BATTLESHIP USS WEST VIRGINIA BB-48
COMMEMORATIVE SHIP HISTORY BOOK 1920-1959
The story of the famous World War II battleship that returned from its Pearl Harbor devastation to force the "Rising Sun" to set. Includes a complete history of the USS West Virginia, special stories written by naval veterans, biographies and photographs of USS West Virgina sailors, Association roster along with hundreds of photographs. Endsheets feature the songs "Hail West Virginia" and "Ship's Log." Complete with an index.
Launched in 1922 as the most recent of the "super-dreadnoughts," the USS West Virginia embodied the latest knowledge of naval architecture of the time, and the water- tight compartmentation of her hull and her armor protection.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, West Virginia lay moored outboard of Tennessee (BB-43) at berth F-6 with 40 feet of water beneath her keel. Shortly before 0800, Japanese planes, flying from a six-carrier task force, commenced their well-planned attack on the Fleet at Pearl Harbor. West Virginia took seven 18-inch aircraft torpedoes in her port side and two bomb hits those bombs being 15-inch armor-piercing shells fitted with fins. The first bomb penetrated the superstructure deck, wrecking the port casemates and causing that deck to collapse to the level of the galley deck below. Four casemates and the galley caught fire immediately, with the subsequent detonation of the ready-service projectiles stowed in the casemates.
The second bomb hit further aft, wrecking one Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane atop the "high" catapult on Turret III and pitching the second one on her top on the main deck below. The projectile penetrated the 4-inch turret roof, wrecking one gun in the turret itself. Although the bomb proved a dud, burning gasoline from the damaged aircraft caused some damage.
The torpedoes ripped into the ship's port side, causing massive damage. The West Virginia was abandoned, settling to the harbor bottom on an even keel, her fires fought from on board by a party that volunteered to return to the ship after the first abandonment. By the afternoon of the following day, December 8, the flames had been extinguished.
The ship's commanding officer, Capt. Mervyn S. Bennion, was struck down by a bomb fragment hurled in his direction when a bomb hit the center gun in Tennessee's Turret II, spraying that ship's superstructure and West Virginia's with fragments. Bennion, hit in the abdomen, crumpled to the deck, mortally wounded, but clung tenaciously to life until just before the ship was abandoned, involved in the conduct of the ship's defense up to the last moment of his life. For his conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, Capt. Bennion was awarded a Medal of Honor, posthumously.
She was refloated in May 1942 and after two years of repairs and reconstruction, the West Virginia rejoined the war effort. Emerging from the extensive modernization, the battleship that had risen, Phoenix-like, from the destruction at Pearl Harbor looked totally different from the way she had appeared prior to December 7, 1941. A streamlined superstructure now gave the ship a totally new silhouette; dual-purpose 5-inch/38-caliber guns, in gunhouses, gave the ship a potent antiaircraft battery. In addition, 40-millimeter Bofors and 20-millimeter Oerlikon batteries studded the decks, giving the ship a heavy "punch" for dealing with close-in enemy planes.
The battleship first struck at the enemy during the campaign for the Philippines in October 1944. West Virginia unleashed her 16-inch main battery; she fired 16 salvoes in the direction of Nishimura's ships as Oldendorf crossed the Japanese "T" and thus achieved the tactical mastery of a situation that almost every surface admiral dreams of. At 0413, the "Wee Vee" ceased fire; the Japanese remnants proceeded in disorder down the strait from whence they had come. Several burning Japanese ships littered the strait; West Virginia had contributed to Yamashiro's demise, thus averaging h...