Pearl Harbor and D-Day were iconic events of the Second World War. Now the only ship that was present at both has been discovered.

USS Nevada (BB-36) was found as the result of a joint project between SEARCH, Inc., an American archaeology firm, and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity.

The stern of the wreck is painted with numbers dating from her period as a test ship. Nevada proved difficult to sink. Image: Ocean Infinity/SEARCH, Inc.
The stern of the wreck is painted with numbers dating from her period as a test ship. Nevada proved difficult to sink. Image: Ocean Infinity/SEARCH, Inc.

The wreck was located 64 nautical miles south-west of Pearl Harbor, at a depth of more than 15,400 feet. But the Hawaii base was not where she met her fate – at least, not in 1941.

Launched in 1914, Nevada initially performed escort duties for convoys heading from the United States to the British Isles. After the Armistice, she was responsible for the transfer of President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

Twenty years later, Nevada was struck during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The ship had attempted to get under way but sank in nearby shallow waters. Sixty of her crew were killed and 109 wounded.

The hatch leading into the shellhandling compartment for one of Nevada’s 5in-/38mm-calibre guns.  Image: Ocean Infinity/SEARCH, Inc.
The hatch leading into the shellhandling compartment for one of Nevada’s 5in-/38mm-calibre guns. Image: Ocean Infinity/SEARCH, Inc.

Despite this, she was salvaged and repaired, later sailing to Europe to participate in the D-Day landings of June 1944. The following year, she was involved in the American invasion of Okinawa, in which she survived further Japanese strikes.

By the war’s end, USS Nevada was the oldest American battleship in service. She was retired and used as a target ship for Operation Crossroads, a series of underwater and aerial atomic tests conducted in 1946. But they failed to sink her, further cementing Nevada’s reputation as ‘too tough to die’.

USS Nevada on 17 September
1944. The battleship saw action at
Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and Okinawa.
USS Nevada on 17 September 1944. The battleship saw action at Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and Okinawa. Image: Ocean Infinity/SEARCH, Inc.

The radioactive hulk was then towed back to Pearl Harbor, where another intensive training exercise finally sunk her in July 1948. To locate her, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) – an unmanned robotic craft – surveyed a 1,002-mile area of the Pacific at a depth of nearly three miles.

The well-preserved wreck retained the numbers painted on her stern during her use as a test ship. This sometimes occurs in such shipwrecks, due to the lack of light, oxygen, and the extreme cold at such depths.

James Pochurek, President of SEARCH, commented on the find: ‘The discovery of the USS Nevada is another reminder of the powerful human stories lying beneath the waves waiting to be retold.’

This article was published in the August/September 2020 issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.




Leave a Reply