Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Ship that Got Underway

Normally I like to use my own photos in posts but since I can't go back in time to take these, I will have to rely on the US Navy Historical Archives.

Today is the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This was the action that finally drew us into World War II although I am still of the opinion that the United States would have been in the war within 6 months to year of Pearl Harbor had it not happened.  As it was, the United States was slowly inching its way to war with Germany.

There were eight battleships docked at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th, 1941.  Seven of these ships were in what was called Battleship Row.  The other ship, the USS Pennsylvania was in drydock at the time but she wasn't spared from attack.  Of the seven ships that were docked in battleship row, only one of them managed to get underway on that fateful morning.

The morning of December 7th, 1941 was like any other morning for the nation prior to her entry into World War II.  As the sun rose over the Hawaiian Islands, the USS Nevada raised her colors and her band played the Star Spangled Banner.  The end was sped up as the Japanese planes started to drop bombs on the harbor.  The USS Nevada was not alongside any other ships and this led her to her special place in history.

But first....let's go a little further back in time....
 On March 4, 1911, Congress authorized the $5,895,000 that would be required to build the new battleship.  She would become the first second generation battleship in the US Navy.  She was twice the size of the USS Connecticut that was built in 1904.  The was the first US battleship to be equipped with triple gun turrets.  She was also the first US battleship to be fueled by oil instead of coal.  This gave her a much longer range than other battleships.
Her keel was laid at the Fore River Shipbuilding Company in Quincy, Massachusetts in November 1912.  She was launched in July of 1914 and her sponsor was Miss Eleanor Anne Seibert who was the niece of Governor Tasker Oddie of Nevada.  There were also several other people in attendance including the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
 Her sea trials began in November of 1915 and after completion of those, she was sent to the Boston and New York Navy Yards for the rest of her equipment.  She was commissioned in March of 1916 at the Charlestown Naval Yard with her Captain William S. Sims.
 She would not see much service in World War I as there was a fuel shortage in Britain, so many of her coal fired sisters were used.  She was used to escort the George Washington who was carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference in 1918.

In the between the two wars, she would serve in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  In 1930, she was modernized, and given the superstructures in the picture above.  She also received scout planes and her armament was improved.  She would then serve in the Pacific for the next 11 years.
 On the morning of December 7th, her officer of the deck Ensign Joe Taussig (son of an Admiral) ordered a second boiler to be fired off.  The plan was to switch power from one boiler to the other around 8:00 in the morning.  As the engineers started to raise steam, the first Japanese aircraft struck.  It wasn't long after that when the Nevada's gunners started to man her anti-aircraft guns.  She was hit by a torpedo but her gunners managed to shoot down the plane that hit her.  The torpedo caused some damage and a slight list, but her damage control party was able to counterflood and right the ship. 

She was able to get underway around 8:40 in the morning, by that time her gunners had shot down four planes.  Ensign Joe Taussig lost his leg during the fighting but played a large role in all of this.

As she made her way towards the channel to leave Pearl Harbor, she attracted the attention of Japanese pilots who tried to sink her there in an attempt to bottle up the harbor.  It probably wouldn't have worked as the channel was too wide and water was too deep.  After taking several bomb hits, it was decided it would be better to beach her rather than lose her in deep water.  Over the course of the morning, she lost 60 men and another 109 were wounded. 

She was refloated in February of 1942 and temporary repairs were made so that she could sail to Puget Sound Naval Yard for permanent repairs and modernization. In 1943, she sailed up to Alaska where she was used for shore bombardment in the retaking of Attu.  In June of 1943, she sailed to Norfolk, Virginia for further modernization.
 After Norfolk, she was used on convoy duty for a while.  Older battleships were used to protect convoys in case the Germans decided to dispatch a capital ship to deal with them.  That never happened.  In April of 1944, she sailed to Britain where she prepared for the Normany Invasion.  She was used as Rear Admiral Deyo's flagship for the operation and also for shore bombardment.  She was also used against German shore defenses.  She was praised for her highly accurate fire.  The Nevada was the only battleship at both Pearl Harbor and the Normandy Invasion.
Later in 1944, she was used to support the Allied Landings in Southern France.  There she participated in a battle against one of the French Fortresses and defeated it.    She then returned to New York to have her guns relined.
In March of 1945, she was used as fire support for the Okinawa invasion.  It was during that battle, that she was hit by a kamikaze which killed 11 men and wounding another 49.  She also lost a turret.  She remained on station though.  In August of 1945, she was positioned off the Japanese mainland but never bombarded them.  After the war, she returned to Pearl Harbor and was declared too old to continue service.
It would be nice if such a decorated ship had a happy ending but that's not the case.  She was designated to be a target ship for the Bikini Atoll atomic tests in July of 1946.  This test was to see the effectiveness of atomic bombs against ships.  The Nevada was designated to be the bombardier's target for the test, as a  result she was painted the color seen above.  Even though, she was painted as above, the bomb missed it's target by 1,700 yards and struck a transport instead.  She also survived the second blast which was detonated from below.  She was heavily damaged and irradiated.

She was later towed to Pearl Harbor and decommissioned on August 29, 1946.  In July of 1948, she was used as target practice for the Iowa and two other ships but was not sunk.  She was administered the final blow by an aerial torpedo on July 31, 1948.  She quietly slipped beneath the waves.

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