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On 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, calls to remember the ‘forgotten ship’

The remains of about 50 sailors remain entombed aboard the wreckage of the USS Utah. The...
The remains of about 50 sailors remain entombed aboard the wreckage of the USS Utah. The battleship was one of the first Navy vessels Japan attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 8:56 PM CST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When people think of the Dec. 7 memorial, most refer to the USS Arizona and not the USS Utah, which sits on the other side of Ford Island.

“You’ve got a million and a half visitors that come to that memorial a year, but this is just as much a memorial as the USS Arizona. There are still crew members that are still on board this ship.” said Jim Neuman, the historian for Commander Navy Region Hawaii.

Visitors need base access to get near the Utah’s wreckage and the dock that overlooks the remains of the capsized battleship.

“The Utah was one of the first ships that was hit. She completely capsized. Thankfully, most of the crew did get off but there were 58 that were killed in that attack,” Neuman said.

Before the Pearl Harbor attack, the Navy used the Utah for target practice and anti-aircraft gunnery training.

“Believe it or not, this ship was actually remote controlled, so the crew would go inside the ship and the ship could be controlled remotely so our pilots could have that target practice,” Neuman said.

Japan incorrectly thought aircraft carriers would be stationed where the Utah was moored. In the first minutes of the attack, it was hit by torpedoes.

“The Utah was one of the first ships that was hit. She completely capsized,” Neuman said.

The Navy tried unsuccessfully to save the ship. Cables are still attached to the wreckage that sank in the silt

“It was very important the carriers could get through and start to tie up on this side of Ford Island during World War II,” Neuman said. “They just made sure that the Utah cleared the channel and she’s been here ever since.”

Unlike the rest of the Pearl Harbor observances, the Utah marks its Pearl Harbor remembrance day on December 6 with a ceremony at the memorial site.

“That’s the day that the crew members wanted to do it. They wanted to do it at sunset. They liked the idea of having a sunset ceremony,” Neuman said.

Ashes from 20 of the ship’s sailors who survived the attack have been placed in the Utah, joining the remains of 49 of its sailors who died during the attack.

The memorial site is hallowed ground. The dock overlooking the ship’s wreckage is often used for the scattering of ashes of Pearl Harbor and World War II veterans.

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