“Silver State Dreadnought: The Remarkable Story of the Battleship Nevada,” by Stephen M. Younger, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 320 pages, $54
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Only one of eight battleships in the harbor raised steam and got underway. It was the battleship Nevada, the oldest dreadnought present.
“Silver State Dreadnought: The Remarkable Story of the Battleship Nevada,” by Stephen M. Younger tells the story of this ship.
The story Younger tells is remarkable. The Nevada served in two World Wars and the years between. It was continuously in commission from 1916 through 1945, except when undergoing refits, modernization, and repair. Sunk at Pearl Harbor, it was rebuilt and modernized. It provided gunnery support at the Normandy, Southern France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa invasions. Its career terminated dramatically, being expended at the Bikini Atoll nuclear bomb test.
Younger adds much to this bare-bones recitation of the Nevada’s accomplishments. He carries readers through the ship’s history, from keel-laying to its ultimate sinking. He shows how the ship represented a new concept with U.S. battleships. It was the first to use “all or nothing” armor, with the central citadel containing the guns and engines heavily armored and the ends virtually unarmored. Younger also shows how Nevada’s first captain made the battleship the “cheer up!” ship, with an optimistic crew.
He follows the ship through World War I (where its deadliest enemy would prove influenza) and the interwar years, when it was extensively rebuilt. (Like the battleship Texas, Nevada was kept after its intended disposal date due to the 1922 Naval Limitations Treaty imposing a battleship building holiday.)
The high point of the book is Younger’s description of the Nevada’s sortie at Pearl Harbor. The ship steaming for the harbor’s exit attracted every Japanese aircraft of the last wave, damaging to where it had to be beached. Equally fascinating is the story of its repair. Younger describes how it was patched up, re-floated, and sent to the west coast, where it was almost completely rebuilt before it re-entered the war.
“Silver State Dreadnought” reminds readers of one of the forgotten veterans of World War II. Not as well-known as Texas or as well remembered as Arizona, Nevada’s story was equally compelling.