references comprise the majority of important information accumulated regarding the loss of ARIZONA. Certain other action reports, notably those of WEST VIRGINIA, TENNESSEE, and MARYLAND, contain fragmentary information of minor value. Reference (a) is a fairly extensive report of damage prepared by the Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor and is based on salvage and diving operations covering a period of approximately 22 months. Reference (f) actually shows the magazine explosion which resulted in the loss of ARIZONA. All these sources were used, as well as certain publications of the Army with respect to stability and characteristics of black powder and smokeless powder, In the following analysis:


1.     On the morning of 7 December, 1941, ARIZONA was moored to interrupted quay "F-7", headed down channel, starboard side to Ford Island. Outboard of ARIZONA and pointed up channel was VESTAL. Immediately astern of ARIZONA was NEVADA at berth F-8. Immediately forward of ARIZONA at berth F-6 was TENNESSEE, moored starboard side to, and WEST VIRGINIA outboard of TENNESSEE, with both vessels being headed down channel. ARIZONA1s bow was very close to TENNESSEE'S stern - the distance being approximately


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200 feet. The same distance separated the stern of ARIZONA from the bow of NEVADA.

2.     Depth of water was about 45 feet, and ARIZONA's drafts were 32'-6" forward and 33 feet aft. At 0755 all "X" doors and fittings should have been closed and reference (d) states that they were all closed with very few exceptions. Many "Y" doors and fittings also were closed from the previous night. The majority of engineering spaces were in condition "Z" and locked. Reference (d) further states that when the attack started, condition ZED was nearly set in turrets III and IV. There were no survivors from turrets I and II, and reference (d) believes that they probably were in condition ZED, or very nearly so. It appears that condition ZED was not completely set on and above the third deck and probably most of the third deck armored hatches were still open.

3.     The attack started at 0755 with dive bombers over the Naval Air Station on Ford Island. At this time the measures referred to in paragraph 2 were started. Almost simultaneously a torpedo attack on battleship row occurred. The Commanding Officer of VESTAL, in reference (e), stated that at about 0820 a torpedo was seen to pass astern of the VESTAL and that this torpedo apparently hit the ARIZONA, whose bow extended about 100 feet beyond the stern of VESTAL. He further states that ARIZONA received a bomb hit forward almost simultaneously, and that ARIZONA'S forward magazine exploded. Reference (b) lists eight bomb hits on the vessel, one of which apparently was large and of the armor piercing type. This one was reported by reference (b) to have hit on the forecastle by No. II turret. In any event, the magazine explosion destroyed the ship almost completely forward of the foremast structure.

4.     Reference (a) found evidence of only five bomb hits, all of which were aft of the foremast structure. At the same time the ship was so thoroughly broken up forward of the foremast structure that evidence of a heavy bomb hit in the vicinity of turret II would be certain to be completely obliterated. On the other hand the armor belt was substantially intact and Pearl Harbor found absolutely no evidence of a torpedo hit on or just below the armor. It therefore can be accepted as a fact that a torpedo did not hit ARIZONA.

5.     Times in all the references of the various sequences of events check reasonably well, that is, within 4 or 5 minutes. It appears that ARIZONA escaped torpedo damage during the initial torpedo attack which occurred at about 0800. It will be recalled that NEVADA was hit by a torpedo between 0800 and 0810,


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and that WEST VIRGINIA was torpedoed at about the same time. Following this attack the dive bombing attack on the battleship started. This was at about 0815-0820. All the references agree that the bombs which struck ARIZONA fell between 0815 and 0820. For example, it appears that WEST VIRGINIA was struck by bombs at about this time, as was TENNESSEE. It appears that the dive bombing continued from about 0810 to 0830 in this phase of the attack.

6.     Reference (f), of which a 3" x 5" movie strip is available, comprises about 400 pictures taken at the rate of 24 per second. The location of the camera in these pictures apparently was at a point on the northwest shore of Kuahua Island where a supply base was under construction at the time. The precise location cannot be determined, but the general location can be spotted on a map of Pearl Harbor, which is also available.

7.     The first 45 of these pictures show the ARIZONA and VESTAL, and include the bow of NEVADA and the stern of WEST VIRGINIA. There seems to be no damage to ARIZONA in these pictures, but evidence of the fire on VESTAL's forecastle (she was struck by a bomb, apparently prior to 0820) is faintly visible. WEST VIRGINIA's mainmast is also in these pictures and shows a definite list, indicating that WEST VIRGINIA had already been torpedoed prior to the pictures. This is consistent with the times reported. Between pictures 45 and 46 the camera was apparently stopped for an indeterminate time. Picture 46 definitely shows an explosion on the bow of ARIZONA. It is estimated that picture 46 was taken within 0.5 sec. of the detonation. As the pictures proceed, the fire gets worse, finally engulfing the entire ship forward of the mainmast. This series continues until picture 208. Between pictures 46 and 208 the development of a jet of black smoke from ARIZONA'S stack can be noted. It is this jet of black smoke which apparently gave rise to the rumor that a bomb went down her stack. Actually, Pearl Harbor could find no damage to the armor gratings, although there was bomb damage both forward and to port of the uptakes. These bombs unquestionably damaged the air intakes to the steaming fireroom (not identified, although some evidence indicates that No. 6 was in use). The smoke issuing from the stack was quite obviously the result of incomplete combustion rather than an explosion or fire. Beginning with the pictures in the vicinity of 106, the characteristics of the conflagration shown are somewhat similar to those of an oil fire. At various places between pictures 46 and 208 minor explosions on the forecastle of ARIZONA and possibly on the stern of TENNESSEE, can be seen. In this connection see pictures 99 and 136.


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8.     Picture 208 definitely shows the magazine explosion in which the dense black smoke of the previous picture changes to white, and luminous objects can be seen. Toward the end of the reel the sagged forward structure becomes apparent, although the smoke and flame obscure the entire foremast structure in the series of pictures following 203. Picture 208 occurred approximately 7 seconds (24 frames per second) after the detonation shown in picture 46. There is no evidence that the camera was stopped at any time between pictures 46 and 208.

9.     The above evidence leads to the conclusion that there was a bomb detonation on or about the forecastle, which caused a bad fire - involving in some manner oil from tanks forward of amidships. This fire spread rapidly over a large area and increased rapidly in intensity. It was followed in 7 seconds by a magazine explosion.

10.    In examining the causes of the magazine explosion, characteristics of smokeless powder and black powder were investigated. Pertinent information from the Ordnance Safety Manual published 1 September, 1941 by the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, U.S. Army, are quoted below:

"Small amounts of unconfined smokeless powder burn with little smoke or ash and without explosion. When confined or in large quantities, the rate of burning increases with the temperature and pressure. Under certain conditions, with sufficient initiation, smokeless powder has been known to detonate."

"When smokeless powder is stored in magazines in containers or propelling charges, there is no evidence to indicate that fires will give rise to any unusual hazard."

"Cases in which pressures great enough to result in structural damage have occurred involved the burning or explosion of smokeless powder under circumstances not ordinarily encountered in the storage of the material in containers."

"There is, however, incontrovertible evidence that explosions of nitrocellulose powders up to large sizes are capable of being propagated from box to box when they are initiated by detonation of high explosive charges."

It can be concluded from the above conditions that smokeless powder is difficult to detonate as a result of fire. It is also certain that with sufficient initiation, smokeless powder will


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detonate. With respect to the properties of black powder, the following pertinent information is quoted from the same manual:

"Black powder is regarded as one of the worst known explosive hazards. When ignited unconfined, it burns with explosive violence, and will explode if ignited under even slight confinement* It can be ignited easily by very small sparks, heat, and friction."

"Most black powder fires start from sparks, and ignition results in an explosion so quickly that no attempt can be made to fight the fire."

"Most explosions of black powder originate from sparks."

"Loose black powder is extremely dangerous."

It can be seen from the above that the ignition of black powder will almost inevitably result in an explosion.

11.     From reference (a) the ARIZONA had on board her full allowance of smokeless powder, arranged three magazines on each side of the vessel between frames 31 and 48 on the first platform. These six magazines supply both turrets I and II, the black powder magazine is located on the first platform on the centerline between frames 37 and 39. It contained 1075 pounds of black powder. It will be realized that the black powder magazine is surrounded by the smokeless powder magazines.

12.     After the magazine explosion occurred, reference (a) reports that exploded 5"/51 caliber powder cans were found along the beach on Ford Island - a distance of 350-400 feet on the starboard side of the vessel. The 5"/51 caliber powder magazines are located on the first platform aft of the 14-inch smokeless powder magazines and between frames 50 and 58, port and starboard.

13.     There is no doubt that the smokeless powder magazines detonated. It is not clear, however, what initiated the smokeless powder detonation. A bomb detonation within the smokeless powder magazines presumably could cause a detonation, although smokeless powder as such is not an unusually severe hazard. The Army's experience indicates that it is difficult to detonate smokeless powder as the result of fire, unless confinement, temperature, pressure, and high density of loading are present. Our own war experience has indicated that an appreciable interval of time (longer than 7 seconds) is required for these factors to build up and create a mass detonation following a fire. Fire


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could reach the magazines through hatches left open on the third deck. There are five such hatches in the vicinity of barbettes 1 and 2, one of which is almost directly above the black powder magazine. It is a possibility that one of the modified 16-Inch A.P. projectiles, which the Japanese used for bombs, might have penetrated the 4-1/4-Inch STS armored deck and initiated a fire followed by a detonation of the smokeless powder magazines. This seems rather improbable, though, considering the small charge of explosive (less than 70 pounds of TNT) in this type of bomb, and the fact (pictures 46-208) that the initial fire was definitely above the waterline and of large-scale proportions. On the other hand, the detonation of 1000 pounds of black powder could easily initiate a detonation of the 14-inch smokeless powder. The black powder could have detonated either as the result of a bomb detonation below the third deck or a fire above the third deck passing down to the black powder magazines thru open hatches in the armored deck. From the evidence, it is believed that the latter is more probable. In any event, the six 14-inch and the two 5-inch smokeless powder magazines detonated.

14.     The collapse of the foremast structure was not due, among other curious things, to the main magazine detonation. A bomb which hit and detonated close to the port leg of the tripod at the superstructure deck level severed the port leg, and the starboard leg was insufficient to prevent forward collapse. Turret I with its barbette fell vertically approximately 22 feet, and turret II with its barbette fell approximately 23 feet. All other structure above the top edge of the side armor between frames 10 and 70 was completely demolished - in faet, most of it was missing. The armor belt remained substantially in place. There were short pieces of the shell projecting almost horizontally outward at the top of the armor belt on both sides.

15.     Summarizing, there seems to be no doubt that at least one bomb struck and penetrated the forecastle deck in the vicinity of either turret I or turret II. This bomb, and possibly others, caused an intense fire which shortly covered the entire forecastle. Burning oil on the surface of the water was ignited. Approximately 7 seconds after the start of this fire and after the initial bomb detonation, the main magazines exploded, almost completely destroying the ship forward of frame 70, Undoubtedly, the smokeless powder magazines detonated en masse. Whether this mass detonation resulted from a bomb detonation within either the smokeless powder or black powder magazines or whether it was initiated by fire traveling down thru open hatches to the black powder magazine is unknown; but the time involved between the


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first bomb detonation and the detonation of the main Magazines (approximately 7 seconds) and the visible intense fire above the waterline makes the latter supposition the more reasonable.

16.     When opportunity permits this case will be discussed with representatives of the Bureau of Ordnance.



Commander, USN.







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The following statements were originally attached to this report but were loose in the folder - I have no idea of the original order and they are included alphabetically by last name.



Dec. 15, 1941


         On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, I was aboard the USS Arizona, being attached to the "V" Division on the ship, When the attack started I was in the aviation workshop which is located fwd of the quarterdeck, stbd side, Fr. 84 to 88.

         On hearing the explosions and gun reports, Wentzlaff, E., AOM2/c came in saying we were being attacked and bombed by Jap planes. The air raid siren sounded, followed by the General Quarters alarm. I stepped outside the shop and started to my general quarters station on the quarterdeck, shouting "let's go", A bomb hit the after end of #4 turret, glancing off onto the quarterdeck, at the Captain's hatch, stbd side. As I stepped on the quarterdeck, Lt. Comdr. Fuqua, USN said in a steady voice, "Put that fire out back, aft", which the bomb had started. I called to Wentzlaff, A0M2/c, Hurst, AMM3/c, Bruns, Heo.2/c and Lane, RM3/c to rig the fire hose aft, as they were going to our general quarters station with me. Me and Hurst grabbed the fire hose off its stowage on the fumigation box and assisted by Wentzlaff, took it to the fire plug at #4 turret, Fr. 110. Bruns and Land got another fire hose from the rack in Compt. A-704, stbd side, and proceeded to hook it up at 3 turret amidship. Mr. Fuqua said in a calm, cool voice, "Turn it on", when he saw that we had hooked up the hose. Wentzlaff, leading the end of the hose to the bomb hole where the deck was afire. I said to Mr. Fuqua, when the valve was opened, "There is no water pressure on". He then told me to see if I could get pressure turned on. I rushed to the Officer of the Deck's booth to call up for pressure, but the phones were all knocked off the hooks and out of commission, as while this was taking place there had been bomb hits up fwd, shuddering the ship violently and planes straffing the decks.

         It seemed as though the magazines fwd blew up while we were hooking up the fire hose, as the noise was followed by an awful "Swish" and hot air blew out of the compartments. There had been bomb hits at the first start and yellowish smoke was pouring out of the hatches from below decks. There were lots of men coming out on the quarterdeck with every stitch of clothing and shoes blown off, painfully burned and shocked.

         Mr. Fuqua was the senior officer on deck and set an example for the men in being unperturbed, calm, cool, and collected, exemplifying the courage and traditions of an officer under fire. It seemed like the men, painfully burned, shocked and dazed, became inspired and took things in stride, seeing Mr. Fuqua, so unconcerned

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about the bombing and straffing, standing on the quarterdeck. As there was no "going to pieces" or "growing panicky", noticeable, and he directed the moving of the wounded and burned men who were on the quarterdeck to the motor launches and boats, he gave orders to get the life rafts on 3 barbette down, supervised the loading of the wounded and burned casualties, assisted by Ensign J. D. Miller, who set a very good example for a younger officer in being cool, calm, and collected. The crews from 3 and 4 turrets had to come out on deck as the turrets were flooded and proceeded to help with the casualties and getting the life rafts over the side.

         The signal gang, quartermasters, and all hands on the bridge went up as the signal men were trying to put out a fire in the signal rack and grabbing signal flags out to hoist a signal, the whole bridge went up, flames enveloping and obscuring them from view as the flames shot upward twice as high as the tops.

         A bomb hit on the stbd side of the after 5 inch guns and anti aircraft gun, and got most of the marine crew and anti aircraft crews. It seemed as though one bomb hit the port after anti-aircraft crew and came down through the casemate and Executive Officer's Office. The whole port compartment, A-704, from the quarterdeck on was a flaming inferno and the ship settled radpidy from fwd aft. The wardroom, portside, was flooded even with the bottom of the deck coamings and yellowish gaseous smoke continued to pour out of the ventilators and machine shop hatch, amidship.

         After the big explosion and "Swish", the men painfully burned and wounded, dazed beyond comprehension, came out on the quarterdeck and I had to stop some of them from entering into the flames later on, and directed them over to the stbd side of the deck to the gangway for embarking and encouraging them to be calm.

         The VESTAL, tied up alongside the portside, did not seem to get hit hard and started to get underway, so I stood by to cast off lines on the quarterdeck portside and cast off their bow lines as the Lt. Comdr. on her wanted to save the line to tie up to one of the buoys, and assisted by a seaman from 4 turret, we rendered the bow line around and cast her off. Then getting the small life raft on 3 turret barbette portside off and over the port stern, the water and oil being on deck and the ship settling fast, we got orders to embark in the motor boat at the stbd stern quarter. Lt. Comdr. Fuqua and a few others still being aboard. We landed at BOQ landing, Ford Island, Smith BM2/c USN boat coxswain making many trips for wounded and burned men, being delivered by Lt. Comdr. Fuqua, still on board.

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         Courage and performance of all hands was of the highest order imaginable, especially being handicapped by adverse conditions and shipmates being blown up alongside them, there was no disorder or tendency to run around in confusion. Thanks to the coolness and calm manner Lt. Comdr. Fuqua and Ensign J. D. Miller installed confidence in the crew surviving.











        I left the J.C. mess at general quarters. As I went to the boat deck I noticed that some of the stbd AA guns were firing - I think they were the fwd ones. Then I went up to the signal bridge. I looked around and saw that there was nothing that I could do. I saw the admiral on the signal bridge. Then I went up to the nav bridge. The only people up there were the Capt., the quartermaster and myself. The quartermaster asked the Capt. if he wanted to go into the conning tower, but the Capt. did not want to, making phone calls.

        Suddently the whole bridge shook like it was an earthquake, flame came through the bridge windows which had been broken by gunfire. We three were trying to get out the port door at the after end of the bridge during all this shaking, but could not, we staggered to the stbd side and fell on the deck just fwd of the wheel. Finally I raised my head and turned it and saw that the port door was open. I got up and ran to it, and ran down the port ladders, passing through flames and smoke. Then I climbed half way down the signal bridge ladder and had to jump to the boat deck as it was bent way under. Then I climbed down a hand railing to the deck galley.

        The flames and smoke on the boat deck and galley deck were decreasing in intensity; I believe they were powder flames. I walked aft and down the ladder to the port quarterdeck. Then I walked to the otherside and down the officers' ladder to the bridge.

        Just before all this shaking the quartermaster reported that a bomb struck #2 turret.





National Archives & Records Administration, College Park
Record Group 19, War Damage Reports & Related Records, 1942-49

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

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