Although four Wee-Vee sailors were killed and seven others were wounded, the bomb's failure to explode likely saved hundreds of lives.
Among those killed was a telephone operator on an anti-aircraft battery -- a battle station recently vacated by reunion attendee Herbert Crask of Arizona.
"Right after Iwo Jima, I fouled up my knees and had to go to the hospital," he said. "I was in Oakland when the kamikaze hit. If I hadn't gone to the hospital, I'd be dead."
For George Gackle, a storekeeper who worked in the ship's pay office and served as an ammunition passer for one of the battlewagon's 12 5-inch gun in times of combat, life on the West Virginia "was like living in a big city.
"I came from a North Dakota town of 750, and there were 2,000 or so people aboard the West Virginia," he said. "There was one barbershop in my hometown, and four or five on the ship."
Variot said there were about 1,100 people on the mailing list when he took over as head of the battleship's reunion organization 15 years ago. Because of the crew's advancing age, there are now about 400 on the list, with about a dozen crewmen attending reunions in recent years.
While a decision was made to hold what was believed to be a final reunion in the ship's namesake state, there is now talk about continuing the annual reunion tradition. A vote on the matter will be taken Saturday.
On Sunday, the Wee-Vee veterans will travel to Beckley, where they will tour the USS West Virginia exhibit, which includes a 20-foot-long, 1:32-scale model of the battleship at the Raleigh County Veterans Museum. While in Beckley, they'll also attend a dinner in their honor.
USS West Virginia artifacts on display in the Culture Center included a crewman's cap, a 16-inch gun cover, an incline meter, a bell from the ship's motor launch and a metal plate listing safety orders for the ship's 16-inch magazine.
The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped in 1961.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.