West Virginia file photo

USS West Virginia

CountryUnited States
Ship ClassColorado-class Battleship
Hull NumberBB-48
Commissioned1 Dec 1923
Sunk1 Jan 1947
Displacement32600 tons standard

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

USS West Virginia, a 32,600-ton Colorado class battleship built at Newport News, Virginia, was commissioned in December 1923, the last battleship completed for the United States Navy for nearly two decades. During the 1920s and 1930s, she served in the U.S. Fleet, taking part in "Fleet Problems" and other exercises as part of the continuing effort to develop tactics and maintain the Navy's combat readiness. With much of the rest of the Fleet, she deployed to New Zealand and Australia in 1925 in an important demonstration of the Navy's trans-Pacific strategic "reach".

West Virginia's base was moved to Pearl Harbor in 1940, and she was there on 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked with an overwhelming force of carrier aircraft. In that raid, the battleship was hit by two bombs and at least seven torpedoes, which blew huge holes in her port side. Skillful damage control saved her from capsizing, but she quickly sank to the harbor bottom. More than a hundred of her crew were lost. Salvaged and given temporary repairs at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, in April 1943 West Virginia steamed to the West Coast for final repair and modernization at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

The battleship emerged from the shipyard in July 1944 completely changed in appearance, with a wider hull, and massively improved anti-aircraft gun battery. West Virginia arrived in the Pacific combat zone in October, and soon was participating in pre-invasion bombardment of Leyte, in the Philippines. On 25 October, as a force of Japanese battleships and smaller vessels attempted to make a night attack on the landing area, she was one of the ships that stopped them in the Battle of Surigao Strait, the last time in World history when battleships engaged battleships with their big guns.

Subsequently, West Virginia took part in operations to capture Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, using her sixteen-inch guns to support U.S. ground forces. On 1 April 1945, while off Okinawa, she was hit by a Japanese Kamikaze plane but was able to remain in action, continuing her bombardment duties there into June. After Japan's capitulation, West Virginia supported the occupation effort until mid-September. She participated in Operation "Magic Carpet" during the last part of 1945, bringing home veterans of the Pacific war. Inactive after early 1946, she was decommissioned in January 1947. Following twelve years in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, USS West Virginia was sold for scrapping in August 1959.

Source: Naval Historical Center

Battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) Interactive Map

USS West Virginia Operational Timeline

1 Dec 1923 West Virginia was commissioned into service.

Photographs

USS Cony laying smoke screen near USS West Virginia, off LeyteWest Virginia, March 1926West Virginia in San Francisco Bay during the 1930sLeahy aboard USS West Virginia, Long Beach, California, United States, Sep 1935
See all 30 photographs of Battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48)



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Maya says:
    21 Apr 2010 03:55:58 PM

    This is some very good information. I'm doing a finals project on the battleships of pearl harbor and this information helped me to understand more about the USS WEST VIRGINIA.
  2. Sherry Lyles says:
    14 Oct 2010 11:48:14 AM

    Can you tell me if you have a Earl Christensen on your list for the West Virgina at the time of the bombing and if so what was his rank. He was a survior if that helps. He has passed and is my sons name sake so we are looking for information about him.
  3. Steve Sparks says:
    1 Jan 2011 09:13:09 AM

    I'm writing a story about my father's WWII Naval service, including stationed on the USS West Virgina on December 7, 1941. I want to find out where he was, either on liberty or on the ship during the attack, and any other records about his service at the time. Vernon H. Sparks 328-41-29 Cox. USS West Virginia
  4. Courtney Tucker says:
    9 Jan 2012 06:16:54 AM

    Lt. Charles F. Shea (USNR)who died January 6, 2012, at age 95, lived in Fabius N.Y., 20 miles south of Syracuse all his life. He had been school district clerk, town councilman, supervisor, county legislator, county economic development director and a member and officer of many local and county organizations. The Shea family store on Main St. was the center of community activity for more than 80 years. He was born in Fabius on November 20, 1916, the son of Michael G. and Jessie Saunders Shea. After graduating from Fabius Central School in 1934, he attended Central City Business Institute and Cazenovia Seminary Junior College before graduating from Syracuse University in January 1942. Mr. Shea was immediately accepted into the U.S.N.R. and served in the U.S. Navy until the end of World War II aboard the USS West Virginia (BB48) with the U.S. South Pacific Fleet in action at Leyte, including the Battle of Suriago Straits, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He left the Navy in 1946 as a senior grade lieutenant (USNR).

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More on USS West Virginia
Personnel:
» William Leahy
» Doris Miller

Event(s) Participated:
» Attack on Pearl Harbor
» Philippines Campaign, Phase 1, the Leyte Campaign
» Battle of Iwo Jima
» Okinawa Campaign

Document(s):
» US Navy Report of Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor, Enclosure E, USS West Virginia


Battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) Photo Gallery
USS Cony laying smoke screen near USS West Virginia, off Leyte
See all 30 photographs of Battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48)



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