Stories of bravery and images of an iconic war from the collection in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University are now available in an online exhibit at wwii.byu.edu.
The Web collection, “Remembering World War II: Pearl Harbor and Beyond,” features items and stories selected from the BYU library’s collection of World War II materials. The Web site features a wide range of documents that give insight into the experience of Americans during the War.
Among these items is the story of Mervyn Bennion, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and captain of the U.S.S. West Virginia.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Captain Bennion, a naval officer with 35 years of experience, was preparing to attend Church services in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese bombers and torpedo planes began attacking the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Fragments from a nearby ship hit Bennion in the abdomen within moments of the first attack. Undeterred by his wounds, he continued to issue orders and refused to leave or yield his responsibilities of command.
After the second wave of the Japanese attack began, a fire broke out onboard the ship. Two officers carried Bennion, unconscious, up to the navigation bridge to a corner that was free from smoke, where Bennion told them to leave and to save themselves.
The U.S.S. West Virginia sank the following morning. After the ship cooled, Bennion’s body was removed. The place where he lay had not been touched by fire.
For giving his life in an act that was above and beyond the call of duty, Bennion was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor—the highest military decoration given by the U.S. government.
The site also includes fliers, medals, newspaper clippings, letters and the story of an American flag created near the end of the Pacific War by Clarance Bramley, a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Religious items, such as the Servicemen's Book of Mormon used by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, are also featured.
For more information, visit wwii.byu.edu.
Writer: Marissa Ballantyne