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U.S. Navy World War II War Damage Reports

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The damaged and sunken ships of Pearl Harbor contained information on the response of ships and their damage control teams to modern weapons. As they were raised to be repaired, the physical evidence of damaged areas was carefully recorded. The Navy’s ship design organization, the Bureau of Ships (Buships), combined the physical evidence with crew action reports to determine what worked and what did not. Buships published the results in almost 70 War Damage Reports, which were illustrated with photographs and newly prepared extent-of-damage drawings. This paper is a high-level introduction to that massive body of work.

The customers of the reports were the damage control schools, the operational fleet (needing to ruthlessly remove flammable materials), the naval repair yards (installing ship alterations to overcome deficiencies), and the designers of new construction warships. The report series was continued covering ships damaged or lost in the Pacific battles. Modern warship features that are now thought of as “good practice,” such as ring fire mains with one line high and the other low on the opposite side of the ship, are a result of “lessons learned” from the war damage surveys. The paper compares the 1938 design Iowa class battleships and the war design Des Moines class heavy cruisers, which incorporated the lessons learned. The differences in compartmentation and damage control fittings of the two classes are described.
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Keywords: U.S. Navy in WWII; damage reports; forensic analysis; warship damage

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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