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USS Nevada bell back in state’s historic collection

A bell from one of World War II’s most famous ships — one that rang when the badly damaged USS Nevada escaped the Pearl Harbor attack and survived to clang during the invasions of Normandy and Iwo Jima — was returned to Nevada’s historic collection Wednesday.

The return came 61 years after Sen. Pat McCarran gave the bell to the Kiwanis Club of Las Vegas.

In a ceremony attended by three Pearl Harbor survivors, Gov. Brian Sandoval gratefully accepted the silver-plated, brass bell from the club’s president, Willard Wooten, who dinged it with his gavel one last time before sending it to retirement at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.

Sandoval promised to “guard that bell with my life” and make it available for all Nevadans to see. The USS Nevada’s master bell is already at the State Museum. Sandoval retrieved the ship’s wheel from storage for display at his office along with a watercolor painting of the ship undergoing repairs at the Puget Sound Navy Yard after it was torpedoed and bombed by Japanese warplanes during the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack.

“I’m just very proud that this Kiwanis Club is willing to share this original bell from the USS Nevada with all the people of the state,” he said after the club’s luncheon at Lawry’s restaurant. “It’s going to have a proud place in Carson City at the Nevada State Museum for all the kids to see.”

Kiwanis Club of Las Vegas officials decided to retire the bell to the state’s custody because it had served a long-standing tradition of being rung by the club’s presidents at meetings since McCarran presented it to the community organization during the club’s 25th anniversary year in 1950.

The bell was one of several from the historic ship and survived not only Pearl Harbor and other major sea battles but also the 1960 fire at the El Rancho Vegas, where the Kiwanis Club held its weekly Wednesday meetings, board member Owen Lloyd said.

Sandoval recognized three local Pearl Harbor survivors, who received a standing ovation from the Kiwanis members:

■ Petty Officer 1st Class Ike Schab, a musician from the admiral’s band who was on board a destroyer tender and loaded ammunition during the attack.

■ Army Air Corps Pvt. Ed Hall, who helped recover dead personnel and drove the wounded to hospitals.

■ Naval Air Corps Aerial Radioman 2nd Class Jack Leaming, a machine-gunner who responded to the attack with pilot Dale Hilton in a Douglas scout aircraft from the USS Enterprise. Three months later their dive bomber was shot down. They were captured by Japanese troops off Marcus Island and held in prisoner of war camps until they were liberated more than three years later.

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