Charles Sehe, now 92, was a teenaged sailor on the USS Nevada when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II.
But he was never actually a Nevadan until now.
Sehe was honored at the Capitol Wednesday and told despite not living here, he’s a part of Nevada’s history.
The Nevada was the only battleship to get underway during the attack and was deliberately run aground near the entrance to Pearl Harbor to prevent the Japanese from sinking her in the channel.
In honor of his and the rest of the crew’s heroic efforts and their service throughout the war after the ship was repaired, Nevada Gov. E.P. Carville asked residents in 1944 to contribute 2,368 silver dollars so each member of that crew could be given a souvenir dollar.
They were presented to every enlisted man and officer aboard at a ceremony November 19, 1944.
“I still have the silver dollar,” Sehe told a gathering at the USS Nevada memorial behind the Capitol. “But my son wouldn’t let me take it here.”
Sehe served on the Nevada for more than four years in the Aleutian Islands, off Normandy Beach on D-Day, providing cover for the invasion of southern France, on nine convoy runs between Boston and Belfast and supporting the U.S. invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
“We were darned proud to serve on that ship,” he said.
When plans were made to retire the Nevada, Sehe said he and the rest of the crew thought it should somehow be gifted to the state of Nevada.
The problem, he said, was, “how could we get the Nevada up to Nevada.”
He said neither river on the California side was big enough to get her to Tahoe.
“We offered to dredge both rivers to get that ship up to Tahoe,” he joked.
Sehe was presented proclamations by Bud Southard and by Nevada Adjutant General Bill Burks, one honoring Sehe and the other the 8,000 veterans still living in Nevada who served in that war.
Burks said more than 2,400 died in the Pearl Harbor attack including 60 on the USS Nevada. Sehe also was presented a USS Nevada cap and an American flag that was flown over the Capitol.
Sehe closed out the ceremony by ringing the bell from the battleship that’s now kept in the Nevada State Museum. He urged those attending to think of all those who were lost in battle as he rang the bell five times.
He also was presented with a Quilt made especially for him by Marsha Strand and Mona Crandell Hook of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
After the war, Sehe used the GI bill to get a college education, finishing with a PhD in anatomy. He taught for years before retiring from Mankato State University in Minnesota.
Coming to Nevada was on Sehe’s bucket list. Carson City resident Ken Beaton led the fundraising to get Sehe to the Silver State. Sehe was expected to arrive Tuesday night, but his flight was delayed.
“When Charles’ wheelchair entered the lounge for gate C10, seeing the total surprise on his face as he was greeted with at least 50 people in the area waving small American flags, cheering and clapping,” Beaton said Wednesday. “Charles was filled with emotion as he placed both his hands to the sides of his face. At that precise moment, I felt like a new father seeing my new born for the first time. Suddenly I forgot about all the phone calls, all the emails with the excess stomach acid. This was worth the challenges.”
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