The Patten Family and the USS Nevada (1941) 3

As it so often happens, I was looking through the archives and discovered an article that jumped off the pages at me. This article was found in a collection of Navy Department News Releases and was released seventy seven years ago today (September 7, 2018)





A sea meeting unique in the world’s naval history will take place on the quarterdeck of the USS NEVADA on Tuesday night with the central figure, strangely enough, a farmer from Ridgefield, Washington. Officers and crew of the big battleship drawn up at rigid attention for the impressive rite, Captain F. W. Scandland, U. S. Navy, the NEWADA’s commanding officer, will administer the Navy enlistment oath to the farmer– Clarence Floyd Patten, a man of about 50 years.

Standing just behind the principal in the ceremony, in which Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in Washington will take part by radio, will be seven proud Sailors–Patten’s sons, Clarence, Jr., Myrne, Roy, Marvin, Allen, Gilbert and Bruce, all serving in the NEVADA’s fireroom. The elder Patten, not to be outdone by his sons, decided some time ago to follow the same urge which led them to the sea and into the service of their country and he will be enlisted as a fireman, first class.

Nor is the father the last of the Patten family who will enter the Navy. An eighth son, Wayne Henry Patten, just 16, about to become a sophomore at a Portland (Oregon) High School and with aspirations to become an aviator, plans to enlist when he becomes eligible on July 1, 1942. The NEVADA’s location for the ceremony will remain secret for reasons of Navy security, but the public will be enabled to hear the rites through the facilities of the National Broadcasting Company, which is to present it over its Blue Network from 7:00 to 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Secretary Knox will congratulate the elder Patten on the patriotism of his all-Navy family in a brief talk over a special hook-up linking Washington, D.C., with the NEVADA. All of the Patten brothers were born at Lake City, in Carroll County, Iowa, and the first to enter the Navy was Clarence Floyd Patten, Jr., now 25, who enlisted on July 1, 1937. The next was Myrne Roosevelt Patton, 22, who enlisted October 5, 1937.

Roy Hart Patten, 20, enlisted November 21, 1939; Marvin Kenneth Patten, 28, on January 3, 1940, exactly two weeks ahead of Allen Mayo Patten, 24; Gilbert Russell Patten, 29, on August 31, 1940, and Bruce Calvin Patten, 18, on December 12, 1940. Clarence, Myrne, Roy and Marvin all enlisted at Des Moines, Iowa; Allen at San Diego, California; Gilbert in Honolulu, T.H., and Bruce at Portland, Oregon.

In keeping with the Navy’s policy to bring together, whenever possible, brothers in the service, the seven Patten boys were put together in the NEVADA. In fact, all of them are stationed in the fireroom and occupy seven bunks together in a corner of one of the ship’s sleeping compartments.

(Photograph available in Photographic Section, Office of Public Relations.)

The Nevada wasn’t in her usual place when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor just a few month later. During the previous fleet maneuvers, she was delayed coming into port and the USS Arizona took her usual berth. This left the Nevada outboard of another ship and able to get underway once the attack occurred.

USS Nevada (BB-36), eldest (by a few months) of the battleships in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, was hit by one torpedo during the last part of the Japanese torpedo planes’ attack. This opened a large hole in the ship’s port side below her two forward turrets. Her anti-torpedo protection, of a type back-fitted to the Navy’s older battleships, resisted the warhead’s explosion fairly well. However, serious leaks were started in the inmost bulkhead, allowing a considerable amount of water into the ship.

The damaged Nevada got underway at 0840, about a half-hour after she was torpedoed, backed clear of her berth, and began to steam down the channel toward the Navy Yard. The slowly moving battleship was an attractive target for Japanese dive bombers, which hit and near-missed her repeatedly, opening up her forecastle deck, causing more leaks in her hull, starting gasoline fires forward and other blazes in her superstructure and midships area. Now in serious trouble, Nevada was run aground on the Navy Yard side of the channel, just south of Ford Island.

As her crew fought her many fires, the ship twisted around until she was facing back up the harbor. With the help of tugs, Nevada then backed across the way and grounded, stern-first, on the other side of the channel. Her old, much-modified structure proved itself to be anything but watertight, and water traveled inexorably throughout the ship. By the following day, she had settled to the bottom, fortunately in fairly shallow water. There she was to remain for over two months, the subject of one of the first of Pearl Harbor’s many demanding salvage projects.

Over the course of the morning, Nevada suffered a total of 60 killed and 109 wounded. Two more men died aboard during salvage operations on 7 February 1942 when they were overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas from decomposing paper and meat. The ship suffered a minimum of six bomb hits and one torpedo hit, but “it is possible that as many as ten bomb hits may have been received, […] as certain damaged areas [were] of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb

None of the Patten Family were listed as KIA in the attack. You can find the rest of their amazing story here:

The Sullivan’s were not so fortunate

Just over a year later, the Navy’s policy on allowing family to be stationed together received a shocking jolt when the USS Juneau was sunk at the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal. The famous “Fighting Sullivan Brothers would all lose their lives in a single day.

The Navy would not allow brothers and family to serve again for many generations. Interesting footnote: forty years later (1981) My brother Tom and I both served on the USS San Francisco SSN 711 for over three years together. During that time, the 711 boat would be host to a total of four sets of brothers.

To the best of my knowledge, we all made it home safely. Interestingly enough, my brother Tom went on to serve on the Submarine USS Nevada.

I have often thought that the world was filled with a number of randomly colliding coincidences.

Mister Mac

All or Nothing 4

Radical and Revolutionary

Those were words used to describe one of the greatest Battleships ever to sail the seas in defense of freedom. The USS Nevada (BB-36) was the second IS Navy ship to be named after the 36th state and was the lead ship of the two Nevada-class battleships. Her sister ship was the USS Oklahoma.

A grand ship

Her keel was laid on November 4th 1912 and when she was launched a short two years later, she represented a great leap forward in almost every technology associated with dreadnoughts. The three key technologies that made her both radical and revolutionary were features that would be included in every future US battleship (as well as many of their subsequent enemies).


Three radical revolutions

The first was the development of the three gun turret. These monsters were 14” superfiring canons that could place a concentrated firepower on any ship in existence and pound through the armor protecting their inner skins.Nevada was built with two three gun turrets and two two gun turrets giving her a slight edge over anything built before her time.

The second part of the revolution was her conversion to oil rather than coal. Previous dreadnoughts and most other ships built at the end of the sail era were powered by coal. While coal was a leap forward in its own way, the need for refueling placed serious limitations on fleet movements. When the Great White fleet had sailed in previous years, it was a dramatic show of the US capability to extend itself into previously difficult areas. The Japanese particularly were alarmed by the ability of the fledgling fleet to exert such a powerful influence.

Coal or Oil

But the need for coaling stations around the world was a weakness that would impact the fleet’s ability to stay on station. Plus, coal powered ships were very manpower intensive. First, the colliers were required to constantly be in motion and manpower was a key method to moving the coal from point a to point b. Second and more important, large engineroom crews were required to fuel the boilers underway.

Ship design was affected by having more logistical support for the larger crew which reduced the amount of space for other critical items. Third, coal is not as as efficient as oil in a naval environment. Conversion of the fuel to energy was not nearly as great resulting in lower steaming days and shorter distances.

“using oil gave the ship an engineering advantage over the earlier coal-fired plants,as oil is much more efficient than coal because it yields "a far greater steaming radius for a given amount of fuel". The ability to steam great distances without refueling was a major concern of the General Board at that time. In 1903, the Board felt all American battleships should have a minimum steaming radius of 6,000 nmi (11,000 km) so that the US could enforce the Monroe Doctrine.”

Using oil would result in replacing 100 firemen (stokers) and 112 coal passers with 24 enginemen. This would eliminate crews quarters saving weight for other items and reducing the amount of fresh water and provisions that a ship would need for extended operations.

Ability to take hits

The third revolution was the new placement of armor. Instead of spreading thin armor over all areas, Nevada focused on critical areas such as the magazines and engines.


This radical change became known as the “All or Nothing” principle. Protecting the vital innards of a ship was never done before the “Standard Battleship” design was adopted. The idea was that if you protected the ammunition, steering and engines of the ship, she could better survive any type of attack known at the time. (Note: prior to Billy Mitchell proving the tactic’s vulnerability to air power tactics, the Navy was still focused on surface and sub surface attack strategies.)

All three of these radical designs and ideas would set the stage for the major battles to be fought in the century of surface warfare. Nevada would go on to fight in both World Wars and prove the reliability of the builders who designed and made her.


A real fighter

She rose from the mud of Pearl Harbor to help our troops in both theaters of operations.


She served faithfully throughout the war ending up victorious in Tokyo Bay.

Even in her dying days, she showed her unwillingness to give up. After being involved in two nuclear tests, she was used as a target vessel for the USS Iowa which ultimately failed to sink her. Her end came at the end of an air launched torpedo.


The daring designers and innovation that created her are hallmarks of the American spirit. A need was identified, methods were created to overcome the need, and we had the national will to execute and operate this technology. American know how and capability were employed to create something that set the stage for victory. The real question is, could we do it again?

Someone famously said that the world is no longer a game of “Battleship” because of newer technology.

Sadly, they trivialize the vision that still needs to be present in an increasingly dangerous world. The greatest threat to our future is ignorance of the past and the leap forward in technologies represented by American power projection. In the history of mankind, there have always been dictators and tyrants. Nations have coveted the lands and resources of other nations. The weak get chewed up and spit out by the strong. Projecting weakness to pacify your opponent only encourages them to build bigger weapons to ensure your complete subjection.

America has been great because it understands the changing nature of power and power projection. Having leaders willing to support that is and will be the link to a secure future.

God Bless America, and Thank you to the Men who sailed a great ship, USS Nevada BB 36



Mister Mac