Title banner: Pearl Harbor * Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal

APPENDIX F The Plan for the Salvage of U.S.S. Oklahoma

Pearl Harbor, T. H.

Ser. Y-01347
July 18,1942

From:   The Salvage Officer
To:       The Commandant, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, T. H.
Subject: USS OKLAHOMA-Progress Report on Salvage of.

1. Complying with your oral instructions I am submitting below a report of the progress of the salvage operations on the USS OKLAHOMA. In view of the termination of my assignment as Salvage Officer, I am including considerable detail and opinion in this report.

2. Under date. of 15 March 1942, the Bureau of Ships was advised regarding the situation existing on the ARIZONA, OKLAHOMA and UTAH and the Yard recommended that the salvage of these vessels, except for recoverable material, be not undertaken at this time.

3. Under date of 22 April 1942, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations expressed the desire that the condition of the ARIZONA and OKLAHOMA be carefully surveyed and recommendations made based on the time and cost of salvage. This desire of the Department, it was stated, was based on the excellent work which had been accomplished in the salvaging of Naval vessels.

4. Under date of 24 May 1942, the Commandant furnished the Vice Chief of Naval Operations a detailed estimate of the salvage of the OKLAHOMA and stated that the Yard was in position to proceed with the work if ordered. Subsequently the Yard was directed to proceed with work on the OKLAHOMA and contractual arrangements have been made with the Pacific Bridge Company to handle a portion of the work; also, arrangements are being made by the Bureau of Ships for suitable priorities for the material required. At the present time the local Manager and local Design Superintendent of the Pacific Bridge Company are at their home offices in San Francisco to review with their company certain aspects of the OKLAHOMA project, including lay-out of righting forces, procurement of essential materials, recruitment of specialized man power, etc.

5. The OKLAHOMA was berthed outboard of the MARYLAND at Berth F-5 and capsized outboard (to port). The vessel rotated through an angle of about 150 degrees and came to rest on a fairly solid bottom. The starboard half of the ship's bottom is above water as is also the lower part of the starboard side, including the starboard propeller. The


topmost point of the OKLAHOMA hull is now about twenty-six feet above mean low water. Soundings have been taken all around the OKLAHOMA and these show that the turrets, superstructure, and masts are entirely submerged in mud. In view of the fairly solid bottom it is likely that the masts and lighter superstructure have been torn clear of the ship or badly bent. It is not practicable for divers to determine the facts on this point without some dredging, and dredging should not proceed in this outboard area until hauling winches are rigged.

6. Damage to Underwater Hull: In order to determine the underwater damage of the OKLAHOMA careful inspection of the hull has been made by divers, but most of the damage sustained is partially covered by mud. This has not been dredged out because of higher priorities of other work. However, the divers' inspections indicate four large holes, in the port side as follows:

a. At about frame 38 there is a hole which appears to be a bomb near-miss. This hole may be found to be considerably larger when mud is cleared away, and may be a torpedo hole.

b. At about frame 48, one torpedo hit.

c. At about frame 64, one torpedo hit.

d. At about frame 94, one torpedo hit.

There appears to be no important damage to the bottom of the ship or to the port side below the bilge keel.

7. Scheme of Righting: Considerable study has been applied to the development of a suitable scheme for righting the OKLAHOMA. This has been handled jointly by the Salvage Division, Design Section, and the Pacific Bridge Company. The final details of the scheme are yet to be worked out but it consists essentially of the following:

a. Shore Winches: At present plans call for the installation of twenty-one electric hydraulic hauling winches on Ford Island, each winch having a pulling capacity of about twenty tons. The number of winches is based on an estimated maximum pull of about 345,000 foot tons.

In order to install these winches on Ford Island, two or three of the enlisted men's quarters will have to be temporarily moved clear of their present sites to allow sufficient space for the installation of concrete deadmen as winch anchorages.

Each winch will haul on a 1" (about) flexible steel wire cable rove through blocks which will give a seventeen part purchase. The moving end will be attached to a 3" wire cable which will pass over the bottom of the ship and will be attached to the starboard shell plating through four "cat tails" from each 3" line. These "cat tails" will be shackled to pads or lugs welded to the shell at each frame. Preliminary strength calculations indicate that the hull structure is adequate.

In order to increase the leverage, the 3" pulling wire will pass over a strut arrangement about forty-eight feet above the mean low water level, which will probably be of wood and built on the bottom of the ship with the load taken on the docking keels.

b. Lift Pontoons: In order to provide adequate assistance to start the ship rolling, especially in view of the fact that most of the superstructure is buried in mud, it is intended that a number of large lifting pontoons be attached to


parts of the superstructure in such a way as to give large righting moments. It is likely that these pontoons can be attached by chains to masts, cranes, turrets, guns, etc. It is not likely that there is room for more than about twenty such pontoons. In the later stages of righting it may be necessary to rig some chains around the ship in order to obtain satisfactory righting moments from the pontoons.

It has been intended that the submarine salvage pontoons at Pearl Harbor, each having a capacity of eighty tons lift, be utilized. Inquiry was made as to whether the Department would authorize the transportation of ten similar pontoons from the West Coast for this project. A negative response has been received, so that it now appears that it may be necessary to manufacture ten additional pontoons if later detailed calculations show the necessity for same.

Some informal conversations have been had with the Army engineers regarding the loan of large gasoline tanks which could be adapted for lift pontoons of about eighty ton capacity each. The Army has indicated a willingness to cooperate, but this would depend of course on whether the gasoline tanks are still available at the time we are ready to put them to use. No official action has yet been taken with the Army on this point.

c. Air Bubble: In order to lighten the OKLAHOMA, especially in such a way as to reduce the righting moment required it is intended to use compressed air to blowout some of the water-filled compartments on the starboard side. Calculations have been based on blowing the water down about twenty-five feet, thus requiring an air pressure of eleven or twelve pounds per square inch. The idea is to divide the air bubble up by transverse bulkheads so that there will in effect be about five air bubbles in the hull along the whole length of the ship. This division will guard against the possibility of losing all of the air bubble at a critical period of the righting operations.

In connection with the air bubble, some of the liquid to be removed is oil, and steps are now underway to remove all of the fuel oil from the starboard tanks by pumping. Test holes are being drilled and access holes are being cut through the bottom of the ship for the purpose of getting hose and men into the oil tanks. Two three inch reciprocating simplex steam pumps will be used to remove the oil from the ship and place it into the oil barge INTREPID. There is some danger of oil vapor explosions in this work and steps are being taken to guard against this hazard, principally by arranging for the EX-NAVAJO to moor alongside the OKLAHOMA and to furnish steam and electric power. Thereafter all oil tanks will be steam-blanketed (or suitable air venting) before access holes are cut. Lieutenant Greely has direct charge of oil removal.

The ship's tanks are practically full of fuel oil, about 1,000,000 gallons. The access holes are eighteen inches square, and fifteen or more of them will be required through the starboard bottom; other holes will have to be cut in longitudinal bulkheads later to sluice oil from other tanks into the wing tanks to be picked up by the pump suction.

d. Need For Outboard Restrainer To Prevent Sliding: Considerable thought has been given to the need for a suitable anchorage out in the channel to prevent sliding of the OKLAHOMA instead of


rotating when the righting forces are applied. A study of the soil strength has been made by the Pacific Bridge Company in connection with this matter and it now appears that no anchorages are required, except for one forward. These calculations, however, should be carefully checked as the work proceeds.

e. Dredging: In order to permit the OKLAHOMA to rotate without undue restraint, some dredging must be done just inboard of the ship. If too much is done it will increase the possibility of sliding so that the amount of dredging to be performed must be based on the strength of the soil. Also, if too much dredging is done the vessel will be unnecessarily low in the water when righted and this will greatly increase the problem of floating her. Thus from both view points a minimum amount of inboard dredging should be performed, only enough to permit the vessel to rotate without undue obstruction.

8. Method of Raising: It is expected that the OKLAHOMA after righting will still have 8-12 degrees list to port, and the main deck (possibly the upper deck) will be under water. The scheme for raising the OKLAHOMA is to utilize the fence-type cofferdam as in the case of the OGLALA. That cofferdam is being stowed on Waipio Point and will be available for adaptation to the OKLAHOMA. Based on present knowledge it is likely that the OKLAHOMA can be raised without installing exterior patches over the holes in the port side, as in the case of the CALIFORNIA. However, final decision on that point should wait for a more accurate determination of the damage.

9. Division of Duties: There has been considerable discussion as to whether the Pacific Bridge Company could not be charged with the complete job of righting and floating the OKLAHOMA. My consistent opinion has been that the work can be handled satisfactorily only on the basis of the Navy assuming responsibility for the job as a whole, but to contract with the Pacific Bridge Company to perform certain parts of the work. As I understand it, their desire is not to take over the job in its entirety but merely to have a definite contractual arrangement under which they could purchase large quantities of materials required and hire specialized men for the work; in .other respects the working arrangements used on ships already salvaged would apply.

10. I have discussed the general divisions of the work with the local Manager and local Design Superintendent of the Pacific Bridge Company, and we have agreed that the division shown below appears most favorable:

a. Design, installation, rigging, attaching, and operation of hauling winches -- to be handled in its entirety by the Pacific Bridge Company, but subject to Navy inspection and assistance.

b. Lift pontoons to be attached and operated by the Navy, but assistance as necessary to be rendered by the Pacific Bridge Company. The detailed work could best be done by the ORTOLAN or the WIDGEON; the necessary dredging primarily for the attachment of pontoons could be done either by the Navy or by arrangements through the Pacific Bridge Company.

c. Diving work, primarily to close watertight doors, hatches, valves, etc., -- (and to see that certain others are left open) requires familiarity with ships and with naval design and is essentially a Navy part of the job. The Pacific Bridge


Company desires that this be handled entirely by the Navy. The Diving Section of the Salvage Division has been studying this problem for some time and is organized and ready to proceed with the work.

d. Decision as to the amount of dredging inboard seems to be a joint matter for study and agreement. When the decision is reached the dredging itself can be performed by the Yard or by arrangement through the Pacific Bridge Company.

e. In regard to raising the ship, the design, construction and installation of the fence-type cofferdam should be a primary function of the Pacific Bridge Company. Decision as to the need for exterior patches should be made jointly but primarily by the Navy. All interior work and pumping arrangements should be joint, but a Navy responsibility.

f. Removal of Oil, Ammunition, Wreckage, Debris, etc: This should be a Navy responsibility, as should also fire protection, hazards to life from toxic gases, explosion hazards, etc. There are supposed to be about 400 bodies in the OKLAHOMA which should be handled by Naval personnel. Also, there is a large amount of personal property and confidential matter which must be safeguarded in accordance with instructions of the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet.

11. Time Required To Do The Work: The time required to do the work is problematic and depends upon whether unforeseen difficulties develop and cannot be readily overcome. On the assumption that the materials to be procured by the Pacific Bridge Company are given sufficiently high priority the job can be started almost immediately. If the materials are delivered piece-meal and so scheduled as to be ready for installation when required I think that the OKLAHOMA can be righted within four or five months, and possibly within three months. The time required for raising her after she is righted depends upon how deep she remains in the water and at what angle of inclination. If the depth of the water over the quarter deck does not exceed 20-22 feet it ought to be practicable to raise her within three months.

12. Possible Difficulties: The salvage scheme has not yet been developed in such detail as to insure that all difficulties which may arise during the salvage operations have been taken into consideration. However, a few of them presented themselves and are as follows :

a. Strength of the soil of the bottom is a critical aspect of the job. As the righting moment is applied to the vessel the pivoting point will tend to dig in and/or to slide. If the soil is hard enough to prevent sliding but still soft enough to permit the bilge to dig in, the vessel will tend to sink deeper into the mud. This will have several effects, one of which is to increase the moment required for rotation.

b. When the vessel has rotated through about 60 degrees it will be on its port side, and thereafter the pivoting point will be the port bilge. If the mud is relatively soft the port bilge will dig in and cause the ship to sink deeper into the mud. This will also require an increased righting moment, and this at a point when the leverage and the effect of pontoons have been reduced. Thus the winch capacity required for the job should be based upon this consideration. At this point it may be necessary to con-


struct new leverage struts in order to insure adequate righting moment. 

c. When the vessel is lying on its side a decision can be made as to how much dredging need be done to facilitate rolling of the ship and to permit the vessel to come upright without too much residual list. By this time the actual strength of the soil will have been pretty well determined so that this decision can be made having in mind the depth of the water in which the ship will be sitting when righted. It will probably be found that enough righting moment can be applied to lift the vessel's center of gravity some in this last part of the righting operation. In that case dredging should be minimized.

13. Personnel Now Assigned: A sufficient number of officers and enlisted men have been retained in the salvage organization to carry out the details of the OKLAHOMA work as outlined above. The officers assigned to the salvage aspect of the project are as follows:

a. Lieutenant Haynes, in charge of all diving activities, especially those in connection with a suitable air bubble. Lieutenant Haynes has organized the Diving Section for the great amount of interior work required and has adequate officer supervision for this work. In this connection the Navy Yard civilian divers could be utilized and the Officer-in-Charge (Boatswain Nordquist) might well be assigned to the OKLAHOMA project.

b. Lieutenant Lindstrom, has spent six or eight weeks in design calculations with the Pacific Bridge Company. He has worked primarily on the air bubble requirements, somewhat on the lift pontoons, etc. Some of these matters should be referred to the Design Section in due course for final review and pertinent recommendations. However, Lieutenant Lindstrom and Pacific Bridge Company have discussed design matters informally with personnel of the Design Section.

c. Lieutenant Greely, in charge of practical work on the ship. He has instituted action for removal of fuel oil from the starboard side, and is making necessary arrangements for other work to proceed.

14. Equipment Available: I believe plenty of equipment is available for the OKLAHOMA work. The contractor has the barges and crawler cranes used on the CALIFORNIA and the WEST VIRGINIA and these will be available when needed. Steps have been taken to have the EX-NAVAJO alongside to furnish steam and power as required.


cc: Comserfor
Capt. Yard
Prod. Off.
Plan. Off.
Salv. Plan. Off.
Capt. Hull
Lt. Comdr. Isquith
Lt. Comdr. Altland
Lt. Lindstrom
Lt. Greely
Mr. J. Graham, Pacific Bridge Co. (2)


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