Nevada Honors Heroic Battleship On Its 100th Anniversary

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CARSON CITY, NV - Time was, most Nevadans could tell you the story.

The USS Nevada, caught at Pearl Harbor, her senior officers ashore, the only battleship to get underway that day, fighting as she went, downing some of the first Japanese planes.

She ended the day beached for fear, if sunk she would bottle up the harbor for months. Her crew winning a number of Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor, the first of the war.

They could tell you about her part in the Normandy Invasion. How a German officer mentioned her by name as a reason for his failure to repel the landing at Utah Beach.

How at Iwo JIma her officers ran her close to shore shielding others from enemy batteries, returning fire.

And they would surely mention her unsinkable reputation, earned not just at Pearl Harbor, but in a kamikaze attack off Okinawa and even her post war end, as a target, surviving two atomic bomb tests.

The Navy finally sent her to the bottom off Hawaii, but it took five days of shelling, torpedoes and bombs to do it.

A stirring story of American naval history, one worth remembering.

The story of the USS Nevada lives on through a memorial on the state capitol grounds, but this monument wouldn't be there, but for the efforts of a group of Reno 7th and 8th graders.

With the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor approaching, students in the Gifted and Talented program at Vaughn Middle School campaigned to get the battleship's flags out of the state museum basement in time for Nevada Day.

They were just getting started.

Next they corrected a longtime oversight, gaining medals won, but never received by a USS Nevada veteran.

And finally they decided there should be a memorial.
There's one in Hawaii at the point where she was beached on December 7, 1941, but none here.

Flag historian Jim Ferrigan and teacher Elynn McKenzie who had guided their earlier efforts pointed out that fact and the kids ran with it

"It seemed as nationalistic as we are as Nevadans about our state we should have something like that here," remembers Dr. Joe Uccelli, one of those Vaughn students.

"We didn't think anybody could stop us. So, we undertook it and it worked."

Today on the 100th anniversary of the commissioning of the ship, the memorial was rededicated.

Those who made it possible could look back on what it and the effort to tell its story had taught.

"The unlimited power of young minds should never be underestimated," said Ferrigan.

Uccelli, now a Reno surgeon says the experience was important.

"The foundation for me being a physician, a husband and a father started with experiences like this, thinking outside myself, learning to work with a team.

And, he says, the story of the USS Nevada itself holds a lesson for any generation.

"It lead the charge," he says. "They tried to blow it up. They tried to sink it. It's a source of pride for Nevada. It's got an enduring spirit that represents Nevada."