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The Nevada’s Run

Although mortally wounded by a torpedo hit, the USS Nevada managed to make a run toward the open sea. However, she was already taking on water, and when the second wave began, she was hit by five dive bombs. These inflicted many casualties and made fire fighting and flood control more difficult. Sinking deeper in the water, she beached herself at Hospital Point. However, her stern began to swing around, creating a navigation hazard. She was backed off by tugs and beached again at Waipi`o Point on the other side of the channel. With only her stern on the coral shelf, she continued to take on water through her bow and middle section. On Monday night, her growing weight pulled her stern off the coral reef, and she sank to the bottom. Two months later, she was refloated, patched, and sent to the West Coast for full repair and upgrades. She finally returned to duty in late 1942. Her most famous contribution during the rest of the war was bombarding German tank formations far inland at Normandy.

By Ray Panko | | Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

The Nevada’s Run

The Initial Situation

The USS Nevada (BB-36) was the northernmost battleship in battleship row [NHHC Nevada]. Along with the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma, she had just returned to Pearl Harbor on Friday after a training exercise [Rogers]. On the morning of the attack, the Nevada’s Captain and executive officer were ashore [Lord 128]. Other battleships had a single boiler fired up to provide basic power. On the Nevada, however, Ensign Tausig had two boilers going instead of one, in preparation for a scheduled switch-over between boilers [Lord 127]. The attack began before the first boiler was turned off, giving the Nevada barely enough power to get underway.

The Torpedo Attack

When the attack began, torpedo bombers approached from the Southeast Loch [Aiken 52]. This gave long-enough under-water runs to arm the torpedoes. However, because the loch pointed at the Oklahoma and West Virginia, too many torpedoes were targeted at these battleships, leaving few to be launched at the California and the Nevada. At 8:03, the Nevada was struck by a single torpedo [Prange, Goldstein, Dillon, 515]. The torpedo exploded against her port side, between the two front turrets [NHHC Nevada]. She began taking water immediately [NHHC Nevada, Scanland], and the flooding spread quickly [Scanland]. In fact, it spread much faster than the ship’s design would have suggested, because the Nevada was an old and much-modified ship with poor watertight integrity in general [NHHC Salvage]. At 8:05, the Nevada began to list to port, but counterflooding corrected the list [Prange, Goldstein, Dillon. 515] at the cost of pulling her lower in the water. She was mortally wounded but for the moment in stable condition.

Figure 1: The Torpedo Damage (NARA NH 64306)

The Sortie

Admiral Furlong signaled the fleet to sortie to the relative safety of the open sea where they could maneuver to avoid torpedoes [BuShips, Perry]. At 8:40, as the first wave of the attack was ending, the Nevada backed out without tugboat support and sortied forward without her captain or navigator [NHHC Nevada]. When she passed the Arizona, the heat from the burning battleship was still so intense that Nevada sailors shielded shells with their bodies to keep the ammunition from exploding [Prange, Goldstein, Dillon 535]. In response to the heat, her officers flooded her aft magazines. This was unnecessarily, however, and it pulled Nevada further down in the water [BuShips]. Still, the Nevada moved forward, deftly negotiating the tricky 100-yard gap between the dredge Turbine and the listing Oglala [Slackman].

Figure 2: The Run for the Sea (NARA 80-G-32457)

The Dive Bombing Attack

Her run drew cheers from the shore and stationary ships [Lord 128]. However, while the Nevada’s run raised morale briefly, she was sinking ever-lower in the water. When Nevada was roughly opposite the California, she was signaled to cease her run [BuShips, Lord 130, Slackman]. To begin to comply, her officers shut off her engines and prepared to drop anchor [BuShips, Lord 131]. Just as they did so, however, the second wave began with a flock of 78 dive bombers attacking ships [Attack by the Second Japanese Wave, Gregg, National Geographic, Resig, WWII Multimedia Timeline: December 7-8, 1941: Pearl Harbor.]. Seeing the Nevada underway, several Vals switched their attention to it, scoring five hits [BuShips]. The bombs did not do fatal damage, but they caused heavy damage and casualties [BuShips]. They also interfered with fire-fighting and anti-flooding efforts [BuShips]. After the attack, she was listing to port and settling by the bow, clearly in trouble [Slackman 167].

Figure 3: The Run for the Sea (NARA 80-G-32457)

First Beaching: Hospital Point

Moving sluggishly, she beached herself at Hospital Point about 9:10 [NHHC Nevada, Prange, Goldstein, Dillon 536]. Her momentum carried her bow into a cane field [Rogers]. Beaching allowed the wounded to be removed [Rogers], and at 9:15 Captain F. W. Scanland climbed aboard [Prange, Goldstein, Dillon 536]. At 9:20, the forward magazine was flooded because it was hot [BuShips]. Although this was necessary, it accelerated her sinking.

Second Beaching: Waipi`o Point

Strong tide and wind soon swung her stern around [BuShips, Rogers]. She stuck out into the narrow channel, making her a navigation hazard [Perry]. Scanland decided to move Nevada to a different location [Perry]. At 10:45, tugs began to move her to the other side of the channel [Prange, Goldstein, Dillon 536, Perry]. They got her to Waipi`o Point about half a mile away [Rogers]. She was then beached backward on the coral shelf, but she continued to burn [BuShips]. Her bow remained afloat, but she continued to take on water [BuShips]. On Monday night, despite heroic efforts to keep her afloat, her growing weight pulled her off the coral shelf [BuShips. NHHC Nevada]. She sank to the bottom, with all but two compartments flooded with water [BuShips].

Figure 4: Beached at Waipi`o Point (NARA 80-G-33020)

Figure 5: Waipi`o Point, December 8 (NARA 80-G-32505)

Return to Duty

The Nevada was refloated on February 12, 1942, but it took six days to move her to the shipyard. There, she was patched enough to maker her seaworthy [NHHC Salvage]. On April 22, 1942, she steamed under her own power to the Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington [BuShips, NHHC Salvage]. She finally returned to action in late 1942, serving for the rest of the war [Nevada Salvage]. In 1944, she shelled German tanks and other concentrations deep inland at Normandy [Panko Revenge, Rogers].

Figure 6: Raised and Entering Dry Dock (NARA NH 83056)

Figure 7: Heading for the Mainland for Repair (NARA 80-G-64768)

Figure 8: Nevada Refitted (United States Navy)

Figure 9: Nevada At Normandy (NARA 80-G-231961)

Final Destructon

After the war, the Nevada was painted orange and used in an atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll in June 1946. Amazingly, she survived [Rogers]. In fact, she survived a second atomic bomb test a month later [Rogers]. Intensely radioactive, she was finally sunk with naval gunfire and aerial torpedoes on July 3, 1948 [Rogers]. She landed on the bottom upright [Rogers].

Figure 10: The Nevada Painted for a Nuclear Test


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[NHHC Nevada] Naval History and Heritage Command, USS Nevada During the Attack. Last viewed March 18, 2018.

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Panko, Raymond R., Revenge of the Pearl Harbor Battleships. Pacific Aviation Museum. Last viewed March 18, 2018.

Perry, Mark J. Nevada’s Heroic Run – January ’98 World War II Feature. Last viewed March 18, 2018.

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WWII Multimedia Timeline: December 7-8, 1941: Pearl Harbor, undated. Last viewed March 18, 2018.


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