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Dennis Cassinelli: The USS Nevada Silver Service

By Dennis Cassinelli
Silver Service from USS Nevada, 5,000 ounces (417 pounds troy weight) of silver from the deep shafts.
Courtesy Nevada State Museum

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii occurred on Dec. 7, 1941 when I was exactly six months old. I have visited Pearl Harbor and the Pearl Harbor Memorial aboard the USS Arizona. I have also served in the U.S. Naval Reserve. As a tour guide at the Nevada State Museum, I have had the opportunity to show visitors to the museum the beautiful Silver Service from the Battleship USS Nevada (BB-36).

When the people of Nevada learned there would be a battleship named for the State of Nevada, they wanted to express their pride by presenting the ship with a very special present. The ship was launched on July 11, 1914. Tonopah silver mines were in full production at that time and they contributed 5,000 ounces of silver to have a unique silver service set made. Likewise, Goldfield mines contributed sufficient gold to trim the silver service with gold.

During the attack on the naval fleet in Pearl Harbor, the U.S.S. Nevada sustained major damage but was the only battleship in the fleet to get underway and move toward the sea during the attack. Heavily damaged and in danger of sinking, she was purposefully beached on the western side of the harbor so the entrance would not be blocked.

Today, I want to tell about the magnificent silver service that was aboard the ship and survived the attack relatively unscathed. The silver service set is one of the largest and most elaborate ever made, possibly by Tiffany and Co. It has a 15-gallon punchbowl with 24 punch cups, all lined with gold. One silver tray is engraved with an image of Lahontan Dam. Another bears the engraved image of Abraham Lincoln, who was president when Nevada became a state. Still another tray depicts the mines at Tonopah and yet another portrays Virginia City. Other pieces include goblets, candelabra and a tea set. Tiffany and Co., did produce the John Mackay Silver Service displayed at the W.M. Keck Mineral Museum at the University of Nevada in Reno.

Before being presented to the ship, the USS Nevada silver service went on a 15-day tour of Nevada in a private train car. The train stopped in Carson City, Tonopah, Goldfield, Las Vegas, Caliente, Pioche, McGill, Ely, Elko, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Sparks, Reno and Yerington. The population of Nevada was about 80,000 at that time. Forty thousand people viewed the silver service during this tour. The silver service and a large Nevada state flag were presented to the USS Nevada at her commissioning in March 1916.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Nevada underwent extensive repairs and returned to active duty for the remainder of World War II. She fought at the Aleutians, the D-Day Normandy invasion, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and others. Two of the USS Nevada crew members received the first Congressional Medals of Honor awarded in World War II.

Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com.