USS Nevada: A Pearl Harbor survivor remembered

USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor by Wayne Scarpaci
USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor by Wayne Scarpaci(Ed Pearce)
Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 6:14 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Today is the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were ceremonies and speeches marking the date the U-S was drawn into World War 2.

Here in Nevada... some long-time residents and a group of former Reno middle school students had reason to remember the day with a extra measure of pride and with it, the heroic role that day played by a ship bearing the state’s name.

At her launching in 1914 Governor Tasker Oddie promised the USS Nevada’s career would be closely followed by every citizen of the state with close personal interest. The Nevada began her career as the fastest battlewagon in the world. She spent World War 1 in patrol duty in the Atlantic and saw no action.

Twenty four years later found her berthed at Pearl Harbor with the rest of the battleships in the Pacific fleet. The Japanese attack caught the Nevada with her senior officers ashore. Lieutenant Commander Frank Thomas, the highest ranking officer on board, rallied his crew, and incredibly got the ship underway.

Already damaged by a torpedo, the Nevada made a run for the open sea, fighting as she went, her guns downing some of the first enemy planes of the war, It seemed she might make it, until the second wave of bombers struck. Hit by several bombs she was heavily damaged. Japanese planes swarmed around her. If she sank in the channel, she would bottle up the harbor for months. So, her crew beached her. The only U-S battleship to get underway that day ended it resting on the sandy bottom at Waipaio Point.

Two of the ships crew received Medals of Honor, the first of the war. thirteen the Navy Cross.

She was refloated, repaired and refitted and having survived the war’s tragic beginning wrote a new storied chapter in Naval history. At Normandy, her accurate gunnery earned her a mention by name from a frustrated German commander as an excuse for the failure to repel the landing at Utah Beach. German return fire left her unscathed.

Later in the Pacific at Iwo Jima her officers ran her close to shore, shielding others from enemy batteries, returning fire. Off Okinawa, she survived a Japanese kamikaze attack that killed a dozen of her crew. The Nevada’s unsinkable reputation grew

After the war she was used as a target for an atomic test at Bikini atoll and survived. Two years later, she was towed southwest of Hawaii to be scuttled. Heavy explosive placed aboard failed to sink her. Guided missile “bat bombs” were fired at her. The battleship Iowa and three cruisers then shelled her. She remained afloat. Finally Navy torpedo bombers sent her to the bottom. Her wreckage was discovered last year at a depth of 15 thousand feet.

All in all, a stirring story of American Naval history, one rediscovered decades later by students of the Gifted and Talented program at Vaughn Middle School. With the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor approaching, they campaigned to get the Nevada’s flags out of the state museum in time for Nevada Day. In the process they helped correct a long time oversight, gaining medals won, but never received for a USS Nevada veteran.

Finally they led a campaign to build a monument to the ship behind the state capitol, where it stands today, a tribute to the survivor of the “date which will live in infamy,’ the unsinkable Nevada.

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