USS Utah BB-31 - History

USS Utah BB-31 - History


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USS Utah BB-31

Utah

(Battleship No. 31: dp. 21,826 (n.); 1. 621'6"; b. 88'3";dr. 28'4" (mean); s. 20.76 k., cpl. 1,041; a. 10 12",16 6", 2 21" tt.; cl. Florida)

Utah (Battleship No. 31) was laid down on 9 March 1909 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 23 December 1909; sponsored by Miss Mary Alice Spry, daughter of Governor William Spry of Utah, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 31 August 1911, Capt. William S. Benson in command.

After her shakedown cruise voyage that took her to Hampton Roads, Va.; Santa Rosa Island and Pensacola, Fla.; Galveston, Tex.; Kingston and Portland Bight, Jamaica; and Guantanamo Bay, CubaUtah was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet in March 1912. She operated with the Fleet early that spring, conducting exercises in gunnery and torpedo defense, before she entered the New York Navy Yard on 16 April for an overhaul.

Departing New York on 1 June, Utah briefly visited IIampton Roads and then steamed to Annapolis, Md., where she arrived on the 6th. There, she embarked
Naval Academy midshipmen and got underway on the 10th for the Virginia capes and the open Atlantic. She conducted a midshipmen training cruise off the New England seaboard well into the summer before disembarking her contingent of offlcers-to-be back at Annapolis on 24 and 26 August. Soon thereafter, the battleship headed for the Southern Drill Grounds to conduct gunnery exercises.

For a little over two years, the dreadnought maintained that schedule of operations off the eastern seaboard, ranging from the New England coast to Cuban waters. During that time, she made one cruise to European waters, visiting Villefranche, France, from 8 to 30 November 1913.

Utah began the year 1914 at the New York Navy Yard and sailed south on 6 January. After stopping at Hampton Roads, she reached Cuban waters later in the month for torpedo and small arms exercises. However, due to tension in Mexico, Utah sailed for Mexican waters in early February and reached Vera Cruz on the 16th. She operated off that port until getting underway for Tampico on 9 April with several hundred refugees embarked.

Soon thereafter, it was learned that a German steamship, SS Ypiranga, was bound for Vera Cruz with a shipment of arms and munitions earmarked for the dictator Victoriano Huerta. Utah received orders to search for the ship and put to sea and reached Vera Cruz on the 16th. When it appeared that the shipment might be landed, the Navy took steps to take the customs house at Vera Cruz and stop the delivery. Accordingly, plans were drawn up for a landing at Vera Cruz, to commence on 21 April 1914.

Utah consequently landed her "battalion"17 officers and 367 sailors under the command of Lt. Guy W. S. Castleas well as her Marine detachment, which formed part of the improvised "First Marine Brigade," made up of detachments of marines from the other ships that had arrived to show American determination. In the ensuing fighting, in which the men of Utah's blueJacket battalion distinguished themselves, seven won medals of honor. Those seven included Lt. Castle, the battalion commander; company commanders Ens. Oscar C. Badger and Ens. Paul F. Foster, section leaders Chief Turret Captains Niels Drustrup and Abraham Desomer; Chief Gunner George Bradley; and Boatswain's Mate Henry N. Nickerson.

Utah remained at Vera Cruz for almost two months before returning north to the New York Navy Yard in late June for an overhaul. Over the next three years the battleship operated on a regular routine of battle practices and exercises from off the eastern seaboard into the Caribbean, as the United States readied its forces for the possible entry of the United States into the worldwide war that broke out in July 1914.

After the United States finally declared war on 6 April 1917, Utah operated in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay as an engineering and gunnery training ship and continued that duty until 30 August 1918, when she sailed for the British Isles with Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet, embarked.

Fears of possible attacks by German heavy units upon the large convoys crossing the Atlantic with troops and munitions for the western front prompted the dispatch to European waters, of a powerful force of American dreadnoughts to Irish waters. Utahas part of that movementreached Brerehaven, Bantry Bay, Ireland, on 10 September. There, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers, Commander, Battleship Division 6. Until the signing of the armistice on 11 November 1918, Utah, along with the sisterships Oklahorna (Battleship No. 37) and Nevada (Battleship No. 36), operated from Bantry Bay, covering the Allied convoys approaching the British Isles, ready to deal with any surface threat that the German Navy could hurl at the valuable transports and supply ships.

After the cessation of hostilities, Utah visited Portland, England, and later served as part of the honor escort for the transport George Washington (Id. No. 3018), as that ship bore President Woodrow Wilson into the harbor of Brest, France, on 13 December 1918. The following day, Utah turned homeward and reached New York on Christmas Day 1918.

Utah remained at anchor in the North River, off New York City, until 30 January 1919. During that time, she half-masted her colors at 1440 on 7 January due to the death of former President Theodore Roosevelt and, on the 8th, fired salutes at half-hour intervals throughout the day in memory of the great American statesman.

Utah carried out a regular routine of battle practices and maneuvers, ranging from the New England coast to the Caribbean, into mid-1921. During that time, she was class)fied as BB-31 on 17 July 1920, during the Navy-wide assignment of hull numbers.

Ultimately departing Boston on 9 July 1921, Utah proceeded via Lisbon, Portugal, and reached Cherbourg, France, soon thereafter. There, Utah became the flagship for the United States naval forces in European waters. She "showed the flag" at the principal Atlantic coast ports of Europe and in the Mediterranean until relieved by Pitteburgh (CA 4) in October 1922.

Returning to the United States on 21 October 1922, Utah then became the flagship of Battleship Division (BatDiv) 5, United States Scouting Fleet and operated with the Scouting Fleet over the next three and onehalf years.

Late in 1924, Utah was chosen to carry the United States diplomatic mission to the centennial celebration of the Battle of Ayacocho (9 December 1824), the decisive action in the Peruvian struggle for independence. Designated as flagship for the special squadron assigned to represent the United States at the festivities, Utah departed New York City on 22 November 1924 with General of the Armies John J. Pershing, USA, and former congressman, the Honorable F. C. Hicks, embarked, and arrived at Callao on 9 December.

Utah disembarked General Pershing and the other members of the mission on Christmas 1924, so that the general and his mission could visit other South American cities inland on their goodwill tour. Meanwhile Utah, in the weeks that followed, called at the Chilean ports of Punta Arenas and Valparaiso before she rounded Cape Horn and met General Pershing at Montevideo, Uruguay. Reembarking the general and his party there, the battleship then visited in succession: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; La Guaira, Venezuela, and Havana, Cuba, before ending her diplomatic voyage at New York City on 13 March 1925.

Utah spent subsequent summers of 1926 and 1926 with the Midshipman Practice Squadron and, after disembarking her midshipmen at the conclusion of the 1926 cruise, entered the Boston Navy Yard and was decommissioned on 31 October 1926 for modernization. During that period of alterations and repairs, the ship's "cage" mainmast was replaced by a lighter pole mast she was fitted to burn oil instead of coal as fuel; and her armament was modified to reflect the increased concern over antiaircraft defense. Interestingly, Utah and her sistership Florida (BB-30) never received the more modern "tripod" masts fitted to other classes.

Utah was placed back in commission on 1 December 1926 and, after local operations with the Scouting Fleet, departed Hampton Roads on 21 November 1928, bound for South America. Reaching Montevideo on 18 December, she there embarked President-elect and Mrs. Herbert C. Hoover; the Honorable Henry T. Fletcher, Ambassador to Italy; and members of the press. Utah transported the President-elect's party to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between 21 and 23 December, and then continued her homeward voyage with Mr. Hoover embarked. En route, the President-elect inspected the battleship's crew while at sea, before the ship reached Hampton Roads on 6 January 1929.

However, Utah's days as a battleship were numbered. Under the terms of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, Utah was selected for conversion to a mobile target, in place of the former battleship North Pakota; and, on 1 July 1931, Utah's classification was changed to A~16. Her conversioncarried out at the Norfolk Navy Yardincluded the installation of a radio-control apparatus. After having been decommissioned for the duration of the conversion, Utah was recommissioned at Norfolk on 1 April 1932, Comdr. Randall Jacobs in command.

Utah departed Norfolk on 7 April to train her engineers in using the new installations and for trials of her radio gear by which the ship could be controlled at varying rates of speed and changes of course maneuvers that a ship would conduct in battle. Her electric motors, operated by signals from the controlling ship, opened and closed throttle valves, moved her steering gear, and regulated the supply of oil to her boilers. In addition, a Sperry gyro pilot kept the ship on course.

Returning to port on 21 April, Utah passed her radio control trials off the Virginia capes on 6 May. On 1 June, Utah ran three hours under radio control, with all engineering stations manned, over the next two days, she made two successful runs, each of four hours duration, during which no machinery was touched by human hands. Observers, howevertwo in each fire room and two in each boiler roomkept telephone information and recorded data.

Her trials completed, Utah departed Norfolk on 9 June. After transiting the Panama Canal, she reached San Pedro, Calif., on 30 June, reporting for duty with Training Squadron 1, Base Force, United States Fleet. She conducted her first target duty, for cruisers of the Fleet, on 26 July, and later, on 2 August, conducted rehearsal runs for Nevada (BB-36), Utah being controlled from Hovey (DD-208) and Talbot (DD-114).

Over the next nine years, the erstwhile battleship performed a vital service to the fleet as a mobile target, contributing realism to the training of naval aviators in dive, torpedo, and high level bombing. Thus, she greatly aided the development of tactics in those areas. On one occasion, she even served as a troop transport embarking 223 officers and men of the Fleet Marine Foree at Sand Island, Midway, for amphibious operations at Hilo Bay, Hawaii, as part of Fleet Problem XVI in the early summer of 1936. She then transported the marines from Hawaii to San Diego, Calif., disembarking them there on 12 June 1935.

That same month, June 1935, saw the establishment of a fleet machine gun school on board Utah while she continued her mission as a mobile target. The former dreadnought received her first instructors on board in August 1935, and the first studentsdrawn from the ships' companies of Raleigh (CL-7), Concord (CL-10), Omaha (CL-4), Memphis (CL-13), Milwaukee (CL-5), and Ranger (CV-4)reported aboard for training on 20 September. Subsequently, during the 1936 and 1937 gunnery year, Utah was fitted with a new quadruple 1.1-inch machine gun mount for experimental test and development by the machine gun school. Some of the first tests of that type of weapon were conducted on board.

Utahbesides serving as a realistic target for exercises involving carrier based planesalso towed targets during battle practices conducted by the Fleet's battleships and took part in the yearly "fleet problems." She transited the Panama Canal on 9 January 1939 to participate in Fleet Problem XXpart of the maneuvers observed personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30).

After providing mobile target services for the submarines of Submarine Sanadron 6 in the late autumn and early winter of 1939, tUtah devoted the eight months that followed to special machine gun practices. The following summer, Utah sailed for the Hawaiian Islands reaching Pearl Harbor on 1 August 1940, and firel advanced antiaircraft gunnery practice in the Hawaiian operating area until 14 December 1940, when she sailed for the west coast, returning to Long Beach four days before Christmas.

For the next two months, Utah operated as a mobile bombing target off San Clemente Island, Calif., for planes from Patrol Wing 1, and from the carriers Lexington (CV-2), Saratoga (CV-3), and Enterprise (CV-6). Utah returned to Hawaiian waters on 1 April 1941, embarking gunners for the Advanced Antiaircraft Gun School, men drawn from West Virginia (BB-48), Oklahoma (BB-37), Colorado (BB-45), Phoenix (CL46), Nashville (CL-43), Philadelphia (CL-41), and New Orleans (CA-32).

Over the weeks that followed, she trained her embarked gunnery students in control and loading drills for the 5-inch batteries, firing runs on radio controlled drone targets as well as .50-caliber and 1.1-inch firing on drones and balloons. Utah put into Los Angeles harbor on 20 May and there embarked Fleet Marine Force passengers for transportation to Bremerton, Wash. Putting the marines ashore a week later, the ship entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 31 May 1941.

During the ensuing overhaul, Utah received repairs and alterations designed to make her a more effective gunnery training ship. The alterations included the addition of 5-inch/38-caliber guns in single mounts with gunshieldssimilar to those fitted on the more modern types of destroyers then in service. She also lost her prewar colors, being repainted in overall measure one camouflagedark gray with pale gray tops. With war paint thus donned, Utah sailed for Hawaiian waters on 14 September, after visits to Port Townsend Wash., and San Francisco and San Pedro, Calif. She arrived at Pearl Harbor soon thereafter and carried out antiaircraft training and target duties through the late autumn.

Utah completed an advanced antiaircraft gunnery cruise in Hawaiian waters shortly before she returned to Pearl Harbor in early December 1941, mooring off Ford Island in berth F-11. On the morning of 7 December 1941, the senior officer on boardthe captain and executive officer were ashore on leavewas Lt. Comdr. Solomon S. Isquith, the engineer officer.

Shortly before 0800, men topside noted three planes taken for American planes on maneuversheading in a northerly direction from the harbor entrance. They made a low dive at the southern end of Ford Island where the seaplane hangers were situatedand began dropping bombs.

The attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor lasted a little under two hours, but for Utah, it was over in a few minutes. At 0801, soon after sailors had begun raising the colors at the ship's fantail, the erstwhile battleship took a torpedo hit forward, and immediately started to list to port.

As the ship began to roll ponderously over on her beam ends, 6-by-12-inch timbersplaced on the decks to cushion them against the impact of the bombs used during the ship's latest stint as a mobile target began to shift, hampering the efforts of the crew to abandon ship. Below, men headed topside while they could. One however, Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, remainel below, making sure that the boilers were secured and that all men had gotten out of the engineering spaces. Another man, Fireman John B. Vaessen, USNR, remained at his post in the dynamo room, making sure that the ship had enough power to keep her lights going as long as possible.

Comdr. Isquith made an inspection to make sure men were out and nearly became trapped himself. As the ship began to turn over, he found an escape hatch blocked. While he was attempting to escape through a porthole, a table upon which he was standingimpelled by the ever-increasing list of the ships slipped out from beneath him. Fortunately, a man outside grabbed Isquith's arm and pulled him through at the last instant.

At 0812, the mooring lines snapped, and Utah rolled over on her beam ends; her survivors struck out for shore, some taking shelter on the mooring quays since Japanese strafers were active.

Shortly after most of the men had reached shore, Comdr. Isquith, and others, heard a knocking from within the overturned ship's hull. Although Japanese planes were still strafing the area, Isquith called for volunteers to return to the hull and investigate the tapping. Obtaining a cutting torch from the nearby Raleigh (CL-7) herself fighting for survival after taking early torpedo hitsthe men went to work.

As a result of the persistence shown by Machinist S. A. Szymanski, Chief Machinist's Mate Terrance MacSelwiney USNR, and two others whose names were unrecorded, 10 men clambered from a would-be tomb. The last man out was Fireman Vaessen, who had made his way to the botton of the ship when she capsized, bearing a flashlight and wrench.

Utah was declared "in ordinary" on 29 December 1941 and was placed under the control of the Pearl Harbor Base Force. Partially righted to clear an adjacent berth, she was then declared "out of commission, not in service," on 5 September 1944. Utah's name was struck from the Navy list on 13 November 1944. Her partially submerged hulk still remains, rusting, at Pearl Harbor with an unknown number of men trapped inside.

Of Utah's complement, 30 officers and 431 enlisted men survived the ship's loss;6 officers and 52 men died, four of the latter being recovered and interred ashore.. Chief Watertender Tomich received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his selfless act in ensuring the safety of others.

Utah (AG-16) received one battle star for her World War II service


USS Utah (BB-31)

USS Utah (BB-31) was the second and final member of the Florida class of dreadnought battleships. The only ship of the United States Navy named after the state of Utah, she had one sister ship, USS Florida (BB-30). Utah was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, laid down in March 1909 and launched in December of that year. She was completed in August 1911, and boasted a main battery of ten 12 in (300 mm) guns in five twin gun turrets.

Utah and Florida were the first ships to arrive during the United States occupation of Veracruz in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution. The two battleships sent ashore a landing party that began the occupation of the city. After the American entrance into World War I, Utah was stationed in Bantry Bay, Ireland, where she protected convoys from potential German surface raiders. Throughout the 1920s, the ship conducted numerous training cruises and fleet maneuvers, and carried dignitaries on tours of South America twice, in 1924 and 1928.

In 1931, Utah was demilitarized and converted into a target ship, in accordance with the terms of the London Naval Treaty signed the previous year. She was also equipped with numerous anti-aircraft guns of different types to train gunners for the fleet. She served in these two roles for the rest of the decade, and late 1941 found the ship in Pearl Harbor. She was in port on the morning of 7 December, and in the first minutes of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was hit by two torpedoes, which caused serious flooding. Utah quickly rolled over and sank the vast majority of her crew were able to escape, but 64 men were killed in the attack. The wreck remains in the harbor, and in 1972, a memorial was erected near the ship.


The Hero of the USS Utah

Many heroes were made on December 7th, 1941, but there are a select few who stand out among the thousands who experienced the assault. On the USS Utah, one individual literally gave everything he had for the sailors he had lived with and served beside.

Peter Tomich served as chief watertender on the Utah and during the attack was stationed to the vessel’s boiler room. As the former battleship started to flood with water, Tomich refused to leave his fellow shipmates behind, and so he remained below to guarantee everyone made it out.

Sadly, his decision was made as the Utah was capsizing, and as the last of the crew escaped, Tomich became stuck where he was. For his selfless actions, Tomich received the most prestigious award, the Medal of Honor.


USS Utah BB-31 - History

(Battleship No. 31: dp. 21,826 (n.) 1. 621'6" b. 88'3"dr. 28'4" (mean) s. 20.76 k., cpl. 1,041 a. 10 12",16 6", 2 21" tt. cl. Florida)

Utah (Battleship No. 31) was laid down on 9 March 1909 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Co. launched on 23 December 1909 sponsored by Miss Mary Alice Spry, daughter of Governor William Spry of Utah, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 31 August 1911, Capt. William S. Benson in command.

After her shakedown cruise voyage that took her to Hampton Roads, Va. Santa Rosa Island and Pensacola, Fla. Galveston, Tex. Kingston and Portland Bight, Jamaica and Guantanamo Bay, CubaUtah was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet in March 1912. She operated with the Fleet early that spring, conducting exercises in gunnery and torpedo defense, before she entered the New York Navy Yard on 16 April for an overhaul.

Departing New York on 1 June, Utah briefly visited IIampton Roads and then steamed to Annapolis, Md., where she arrived on the 6th. There, she embarked
Naval Academy midshipmen and got underway on the 10th for the Virginia capes and the open Atlantic. She conducted a midshipmen training cruise off the New England seaboard well into the summer before disembarking her contingent of offlcers-to-be back at Annapolis on 24 and 26 August. Soon thereafter, the battleship headed for the Southern Drill Grounds to conduct gunnery exercises.

For a little over two years, the dreadnought maintained that schedule of operations off the eastern seaboard, ranging from the New England coast to Cuban waters. During that time, she made one cruise to European waters, visiting Villefranche, France, from 8 to 30 November 1913.

Utah began the year 1914 at the New York Navy Yard and sailed south on 6 January. After stopping at Hampton Roads, she reached Cuban waters later in the month for torpedo and small arms exercises. However, due to tension in Mexico, Utah sailed for Mexican waters in early February and reached Vera Cruz on the 16th. She operated off that port until getting underway for Tampico on 9 April with several hundred refugees embarked.

Soon thereafter, it was learned that a German steamship, SS Ypiranga, was bound for Vera Cruz with a shipment of arms and munitions earmarked for the dictator Victoriano Huerta. Utah received orders to search for the ship and put to sea and reached Vera Cruz on the 16th. When it appeared that the shipment might be landed, the Navy took steps to take the customs house at Vera Cruz and stop the delivery. Accordingly, plans were drawn up for a landing at Vera Cruz, to commence on 21 April 1914.

Utah consequently landed her "battalion"17 officers and 367 sailors under the command of Lt. Guy W. S. Castleas well as her Marine detachment, which formed part of the improvised "First Marine Brigade," made up of detachments of marines from the other ships that had arrived to show American determination. In the ensuing fighting, in which the men of Utah's blueJacket battalion distinguished themselves, seven won medals of honor. Those seven included Lt. Castle, the battalion commander company commanders Ens. Oscar C. Badger and Ens. Paul F. Foster, section leaders Chief Turret Captains Niels Drustrup and Abraham Desomer Chief Gunner George Bradley and Boatswain's Mate Henry N. Nickerson.

Utah remained at Vera Cruz for almost two months before returning north to the New York Navy Yard in late June for an overhaul. Over the next three years the battleship operated on a regular routine of battle practices and exercises from off the eastern seaboard into the Caribbean, as the United States readied its forces for the possible entry of the United States into the worldwide war that broke out in July 1914.

After the United States finally declared war on 6 April 1917, Utah operated in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay as an engineering and gunnery training ship and continued that duty until 30 August 1918, when she sailed for the British Isles with Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet, embarked.

Fears of possible attacks by German heavy units upon the large convoys crossing the Atlantic with troops and munitions for the western front prompted the dispatch to European waters, of a powerful force of American dreadnoughts to Irish waters. Utahas part of that movementreached Brerehaven, Bantry Bay, Ireland, on 10 September. There, she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers, Commander, Battleship Division 6. Until the signing of the armistice on 11 November 1918, Utah, along with the sisterships Oklahorna (Battleship No. 37) and Nevada (Battleship No. 36), operated from Bantry Bay, covering the Allied convoys approaching the British Isles, ready to deal with any surface threat that the German Navy could hurl at the valuable transports and supply ships.

After the cessation of hostilities, Utah visited Portland, England, and later served as part of the honor escort for the transport George Washington (Id. No. 3018), as that ship bore President Woodrow Wilson into the harbor of Brest, France, on 13 December 1918. The following day, Utah turned homeward and reached New York on Christmas Day 1918.

Utah remained at anchor in the North River, off New York City, until 30 January 1919. During that time, she half-masted her colors at 1440 on 7 January due to the death of former President Theodore Roosevelt and, on the 8th, fired salutes at half-hour intervals throughout the day in memory of the great American statesman.

Utah carried out a regular routine of battle practices and maneuvers, ranging from the New England coast to the Caribbean, into mid-1921. During that time, she was class)fied as BB-31 on 17 July 1920, during the Navy-wide assignment of hull numbers.

Ultimately departing Boston on 9 July 1921, Utah proceeded via Lisbon, Portugal, and reached Cherbourg, France, soon thereafter. There, Utah became the flagship for the United States naval forces in European waters. She "showed the flag" at the principal Atlantic coast ports of Europe and in the Mediterranean until relieved by Pitteburgh (CA 4) in October 1922.

Returning to the United States on 21 October 1922, Utah then became the flagship of Battleship Division (BatDiv) 5, United States Scouting Fleet and operated with the Scouting Fleet over the next three and onehalf years.

Late in 1924, Utah was chosen to carry the United States diplomatic mission to the centennial celebration of the Battle of Ayacocho (9 December 1824), the decisive action in the Peruvian struggle for independence. Designated as flagship for the special squadron assigned to represent the United States at the festivities, Utah departed New York City on 22 November 1924 with General of the Armies John J. Pershing, USA, and former congressman, the Honorable F. C. Hicks, embarked, and arrived at Callao on 9 December.

Utah disembarked General Pershing and the other members of the mission on Christmas 1924, so that the general and his mission could visit other South American cities inland on their goodwill tour. Meanwhile Utah, in the weeks that followed, called at the Chilean ports of Punta Arenas and Valparaiso before she rounded Cape Horn and met General Pershing at Montevideo, Uruguay. Reembarking the general and his party there, the battleship then visited in succession: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil La Guaira, Venezuela, and Havana, Cuba, before ending her diplomatic voyage at New York City on 13 March 1925.

Utah spent subsequent summers of 1926 and 1926 with the Midshipman Practice Squadron and, after disembarking her midshipmen at the conclusion of the 1926 cruise, entered the Boston Navy Yard and was decommissioned on 31 October 1926 for modernization. During that period of alterations and repairs, the ship's "cage" mainmast was replaced by a lighter pole mast she was fitted to burn oil instead of coal as fuel and her armament was modified to reflect the increased concern over antiaircraft defense. Interestingly, Utah and her sistership Florida (BB-30) never received the more modern "tripod" masts fitted to other classes.

Utah was placed back in commission on 1 December 1926 and, after local operations with the Scouting Fleet, departed Hampton Roads on 21 November 1928, bound for South America. Reaching Montevideo on 18 December, she there embarked President-elect and Mrs. Herbert C. Hoover the Honorable Henry T. Fletcher, Ambassador to Italy and members of the press. Utah transported the President-elect's party to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between 21 and 23 December, and then continued her homeward voyage with Mr. Hoover embarked. En route, the President-elect inspected the battleship's crew while at sea, before the ship reached Hampton Roads on 6 January 1929.

However, Utah's days as a battleship were numbered. Under the terms of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, Utah was selected for conversion to a mobile target, in place of the former battleship North Pakota and, on 1 July 1931, Utah's classification was changed to A

16. Her conversioncarried out at the Norfolk Navy Yardincluded the installation of a radio-control apparatus. After having been decommissioned for the duration of the conversion, Utah was recommissioned at Norfolk on 1 April 1932, Comdr. Randall Jacobs in command.

Utah departed Norfolk on 7 April to train her engineers in using the new installations and for trials of her radio gear by which the ship could be controlled at varying rates of speed and changes of course maneuvers that a ship would conduct in battle. Her electric motors, operated by signals from the controlling ship, opened and closed throttle valves, moved her steering gear, and regulated the supply of oil to her boilers. In addition, a Sperry gyro pilot kept the ship on course.

Returning to port on 21 April, Utah passed her radio control trials off the Virginia capes on 6 May. On 1 June, Utah ran three hours under radio control, with all engineering stations manned, over the next two days, she made two successful runs, each of four hours duration, during which no machinery was touched by human hands. Observers, howevertwo in each fire room and two in each boiler roomkept telephone information and recorded data.

Her trials completed, Utah departed Norfolk on 9 June. After transiting the Panama Canal, she reached San Pedro, Calif., on 30 June, reporting for duty with Training Squadron 1, Base Force, United States Fleet. She conducted her first target duty, for cruisers of the Fleet, on 26 July, and later, on 2 August, conducted rehearsal runs for Nevada (BB-36), Utah being controlled from Hovey (DD-208) and Talbot (DD-114).

Over the next nine years, the erstwhile battleship performed a vital service to the fleet as a mobile target, contributing realism to the training of naval aviators in dive, torpedo, and high level bombing. Thus, she greatly aided the development of tactics in those areas. On one occasion, she even served as a troop transport embarking 223 officers and men of the Fleet Marine Foree at Sand Island, Midway, for amphibious operations at Hilo Bay, Hawaii, as part of Fleet Problem XVI in the early summer of 1936. She then transported the marines from Hawaii to San Diego, Calif., disembarking them there on 12 June 1935.

That same month, June 1935, saw the establishment of a fleet machine gun school on board Utah while she continued her mission as a mobile target. The former dreadnought received her first instructors on board in August 1935, and the first studentsdrawn from the ships' companies of Raleigh (CL-7), Concord (CL-10), Omaha (CL-4), Memphis (CL-13), Milwaukee (CL-5), and Ranger (CV-4)reported aboard for training on 20 September. Subsequently, during the 1936 and 1937 gunnery year, Utah was fitted with a new quadruple 1.1-inch machine gun mount for experimental test and development by the machine gun school. Some of the first tests of that type of weapon were conducted on board.

Utahbesides serving as a realistic target for exercises involving carrier based planesalso towed targets during battle practices conducted by the Fleet's battleships and took part in the yearly "fleet problems." She transited the Panama Canal on 9 January 1939 to participate in Fleet Problem XXpart of the maneuvers observed personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30).

After providing mobile target services for the submarines of Submarine Sanadron 6 in the late autumn and early winter of 1939, tUtah devoted the eight months that followed to special machine gun practices. The following summer, Utah sailed for the Hawaiian Islands reaching Pearl Harbor on 1 August 1940, and firel advanced antiaircraft gunnery practice in the Hawaiian operating area until 14 December 1940, when she sailed for the west coast, returning to Long Beach four days before Christmas.

For the next two months, Utah operated as a mobile bombing target off San Clemente Island, Calif., for planes from Patrol Wing 1, and from the carriers Lexington (CV-2), Saratoga (CV-3), and Enterprise (CV-6). Utah returned to Hawaiian waters on 1 April 1941, embarking gunners for the Advanced Antiaircraft Gun School, men drawn from West Virginia (BB-48), Oklahoma (BB-37), Colorado (BB-45), Phoenix (CL46), Nashville (CL-43), Philadelphia (CL-41), and New Orleans (CA-32).

Over the weeks that followed, she trained her embarked gunnery students in control and loading drills for the 5-inch batteries, firing runs on radio controlled drone targets as well as .50-caliber and 1.1-inch firing on drones and balloons. Utah put into Los Angeles harbor on 20 May and there embarked Fleet Marine Force passengers for transportation to Bremerton, Wash. Putting the marines ashore a week later, the ship entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 31 May 1941.

During the ensuing overhaul, Utah received repairs and alterations designed to make her a more effective gunnery training ship. The alterations included the addition of 5-inch/38-caliber guns in single mounts with gunshieldssimilar to those fitted on the more modern types of destroyers then in service. She also lost her prewar colors, being repainted in overall measure one camouflagedark gray with pale gray tops. With war paint thus donned, Utah sailed for Hawaiian waters on 14 September, after visits to Port Townsend Wash., and San Francisco and San Pedro, Calif. She arrived at Pearl Harbor soon thereafter and carried out antiaircraft training and target duties through the late autumn.

Utah completed an advanced antiaircraft gunnery cruise in Hawaiian waters shortly before she returned to Pearl Harbor in early December 1941, mooring off Ford Island in berth F-11. On the morning of 7 December 1941, the senior officer on boardthe captain and executive officer were ashore on leavewas Lt. Comdr. Solomon S. Isquith, the engineer officer.

Shortly before 0800, men topside noted three planes taken for American planes on maneuversheading in a northerly direction from the harbor entrance. They made a low dive at the southern end of Ford Island where the seaplane hangers were situatedand began dropping bombs.

The attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor lasted a little under two hours, but for Utah, it was over in a few minutes. At 0801, soon after sailors had begun raising the colors at the ship's fantail, the erstwhile battleship took a torpedo hit forward, and immediately started to list to port.

As the ship began to roll ponderously over on her beam ends, 6-by-12-inch timbersplaced on the decks to cushion them against the impact of the bombs used during the ship's latest stint as a mobile target began to shift, hampering the efforts of the crew to abandon ship. Below, men headed topside while they could. One however, Chief Watertender Peter Tomich, remainel below, making sure that the boilers were secured and that all men had gotten out of the engineering spaces. Another man, Fireman John B. Vaessen, USNR, remained at his post in the dynamo room, making sure that the ship had enough power to keep her lights going as long as possible.

Comdr. Isquith made an inspection to make sure men were out and nearly became trapped himself. As the ship began to turn over, he found an escape hatch blocked. While he was attempting to escape through a porthole, a table upon which he was standingimpelled by the ever-increasing list of the ships slipped out from beneath him. Fortunately, a man outside grabbed Isquith's arm and pulled him through at the last instant.

At 0812, the mooring lines snapped, and Utah rolled over on her beam ends her survivors struck out for shore, some taking shelter on the mooring quays since Japanese strafers were active.

Shortly after most of the men had reached shore, Comdr. Isquith, and others, heard a knocking from within the overturned ship's hull. Although Japanese planes were still strafing the area, Isquith called for volunteers to return to the hull and investigate the tapping. Obtaining a cutting torch from the nearby Raleigh (CL-7) herself fighting for survival after taking early torpedo hitsthe men went to work.

As a result of the persistence shown by Machinist S. A. Szymanski, Chief Machinist's Mate Terrance MacSelwiney USNR, and two others whose names were unrecorded, 10 men clambered from a would-be tomb. The last man out was Fireman Vaessen, who had made his way to the botton of the ship when she capsized, bearing a flashlight and wrench.

Utah was declared "in ordinary" on 29 December 1941 and was placed under the control of the Pearl Harbor Base Force. Partially righted to clear an adjacent berth, she was then declared "out of commission, not in service," on 5 September 1944. Utah's name was struck from the Navy list on 13 November 1944. Her partially submerged hulk still remains, rusting, at Pearl Harbor with an unknown number of men trapped inside.

Of Utah's complement, 30 officers and 431 enlisted men survived the ship's loss6 officers and 52 men died, four of the latter being recovered and interred ashore.. Chief Watertender Tomich received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his selfless act in ensuring the safety of others.


‘This is not a drill’

Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Lee Soucy remembered being “clenched up” with surprise and shock when the real thing came storming down on the Utah and his shipmates. At about 7:50 a.m., or five minutes before the first bombs and torpedoes struck the U.S. Pacific Fleet at anchor, sailors topside observed three aircraft, which they took for American planes on maneuvers, passing over the harbor entrance. With the captain and executive officer ashore on leave on that laid-back Sunday morning, Utah‘s senior officer on board was engineer Lt. Cmdr. Solomon S. Isquith.

“In any event, even after I saw a huge fireball and cloud of black smoke rise from the hangars on Ford Island and heard explosions, it still did not occur to me that these were enemy planes. It was too incredible! Simply beyond imagination!”

“I had just had breakfast,” sailor Soucy said in an interview for a Navy official history, “and was looking out a porthole in sick bay when someone said, ‘What the hell are all those planes doing up there on a Sunday?’ Someone else said, ‘It must be those crazy Marines. They’d be the only ones out maneuvering on a Sunday.'” At that moment, Isquith was telling sailors on the bridge to sound battle stations.

Like many, Soucy was slow to discover that friendlies weren’t at the controls of the aircraft overhead. “When I looked up in the sky I saw five or six planes starting their descent. Then when the first bombs dropped on the hangars at Ford Island, I thought, ‘Those guys are missing us by a mile.’ Inasmuch as practice bombing was a daily occurrence to us, it was not too unusual for planes to drop bombs, but the time and place were quite out of line. We could not imagine bombing practice in port. It occurred to me and to most of the others that someone had really goofed this time and put live bombs on those planes by mistake.” Ford Island was, of course, the site of a naval air station right in the middle of the moored fleet.

“In any event, even after I saw a huge fireball and cloud of black smoke rise from the hangars on Ford Island and heard explosions, it still did not occur to me that these were enemy planes. It was too incredible! Simply beyond imagination!”

The attack on the Utah itself came swiftly, at 8:01 a.m. The Utah was one of the first ships struck by 353 Japanese planes from six carriers, attacking Pearl Harbor in two waves. The battleship, now considered a “miscellaneous auxiliary” in its intended role as a weapons trainer and floating target, was at a berth where an aircraft carrier was usually located. The Japanese may have believed she was a carrier. There were, in fact, no carriers in port that day – as the attackers would learn to their regret.

While a bugler was sounding general quarters, the Utah took two torpedoes within five minutes of the beginning of the attack. The ship listed so rapidly Isquith had no choice but to do something he’d never imagined he would do – give the order to abandon ship. Men began swarming over the sides, their shouts drowned by the booming of the battle that unfolded around them. No one had finished hoisting the flag that was to be raised at 8:00 a.m. By 8:12 a.m., the mooring lines that held the Utah in place snapped – like “whips whistling through the air,” one observer wrote – and the battleship rolled over, its masts digging into the muddy floor of Pearl Harbor. The Utah lay bottom up, a total loss. Fifty-eight men perished in the ship.


USS Utah BB-31 - History

By Richard Klobuchar

Very few among the throngs of visitors to Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu are aware of an anomaly, but it definitely exists in the case of the USS Utah.

On the east side of Ford Island in the middle of the harbor lies one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions. A gleaming white, architecturally unique memorial straddles the submerged hulk of the U.S. battleship Arizona. The memorial was constructed in 1962 to honor the Arizona’s 1,177 sailors who died when the ship exploded during the surprise attack by Japanese aircraft on December 7, 1941. Visitors to the Arizona Memorial from around the world number over a million annually.

On the western shore of Ford Island, a scant mile away, is a second memorial. This, too, honors the dead members from the crew of a U.S. battleship, sunk during the same attack, and almost to the minute of the USS Arizona. Both ships rest on the harbor bottom with part of their superstructure exposed, and both still entomb many of their deceased crew within their hulls.

However, the contrast between the elegance of the Arizona Memorial and the starkness of the open concrete platform and walkway of the other memorial could not be more profound. Although U.S. Navy launches carry hordes of visitors to the Arizona Memorial daily, the general public does not enjoy similar access to the second memorial. Most visitors to the Arizona Memorial are not even aware that there is another memorial—the USS Utah Memorial—in Pearl Harbor.

Therein resides the paradox of Pearl Harbor. The Utah (BB-31) enjoyed a noble career that spanned more than three decades and included considerable international service. Like other U.S. battleships of the early 20th century, its design was greatly influenced by the first all-big-gun British battleship, HMS Dreadnought, which revolutionized naval warfare. (Read about the greatest naval war battles throughout history inside the pages of Military Heritage magazine.)

The USS Utah‘s First Conflicts: The Mexican Revolution and the First World War

The Utah, one of the two-ship Florida-class, was laid down on March 9, 1909, at the New York Shipbuilding Yard in Camden, New Jersey. It was an imposing design for its time, with a length of 521.5 feet, a beam of 88.2 feet, a displacement of 21,825 tons, and a speed of 20.75 knots. It was comparable to any battleship in the world and could operate on either coal or oil.

Although designed for 14-inch main batteries, because of supply problems it was fitted with 10 12-inch/45 guns. Secondary armament consisted of 16 5-inch/51 guns and two 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Utah was launched on December 23, 1909, with Mary Alice Spry, 18-year-old daughter of Utah Governor William Spry, christening the ship. The Utah was completed in 1911, and after sea trials off the coast of Maine, was commissioned on August 31, 1911. Utah then took her place in the battle line of the U.S Navy.

After several years of maneuvers, exercises, and midshipman cruises, Utah participated in her first major action in 1914. With a revolution sweeping Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson embargoed arms and military supplies to the country’s dictator, General Victoriano Huerta. When Germany agreed to furnish arms to Huerta, a task force including Utah was ordered to Vera Cruz to intercept the shipment.

Converted to a target ship in 1930 , the battleship USS Utah is shown during World War I in a camouflage scheme intended to confuse the enemy range finders.

With Utah’s contribution of 384 officers and men, a task force brigade landed at Vera Cruz on April 21. In spirited fighting, this force captured vital warehouses and forced the rebels to surrender. Eventually, General Huerta fled to Germany and the revolution ended.

Utah continued to operate in Atlantic and Caribbean waters until the United States entered World War I in 1917. Fearing German attacks on Atlantic troop convoys, a squadron of U.S. battleships was dispatched to Bantry Bay, Ireland, in August 1918. With Utah as flagship and leading Nevada (BB-36) and Oklahoma (BB-37), this force provided protection for convoys approaching the British Isles until war’s end.

Preparing to Fight a Modern War: The Utah as a Training Ship

The USS Utah continued in the Atlantic Fleet until 1931, taking part in a number of important diplomatic missions to Europe and South America by carrying top government officials. Her days as a battleship ended on July 1, 1931, when, under the terms of the 1930 London Naval Treaty, she was designated to be converted to a noncombatant ship. Her 12-inch guns and other armament were removed, but her huge, empty turrets remained. She was also fitted with modern electronics and other equipment for her new role as a fleet target ship. She was recommissioned in that configuration as AG-16 on April 1, 1932.

For the following nine years, Utah operated with the Pacific Fleet, usually based at Long Beach, California. Her new equipment allowed her engines and steering gear to be operated either manually or by remote control from another ship. In this role, Utah provided realistic training for the fleet’s pilots in dive-, torpedo-, and high-level bombing.

All bombs and torpedoes used were inert, water-filled projectiles. However, even small inert bombs dropped from high altitudes could cause damage to the Utah’s deck and other features. Large 6-inch by 12-inch timbers were laid on the deck, giving it a foot of added protection. Crewmen who remained on the ship during target practice found refuge below deck or in the armored conning tower near the bridge. Utah also provided practice for the fleet’s big guns. She towed target sleds, which allowed battleship and cruiser batteries to hone their skills at long range using live ammunition.

In 1935, Utah became even more versatile. In recognition of the new threat posed by modern aircraft, the Navy established a fleet antiaircraft school on the ship. The fleet’s most experienced machine gunners were assigned to the Utah as instructors for the course. Utah provided .50-caliber training for the first year and added quadruple 1.1-inch mounts the following year. By 1941, the mainstay of the fleet antiaircraft weaponry had become the 5-inch gun, and during an overhaul in Bremerton, Washington, four 5/38 and four 5/25 guns were added in single mounts.

Plowing through the Pacific on December 10, 1936, the USS Utah is employed as a target ship by the navy. Her 12-inch main guns and other weaponry have been removed.

Utah was now not only a mobile target ship, but the primary fleet antiaircraft training ship as well. When the ship was in target mode, its cranes placed steel housings over the 5-inch guns to protect them from damage during bombing practice. Smaller guns were moved below deck.

Utah was ordered to Hawaii in September 1941 to help train the Pacific Fleet’s antiaircraft gunners and carrier bomber pilots. On December 4, the target completed a three-week assignment and returned to Pearl Harbor for routine maintenance and replenishment. Docked at berth Fox 11 on the west side of Ford Island, the ship occupied a berth usually reserved for an aircraft carrier. Her crews worked on December 5 and 6 to unfasten the huge timbers so they could be off loaded in the Navy yard the following week. She would never reach the Navy yard.

Sinking the USS Utah

Utah was still berthed at F-11 on the morning of Sunday, December 7, her crew anticipating a leisurely day. She had company along the west side of Ford Island, including the seaplane tender Tangier immediately astern and cruisers Raleigh and Detroit directly ahead. Like most men of the Pacific Fleet, few of Utah’s crew thought that war would come to Hawaii. It was too isolated for attack from the air, and Pearl Harbor’s destroyers and battleships were capable of dealing with any submarines or surface ships foolish enough to approach the islands. The harbor thus appeared safe from any threat.

Just before 0800, men on deck noticed aircraft circling over the south end of Ford Island. Although Sunday morning exercises were not common, they did occur. Even when explosions were heard, Utah’s observers assumed that the exercises were simply a bit more realistic that morning. That assumption evaporated at 0755, when a roar out of the southwest shattered the stillness of the new day.

Sixteen aircraft flying extremely low in squadrons of eight approached the Utah. The planes were Kate torpedo bombers from the Japanese aircraft carriers Hiryu and Soryu. Their pilots had been alerted before takeoff that they were to attack only battleships and aircraft carriers and that none were expected to be moored on Ford Island’s west side.

Moored across Ford Island from Battleship Row, the USS Utah was struck by Japanese torpedoes during the opening moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, six of the Soryu pilots misunderstood the orders and attacked. Two launched their torpedoes at Utah, two at Detroit, and two at Raleigh. Both torpedoes aimed at Detroit missed and buried themselves in the mud of Ford Island’s shore. Raleigh was hit by a single torpedo and began to list immediately. Both missiles directed at Utah hit amidships, only seconds apart at 0801, and ripped open her hull. Without watertight integrity, Utah began to list within minutes. At 0805 the list reached 40 degrees, and it was apparent that the ship would soon capsize.

The attacking aircraft were part of a force of 350 planes from six Japanese aircraft carriers, striking Oahu’s military installations in two waves an hour apart. Many of the first-wave bombers congregated on the east side of Ford Island where the fleet’s eight battleships, their principal targets, were moored. Within minutes, most of these had taken multiple torpedo or bomb hits and were settling on the harbor bottom or blazing from fires fed by the fuel and ammunition stored within them.

On the west side of Ford Island, the torpedo hits triggered a variety of reactions from Utah’s crew. Those on deck knew quickly that the ship would turn over, and their decision to leave was hastened by machine-gun bullets slamming into the ship’s deck. Many, like Radioman 3rd Class William Hughes, dove off the ship and swam to nearby concrete mooring quays where they found refuge. Others, like Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class Lee Soucy and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Warren Upton, slid down the barnacle- encrusted hull, swam to shore, and dove into a newly excavated utility trench. Even though he had left his first-aid kit on the ship, Soucy spent most of the day treating wounded men.

Trapped Below Deck

Below deck, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Dave Smith, one of the ship’s crane operators, heard the roar of aircraft engines and glanced out of a porthole in time to see the red circles on the aircraft that had just dropped torpedoes at Utah. “I suddenly realized that we were being attacked by Japanese planes,” he explained. “When the torpedoes hit and the ship began to list, I scrambled up to the main deck, climbed down the starboard side, and swam to shore.”

Seaman John Vaessen also felt the torpedo hits below deck and the ship beginning to list. He stopped to secure fans and other electrical equipment and turn on emergency lighting. As the ship capsized, Vaessen was forced to evade a rain of dislodged equipment that now became deadly missiles. As the ship settled in the mud, Vaessen was still alive, but trapped in a dark, frightening, upside-down world.

He knew that his only chance of survival was to reach the bilges, since they would be above water in the shallow harbor. He headed for the nearest bilge hatch using the light from a flashlight that he had been working on when the torpedoes hit. As he reached the hatch, he was blessed with another miracle when he discovered that the huge wrench needed to loosen the cover was still hanging in its place.

Crawling through the hatch, Vaessen could see water rising behind him. Upon reaching the hull, he began rapping with the hatch wrench he kept for that purpose. He continued rapping even after painful blisters formed on his hand. The water was now only eight feet behind him and still rising when he heard rapping and voices outside the hull.

Crewmen on shore had heard Vaessen’s rapping and returned to the hull to locate the noise. Taking a launch to the Raleigh, they returned with a cutting torch and operators. The water was only three feet from Vaessen when he noticed the red spot forming on the hull from the acetylene torch. He knew it would be a close race to see which reached him first—the water or the rescuers. Minutes later, the men outside completed the cut and knocked the circular remnant through the hole. As they pulled Vaessen out, battered and burned but still alive, water was licking at his heels. He was the only crewman rescued through the hull.

“Get Out Now. Leave Immediately!”

Peter Tomich.

Not every crewman caught below deck when the torpedoes struck chose to seek safety topside. Chief Water Tender Peter Tomich recognized that if cold water reached the hot boilers, they would explode, endangering everyone still aboard the ship. Someone had to stay behind to secure the boilers. As the Utah began to roll over, Tomich knew what he had to do. He ordered all boiler room personnel to leave at once.

“Get out, now. Leave immediately!” he yelled.

He then ignored his own order and began to work. As his men turned one last time to watch him, he was already turning valves and setting gauges. The ship continued to roll as he worked, and he knew that by the time he completed his task, escape would be impossible. That thought did not deter him, and he continued with his life-saving efforts even though he realized that his own death was now only minutes away.

Tomich was an extraordinary man. Born Peter Tonic in 1893 in Prolog, a small village in what is now Herzegovina, he emigrated to the United States at age 20. He served in the U.S. Army for 18 months, and while in the service became a United States citizen. Ten days after discharge in 1919, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served continuously for the next 22 years. He became one of the most proficient men at his position in the entire Pacific Fleet. Except for a cousin in New York, his only family was the sailors he served with, and the Navy his only home.

Finding a Home for Tomich’s Medal of Honor

For his actions in knowingly sacrificing his life to save others, in 1942 Tomich was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. A letter sent to his cousin, John Tonic, announcing the award was returned stamped “address unknown.” Tonic had returned to Europe 20 years earlier.

For the next 64 years, Tomich’s medal was displayed in a number of locations, including the USS Tomich, a new destroyer-escort named after him in 1943 the Utah State House a Navy museum in Washington, D.C. and Tomich Hall, a new academic building at the Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, Rhode Island. There it served as an inspiration to the hundreds of chief petty officers who attended the school annually.

A lengthy search through the years for a Tomich relative bore fruit in 1997, when representatives of the New York Naval Militia visited Croatia. There they located Srecko Herceg-Tonic, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Croatian Army. Tonic was the grandson of Tomich’s cousin, John Tonic. A nine-year bureaucratic and legal battle ensued over the proposal of the New York Naval Militia to have the Tomich medal presented to Herceg-Tonic.

In 2006, the knotty issue was finally resolved when the U.S. Navy agreed to relinquish the medal. In an hour-long ceremony aboard the carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in Split, Croatia, on May 18, Enterprise sailors and a contingent of its chief petty officers witnessed Admiral Henry Ulrich, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, presenting Peter Tomich’s Medal of Honor to a beaming Srecko Herceg-Tonic.

“Peter Tomich is one of only 39 chief petty officers in all naval history to receive the Medal of Honor,” explained Enterprise’s Command Master Chief, Paul Declerq. “He’s one of us.” Like Tomich himself, the medal finally found a permanent home.

An Extra Set of Remains

Although 54 Utah crewmen are still interred in the hull, in 2000 the amazing discovery was made that there are actually 55 sets of remains on the ship. Mary Wagner Kreigh, daughter of former crewman Albert Wagner, revealed an incredible story she had kept hidden for almost 60 years. She told the world that the ashes of her twin sister, Nancy Lynne Wagner, had been buried within the Utah since the ship sank in 1941.

Nancy had died at birth in 1937 at Makati in the Philippines Mary, although hospitalized for several months, survived. Wagner had Nancy cremated and later brought the urn aboard the Utah. He intended to have her ashes scattered at sea when a chaplain was assigned to the ship. That day never came. Burials at sea were a tradition in the Wagner family. In 1936, while serving aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), he had such a burial for another daughter, Helen, who had also died at birth.

While serving as a target ship off Long Beach, California, on April 18, 1935, the USS Utah lies at anchor. The aging warship’s armaments had been previously removed to comply with the terms of the London Naval Treaty.

Divers inspecting the Utah several weeks after it sank tried to enter the quarters of Chief Yeoman Wagner to retrieve Nancy’s urn. They were unable to penetrate the wreckage. It would remain there for eternity and serve as the burial at sea that Chief Wagner had intended for his daughter. Although Mary kept the secret of Nancy’s ashes for decades, she made many trips to the Utah to visit her sister’s grave. Since 1990, she has visited it annually.

Finally, on December 6, 2003, 66 years after she died, Nancy received a formal burial. Mary, her daughter Nina, friends, and reserve and active duty Navy personnel attended a service at the Utah Memorial overlooking the ship.

Mary felt relieved that a huge burden had been lifted from her shoulders. As she put it, “For 62 years the courageous crew of the Utah has watched over a tiny copper urn in my father’s locker. Nina and I are so grateful that my twin sister has finally received God’s blessing in the presence of men and women of the United States Navy. Our tears are tears of joy, not sadness. One day I hope to join her aboard our beloved ship.”

Mary has remained active in the USS Utah Association, has hosted its recent reunions, and is currently its public relations director.

Utah’s crew numbered just over 500 at the time of the attack. When it was over, 58 crewmen had been killed by strafing, flying timbers, or drowning within the hull. Only the battleships Arizona, California, West Virginia, and Oklahoma (which also capsized) suffered a greater number of fatalities. Four of the dead were recovered and buried ashore, leaving 54 to serve their eternal watch within the Utah.

A Forgotten Grave Site

Efforts to salvage the sunken ships began within days of the attack. Most of the effort centered on the east side of Ford Island where four battleships and several other ships had sunk. Little was done on the Utah until 1943 because of the low potential for returning the ship to useful service. The Oklahoma was righted that same year, floated, and moved to a drydock to make her seaworthy.

The complicated derrick system used to right the Oklahoma was then installed on the Utah after her guns, fuel oil, and other upper works were removed to lighten the ship. A righting operation began in February 1944 and was only partially successful. It did pull the hulk closer to shore and away from the shipping channel, but instead of righting, the hull merely slid along the bottom and settled deeper in the mud. Righting operations then ceased. When another attempt to free the anchorage location was rejected in 1956, the Navy declared Utah to be a permanent grave site.

A unique system of cables and pulleys was fashioned for the effort to right the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma after the Pearl Harbor attack. The USS Utah was partially righted in 1944, but further salvage operations on the venerable ship were abandoned.

For over a decade, nothing further occurred at the Utah site. At the Arizona site, however, the Navy erected a wooden platform in 1950 to allow a daily flag raising to honor her 1,177 dead. A commemorative plaque at the base of the flagpole served as a memorial. On May 30, 1962, after years of planning and fund raising, a permanent memorial constructed over the Arizona’s hull was dedicated.

This gleaming white structure draws thousands of visitors daily and has become the focus of activities honoring all who died at Pearl Harbor. On October 10, 1980, a $4.5 million Visitor Center complex was opened on Pearl Harbor’s shore to service the crowds of Arizona Memorial visitors. On that day, operations of the Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center were turned over to the U.S. National Park Service.

Commemorative activities at the Utah were much more austere. A bronze plaque was attached to Utah’s deck in 1950. Its simple message was, “In Memory—Officers and Men—USS Utah—Lost in Action—7 December 1941.” Since visitors did not have access to the ship, no one could actually read this plaque. A readable second plaque was then placed on a wharf just to the north of the ship.

The plaques served as the principal memorials until 1972, when a permanent memorial was finally constructed. It consisted of a 15- by 40-foot concrete platform connected to shore by a 70-foot walkway. Neither the platform nor the walkway touches the Utah. A flagpole in a corner of the platform allows a daily flag raising. The memorial was formally dedicated on May 27, 1972.

The Utah Memorial remained basically unchanged until 2005, when a $900,000 Navy construction project provided needed structural repairs to the memorial’s foundation, as well as other improvements.

Both Utah and Arizona were destroyed in the same action and sank within two minutes of each other. Both still have crewmen entombed within them and are the only ships in the harbor remaining from the attack on December 7. On May 5, 1989, both were designated as national historic landmarks, which provides them with special consideration for preservation. Like the Arizona, survivors of the Utah are now permitted to have their ashes interred within their ship when they die. Five have chosen to do so.

The Symbolism of the USS Arizona vs the Heritage of the Utah

In spite of these similarities, comparisons between the two ships are usually one sided. Utah was not sunk by a spectacular explosion as was Arizona it capsized over a period of 11 minutes. While Arizona was a principal target of the attack, Utah was attacked by mistake. Arizona lost 1,177 men, about 85 percent of the crew on board during the attack. Utah’s death toll of 58 was 12 percent of her on-board crew. Approximately 1,002 of Arizona’s crew are still on board, while 54 of Utah’s crew still remain.

These statistics should not belittle the lives or achievements of the Utah or her crew. They fought as gallantly as men on any ship in the harbor on that morning. The sight of the incredible explosion as Arizona’s forward magazine blew up, and the huge and instantaneous death toll rightfully focused the world’s attention on that ship. It properly became the symbol of the “day of infamy.”

That symbolism was eventually responsible for creating the magnificent structure and shore facilities at the Arizona site. The greatest frustration of Utah survivors and their families is that the public has no similar direct access to the Utah Memorial.

No Navy launches stop there, and access may be gained solely from Ford Island, which is still an active military installation. Civilians are allowed on the island only with a formal permit. Although this is possible, the visitors to the Utah Memorial in recent years have numbered only in the dozens annually, a far cry from the million and a half who visit the Arizona Memorial. Most visitors to the Arizona Memorial are not even aware of the existence of the Utah Memorial less than a mile away.

Ironically, if the Navy had been successful in removing the Arizona’s hull in 1942, Utah would have been the sole attack victim remaining in Pearl Harbor. It, then, would have been the recipient of the public attention and the focus of efforts to establish a permanent memorial there.

Ending the Paradox of Pearl Harbor

It is not envy that prompts Utah survivors to seek increased public awareness of their ship’s existence. They fully understand the relationship between the two ships and are supportive of the attention given to the Arizona. They are, however, interested in seeking changes to current operations within the harbor to permit visitors to at least view Utah’s remains. This would be a logical first step in increasing public knowledge of the ship’s fate on that terrible Sunday in December 1941.

Overshadowed by the stately memorial to the USS Arizona less than a mile away, the simple memorial constructed at the grave of the USS Utah in 1972 commemorates the 54 sailors who lost their lives aboard the vessel on December 7, 1941.

A modest expansion of the USS Utah Memorial’s platform and allowing direct visitor access to it appear to be feasible and fundable solutions. Access could be provided either by water or by land using shuttle buses like those carrying visitors to the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), moored near the Arizona Memorial. Visitors would then be able to view both national historic landmarks and both burial sites in Pearl Harbor.

An additional step to improve access to the Utah would be to transfer the Utah Memorial to the National Park Service, thus placing both memorials under the umbrella of the same federal jurisdiction. The income generated by the visitor center could then be used to support both memorials. Then, the Utah might no longer be known as “the other memorial,” and the paradox of Pearl Harbor could finally cease to exist.

Richard Klobuchar is the author of the books Pearl Harbor: Awakening a Sleeping Giant, which is sold at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and USS Ward: Operational History of the Ship That Fired the First American Shot of World War II, published in March 2007.


How the Battleship USS Utah Only Survived 15 Minutes of War

Utah was the oldest battleship to serve in World War II, but not the oldest to serve as a battleship.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Efforts to salvage the wreck of USS Utah failed. Her service in the war lasted about fifteen minutes, but she nevertheless earned a battle star. The service was hardly irrelevant, as the torpedo that hit Utah might have hit another US warships, resulting in the deaths of more sailors. Today she remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, although her memorial is visited far less frequently than that of USS Arizona.

Just recently, the United States almost went to war over the downing of a drone along the Iranian border. This is not, strangely enough, the first time that an attack against the United States began with violence against a drone. On December 7, 1941, one of the first attacks conducted by Japanese aircraft was launched against the former battleship USS Utah, a radio-controlled target ship. Today, USS Utah remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, a memorial to those lost in the surprise attack.

USS Utah (BB-31) was the sixth dreadnought battleship commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Like the preceding Delaware-class, Utah and her sister Florida carried ten 12” gun in five twin, center-line turrets. Displacing 23,000 tons, Utah could make 21 knots on steam turbines. She and her sister were the first U.S. battleships to use turbines, although some later ships would revert to reciprocating engines.

The commissioning of Utah gave the USN a squadron of four modern battleships, behind the British but competitive with the Germans. Michigan and South Carolina, the first U.S. dreadnoughts, were too slow to operate in the line of battle. The USN took pains to avoid the interoperability problems that plagued its British, German, and Japanese counterparts. Between 1910 and 1921, the battleships were all relatively heavily armed, armored, and consistent in speed. It was not difficult, therefore, for the fleet to operate as a unit. In contrast, the Royal Navy included battlecruisers—which, while useful for many operations, could not operate safely in the battle line. Also, the dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy varied widely in speed this could be a handicap in battle, as faster ships could get separated from slower. The Kaiserliche Marine and the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered from similar issues.

Utah, like many U.S. ships of the period, engaged in her first combat action off Veracruz in April 1914. During the chaos that attended the Mexican Revolution, President Woodrow Wilson determined that the seizure of Veracruz would be of use in assuring U.S. influence, while at the same time reducing German influence. A contingent of sailors and marines were supported by offshore gunnery, and the men of the Utah apparently distinguished themselves. The United States remained in control of Veracruz until November.

In 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, and the U.S. Navy responded rapidly. Utah was not included in the battle squadron allocated to the Grand Fleet in 1917, but did arrive in 1918, operating as a convoy escort. In September, she became the flagship of the Sixth Battle Squadron. Later, she would ferry President Wilson to France to participate in the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Versailles. She remained active in the years after the war, serving as flagship of U.S. warships in Europe until 1922.

Her services remained in demand during the interwar period. In 1924, she hosted General John Pershing on a goodwill tour of South America. In 1925, she went into modernization, receiving refurbished oil-fired boilers, losing her aft cage mast, getting a suite of anti-aircraft guns, and an aircraft catapult. In 1928, she took a second cruise to South America, hosting President-elect Herbert Hoover. The rest of her duties mostly involved training and exercises.

Utah had survived the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which had pared the U.S. Navy down to eighteen battleships, and precluded the construction of replacements. The 1930 London Naval Treaty moved a step beyond the 1922 treaty, however, reducing the number of battleships in each fleet. The new limit for the United States and the United Kingdom was fifteen, as opposed to nine for Japan. This necessitated the elimination of several units from each fleet. Utah found herself on the chopping block. However, the treaty provided for the disarmament of several ships for training and experimental purposes.

Utah took on this role, heading back to the shipyard in July 1931. She lost her entire armament, although the turrets remained, and gained relatively sophisticated radio control equipment. This equipment allowed operators to modify her course and speed, which allowed for realistic training by gunners in other battleships. In a sense, Utah became a target drone, although a small crew would remain safely in the armored portions of the ship as the shells rained down. Utah returned to service in 1932, and acted as a target ship, mostly in the Pacific, until 1941. She also served as a platform for various experimental guns, especially anti-aircraft artillery.

Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Utah was moored off Ford Island, some distance to the northwest of Battleship Row. The flight commander of a group of Japanese torpedo bombers recognized Utah’s demilitarized condition, and instructed his pilots to attack other targets. Nevertheless, six torpedo bombers initiated runs on Utah, hitting her with two torpedoes at around 8 a.m. Eleven minutes later, Utah rolled over and sank. Remarkably, only fifty-eight of a crew of 471 died, with four sailors being rescued after their blowtorch-armed comrades cut through the bottom of the hull.

Efforts to salvage the wreck of USS Utah failed. Her service in the war lasted about fifteen minutes, but she nevertheless earned a battle star. The service was hardly irrelevant, as the torpedo that hit Utah might have hit another US warships, resulting in the deaths of more sailors. Today she remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, although her memorial is visited far less frequently than that of USS Arizona.

Utah was the oldest battleship to serve in World War II, but not the oldest to serve as a battleship, an honor which goes to USS Arkansas. Her presence at Pearl Harbor is often forgotten because she had ceased to serve as a battleship at the time of the attack. However, her contribution to the preparedness of the Pacific Fleet was every bit as important as that of the other battleships of the line, and her sacrifice should be noted. Several relics of the ship adorn important government buildings in the state of Utah.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to the National Interest. This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.


Battleship Row

The USS Nevada was moored behind Arizona on December 7, 1941, and was the only battleship to get underway that morning. Though she was run aground off Hospital Point to avoid blocking the channel, the effort to escape boosted morale among service members that day.

After many missions in the Pacific, Nevada was sent to Europe. On June 6, 1944, she served as the flagship for the D-Day invasion. The USS Nevada was the only ship present at both Pearl Harbor and Normandy.

USS Arizona

The USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship built in the mid-1910s. Commissioned in 1916, Arizona stayed stateside during World War I. Later on she was sent to the Pacific Fleet, based in Pearl Harbor, HI.

The USS Arizona was hit multiple times in the first few minutes of the attack. One bomb penetrated the armored deck near the ammunition magazines in the forward section of the ship, causing a massive explosion and killing 1,177 of the sailors and Marines on board. Irreparably damaged, the USS Arizona still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

USS Vestal

The USS Vestal was a repair ship moored next to the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. The Vestal was badly damaged during the attack, hit by bombs intended for the battleships. Crew members of the USS Vestal played a vital role in rescuing sailors on the nearby USS Arizona.

This image shows the USS Vestal on December 7, 1941, just after the Pearl Harbor attack.

USS Tennessee

The USS Tennessee was the lead ship of her class of battleships. She was launched in April 1919 and served in various places before arriving at San Pedro, California, where she spent the next 19 years.

The USS Tennessee was sent to the Pacific in 1940 along with the other battleships, as part of President Roosevelt’s plan to deter Japanese expansion. Moored next to the USS West Virginia, the Tennessee was damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack but was repaired and modernized.

USS West Virginia

The USS West Virginia was commissioned in December 1923. She took part in training and tactical development operations until 1939, and was sent to Pearl Harbor in 1940.

On Dec 7, 1941, the USS West Virginia was sunk by six torpedoes and two bombs, killing 106 crew members. In May 1942, the ship was salvaged and sent away to be repaired. She would later play a key role in many Pacific battles, and was present at Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender.

USS Maryland

The USS Maryland was commissioned in July 1921. She was used for many special occasions and training operations.

In 1940, the USS Maryland was moved to Pearl Harbor with the rest of the fleet. She was moored at Battleship Row next to the USS Oklahoma on the morning of December 7, 1941. The USS Maryland was only slightly damaged by bombs during the attack and lost four crewmembers. In June 1942, she became the first ship damaged at Pearl Harbor to return to duty.

USS Oklahoma

The USS Oklahoma was a Nevada-class battleship commissioned in 1916. She served in WWI, protecting convoys crossing the Atlantic. Modernized in the late 1920s, Oklahoma was sent to the Pacific in the late 1930s.

On December 7, 1941, Oklahoma's port (left) side was hit by eight torpedoes at the very start of the attack. In less than twelve minutes, she rolled over until her masts touched the bottom, trapping hundreds of men inside and under the water. Four hundred twenty-nine crew members died. Of those trapped inside, only 32 could be rescued.

USS California

The USS California was a Tennessee-class battleship completed just after World War I and commissioned in August 1921. She served as the flagship of the Pacific Fleet for twenty years.

The USS California was sunk on December 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack, and 105 of her crew members died. The USS California was salvaged and reconstructed, however, and went on to serve for the remainder of World War II.

Ships not on Battleship Row

USS Pennsylvania

The USS Pennsylvania was commissioned in June 1916 and attached to the Atlantic Fleet. In 1922, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet for fleet tactics and battle practice.

The USS Pennsylvania was in drydock undergoing repairs on December 7, 1941. She was one of the first ships to open fire on the Japanese planes. Pennsylvania was bombed and badly strafed 31 servicemembers aboard were killed. The USS Pennsylvania was repaired in March 1942 and sent back into service in the Pacific.

USS Utah

The USS Utah was a Florida-class dreadnought battleship completed in 1911. She served in WWI and throughout the 1920s. In 1931, Utah was demilitarized and converted into a target ship. She was also equipped with anti-aircraft guns for gunnery training.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Utah, moored on the other side of Ford Island and hit by torpedoes at the start of the attack, quickly rolled over and sank. Fifty-eight of Utah's crew died. The ship was never salvaged and remains where it sank in Pearl Harbor.


UTAH AG 16

This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.

    Florida Class Battleship
    Keel Laid 9 March 1909 - Launched 23 December 1909

Naval Covers

This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).

Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.

Postmarks

This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.

A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
 
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.


USS Utah BB-31 - History

21,825 tons
521.5' x 88.3' x 28.3'
10 × 12 in guns,
16 × 5 in guns
2 × 21" torpedo tubes

Ship History
Laid down on March 9, 1909 at Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. Launched on 23 December 1909 and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on August 31, 1911 with Captain William S. Benson in command.

Prewar History
After a shakedown cruise, Utah was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet in March 1912. She operated with the Fleet early that spring, conducting exercises in gunnery and torpedo defense, before she entered the New York Navy Yard on April 16 for an overhaul.

Due to tension in Mexico, Utah sailed for Mexican waters in early February and reached Vera Cruz on 16 February. Utah remained at Vera Cruz for almost two months before returning north to the New York Navy Yard in late June for an overhaul. Over the next three years, the battleship operated on a regular routine of battle practices and exercises from off the eastern seaboard into the Caribbean. When America entered World War I, Utah participated in convoy escort duties.

Postwar, Utah carried out a regular routine of battle practices and maneuvers, ranging from the New England coast to the Caribbean, into mid-1921. On July 17, 1920 redesignated BB-31 and later designated AG-16 as a mobile target for training and gunnery practice.

Wartime History
In 1941, she had been refitted and was in use for training purposes. Utah completed an advanced antiaircraft gunnery cruise in Hawaiian waters shortly before she returned to Pearl Harbor in early December 1941, mooring in Pearl Harbor off Ford Island in berth F 11.

Sinking History
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Captain and Executive Officer were ashore on leave, so the senior officer on board was Lieutenant Commander Solomon S. Isquith, the Engineer. At 0801, soon after sailors had begun raising the colors at the ship's fantail, the battleship took a torpedo hit forward and immediately started to list to port.

At 0812, mooring lines snapped, and Utah rolled over on her beam. Her survivors struck out for shore, some taking shelter on the mooring quays. The ship rolled over with 58 personnel trapped inside. There would have been more fatalities but for heroic measures of other sailors to rescue those trapped.

Shipwreck
Salvage was delayed until 1943 because of its low potential to be returned to fruitful service during the war. When salvage was underway, it over-rolled and lay down on its other side, as it rests today. The shipwreck was left where it rested.

Memorial
During 1972, a memorial was built on the northwest shore of Ford Island, adjacent to the ship's wreck

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Watch the video: Rare Footage of USS Utah and USS Arizona after the Attack on Pearl Harbor