Submerged Cultural Resources Study:
USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark
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Chapter II: Historical Record



The immediate problem faced by the salvage teams was to determine the extent of damage and whether the ship could be righted. In November 1942, a series of surveys was completed that included establishment of a mud line from bow to stern. Early thinking believed that an air bubble could be used to float the hull to drydock. Closer examination determined that the UTAH simply could not hold enough compressed air to make such a trip.

Another approach was considered. The conditions that faced the UTAH were similar to those in the righting of the OKLAHOMA. Captain Wallin and his staff decided that the OKLAHOMA's method would accomplish the task. In preparation, during the month of January 1943, workers removed ordnance material, painted frame marks on the hull, constructed a floating walkway to the F-11-N quay, installed a landing for boats, and drilled access holes to remove the ship's oil supply.

USS Utah being salvaged
Figure 2.39. The UTAH salvage operations attempt to right the ship.
(NPS: USAR Collection)

Like the OKLAHOMA, a series of 17 electric winches, cables and wooden struts was used to right the ship. Work on the UTAH proceeded slowly but effectively until early in 1944. As the ship began to roll back to an upright position, the vessel failed to grip the bottom. As the winches pulled, the vessel slid toward Ford Island. Immediately work stopped, and salvage engineers pondered the problem.

It was resolved that continued salvage would be costly for a ship that was not valuable in the war effort, so by March 1944 work stopped. The UTAH rested on its side at a 38-degree angle.

USS Utah partially righted
Figure 2.40. The UTAH partially righted during salvage operations.
(NPS: USAR Collection)

In 1956, a new effort to remove the UTAH was rekindled by the commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District, who felt that ESSEX-class carriers had insufficient space to initiate transfer of ammunition, special weapons and guided missile components. Perhaps in an effort to make his case more solid, the commandant suggested that the UTAH obstructed navigation in the channel and should be removed. This was seconded by the Service Force, the fleet maintenance officer and the Pacific Fleet.

The cost for removal was estimated at $4,000,000, but soon a number of issues began to plague the commandant's effort. First, no funds were available. Second, the equipment used initially to right the vessel had been sold. Third, the project could take one and a half to two years.

Perhaps the most important factor leading to discontinuing the plan was raised by the Chief of Naval Operations: He simply stated that the vessel was the final resting place of 58 sailors and should not be disturbed.

Early in 1970 it was proposed by the shipmates and supporters from the state of Utah that a memorial be built to honor the dead. On May 27, 1972 Senator Moss of Utah, who had led the fight for approval and construction, dedicated the memorial.

The Legacy of the UTAH was ever-present in the struggle of the pacific. The training it had provided to the pilots, warships, subs and antiaircraft gunners enabled the Pacific Fleet to be an effective fighting force early on. The testing weapon system had allowed that fleet first-hand experience in working effectively. The ship had contributed significantly to the scientific testing of remote systems, gunnery training and aerial attack. In a larger sense, the UTAH helped prepare America for war.

Last Updated: 27-Apr-2001