CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Veterans of the World War II-era USS West Virginia will gather in Charleston this weekend for what may be the final reunion of the battleship's crew.
USS West Virginia Association curator Mike Mullins said former crewmen from the early 20th Century battleship reunite in Charleston today for their annual reunion.
Now advancing in years, the dwindling group of World War II veterans realized last year the 2012 reunion might be their last chance to get together.
In light of that, the group decided it would be fitting to hold their potential last meeting in their ship's namesake state.
"We decided we would do it once more in Charleston, West Virginia, which is the ship's home," Mullins said. "That way, if it was in fact the last one, it would be kind of fitting to do it there."
The USS West Virginia was commissioned in 1923. During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the ship was hit by seven torpedoes and two armor-piercing bombs which caused it to sink 40 feet to the harbor bottom.
The ship was raised, repaired and sent back into combat in 1944. It remained in service until 1959.
In the mid-1990s, Mullins started researching the history of the ship. The Internet was just gaining widespread use, and Mullins was disappointed in the lack of online content concerning the ship.
Mullins, a Chester Springs, Pa. resident, did not serve on the ship. He got involved with the association after researching his family background.
"My uncle was a crew member on the ship just prior to Pearl Harbor — he was a Pearl Harbor survivor," Mullins said.
"There wasn't a lot of history out there," he said "I started gathering the history and putting together a web site."
As he worked on that, he connected with the USS West Virginia Reunion Association. The group wasn't holding annual reunions then because those involved were getting too old to manage the logistics.
"They needed someone who could manage things, manage budgets, so that's where I took over," Mullins said.
They group has held regular reunions over the past decade. Mullins said the numbers have been declining rapidly over the past few years
"We've got 11 crew members attending the reunion this year," Mullins said. "The youngest of our crew members is 85; the oldest is 99.
"The talk for the last three or four years has been that we're going to keep doing this as long as we can," he said.