USS West Virginia – Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

USS West Virginia, pre-WWII

Her wounds had been grievous that morning in 1941, when Japanese torpedo bombers  swept low over the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor and unleashed their deadly cargoes at the easy targets moored along Battleship Row.  The surface might of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was virtually helpless against the onslaught, and those ships moored outboard received the brunt of the devastating attack.

Oklahoma capsized and West Virginia took 7 torpedoes into her port side, gouging huge holes in her hull.  Two modified artillery shells, configured as

USS West Virginia (BB-48)

aerial bombs, struck aft.  The ship’s captain, Mervyn Bennion, was cut down by a steel fragment but remained in command, perishing with courage and later receiving a posthumous Medal of Honor.  Dorie Miller, a cook, manned a machine-gun and received the Navy Cross for heroism.

Alert counterflooding kept West Virginia from capsizing and the heavily damaged battleship settled to the bottom of Pearl Harbor upright and on an even keel.  A total of 106 West Virginia sailors were killed that fateful morning.

USS West Virgina @ Pearl Harbor. USCG boat in front saving sailors

At first glance, it appeared that the battleship might be a total loss.  However, salvage and recovery efforts were quickly begun.  West Virginia was refloated and pumped dry.  The bodies of sailors entombed on the ship for days were recovered.  The torpedo holes were patched, and the Colorado- class ship, first launched in November 1921, sailed for Puget Sound Navy Yard, in Bremerton, WA, for a substantial rebuild.

December 7th memories.

After 2 years of modernization,  USS West Virginia was ready for combat duty.  In October, she joined the shore bombardment group off of Leyte, P.I.  Here, her main 16-inch guns barked at the Japanese.  She gained another measure of revenge in the night Battle of Surigao Strait.  Along with the Mississippi, and other Pearl Harbor veterans Tennessee, Maryland, California and Pennsylvania they pounded an enemy surface squadron.

USS West Virginia, sinking at Pearl Harbor

West Virginia, affectionately known to her crew as, “Big Weevie”, later provided fire support for the amphibious landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, remaining to lend heavy artillery as the operations progressed.  She was struck by a Kamikaze plane off Okinawa that killed 4 sailors, but she remained on station until her mission was completed.

When the news of the Japanese surrender reached her crew, the USS West Virginia was ordered to sail for Tokyo Bay.  She arrived on 31 August, and her contingent of Marines went shore.

West Virginia was the largest ship of the U.S. Navy present at both Pearl Harbor and the  2 September surrender ceremonies.  The only other U.S. warship that were at both events was the light cruiser USS Detroit.

USS West Virginia, 1944

After lending 5 musicians from her band to play during the surrender proceedings, she only had one more task to complete: transporting 25,554 fighting men from Pearl Harbor to San Diego, CA, during Operation Magic Carpet, the mammoth undertaking to bring American personnel home from the Pacific.

West Virginia in Hawaii preparing for home, Oct. 1945

She was decommissioned in 1947, and put in the Pacific Reserve Fleet until 1959.  After a storied career spanning 4 decades, she was towed to New York harbor to be broken up for scrap.

The West Virginia’s bell sits in the state museum at Charleston, her wheel and binnacle are at the Hampton Roads Museum, her mast at West Virginia University and an antiaircraft gun in a park at Parkersburg.

WWII History Network.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – Navy Style – 

THE VIEW IS PRETTIEST FROM THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN.

WHY C.O.’S DON’T GET MUCH SLEEP!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frank Anthon – Cincinnati, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, Co. A/1/6/2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, KIA (Tarawa)

Warren G.H. DeVault – TN; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pvt., Co. F/2/12/4th Infantry Division, KIA (Hürtgen, GER

HONOR

Roland Fafard – Worchester, MA; US Navy, WWII, SeaBee

Bernie Lieder – Greenwood Township, MN; US Army, WWII, ETO  /  MN Representative

Douglas ‘Knute’ Nelson – Haynesville, LA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Marvin Pretzer – Bay City, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Donald Rusk – Clarks Hill, IN; US Army, Korea, Sgt.

Norma Schrader – Bridgeport, CT; US Army WAC, WWII

Donald Stouli – Robbinsdal, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-17 pilot, 303 Bomb Group  /  US Air Force, Korea

Julian C. Wills (100) – Flingsville, KY; US Army, WWII, MSgt.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 21, 2020, in Current News, Home Front, Post WWII, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 133 Comments.

  1. Excellent, thnx to share this lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is wonderful to learn that the West Virginia was able to complete the cycle and sail into Tokyo Bay. I had not realized that she was repaired and returned to service. Thanks for this great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminds me of a recent movie I watched – Greyhound by Tom Hanks. Have you caught that?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the amazing informative post… A piece of history filled with courage and pride.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The men who served on “Big Weevie” must have been so proud. She was some ship, for sure!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The USS West Virginia was a tough old girl

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Donald Stoulil passed away on September 1, 2020 at the age of 99 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. . .” –Legacy.com

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What an amazing history of the ship, being there when the war started and also afterwards

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I saw the comment about it sometimes taking longer to restore something than to start afresh, and that’s certainly true. There have been plenty of time when I’ve been faced with terrible brightwork on a boat, and have had to persuade the owner that it’s both quicker and cheaper to strip the wood and start from scratch. Not only that, the end result is significantly better.

    The thought of a ship going to scrap is sad, but not everything can be kept. And who knows where that metal went? That would be an interesting story in itself. I wonder if anyone’s ever traced the history of scrap from a ship?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It is unfortunate the West Virginia wasn’t kept as a memorial and a museum. Ending up as scrap just doesn’t seem right somehow.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That’s so interesting! I didn’t know any of the ships had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor., much less that they were able to be used again in future battles. How fitting that the West Virginia was used to bring home so many soldiers when the war was ended.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. What a great story of a ship that survived to take an active role right to the end of the war. Thanks, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. You bring the past to life in your posts gp, for old Soldiers the imagery must come life in memories, thanks for sharing your great comprehensive research, cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. An amazing tale of recovery and triumph.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Bringing the men home was surely the most memorable enterprise

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I did not know the post-Pearl Harbor USS West Virginia story. How perfect that we fixed her up and sent her back out to attack the Japanese. Sweet revenge. And then she went to Tokyo at the surrender, and continued her great service by transporting personnel back to the US. She did us proud! Thank you, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I had no idea that ships sunk at Pearl Harbour were raised and refitted! How appropriate to be there at the end.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. While I wish this heroic ship could have been saved, it is a bit comforting to know that parts of it have been kept in historic places to keep its memory alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thanks for your like of my post, “The Romans Road And Salvation;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I’ve always found it interesting how we personalize our vehicles and give them names, fondly remembering them. Looks like “Big Weevie” earned her name and reputation! –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Tragic and valiant piece of history – thank you, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. This is an exciting post, GP. I’m amazed they could refloat and repair the ship after sinking all the way to the bottom, and after such devastation. But then to have such an ignominious end… I wish they would have kept her as a floating museum.
    Thanks for this post. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Honorious men, indeed! What a time this was.Hope we will never again have such things in future. But the military industry is working very hard. 😉 Thank you GP! Enjoy your week, hopefully far away from hurricans, tornadoes or the,- i had wondered about the new word creation for Greece “medicans”. :-)) Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Excellent, GP. Captain, Mervyn Bennion knew his stuff. Bless him.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. What a wonderful career for a great ship!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I know you can’t keep everything but it’s very sad to see such a gallant, resilient and long lived ship being broken up for scrap. And if anything, the British are even worse. 7,377 Lancasters built and only two are left that can still fly!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Satisfying story, GP–and great comics.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. It would have been better to preserve the West Virginia as a museum for future generations to see. But perhaps it was too big to serve that purpose.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. The Veterans Museum in Beckley, West Virginia has an exhibit on the ship and pays a great tribute. A small scale replica can be seen through a window from the outside.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Zoveel matrozen dood bij die aanval. Zo spijtig zoveel verlies bij de manschappen. Fijn dat ze de boot toch nog gerepareerd hebben en nadien bij ontmanteling toch nog zoveel onderdelen hebben bijgehouden die te bekijken zijn op zoveel verschillende plekken

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ik ben zo blij dat je interesse hebt behouden in de banen waarvoor deze schepen en hun bemanningen werden opgeroepen. Net als de grondtroepen hadden ze een missie gekregen en uitgevoerd. Ik hoop dat jongere generaties naar die relikwieën zullen kijken en zich realiseren met welke worstelingen ze te maken hebben gehad.

      Like

  31. A great ship named for a great state. Thanks for the informative post, as usual.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. The courage of these men is really something. And the fact that she played an instrumental part in Japan’s defeat is heartening. I wish after everything she hadn’t been scrapped although it’s nice to hear that pieces of her were saved.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Interesting post, GP. On a tangential note, I have a friend who has a strong interest in Battleship silver. She has traveled around the US to visit different states and photograph their silver. West Virginia was the only state not to provide any ceremonial silver for its battleship. I can not say I’m surprised, having driven on some of the state’s secondary roads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid I can’t answer that. I haven’t a clue why there would be no battleship silver for her.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My unsubstantiated guess is that the state could not afford to buy the silver. It is also possible that since WV is not near the ocean or the gulf, it did not feel the need to sponsor a battleship that could never visit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You have a couple of good points there.

          Liked by 1 person

          • What I have found interesting when I did some research about the submarine USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) is from Wikipedia. it’s quite dated so I’m not sure if it’s still true.

            West Virginia’s Blue and Gold crew members regularly return to the state of West Virginia to participate in parades, community service projects, and initiatives. West Virginia’s commissioning crew established a relationship with the West Virginia Children’s Home (WVCH) in 1990. WVCH Director Carson Markley, who attended the ship’s commissioning, appreciates the special bond between the ship and the WVCH.[9]

            The children at the West Virginia Children’s Home have generally been neglected, abused and feel that no one cares for them. The crew of USS West Virginia almost immediately, upon arriving at the home, began to show concern and a real understanding for not just a few, but all the kids they come into contact with,

            Liked by 1 person

  34. Never considered the repair and return to duty of damaged ships. Or the logistics of moving so many troops home from war. Just an excellent thought provoking essay. Thank you. All my best to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. That was a ship with heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. The crew must have had great pride in the efforts of their ship in the last half of the war. What a wonderful story, GP. True Mountaineer spirit!

    Liked by 3 people

  37. Having been born in West Virginia, this ship caught my eye, GP. If I ever make it back to Charleston, I’ll certainly check it out. Thanks for the education!

    Liked by 4 people

  38. That’s amazing a ship can be brought back from that. It must have ben with great pride for her to sail into Tokyo harbor.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Am I correct in understanding there was a kamikaze plane that was a kind of successful in its mission? (As in the kamikaze plane actually caused damage?) if so that’s amazing in its self, your article is great by the way, I just got caught up in another perspective 😀. Im really curious about kamikaze missions, it’s a really strange phenomenon to me 🤷🏽

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Thank you very much for sharing this history!!

    Like

  41. Thank you, Francis.

    Like

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