The Battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), was commissioned in 1916 as the second ship named after the state and quickly became the flagship of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. With a displacement of 32,600 tons, a length of 608 feet, a beam of 106 feet, and a speed of 21 knots, she was one of the first oil burning battleships of the navy.
The Pennsylvania participated in bombardments and amphibious operations at Attu, Kiska, Makin Island, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Anguar, Leyte, Wake Island, Lingayen and Okinawa. The Pennsylvania was the only U.S. battleship to take part in every amphibious operation in the Pacific Ocean areas and the two largest operations in the southwest Pacific area during World War II. Just three days before Japan's surrender, she was hit by a torpedo at Okinawa, which ultimately brought an end to her operational service. She was one of the four battleships awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for action in World War II.
Penn State received the ship's bell on permanent loan from the Department of the Navy in 1955 and placed it on display in the Hetzel Union Building (HUB) courtyard. In 1959, with the opening of Wagner Building, home of the University's ROTC programs, the bell was moved here to it's current location.
bell is used to indicate the time and hence to regulate the sailors' duty watches. Unlike civil clock bells, the strikes of a ship's bell do not accord to the number of the hour. Instead, there are eight bells, one for each half-hour of a four-hour watch.
Additionally, ship's bells are rung as "boat gongs" for officers and dignitaries coming aboard or leaving the ship. Lastly, when a sailor has died or he or she can be honoured with the sounding of eight bells; meaning "end of the watch."
On December 7, 1941, at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Pennsylvania was in drydock for maintenance. Although the Pennsylvania and the surrounding dock areas were severely strafed, repeated attempts by Japanese bombers to torpedo the drydock caisson were unsuccessful and the Pennsylvania avoided any damage to her hull.
In the weeks following the attack she sailed to San Francisco to complete repairs, she was made war-ready and returned to action within 3 months, allowing her to become one of the most combat proven vessels in U.S. Naval history.