The USS West Virginia was badly damaged at Pearl Harbor, but rose from that disaster to take revenge on the Japanese navy.
The battleship was christened on November 19, 1921, the second ship to be named for West Virginia. On December 1, 1923, the West Virginia joined the fleet. The new battleship was 624 feet long, 94 feet wide, and had a displacement of 33,590 tons. The main battery was eight 16-inch guns in four turrets, with 12 five-inch guns as the secondary battery. Oil-fired boilers provided steam for the electrical propulsion system, which was capable of moving the ship at a maximum speed of 21 knots.
Except for training exercises in the Caribbean and visits to East Coast ports, the ship spent its entire career in the Pacific Ocean. It was one of the six battleships at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, suffering massive damage from torpedoes and bombs in the surprise attack. Two officers (including Capt. Mervyn S. Bennion) and 103 crew members died.
The West Virginia was raised from the mud of Pearl Harbor and rebuilt in time to see service for the last year of the war. The ship went back to sea in July 1944 and joined the Seventh Fleet for the invasion of the Philippines. At the battle of Surigao Strait on October 24–25, part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf, West Virginia led the line and was the first American ship to open fire. The West Virginia was in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, for the surrender ceremony, the only Pearl Harbor survivor present.
After the war the West Virginia took part in ‘‘Operation Magic Carpet,’’ the return of troops to the United States. It was decommissioned in January 1947, then held in inactive reserve until stricken from the Navy List on March 1, 1959. On August 24 the battleship was sold for scrap.
The current USS West Virginia is an Ohio Class Trident ballistic missile submarine. The West Virginia is 560 feet long, 42 feet wide, and displaces 18,750 tons when submerged. Its nuclear power plant can move the submarine at more than 20 knots. As a missile submarine, the West Virginia’s main weapons are its 24 Trident II missiles. Four torpedo tubes were also installed on the vessel. Fifteen officers and 140 enlisted personnel make up the crew.
The ship was constructed by the General Dynamics Electric Boat Division at Groton, Connecticut, and launched in 1989. Commissioning took place on October 20, 1990.
e-WV presents West Virginia Public Broadcasting on USS West Virginia
This Article was written by William P. McNeel
Last Revised on August 31, 2015
Smith, Myron J. Jr. The Mountain State Battleship: USS West Virginia. Richwood: West Virginia Press Club, 1981.
Cite This Article
McNeel, William P. "USS West Virginia." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 31 August 2015. Web. 27 March 2017.