The attack began shortly before 0800. General Quarters was sounded on the Arizona at about 0755. Arizona was spared the attacks by torpedo bombers as she was inboard of the repair ship Vestal, but a little after 0800 two flights of level bombers from Kaga and Hiryu attacked the battleship, dropping ten 797kg AP bombs.
- Three of the bombs fell wide of the target
- Three bombs were near misses
- Four bombs were direct hits:
- Bomb ricocheted off the face plate of turret 4, punched through the quarter deck and burst in the captain’s pantry where it started a small fire.
- Hit abreast the tripod main mast close to the starboard side of the deck. The bomb most likely burst in the anti-torpedo void outboard of the torpedo bulkhead.
- Hit after most port 5-inch AA mount and probably burst on the battery deck.
- Hit abreast turret 2, penetrated the upper deck, main deck, second deck (armoured), third deck (splinter deck), and burst on the first platform deck in or adjacent to the 14-inch powder magazines for Turret 2.*
Below is a frame from a home movie of the Arizona blowing up.
Edit: I have been advised that the frame is reversed and the exploding bow should be to the right of the picture—Thanks Chris.
Hit number 4 was the fatal one. The explosion of Turret 2 magazines was initially contained by the armoured citadel of the ship, causing it to vent forward into the magazines for Turret 1, and aft through the 5-inch magazines into the boiler rooms, causing a burst of sooty black smoke to shoot out of the ship’s funnel as the first sign of fire erupted around Turret 2. The entire upper deck, together with the two forward turrets, bridge structure and tripod foremast and funnel bowed upwards rising about 8 meters before the hull structure above the main armour belt is virtually blown away. Turret 1 magazine became at least partially involved and vented forward out through the upper deck. Smaller, light coloured puffs of smoke amidships aft of the tripod mast, and around the two after turrets shows some of the explosion continued to vent out through the ventilation system. The flash effect from the venting gasses explains why so many survivors from the after part of the ship suffered burns. Post war examination of the hull shows that it is heavily bulged outwards, particularly to port. The entire interior structure of the bow from the conning tower forward to the transverse armoured bulkhead was completely gutted by the explosion, causing the conning tower, forward superstructure, and both forward turrets to collapse about 10 metres into the void left by the explosion.
Courtesy Honolulu Advertiser
The magazines explosion was followed by an intense fire from ruptured petrol tanks and fuel oil bunkers which engulfed the forward part of the ship from midships to the bow. This fire burned for two days.
Anyone still in the forward crew spaces, or at actions stations in the forward magazines and shell rooms, transmitting station, action radio rooms, fan room, and boiler rooms probably died instantly. Captain van Valkenburgh and Admiral Kidd both perished at their posts. Neither was ever found, although some officer buttons and van Valkenburgh’s naval academy ring were found on the top of the conning tower. Kidd’s naval academy ring was found fuzed to a bulkhead of the flag bridge. There were very few survivors from the forward superstructure, and the majority of those who survived the magazine explosions perished in the fires that engulfed the forward part of the ship. There were likewise few survivors from the 5-inch guns, most having been caught up in the massive fires. A large number of men manning turbine and generator rooms were trapped below and eventually drowned before they could be rescued. The majority of the 335 survivors came from the after part of the ship and many of those suffered serious burns.
*There is some doubt as to whether or not the bomb managed to pierce all the way to the magazines, based on the performance of other bombs of that type during the attack, but at best, that is conjecture as the whole area where the hit took place has been so massively destroyed that it has not been possible to identify the path of the bomb into the ship. One suggestion, by the USN Bureau of Ships, is that the bomb detonated outside of the magazine group, but flash penetrated through an unsecured hatch into the black powder magazine for the saluting gun charges.