PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Dec. 7, a funeral service was finally held at the USS Utah Memorial at Pearl Harbor for a baby girl, Nancy Lynne Wagner, who died at birth. Few know the secret USS Utah (AG 16) has held for 62 years.
Nancy's twin sister, Mary Kreigh, visited the memorial at the 60th anniversary in 2001. Mary Kreigh returned with her daughter Nina Kreigh for the funeral service. Friends and family were present, along with active-duty and Reserve Navy personnel.
Utah was sunk by a Japanese torpedo off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. Fifty-eight enlisted men and six officers perished aboard and all but four remain inside the hull.
Baby Nancy's father, Chief Yeoman Albert Wagner, was attached to Utah at the time of the attack. Wagner had planned to scatter Nancy's ashes at sea when Utah left Pearl Harbor, but he never had the chance. Chief Wagner survived the attack and remained in the Navy until 1952. He passed away in 1975 prior to interments aboard Utah and was buried at sea off San Diego. Baby Nancy's urn is still in her dad's locker aboard Utah.
Mary Kreigh is USS Utah Association's Public Relations Director. The Navy holds a special place in her heart.
"For sixty-two years, the courageous crew of USS Utah has watched over a tiny secret copper urn hidden in my father's watery locker," Mary Kreigh said after the funeral service. "Nina and I are so grateful that my little twin sister Nancy Lynne has finally received God's blessing in the presence of men and women of the United States Navy. Our tears are tears of joy, not sadness. One day I hope to join Nancy Lynne aboard our beloved ship."
Chief Journalist (SW) Tim Paynter said, "I think it is very fitting that we, as Sailors, paid our respects to baby Nancy and her father, Chief Wagner. It's sad that he couldn't be here with us today for her funeral service, which he had originally intended to hold 62 years ago."
The Utah Memorial rests on the western side of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Utah lies firmly within the borders of the naval base, rendering her less accessible to non-military personnel. Dedicated in 1972, active duty, Reservists and veterans pay their respects at the monument located at the site where the hull is still partially exposed.
Utah, a 21,825-ton Florida-class battleship, was built in Camden, N.J., and commissioned in August 1911. Her original hull number was BB 31. Following operations off the U.S. east coast, Europe, and a goodwill visit to South America, Utah was extensively modernized in 1925. In 1928, she carried President-elect Herbert Hoover on his return from a visit to South America. In 1931 Utah was converted to a radio-controlled target ship and redesignated AG 16, a role in which she would spend the rest of her active service.
Just prior to 8 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941, men aboard Utah saw three airplanes heading north from the harbor entrance. The planes dove low at the southern end of Ford Island where the seaplane hangars were located and began dropping their bombs. The attack went quickly for Utah. At 8:01 a.m., the venerable target ship took a torpedo hit forward and immediately listed to port. At 8:12 a.m., her mooring lines snapped and Utah rolled over. Through the heroic efforts of their shipmates, 10 men were rescued from the capsized hull. Sixty-four died aboard. Four were later recovered and interred ashore.
Pearl Harbor-attack survivors who served aboard Utah are entitled to have their cremains interred within the hull. Navy funeral honors are rendered on the memorial, and the urn is slowly lowered to divers in the water, who place it inside Utah.
Utah is the final resting place for 60 men along with their shipmates who choose to join them - and baby Nancy Lynne Wagner.
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