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Remembering the USS Helena on the anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Dec 07, 2022

HELENA — December 7 marks the anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 81 years ago this Wednesday and propelled the United States into WWII.

“It's well worth people's time to remember that this has happened. You know, we've only had two or three events like this,” says Museum Director for the Montana Military Museum, Raymond Read.

The surprise attack by Japan on United States military forces at the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii propelled the United States into WWII.

We use this day to remember those lost that day in 1941. Those losses reached every part of the United States, including Montana. 2,043 service members and civilians were killed that day. 15 of those people were from Montana.

The USS Helena Cruiser Light (CL50) was also there that day, along with 100 commissioned warships and service auxiliary ships.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked. Three minutes into the battle the USS Helena’s hull was torn open by a torpedo. But that didn’t stop the crew on board from firing back. Despite the damage, the USS Helena downed 6 of the 29 Japanese aircraft shot down that day. Thirty-one crewmen on the USS Helena were killed on that day.

After undergoing repairs, the USS Helena joined the Pacific theater until the Battle of Kula Gulf where it was sunk by enemy torpedoes. 168 crewmen died that day.

Four Navy ships have carried the name USS Helena, with the most recent being a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, which is still in service. Today, such places as the Montana Military Museum and Anchor Park in Helena commemorate the USS Helena.

Read believes it’s important for us to remember the events of Pearl Harbor.

“Just so we do not allow that to happen again, I think that's the bottom line,” says Read.