Pearl Harbor was such a profound shock to the United States that, even 75 years later, we continue to talk about the attack and its continued impact on the nation. Responsible for bringing the United States into World War II, it’s imperative we never forget the attack, and equally important is that we don’t forget those who were at the heart of it.
The battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor were the primary targets of the attack, and though some succumbed to the damage done by Japan’s fighters, most returned to service as the pride of the US Navy. Among them was the “Cheer Up Ship,” the 583-foot-long USS Nevada (BB-36), a battleship that was commissioned in 1916.
By the time she came to be moored at Battleship Row, the USS Nevada had already seen a decent share of war by the time the Japanese rocked its hull with explosive and machine gun fire. The Nevada was brought into service just in time for the tail end of the first Great War.
Before the German surrender on November 11, 1918, the mighty battleship served as an escort to convoys sailing to and from Great Britain, based in Bantry Bay in Ireland. By the time the war ended, the Nevada had not engaged the enemy in battle, though she did get the honor of escorting the George Washington, which carried President Woodrow Wilson, to Brest, France for the Paris Peace Conference.
Between the end of World War I and her time at Battleship Row, the Nevada underwent several changes to modernize her. Those changes, completed in 1930, would soon come in handy.
At Pearl Harbor
Unlike the other battleships in the harbor on December 7, 1941, the Nevada had the ability to maneuver away from the battle as there were no other ships impeding her mobility. However, her positioning at the mouth of the channel made her a prime target for the Japanese bombers. If they could sink the battleship in the channel it would prevent any other ships from being able to leave.
Though the second wave of the attack focused on sinking the Nevada, that mission was unsuccessful. The ship suffered extensive bomb damage and 60 of her crew were killed, but the battleship was eventually grounded off Hospital Point. A number of Japanese fighters were taken down during the attack and it’s believed that the Nevada’s crew were responsible for destroying three of them.
By the time the Japanese pulled back, the USS Nevada is believed to have sustained damage from six bombs and one torpedo – not quite enough to take her completely out of commission.
The Remainder of the War
Only two months after the attack, the Nevada was refloated and by 1943 she was reinstated into the war. Her first sign of battle was during the capture of Attu, where she provided fire support over a seven-day period. After a series of convoy missions, the Nevada was then assigned to the United Kingdom for the eventual invasion of Normandy, where the battleship provided support for the ground forces on the shore with what was called “incredibly accurate” fire support.
The Nevada later got her redemption against Japan in Okinawa and Iwo Jima, where she continued to provide support for Allied troops.
By 1946, a year after the war ended, the Nevada was decommissioned, her legacy embedded in the exhibits at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.