Mervyn S. Bennion

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Mervyn Sharp Bennion
Born(1887-05-05)May 5, 1887
Vernon, Utah Territory
DiedDecember 7, 1941(1941-12-07) (aged 54)
Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii
Place of burial
Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1910-1941
Rank Captain
Commands heldUSS Bernadou (DD-153)
Destroyer Division One
USS West Virginia (BB-48)
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II

Mervyn Sharp Bennion (May 5, 1887 – December 7, 1941) was a United States Navy captain who served during World War I and was killed while he was in command of battleship USS West Virginia during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life."

Family background[edit]

Bennion was born in Vernon, Utah Territory on May 5, 1887. The religion of the family, which he shared, was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His Welsh grandfather, John Bennion, had immigrated to Utah with the Mormon pioneers and established successful cattle operations near Taylorsville, Utah. Bennion was living near Preston, Idaho when he received his acceptance to the United States Naval Academy. Bennion graduated third in his 1910 class from the academy. His younger brother Howard Bennion graduated first in his class of 1912 at the United States Military Academy.

Naval career[edit]

Bennion's first assignment after graduation was on the USS California in the engineering division.[1] Subsequently, he was an ordnance and gunnery specialist serving in the Ordnance Bureau at Washington Navy Yard during World War I. Bennion's first command was the destroyer USS Bernadou, followed by command of Destroyer Division One. He assumed command of the USS West Virginia on July 2, 1941.

Bennion was killed in action during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, while in command of the battleship USS West Virginia. He was mortally wounded by a shrapnel shard from the nearby USS Tennessee after she was hit by a bomb. Mess Attendant Second Class Doris Miller and several other sailors attempted to move Captain Bennion to a first aid station, but he refused to leave his post, eventually ordering his men to leave him and save themselves. Using one arm to hold his wounds closed, he died from loss of blood while still commanding his crew.[2] Bennion was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Bennion is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. On July 4, 1943, the destroyer USS Bennion (DD-662), named in his honor, was christened by his widow.

Awards and honors[edit]

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Medal of Honor Purple Heart
Mexican Service Medal Nicaraguan Campaign Medal World War I Victory Medal
w/ Destroyer clasp
American Defense Service Medal
w/ Fleet clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
w/ Campaign star
World War II Victory Medal

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Bennion's Medal of Honor citation reads:

Bennion's grave marker
For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the USS West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.[A]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Despite his grave injuries, he continued at his post trying to manage the situation. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His conduct is regularly cited in training as the epitome of proper command deportment under fire.[3]


  1. ^ "Biographical Sketch of Mervyn S. Bennion". Retrieved 2021-08-30.
  2. ^ "USS West Virginia". United States Navy. Archived from the original on 2009-08-08. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
  3. ^ Mink, Michael (December 4, 2015). "Leaders & Success: Mervyn Bennion Stood Tall To The End At Pearl Harbor". Investor's Business Daily. Retrieved December 4, 2015.

General sources[edit]


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.