USS West Virginia
This information is being submitted in loving memory of our father, Ajax Lilly, who departed this life on June 25th 1998, at the age of 77.
Sandra Wood, Carol Reed, Ronald Lilly & Patricia Williams
Ajax Lilly grew up in the depression era. Jobs were scarce in Southern West Virginia in those days. He graduated from Spanishburg High School in 1939. Wanting to see the world he decided to let Uncle Sam foot the bill and joined the navy after graduation.
Following 8 weeks basic training at Norfolk, Virginia Dad was assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia, then home ported in long Beach, California. Shortly after that, the "Wee Vee", as crewmen affectionately called her, sailed for Hawaii.
As fate would have it, Dad was off duty but topside in the early morning hours of Sunday December 7th 1941. At first he thought the planes circling overhead were our pilots practicing bombing maneuvers. The strafing, torpedo wakes, and bombs falling soon ended those thoughts. The men of the West Virginia fought back but with limited resources due to their location and the damage they sustained. In the course of the battle, the ship took 6 torpedo hits and several bombs. When the order to abandon ship was given, our father dived overboard and swam about 400 yards thru burning oil and other debris to Ford Island. Not being injured, and with the West Virginia sitting on the bottom of the harbor, he was quickly reassigned to the USS Salt Lake City which left port soon after.
From December 1941 until the end of the war, Dad served continuously on the Salt Lake City. We always felt that, even though being aboard the West Virginia on December 7th 1941 was his claim to fame, his true love was the "Swayback Maru." Over the years we heard many stories of the heroics of his shipmates and the love they all felt for the SLC during its long, dangerous period in the Pacific. Our wish is that he could have lived long enough to read all the stories about the SLC and its crew, which appear on your web site.
This info was submitted to the USS Salt Lake City web site by Ajax Lilly's family. The family also submitted the same info here to the USS West Virginia web site and it has been published unedited.
See Ajax Lilly's page on the USS Salt Lake City web site at http://www.ussslcca25.com/lilly.htm
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