USS Nevada - The Navy’s First Super-Dreadnought

April 11, 2017

On December 7th, 1941, eight battleships were moored in a grouping at Pearl Harbor, making up what’s become known as Battleship Row. The USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma, two of Pearl Harbor’s ill-fated vessels, were moored there and received the brunt of the Japanese attack, but they were far from the only tragedies felt that day. On the northeastern edge of Battleship Row sat the USS Nevada (BB-36), one of two Nevada-class battleships present that morning.

The Nevada may be remembered for her place at Pearl Harbor, but she deserves accolades for the deeds she played a part in throughout the length of her commission. Outfitted with triple gun turrets, geared steam turbines, oil fuel, and sturdier armor than her predecessors, the Nevada became known as the first of the US Navy’s “super-dreadnoughts,” a title she shared with the Oklahoma.

The advanced battleship had a lengthy service with the Navy with her initial launch in 1914.

The History of the USS Nevada

Not long after her launch, the Nevada was sent off to war during the course of World War I. When the United States entered the war in 1917, the Nevada was initially stuck in the United States due to a fuel shortage, but by August of 1918, she was sent to Britain to finally join the fleet that was waiting overseas.

Upon her arrival in Ireland, the Nevada joined the USS Utah and Oklahoma as the Bantry Bay Squadron, which was charged with escorting convoys to the British Isles. Though the German fleet was active, the Nevada went through the entire war without once engaging the enemy.

The Second Great War

Between the end of World War I and the start of World War II, the USS Nevada experienced a period of relative peace, but all of that changed on a quiet Sunday morning in December, 1941. Moored at Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, the crew of the Nevada was immediately aware of the attack as smoke and fire erupted from her neighboring vessel, the USS Arizona.

USS Nevada burning

USS Nevada on fire

As she wasn’t sandwiched between two vessels like most of the other battleships, the Nevada was able to maneuver the close quarters, but this also made her a prime target. The sinking of the Nevada could essentially block the harbor, and so Japan’s dive bombers turned their attention to the ship. The Nevada’s crew opened fire on their attackers and is credited for downing at least four Japanese planes, but the defense wasn’t enough.

Bombs rocked the ship, the damage forcing the crew to direct the ship to Ford Island’s western side to avoid being lost to deeper waters and to prevent blocking the harbor. When Japan’s attack ended, the Nevada was grounded off Hospital Point, 60 of her crewmen killed in the skirmish.

A Swift Return

Despite the damage done, the USS Nevada was refloated and returned to service in late 1942. By 1943, she was on her way to Alaska to provide support for the Battle of Attu, an allied victory that ended on May 30th, 1943.

Of her more notable engagements during the war, the Nevada provided support for the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Towards the end of the war, she was ordered to Japan’s home islands, where she remained prepared for battle until the surrender treaty was signed.

The Nevada Legacy

USS Nevada painted orange for atomic test

USS Nevada painted orange for atomic testing

After the war, the Nevada was declared too old to remain in the fleet and was used in Operation Crossroads—the atomic experiments in the Bikini Atoll—as a target. Though she wasn’t meant to survive the testing, the first bomb missed by 1,700 yards and the second detonated too deep below the surface. Slightly damaged, the vessel was returned to Pearl Harbor where she would finally be sunk in 1948 during testing of the USS Iowa.

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