It was dubbed the forgotten ship. It was a Florida-Class battleship that was, ironically, an anti-aircraft gunnery training ship active in Pearl Harbor. Crippled by Japanese torpedoes, it rolled over with its crew members scrambling for their lives.
Listening to Glen Miller’s “Elmer’s Tune” which was number one on the Hit Parade, a popular ranking of music at the time, retired Chief Electronics Technician Gilbert Meyer, a crew member of USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16), was performing his normal duties.
“After watching a movie and listening to music, I went on the 0000 to 0400 watch,” he said. “After that, I was dead tired so I went to my rack two decks below on the starboard side.”
Four hours later his life changed forever. Eight in the morning normally is a patriotic moment when colors is performed. This is when you raise the American Flag, salute and carry out the plan of the day.
For Meyer and his shipmates, their lives were endangered a minute following colors.
“A torpedo hit the port side, the second torpedo hit and got my attention and I had to start climbing up topside,” Meyer said. “Some of the crew saw the fighter planes coming but I was sleeping and I didn’t know what was going on. All I knew was the ship was in peril. The sound of the ship as it was rolling over scared me. Many of the men had already swum to shore; I swam to shore in my skivvies. ”
Sixty four men paid the ultimate price for their country in matter of minutes.
Today, the watery grave and humble reminder of those brave Sailors sits partially submerged as a memorial on the opposite side of its famous sister ship USS Arizona on Ford Island.
December 07, 2016 - Retired Chief Petty Officer Gilbert Meyer (right), a USS Utah and Pearl Harbor survivor, and Capt. Jeffrey Rathbun, U.S. Pacific Fleet Command Deputy Director, Logistics, Engineering and Security Cooperation, return honors to USS Halsey (DDG 97) as the ship sailed past the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor as part of a pass in review and salute to USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor survivors. This is the first time a U.S. Navy Ship has rendered honors to the Utah as part of an official ceremony. The salute is part of the 75th Pearl Harbor Commemoration, co-hosted by the U.S. Military, the National Park Service and the State of Hawaii, provided veterans family members, service members and the community a chance to honor the sacrifices made by those who were present Dec. 7, 1941, as well as throughout the Pacific theater. As a Pacific nation, the U.S. is committed to continue its responsibility of protecting the Pacific sea-lanes, advancing international ideals and relationships, well as delivering security, influence and responsiveness in the region (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corwin Colbert)
The Utah Memorial is a beautiful and solemn white wooden L-shaped pier reaching into the calm blue water of Pearl Harbor. It turns left pointing to souls of the Greatest Generation still inside the ship, its deep brown rusty hull contrasting with the sea. Though not all those lost are physically entombed inside, the fact that the ship is so close to the shoreline, almost in touching distance, makes the memorial that much more personal.
More than a million tourists visit Pearl Harbor each year. Few know where Utah resides. No tour buses or guides make their way to the other side. There are no honors rendered unless there is a specific event normally for and/or by the survivors.
In fact, the Naval Telecommunications Procedures flags, pennants & customs publication states, when a Navy ship is passing the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii between sunrise and sunset, passing honors consisting of sounding "Attention" and rendering the hand salute by all persons in view on deck and not in ranks shall be executed by that ship. Not so for the USS Utah.
These are a few of the many reasons why Utah was dubbed “The Forgotten Ship.”
Forgotten no more -- On December 7, 2016, during the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the day came, symbolically, for the “forgotten” to be remembered.
On a day when the weather was eerily the same 75 years ago, clear with clouds over the mountain range, USS Halsey (DDG 97) an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer sailed around Ford Island as part of a Pass in Review and salute to USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor survivors. Before passing by the USS Arizona, however, with the crew on deck in their dress uniforms, they paid their respects to the officers and enlisted of Utah.
There to return the salute was Meyer.
Meyer is well into his 90’s, recovering from chemo surgery, tired and frail. However, this “greatest generation” Sailor popped tall and saluted for more than three minutes as the modern haze gray giant slowly cruised by with “this” generation’s Sailors popping just as tall, mirroring his gesture.
Meyer said the moment was emotional and special for him but he felt he fulfilled a higher calling.
“All I was thinking about standing there was my shipmates,” said Meyer. “This was special and it was for my shipmates.”
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Corwin Colbert
Provided through DVIDS
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