USS Arizona

Part Two

Zdeněk Novák

The Attack on Pearl Harbor has become an infamous theme of discussion among military historians, a theme about which many

publications have been written, along with articles too numerous to count. For this reason, we will stick to the essential facts connected specifically to the USS Arizona on that fateful date.

December 7, 1941

(9,850 ft). This was followed by a catastrophic explosion at 0807h, which destroyed

the entire forward section of the ship, including the main superstructure. The first

analyses attributed the demise of the Arizona to eight bomb and one or two torpedo hits. The torpedo hits were ruled out by

inspection of the wreckage. Eyewitness

accounts purporting these apparent torpedo strikes were chalked up(modified?)

to bomb hits and subsequent explosions in the water directly adjacent to the

ship. The final bomb hit tally was placed

at between two and four, while the Japanese airmen claimed three to four. Two

bombs hit the ship with certainty. The first

successful hit was made by a crew from

the Kaga, striking Turret No.4, The bomb

slipped below the turret’s armor plating

towards the rear and penetrated the main

deck before exploding. There was a resulting fire that caused no extensive damage.

Three other bombs hit the water, and one

struck and damaged the repair vessel

USS Vestal. The fatal strike came from

the carrier Hiryū’s aircraft. Three bombs

hit the water next to the ship, while a fou-

rth hit the Vestal and severely damaged

her. The USS Arizona suffered a direct hit

to her upper deck at the bow on her starboard side, immediately ahead of the barbette of Turret No.2. In all likelihood, the

bomb went off after penetrating the armor plating. The theory that the 4.75 inch

(121mm) armored deck withstanded the

impact of the bomb and that the explosion

was the result of a spreading fire through unsealed bulkheads comes across as

unlikely. The sirens on the Arizona went

off at 0755h, and the crew had enough

time to close these passageways, which

would have been one of the first things

to be done during an emergency. As has

been noted, the Type 99 bomb was capable of penetrating 6 inches (150mm) of

armor from a height of 8,200ft (2,500m),

and being dropped from an actual height

of 9,850ft (3,000m), the penetration capability of the bomb has been calculated at

around 7 inches (180mm). Attentive readers will recall that the armored deck of

the USS Arizona was increased and that

the increase was by way of additional plating added to the existing, but the 800kg

The attack began with dive bombers hitting targets at the Naval Air Base on Ford

Island at 0755h. The USS Arizona was

protected from torpedo attacks from the

right by Ford Island itself, and from the

left mostly by the adjacent USS Vestal.

As a result, the Arizona became a target for ten Nakajima B5N2 Kates, armed

with 800kg (1760lb) armor piercing Type

99 bombs. The bomb was built around the

410mm (16.1 inch) artillery shell used by

the Japanese naval vessels Nagato and

Mutsu, offering good penetrating ability with a comparatively small explosive

charge (22.8kg or 50lbs). Release from

a height of 2,500m (8,200 ft) was calculated by the Japanese to allow penetration

of 150mm (6 inches) of armor plating. The

bomb was released in horizontal flight,

and only 48 B5N2s were so armed for

the first wave of the attack. First, a group

of five B5N2s from the Kaga (2nd Chutai,

46th + 47th Shotai commanded by Lt.

Hideo Maki) attacked at 0805h. This was

followed a minute later by a same number of Kates flying off the Hiryū (1st Chutai,

40th + 48th Shotai, commanded by Friga- Title photo: USS Arizona (BB-39) ablaze, immediately following the explosion of her forward

te Capt. Tadashi Kusumi). Both formations ammunition magazines. Frame clipped from a color motion picture taken from on board

dropped their bombs from about 3,000m USS Solace (AH-5) (photo: National Archives).


INFO Eduard

April 2022