The USS Nevada, one of the finest battleships in the American Navy that served in both world wars, had been labelled “unsinkable” because it seemed that, no matter what enemies (and later, the U.S. Navy itself) put it through, the vessel was able to withstand the worst blows.
Its remarkable resilience, one of the few ships in the country’s naval lineup that seemed impervious to assaults of all imaginable types, was finally sunk by a torpedo during an onslaught of tests it was undergoing after the war.
But it was an incredibly tough battleship, and has the war record to prove it.
It was one of the Navy’s ships to be brutally battered by Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941. Some estimates say that the USS Nevada was struck by as many as 10 bombs and at least one torpedo attack that day.
However, the crew grounded it immediately and that quick thinking kept the ship from sinking. After undergoing repairs on the U.S. west coast, it steamed away to enter the war, and it performed magnificently.
It went on to fight at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and was still in service when the war ended in 1945.
Afterwards, the USS Nevada went home and, since it was still a working vessel — if a little worse for wear — the American Navy began using it as a target during drills that tested new weapons.
It even “survived” two attacks by atomic weapons in the Marshall Islands, although it became so radioactive no one could board it. Finally, in 1948, a torpedo sank the ship that had served America for decades.
Now, the wreck of that famous ship has been found off the coast of Pearl Harbour, according to the United States Navy Institute (USNI).
The Navy knew, more or less, where the ship was located, but it did not have its precise coordinates.
However, in late April, two firms that specialize in finding wrecks like these announced they had teamed up and discovered the Nevada 15,400 feet below the ocean’s surface. One firm, Texas-based Ocean Infinity, specializes in marine archaeology.
The other, Florida-based SEARCH, specializes in mapping the ocean floor. On May 11th, marine archaeologist James Belgado, vice-president of SEARCH, said in a statement that the find is incredibly important, not just in terms of naval and military history, but to the entire country as well.
He noted, “USS Nevada is an iconic ship that speaks to American resilience and stubbornness… This is why we do ocean explorations, to seek out these powerful connections to the past.”
The USS Nevada was commissioned in 1916, and fought in the First World War as well as the Second.
Because it sustained damage during those years but simply didn’t sink, a kind of naval lore grew up around it after the fighting had stopped and it was recruited as a target.
Even though the Navy threw just about everything in its arsenal at the Nevada, it remained stubbornly afloat — if radioactive.
It took the modern technology now available to companies like Ocean Infinity and SEARCH to figure out precisely where it lay. Ocean Infinity used underwater research vessels to go down so deep, but they can go even deeper when necessary, even below 19,500 feet.
This unmanned equipment can literally “go where no man has gone before,” to borrow the opening line from the TV series Star Trek.
And by doing so, this time they’ve given America back a ship that is part of the enormous victory the Allies achieved in their battles against the Nazis.