Nevada Sailors remember Dec. 7 attack
Pearl Harbor survivors, families and friends gathered at the Nevada Memorial on Hospital Point, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Dec. 8, to remember the actions of USS Nevada (BB 36) and its crew during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack.
Coordinated by the Sailors of USS Reuben James (FFG 57), the memorial service was led by Woody Derby, a survivor from USS Nevada (BB 36), who gave a historical account from his memories of the day that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
“What an honor it is to be here, sincerely,” Derby said. “And there’s not a nicer location than here at Hospital Point, up and down the cliff here. It’s just a beautiful area.”
Derby, who is now 92 years, joined the Navy on Dec. 7, 1938 and served in it for 20 years. While on Nevada, Derby worked in the supply room and was there when the ship was attacked. He remembered the sounds of the bombing, the gushing water that flooded his ship.
Nevada was the only battleship to get underway during the attack. The ship eventually became a target for several attacks that left it severely damaged. To save the ship from sinking and to clear the Pearl Harbor channel, the crew finally beached the ship on Hospital Point.
Capt. Taylor Skardon from U.S. Pacific Command was the guest speaker at the memorial service.
“You can imagine on that day, those folks who were on the other ships, fighting to save their ships and their shipmates all of a sudden seeing the Nevada getting underway making its way toward the channel,” Skardon said. “It had to be an uplifting time that did something to their spirits to keep them moving, to continue to fight for their ships.”
During the attack, 57 crew members were killed in action defending their ship against Japanese air attacks on the morning of the attack. Later, two Sailors were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and 15 were awarded the Navy Cross for their actions on that day.
After Tuesday’s service, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 invited Derby and several of his Pearl Harbor survivor peers, families and friends to visit the command’s USS Nevada Conference room which features several historical photos of Nevada.
Chief Fire Controlman (SW) Vincent Leddy, assigned to DESRON 31, said that when his commodore, Capt. Richard L. Clemmons Jr., came from a harbor tour one day, he assembled his staff and said he wanted to reconnect with these heroes. Later, the members of DESRON 31 refurnished the conference room and re-dedicated it to the crew of Nevada.
Clemmons, who was present to greet the Pearl Harbor survivors at the conference room, said thank you on behalf of all the members of the U.S. armed forces.
“I was once told that if you don’t remember the past, you are destined to repeat it, and I always thought it was important to remain connected to you all, heroes,” Clemmons said. “It’s a different era, but there are some of the same challenges that potentially exist. The message of being ready and being prepared is something that remains an important message today. So it is really special to have you all here and remind us of the importance of being ready, being prepared to make that sacrifice for our country.”
Nevada, the second U.S. Navy ship to be named after the 36th state, was the lead ship of the two Nevada-class battleships. Her sister ship was USS Oklahoma (BB 37).
Nevada served in both world wars. During WWI, Nevada was based in Bantry Bay, Ireland for the last few months of the war to support the supply convoys that were sailing to and from Great Britain.
In WWII, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nevada was salvaged and modernized at Puget Sound Navy Yard. Nevada participated in the Normandy landings, the invasions of southern France, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
At the end of WWII, the Navy decided that Nevada was too old to be retained in the post-war fleet, so Nevada became a target ship in the Bikini atomic bomb experiments on July 1946. Nevada withstood two atomic blasts but was heavily damaged and radioactive. The battleship was eventually sunk during a naval gunfire exercise in 1948.