On Dec. 7, 1941, in the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese naval aircraft sunk the battleship USS Arizona, killing 1,177 of its crew while they were preparing for a quiet Sunday morning.

The mostly submerged wreck, sheltered by a graceful and distinctive white canopy, is a National Memorial, visited by thousands who make the pilgrimage to its resting place. It may be one of the best known sights in Hawaii.

On the other side of Ford’s Island, almost directly across from the Arizona, is another National Memorial, if not exactly forgotten, certainly largely overlooked. The battleship USS Utah was sunk by torpedo, some say three torpedoes, and its rusty orange remains still lay where it rolled over on its side at 8:01 that Sunday morning.

The USS Utah society complains that the Memorial “is not mentioned in tourist brochures.” And, indeed, the small memorial on that part of Pearl Harbor is off limits to visitors without special permission. The isolation and the quiet — no parking lot, no tour buses, no crowds, the isolation — somehow make it more poignant than the Arizona, even though the periodic oil bubbles there create the odd sensation that some small part of the ship is still alive.

The 521-foot Utah was commissioned in 1911. Three years later, a hastily thrown together detachment led by Utah’s Marines landed in Vera Cruz to prevent a large shipment of German-supplied weapons from reaching the Mexican military. The significance of this became apparent later only when it turned out the German government was trying to prod Mexico into attacking the United States. From that engagement, Utah’s detachment was awarded seven Medals of Honor.

The Utah spent World War I covering convoys from a base in Ireland and postwar had brief stints as a flagship in Europe and South America. With the signing of a naval disarmament treaty in 1922, the Utah was downgraded from battleship to auxiliary ship, training gunnery crews and serving as a target for other ships and naval aircraft.

During sea trials in the 1930s it was successfully operated by remote control from another ship, presaging the modern era of the drone.

It was in its capacity as a target ship that the Utah arrived in Hawaii in early September 1941. Some think that the heavy wooden planking intended to protect the Utah from the practice bombs might have misled the Japanese into thinking it was a carrier.

The Utah, too, had its tales of heroism. Electricians and engine room crew remained at their posts to give their shipmates a change to escape. The senior officer, Lt. Cmdr. Solomon Asquith, went through the ship to ensure that his crew escaped was himself trapped and had to be pulled out through a porthole. 

Even as the Japanese were strafing the wrecked ships, the crew climbed onto the wreck and cut a hole in the hull, freeing six trapped sailors.

The Utah carried a crew of 371. Fifty-four of them died that day. Periodically they are rejoined by the ashes of their old shipmates.

In remembering Pearl Harbor, we should not forget the Utah. Indeed, we salute you.

An editorial by Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard News Service

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