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Why did the Japanese Sink the Utah?


Figure 1: USS Utah AG-16

In the first wave of the Pearl Harbor attack, 16 Japanese B5N2 Kate torpedo bombers approached Ford Island from the northwest. The western side of Ford Island is where the Lexington and Saratoga usually moored when they were in port. Although the Japanese knew that these carriers had been out of port, it made sense to send some of their torpedo planes to that side of the island first. If the Kates did not find a carrier or battleship, they could fly past Ford Island, turn around, and attack the battleships that moored on the northeast side of the island. Most did precisely that.

When the Kates reached the western side of the island, however, two crews used their torpedoes to attack the Utah, sinking her and killing 64 of her crewmen, 58 of whom were entombed in the ship when she capsized. This made little sense from a military point of view because the Utah was no longer an active battleship. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 resulted in ship...

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