The storied battleship the USS Nevada was in service when Germany surrendered in World War I and II, faced the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, made a heroic run for open water from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, battled through the Pacific and survived two nuclear explosion tests in 1946.
So it’s understandable that maritime archaeologist James Delgado was excited when the wreck of Nevada was found about 75 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor in more than 15,400 feet of water.
“Nevada is an iconic ship that speaks to American resilience and stubbornness,” Delgado said in announcing the news Monday. “Rising from its watery grave after being sunk at Pearl Harbor, it survived torpedoes, bombs, shells and two atomic blasts.”
The list included a Japanese “Val” dive bomber crashing into it off Okinawa in the waning days of World War II, killing 11 of its crew.
Retired Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, said in the same news release that Nevada’s “fighting spirit proved the U.S. Navy remains tough in difficult times,” adding, “When the circumstances appear to be at their worst, our Navy remains at (its) best.”
Underwater and terrestrial archaeology firm SEARCH Inc. and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity teamed up to make the discovery.
The 583-foot battlewagon, commissioned in 1916, survived the nuclear air burst Able and underwater test Baker off Bikini Atoll in 1946 and returned to Pearl Harbor to be decommissioned.
According to the Navy, BB-36 finally went down on July 31, 1948, off Oahu after taking a barrage of surface gunfire, aerial bombs, rockets and torpedoes.
National Geographic said the bow and stern of the battleship are missing but that the bulk of its hull came to rest upside down on the muddy seafloor.
Nevada had Spanish flu deaths in 1918, and its discovery coincides with the current coronavirus pandemic.
The ship, which had 10 big 14-inch guns, was in Berehaven, Ireland, during World War I when seven crew members died, the Naval History and Heritage Command said.
A “strict quarantine” was established but two additional sailors died.
“It struck me, if there was one ship to find that particularly now could speak to something about human nature and particularly Americans, it would be Nevada,” Delgado, SEARCH’s senior vice president, told National Geographic.
Nevada’s most famous moment came on Dec. 7, 1941, when the ship was northernmost in the Battleship Row lineup at Ford Island. It did not have another ship tied up next to it, as was the case with others.
Nevada was hit by a torpedo and started to list but counterflooded, re- centering the ship. It was the only battleship to get underway, and “her run drew cheers from the shore and stationary ships,” according to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
After dive bombers started to pummel the sinking ship, it was beached first at Hospital Point and then was grounded stern first across the channel at Waipio Point.
Cox said the ship sustained six to 10 bomb strikes. He previously said Nevada likely shot down at least five Japanese aircraft. More than 50 crew were killed.
An account of the subsequent salvage by retired Vice Adm. Homer Wallin noted that new Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Chester Nimitz saw the waterlogged and burned Nevada and remarked that recovery “seemed impossible.”
But thanks to a Herculean shipyard effort, Nevada was refloated on Feb. 12, 1942. The battleship took part in the recapture of the island of Attu in the Aleutians, bombarded German positions during the invasion of Normandy in 1944 and supported assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Nevada was in the Philippines when word came that World War II was over.
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