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USS Utah

The USS Utah During World War I and World War II

On December 7, 2017, the bell was placed on permanent display in the University of Utah’s Naval Science Building.

Background of the USS Utah

President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody proposed naming a battleship for the state of Utah on their visit in 1903. The proposal became reality when Congress authorized its construction on May 13, 1908.

Built by the New York Ship Building Company and launched on December 23, 1909, the USS Utah was sponsored by Alice Spry, daughter of Governor William Spry.

Commissioned in August 1911, the USS Utah joined the Atlantic Fleet in 1912 after Captain William S. Benson led this ship through its shakedown cruise.

In 1914 the Utah participated in action at Vera Cruz during the Mexican Revolution. She assisted in the transport of refugees to Tampico, Mexico and sent a landing force to occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico to prevent weapons and ammunition from being delivered to General Huerta.

After the United States entered World War I, the USS Utah was stationed at Bantry Bay, Ireland and served as the flagship for Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers, Commander of Battleship Division 6. Her main responsibility during the war’s final months was to protect supply convoys. She ended her service in Europe by joining the honor escort carrying President Woodrow Wilson to France.

After the London Naval Treaty of 1930, the USS Utah was redesignated as a “miscellaneous auxiliary ship.” She now served as a remote controlled target ship to train anti-aircraft gunners. She effectively filled this role for the Navy from 1931 to 1941.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Utah was moored on the northwest side of Ford Island opposite Battleship Row. In the first minutes of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Utah was struck by at least two torpedoes and began listing heavily to port. The order was given to abandon ship and by 0812 the ship had rolled over and sunk. Six officers and fifty two enlisted men were killed, including Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

After the attack, the Utah was partially turned “… inshore to clear the approach to an adjacent pier.” The Navy began to assess the damage to determine if she could be repaired and if salvage operations could begin. On September 5, 1944 she was declared “out of commission, not in service” and was struck from the Navy’s list of ships on November 13, 1944.

How Did the Ship’s Bell from the USS Utah End-Up at the University of Utah?

The ship’s bell from the USS Utah was originally presented by the United States Navy to the Utah State Historical Society in April 1961. Transfer of the bell was arranged through the office of Senator Wallace F. Bennett and was given to the Historical Society on an indefinite loan basis. For almost six years the bell was housed at the Historical Society’s offices in the Kearns Mansion on South Temple.

Discussions began in 1965 to loan the bell to a new Naval History Museum that was to be located in the Naval Science Building on the University of Utah campus. The museum was to be an affiliate of the Utah State Museum of Natural History. In January 1965, the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society passed a resolution supporting the creation of the museum.  Everett L. Cooley, Director of the Utah State Historical Society and Major Gaut, curator of the Naval History Museum, began communicating to arrange the loan of the ship’s bell and other items from the Historical Society’s collection. The bell was to be loaned to the museum with the condition that the Historical Society could ask for its return if in the future a new Utah State History Museum was established. The bell was transferred in February 1966 with the intention of either displaying it inside the Naval Science Building or on an appropriate foundation outside the building.

Pearl Harbor’s Forgotten Hero: The Story of the USS Utah

1961 Press Release from Senator Wallace F. Bennett

1961 Press Release from the Clearfield, Utah Naval Supply Depot

USS Utah The Utah Daily Chronicle Feb. 10, 1966

USS Utah Salt Lake Tribune April 11, 1961

Trail of the West

Free Film Series: Classic Hollywood Cinema and the Imagination of the American West

The Utah State Historical Society, Ms. Naoma Tate, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and others invite you to celebrate the spirit of the American West through art, movies and events.

The films will be shown on third Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., January – June 2018, at the Fort Douglas Post Theater (245 S Fort Douglas Blvd). See a list of all screenings.

  • January 18, 2018Buffalo Bill (1944)
  • February 15, 2018Ramona (1928)
  • March 15, 2018Ramrod (1947)
  • April 19, 2018Wagon Master (1950)
  • May 17, 2018Brigham Young (1940)
  • June 21, 2018Westward the Women (1951)

The series focuses on Utah’s storied landscapes and how classic Hollywood films used them to create an ideal, imagined American West. Dr. James V. D’Arc, a retired BYU motion picture curator and professor of film, will offer a brief lecture before each screening and lead a post-viewing discussion.

At the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, you’ll find activities from December 2017 to June 2018. Read a booklet of all events.

As part of this effort, join us for Screening Utah, a free, public film series done in partnership with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

 

Parking Instructions: Please park behind the Ft. Douglas Post Theater (taking Ft. Douglas Blvd.) and park in lot 78, Stillwell Field. See the map to the left.

Utah World War I Commission

April 2017 marks the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, a defining conflict of the modern era.

To commemorate the sacrifice and involvement of Utahns in the Great War, the Utah WWI Commission will provide information and resources to the public.

News

Utah’s World War I Monuments, which details WWI memorials throughout the state, is available for free as a PDF.

Grants

The commission is offering small grants to encourage Utahns to recognize the impact of WWI in their communities.

Contact vjacobson@utah.gov for more information.

Events

April 14, 2018, 2:00 p.m.
“How They Fought: Guns, Grenades, Gas, Bayonets and Rifles”: living history demonstration by Chip Guarente
Chapman Branch Library, Salt Lake City

May 19, 2018, 10:00 a.m. 
Re-dedication of the Chapman Branch Library with color guard by men in WWI uniforms

Event listings will be updated regularly. If you know of a WWI-related event in Utah, email us at vjacobson@utah.gov.

Resources

This informational poster was created by Christina Epperson. Click here for a larger version.

Educational resources: Curriculum and more, searchable by grade level, subject, and type

1914-1918-online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Utah and World War I: special issue of Utah Historical Quarterly

Utah and the Great War: The Beehive State and the World War I Experience, ed. by Allan Kent Powell: a collection of essays exploring the complexity of WWI and its impact on Utahns.

State Legislature’s Resolution (PDF)

Governor’s Declaration, April 2017 (PDF)

Utah in the World War, by Noble Warrum: published under the auspices of the Utah Council of Defense in 1924.

The Great War, from American Experience

National WWI Museum and Memorial

NHD National History Day Teaching World War I: Resource to connect teachers and students to the best sources for the 100th anniversary of WWI. Includes Middle School and High School lesson modules.

 

Archives/Special Collections

LDS Church History Library: (PDF list of WWI related collections)

State Historical Society: (PDF list of Historical Society Collections relating to WWI)

University of Utah: (PDF list of WWI related items/collections held in Special Collections)

Utah State University: (PDF list of WWI related items/collections held in Special Collections)