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The USS Nevada: The ship that fought back

The one battleship that got underway from Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. The USS Nevada. 12/7/16 (Jeff Gillan | KSNV)

It's the morning of Dec. 7th, 1941, and 18-year-old Charles Sehe is a sailor on board the USS Nevada.

“All we could do is look around and see all these planes crisscrossing over our heads,” Sehe, now 95, told News 3 Friday from his home in Minnesota.

What Sehe saw was a surprise Japanese attack that came out of nowhere on an early and beautiful Hawaiian Sunday morning. There were 353 Japanese planes swooping down, with the red dot of the Rising Sun on their underbellies, some flying so close to his ship he could see the faces of the pilot and the bombardier.

“I just couldn't believe it. I must have had my mouth open. I just couldn't believe it,” Sehe says. During the attack, he was stationed high above on a searchlight platform on one of the ship’s masts.

A picture, taken from a Japanese plane, shows the attack. The Nevada would be the battleship farthest to the left at Pearl Harbor’s “Battleship Row,” and luckily, not berthed with another ship next to it. It was alone at the rear, which gave it room to maneuver.

“Because of the way the ships were positioned in Battleship Row, the USS Nevada was able to get started and actually fire,” says Nevada State Museum curator Crystal Van Dee.

The Nevada was the only battleship that got underway.

“We shot down four planes trying to get out of the harbor,” Sehe said.

A total of 2,403 Americans died that day, which brought America into a world war. The USS Nevada was damaged by both Japanese bomb and torpedo. Sixty of its sailors were killed and 109 others were wounded.

Our "greatest generation" is dwindling.

In Summerlin, veteran Joe Rosa celebrated his 103rd birthday at the local fitness club where he works out. He fought in the Pacific.

“It was tough, but we survived it,” Rosa says.

When war broke out, these old men were young men.

“A lot of these kids, 17 and 18 years old, were thrown right into the damn war, half-dressed and half-trained,” Sehe says.

However, they fought and won, in a fight that began 77 years ago today, with a battleship - our battleship - that refused to sink.

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