[Marxism] Pearl Harbor myths
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 4 14:34:56 MST 2006
The Myth That Eight Battleships Were Sunk At Pearl Harbor
By Richard K. Neumann Jr.
Mr. Neumann is a professor at the Hofstra University School of Law.
Every year as December 7 approaches we hear and read that eight battleships
were sunk at Pearl Harbor. That is even repeated in a 2001 article by HNN
staff on the HNN website debunking movie myths about Pearl Harbor.
It didnt happen.
Eight battleships were there. Two were lost in action, the Navys term
for damage that permanently destroys a ships usefulness. None were sunk,
which means disappearing below the sea surface (the most obvious but not
the only way to become lost in action). Pearl Harbor is shallow, with only
a few feet of water separating the battleships bottoms from the harbor
bottom. No capital ship could disappear below the waves in a shallow harbor.
Here is what happened to each of the eight battleships during and after the
attack: Pennsylvania was in dry dock when the attack began and suffered
only superficial damage caused when a destroyer in the same dry dock
exploded. (Sinking a capital ship in dry dock is physically impossible,
even if the dry dock is flooded.) Maryland was also lightly damaged. Both
ships were seaworthy later that month. Tennessee suffered more damage, but
was seaworthy early in 1942. California and West Virginia were torpedoed
and settled onto the bottom of the harbor, their main decks well above
water. If they had suffered the same damage at sea, they would have been
sunk, but the shallowness of the harbor saved them illustrating the
foolishness of attacking ships in port. Both were repaired, with many
improvements, and went to sea again. Nevada was the only battleship in
motion during the attack. Her crew ran her aground to prevent sinking.
Oklahoma capsized, and the forward magazine of Arizona exploded. These are
the two battleships that actually were lost in action. Visitors to the
Arizona memorial see nothing above water, but that is because the Navy
removed the ships superstructures, guns and turrets, which would otherwise
be mostly above water today.
The six surviving battleships fought in decisive battles later in the war.
On D-Day, Nevada shelled German emplacements behind the Normandy beaches,
with devastating effect. The other five survivors shelled many
Japanese-held Pacific islands before the Marines and Army landed on the
beaches. When the U.S. invaded the Philippines, the Japanese sent three
naval forces to ambush American troop ships. One of them, with two Japanese
battleships, came up the Surigao Strait, where West Virginia, Tennessee,
California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania (all allegedly had been sunk three
years earlier at Pearl Harbor) were on shore-shelling duty, together with
Mississippi. After U.S. destroyers sank one of the Japanese battleships
with torpedoes, the U.S. battleships sank the other one with gunfire. This
was only time in history that U.S. battleships ever crossed an enemys T
the maneuver for which battleships were originally designed and built.
And it was the last time that any battleships of any navy fired on each
other in battle.
Despite initial appearances, the attack on Pearl Harbor was an abject
strategic failure. The Japanese attacked a fleet in port, where it is hard
to cause permanent loss of a capital ship and where repair facilities are
already nearby. They attacked obsolete ships and in so doing taught the
U.S. Navy from the very beginning to rely on aircraft carriers rather than
battleships. The Japanese attacked without any guarantee that the most
valuable U.S. ships the carriers would be present, and all the U.S.
carriers were safely elsewhere on December 7. At Midway six months later,
those same American carriers sank two-thirds of the Japanese carrier fleet,
inflicting a wound from which the Japanese navy never recovered. And the
Japanese ignored the unglamorous target that truly would have crippled the
U.S. Navy for perhaps a year or more: the oil tanks next to Pearl Harbor.
Without the ability to refuel at Pearl, the U.S. Navy would have had to
retreat to San Diego, San Francisco Bay, and Puget Sound.
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