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Years after Pearl Harbor, Annapolis holds reminder of USS Maryland

The bell from the U.S.S. Maryland, which was severely damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is displayed on the lawn of State House.
The bell from the U.S.S. Maryland, which was severely damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is displayed on the lawn of State House.(Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The bell on the south lawn of the State House in Annapolis recalls the men who served aboard "Fighting Mary" — also known as "Big Mary" and "Mighty Mary." Its crew called the ship by those names; civilians knew the 32,600-ton battleship as the USS Maryland.

Seventy-three years ago Sunday, the bell and the Maryland were a considerable distance from Annapolis — 4,855 miles, to be exact, moored on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the Japanese attack that pushed the United States into World War II.

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The Maryland was protected that day by its position in the harbor. The ship was next to the USS Oklahoma, which took heavy torpedo damage and sank, with a loss of 429 lives. The USS California, to the forward of the Maryland, and the USS West Virginia, to the stern, also sustained serious damage.

"The other battleships around her shielded the Maryland from a direct torpedo hit. ... Two [USS Maryland] crewmen and two officers died in the attack, killed by the explosions from two Japanese bombs," according to a 1991 Sun article recounting events 50 years before. In the article, Navy veteran Clyde Oney, who had served aboard the Maryland, recalled smoke and fire, and the shouted warning of the master at arms as the Japanese planes attacked.

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A week later, the Maryland, damaged hull repaired, was the first battleship to leave Pearl Harbor. Commissioned in 1921, the ship survived other attacks during the war and suffered a reported 53 crew casualties before being decommissioned in 1947.

"The battle-scarred veteran has been under as heavy ... bombardment as any warship of the fleet. Her 16-inch guns, the first ever mounted on a United States battleship, plastered the enemy at Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Peleliu, Leyte and Okinawa," reported The Evening Sun.

The Maryland was sold for scrap in 1959.

The bell, however, found a new home in 1961, when it was formally installed as the centerpiece of a memorial on the State House grounds.

"This simple shrine for the bell is the design of architect Ian MacCallum," The Sun wrote in 1961. MacCallum was quoted as saying the bell "symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the USS Maryland. For this reason, the design shows the bell statically suspended in space for all time, over earth and sea."

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