USS Utah artifact returns to U., cleaned and restored

SALT LAKE CITY — If you step inside the Naval Science building on the University of Utah campus, it’s likely the first thing that will catch your eye is an enormous bell displayed in the entryway.

The polished surface of the bell shines, even though the exterior bears nicks and scratches in several places. The inscription “U.S.S. Utah” is distinct and bold, with the year 1911 imprinted underneath.

It doesn’t look like an artifact that survived two world wars, sank into the ocean and was left exposed to Utah weather for more than five decades.

This is the bell of the battleship USS Utah, one of the first ships sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It was first given to the university in the 1960s, where it was displayed on a pedestal outside the U.’s Naval Science building. Last year, the bell was loaned to the Senior Enlisted Academy in Newport, Rhode Island.

After eight months at the academy, the 775-pound bell underwent major restoration before returning to the university on the 76th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

“The bell has been on quite a journey,” said Capt. Mark Springer, commanding officer and professor of naval science at the U. “It’s quite fitting that it arrives back here on Dec. 7 on Pearl Harbor day.”

Dignitaries and community members attended the rededication of the bell Thursday morning at the Naval Science building.

“The USS Utah and sailors and officers are not forgotten, and the bell is an everlasting symbol of our tribute to their service,” said Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton.

The USS Utah was the first ship in the U.S. Navy to be named after the Beehive State. The battleship was originally commissioned in 1909 and completed in 1911.

It served through the Mexican Revolution in 1914 and was stationed at Bantry Bay, Ireland, during World War I, protecting North Atlantic convoys from German raids. After WWI, the ship was demilitarized and turned into a target ship.

During the Pearl Harbor Attack, two torpedoes struck the USS Utah, causing the ship to roll on its side and sink.

Although 461 crew members escaped the sinking ship, 64 others died, including Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich. As the ship sank, Tomich remained below deck in the boiler room, evacuating shipmates and securing equipment. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

“Fighting a sinking ship is just as much combat as fighting the enemy,” Springer said, adding that the bell serves as …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News


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