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Pearl Harbor Minesweeper Ship Bell arrives at NSWC PCD

By Susan H. Lawson | NSWC PCD | March 13, 2019


The bell from the USS Tern, a lapwing-class minesweeper, that rescued 47 men and fought fires on the USS West Virginia and USS Arizona for two days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor will soon be on display in the lobby of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD).


“This bell is an important artifact that represents an important day in Navy history,” said Capt. Aaron Peters, NSWC PCD commanding officer. “It is a connection with history and is a reminder of the bravery of those who were there that day.”


Ships bells have a long tradition of varied use to include signaling, keeping time, and sounding alarms. Their functional and ceremonial uses have made them a symbol of considerable significance to the United States Navy.


The USS Tern (AM-31) was in the first repair slip at the north end of 1010 Dock when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Fleet Sailors were notified at 7:53 a.m. of an attack and began to make preparations immediately to get underway. The USS Tern’s gunners opened fire with Lewis machine guns on an incoming enemy plane 12 minutes later, which was seen crashing near the Officers' Club.


There was no damage to the USS Tern from the Japanese attack and the ship went on to receive one battle star from World War II. It was decommissioned Nov. 23, 1944, and was struck from the Naval Vessel register on Dec. 5, 1945 according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.  


The USS Tern’s 92-pound bell, considered to be in good condition and structurally sound, will be on display in the lobby of the NSWC PCD headquarters building once renovations are completed. In addition to the bell, a compass from the USS Exultant and a wheel from the USS Excel will also be on display.