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  • Writer's pictureTroy Ericson

4th of July - USS West Virginia

After the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941...

Oahu, Hawaii was a mess.

Downed planes were everywhere.

21 American ships were sunk or badly damaged in the harbor.

2,403 people were dead or dying.

Hundreds of them were trapped on sunken ships, banging on the sides & yelling for help.

For days after the attack, their fellow Navy men were busy cutting holes in the sides of overturned ships, or attempting to dive down underwater with equipment to try & free their shipmates.

The majority of them didn't make it out. Especially the men on the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah.

Because those ships are still underwater today at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, which is quite literally a grave site.

However, this story (that I learned on my recent trip to Pearl Harbor) is about perseverance, and how America never quits.

As sad as it is...

If you did the math, you'll notice that of the 21 ships sunk or damaged...

Only 3 are still sunk.

Which means that, as soon as the attacks (and rescue missions) were over, Navy divers dove underwater with welding equipment to fix & raise the ships.

As soon as the bottom of each ship was "good enough", they raised it up to float again...

At which point, the ships underwent the rest of their repairs. And had hundreds of bodies removed from them... The stench scrubbed out, and the horrific scenes of that day 'wiped away'.

Then they re-commissioned into the US Navy.

Which is NO easy feat... I mean, if there's 1 tiny imperfection... It's game over. Plus, the stench, sight, and eeriness of cleaning bodies...

Gosh, I have so much respect for the crew who repaired it.

One of the ships in particular was the USS West Virginia... Built during World War I and finished in 1920.

You'd think that this ship was too old, too damaged, and too "behind the times" to save... Why would it be worth it?

It took 3 YEARS for the ship to return to service, in October 1944.

But the most badass part about this story is...

The United States defeated Japan less than 1 year later, in August 1945.

At which time the United States had to send several ships to Tokyo Bay to officially have the Japanese sign the surrender treaty.

And one of the ships they took with them?

The USS West Virginia.

🤯 🇺🇸

Which means that, while Japanese General Yoshijiro Umezu & his men were standing onboard the USS Missouri, signing the treaty and surrendering to the United States...



The very ship that was attacked & sunk, then considered by many to be "too old", "too outdated", and "not worth repair"...

Was now a symbol of victory.

When I was at Pearl Harbor during my honeymoon this year...

This story struck me.

I was in a place that was supposed to be sad. It's still a grave site for over 900 men who never made it out of the water.

I honestly choked up after hearing some of the stories.

But when I read this story... My tear of sadness turned to one of joy.

Because I recognized that America is a place where, no matter how many people count you out...

If it feels like your life is a constant battle...

Or if feels like you're fighting a war...

Or you can't seem to stay afloat...

Or you've been trying to repair your life for years...

There is hope for you.

And you can succeed.

Keep pushing, keep going, you got this!

I'm so thankful to live here.

And even if you don't, I hope this story inspired you too.

Because you can do anything you set your mind to.


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