This years Pearl Harbor Day ceremony at West Virginia University will honor the USS West Virginias commanding officer, who died aboard the ill-fated battleship during the Japanese attack that ushered America into World War II.


Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, who was mortally wounded on the ships bridge in the attack 61 years ago, will be remembered during the public observance at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at WVU s OglebayPlaza, said John Horne, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 548. A street sign bearing Bennions name and designated for the WVU campus will also be unveiled.


As usual, area veterans and members of WVU s Army and Air Force ROTC units will gather at Post 548 on Spruce Street 30 minutes before the ceremony, then march to OglebayPlaza, Horne said.


The program will feature a 21-gun salute, taps, a bell-ringing and placement of wreaths. West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw will be the keynote speaker, and crew members from the USS West Virginia Trident Submarine will attend.


The mast of the USS West Virginia stands in OglebayPlaza as a tribute to veterans of the war. The bell from the cruiser USS West Virginia also occupies a spot on the plaza.


More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and civilians died in the Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.


The USS West Virginia sank after being hit by seven torpedoes and two bombs, Horne said. Afterward, the ship was refloated and refurbished for service during the war and was the first vessel to drop anchor in TokyoBay before Japan surrendered.


The ship was decommissioned after the war, and efforts began locally to have its mast transported to the WVU campus from Seattle, where the Navy was dismantling the vessel, according to”West VirginiaUniversity: Symbol of Unity in a SectionalizedState”by William T. Doherty Jr. and Festus P. Summers. A dedication ceremony for the mast was held March 17, 1961, and the mast was mounted in 1963.


VFW Post 548 has been leading Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies at the plaza since 1975. The Universitys Army and Air Force ROTC units have also been annual participants.