On the morning of June 6, 1944, a vast armada of Allied ships moved in close to the coast of Normandy and began an artillery barrage on German held coastal positions. It marked the beginning of the long anticipated invasion of France that would free Europe from Nazi tyranny.
On station that morning off Utah Beach was the battleship USS Nevada. Her main battery of ten 14” guns lobbed shell after shell on the German shore defenses. Considering the difficult road she took to get there, what a sight it must have been to see this proud warship providing naval gunfire support on this historic day.
The Nevada had been one of the eight battleships tied up in Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. This battleship’s historic dash to the sea to escape the harbor was the “stuff of legends.” Despite her spirited efforts, the attacking Japanese aircraft laid several bombs into her deck and she was forced to beach off Hospital Point. Fifty brave crew members lost their lives. However, this would not mark the end of the Nevada’s career. In many ways, it was only the beginning.
It is a great credit to all of the workers of the naval shipyard at Pearl Harbor who salvaged the Nevada, along with five of the other eight battleships that suffered various degrees of damage in the attack. Only the USS Arizona and the USS Oklahoma were lost forever.
By the summer of 1943, the USS Nevada was back in action and contributing to the war, both in the Pacific and the Atlantic theaters. Because of the perseverance and grit of those shipyard employees the Nevada and the other crippled battleships at Pearl Harbor found a new lease on life. Though they quickly lost their place as the centerpiece of naval strategy, their roles in shore bombardment and anti-aircraft support proved vital in the long war.
On this 66th anniversary of D-Day we remember all of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to free people they didn’t even know. We also honor the fortitude and ingenuity of the American people who rose up to the challenge of war, against all odds.