USS Nevada Found by Maritime Archaeologists off Hawaiian Coast

  • Michael Hicks

A piece of U.S. Naval history was recently re-discovered off the coast of Hawaii: the sunken remains of the USS Nevada.


State-of-the-art underwater search technology allowed a team made up of members of Ocean Infinity and SEARCH, Inc. to survey a 100-square-mile area at a depth of three miles and find the ship, which was sunk in 1948.

The Nevada was commissioned in 1916 and displaced 27,500 tons. It had many features that became standard on future U.S. battleships, like three-gun turrets, engines that used fuel oil instead of coal, and “all-or-nothing” armor, which improved speed and reduced weight by only putting thick armor plating around the vital areas of the ship like the engines and powder magazine.

The ship served in the First World War, escorting and defending convoys crossing the North Atlantic to supply Entente armies on the European continent. In the interwar period it was transferred to the Pacific fleet, where it was docked at the US naval base at Pearl Harbor (yes, that Pearl Harbor).

When the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) launched the surprise raid on Pearl Harbor, Nevada was the only ship that managed to get underway. It was beached on a coral reef to prevent its sinking after being struck by multiple Japanese bombs and torpedoes, and later slid off the reef and sunk to the bottom.

It was raised and repaired, however, and re-entered service in the Pacific fleet in April of 1942. It provided accurate and devastating artillery support during five major operations: the invasion of Attu, the D-Day landings at Normandy, the Allied landings in southern France, and then the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  

During combat it was struck by torpedoes, bombs, shells from shore batteries, and even a kamikaze attack, but it stayed afloat. In fact, the ship was so solid and resilient that after the war it was chosen to participate in atomic bomb tests. 

The Nevada withstood an atomic explosion, staying afloat after the bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. The US was interested in how naval units would fare in a nuclear exchange, and the ship was loaded down with tanks as well. 

Being nuked, as it happens, severely undermines a vessel’s resale value, and it couldn’t be scrapped because it was radioactive. In 1948, it was sunk by US ships as naval gunnery target practice. 

Check out this video about the USS Nevada: 

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