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Re: Pearl Harbor battleship turret top recognition colors
The prime reason that USS UTAH was targeted I believe had more to due the fact that at least one of the USN carriers frequently moored on that side of Ford Island. The IJN attack aircraft were programed to strike specific targets and USS UTAH was in the RIGHT PLACE at the wrong time, and became the WRONG target.
The torpedo bombers' flew low level throughout their mission. They flew low through the mountains, and swept into the anchorage on the deck, They never had a chance to see anything but the broadsides of the ships. Thus, there was no point in learning turret top IDs. As for the level bombers with the 800 kg armor-piercing bombs, they attacked from 10,000 feet. The early morning light would not have favored spotting colors on turret tops even if they were attentive to doing so.
I have always believed the Utah-mistaken-for-a-carrier explanation was a canard. The photo of Utah heeling shows nothing which would promote the idea she could have been mistaken for a USN aircraft carrier. First and foremost, no USN carrier had a cage mast. Even if this was lost in the fluster of a combat mission, Utah still had tall barbettes and protective structures built over the 5-inch turrets on the barbettes. Her silhouette did not remotely lend itself to a mistaken identity. A USN carrier did not resemble a short, lumpy, old, unreconstructed USN dreadnought. Her decks were not visible from the low-angle attack attitude of the torpedo bombers.
I think the best explanation is that the torpedo bombers, which took the highest mission-type casualties in the raid---the belief the USN was caught defenseless is simply not true---there were .50 caliber gunners (the only ones ready to fire) on the ships, particularly, up high in the masts of the battleships, who were shooting at the Nakajimas, and inflicting casualties, were not inclined to do a go around, but took the best target in their line of sight. To a man under fire, or seeing a near aircraft plunge into the water, "that object" looked like a battleship, damn the finer points, and they launched their torpedoes. After all, one torpedo bomber pilot mistook Helena for Pennsylvania; this, in itself, is as big a stretch as mistaking Utah for a first-line battleship.
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