Mervyn S. Bennion

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Mervyn Sharp Bennion was a United States Navy captain. He died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and, for his extraordinary courage, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Bennion was born on May 5, 1887, in Vernon, Toole County, Utah Territory. When he had the funds necessary, he boarded in Salt Lake City to attend high school. After graduating, he was accepted into the United States Naval Academy and graduated third in his 1910 class.

His first assignment was on the USS California in the engineering division. That assignment was followed with an ordnance and gunnery specialist assignment during World War I serving in the Ordnance Bureau at Washington Naval Yard. His first command was the destroyer USS Bernadou, then command of Destroyer Division One.

On July 2, 1941, he assumed command of the USS West Virginia. The USS West Virginia, along with eight other battleships, were moored at the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor. While Bennion was commander of this battleship, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Bennion was hit by shrapnel from the nearby USS Tennesee after she was hit by a bomb. The shrapnel disemboweled him. Several sailors attempted to move him to a first aid station, but he refused to leave his post. He ordered his men to save themselves and using one arm to hold his wounds closed, he slowly bled to death while still commanding his crew.

His citation reads, “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion, United States Navy, for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the USS West Virginia (BB-48), after being mortally wounded, Captain Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.”

He was buried in Salt Lake City, Utah. On July 4, 1943, the destroyer USS Bennion was named in his honor.

Bennion was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He married Louise Clark, the eldest daughter of J. Reuben Clark Jr. They were the parents of one son.

He was portrayed in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor by actor Peter Firth.

External Sources