Area military veterans will mark Pearl Harbor Day at West Virginia University by honoring the USS West Virginia sailors who died in the attack and launching a year-long celebration of ships bearing the state’s name.
The day’s activities will begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, in the Mountainlair Shenandoah Room, where there will be a display of memorabilia from the battleship sunk during the Japanese bombing 62 years ago, said John Horne, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 548. A movie,”Pearl Harbor Remembered,”will also be shown.
The annual Pearl Harbor Day ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at Oglebay Plaza. The mast of the USS West Virginia stands in Oglebay Plaza as a tribute to veterans of the war. The bell from the armored cruiser USS West Virginia also occupies a spot on the plaza.
As usual, veterans and members of WVU ’s Air Force and Army ROTC units will gather at Post 548 on Spruce Street 30 minutes before the ceremony and march to the plaza, Horne said.
The program will include a bell-ringing, laying of wreaths, taps and a 21-gun salute. WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. will be the featured speaker.
A dedication of Capt. Bennion Drive between the plaza and Oglebay Hall will follow the ceremony. The drive is named for Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, the USS West Virginia’s commander who was mortally wounded at Pearl Harbor. More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel and civilians died in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that ushered America into World War II.
The USS West Virginia sank after being hit by seven torpedoes and two bombs, entombing 105 crew members. Afterward, the ship was refloated and refurbished for service during the war and was the first vessel to drop anchor in Tokyo Bay 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. 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 the 1970s. The University’s Army and Air Force ROTC units have also been annual participants.
This year’s activities serve as a kickoff for a year-long, statewide centennial celebration of USS West Virginia Navy vessels. These include the armored cruiser, launched April 18, 1903; the battleship, commissioned in 1923; and a Trident ballistic missile submarine currently a part of the nation’s fleet. Several activities honoring these ships are planned through July 4, 2004.