The U.S. Navy is being asked to name a warship - again - for a Utahn who commanded his ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor even though he was severely wounded and dying.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants the Navy to name a new ship after Mervyn S. Bennion, a winner of the congressional Medal of Honor. It named a destroyer after him in World War II, but that ship was decommissioned in 1972.Bennion, a native of Vernon, Tooele County, was commanding the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Although he could have stayed ashore at night like many other commanders, he did not like to be far from his ship or men. So he stayed on board, and was there when the first bombs fell in the early morning attack. He was among the first wounded, hit by shrapnel from a bomb.
Crew mates said the captain was almost disemboweled and realized the wound was likely fatal. But he said he was alert mentally and stayed on the bridge to command the fight and evacuation of wounded sailors until he finally passed out and died. His ship was credited with downing 20 to 30 Japanese aircraft.
Hatch and several crew members of the former USS Bennion - named for the captain and which achieved an impressive battle record - would like a new ship commissioned and named for Bennion by 1991, the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Mervyn S. Bennion Jr., Bennion's son who lives in Salt Lake City, has joined Hatch in supporting the effort. Hatch has sent letters to every senator urging endorsement of the project.
"Medals of Honor were rare in World War II. For a Utahn to have been given this highest of combat honors during the darkest day of American history is something that merits the perpetual applause of our state and nation," Hatch said.