“This is not a drill!”

One of my favorite naval stories has always been that of the USS Nevada’s attempted sortie during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. A detailed account ran in SEA CLASSICS magazine in the early 1980s, but, alas, I seem to have misplaced my copy. About twenty years ago.

Although already hit several times, the Nevada managed to get underway and head for the open sea. The following four pictures are from the Naval Historical Center’s USS Nevada during the Pearl Harbor Attack. Be sure to check it out for more pics of the Nevada making a run for it.

Here’s the Nevada just getting underway:

Notice the tank farm in the background. It’s not burning. That was a blunder.

Here’s another shot of the run:

As the Nevada made for the harbor entrance, many Japanese planes pulled away from their assigned targets and took shots at her. She took a pounding, and if she would have sunk in the channel it would have been a disaster. If she would have made it to sea and then been sunk she would have been a total loss. As it was, she was beached intentionally before making it out of the harbor. Here she is in the mud off Hospital Point:

This was the main picture in that great SEA CLASSICS article from my childhood.

The damage to the ship was tremendous. 50 Nevada sailors were killed and 109 more wounded. Here’s a shot of the forward deck (looking back at the forward turrets and main superstructure) on 12 Dec:

The Nevada was a wreck, but she rejoined the fleet a year later in December 1942. The old girl, already an aging matriarch by the time of the attack, still had a lot of fight left in her. Her sister Oklahoma had been destroyed at Pearl, and there was a little matter of payback.

Here’s the Nevada off Utah Beach on D-Day, 1944:

Here she is pounding Iwo Jima in 1945:

The previous two pics are from NavSource Online.

Deciding that two World Wars weren’t enough for one ship, the Navy decided to nuke the Nevada in 1946. A fleet of obsolete US and captured enemy ships was assembled at Bikini atoll in the South Pacific. They painted the Nevada bright orange and put her at the middle of the fleet. Two A-bombs later, there she sat. They towed her home for tests before sinking her in gunfire and torpedo tests in 1948.

For more on the Nevada’s ordeal on the morning of 7 December, 1941, see Nevada’s Heroic Run on HistoryNet.

Murdoc Online’s previous Pearl Harbor Day posts:

UPDATE: Sadly there doesn’t appear to be a ton of Pearl Harbor posting today. I’ll try to get a bit of a list together at lunch. Here’s a couple places to start:

UPDATE 2: I’ve been putting together a lengthy list over at Winds of Change. Here it is:

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Comments

  • Bram says:

    I like the Nevada post nuke pictures. It’s like: That’s it? What else ya got? Is is my turn now to shoot now? And – Whose gonna fix my paint? You have to love battleships.

  • Maggie says:

    MY father told my that the reason the tank farm was not hit was because the Japanese lifted the attack plan almost entirely from watching USN drills. During drills planes would stay away from the the tanks so that nothing would happen by accident. Fortunately the spies reported back the plan so entirely, they left out the tanks. A little bit of good fortune.

  • Just add that to your list of how much punishment battleships can take. 1 torpedo (which made a 30×40 foot hole), 5 bomb hits, and a bunch of hear misses, and the ship was still floating and still fighting back. Now, at the end of the day it was neither sea- nor battleworthy. But that’s still a hell of a pounding.

  • beaupeep says:

    I have heard that if the fuel oil tanks had been destroyed, our ability to take the fight to the Japanese would have been virtually eliminated. After the war, US analysts debriefing a Japanese officer who had taken part in planning the attack showed him a picture of the undamaged tanks and asked why they had not been targeted. The Japanese officer glanced at the tanks and asked, ‘What are those?’

  • Joe Katzman says:

    … Which is also why it makes far more sense to reactivate two battleships, at $1.5 billion, than pay $3-4 billion per ship for 5-8 DDX destroyers, so their stealth can hopefully give them half as much survivability as a battleship while they do naval fire support in the littorals for forces ashore. WTF?!?

  • Murdoc says:

    Joe, Joe, Joe…the DD(X) guys and the BB guys have been sniping at each other since yesterday over here…don’t whip ‘em up again…

  • Imagine if the fleet had been alerted and the battleships were at sea without fighter support when the planes attacked! Be thankful for small blessings.

  • Hank says:

    My Uncle was on a corpsman on a DD, the Talbot, Dec. 7. Went through the whole thing, stayed in the Navy for 30 years. Never talked about his experiences. Same as 2 other uncles, one Army the other also Navy (USS Boston). What a generation!

  • If the fleet was alerted and put to sea, the Japanese would have had to go looking for them, and their aerial strike force didn’t have a whole lot of fuel to do that. If the fleet put to sea at dark the night before, they could have been over 100 miles from Oahu by the time the Japanese planes arrived over Pearl Harbor. The strike force would have had to settle for trashing the airfields and drydocked ships on Oahu and returning to their carriers. With a 9 battleship fleet on the prowl, and the location of the American carriers unknown (meaning, for all the Japanese knew, it was a 9 battleship, three carrier fleet) I’m sure the Japanese carriers wouldn’t have hung around very long that far from home waters.

  • Bill Faith says:

    I hadn’t heard about the Nevada surviving that nuke test. Thanks for the information. My dad never quite forgave the government for including ‘his’ Saratoga (CV-3) in that test.

  • Thank you so much for making a list of all the Pearl Harbor remembrance posts. I know it must have taken a lot of effort, and it is a real service to the Blogosphere. I was feeling very lonely and a bit discouraged about everyone forgetting, until I saw this post. And it is so important to remember the sacrifices, so we understand our privileges.

  • elgato says:

    Great pics on the Nevada! I’ve got a short post up at General Quarters: http://www.generalquarters.com/2005/12/07/148/ with a pic of CDR Logan Ramsey’s message to the fleet.

  • Wonderful story regarding the USS Nevada! Thank you for keeping ‘Pearl Harbor Day’ alive and remembering those who put it all on the line for us. P;ease visit our website for our annual tribute to ‘the greatest generation’ -b

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