NATIONAL PEARL HARBOR MEMORIAL PARADE AND PUBLIC CEREMONY
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PRESENTING SPONSOR HISTORY® / A+E NETWORKS
USS West Virginia: 1923 - 1959
USS West Virginia was a 32,600 ton Colorado Class Battleship built at Newport News Virginia. She was commissioned in December of 1923 and was the last battleship built for the United States Navy in almost 20 years. She served in the US Fleet participating in the annual "Fleet Problems" exercises to help train the Navy for real world combat. In 1925, she deployed to New Zealand and Australia with much of the rest of the Fleet. In 1940, she was moved to Pearl Harbor.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, West Virginia was hit with two bombs and at least 7 torpedoes that blew gaping holes in her port side. If not for her skillful crew, she would have capsized much like the USS Oklahoma did. Instead, she sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor resting on an almost even keel allowing most of her crew to be saved. However, West Virginia lost over 100 of her crew on that day, including her Commanding Officer, Mervyn S. Bennion. After sinking, she continued to receive enemy fire.
USS West Virginia after the Pearl Harbor attack
West Virginia did not return to service until the middle of 1944. She was salvaged out of Pearl Harbor and after temporary repairs at Pearl Harbor, was sent to Puget Sound Navy Yard for permanent repairs and upgrades. She received a wider hull and a significant upgrade in her anti-aircraft battery. She participated in the pre-invasion bombardment of Leyte. In October of 1944, in the Battle of Surigao Strait, West Virginia helped to stop a force of Japanese battleships and support ships from making a night attack. This is the last time in history that battleships have engaged each other with their big guns. After the war, West Virginia participated in Operation "Magic Carpet," which was bringing home veterans of the war in the Pacific. She was decommissioned in early 1947 although she remained for 12 years in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Then in August of 1959, she was sold for scrapping.