Saturday, June 14, 2014

Whatever Happened To...?

Friday night I watched the movie Tora Tora Tora, for what was probably the 30th-something time. As I watched the scene where the USS Nevada (BB-36) got underway in an attempt to get out to sea and strike back at the Japanese, I thought of the book I'm reading at the moment, D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Steven Ambrose.

For those of you who don't know, that very same ship was off the coast of Normandy that morning, pounding German positions as the troops went ashore.
During the invasion, Nevada supported forces ashore from 6–17 June, and again on 25 June; during this time, she employed her guns to hit permanent shore defenses on the Cherbourg Peninsula, "[seeming] to lean back as [she] hurled salvo after salvo at the shore batteries." Shells from her guns ranged as far as 17 nautical miles (31 km) inland in attempts to break up German concentrations and counterattacks, even though she was straddled by counterbattery fire 27 times (though never hit). Nevada was later praised for her "incredibly accurate" fire in support of beleaguered troops, as some of the targets she hit were just 600 yd (550 m) from the front lines of the Allies. Nevada was the only battleship present at both Pearl Harbor and the Normandy landings. - Wikipedia
The old girl also saw action off the coast of southern France when the Allies stormed ashore in Operation Dragoon, firing support missions from 15 August to 25 September 1944.
After D-Day, the Allies headed to Toulon for another amphibious assault, codenamed Operation Dragoon. To support this, many ships were sent from the beaches of Normandy to the Mediterranean, including five battleships (the United States' Nevada, Texas, Arkansas, the British Ramillies, and the Free French Lorraine), three US heavy cruisers (Augusta, Tuscaloosa and Quincy), and many destroyers and landing craft were transferred south.

Nevada supported this operation from 15 August to 25 September 1944, "dueling" with "Big Willie": a heavily reinforced fortress with four 340 mm (13.4 in) guns in two twin turrets. These guns had been salvaged from the French battleship Provence after the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon; the guns had a range of nearly 19 nautical miles (35 km) and they commanded every approach to the port of Toulon. In addition, they were fortified with heavy armor plate bedded into the rocky sides of the island of Saint Mandrier. Due to these dangers, the fire-support ships assigned to the operation were ordered to level the fortress. Beginning on 19 August, and continuing on subsequent days, one or more heavy warships bombarded it in conjunction with low-level bomber strikes. On the 23rd, a bombardment force headed by Nevada struck the "most damaging" blow to the fort during a 6½ hour battle, which saw 354 salvos fired by Nevada. Toulon fell on the 25th, but the fort, though it was "coming apart at the seams", held out for three more days. - Wikipedia
Then it was off to the Pacific Theater of war once the fighting in Europe had moved to far inland to benefit from Naval Gunfire Support (NGS). There she supported the invasions of both Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
On 24 March 1945, Nevada joined Task Force 54 (TF 54), the "Fire Support Force", off Okinawa as pre-invasion bombardment began. The ships of TF 54 then moved into position on the night of the 23rd, beginning their bombardment missions at dawn on the 24th. Along with the rest of the force, Nevada shelled Japanese airfields, shore defenses, supply dumps, and troop concentrations. However, after the fire support ships retired for the night, dawn "came up like thunder" when seven kamikazes attacked the force while it was without air cover. One plane, though hit repeatedly by antiaircraft fire from the force, crashed onto the main deck of Nevada, next to turret No. 3. It killed 11 and wounded 49; it also knocked out both 14 in (360 mm) guns in that turret and three 20 mm anti-aircraft weapons. Another two men were lost to fire from a shore battery on 5 April. Until 30 June, she was stationed off Okinawa; she then departed to join the 3rd Fleet from 10 July to 7 August, which allowed Nevada to come within range of the Japanese home islands during the closing days of the war, though she did not bombard them. - Wikipedia
She would have participated in Operation Olympic (the invasion of Japan) as well had that anticipated bloodbath have proven necessary.

She was a tough old girl...
Nevada then returned to Pearl Harbor after a brief stint of occupation duty in Tokyo Bay. Nevada was surveyed and, at 32⅓ years old, she was deemed too old to be kept in the post-war fleet. As a result, she was assigned to be a target ship for the first Bikini atomic experiments (Operation Crossroads) of July 1946. The experiment consisted of detonating two atomic bombs to test their effectiveness against ships. Nevada was designated "ground zero" for the first test, codenamed 'Able', which used an air-dropped weapon; as such, she was painted an "ugly" reddish-orange to help the bombardier's aim. However, even with the high visibility color scheme, the bomb fell about 1,700 yd (1,600 m) off-target, exploding above the attack transport Gilliam instead. Nevada also survived the second test—'Baker', a detonation some 90 ft (27 m) below the surface of the water — but she was damaged and extremely radioactive. Nevada was then towed to Pearl Harbor and decommissioned on 29 August 1946.

After she was thoroughly examined at Pearl Harbor, her final sortie came on 31 July 1948, when Iowa and two other ships used Nevada as a gunnery target for practice. The three ships did not sink Nevada, so she was given a coup de grâce with an aerial torpedo hit amidships. - Wikipedia
The USS Nevada of World War II (and World War I, she was commissioned in 1916 and escorted convoys after America's entry into that conflict) was not the first ship to bear the name of the 36th state.
The first USS Nevada, a monitor, was laid down as Connecticut, 17 April 1899, by the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; launched 24 November 1900; sponsored by Miss Grace Boutelle; renamed Nevada, January 1901; and commissioned on 5 March 1903, Commander Thomas Benton Howard in command. - Wikipedia
The First USS Nevada, BM-8
Nor was she the last...

The latest warship to bear the name "Nevada" packs quite a punch.

SSBN-733, USS Nevada

The latest USS Nevada is an Ohio-class ballistic submarine.

No doubt the second USS Nevada would be proud of her "little" sister. But the latest Nevada has some big shoes to fill. Her predecessor went from this...


...to this...


That's quite a legacy!

16 comments:

  1. That's probably the first time I've read anything beyond her being beached at Pearl to keep from blocking the channel.
    Thanks!

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    1. I was curious myself until I was reading Ambrose's book. So I did a little digging.

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  2. Thanks for this post. I fancy myself a WWII history buff, but had never heard of Operation Dragoon, the amphibious landings in the sourth of France to retake Marseilles and Toulon. The wikipedia account is interesting. Looks like they applied a lot of the lessons learned on D-Day. Ignorance Fought!

    Marc in Calgary

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    1. Thanks Marc! Operation Dragoon is often overlooked. Many lessons learned on D-Day were applied.

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  3. Recall reading the Nevada, in her early years, had engine problems. Her nickname was the, "No Go Maru". Wonder if that got fixed after Pearl Harbor.

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    1. I haven't found any references to Nevada having engine problems, though that is quite plausible. She was the first ship in the US Navy to have an oil-fired steam plant and the first US battleship to use geared turbines. One would expect a certain number of teething problems. As far as I know, those issues were all worked out before Pearl Harbor. Though I could be mistaken.

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  4. Well done! And the new Nevada is pretty slick... In more ways than one... :-)

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  5. Great story! As a kid my dad took me many times to the Carson City Mint museum. They have on display the original silver service set from the USS Nevada. It's made of 5,000 ozs of Tonapah silver lined with gold from Goldfield. A perfect tribute to the USS Nevada.

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    1. That's pretty cool.

      I'm not sure if the modern Navy has anything like that. I'll have to ask the kids!

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  6. Sarge my Sr Navy JROTC instructor was on The Nevada at Pearl that fateful morning of 7 Dec 1941. LCDR Johnson was a true American hero. He was an enlisted seaman and worked his way up the ranks to LCDR when he retired. He would talk about his days on that majestic ship. Unlike the Nevada, LCDR Johnson spent his whole Navy career in the Pacific. I just wish our class would have filmed his talks to our ROTC classes. He was a great influence to all of us. I am a better person having met him. One of my classmates did served on the new USS Nevada as a submariner. Give me a plane any day.

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    1. Quite a link you have to history there Rob. Pretty impressive.

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  7. My grandfather, CWO Francis J. Adams, was on the USS Nevada from (approx.) 1933 until they decommissioned her. He retired as a Chief in 1958 but I don't know his rank at Pearl Harbor other than he was a Gunner. That was also one of his nicknames, "Gunner", (my grandparents also had a beautiful Chesapeake Bay Retriever they named "Gunner"). I am extremely proud of my Grandfather's service to his country and came online to try and find more history about the Nevada and her crew.

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    1. You should be proud of your Grandfather's service. He sounds like he was quite a guy.

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