USS UTAH  BB-31 / AG-16

The Forgotten Ship of Pearl Harbor

According to the terms of the London Naval Treaty of 1930, Utah was converted into a radio-controlled target ship, to replace the older North Dakota. On 1 July 1931, Utah was accordingly re-designated "AG-16". All of her primary and secondary weapons were removed, though her turrets were still mounted. The plane handling equipment was removed along with the torpedo blisters that were added in 1925. Work was completed by 1 April 1932, when she was recommissioned.

On 7 April, Utah left Norfolk for sea trials to train her engine room crew and to test the radio-control equipment. The ship could be controlled at varying rates of speed and changes of course: maneuvers that a ship would conduct in battle. Her electric motors, operated by signals from the controlling ship, opened and closed throttle valves, moved her steering gear, and regulated the supply of oil to her boilers. In addition, a Sperry gyro pilot kept the ship on course. She passed her radio control trials on 6 May, and on 1 June, the ship was operated for 3 hours under radio control. On 9 June, she again left Norfolk, bound for San Pedro, California, where she joined Training Squadron 1, Base Force, United States Fleet. Starting in late July, the ship began her first round of target duty, first for the cruisers of the Pacific Fleet, and then for the battleship Nevada. She continued in this role for the next nine years; she participated in Fleet Problem XVI in May 1935, during which she served as a transport for a contingent of Marines. In June,
the ship was modified to train anti-aircraft gunners in addition to her target ship duties. To perform this task, she was equipped with a new 1.1-inch (28 mm)/75 caliber anti-aircraft gun in a quadruple mount for experimental testing and development of the new type of weapon.

​Utah returned to the Atlantic to participate in Fleet Problem XX in January 1939, and at the end of the year, she trained with Submarine Squadron 6. She then returned to the Pacific, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 1 August 1940. There, she conducted anti-aircraft gunnery training until 14 December, when she departed for Long Beach, California, arriving on 21 December. There, she served as a bombing target for aircraft from the carriers Lexington, Saratoga, and Enterprise. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 1 April 1941, where she resumed anti-aircraft gunnery training. She cruised to Los Angeles on 20 May to carry a contingent of Marines from the Fleet Marine Force to Bremerton, Washington, after which she entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 31 May, where she was overhauled. She was equipped with new 5-inch (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns in single mounts to improve her ability to train anti-aircraft gunners. She left Puget Sound on 14 September, bound for Pearl Harbor, where she resumed her normal duties through the rest of the year.

USS Utah