Capsizing of the USS Oklahoma
Oklahoma's damage report
In contrast to this, photographs of the drydocked USS Oklahoma revealed that approximately 50 feet of her armour belt was completely missing. Would a submarine-launched torpedo have been the reason why the damage to Oklahoma was so much more severe than that suffered by West Virginia?Admiral Furlong's USS Oklahoma Report of Damage acknowledged the difficulty of making a clear assessment of specific damage, due to the following factors:
With those caveats stated upfront, Admiral Furlong's staff attempted to account for the damage to the hull:
Additional damage was noted that was not directly attributable to torpedo explosions.
A number of transverse bulkheads and deck plates in the hull were buckled, split or missing due to the damage on the port side, especially in the area between frames 48 and 60, where explosion damage appeared to extend farthest inboard. The report goes on: "The port side shell was missing between frames 54 and 58, and partially missing between frames 50 and 60. The remaining shell between frames 48 and 61 was pushed inboard, holding somewhat at the main and upper decks. It is assumed that some damaged plating in this area had been removed to facilitate the installation of the cofferdam patch."
Regarding the armour belt itself, the report states that "five plates were missing between frames 52 1/2 and 65. The condition of these missing plates is unknown as they have not been salvaged. Only one of the remaining plates was damaged. There were two diagonal cracks across the face of the damaged plate. The lower crack was barely visible on the outboard surface, while the upper crack opened about 3 1/4 inches at the outboard surface as the plating below this crack bent further inboard in unity with the adjoining forward plate. This wide split in the damaged plate extended from 4 feet 5 inches above the lower edge at frame 70 to 27 inches below the upper edge at frame 67 1/2. The armor belt and shell below the second deck dropped away from the shell above the second deck, leaving a wide opening in the hull along the second deck, from the main torpedo damage to the aft damage at frames 85-95. The keyed armor butt at frame 47 1/2 opened as the two plates aft swung inboard."
I was struck by the very obvious stress crack in the armour plate. If this was caused by the original torpedo hit, then I have not seen its like in salvage photos of any of the other ships.
Taken together, the damage detailed in both the text and attached photographs of the Oklahoma's Report of Damage was too extensive to draw any firm conclusions about the cause. The fact that the ship twice rolled over the damaged area prevents any accurate assessment of the character of the original torpedo damage. However, it appeared that if any ship was hit by a 800+ pound warhead, "Okie" would have been the one.
At this point, we turned to the eyewitness accounts to see if they provided a clue.