Friday, December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Battleships, Part II

Today, on the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we present USS California (BB-44), Oklahoma (BB-37), and Arizona (BB-39), three more battleships stationed in Pearl Harbor that also had a direct tie to the Hampton Roads area.  

USS California (BB-44)
USS California in Hampton Roads making preparations
to leave for the West Coast, 1939
Because Mare Island Navy Yard built California and the ship conducted most of her operations on the West Coast, Battleship Number 44's time in Hampton Roads was considerably shorter than the rest.  In 1939, the Navy concentrated the fleet in the Atlantic both for a showing at the World's Fair in New York and for a major fleet exercise ("Fleet Problem XX") in the Caribbean.  California left San Diego to be a part of this fleet concentration. 

After conducting their exercises, the fleet anchored in Hampton Roads.  It was on April 20, 1939, that the Navy unexpectedly ordered the ships to depart the region post haste and return to the West Coast.  In September 1939, the fleet conducted another major exercise off the coast of Southern California. 

The A.P. Wire photo caption reads: "Sailors of the U.S.S.
California, neat and trim for prospective review, lined up on the deck after order for a surprise journey, an immediate return to the Pacific Coast."
USS Oklahoma (BB-37)
USS Oklahoma was built in New York as part of the "Second to None" fleet expansion program.  Upon completion, the Navy assigned her to Hampton Roads for the duration of World War I.  In Hampton Roads, she escorted convoys across the Atlantic to Europe. 

After the war, she remained in the region for several fleet exercises and naval reviews before being sent to Philadelphia for modernizations allowed under the Washington Naval Treaty.  After completing this program, she returned to Naval Operating Base Norfolk.  In 1939, the Navy redeployed her to Hawaii.

USS Oklahoma during the 1927 Naval Review in Hampton Roads
USS Oklahoma in the Elizabeth River, downtown Norfolk, 1939.
USS Arizona (BB-39)
The third ship to present today is USS Arizona.  Battleship number 39 spent much of her post-World War I career in Hampton Roads before being deployed for the first time to the Pacific in the mid-1920s.  Like many of the older battleships, the Navy selected her to be modernized (as opposed to outright scrapping) and sent her back to Hampton Roads.
Between 1929 and 1931, workers at Norfolk Naval Shipyard upgraded  several of Arizona's systems.   The upgrades were similar to ones Yard workers gave to Nevada.  This included two-inches of armor on the deck; anti-torpedo bulges along the side of the ship; a new fire control system; the removal of the old-fashioned cage observation towers; a new steam-launched catapult for the ship's aircraft; and brand new turbines and boilers that had been originally slated for the battleship Washington (BB-47).  Fortunately for historians, a Navy photographer took some very good pictures of the ship during this overhaul. 

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