November 8, 2013

The Spirit of the BB-48 for the Common Good



BB-48 took part in operations to capture several islands in the Pacific Theater, including Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, using her sixteen inch guns to support U.S. ground forces.  She was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze plane on 1 April 1945 and remained in action.  Despite all this adversity, BB-48 escorted the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender and was used postwar as a troop transport on several “magic carpet runs” shuttling soldiers and sailors from points in the Pacific back to the U.S.

However, that she was present when the flag was raised on Iwo Jima and engaged in these other amazing feats is not the reason that the story of BB-48 is being told today.  This story is being told this Veterans Day because in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, while anchored just ahead of the USS Oklahoma, and just behind the mooring of the USS Arizona, BB-48, was hit by two bombs and a minimum of seven torpedoes blew huge holes in her port side.

Yes, on December 7, 1941, the USS West Virginia (BB-48) sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor and endured the loss of more than 100 of her crew.  The amazing story of the USS West Virginia is being told because her story did not end with water gushing into the listing ship. You see, Captain Mervyn Bennion and his crew risked bombs, torpedoes, bullets from strafing Zeroes and explosions and intentionally flooded the side opposite the torpedo strikes, thereby righting the sinking ship.

The tenacity of the Captain to keep the ship afloat was matched by the perseverance of the Japanese as a bomb from 20,000 feet in the air hit squarely on the West Virginia hurling hot jagged metal in all directions and filling Captain Bennion’s abdomen with shrapnel.  Refusing to leave the sinking ship, his pain became too great, the Captain collapsed and then he died along with 105 crewmembers, but not before they made certain that the ship settled upright on the floor of Pearl Harbor.

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