Naval History of West Virginia

While West Virginia is lives up to its name, “The Mountain State,” with countless hills and valleys great for outdoor adventures, its unlikely naval ties have left their mark in history.

With a small fleet of 25 vessels named after its cities, places, and people, not to mention the state itself, none were more instrumental that USS West Virginia II (BB 48) in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

At its time, USS West Virginia II (BB 48) represented the height of naval technology due to its impressive armored protection. Although she sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor from Japanese torpedoes and bombs in December 1941, she was refloated in May 1942 and earned an impressive five battle stars for her service in the Pacific.

Many veteran Sailors have come from West Virginia, including Rear Admiral Claud Aston Jones, who received the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism on board USS Memphis in 1916. Jones did everything possible to keep the engines and boilers ready, during a time when the vessel was suffering total destruction during a hurricane near the Dominican Republic. He remained at his post in near total darkness as the boilers exploded, and rushed with two shipmates into the firerooms to save the men inside.

Other notable veterans include Rear Admiral French Ensor Chadwick who served as president of the Naval War College and wrote numerous historic publications, and Ensign Ulvert Mathew Moore who was killed in action during the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Check out our infographic for more information on the Sailors, ships, and places in West Virginia with ties to naval history and heritage!