What If the Battleship Arizona Wasn't Destroyed?

Updated on October 3, 2019
jasonponic profile image

Jason Ponic works in the exciting world of Hollywood film and television by day and writes by night.

USS Arizona BB-39
USS Arizona BB-39

Alternate Histories

The USS Arizona has long since become the symbolic enshrinement of United States' entrance into World War II. 1,177 men were lost when a Japanese amor piercing bomb detonated the powder magazine on December 7, 1941. Out of all the ships that were damaged or destroyed, Arizona's death toll was the worst of all.

One could ponder what would have happened to the Arizona itself had she not been destroyed at Pearl Harbor. She and the USS Oklahoma were the only two active battleships of the eight at Pearl Harbor that were damaged beyond repair. One could only wonder had her magazines hadn't detonated, hundreds, perhaps a thousand more lives could have been spared from within Arizona herself.

USS Arizona in her original configuration.
USS Arizona in her original configuration.

The Super Dreadnaught

The USS Arizona never fired her guns in anger. Launched in 1914 and commissioned in 1916, problems with her engines kept her stateside during the early months of the Great War. Once repaired she spent the war as a training ship.

The second ship of the Pennsylvania-Class, Arizona was a super dreadnaught, most advanced then built. Twelve 14-inch guns in four triple turrets, the Arizona was a marvel. She spent only a few years in the Atlantic before transferring to the Pacific where she remained for the rest of her career. A training ship for much of her life, Arizona participated in multiple Fleet Problems over the years. Her last being Fleet Problem XXI, Arizona and the rest of the United States Pacific Fleet were retained at Pearl Harbor. For the next year she remained at anchor as the world plunged deeper into war.

Japanese aerial attack photo. The white plume is a torpedo hit on USS West Virginia.
Japanese aerial attack photo. The white plume is a torpedo hit on USS West Virginia.

Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941. Three battleships would not survive the attack, USS Oklahoma, USS Utah and USS Arizona. Several torpedos would capsize Oklahoma, trapping hundreds below decks. Utah, a 32 year old relic now target ship by 1941, capsized after double torpedo hits, killing 63. Arizona's fatal shot, an armor piercing bomb that penetrated around Turret 2 and seven seconds later, detonated the powder magazine. The blast nearly blew the ship in two, killing 1,177, a ballistic bullseye. Say had the bomb hit just a foot or two in any other direction, the results could have been different. Had the magazine not detonated, Arizona likely would have survived to a repairable condition.

Repair and Return to Battle

Admiral Yamamoto who conceived the attack on Pearl Harbor later coined the phrase, "We awoke a sleeping giant." Admiral Hara Tadaichi later remarked "We won a great tactical victory and Pearl Harbor and therefore lost the war." Since Japan's primary targets, the US Aircraft Carriers, were not in port on December 7 and therefore not harmed, the United States' ability to stay offensive in the Pacific was not completely crippled. By eliminating its battleships, the attack forced the US Navy to rely on submarines and aircraft, which fundamentally changed military warfare forever. The beginning of the end of the battleship now in motion.

Following the attack, the US Navy's clean up efforts were immediate and urgent. Eager to get their battleships back to fighting, the Navy prioritized repairs based on damage. Least damaged ships were repaired first. Next, in one of the most extensive and successful salvage jobs in history, the Navy raised five of the seven sunk battleships and returned them all to service. Had Arizona not been destroyed and actually remained in a salvable condition, she would have been the sixth battleship resurrected. Not counting the relic USS Utah, only Oklahoma would have been the sole destroyed battleship.

Following a similar path to her sister ship, USS Pennsylvania, it is likely that Arizona during her repairing would have been upgraded at the same time. In Pennsylvania's case, the ship was considerably upgraded including removing her tripod mainmast and upgrading all of her secondary and anti-aircraft guns. With repairs complete, USS Arizona would have likely entered the Pacific Theater.

War in the Pacific

Obviously we will never know what battles Arizona could had taken part in post Pearl Harbor. USS Pennsylvania spent the war on the Pacific, shelling Japanese coastal installations all across the Pacific. Her shells fired on the Aleutian Islands, Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands and the Philippines. During operations in the Philippines, Pennsylvania was part of a battleship task force that engaged in a fabled battleship vs battleship fight that ended with most of the Japanese ships sunk.

On August 12, 1945, Pennsylvania took a torpedo hit to her side to her side which blew a 30 foot hole and killed twenty men. Three days later, Japan formally surrendered, ending World War II. Pennsylvania was the last major US warship damaged of the war.

USS Pennsylvania with her post Pearl Harbor refit.
USS Pennsylvania with her post Pearl Harbor refit.

Post War Fate.

The end of World War II left the United States with the largest navy on Earth, so big it made up 70% of all naval vessels 1,000 tons or more worldwide. Before Pearl Harbor, the navy consisted of approximately 800 ships. By war's end, it was nearly 6,800 ships. This included 27 aircraft carriers, eight "fast" battleships like USS Missouri and ten dreadnoughts, or eleven had USS Arizona not been destroyed and survived the war. Such a titanic fleet was impossible to maintain during peacetime.

The navy's main charge after the war, downsizing. And fast. They called for 70% of the navy to be either mothballed, scrapped, or relegated for target ships. The navy's review of all warships was largely based on the age of the vessel, its likely use in a peacetime world and its feasibility to modernize. Ships like USS Arkansas, USS Texas and USS New York were over 35 years old by 1945 and were quickly deemed too old to keep. Texas was selected to become a museum battleship while Arkansas and New York were selected to become target ships. Other dreadnoughts 30 years or older were also designated as target ships.

Operation Crossroads was the official testing site for the new Hydrogen Bomb. Double nuclear tests, one airborne and one underwater. Ships like USS Nevada and USS Pennsylvania were selected as target ships for these test. At 33 years old, Arizona likely would have joined her sister ship at Bikini Island. Pennsylvania actually survived both blasts. She was later towed and scuttled when her hull was found to be radioactive.

USS Pennsylvania sinking in 1948.
USS Pennsylvania sinking in 1948.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)