US Navy's Notoriously Tough WW2 Warship Discovered On The Pacific Seafloor

This is the top of the mast that once towered more than a hundred feet over USS Nevada’s deck. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity/SEARCH Inc.

Just like a floating Forrest Gump, the USS Nevada has had a front-row seat to some of the most prominent events in 20th century American history. Along with surviving Pearl Harbor and two nuclear tests, the warship also served in some of the most important operations in World War Two. 

Now, after laying on the seabed for over 70 years, the shipwreck of the USS Nevada (BB-36) has been located in the Pacific Ocean some 120 kilometers (65 nautical miles) southwest of Pearl Harbor.

The USS Nevada served in both World Wars. After protecting supply ships in Ireland during World War One, Nevada was the only battleship to get underway during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It then sailed across the Atlantic to the UK to take part in the Allied D-Day landings in June 1944 – the largest seaborne invasion in history – before heading to the Pacific to play a pivotal role in the invasion of Okinawa.

USS Nevada underway off the Atlantic coast of the US on September 17, 1944. Official US Navy Photograph/Naval History and Heritage Command

Things did not get much easier for the ship after the war, either. It then survived two atomic blasts during tests that looked to see how effective nuclear bombs were against ships. Eventually, the hardy ship was sunk in the summer of 1948 in the Pacific by the US who were using the vessel as target practice. Of course, the Navy's artillery was unable to sink the notoriously resistant Nevada, so a bombardment of aerial torpedos was used to give the vessel a final coup de grâce.

While experts knew the rough coordinates of where the ship sunk, its wreckage had not been gazed upon for almost 72 years until this recent project by SEARCH, a private archaeological firm, and the marine robotics company Ocean InfinityUsing autonomous underwater vehicles, the collaborative project managed to identify the shipwreck at a depth of over 4,700 meters (15,400 feet) and capture stunning footage of the site. 

The engraving is on the exterior bulkhead above the hatch leading into a shell handling compartment for one of USS Nevada's 5 - inch/38 caliber guns. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity/SEARCH Inc.

The team were working from the Ocean Infinity's vessel the Pacific Constructor, which set sail for a range of commercial tasks in the Pacific in early 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic put much of the world’s research on the backburner.

"Nevada is an iconic ship that speaks to American resilience and stubbornness,” Dr James Delgado, SEARCH's senior vice president and lead maritime archaeologist on the mission, said in a statement. “The physical reality of the ship, resting in the darkness of the great museum of the sea, reminds us not only of past events, but of those who took up the challenge of defending the United States in two global wars. This is why we do ocean exploration – to seek out those powerful connections to the past."

"The discovery of the USS Nevada is another reminder of the powerful human stories lying beneath the waves waiting to be re-told," added James Pochurek, SEARCH's president.

This 40mm gun, still in its gun “tub,” is mounted next to a partly fallen, standard-issue Mark 51 “gun director” used by the crew to direct the fire of these guns. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity/SEARCH Inc

 

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