Valor Friday

| December 11, 2020

This week marked the 79th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Imperial Japanese Navy. During the surprise attack, ostensibly during a time of peace between Japan and the US, saw much bravery on the side of the defenders. After the battle, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, three Distinguished Service Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, and three Bronze Star Medals were awarded. Among the many, many acts of heroism displayed that day was Joseph Taussig Jr, a young naval officer aboard USS Nevada.

Joseph was born into a naval family. When he was an infant his grandfather, Rear Admiral Edward Taussig died. Edward had spent 46 years on active duty, spanning from the Civil War through the Spanish-American War. He was recalled to active duty nearly a decade after retiring for World War I.

Joseph’s father, Joseph Taussig Sr, was a navy captain when the junior Taussig was born in Newport, Rhode Island. The elder Taussig had served in the Spanish-American War and every conflict that followed until he was forcibly retired due to age in 1941 after more than 40 years of service. He’d be recalled for service in World War II as a vice admiral.

Joseph Jr, like his father and grandfather before him, attended the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. Graduating 7 February, 1941, his first fleet assignment was USS Nevada (BB-36). Nevada was part of the Pacific Fleet based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The morning of 7 December, 1941 saw all of the Pacific Fleet’s battleships in port, where they were considered “safe”. This was the first time since 4 July that year that they had all been in one place. Normally, the eight battleships took turns out on patrol. That morning though, all were moored together in port at Battleship Row.

Nevada was on the northern end of Battleship Row. With no ship alongside her, she was immediately aft of USS Arizona (BB-39), and at the tail of the ships on the Row.

Taussig was the officer of the deck (OOD) as the sun came up on that Sunday morning, placing him in command of the ship. Nevada’s commanding officer, Francis Scanland, was ashore.

In port, most systems on the ships are shut down, including most of the boilers. In what would be a fortuitous decision, Taussig had ordered a second boiler to be fired. He planned to switch from the previously running boiler to the newly lit one about 0800 hours.

Just minutes before that would happen though, as “Morning Colors” was being played by the ship’s band, 353 Japanese fighters and bombers started the first of two attacks on Pearl. The enemy specifically was targeting Battleship row.

Sounding the alarm and calling the ship to battlestations, Nevada’s anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the attacking aircraft. Below decks, the engineers started to raise steam to get the massive war machine moving. Relieved as officer in command by more senior officers, Ensign Taussig took his post as senior officer in the starboard anti-aircraft battery.

Just ten minutes into the battle, Nevada would be hit by an 18 inch torpedo 14 feet above the keel. The bulkhead held, but the ship began to flood on the port side. Damage control was able to correct the 5 degree list by counter-flooding.

Seconds after the torpedo struck the ship, the anti-aircraft guns took down the Japanese Kate bomber that had launched the lucky strike.

Thirty minutes after the torpedo struck and less than an hour after the attack began, USS Nevada would move under her own power, and get off Battleship Row. She was the only battleship to do so during the battle. She did so while her nearest neighbor, USS Arizona, was hit in her forward magazine, immediately going down with nearly 1,200 men.

As Nevada moved to exit the port, the Japanese took her under heavy fire. Hoping to sink USS Nevada and block the harbor (though the harbor’s channel is too deep and wide to effectively block with a single downed ship, even one as large as a Nevada-class battleship). She was struck by five bombs of the second wave of the attack just before 1000 hours.

Ensign Taussig was leading his gun crews through the battle. As the bombs exploded at five separate locations around the ship, Taussig was critically wounded. Hit by an enemy round to his leg, he found his foot in his armpit. “That’s a hell of a place for a foot to be,” He said to himself.

The handsome young officer, only months out of Annapolis, refused to evacuate his post. He remained, despite the grievous injury to his left leg. He manned his post, and directed his crews, until he was forcefully removed.

Gasoline and the wood deck of the mighty battleship were aflame from the beating she’d taken. Taussig couldn’t be evacuated from his post through any of the ladderways, all of them being blocked by fire. They had to tie him onto a stretcher and drop him by rope.

USS Nevada beached after the attack

As Taussig finally received medical care, the state of the ship was rapidly deteriorating. It was obvious the ship was going down, and she was ordered to make for shallower water. Moving off to the side of the harbor’s channel, Nevada was grounded at 1030 hours. Less than three hours after the attack commenced.

For Taussig’s heroism under fire, refusal to leave his post though injured, and because he was materially helpful in getting USS Nevada underway during the battle, he received the Navy Cross, the second highest award for valor in combat.

In the aftermath of the battle, the full extent of Taussig’s injuries became apparent. He spent years in and out of the hospital, ultimately having his leg amputated in 1946. Three days after the surgery he was back at work.

Due to his injuries requiring frequent medical care, Taussig spent the remainder of the Second World War as a rehabilitation officer at military hospitals and as student-instructor at the Naval War College.

USS Nevada would be repaired and returned to the fleet less than a year after the devastating attack and would see combat in both the Atlantic and Pacific. She would provide fire support for amphibious landings at Attu, Normandy, the south of France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. After the war, the 30 year old warhorse was part of the fleet of obsolete and surplus ships used as the target fleet for the nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Island. Nevada was the intended target for the first test, named Able. Surviving the air burst, which was larger than the Hiroshima bomb by about 50%, the ship was later sunk for gunnery practice.

Taussig remained in the Navy until 1954, when he retired as a captain at the age of 34, the youngest in the Navy. He married Betty Bostwick Carney, daughter of future Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Robert Bostwick Carney. Taussig’s sister had married George Philip Jr, a Navy officer. Philip was commanding USS Twiggs when he went down with his ship in action 16 June, 1945. Philip, like Taussig, had received the Navy Cross during the war.

Taussig worked for various government agencies working in public relations for the next two and a half decades. He ran for Congress in 1956 but lost. In 1981, President Reagan appointed Taussig to be the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary of equal opportunity. He later became the assistant undersecretary for safety, a new position. He styled himself the “safety czar”.

In 1987 Taussig helped develop the Navy helicopter unit’s emergency air supply system called an “emergency egress device.” Navy officials claim the device has saved 140 aviators. He finally left government service in 1993 and retired to his home in Annapolis.

Taussig died of an embolism in December 1999, a week after the 58th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor where he’d displayed such gallantry. He was survived by his wife (who passed in 2015), his son Joseph III, five grandchildren, and three great-granchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Susan Graves.

Category: Historical, Navy, Navy Cross, Valor, We Remember

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Hand Salute. Ready, Two!

Thanks again, Mason.


Wow. Just wow.


Not only “…that such men lived…” but also; “…that such ships were built and manned by such men!” Molly Brown didn’t have anything on USS Nevada.

BZ to Ensign (Captain Ret) Taussig, USS Nevada, and the Sailors that served Her so gallantly.

Since there are no Nevada Class Battle Wagons left, maybe we should un mothball an Iowa Class to fire a proper Gun Salute for those Heroes. Just saying. Somebody grab that picture from the FGS and post it right here….HARDCORE!

Found this little video digging around on the inherwebz:


Mason, Once again, THANK YOU so much for sharing another story of VALOR. Found some interesting tidbits: Mason wrote: “He married Betty Bostwick Carney…” Joe and Betty were married in Washington, DC on 2 December 1943. Mrs. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was the Matron of Honor at their wedding:——-en–20–1–txt-txIN——–1 Yes, THAT Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Mrs. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was Emily Munroe McNair, an actress who was Zimbalist’s first wife. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in 1950. Emily’s Father was RADM Laurance North McNair, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1905. Additionally, Betty Bostwick Carney’s Brother was Gen Robert Bostwick Carney Jr. who was the former Commander of Marine Barracks in Washington, D. C. from 1964-1968. “Robert Carney entered Marine Corps Service in 1941 and was commissioned in April 1942. Robert Bostwick Carney Jr., 63, a retired Marine Corps brigadier general who was a veteran of World War II and Vietnam, died of arteriosclerosis March 9 at his home in Arlington. Gen. Carney received his Marine commission in 1942. During World War II, he served in the Pacific, where he took part in the fight for Bougainville. He commanded a company of the Fourth Marine Division on Iwo Jima, where he led an assault on Mount Suribachi. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions at Iwo Jima. After the war, he held several assignments in Japan, Taiwan and this country. In the late 1950s, he was a special assistant to the Marine Corps commandant.… Read more »


Yeah, Ex covered it pretty well, Wow, Just Wow. Rest in peace, Captain.