By Dennis Cassinelli
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii occurred on December 7, 1941. I have visited Pearl Harbor and the memorial aboard the USS Arizona, and I also served in the United States Naval Reserve. As a tour guide at the Nevada State Museum, I have had the opportunity to show visitors to the museum the beautiful Silver Service from the Battleship U.S.S. Nevada (BB-36). Judge Chuck Weller has written the history of the ship in great detail and I thank him for much of the information in this article. When the people of Nevada learned there would be a battleship named for the State of Nevada, they wanted to express their pride by presenting the ship with a very special present. The ship was launched on July 11, 1914. Tonopah silver mines were in full production at that time and they contributed 5,000 ounces of silver. Likewise, Goldfield mines contributed sufficient gold to trim the silver service with gold.
During the attack on the naval fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S.S. Nevada sustained major damage but was the only battleship in the fleet to get underway and move toward the sea during the attack. Heavily damaged and in danger of sinking, she was purposefully beached on the western side of the harbor so the entrance would not be blocked.
In a future article, I will tell more about the battle, but for now I, want to tell about the magnificent Silver Service that was aboard the ship and survived the attack relatively unscathed. The silver service set is one of the largest and most elaborate ever made. It has a fifteen gallon punchbowl with twenty four punch cups, all lined with gold. One silver tray is engraved with an image of Lahontan Dam. Another bears the engraved image of Abraham Lincoln who was President when Nevada became a state. Still another tray depicts the mines at Tonopah and yet another portrays Virginia City. Other pieces include goblets, candelabra and a tea set.
Before being presented to the ship, the silver service went on a fifteen day tour of Nevada in a private train car. The train stopped in Carson City, Tonopah, Goldfield, Las Vegas, Caliente, Pioche, McGill, Ely, Elko, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Sparks, Reno and Yerington. The population of Nevada was about 80,000 at that time. Forty thousand people viewed the silver service during this tour. The silver service and a large Nevada State flag were presented to the USS Nevada at her commissioning in March, 1916.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Nevada underwent extensive repairs and returned to active duty for the remainder of WWII. She fought at the Aleutians, the D-Day Normandy invasion, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and others. Two of the USS Nevada crew members received the first Congressional Medals of Honor awarded in World War II.