December 23, 1941: The Last Dead of Pearl Harbor

uss west virginia

Every once in a while I, and my colleagues, take a break from bringing Writs of Fire and Sword to the Democrats and write about something that interests us personally. This is one of those occasions.

Up until recent years, after progressives gained control of academia, most Americans knew that the Japanese bombed the US military complex at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, and that we didn’t deserve to be bombed. On that morning some 3500 Americans, military and civilian, were killed and wounded.

One of the most tragic stories though is the final deaths from the Japanese attack were not claimed until December 23, sixteen days after the event.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the USS West Virginia (BB-48) was moored on Battleship Row outboard of the USS Tennessee (BB-43). She was a Colorado-class battleship, launched in 1921, and represented state of the art in US naval architecture. She’d been designed to slug it out with other battleships holding her place in line of battle. Her vulnerability to air attack wasn’t a great concern. When the attack passed and the damage was assessed, the West Virginia was sunk. She rested in 36-feet of water with her superstructure exposed and accessible.

Much of her port side had been ripped open by as many as eight Japanese torpedoes, and her rudder had been blown off by another. The battleship’s multi-layered anti-torpedo side protection system had been completely broken through, making it impossible to raise the ship without the use of extensive external patches. These structures, which covered virtually the entire hull side amidships, extended vertically from the turn of the bilge to well above the waterline. The patches were assembled in sections, with divers working inside and out to attach them to the ship and to each other, and were sealed at the bottom with some 650 tons of concrete.

As with other salvaged ships, West Virginia required extensive weight removal to allow her to be floated into drydock. Among the items removed were some 800,000 gallons of fuel oil, projectiles and powder for her sixteen-inch guns, and other supplies. Also removed were two unexploded Japanese bombs.

As the damage control parties moved onto the West Virginia they heard something strange:

At first, everyone thought it was a piece of loose rigging slapping against the wrecked hull of the USS West Virginia.

Bang. Bang.
To the survivors on land, it was just another …read more    

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