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USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45

USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45



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USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45

USS West Virginia (BB-48) was the most seriously damaged of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbor to return to combat duties, taking part in the last year of the war in the Pacific. Here we see her after her return to service, either late in 1944 or during 1945.


U.S.S. WEST VIRGINA

The Navy brought USS West Virginia into service when they commissioned her in December of 1923. For the next couple of decades, the ship worked during various operations to develop and maintain naval combat readiness. In 1925, she was part of the fleet that sailed to New Zealand and Australia to reinforce the role of the United States in that part of the world. In 1940, the Navy sent USS West Virginia to Pearl Harbor as part of a larger deterrent force.

On December 7, 1941, USS West Virginia was in port at Pearl Harbor at the time that the Japanese struck. Several bombs and torpedoes struck her port side. This caused her to sink to the bottom, taking over 100 crewmen with her. Over the next couple of years, the Navy brought the ship back up and sent her for repairs. In July 1944, USS West Virginia emerged from dry dock. In October of that year, she was part of the pre-invasion bombing of Leyte. She also participated in the Battle of Surigao Strait. She later helped with the invasions of Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. She survived a kamikaze hit in April 1945 at Okinawa. After the war, she became part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. The Navy sold her for scrap in August 1959.


USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45 - History

Tons
110 x 115 x 55
4 x 40mm

Ship History
Built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia. Laid down April 12, 1920. Launched November 17, 1921 sponsored by Miss Alice Wright Mann. Commissioned December 1, 1923 with Captain Thomas J. Senn in command.

After a brief period of work at the New York Navy Yard, the ship made the passage to Hampton Roads, although experiencing trouble with her steering gear while en route and grounded. After repairs, West Virginia became flagship for the Commander, Battleship Divisions, Battle Fleet, on October 30, 1924 and participated in fleet exercises and was modernized. During 1941, West Virginia was based at Pearl Harbor and underwent intensive training.

Pearl Harbor
On December 7 1941, West Virginia was moored at berth F-6 in Pearl Harbor with 40' of water beneath her keel outboard from USS Tennessee BB-43. During the first wave of the Japanese surprise attack against Pearl Harbor and Oahu, shortly before 8:00am, West Virginia sustained five torpedo hits on her port side plus two bomb hits by 15" armor-piercing shells fitted with fins.

The torpedoes impacted the port side. Immediate action by Lieutenant Claude V. Ricketts, the assistant fire control officer who had some knowledge of damage control techniques, saved the ship from capsizing.

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 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 four inch (102 mm) turret roof, wrecking one gun in the turret itself. Although the bomb was a dud, burning gasoline from the damaged aircraft caused some damage.

Instances of heroic conduct on board the heavily damaged battleship proliferated in the heat of battle. The ship's commanding officer, Captain Mervyn S. Bennion, arrived on his bridge early in the battle, only to be struck down by a bomb fragment hurled in his direction when a 15 inch (381 mm) 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, Captain Bennion earned a Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously. Afro-American, Dorie Miller, a cook, helped carry Captain Bennion to a safer place and then manned an antiaircraft gun, despite having no previous experience, and shot down at least one airplane, for which he was awarded a Navy Cross. Sailors in a motor launch rescue a survivor from the water alongside the sunken West Virginia (BB-48) during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.

Shipwreck
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, 8 December, the flames had been extinguished. The garbage lighter YG-17 played an important role in assisting those efforts during the Pearl Harbor attack, remaining in position alongside despite the danger posed by exploding ammunition on board the battleship.

Later examination revealed that West Virginia had taken not five, but six, torpedo hits. With a patch over the damaged area of her hull, the battleship was pumped out and ultimately refloated on 17 May 1942. Docked in Drydock Number One on 9 June, West Virginia again came under scrutiny, and it was discovered that there had been not six, but nine torpedo hits.

Salvage and Repair
During the ensuing repairs, workers located 70 bodies of West Virginia sailors who had been trapped below when the ship sank. In one compartment, a calendar was found, the last scratch-off date being 23 December. The task confronting the nucleus crew and shipyard workers was a monumental one, so great was the damage on the battleship's port side. Ultimately, however, West Virginia departed Pearl Harbor for the west coast and a complete rebuilding at the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton.

Emerging from the extensive modernization, the battleship that had risen from the destruction at Pearl Harbor looked totally different from the way she had appeared prior to 7 December 1941. Gone were the "cage" masts that supported the three-tier fire-control tops, as well as the two funnels, the open-mount 5 in (127 mm) / 25 caliber guns and the casemates with the single-purpose 5" / 51 caliber guns. A streamlined superstructure now gave the ship a totally new silhouette dual-purpose 5" / 38 caliber guns, in gunhouses, gave the ship a potent antiaircraft battery. In addition, 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikon batteries for anti-aircraft defense.

West Virginia remained at Puget Sound until early July 1944. Loading ammunition on 2 July, the battleship got underway soon thereafter to conduct her sea trials out of Port Townsend, Washington. She ran a full power trial on 6 July, continuing her working-up until 12 July. Subsequently returning to Puget Sound for last-minute repairs, the battleship headed for San Pedro, California, and her post-modernization shakedown.

Finally ready to rejoin the Fleet from which she had been away for two years, West Virginia sailed for the Hawaii on 14 September. Escorted by two destroyers, she made landfall on Oahu on 23 September and the departed for Manus, in company with the fleet carrier Hancock (CV-19), West Virginia, as a unit of Battleship Division (BatDiv) 4, reached Seeadler Harbor on 5 October. The next day, she again became a flagship when Rear Admiral Theodore Ruddock shifted his flag from Maryland (BB-46) to the "Wee Vee" as Commander, BatDiv 4.

Battle of Leyte Gulf
Underway on 12 October to participate in the invasion of the Philippine Islands, West Virginia sailed as part of Task Group (TG) 77.2, under the overall command of Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf. On 18 October, the battle line passed into Leyte Gulf, West Virginia steaming astern of California (BB-44).

At 16:45, California cut loose a naval mine with her paravanes West Virginia successfully dodged the horned menace, it being destroyed a few moments later by gunfire from one of the destroyers in the screen. On 19 October, West Virginia steamed into her assigned station in San Pedro Bay at 07:00 to stand by off shore and provide shore bombardment against targets in the Tacloban area of Leyte. Retiring to sea that evening, the battleship and her consorts returned the next morning to lay down heavy gunfire on Japanese installations in the vicinity of the town of Tacloban.

On the 19th, West Virginia's gunners sent 278 16 inch (406 mm) and 1,586 five inch (127 mm) shells against Japanese installations, silencing enemy artillery and supporting the UDT (underwater demolition teams) preparing the beaches for the assault that came on 20 October. On the latter day, enemy planes made many appearances over the landing area. West Virginia took those within range under fire but did not down any.

On 21 October, as she was proceeding to her fire support area to render further gunfire support for the troops still pouring ashore, West Virginia touched bottom, slightly damaging three of her four screws. The vibrations caused by the damaged blades limited sustained speeds to 16 knots&mdash18 in emergencies.

For the next two days, West Virginia, with her augmented antiaircraft batteries, remained off the beachhead during the daylight hours, retiring to seaward at night, providing antiaircraft covering fire for the unfolding invasion operations. Meanwhile, the Japanese, seeing that American operations against Leyte were on a large scale, decided to strike back. Accordingly, the enemy, willing to accept the heavy risks involved, set out in four widely separated forces to destroy the American invasion fleet.

Four carriers and two "hybrid" battleship-carriers (Ise and Hyūga) sailed toward the Philippine Sea from Japanese home waters a small surface force under Admiral Kiyohide Shima headed for the Sulu Sea two striking forces consisting of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers sortied from Lingga before separating north of Borneo. The larger of those two groups, commanded by Admiral Takeo Kurita, passed north of the island of Palawan to transit the Sibuyan Sea.

American submarines Darter (SS-227) and Dace (SS-247) drew first blood in what would become known as the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 29 October when they sank, respectively, two of Kurita's cruisers, Maya and Atago. Undeterred, Kurita continued the transit, his force built around the giant battleship Musashi.

The smaller of the two forces, under Admiral Shoji Nishimura, turned south of Palawan and transited the Sulu Sea to pass between the islands of Mindanao and Leyte. Shima's forces obediently followed Nishimura's, heading for Leyte Gulf as the southern jaw of a pincer designed to hit the assemblage of amphibious ships and transports unloading off the Leyte beachhead.

Detailed to deal with the force heading in his direction, Admiral Oldendorf accordingly deployed his sizable force&mdashsix battleships, eight cruisers, and 28 destroyers&mdashacross the northern end of Surigao Strait.

At 22:36 on 24 October 1944, the American PT boats deployed in the strait and its approaches made radar contact with Nishimura's force, conducting a harassing attack that annoyed, but did not stop, the oncoming enemy. Well into the strait by 03:00 on 25 October, Nishimura took up battle formation when five American destroyers launched a well-planned torpedo attack. Caught in the spread of torpedoes, the battleship Fus? took hits and dropped out of the formation other spreads of "fish" dispatched a pair of Japanese destroyers and crippled a third.

Fus?'s sistership Yamashiro, meanwhile, had taken one hit and was slowed down, only to be hit again within 15 minutes' time. Fus? herself, apparently ravaged by fires ignited by the torpedo hits, blew up with a tremendous explosion at 03:38.

West Virginia meanwhile, was leading the battle line of USS Maryland, USS Mississippi, USS Tennessee BB-43, USS California, USS Pennsylvania four of these ships, like West Virginia, veterans of Pearl Harbor. From 00:21 on 25 October, the battleship had picked up reports on the PT boat and destroyer attacks finally at 03:16, West Virginia's radar picked up Nishimura's force at a range of 42,000 yards (38 km) and had achieved a firing solution at 30,000 yards (33 km). She tracked them as they approached in the pitch black night.

At 03:52, West Virginia unleashed her eight 16 inch (406 mm) guns of the main battery at a range of 22,800 yards (25 km), striking the leading Japanese battleship with her first salvo. Of the first six salvos West Virginia fired, five had struck the target and in all she fired 16 salvoes in the direction of Nishimura's ships as Oldendorf crossed the T of the Japanese fleet and thus achieved the tactical mastery of a situation that almost every surface admiral dreams of. At 04:13, 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 avenging her own crippling in the Pearl Harbor attack.
USS Artisan (ABSD-1), a floating drydock, holds the West Virginia so that repairs could be made.
USS Artisan (ABSD-1), a floating drydock, holds the West Virginia so that repairs could be made.

West Virginia had thus taken part in the last naval engagement fought by line-of-battle ships and, on 29 October, departed the Philippines for Ulithi, in company with Tennessee and Maryland. Subsequently heading for Espiritu Santo, in the New Hebrides, after Admiral Ruddock had shifted his flag back from West Virginia to Maryland, the former underwent a period of upkeep in the floating drydock ABSD-1, for her damaged screws.

Philippines Operations
The "Wee Vee" returned to the Philippines, via Manus, on 26 November, resuming her patrols in Leyte Gulf and serving as part of the antiaircraft screen for the transports and amphibious ships. At 11:39 on 27 November, West Virginia's antiaircraft guns splashed a kamikaze and assisted in downing others while on duty the next day.

Rear Admiral Ruddock shifted back on board on 30 November, West Virginia maintaining her operations off Leyte until 2 December, when the battleship headed for the Palau Islands. The battlewagon was then made the flagship for the newly formed TG 77.12 and proceeded toward the Sulu Sea to cover the landings made by the Southwest Pacific Force on the island of Mindoro. Entering Leyte Gulf late on the evening of 12 December, West Virginia transited the Surigao Strait on 13 December and steamed into the Sulu Sea with a carrier force to provide cover for the transports in TG 78.3.

She subsequently covered the retirement of the transports on 16 December, later fueling in Leyte Gulf before she returned to Kossol Roads, Palaus, at mid-day on 19 December. There, West Virginia spent the Christmas of 1944.

There was more work to be done, however, for the battleship, as the "return" to the Philippines continued apace. On New Year's Day, Rear Admiral Ingram C. Sowell relieved Rear Admiral Ruddock as Commander, BatDiv 4, and the ship got underway for Leyte Gulf as part of TG 77.2.

Entering the gulf during the pre-dawn hours of 3 January, West Virginia proceeded into the Sulu Sea. Japanese air opposition, intensifying since the early part of the Philippine campaign, was becoming more deadly. West Virginia's men observed a Yokosuka P1Y Frances crashed in USS Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) at 17:12 on 4 January. Fires and explosions ultimately forced the abandonment of the "jeep carrier", her survivors being picked up by other ships in the screen. Burns (DD-588) dispatched the blazing CVE with torpedoes.

Taking on board survivors from Ommaney Bay from the destroyer Twiggs (DD-591), West Virginia entered the South China Sea on the morning of the following day, 5 January 1945, defending the carriers during the day from Japanese air attacks. Subsequently, the battleship moved close inshore with the carriers outside to carry out a bombardment mission on San Fernando Point. West Virginia hammered Japanese installations ashore with her 16 inch (406 mm) rifles.

Kamikazes, however, kept up their attacks in the face of heavy antiaircraft barrages and combat air patrol (CAP) fighters. Losses among Allied shipping continued to mount kamikazes claimed damage to HMAS Australia and the battleships California and New Mexico (BB-40) on the 5th. West Virginia participated in putting up volumes of antiaircraft fire during those attacks, emerging unscathed herself.

West Virginia, took on board another group of survivors: the crew of the high-speed minesweeper Hovey (DMS-11) which had been sunk by a Japanese torpedo on 6 January. Before she could transfer the escort carrier's and minesweeper's sailors elsewhere, though, she had to carry out her assigned tasks first. Accordingly, West Virginia's 16 inch (406 mm) rifles again hammered Japanese positions ashore at San Fabian on 8 January and 9 January, as troops went ashore on the latter day. It was not until the night of 9 January that the battleship finally transferred her passengers off the ship.

After providing call fire support all day on 10 January, West Virginia patrolled off Lingayen Gulf for the next week before proceeding to an anchorage where she replenished her ammunition. During her shore bombardment tours off San Fabian, West Virginia had proved herself most helpful, covering UDT operations, destroying mortar positions, entrenchments, gun emplacements, and leveling the town of San Fabian. In addition, "Wee Vee" destroyed ammunition dumps, railway and road junctions, and machine gun positions and warehouses. During that time, the ship expended 395 16 inch (406 mm) shells and over 2,800 5 in (127 mm) projectiles. Underway again at 07:07 on 21 January, West Virginia commenced call-fire support duties at 08:15, operating in readiness for cooperation with the United States Army units ashore in the vicinity of the towns of Rosario and Santo Tomas. After a few more days of standing ready to provide call-fire support when needed, West Virginia anchored in Lingayen Gulf on 1 February.

Subsequently, as part of TG 77.2, West Virginia protected the shipping arriving at the Lingayen beachheads and stood ready to provide call-fire for the Army when needed. She later departed Lingayen Gulf, her duty completed there, on 10 February, bound for Leyte Gulf. Before her departure, she received 79 bags of United States mail, the first she had received since the day before Christmas.

After touching first at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, West Virginia arrived at Ulithi on 16 February, reporting for duty with the 5th Fleet upon arrival. Ordered to prepare in all haste for another operation, the battleship provisioned and refueled with the highest priority. The ship completed loading some 300 tons of stores by 04:00 on 17 February. At 07:30 on the 17th, West Virginia got underway, bound for Iwo Jima in company with the destroyers Izard (DD-589) and McCall (DD-400). As she headed off to Iwo Jima to join TF 51, West Virginia received a Bravo Zulu "well-done" from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz for the manner in which she had readied herself for her new duty after being released from the Seventh Fleet such a short time before.

Iwo Jima
West Virginia sighted Iwo Jima at a range of 82 miles (132 km) at 09:07 on 19 February. As she drew nearer, she saw several ships bombarding the isle from all sides and the initial landings of the Battle of Iwo Jima taking place. At 11:25, she received her operations orders, via dispatch boat and, 20 minutes later, proceeded to her fire support station off the volcanic sand beaches. At 12:45, her big guns bellowed to lend support to the marines ashore. Gun positions, revetments, blockhouses, tanks, vehicles, caves and supply dumps came under her heavy guns. On 21 February, the ship returned and, at 08:00, commenced her support duties afresh.

Her 16 inch (406 mm) shells sealed caves, destroyed antiaircraft gun positions and blockhouses one salvo struck an ammunition or fuel dump, explosions occurring for about two hours thereafter. On 22 February, a small-caliber shell hit the battleship near turret II, wounding one enlisted man. That same day, another significant event occurred ashore&mdashthe United States Marine Corps took Mount Suribachi, the prominent landmark on one end of Iwo Jima. From their position offshore, West Virginia's sailors could see the flag flying from the top.

For the remainder of February, West Virginia continued her daily fire-support missions for the marines ashore. Again, Japanese positions felt the heavy blows of the battleship's 16 inch (406 mm) shells. She hit troop concentrations and trucks, blockhouses, trenches, and houses. During the course of that time spent off the beaches on 27 February, she spotted a Japanese shore battery firing upon Bryant (DD-665). West Virginia closed the range and, when about 600 yards (550 m) from shore, opened fire with her secondary 5 in (127 mm) battery, silencing the enemy guns.

Replenishing her depleted ammunition stocks early on 28 February, West Virginia was back on the line again that afternoon, firing continuous night harassing and interdiction rounds, silencing enemy batteries with air bursts from her secondary batteries. For the first three days of March, West Virginia continued her fire-support missions, primarily off the northeastern shore of Iwo Jima. Finally, on 4 March, the ship set sail for the Caroline Islands, reaching Ulithi on 6 March.

Okinawa
Joining TF 64 for the invasion of Okinawa, West Virginia sailed on 21 March, reaching her objective four days later on 25 March. In fire support section one, West Virginia spent the ensuing days softening up Okinawa for the American landings slated to commence on 1 April. At 10:29 on 26 March, lookouts reported a gun flash from shore, followed by a splash in the water some 6,000 yards (5.5 km) off the port bow. Firing her first salvoes of the operation, West Virginia let fly 28 rounds of 16 inch (406 mm) gunfire against the pugnacious Japanese batteries.

The following day, the "Wee Vee" fought against enemy air opposition, taking a "Frances" under fire at 05:20. The twin-engined bomber crashed off the battleship's port quarter, the victim of West Virginia's anti-aircraft guns. Over the days that followed, enemy opposition continued in the form of suicide attacks by Japanese planes. Naval mines, too, began making themselves felt one sank the minesweeper Skylark (AM-68), 3,000 yards (2.7 km) off West Virginia's port bow at 09:30 on 28 March.

After taking on ammunition at Kerama Retto, the island seized to provide an advance base for the armada massing against Okinawa, West Virginia sailed for Okinawa to give direct gunfire support to the landings. Scheduled to fire at 06:30, the battleship headed for her assigned zone off the Okinawa beaches. While en route, though, at 04:55, she had to back down all engines when an unidentified destroyer stood across her bow, thus avoiding a collision.

As she prepared to commence her bombardment, West Virginia spotted a Japanese plane off her port quarter her antiaircraft batteries tracked the target and opened fire, downing the enemy aircraft 200 yards (180 m) away. Four more enemy planes passed within her vicinity soon thereafter, and West Virginia claimed one of them.

Finally, at 06:30, West Virginia opened fire as landing craft dotted the sea as far as the eye could reach, all heading for the shores of Okinawa. West Virginia's sailors, some 900 yards (820 m) off the beaches, could see the craft heading shoreward like hundreds of tadpoles at 08:42, lookouts reported seeing some of the first troops going ashore. The battle for Okinawa was underway.

West Virginia continued her bombardment duties throughout the day, on the alert to provide counter-battery fire in support of the troops as they advanced rapidly inland. There appeared to be little resistance on 1 April, and West Virginia lay to offshore, awaiting further orders. At 19:03, however, an enemy plane brought the war down on West Virginia.

The battleship picked up three enemy planes on her radar and tracked them as they approached flak peppered the skies but still they came. One crossed over the port side and then looped over and crash-dived into West Virginia, smashing into a superstructure deck just forward of secondary battery director number two. Four men were killed by the blast, and seven were wounded in a nearby 20 millimeter gun gallery. The bomb carried by the plane broke loose from its shackle and penetrated to the second deck. Fortunately, it did not explode and was rendered harmless by the battleship's bomb disposal officer. Although her galley and laundry looked hard-hit, West Virginia reported her damage as repairable by ship's force and carried on, rendering night illumination fire to the marines ashore.

West Virginia buried her dead at sea in the wake of the kamikaze attack of 1 April and resumed her gun-fire support duties soon thereafter. In the course of her tour off shore in early April, she shot down an Aichi D3A "Val" on 6 April.

In early April, the Japanese attempted to strike at the invasion fleet in a last gasp offensive formed around the super-battleship Yamato. On the night of 7 April and 8 April, West Virginia steamed north and south in the waters west of Okinawa ready to intercept and engage the Japanese surface force headed her way. The next morning, Commander, TF 68, reported that most of the ships in that enemy force had been sunk including Yamato, whose last sortie had been made with enough fuel to get her to Okinawa but not to return, Thus, the Japanese Navy's largest kamikaze perished many miles short of her objective.

For West Virginia, however, her duties went on, providing illumination and counterbattery fire with both main and secondary batteries and giving her antiaircraft gunners a good workout due to the heavy presence of many suiciders. Her TBS crackled with reports of ships under attack and damaged. Zellars (DD-777), Tennessee, USS Salt Lake City (CA-25), Stanly (DD-478), and others, were victims of kamikaze attacks.

Her shore bombardments elicited nothing but praise from those enjoying the benefits of the ship's firing one spotter reported on April 14, 1945: "You're shooting perfectly, you could shoot no better, no change, no change," and, "Your shooting is strictly marvelous. I cannot express just how good it is." She delivered sterling support fire for the 6th Marine Division upon that occasion later, she continued in that fine tradition for the 10th Army and the XXIVth Army Corps.

West Virginia continued fire support for the Army until 20 April, at which point she headed for Ulithi, only to turn back to Okinawa, hurriedly recalled because Colorado (BB-45) suffered damage when a powder charge exploded while she was loading powder at Kerama Retto. Returning to Hagushi beach, West Virginia fired night harassment and interdiction fire for the Tenth Army and the XXIVth Army Corps. Ultimately, West Virginia sailed for Ulithi, in company with San Francisco (CA-38) and Hobson (DD-464), reaching her destination, this time without a recall, on 28 April.

Returning to Okinawa after a brief sojourn at Ulithi, West Virginia remained in support of the Army and the Marines on the embattled island into the end of June. On 1 June, she sent her spotting plane aloft to locate a troublesome enemy blockhouse reportedly holding up an Army advance. A couple of rounds hurled in the enemy's direction produced no results she had to settle for obliterating some of the enemy's motor transport and troop concentrations during the day instead. The next day, 2 June, while in support of the Army's XXIVth Corps, West Virginia scored four direct hits and seven near-misses on the blockhouse that had been hit the day before.

West Virginia then operated off the southeast coast of Okinawa, breaking up Japanese troop concentrations and destroying enemy caves. She also disrupted Japanese road traffic by scoring a direct hit on a road intersection and blasted a staging area. On 16 June, she was firing an assignment for the 1st MarDiv off southwestern Okinawa when her spotting plane, a Vought OS2U Kingfisher, took hits from Japanese antiaircraft fire and headed down in flames, her pilot and observer bailing out over enemy-held territory. Within a short time, aided by Putnam (DD-757) and an LCI, West Virginia closed and blasted enemy guns in an attempt to rescue her plane crew who had "dug in for the day" to await the arrival of the rescuers. The attempt to recover her aircrew, however, was not successful. Loaned a Kingfisher from Tennessee, West Virginia kept up her gunfire support activities for the balance of June.

Shifting to San Pedro Bay, Leyte, at the end of June, the battleship reached her destination on 1 July, escorted by Connolly (DE-306). There, on the morning of 5 July, she received her first draft of replacements since Pearl Harbor in 1944. After loading ammunition, West Virginia commenced training in the Philippine area, an activity she carried out through the end of July.

Post War
3 August for Okinawa, West Virginia reached Buckner Bay on 6 August, the same day that "Little Boy", the first atomic bomb, was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Three days later, "Fat Man", a second bomb, obliterated the greater part of the city of Nagasaki. Those two events hastened Japan's collapse. On 10 August, at 21:15, West Virginia picked up a garbled report on radio that the Japanese government had agreed to surrender under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, provided that they could keep the Emperor of Japan as their ruler. The American ships in Buckner Bay soon commenced celebrating the indiscriminate use of antiaircraft fire and pyrotechnics (not only from the naval vessels in the bay but from Marines and soldiers ashore) endangered friendly planes. Such celebrations, however, proved premature. At 20:04 on 12 August, West Virginia sailors felt a heavy underwater explosion soon thereafter, at 20:58, the battleship intercepted a radio dispatch from Pennsylvania reporting that she had been torpedoed. West Virginia sent over a whaleboat at 00:23 on 13 August with pumps for the damaged Pennsylvania.

The war ended on 15 August 1945. West Virginia drilled her landing force in preparation for the upcoming occupation of the erstwhile enemy's homeland and sailed for Tokyo Bay on 24 August as part of TG 35.90. She reached Tokyo Bay on the last day of August and was thus present at the time of the formal surrender on 2 September 1945. For that occasion, five musicians from West Virginia's band were transferred temporarily to USS Missouri to play at the ceremonies. West Virginia (BB-48) earned five battle stars for her World War II service.

Postwar
During September 1945, West Virginia remained in Tokyo Bay. On 14 September, she received on board 270 passengers for transportation to the west coast of the United States. She got underway at midnight on 20 September bound for Okinawa as part of TG 30.4. Shifting to Buckner Bay on 23 September, the battleship sailed for Pearl Harbor soon thereafter, reaching her destination on 4 October.

There, the crew painted ship and kept on board only those passengers slated for transportation to San Diego, California. Bound for that port on 9 October, West Virginia moored at the Navy Pier at San Diego at 13:28 on 22 October. Two days later, Rear Admiral I. C. Sowell hauled down his flag as Commander, BatDiv 4.

On Navy Day, 25,554 visitors (more the next day) came on board the ship. Three days later, on 30 October, she got underway for Hawaiian waters to take her place as part of Operation Magic Carpet returning veteran soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen home to the states. After one run between San Diego and Pearl Harbor, West Virginia made another, the second time embarking Rear Admiral William W. Smith, who broke his flag in the battleship for the return voyage to San Francisco, California.

After making yet another run between the West Coast and Hawaii, West Virginia reached San Pedro, California, on 17 December. There, she spent Christmas debarking her third draft of passengers. The veteran battlewagon upped-anchor on 4 January 1946 and sailed for Bremerton. She reached her destination on 12 January and commenced inactivation soon thereafter, shifting to Seattle, Washington, on 16 January, where she moored alongside sistership Colorado.

During late February 1946, West Virginia was decommissioned and on January 9, 1947 placed in reserve as part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Officially, struck from the Naval Registry on March 1, 1959.

Scrapping
On August 24, 1959 sold for scrap to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corp. of New York, New York.

Display
Several parts of the ship were saved from scrapping: the main mast and ship's bell. On May 11, 1963 the mast was presented to West Virginia University and is displayed on the campus as a memorial. The ship's bell was donated to the West Virginia State Museum.

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The ship, which was the length of two football fields and stood eight stories high, was launched on November 19, 1921, sponsored by Alice Wright Mann, daughter of West Virginia millionaire Isaac T. Mann. The mood of the occasion was darkened by the possibility that the ship would not be completed due to the proposed reduction of naval forces worldwide in the post-war era.


West Virginia Governor Ephraim
Morgan and Alice Wright Mann


Launching of the
USS West Virginia

Although another battleship was destroyed following the international arms limitation agreement reached at the 1921-22 Washington Conference, the USS West Virginia was commissioned on December 1, 1923. It was the last American battleship constructed prior to World War II.


USS West Virginia, 1923
Photo courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding


Captain Wat T. Cluverius,
USS West Virginia, 1926-28


Entering the Panama Canal, 1927


Crossing under the
Brooklyn Bridge, 1927


Sailor John Stewart aboard the West Virginia, 1927


Airplanes on the USS West Virginia, 1927


On the way to Hawaii, 1928


Firing her guns en route
to Hawaii, 1928


USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45 - History


The fourth and final ship of the Colorado Class Battleship , USS West Virginia (BB-48) was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding on April 12, 1920. Construction moved forward and on November 19, 1921, it slid down the ways with Alice W. Mann, daughter of West Virginia coal magnate Isaac T. Mann, serving as sponsor. After another two years of work, West Virginia was completed and entered commission on December 1, 1923, with Captain Thomas J. Senn in command.

: Displacement 32,600 Tons, Dimensions, 624' (oa) x 97' 4" x 31' 4" (Max). Armament 8 x 16"/45 14 x 5"/51, 4 x 3"/50AA 2 x 21" tt.Armor, 13 1/2" Belt, 18" Turrets, 3 1/2" + 1 1/2" Decks, 16" Conning Tower. Machinery, 28,900 SHP Turbines with Electric Drive, 4 screws. Speed, 21 Knots, Crew 1080. Operational and Building Data: Laid down by Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, VA, April 12, 1920.
Launched November 19, 1921. Commissioned December 1, 1923. Decommissioned January 9, 1947. Stricken March 1, 1959. Fate: Sold August 2, 1959 and broken up for scrap.

USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Pearl Harbor:

On the morning of December 7, 1941, West Virginia was moored along Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row, outboard of USS Tennessee (BB-43), when the Japanese attacked and pulled the United States into World War II. In a vulnerable position with its port side exposed, West Virginia sustained seven torpedo hits (six exploded) from Japanese aircraft. Only rapid counter-flooding by the battleship's crew prevented it from capsizing. The damage from the torpedoes was exacerbated by two armor-piercing bomb hits as well as a massive oil fire started following the explosion of USS Arizona(BB-39) which was moored aft. Severely damaged, West Virginia sank upright with little more than its superstructure above the water. In the course of that attack, the battleship's commander, Captain Mervyn S. Bennion, was mortally wounded. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his defense of the ship.

USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Rebirth:

In the weeks after the attack, efforts to salvage West Virginia commenced. After patching the massive holes in the hull, the battleship was refloated on May 17, 1942 and later moved to Drydock Number One. As work commenced 66 bodies were found trapped in the hull. Three located in a storeroom appear to have survived until at least December 23.

After extensive repairs to the hull, West Virginia departed for Puget Sound Navy Yard on May 7, 1943. Arriving, it underwent a modernization program that dramatically altered the battleship's appearance. This saw the construction of a new superstructure which included trunking the two funnels into one, a greatly enhanced anti-aircraft armament, and elimination of the old cage masts. In addition, the hull was widened to 114 feet which precluded it from passing through the Panama Canal. When complete, West Virginia looked more similar to the modernized Tennessee-class battleships than those from its own Colorado-class.

Rebuilt view 1944.


USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45 - History

Shortly thereafter, CTG 77.2 message, enclosure (B), giving his battle plan, was received. The crew was mustered and informed of the situation and all preparations were made for a night surface engagement. The ship's planes were launched and directed to secure at the landing beach. The battle line of six ships was formed about 1800 and at 1948 started patrolling east and west across the northern part of Surigao Strait. The crew was sent to general quarters at 1940 and then put in readiness condition one easy.

UNITS PARTICIPATING:
Left Flank Center Right Flank
Louisville
Portland
Minneapolis
Denver
Columbia
6 DD
Cony
Aulick
Claxton
Sigourney
Welles
Thorn
CA Shropshire *
2 CL
Phoenix
Boise
9 DD - Desron 56
Newcomb
Beurnoir
Leutze
Edwards
R.R. Leary
Robinson
Grant
Bryant
Helford
6 BB
West Virginia
Maryland
Mississippi
Tennessee
California
Pennsylvania
DesDiv. 47
Bache
Beale
Hutchins
Daly
Killen
Arrunta *
[* HMAS]

At 2000, our position was Latitude 10° 33' 30" N, Longitude 125° 14' 45" E, course east. From then on until after the battle we pursued generally easterly and westerly courses, each course change being made as a ship turn maneuver. This kept our broadside trained in the direction of Southern Surigao Straits.

CHRONOLOGICAL ACCOUNT OF ACTION (All times Zone Minus 9 (Item))

24 October 1944.
1708 - Underway upon signal in San Pedro Bay.
1745 - Catapulted planes in order to clear turrets arc of fire, and sent them to secure on beach.
1830 - (about) BB's formed column. Proceeding to position in Leyte Gulf.
1948 - Went to General Quarters and set readiness condition one easy.
2329 - Received message to set condition one easy.
25 October 1944.
0001 - On course 090 in battle disposition, this vessel leading the battle line.
0026 - Received report from MTB 127 that 3 enemy DD's 2 large ships were ten miles off the southeast tip of Bobol heading north. That position is 200° 89 miles from us. Search radars were focused on southern part of straits with negative results.
0041 - Received contact report ten miles 310° from Camiguin Island which is 85 miles away.
0108 - Flares or starshells were reported by MTB 53 18 miles SW of Panoan Island.
0130 - Saw three starshells to NW of us, perhaps over land and fired in connection with troops operation. Wished they would stop as light might silhouette us.
0144 - DesRon 54 reported contact 10 miles SW of Panoan Island.
0152 - Ships right to 270° True.
0204 - MTB 134 reported contact abeam PANOAN Island.
0205 - Received report enemy large ships under attack by our PT boats -- results undetermined. Saw a light over horizon to southwest.
0206 - Saw starshells to southeast far distant
0208 - Gunfire sighted bearing 180° True.
0209 - Same.
0210 - PT boats report target they are attacking is trying to drive them off with gunfire.
0232 - Went to General Quarters upon signal.
0239 - Starshells to N.W. Probably same as 0130 note.
0241 - Surface contact reported 184° True 18 miles.
0246 - DD reported surface contacts 4 in column 184° distance 15 miles.
0301 - DD's report they had fired torpedoes at enemy.
0303 - Saw gunfire to south.
0304 - Enemy appeared on scopes of SG-1 RPPI -- 20 mile scale. The pip was visible at extreme edges of the tube on bearing 164° range 44,000 yards. Several groups of friendly pips appeared on the scopes as our DD's closed to attack from east and west. Two DD's patrolling to north of Dinagat and our cruisers a few thousand yards southwest were showing on the scopes. However, in the dark, and from CIC reports only it was difficult for the Captain to be certain just where our forces were.
0305 - Changed course to 090 by turn movement.
0307 - Destroyers report two large and one small enemy. Enemy is straddling them.
0310 - Main battery plot reported Spot 2's Mark 8 radar had the target. (It never lost it until after cease firing).
0311 - Saw gunfire to south.
0313 - Surface contacts 2 large 2 small were in strait heading north speed 20.
0314 - DD reported 5 targets 2 may be hit slowing down and dropping behind some.
0315 - CIC reported two groups about 39,000 yards, one of 3 small pips, the other of a large and medium pip preceded by several smaller pips.
0322 - DD report enemy 2 BB 2 cruisers and 1 DD.
0330 - CIC reports 1 group 174° 36,00 other group a little closer by about 4000 yards.
0331 - Notified all stations of fighting light code.
0332 - Received orders from Commander Battle Line to commence firing at 26,000 yards.
0332 - DD's report they have attacked.
0333 - 4000 yards to go. Gunnery officer reports range 30,000 and has solution with a large target.
0345 - Saw explosion in target area. Talked with gunnery officer to be sure our target was not among our own DD's. Fire control stated he had been on target for some time. CIC stated our DD's were clear.
0349 - Starshells in target area. Can't tell if our DD or enemy is firing them. Our range 24,000. Am hesitating to fire until certain target is enemy. ComBatDiv 4 directed open fire.
0351 - Our cruisers on our right flank opened fire. Our gunnery officer says he has had same big target for a long time and it is enemy. Commanding Officer ordered commence firing.
0352 - Notified Commander Battle Line we were opening fire.
0352-10 - First salvo 8 guns range 22,800 yards AP projectiles.
0353 - Could hear gunnery officer chuckle and announce hit first salvo. Watched the second salvo through glasses and saw explosions when it landed. [Note: target later identified as Yamashiro.]
0354 - Salvos very regular about 40 seconds interval. Other BB's opened after our second or third salvo.
0356 - See explosions in target.
0358 - Gunnery officer reports target is stopped and pip is getting small.
0402 - BB turn 15 on signal. Ordered cease fire. Have to think about small amount of ammunition on board. (110 AP left). CIC reports targets turned left and reversed course.
0405 - CIC reports target speed 0.
0411 - Pip reported to "bloom" and then fade.
0412 - Target disappeared. Can see ships burning -- one is a big fire.

Performance of own Ordnance Material and Equipment.

(a) (2) Fire was opened with full radar control, with after radar, director 2, rangekeeper 2, and Stable Vertical 2 controlling. All spotting was by radar. Turrets were in full automatic. Rapid salvo fire was used after the second salvo. Computed ballistic plus arbitrary of UP 100 and UP 100 cold gun correction was used. After the 1st salvo the cold gun correction was removed. Opening gun range was 22,400 yards. Average gun range was 20,880 yards.

Radar Spot Spot Applied
Salvo Time Shots Range Def. Range Def.
1 0352:10 8 NC NC
2 0352:45 8 NC NC D100 NC
3 0353:37 8 D200 NC NC NC
4 0354:26 8 NC NC D200 NC
5 0355:11 8 NC NC NC NC
6 0355:49 7 NC NC NC NC
7 0356:32 5 NC NC NC NC
8 0357:19 6 U100 NC NC NC
9 0358:12 7 NC NC U100 R03
10 0358:53 7 U50 NC NC NC
11 0359:42 7 U100 NC NC L2
12 0400:24 7 NC NC U100 NC
13 0401:05 3 NC NC NC R03
14 0401:25 2 D100 NC NC NC
C.F. 0402:10
15 0410:32 1 U100 NC D200 NC
16 1 U100 NC

There were no errors in deflection observed on the MK 8 screen. Because of the known possible error in bearing of the MK 8 Mod 2 radar the 7th, 9th, 11, and 13th salvos were "rocked" in deflection. Range patterns were noted to average about 300 yards. Average salvo interval for the first 13 salvos was 41 seconds.

(a) (3) Previous instruction from Commander Battle Line were that H.C. projectiles were to be used against cruisers, carriers, or any unarmored vessel A.P. projectiles against battleships and armored vessels.

To be prepared for either type of firing, two H.C. projectiles were arranged on each side of shell table in the gun chamber, with the space between the cradle and ramming tray left empty. Also the shell hoists were empty. A.P. and H.C. projectiles were arranged on each shell deck so as to permit loading of either type. Orders to load the shell hoist and shell tables were not given until it was definitely established that heavy ships were included in the enemy force. This was not known in time for the turrets to rearrange projectiles on the shell deck, therefore, all turrets experienced difficulties in projectile supply after the 12th salvo. Due to the angle of train of the turret and the H.C. projectiles on the shell deck, the A.P. projectiles in the pockets were inaccessible.

(a) (4) As in previous firings, ventilation of the lower handling rooms and magazines again proved entirely inadequate. The ship had been in Condition I Easy from 1940 the previous evening and ventilation was maintained up until the time for breaking out powder. With the men lying down and resting as much as possible they were exhausted due to the extreme heat and lack of air and would not have been able to continue the ammunition supply without reliefs many more minutes. When the ammunition train is filled and all ventilation is shut off the situation is greatly aggravated. A more adequate ventilation system is essential. An additional supply blower in the wing pockets, venting to the lower rooms seems feasible. This plan was suggested by the USS Maryland's letter to ComInch BB46/S38-1/S72 (of 90) (0147) of 18 July 1944. Also additional supply ducts to the magazines are required.

(b) A total of 89 A.P. and 4 H.C. projectiles were fired, all with service charges. Due to shell hoist casualties in turrets 1 and 3 and the lack of supply in turret 4, the Gun Captains loaded H.C. projectiles, which were available on the table, when there were no A.P. available. Turret 3 fired one H.C. on the 6th salvo. Turret 1 fired one H.C. on each of the 9th and 10th salvos. Turret 4 fired one H.C. on the 15th salvo. Turret 2 was slow on loading after the 12th salvo and missed the 13th salvo. Turret 4 had two projectiles rammed at cease firing and was ordered to continue the load. The left gun misfired on the 15th salvo necessitating a 16th salvo.

(b) (1) Fire Control Radar. The range and bearing of the enemy was given to the after MK 8 Mod 2 radar at 44,000 yards. This radar picked up enemy and started tracking at 41,000 yards. As at this time, the forward MK 8 was out of tune due to variable voltage. It was adjusted and was back in operation at 27,000 yards and could have been used. As the pip was large and clear and rangekeeper solution was good on the after MK 8, a shift to the forward radar was not made. Both worked satisfactorily and were not affected by the shock of gunfire. In fact neither has ever gone out to gunfire.

(b) (2) The Mk 27 Mod 0 radar installed in turret 3 as experimental installation performed well. Neither the antenna or set was affected by gunfire. Using precision, targets were tracked in with antennas set in deflection, as indicated by Plot on the deflection indicator. Targets were picked up at 36,000 yards. Splashes were spotted at the firing range with no difficulty, splashes being one fourth the size of the target pips. Considerable interference was experienced at times on the scope but no indications of jamming. Pips of DD's faded at 20,000 yards. Projectiles which crossed the antenna beam appeared on the scope.

(b) (3) The Mk 2 radars on the sky directors were able to pick up the enemy at 31,000 yards and track but were not used for control of fire in this action.

(b) (4) Search radars consisted of 2 SG-1's and one SK. The antenna of all search radars were kept rotating continuously plotting (both Short Range Summary and DRT) being done from R.P.P.I.'s. The forward SAG-1 was set on the 75,000 yard scale for long range search, and the after SG-1 on the 15,000 yard scale for short range search.

(b) (5) Three R.P.P.I.'s in C.I.C. were set on the following scales on the sets indicated:

(c) (1) There were no air operations, either own or enemy, observed during this action. Our planes were sent ashore the preceding evening.

(d) (1) Tactics. The enemy had been fighting through day air attacks and night destroyers and MTB attacks but kept doggedly on. He appeared to be in two groups in column, 3,000 to 4,000 yards apart zig zaging. heavy ships appeared to be in each group. Speed was about seventeen knots, course north. Searchlights were used briefly several times and firing was rapid and brief. Apparently the enemy had no information of the fleet interposed in his path. our f was spread nearly across the straits in a crescent shaped disposition crossing the T. The plan was to open fire on the battle line at about 20,000 yards, and the battle line commander ordered opening fire at 26,000. When 26,000 yards was passed without being sure of the target, the CO felt no compunction about delaying, as such action agreed with the plan. In fact, with our preponderous of force, even if the enemy opened fire first the range would soon be enough to assure blowing him out of the water quickly. Also we were short of ammunition and wanted every shot to count.

(e) No attempt was made to use smoke camouflage or deception as none was considered necessary.

(f) (a) C.I.C. went to general quarters at 1940 on the night of 24 October. All search gear had been tuned and calibrated and was in optimum operation condition. BK was not on. No difficulty with land echoes despite the proximity of land, on the scopes of the SK was experienced. it is felt that the SK-2 did away successfully with such echoes. Procedures for search radars was as follows: (1) Radar I: "A" Scope 75 miles "PPI" 220 miles continuous sweep. BL energized but not keyed. no air contacts were made immediately prior to or during actions.

(b) Radar II (SG-1-1): Continuous sweep on 75,000 yard scale.

(c) Radar III (SG-1-2): Continuous sweep on 15,000 yard scale. Every effort was made top the antenna of the SG-1's in continuous rotation. When it became necessary to use BN's (which were energized but not keyed except when actually challenging) the antenna of Radar III was stopped momentarily for target identification, if the target appeared on its scopes. Only when Radar III was unable to challenge, would the antenna of Radar II be stopped for challenging.

(f) (2) There are 3 (VC-1) R.P.P.I.'s located in C.I.C. Of the three, two have been converted and have 12-inch scopes. These three R.P.P.I.'s were found invaluable, and were set on the following scales:

Each RPPI has a sound power phone selector switch and each was manned by a radar operator. Plotting, both DRT (enemy force) and short range summary (own forces -- station keeping), was done from the RPPI's, without stopping the sweep, thus not interrupting the continuous search. RPPI Sound Power selector switched phones were turned to the same circuit as the master PPI from which the RPPI was operating.

cc: Cominch US Fleet (advance)
CincPac (advance)

Paraphrase of message from CTF 77:

Paraphrase of message from CTF 77.2 on October 24, 1944.

Extracts from the TBS Log during the period from 2000, 24 October to 0538, 25 October 1944, minus nine time.

BB48/S72 U.S.S. West Virginia
c/o Fleet Post Office,
San Francisco, California.

90-ys

From: Commanding Officer.
To: Chief, Bureau of Ordnance.
Via: (1) Commander Battleship Division 4.
(2) Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet (FMO).
Subject: Casualties to the Mark 1 Mod 0 Shell Hoist Drive Gear in Turret I during shore bombardment of Leyte Island, and the Battle of Surigao Strait, Philippine Islands, October 20 and 25th, respectively -- report of and recommendations concerning.

cc:
BuShips
Maryland
Colorado

From: Commanding Officer.
To: Chief, Bureau of Ordnance.
Via: (1) Commander Battleship Division 4.
Subject: Casualty to Right Mark 1 Mod 0 Shell Hoist in Turret III during Battle of Surigao Strait, Philippine Islands, October 25, 1944 -- report of.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation


USS West Virginia

When the Japanese planes came swarming down on Pearl Harbor, the USS West Virginia, also known as “Wee Vee,” was situated among the outboard ships, which ended up absorbing most of the damage as compared to inboard ships such as the USS Tennessee.

As the bombs and torpedoes wreaked havoc at Pearl Harbor, the West Virginia was struck by torpedoes a total of nine times, a quarter of all torpedo strikes achieved by the Japanese on the fateful day of December 7th, 1941. Six of the torpedoes struck portside of the West Virginia, which was sitting in 40 feet of water. As water flooded in, causing the battleship to list 15 degrees, Lieutenant Commander John Harper jumped into action. He quickly ordered preventive measures that saved the USS West Virginia from capsizing.

Fires broke out across the ship, a result of both the explosives and the inferno caused by the destruction of the USS Arizona, which was leaking oil. This leakage can still be seen from the USS Arizona Memorial today, as drops of oil known as the “black tears of the Arizona” rise to the surface. As flames consumed Wee Vee, her crew sought safety aboard the USS Tennessee, directly inboard of the West Virginia. Immediately after regrouping, damage-control parties bravely set about efforts to save their ship. Using hoses from the Tennessee, they fought the flames consuming the ship. After burning for 30 hours, the West Virginia sank to the bottom, taking 66 sailors with her.

The water flooding the hull of the West Virginia was later pumped out, and the ship was refloated and patched up sufficiently to be able to travel to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, where she was completely refurbished and repaired. Ultimately, Wee Vee sailed back to Pearl Harbor—where she was nearly destroyed—and continued fighting in the Pacific for the remainder of World War II. After participating in various battles throughout the Pacific, the USS West Virginia was present in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd, 1945 for the formal surrender of the Japanese.


World War II Database


ww2dbase USS West Virginia, a 32,600-ton Colorado class battleship built at Newport News, Virginia, was commissioned in December 1923, the last battleship completed for the United States Navy for nearly two decades. During the 1920s and 1930s, she served in the U.S. Fleet, taking part in "Fleet Problems" and other exercises as part of the continuing effort to develop tactics and maintain the Navy's combat readiness. With much of the rest of the Fleet, she deployed to New Zealand and Australia in 1925 in an important demonstration of the Navy's trans-Pacific strategic "reach".

ww2dbase West Virginia's base was moved to Pearl Harbor in 1940, and she was there on 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked with an overwhelming force of carrier aircraft. In that raid, the battleship was hit by two bombs and at least seven torpedoes, which blew huge holes in her port side. Skillful damage control saved her from capsizing, but she quickly sank to the harbor bottom. More than a hundred of her crew were lost. Salvaged and given temporary repairs at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, in April 1943 West Virginia steamed to the West Coast for final repair and modernization at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

ww2dbase The battleship emerged from the shipyard in July 1944 completely changed in appearance, with a wider hull, and massively improved anti-aircraft gun battery. West Virginia arrived in the Pacific combat zone in October, and soon was participating in pre-invasion bombardment of Leyte, in the Philippines. On 25 October, as a force of Japanese battleships and smaller vessels attempted to make a night attack on the landing area, she was one of the ships that stopped them in the Battle of Surigao Strait, the last time in World history when battleships engaged battleships with their big guns.

ww2dbase Subsequently, West Virginia took part in operations to capture Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, using her sixteen-inch guns to support U.S. ground forces. On 1 April 1945, while off Okinawa, she was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze plane but was able to remain in action, continuing her bombardment duties there into June. After Japan's capitulation, West Virginia supported the occupation effort until mid-September. She participated in Operation "Magic Carpet" during the last part of 1945, bringing home veterans of the Pacific war. Inactive after early 1946, she was decommissioned in January 1947. Following twelve years in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, USS West Virginia was sold for scrapping in August 1959.

ww2dbase Source: Naval Historical Center

Last Major Revision: Jan 2005

Battleship West Virginia (BB-48) Interactive Map

West Virginia Operational Timeline

1 Dec 1923 West Virginia was commissioned into service.
16 Jul 1944 USS Mississippi and USS West Virginia departed Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the latter after extensive repairs and modernization following damage received in the Pearl Harbor Attack.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Maya says:
21 Apr 2010 03:55:58 PM

This is some very good information. I'm doing a finals project on the battleships of pearl harbor and this information helped me to understand more about the USS WEST VIRGINIA.

2. Sherry Lyles says:
14 Oct 2010 11:48:14 AM

Can you tell me if you have a Earl Christensen on your list for the West Virgina at the time of the bombing and if so what was his rank. He was a survior if that helps. He has passed and is my sons name sake so we are looking for information about him.

3. Steve Sparks says:
1 Jan 2011 09:13:09 AM

I'm writing a story about my father's WWII Naval service, including stationed on the USS West Virgina on December 7, 1941. I want to find out where he was, either on liberty or on the ship during the attack, and any other records about his service at the time. Vernon H. Sparks 328-41-29 Cox. USS West Virginia

4. Courtney Tucker says:
9 Jan 2012 06:16:54 AM

Lt. Charles F. Shea (USNR)who died January 6, 2012, at age 95, lived in Fabius N.Y., 20 miles south of Syracuse all his life. He had been school district clerk, town councilman, supervisor, county legislator, county economic development director and a member and officer of many local and county organizations. The Shea family store on Main St. was the center of community activity for more than 80 years. He was born in Fabius on November 20, 1916, the son of Michael G. and Jessie Saunders Shea. After graduating from Fabius Central School in 1934, he attended Central City Business Institute and Cazenovia Seminary Junior College before graduating from Syracuse University in January 1942. Mr. Shea was immediately accepted into the U.S.N.R. and served in the U.S. Navy until the end of World War II aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) with the U.S. South Pacific Fleet in action at Leyte, including the Battle of Suriago Straits, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He left the Navy in 1946 as a senior grade lieutenant (USNR).

5. Anonymous says:
4 Feb 2015 10:59:31 AM

6. Robert Fox Col USA (Ret) says:
8 Apr 2015 07:20:13 AM

I am writing a little family history for my grandchildren and am researching my fathers Navy career. His name is Lloyd W Fox (USN Ret) Aviation Machinist's Mate Chief (ACMM, ADC) USNR F-6 and his Naval Service Record indicates he served on the USS West Virginia, was schooled @ Pensacola Fl and in Memphis Tenn re aviation skills and served most of his career in the Pacific Theater. Could you provide me any information re his military career and especially his service dates with & battles fought aboard the USS West VA in WW-II. He entered the service on 6 June 1928 at Pensacola, FL and retired with 20 yrs svc. Thanks
Much - R Fox

7. John Laird says:
6 Jan 2016 07:03:35 AM

I am trying to reach Sherry Lyles who posted about Earl Christensen. She can reach me at [email protected]

8. Roger K. Smith says:
2 Feb 2016 12:26:32 PM

My father, Raymond E. Smith, FC1c, was on board the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He chose not to share with us all that happened to him that day. I would dearly love to hear from anyone who might have known him. He was mistakenly reported KIA, but my grandparents received a cable on Christmas Eve that he was alive. He died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1998.

9. Bernie Hutson says:
14 Sep 2016 02:09:49 PM

My step-dad that raised me was an Ariel gunner on the USS West Virginia from 1944 to wars end. I miss the stories he told me. He passed away in 1997 his name was R.B.Roberson. If anyone knew him personally I would love to hear from you.

10. Robert E. Bristol Jr. says:
6 Feb 2018 04:06:11 PM

Looking for information about my Step Father, Phillip Cecil York.
Any info would be appreciated

11. JRW says:
7 Nov 2018 05:07:01 PM

As written by Roger Smith above, My father too was aboard the USS W. Va. the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack. My grandparents also were informed he was KIA. He also did not talk about that day. He retired from the Navy in 1966 after 35 years of service.

12. Anonymous says:
16 Jan 2019 06:50:10 AM

you guys should probably think about siting your publish date and stuff so people can site your source.

13. Mike Weiss says:
25 Jul 2020 08:01:07 PM

My Grandfather was a Chief Petty Officer on the West Virginia and was there during the attack. I have several artifacts that were aboard and recovered after she was raised.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.


USS West Virginia after repairs, c.1944-45 - History

This page features additional views related to the salvage and repair of USS West Virginia following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the Online Library's digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Is moved to a pier after being undocked from Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's Drydock Number One, 9 September 1942. Note the large area of her midships upper hull that must still be replaced.
West Virginia was then under repair for damages received in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid.
A New Mexico class battleship is in the right background.

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of The Honorable James V. Forrestal.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Online Image: 98KB 740 x 605 pixels

Prepares to leave Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.
The battleship in the left background is USS North Carolina (BB-55).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 80KB 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

About to leave Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 81KB 740 x 610 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Ready to depart Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.
Note her crewmen wearing Dress White uniforms.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 88KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Leaving Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.
A New Mexico class battleship is in the right distance, and at far right is the former mainmast of USS California (BB-44), now serving as a signal tower ashore.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 78KB 740 x 525 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Underway off Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 86KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Underway off Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 91KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Underway off Pearl Harbor on 30 April 1943, en route to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, for reconstruction. The Pearl Harbor Navy Yard had just finished temporary repair of the damage she had received in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 78KB 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

En route to the west coast after she had been salvaged and given preliminary repairs at Pearl Harbor.
Original photo is dated 20 April 1943.


4 thoughts on &ldquo The Mighty Wee Vee – USS West Virginia &rdquo

My Grandpa Snyder served enlisted on the Wee Vee after the Pearl Harbor attack right now, I do try to write a book about USS West Virginia.

Aloha Lyle,
Good luck with your book! The USS West Virginia was an awesome vessel, with lots of stories to tell.

My father,Howard Hare served on the”Wee Vee”at Pearl harbor.We learned a lot about the events that took place that day.

Richard, I was very thankful to read your comment. My father also served on the “Wee Vee”. He was aboard Her when the battle ensued. My father did not speak about it much, however, I asked him what the scars were on his forearm…shrapnel. Once while he was on medication for an impacted wisdom tooth and lying on the couch I was watching an old war movie on television. The bells and whistles went off on the ships in the show when my father jumped off the couch and slid into the corner of the room, started looking for his helmet. I learned more that day than any other time in my life.


Watch the video: Vanishing Act Rediscovering the South Charleston Ordnance Plant (August 2022).