On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, the first of 360 Japanese warplanes appeared over the island of Oahu and began their attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor. They left much of the Pacific fleet useless – five of eight battleships, three destroyers plus seven other ships and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. Additionally, 2400 Americans lost their lives and another 1200 were wounded. America was at war.
The USS Utah was one of the first ships to be hit, sinking in just 14 minutes. Fifty-eight sailors and one baby girl remained entombed in its remains. One of the men on board, Chief Yeoman Albert Thomas Dewitt Wagner, had his baby daughter, Nancy’s ashes with him, hoping to bury her at sea. She and her twin, Mary had been born prematurely in 1937 and Nancy had only lived two days. When Wagner was forced to abandon ship, he had to leave Nancy’s ashes behind. In 1972, the Navy erected a concrete pier, dedicated to all those for whom the USS Utah became their final resting place. Her sister Mary remarked: “I don’t think there is a better tribute to my twin sister than to have all of those wonderful and brave men guarding her.”
Governor Gary Herbert asked that all individuals, businesses, schools and groups fly the U.S. flag and the State of Utah flag at half-staff from sunrise to sunset today, Monday, December 7th. He also issued this statement:
“Today we remember one of the darkest days in America’s history — the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We remember those we lost that day, and all those who stepped up to fight to protect our nation, and the world, during World War II. As we remember this difficult period in our nation’s history, I hope we will all take hope and strength in the knowledge that we have passed through difficult times before, and we will do so again.”