MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On the morning of December 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy rained hell on an island paradise, it was West Virginia — the Colorado class battleship USS West Virginia — that helped shoulder  the brunt of the attack.

It likely comes as little surprise that it  took at least seven direct torpedo strikes and two direct hits from Japanese bombers to take the West Virginia out of a fight that killed 106 members of her crew and more than 2,300 Americans stationed at the Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

But it should come as no surprise that before all was said and done, the Wee Vee rose from the shallows of Pearl Harbor to return the bloody favor, sinking the Japanese battleship Yamashiro near the Philippines on Oct. 24, 1944, the last time battleships of warring nations went toe-to-toe.

The guns of the West Virginia would then support Marines in a number of island engagements, including Iwo Jima. She was present in Tokyo Bay on Aug. 31, 1945,  when Japan formally surrendered.

The battleship was decommissioned on Jan. 9, 1947, but the name lives on. Today, the USS West Virginia is an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

Now the old battleship’s mast and bell stands watch in front of WVU’s Oglebay Hall, where a crowd gathered on a chilly Friday morning to pay respects on the 77th Pearl Harbor Day.

USS West Virginia submarine commander Captain Jared Wyrick was on hand from Georgia to deliver the keynote address. He was joined by USS West Virginia Chief-of-the-Boat, Senior Chief Will Corey.

Wyrick, the husband of a Morgantown native and WVU graduate, said the bravery and willingness to sacrifice present in those who fought off the Japanese  on that date which will live in infamy, is still very much alive.

“What I can tell you and what I can assure you is that I have the honor to lead and serve with warriors today wearing that same Navy uniform, inside those same haze gray hulls.  And I can tell you that if they are pushed, they’re ready to open throttles, change course toward the threat and make all torpedo tubes ready to fire,” Wyrick said.

“They’re proud to be associated with this legendary battleship, her crew and the great state of West Virginia. I hope you’re all proud to be associated with them.”

Story by Ben Conley, Dominion Post

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