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NavSource Online: Mine Warfare Photo Archives
Salvage Operations at Pearl Harbor

USS Oglala (CM 4)


On the morning of 7 December 1941 USS Oglala, flagship of the Pacific Fleet Mine Force, was tied up outboard of the light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50). They were alongside Pier 1010 at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, with an eight-foot camel between them. Japanese torpedo planes of the first attack wave hit the cruiser with a single torpedo, which ran under Oglala to hit Helena's starboard side. The torpedo's explosion broke through the minelayer's port bilge amidships, and she rapidly took on water. A bomb that burst nearby caused further damage. With the marginal watertight integrity typical of older ships, Oglala's flooding could not be contained.

When it became clear that she might sink, Oglala was moved aft of Helena, so she would not pin the warship against the dock. About two hours after receiving her initial damage, she rolled over to port and sank beside 1010 dock. There Oglala became the object of a prolonged, and ultimately successful salvage effort.

Though Oglala was originally evaluated as a total loss, with the only salvage goal being to clear valuable pier space, it was ultimately decided to fully recover and repair the ship. The salvage effort was complex work, with the inherent difficulties of righting and refloating a capsized ship compounded by Oglala's poor stability. Fifteen to eighteen divers were kept busy for nearly 2,000 underwater hours during the salvage, patching her hull, rigging chains, cutting away unwanted structure and executing many other tasks. After her tophamper had been removed, ten salvage pontoons were used to pull the ship upright while air was pumped into her to lighten the load. The first righting attempt, made on 11 April 1942, failed when several connecting chains parted. However, a second try succeeded twelve days later.

Oglala was now upright, but still mostly underwater. A large wooden cofferdam was built around the edges of her decks to allow water to be removed from her interior. The ship was refloated in June, but resank on 25 - 26 June when the failure of a pump led to cascading flooding in her forward hull. Afloat again on 29 June, she promptly went down for a third time when the cofferdam failed. After another raising, a serious fire on 2 July nearly produced a fourth resubmergence. However, the next day Oglala was finally dry docked, completing a job that became a legend among marine salvors. She received temporary repairs during much of the rest of 1942 and, in December, left Pearl Harbor for the U.S. west coast, there to be refurbished for active service.

USS Oglala Torpedo and Bomb Damage Report, 7 December 1941

Click on thumbnail
for full size image
Size Image Description Source
Oglala 77k "The Japanese Sneak Attack on Pearl Harbor."
Charcoal and chalk by Commander Griffith Bailey Coale, USNR, Official U.S. Navy Combat Artist, 1944.
Courtesy U.S. Navy Art Center, Washington, DC
U.S. Navy photo KN-32031
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 29k c. December 1941
Capsized at 1010 pier, Pearl Harbor, HI.
Hyperwar U.S. Navy in World War II
Oglala 100k c. December 1941
Capsized at 1010 pier, Pearl Harbor, HI
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 83k View looking down Pier 1010 toward the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's Drydock Number One, in center, which holds the battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38) and the burning destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375). Alongside Pier 1010, in the center middle distance, are the light cruiser Helena (CL-50), listing slightly from a torpedo hit, and the capsized minelayer Oglala.
National Archives photo 80-G-32953
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 111k View looking toward 1010 Dock, with Oglala capsized in the foreground. To the left is Argonne (AG-31), with Sacramento (PG-19) barely visible beyond her.
From the collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin
U.S. Navy photo NH 83066
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 124k View from Pier 1010, looking toward the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's drydocks, with Shaw (DD-373), in floating drydock YFD-2, and Nevada (BB-36) burning at right. In the foreground is the capsized Oglala, with Helena (CL-50) further down the pier, at left. Beyond Helena is Drydock Number One, with Pennsylvania (BB-38) and the burning destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375).
National Archives photo 80-G-47489
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 82k View taken from 1010 Dock, showing the capsized ship's starboard deck edge and embarkation ladder, 9 December 1941, two days after she was sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the center distance is the beached and sunken battleship Nevada (BB-36) and destroyer Shaw (DD-373) wrecked in the floating drydock YFD-2, in the left center distance. Ford Island Naval Air Station is at right
Photograph taken by Pearl Harbor Navy Yard
U.S. Navy photo NH 50140
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 113k Capsized alongside 1010 dock at Pearl Harbor, 9 December 1941. Preliminary salvage work on her is already underway. "Battleship Row", by Ford Island is in the distance, with Maryland (BB-46) in center, alongside the capsized Oklahoma (BB-37). Astern are West Virginia (BB-48), sunk alongside Tennessee (BB-44). Farthest to the right are the sunken and burned-out remains of
Arizona (BB-39).
U.S. Navy photo NH 60672
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 143k Under salvage alongside 1010 dock at Pearl Harbor in early 1942
U.S. Navy photo NH 60673
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 119k Under salvage alongside 1010 dock at Pearl Harbor in early 1942. The wreck of Arizona (BB-39 is in the left distance
U.S. Navy photo NH 60674
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 125k Salvage work underway at Pearl Harbor, circa early 1942. One of Oglala's motor launches is in the right foreground, with a diver embarked. Salvage pontoons (including YSP-17) are in the background, and an oiler is by the Ford Island gasoline wharf in the distance
U.S. Navy photo NH 60675
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 91k c. January 1942. An oiler is at the Ford Island gasoline wharf in the center distance. In the extreme right distance is the capsized hull of Oklahoma (BB-37)
U.S. Navy photo NH 50139
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 120k Capsized alongside 1010 dock at Pearl Harbor, with salvage work underway, 17 March 1942. Chains encircling her hull are part of the righting tackle. West Virginia (BB-48) and Arizona (BB-39) are sunk in the middle distance
U.S. Navy photo NH 60671
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 161k 5 April 1942
Chains attached to hull with YSP-17 astern
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 120k Under salvage alongside 1010 Dock, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa 11 April 1942. YSP-13 and YSP-15 are among the salvage pontoons being used to try to raise Oglala's capsized hull. An oiler and the sunken West Virginia (BB-48) are in the background
U.S. Navy photo NH 44580
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 114k Salvage pontoons (with YSP-13 among them) surfacing during the initial attempt to right the ship, 11 April 1942. This effort failed when some of the pontoons broke loose from their righting bridles. The barge Guam 3201 is at left, with a mobile crane on board
U.S. Navy photo NH 64492
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 166k The first attempt to refloat the Oglala fails on April 11, 1942, as the pontoons break free of their chains.
National Archives photo
Mike Green
Oglala 136k Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, (center), Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, observes efforts to right the capsized Oglala (CM-4) at Pearl Harbor. With him are Rear Admiral William R. Furlong (left), Commandant, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, and Captain Homer N. Wallin (right), who was in charge of the salvage operations. The photograph was taken in April - May 1942, possibly during the initial righting attempt on 11 April
U.S. Navy photo NH 50002
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 166k The Oglala is righted alongside the 1010 dock on 23 April 1942. Some of the pontoons are visible, having already come to the
harbor surface.
National Archives photo
Mike Green
Oglala 117k 23 April 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 161k
Oglala 264 Pacific Bridge employees check the Oglala's cofferdam sections for leaks, as pumps dewater the ship.
National Archives photo
Mike Green
Oglala 182k 12 May 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 142k 8 June 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 144k 23 June 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 173k The Oglala is seen being pumped out for the second time. Several pumps failed on June 25, 1942, causing the ship to sink again. The battleship West Virginia and cruiser Northampton are seen in the upper part of the photo, occupying Dry-docks No. 1 and No. 2.
National Archives photo
Mike Green
Oglala 145k 26 June 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 96k 3 July 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 138k The Oglala is seen on 3 July 1942 being eased into Dry-dock No. 2. The cofferdam assembly, weighing 600 tons, can be easily seen here. The pumps are working to keep ahead of the flooding still occurring. The aircraft carrier Saratoga is moored at Ford Island in the background.
National Archives photo
Mike Green
Oglala 114k 3 July 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 150k
Oglala 158k Closeup view of torpedo damage to the ship's port side midships hull, taken 4 July 1942 in drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. Oglala was not herself directly hit. The heavy damage to her hull seen here was caused by the explosion of an aerial torpedo on Helena (CL-50), which was alongside some eight feet distant from Oglala.
Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation
Collection of The Honorable James V. Forrestal
U.S. Navy photo NH 85007
Naval Historical Center
Oglala 83k 6 July 1942
National Archives photo, San Francisco Regional Branch, Pearl Harbor Navy Yard General Correspondence 1941-45
Tracy White
Oglala 114k
Oglala 118k
Oglala 134k At the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in mid-1942, after she was salvaged
U.S. Navy photo NH 64236
Naval Historical Center

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