The USS West Virginia Memory Project
June 24, 2016
Memory, legacy, reconciliation. Thinking about our past, present, and future.
The USS West Virginia Memory Project is an interdisciplinary visual art and design initiative that connects U.S. and Japanese veterans of World War II and reminds people of the crossroads between a local sense of place and a global understanding of that place in the world. Over a three-year period, this project has involved West Virginia University students in the Global Positioning Studies’ Art & Environment class.
This project is envisioned to look beyond our differences and think of the commonality of our humanity. It relates to my goals and interests with regards to site-specific installations and creating art that is bigger than me. It is to fulfill my interest as an artist to engage viewers to think about our humanity through our past, present and future.
Two years ago, I received permission from the U.S. Navy with the help Scott Pawlowski of the National Park Service, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, to collect water from Pearl Harbor where the USS West Virginia, nicknamed the “Wee Vee,” was moored. On the campus of West Virginia University, we have the mast and bell from the ship. The water that was collected was poured over these objects to reconnect the ship and her sailors.
The water was then taken to Tokyo, Japan and passed through the hands of Takeshi Maeda, the B5N bomber pilot who sank the USS West Virginia, on Jan. 14, 2016.
Next, the water will be taken to the new USS West Virginia, an Ohio class, nuclear submarine, and the water will be passed to the new generation of sailors who are part of this legacy.
In October, the water will be poured over the mast of the Wee Vee on campus in a ceremony with some of the survivors. A number of vials of this water will then be given to the remaining survivors. Later, water will be poured back into Pearl Harbor in a ceremony, and a display containing the water will be created and presented to the museum in Pearl Harbor as part of a remembrance ceremony.
The second part of this project is a social media campaign, launched in May, to encourage the citizens of West Virginia to petition Congress to help create a USS West Virginia Memorial at Pearl Harbor. More information can be found at facebook.com/usswestvirginiamemorial.