By Debra Adams Simmons, HISTORY Executive Editor
It was the U.S. battleship known to be “too tough to die.”
The USS Nevada saw duty in World War I, survived Pearl Harbor, helped in D-Day invasion, and observed atomic testing in the Pacific.
Then, for more than seven decades, its radioactive hull was lost to the deep. Now, after archival research and underwater survey of more than 100 square miles of seafloor, the remains of the Nevada have been located three miles below the Pacific's surface, 65 nautical miles southwest of Pearl Harbor.
The same outfit, Search Inc., that discovered the slave ship Clotilda in Mobile Bay, Alabama tracked down the Nevada, Nat Geo's Kristin Romey reports.
But wartime history is more than hardware lost at sea. At the end of this newsletter, Nat Geo’s Indira Lakshmanan and Eve Conant tell stories of two strong-willed women who escaped the Nazis and the Communists to find homes and lives in the United States—their mothers.
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A long journey to motherhood: We asked readers for their stories of resilience, from World War II to the modern day. We got this response—and photograph—from Dana Leigh: “I’ve dreamed of being a mom since I was a little girl. My desire to be a mother was rooted deeply within me and I dreamed of the day I could start a family. My road to motherhood tested me in ways I didn’t know it could. Twelve children were fostered in our home, and I learned to love and let go. Three of my babies I fought for via adoption, through endless paperwork, in court, and in front of committees. These two were fought for in doctors' offices and with more tests and injections than I can even begin to recall. Seven years ago today, these precious twins entered the world, changed our lives, and completed our family. The hard-fought battle for all of my babies was worth the journey to become what I am today—a mother of five beautiful children.”
Related: Having a home birth in the time of COVID-19.
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Today in a minute
Returning the favor: The country of Ireland has sent along a seven-figure donation to Navajo and Hopi families to help them get through the COVID-19 pandemic. KNAU reports the contribution drive came in gratitude for a donation by the Choctaw Nation to the Irish more than 170 years ago, when Ireland was starving in the 1845-1849 Great Potato Famine.
A Rosie the Riveter’s 100th: During WWII, Mary Fierros riveted the wings on B-29 bombers in Long Beach, California. Later in life, after “Tia Mary” rose from the factory floor to become an HR official at Levi Strauss, her character and stories became famous through the stand-up act of her great-niece, comedian Anjelah Johnson. When Fierros recently celebrated her big one-oh-oh, she sat on a chair in her front yard in San Jose, with a sparkly white mask on, watching a 15-minute procession of honking vehicles and of waving passengers. The socially distanced “paraders” included Police Chief Eddie Garcia and council member Magdalena Carrasco, the Mercury-News reports. (Thanks to reader Manuel Jimenez Jr. for the tip.)
Germany had to surrender twice: The first time came before the Allies in Reims, France on May 7, 1945. Furious, the Soviet Union demanded a second surrender ceremony in Berlin. That happened on May 9, Erin Blakemore reports for Nat Geo. Just before came the savage Battle of Berlin. Here's a look at that battle from Nat Geo’s History magazine.
Dining alone: For Muslims worldwide, the pandemic has disrupted the most communal of months, Ramadan. Instead of the historically traditional crowded nighttime prayers and a fast-breaking dinner with family and friends, Muslims like Chicago’s Tarik Haque, a Bangladeshi army veteran, are alone. On the upside, he’s able to talk via phone to the imam at his mosque and eat eggrolls and chapli kababs sent by friends, writes Tasmiha Khan for Nat Geo. Among those sharing food, a creative workaround to sustain the Ramadan spirit, is Chicago’s Saadia Shariff, a middle school teacher. She says she and her siblings are “dropping food off at their homes without contact. I leave the food in my trunk and someone will come out and grab it and put food they made in return."
The big takeaway
Superstar: As Beijing’s government carries out a massive persecution of its Muslim minority now, it’s worth noting that China’s greatest mariner was born into a Muslim family. Zheng He rose to command China’s navy in the early 1400s, and led expeditions to Vietnam, Java (above, a statue of Zheng Ha outside a Taoist temple there), Sumatra, Sri Lanka, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and Kenya. “With the nation’s current resurgence, it is no surprise that the figure of Zheng He stands once again at the center of China’s maritime ambitions,” writes Dolors Folch for Nat Geo’s History magazine.
Subscriber exclusive: The seven voyages of Zheng He
Overheard at Nat Geo
Seeing the war’s turning points: It’s hard to visualize how encompassing World War II was. Nat Geo’s Ryan Morris and Matthew Chwastyk have given it a try, trying to break down the conflicts into zones and giving us the highlights of the war that ended 75 years ago. Above, one look at key events that include the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the final months of the war—and the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Subscriber exclusive: Nine moments that defined World War II
Related: How WWI launched mapmaking at National Geographic
In a few words
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The last glimpse
Indomitable will: That’s how Nat Geo’s Indira Lakshmanan says her mom made it through World War II. Germans seized Teresa Romanowska's family home in Poland, sent Teresa's dad and brother to forced labor camps, and were shipping her and her mother to a Nazi extermination camp—when they jumped off the train and escaped. Teresa's will kept her going when her family (above) crumbled after the war—her dad, a skeleton from starvation, dying within a year; her mom breaking mentally; her brother, off to the United States. Indira writes that that after years under Communism, Teresa was able to join her brother in America, where she started a new life (below left, at Ohio State in 1961) and family (below right, in Pittsburgh in the 1970s).