KNPR

Heroism Of USS Nevada's Crew Recalled 75 Years After Pearl Harbor

The crew of the USS Nevada provided one of the Navy’s few triumphs during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ship musicians were playing the “Star Spangled Banner” as Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, dawned and enemy planes filled the sky. The band completed the National Anthem even as machine gun fire rained down on the deck of the battleship.

Later in the battle, after being badly damaged by a Japanese torpedo and bombs, the ship limped across the harbor and was intentionally grounded, which kept it from sinking and blocking the shipping channel.

"Sinking, she grounded at a place call Hospital Point then, called Nevada Point now," Washoe County Judge and historian Chuck Weller told KNPR's State of Nevada. "The average age of the crew was 19 and half."

The Nevada was the only battleship to clear its berth during the attack, drawing enemy fire away from the eight other damaged ships and their crews that remained stuck at the dock.

Weller explained that it usually took tug boats to move battleships like the Nevada out to sea, but she was able to do it on her own even with a 45 by 35 foot hole blown in her side. 

The crew of the Nevada received more Medals of Honor, including the first Medal of Honor awarded during World War II, and Navy Crosses for heroism that day than any crew of any other ship in Navy history.

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The bravery shown at Pearl Harbor and later during D-Day earned each crew member an offer of a handshake, silver dollar and cigar from Nevada’s governor.

“Governor Carville about a month after D-Day had asked the citizens of Nevada to contribute silver dollars for the crew and the people of the state did," Weller said, "And Basic Magnesium Inc., which is where Henderson is today, manufactured a solid magnesium chest to hold the silver dollars. The inmate of the Nevada State Prison but a silver plaque on that chest and it was filled with dollars and it was transported to Norfolk, Virginia and every member of the crew was given a silver dollar”

The chest is on display at the Nevada State Museum along with a silver tea service made with 250 pounds of silver donated by Nevadans when the battleship was first commissioned for World War I. 

That ship and crew were recognized in Carson City during an official state ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that marked America’s entry into World War II.

Guests

Chuck Weller, historian and Washoe County judge

 

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