U.S.S. Missouri (BB-63) Salvage Report
U.S.S. MISSOURI (BB-63) Salvage Report, 1950, describes the salvage of the battleship after running aground.
In this online version of the manual we have attempted to keep the flavor of the original layout while taking advantage of the Web’s universal accessibility. Different browsers and fonts will cause the text to move, but the text will remain roughly where it is in the original manual. In addition to errors we have attempted to preserve from the original this text was captured by optical character recognition. This process creates errors that are compounded while encoding for the Web.
Please report any typos, or particularly annoying layout issues with the Mail Feedback Form for correction.
|FOR A QUICK UNDERSTANDING OF THIS OPERATION, READ THE|
NARRATIVE CONTAINED IN THE FOURTEEN PAGES
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING AND
SEE THE PICTURES IN
15 March 1950
From: Commander Cruiser Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet
To: Chief of Naval Operations
Via: Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet
Subj: Salvage of U. S. S. MISSOURI (BB-63)
1. This report of the salvage operations of the U. S. S. MISSOURI (BB63) covers the period from 0910 on 17 January, the time at which COMCRULANT first received word of the grounding until the completion of the operation at about 1430, 1 February 1950, when the MISSOURI was secured in the drydock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia.
2. COMCRULANT directed salvage operations in and from the MISSOURI.
I Preliminary Information
3. Commander Cruiser Force first received information that the MISSOURI was in difficulty by a telephone call from CINCLANTFLT at about 0910 on Tuesday, 17 January. Shortly afterward, the Port Director, in the offices of Commander Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia provided the accurate location of the grounding, information that tugs had unsuccessfully attempted to free her immediately following the grounding, and advised further that the MISSOURI had been in the process of running through a special acoustic range to the left of the main ship channel while enroute to sea. This was the first that COMCRULANT had heard of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory request for ships to run the range. Information was also received that the ship was making about 12.4 knots and accelerating, and was considerably to the north of the track through the buoys. Shortly thereafter, information was received by radio indicating the approximate draft around the ship and the draft upon departure from the Naval Base prior to grounding. The difference between the two was almost 7 feet.
|4. Information was received that COMSERVLANT (Rear Admiral R. H. GOOD) had boarded the MISSOURI and upon his return COMCRULANT conferred with him, obtained more details of her current situation and information that plans were going ahead to try a pull off at evening high tide of the 17th. This attempted pull was permitted because the Commanding Officer had already arranged for it, it did not interfere with the basic plan and a captain always hopes.5. With the above preliminary information it became apparent to COMCRULANT that the salvage of the MISSOURI was a major operation and would require time. Decision was immediately arrived at to move aboard with part of the staff and commence salvage operations as soon as possible.|
6. At 1630 COMCRULANT, the Chief of Staff, Operations Officer, Material Officer, and the Flag Lieutenant boarded the MISSOURI and assisted with the necessary preparations for the attempted pull which took place unsuccessfully at 1900. Subsequently the Staff was augmented, organized and assigned duties as outlined in enclosure (3), organization.
II Elements of the Situation
7. The following general facts were immediately available when COMCRULANT first boarded the MISSOURI.
8. By midnight of 17 January the following additional information and facilities were available:
9. By 2000 of 18 January the situation had crystallized and a preliminary plan was outlined.
III The General Plan
10. Meanwhile long range plans were being formulated. The next high tide would occur on 2 February. With this in view, and considering a most important factor which influenced plans and operations throughout the entire period, that of public relations, it became apparent that an immediate decision and public statement as to the target date of ultimate pull off effort was necessary. Some unfavorable press notices had appeared and gave indications of increasing in volume and pointedness. It is not considered good practice to commit oneself when so many variable factors are involved, but in this case some definite statement was needed. After considering all elements of the operation it seemed feasible to complete the many salvage tasks planned by 2 February and accordingly this date was selected and publicized as that toward which all efforts were pointed. This was done with full recognition of the probability that if the MISSOURI was not afloat on or by 2 February higher authority would be forced to take some other and more drastic action.
11. After making an estimate of the situation including the means available the basic plan was written as follows:
12. Major aspects of the operation were then outlined and drawn up and daily schedules derived therefrom. These daily schedules were arrived at in COMCRULANT Staff conferences held each day at 1100 and 1700 where hour by hour tasks were decided upon and promulgated for the succeeding day’s operations. These daily conferences, in addition to the details which were discussed, were a most important phase of all operations. It was through the medium of these conferences that COMCRULANT was able to create the necessary mutual understanding and thus impose upon his organization the need for utmost effort in every undertaking.
13. In planning the daily tasks it was necessary to carefully consider the space alongside the ship and the type of operations being conducted. These had to be integrated to prevent interference of the many tasks assigned which required space alongside the MISSOURI by various ships. Thus all dredging and major off loading had to be completed prior to laying beach gear. To protect the divers, diving operations had to be conducted in areas at least two hundred feet from any dredging. The rigging of pontoons interfered to some extent with the rigging of beach gear, and so forth. The time space factors alongside the ship were developed into a diagram for clarity. It is reproduced on the following page and described in detail in enclosure (10).
|14. The plans provided that all tasks supporting the basic plan were to be completed by dark on 30 January, that a coordinating team rehearsal would be held at high tide on the morning of 31 January, and full pull off efforts scheduled on each morning high tide daily thereafter through 4 February.15. Once the general plan had been outlined, it was never deviated from in any major aspect.|
IV Major Aspects
16. The major aspects of the operation were derived from the general plan and are outlined and scheduled in brief below.
|17. To implement the tasks required of these major aspects, dredges, ships, equipment, and personnel experienced in salvage were obtained through cognizant authorities with the maximum of despatch. These are described in detail in enclosures (3) and (4).|
V Summary of Operations
18. To summarize the operation the following was accomplished during the period 17 to 30 January. Details of these accomplishments and their intimately related results are outlined in the pertinent enclosures.
19. To coordinate planned pull off attempts an operation order was drawn up and promulgated. This order set up task groups with assigned tasks and group commanders. It provided for several contingencies which might arise during any pull off attempt. It provided a plan to recover all gear once the ship was pulled free. It provided two detailed plans in the form of a sequence of events to occur during pull off attempts. Plan One covered the period from minus two hours to minus one hour and was designed to develop maximum twisting effect. Plan Two covered the period from minus one hour to zero hour and was designed to work up by steps to maximum pulling and twisting effort. Zero hour, the time of high tide, was promulgated the night before by dispatch. This operation order and plans are included herewith as appendices C, D and E to enclosure (13).
20. Prior to dark on 30 January all the major tasks were completed with the exception of the pontoons. The after pair, those secured abreast the rudders, broke loose during a test run of the destroyers in preparation for their possible use to create waves. This pair was never effectively rerigged. In order to obtain a more even trim fore and aft both anchors and all cable had been replaced and the forward peak tanks flooded, a total addition of about 600 tons in the bow. Tugs were in place in accordance with the diagram on the following page.
21. On the morning of 31 January the weather was calm and operations were begun during darkness and in a heavy fog. A flood tide of about one knot was running. Its direction was from about 10° on the starboard bow of the MISSOURI. Beach gear was set taut at 0515 and tugs began working up to speed shortly thereafter. All tugs were pulling at full speed by 0600. In the meantime, because of reduced visibility and the effects of the current, the towing unit had drifted to the northward, that is, clockwise with respect to the fore and aft axis of the MISSOURI. This drift to the northward resulted in one of the assisting YTBs of the towing unit getting across the double wire hawser used by the northern ARSD. As a consequence, this ARSD (one of the two most powerful units) had to slack off on her lines and her full effectiveness was never realized. The twisting unit of YTBs on the bow of the MISSOURI on this occasion was never fully effective because of the wash from the screws of the bow unit. The YTBs were not sufficiently powerful for the task assigned. Consequently, a full and effective twisting effort was never obtained on this occasion. One of the pulling tugs snapped her
|heavy towing wire. The remaining beach gear and tugs functioned as was expected. The effort obtained therefore on the morning of 31 January turned out to be exactly as it was named, that is, a coordination rehearsal. The MISSOURI remained hard aground.22. Immediately following the unsuccessful attempt outlined above, the anchors and anchor chain were again removed. The peak tanks were emptied and the fourth pair of pontoons were rigged in place on the bow. Tugs were rearranged in accordance with the diagram on the following page.|
23. On the morning of 1 February the weather was clear, a southeast wind of about 12 knots had developed during the night. At 0530, Plan One was executed. The twisting unit of three fleet tugs took its first pull on the starboard bow and began working up to full power at 0545. The port beach gear was set taut at the same time. The ship started swinging slowly to the right almost immediately and within fifteen minutes was 10° to the right of her initial resting position. The twisting unit was then shifted to the port bow. The port quarter beach gear was slacked and the starboard quarter beach gear set taut. Within a very short time the ship began swinging rapidly to port and almost immediately report was received that the draft astern had increased some five feet. At 0630, Plan Two was executed. By 0644 it was obvious that the ship was free and efforts thereafter were devoted to straightening the ship up so that her axis was parallel with the exit channel. This required some little time as the wind and current were very effective in keeping the ship’s bow to port. By 0700 however, the ship was lined up sufficiently so that all beach gear was set taut and the pulling tugs worked up to one third speed. The ship moved rapidly aft. In fact, the full and effective pull of the beach gear along the axis was not achieved nor was it necessary. Thereafter efforts were devoted entirely to casting free all beach gear and towing the ship carefully and slowly through the dredged channel. During this period only two untoward incidents occurred. The YTB in attempting to pull the northern ARSD (WINDLASS) clear snapped her towing hawser and it was only due to the splendid ship handling efforts of the commanding officer of this ARSD that a serious casualty was prevented. Actually the ARS outboard of the port bow unit brushed the WINDLASS but no serious damage was sustained. The second incident related to the pontoons. The after set broke loose when the ship started to come free and one of the pair sank. It was located in the main ship channel on 10 February by the AMCU 11, a specially equipped sonar ship of the Mine Force requested for the occasion. After locating the pontoon, the KITTIWAKE divers recovered it.
24. The Recovery Plan was executed by despatch as soon as the MISSOURI was in deep water and all gear except the one pontoon mentioned above was recovered and delivered to cognizant authorities by 7 February.
25. The ship was towed to the Shipyard without further incident and secured in drydock at 1430.
26. In evaluating an operation such as this it is important to consider the conditions under which the salvage was conducted. The MISSOURI went aground in a protected harbor. Salvage operations therefore were never confronted with the problem of the open sea. The MISSOURI went aground on sandy bottom. The ship was not hung up on rocks. The MISSOURI was undamaged. Except for three compartments of 456 double bottoms there was no flooding to contend with. There was no problem of stability once afloat. The 57,600 tons of MISSOURI; her position of a half mile from deep water; the hard packed sand, a good part of which had the consistency of light concrete; the heavy cumbersome salvage gear; the great number of officers and personnel to organize; the mutual understanding to be created together with the short time factor (that date of 2 February); these were the primary considerations.
27. Another broad point in evaluation is the fact that the Navy does not have an operating salvage unit as such. It is recognized that maintenance of such a unit would be inefficient unless collateral duties were imposed upon it or unless it could be integrated into and used by a fleet or type commander in the normal execution of his duties. From the results obtained in this operation it would seem that such a unit could be organized and exist in fact, that it could be trained as a team for special duties of salvage and so disposed that its employment in salvage operations could be quickly obtained, and that it could operate from an organization, plans and instructions already formulated and effective.
|28. In spite of the above, however, and in spite of the fact that equipment and personnel were assembled from sources variously located from Boston to Panama, it can be said that for this operation no single phase was delayed for want of facilities or technical experience. Such might not have been the case however had the scene of salvage been located in any other place on the Atlantic seaboard.29. One of the most outstanding aspects of the entire operation was the quick and ready support and assistance which was supplied by all commands ashore and afloat throughout the entire Atlantic area. The mutual understanding between commands, the vast and diversified facilities, skills and equipment which were available, the ingenuity, devotion to duty, and loyalty portrayed by individuals and groups, all go to prove that the Navys’ basic concepts of organization and training are sound and effective.|
30. In the matter of training it is considered that this operation bore to the salvage units involved the same relation that actual war bears to the Navy as a whole. It was more than training. It was a test of capabilities developed in training. With that in view, COMCRULANT obtained and employed ships, equipment and personnel in excess of that actually required. Thus, students from the school of salvage at Bayonne, New Jersey were asked for and did participate. The benefits derived by all hands in actual participation were much greater than could have been obtained in an artificially devised salvage exercise.
31. One of the most unusual features of the operation was the fact that not one single personnel casualty occurred. The dangers inherent in handling the heavy beach gear, pontoons, towing wires, in diving operations, and off loading ammunition, and the heavy strains involved all were recognized. In addition, there was the ever present hazard of fire in the MISSOURI, particularly considering her reduced fire fighting capabilities under the circumstances. With the foregoing in view a comprehensive program of security measures were instituted and while it is recognized that luck looked on with favor, these measures are considered to have contributed greatly to the results.
32. Comments on the various methods which might have been employed are worthy of note:
33. It is evident therefore that the courses of action taken, that of combining all of these major tasks, resulted in the final success in the Minimum of time. This matter of time, of setting a definite target date was vital and mandatory. The public interest which was aroused as demonstrated in the broad press coverage and the hundreds of letters received from all over the world (all of which were answered) demanded the earliest target date and further demanded that no effort was too great to assure success.
34. The question immediately arises therefore why did the ship not come off on the attempted pull off effort of the morning of 31 January? Theoretically, all of the major tasks had been completed and the predicted high tide was not more than one or two inches lower than that expected on the morning of February 1st. In the light of known facts obtained afterwards, three factors are probably responsible for the failure of the pull off on 31 January: first, the maximum pulling effort was not obtained either by the beach gear or the tugs; second, in an effort to obtain a more even fore and aft trim and a spread of the pressure on the ground, some six hundred additional tons of water, anchors and chains were replaced in the bow prior to the 31st and were removed prior to the 1st of February; and third, the tide was actually some seven inches higher on the 1st of February than on the 31st of January. Intimately connected with the above is the fact that on the morning of the 31st, little or no twisting effort was obtained. On the morning of the 1st of February however, a very favorable twisting moment was obtained and it became apparent almost immediately when the ship first began to swing to starboard that she was going to come clear. Therefore, it is believed that if the additional six hundred tons had not been aboard on the morning of the 31st, if the maximum effort of the beach gear and tugs had been obtained and if a full and effective athwartship twisting moment had been exerted, that even with the seven inch less tide existing the ship would still have come free on the morning of 31 January.
35. In the final analysis, the results go to prove that the basic planning was correct, the computations were correct, the major aspects were properly applied and it only remained for the full and effective application of those factors to obtain success within the time limit deliberately set.
36. From the command viewpoint, the Daily Summaries, enclosure (1), with the hindsight now available, show the development of the plan, its implementation, some of the difficulties which had to be overcome, and most important the tenacious hanging on to the basic plan.
37. Salvage Organization – It is recommended that a salvage unit be organized under COMSERVLANT. That a billet under his organization be designated as Officer in Charge of Salvage Operations. That plans and organization be developed and promulgated and that special ships be assigned as a secondary task to this organization ready for deployment on short notice. (Some ships have such a task now). This organization to be one in being only, but fleet planning should provide for their combined training periodically.
38. Research and Development