Benjamin E. Merrill, Jr.
Sea.2c
3rd Division
USN
USS West Virginia
1940-1941

Dear Mike:

First let me congratulate you for the best organized webpage I've yet seen.

I went aboard the West Virginia, I believe, sometime in October, 1940. At that time she was swinging around the anchor in Long Beach.

I was in the deck force [3rd division] for about two or three weeks when nine openings developed in the signal gang. I had already decided not to become a deck "ape," so, when quarters for muster was over, reported to the signal bridge, along with about forty other "deck apes" from other deck divisions to apply for one of the openings.

Chief Signalman, "Pappy" Siewert, gave each of us an eyeball examination. He didn't want any eyesores walking the bridge with Admiral Pye.

He then gave us an examination in penmanship, and spelling. I was one of the lucky nine.

I'm enclosing a couple of photos of me, then & now, along with my memories of the "Day Which Will Live in Infamy"
Thank you for the invitation to appear on your website.

Sincerely,

Gene Merrill

B. E. "Gene" Merrill, Chief Signalman, born Jan 25, 1925, Asheville, NC.  He was a signalman striker on Dec. 7, 1941, and having been relieved from the 04:00 to 08:00 watch on the signal bridge, was taking a shower when the first of several Japanese torpedoes struck the ship.  He never made it back to his living compartment and went through the entire battle totally naked. 

During the attack, he joined a volunteer rescue party to go below decks to search for, and rescue the injured.  Many injured were passed up to the main deck before excessive flooding forced the rescue party to the main deck.  The rescue party were among the last 20 or so to abandon ship.

He subsequently served on three destroyers which saw action in most of the major operations against the Japanese. 

Merrill graduated from law school and became a claims manager for a casualty insurance company.    After 28 years, he retired and became a self-employed insurance litigation consultant.

Reprinted with permission from Turner Publishing.


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