NOTE: This is a re-post from 2009.
There are a lot of familiar images from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Here is one of them:
The wrecked destroyers USS Downes (DD-375) and USS Cassin (DD-372) in Drydock One at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, soon after the end of the Japanese air attack. Cassin has capsized against Downes. USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) is astern, occupying the rest of the drydock. The torpedo-damaged cruiser USS Helena (CL-50) is in the right distance, beyond the crane. Visible in the center distance is the capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37), with USS Maryland (BB-46) alongside. Smoke is from the sunken and burning USS Arizona (BB-39), out of view behind Pennsylvania. USS California (BB-44) is partially visible at the extreme left. This image has been attributed to Navy Photographer's Mate Harold Fawcett. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.
Those who don’t know or haven’t looked closely might not notice that there are two destroyers in front of the battleship. The drydock had been dry when the attack began, but after raging fires began setting off ammunition aboard the destroyers, it was flooded in an attempt to douse the flames. Cassin slipped from her blocks and rolled against Downes.
Both ships were 1500-ton Mahan-class ships and had been commissioned in the mid-30s.
Here’s another image, taken from near where the two men in the first photo are standing at the head of the dock. The men on the Downes surveying the damage give a great sense of scale:
In Drydock Number One at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 7 December 1941, immediatly following the Japanese attack. Both ships had been severely damaged by bomb hits and the resulting fires. In the background, also in Drydock Number One, is USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), which had received relatively light damage in the raid. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Collection.
Notice the man in white uniform crawling on the Cassin, just behind the partially submerged #2 turret.
Here’s a shot from the rear of the destroyers:
USS Cassin (DD-372) burned out and capsized against USS Downes (DD-375), in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard drydock on 7 December 1941, after the Japanese attack. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.
Here’s an aerial view of the drydock area:
Vertical aerial view of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 10 December 1941, showing damage from the Japanese raid three days earlier. In upper center is the floating drydock YFD-2, with the destroyer Shaw (DD-373), whose bow was blown off, floating at an angle at one end. The torpedoed cruiser Helena (CL-50) is in Drydock Number Two, in center, for repairs. She was the first ship to use that newly constructed dock. Drydock Number One is just below Drydock Number Two. It holds the relatively undamaged battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38) and the wrecked destroyers Cassin (DD-372), capsized, and Downes (DD-375). Note dark oil streaks on the harbor surface. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Also notice the undamaged tank farm in the lower left corner of the image. Failing to hit those was a tactical error that had strategic implications. Over the years I’ve come to the opinion that a third attack wave would have been a lot tougher to pull off than often described, and the defenders would have had even better luck than they did against the second wave (in which the Japanese suffered pretty heavy damage and losses), but they doubtlessly would have also caused more damage. Enough to change things much?
Here is a close view of the forward turrets on Downes:
USS Downes (DD-375) Burned out in Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's Drydock # 1, soon after the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941. View shows the ship's forward 5''/38 guns and her demolished pilothouse, seen from off her starboard bow. NHHC Photograph.
Here is a view of the rear deck of Downes on the 8th:
USS Downes (DD-375), nearest to camera, and USS Cassin (DD-372), capsized against Downes In Drydock Number One at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 8 December 1941, the day after they were wrecked by Japanese bombs and the resulting fires. NHHC Photograph.
Here are the ships on January 23rd, a month and a half after the attack:
USS Cassin (DD-372), at left, and USS Downes (DD-375) Under salvage in Drydock Number One at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 23 January 1942. They had been wrecked during the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid. Photographed from the foremast of USS Raleigh (CL-7), which was undergoing battle damage repairs in the drydock. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
The weaponry and much of the superstructure has been removed.
Here they are on February 5th. The Cassin has been refloated:
USS Cassin (DD-372), at right, and USS Downes (DD-375) Under salvage in Drydock Number One at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 5 February 1942, the day Cassin was righted from her previous position capsized against Downes. They had been wrecked during the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid. Also in the drydock is USS Raleigh (CL-7), which was under repair for torpedo damage received on 7 December. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Cassin’s hull was, unsurprisingly, a total loss. But her machinery and weapons were put into a new hull built at Mare Island and the ship with transplanted organs and the same pennant number returned to the fight.
Here’s Cassin back in action:
USS Cassin (DD-372) Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 26 February 1944. The ship, which had been wrecked in the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, has just completed a total reconstruction, with her original machinery and main battery installed in a new hull and superstructure. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
Though not as badly damaged as Cassin, the machinery from Downes was also put into a new hull at Mare Island and she rejoined the fleet in 1943:
USS Downes (DD-375) Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 8 December 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
Here’s a story about Wallace R. “Jack” Seiber, a 16-year-old who lied about his age to join the Navy and served aboard the rebuilt Downes.
Here are the action reports for Downes and Cassin for December 7, 1941. Lot of interesting stuff.
Given that the Mahan-class ships were far outclassed by the destroyers built during the war, I’ve always wondered why the effort was spent building the new hulls. Was it to get Pearl Harbor survivors back into the fight for morale reasons, or was there more to it? Mare Island appears to have been out of the destroyer-building business by the start of the war to focus on submarines. Mare Island had built two Mahans, though, so they knew how to put these ships together.
Regardless of the reasons, these two ships suffered badly on that Sunday morning 68 years ago. But they rose again and kept up the fight, both of them seeing the war through.