The USS Utah was a Florida-class battleship named after the 45th state to enter the union. Launched on December 23, 1909, under the sponsorship of Miss Mary Alice Spry, daughter of Utah Governor William Spry, the ship was commissioned into the Navy on August 31, 1911.
From 1912 till the start of World War I, the USS Utah ran training cruises in American waters and torpedo and small arms exercises near Cuba and Mexico. In 1914, the battleship sailed to Vera Cruz to join the Marine Corps in the make-shift battalion “First Marine Brigade” in order to stop the German steamship, Ypiranga, from delivering arms to the dictator Victoriano Huerta. Nine soldiers on the USS Utah received Medals of Honor for their fighting in Vera Cruz.
After an overhaul at the New York Navy Yard, the USS Utah became the flagship for Battleship Division 6 and on September 10, 1918, joined the World War I efforts in the British Isles, where it spent three months protecting supply convoys from any surface threats by enemy ships. When the war ended, the battleship joined the fleet that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference before returning home to New York on December 25, 1918.
In the years before World War II, the USS Utah served as the flagship for the United States naval forces in European waters, for BatDiv 6, United States Scouting Fleet, and for special squadrons assigned to represent the U.S. in diplomatic efforts, such as the Peruvian struggle for independence. On October 31, 1925, the ship was sent to the Boston Navy Yard for modifications, emerging on December 1 with upgraded anti-aircraft defense and a mechanism for burning oil, instead of coal.
In accordance with the London Naval Treaty of 1930, the USS Utah was converted from a battleship to a mobile target. For the next nine years, the ship provided a crucial service to the United States Fleet in training naval aviators and in enabling the U.S. Navy to test its capabilities to operate battleship motors from a remote controlling ship. The USS Utah participated in gunnery ship testing from 1936 to 1937 and then provided mobile target services to the submarines in Submarine Squadron 6. In May 1941, the ship entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington State to receive modifications that would maximize its potential as a gunnery training ship.
With the war looming on the reluctant U.S. horizon, the USS Utah sailed for Pearl Harbor on September 14, 1941, where it ran anti-aircraft and target duties until the winter. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor shortly before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the ship was moored on Battleship Row at Fort Island. The USS Utah was immediately struck by a torpedo, and by 8:12 a.m., its mooring lines had snapped and it had rolled over on its beam ends. Most men headed to shore for safety, but Commander Isquith, who had heard knockings from the overturned ship’s hull, organized a team of volunteers to return to the ship on a rescue mission. Thanks to this small band of heroes, ten men were rescued from perishing in a would-be tomb.
The USS Utah was declared “in ordinary” on December 29, 1941, and decommissioned on September 5, 1944, after being partially righted to clear an adjacent berth. The ship’s name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on November 13, 1944, but its partially submerged hulk still rests in Pearl Harbor, rusting away with the remains of 58 men trapped inside it.
A memorial in honor of the USS Utah crew was built in 1972 on the Ford Island shore, adjacent to the wreck. The ship won one battle star for its service in World War II.