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Honor on the field of battle


Wolf Pack team uses trident for play on the gridiron and for learning the history of the USS Nevada.

By Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group

Not only will the University of Nevada’s football players have a symbol to indicate their defensive prowess on the field, but they are also learning the history of one of the greatest battleships that sailed the seas during World War II.

Poseidon’s trident pictured with a tribute to the USS Nevada, BB-36, was recently revealed at the Naval Air Warfighting Development Center east of Fallon with the creator of the idea design, John Galloway, university President Brian Sandoval and Rear Admiral Max McCoy, NAWDC’s commander. Six players from this year’s Wolf Pack team — Tyson Williams, Devonte Lee, Toa Taua, Grant Stark, Dominic Peterson and Shane Illingworth — also traveled to Fallon to be part of the short but meaningful ceremony.

Galloway, director of the Battleship USS Nevada Remembrance Project, has nurtured a love of the battleship, one of the survivors of the surprise Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In keeping with the history of both the battleship and World War II, Nevada’s football fans will see the trident on Saturday, the day after the Instrument of Surrender to end World War II in the Pacific was signed on the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay.

Knowing more about the USS Nevada’s missions during World War II and its meaning to the state’s heritage has been a passion of Galloway’s for many years. He has recognized those who served on the battleship as well as the ship’s place in naval history as part of his Battleship Nevada Remembrance Project. He also written about the project.

“I’ve done a lot with the USS Nevada,” Galloway said with the backdrop of the NAWDC building behind him.

Charles Sehe was the longest serving sailor on the USS Nevada from Jan. 18, 1941 to July 31, 1945.  Galloway sponsored the return of Sehe to Nevada in 2016 for the 100th anniversary of both the USS Nevada’s completion and commissioning.

In addition to designing the trident, Galloway has also sponsored a license plate, which was approved by the legislature, in honor of the battleship which saw action in both the Pacific and Europe during the D-Day. Proceeds from the sale of the license plate will benefit the Combat Wounded Coalition.

“It’s a great way to honor Nevada, the namesake school,” he added. “It’s a ship people know very little about.”

The USS Nevada earned seven battle stars during the war: Pearl Harbor in 1941; Attu in the Aleutian Islands, May 11-30, 1943; Utah Beach, Normandy on June 6, 1945; Cote d’Azur France, Operation Dragoon, Aug. 15, 1944; and two stars in capturing of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.

John Galloway, director of the Battleship USS Nevada Remembrance Project, holds a trident behind University of Nevada President Brian Sandoval, left, and Naval Air Warfighting Development Center commander Rear Admiral Max McCoy. Their prop is an F-18 Hornet with the name of Tom Cruise’s character for the Top Gun movies. Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group

In his latest project with the trident, the symbolic prop will recognize the team’s takeaways of recovering fumbles, intercepting passes and nailing its opponent in the end zone for a safety. Galloway then presented the idea to the university. 

“They loved it,” he grinned. “It’s a great way to honor the greatest ship in the Navy.

Galloway, a civilian pilot who moved to Nevada 20 years ago, had two tridents made in case one became damaged. For this Nevada history buff, though, he said the Silver State as a great history formed by people from all walks of life.

“Many people don’t appreciate what we have,” he said.

Yeoman second class Clayton Kent, who is stationed at NAS Fallon, accompanied the visitors on their short tour.

“We are respecting the heritage of the USS Nevada battleship, and respecting that with the heritage of the University of Nevada, Reno,” he said of the tour and presentation. “Every time the team gets a turnover, they will be using the trident as a representation.”

Kent said it’s a great idea that respects the state’s origin and the history of the community.

“It’s a neat idea to begin a new tradition,” he said, adding new generations are learning a piece of the history associated with the state.

Sandoval, who attended elementary school in Fallon when his father was transferred to Nevada with the Federal Aviation Administration, said he has great respect for Galloway for presenting the history of the USS Nevada because it’s a story everyone should know. During his eight-year tenure as governor, Sandoval learned much about the military operations and history of the Navy with Nevada ties.

Nevada football coach Ken Wilson, left, and Naval Air Warfighting Development Center commander Rear Admiral Max McCoy talk about the Navy’s role in the desert. Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group

“It’s an incredible moment, and it’s really important to teach these young student athletes the history of Fallon and the USS Nevada and to bring it all together,” Sandoval said. “And to have this trident which will tell the team what it’s all about.”

First-year Nevada football coach Ken Wilson was in as much awe of the operations at Naval Air Station Fallon as his players were when they saw the F-16s and an F-18 with the name of Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the main character of the two Top Gun movies, emblazoned underneath the jet’s canopy. That provided the perfect prop for unveiling the trident.

“Just looking at their faces … they’re so excited looking at the airplanes and seeing these gentlemen talk about leadership and sports. They are competitors,” Wilson said of the Navy pilots who spend countless hours refining their combat skills. 

Dominic Peterson, a standout defensive end for the Wolf Pack, said the experience has been meaningful for him.

“I’ve caught up with a little of the behind-the-scenes action that goes on here. I’m honored [by] what goes on here,” he said. “We came out here to learn something different.” 

Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the main character of the two Top Gun movies, is probably the most famous pilot at NAS Fallon. Steve Ranson / NNG

Wilson, though, said many of the pilots may have played football at their respective universities and experienced the combat on the gridiron like Peterson.

“It all comes together,” added Wilson, who then revealed the two Top Gun movies including the latest release are his favorites.

Top Gun: Maverick debuted during the late spring with the second movie portraying the warfighting skills of aviators associated with the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School that fits under the umbrella of the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center. McCoy, who has been in his command for a year, enjoyed the opportunity to showcase the Navy.

“Today has been an absolutely fantastic opportunity to build the relationship between NAS Fallon and NAWDC and the University of Nevada,” McCoy said. “I look forward to continuing this relationship and opportunities to work together.”

The USS Nevada beached at Hospital Point after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
 U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

USS Nevada: The legacy of a gallant warrior

By David C. Henley

(Editor’s note In his description of the USS Nevada written by David C. Henley in Legacies of the Silver State: Nevada Goes to War,  two monuments honor the warship and crew of the famed battleship USS Nevada that was heavily damaged and nearly sank on that terrible day.)

One of these monuments, a large, whitewashed concrete slab emblazoned with the words “USS Nevada,” is located in the waters of Battleship Row near Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, where the Nevada was tied up at Quay F-8 immediately east of battleships Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland and Oklahoma before the attack. Close by the Nevada marker is the dramatic USS Arizona Memorial which sits over the underwater wreckage of the Arizona that contains the remains of its 1,177 crew members who lost their lives the morning of Dec. 7.

The second memorial, consisting of another prominent USS Nevada signboard and a bronze tablet honoring the 50 Nevada crewmen killed and 105 injured during the attack, is located at Hospital Point on the southern end of Ford Island where the 583-foot, 29,000-ton Nevada was purposely run aground after receiving direct hits from Japanese torpedo bombers.

Following the surprise Japanese raid, the Nevada had gotten up steam, left its mooring and was attempting to reach the ocean. But the Japanese bombs proved so deadly that the ship’s officers, fearing the blazing and listing Nevada might capsize or sink in the channel, thus closing the waterway to shipping, decided to beach her on the hard sea bottom.

Two hours after the beaching, however, the Nevada floated free as the tide began to rise. By now, the Japanese planes had returned to their six carriers offshore and harbor tugs were able to move the shattered Nevada and beach her a second time on the sandy bottom of Waipio Point adjacent to a cane field.

Fires continued to burn aboard the Nevada until 11 p.m., and during this period the injured and dead were transported ashore by launches from nearby ships and shore stations. Two Nevada crewmen were subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor and 15 received the Navy Cross for heroism during the attacks.

USS Nevada
Damage to the forward decks of USS Nevada, at Pearl Harbor, December 1941. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. USNHC # NH 50104.

Following temporary repairs in Pearl Harbor, the Nevada, which was commissioned in 1916, was towed to the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard in Washington State to undergo a $23 million refitting and modernization that lasted seven and a half months.

By late 1942, the ship was back in action, joining the fleet and U.S. Army in clearing out 7,600 Japanese troops that had landed in the Aleutians. Then came convoy duty in the Atlantic and participation in the Normandy landings and allied invasion of German-held Europe.

Returning to the Pacific in 1945, the Nevada supported the landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and was hit several times by Japanese “kamikaze” or suicide planes that crashed on her decks, killing 14 and injuring 48 crew members.

After occupation duty in Tokyo Bay following Japan’s surrender on Aug. 14, 1945, the Nevada, by now nearly 30 years old, was decommissioned and towed to Bikini Atoll in mid-1946 to serve as a target ship for the testing of nuclear bombs.

Miraculously, the Nevada stayed afloat. Two years later, though, she was towed to an area approximately 65 miles southwest of Hawaii to meet her fate. Still radioactive from the Bikini tests and too elderly for any use, the 32-year-old dreadnought rolled over and sank following two days of intense naval gunfire.

The Nevada State Museum in Carson City displays the ship’s original sterling silver service, uniforms of its early-day crews, portions of its wooden deck, a large made-in-Nevada chest that contained Carson City-minted silver dollars presented to its crew during World War II, a model of the ship and an extensive photo collection.

The ship’s bell and wheel that had been part of the Carson City museum display are now in Las Vegas, awaiting installation in the new Southern Nevada Historical Museum that is currently under construction, according to Bob Nylen, history curator at the Carson museum.

Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson
Steve Ranson is Editor Emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.