During December 1941 and September 1945, the US Navy lost hundreds of warships and patrol craft due enemy contact, natural disasters and various incidents. We have compiled some of the more notable losses in the following list (version 1).
USS Arizona (BB-39)
The USS Arizona was a 31,400 ton Pennsylvania class battleship built at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York and was commissioned in October 1916. On the morning of December 7, 1941, she was hit by several bombs from Japanese aircraft, one of which penetrated her forecastle and detonated her forward ammunition magazines. The resulting massive explosion totally wrecked the ship’s forward hull, collapsing her forward superstructure and causing her to sink, taking down 1,177 officers and men in her watery grave. She suffered the most damage and casualties in the Pearl Harbor attack.
USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56)
An escort aircraft carrier, went lost at sea after a submarine attack from the Japanese submarine I-175 on 24 November 1943. Although her fate was nothing out of the ordinary but her tragic loss of life and one of the sailors from the 916 men that went down with her, make her notable. The USS Liscome Bay was the first and last escort carrier (CVE) to have over a 70% casualty rate, in only 20 minutes, she took down 644 crewmen with her. One of them was Doris “Dorie” Miller, who was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
USS Tullibee (SS-284) and USS Tang (SS-306)
Were both U.S. submarines that were hit by their own torpedo after it had run a circular course and sunk themselves. The USS Tullibee sank north of Palau on March 26, 1944 and the USS Tang on 25 October 1944 off Taiwan. Both USS Tullibee & USS Tang lost a total of 78 men. On October 25, 1944, the only known emergency use of the Momsen lung (primitive underwater rebreather) was reported, when trapped sailors attempted to escape the USS Tang.
USS Mount Hood (AE-11)
Was an ammunition ship for the U.S. Navy during World War II. On 10 November 1944, at 0855 hours, in Seeadler Harbor, Manus, Admiralty Islands, anchored in about 19 fathoms (34 m) of water, the USS Mount Hood suddenly exploded with an estimated 3,800 tons of ordnance materiel on board. The concussion and metal fragments caused casualties and varying degrees of damage to ships and small craft within 2,000 yards (1,8 km). Confirmed casualties: 45 dead, 327 missing (no human remains could be recovered) and 371 injured. The board that was convened to examine the evidence relating to the disaster were unable to ascertain the exact cause for the USS Mount Hood’s explosion.
USS Borie (DD-215)
A Clemson-class destroyer, would become infamous for its final but epic battle with German submarine U-405 on November 1, 1943. USS Borie sank the U-405 in the North Atlantic, by ramming, small arms fire and depth charges. The USS Borie lost 27 men whilst the U-405 lost all 49 men. After the collision and battle, the USS Borie was damaged beyond repair and was therefor sunk by friendly fire on November 2, 1943.
USS Ingraham II (DD-444)
Was an U.S. Destroyer and on the night of 22 August 1942, as she was investigating a collision between the U.S. destroyer Buck and a merchant vessel, USS Ingraham collided with tanker USS Chemung in heavy fog off the coast of Nova Scotia. The USS Ingraham sank almost immediately after depth charges on her stern exploded. Only 11 men survived the collision. USS Ingraham II wasn’t the only warship to be sunk after a collision with Allied ships, the USS Noa and USS Perkins suffered the same fate.
USS Indianapolis (CA-35)
The USS Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser, was sunk by Japanese torpedoes in the final weeks of World War II, on 30 July 1945. Around 900 men of the crew jumped into the water to escape the burning ship. Yet that was just the start of their horror story, and the reason why its on the Notable U.S. Navy losses of World War 2 list. A Japanese torpedo hit the USS Indianapolis in the starboard bow and ignited a 3,500 gallon tank of aviation fuel into a pillar of fire. Not long after the first explosion, a second torpedo hit the ship causing a massive set of explosions and obliterated the ship almost in half. Around 300 of the 1,196 crewmen went down with the ship, 900 others jumped into the water – many without lifejackets – and were left drifting in the Pacific Ocean, hoping to be rescued quickly. Only beneath the waves, another danger was lurking, hundreds of sharks would soon become the survivors worst nightmare. From the USS Indianapolis’ original 1,196 crewmen, only 317 remained. An estimated number from survivors who were killed by the sharks range from a few dozen to almost 150.
USS Stewart (DD-224)
In January 1942, the USS Stewart – an Clemson-class destroyer – escorted convoys within the Dutch East Indies and intercepted Japanese forces near Macassar Strait. On 19 February 1943, the USS Stewart came under extremely accurate fire from Japanese destroyers that damaged her well, she was taken to the floating dry dock at Surabaya on 22 February. As she was inadequately supported in the dock; the ship fell off the keel blocks onto her side in 12 feet of water, bending her propeller shafts and causing further hull damage and with the port under enemy air attack and in in danger to be overrun, she couldn’t be repaired. The crew was ordered to scuttle the ship and they did so with demolition charges. She was struck from the Navy Register in March 1942. However months later, American pilots began reporting an American warship operating far within enemy waters. The Japanese had raised the USS Stewart and commissioned it on 20 September 1943 as Patrol Boat No. 102. She performed escort duties for the Imperial Japanese Navy. In April 1945, she was damaged by U.S. air attacks and transferred to the Kure Navy District, where she was retrieved the U.S. forces in August 1945. She was sunk on May 24, 1946 as an aircraft target.
USS Sturtevant (DD-240)
Just like the USS Stewart & USS Borie in the list, the USS Sturtevant was a Clemson-class destroyer. She met her fate on 26 April 1942, when she departed Key West in company with a convoy. When two hours later, all of a sudden, a violent explosion lifted USS Sturtevant ’s stern from the water. Thinking they were under a submarine attack, they dropped two depth charge barrages. Not much later, a second and third explosion occurred. The USS Sturtevant broke in two sections and went down off Key West about eight miles north of Marquesas Key, taking down 15 crewmen with her. However the Sturtevant was never under a submarine attack but passed through an American-laid minefield, of which the crew was not notified of its existence.
USS R-12 (SS-89)
Was an U.S. Navy submarine that was used for harbor and coastal defense. On June 12, 1943, she was conducting a torpedo firing exercise off Key West. Around 1220 hours, after completing the preparations to dive, Lt. Roger N. Starks, R-12-s navigator and second officer, suddenly reported from the control room: Forward battery flooding! Lt. Comdr. Shelby, who was on the bridge, immediately ordered number 1 and number 2 ballast tanks blown. With no results, the USS R-12, tipped forward rapidly at a large angle. The USS R-12 sank in matter of seconds due internal flooding. 42 crewmen joined her watery grave.
USS S-28 (SS-133)
A diesel S-class submarine of the United States Navy. credited with the sinking of one Japanese ship. In July 1944, when on training operations with patrol boats from the United States Coast Guard, she suddenly disappeared without a trace. Last contact was made with the Reliance in the evening of 4 July around 1820 hours. All further attempts to make contact failed. Although after assistance arrived from Pearl Harbor, the search for the submarine failed. However two days late, a slick of diesel fuel appeared somewhere in the area where she had been operating, but the extreme depth exceeded the range of available equipment. The cause of its loss, its still unknown. She went lost with all hands on board.
Sources used: Naval History and Heritage Command, Wikipedia and Wikimedia and On Eternal Patrol.
Have more suggestions for the “Notable U.S. Navy Losses of World War 2” list? Contact us. Only warships that were lost due a more uncommon incident are sought after, or are notable for other reasons: (the first ship to be …, or the last ship that was …, the ship had the most … etc.)
After several tips, following warships will be covered in version 2: USS Houston (CA-30), USS Juneau (CL-52), USS Reuben James (DD-245), USS Harder (SS-257), USS Panay and USS Mississinewa (AO-59) .. Have more, interesting losses?