Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Forgotten Memorial of Pearl Harbor

In addition to the famous memorial for the the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, since 1972 another ship lost on 7 December 1941 is similarly honored.  The ship rembered is World War One veteran, USS Utah.

On Station in Ireland During the Great War

The battleship USS Utah was the first ship named after the state of Utah. Her keel was laid on 15 March 1909 and launched on 23 December 1909. She was commissioned on 31 August 1911 and boasted a main battery of ten 12-inch (305 mm) guns in five twin gun turrets.

Rolling Over on 7 December 1941

Utah and and its sister ship Florida were the first 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, the Utah was stationed at Berehaven 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, including President-elect Herbert Hoover, on a tour  of South America in 1928.

The Memorial Overlooking the Remains of USS Utah

In 1931, Utah was demilitarized and converted into a target ship and re-designated as AG-16, 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 58 men were killed in the attack. The wreck remains in the harbor, and in 1972, a memorial was erected near the ship.

Eyewitness Account  by 

Seaman 2nd Class Charles R. Christensen, USN

When I came aboard the ship in Long Beach they assigned me to the quartermaster division. He's the person that during a battle, he cons the ship, handles the helm and plots courses when at sea . I had the watch Sunday morning [7 December] eight to twelve, the night before a friend who was first class quartermaster and myself were trying to sleep down below deck, but it was so hot we just grabbed our blankets and came up top side and then went into what they call the conning tower. . .. It was about seven thirty when I relieved the Watch. When the ship is in port you raised the national ensign and the union jack which was a blue flag with 48 white stars. You raise both of these at eight O'clock A.M. I was standing on the bow getting ready to raise the union jack when I heard the roar of air plane engines.

I looked at my watch I had about four minutes before I actually had to raise the flag so I stood there watching to see these planes go over. A big bunch of them came in over Pearl City. I really couldn't tell anything at that time. I didn't suspect they'd be anything but ours. I noticed that as they came in three of them peeled off and came for us. I could see them come right at the side of us. I could see torpedos hanging on the bottom of them. I thought (man what's this) they can't be dummy torpedos about that time they let them go. When the planes veered off, I didn't know whose planes they were, I didn't know they were Japanese because we had never had plane recognition training, like they did later in the war. I stood there up on the bow and watched the torpedos come in and hit. It just raised the whole ship up. She's a good sized ship and I said "wow' while the torpedo bombers and dive bombers were strafing us the high level bombers were dropping bombs also. 

First thought that came to mind was get down below and see if your ​buddies got out, they were just down one deck. So I ran back to quarter deck and went down the ladder to the next deck, there was oil all over everything, I couldn't even walk two or three steps and I'd fall down it was so slick: I finally got to the compartment and there was nobody in there. They had all gotten out.

Source:  USS Utah Memorial Website

Medal of Honor Recipient Chief Watertender Peter Tomich 

Source: Website


  1. Here is a link to a story about Peter Tomich who earned a medal of honor on the Utah on Dec. 7th. A remarkable story.,the%20Pacific%2C%20Honolulu%2C%20Hawaii.&text=Peter%20Tomich%20was%20the%20Chief%20Watertender%20for%20the%20USS%20Utah.

    1. Thanks, I've added some material from that website to the orginal article.