USS West Virginia (BB-48)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS West Virginia.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) in San Francisco Bay, c. 1934.
USS West Virginia in San Francisco Bay, c. 1934
Career (U.S.)
Name: USS West Virginia
Namesake: State of West Virginia
Ordered: 5 December 1916
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 12 April 1920
Launched: 19 November 1921
Sponsored by: Alice Wright Mann
Commissioned: 1 December 1923
Decommissioned: 9 January 1947
Struck: 1 March 1959
Nickname: "Wee Vee"
Honors and
5 battle stars
Fate: Sold for scrap 24 August 1959
General characteristics
Class and type: Colorado-class battleship
  • 32,100 long tons (empty)
  • 33,060 long tons (full load)
Length: 624 ft (190 m)
  • 97.3 ft (29.7 m) (original)
  • 114 ft (35 m) (rebuilt)
Draft: 30.5 ft (9.3 m)
Speed: 21 kn (24 mph; 39 km/h)
Complement: 1,407 officers and men (when commissioned)
Sensors and
processing systems:
CXAM-1 radar from 1940

After Reconstruction:

  • Belt: 8–13.5 in (203–343 mm)
  • Barbettes: 13 in (330 mm)
  • Turret face: 18 in (457 mm)
  • Turret sides: 9–10 in (229–254 mm)
  • Turret top: 5 in (127 mm)
  • Turret rear 9 in (229 mm)
  • Conning tower: 11.5 in (292 mm)
  • Decks: 3.5 in (89 mm)

USS West Virginia (BB-48), a Colorado-class battleship, was the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the country's 35th state. She was laid down on 12 April 1920 at Newport News, Virginia, launched on 19 November 1921 and commissioned on 1 December 1923. Her first captain was Thomas J. Senn. After her shakedown and training were finished, she was overhauled at Hampton Roads. She later ran aground in the Lynnhaven Channel.

After her repairs, she participated in many exercises and engineering and gunnery courses, winning four medals from the latter. She participated in many other fleet tactical doctrine development operations until 1939. In 1940, she was transferred to Pearl Harbor to protect against a possible Japanese attack. She was sunk by six torpedoes and two bombs during the attack on Pearl Harbor. On 17 May 1942, she was salvaged from the seabed by draining the water out of the hull.

She underwent several repairs in Pearl Habor, so that she was in good enough shape to sail to Puget Sound Navy Yard. She got an extensive refit at Puget Sound, which included removing 5-inch (130 mm)"/25 anti-aircraft guns and the single purpose 5"/51 guns, replacing them with 5"/38 anti-aircraft guns. She left Puget Sound in July 1944 for the Leyte Gulf.

She bombarded Leyte in November 1944. After which, she was made part of the American plan to destroy the part of the Japanese fleet that was attempting the sail down the Surigao Strait, which succeeded. She later bombarded Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After the war officially ended, she entered Tokyo Bay to witness the Japanese surrender. After she left Tokyo Bay, she became part of Operation Magic Carpet. When she was part of it, she made three runs to Hawaii to transport veterans home. She was inactivating on 9 January 1947, and was scrapped in 24 August 1959 at Bremerton, Washington.


West Virginia was 624 feet (190 m) long overall, had a beam of 97.3 ft (29.7 m) (114 ft (35 m) after rebuild) and a draft of 30.5 ft (9.3 m). She displaced 32,100 long tons (32,600 t) as designed and up to 33,060 long tons (33,590 t) at full load. The ship was powered by a four-shaft turbo-electric drive, rated at 28,900 shaft horsepower (21,600 kW) and eight Babcock & Wilcox Boilers, generating a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). She had a range of 8,000 nautical miles (9,200 mi) if she was going at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She had a crew of 1,407 officers and enlisted men when commissioned.[1]

She was armed with a main battery of eight 16-inch (410 mm)/45 guns in four twin gun turrets on the centerline, two forward and two aft. The secondary battery consisted of sixteen 5 in (127 mm)/51 guns. The anti-aircraft defense consisted of four 3 in (76 mm) guns, which were soon replaced with an equal number of 5 in (127 mm)/25 guns. The secondary battery of 5"/51 guns and the anti-aircraft battery of 5"/25 guns were replaced with 5 in/38 guns. As was standard for capital ships of the period, she carried two 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes in deck mounted torpedo launchers, which were removed in a later overhaul.[1] She also received a CXAM-1 Radar in 1940.[2]

West Virginia‍ '​s main armored belt was 13.5 in (343 mm) thick over the magazines and the machinery spaces, and 8 in (203 mm) elsewhere. The main battery gun turrets had 18-inch (460 mm) thick faces, and the supporting barbettes had 13 in (330 mm) of armor plating on their exposed sides. Armor that was 3.5 in (89 mm) thick protected the decks. The conning tower had 11.5 in (290 mm) thick ides.[1]

Construction and commission[edit]

West Virginia‍ '​s keel was laid down on 12 April 1920 at Newport News, Virginia by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. She was launched on 19 November 1921 and commissioned on 1 December 1923. Her construction was sponsored by Alice Wright Mann, the daughter of Isaac T. Mann, a prominent West Virginian. Her first Captain was Thomas J. Senn.[3]

As the most recent of the "super-dreadnoughts", she embodied the latest knowledge of naval architecture. The new features included watertight compartmentation of her hull, and the scale of her armor protection. This marked an advance over the design of battleships built, or on the drawing boards before the Battle of Jutland.[3]

Interwar period[edit]

In the months that followed, West Virginia ran her trials and shakedown and underwent post-commissioning alterations. 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 during the voyage. After an overhaul at Hampton Roads, she left port on the morning of 16 June 1924.[4][5]

At 10:10 am, while she was sailing down the middle of the Lynnhaven Channel, the quartermaster at the wheel reported that the rudder indicator would not respond. The ringing of the emergency bell to the steering motor room also had no response. Captain Senn quickly ordered all engines stopped, but the engine room telegraph would not respond to messages. It transpired that there was no power to the engine room telegraph or the steering telegraph.[4][5]

The captain then resorted to sending orders down to main control by the voice tube from the bridge. He ordered full speed ahead on the port engine; all stop on the starboard. Her crew tried to steer the ship with her engines and keep her in the channel and, when this failed, to check headway from the edge of the channel. As all the efforts failed, the ship lost headway due to an engine casualty, she was grounded on the soft mud bottom. The court of inquiry, investigating the grounding, found that "inaccurate and misleading navigational data" had been supplied to the ship. The legends on the charts were found to indicate uniformly greater channel width than actually existed. The findings of the court removed Captain Senn and the navigator from any blame. After repairs were finished, West Virginia became the flagship of the Battle fleet on 30 October 1924.[6][5]

The ship later won the American Defense Cup presented by the American Defense Society to the battleship obtaining the highest merit with all guns in short-range firing, and the Spokane Cup, presented by that city's Chamber of Commerce in recognition of the battleship's scoring the highest merit with all guns at short range. In 1925, she won the Battle Efficiency Pennant for battleship. She won it again in 1927, 1932, and 1933.[7][5]

During this period, she underwent a cycle of training, maintenance, and readiness exercises, taking part in engineering and gunnery competitions and the annual large-scale exercises, or "Fleet Problems". In the latter the Fleet would be divided up into opposing sides, and a strategic or tactical situation would be acted, with the lessons learned becoming part of the development of doctrine that would later be tested in combat. In 1926, the battleship took part in the joint Army-Navy maneuvers to test the defenses of the Hawaiian Islands and then cruised with the Fleet to Australia and New Zealand. In fleet exercises subsequent to the 1926 cruise, West Virginia ranged from Hawaii to the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic, and from Alaskan waters to Panama.[8][5]

She underwent modifications designed to increase her capacity to perform her design function. Some of the alterations effected included the replacement of her initial 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft battery with 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal guns; the addition of platforms for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns at the foremast and maintop; and the addition of catapults on her quarterdeck, aft, and on her number III, or "high" turret. In the later 1930s, however, it was becoming evident to many that it was only a matter of time before the United States became involved in yet another war on a grand scale. The hurried dispatch of the Fleet to Pacific waters in the spring of 1939 and the retention of the Fleet in Hawaiian waters in 1940 was because it was Japanese deterrent, following the conclusion of Fleet Problem XXI in April.[9][5]

As the year 1941 progressed, West Virginia carried out a schedule of intensive training, basing on Pearl Harbor and operating in various task forces and groups in the Hawaiian operating area. There was an unusually tense period that began in late November and extended into the next month. They were usually followed by in-port upkeep, which was along the southeast shores of Ford Island.West Virginia was one of 14 ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 radar.[2][9][5]

World War II[edit]

Sailors in a motor launch rescue a man overboard from the water alongside the burning West Virginia during or shortly after the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor[edit]

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, West Virginia lay moored outboard of Tennessee at berth F-6 with 40 ft (12 m) of water beneath her keel. Shortly before 0800, Japanese planes from a six-carrier task force commenced a well-planned attack on Pearl Harbor. Six Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedoes struck the port side of West Virginia. One hit the steering gear and knocked off the rudder. At least three struck below the armor belt, with one or more striking the armor belt itself, requiring replacement of seven armor plates.[10] One or possibly two torpedoes exploded on the armored second deck after entering the listing ship through holes made by previous torpedoes. One torpedo failed to detonate and was later recovered and disarmed by shipyard explosive technicians. The torpedo attack resulted in two large holes extending from frames 43 to 52 and 62 to 97.[11]

West Virginia also suffered damage from two Type 99 No. 80 Mk 5 bombs made from 16 in (410 mm) armor-piercing naval shells fitted with aerial fins. The first was found unexploded in the debris on the second deck after hitting the foretop and penetrating the superstructure deck. The second hit farther aft, wrecking one Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplane atop the "high" catapult on turret 3. The impact also pitched a second floatplane upside down on the main deck below, spilling gasoline from the plane's fuel tanks which ignited. Although also a dud, the second projectile retained enough energy to penetrate the 4 in (100 mm) turret roof, destroying one of the turret's two guns, while burning gasoline from the overturned aircraft injured turret personnel and damaged the remaining gun. West Virginia was eventually engulfed in an oil-fed conflagration, started by the burning Arizona and sustained with fuel leaking from both ships.[12]

The torpedo damage to the port side caused rapid flooding of the port compartments. Prompt counter-flooding by the four damage control parties under the command of Lieutenant Commander J.S. Harper, together with the early closure of all water-tight doors and hatches ordered by Harper's assistant Ensign Archie P. Kelley, prevented the ship's capsizing. Water damage rendered much of the ship's communication gear inoperative, including the battle phone circuit batteries. An experimental sound-powered telephone circuit connecting central station with the damage control parties, thoroughly tested during the previous summer's damage control drills, remained operative, but for unknown reasons the captain and ships officers on the bridge did not make use of it. Captain Mervyn S. Bennion, unaware that Harper and Kelly had already begun damage control efforts, ordered Lieutenant C.V. Ricketts to commence counter-flooding the starboard voids. Ricketts, delayed at his battle station and AA gun batteries, arrived to find an estimated 30 to 40 voids already flooded on the starboard side. In his battle report Ricketts claimed to have witnessed the flooding of one compartment, which may have been already flooded or withheld from flooding. Ricketts then ordered all remaining starboard voids to be flooded, and returned to the bridge to help move the captain, who had suffered a mortal shrapnel wound. Harper's eventual report on completion of counter-flooding "all available voids" as directed made clear that Ricketts' well-intentioned assistance had been unnecessary.[13]

During the first wave of the attack, and during the counter-flooding operation overseen by Harper, executive officer Commander R.H. Hillenkoetter abandoned ship by jumping off the starboard quarterdeck. Subsequently, Harper received notification from an officer on the conning tower that the captain was dying, the executive officer had abandoned ship, and as third in command, Harper was now the commanding officer. After confirming that all starboard voids had been flooded, Harper proceeded to the conning tower and countermanded the captain's dying order for all hands to abandon ship. Instead, he ordered repair parties to fight fires fore and aft. Fire hoses from the Tennessee were passed to the West Virginia, and crews fought fires near turret III and elsewhere on the ship until about 2:00 pm, when Harper finally ordered the remaining crew to abandon ship.[14]

With a patch over the damaged area of her hull, the battleship was pumped out and ultimately refloated on May 17, 1942, and docked in Drydock Number One on 9 June. This gave the opportunity for a more detailed damage assessment, and it became clear that there had been not five, but six torpedo hits.[15][16]

During the ensuing repairs, workers located the bodies of 66 West Virginia sailors who had been trapped below when the ship sank.[17][16] Several bodies were found lying atop steam pipes, in the only remaining air bubble of flooded areas.[17] Three bodies were found in a storeroom compartment, where the sailors had survived on emergency rations and fresh water from a battle station.[17] A calendar found with them indicated they had been alive through December 23.[18]

The task confronting the remaining crew and shipyard workers was a monumental one, so great was the damage on the battleship's port side. Nevertheless, West Virginia sailed from Pearl Harbor less than a year later on May 7, 1943, bound for Bremerton, Washington and a complete rebuilding at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.[19][16]


When her rebuild was completed she looked different from her sistership USS Maryland and her look before Pearl Harbor. Her appearance was nearly identical to that of Tennessee and California, differentiated from those ships by her twin-gun main battery turrets.[16][5]

Gone were the hyperboloid cage masts that supported the three-tier fire-control tops, as well as the two funnels, the open-mount 5"/25 caliber guns and the casemates with the single-purpose 5"/51 caliber guns. A streamlined superstructure with a single funnel faired into the tower now gave the ship a new silhouette; dual-purpose 5"/38 caliber guns, in gunhouses, gave the ship a potent antiaircraft battery. In addition, 40 mm Bofors and 20 mm Oerlikon batteries studded the decks, giving the ship a heavy punch for dealing with close-in enemy planes.[16][5]

As part of the two ocean navy policy, U.S. battleships had been designed within a beam constraint of 108 feet (33 m) in order to transit the Panama Canal. Although, after their similar rebuilds, Tennessee, California and West Virginia‍ '​s beams were widened to 114 feet (35 m) feet, in effect limiting deployment to the Pacific theater.[16][5]

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.[16][5]

Finally ready to rejoin the fleet from which she had been away for three years, West Virginia sailed for the Hawaiian Islands on 14 September 1944.[16] Escorted by two destroyers, she made landfall on Oahu on 23 September. Ultimately pushing on for Manus, in company with the fleet carrier Hancock. West Virginia became a unit of Battleship Division 4 (BatDiv 4), reached Seeadler Harbor on 5 October. The next day, she became the flagship of the Battship Division when Rear Admiral Theodore Ruddock shifted his flag from Maryland to the West Virginia.[20][5]

Leyte landings[edit]

West Virginia in July 1944

Underway on 12 October to participate in the invasion of the Philippine Islands, West Virginia sailed as part of Task Group 77.2 (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. At 16:45, California cut loose a naval mine with her paravanes; West Virginia successfully dodged the explosive, it being destroyed a few moments later by gunfire from one of the destroyers in the screen. [21][5]

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.[21][5]

On the same day, her gunners sent 278 16 in (410 mm) and 1,586 5 in (130 mm) shells against Japanese installations, silencing enemy artillery and supporting the underwater demolition teams (UDTs) 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.[22][5]

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 kn (18 mph; 30 km/h), or 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h) 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 anti-aircraft covering fire for the unfolding invasion operations.[23][5]

Battle of the Leyte Gulf[edit]

USS Artisan (AFDB-1), a floating drydock held her as the repairs were made.

Part of the Japanese fleet, which consisted of four carriers and two "hybrid" battleship-carriers (Ise and Hyūga) sailed toward the Philippine Sea. A small surface force under Admiral Kiyohide Shima headed for the Sulu Sea; two striking forces consisting of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers left Lingga Roads, Sumatra, 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.[24]

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. When Nishimura's fleet advance ddown the strait, American PT boats sortied against his fleet.[24]

West Virginia, meanwhile, was leading the battle line of USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Mississippi (BB-41), USS Tennessee (BB-43), USS California (BB-44), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). 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 yd (38,000 m) and had achieved a firing solution at 30,000 yd (27,000 m). She tracked them through the night.[24]

At 03:52, West Virginia fired her eight 16 inch (406 mm) guns of the main battery at a range of 22,800 yd (20,800 m), striking the leading Japanese battleship with her first salvo. Of the first six salvos she fired, five had struck the target and in all she fired 16 salvos in the direction of Nishimura's ships as Oldendorf "crossed the T" of the Japanese fleet and effectively destroyed it. At 04:13, the she checked fire; the Japanese remnants proceeded in disorder down the strait whence they had come. Several burning Japanese ships littered the strait; she had contributed to Yamashiro‍ '​s demise. On 29 October, she left the Philippines for Ulithi, in company with Tennessee and Maryland. After Admiral Ruddock had shifted his flag back from West Virginia to Maryland, she headed for Espiritu Santo, in the New Hebrides for a repair.[24]

Philippines operations[edit]

She returned to the Philippines, 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, her antiaircraft guns shot down a kamikaze and assisted in downing others while on duty the next day.[25][5]

Rear Admiral Ruddock shifted back on board on 30 November, continuing her operations off Leyte until 2 December, when the battleship headed for the Palau Islands. She became the flagship of a new task force, and proceeded toward the Sulu Sea to cover the landings on Mindoro. Entering Leyte Gulf late on the evening of 12 December, she entered the Surigao Strait on 13 December and steamed into the Sulu Sea with a carrier force to provide cover for the transports. She subsequently covered the retirement of the transports on 16 December, later fueling in Leyte Gulf before she returned to Kossol Roads, on mid-day on 19 December. She spent the Christmas of 1944 there.[25][5]

She returned to the Philippines after Christmas. On New Year's Day, Rear Admiral Ingram C. Sowell relieved Rear Admiral Ruddock as Commander, Battleship Division, and she 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. Her men saw evidence of that when a kamikaze crashed into the escort carrier Ommaney Bay at 17:12 on 4 January. Her crew abandoned her after multiple fires started, getting picked up by other ships in the screen. Burns dispatched the blazing CVE with torpedoes.[25][5]

Taking onboard survivors from Ommaney Bay from the destroyer Twiggs, she entered the South China Sea on the morning of the following day, 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. She hit Japanese installations ashore with her 16 in (410 mm) guns. Kamikazes kept up their attacks even with heavy anti-aircraft fire and U.S. fighters. Kamikazes damaged HMAS Australia and the battleships California and New Mexico on the 5th. [26][5]

She already carried the crew of Ommaney Bay on board, took on board another group of survivors: the crew of the high-speed minesweeper Hovey 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, her 16 in (410 mm) guns again hammered Japanese positions ashore at San Fabian on 8–9 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.[26][5]

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, she destroyed ammunition dumps, railway and road junctions, and machine gun positions and warehouses. During that time, the ship expended 395 16 in (410 mm) shells and over 2,800 5 in (130 mm) projectiles. Underway again at 0707 on 21 January, West Virginia commenced call-fire support duties at 0815, 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.[26][5]

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.[26][5]

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 (270 tonnes) of stores by 04:00 on 17 February. At 07:30 on the 17th, she got underway, bound for Iwo Jima in company with the destroyers Izard and McCall.[26][5]

Battle of Iwo Jima[edit]

West Virginia sighted Iwo Jima at a range of 82 mi (132 km) at 0907 on 19 February 1945. 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 16-inch guns fired to lend support to the Marines ashore. Gun positions, revetments, blockhouses, tanks, vehicles, caves and supply dumps were destroyed from the off-shore bombardment. On 21 February, the ship returned, and at 08:00 commenced her support duties.[26][5]

Her 16 in (410 mm) shells sealed caves, destroyed antiaircraft gun positions and blockhouses; one salvo struck an ammunition or fuel dump, explosions occurring for about two hours. That same day, another significant event occurred ashore—the 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.[26][5]

For the remainder of February, West Virginia continued her daily fire-support missions for the Marines ashore. Japanese positions received heavy bombardments from the fleet. Shells hit 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. West Virginia approached and when she was 600 yd (550 m), she opened fire with her secondary battery of 5 in (130 mm)"/38 guns, effectively silencing the enemy gun.[27][5]

After she replenished her depleted ammunition stocks early on 28 February, she was back in the fight by the afternoon, firing many shots against the Japanese, 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. On 4 March, she set sail for the Caroline Islands, reaching Ulithi on 6 March.[27][5]

Battle of Okinawa[edit]

Joining TF 64 for the invasion of Okinawa, West Virginia sailed on 21 March, reaching her objective four days later on 25 March. She spent the ensuing days softening up Okinawa for the American landings slated to commence on 1 April. Firing her first salvoes of the operation, West Virginia shot 28 rounds of 16 in (410 mm) gunfire against the Japanese batteries. Over the days that followed, enemy opposition continued in the form of kamikazes. Naval mines were also starting to have an effect. One sank the minesweeper Skylark, 3,000 yd (2,700 m) off her bow at 09:30 on 28 March.[28][5]

After restocking ammunition at Kerema Retto, she bombarded Okinawa on 1 April, on the alert to provide counter-battery fire in support of the troops as they advanced rapidly inland. On 1 April, a kamikaze crossed over the port side and then looped over and crash-dived into her, smashing into a superstructure deck. Four men were killed by the attack and 23 were wounded.[29] The bomb carried by the plane broke loose from its shackle and penetrated to the second deck. The bomb was confirmed by technicians to be a dud. Some parts of the ship were severely damaged, but she reported the damage as "fixable" and carried on.[30][5]

In early April, the Japanese attempted to strike at the invasion fleet with a suicide mission involving super-battleship Yamato. On the night of 7–8 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, the task force commander reported that the Yamato had been sunk by U.S. aircraft.[30][5]

After the incident, she continued providing illumination and counterbattery fire with both main and secondary batteries. Zellars, Tennessee, Salt Lake City, Stanly, and others were damaged or sunk by kamikazes. Her shelling later shifted from the Marines to the Army She continued fire support for the Army until 20 April. After that, she sailed to Ulithi, only to turn back, because USS Colorado (BB-45) suffered damage from a powder explosion at Kermea Retto. Returning to Hagushi beach, West Virginia provided cover fire for the XXIVth Army Corps. Later, she sailed to Ulithi, along with San Francisco and Hobson[30][5]

Returning to Okinawa after a brief repair, she remained in support of the Army and the Marines on Okinawa into the end of June. On 1 June, she sent her spotting plane aloft to locate a troublesome enemy blockhouse, she shot a few shots that missed. On 2 June, she got four hits and seven misses on the blockhouse.[30][5]

Off the southeast coast of Okinawa she broke up Japanese troop concentrations and destroying enemy caves. She also disrupted Japanese road traffic. On 16 June, whike she was firing for the 1st Marine Division, her spotter plane crashed over enemy territory. When all rescue attempts failed, she loaned a Kingfisher from Tennessee. At the end of June she passed San Pedro Bay, Leyte, reaching her destination on 1 July. She was escorted by Connolly. On the morning of 5 July, she received her first replacements since 1944. After loading ammunition, she commenced training in the Philippines, which she continued until the end of July.[30][5]

Japanese surrender[edit]

Sailing on 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. At 21:15 on 10 August, 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 ships in the bay soon started celebrating. On 12 August, Pennsylvania was torpedoed. The West Virginia sent over a whaleboat on 13 August with pumps for the damaged ship.[31]

She 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 present at the time of the formal surrender on 2 September 1945. For that occasion, five musicians from her band were transferred temporarily to Missouri to play at the ceremonies.[31]


West Virginia played her part in the occupation, remaining in Tokyo Bay into September 1945. 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 1328 on 22 October. Two days later, Rear Admiral I. C. Sowell hauled down his flag as Commander, Battleship Division 4.[31]

On Navy Day, 25,554 visitors came aboard the ship. Three days later, on 30 October, she sailed for Hawaiian waters to take her place as part of Operation Magic Carpet. After three runs from the West Coast to Pearl Harbor, she reached San Pedro, California, on 17 December. She spent Christmas debarking her third draft of passengers. She left port on 4 January 1946 and sailed for Bremerton, Washington. She reached her destination on 12 January and commenced inactivation soon thereafter. On 16 January, she moved to Seattle, Washington, where she moored alongside her sister ship Colorado.[31]

She entered her final stages of inactivation in the latter part of February 1946 and was decommissioned on 9 January 1947 and placed in reserve, as part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She remained inactive until struck from the Naval Vessel Registry on 1 March 1959. On 24 August, she was sold for scrapping to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corporation of New York City. The vessel was towed from Bremerton, Washington to the Vigor Shipyards and broken up.[32]




The USS West Virginia Association maintains a collection of artifacts and organizes annual reunions for crew members, family and friends.[33] In 2000, governor Cecil Underwood issued a proclamation on the 59th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, naming Interstate 470 in West Virginia the USS West Virginia Memorial Highway.[34] In 2015, an art contest was held at the West Virginia University campus with the entrants depicting the West Virginia. Kacy Harrison received first place for her work entitled the USS West Virginia which will be on display in the University's gallery through June 2015 and then elsewhere on campus.[35]


  1. ^ a b c Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 118.
  2. ^ a b Macintyre 1967.
  3. ^ a b Benford 2001, p. 64.
  4. ^ a b Martin 1997, p. 17.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah DANFS West Virginia (BB-48).
  6. ^ Martin 1997, p. 18.
  7. ^ Martin 1997, pp. 18–19.
  8. ^ Martin 1997, pp. 19–20.
  9. ^ a b Martin 1997, pp. 20–22.
  10. ^ Wallin 1968, p. 233.
  11. ^ Wallin 1968, p. 234.
  12. ^ Wallin 1968, p. 235.
  13. ^ Hillenkoetter & Harper 1941, pp. 3–4.
  14. ^ Hillenkoetter & Harper 1941, pp. 7–9.
  15. ^, History.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Salvage 2015.
  17. ^ a b c Wallin 1968, p. 238.
  18. ^, Remembered.
  19. ^ Smith 2009, p. 98.
  20. ^ Martin 1997, p. 26.
  21. ^ a b Martin 1997, p. 27.
  22. ^ Martin 1997, p. 28.
  23. ^ Martin 1997, p. 29.
  24. ^ a b c d Grant 2008, pp. 322–323.
  25. ^ a b c Martin 1997, p. 30.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Martin 1997, p. 31.
  27. ^ a b Martin 1997, p. 32.
  28. ^ Martin 1997, p. 312.
  29. ^ U.S. Navy 1945.
  30. ^ a b c d e Martin 1997, p. 33.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Martin 1997, p. 34.
  32. ^ a b c d e Smith 1981, p. 192.
  33. ^ Welcome Website.
  34. ^ Charleston Daily Mail 2000.
  35. ^ WVUToday 2015.


  • Benford, Timothy (2001). Pearl Harbor Amazing Facts!. American Book Publisher. ISBN 978-0-97105-600-8. 
  • Bonner, Carolyn; Bonner, Kit (2001). Warship Boneyards. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company. OCLC 464580499. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-907-3. 
  • Grant, R. G. (2008). Battle at Sea: 3,000 years of Naval Warfare. New York, NY: Dorling Kimberly. ISBN 978-0-7566-7186-0. 
  • Hillenkoetter, Roscoe; Harper, J.S. (1941). USS West Virginia Deck Logs. Washington D.C.: War Department. 
  • Macintyre, Donald, CAPT RN (September 1967). "Shipborne Radar". United States Naval Institute Proceedings. 
  • Martin, Robert J. (1997). USS West Virginia (BB-48). Nashville, Tennessee: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-56311-341-3. 
  • Smith, Myron J. (2009). The Mountain State Battleship USS West Virginia. USS West Virginia Association. 
  • Smith, Myron J. (1981). The Mountain State Battleship USS West Virginia. West Virginia Press Club. OCLC 8824065. 
  • U.S. Navy (1945). USS West Virginia Deck Logs. Washington D.C.: War Department. 
  • Wallin, Homer N. (1968). Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal. Washington, D.C: Department of the Navy. ISBN 0-89875-565-4. Retrieved 2011-12-08. 

Online sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Madsen, Daniel (2003) Resurrection-Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Washington D.C.: US Naval Institute Press.

External links[edit]