By Jake Jaekel

They called them the "Grand Old Ladies" when eight of them lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor that quiet Sunday morning December 7, 1941. They were considered the backbone of the Pacific Fleet. All eight were hit, five were sunk, three badly damaged. Two years and four months later five of them (the USS California, Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee and West Virginia) were completely rebuilt and modernized and had returned to the battle front.


Forrest M. Jones a member of River City Chapter 6 Sacramento was a first class fire-controlman on the USS West Virginia in charge of the 5"/25 anti- aircraft directors. He was on the upper Fire Control Level above the navigation deck when the Japanese attack started. Forrest and his crew immediately manned their battle stations in the gun directors before the general alarm was sounded. About that time torpedoes started exploding against the side of the ship and they couldn’t get power to the gun directors or establish communications with the ant-aircraft guns. Realizing that their gun directors were inoperable, he elected to take his two crews to the anti-aircraft gun deck level and help place the 5" guns in operation.

Later he went back to the Navigation Bridge to see if there had been any communications from the many shipmates that were trapped below decks without any means of escape except for the long escape tube between the Central Station and the Navigation Bridge. Along with a couple other shipmates, they helped at least thirty shipmates up and out of the escape tube. Captain Bennion was still alive but fatally wounded from bomb shrapnel that hit the No. 2 turret of the inboard battleship, the Tennessee.

After the attack Forrest remained on the West Virginia during the entire war and was Officer of the Deck when the Grand Old Lady entered Tokyo Bay for Japan’s formal surrender on the USS Missouri September 2, 1945.

During the signing of the surrender terms The USS West Virginia was the only Battleship in Tokyo Bay which had been at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941.