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THE United States Pacific Fleet at Anchor in Pearl Harbor on December Six 1941

In this article, I detail all of the United States’ naval vessels at anchor in Pearl Harbor on Saturday evening, December six 1941.

On Saturday evening, December 6 1941, an eerie calm descended upon the United States’ Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There were only a precious few hours of peace and tranquility left before all heck would break loose. That’s because less than 400 miles to the north, there was a huge Japanese naval task force surging its way toward the Hawaiian Islands determined to deal the United States a crippling blow that would win the coming war for the Empire of Japan in one massive blow. At anchorage, the U.S. Fleet was quite impressive.

To begin with, there were 8 handsome battleships. Seven of these were moored along Battleship Row, on the western edge of Ford Island. From last to first, they were situated in the following manner. First, there was the Nevada. Directly in front of her was the Arizona. Next came the Tennessee, which was inboard of the West Virginia. Then came the Maryland, which was inboard of the Oklahoma. Further up was the California, the flagship of the battleship fleet. To round out the battle wagons, there was the Pennslyvania. She was a sister ship to the Arizona, and lay directly across from Battleship Row in a separate dry dock.

In addition to the battleships anchored at Pearl Harbor just prior to the Japanese sneak attack, the United States’ Pacific Fleet also contained 8 cruisers. Two of these were heavy, the New Orleans and the San Francisco, and six were light. They were named: the Raleigh, Detroit, Phoenix, Honolulu, St. Louis, and Helena. It must be noted that the St. Louis was the first large vessel to successfully escape the carnage of the harbor during the latter moments of the second wave of Japanese aircraft.

Besides the battleships and the light and heavy cruisers, there were a considerable number of destroyers present as well. In fact, these were the most numerous naval vessel in the harbor at the time. All told, there were 30 of them at anchor, and they were named: the Allen, Schley, Chew, Ward, Dewey, Farragut, Hull, MacDonough, Worden, Dale, Monaghan, Aylwin, Selfridge, Phelps, Cummings, Reid, Case, Conyngham, Cassin, Shaw, Tucker, Downes, Bagley, Blue, Helm, Mugford, Ralph Talbot, Henley, Patterson, and Jarvis. It must also be noted that the USS Ward was patrolling just outside the harbor entrance when it positively identified a Japanese midget sub trying to sneak into the harbor at around 6:45 AM December 7. The Ward subsequently attacked the sub, blasting its conning tower in half with a three inch shell, and then dropping a line of depth charges upon the stricken sardine can, causing it to founder. 

There were also four USS submarines present in Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack. They were the: Narwhal, Dolphin, Cachalot, and Tautog. Fortunately, more than a dozen of these precious vessels left the harbor two days prior on a series of patrols to the south of Midway Island.

Pearl Harbor also contained a large number of supporting ships as well. For example, there were 6 long range minesweepers, 4 coastal minesweepers, 4 high speed minesweepers, 1 large mine layer, 8 light mine layers, 1 gunboat, 2 destroyer tenders, 4 seaplane tenders, 2 large oilers, 3 repair ships, 1 cargo ship, 4 ocean going tugs, 12 motor torpedo boats, 1 ammunition ship, and 1 hospital ship.

In summation, the United States’ Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Saturday evening, December 6 1941 was quite an impressive force. It could have and would have dealt the Japanese catastrophic losses had they been on full alert and ready to repel an attacker. Unfortunately, and tragically, they were not.

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