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Places On Oahu: The USS Utah Memorial

Basic Information

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

Narrative

The Pearl Harbor area has a number of memorials and attractions that commemorate the December 7, 1941 Imperial Japanese bombing of the island.  Most of these attractions are packed with visitors as part of standard tour packages around the island.  However, there is one memorial that is not part of standard tour packages which means few people visit it. This location is the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island:

The USS Utah Memorial is not as well known as the more famous USS Arizona Memorial due to the differences in the loss of lives between the two ships during the Pearl Harbor bombing attack.  The USS Arizona lost 1,177 personnel while the USS Utah had 64 personnel killed.  This difference in the loss of life is because the USS Utah was decommissioned as a battleship and was used as an aerial gunnery training ship at the time of the attack.

Image of the USS Utah via Wikipedia.
Image of the USS Utah via Wikipedia.

Since it was a training ship it did not have a full crew like a commissioned battleship such as the USS Arizona.  The USS Utah was sunk by two Japanese torpedoes adjacent to a current housing area on Ford Island.  Due to the proximity of the housing area the tour buses do not take visitors to the memorial.  This means that for those with base access the memorial is a relatively quiet place to visit:

Aerial image of the USS Utah Memorial via Wikipedia.
Aerial image of the USS Utah Memorial via Wikipedia.

There is a small parking lot at the memorial that can hold about six cars.  From there it is a short walk to the platform built over the water that contains the memorial:

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

Here is a view of the memorial marker on the platform:

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

From the platform the rusting remains of the USS Utah can be seen:

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

Before the USS Utah was sunk 461 people were able to escape the burning ship.  Soon after the sinking rescuers could hear the clanking inside of survivors. Using a welding torch the rescuers tried to reach the survivors and four men were rescued.  Ultimately 64 men would perish inside the USS Utah.  One of those men was Chief Wartender Peter Tomich who would receive the Medal of Honor for securing the boilers and making sure as many men as possible could escape the bowels of the ship:

Image of Peter Tomich via Wikipedia.
Image of Peter Tomich via Wikipedia.

Another interesting story about the USS Utah is that the ashes of a baby are entombed in the ship.  Chief Yeoman Robert Wagner intended to spread the ashes of his prematurely born daughter Nancy Lynne Wagner at sea.  Before he could do so the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and baby Nancy’s ashes were entombed within the USS Utah with the other lost crew members.  Fortunately her father escaped the ship, but Nancy Wagner is the only female entombed at sea within the wrecks of the ships lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mary Wagner Kreigh hugs Cecil Calavan, a USS Utah survivor. The ashes of Kreigh's twin, Nancy Wagner, were on board the ship that fateful day so they could be scattered at sea.  [Image via Deseret News]
Mary Wagner Kreigh hugs Cecil Calavan, a USS Utah survivor. The ashes of Kreigh’s twin, Nancy Wagner, were on board the ship that fateful day so they could be scattered at sea. [Image via Deseret News]
Here is a panoramic view of the USS Utah with the SBX radar visible on the far right:

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

The Sea-Based X-band (SBX) radar is a very visible landmark at Pearl Harbor that towers over the USS Utah Memorial:

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

Here is another panorama picture of the memorial looking back towards Ford Island:

Picture from the USS Utah Memorial

Conclusion

For those who have base access and their own transportation, it is well worth visiting the USS Utah memorial as part of any itinerary to Ford Island.  An additional bonus from the memorial is the nice views of Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and Ko’olau Mountains.  This is truly a nice quiet place to reflect on the bombing of Pearl Harbor without the hustle and bustle that encompasses many other memorial sites on Oahu.

Note: You can read more about Pearl Harbor and Ford Island in the below book:

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