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Nevada’s long legacy on the seas

Kelli Du Fresne

The USS Carson City was decommissioned in 1971, but its crew members have not forgotten their time spent on the patrol frigate.

But I did. I’m sure I must have known that the ship’s bell resides in the lobby at City Hall, but I neglected to include anything about the ship in our annual Nevada Day Magazine, which was dedicated to Nevada’s veterans.

I also neglected the crew members of the USS Las Vegas Victory commissioned in 1944. The USS Paiute, the USS Comstock, the Reno, the Tonopah and three of the Nevadas. I found these on the Internet Wednesday afternoon when former USS Carson City Gunner’s Mate Russ Powell of Chicago Park, Calif., forgot to call me back. I don’t really know if he forgot to call, but he didn’t return my call and so I’m giving him a bit of a hard time just for fun.

I do appreciate his note reminding me of the USS Carson City.

According to Sharon Carter’s story in 1996, the USS Carson City was launched Nov. 13, 1943. She was commissioned in the Coast Guard March 24, 1944. Mrs. C.B. Austin, wife of the then-mayor of Carson City, did the honors with a bottle of wine, and Mayor Austin addressed officers and crew.

I spent the afternoon looking up names of the U.S. Navy’s ships listed above. I didn’t know some of these existed and it’s appropriate as we prepare for Veterans Day next week to remember.

I’ll spend the day helping my mom with the parade in Virginia City. It’s at 11 a.m. Nov. 11. Everyone is invited to come support our veterans and join in the parade. Those who wish to march or ride can show up at the Fourth Ward School south of town about 10 a.m. to get signed up and lined up. We’re pretty informal, as it’s a family affair for us, and all we ask is that you bring or be prepared to write up a short bit on who you are and why you’re joining in for the announcer to read.

You can send stuff ahead of time if you like to: Lorraine Du Fresne, P.O. Box 3, Virginia City, NV 89440. For your troubles, you’ll be rewarded with a spaghetti lunch after the parade.

And yes this is shameless self advertisement. We like to try to outdo the Reno folks, who ignored Veterans Day for decades and then decided to compete with the parade in Virginia City.

OK, so we’re bitter, but we really feel any remembrance and honor is worthy and, therefore – back to my history lesson on Nevada’s vessels.

There have been at least four USS Nevadas.

The most recent is a submarine.

The first, a screw frigate, was commissioned in 1866, a “wooden ship of the first rate,” according to the Ships of the U.S. Navy Web site: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/usn/usn-ships

The following abbreviated histories of Nevada ships are from the Web site.

Screw Frigate

Nevada, a screw frigate built by the government during 1863-65 and launched Oct. 5, 1865, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. From 1866 through 1868 it was known as the Neshaminy and was at the New York Navy Yard for installation of her engines. In 1869, she was laid up in ordinary at the yard. Her name was changed to Arizona on May 15, 1869, and then to Nevada on Aug. 12, 1869.

The Battleship Nevada

Commissioned March 11, 1916, Nevada joined the Atlantic Fleet at Newport May 26, 1916, and operated along the East Coast and in the Caribbean until World War I. In November 1918, along with the sister battleships Utah and Oklahoma, it was covering the Allied convoys approaching the British Isles

Nevada sailed for home and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets in the period between the wars. Between August 1927 and January 1930, Nevada served in the Pacific Fleet.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Nevada was moored singly off Ford Island. She was struck by Japanese attackers, but was able to get under way. While attempting to leave harbor she was struck again. Fearing she might sink in the channel, blocking it, she was beached at Hospital Point. Gutted forward, she lost 50 killed and 109 wounded.

Monitor Nevada

This double-turreted monitor was contracted Oct. 19, 1898. She was renamed Nevada in January 1901 while under construction and then commissioned March 5, 1903. She was renamed Tonopah on March 2, 1909.

The USS Tonopah was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet’s submarine forces as a tender and operated along the East Coast until January 1918.

Submarine Nevada

Commissioned Aug. 16, 1986. The Nevada currently operates with the Pacific Fleet out of Bangor, Wash.

The Paiute was a Cherokee class fleet tug commissioned Aug. 27, 1945.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Paiute carried out patrol assignments, and following the isolation of the Guantanamo naval base by the Castro Government, she supplied much-needed water by towing water barges from the States, until a desalinization plant was installed and operational.

Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal.