SALT LAKE CITY — The first and only U.S. Navy vessel named after the state of Utah — until now — rests in the waters of Pearl Harbor, where it was crippled by Japanese torpedoes and quickly sank.
Through the efforts of Utah veterans and others, a U.S. Navy vessel will carry the name of the state of Utah for the second time. The USS Utah SSN 801, a Virginia-class attack submarine, will receive formal recognition of the start of its construction on Sept. 1 with a keel-laying ceremony.
Joe Costello, a Navy veteran and board member of the USS Utah commissioning committee, said that he'd always been told there would never be another USS Utah or another USS Arizona.
"Since day one — and I joined the Navy in '82 — I was told there would never be another USS Arizona and there never be another USS Utah because they sank at Pearl Harbor and the loss of life and the memorials there," Costello said. "I'm looking forward to the day where the USS Utah submarine will park right next to the USS Utah battleship training ship."
Its predecessor was known by some of its surviving crew members as the "forgotten ship." Navy Reserve Capt. Cannon Neslen said the construction and addition of USS Utah to the submarine force serves as a tribute to the ship and its crew.
"A submarine named after the state of Utah is just a really incredible achievement for the state of Utah when you think about the history of the legacy USS Utah from Pearl Harbor," Neslen said.
He continued, "It is really sobering to think that the USS Utah was one of those vessels that was lost in attacks on Pearl Harbor. And so when you think of the new USS Utah being a submarine, that is a tribute and in memorial of all those sailors who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor on the USS Utah."
Following the keel-laying ceremony, the USS Utah will be christened in the late summer of 2022 and will officially be inducted into the U.S. Navy fleet in 2023.
The USS Utah and its eventual crew will carry out special operation forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The submarine will also "support carrier battle group missions and engage in naval mine warfare," according to the sub's website.
When you think of the new USS Utah being a submarine, that is a tribute and in memorial of all those sailors who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor on the USS Utah.
–Navy Reserve Capt. Cannon Neslen
Crew members will on occasion visit Utah and meet with its leaders. During those visits, businesses and communities across Utah are able to sponsor or donate to the crew. But Neslen said residents can also receive the crew warmly to show their support.
"I think residents of the state of Utah can definitely show a warm welcome as far as recognizing those sailors and officers for their service to our U.S. Navy on the USS Utah," he said.
Utah resident and Navy veteran Cristian Pack agreed. Pack remembered his service on the USS Ohio and recalled how much Ohio's support meant to the crew. He said the crew often wore baseball hats sent by Ohio's baseball teams and would read letters sent by school children.
"It was really neat to be able to see what the state did for us," Pack said.