Charles Sehe, one of the few remaining survivors of the crew of the USS Nevada, returned to Carson City Friday for the 100th anniversary of the commissioning of that historic battleship.
“They should have saved her,” he said of the ship that was his home from 1941 through the end of the war.
Sehe had said earlier the Nevada, the only battleship to get underway during the Pearl Harbor attack, should have been the ship where the Japanese surrendered instead of the Missouri.
Gov. Brian Sandoval told an audience of about 100, many of them veterans or current military personnel, the Nevada was one of the ships that transformed the U.S. into the world’s premier Naval power when she was commissioned in 1916, saying she was “the most powerful warship of her time.”
The Nevada not only survived World War I but World War II and even an atomic bomb test in the Pacific. She was finally sunk by a U.S. torpedo after being used for gunnery practice by the Navy in 1948.
The Nevada got underway during the Pearl Harbor attack and was heading for the harbor entrance under heavy fire. She suffered numerous bomb hits and one torpedo hit. A total of 60 crew members died in the battle but, Sandoval said, the crew kept firing. When her commander saw the Japanese were hoping to sink her in that narrow channel and bottle up the U.S. fleet for months, he ran her aground near the entrance.
She was repaired and back in action by 1943, providing support fire for the Normandy invasion before returning to the Pacific to support the landings on Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell, himself a Navy veteran, said the ship’s record makes her, in his mind, the greatest U.S. battleship.
There’s a memorial honoring the Nevada and those who lost their lives aboard her behind the state capitol. In addition, the ship’s elaborate, valuable silver service is in the state museum. The ship’s huge wheel is hanging on the wall in Sandoval’s office.
Sehe told the audience they must press their grandparents who served as long ago as World War II to tell their stories before they are gone and those stories are lost.
“Some are very graphic and the veterans don’t want to speak about it,” he said. “It’s important. If you have any relations, this is the time to find out otherwise the story is not told.”
Sehe was a 17 year old sailor when he was sent to serve on the Nevada.
“I was proud to be on that ship,” he said.
Sehe said to him, the Nevada was home and more.
“I used to sit on the fantail and watch the bubbling wake,” he said. “She fed me, she clothed me, I had a place to sleep.”
He said he still has the Nevada silver dollar given to him and every other member of the Nevada’s crew by then Gov. E.P. Carville in 1944. He showed it to Sandoval but said he wanted it back.
Sehe, 93, used the GI Bill to get a college degree after the war and was a teacher for years until he retired from Mankato State University in Minnesota.