Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

World War II - Pearl Harbor - USS West Virginia

« Back to Projects Dashboard

view all


  • Vice Admiral John F. "Big Jack" Shafroth (1887 - 1967)
    John Franklin Shafroth Jr. (March 31, 1887 – September 1, 1967) was a highly decorated officer in the United States Navy with the rank of Vice Admiral. He distinguished himself as Commander of destroye...
  • Lieutenant General William Tardy Clement (1894 - 1955)
    General, U.S. Marine Corps William Tardy Clement graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1914 and, in 1917, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Clement saw acti...
  • S1c John Russell Melton (1918 - 1941)
    The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class John R. Melton, 23, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Feb. 1, 2021. On Dec. 7, 1941, Melton was...
  • Steve A. Nosser (1919 - 2022)
    Reference: Find A Grave Memorial - SmartCopy : Jan 21 2022, 5:24:26 UTC Stuckman "Steve" Nosser, age 102, of Quincy, died Thursday, January 20, 2022, at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Steve ...
  • Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton (1903 - 1984)
    Author. "And I was there" about the Midway Battle. Why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor? How did they inflict the greatest military defeat in American history? What went wrong? "And I Was There" is...

USS West Virginia (BB-48), a Colorado-class battleship, was the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 35th state.

Her keel was laid down on 12 April 1920 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 19 November 1921 sponsored by Miss Alice Wright Mann, daughter of Isaac T. Mann, a prominent West Virginian; and commissioned on 1 December 1923, Captain Thomas J. Senn in command.[1]

As the most recent of the "super-dreadnoughts", West Virginia embodied the latest knowledge of naval architecture; the watertight compartmentation of her hull, and the scale of her armor protection, marked an advance over the design of battleships built, or on the drawing boards before the Battle of Jutland.

Pearl Harbor

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. Seven Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedoes struck the port side of West Virginia.[4] One hit the steering gear and knocked off the rudder.[4] At least three struck below the armor belt, with one or more striking the armor belt itself, requiring replacement of seven armor plates.[4] 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.

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.[6] 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.

The massive torpedo damage to the port side caused rapid flooding of the port compartments. Prompt counter-flooding by the four damage control parties (15 men each) 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.[7][8] 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. The captain, 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.

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.

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 six, but seven torpedo hits.

During the ensuing repairs, workers located the bodies of 66 West Virginia sailors who had been trapped below when the ship sank. Several bodies were found lying atop steam pipes, in the only remaining air bubble of flooded areas.[11] Three bodies were found in a storeroom compartment, where the sailors had survived on emergency rations and fresh water from a battle station. A calendar found with them indicated they had been alive through December 23. *

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.

List of veterans: