Bainbridge class destroyers (1900)

Bainbridge class Destroyers (1900)

USA – (1898-1902): 12 destroyers.

The Bainbridge-class destroyers were first designated as Torpedo Boat Destroyers (TBDs), authorized by the Congress in 1898 following the Spanish–American War. Built between 1899 and 1903, they represented 13 of 16 TBDs, but the lead ships USS Bainbridge was retroactively denominated DD-1, making her the very first USN destroyer. There was a single loss in WW1, USS Chauncey, colliding with the British merchant ship SS Rose in 1917. They were discarded in 1919, but made a very first and important step in a long lineage that will be covered in detail in 2023.

A late inclusion of the Torpedo

The start of the “new navy” TB lineage: 1886

When the Spanish-American War broke out in April 31, 1898, the USN still at the time called “new navy” to make a difference with the leftovers of the 1860s Civil war fleet, looked definitely at Europe, and at that stage, the French Young School in particular, looking at ways to wage war on potentially adverse commerce. One such policies was also to count on local defence, and leading to the design and adoption of the first (and only) USN Torpedo Boats.

Going from the spare-torpedo vessels of the Civil war such as the CSS David, and the first “submarines”, USS Alligator and CSS HL Hunley, or the first “torpedo boat”, the USS Spuyten Duyvil, there was no need for such vessels in the 1870s, experiments being made on an armoured ram instead (perhaps inspired by the British HMS Polyphemus), USS Kathadin, and the dynamite-gun cruiser USS Vesuvius. In the 1880s, the USN started a serie of commerce raising cruisers, but none had torpedo tubes, at least until the 1892 USS Olympia, a groundbreaking designs for many reasons.

uss stiletto
The very first, experimental “Torpedo Boat” (“WT1”) was built by Herreschoff and provided at first a spar torpedo: USS Stiletto. She was provided two Howell torpedoes in 1898 though.
It’s USS Cushing that was the first to adopt true 18-in torpedo tubes. Officially named “TB-1”, she represented the start of this rather short lineage. Followed by TB-2 USS Eriscsson (1894), then the first classes, Foote (1896), Porter (1896) and up to TB-35 (USS Wilkes, 1901) they were rather small, from 110 to 220 tonnes, built by a variety of yards to test different solutions. Almost all boats differed from one another in some ways. The USN experimented the type until it was no longer a priority.

Foote class TBs
Foote class TBs (TB-3 to TB-5), a 142 tonnes type.

Context and Motivation

Alongside the construction of Torpedo Boats, the USN was well aware of the development in Europe of large torpedo boats intended to chase down regular TBs, called “TBD” with the adjunction of “destroyer”.
One such inspiration, as tension grew with Spain over Cuba, was the Spanish “Destructor” (1885) credited as the very first of such torpedo boats hunters. But it was a largely experimental ship. The Armada soon integrated the Furor class launched 1896-97, six ships planned, but only Furor and Plutón were ready when the war broke out.

Spanish Furor, the class was soon sent to defend Cuba, entering in USN calculation. Captain Villamil, in charge of both Pluton and Furor, proposed to launch a surprise night attack with torpedoes but was overruled by the ranking Admiral Cervera.

It is still unclear if those weighted that much in the admiralty decision to press the construction of TB-11 (USS Farragut, first of the name) as she was authorized by the Congress on 10 june 1896, whereas the Furor class were ordered from J & G Thompson Clydebank shipyards in Scotland the same year, possibly earlier. For USS Farragut, built at Union Iron Works, laid down in July 1897 and launched on July 1898 was not completed in time to take part in the Spanish-American war. None of the following did. But the looming war in 1896 certainly had a role in this.

USN Ocean-Going Torpedo Boats: TB-11 to TB-21 (1897-99)

USS Farragut, TB-11, Post card with no date or location from the collection of Raymond Strout, via (1).

The doubt lays in the fact that instead of ordering a class, the admiralty was content to place orders for comparative tests to various yards and based on the same following 3/3/1897 act.
-TB-19 (USS Stringham) to Harlan & Hollingsworth,
-TB-20 (USS Goldborough) to Wolf & Ziwker,
-TB-21 (USS Bailey) to Gas engine & Power & CL Seabury.
These last three were launched in the span of a few months in 1898. However, both experience with USS Farragut and the end of the war led to many modificationsn ensuring these largely experimental boats were commissioned at a much later dates, in 1901 (Bailey), 1905 (Stringham) and even 1908 for USS Goldsborough.
These vessels were classed as TBs due to their tonnage, 235 to 340 tons, not that far from the largest TBs of the time, reaching 220 long tonnes. Some authors had them placed in a single class by convencience but if they started with the same March 1897 specifications and requirements, submitted to several yards, they certainly were very different from one another.
They served for testing purpose for all their active existence, even duting WWI. Without surprise they were discarded in 1918 and scrapped 1919-1923.

USS Bailey, Undated, location unknown. Photo NHQQ0397 from the publication “Our Country’s Pride” via navsource. src

⚙ specifications

Name TB-11 TB-19 TB-20 TB-21
Displacement 279 340 255 234
Dimensions 214 x 21 x 6 228 x 22 x 6 198 x 20 x 6 205 x 19 x 6
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 3 Thornycroft Boilers, 5,878 ihp 7,200 ihp 6,000 ihp 5,600 ihp
Speed 30 kts 30 kts 27 kts 30 kts
Range/oil tonnage 95 t 95 t 89 t 99 t
Armament 4x 6-pdr, 3x 18-in TTs same same same
Crew 66 59 59 56

The first destroyer class (DD-1)

Profile of USS Bainbridge in sea trials, shown in publications of the time.

Some references, describe the four preceding ocean-going torpedo boats launched in 1898-1899 as the first US destroyers, based on their tonnage albeit still class as TBs. USS Stringham, largest of these, was even larger than some contemporary British destroyers, but when studied in emergency, the new Bainbridges were considerably larger and better armed, although not as fast, the “first rate” Farragut & Cie indeed were specificied 30 knots (that only Goldborough failed to achieve, no wonder Wolf & Zwicker was never recontacted).
The Bainbridge class followed a 1898 recommendation for war plans board initiated to start the Spanish–American War, chaired by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt. All recoignised, based on reports, the poor sea-keeping qualities of the previous Farragut type “sea going torpedo boats” or TBs in general, also taking in account the Spanish Furor class built in UL, which caracteristics were well known. These were the reasons for a more ambitious, coherent class of 13 officially designated as TBDs (Torpedo Boat Destroyers), sanctioned by Congress authorizion on 4 May 1898, to be placed under the fiscal year 1899 (FY 1899) naval program, completed by three Truxtun-class.

Original blueprint of the class
Original blueprint of the class, outboard view and top view.

Construction difficulties (and the quick resolution of the war, since the Armada soon looked like a paper tiger), saw the Bainbridges only completed in 1901–02, far too late. But this new type was nevertheless instituted for good in the US Navy, following the Royal Navy in 1895 with the A-class. At the same time, this put a definitive end to the torpedo boats program. The very last indeed was TB-35 USS Wilkes, commissioned in 1902, about the same time. A long pause for reflection followed (see later).

So the Bainbridge was the first class specifically ordered as the Spanish American war broke out, but instead of ordering them in separate yards for testing, as the previous TB-11 to TB-21, the design was completely new and standardized, so to be ordered in numbers to Neafies & Levy and WR Trigg (and several sub-classes to other yards). At 420 tonnes, they certainly superior were to the Spanish Furor class, which were 320 tonnes, 28 knots capable vessels armed with 2 × 75 mm (3 in) and two 57 mm (2 in) Nordenfelt cannons, two Maxim machine guns and two 350 mm (14 in) torpedo tubes.

Beating this by size, speed, armament and capabilities was obviously a priority. With 420 tonnes setup as tonnage, way more than the previous Farragut and following, the same two 3-in but five 6-pdr, and moreover 18-in torpedo tubes (457 mm) instead of 14-in, a top speed of 29 knots, the Bainbridge class certainly went beyond and above.
Most authors assimilated these as a single class with several sub-classes:
Bainbridge class by Neafie & Levy USS Bainbridge, Barry, Chaucer & WR Trigg: Dale, Decatur.
Hopkins sub-class by Harlan & Hollingsworth: USS Hopkins, Hull (DD 6 and 7)
Lawrence sub-class by Fore River: USS lawrence, Macdonough (DD 8 and 9)
Paul Jones sub-class by Union Iron Works: USS Paul Jones, Perry, Preble (DD 10-12)
Steward sub-class by Gas engine & CL Seabury: USS steward (DD 13)
They all proceeded from the same basic specifications, but had some changes, setting them apart (see later).

From the Truxtun to the Smith: Nearly a decade vacancy.

uss truxtun DD-14
The next class, this time too different to be assimilated, were the Truxtun (DD 14-16), with USS Truxtun, Whipple and Worden completed as flush-deckers with a turtleback foredeck on a 433 tonnes, 260 foot base, but the same armament. Most authors sets them apart albeit they proceeded from the very same 4 May 1898 act, but moved FY1899. They were launched all three at Maryland Steel Yard, on 15 August 1901. They will be the object of a separated article.

uss flusser
Smith class USS Flusser (DD-20) on sea trials: The first USN turbine destroyers.
There was a gap of nine years between the Truxtun and the next Smith class (USS Smith, Lamson, Preston, Flusser, Reid, DD-17-21) as they were all provided a forecastle, which became standard and were based on a 700 tonnes standard, almost twice the Bainbridge, plus an all-3 inches main armament. They represented a brand new league in destroyer design, this time meant for fleet duties alongside the brand new battlefleet that was built, including the first dreadnoughts. But in the span of four years, the USN jumped in 1913 to a 1000 tonnes standard, which went all through WWI with the Wickes/Clemsons. They were all dubbed as “fully seagoing vessels” with long interwar careers, whereas the old Bainbridge and Truxtun classes were scrapped just after the war ended.

Design of the Bainbridge class (DD-1)

Reworked blueprint
Reworked blueprint, in inverted black and white and accentuated contrasts by the author.

Hull and general design

bainbridge profile
Drawing made by A. D. Baker III as of 1901, scanned from U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman (

The Bainbridges were under 650 long tons (660 t) fully loaded, but 408 to 480 tonnes standard (unladen). In sharp contrast, modern Arleigh Burke-class from 2013, so after 100+ years of evolution, reaches 10,800 long tons (11,000 t), so heavy cruiser-size for WW2 standards. Still at the time, they certainly were on top pf the predatory chain for small ships. To compared, let’s see the British A class (1897):

USS Bainbridge (DD1)

Sub-class stats:

Bainbridge: Forecastle. 420 tons, 250 x 23.7 x 6.6 feets, 8,000 ihp, 29 kts. see general stats in table below, crew 73.
Hopkins: Turtledeck. 408 tons, 248.8 x 24.6 x 6ft feets, 7,200 ihp, 29 kts, two 3-in/50 guns (3-in/25 on the others) crew 72.
Lawrence: Forecastle. 430 tons, 246.3 x 22.3 x 6.8 ft, 8,400 ihp, 30 kts, crew 72.
Paul Jones sub-class: 480 tons, forecastle. 250.7 x 23.6 x 7.3 fts, 8,000 ihp, 29 kts, crew 73.
Steward: 420 tons, Forecastle. 250.6 x 23.8 x 6.6 ft, 8,000 ihp, 29 kts, crew 71.


Blueprint - Engine girders
Blueprint – Engine girders (NARA). Department of the Navy. Bureau of Construction and Repair 1898.

The ships all had two propeller shafts connected vertical triple-expansion engines, the best of their day (Turbines were onugurated by the Smith class onwards), fed by four coal-fired boilers. They diverged in details from ships to sub-class:

USS Bainbridge herself and the rest of her group had four Thornycroft boilers rated at 275 psi (1,900 kPa) for a total output of 7,000 ihp (5,200 kW) as designed, but on trials she reached 28.45 knots (52.69 km/h; 32.74 mph) at forced heat, light gauge, 8,000 ihp (6,000 kW). She carried 213 long tons (216 t) of coal but only 203 tons for USS dale and Decatur.

The sub-class Hopkins had the same Thornycroft boilers and triple-expansion engines same output of 7,000 ihp but did better at 29.02 knots on trials based on less horsepower 8,456 ihp (6,306 kW), thay however only carried 150 long tons of coal. Perhaps her better performances were attibuted to her lower displacement at 408 tons as both Hopkins and Hull lacked the forecastle of the others.

The Lawrence sub-class diverged by having four Normand boilers or Fore River Boilers (for Conways) and total output was above the others at 8,400 ihp (6,300 kW); Because of this, they also diverged in profile, having four funnels close together, and not far apart like all the others and a turtleback instead of a forecastle as the Bainbridges, and yet displaced even more (see separate stats), reaching 28.41 knots on trials based on the same output than specified. Coal capacity was just 115 long tons reducing their range significantly, but in Conways it’s noted at 123 tons, 110 for USS Mcdonough.

The Paul Jones (With Perry and Preble) had Thornycroft boilers rated for 8,000 ihp, 29 knots, carrying 202 tons of coal. On trials, top speed ranged between 28.03 and 28.91 knots.
USS Stewart had four Seabury boilers for 8,000 ihp also, 29 knots but only 172 tons of coal. On trials she reached 29.7 knots and thus was soon dubbed the fastest of the whole class.


In standard as specified they all carried the same combination: Two 3-in/25 (76 mm) guns, Five 6-pdr QF guns (57 mm), two 18-in torpedo tubes.
Interestingly enough, the only change was on the Paul Jones sub-class which in the 1910s replaced their two single tubes by a twin bank amidships. The single one aft was removed.

Main: 2x 3-inches

The two 3-in/25 guns were located fore and aft on raised platforms. Unfortunately i can’t find much data about these 1890s guns. The closest were the 3″/23.5 (7.62 cm) Marks 4 developed in 1900 by Bethlehem Steel, using with a side-swing carrier breech block. More data.
This is another story for the 3-in/50 however (it’s likely all were upgraded to this standard after completion). The 3″/50 (7.62 cm) Mark 2 was developed in 1898 and entered service in 1900 so as the destroyers were completed. Designed by Bethlehem Steel they fired fixed ammunitions.
Stats were: 15 rounds per minute, 24 lbs. (10.9 kg) shells at 2,700 fps (823 mps). The number of rounds carried is unknown. It’s likely they were upgraded to Mark 3 or 5 in WWI.

Secondary: Five 6-pdr

These were the classic QF 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns, manufactured in France by a US-born engineer and industrialist.
These used a vertical sliding-block breech with hydro-spring recoil, fired a 57x307R shell at 25 rpm and 1,818 feet per second (554 m/s) up to 4,000 yards (3,700 m).
On this class they were located along the hull, on deck and broadside, two abaft funnel #1 and two more in front of funnel #3. The last one was axial, located just behind funnel #4. Note that this location changed on the Lawrence sub-class as they had four funnels close together. On this class, the 6-pdr forward were relocated abaft the 3-in main gunnery platform. On all forecastle ships, the guns were located abaft #1 funnel, and specially made recesses to fire forward, protected from the elements by a bulwark. This location was judged ideal to have three guns firing in chase.


The two torpedo tubes were located on deck, axis positions, one between the two groups of funnels (on the Lawrence, behind the group) and one completely aft, close to the stern. This gave them excellent traverse angles. They also carried four reload torpedoes. The reload operation was of course manual, using pulleys, and a long operation.
As customary of the time, these destroyers not only had single torpedo tubes, but also 18-in caliber torpedoes, but in reality they were 17.7 inches (45.0 cm) in diameter. This caliber was chosen on US destroyers as well starting with USS Cushing (1890) instead of the 14-in used on the Spanish Furor class destroyers and many early destroyers and torpedo boats on the time, but also the experimental USS Stiletto, using the early 14.2″ (36 cm) Howell.
US early Torpedoes of the Howell type, using a flywheel for power, were quickly replaced by the Whitehead type built under licence by Bliss-Levitt, using compressed air.
There is doubt about the exact type used on the Bainbridge class: Either the “Short” Whitehead 18″ (45 cm) Mark 1 or the “Short” Whitehead 18″ (45 cm) Mark 2, the “Long” Whitehead 18″ (45 cm) Mark 1 or Type B introduced in 1898, Mark 2 or Type C or the one introduced when they were completed:
The Whitehead 18″ (45 cm) Mark 3 or Type A:
First using a Mark 1 mod 1 gyro, they weighted 845 lbs. (383 kg) for 140 in (3.556 m) long, carrying a 118 lbs. (53.5 kg) wet gun-cotton charge at 800 yards (730 m)/27.5 knots.
The engine was using an air-flask (cold running) with compressed air on three cylinder, radial Brotherhood pattern.

Author’s profile of USS Bainbridge, DD-1

⚙ Bainbridge (DD-1 to 6) specifications

Displacement 420 tons standard (circa 700 fully loaded)*
Dimensions 250 oa x 23ft 7in x 6ft 6in feets (76.19 x 7.18 x 1.98m)
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 4 Thornycroft Boilers, 8,000 ihp
Speed 28-28.64 kts, 29 kts nominal
Range 2700(8 kts), 203-213 tons coal
Armament 2x 3-in, 5x 6-pdr, 2x 18-in TTs
Crew 73

USS Bainbridge displaced 631 long tons (641 t) as designed full load but 710.5 long tons (721.9 t) in actual full load.
Construction time, from keel laying to commission was four years on average, quite long for destroyers.

Career and general Assessment

Old destroyers awaiting decommissioning in the Reserve Basin, Philadelphia Navy Yard, spring 1919. Are visible USS Preble, Decatur, USS Paul Jones, Stewart, Bainbridge, Hopkins, Hull, Barry, so most of the whole class plus Worden, Truxtun, Whipple (truxtun class) plus USS Perry, Lawrencen, Dale of the Bainbridge class, in reserve, pending decommission. Naval History & Heritage Command photo NH 43036 via src

Read More

USS Chauncey in Drydock, 1910
USS Chauncey in Drydock, 1910


Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
Friedman, Norman (2004). US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised ed.). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. New York: Mayflower Books.
Simpson, Richard V. Building The Mosquito Fleet, The US Navy’s First Torpedo Boats. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2001
Silverstone, Paul H. (1970). U.S. Warships of World War I. London: Ian Allan.



Model Kits

As the first USN destroyers, the Bainbridge class benefited from the attention of at least some manufacturers: Blue Water Navy, Blue Ridge Models, Yankee Modelworks and Iron shipwright made a 1:350 model (likely sharing the same molds). More recent, Iron Shipwrights made a 1:192 model. This is an “austere” kit, lacking artillery, masts and details, as she was in 1916.
Main query on scalemates

USS Bainbridge (DD1)

As commissioned in 24 November 1902, USS Bainbridge was Assigned to the 1st Torpedo Flotilla, with three months between trials, outfitting, pre-training and fixes. On 1 June 1903 she made a shakedown cruise to Annapolis, assigned to the North Atlantic Fleet’s Coast Squadron, later moved to Newport News in Virginia. On 18 June she departed for her first squadron’s drills in New England waters, following by a search problem and joint maneuvers with the Army off Maine. By September 1903 she was prepared to serve with the Asiatic Station.

The 1st Torpedo Flotilla moved with USS Baltomore in December to Key West in Florida, Buffalo replcing Baltimore for their voyage to the Far East via Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, Gibraltar, Algiers, Valletta, Suez in February, the Red Sea to Aden, Bombay and Colombo, for their home port Singapore on 9 April, then Cavite, Philippines. From there, the squadron stayed in the Asiatic Station, between Chinese waters and the Philippines, during which USS Bainbridge was the squadron flagship (DesRon 1) at Manila Bay. They usually stopped yearly at Hong Kong and Shanghai, making torpedo drills off the Chinese coast during the summer and showing the flag in support of American diplomatic presence there, forcing the hands of the Imperial Government, enforcing treaties and protecting their nationals but also safeguarding quasi-colonial concessions witgin western power’s fierce competition.

In 1904 with the attack on Port Arthur, USS Bainbridge was at Shanghai when the fleeing cruiser Askold from Admiral Vitgeft’s squadron arrived to find a safe haven, with the Japanese in hot pursuit. A IJN destroyer entered the Yangtze to reconnoiter Askold when US Rear Admiral Yates Stirling dispatched Bainbridge to deter her to go further. Previously at Chefoo they had violated international law by seizing another ship, and the deterrence worked.

In 1905 she engaged in local operations and torpedo drills, gunnery practice, leaving the Philippines with the Battleship Squadron for Hong Kong. Back to Cavite they patrolled the coast of Palawan Borneo after hearing of the close arrival of the Russian Rear Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky’s Baltic Fleet from Madagascar. Thus, the destroyers enforced possible neutrality violations both from Russians and Japanese. The situation was resolved at Tsushima in May.
In 1906 Bainbridge and Barry remained in Chinese waters to “show the flag”
On 9 January 1907 she was commissioned in Cavite Navy Yard for machinery fixes, overhaul and maintenance. She had indeed many boilers issues, also shared with her sister ships, reported already in 1905. The Asiatic Fleet commander eventually asked for a retubing on all ships when pacticable. Chauncey, Dale and Decatur as were decommissioning at Cavite. Bainbridge was eventually recommissioned on 2 April 1908 with Captain Joseph V. Ogan in command.

The next three years were spent between patrolling the Philippines and Chinese waters training in the summer. By October 1911 an anti-Manchu revolt degenrated in a revolution 1912 in prompting there the US destroyers, protecting Americans citizens and interests. By the spring of 1912 she remained on station in the Yangtze River and returned to the Philippines. However due to manpower shortage she was placed in reserve on 24 April.
She remained in semi-active state limbo until 1 April 1913, now commanded by Lieutenant Raymond A. Spruance (yes, this one).

Complications on the international scene resurfaced with the California Alien Land Law of 1913 and Bainbridge with the flotilla stationed off Luzon, until May, and throughout 1914. Next, they departed for Chinese waters again this summer. Menawhile, Japan joined the entente and soon started a chase after Geran assets in the pacific. In 1915 Bainbridge and the flotilla only made a short deployment to Shanghai and in 1916 patrolled Philippines waters. The spring of 1917 saw her stationed at Cebu, southern islands. By the mid-summer 1917 she was reassigned with the squadron to the European waters.

On 1 August 1917 she departed via Borneo, Singapore, Ceylon, Columbo, Bombay, Suez, Port Said and seeing some service in Mediterranean Sea, patrolling with the Otranto Barrage Force against German and Austro-Hungarian submarines. She in fact claimed a submarine contact underway to Gibraltar, stopping in Valletta on 6 October, then Naples. On the 8th, her lookouts spotted a surfaced U-boat and attacked, but the latter sublerged and escaped. On the 9th, they escorted merchant ships to Naples. After a week they departed for Gibraltar.

Nine months were spent from Gibraltar, escorting Allied convoys in and out of the Mediterranean Sea. On 15 July 1918 she departed with USS Nashville for home, Charleston on 3 August. From there, she resumed escort missions until 27 November, sent to Boston from northeastern patrols until the summer of 1919. On 3 July she was decommissioned at Philadelphia Nyd, stricken on 15 September 1919, sold to Henry A. Hitner on 3 January 1920, conversion to mercantile (fruit carrier). The rest of her carrer is not known.

USS Barry (DD-2)

uss barry
USS Barry was commissioned on 24 November 1902 and assigned to the 1st Torpedo Flotilla, Coast Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet. The summer show her participating in the 1903 fleet maneuvers off New England. Like her sister Bainbridge and others, she was quickly prepared to be sent in the Far East, based in the Philippines.

She proceeded from 23 December 1903 via the Mediterraean and Suez, on 26 February 1904, stopping underway at Singapore in April. She was based in Cavite and her career became the same as other destroyers of her class, with Bainbridge as flagship, betwee “Show the flag” mission in Chinese waters and traning in th summer and home waters trainng in winter, in the Philippines. Her presence her allowed President Theodore Roosevelt chose to brandish the “Big Stick”.

The 1st Torpedo Flotilla also escorted the Battleship Squadron until August 1917 outside two short decommissions. From August 1917 she was off Cavite starting her long trip back to Europe via Suez Canal (23 September). She stopped in Malta (Valletta) and escorted ships to Naples. She departed for Gibraltar on 15 October, her new home port to escorted merchantmen in and out of the Mediterranean until August 1918. She then headed back to Charleston in South Carolina on 5 September, and remaining there for more patrol and convoy duties, then left in January 1919 for Philadelphia Nyd, decommissioned on 28 June, sold on 3 January 1920 to Henry A. Hitner Co. for conversion as a merchantman. It seems there are conflicting information here. All the Bainbridge class, and the Truxtun class, were sold to the same company. However there is no record of their merchant service and it is more likely they were ultimately all scrapped.

USS Chauncey (DD-3)

uss chauncey
USS Chauncey was built at Neafie and Levy in Pennsylvania, but on reduced commission on 20 November 1902, placed in reserve on 2 December 1902, then reverted to full commission on 21 February 1903 after some fixes, with Lieutenant Stanford Elwood Moses in command, reporting to the Atlantic Fleet. Her early service routine was the same as her sisters.
Also, like them, she was reassigned with the rest of the Coast Squadron on 20 September 1903 to the Asiatic Fleet.

She left Key West on 18 December and took the same long trip via the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Suez Canal, until arriving at Cavite, joining “showing the flag” operations in the China Sea, protecting at large US interest in the Far East. She alternated between Philippines waters in winter and off China in summer. On 3 December 1905 to 12 January 1907 she was however placed in reserve at Cavite, but went on in service until April 1917.
On 1st August 1917 she left Cavite for the Suez canal, and escorted troopships to Naples before heading for Gibraltar, an then based in St Nazaire, France, for eastern Atlantic convoy escort duties. On 19 November circa 110 mi (180 km) west of Gibraltar was rammed by accident by the British merchantman SS Rose while in darkness. The hull practically broke in two. At 03:17, USS Chauncey sank at 9,000 ft (2,700 m) depht, with 21 men still trapped aboard, including her captain (Lieutenant Commander Walter E. Reno) a name later given to a destroyer, and LTJG Charles F. Wedderburn, ( a future Fletcher-class destroyer), but 70 were still picked up by the faulty cargo and brought to safety.

USS Dale (DD-4)

uss dale
USS Dale was built by William R. Trigg Company of Richmond, Virginia and placed in reserve commission on 24 October 1902 with Lieutenant Harry E. Yarnell in command. She was eventually outfitted at Norfolk and fully commissioned on 13 February 1903 with Lieutenant Hutch Cone as first active captain.
She was at forst assigned to the North Atlantic Fleet, First Torpedo Flotilla. She took part in fleet search problems off Maine, reviewed by President Theodore Roosevelt off Oyster Bay in August 1903.

Her unit, convoyed by the auxiliary cruiser USS Buffalo left Norfolk on 12 December 1903 like her sisters to join the Asiatic Station, through the Mediterranean and Suez Canal, homeport Cavite, from 14 April 1904 with the same routine of winter Philippine waters and summer’s Chinese coast operations. She was placed in reserve at Cavite on 5 December 1905, until 10 July 1907; until the US entered the war in April 1917.

At the time, USS Dale patrolled the entrance to Manila Bay from June to August 1917, departing for her long trip back to the Mediterranean via the Indian Ocean and Suez, then Gibraltar on 20 October. This was her new escort home port, as she was tasked to patrol and escort convoys in the eastern Mediterranean. On 8 December 1918, after the war has ended, she sailed for home, Charleston in South Carolina, arriving on on 12 January 1919 to be decommissioned at Philadelphia NyD like the others, on 9 July 1919. Later she was sold to Henry A. Hitner’s Sons Co., on 3 January 1920 for civilian service. Fate unknown.

USS Decatur (DD-5)

uss decatur
Built like her sister Dale in the same yard of William R. Trigg Co in Richmond she was commissioned on 19 May 1902 with Lieutenant Lloyd Horwitz Chandler in command.
She eventually became the lead vessel of the 1st Torpedo Flotilla, going through drills and maneuvers along the Eastern Seaboard and south in the Caribbean in a routine of summer/winter which lated until late December 1903, but the unit was soon reassigned to the Asiatic Station. Sje left Norfolk for the Mediterranea, Suez, and Cavite on 14 April 1904. She alternated for years between local waters in winter and the China coast in summer, be placed in reserve at Cavite on 5 December 1905.

Apart a trip to Saigon in May 1908, the same routine went on. However on 7 July 1908 she hit a sandbar while under command of Ensign Chester W. Nimitz (yes, this one). She was pulled free, but Nimitz was court-martialed (neglect of duty, reprimanded). His replacement is unknown. The ship was decommissioned from 18 February 1909 to 22 April 1910 (reserve) and full commission from 22 December. Her routine went on until the US went at war and from 1 August 1917 departed for the Mediterranean with her unit.

She was assigned to Gibraltar’s US Patrol Squadron from 20 October, mostly convoy duty in and out of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, up to 8 December 1918, under command of Lieutenant Ralph R. Stewart. She headed for Philadelphia on 6 February 1919, decommissioned on 20 June, sold to Henry A. Hitner’s Sons on 3 January 1920 for civilian service.

USS Hopkins (DD-6)

USS Hopkins was launched by Harlan & Hollingsworth Co in Wilmington (Delaware) on 24 April 1902, commissioned at Philadelphia NYd on 23 September 1903. First captain was Lt. Montgomery M. Taylor. From Philly she sailed on 12 May 1904 for the Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk, deployed with the Coast Squadron, with midshipmen on board. The next three years saw a routine cruise in the Caribbean with the Flotilla in torpedo drills and the usual yearly Fleet problems.

In September 1906, USS Hopkins was present for the Presidential Review off Oyster Bay. On 29 September with USS Lawrence she escorted the President to Cape Cod Bay where held gunnery practice. In 1907–1908, she escorted the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific, from Hampton Roads to San Francisco on 6 May 1908, after several port calls and gunnery poractice en route. She took part in the combined Atlantic/Pacific fleet review attended by the Secretary of the Navy. On 1 June she was assigned to the Pacific Torpedo Fleet, practicing along the West Coast from Mexico and as far as Alaska.
On 14 February 1910 she suffered a boiler explosion, with two sailors being awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions to prevent further damage and human losses. Nothing much happened bu the usual routine until April 1917.

With the war, USS Hopkins left home port San Diego to patrol the Panama Canal Zone and convoy of submarines. On 3 August, she was reunited with her squadron at Hampton Roads, for escort and patrol duties in the Bermuda Aera. The war ended and she was soon decommissoned on 20 June, placed in reserved already from 29 January at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was sold on 7 September 1920 to Denton Shore Lumber Company for scrapping.

USS Hull (DD-7)

USS Hull was built by Harlan & Hollingsworth (Wilmington, Delaware), commissioned on 20 May 1903 with Lieutenant Samuel Robinson in command. The first two years she was in patrol and training maneuvers off Newport and Chesapeake Bay with a cruise to the Caribbean by January–April 1905. She was based in League Island, Pennsylvania, decommissioned on 30 September, recommissioned on 14 November 1906 at Philadelphia.
After Cuban waters fleet winter exercises and later off Newport, she was prepared in Norfolk in October 1907 to escort the “Great White Fleet” in her world-spanning voyage. She sailed on 2 December, calling many ports in South America/Central America and arrived in San Diego by 28 April 1907. Detached on the west coast from the Great White Fleet which went on eastwards, she remained off San Francisco until departed in turn on 24 August 1908 for the South Pacific. She took part in exercises in Hawaii and US Samo and back to San Diego for the winter. Not much happened until the war broke out in 1914, between a routine of patrols and training exercises off the California coast. She was decommissioned on 30 October 1912, Reserve Torpedo Division (Mare Island), only out for refresher training cruises.

In April 1917, she was refitted at Mare Island and was sent to the Panama Canal Zone for guard duties during three months, starting on 25 April. She patrolled the western approaches until reassigned to NAS Norfolk on 26 July. She started escort and patrols along the East Coast, to Bermuda, alternating with training with the fleet. By June 1918 she spotted and charged the German German “U-Kreuzer” U-151 (a formidable submarine cruiser armed with two 6-in guns), while attacking a merchant ship. The large sub was repelled. She also often rescued sailors from sinking ships, and went on in these missions until November 1918, escorting the last convoys from Europe until December.
She was sent to Philadelphia NyD on 29 January 1919, placed in reserved and fully decommissioned on 7 July, sold on 5 January 1921 to Henry A. Hitner.

USS Lawrence (DD-8)

Commissioned on 7 April 1903, USS Lawrence was assigned to the 2nd Torpedo Flotilla operating along the Atlantic coast and alternating with summer fleet search problem off New England, plus Carribean cruises in winter, based in Key West. On 31 December 1903 while at anchor there Key the passing steamer Olivette damaged her hull. She was repaired locally.
In 1904 she started a serie of Midshipmen, becoming a torpedo training ship until decommissioned at Philadelphia, on 14 November 1906.

Recommissioned on 23 July 1907, based from Norfolk she resulmed training. From Hampton Roads she took part in the usual winter maneuvers extended to South America. She crossed the Cape, and arrived in San Diego on 28 April 1908, then San Francisco while the “Great White Fleet” was gathering into San Francisco Bay. She operated in the Pacific with the 3rd Torpedo Flotilla from there, sailing yearly from Canada to Panama, alternating with summer fleet problems. She was placed in reserve also from 1 June 1912 to 23 April 1914.

From San Francisco she departed on 25 April to patrol Mexican waters, protectinh American and foreign nationals during the revolution. After an overhaul at Mare Island on 12 September, she returned into reserve, recommissioned on 13 June 1917, joining the West coast coastal defense unit based in Balboa, Panama, protecting the Pacific approaches from late July, until 30 May 1918. She was moved to Key West, operating as coastal escort/patrols until the Armistice. Like the others she was sent in reserve at Philadelphia from 1 February 1919, decommissioned on 20 June, sold to Henry A. Hitner by 3 January 1920.

USS McDonough (DD-9)

Like Lawrence USS McDonough was built at Fore River, and had the same unique silhouette, differing from the other Bainbridges. Commissioned on 5 September 1903, but soon her sea trials did not gave satisfaction. She failed to reach 30 knots and like Lawrence show poor sea keeping. They were the only vessels in their class to have their two 3-inch guns replaced by six-pounder guns.

After her shakedown cruise, USS Macdonough for seven months served as training ship for midshipmen at the Annapolis Naval Academy. On 31 May 1904, she was reassigned to the Coast Squadron of North Atlantic Fleet and for three years trained and patrolled along the east coast, alternating with the Caribbean. She was placed from 16 May 1907 at the Reserve Torpedo Fleet, Norfolk until 1908.
From 21 November 1908, she became flagship of the 3rd Torpedo Flotilla. She was based in Pensacola, Florida for a fleet problem, and was back to the east coast, making summer fleet exercizes in 1909 off New England.

She sailed to the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River for the St. Louis Centennial Celebration. Placed in reserve at Charleston, she took part in the summer exercises of 1910, and made two cruises to New York, still in reserve. She also made the 1913 and 1914 summer cruises, carrying the Massachusetts Naval Militia.
On 29 January 1915, she left the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla for the Submarine Flotilla of the Atlantic Fleet and until 1917, operated with submarines from Pensacola to Newport. From 27 March 1917 she made a “recruiting cruise” along the Mississippi River and in June returned to Charleston with the Destroyer Force, screening local convoys up to January 1918. From the 16th, she left Philadelphia for Brest in France, escorting convoys from there, and patrolling these waters until 20 May 1919. Like the others she joined the Philadelphia reserve on 24 June, decommissioned on 3 September, stricken on 7 November and sold to Henry A. Hitner in March 1920.

USS John Paul Jones (DD-10)

Built in Union Iron Works of San Francisco, USS Paul Jones was commissioned on 19 July 1902 ans soon assigned to the Pacific Fleet, homeport San Francisco. She alternated between fleet exercizes in summer and training cruises along the west coast, up to Canada and down to Mexican waters.

On 23 April 1917 she was reassigned for Norfolk in Virginia, via San Diego and making her first Panama crossing. Sje also stopped en route to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (3 August), patrolling York River and joing USS Duncan, Henley, Truxtun, and her sisters Stewart, Preble, Hull, Macdonough, and Hopkins assogned as escort screen to the Atlantic Battlefleet from 13 August. The fleet moved between Bermuda and New York. After a short overhual at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 24 August she was reassigned to Newport in Rhode Island for a serie of convoy escort along the east coast. She also stopped at Lynnhaven Roads and in the Chesapeake Bay. In december she was in Philadelphia.

On 15 January 1918 she sailed with USS Stewart, Hopkins and Worden for the Azores via Bermuda, but her captain asked the permission to turn back home for repairs as a serious leak was spotted in her port after bunker. In fact it soon became so severe her crew struggled to save her from sinking outright, going through stormy seas while being largely flooded. “Bucket brigades” made an amazing job as her pumps broke. She emitted distress signals bu eventually sighted St. David’s Head in Bermuda and signalled the fort for assistance.
She stayed in Bermuda until 22 February for repairs before proceeding to Philadelphia escorted by the coaler Mars. Repaired at Philadelphia Navy Yard she was sent to Fortress Monroe in Virginia on 18 April and stayed in patrol in the Chesapeake Bay until 6 August.
On 2 July however, she assisted the liner Henderson in flames north of Bermuda, evacuating the whole crew in difficult conditions, making four trips to Von Steuben, saving 1,250 Marines and officers, 50 tons of luggage and escorting the ship, on which fires were under controlled, to the Delaware Breakwater.
On 7 August during a convoy mission in appearling weather she mistook a frienly escorting Submersible (O-5) for an U-Boat, fired upon her. She took seven hiys in the conning tower before she coukld signal the error. Paul Jones had to detach and escorted her to Delaware Bay.
On the 9th she was in Hampton Roads and stayed patroling the Chesapeake Bay until deactivated on 31 January 1919, fully decommissioned on 29 July, stricken on 15 September, sold on 3 January 1920 (same as the others).

USS Perry (DD-11)

As part of the “Union Iron Works class” buil there like Paul Jones and Preble, USS Perry was commissioned on 4 September 1902. She was assigned at first to the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla unlike her sister Paul Jones, based at Mare Island until the war broke out. She carried trainign cruises along the west coast, from Alaskan waters to Mexico and in 1908 was sent for a Fleet Problem off Hawaii.
During the earthquake of San Francisco on 18 April 1906, already altered while at sea by severe rolling and pitching, her crew landed and helped fighting fires, patrolling districts from looters and providing medical aid. In 1914 she was in support of the Topolobampo naval campaign in the Gulf of California during the Mexican Revolution and took part in the fourth Battle of Topolobampo.
From April 1917, she patrolled off the California Coast and the Panama cana zone, assigned there to guard its approached in July 1917. From 30 May 1918 she was reassigned to home port Key West, patrolling Florida waters. The post-armistice saw her in Delaware Bay from 29 January 1919, placed in reserve at Philadelphia, decommissioned on 2 July, stricken on 15 September sold to Henry A. Hitner’s Sons Co. for scrapping (5 January 1920).

USS Preble (DD-12)

Third of the Union Iron Works batch, USS Preble was commissioned on 14 December 1903 assigned like her sister to the Pacific Fleet, 4th and 2nd Torpedo Flotillas. She patrolled from Alaska and Washington to the Panama Canal Zone until 1908. She also made a fleet exercize in Hawaiian waters and pushed to Samoa between 24 August and November 1908. West coast operations went on in 1909 followed by a decommission in Mare Island until 17 September before being reassigned to the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla until 1913, and in reserve from 19 June, Mare Island, until 23 April 1914. She observed the Topolobampo naval campaign like Perry.
Exercises and escort of minesweepers went on until the summer of 1915. She sailed for Alaskan waters for logistic informations and returned to the reserve between 25 October 1916 to 3 April 1917 fully reactivated as the US entered the war. She was sent to her new home port San Diego on 30 April 1917 but soon transited the canal to be reassigned to the east coast, NS Norfolk from 13 July, and started a ner service of convoy escort and patrols on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. She was decommissioned at New York on 11 July 1919, stricken on 15 September 1919, sold to Henry A. Hitner in 1920.

USS Stewart (DD-13)

USS Stewart was the only one of the class ever buit at Stewart at Gas Engine and Power Company in Morris Heights, New York. Launched and sponsored by the granddaughter of Rear Admiral Stewart she was commissioned on 1 December 1902.
After a time at the Naval Academy she was reassigned to the Coast Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet. In 1906, she was in reserve at Norfolk and the next year 1907 trained in east coast warers unter reassigned in 1908 to the Pacific Fleet. She server there like the other vessels of the Pacific torpedo squadron, alternating between Washington waters in summer and Mexican waters in winter, but on 24 February 1916 the Navy decided she was “no longer serviceable for duty with the fleet” and she was retrograded as a “coast torpedo vessel”. From 6 April 1917 lik the others she started local patrol missions, protecting the eastern approaches of the Panama Canal. She also pratrolled south up to the Colombian coast. From 11 May she was transferred to the Pacific entrance to the canal and was back in the summer in the Atlantic. After an overhaul in Philadelphia until August she was sent to join the local defense flotilla of the British Imperial fortress colony of Bermuda. On arrival (16 August) however she grounded in the harbor. Repaired at the Royal Naval Dockyard to sail after to Philadelphia. She only returned to duty on 11 October, escorting convoys in the York River until 31 December 1917. She returned to Philadelphia for distant service reassigned to France, departing on 15 January 1918 with her sisters USS Worden, Hopkins, Macdonough, and Paul Jones via the Azores to Brest (Britanny, France) and convoy escorts.

On 17 April, while in Quiberon Bay she was closed to the cargo Florence H loaded with powder and exploding while at anchor. She was unscaved, but rescued nineof her crew, being cited for gallantry. On 23 April while in mission she sighted two allied seaplanes attacking a submarine, racing there, and be signalled by the observer in one of thes the position of the U-Boat. Therefore, USS Stewart spotted her wake and periscope, then her hull underwater but could do little at first. The U-Boat was rammed by a French escort close to the action, and Steward then made a pass with her depht charges, dropping two. A large pool of oil emerged so it was assimilated to a kill but in reality U-108 escaped. She was later forced to emerge and surrender by USS Porter close to the British coast.

In dense fog Stewart collided with an unidentified merchantman. Damage was serious enough to be under repair until 28 May and from 4 August, her lookouts spotted another submarine wake, she attacked but missed the submersible, which escaped. Post-armistice service, like her sisters, was fairly short: After her last convoy she was drydocked in Brest on 26 November for repairs departed to escort the convoy with President Woodrow Wilson onboard to Europe, stopped in the Azores and Bermuda until reaching Philadelphia on 3 January 1919. She was decommissioned on 9 July, stricken on 15 September, sold to Henry A. Hitner for scrap.

Colorado class Battleships (1920)

Colorado class Battleships (1920)

US Navy ww2 USA (1919-23) –
USS Colorado, Maryland, West Virginia

The Colorado class, formed with the near-sister ships Tennesse what was called the “big five”, the last USN super-dreadnoughts, and last of the “Standards”. To gain time and budget, the Colorado were planned in 1916 as virtual copies of the Tennesse, but with 16-inches guns, first to inaugurate this new main caliber and only ones to have them in twin turrets. They were also the last USN capital ships to that point with a gap of nearly twenty years before the North Carolina class.

Colorado class: The “standards” goes 16-inches

The “Big Five” in exercizes in the mate 1930s
The main point to identify the Colorado class* were the fact they were the first to adopt 16-inches guns, while the “Standards”, from the Nevada class (1914) were all given 14 inches guns, generally in four triple turrets. But the Colorado happened to be also the last of the pre-Treaty battleships. They were designed during World War I, which was ongoing at the end of the conflict. By that time, no treaty was sight, so construction went on until launch, in 1920 in its immediate aftermath. Though all four keels were laid, only three ships were launched: Colorado, Maryland, and West Virginia. Washington was over 75% completed when she was canceled under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922. As such, the 16″ gun Colorado-class ships were the last and most powerful battleships built by the U.S. Navy until the North Carolina class entered service on the eve of World War II.

The Colorados were the final group of the Standard-type battleships, designed to have similar speed and handling to simplify maneuvers with the line of battle. The cancelled South Dakota class which was to follow would have in several ways been a departure from this practice. Apart from an upgrade in striking power with their eight 16-inch guns, the Colorados were essentially repeats of the earlier Tennessee class. The Colorados were also the last American capital ships built with four main armament turrets and twin-mounted guns. The change to larger guns was prompted by the Japanese Nagato-class battleships, which also mounted eight 16-inch guns.

All three ships participated in World War II, athough it started badly: USS Maryland and West Virginia were both damaged in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Maryland was relatively unscathed, but West Virginia was sunk. She was later raised, and not only repaired but fully modenrized. All three battleships brought naval gunfire during the island hoping campaign of 1943-45. USS Maryland and West Virginia was also at the Battle of Surigao Strait (Battle of Leyte Gulf) in October 1944. In all, they won 19 (7+7+5) battle stars combined for their wartime service. None was preserved after the war.
*Note: It is sometimes referred to as “Maryland class”. US is about the launching date, but European conventions name a class after the first unit completed, so Maryland here.

Context before the Colorado class

The stip to 16-inch guns was envisioned by the General Board and Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R) in 1913 already, to keep pace with the British notably, an upgrade that would allow twice the kinetic energy compared to 12-inch and 50% more than the current 14-inch just being introduced. The development of the new gun was postponed however at least until 1916, due to design issues. The General Board initially approved development of 16-inch gun as early as 1911. By that time however, Navy secretary George von Lengerke Meyer feared that such capital ships would make obsolete overnight all the others still on the drawing board. He restricted the Bureau of Ordnance to go beyond the delivery of blueprints, kept “in store” in case of new foreign developments.

He approved eventually the construction of the new gun in October 1912. R&D progressed steadily until a prototype was ready and tested. It fired successfully in August 1914. Meanwhile, the admiralty get wind of unofficial, unconfirmed reports of 15/16-inch guns adopted by the United Kingdom, but Italy, Germany and Japan for their own programmes. The Board even considered cancelling the construction of the Pennsylvania class for an up-gunned version, calculated to increase 8,000 tons the displacement. Debate went on as the war starte and progress while Woodrow Wilson’s Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels, considered the increase in cost and insisted on the Standard Class to be continued. In 1917 as it was clear the US would be likely engaged in the conflict, he temporized and accepted a simple repeat of the previous class but with an armament upgrade. This constrained engineers to make choices right away.

Design development

The design of the Colorado class proceeded fast, based on the fact it was a repeat of the Tennessee class, with only the main armament changing. Fitting eight 16 in (406 mm)/45 caliber guns in four twin turrets in place of twelve 14 in (356 mm)/50 guns in triple turrets was a daunting task however, but less costly and complicated than going for a new revised design (which was to be the wartime South dakota class, much larger). Other than this, the two designs were near identical. The Tennessees were basically improved New Mexico, modern and effective capital ships in 1917, the most modern at the time, which also attracted the attention of British constructors. Commonality and mass production became ans essential wartime experience and the U.S. Navy by just keeping these standards almost created battleships “on an assembly line” with maximal standardization and rationalization to keep the costs low. The Naval Act of 1916 indeed planned 16 battleships and six battlecruisers, so streamlining production was the only way to save time and money.

However despite this, engineers were able to bring design improvements at each iteration, incorporating innovation whenever practicable. For the Tennessee however, the underwater protection, projectiles landing underneath the waterline was late to be designed and tested, in fact too late as construction was ongoing. Tests in caissons took time, and the modifications concerned the very bottom of the ship, so cannot be implemented on time without delayiong construction. Tests were allow to continue on the behalf they would be adopted for the next class. These would prove that a series of compartments divided by liquid filling, others left empty in alternance proved to be the most effective protection against torpedoes. C&R then added a contract clause for the next ships sent to shipbuilding corporations that alterations to the design would be asked within three months after their keels were laid down.

General Characteristics

The hull designed was the same in all its details, 624-foot (190 m) long overall, 97 feet (30 m) in beam for a design displaced of 32,600 long tons (33,100 t) -normal load- or 33,590 long tons (34,130 t) deeply loaded, for 30.5 feet (9.3 m) draft. Since the New mex. she was the design incorporated a clipper bow to deal with heavy heavy seas, while the secondary armament was in the superstructure to avoid water spray also in heavy seas.


Like the previous Tennessee, the Colorado class adopted the ame innovative Turbo-electric transmission. Its advantages included for the turbines an optimum speed without regard to propeller speed, and greater fuel efficiency for a better range, as well as a more sustained, easier sub-division to deal with torpedo hits. Each propeller shaft was driven by a 5,424 kilowatt electric motor, in turn fed by two two-phase turbo generators each, from General Electric for Maryland and Westinghouse for Colorado and West Virginia, each rated at 5,000 volts. In turn these generators fed by turbines were connected to eight oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers with their individual compartments. Toal output was rated for 28,900 electrical horsepower, giving a theoretical top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). The ships also carried an optimized fuel tank distribution (participating notably in ASW protection as damping fluid), for a total of 4,570 tons: The overall range was a well rounded 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) by keeping a steady cruise speed.

USS Colorado on sea trials

Armour protection

The “all or nothing” armor scheme (inherited from the Nevada-class) was kept, and overall identical to the preceding Tennessee class. There was only one exception though: An increase in belt armor near the machinery, reaching 16 inches (406 mm) in part with the main gun caliber the Colorado carried. Otherwise it stayed at 14 inches. The upper deck armor reached 3.6 inches (91 mm), but it was later increased during constructon to 4.1 inches (104 mm). The lower deck armor was comprised between 2.25 and 1.5 inches and also strengthened later.

The other improvements of the design were also from the Tennessee class, the forward torpedo room moved away from the 16-inch gun magazine, seen as vulnerable. There was also an external rather than internal belt armor to avoid a break in the continuity of the side structure, minimizing drag as well.


The main challenge for the engineers was to manage to keep as many as the old design (like the basic turret baskets) and even turrets and barbettes while only chanhing the internal of the barbettes, mounts, and loading systems for the new 16-in shells and barrels. This was done to speed up the design phase and launched the construction asap.


USS Colorado main guns, seen from the bridge, as freshly commissioned in 1922.

As said above, the ain advantage of the Colorado class was their more powerful broadise of eight 16-in guns. They trade four guns for a long range a greater punch and that was considered enough to overcome the fact these ships were a disruption in the “standard” battle line pattern based on the fact similar ships were easier to manage in a battle. Development of the new gun started in August 1913, by simply boring-out, relining a 13-inch (330 mm) Mark 2 gun. It was estimated two times the muzzle energy of a 12-inch (305 mm)/50 caliber Mark 7, and still 50% more than the 14-inch/45. Proof firing in July 1914 was successful, and minor changes were made and work was finalized on the recoil and breech block mechanism so as the 16-inch Mark 1 was eventually ready in May 1916, production approved in January 1917. Four years is a long proces indeed.
Specs of the 16-inch (406 mm)/45 caliber Mark 1:

  • 2,110-pound (960 kg) armor-piercing (AP) shell)
  • Muzzle velocity 2,600 feet per second (790 m/s)
  • Rate of 1.5 rounds per minute
  • Max. Range 34,300 yards (31,400 m) at 30 degrees.


Like on the previous ships, the Colorado had Fourteen 5-inch (127 mm)/51 caliber Mark 15 guns installed in the superstructure. This was down to 12 in 1922.

  • 50 Ibs (23 kg) shell
  • Muzzle velocity 3,150 feet per second (960 m/s)
  • Maximum range 15,850 yards (14.5 km)/20°
  • Rate of fire seven rounds per minute

These lighter guns compared to the latest British, Japanese and German dreadnoughts were nevertheless very accurate and fast-firing, very deadly beyond the treshold of 3,000 yards (2,700 m). Because of these, they were mounted in unarmored casemates on the main deck.

AA armament:

The aviation threat was enough in 1916 to be taken in high regard and having a more AA focused light artillery: This traduced into four 3-inch (76 mm)/23 caliber guns single-mounted purely for anti-aircraft defense (later 8 in 1922).

  • 3-inch (76 mm) shell
  • Muzzle velocity 1,650 feet per second (500 m/s)
  • Maximum range 8,800 yards (8,000 m)
  • Ceiling 18,000 feet (5,500 m)
  • Elevation 45.3 degrees
  • Rate of fire 8-9 rate per minute.

⚙ Specifications 1921

Displacement 32,693 standard 33,590 FL
Dimensions 190 m oa x 29.7m x 9.3m (624 x 97 x 30 feets)
Propulsion 4 shafts GE TED, 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 29,000 shp (21,600 kW)
Speed 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Range 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 8× 16 in, 16× 5 in, 8× 3 in, 2× 21 in TTs
Armor Belt 8–13.5, barbettes 13, turrets 18, CT 16, decks 3.5 in
Crew 64+1241

Interwar Reconstuctions

The modernization of the Tennessee and Colorado classes was not a priority until October 1931. Th Navy indeed thought it was possible to exploit previously spotted loopholes in the Washington Naval Treaty. The treaty indeed allowed both AA defense and ASW protection to be improved at leisure, improve fire control, gun mount elevation, but not for example up-gunning existing ships. Inside the hull everything could be justified as to increase protection, eve, when increasing speed and range, as long as the main armor belt thickness was not modified. It was also envisioned an early “NBC” protection as there was a fear of chemical warfare and the ships being hit by chemical shells with poisonous gas. In that case however, the General Board eventually stated that decontamination was near-impossible and the ship hit wouild have been scuttled.

Signalmen anboard USS Colorado

Onboard aviation:

A Curtiss VE-7H catapulted from USS Maryland, 1925.

UO-1 seaplanes onboard USS Maryland, 1925.

In the 1920s already, all three ships received catapults for their onboard spotter and reconnaissance aviation, one mounted at the stern, with full traverse (and an operating crane for recovery behind) and another fixed, located on the upper aft turret (N°3). Photos ofter shown what observation plane types were used, two stored on the turret’s catapult and one ready on the aft deck catapult. From 1924 Curtiss VE-7 seaplanes were used, and afterwards the Vought UO-1, then the O3U Corsair. Colorado’s aircraft were assigned to Observation Squadron Four (VO-4) also aboard USS Maryland and West Virginia. The three aircraft aboard Colorado took part in the extensive Earhart search, squadron numbers were 4-O. In the late 1930s, the Curtiss SOC seagull (to be confirmed) until 1940. Indeed, all three ships obtained the Kingfisher afterwards: The OS2U-1’s first operational deployment even commenced on USS Colorado in August 1940. In 1945 refits saw new, more precise and long range radars installed, and seaplanes were generally eliminated while the deck catapult was kept. Photos however of USS West Virginia shows two Curtiss SC Seahawk on board, the last generation USN observation seaplane.

Footage of a Vought Kingfisher launched from USS New Mexico, also showing footage of USS Colorado during the invasion of Guam, July 3, 1944.

Planned upgrades:

Deck armor could be reinforced, and received a 80 lb (36 kg) special treatment steel (STS) plate to deal with incoming high trajectory orounds and bombs, but this move cost 1,319 long tons in displacement (hence in speed and range). It was also planned to up-armor the turret tops. Anti-torpedo bulges for extra buoyancy, dealing with torpedo blasts were considered, provided they will not bring the beam beyond 106 feet (32 m) (Panama-compatible). Another wave concerned all fire controls and optics, and the ballistic computer, as technology advanced well in between. For the guns also, elevation was to be reworked, possibly also the reload speed, the new shells having more propellant and better penetrating caps.

Also, there was a new type of AA for short range that was worked on, traduced into the adoption of quadruple 1.1-inch guns (28 mm), the infamous “Chicago Piano”. Due to all this added weight, it became also necessary to upgrade the machinery no to loose speed, and keep a constant battlefleet speed.

In the end, the c&R estimated these upgrade to cost the American taxpayer about $15,000,000 per ship, ao in total $71,723,000 total, in a post 1929 crisis context. Already cost-cutting measures were proposed, like saving $26,625,000 by just reconditioning the powerplant (have everything disassembled and clearned up or replaced when necessary). Chemical shells protection was shelved, as well as the new shells and gun mount/elevation modifications. The Secretary of the Navy was asked to program a budget FY1933 for the two classes, submitted to the Congress, but it was postponed.

In 1934, the Bureau of Construction and Repair proposed that what was called now the “Big Five”, very similar Tennessees and Colorados class would receive a limited upgrade, consisting of anti-torpedo bulges for increased buoyancy, allowing them to carry more fuel. In June 1935, Tennessee loaded to demonstrate the point its maximal theoretical fuel load which added 2,000 long tons above her maximum designed load , her draft augmented by to 5 ft 4 in (1,630 mm). C&R advocated for bulges compensating for these extra 2,000 long tons, also helping raising the ship’s draft by 20 in (510 mm). Six months of dry dock and one year of work was the cost. But this had to wait until 1937, while further discussions took place for a partial modernization:

  1. -No extra deck armor
  2. -The ships were to be reboilered to gain internal space.
  3. -Main and secondary battery fire controls modernized (rangefinders, plotting room, Mark 33 AA FCS)
  4. -Corbel mainmast eliminated
  5. -M2 Brownings removed
  6. -Torpedo bulge added
  7. -New displacement estimated 39,600 long tons.

The modifications blueprints were complete by October 1938 with costs between $8,094,000 and $38,369,000 per ship, but as these amount were retired from for new the battleship constructions planned, they were rejected by the Secretary of the Navy. Still the Congress unlocked $6,600,000 in 1939 to have at least part of these improvements going on, notably the all-important bulges. The war caught USA therefore in this process of modernizing the Pacific fleet.

USS Maryland firing a broadside, 1920s

USS maryland in July 1922 in New York City, just commissioned

Admiral Hilary Jones presenting USS Maryland to senator C.E. Hugues in August 1922

Armament changes


The guns were partially rebuilt per standard navy practice (barrels replaced) and redesignated 16-inch/45 (40.6 cm) Mark 5 and Mark 8. Navweaps stats:

Light artillery

In 1922 already from four the AA armament was increased to eight guns. However, they were eliminated and replaced in 1928–1929 by eight 5-inch (127 mm)/25, all specific AA guns:

  • 54 Ibs. (24 kg) shell
  • Muzzle velocity 2,155 feet per second (657 m/s)
  • Rate of fire 15-20 rpm
  • Maximum range 14,500 yards (13,300 m) at 45°
  • Ceiling 27,400 feet (8,400 m) at 85°

In 1937–1938 were added two quadruple-mount 1.1-inch/75-caliber guns, the infamous “Chicago Piano” for shorter range. Possiby also they carried Browning M2HB heavy machine guns in pairs but it is not known.

Protection changes

Like for the Tennessees, the Colorado class after WWI was schedued to have its protection revamped entirely, notaby due to the latest developments in ballistics and aviation. In the early 1930s, there was a redesign of the underwater protection scheme: Now it featured five compartments separated by armored bulkheads, each 0.75 inches (19 mm). The principle was to have an outer empty compartment, three filled, and another empty, now inner compartment. The eight boilers were placed in separate spaces port and starboard, on either side of the turboelectric powerplant. This ensure the ship could still sail with an entire boilers side underwater. Instead of a single large funnel, the silhouette still comprised two smaller funnels. Eventually, the turret armor was ioincreased as previously planned with 5 inches on the roofs, 8 inches on the sides, back, 18 inches for the turret faces.

Prewar modifications

USS Colorado in 1932

The Navy studied the first war lessons from 1939 from the Royal Navy. The King Board (after USN C-in-C admiral King) in 1940–1941 proposed the secondary armament was boosted to deal with AA attacks, and the removal of all 5 in guns, to be replaced by the new the dual-purpose 5 in/38; This comprised to cut away the superstructure to have clean arcs of fire. In all, sixteen 5 in/38 in twin mounts was asked for (and implemented during 1942 reconstructions) plus sixteen Bofors 40 mm (all quad), plus eight single Oerlikon 20 mm. This added weight remains an interrogation however, plus dry dock immobilieation in uncertain times. As an interim measure, two more quad 1.1-inch were proposed, but this was marred by a slow production, and 3 in (76 mm)/50 were added instead of all battleships (except for Arizona and Nevada). It was all done by June 1941, and swapped by the quad 1.1-inch guns when available in November 1941 with priority given to the Atlantic fleet.

USS Colorado off San Diego, 1924

As planned, these modifications brought additional weight so torpedo bulges were added also to compensate. Total cost of these modification, now justified by war in Europe, was $750,000 and 2-3 month of drydock inactivity.

The King Board also suggested deck armor increase but this was dismissed by the Chief of Naval Operations. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard will saw all “big five” battleships enter its drydock for this: Maryland initiated the move before Pearl Harbor (17 February-20 May 1941), West Virginia (10 May-8 August 1914), Colorado (28 July-28 October 1941). The program went on also after Pearl harbor, USS Tennessee (19 January-21 April 1942), California (16 March-16 June 1942). Eventually only two would receive bulges as planned, Maryland (on 1 August 1941) and Colorado (on 26 February 1942). Pearl Harbor interrupted refit for USS West Virginia and the two Tennessees, Colorado being spared, in Puget Sound at the time, Maryland also being spared in Pearl by the attack. West Virginia was damaged to the point she was to be comprehensively rebuilt for not wasting her drydock time.

USS West Virginia, Pearl Harbor December 1941

USS Colorado, mid-1942

USS Colorado, mid-1944, measure 32 design 2D

WW2 Reconstuctions & modifications

After the Pearl Habor attack reconstruction started for all ships refloated or slightly damaged. By late 1942, the eight single 5 in/38s were kept but 4×4 Bofors 40 mm guns, 32 Oerlikon 20 mm cannons were added. The first procured a first short range bubble of lead at 140-160 rpm at 22,299 feet (6,797 m) or 250/320 rpm at 10,000 feet. In 1942 also, Mark 15 main secondary guns were replaced on USS West Virginia y the planned sixteen 5-inch (127 mm)/38 Mark 12 in twin turrets and the superstructure rebuilt as planned. For Maryland and Colorado, they kept their ten Mark 15s but gained eight 5 in/38 cal Mark 12s in single mounts, but with protective shields. Twin turrets were installed later. Mark 12 5-in (127 mm) fired a 55.18-pound (25.03 kg) shell at 17,392 yards or 37,200 feet (11,300 m) at 45° with a high rate of fire at any angle and used proximity-fused shells from 1943.

A second round for AA defense in 1944-1945 saw both the dismissal of 20 mm and manually-controlled guns and more quad 40 mm Bofors were added instead: Maryland had forty quad 40 mm, eighteen 20 mm; Colorado forty quad but all her 20 mm guns; West Virginia forty quad also but fifty 20 mm guns, having by far the most impressive AA cover of admiral Oldenburg’s battle fleet. All these quad mounts required a crew of 5, so this added to the initial crew already in the ship, with some consequences in living conditions. Al because of the threat posed by Kamikazes.

The Pacific Fleet battleships could not be spared for extra modifications, maintained in a constant readiness state, to sail within 48 hours. Japanese invasion was expected for Hawaii or the West Coast in early 1942. Colorado however received a radar, splinter protection, fourteen Oerlikon 20 mm, four quad 1.1-in guns early on. Maryland received the same but later (but sixteen 20 mm guns, no 1.1-in guns). Tower masts were new on Colorado and Maryland, aft cage masts eliminated at the start of 1942 but time lacked to install the new tower masts, placed into storage until early 1944. it’s only when the situation stabilized enough in the pacific, and the admiralty realized the importance of aircraft carriers, that the “big five” were spared some extra time for these modification.

Colorado and Maryland had to wait for their major refit in 1944, with many modifications in between with each maintenance period. it’s only in 1944 that they lost their remaining aft cage masts and gain new radars in the process. More extensive refits proposed by Admiral Ernest J. King, (more twin 5 in/38 turrets, more advanced fire control systems, second protective deck plating) were contested by the Bureau of Ships over displacement considerations and proposed a reduced upgrade similar to the New Mexico class. When USS Maryland was badly hit and damaged by a kamikaze attack, she was both repaired and modernized, limited to the addition of the planned twin 5 in/38, conning tower removed and lighter STS bridge structure added.

⚙ USS West Virginia Specifications 1944

Displacement 33,000 tons standard, 34,000 FL
Dimensions Same but 114 ft (35 m) beam
Armament 8 × 16 in/45 (406 mm) Mk6, 16 × 5 in/38 (127 mm), 40× Bofors 40 mm, 43× Oerlikon 20 mm AA
Armor See notes
Crew 68+1400

The fate of USS Washington

USS Washington in construction

Initially the Colorado class had four, and not three battleships planned. In 1916, design work was complete and USS Washington was provisioned four bronze propellers, four General Electric turbo-electric drives and eight oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Her construction went on just after USS Colorado was laid down on 24 April 1917 so she had to wait until 30 June 1919. Eventually she was launched on 1st September 1921. However, the next year saw the cancellation of the South Dakota class and 8 February 1922, two days after the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty, all construction work stopped on USS Washington. At that stage she was 75.9% complete, with her underwater armored protection ready, and basic superstructures already built, her exhaut tubes in place. Now there was no question of completing her, but could she be converted as the Lexington class ? This was brushed aside due to her unsufficient speed, but the decision took years to come. She was mothballed until November 1924, and towed to be used as a gunnery target. At least the Navy would have seen how her newly design protection would stand the test of facts.

On the first day of testing, she received two 400-pound (180 kg) simultaneous torpedo hits, and survived. Later she was air-attacked and received three 1-metric-ton near-miss bombs hits. These causied minor damage but she accused a 3° list. Later she was tested by being detonated by 400 pounds of TNT on board, and survived again. Two days later, the gunnery tests rsumed and she received 14 hits from a 14-inch (356 mm) guns fired from 4,000 feet away. All but one failed to penetrate her main belt. Eventually, she was finished off by USS Texas and New York, hit 14 more times. The test was precious. It proved the existing deck armor was inadequate, and triple bottoms were now necessary, so to define a triple ASW layer of protection. She sank following the last test on 25 November 1924. Her name was given to the sister-ship of USS North Carolina, the first USN fast-battleship of the post-washington era, which design was in part based on this tests.



J. Gardiner, Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-1921 and 1921-47
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905–1970. Doubleday and Company.
Ferguson, John C. (2007). Historic Battleship Texas: The Last Dreadnought. Military History of Texas #4.
Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. Naval Institute Press.
Newhart, Max (1995). American Battleships: A Pictorial History of BB-1 to BB-71. Pictorial Histories Publishing Co.
DiGiulian, Tony (7 February 2008)

Sites Colorado Maryland West Virginia
More on
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navweaps – 16-in Mark 5
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On navypedia
On, Naval Historical Center
Open source photos – Wikimedia CC
On the pac war online
Battleships camouflage measures

Videos Battleship new Jersey channel: The Colorado class West Virginia by Drachinfels

Colorado by navyreviewer

Model Kit corner

Measure 32 – West Virginia scheme 1944

Measure 31 – Maryland April 1944

Old Author’s rendition – USS Maryland 1943

Old Author’s rendition – USS West Virginia 1944

Colorado class on scalemates


Onboard aviation
See also:

In 3D

USS West Virginia in VR

Unfortunately, the model was removed.
See the HD world of warships rendition of West Virginia

The Colorado class in service

USS Colorado

Inter-war service

USS Colorado (BB-45) was laid down on 29 May 1919 at the New York Shipbuilding Corp. Camden (New Jersey), named for the 38th state. Launched on 22 March 1921 she was commissioned on 30 August 1923 and started her initial sea trials under her first commanding officer, Captain Reginald R. Belknap. On 29 December 1923, she departed New York for her shakedown cruiser, and arrived in Portsmouth, UK, visited Cherbourg, Villefranche-sur-Mer in France, passed the suez canal stopped in Naples (Italy) via Gibraltar. She was back in New York on 15 February 1924 for her post-cruise fixes and maintenance. After more tests she dearted for a training session on 11 July off the West Coast, passing the Panama canal and reaching San Francisco on 15 September to join the Battle Fleet.

Her interwar years saw her participating in many annual fleet problems between the Pacific and Caribbean Sea. She also took part in ceremonies and naval reviews. He other cruiser in 1925, saw her visiting Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand but she ran aground on the Diamond Shoals, off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina (1 May 1927), refloated and repaired.

USS Colorado profile (BB-45) in the late 1930s

Her first major overhaul took place in 1928–1929: She received notably eight 5-inch (130 mm)/25 AA guns. In 1933 she was sent to assist a relief party at Long Beach (California) after an earthquake. In 1937 Colorado became a provisional training ship for NROTC students (University of Washington & Berkeley), embarking them in Puget Sound on the 15 and 19 June in San Francisco Bay and sailed to Hilo, Hawaii, then Lahaina Roads to demonstrate her 5″/51 guns. She also went to search for Amelia Earhart. Escorted later by the Coast Guard cutter Itasca in July she launched her seaplanes off the Phoenix Islands and later returned with NROTC students. Nothing much happened in 1938-1940 but the usual routine.

USS Colorado after commissioning

WW2 for USS Colorado

USS Colorado in Puget Sound, July 1941

On January 1941, USS Colorado was based in Pearl Harbor, making intensive training exercises because tension growing in the Pacific, taking part in large, realistic war games up to 25 June, and then headed to the West Coast for her major overhaul in Puget Sound. So she was not present on 7 Dec. when the attack started. Her refit which completed on 31 March 1942, and she received twelve 5 in/38 caliber guns. She started afterwards an extensive training session along the West Coast and on 31 May she sailed with her sister-ship USS Maryland off the Golden Gate Bridge, ostensibly to protect San Francisco from an expected large Japanese attack. Back to Pearl Harbor final preparations weremade for her pacific service and she was sent to the Fiji Islands and New Hebrides in November 1942. Until 17 September 1943 she stayed there ready to depart and interdict Japanese moves in this part of the Pacific. At last it was time for the start of her participation in the island-hopping campaign and she was back in Pearl Harbor by October 1943 to carry a heavy load of shells, providing fire support during the invasion of Tarawa and was back home on 7 December 1943.

USS Colorado firing in preparation for the Tarawa invasion, Nov.1943

After this second wartime overhaul she sailed to Lahaina Roads in the Hawaiian Islands on 21 January 1944 and sailed the day after to the Marshall Islands, providing the pre-invasion fire support during the Kwajalein-Eniwetok campaign, until 23 February. She sailed to Puget Sound Navy Yard for her third overhaul and was back to the Mariana Islands from San Francisco, departed on 5 May, via Pearl Harbor and Kwajalein. Dhe took part in the shelling of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian in June-July. Off Tinian she was hit by a Japanese 6-in shore battery on 24 July: 43 men were killed, 198 wounded after 22 hits. She went on with her fire support during the invasion and head back to the West Coast for repairs. She was back in time for the invasion of Leyte Gulf. two weeks into this, she was attacked by waves of Kamikazes and struck by two kamikaze bombers: 19 crewmembers diede as a result, while 72 were injured.but damage was moderate and she shot down mant assailants. She bombarded Mindoro on 12-17 December 1944 and sailed to Manus Island for repairs.

USS Colorado in emergency repairs in ABSD floating drydock

On 31 dec. 1945 she sailed to participate to the preparation shelling in the Lingayen Gulf. She took accidental gunfire on 8 January, damaging her superstructure; She deplored 69 casualties, including 18 killed. After repairs at Ulithi she joined TF 54 for the invasion of Okinawa and was stationed at Kerama Retto. She provided gunnery support until 22 May, and anti-aircraft cover during untrelentles and massive kamikaze attacks. On 6 August 1945 she sailed to Japan to prepare for Operation Olympic. On 27 August, she covered the occupation of Atsugi Airfield. War was over for USS Colorado, and she was awarded seven battle stars for this service.

She departed Tokyo Bay on 20 September 1945 for San Francisco, arriving n 15 October, then headed for Seattle, participating in Navy Day on 27 October and sailed back for Operation Magic Carpet, making three runs to Pearl Harbor, carryng 6357 soldiers in all. Sje was back to the Bremerton Navy Yard for deactivation, reserve commission until 7 January 1947. Mothballed for long reserve, she was not exhumed for Korean service and was stricken and sold for scrap on 23 July 1959.

USS Maryland


USS Maryland’s keel was laid down on 24 April 1917 at Newport News Shipbuilding Company in Virginia. She was launched on 20 March 1920 and commissioned on 21 July 1921, starting right away after some training her east coast shakedown cruise. After it she became flagship of Admiral Hilary P. Jones and appeared soon in many special occasions like for the 1922 United States Naval Academy graduation and at Boston, Massachusetts, the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, Fourth of July celebrations… In August she departed with Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes to Rio de Janeiro, at the occasion of Brazil’s Centennial Exposition. Crossing the Panama Canal, USS Maryland ventured in June 1922 the west coast fleet for exercizes, and stayed a flagship until 1923 when it was given to USS Pennsylvania. In 1925 she cruised to Australia and New Zealand. In between routine exercizes between the east and west coast went on, with yearly maintenance periods. In 1928, she carried newly elected president Herbert Hoover in a Pacific tour of Latin America. BB-46 had her major overhauled in 1928–1929, receiving like her sister eight 5-inch/25 cal guns. During the 1930s, she stayed in maximum fleet readiness in frequent training operations and numerous long patrols an cruises. After all she was the latest and most recent USN Battleship, its very spearhead with both her sister-ships.

USS Maryland during a naval review in 1927

USS Maryland’s miracle at Pearl Harbor

In 1940, USS Maryland and her sisters of the “big five” plus the rest of the battle force were all realocated tp Pearl Harbor, and she was in the Battleship Row along Ford Island on 7 December 1941. She was berthed along USS Oklahoma which in fact shielded her from the sea, sandwich in between her her Ford island moorings. USS Colorado was already absent for a refit, however West Virginia was fully exposed, which explained what happened afterwards. Connected by lines and a gangway her crew could quickly -if needed- access to the stores nearby in case. On her fore position was anchored USS California, and Tennessee and West Virginia were astern her and further aft USS Nevada and Arizona. So she was well “protected” all around. These seven battleships recently returned from intensive large scale and complex maneuvers. Most of her crew was preparing for shore leave this sunny and peaceful sunday and at 09:00, they were just settled to eat breakfast when the attack erupted. Soon, the bugler blew general quarters and Seaman Leslie Short was the first to act, manning his machine gun and shooting down one of two torpedo bombers targeting USS Oklahoma. The latter took torpedoes that spared USS Maryland, while all her crew managed to bring her antiaircraft batteries into action very fast, playing an important role in the deperate defense to come. Oklahoma was fatally wounded, capsized quickly but fortunately her links with Marylands were cut. However any of her surviving crewmen were rescued by USS Maryland and wen on assisting her for AA defense, carrying ammunitions notably.

Eventually luck run out for USS Maryland as she was also in the IJN’s list. She was targeted by several dive-bombers and soon was struck by two armor-piercing bombs and several near-misses. The two specially-crafted bombs from modified AP shells tore down through her weak deck protection and detonated low in her hull. The first fell near the forecastle realtively high, blewing an entry hole 12 ft (3.7 m) by 20 ft (6.1 m) while the second detonated at about 22 ft (6.7 m), just at water level, at Frame 10, causing massive flooding. Soon, BB-46 had a list and her draft forward increased by 5 ft (1.5 m). Nevertheless, there was nothing critical here and she went on firing while sending firefighting partieson other ships, and boats lowered to rescue survivors from Oklahoma. All hands on deck, between a fierce AA defense when the second wave passed, expecting the third, which never came, at great relief for all present. Nevertheless, USS Maryland had been relatively spared by this attack and lost two officers and two sailors, a very low casualty rate among the battleships present, hence the “miracle”. Nevertheless, the Japanese announced her sunk.

Repairs and early operations (1942)

USS Maryland’s stern, 9 February 1942

On 30 December, BB-44 entered Puget Sound for repairs, behind USS Tennessee, also relatively spared in the attack. Two 5-inch/51 guns were removed and her remaining 5-inch/25 guns were replaced by additional ingle mount 5-inch/38 cal dual purpose guns,a long other quick modifications. She stayed in the drydock for two months, leaving on 26 February 1942, followed by a serie of shakedown cruises along the West Coast, down to the Christmas Islands. In June 1942 she was declared ready for action, being the second battleship damaged at Pearl Harbor reporting for duty. She started with an important support role at the Battle of Midway. She was not fast enough to follow the aircraft carriers and stayed as a backup fleet along the West Coast. Ready for a call in case Yamamoto would pursue the Americans. Afterwards she was sent to San Francisco for preparations. She was soon affected to Battleship Division 2, Battleship Division 3, and latter Battleship Division 4 until August 1942, with a maintenance time in between to Pearl Harbor for repairs. In November she departed with her sister ship USS Colorado for the Fiji Islands, patrolling against any Japanese incursion towards Australia, making frequent sweeps looking for Japanese forces in between.

1943 operations: Tarawa

In February 1943, USS Maryland and Colorado, still teaming as the division 4, moved to New Hebrides and off Efate and then Espiritu Santo, also to guard against a Japanese move there. She was also stationed off Aore Island Harbor and made a five weeks overhaut at Pearl Harbor, loading notably many Bofors quad 40mm mounts. Soon came her fuirst true wartime test: The Battle of Tarawa. Departing Pearl on 20 October 1943 she became flagship for Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill at the head of V Amphibious Force, Southern Attack Force, for the Gilbert Islands Invasion. Onboard was also Major General Julian C. Smith (2nd Marine Division), Colonel Evans Carlson (Carlson’s Raiders). After preparations at Efate Island, she joined the large task force for the preparatory shelling. Maryland’s guns opened fire at 05:00 on 20 November, destroying a shore battery south of Betio Island, then the shore bombardment and moved closer to locate gun emplacements and silent them. She also targeted control stations, pillboxes and installations visible. At 09:00 the Marines landed and soon wre hard fighting, communicating to USS Maryland Japanese machine gun nests they encountered, depite the danger of close proximity. The battleships’s scouting plane were also hard at work that day, fortunately with weak Japanese air defense, athough one plane was dhot down eventually. Marines progression went on, for three days on Betio Island. USS Maryland the moved to Apamama Island to cover other landings (light resistance there) and on 7 December 1943 she left Apamama for Pearl Harbor, and San Francisco for overhaul and crew’s rest.

1944 operations: Kwajalein, Saipan and Leyte

Next, BB-44 was present at the Battle of Kwajalein Atoll. She sailed from San Pedro (California) on 13 January 1944, met Task Force 53 at Lahaina Roadsand prepared for the Marshall Islands campaign. On 30 January she arrived to provide gunnery support during the attack on Roi Island, for TF 35. On 31 January, she started ap preparatory bombardment off Kwajalein Atoll, targeting stationary guns and pillboxes at will. In fact her gunfire was so intense that she split the liners of her gun barrels in Turret No. 1, now silenced. On 1 February, she went on supporting the Marines, now as flagship for Admiral Connally, also resupplying and refueling smaller ships present and departing on 15 February 1944 for Bremerton NyD for another overhaul. There she had her worn-out barrels replaced. In May 1944, she joined Task Force 52 in preparation for the assault on Saipan. Inder command of Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, TF 52 was given three days of shelling.
Firing commenced at 05:45 on 14 June and she destroyed two coastal guns, devastated Garapan’s installations, then Tanapag. The invasion started on 15 June, and she provided closer fire support. On 18 June, however the IJN aviation arrived and started to attack the ships present. She shot down one, but on 22 June a G4M3 “Betty” medium bomber dropped a torpedo and hit Maryland’s starboard bow. There were 2 casualties but she listed slightly (compensated by counter-filling) and had to sail to Eniwetok, to be patched, and then to Pearl Harbor for repairs escorted by two destroyers.

Shipyard workers manage to have her repaired in record time and the much-needed Maryland was out in 34 days, sailing again on 13 August. She met a large TF in the Solomon Islands in Purvis Bay, off Florida Island and stayed there until heading for the Palau Islands on 6 September 1944, to be mustered in the newly constituted Western Fire Support Group (Task Group 32.5; TG 32.5) Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf, with her sister ships from the battered “battleships row”. On 12 September she covered minesweeping operations, underwater demolition teams before the assault on Peleliu, followed by shore bombardment on 15 September and four days of fire support. USS Maryland the retired to the Admiralty Islands, and Seeadler Harbor, Manus. She was there assigned to the 7th Fleet (Admiral Kinkaid), sailing on 12 October while BB-44 joined Task Group 77.2 for support gunfire for the invasion of Leyte alongside four other battleships. The operation commenced on 18 October and USS Maryland was placed between Red and White Beaches, started firing at 10:00 20 October. Air raids followed the next days, including kamikaze attacks. Later, in the South China Sea two Japanese forces were spotted on approach, heading notably for San Bernardino Strait, and northern Luzon.

USS Maryland’s bow 1944

Post overhaul speed trials, April 1944

On 24 October, USS Maryland, her sister ship West Virginia, USS Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania sailed to the southern end of Leyte Gulf, barring the Surigao Strait with an important escort. On 25 October the Battle of Surigao Strait saw the end of Fusō and Yamashiro. USS marymand pounded Yamashiro, sending the rest fleeing to the Mindanao Sea. Follwing her only battleship engagement of this war, USS Maryland patrolled the southern approaches of Surigao Strait until 29 October 1944, and steamed for the Admiralty Islands for replenishment and was back on 16 November, covering landing forces notably by her AA defense. On 29 November she repelled another air attack, when a kamikaze struck her between the Turrets No. 1 and 2. They penetrated the forecastle and armored decks, causing extensive damage and fires. 31 men were killed, 30 wounded whereas the medical department was badly damaged. She went on in her patrols and was back in Pearl Harbor on 18 December, repaired and refitted for two month.

Final Operations: Battle of Okinawa

USS Maryland struck by an aerial torpedo

USS Maryland made a short refresher training, and was sailing for the Ulithi atoll on 4 March 1945, arriving on the 16 and reporting for duty to 5th Fleet, affected to Task Force 54 (Rear Admiral Morton Deyo) in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. She was assigned targets on the southern coast of Okinawa, the diversionary landing. Several air raids followed, piched up and followed by Maryland’s radar picket destroyers. One of them, USS Luce was sank. On 3 April, she headed for the west coast to deal with newly spotted shore batteries and remained in close support force off Bolo Point, until 7 April. The she sailed with TF 54 to inteercep a last-ditch Japanese fleet, including the Yamato. However U.S. air attacks dealt with it, sinking six out of 10 ships in it. At dusk however, a kamikaze attack started and one, loaded with a 551 lb bomb targeted Maryland. It crashed on top of Turret No. 3, from starboard. The massive explosion wiped out all 20 mm guns nearby, also starting a massive fire from ignited 20mm ammunition. She deplored 10 killed, 37 injured, 6 missing that day.

USS Maryland remained for artillery support and repelled other air raids and departed on 14 April 1945 to escort retiring transports via the Mariana Islands, Guam and to Pearl Harbor. She went on to the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 7 May for an extensive overhaul, her last in fact. Her remaining 5 in guns were removed, plate over, sixteen 5 inch/38 cal guns in twin turrets were added and Turret No. 3 was repaired, crew quarters were improved. She was out in August 1945, making her training runs on V-Day. She later took part in Operation Magic Carpet, making five runs (8,000 servicemen), and headed to Seattle, Washington on 17 December 1945, then was sent to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on 15 April 1946 to join the inactive reserve, preserved for years. on 16 July. She was decommissioned at Bremerton on 3 April 1947, Pacific Reserve Fleet and sold for scrap on 8 July 1959. She won seven battle stars for her service.

USS Maryland in 1945

USS West Virginia

USS West Viginia, BB-46, during a naval review in 1927 (NARA)

USS West Virginia’s keel was laid down at Newport News Yard in Virginia on 12 April 1920, with the hull initial number BB-48 on 17 July. Launched on 17 November 1921, commissioned on 1 December 1923 she had for Captain Thomas J. Senn. After sea trials and shakedown cruise, plus fixes at Newport News she sailed to the New York Navy Yard for further alterations and headed to Hampton Roads, which allowed to spot her steering gear was problematic which was followed by quick repair. On 16 June 1924 when crossing Lynnhaven Channel, at 10:10 however, telegraphs for the engine room and steering compartment lost power. Voice tubes were used to communicate with the engine room and the captain used the port and starboard shafts to try to manoeuver, but the ship ran to the shore on initial inertia and ran aground. The later inquiry faulted incorrect navigational data also. On 30 October, USS West Virginia became flagship of the Battleship Divisions. The 1920s were spent in training and exercises routine with the fleet, overhauls, then Fleet Problems and west/east coast crusies.

USS West Virginia in 1935

During these, BB-48 ventured as far as Alaska north. In 1925 Captain Arthur Japy Hepburn took command and the ship was praised for her gunners marksmanship, 1st prize for short range shooting. She also won the Battle Efficiency Ribbon (BER). She sailed in 1926 to Australia and New Zealand but her crew was awarded the BER again in 1927, 1932, and 1933. The ship underwent a minor modification and notably received aircraft catapults on her quarterdeck and N°3 turret, participating in Fleet Problem XIV in February 1933. Nothing much happened as the economical crisis twharted attempt to modernize her. In 1939, Admiral Ernest King was onboard, evaluating her anti-aircraft defenses. Her recommended adding blisters and adding 5 in/38 cal. DP guns as well as strengthening her decks. Modifications planned were to take place from 10 May to 8 August 1941 but were never carried out. In 1940, USS West Virginia participated in Fleet Problem XXI in April. She was moved rapidly to Pearl Harbor as tensions rose in the Pacific. 1941 was spent in extensive training while she received old 3 in guns for AA defense and eleven .50-cal. machine guns. In June 1941 an experimental gun shield was created by the crew for the 5 in guns, soon recommended.

Badly Damaged at Pearl

On the morning of 7 December 1941, was in Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor alongside Tennessee. She was hit by two Type 91 torpedoes on the port side, and two bombs. The first penetrated on the port side into the superstructure deck and blasting casemates below, also exploding the secondary ammunition stores, spreading into the galley deck. The second hit close to the rear superfiring turret roof but luckily failed to explode, but destroyed one gun cradle and the OS2U Kingfisher floatplane on the catapult atop, the second on the main deck took fire, spilling gasoline and only causing more damage. The first torpedo hit aft, disabling the rudder four the belt, three below and another at the waterline, damaging seven armor plates, opening two large holes (frames 43-52, 62-97) while another one passed even through the holes after the ship started to list, exploding inside the second armor deck. The ship only avoided capsizing through very efficient damage control team efforts (Lieutenant Claude V. Ricketts was later rewarded), the 1st fire control officer. Captain Mervyn S. Bennion was mortally wounded by shrapnel commanding the defense until he died and poshumously awarded the Medal of Honor. USS West Virginia, later affectionately nicknamed by sailors “wee-wee”, sank on even keel. Order to abandon ship was passed on but small teams stayed behind, firefighting and another searching for survivors to rescue. Fuel oil leaking from USS Arizona eventually caught fire, surrounding West Virginia completely added to her own leaking fuel oil. It’s only the next day that the last fires were extinguished. 106 men were killed, many more wounded, the ship almost a total constructive loss that day. One of the most badly beaten ship at Pearl. There are no records of her AA defense, but due to the confusion and smoke after the first hits, it was probably difficult to assess her role precisely.

Repairs and modernization

Workers at Pearl Harbor drydock made wonders fixing the hull, patching holes, pumping her dry, and she was fully refloated by 17 May 1942. This was one of the longest recovery of any ship in the “battleship row” and therefore after extensive repairs and reconstruction, her career was rather short. She was inspected in June in Dry Dock No. 1, Pearl Harbor and it was discovered she has been hit by no less than seven torpedoes. Her temporary repairs made her seaworthy enough to steam to Puget Sound, while 66 or 70 men trapped inside had been retreived and buried. Some of these unfortunately survived for several days in shrinking air bubbles, eating emergency rations, but in vain. Three even managed to survive for no less than sixteen days as it was later found until oxygen ran out. In Puget Sound Navy Yard (Bremerton) engineers wanted for her a thorough reconstruction, that could be worth the wartime decommission.

Modernization proposals soon settled on replacing the lattice masts to have a lighter but stronger structure to support a large radar equipment. West Virginia and California were both in the same state after Pearl, so the same design was applied to their long reconstruction. First off, they received the bulges planned for long, offseting the 1,400 long additional tons of deck armor she would receive. Their battery superstructure (former casemate deck) was rebuilt to manage a full set of sixteen dual-purpose 5-inch guns in twin turrets. However there were few drydocks available so West Virginia had to wait until Tennessee and California were rebuilt, being the last of the Pearl survivors to be completed, in September 1944.

Whe she emerged, her superstructure was brand new, without conning tower but a smaller tower and new bridge and staged superstructure around the now unique funnel, and new telemeters stages around this central island. This maximized the arc of fire for all extra quad Bofors and 20 mm positions around and of the course the 5-in turrets. In fact her new tower was removed from one of the Brooklyn-class cruisers, just rebuilt. The tower mast housed the bridge and main battery director. She was given a brand new air-search radar and recent fire-control radar, much more accurate that anything on the seas in 1943. The 5-in were controlled by four Mk 37 directors. The light AA battery culminated to ten quadruple 40 mm Bofors, forty-three 20 mm Oerlikons. In July 1944, this was mostly over so BB-48 started her pos-reconstruction trials, loaded ammunition on 2 July, departing for training her new crew off Port Townsend (Washington). Evaluations went on until 12 July and after fixed at Puget Sound she steamed to San Pedro near Los Angeles, making her shakedown cruise. She then proceeded to Hawaii on 14 September. On 23 September, she was assigned to Battleship Division 4 (BatDiv 4) with her sister ships, centered around the new Essex-class fleet carrier USS Hancock. They proceeded to Manus (Admiralty Islands), preparing and training for the upcoming campaign in the Philippines. On 6 October West Virginia became division flagship (Rear Admiral Theodore D. Ruddock).

Details of the reconstruction for ONI, Puget Sound, summer 1944.

Philippines campaign

On 12 October 1944, USS West Virginia and BatDiv 4 headed for the Philippines, and Leyte. She joined Task Group (TG) 77.2, the main shore bombardment unit under Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf. As she headed astern of California, thelatter used its paravanes, which effectively cut the anchor chain of a naval mine. When spotted, it forced USS West Virginia to steer around it while destroyer gunfire detonated it. That was one of the case where Paravanes has been really helpful as Japanese minelayers has tranformed all approaches to leyte into giant minefields. TG 77.2 arrived in San Pedro Bay on 19 October after dawn. USS West Virginia took her bombardment position; She targeted Tacloban’s positions and covered the Underwater Demolition Teams in action the day before the invasion, and then withdrawing with the fleet to avoid coastal night actions. In total she fired 278 main shells, 1,586 rounds secondaries (5-in).

The Sixth Army went ashore the following day, USS West Virginia staying on station for close gunfire support. There was a first IJN air attack, and her state of the art AA battery started to bark, but the inexperiences gunners could not score a single plane. On 21 October underway to her newxt spot, USS West Virginia ran aground, damaging three propellers. Damaged blades caused vibrations so she was limited to 16 knots. She stayed on station for two days, providing on-demand fire support and providing AA defense as more attacks came.

Battle of Surigao Strait

Operation Shō-Gō 1 started soon, combining three separate fleets under Ozawa, Kurita, and Nishimura. Kurita’s ships were spotted in the San Bernardino Strait on 24 October 1944. USN aviation took off and during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, IJN Musashi was sunk. Admiral William F. Halsey (Third Fleet) went after the Northern Force, while Nishumura’s fleet entered the Surigao Strait to fall on Taffy 3, of the invasion fleet (Yamashiro, Fusō, Mogami, four destroyers and Shima’s Nachi, Ashigara, Abukuma, four destroyers. Nishimura’s flotilla was attacked during the night of 24-25 October by PT boats and destroyers (Battle of Surigao Strait). West Virginia, at the head of Oldenburg’s battleline spotted flashes in the distance and her radar at 03:02 picked up the ships at 44,000 yd (40,000 m) and again later at 42,000 yd (38,000 m). The battle line opened fire at 03:51, West Virginia, Tennessee and California in order, concentraing on IJN Yamashiro. West Virginia was later attributed a hit on Yamashiro’s bridge on her first salvo. The IJN Battleship was hit several times, badly damaged, before left for Mogami. At around 04:00, Mogami and Yamashiro, escorted by IJN Shigure tried to flee, with Oldendorf on their heels. West Virginia changed course at 04:02, still leading the line, running parallel to Yamashiro’s line of retreat for perfect spotting. Confusion aboard California however had her interfering with this, and the ships had to stop firing to avoid hitting her. However the chase stopped here after reports of Japanese torpedoes nearby. The line turned at 04:18, eding the battle. The Japanese managed to retreat in the darkness and eventually reached home, never to sail again. West Virginia in total fired sixteen salvos signing for the last battle between battleships in history.Later operations

On 29 October 1944, West Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland sailed to Ulithi to resupply and rest. The fleet headed for Espiritu Santo, West Virginia having her damaged propellers repaired in drydock.This was done in the floating drydock USS Artisan, followed by maintenance. She was back in November, stopping at Manus and the Leyte Gulf on 25 November. After patrols air attacks started at at 11:39 her gunners shot down their first kamikaze and assisted for several others. Admiral Ruddock made her her flagship again on 30 November. She departed on 2 December for the Palau Islands, making a replenishment and assigned as flagship of TG 77.12, the bombardment group for the main landings to follow.

The fleet was assembled in the Sulu Sea for the assault on Mindoro with the invasion fleet, TG 78.3. The landing took place and on 15 December the transports withdrew, escorted by West Virginia. She refueled in Leyte Gulf, headed for the Kossol Roads on 19 December. On 1st January 1945, Rear Admiral Ingram C. Sowell replaced Ruddock at the head of BatDiv 4. Joining TG 77.2 this unit entered Leyte Gulf on 3 January, went into the Sulu Sea to be on the 4 caught by heavy air attacks. USS Ommaney Bay (CVE) was badly damaged that day and latter abandoned, some sailores rescued by West Virginia.

On 5 January 1945, she with the rest of BatDiv 4 entered the South China Sea and headed for Lingayen Gulf, but under more Japanese air attacks. When she was off San Fernando Point, she shelled Japanese positions there. West Virginia managed to avoid any hit by a kamikaze the next days, and later rescued sailors from the sunken minesweeper USS Hovey. On 8–9 January, she shelled and razed the town of San Fabian (Lingayen Gulf) and covered the landing of the 9th. Fire support went on 10 January and she withdrew to patrol tne next week the Lingayen Gulf and create a defensive patrol line off the beachhead. She was also called to silenced Japanese positions in between. She also destroyed rail and road junctions, expendin 395 main battery shells, 2,800 secondary. On 21 January, she changed positions to offer close support during the reconquest of Rosario and Santo Tomas (north of Lingayen Gulf). TG 77.2 later covered transports carrying supplies at the beachhead and on 10 February, she departed for Leyte.

Battle of Iwo Jima

USS West Virginin 1944

West Virginia sailed through San Pedro Bay towards Ulithi, arriving on 16 February 1945. She met the Fifth Fleet and prepared for the upcoming assault on Iwo Jima. After refuellingr, loading ammunition complements, she departed during the night at 04:00 escorted by the destroyers USS Izard and McCall. She was on site on 19 February with TF 51. Bombardment commenced at 11:25 while she took her assigned station for the day 20 min later. She directly supported marines fighting ashore and withdrew for the evening. This routine went on again on 21 February, and that day she hit an ammunition or fuel dump, releasing multiple explosions for two hours. Small artillery shells fell on her the next day from Suribachi. She was hit near the forward superfiring turret. On 27 February, she silenced a Japanese artillery battery targeting USS Bryant. She left to replenish ammunition before starting sessions of night shellings in addition. When her mission was completed she departed for Ulithi on 4 March.

Battle of Okinawa

West Virginia teamed with Task Force 54 for the upcoming Ryukyu Islands Chain campaign, and departed on 21 March 1945. She arrived off Okinawa on 25 March and took her assigned bombardment station. She started shelling planned landing zones and on 26 March, a large Japanese shell fell about 4,600 m off her port bow, and she replied with 28 main rounds. Air counterattacks also started on the 28. Her now experienced AA gunns shot down a Yokosuka P1Y. She wen on with her preparatory shelling until the landing day on 1st April. Having replenished at Kerama Retto in between. Her anti-aircraft gunners spotted and shot down another aicraft and later West Viginia was targeted by four more, also destroyed. West Virginia made support fire all day, and remained off the island before retiring for the evening when a wave of kamikazes fell on the fleet at 19:03. One of them could not be shot down and crashed on USS West Virginia, hitting her superstructure forward of sec. battery No.2 director. This exposion claimed 4 lives and and 7 wounded. The bomb penetrated to the second deck but fortunately, failed to detonate and was later defused by the bomb disposal officer onboard.

USS West Virginia 1944

USS West Virginia remained off Iwo Jima this night to provde more support, firing star shells to illuminate marine positions and repel Japanese infiltration attacks. On 6 April, her gunners shot down an Aichi D3A dive bomber and on 8 April, the Japanese Navy sent its last fleet, centered around battleship Yamato, on a suicide mission. West Virginia patrolled west of the island in interception while vigorous USN air attacks destroyed the icoming fleet. West Virginia resumed bombardments and AA defense until 20 April and was about to sail to Ulithi when she was recalled to replace her sister USS Colorado, badly damaged after an ammunition explosion. She stationed off Hagushi Beach, in direct support of the XXIV Corps, relieved and went to Ulithi with USS San Francisco (ii) and USS Hobson

USS West Virginia 1944

She was back to Okinawa until June. On 1-2 June, she destroyed an important Japanese blockhouse inland. On 16 June, she moved to support the 1st Marine Regiment, and one of her OS2U Kingfishers was shot down and the pilot and observer fell behind Japanese lines. West Virginia and her escort USS destroyer Putnam trie to suppress Japanese defenses her to have ground forces breaking through and rescuing the air crew but this failed. She went on until the end of June, and left for San Pedro Bay with USS Connolly, arriving on 1st July. There, she resplenished, refuelled, took new cremen on board, had the resting, loaded ammunition and started training for the expected invasion of Kyushu. But this never happened: After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rumors spread on 10 August of a surrender, but crews were recalled to reality when learning that USS Pennsylvania was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off Okinawa.

Post war

On 15 August, the surrender was now official. West Virginia’s marines prepared for the occupation of Japan and she departed on 24 August for Tokyo Bay, to serve with TG 35.90. She arrived on 31 August and was thus present for the surrender ceremonies aboard USS Missouri on 2 September. BB-48 remained in Tokyo for two weeks and carried on 14 September 270 passengers back to the United States. She departed on 20 September with TG 30.4 for Okinawa, stopped in Buckner Bay (23 September) then in Pearl Harbor (4 October) to stay a while. She was repainted and sailed again on 9 October, heading for San Diego, California, arriving on 22 October. She had ben was awarded “only” five battle stars due to her shorter career.

Sge participated in Navy Day celebrations on 27 October 1945, and hosted 25,554 visits that day. She departed for Pearl Harbor and started runs for Operation Magic Carpet between there and San Diego, making three runs until 17 December. On 4 January 1946 she departed for Bremerton and was taken in hands for deactivation, which was done in “battleship park” in Seattle, Washington. She was tied up there alongside her sister ship USS Colorado. Preservation work was done for her to be in the reserve fleet from February 1946, and formal decommission on 9 January 1947, for the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She stayld listed until 1 March 1959, then struck from the Register, and sold on 24 August (Union Minerals & Alloys Corp), towed to Todd-Pacific Shipyard (Seattle) on 3 January 1961 for BU.



Nevada class Battleships (1914)

Nevada class Battleships (1914)

US Navy ww2 USA (1914) USS Nevada, Oklahoma

The Nevada class: First “standard battleships”

The Nevada and Oklahoma marked a milestone in US Battleship design. Launched just before WW1 broke out, they were the world’s first to adopt the famous “all or nothing” armor scheme, quite a rationalization of armor protection tailored for long-range engagements. Two years later, as they were just being completed, the Battle of Jutland this was clearly shown as a useful layout, quickly adopted by other navies. The Nevada class was also introduced the first “standards” in a sense they adopted for the first time three-gun turrets solution to maximize the arc of fire and oil-fired water-tube boilers.

They were transitional in that sense, still with superfiring twin turrets. The standard was expanded to 4×3 and was repeated for next four classes battleships, clearly intended by the admiralty to be tactically homogeneous and form the ideal battle line, the “battleship row” in pearl Harbor in 1941. Both paid a heavy price as Oklahoma was sunk, her remains partially dismantled many years later. USS Nevada was also badly hit but survived, and after repairs and further modernizations had quite an active career in the Pacific until the end of the war.

uss new york in hampton roads
The previous New York class, in Hampton Roads.

Development of the Nevada class

Context: The standard is born of Congress opposition

When the ships were to be planned, there was a strong political opposition to continual growth and cost of battleship building in the congress since the dreadnought. The Navy settled on a program of two new battleships per year, endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt. However in 1904, Congress changed and started to reject Navy’s requests, back to one ship per year or not at all. Howard Taft, one of the “falcons” and Roosevelt successor tried to bend the congress with little success. However he managed to obtain authorization for two capital ships FY1912. This was the Nevada class. However, Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912, and immediately opposed the naval spending, endorsed by his Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels blocked demands for larger and more powerful ships, and in exchange of two vessels per fiscal year, the admiralty made a compromise and accepted to stick to the same standard. Later, it was internally argued that this standard will allow an homogeneous battleline and to streamline tactics.

USS Nevada in trials, 1916
USS Nevada in trials, 1916

Design development

The General Board started with twin-gun turrets of earlier dreadnoughts as the arc of fire was not optimal but only in broadside. It was requested for the first time a move towards three-gun turrets. This configuration would allow less turrets, a better armour rationale, and better arc of fire. At first, the choice of twelve 14 in (356 mm) guns looks ideal. It was two more than the New York class, with four turrets. design work started for FY1912 two years prior, and the first sketch were prepared by the Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R) in May 1910.

They were heavily based on the preceding New Yorks but the aft superfiring No.4 turret was removed and amidships No.3 turret in superfiring over the No.5 turret. This was similar to British battlecruisers of the time but was soon seen as a complicated arrangement, requiring an ammunition magazine between the engine and boiler rooms. Naval historian Norman Friedman suggested this could have been adopted to reduce an excessive weight aft, causing greater stress to the stepped the hull and requiring extra stiffening there, less weight available to armor protection. As usual the design provisioned also four torpedo tubes and a classic 5-in secondary of seventeen QF guns. As shown by the initial blueprints, the belt armor was 11 in (279 mm) thick.

Birth of the all-or-nothing armor scheme

Meanwhile the Navy’s think tank estimated that long range gunnery naval engagements would be the norm, reflected by the recent appearance of better armor-piercing shells and that the days of the high-explosive shells were counted. The latter could be dealt by medium armor of the new standard. In addition there was still no possibility to aim specifically at unarmored areas while AP shells would easily perforate medium armor and explode deep inside. The assumption of long range gunnery also as reflected in the adoption of a thick deck armor due to the increasingly parabolic trajectory of modern shells. Therefore the armored sides were a bit ignored at this point.

ballistic theories
Ballistic studies about HMS inflexible. This illustrates the board’s discussions about long range gunnery that led to this armour scheme theory.

The logical result of these speculations led to the “all or nothing” logic. Basically this was a statistic-based assumption of what parts needed to be protected most and reserve this protection only for the ship’s vitals. This naturally comprised the ammunition magazines, powerplant spaces, and command areas (notably the CT). In addition it was made watertight, in order to design an “armored raft” allowing the ship to float even in case all the rest of the unprotected hull was flooded. It was calculated to contain enough reserve buoyancy. This was a breakthrough innovation for the time, a revolution in capital ship protection that will spread like wildfire outside the US, an soon reach cruisers as well. Therefore the Nevada class was the first in the world to inaugurate this radical protection scheme.

Launch of USS Oklahoma in NY Shipbuilding Co in March 1914.

Evolution of the design (June 1910-fall 1910)

In June 1910 the Admiralty Board sent new requirements to C&R, still requesting a twelve-gun battery but also a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph) and crucially the “all or nothing” protection scheme they created. C&R engineers however reported that the heavy armor deck would indeed considerably strengthen the hull notably fo longitudinal strength and compensate for the barbette openings, but also pointed out the 11-inch belt armor was no longer able to defeat the latest main guns in development. The Board responded by conceding an extra 1.5 in (38 mm) splinter bulkhead backing the belt internally to contain shell fragments. By October-November 1910, the Navy submitted budget estimates for FY1912, planned for the Congress vote scheduling in 1911. Figures were based on the New Yorks and this was accepted by the Congress. But as a result, this imposed a displacement of 27,000 long tons (27,000 t) like the previous ships. Soon C&R’s protested it was too light and asked for a redesign, also incorporating experiences from service of the first USN dreadnoughts.

wow’s rendition – USS Oklahoma in 1941

C&R redesign, concessions and approval (1911)

C&R redesign changes were first to drop the the arrangement of the aft pair of turrets. However it was still not found at that stage superfiring triple turret arrangement was too heavy. It was decided to move away the amidships magazine close to the boiler rooms as it was difficult to keep cool, as shown on previous battleships. The thicker deck increased hull strength so C&R proposed a closely spaced aft superfiring pair. This allowed also to shorten the hull, reduce armor protection, and keep in the displacement limits. The Delaware reports about its propulsion of mixing coal and oil also brought out a simplification: Only oil fired boilers.

This radical option was found to procure a set of advantages:
-The ability to refuel at sea (with simple flexible pipes by navy tankers)
-A significant reduction in boiler room crews (no more stokers)
-A greater fuel efficiency (smaller tanks)
-More compact boiler rooms, making shorter space to protect.
C&R was internally divided on this issue on this issue as they thought the deep ASW protection relied on these coal bunkers backing the side armor. The Board however was enthusiastic and approved all these changes in November 1910. Engineers of C&R however continue to lobby for the New York class design, but the Board stuck to the latest revise proposal and decided to return on steam turbines in the they belief the notoriously voracious turbines would be better fed by more efficient oil for long range cruise in the Pacific.

uss nevada stern
wow’s rendition – USS Nevada stern, 1941

C&R submitted its next proposal on 13 February 1911; it generally aligned with the Board’s ideas for the armor layout, but it retained some medium armor to protect the secondary guns and it incorporated triple-expansion machinery (though they noted that the engine rooms could accommodate Curtis turbines). The Board rejected it, leading the designers to remove the medium armor, producing a series of studies with speeds of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), 20.5 knots (38 km/h; 24 mph), and 21 knots and main batteries that ranged from eight to twelve guns. During this period, on 4 March, Congress authorized a pair of ships, designated BB-36 and BB-37 for FY1912. With the ships now authorized, the Board selected one of the ten-gun, 20.5-knot variations on 30 March, which had a belt that was increased to 14 in but included a series of tapers at the top and bottom edge to save weight. The Bureau of Ordnance pointed out that the belt could not be manufactured in a single strake with the tapers, so a joint between upper and lower strakes—a design weakness the engineers had been attempting to avoid—would have to be used. The problem was resolved in July, when C&R proposed removing the 1.5-inch splinter bulkhead in favor of increasing the belt to 13.5 in (343 mm) and incorporating only one taper at the lower edge.[8]

C&R and the board would then argued over the turret question. Four turrets would mad considerable weight savings and a thicker belt, correcting an observation of C&R about side protection. However the biggest concern was the Navy has until now never built a three-gun turret. There were concerns both at C&R and the board that a single hit could disable all three guns (something that will came to haunt proponents of a four-gun turrets in France in 1911 too !). It was also estimated that a triple opening in the face armor would make it weaker. C&R suggested making a model to be used on the old battleship Indiana, which was denied.

The Gangut shown using triple turrets was possible in a deck-level configuration only. But the limited displacement forced a superfiring solution in any case (wow)

Navy secretary J. Daniels meanwhile approved the Nevada final design on 31 March 1911, but as no turret design was ready then and many questions stayed in the balance. It was quite a gamble as this was an untested design, although many examples in Europe shown this seemed a way forward: Little they knew the Dante Aligheri, Gangut, and Tegetthof designs all gambled this already. The latter even gambled on superfiring turrets which was one step further away from the first two, which had long hulls to accomodate deck-level turrets only. C&R obtained to built an experimental turret in August 1912, which fired and proved the concept was sound but showed modifications were needed to reduce shell interference, also a crucial issue for accuracy. The finalized design compromised this by adopting a ten-gun battery: For the board this was a though pill to swallow, but the only realistic prospect was that only two turrets would be triple mounts on the deck, with superfiring twin-gun turrets (which was already a proven design).

SMS Tegetthoff forward turrets. The Austro-Hungarians made the radical choice of triple turrets before everybody in order, like the Americans, to keep the displacement low due to their limited yard basin size. It is not known if US Intelligence reported this at that time.

At that stage the Board began made this design circulate among a large array fleet officers for returns. Captain John Hood (later a member of the Board) criticized the the secondary battery, already shown in service to be very “wet” to the point of being useless in rough seas. Due the torpedoes having a better range, it was found crucial to deal sooner with TBs and destroyers, and the fast 5-inch /51 caliber was too short range for this. But then, here was no suitable alternative, therefore the Board had little choice but to keep the initial battery. They could not by then foresee that rapid progresses in fire control would increase their accuracy greatly. This also avoided any complicated redesign which would added weight an delay the construction (as much heavier 6-in guns would have been a logical choice).

Design of the Nevada class

Reconstitution of the armour scheme by Slavomir Lipiecki SRC

Hull and all-or-nothing protection

diagram of the Nevada armour scheme
Brassey’s diagram of the Nevada armour scheme

The Nevada class BBs had a 575 ft (175 m) waterline long hull, 583 ft (178 m) overall, 95 ft 2.5 in (29 m) beam and 27 ft 7.6 in (8 m) draft (standard displacement), down to 29 ft 6 in (8.99 m) fully loaded, and the latter ranged from 27,500 long tons (27,900 t) as designed, 28,400 long tons (28,900 t) calculated fully loaded in service. Their ram bow was followed by a forecastle deck making around 50% of the ship’s length and superstructure were kept minimal to maximize the field of fire. There was an heavily-armored conning tower aft of the forward superfiring turret and two lattice masts behind, both supporting spotting tops.

The belt armor was 13.5 inches thick in between the outermost barbettes, protecting the magazines and machinery, 17 ft 4.6 inches or 5 meters wide, including 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) underwater. It was reduced below to 8 in (203 mm). It was assumed that shells falling that far underwater to be slowed down enough. Both belt ends were connected by a transverse bulkhead 8-13 inches (330 mm) thick, created the citadel. Since it was all or nothing, both the bow and stern were unprotected.
The armored deck was 3 in (76 mm) but with a special treatment steel (STS), made in three layers. It made the top of the citadel. Further aft, it had a thicker stray of armour, 6.25 in (159 mm) over the propeller shafts. The armor deck connected to the top of the belt without slopes. There was below the secondary armored deck, made in nickel steel and 1.5 in (38 mm) thick, only there to contain splinters from the level above. Its sides were sloped down, and 2 in (51 mm) thick, connecting to the bottom edge of the belt, closing the citadel.

The main triple turrets (deck) faces had 18 in (457 mm) thick plates and 10 in (254 mm) sides, 5 inches roofs. The superfiring twin-gun turrets had (406 mm) faces, 9 in (229 mm) sides and all had 9 inches back plate. Barbettes had all 13 inches thick walls and the conning tower had 16 inches walls, and a 8 inches (203 mm) roof and it was made of STS armor. Boilers uptakes to the funnel had a protective conical mantlet 13 inches thick (340 mm).

USS Nevada during her sea trials

Powerplant; Shifting to oil-only

The Nevada class received direct-drive Curtis steam turbines, unlike previous ships. It was believed more oil would compensate for the consumption. They were fed by twelve oil-fired Yarrow water-tube boilers, and the class for the first time also had a pair of reduction geared cruising turbines clutched into the high-pressure turbines for fuel economy at low speeds. This also was a measure to reduce consumption.

This system really became a standard in all following US battleships to the exception of the late class using a turbo-electric arrangement. USS Oklahoma diverged from USS Nevada in having two vertical triple-expansion engines instead, plus twelve oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers. This was a usual testing measure by the Navy to compare both ships propulsion system, and having at least one of the two with a reliable, known system. However USS Oklahoma’s reciprocating engines proved troublesome, generating excessive vibration. This was so bad that in 1925 the nav envisioned to replaced them by diesel engines but their excessive weight prevented this move. Also these ships diverged from the previous ones by having all their exhausts ducted into a single funnel, with its uptake well armoured.

Both ships had difference outputs as a result of their respective powerplants: 26,500 shaft horsepower (19,800 kW) for USS Nevada and 24,800 indicated horsepower (18,500 kW) for Oklahoma, but both were noted as capable of 20.5 knots as deigned. On speed trials, USS Nevada reached 20.9 knots (38.7 km/h; 24.1 mph) on an output figure of 26,291 shp (19,605 kW) on speed trials upon completion.
Also as design, their radius of action was 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) but in reality it was in service 5,195 nmi (9,621 km; 5,978 mi) at 12 knots, and only 1,980 nmi at 20 knots. Nevada’s tactical turn to 180° took 825 yards or 754 m at 15 knots, down to 580 yards (530 m) at 19 knots and 625 yards (572 m) at 20 knots for USS Oklahoma.

uss nevada 1920
BB-36 Nevada overview in 1920. Many secondary guns has been retired already (hull), less those in the battery deck casemate.

Armament: Towards the 4×3 standard

Main Armament

The Nevada’s class main armament comprised ten 14-inch /45 caliber Mark III guns in a 2×3 – 2×2 superfiring arrangement. The triple turrets had their barrels supported by two trunnions so that they could only elevate as a single unit, not separately. These guns were supplied by 1,400-pound (635 kg) armor-piercing (AP) shells which existed the barrel at 2,600 feet per second (790 m/s). The close triple barrel arrangement showed excessive dispersion so practice dictated a successive fire, tenth of a second delay. The barrels elevated to 15 degrees and depressed to −5 degrees. The best range was 21,140 yd (19,330 m). The barrels were served by two shell hoists and the guns and loading system were all electric.
For fire control, the twin turrets were given roof armored rangefinders, and they were connected to the centralized fire control room in the conning tower. To complete this data also came from the main mast rangefinder, fore and aft.

wow’s rendition, USS Nevada in December 1941, on her way

Secondary Armament

It consisted in a secondary battery, twenty-one 5-inch /51 caliber Mark VIII guns. They fired a 50 lb (23 kg) shell, which exited the barrel at a muzzle velocity of 3,150 ft/s (960 m/s).
Twelve were in forecastle deck casemates, and the other six were in lower hull casemates, one more installed directly into the stern. In service, like for previous battleships, they were soon prove, excessively wet in rough sea. In later modernizations they were all removed. Two guns were in open mounts, mounted on the sides of the conning tower. Of course there was no lighter gun or AA.

Close Armament

As designed, both Nevada class had the customary 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes, both submerged in pairs in the broadside, below the waterline. They fired the new Bliss-Leavitt torpedoes Mark VII type. They had a 321 lb (146 kg) warhead and could reach 12,500 yd (11,400 m) at 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph), single setting available.

USS Oklahoma’s sea trials

Specifications in 1916

Dimensions 175 x 29 x 9 m – 573 ft, 95 ft, 29 ft

Displacement 27,000 long tons standard, 28,367 long tons Fully Loaded
Crew 1044 total: 55 officers, 809 enlisted men
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE 14 water-tube boilers 28,100 shp (20,954 kW)
Speed 21 kn (39 km/h; 24 mph) 7,060 nmi (13,080 km; 8,120 mi)
Armament 10 × 14in (356), 21 × 5in (127), 4x 3pdr, 2x 1pdr, 2x 21in (533 mm) TTs sub
Armor Belt: 10–12 in, casemate: 6.5–11 in, Barbettes: 10–12 in, Turrets 2-14 in, Decks 2 in, CT 12 in

The Nevada class in service: WW1 and interwar

USS Oklahoma as experimentally painted with a disruptive pattern in 1917
USS Oklahoma as experimentally painted with a disruptive pattern in 1917 – Colorized by Irootoko Jr.

USS Nevada and Oklahoma 1916-1920

Wow's rendition of USS Oklahoma in 1941
Wow’s rendition of USS Oklahoma in 1941

After fitting out in Boston, and later in New York Navy Yard, USS Nevada first served with the Atlantic Fleet based in Newport, Rhode Island. Her service started on 26 May 1916 with training cruises and exercises off Norfolk, Virginia. She made trips to the Caribbean. When the US entered the war in April 1917, there was a shortage of fuel oil in Britain so Nevada was not sent with Battleship Division 9 (BatDiv 9) made of VTE coal-burning Delaware, Florida, Wyoming, and New York. Instead, she was planned to join the British Grand Fleet on 7 December 1917, 6th Battle Squadron. however it’s only on 13 August 1918 USS Nevada departed for Britain, the last US BB to do so, seeing little action as expected.

She arrived in Berehaven (Ireland) on 23 August, joining Utah and her sister ship Oklahoma, the “Bantry Bay Squadron”, officially Battleship Division Six (BatDiv 6). The squadron was under command of Rear Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers. The battleships escorted the largest, most and valuable convoys in case German capital ships would slip through the British Grand Fleet and fall on the convoy by another route. This never happened so the battleships never fired a shot in anger. From 11 November, USS Nevada, now was under command of William Carey Cole, taking service until 7 May 1919). On 13 December 1918, she was part of a fleet of 10 battleships, including her sister ship, that escorted the SS George Washington, the liner carrying president Woodrow Wilson to Brest for the Paris Peace Conference. They sailed for home the next day and arrived in NYC in two weeks, in time to participate to a naval review linked to victory parades and celebrations.

USS Nevada WW1
USS Nevada WW1

USS Oklahoma like other ships of BatDiv 6 only was only called out once in 80 days. On 14 October 1918 (capt. Charles B. McVay, Jr.) she escorted troop ships back from UK on 16 October and the remainder of her days in harbour, conducted drills at anchor in Bantry Bay. Crews played American football and competitive sailing, but six later fell ill from the Pandemic flu around the 2 November. USS Oklahoma stayed off Berehaven until 11 November 1918 but in the wake of the victory, crewmembers fought with members of Sinn Féin, and the battleship’s captain was obliged to paid for the damage and made public excuses to the mayors of nearby Bantry bay towns.

USS Nevada: The interwar

USS Nevada in drydock, 1935

In 1919, USS Nevada was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and USS Oklahoma joined her in 1921. Nevada’s captain was Thomas P. Magruder from May to October 1919, William Dugald MacDougall (until 4 May 1920) in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. In 1920, Nevada was taken in hands for a short drydock refit: Her 21 five-inch (127 mm)/51 cal guns were cut down to twelve already in 1918, due to the hull casemate guns being “too wet”. Only the battery superstructure guns were kept, plus the two deck guns abreast the conning tower. Nevada new captain was Luke McNamee (until 19 September 1921). She sailed with USS Arizona to represented the United States at the Peruvian Centennial Exposition (July 1921). Douglas E. Dismukes took command in turn until 30 December 1922 and USS Nevada teamed with USS Maryland to escort back to South America the SS Pan America carrying Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes to attend the Centennial of Brazilian Independence. Both ships were in Rio de Janeiro from 5 to 11 September 1922, and legend has it that baseball was made popular when Nevada’s crew was on leave in the city.

USS Nevada in 1925
USS Nevada in 1925

By the fall of 1922, John M. Luby took command, until 7 September 1924, replaced by David W. Todd, until 11 June 1926. Meanwhile USS Nevada took part in a “goodwill cruise” to Australia and New Zealand in 1925. The cruise was hampered by the lack of supply points and demonstrated to naval powers of the pacific that the US was now able to project her battlefleet in the transpacific area of operations, being able in theory to confront the Imperial Japanese Navy in home waters for a possible “decisive battle”. This also changed naval scenarios and games in the US naval academy.

wow's rendition of USS Nevada

wow’s rendition of USS Nevada

Nevada class modernization

Clarence S. Kempff took command in 11 June 1926 and would serve until 20 September 1927 as the ship was conducted in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for modernization. It would last until 1930, under command of Hilary H. Royall (until 12 July 1930). The rebuilt was comprehensive:
-Corbel masts replace by tripods
-Steam turbines from cancelled USS North Dakota installed, geared turbines to increase range.
-Original Yarrow boilers replaced with 6 Bureau Express and new arrangement
-Main guns elevation increased to 30° (23,000 to 34,000 yards (31,100 m)
-Anti-torpedo bulges added
-Two catapults added: Three Vought O2U-3 Corsair spotter.
-Eight 5 in (127 mm)/25 tertiary DP guns added
-New superstructure installed, some 5 inch (127 mm)/51 relocated there as in New Mexico class.

USS Nevada afterwards joined the Pacific Fleet and stayed there until the attack of Pearl Harbor under command of John J. Hyland (until 30 April 1932), then William S. Pye (4 December 1933), Adolphus Staton (25 June 1935), Robert L. Ghormley (23 June 1936), Claude B. Mayo (2 October 1937), Robert Alfred Theobald (10 May 1939) and Francis W. Rockwell.(until 4 June 1941)

HD Cutaway of USS Okhahoma in the 1930s

Specifications (Nevada) in WW2

Dimensions Same but width beam 32.3 m (106 feets)

Displacement 32,000 – 33,000 tons FL after refit 1926
Propulsion 6 × Bureau Express oil-fired boilers
Speed 19.72 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Armament Same but 12×5 in/51, 8×5 in/25 8 × 0.5 in (13 mm) Browning 0.3
1944: 6×5 in/51, 10×3 in/50, 10×quad 40 mm Bofors, 44×20 mm Oerlikon
Armor Same but turrets top extra 1.75 in (44 mm)

Read More/Src

Tom’s Modelworks: Nevada 1941 & 1945
HP-Models USS Nevada BB-36 (1945) 1/700 HP models review
1/350 resin, PE brass USS Nevada BB36 Dec. 1944*
1/820 70782 Lindberg USS Arizona and USS Nevada ‘Attack on Pearl Harbor’ with Diorama Sea Base
*By iron shipright

USS Oklahoma in service: The interwar

Author’s 2 views illustration of the Nevada in Dec. 1941

USS Oklahoma joined USS Arizona in Portland on 30 November 1918 and Nevada joined them on 4 December to form Battleship Division Nine, assigned as a convoy escort for the ocean liner SS George Washington carrying President Woodrow Wilson to France. After a trip back home to New York City in early 1919 she conducted winter battle drills off Cuba and by June returned to Brest, to escort Wilson back to New York. She Oklahoma was overhauled afterwards, her secondary battery reduced as her sister and in cruised to South America’s west coast for combined exercises with the Pacific Fleet and attended the Peruvian Centennial in 1923. She then joined the Pacific Fleet in 1925 for a training cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii for war games.

She then departed Samoa, crossing the equator and arrived in Australia for more exercises and stopped in New Zealand. In early 1927, she joined the Atlantic Scouting Fleet but by November, entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard for an extensive overhaul like her sister ship. She was then back with the Scouting Fleet for exercises in the Caribbean, and West Coast again via Panama in June 1930. The Fleet operations routine lasted until the spring of 1936 and that summer, she carried midshipmen on a European tour and was on guard duty during the civil war in Spain, stopping at Bilbao in July 1936 to rescue American citizens and other refugees and bring them to Gibraltar and French ports. She returned to the pacific on 24 October 1936.

For the next four years she participated in many exercises including the Army, Air force, and training reservists. USS Oklahoma by December 1937 was based in Pearl Harbor and multiplied patrols alternated with exercised and was back in USA, entering Puget Sound Navy Yard yard twice, to have extra AA artillery and armor installed, the last time in February 1941. She was to have her armour replaced and upgraded in San Pedro by mid-August but was struck by a severe storm and the next morning lost her starboard propeller. She sailed to San Francisco for repairs and stayed in drydock until mid-October 1941. She then sailed back to Hawaii, but according to the Washington Treaty she was planned for retirement on 2 May 1942.

USS Oklahoma during WW2

USS Oklahoma off Alcatraz in the 1930s

Oklahoma was moored in berth Fox in the battleship row 5 on 7 December 1941, when the attack started, alongside USS Maryland. In fact she protected her on her flank. She was the object of Akagi and Kaga torpedo planes first, and hit three times seconds apart. On hit 20 feet (6.1 m) below the waterline near the mainmast position, blewing up the anti-torpedo bulge, spilling oil from ruptured fuel bunkers sounding tubes but the hull beyond remained intact. Irony was the men scrambled to fire the AA only to find their that firing were under lock and key in the armory. The time for them to get there and be operational, the first wave was over. The third torpedo struck at 08:00 near Frame 65 and this time it penetrating the hull, ruptured the fuel bunkers and access trunks to the two forward boiler rooms and the transverse bulkhead to the aft boiler room so flooding began.

USS Oklahoma started to capsize to port when two more torpedoes struck while the bridge was strafed by Zero fighters, so the men were compelled to abandoned ship. About twelve minutes later she she rolled over completely, her masts scrapping the bottom, until he keel was exposed, taking possible one or two more hits in the meantime. The crew had time to evacuate for the most fortunate and went on helping other ships, starting manning AA on USS Maryland. In total, the ship lost 421 officers and men, many missing, trapped inside later drowning as the ship slowly filled up. Efforts to rescue them started quickly but dragged on into the night, it took hours. Nevertheless, some attempts worked, such as Julio DeCastro, a civilian yard worker which saved 32, cutting open the very thick hull with pneumatic jackhammers, crowbars and maces. The problem was that trapped air escape and the volume was taken by water, further raising levels, and stored fuel tanks needed to be avoided to avoid further spills or explosions.

USS Oklahoma off Gibraltar in april 1936

They were remembered: Ensign John C. England for example had two USS England, DE-635 and DLG-22 named after him, as USS Stern, USS Austin. Austin posthumously was awarded the Navy Cross, while Ensign Francis C. Flaherty and Seaman James R. Ward had the medal of honor, and more Navy and Marine Corps Medals were awarded to other members of the crew.
The ship was a hazard for navigation and obviously needed to be salvaged. An assessment was done in early 1942, but it was cost-prohibitive. Eventually work started gradually on 15 July 1942, under command of Captain F. H. Whitaker. First she was to be righted up, and this step took eight months with was pumped inside, divers installing improvised airlocks until 20,000 tonnes of water was pumped out, using the torpedo holes. To avoid the ship to slide, 5500 of coral soil solidified her bow while two barges controlled the ship’s rise. The lifting operation was made using
21 derricks, attached to the upturned hull. Their high-tensile steel cables were actioned by massive hydraulic winching machines ashore. The “parbuckling” operation was completed on 16 June 1943 while divers and special teams had the gruesome task of removing human remains.

USS Oklahoma burning in Pearl Habor

In the end, the hull was inserted into cofferdams to allow basic repairs, patch the hull. On 28 December 1943, UDD Oklahoma was towed into drydock No. 2, Pearl Harbor NyD, and her main guns, powerplant and what was left of her stores and ammunition were all removed. Further damage was repaired and she was moored later, but due to the damage and priorities, it was understood she would not be modernized as her sister ships, the damage was too great. She was therefore decommissioned on 1 September 1944, her superstructure entirely removed when the war ended and she proposed for auction at Brooklyn NyD on 26 November 1946, sold to Moore Drydock Co. of Oakland, California, then by May 1947, and was to be towed for scrap.

The company had to had her moved from Pearl Harbor to the San Francisco scrapyard but Disaster struck on 17 May, both tugs being caught in a storm circa 500 miles (800 km) from Hawaii. It was discovered the ship had begun listing heavily and to avoid the tugs to be carried down when the ship would probably sink, they were radioed to head back to port. However in between the tugs already were dragged backwards at 15 knots as Oklahoma started to sink straight down, but the tug skippers ordered to loosen the cable drums and drop them completely at the very end.
The hulk’s position remained unknown. Dredging operations took place in 2006 by the US Navy, which recovered parts of Oklahoma still in Pearl Harbor, portion of the rear fire control tower support mast, later transported to the Muskogee War Memorial Park in 2010, now on permanent outdoor display. The ship’s bell and two screws are now on display at the Kirkpatrick Science Museum in Oklahoma City and her aft wheel at the Oklahoma History Center.

USS Okhahoma being refloated and righted, and waiting for her faite, moored alongside USS Wisconsin after the war

On 7 December 2007 a memorial for the Oklahoma’s 429 crew members as erected at Ford Island, nearby USS Missouri. Only 35 missing sailors and officers were later identified but 388 were not, and they were interred as such in the Nu’uanu and Halawa cemeteries, disinterred in 1947 for more identifications, helping properly burying 45 of them at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2015, the DoD announced a new exhumation to be done, for DNA testings. By December 2017, 100 more had been identified and by the next year, 181, sent to their families by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. In December 2019, the 236th unknown was identified, leaving 152 still unknown for the future. The last survivor of USS Oklahoma, Ed Vezey, passed out aged 95.

USS Nevada during WW2

Sinking at Pearl Harbor and repairs

USS Nevada beached on Hospital Point

Back to Nevada: On 6 December 1941, USS Nevada was in port for the weekend, anticipated quite, since 4 July. Vice Admiral William S. Pye Task Force was granted this weekend leave whereas it has been scheduled to operate with Vice Admiral William Halsey, Jr.’s aircraft carrier task force. But the latter did not want to have his carriers slowed down and declined to be escorted by the battleships, a fateful decision. Halsey indeed steamed up to reinforce Wake Island’s Marine detachment with extra aviation. On the 7th, USS Nevada band was playing “Morning Colors” just as planes were spotted on the horizon.

USS Nevada was in line at the end the battleship row, off Ford Island, not exactly ready to manoeuver, but aft of Arizona. Commanding officer Francis W. Scanland (in service until 15 December) was ashore as the first bombs dropped. Ensign Joe Taussig on duty just ordered a second boiler lit off, gradually warming up the engines. Nevada’s gunners scrambled to action as alarm went on, opened fire whereas engineers rushed to raise steam. Soon, a Kate TB plane dropped a single 18 in (460 mm) Type 91 Mod 2 torpedo, which hit Frame 41 below the belt, 14 ft (4.3 m) above the keel. It was 08:10 AM, and just after she was shot down by the battleship’s own gunners. The torpedo bulkhead however did its job, but there was serious leaking which caused the flooding of port side compartments, below the first platform deck. The ship started to list 4–5° but damage control crew managed to stop it, by counter-flooding. Nevada at 0840 had her engines fed by steam and started her departure while her gunners allegedly shot down four more planes. Ensign Taussig’s saved his ship but lost a leg in on of the strafing attacks. As soon as she was underway, Nevada became however a moving target.

Japanese Aichi “Val” dive bombers of the second wave quickly concentrated on her. Pilots intended to sink her in the channel to block the harbor, carrying 250 kg bombs, but channel’s width of 1200 feet would have made this effort not successful. However about 09:50, USS Nevada was hit by five bombs in close succession. The first exploded above the crew’s galley, anoher the port director platform and down to the stack on the upper deck. Another hit the first forward triple turret on the port waterway. Large holes were blown up in the upper and main decks. Two more struck the forecastle, another failed to exploded in between decks, but another blew near the gasoline tank wich started to leak badly. Fire spread rapidly.

Bow assessement of Nevada’s damage

Gasoline fires around Turret 1 fortunately led to nothing as the main magazines were empty as the battleships were just about to underwent a swap to a new heavier projectile. The new powder charges were planned to be loaded on this Sunday. That was another strike of luck for the ship. USS Nevada however was now crippled and ordered to proceed west of Ford Island to ground her, which was done off Hospital Point at 10:30. She was assisted by USS Hoga and Avocet and her crew meanwhile shot down three more planes. The ship gently touched the bottom straight, quickly flooded thanks to the lack of watertight subdivision between the second and main decks. Water then started to enter through bomb holes and both the dynamo and boiler rooms were flooded soon.
During the attack, Nevada deplored 60 killed and 109 wounded and later two more men would die aboard during salvage operations two month later. They were poisoned by hydrogen sulfide gas, emanating since December from decomposing paper and meat. The damage party later assessed she could have been hit by as much as ten bomb hits. Refloating and repair the ship would take time however.

USS Nevada leaving Pearl for major repair and modernization in 1942


Various appearances of USS Nevada throughout her operational life.

On 12 February 1942 under Harry L. Thompson command, the battleship was refloated by using pumps, and temporarily repaired at Pearl Harbor, sent to Puget Sound NyD for drydock repairs. Her state was evaluated by the commission as positive for a modernization. It happened under command of Howard F. Kingman and completed in October 1942. She resembled USS South Dakota after this. The work consisted in replacing the main bridge superstructure by a thinner, lighter and taller one with open decks, rebuilt exhaust trunks into a new taller, raked funnel, relocation of the aft tripod mast further forward to gain arc of fires, deletion of the all 5″/51s and 5″/25s guns, replaced with sixteen 5″/38 caliber guns in new twin mounts, and considerable number of quad 40 mm and single 20 m Oerlikon guns, radars and modernized fire control systems. Willard A. Kitts took command on 25 January 1943, until 21 July 1943 leading the ship for her first new career operation, providing fire support from 11–18 May 1943 for the capture of Attu.

Details of the post-pearl harbor reconstruction
Details of the post-pearl harbor reconstruction, which was quite radical, but fast. USS Nevada was ready on time for D-Day.

D-Day campaign

USS after the Attu and Kiska capaign, was back in Norfolk Navy Yard in June 1943 for further modernization an when completed, departed for Atlantic convoy escort duties. She escorted convoys in a remote chance a German capital ship would raid it, but it never happened. Only on the northern route, towards Murmansk, German raids from Norway were attempted.
She made convoy runs throughout 1944, until send in in preparation for the Normandy Invasion by April 1944. Powell M. Rhea had by then taken command since 21 July 1943. In fact, the choice was not hard as she was the only battleship present both at Pearl Harbor and available for the Normandy landings. Her floatplane observer pilots were assigned to VOS-7, flying Spitfires from RNAS Lee-on-Solent. USS Nevada had the honor of being chosen by Rear Admiral Morton Deyo as his flagship for the operation. From 6 to 17 June she bring precious artillery support inland, departed for supply in UK and came back on 25 June to resume fire, moving to shell coastal defenses in the Cherbourg Peninsula, as far as 17 nmi (20 mi; 31 km) inland. The Germans however made counterbattery fire and she was near-missed 27 times. Her fire was estimated by the troops “incredibly accurate”.

Operation Dragoon

In August, the allies prepared the second landing, in the south of France, so USS Nevada was sent in the Mediterranean for such operation. To support the landings of Operation Dragoon she teamed up with four battleships, USS Texas, Arkansas, HMS Ramillies, Free French Lorraine, and three US heavy cruisers escorted by many destroyers. Many landing ships and craft used at D-Day were also transferred for the operation. Nevada started operation on 15 August and until 25 September 1944, she duelled with “Big Willie”, the most fearful German coastal fortress boasting four 340 mm (13.4 in) guns in two twin turrets, salvaged from Provence scuttled earlier in Toulon. The battery reached 19 nautical miles (35 km) and commanded every approach to Toulon and in addition to concrete, was reinforced by heavy armor plate embedded into the rocky sides of the island of Saint Mandrier. USS Nevada pounded the fortress, but she was not alone to do so from 19 August. This was combined to low-level bomber strikes. In all, Nevada fired 354 salvos at the fort. Toulon eventually fell on the 25th, but the fort held until the 28, eventually captured by ground troops.

USS Nevada in 1945
USS Nevada in 1945 (HD)

Iwo Jima

Before proceeding into the pacific, Nevada was back to New York for a gun barrels relining, as they were quite worn out by that stage and the three Turret 1 main guns were comletely replaced with Mark 8 guns models from USS Arizona which were in a relining process in december 1942 and were left in storage since, to Mark 12 specifications. Homer L. Grosskopf took command on 4 October 1944 and USS Nevada arrived off Iwo Jima on 16 February 1945, commencing the preparatory artillery cover. The heavy bombardmen went on until 7 March and as the invasion took plane, she moved closer from shore, at 600 yd (550 m) to provide a more precise firepower at any troop’s command.


24 March 1945: Nevada was with Task Force 54, called “Fire Support Force” sent off Okinawa for shelling the island prior to the landings. TF 54 moved into position during the the night of the 23rd and shelled until dawn and during the day known airfields, shore defenses and supply dumps plus reported troop concentrations. However as the night fell for a ceasefire, seven kamikazes arrived and targeted the fleet, just when the air cover was back on the carrier’s decks. One crashed onto the main deck of Nevada, even badly hit, and blasted near turret No. 3, killed 11 , injuring 49, knocking out the turret and three Oerlikon guns nearby. Two more men were lost due to a battery fire on 5 April and until 30 June Nevada continued to support fire until her departure for the 3rd Fleet. She stays with it from 10 July to 7 August and went to the home islands for the last days of the war, Capt. Crosskopf leaving command on 28 October 1945.

BB-36 shelling iwo Jima – the color photo shows part of the camouflage

post-war fate

Cecil C. Adell too command of Nevada on 28 October 1945, and she was back at Pearl Harbor after her stay in Tokyo Bay. A commission examined the ship ans estimated that after her 32 years of service she was no longer needed for post-war fleet, and assigned to be a target ship. In her new role, she was to be condicted in the Pacific to the Bikini atoll, infamous for the atomic experiments that took place under the name Operation Crossroads. It was the summer of July 1946, her captain had left command since the 1st of July, and USS Nevada was to be the bombardier’s primary target for the test ‘Able’, aiming directly at the ship with its unique A-bomb. Therefore, due to the altitude, Nevada’s decks were painted a reddish-orange. Despite of this, when the test started, the bomb fell about 1,700 yd (1,600 m) off the mark. It exploded just above the assault transport USS Gilliam instead and Nevada survived the blast.


She remained afloat also after the “Baker” test, using a new method of underground explosion, 90 ft (27 m) below the surface. Due to the denser water, the schockwave damage the ship’s hull and radioactive fallout from the spray stuck to the ship. She was nevertheless towed to Pearl Harbor and formally decommissioned on 29 August 1946. After being closely examined, she was too dangerous to be scrapped and was instead used as a gunnery target practice, 65 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor. It was the 31 July 1948. Despite the battering she received, the valiant old battleship refused to sink and was eventually finished off by an aerial torpedo amidships.


A former main gun was preserved and is now displayed alongside a Missouri’s gun at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, east of the Arizona State Capitol complex (Phoenix). The memorial represents the Pacific War as a whole. A Replica at 1/15 scale of the USS Nevada was used for overhead shots of Battleship Row in the classic flick Tora! Tora! Tora!. She is today part of Los Angeles yearly parades for V-day, navy day and veteran day.

WW1 US Cruisers

WW1 US Navy Cruisers

USN United States Navy – 51 cruisers

ww1 usn cruisers
WW1 USN cruisers POSTER

When the USA entered war on April, 6, 1917, the fleet comprised about 40 cruisers, the older ones being relegated as costal gunboats, a part made of obsolete masted cruisers, veterans of 1898, 1900’s armoured and protected cruisers, and the most recent were the Chester scout cruisers, which conception went back to 1905. It was thought fleet destroyers could do the job, but wartime realities soon changed that idea and ten brand new scout cruisers, destroyer leaders, were ordered, not completed in time.

The “New Navy”‘s first cruisers

uss trenton 1876
USS Trenton (1876), one of the rare, one-off “new navy” early frigates.

Basically the XIXth naval history of the US is rocky and interesting, especially for cruisers, which had their historic roots in Frigates. And the country-continent had its fair share of innovative development in this area. It starts the 1797 with the “super-frigates” ordered by the Congress, of which only one, the USS Constitution, aka ‘Old Ironsides’ is still with us today, veteran of the 1812 war and against the barbary corsairs.

Then it bounced again, as relations with the British Empire eased a bit, somewhat degraded the size of the US “old navy”, counting a few ships of the line and frigates, during the civil war. It forced the Union, to enforce its blockade to order a new generation of ships. The USN would pioneer the monitor and the submersible. The blockade was mostly the result of an armada of gunboats and sloops, but the Union had in mind a special class of ships designed for commerce raiding if Britain, somewhat supporting the south, went at war with USA. This was the Wampanoag class, on paper “Frigates” but classed by many authors as the first “cruisers” of the USN, in what was called then the “Old Navy” (see later).

Admiral James Jouett on USS Trenton in 1886

The “New Navy” emerged gradually from the ashes of the civil war. Most of the Union fleet was deactivated and the continent stepped in isolation again. Outside 15 other Frigates and 10 screw sloops built in the 1860-70 decade, plus two experimental torpedo-rams, there was no significant other venture. It would take political will and influential writers such as Alfred T. Mahan for the US to gradually emerge from this isolationism and starting seeing itself more on ‘imperial’ terms, or at least taking the first step: Building a modern and strong Navy, which would soon take on one of the former European superpowers: Spain.

USS Maine
USS Maine (1889), coastal ironclad, soon reclassed as armoured cruiser (ACR1) – colorized by irootoko JR

Cruisers took a part of it: Before even the first battleship was built, USS Texas (laid down in 1889), and as the first modern Monitors were in (lengthy) construction since 1874-76, two cruisers were authorized and laid down in 1883, the Atlanta class. They formed the start of a lineage which is still active with the Ticonderoga class today.

USS Chicago in 1902
USS Chicago in 1902 – Colorized by Iroooko Jr.

Alongside these, two ships are noticeable, because they were classes retrospectively as experimental “cruisers” by default of a better classification. The first was the only “torpedo cruiser” ever built for the USN, USS Kathadin, and the other the only “dynamite-gun cruiser” ever built. In 1890 was laid down the first American armoured cruiser, and in 1905 were laid down at the same time the last armoured cruisers, and the last light cruiser (Chester class), before a true eclipse in Cruiser development, the dreadnought era.

Between fast dreadnoughts and larger fleet destroyers it was thought cruisers were now superfluous. And as amazing as it was, contrary to many other nations, the US Congress did not authorized (and the Admiralty did not wanted) a single cruiser until the end of WW1. Ten years of design vacancy, making the Marblehead class both the first and last American WW1 cruiser design and the earliest interwar cruiser design, also veterans of WW2.

Gradual evolution 1886-1920

Old Navy cruisers: Wampanoag to Contookok class

The first steam frigates appeared from 1842. By that time were in service the Fulton II (4 guns, 1837), USS Union (4 guns, testing an horizontal submerged paddle), USS Poinsett (2 guns, 1840) and the screw corvette Princeton. The first modern dedicated steam frigates were the USS Mississippi and Missouri, very large steam paddle frigates (1841,1842) of 3,220t, armed with 10 big Paixhans guns. Then came the Susquehanna and Powhatan (9 guns), USS San Jacinto and Saranac (6 guns) and ‘steamers first class’, USS Fulton, Michigan and Alleghany, plus Seven second class.

uss antienam
A very large model of USS Antienam shown to naval cadets

During the American civil war, commerce disruption by the Union against the Confederacy somewhat soured diplomatic relations with Europe, which imported goods from the southern states, and although not officially supporting the cause, accepted to build ships significant ships (such as the ironclad Stonewall Jackson). But in truth, Europeans came as observers (or volunteers) on both sides, and both diplomatic and business interests enforced neutrality. The Confederates for example had the conservative Bourbon branch Prince of Polignac whereas the Union saw the American branch of the Bonaparte serve their cause.

In case of war (notably Great Britain, which economy was the most effected by shortages from the south), the admiralty wanted ships tailored for oceanic, long range action, whereas the blockade until then concentrated efforts on more suitable gunboats, sloops, and monitors. European will to built ships for the Confederacy was not helping this state of relations, like the Commerce raiding campaign led by CSS Alabama and CSS Florida, both built in English yards. So the Congress authorized a serie of large, fast “super frigates” in the age of steam: The 4000 tonnes Wampanoag class. Authorized in 1863 and laid down that year they were launched in 1864-65 (one was cancelled, another never completed).

uss florida
USS Florida, ex-Wampanoag as completed in the 1870s. These “cruisers” were designed for speed, by clipper ship architect Benjamin Franklin Delano.

Of the five planned only three entered service after the war: USS Wampanoag, Madawaska, and Ammonoosuc. Being built by different yards meant they differed considerably in tonnage, size, armament and powerplant. Nevertheless, their four funnels in two groups far apart and classic three-masted configuration with a straight bow made them quite unique. They were heavily armed with 15 heavy guns, some on pivots and others broadside, and can reach 17 knots, making them able to catch and destroyer any Confederate blockade runners. That’s why they are widely considered as the first “cruisers” of the USN, but they were modified after the war and eventually made their sea trials in 1868, being sold in 1883.

USS California, ex-Guerriere

At the same time, other wooden screw frigates were started, USS Chattanooga in Cramp, 1863 and USS Idaho at Georges Steers Yd in 1863, completed also after the war in 1866. Both were also commerce raider hunters, specified to be able to sustain 15 knots for 24 hours. Also laid down in 1863-64 was a “class” of homogeneous ships intended less for speed but sustained cruising at 12-13 knots: The Java class Frigates. The class comprised as ordered eight war vessels, of which only half were completed, again because the end of the war. They were the USS Antienam (completed as a sailing store ship in 1876), USS Guerriere, Minnetonka and Piscataqua. Other ships were broken up in 1872 or 1884.

USS Contoocook
USS Contoocook.

At last, were order slightly smaller and more economical vessels, the Contoocook class. Laid down in late 1863 or 1864 they were launched after the war but completed and commissioned in 1868, 69 and 70. They were armed with a single 5.3 in parrot RL, fourteen broadside 9-in SB and three pivot 12-pdr guns, managing to reach more than 12 knots sustained. Their career was shot, ending in 1872 (Contoocook, renamed Albany 1869), 1877 (Mosholu, renamed Worcester 1869) and 1883 (Manitou, Pushmataha, renamed Severn and Cambridge). Six further ships named after Indian tribes were cancelled.

American oddities: Kathadin & Vesuvius

USS Kathadin

uss kathadin colorized
USS Kathadin was a torpedo-ram experiment, something tested already by the French (Taureau class) and British (Polyphemus class) and already experimented during the civil war (css Stonewall jackson, css manassas, uss keokuk). The idea was to create a steam ram, armoured, with some self-defence light guns but no torpedo tubes. The idea was pushed forward by Rear Admiral Daniel Ammen, and advocate for a smaller, coastal navy. USS Kathadin displaced 2200-2390 tonnes and could reach 16 knots thanks to a 2-shafts HTE steam engine. Her turtleback hull was covered with Harvey and nickel steel plates up to 6-inches in thickness.

The USS Kathadin was probably the shortest commissioned US Navy warship ever. She was commissioned in February 1897, just in time for the Spanish American war, in which she played no role: Indeed she was an experimental vessel, and as soon as her tests were completed, she was decommissioned, then recommissioned again to patrol the Atlantic coast in case of a retaliatory attack by the armada. She was decommissioned definitively on 8 October 1898 (so for 15 months) but her fate is uncertain from that point. She was stricken in 1909 and sunk as target.

USS Vesuvius

The “dynamite gun cruiser” was a very unique idea developed in the USN: The guns were pneumatic ones. These 15-inch (38-cm) cast iron pneumatic guns invented by D. M. Medford and developed by US Army officer (ret.) Edmund Zalinski, could fire 550-lbs high explosive shells at targets up to a mile away. They were stationed in fixed positions emerging from the deck because of their lenght. For traverse indeed, the whole ship needed to be turned to the right position.
The rest of the 930 long tons (945 t), 246 ft 3 in (75.06 m) long ship was not unarmed, there were three 3-pounder guns.
USS Vesuvius was propelled by two 2,183 hp (1,628 kW) 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, and was able to reach 21 knots as designed.

The projectiles fired by the guns had brass casings 7 feet (2 meters) long with the explosive contained in the conical forward part. It was completed by spiral vanes on the after part to rotate it. To handle the projectiles with ease, they used desensitized blasting gelatin composed of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin, reatively stable, but not enough as to force the use of compressed air rather than classic powder. Explove power was considerable as the “useful load” was 550 pounds (250 kg).

Compared to a classic gun, muzzle velocity was not precisely superfast at 800 feet (250 meters) per second. Range was comprised between 1.6 km with the full projectile and up to 4000 yards (3.7 km) with the ‘lightened’ 100 kgs (200 pounds) charge. Ten shells were stored on board, and 15 shells could be fired in 16 minutes 50 seconds as shown by a 1889 test. The detonation could be setup by and electrical fuze to explode underwater or any structure or burst in the air.

USS Vesuvius made a shakedown cruise and actively served during the Spanish-American War in 1898 to bombard enemy emplacements in Cuba. The guns being silent as for their working system, the enemy became unnerved because of their inability to hear any boom preceding incoming fire. Therefore they could not locate their point of origin and order a counter-battery fire.Despite their early success the whole dynamite guns concept quickly fell out of favor due to its lack of accuracy and high maintenance needs.

Ultimately after Vesuvius joined the Boston Navy Yard until 1904, the dynamite guns were removed and replaced with torpedo tubes and she was rebranded as a torpedo-testing vessel. Ultimately she was re-equiped with four torpedo tubes, including three 18 inch (450 mm) and one 21-inch. She was recommissioned on 21 June 1905 and served at the Rhode Island base, Naval Torpedo Station island. In May 1915, she suffered the indignity of almost sinking herself when one of her torpedoes circled back and slammed into the hull. Her captain made her running aground on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay to avoid sinking. She was later repaired and stayed in reduced service until 1921 as station ship, sold in 1922 for BU.


USS Seattle forward turret
USS Seattle forward turret

Main Artillery

-10 in/30 (254 mm): USS Maine
-10 in/40 (254 mm): Tennessee class
-8 in/30 (203 mm): Atlanta, Chicago, Newark.
-8 in/35 (203 mm): Charleston, Baltimore, Olympia, New York, Brooklyn
-8 in/40 (203 mm): Pennsylvania, Columbia
-6 in/30 (152 mm): Philadelphia, San Francisco
-6 in/40 (152 mm): Cincinnati
-6 in/50 (152 mm): New Orleans
-6 in/53 (152 mm): Omaha class
-5 in/50 (127 mm): Denver, Chester, St Louis

Secondary Artillery

US-manufactured 6-inches onboard USS New Orleans
US-manufactured 6-inches masked gun onboard USS New Orleans

Some guns were actually used a primary guns are well, or their caliber were close to main guns.
-6 in/30/35 (152 mm): Atlanta, Chicago, Charleston, Baltimore
-6 in/50 (152 mm): Pennsylvania, Tennessee
-5 in/50 (127 mm): Brooklyn, Olympia, Cincinnati
-4.7 in/50 (120 mm): New Orleans
-4 in/40 (110 mm): New York

Tertiary Artillery

Real tertiaries were dedicated anti-torpedo boat, quick firing models. With the “new navy” were introduced 1, 3 and 6-pdr guns, 37 mm (1.46″), 47 mm (1.85″) and 57 mm (2.24″), also found in the Royal Navy as a standard and many navies around the world. The early models were purchased from the French-American Hotchkiss company. They were introduced in the 1880s and later models were manufactured by Driggs-Schroeder in the US. They were made obsolete because of rapid progress of torpedo boats, necessitating larger-caliber guns, which led to the development of the ubiquitous 76 mm or 3-in and its AA version. When WW1 broke out, only three classes of cruisers used the 3-in/50, and the wartime Omaha class were the first to introduce an anti-aircraft variant.

-3in/50 & 3in/50 AA (76 mm): Chester, Pennsylvania, Sy Louis, Tennessee, Omaha
-6 pdr/57 mm or 2.2 in: All but Chester and Omaha classes
-3 pdr/47 mm or 1.8 in: Atlanta, Newark, Charleston, Philadelphia, San Francisco,
-1 pdr/37 mm or 1.5 in: All ships but Chester and Omaha

Torpedo Tubes:

Note: No torpedo tubes on cruisers before USS Olympia. 18-in for all cruisers but the last armoured cruisers and scout cruisers. USS Minneapolis was the only one ever fitted with small 14-in tubes as an experiment. The tubes were always above the waterline to the exception of the Chester class and the large armoured cruisers of the Pennsylvania and Tennessee class (submerged). These were broadside, fixed tubes. The Omaha class were the first to introduce traversable deck banks like destroyers, two triple and two twin.

-14 in/356 mm: Minneapolis
-18 in/457 mm: New Orleans, Mongomery, Cincinatti, Olympia, Columbia, New York, Brooklyn, Pennsylvania
-21 in/533 mm: Tennessee, Chester, Omaha.

Doctrine & Operations

The Spanish American War of 1898

The first serious test for “new navy” cruisers happened at the occasion of the Spanish American war of 1898. On paper, both for cruisers and capital ships, the USN was inferior to the Armada. However the admiralty planned to attack Spanish colonial possessions, not the metropolis. Were present during this conflict the only two capital ships of the Navy, USS Texas (USS Maine blew up in Havana, giving the casus belli needed), the Indiana class battleships USS Oregon and the unique USS Iowa, fresh from commissioning. But due to the speed needed for operations and distance, cruisers made the bulk of the operations, with gunboats, although many stayed on the Western cost to prevent an attack of the metropolitan Armada through the Atlantic.

USS New York in 1898
USS New York in 1898

Probably the most famous ships to participate were USS New York, first USN armoured cruiser and flagship of Rear-Admiral Sampson at Santiago de Cuba, together with USS Brooklyn, flagship of Commodore Schley, and USS Olympia, flagship of Commodore Dewey at Manila. The latter was a protected cruiser. The first battle was not in Cuba, but an attempt of a diversionary attack, to try to lure out the Spanish Navy in the Pacific before striking in Cuba. The USN attack at Manilla, the other large colonial possession of the Spanish Empire, the Philippines, took place on 1st May 1898. The attack came as a surprise as the local forces were ill-prepared, staying under the protection of coastal artillery, and their crews were not fit for the ferocity of the assault.

USS Petrel. USN Gunboats played a great part in 1898 battles, in size and armament they were considered almost as second-class cruisers. The 1888 Yorktown class for example displaced almost 2000 tonnes and had six 6-in guns.

“Battleline exercise” at Manila

Manilla Map

This was a daylight raid of a USN squadron against the Spanish Pacific Fleet anchored at Manila Bay. Dewey’s plan was daring, hazardous and risky, but succeeded beyond any hopes. Dewey was in Hong Kong when he was promoted to the Pacific squadron by Teddy Roosevelt, and his motley fleet was composed of the USS Olympia and the USS Boston, both protected cruisers, the gunboat USS Petrel and the very old steam paddle USS Monocacy. With this small force, he was supposed to destroy the Spanish naval force in the Philippines, much larger on paper. One of his headaches has been coal supply. His small fleet crossed the distance with a small force of coal ships, and was reinforced before the battle with another cruiser, USS Raleigh, and the small custom boat USS Mc Cullogh and gunboat USS Concord just before departing.

At Manila they faced a force led by Admiral Don Patricio y Montojo Pasaron, with the cruisers Don Antonio de Ulloa, Don Juan de Austria, Reina Cristina, Castilla, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, and the gunboat Marques del Duero. On paper, this was six cruisers versus Dewey’s only four, however most Spanish cruisers were obsolete and small, almost gunboat-size. Two were later captured and pressed in USN service as such. In addition, decision was taken to remove guns from Don Antonio, General Lezo and from the cruiser Velasco, to install them in fortifications. Montojo awaited the Americans, which had been spotted already on their way, but did not knew the time. He eventually decided not to risk his fleet at sea, and have it half-sunk by using pumps, just under fortified Sangley Point, and the battery of Ulloa on Cavite.

USS Olympia leading the line

Dewey gathered and prepared his forces in Luzon, before entering Subic Bay; His line comprised, in order, USS Olympia, USS Nanshan (transport steamer), Zafiro (captured steamer), McCulloch, Petrel, while USS Raleigh, Concord and Boston closed the line. Basically his battle line made a great sweep before the Spanish ships, without Zafiro, the Nanshan and McCulloch which were unarmed and stayed behind. His line entered Cavite, spotted the Spanish line and opened fire at dawn (it was 5 AM), first on Spanish batteries, sparing their ammo for the ships later. He opened fire on the ships about 30 min. later, manoeuvring his line into a loop and retiring for lunch at 7:30 AM. During the whole operation, Dewey’s line was slow, about 3 knots, and ordered were given to gunners to take their time for perfect aiming.

Artistic, dramatic rendition of the battle of Manila (Subic Bay). The artist made it look like the fight was point-blank range, but in reality distances were of around 2000 yards (1.8 km), which was still close, eve, by the standards of the time. At Yalu, four years before, distances were comparable. This peaks volumes about accuracy as only 2% of the shells actually hit.

He went back for a second swoop, doing the same manoeuvre to “finish off” the Spanish ships ad Montojo decided later to scuttle his ships and evacuate the crews. His forces will later surrender. On the USN side, only USS Baltimore had some light damage by a ricocheting shell that did not exploded, causing 8 minor injuries as a result of sparks and splinters. Talking of ‘doctrine’, Dewey simply applied a textbook battle line tactic, preferring to engage first coastal batteries, more a threat to his eyes, before broadsiding Montojo’s squadron, taking each ship in turn. Almost showing contempt for the Spaniards, he almost acted as in a peacetime exercise. On their side the latter had partly disarmed ships not in shape for sea going action, Hontoria guns that were worn out, limited supplies of ammo that were defectious in part, lack of maintenance, and crucially, lack of training for the crews, deprived or firing exercises for long.

USS Denver underway, one of the six “gunboat cruiser” ordered after the war to watch over Cuban and Philippine ‘protectorates’

Ranges had been short, but the Spaniard almost scored no hit, whereas the USN squadron had only 2% hits, which were sufficient to disable most ships. Dewey swung in front of the Spanish ships and forts in line ahead, firing port guns, then turned and passed back with starboard guns and the process was repeated five times, with a range going from 5,000 yards down to 2,000 yards. It’s still amazing that no fort or ship on the Spanish side had any significant hit, for two hours and a half. In any case, this first naval engagement since the civil war gave tremendous confidence to the US Navy.

USS Olympia
Dewey’s USS Olympia is now preserved and the best and only example of a 1890s armoured cruiser (Author’s illustration).

Blockade “turkey shoot” at Santiago (July, 3, 1898)

Closer to home, the USN squadron that blockaded the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba was much larger than Dewey’s Pacific squadron. Sampson’s blockading fleet comprised four battleships (Texas, Oregon, Iowa, Indiana), 2 armored cruisers (Brooklyn, New York) and two armed yachts. Opposing him, Admiral Cervera came from Spain, assemblng a squadron at the Cape Verde islands, comprising the armoured cruisers Vizcaya, Infanta Maria Teresa, Cristobal Colon, the destroyers Furor, Terror and Pluto, sent to relieve the small force of Cuba (led by the flagship Almirante Ocquendo). On paper, the Spanish cruisers were relatively modern and worthy adversaries. However against USN battleships that was anoher story. However in that case, USN Battleships played little role due to their slower speed, which was a essentially a chasing engagement, even the “bulldog of the fleet”, USS Oregon. This was the battle of Santiago de Cuba.

Cervera initial plan, that he proposed to Madrid, was to link up with another squadron from Cartagena at the Canary Islands, taking the advancing USN fleet in a pincer. However he was ordered to sail to Cuba as soon as possible to engage the enemy, to his dismay. Indeed his fleet had problems, they had a poor supply of shells, guns breech blocks issues, a general lack of maintenance, notably no fooling, making the ships slower such as Vizcaya (12 knots max), or freshly delivered Cristobal Colon, which missed her main guns. Having his fleet assembled at Santiago was judicious to his eyes, as the harbour was generously dotted with coastal fortifications. There was some initial confusion between Schley and Sampson over the real location of the Spanish fleet. The former was adamant Cervera was in Cienfuegos. But eventually Cervera’s fleet was spotted by Cuban insurgents, and communication went to Schley, which made a coaling before departing.

Cristobal Colon, probably the best armoured cruiser of Cervera, one of the Garibaldi-class ships.

Cervera was ordered to leave the bay of Santiago on July 3, at 9:00, and was spotted first by watchmen of USS Brooklyn. Amazingly, the USN was so confident in the result of the engagement that many civilian yachts and schooners were also waiting around to make a picnic, waiting for the event. USS New York however (Sampson) was no longer on sight and missed the information. Meanwhile, USS Iowa engaged Maria Teresa, which was badly damaged as expected. Sampson at least realizing Cervera’s squadron was off, trying to run the blockade, he ordered his ship back, trying to “close the T”, a classic manoeuvers to disable with his broadsides each arriving Spanish ship. Cervera decided to make a diversion, charging with his cruiser USS Brooklyn as for a ramming, allowing the rest of the fleet to escape due east. Brooklyn was forced to manoeuver and nearly collided with USS Texas.

uss brooklyn

After the crippled Maria Teresa, Almirante Ocquendo was next indeed. Crippled, she eventually ran aground and exploded; Furor, Terror, followed by Pluto were chased by the fleet, and the first (with his inventor, Villaamil on board) had its ruder jammed and was sunk rapidly. Next, USS Brooklyn, Texas and Oregon chased the armoured cruiser Vizcaya. The latter had two 11-in (280 mm) guns, which proved a threat. But theor only lucky hit on USS Brooklyn was a dud. Vizcaya would end as a burning wreck on the coast. The last Spanish cruiser, Colon, was chased by Brooklyn and Oregon behind. She was the most recent and therefore fastest, and seemed to put distance, however the coast was forcing to turn, and as coal was getting low, stokers had to use low-quality coal. The ship was more visible due to the hevy smoke and slower. Eventually she was caught and finished off by USS Oregon. USS New York was too far away to do any damage. So in the end, only USS Brooklyn had the occasion to prove her metal. The battle was more a chasing execution by battleships than any useful manoeuver scheme for cruisers.

US Cruisers of WWI

When WW1 broke out, the US Navy was caught with an ongoing program for more dreadnoughts, always larger and better armed, but no cruiser. There has been a program in 1915, not authorized, by C&R to design “scouts” as complementary to fleet destroyers but with a longer range. The vacancy since 1904 caused the US Navy to enter the war with a fleet of cruisers 10 to 15 years old and way more. In fact compared to its battleship fleet, the cruiser fleet was certainly not up to the task.
US Navy early “new navy” collection of masted cruisers of the 1880-1890s has been relegated to secondary duties, which left the fleet with choices to make, based on speed, mostly. The 2000-3000 tonnes protected cruisers of the Cincinnati and Montgomery, and Denver classes formed the bulk of “recent” serviceable cruisers that can 16 to 19 knots. Cincinatti and Raleigh operated along the north-south american coast. Montgomery, Detroit and Marblehead made coastal patrols and training missions. They stayed home, notably because of their range, safeguarding ports and home waters and the western atlantic. The slow Denver (16 knots) were also called “peace cruisers” and were effectively used as gunboats. USS Denver escorted eight convoys til mid-ocean, as Des Moines, Chattanooga, also from the summer of 1917, as Galveston and Tacoma. The latter was badly damaged in Halifax during the explosion of Mont Blanc.

USS New York, colorized by Irootoko jr
USS New York, colorized by Irootoko jr. Notice the typical peacetime livery for the Caribbean, white hull, canvas beige for the superstructure. The prow showed the US official heraldry figure. From 1916 or before they were painted medium navy grey. In fact the USN tried light gray and medium gray paint schemes already in 1898. Artist Abbott Handerson Thayer investigated countershading color schemes but the navy switched from gray to white in the 1900s for the famous “great white fleet”, and back to Medium Grey again after their return in 1908.

The Colombia and New Orleans classes were capable of 20-21 knots and certainly more active. Both the Columbia and Minneapolis served as convoy escort ships and went to the Pacific after the war was over. The New Orleans were British-built typical Elwick cruisers, purchased from an aborted sell to the Brazilians. USS Albany was flagship for Squadron 6, Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet, making convoy escort during the war, and moved in 1919 to give support to the whites during the Russian civil war. USS New Orleans also escorted convoys, from New York City to ocean rendezvous with destroyer escorts off the British Isles, making the liaison with French coast until 16 January 1918. She was sent in the Pacific afterwards.

Wow- Whatif-rendition of USS Phoenix – An alleged early proposal for the scout cruiser of the Omaha class design. Was it real ? The name is totally fake, inspired by the following serie of cities, and is allegedly inspired by a successor design for the Chester class in 1917. They were definitely scouts, acting as “eyes” of the fleet as well as flotilla leaders. This was the “scout 1917 program”, the congress refused to vote because of its cost and fear it would be obsolete at completion. The congress revised its opinion the next year when voting the Omaha-class, actually going back to the 1916 naval program. According to Conway’s, this could well be the alternative 5,000 tonnes design proposed by C&R in 1917. The project was dropped because the heavy armament did not match shipbuilding realities on this displacement, combining a top speed of 35 knots.

There was also the valuable USN 20 knots+ armoured cruiser fleet: Sixteen heavily armed warships, in the 8,500-14,500 tonnes range in displacement. They were the old Cuban veterans, USS New York and Brooklyn, the six Pennsylvania class, three St Louis class and Five Tennesse class. The later were well protected, large, with nealry 2000 tonnes of coal capacity. They were able to escort convoys to the mid-Atlantic and well beyond.

USS New York became USS Rochester on 1 December 1917, and was part of the Atlantic fleet escort force, making three trips and then more to repatriate troops. USS Brooklyn was a receiving ship in Boston NyD when the war broke out, Atlantic Reserve Fleet. After Neutrality Patrols, she was sent in the Pacific.
USS St Louis was in escort of Group 4, American Expeditionary Force for escort duties, coast to coast. Milwaukee was stranded and a written off in 1917 while USS Charleston carried and escorted the American Expeditionary Force to France NYC to Saint Nazaire (five missions), repatriating veterans.
The Pennsylvania class were all renamed before the war broke out, from 1912 to 1916, even 1920 for USS South Dakota. These large cruisers were transferred to convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. USS Pittsburg was in the Pacific chasing (without success) for German commerce raiders. USS Huntington operated an observation balloon to try to spot submerged U-Boats. USS San Diego became the only US Armoured Cruiser sank due to wartime operations: She hit a mine off Fire Island, New York, probably laid by U-156, or by a torpedo (Conways).
The Tennessee class were also renamed 1916 to 1920 and had a similar career during these short wartime operations. USS Tennesse was wrecked in August 1916 after a Tsunami and never recovered. The others, Memphis, Seattle, Charlotte and Missoula. USS Seattle experimented with observation seaplanes, having four of these and two catapults. She also served as flagship of the Destroyer Force and escort for the first American convoy to European waters. USS North Carolina (later Charlotte) became the first ship ever to launch an aircraft by catapult, on 5 September 1915.

Perhaps the “best card” of the USN in 1917 were the Chester class scouts. The 24-knots cruisers were the only true “scouts” of the navy and had quite an active career in 1917-18. All these cruisers were doomed by the signature of the Washington naval treaty. The tonnage ban concerning cruisers forced most of theme to be retired, sold in 1930 after a long reserve period, altough the carrier of a few went on until WW2 under various roles or simply were still extant after 50-60 years. Such was the case for:
-USS Despatch (ex-Atlanta), the doyen of USN cruisers, receiving ship at Yerba Buena until 1946.
-USS Baltimore was decomm. since 1922 and rested in Pearl Harbor. She was sold in 1942 as scrap metal.
-USS Olympia, preserved as a veteran of the Philippines in 1898 to this day, museum ship in Philadelphia.
-USS Yosemite (ex-San Francisco) decomm. 1921, was stricken since 1930 but sold in 1939 in Philadelphia.
-USS Rochester (ex-Saratoga, ex-New York), decomm. since 1933, receiving ship at Olomgapo, Philippines, scuttled to avoid capture by the Japanese in December 1941.
-USS Seattle, receiving ship in NyC until 1941, renamed IX39 as a misc. auxiliary and sold in 1946.

Of course, none of the Omaha class scout cruisers, laid down in December 1918 for the first two, seen anything of WW1. But they fully participated in WW2 in active roles and all survived, to be striken in 1945-46.

Sailing cruisers 1886-1898

USS Atlanta class

USS Atlanta, USS Boston
uss atlanta

Authorized by the Congress in 1883, this was the first modern USN cruiser and the whole lineage to the this day (Ticonderoga) came from there, a span of 100 years; These were wide but short ships displacing 3200 tonnes, armed with 8-in guns fore and aft in barbettes and behind masks, with two masts and square rigging, clipper stern and ram, low freeboard. Light artillery comprised six 6-in guns, two 6-pdr, two 3-pdr and two 1-pdr. They were propelled at 13 knots with a single shaft HC engine with an output of 3500 ihp, carryong around 380 tonnes of coal. Both were unprotected cruisers.

USS Atlanta and Boston were built in John Roach Yard but fitted out in New York, launched in the fall of 1884 and completed in 1886 and 1887. From November 1905 tlanta served as an accomodation ship for TB crews but was sold in 1912. Her sister ship USS Boston served as the training ship for the Oregon naval militia from 1911 to 1916 and then receiving ship at Yerba Buena, from 1918 to 1946, renamed USS Despatch in between in 1940.

Displacement: 3189t
Dimensions: 86.26 x 12,80 x 5.18m
Propulsion: 1 shaft HTE, 8 cyl boilers, 3500 shp. 13 knots.
Crew: 284
Armament: 2x 8-in, 6 x 6-in, 2x 6-pdr, 3-pdr 1-pdr

USS Chicago

Auhorized also in 1883 by the Congress this unprotected masted cruisers was way larger, intended for long range missions in distant stations. Only protection was a stray of 1-1/2 in deck extending on 136 feets over the machinery spaces and 3/4 inches above the machinery. Armament comprised now four 8-inches (203 mm) in upper deck sponsons amidships the fore pair abreast the foremast, and the aft pair between the main and aft masts. The rest were in side sponsons behind hull’s apertures and mixed 6-in and 5-in guns in addition to light artillery. She had no torpedo tubes. USS Chicago was rigged as a barque wihout royals and had a tall hull made for heavy weather, a stark contrast with the Atlanta class which sat very low on the water and were wet. USS Chicago also had a clipper stern and reasonably sloped ram. She carried almost double coal compared to the Atlanta, for a much greater range and used a Compound engine of the COB type on two shafts, speed was also better at 14 knots.

USS Chicago was launched at John Roach in December 1885 and completed in Delaware Yard, which purchased John Roach, in April 1889. On trials her machinery gave 5084 ihp for 15.4 knots. In 1895 she was taken in hands for reconstruction: 1-1/2 deck plating was added over the steering room, 1-in over the gun crews, 1-1/8 in on 70 feets to reinforce the bow. The conning tower received 3-in walls (76 mm). At the same time her armament was upgraded with 8-in/35 main guns instead of 30 calibers, while the 6-in and 5-in were diposedof and replaced by a battery of fourteen 5-in/40 guns. The machinery was upgraded with six Babcock and wilcox boilers feeding four new HTE steam engines, 9000 ihp total, top speed of 18 knots while the masts were lightened and simplified, rigging eliminated.

In 1910-1917 USS Chicago was relegated as training ship for the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania naval militias. Later she was a receiving ship for submarines until 1923 while her armament was cut down to four 5-in, named USS CA14. She was transferred to Pearl Harbor as accomodation ship until 1935 as USS Alton, discarded and sold for BU but lost when she was towed en route in July 1936.

Specifications (1892)
Displacement: 4500/4864t
Dimensions: 104.39 x 14,7 x 5.79m
Propulsion 2 shafts, 6 Babcock et Wilcox boilers, 9000 shp. 18 knots.
Crew: 409-471
Armament: 4 x 8-in, 14 x 5-in, 2 x 1 pdr.

USS Newark

uss newark

USS Newark was number C1, the first numbered in the USN, whereas she was already the eight “cruiser” of the USN. Authorized in 1885 she was laid down in 1888 in William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia. She was quite an improvement over the Chicago, although she still shared many aspects with her; She was slightly shorter but wider, and was the first USN protected cruiser. Indeed since the beginning she was given a complete protective deck, 2 in thick turteleback with 3-in slopes, reduced to 2-in for the forward end but 3in aft to better protected the engine rooms and steering room. She also had four cylinders boilers feeding two HTE steam engines on two shafts, rated for 8500 ihp, providing 18 knots. She also carried 800 tonnes of coal in wartime.
Instead of a few heavy guns she had twelve quick-firing 6-in guns (152 mm)/30 caliber, in side sponsons lower in the hull to proved a better stability, in sponsons protected by shields, but protected by high walls and tops. In addition she had four 3-pdr and two 1-pdr placed high up in the fighting tops. USS Newark was rigged as a barque withour royals, also with two raked funnels, so she still looked like the Chicago.

USS Newark was completed at Cramp in 1891, commissioned and rearmed in 1902 by new 40 caliber, faster 6-in guns, and her rigging was removed. In 1913, june, she was stricken from the navy list, and renamed quarantine hulk R1 at Providence and later hospital annex. She was sold in 1926.

illustration of USS Newark as built
Author’s illustration of USS Newark as built.

Displacement: 4083/4952 t
Dimensions: 99.97 x 14,98 x 5.74m
Propulsion 2 shafts HTE, 4 cyl Babcock et Wilcox boilers, 8500 shp. 18 knots.
Crew: 198
Armament: 12 x 6-in, 4 x 3pdr, 2 x 1 pdr.

USS Charleston

A bit forgotten, USS Charleston was the second protected cruiser (C2), also built in USA, at Unio iron Works, but on British plans from Elswick, inspired by IJN Naniwa, herself derived from the famous export cruiser Esmeralda designed in 1880 by naval architect George Wightwick Rendel, the successor of William Henry White. She had the 8-in guns fore and aft of the superstructure, a relatively low hull with a central shielding section, a single funnel and two short masts, no rigging. Her secondary armament comprised six 6-in/30 guns, two 3-pdr and two 1-pdr light guns but still no TT. The main guns barbettes had 2-in thick barbettes, like the CT walls and 2-in protective deck with 3-in slopes. Commissioned in December 1889 she had a short career, wercked on an uncharted rock in November 1899 off Camiguin island n the Phippines, demaged beyond repair.

USS Charleston in Hong Kong

Displacement: 370/4200t
Dimensions: 97.54 x 14,01 x 5.64m
Propulsion: 2 shafts HC, 6 cyl boilers, 7650 shp. 18.9 knots
Crew: 300
Armament: 2 x 8in, 6 x 6in, 4 x 6pdr, 2 x 3pdr, 2 x 1pdr.

Baltimore class cruisers

The old cruisers USS Baltimore (completed in 1890) and USS Philadelphia (1890), were excellent ships built at Cramp on an English design (Eltswick). They served during the Spanish American War of 1898 but were quickly put to sleep from 1904, the Philadelphia becoming a barracks ship at Puget Sound and the Baltimore at Charleston from 1911. The USS Baltimore was quickly converted into a minesweeper and participated in the naval operations of 1917, with armament reduced to 4 pieces of 100 mm and two batteries of 76 mm AA. It was not removed from the lists until 1922 and returned to its role as a barracks ship which she held until 1942, when it was sold for demolition. A great 52-year career.

Author’s illustrations of USS Baltimore as built and in 1914


Displacement: 4413t, 5436t FL
Dimensions: 102,11 x 14,78 x 5,94m
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 4 boilers VTE engines 10,750 hp. 19 knots
crew: 386
Armament: 4 x 203 mm, 6 x 152 mm, 4 x 75 mm, 2 x 47, 2 x 37 mm.

USS Philadelphia

Authorized in 1887, USS Philadelphia she was rigged as three-mast schooner, without head gear and generally similar to the USS Baltimore in protection notably. The armament and armour scheme as also remarkably similar to the two ships are even classed as sister-ships. Built at Cramp in 1888-89 and completed in July 1890, USS Philadelphia was sent to Puget sound in 1902 for extensive repairs and in 1904 housed over as receiving ship at the same yard, remaining as such with a small period as prison ship until 1926.

Displacement: 4324/5303t
Dimensions: 102.11 x 14,78 x 5.84m
Propulsion: 2 shafts HTE, 4 cyl boilers, 9000 ihp. 19 knots (1031 tonnes coal).
Crew: 384
Armament: 16 x 6-in, 4 x 3-pdr, 2 x 1-pdr.

USS San Francisco

Authorized in 1887, USS San Francisco (C5) was built at Union Iron Works, in the same name city. She was a near-repeat of USS Newark, rigged as a three masted schooner without head gear, and with a main armament of 6-in guns with a different management, 16 in all. After modernization, in 1902 she gained longer, faster 6-in/40 guns and new babcock and wilcox boilers. Like the previous ships she reached 19 knots. Four of the 6-in were mounted on decks fore and aft and not in sponsons. She had a 2-in/3-in sloped protective deck, 3-in CT. Launched in October 1889 and completed in November 1890. USS San Francisco was converted in 1908 as a minelayer, and in 1917 she participated in the laying of the great northern mine barrage. In 1918 her armament was reduced to four 5-in guns/51 and in 1921 she was placed in reserved in Philadelphia, remaining in reserve until 1937, renamed Tahoe and Yosemite in 1930, but kept in reserved until sold in 1939. So she saw three conflicts (1898, WW1 and WW2).

Author’s illustration, as built

Displacement: 4088/4583 tonnes
Dimensions: 98.91 x 14,98 x 5.74m
Propulsion 2 shafts HTE, 4 cyl boilers, 10,500 shp. 19 knots.
Crew: 384
Armament: 12 x 6-in, 4 x 6pdr, 2 x 1pdr.

American Protected Cruisers

USS Olympia (1892)

USS Olympia as preserved today in Philadelphia

The cruiser USS Olympia was the most famous of the 1898 war, as she was the flagship of Commodore Dewey, the Hero of the battle of Manilla. She was relatively fast but small and cramped, and not seriously tested during the battle. Authorized in 1888, built at Union Iron Works in 1891-92 and commissioned in 1895, USS Olympia was brand new when the war erupted. Protection was assured by 3,5 to 4,5in Harvey nickel steele plates, which would have been probably not sufficient against some spanish ships. However the engines room was well protected by a 4in glacis. She was a good steamer, capable of 17 300 hp on forced draught, giving 21,7 knots. She is now the only preserved warship of this kind in the world, and can be seen in the Independence Seaport Museum, philadelphia PA.

Author’s illustration, as built

Displacement: 5862 t (6558 t FL)
Dimensions: 104,78 x 16,15 x 6,55 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 6 cyl Boilers, 13 5000 hp, 20 knots.
Armour: Harvey belt 3 in, barbettes 4,5 in, turrets 3,5 in, secondary 4 in, CT 5 in
Armament: 4x 8in (203 mm), 10x 5in (127 mm), 14x 6pdr (57 mm), 6x 1pdr (37 mm QF) 6x 457 mm aw.
Crew: 411

Cincinatti class (1892)

USS Cincinatti, Raleigh
USS Cincinnati (C7) as built
USS Cincinnati (C7) as built

Authorized in 1888, these two cruisers were loosely based on the classic Armstrong-Elswick style export cruiser. But they had a single 6 inches gun and her 5in were not as efficient. Commissioned in 1895, they played no active part in 1898 battles. These two small and relatively fast cruisers built in NY navy yard and Norfolk were originally rigged but their fore and aft sails were removed in 1899.

uss raleigh
USS Raleigh, starboard view circa 1900

Author’s rendition of the USS Cincinnati and Raleigh prior to the 1898 war

Displacement: 3183 t (3339 t FL)
Dimensions: 93,13 x 12,80 x 5,49 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 6 cyl Boilers, 10 000 hp, 19 knots.
Armour: Complete 2in and 2,5in amidship protective deck, CT 2in
Armament: One 6in/30 (152 mm), 10 x 5in (127 mm), 8 x 6 pdr (75 mm), 2 x 1pdr (37 mm) QF guns, four 457 mm TT sub
Crew : 322

Montgomery class (1891)

USS Montgomery, Detroit, Marblehead
uss montgomery c9

USS Montgomery, Detroit and Marblehead were ordered in 1888 and commissioned in 1893-94. They were of questionable military value, slow, poorly armed and unprotected. They were not involved in the war against Spain, and the USS Detroit was struck off the lists in 1910, while the USS Montegomery had served as an experimental torpedo boat since 1908. It participated like the Marblehead in the Great War and was disarmed in 1919, the other in 1921.

uss montgomery illustration


Displacement: 2094/2235 tonnes
Dimensions: 82.14 x 11,27 x 4.44m
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 6 cyl boilers, 4500 ihp. 17 knots.
Crew: 274
Armament: 9 x 5in/40 (127 mm), 6 x 6-pdr (47 mm), 2 x 1-pdr (37 mm), 3 x 18-in TT aw.

Columbia class (1893)

USS Columbia, Minneapolis

USS Columbia, Detroit Photographic Company (cc)

USS Columbia and Minneapolis were certainly the most striking US cruisers of that era. At a time great powers from Europe had a tremendous maritime traffic, both ships has been designed as commerce raiders. Authorized under the act of June 1890 and 1891 they also differed between themselved in appearance, having two or four funnels according to their machinery. At 126 meters long by 17.72 they were relatively nimble and fast, but lightly armed to such a package, with only one heavy guns (8-in) and tw medium (6-in). The first was on the deck forward, centerline, the latter were aft behind the superstructure either side of the deck. The rest comprised an array of 5-in in sponsons, 6-pdr and 1-pdr plus four surface torpedo tubes, either of 14-in (for civilian vessels) or 18-in.

The sponsons guns and walls were protected by 4-in, the CT had 5-in walls, the protective deck was 2-1/2 inches thock with 4-in slopes. Both ships missed the 1898 war. Both were out of commission from 1907 and 1906 respectively, robably due to their high operating cost and coal consumption, although they had been recoignise good walkers. Indeed USS Columbia beat SMS Fürst Bismarck in 1895, rallying in six days 23 hours 49 minutes Sandy Hook from Southampton.
They were recommissioned in 1915 and 1917.
Both escorted convoys during the war and in 1919, their forward 8-in was removed and replaced by a third axial 6-in/40 while four 4-in/40 were added as well as two 3-in AA (76 mm) and the TTs removed.

USS Minneapolis
USS Minneapolis

author's illustration of USS Columbia
USS Columbia as built and in 1917

Displacement: 7375/8270 tonnes FL
Dimensions: 125.90 x 17.72 x 6.88m
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 8 Babcock et Wilcox boilers, 21,000 shp. 21 knots, coal 1670 tonnes wt
Crew: 477
Armament: 1 x 8(in, 2 x 6-in, 8 x 4-in, 12 x 6-pdr, 4 x 1-pdr, 4 TTs aw, see notes

New Orleans class (1896)

USS New Orleans, Albany

USS New Orleans

Both ships had an interesting story. These were previously British-built protected cruisers interned for the Brazilian Navy, by Armstrong Elswick, typical Elswick cruisers. Although both ships would have been named Zenteno and Barroso (part of an order for four), and already fitting out, they were purchased by the US Government, desperate to bolstered its cruiser fleet before going to war with Spain in 1898. USS New Orleans had been just completed on 18 March 1898, when she had been purchased on 9 March. The second was completed in May 1900 and they were renamed USS New Orleans and Albany respectively. They had six 6-in guns installed on the forecastle deck and poop, the other four in side sponsons with hull recesses to fire forward or aft at 90° respectively.

These were US-manufactured 6-in/50 Mark V EOC DD (152 mm), under armoured masks. This was completed by four 4.7 in/50 EOC AA (120 mm), behind shields on the broadside, ten 6-pdr and eight 1-pdr, the latter installed in the fighting tops, four in all on both masts. Both ships had modern VTE machinery mated on four cyl boilers, two shafts, rated for 7,500 ihp, enough for 20 knots as contracted by the Brazilians. They could carry 747 tonnes of coal in wartime. Good walkers they were protected by an armoured deck 1-1/4 inches thick with 3-1/2 inches slopes. There was a 4-in boiler room glacis for extra protection and the conning tower walls were also 4-in thick. Eventually USS New Orlans stayed in home waters during the war.

In 1907, both were rearmed with a more uniform battery of ten 5-in/50 guns and later this was reduced to eight, and the TTs were removed. They had a long and varied service and overall, recoignised as good (and cheap) acquisitions for the USN as well as a sneak peak into the latest British naval engineering gigs. Both were decommissioned in 1922 as for the Washington treaty, but kept in reserve until sold in 1930.

USS Albany

Author’s rendition of the New Orelans class

Displacement: 3769t, 4011t FL
Dimensions: 108.03 x 13,33 x 5.49m
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE 4 cyl Babcock et Wilcox boilers, 7500 ihp. 20 knots.
Crew: 366
Armament: 6 x 152 mm, 4 x 120 mm, 10 x 76mm , 8 x 37 mm, 3 457 mm TTs.

Denver class (1902)

USS Denver, Des Moines, Chattanooga, Galveston, Tacoma, Cleveland.

uss tacoma
USS Tacoma (C 18; ex-PG-32; ex-CL-20) wrecked and stricken from the Navy list in 1924. [NH 67790]

These six cruisers were authorized by Congress in 1899, as part of the naval buildup following the Spanish–American War. It was specified cruisers that can act in peacetime as gunboats in foreign stations and tropical climates. Of course, Cuba and the Philippines, newly acquired, were the first concerned. Their armament and speed was indeed efficient for the to take part in fleet duties, so they were more “station gunboats” than cruisers. They were cheap, of simple design with a flush deck hull, tall masts (with a schooner rigging) and tall funnels. The rigging was actually never mounted, as the ships, built at Neafie & Levy, Fore River, Crescent, WR Trigg, Union Iron Works and Bath Iron works, were all laid down in January to August 1900 (but USS Galveston, 1901), launched in 1901-1903 and commissioned in 1903-1905, had their deck 6-in guns under masks mounted forre and aft on the deck, the others in sponsons and two in hull recesses, as their eight 6-pdr and two 1-pdr higher up in the bridge forward. The casemates were protected by 1-1/4 inches plates, with a ptorective deck with 1 in flat and 2-1/2 in slopes. They had a quiet career, patrolling home waters during WW1, and only USS Tacoma was lost, short before retirement in 1924, wrecked on the Blaquilla reef off Vera Cruz. They were all sold in 1930.

Displacement: 3200/3514t
Dimensions: 94.13 x 13,41 x 4.8m
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 6 Babcock and Wilcox boilers, 4,500 shp. 16.5 knots.
Crew: 339
Armament: 10 x 5 in/50 Mk 5 (127 mm), 8 x 6-pdr (47mm), 2 x 1-pdr (37 mm).

Chester class (1907)

USS Chester, Birmingham, Salem.
Chester class

The Chester class ships, USS Chester, Birmingham and Salem, completed in 1908, were the last American cruisers before the Omaha class in 1922. They were also the first American cruisers to have turbines. They were designed to be scouts, and much had been done for their lightness and speed. With 24 knots indeed, they were the fastest cruisers in the fleet.

Lightly armed, they nevertheless actively participated in the First World War. The Birmingham made the world’s first attempt to take off an airplane from a platform on its foredeck. Lieutenant Eugene Ely made history on his Curtiss at Hampton Road in 1910. The three units were finally retired from service in 1921 and 1923, and sold for demolition in 1930.


Displacement: 3750t, 4700t FL
Dimensions: 129 x 14,34 x 5,10m
Propulsion: 2 shafts Parsons/Curtis Turbines, 12 Normand/Fore River boilers 16,000 hp. 24 knots.
Crew: 360
Armament: 2 x 127 mm, 6 x 76 mm, 2 533mm TTs.

American Armoured Cruisers

USS New York/Saratoga (1891)

USS New York was the first American armored cruiser. She was renamed USS Saratoga in 1911 with the construction of the Dreadnought USS New York. She fought during the war against Spain in 1898, then served during the Great War by escorting convoys. In December 1911 she has been renamed USS Rochester and she kept this name for long years. In 1927 4 boilers and two funnels were removed, but she continued to serve until 1933, notably in the Philippines since 1930, being finally struck off the lists and put in reserve, on site, in 1938. In December 1941 it was decided to scuttle her to avoid her capture by Japanese troops.


Displacement: 8200 tonnes/9021 fully loaded
Dimensions: 117 x 19.76 m (384 x 64 feets, 1/5 ratio)
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 8 boilers, 16,000 hp 20 knots max.
Armor: Belt shield, Barbettes, turrets, blockhouse
Armament: 6 x 8-in/35 (203 mm)m, 12 x 4in/40, 6 x 6-pdr, 2 x 1-pdr.
Crew: 380

USS Brooklyn (1895)

Recognizable by her three huge funnels, USS Brooklyn was built in Cramp NyD, completed in 1896. The influence of French design was seen in the pear-shaped section, and with a main diamond style turret arrangement for the main armament and flared sides. Admiral Schley’s flagship at the Battle of Santiago in 1898, she was not hit by any Spanish shell, fortunately for the crew, because her protection was weak for an armoured cruiser. She was placed in reserve from 1908 to 1914 but resumed service during the war, then was fully rearmed in 1919, loosing four 5-in guns and gaining two 3-in AA. In 1920 she was assigned to the Pacific squadron, struck from the lists and sold in 1921. See the article for more.

uss brooklyn illustration


Displacement: 9,215t, 10,070t PC
Dimensions: 122,7 x 19,7 x 5,32m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 7 boilers, 16,000 hp. 20 knots.
Armament: 8 x 203 (4×2), 12 x 127, 12 x 47mm, 4 x 37, 5 TT 457mm.
crew: 580

Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) class (1903)

USS Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Colorado, Maryland, South Dakota
uss pennsylvania ca-4

The Pennsylvania-class armoured cruisers were launched in 1903-1904, and renamed between 1912 and 1920 Pittsburgh, Huntington, San Diego, Pueblo, Frederick, Huron, in order to leave these names free for the dreadnoughts then planned. They were part of the naval buildup touched off by the Spanish–American War. Together with the newt four Tennessee-class, they formed the “Big Ten”, originally intended to take place in a battle line as was the case in other navies. The dreadnought rendered them obsolete overnight. Their role changed after entering service due to the Russo-Japanese War and the doctrine change of 1906, focusing the US Navy’s battleships in the Atlantic, while the armoured cruisers took their place in the Asiatic Fleet and Philippines to counter Japan. By 1912, they were found without really use in the Navy.

When WW1 broke out, these ships patrolled Latin America and the Western Pacific until 1917, and they acted as convoy escorts until the end of the war, repatriating troops in 1919. USS Pittsburg was the only one in the “big ten” operating in the Pacific, trying to catch German commerce raiders. They were kept in reserve or reduced to menial tasks until 1930, then sold, according to the London treaty global cruiser tonnage limitations.

Author’s illustration of USS Pittsburg in 1917


Displacement: 13,680t – 15,138t FL
Dimensions: 153,58 x 21,20 x 7,34 m
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 16 Babcock and Wilcox boilers, 23,000 shp. 22 knots max.
Armor: Belt shield, Barbettes, turrets, blockhouse
Armament: 2×2 203mm, 14 x 152 mm, 18 x 76mm, 12 of 47 mm, 2 x 37 mm, 1x 457mm TTs
Crew: 198

Saint Louis class (1904)

USS St Louis, Milwaukee, Charleston
uss saint louis
USS Saint Louis (C20)

The Saint Louis class heavy cruisers, launched in 1904-1905, were of an intermediate type, in between a protected and an armoured cruiser, less expensive than those of the Pittsburg class. Their design was generally considered less successful however. The class included only three ships, USS Saint Louis, the Milwaukee and Charleston. USS Milwaukee was lost in 1917 hitting a reef while trying to save the crew of the H3 submersible on the Californian coast and her wreck broke in two during a storm in 1918. The other two escorted convoys in the Atlantic and were planed in reserve and sold in 1930.

Author’s illustration of the St. Louis class


Displacement: 9,700t standard, 10,840t FL
Dimensions: 129.91 x 20.12 x 6.86m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 16 Babcock and Wilcox boilers 21000 shp. 21 knots.
Armor: Belt, Barbettes, turrets, blockhouse
Armament: 14 x 152 mm, 18 x 76 mm, 12 x 47 mm, 8 x 37 mm.
Crew: 673/767

Memphis (Tennesse) class (1904)

USS Tennessee, Washington, North Carolina, Montana

USS Montana in 1915
USS Montana in 1915 (ACR15)

The Tennesse-class armiured cruisers included the USS Tennesse, Washington, North Carolina and Montana, launched in 1904-1906, and renamed in 1916 and 1920, to free named for new dreadnoughts in construction: They became USS memphis, Seattle, Charlotte and Missoula. They were true copies of the Pennsylvania, except that their displacement was greater, and their armament arguably more powerful. The Memphis, ex-tennessee, received like the others a basket type main mast in 1911 and actively participated in the great war. She was sunk by an exceptionally tall Tsunami in 1916. USS Seattle survived in various roles until 1946.


Displacement: 14,500 t, 15,715 t FL
Dimensions: 153.76 x 22.23 x 7.6m
Propulsion: 2 shafts VTE, 16 Babcock and Wilcox boilers 23,000 shp 22 knots.
Armour: Belt 5 in, Barbettes 8 in, Turrets 9 in
Armament: 4 x 254, 16 x 152, 22 x 76, 12 x 47, 2 x 37 mm, 4 x 533mm TTs.
Crew: 860

WW1 Cruisers: The Omaha class

USS Omaha, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Raleigh, Detroit, Richmond, Concord, Trenton, Marblehead, Memphis

The Omaha were the first American cruisers built after a long vacancy in 1905 (order of the Chester). Originally designed in 1919, their program dated back to 1915, but a proposal was first rejected in 1917, then accepted by the Congress in 1918. They were pure scouts, doubling as flotilla leaders for the new large fleet destroyers in construction at the same time (Wickes and Clemson classes). They even resembled them, typically flush-deck and with four funnels.

Their artillery was quite original combining for the first time twin turrets fore and aft and barbettes. To to their late order, none was even laid down when the war ended (the first in december). They were launched in 1920-23 and completed in 1922-24, missing the war entirely but becoming the first interwar and last pre-Washington-treaty cruisers.

Nedless to say their construction was very lightly, like scaled up destroyers thay had a 1/10 ratio, and were quite powerful, using for the first time a set of turbines, giving them almost 100,000 shp, whereas the last armoured cruisers, nearly 15,000 tonnes, only had a thord of this output. In service however, they were very “wet” in heavy weather common in the North Atlantic. They gained a poor reputation during WW2 when escorting co,voys, notably in the dreaded Murmansk road. They had a long career, receiving modern AA and radars, and soldiered on for the duration of WW2, earning many battle honors in the process.

USS Memphis
USS Memphis in Australian waters in the 1920s


Displacement: 7,050 t, 9,508 t FL
Dimensions: 169.40 x 16.9 x 4.1m
Propulsion: 4 shafts Westinghouse turbines, 90,000 shp, 34 knots.
Armour: Belt 3 in (76 mm,) armored deck 1-1/2 in (38 mm)
Armament: 12 x 6in/53 (152mm), 2 x 3-in AA (76mm) 2×3+ 2×2 21-in (533mm) TTs.
Crew: 860

St Louis class cruisers (1904)

St Louis class cruisers (1904)

USA – St Louis, Milwaukee, Charleston

The American semi-armored cruisers
The St. Louis-class cruisers were a bit of exceptions in the USN cruiser lineage. They began as replacement for the old USS Olympia, but went through several redesigns over time, before development was rushed up as part of the naval buildup touched off by the Spanish–American War. They were authorized in fiscal year 1901, by Congress act of 7 June 1900. Only three were built as it appeared soon the design was an unsatisfactory compromise.

Postcard showing C-20 by Henrique Muller (src

Designated C20, 21 and 22, USS St. Louis, Milwaukee and Charleston were started in 192 (January and July), launched in 1904-05, and completed in May, August 1906 and October 1905 for USS Charleston, so the class should have been named Charleston, as she was the first laid down and completed.
Their prewar career was pretty uneventful as their wartime career (Atlantic patrols) and USS Milwaukee was lost in 1917, stranded off California, while the other two were decommissioned in 1922 and sold in 1930.

Design of the Saint Louis class

During the design phase many decisions were made to raise the size of the last protected cruiser, the Denver class (1900) which displaced 3200 tonnes, or the Columbia and their 7000 tonnes, to to 9,700 long tons (9,900 t), to augment armament and range, but also includes added protection without loss of speed (which included a larger powerplant). The protection choices made earned them the designation “semi-armored cruiser”, pretty unique in the USN and never repeated.

The other peculiarity was to sticjk to a single main armament caliber, the 6-inch (152 mm) guns instead of stacking 8-inch (203 mm) guns. Space gained was freed to add more coal capacity. As completed, the Saint Louis class displaced 9,700 long tons, same displacement as British armored cruisers such as the the RN Monmouth class. It was a clear cut example of warship design growth, but which generally was considered an intermediate solution which fit nowhere in the USN doctrine.

USS Charleston as completed in 1905
USS Charleston as completed in 1905. The two-tone livery was replaced by medium grey in 1917.


Propulsed by two shafts mated on two vertical four-cylinder triple-expansion engines (VTE), they included sixteen coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox straight-tube boilers. They procured a 250 psi (1,700 kPa) steam pressure, and together allowed the engines to delivered a total output of 21,000 ihp (16,000 kW). Top speed was therefore 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph) as designed, with slightly more achieved on trials, Milwaukee reaching 22.22 kn (41.15 km/h; 25.57 mph) on a total output of 24,166 ihp (18,021 kW). In peacetime they carried 650 tons, increased to 1,650 tons and up to 1700 in wartime (USS Charleston). Given their reduced dimensions compared to the contemporary USN armoured cruisers, their powerplant produced just slightly less (21,000 vs. 23,000 ihp on the Pennsylvania class).


Armor was similar to that of an armored cruiser, not a protected cruiser, but with lighter figures in armour thickness. A protected cruiser mostly had a protective internal deck just above the waterline and extra protection over the magazines and powerplant. Here, the belt and armament casemate walls and CT were well protected, although lighter compared to the curent armoured cruisers of the time such as the Pennsylvania class.
The armour plates were made with the Harvey process for hardening surfaces. it was 4 in (102 mm) thick on the level of the waterline belt, covering also the machinery spaces, which had a strait of 4 in, and the same thickness again to protect the upper belt, which protected the casemate. The protective deck properly was only 3 in (76 mm) thick on the sloped sides and both end, down to 2 in (51 mm) on the horizontal, flat section. The conning tower was protected by 5 in (127 mm) thick walls. On the two Armored class, Pennsylvania and Tennesse, this was up to 6-9in.

USS Saint Louis, circa 1910
USS Saint Louis, circa 1910


The Saint Louis armament stayed about the same as the Pennsylvania-class armored cruisers, apart the main turrets were dispensed of, and only the secondary battery remained. The figures for the tertiary guns were also the same, to the exception eight 1-pdr guns instead of just two. So in all they carried fourteen 6-in/50 caliber Mark 6 guns upgraded during fitting out to the Mark 8 on USS Milwaukee. Two were mounted fore and aft on the deck, and the remainder placed in open in casemates along the sides.

The tertiary armament to deal with torpedo boats was generous, with eighteen 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber rapid fire (RF) guns, twelve 3-pounder (47 mm) (1.9 in) RF guns and a mix of four 1-pdr (37-millimetre) (1.5 in) automatic guns, and eight 1-pounder RF guns plus two .30 cal. (7.62 mm) machine guns such as the M1895 Colt–Browning machine guns that can be mounted on launches for landing parties. Unusually, they carried no torpedo tubes.

In 1911, the obsolete 1-pdr guns and machine guns were removed, four saluting guns being fitted instead. From 1917, two 6-inch guns and all but four 3-inch were removed. Instead, two 3-in/50 AA guns were added for self defence.

USS Milwaukee after completion
USS Milwaukee after completion (C21)

Wow’s renditon of the St Louis class as built

The Saint Louis class in action

Saint Louis was built at Neafie & Levy, Philadelphia, Milwaukee at Union Iron Works, San Francisco and Charleston at Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia. They had a remarkablye close career.

USS Saint Louis

USS Charleston
USS Charleston (C22)

USS Saint Louis was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, departing Tompkinsville near New York on 15 May 1907 just after her trials to sail to Port Castries in the Carribean, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Punta Arenas, Valparaíso, Callao, and Acapulco, before reaching her base in San Diego, cal. on 31 August 1907. At that time indeed the Panama canal was still not operational and the crew enjoyed a long crossing at sea, a way to familiarize with the ship and exercise. St louis operated off the west coast in 1908, reached Honolulu in June, ad visited Pacific Central American waters until October 1908. By November 1909 she was back in Puget Sound, placed in reserve and decommissioned.

She was recommissioned and replaced in reserve 1910-1911 and in July 1911 sailed for San Francisco, used as receiving ship. In February 1912 after maintenance she joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet and until April 1913 operated with the Oregon Naval Militia. Back from reserve, she departed Puget Sound on 24 April 1914, receiving ship at San Francisco, then Pacific Reserve in February 1916. She would sail to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor on 29 July, starting a career as a tender for Submarine Division Three, and doubled as station ship. The interned German sloop Geier was boarded from a St. Louis party to prevent the crew to scuttle their ship. Geier then was pressed into USN service as USS Schurz.

USS St Louis was in reduced commission on 6 April 1917, and she departed Honolulu to join the Atlantic force escorting convoys for Europe. before departing at San Diego, she took 517 National Naval Volunteers and apprentice to reach her full wartime complement of 823. In May 1917 she was crossing via the Panama Canal Zone, embarking Marines, the 7th, 17th, 20th, 43d, 51st and 55th companies, carried to Santiago de Cuba and Philadelphia. She was started her first convoy escort mission on 17 June 1917, and later was part of Group 4, American Expeditionary Force. After maintenance to Boston in July she made six round trips to Europe without incident. She carried during one of her voyages in October 1917 members of a high-level U.S. Commission for a conference.

After the Armistice was signed and the war ended, St. Louis resumed her trips, this time ferrying troops back home, 8,437 troops to Hoboken, New Jersey, departing from Brest in France. The last of her seven trips ended on 17 July 1919, and she was sent to Philadelphia Navy Yard for maintenance. She was redesignated CA-18 in July 1920, and served with the European Squadron, between Sheerness, Cherbourg and Constantinople. She joined the USN naval Forces in Constantinople on 19 October 1920, embarking refugees at Sevastopol and Yalta and later distributed food among refugees in the Bosphorus, the result of the unrest caused by the Russian Civil War, Turkish war with Greece and revolution. On 19 September 1921 she was in Malta and later sailed to Gibraltar.

Her interwar career was relatively uneventful. She joined Philadelphia to be pre-inactivated along the Washington treaty conditions, and decommissioned on 3 March 1922, and stricken from the list on 20 March 1930. She was sold for scrap on 13 August 1930.

USS Milwaukee

USS Milwaukee (CC-21) was commissioned on 10 December 1906, and her first Commander was Charles Augustus Gove. She made a shakedown cruise off the Californian and Mexican coasts, until 28 May 1907. She then Milwaukee departed San Francisco, cruising off San Salvador, Costa Rica, with gunnery exercises with the squadron at Magdalena Bay. In March 1908, she was back in Bremerton, Washington, placed in reserve, with the exception of the summer 1908 Hawaii to Honduras cruise. Recommissioned at Puget Sound on 17 June 1913, she was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Until 1915 she made a trip to Honolulu with the Washington State Naval Militia, trained off the coast of California and in March 1916, served as tender to destroyers and submarines of the Pacific Fleet, in San Diego. She also patrolled Mexican waters, transported refugees and made survey missions, being overhauled at Mare Island, notably with the fittings of heavy equipments to serve as tender for destroyers and submarines.

USS Milwaukee after completion

Lieutenant William F. Newton took command of the ship in January 1917 as Coast Torpedo Force Commander. USS Milwaukee sailed for Eureka, California. There she was to assist the salvage of the USS H-3 submersible, ranning aground off Humboldt Bay in December 1916. On 13 January while disregarding locals recommendations USS Milwaukee stranded on breakers at Samoa off Eureka. 421 enlisted men and their 17 officers were rescued by Life-Saving Humbold Bay team and local volunteers but the ship stayed there while H-3 was later recovered, repaired and returned to service.
USS was constrained to stay there. The captain underwent an enquiry martial court, while Milwaukee was eventually decommissioned on 6 March 1917. Other salvage missions could have been made buta storm in November 1918 badly damaged the ship, and eventually broke the hull in two. A new examining party estimated that she was no longer worthy of attention and her name was struck from the Register on 23 June 1919. Her hulk was sold on 5 August 1919, and gradually scrapped in situ.

USS Milwaukee stranded off Eureka bay
USS Milwaukee stranded off Eureka bay.

USS Charleston

USS Charleston

In 1906 C-22 carried Secretary of State Elihu Root for good-will visits, notably at Panama in September. On 6 December 1906 she served with the Pacific Squadron, making exercises cruises along the line Magdalena Bay (Mexico) to Esquimalt (British Columbia) and fleet maneuvers. From 10 June 1908 she entered Puget Sound Navy Yard, was overhauled and prepared to join the Asiatic Squadron, participating in June 1907 to the annual Portland Rose Festival. She left Pudget Sound on 28 October 1908, and was the flagship of 3rd Squadron until 11 September 1910, then flagship of the Asiatic Fleet in Cavite for the winter season and Chefoo (China) in the summer, stopping along the way in China, Japan, Manchuria, and Russia. She was back to Bremerton and decommissioned for maintenance and reserve in September 1912, Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was a receiving ship in early 1916, flagship for the C-in-C Pacific Reserve Fleet.

She also served like her sisters as tender for submarines in the Panama Canal Zone. In April 1917, she returned in full commission, and by May Patrolled the Caribbean from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. She looked for, but found non German commerce raiders, and carried Marines from Haiti to Philadelphia. Then started her convoy escorts time, back and two France, St Nazaire and Brest, and New York. She also trained naval volunteers and reserves from Newport and Havana. She escorted captured German freighters patrolled from Cristobal to Bermuda to escort British transports to Hampton Roads.

In September–October 1918, she escorted ships to Nova Scotia, and made five more round trips to France notably carrying occupation troops and returning with combat veterans. She sailed for Bremerton on 24 August 1919 to be placed in reduced commission and sailed to San Diego in 1920 to serve as aministrative flagship for the Pacific Fleet’s destroyer Sqn, until 4 June 1923. Back to Pudget Sound she was inactivated, stripped of her armament, then stricken and sold to the Powell River Company, Ltd, not to be scrapped but serve in British Columbia as a floating breakwater for a large logging mill, ballasted and anchored and periodically from 1930. Her remains can be seen today here.

USS Charleston refitted at Balboa Bay, Panama canal zone.

Illustration of the USS St Louis in 1912.

-Displacement: 9,700 tonnes, 10,839 tonnes FL
-Dimensions: 426 x 66 x 22 feets (129,9 m x 20,12 m x 6,86 m)
-Propulsion: 16 Babcock & Wilcox/32 Niclausse boilers, VTE steam engines, 2 props.
21,000 ihp (16,000 kW), top speed 22 knots, coal 650/1650/1700 tonnes
-Armour: Harvey steel, belt 4in, Armament 4in, Conning Tower 5in.
-Armement: 14 x 6 in (152 mm), 18 x 3in (76 mm), 12 x 3pdr (47 mm), 8 x 1pdr (37 mm)
-Crew: 673/767 sailors and officers

Read More:
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1860-1905
Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War I. London

Eagle Boats (1918)

Eagle Boats (1918)

US Navy ww2 USA (1918) 60 ASW vessels PE1-60.

Ancestors of WW2 PC Boats: The ‘Eagle boat’ resulted from a request to Henry Ford by the US government to apply his techniques to deliver in record time a very large series of steel-hulled medium-range ASW patrol boats before the end of the war. Eagle Boats were also tailored for the USN to fill a gap between destroyers and the common sub-chaser of the time: The mass-produced wooden-built 1917 ‘110 feet’ boats. Steel-built in record time as the production facilities, tools, and methods were set up. 60 were built, though as Germany signed the armistice they never had the time to prove their value, most of them being scrapped before WW2.

Operational context


The US entered the fray in part due to the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The American public grew cautious of a supposed German fifth column, and as knowledge about an ammunition depot that blew up in NYC, Belgian atrocities, and the secret message to the financial support of a war by Mexico on the US (The Zimmermann Telegram) grew, the US Government was pressed for an additional answer. As it was related to submarine warfare and the new “barbarian” weapon that was the submersible, president Wilson, before a joint session of Congress announced a new building program to counter this threat on April 2, 1917, though it took two more years for the prejudice to mature. However, it would take at least six months to get the country on a war footing, send troops to Europe, or mobilize naval forces. A massive naval plan was adopted, but it focused mainly on destroyers and light cruisers as well as new battleships, not small boats.

At that time the unrestricted sub-warfare targeted freighters and tankers without warning and met great success initially in 1915, though it was stopped by the Kaiser with the sinking of the Lusitania, before being resumed again in February 1917. While this decision soon unleashed USN ships in the Atlantic, at the same time the British set up plans for a massive shipbuilding programme both for ASW dedicated vessels and replacement by mass-produced trade ships for standard types. Another interesting development of the time was the quick adoption and generalization of naval camouflage.

U-Boat campaign 1915 area of operations
U-Boat campaign 1915 area of operations

USN response

Initially, there was no contingency plan for ASW warfare. Destroyer construction on a very large scale was already in full swing and due to their range and speed, they were considered deadly for submarines, although their gun-only armament limited their effectiveness. The rapid development of air patrols was one such solution: The Aeromarine and Standard H4H floatplane series covered coastal areas, while mass-built Curtiss HS seaplanes and British-built Felixtowe series aircraft covered larger expansions.

But the admiralty was slow to devise the construction of smaller ships with the exception of a single model to be built as an emergency stopgap right after the US entered the war: Early in 1917, it was planned to cheaply mass-built ASW vessels using no strategic materials: These became the wooden Sc 110 ft series. SC stands for “Submarine Chaser” and 110 feet for their overall length. 4.5 m wide and with a 1.70 m draft they were relatively nimble but could undertake long coastal patrols in moderately rough seas. They relied on aircraft engines, three Standard petrol ones, which together produced 600 bhp for 18 knots.

This was sufficient to catch a surfaced submarine and more than sufficient to trail a submerged one for hours. The only limitation was the range, that being 1000 nm, at 2 knots. Elco was responsible for their production, chosen for their experience in mass-producing 80-foot launches for the Royal Navy. Wood allowed them to be built in very large numbers in a short time and when signing the contract the US government hoped to have 345 boats ready for the 1st January 1918. They also planned to send them to France, with two orders of 50. Despite the schedule never being met, the SC boats were considered a triumph of war mobilization, as 441 were delivered (out of 448 planned) until November 1918.

They were designed by Loring Swasey who would also design sub chasers in the Second World War. They were armed with a standard 3-in gun, 2 machine guns, and a Y-gun, but were criticized by the Admiralty for their short range and small size, hampering their service in the North Atlantic and the North Sea when deployed from European ports. These criticisms were heard by the government which searched for a new, much larger, and steel-hulled design, which turned out to be the Eagle Boats.

Development of the Eagle Boats

drawing of the Eagle boat

The genesis of the Eagle Boats was very much the result of the visible disappointment with the SC 110 foot boat. Although their manageable size and wooden construction allowed them to be cheap and quickly delivered from anywhere, the Admiralty wanted a long-range, sturdier, and seaworthy vessel that could patrol the entire Atlantic, more in line with British ships such as their “Flower” class sloops.

For their construction, it was necessary to eliminate shipbuilders already engaged in delivering destroyers, larger warships, as well as merchant shipping. This time, the Bureau of Construction and Repair was put in charge of the design and made one that was sufficiently simplified to allow a very quick construction by inexperienced shipyards, though the design also had the modularity to allow a final assembly rather than the whole design being built in the same area. Tailorization as a construction method was already envisioned and there was immediately a name that came to mind from the government: Henry Ford.

Construction by Ford (short video archive)

Ford’s methods applied on ships:

Ford was contacted, given the blueprint from B&C, and put his engineers to work. He came back with a plan which as expected, was revolutionary. He was to create a brand new plant on the River Rouge, on the outskirts of Detroit, not far away from his support base and personal, and with access to the Great Lakes. There, he proposed to create them as products the same way he used for his Ford T, using his mass production techniques but on a much larger level, and employing the same factory workers.

When completed, the ships would be conveyed through the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic coast to reach a port or arsenal, complete fitting out, and be commissioned. Ford personally however took little part in their design as ships were not his center of interest, but he insisted upon even more simplifications in design, and the use of steam turbines rather than diesel as specified by C&R bureau. Ford’s engineers started with known bases due to their lack of experience with ships: The British P-Boats from 1915 and another alternative study for an over-simplified and shortened destroyer design, an austere version of the Flush-Deck destroyers proposed in 1917.

Eagle boats 35 & 58
Eagle boat 35 & 58

At first, Ford engineers created a full-scale model at the company’s Highland Park facility. This mock-up gave the team and Naval officers who came to the location time to refine the design and correct flaws from the initial blueprint. During these reunions, they decided on the placement of rivet holes and many other details. In the end, this also helped the dispatched production experts to compose specifications for the future plant and refined the processes before the plant was even completed (as the walls and floor were erected).

These were sound decisions to ensure the ships were to be quickly built when the plant was completed, however, the whole process took precious months to set up. Eventually the blueprints of what could have been called the “SC 200 ft” were approved and in 1918 and the Bureaux hoped that 100 could be delivered by the end of the year. This proved to be optimistic.

Design of Eagle Boats

Design development

As in other such programmes, the issue was to what extent the destroyer-substitute should approach destroyer performance. The General Board wanted a sustained sea speed of 19 knots and depth charges. The original bureau proposal of December 1917 envisaged a maximum speed of 18kts, a cruising speed of 10kts, and a battery of 1-3in/50 and 1-3in/50 AA gun. For a time the design also included a twin 21-in TT, as in P-boat practice, but a gun replaced it in the final design.

In January 1918, the Board reluctantly approved this more austere design, recommending the immediate construction of 100 boats. It went on record that “as in the case of the 110ft chaser it regards the 200ft boat (…) as an emergency design and not one which should be adopted if time and the submarine situation were not of such seriousness.”

In July 1918 the bureaus suggested a 250ft, 650t patrol boat capable of 25kts, and armed with 2-4in, 1-3in AA, a twin 21in, and a Y-gun, The General Board wanted 5-in guns instead to meet the new 5.9 in reported on the latest U-Boats and was willing to sacrifice the TTs as well as a reduction to 22 knots, by pairing two turbines instead of just one. There was a turbine plant also constructed at the same time as the Eagle Boat’s main plant. The board wanted also a radius of action of 4000 nm at 10 knots. To meet schedules, the Board even backed away from other programmes for fear it was to slow down the Eagle Boat programme. The 22 knots prototype ended up being built as a prototype but state secretary Daniels then squashed the programme and nothing came of it.

Hull and general characteristics

These two waves of design simplifications for mass production proved even more extreme than on the Flush-Deck destroyers. It was probably even too extreme for a military vessel, to the point of hampering its effectiveness. In the end, they missed the war entirely, being relegated to peacetime routine patrols at home, where their numerous limitations, acceptable in times of war, were no longer in peacetime, leaving them as unliked and neglected ships.   

The ship’s most striking feature was its slab-side hull to simplify the construction process. By eliminating the complex curves of the bow, the ship had straight sides all along, which created a pear-shaped deck to keep some seaworthiness and fluid lines. The hull itself was made of large separated blocks with straight lines. Each rib section was made of six flat, holed sections to save weight, bolted together like lego. The hull plates were then welded together to this structure and the connection between the bottom and sides were the only rounded plates of the ship.

As completed they displaced 615 long tons (625 t) for a length of 200.8 ft (61.2 m) a beam of 33.1 ft (10.1 m) and a draft of 8.5 ft (2.6 m). They were effectively substitutes for the more expensive destroyers. The larger, austere version of the existing flush-deck series proposed in 1917 came close to production as the DD 181 class. They would have been early USN escort destroyers. Overall, the destroyers were clearly much more capable and had construction priority. The 200-footer had to be designed for minimum interference with other programmes, to be built on the Great Lakes and Inland Rivers, with everything tailored for easy assembly, few curves, and a flat sheer.


Plans changed over time. There was one proposal for traditional VTEs which was quickly dropped, as they were slow to heat up and not that economical for long patrols. Diesel engines were soon the best choice for C & R. Ford however preferred steam turbines, which was his main contribution to the evolution of the design. In the end, they were indeed given the low-power, relatively cheap Poole geared steam turbines, rated for 2,500 shp (1,864 kW). The single turbine was connected to a single three-bladed propeller shaft for a top speed on paper of 18.32 knots (33.93 km/h; 21.08 mph). Steam came from two mixed-fired Bureau Express boilers, with 105 tonnes of coal and 45 tonnes of oil carried, the latter injected to speed up the combustion. The boat’s total range, a crucial point, was 3500 nautical miles at 10 knots.


The final armament of the Eagle Boats as approved comprised two 4″/50 caliber guns (102 mm) installed on the forward upper deck, roof of the quarterdeck room aft, and one 3″/50 caliber gun (76 mm) on the after deck. In addition, two .50 caliber(12.7 mm) Browning M2HB machine guns were also added in mounts. They were intended to deal with aviation but could be used in a duel with surfaced U-Boats as well.

The proper ASW weapon on board was, of course, the single Y gun installed. However, this was only done on the Eagle 4, 5, 6, and 7. Indeed, there were no DCR (Depth Charges Racks) at the stern but instead, a projector initially created by Thornycroft, able to throw a charge at 40 yds (37 m). The first was installed in July 1917 and tested the next month with success. 351 British torpedo boat destroyers were modernized with this gun, taking part in ASW operations throughout the war while around 100 lighter craft also were equipped with it.

The name “Y-guns” referred to their basic shape, which was studied by U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance from the Thornycroft model which was passed to them. It was produced and became available in 1918. It held two depth charges cradled on shuttles inserted into each arm, like the 1942 DCT (K-Gun). Each charge flew starboard and port, fired by an explosive propellant in the vertical column of the Y-gun, with the USN model reaching a range of 45 yards. The New London Ship and Engine Company started producing them on 24 November 1917 but they were in short supply, which explains why only four were installed on the Eagle boats.

Eagle Boat

7 minutes footage of Ford’s Eagle Boats – National Archives Video Collection

Construction and service

Construction process and issues

The assembly plant of River Rouge was completed in five months. The first keel was laid in May 1918. Machinery and fittings mostly came from the already existing Highland Park plant, while the new River Rouge plant was given the steel sheets and parts fabricated in the A-Building. Ford believed it was initially possible to replicate the process chain used for his automobiles. However, the size of these ships made it impossible. Instead, a “step-by-step” chain was created with a 1,700-foot (520 m) line, supplied on its way by seven separate assembly areas. The line ended in the 200-foot (61 m) extension called B-Building, for pre-assembly.

Shipbuilding was all new for Ford, who was happier with mass-producing trucks for the Army. The Eagles as the result suffered from teething problems: The electric arc welding previously used on cars did not work as expected and the general workmanship of the boats was poor. This was later reduced drastically by the superintending constructor, reducing the role of the welding tool to watertight and oiltight bulkheads. Ladders were used instead of scaffolds during the bolting of plates, along with the issue that the supply of short-handled wrenches prevented workers from using the right amount of force to tightly bond the plates (which caused future leaks). Metal shavings between plates also made this bonding rather difficult and thus sealing the hull proved extremely difficult.


USS Eagle Boat No.1 was soon renamed PE-1 in 1920. She was launched on 11 July 1918 but commissioned in October 1918. On month later the war ended. After the construction phase, the launch and fitting-out phase proved difficult: The massive 200-foot hulls were moved slowly from the assembly line on specially made tractor-drawn flatcars, then placed on a 225-foot (69 m) steel trestle. The latter was installed alongside the water’s edge and could be sunk 20 feet (6.1 m) deep using hydraulic power. Warship-grade fitting out included turbines, weaponry, wiring, and equipment to be done after launch, but there was no room available and the ships were to be stockpiled somewhere else.

The contract between Ford and the Navy signed on the 1st of March 1918 stated that one ship was to be ready by mid-July, then ten by mid-August, and twenty by mid-September, before becoming twenty-five each monthly, culminating in one per day. These figures were never met: The first seven were still not completed by the end of 1918, with only the lead boat being seaworthy. The Navy refused them, as they discovered crudely made ships plagued by leaky fuel oil compartments and disjointed hull plates. Meanwhile, the Ford plant workforce reached 4,380 by July and 8,000 by the end of the war. Ford’s initial optimism over using inexperienced labor was driven by his idea of hiring supervision personnel specialized in shipbuilding, but they proved hard to find. Needless to say on November 1918, the contract, which ranged from 100 to 112, was curtailed to just 60. PE-1 to PE-7 were commissioned in 1918, while the remaining 53 were commissioned in 1919, but by this time were no longer needed and proved to be less useful than destroyers. The name “PE” could be “patrol escort”, but the unofficial name which stuck for historians and amateurs alike was “Eagle Boat”. This came from a wartime Washington Post editorial calling in 1917 after the US entered for “…an eagle to scour the seas and pounce upon and destroy every German submarine.”

This became a postwar “Eagle Boat affair” with Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts in December 1918 ordering Congressional hearings into the failure of the program. He targeted Navy officials who dismissed charges of taxpayer unnecessary, because as the boats were delivered after the end of the war, Lodge argued they were not a needed project. The officials argued the boats were a necessary experiment, as the first dedicated long-range ASW vessels in the USN, and also that Ford’s profits were modest. The case was closed as the ships found some utility in the interwar and were cheap enough to have not been a complete waste. Historian David Hounshell later wrote about the case and argued that they proved that transferring an industrial process in completely different fields was not something that could be taken lightly and would be difficult to do in an emergency.

Eagle Boats in the interwar

In the first series PE 1-PE 112, twelve boats, (PE 25, 45, 65, 75, 85, 95, 105, and 112) were to be transferred to Italy. The last boat was commissioned into the USN on 27 October 1919 despite the series as a whole being officially cancelled in November of 1918. Eagle 16, 20-22, and 30 were transferred to the Coast Guard late in 1919. The rest at first served as intended, testing their concept. Reports on their performance at sea were mixed: The use of flanged plates instead of rolled plates (an idea of Ford’s) facilitated production but resulted in poor sea-keeping characteristics, which added to never-ending leakages problems that plagued the ships.

These issues became so bad that the most crippled boats were ordered to stay in harbour, and were used as stationary aircraft tenders. Some served to support photographic reconnaissance planes used at Midway in 1920 and Hawaii the next year until larger and better-suited ships replaced them. Eagle boat 34 served a part of the year with the tug USS Koka and was used to capture elephant seals on Guadalupe Island for a Zoo. However, slowly but surely the Navy started to get rid of them, starting in the 1930s. This started in June 1930 with the scrapping of a large group of boats, 1932 a single ship, and the remainder of the boats in 1938. However, some ships never made it to the breakers and were lost at sea: PE25, Capsized in the Delaware Bay in a squall on 11 June 1920, P10 was destroyed on 19 August 1937, PE17 wrecked off Long Island, New York 22 May 1922, with PE 6, 7, 14 and 40 being sunk as targets in 1934.

Eagle Boats in WW2

A single ship was stationed in Miami as a training vessel until WW2 and in total, eight Eagle boats served during the war. The most famous of these was USS Eagle 56. She saw action during the whole war and was sunk by a German submarine near Portland (Maine) in April 1945, a unique end for a ship that missed WW1 but managed to hunt submarines throughout the entirety of WW2 before being sunk shortly before German capitulation. During the war, USS Eagle 56 patrolled off the Delaware Capes in January 1942 and went on to serve continuously despite her defects during what German submariners called the “Second Happy Time”. The east coast of North America was by then an open range for U-Boats which massacred American shipping. The crew endured months at sea without going on shore, and each time they expended their depth charges a small ship came from Cape May in New Jersey to bring her supplies, including more ammo, food, and water. USS Eagle 56 notably rescued survivors of SS Jacob Jones off Cape May in February 1942. She collided with the wreck of Gypsum Prince during another rescue on Delaware Bay. She was repaired by scrapping another Eagle boat. She was then used at the Key West sonar school in May 1942 and was later assigned to the Naval Air Station Brunswick on 28 June 1944.

At noon, on 23 April 1945, while partaking in exercises off the coast of Maine, she was hit by a torpedo, exploded amidships, and broke in two, sinking 3 mi (4.8 km) off Cape Elizabeth (Maine). USS Selfridge was 30 minutes away and came to rescue 13 survivors (from a crew of 62). The sonar operator of USS Selfridge then obtained a sharp, well-defined sonar contact. Once she got the survivors on board, she dropped nine depth charges, with no result. A postwar record stated U-853 was to be the ghost submarine, confirmed by five of the 13 survivors, with some even spotting a red and yellow emblem on the sub’s sail, an insignia that matched U-853’s red horse on a yellow shield. Despite the evidence of a U-boat attack, the Navy inquiry concluded that her loss was due to a boiler explosion. This was rectified by historians long after and nowadays, USS PE-56 is the sole WW1-era USN sub-chaser sunk by a U-Boat during WW2. None of the other Eagle Boats were ever lost to enemy action, and after 1942 they were likely replaced once escort destroyers and PC-boats were in sufficient numbers.

If there was merit to the whole series of Eagle Boats, it was to show “how not to do it” for mass-producing sub-chasers in wartime. The wooden SC 110 ft had none of these problems and served for much longer despite their simpler wooden hull, due to the industrial difficulties facing the Eagle Boats. In the end, the Navy got poor ships of little utility and a bad reputation, all of which failed in their main objective: hunting German submarines. However, there was a bright side to this hard-learned lesson. A new ship designed during WW2 drew all the lessons in this and would prove to be very successful: The PC boat also called 173 ft submarine chasers.

Read More/Src
Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I: British Naval Aviation and the Defeat – By John Abbatiello
Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines and ASW Weapons of WW1 – Norman Friedman
By Norman Friedman

New York class Battleships (1912)

New York class Battleships (1912)

US Navy ww2USA (1912) USS New York, Texas

The New York class became the first American battleships with 14-in guns and the last with coal, twin turrets, no AA and classic 1900s scheme protection.
BB34 New York after the 1926 refit - colorized by Irootoko Jr
BB34 New York after the 1926 refit. Behind her, BBs of the Nevada class. Note the livery of the time, light grey for the hull and superstructures up to a point and dark grey above. Colorized by Irootoko Jr.

Faithful to the incremental process in designing battleships, the admiralty decided to upgrade the artillery for the next batch. It was decided notably to the light or rapid progresses in Europe: The new standard became 14 in after the Orion class was announced in construction already in 1909. However, this innovation was a bit hampered by the fact these ships kept a five twin-turret axial layout and coal-fired boilers.

Deficiencies were noted at a time aviation became a thing, having no anti-aircraft armament whatsoever, whereas the armor layout still let to be desired. All these issues were fixed on the next generation, the revolutionary ‘standard’ battleships of the Nevada class. Several extensive overhauls however, let both battleships participating to WW2, until V-Day, on the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific fronts.

New York class
Detailed plans of the ship, casemate section and forward deck sections – Blueprints are available in open source

Design of The New York class

General overview of the BB34 class
General overview of the BB34 class in 1918 – Src the blueprints

The design of the New York-class originated in the 1908 Newport Conference: It fixed a new method for battleship design, with the General Board taking more implicated in the design process, the navy’s Board on Construction swapping to the role of making it practical for construction. The New York class design therefore was the last to come from the Board of Construction (BoC), and therefore this in reaction made the next time the General Board to take the lead and design the much better Nevada-class battleships.

USS Texas of NYC in 1919

The Newport Conference ended also with conclusions such as the requirement of larger batteries in reaction of foreign British BL 13.5 inch Mk V being introduced and German Navy’s shift to 30.5-centimetre (12 in) guns. Already it was thought to upgrade the Florida-class laid down in 1909 but 30 March 1909 this was curtailed by the US Congress which approved the more reasonable “Design 601” or “Battleship 1910” armed with six 12-inch turrets favored by the BoC over the General Board’s choice of two 14-inch designs in 1909.

The Wyoming class started left the General Board planning planning for the next design on 21 April 1909, with a similar size to make it more acceptable to the congress whereas the gun upgrade was only obtained on 24 June 1910.

However in 1911 the US Senate’s Naval Affairs Committee had to comply to a $24,000,000 budget reduction, and suggested to reduce their tonnage but this was opposed but Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer which strongly opposed it. The New York class is sometimes referred to by some authors as the Texas class due to the later completion of the New York.

review magazine Texas
Extract of an article from classic battleships about the Texas and measures to preserve her.


uss texas main guns

Main artillery: 10x 14-in/45 (356 mm)
The main artillery of the New York class consisted in ten 14-inch/45 caliber guns, in five axial twin turrets. Their mounts made them able to elevate to 15°. Still, there was a turret mounted amidships, and this was the last class to do this. From then on, all USN Battleships will have four superfiring turrets for an aft, the famous standard.
In 1910 the US Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) successfully tested the 14-inch naval gun, which was noted for its excellent accuracy and a remarkable ballistic regularity over time.

Secondary artillery: 21x 5-in/51 (127 mm)
The secondary guns were placed along the side (ten each), plus a single last one in the stern. It was placed there to complete the classic “dead angle” against closing-in destroyers and torpedo boats. These 5-inch guns however would prove having a poor accuracy in rough seas of course due to water splashed masking the observers in particular for those below the main deck level aft.

Tertiary artillery: 2x 3-in/50 (76 mm)
Although AA defense was not in the design plans, 1910 saw interesting developments in pioneering naval aviation, and therefore the New York class was the first to mount anti-aircraft guns, at the time two regular 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber with great angle mount. To give them maximal arc of fire, they were placed on platforms on top of the boat cranes. This was tried on USS Texas in 1916.

3-in gun on a crane platform onboard USS Texas
3-in gun on a crane platform onboard USS Texas

Close-in defence: 4x 21-in TTs (553 mm)
The New York class design included four torpedo tubes: They covered all both sides, plus the bow and stern. They fired a single Bliss-Leavitt Mark 3 torpedo each, without ready reload. Indeed this model was trusted enough to do the job. However there was a centralized torpedo room for extra 12 torpedoes and 12 naval mines thant could be launched by the same system, converting the battleships as minelayers. Of course these fetures were largely seen as obsolete in the interwar and they were removed during the major 1925-26 refit.

Wartime modifications
In 1918, the inefficient low-slung 5-in secondary guns were curtailed to just 16, eight per broadside.

Interwar modifications: 1926
During the great reconstruction of 1925–26, AA defense was increased: Eight 3-inch/50 cal. four per side on the main deck. However at the same time, six of the 16 5-inch guns were relocated in new casemates over the main deck, protecting them in heavy weather.
Also the Magazine and machinery spaces were better included in the protected hull. Due to the new increased machinery, the magazine space was reduced, down to 75-80 shells and charges, while extra shells were stored in the turrets and handling rooms. The enquiry of the battlecruisers loss at the battle of jutland was not a thing then.

Interwar modifications: 1937
In 1937, two quadruple “Chicago Piano” 1.1-inch (28 mm)/75 caliber AA guns were added in complement to the slow-firing 3-in guns.

USS Texas today

WW2 modifications
After 1941, the quad “Chicago Piano” 28 mm were removed, replaced by 24 Bofors 40 mm guns (six quadruple mounts) and past 1944 40 guns (10 x 4), plus forty-two Oerlikon 20 mm guns in single mounts. The 3-inch AA gun was not removed by at the contrary increased to ten guns. To save weight and ammo space, only six 5-in secondary guns were left in the casemates, three either side. The ships were comprehensively rearmed in 1942 and 1944, but not reconstructed (like the adoption of the new twin 5-in AA turrets).


The armor scheme of the previous Wyoming class was reconducted, with just some minor improvements. The deck armor was uniform, not adopting the all or nothing armor scheme and with poor characteristics against high angle ballistics. Improved fire control would change the game so quickly that it negated this kind of armour in 1913 already, and was not embedded yet in the New York class design.

There 6.5 in (165 mm) internal casemate armor had some internal bulkheads. However the true innovation came from an armored central plotting room, below decks and atop the protective deck. It was enclosed in a “box” of splinter armor and protected the operators, vital for the Fire control systems of the ship.

The lower casemate armoured range from 9 in (229 mm) to 11 in (279 mm), with an upper casemate 6 in (152 mm) strong. The Deck protection consisted in a 2 in (51 mm) thick main deck. Main turret faces were given 14 inch armour, down to 4 in (102 mm) on top and 2 in (40 mm) for its sides and 8 in (203 mm) on the back plate.

The main turret barbettes barbettes ranged from 10 to 12 inches, like the belt. The two conning towers, forward and aft, had 12 inches thick walls with roodfs 4-in thick. The total weight of the armor on the New York and Texas was about 8,120.62 t (7,992.37 long tons; 8,951.45 short tons) of extra hardened steel, the weight of a cruiser. This was consistent with figures noted on foreign contemporary designs.

USS New York, BB34


There was nothing new in this chapter. The previous Wyoming class scheme was reproduced. The USS New York and Texas propulsion system would rest on two dual-acting triple expansion reciprocating steam engines, not turbines. They were fed by fourteen Babcock & Wilcox coal-fired boilers. Total output was 28,100 shp (20,954 kW). This resulted in a top speed of 21 knots, still (39 km/h; 24 mph). Fortunately, this class was the last to use coal, and steam turbines were gradually tested.

The New York class range was about 7,060 nmi (8,120 mi; 13,080 km) at the cruise speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).It as at first advocated a 14% increase in output (32,000 shp/24,000 kW) to reach the required 21 knots, but it appeared that by just working out boilers/VTE efficiency, 28,100 shp were just what was needed to reeach the design speed.

USS New York in construction at Brooklyn Navy Yard
USS New York in construction at Brooklyn Navy Yard, mid-1912.

1926 machinery upgrade
As designed, 2,850 long tons (2,900 t) of coal were carried, most than any previous class. Of course the next Nevada carried oil which took less space and had greater range. Oil conversion was made by replacing all 14 boilers by six new Bureau Express oil-fired models in 1926. The tanks were rebuilt to carry oil, squeezing 5,200 long tons (5,300 t), almost twice the capacity.

The 1925-26 refit did not affected only the armament and powerplant, but also the general appearance of the ship and fire control system. The truncated funnels of the new boilers ended with a single funnel, placed in between where were the former two, behind a completely reconstructed bridge tower. Indeed the cage masts were removed, and solid tripods built in their place. A tall one to support the bridge and its dependencies, and a new fire control, direction and admiral deck on top, and a second tower and aft direction center on the shorter tripod aft. The appearance of the ships was considerably changed and stayed that way with only AA and radars additions until their decommission.

USS New York
USS New York entering service in 1915

Specifications in 1914

Dimensions 175 x 29 x 9 m – 573 ft, 95 ft, 29 ft

Displacement 27,000 long tons standard, 28,367 long tons Fully Loaded
Crew 1044 total
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE 14 water-tube boilers 28,100 shp (20,954 kW)
Speed 21 kn (39 km/h; 24 mph) 7,060 nmi (13,080 km; 8,120 mi)
Armament 10 × 14in (356), 21 × 5in (127), 4x 3pdr, 2x 1pdr, 2x 21in (533 mm) TTs sub
Armor Belt: 10–12 in, casemate: 6.5–11 in, Barbettes: 10–12 in, Turrets 2-14 in, Decks 2 in, CT 12 in

USS New York - NARA
USS New York – NARA

Specifications (Texas) in WW2

Dimensions Same but width beam 32.3 m (106 feets)

Displacement 32,000 – 33,000 tons FL after refit 1926
Propulsion 6 × Bureau Express oil-fired boilers
Speed 19.72 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Armament Main (same) 6× 5 in/51, 10× 3 in/50, 10× quad 40 mm Bofors, 44× 20 mm Oerlikon
Armor Same but turrets top extra 1.75 in (44 mm)
USS Texas (BB-35) in Havana harbor, passing in front of morro castle in background

USN fleet assembled in front of NYC for a parade, 1919

USS Texas in NYC, 1919
USS Texas in NYC, 1919

Illustrations and other renditions

USS New York in 1914
USS New York as built

USS New York 1918
USS New York in 1918

USS New York in 1942
USS New York in 1942 – author’s illustrations

USS New York rendition wow
Wow’s rendition of the New York after refit.

WoW’s rendition of USS Texas

WoW’s renditon of USS New York, stern view

New York class recoignition plate – ONI

Sources/Read More

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: BB34
BB35 on
Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History.
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905–1970.
Hore, Peter (2006). Battleships of World War I. London: Southwater Books
US Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command (11 May 2009). “USN Ship Types-Battleships”
Friedman, Norman (2011): Naval Weapons of World War One. Seaforth Publishing
More open source photos of the Texas (Wcommons)
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1921.
ONI general recoignition book – USN

USS Texas
USS Texas 1914 – HD illustration and kit review on

evolution of BB34 over time
Evolution of the BB34 USS Texas over time, showing her numerous modifications (the blueprints – montage).

Models corner:

Squadron signals – USS Texas overview

Trumpeter kit of the USS Texas, by far the most famous. It was declined into a 1/700 and 1/350.

// Blueprints fest

US Navy WW1
US Navy WW2
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Wallpaper of the USS Texas
Wallpaper of the USS Texas – 1024×577 pixels (from Reddit)

Career & Battle records of the New York class

USS Texas happened to be commissioned sooner than the lead ship USS New York, on 12 March 1914, whereas the latter was commissioned on 15 May 1914. They still had three years of peacetime service ahead. Like the rest of the fleet, both battleships participated in the occupation of Veracruz in 1914.

When the great war broke out, USS New York joined Battleship Division 9 (Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman), reinforcing the British Grand Fleet in case the Hochseeflotte sortied. But this never happened. She spotted two U-Boats but there was nothing notable in her career until the end of the war, not in the early interwar. USS Texas received AA guns, a first on USN Battleships, and conducted convoy patrols, in one occasion firing on a German vessel. She also joined BatDiv 9 until the armistice.

Both were refitted in 1926, with new boilers and oil tanks. Their armament was also revised in 1926, 1937, 1939 and in 1942, mostly by discarding the secondary guns and adding AA. In February 1938, USS New York was the first USN Battleship fitted with an XAF RADAR and first duplexer (receiving-emitting) antenna.

USS Texas camouflage scheme
USS Texas camouflage scheme in November 1942 (Operation Torch). Both ships would change livery four times during the war.

USS Texas on her side became one of the first battleships equipped with a catapult to launch an observation seaplane. In her service she alternated between the Atlantic and Pacific waters.

WW2 saw them doing their escort duties after 1939-41 neutrality patrols, until their first serious deployment, covering the landings late 1942 during Operation Torch (Allied invasion of North Africa). Both were among the rare battleships in the Atlantic, therefore not in Pearl Harbor. USS texas would also participate in D-Day and Operation Dragoon in Southern France.
After their service in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, they were sent in the Pacific after the German capitulation. Both would take part in the hammering force deployed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and were struck in 1948.

USS Texas at San Jacinto state park
USS Texas at San Jacinto state park, the last great war era dreadnought in existence, wearing the 1945 dark marine blue-grey livery #250 of her decommission.

USS New York

Pattern sheet for the Measure 31a
Pattern sheet for the Measure 31a – BB-34 in 1944

Wartime service

Soon after she was commissioned, USS New York departed for Vera Cruz under command of Captain Thomas S. Rodgers. She doubled as flagship for Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher in July 1914, at the head of the fleet occupying and blockading Veracruz, barring the city from Victoriano Huerta. Afterwards, she resumed her shakedown cruise along the East Coast and amde several goodwill visits. By December 1915 several hundred orphans went on board for Christmas in New York City, later a tradition on the ship, earning her the “Christmas Ship” nickname. She departed in January for a serie of fleet exercises on the Atlantic coast.

USS New York Grand Fleet
USS New York and HMS iron Duke (foreground), part of the Grand Fleet, 1918. Part of USS New York camouflage can be seen.

When USA entered war, USS New York had a new captain, Edward L. Beach, Sr.. She was the flagship of Battleship Division 9 (BatDiv 9) (Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman), reinforcing the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow from December 1917. This unit was attached to the Grand Fleet’s 6th Battle Squadron. Their tasks were blockading the north sea coast and escorting convoys, and in between, gunnery exercises. USS New York was awarded the best score in accuracy, at 93.3% and was consistently rated as “excellent”.

USS Texas gunnery practice in 1928
USS Texas gunnery practice in 1928

The paradox was she never fired any shots in anger until the armistice. However during her escort missions, she spotted an U-Boat once, and during another, on 14 October 1918, near the Pentland Firth, she apparently collided on her starboard side and at the stern, breaking off two blades of a propeller. Her speed fell to 12 knots and it appeared to all she hit a massive underwater object which could not be a shipwreck due to the depth here.

The report mentioned a submerged U-boat, ramming its bow probably by accident, and it was assessed that the damage would have been fatal. Postwar German records would correspond to either UB-113 or UB-123. This U-boat “kill” was the only one recorded by Battleship Division Nine. USS New York was later repaired at Rosyth NyD.

When proceeding to the yard, spotters showed torpedo trails, three that passed ahead of the ship. The U-Boat commander incorrectly thought the speed to the about 15-18 knots instead of 12. When drydocked, she was visited several times, by European admiralties, King George V or Hiro-Hito.

USS New York Hampton Roads 1916
USS New York off Hampton roads, Dec. 1916

The interwar

Video: USS New York in convoy escort WW2 (Critical past). Others.

Just after the surrender of Germany, she returned to the US and came back to Brest, escorting the SS George Washington, carrying President Woodrow Wilson for the Versailles conference. Her interwar years started with service in the Caribbean, and a short refit at Norfolk Navy Yard. She would later cross the Panama canal and head for the Pacific Ocean, joining the newly formed United States Pacific Fleet. She served in the Pacific until the mid-1930s before returning to the east coast.

Meanwhile, in 1926-1928, she underwent a major overhaul at Norfolk NyD. New York and Texas were to see their propulsion and top speed, armor and armament plus fire control and superstructures to be refitted and modernized completely, in accordance to the Washington Treaty. The battleships gained an additional 3,000 long tons of extra protection against aviation and submarines while the AA capabilities were increased. However once back into service in September 1928 it was discovered her anti-torpedo bulges made her less agile at low speeds and she rolled badly.

This curtailed her gunfire accuracy record badly, in particular in rough seas. She teamed with USS Arizona for exercises and departed to San Francisco with USS Pennsylvania, performing AA defense exercises in April 1929. Later the two battleships joined USS Pennsylvania and joined Cuba, and later Hampton Roads. USS New York took part in the Grand Naval Review of 20 May 1937, the King’s Coronation review.

USS New York’s pioneering radar experiment

XAF Radar Antenna
XAF Radar Antenna (cropped) – src:

In 1938 the most interesting addition was the XAF radar, an experimental model set resulted from several years’ technical progress by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and also built the transmitter, and receiver. In February it was experimentally installed on a first ship, USS new York. It worked on a 200 MHz or 1.5 meter wavelength, powered at 15 kilowatts. This early radar featured a “bedspring” antenna, 17 feet square.

It scanned the horizon, mounted on the rotating yoke and could elevate and depress to keep the radio signal parallel to the surface even when the ship rolled. The Brewster Aeronautical Corporation fabricated a suitable duralumin structure for it, to by navy grade. It was mounted atop the pilothouse, in place of the large optical rangefinder, moved to the top of the second main forward turret. It really exceeded expectation, in winter manoeuvrers, being able to detect ships at 15 nautical miles and planes at 100 nm. During these exercises for the first time, the radar was used for gunnery practice, with a more precise range and azimuth direction, as served as navigation radar as well in the night and fog, being able to see large obstructions.

The result of the experiment was so good, USS New York captain recommended its installation on all USN aircraft carriers, which was done on the Yorktown class, and other battleships as well like USS California and four cruisers. Radio Corporation of America (RCA) produced the serial CXAM and improved CXAM-1 from mid-1940 to late 1942 as it was made lighter and mounted on cruisers as well, the Brooklyn and St. Louis-class and eventually the battleship USS West Virginia.

USS Texas 1944

The USS New York in WW2: 1919-41

Prior to WW2, the ageing battleship served as midshipmen training ship and formed new recruits. After the was broke out in September, she served with the Neutrality Patrol squad, around sea lanes of the North Atlantic, and was part of the Atlantic battle squadron; later renamed “United States Atlantic Fleet” for many more month into the war. She also protected a convoy landing troops in Iceland, later used to built intermediate landing strips to Europe, line in Greenland.

In December 1941, she was just refitted when news arrived of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The overhaul was sped up so that she could scramble to protecte troop and cargo convoys bound to Iceland and Scotland. She would carry out patrols and escort duties during the whole year 1942, being back to Norfolk on 15 September, to be prepared to join the invasion fleet for Operation Torch the next two months.

USS New York Mediterranean campaign

BB.34 shortly after the battle of Casablanca. Notice the two -tone dark blue grey/light grey measure 22 camouflage >.

The battleship had the occasion of firing her main battery for the first time on… French fortifications, ships and other objectives on the coast of Safi, Morocco, together with the cruiser USS Philadelphia and other vessels. This was the Southern Attack Group, where she served as flagship, vovering the assault of the U.S. 9th Infantry Division’s 47th Infantry Regiment.

This force was also covered by the planes of carrier USS Santee. She moved to Casablanca later, notably to deal with more powerful defenses, but arrived when it was all over, the French battleship Jean Bart, still incomplete has just been disabled after a short duel with USS Massachusetts, whereas the Brooklyn and Augusta already dealt wth small Vichy French vessels. When she retired from the area, USS New York has spent 60 shells.

She then performed convoy escort on the line Norfolk-Casablanca until the end of the year. In 1943 however she was refitted to become a main battery and escort training center, a role she held from August 1943, the rest of the year being spent in drydock for a refit. Her training campaign would last until June 1944. She would not participate in D-Day and instead operate with the US Naval Academy until September.

USS New York Pacific campaign

BB34 Iwo Jima
BB34 shelling Iwo Jima in February 1945.

By late 1944 as the situation no longer required massive naval power in the European theater, she passed through the Panama canal and joined the Pacific squadron, transiting by Long Beach, California in December. She trained until late January 1945, joining the Idaho, Tennessee, Nevada, Texas, and Arkansas covering force at Iwo Jima, after repairs to her port screw.

In three days she would spent 6,417 rounds, including 1,037 main rounds on mount Suribashi and other objectives. Apparently one of her main shells stuck the largest Japanese ammunition dump on the Island, provoking an earth-shaking explosion. The she departed to Ulithi on 21 February for supplies and the crew’s rest.

In March, 22, she teamed up with USS Maryland, Colorado, and West Virginia, with Task Force 54, departing from Ulithi to participate in the invasion of Okinawa. She shelling started on 27 March and lasted for 76 days, dealing with major objectives in close coordination with aviation and the troops.

She spent nearly all her main and secondary ammunition (4,159 14-inch rounds) and was struck by a Kamikaze attack 14 April. Damage was light, she lost an observation plane and the catapult. Her artillery has been so widely used that her gun barrels were completely worn out by June and she departed to Pearl Harbor to see them refiled.

USS New York at Navy Day celebrations, December 1945 in NYC
USS New York at Navy Day celebrations, December 1945 in NYC.

She passed through Leyte and was later prepared during the summer for Operation Olympic, the planned the invasion of mainland Japan. The war ended when she was in Pearl Harbor. Instead, she would join in September the Operation Magic Carpet fleet; remebarking tons of veterans in time to participate in New York City to the Navy Day celebrations.

Her end was marked by a flash. She was in Operation Crossroads’ nuclear bomb test fleet anchored in Bikini Atoll, July 1946, badly damaged by the Baker test and the effects were well studied and on 6 July 1948 she was finished of as a target ship by gunfire.

BB34 after Baker test, July 1946 in Bikini Atoll, being washed over to alleviate contamination.

USS Texas

USS Texas circa 1917
USS Texas Circa 1917, soon after delivery

USS Texas first assignation right after her commission and fitting her fire control equipment at the New York NyD on 24 March 1914, and by order of Pdt. Wilson she was ordered to Mexican waters with the rest of the fleet. This was to pressure the Huerta regime, compounded by later a landing at Veracruz, covered by the battleships. Therefore, USS Texas missed the usual shakedown cruise and post-shakedown settings, which were made later in and out of Hampton Roads.

USS Texas in the great war

USS Texas prior to the war, alternated between the Atlantic fleet and Mexican waters. Setups were made later at NYC Naval Yard until 16 February 1915. USS Texas was fitted two 3-inch (76 mm)/50-caliber guns on top of crane platforms (a solution never repeated as it was not practical for supplying ammo), and fine-tuned its combined use of a gunnery director and rangefinder.

In May she rescued 230 passengers from the SS Ryndam (Holland America Line), badly damaged after a collision at sea. The rest of the year and the next were spent in fleet exercises between New England coast and off the Virginia Capes, spending the winter in the Carribean. The US entered the war in April.

On 26 September 1917, en route to NYC NyD she ran hard aground on Block Island. She was later towed away by tugs and repaired at NY Yard. Part of her secondary artillery was curtailed, and in early 1918 she was back, participating in military simulations out of the York River.

USS Texas off New York City 1919
USS Texas off New York City 1919

She departed on 30 January 1918 to join BatDiv 9, the USN component of the 6th Battle Squadron of Britain’s Grand Fleet, Scapa Flow. She alternated between convoy missions and blockade enforcement patrols until the armistice of November. On 25 April, after an escort mission, the Hochseeflotte just had made another sortie, but the American battleship was just too slow to catch up.

Only faster forward vessels saw the German ships at the horizon. She never fired in anger during this conflict, performing exercises and notably protecting American minelayers working on the North Sea Mine Barrage. As the war ended, she accompanied the Grand Fleet to meet the surrendering German Fleet and later BatDiv 9 was dissolved.

BB-35 crew on top of the forward main turret's guns
BB-35 crew on top of the forward main turret’s guns

Interwar years

BB-35 was part of the escort that carrier President Wilson to Brest and from there to the Versailles conference. On 10 March 1919, she became the first American battleship to launch an airplane (a Sopwith Camel piloted by Lieutenant Commander Edward O. McDonnell). Previously, the Chester-class cruiser USS Birmingham in 1911 had flow the first plane from any warship. In May, she assisted a Curtiss NC flying boat NC-4 during its Atlantic crossing attempt. Later that year she passed the Panama Canal and joined the Pacific fleet.

She served there 4.5 years, shortly returning in the Atlantic for a training cruise with midshipmen in 1924, sinking as an exercise the incomplete battleship USS Washington (BB-47), according to the 1922 treaty limitations. Her great overhaul started on 31 July 1925 at Norfolk Navy Yard and was completed in 23 November 1926 and she served the eastern seaboard as a flagship until 1927. She would notably carry President Calvin Coolidge to Havana (Cuba) for the Pan-American Conference of 1928.

USS Texas through the Panama canal
USS Texas through the Panama canal, 1937 (cropped)

After her 1929 overhaul in NY she departed to the Panama Canal zone to cross it to join the Pacific fleet. She would return east, to NY escorting the SS Leviathan into New York and to Europe, carrying the US Delegation to the January 1931 London Conference. She was back to the Pacific and later returned to the Atlantic service from 1934. In 1937 she was the flagship of the Training Detachment, received additional AA. In 1938, the XMZ-radar (385 MHZ). In 1939 she joined the newly formed Atlantic Squadron.

USS Texas in WW2: 1939-41

USS Texas off Norfolk, Virginia, 1943

Frm September 1939, USS Texas started her Neutrality Patrol duty off the Atlantic coast and later in 1941, convoy duties in relation to Lend-Lease shipping to the United Kingdom. When February 1941 started the US 1st Marine Division was activated onboard BB-34, Admiral Ernest J. King hoisted his flag as to make USS Texas the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. While on Neutrality Patrol the German submarine U-203 reported firing her torpedoes at BB-35 but missed.

After Pearl Harbor, USS Texas was located at Casco Bay in the Maine, with in the north Atlantic, anchored to to leave the crew having a rest and resupply. She has been detached for three month off Newfoundland, at Argentia. She returned there and stayed at this post until January 1942, escorting a convoy to UK and then patrolling off Iceland until March 1941, before getting home. For the six months, she went on in convoy-escort along the Atlantic. She for example carried Marines to Panama, escorted troops to Freetown in Sierra Leone, but United Kingdom was the more common destination.

1942-44 Mediterranean campaigns

Operation Torch

The trip of USS Texas at Port Lyautey, November 1942. Credits

In September 1942 she was mobilize for the first great deployment of US Forces in the Europan theater: The landings in French-Vichy held North African coast. On 23 October 1942, USS Texas was part of Task Group 34.8 (TG 34.8), Northern Attack Group of the Operation, targeting Port Lyautey in French Morocco. Troops landed at the village of Mehedia on 8 November with no resistance. USS Texas megaphones, installed for the accoasion, broadcasted at noon Eisenhower’s “Voice of Freedom” broadcast for the French troops not to fire.

There was no prelanding bombardments, however early in the afternoon the Army requested the ship firing at a Vichy Army ammunition dump, and later another the folloing day. Cease fire intervened on 11 November. However Vichy French reinforcements arrived from the East and the Army requested an active rtillery support. USS Texas fired 214 HE shells, effectively halting the column in its track and dispersing it. Some of her most experienced crewmen ald disembarked to try to recover scuttled or damaged French ships in Port Lyautey.

By 16 November BB-35 went back home with the USS Savannah, Sangamon, Kennebec, four transports, and seven destroyers, having accomplish her mission, with Walter Cronkite was on board, reporting on the operations, which boosted his career as he used the onboard observation plane to report the news first. USS Texas spent Christmas on the eastern coast while the crew had a leave, and returned in January to the end of 1943 making ecort duties, notably covering troopships to North Africa and back.

Profile of USS Texas in November 1942
Profile of USS Texas in November 1942 (measure 12) – credits

Operation Dragoon

This happened after the landing in Normandy in June (see later). In August, USS Texas was part of the covering invasion force. She was repaired at Plymouth, resupplied, then departed Belfast for Gibraltar and headed for Oran in Algeria to meet the rest of the fleet and then Tarento, and back west meeting three French destroyers. She was in front of the French Riviera’s St Tropez on 14 August, arriving by night, banding with USS Nevada and the cruiser USS Philadelphia.

Bombardment started at noon. She silence a battery of five 15 cm guns but overall the resistance was less than expected and troops progressed rapidly. It was so fast, that after a day, the range was not sufficient to cover the troops and the Texas left for Palermo, Sicily, and then headed west, to New York where she arrived in September 1944.

Operation Overlord

OS2U Kinfisher

In early 1944, preparation for Operation Overlord were going well. By 22 April US Texas was anchored on the clyde eastuary to train to operate with the Royal Navy. She learned how to coordinate fire in specific objectives with the HMS Ramillies and Rodney, correcting her fire using RAF spotters observations. Later she joined Nevada and Arkansas to Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland for extra preparation, notably the observation plane OS2U Kinfisher and catapult were removed. The same happened to the cruisers Augusta, Quincy, and Tuscaloosa. Planes and pilots were integrated into a mixed RAF-USN unit called VOS-7. All USN pilots learned to fly observation Spitfires, instead of their own plane because of the Luftwaffe’s threat.

BB-35 guns blazing at Pointe du Hoc
BB-35 at Omaha Beach, guns blazing.

Onboard Texas and other ships were installed a jam radio-guided missiles detection system, which as thoroughly tested. Other coordination drills were made as well. At one occasion, General Eisenhower came on board. Eventually, USS Texas became the Bombardment Force Flagship for Omaha Beach, with the responsibility of coordinating the entire artillery support, of all ships present, to the whole sector.

Pointe du Hoc assault cover
The operation was postponed on 4 June due to execrable weather condition. The weather improved and the fleet sailed again on 6 june 1944. BB-35 arrive to take her position at noon, and from then on until the end of the day, actively supported the US 29th Infantry Division and 2nd Ranger Battalion trying to get to Pointe du Hoc and the reinforcing 5th Ranger Battalion.

Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc, closing Omaha Beach. There were enfilade guns targeting the whole beach that needed to be taken out. The Rangers were given this difficult task, closely supported by USS texas.

Texas also bombarded the whole Atlantic wall fortification lines along the coast in coordination with HMS Glasgow on western sector, Arkansas and George Leygues in the east sector, plus the destroyers USS Frankford, McCook, Carmick, Doyle, Emmons, Baldwin, Harding, Satterlee, Thompson, and HMS Tanatside, Talybont and Melbreak.

German resistance proved deadly at Omaha, so much so that at midday, 12:23, USS Texas was requested by the desperate, pinned down US Infantry to close to 3,000 yd (2,700 m) to fire her main guns almost point-blank to deal with small objectives, at exit D-1 in front of Vierville, seadling with machine guns nests and snipers position transmitted by the troops. On the evening her last shot were to destroy a FLAK battery.

On 7 June, she ordered two LCVP, filled them with ammo, and sent them to supply the immobilized Ranger battalion at Pointe Du Hoc, short of ammunitions, and from then on would provide fire support to allow their progression. The landing crafts would bring back 35 wounded Rangers to Texas to be care for by the onboard medical team. The battleship became the de facto operating base for the elite Rangers during the battle, notably to take Formigny. On the 8 and 9 she dealt with German batteries at Isigny and Trévières.

Omaha Beach: long range Beachhead cover
Short of shells, USS departed to Plymouth to resupply and was back on 11 June, but at that stage, the operation was a success and a deep bridgehead was secured. As troop progressed beyond the maximal range of the ship, the crew of BB-35 filled the torpedo blister opposite to the shore, enough for safe list of two degrees, artificially increasing the main guns range to a few extra kilomerers. She was back in UK on 18 June.

Battle of Cherbourg
battle of Cherbourg
The battle of Cherbourg – June 1944, splash of German (ex-French WW1 vintage) 240 mm guns.

The second phase of the campaign for USS texas, was to deal with the port of Cherbourg, the only port nearby needed to allow larger ships to disembark troops and materials necessary for the exploitation of the allied forces deeper in Normandy. The German-held ports had substantial defences, notably a battery of heavy guns. This was trusted on USS Texas, assisted by USS Arkansas, four cruisers and eleven destroyers.

During the bombardment which started at 12:33 US Troops of the VII Corps tried to take the city by the rear. The operation took place on 25 June. By the end of the day, the 24 cm (9 in) guns were shut, but BB-35 took two hits in the process, one which failed to explode in the Warrant Officer M.A. Clark, another destroyed the conning tower periscope and wrecked the pilot house (seven injured, one dead), but at 13:35 it was over, with a direct hit in the German battery.

USS Texas’s Pacific campaign

USS texas stayed 36-day in repairs, with her main guns barrels replaced and additional AA added (forty 20 mm guns in all). She made a quick retraining cruise, departed Maine for the Panama Canal and tto the Pacific, stopping at Long Beach. She prceeded to Oahu, spent Christmas 1944 at Pearl Harbor. After a month of training she arrived at Ulithi Atoll in January, and then departed on 10 February 1945 to the Mariana Islands. She trained here for two days and then headed for Iwo Jima, arriving on 16 February.

USS Texas at Iwo Jima
Iwo Jima bombardment seen from USS Texas

During three days she pounded the Japanese defensive positions in preparation for the landing. She would cover the progression inland of three Marine Corps Divisions. She then switched to close gunfire support, the “On-call fire” which went on until 21 February.

She headed for the Volcano Islands on 7 March 1945 then back to Ulithi Atoll, preparing the next invasion of Okinawa, called Operation Iceberg. Inerted in TF 54, on 21 March, she arrived reached the Ryukyu Islands on 26 march, then Okinawa, took her positions and like USS New York, would provide from there an uninterrupted daily artillery support, starting with prelanding bombardment and six days landing support, until 1 April. She was hit by several kamikaze, but all missed.

Artillery support on demand would go on for almost two months. There were more jkamikaze attacks, US Texas claiming a kill, claiming three assist kills. She headed then for the Philippines on 14 May. She would stay here until 15 August, and the Japanese capitulation.

Fate of BB-34: The last ww1 dreadnought

Amazingly for such old vessel, veteran of two wars, USS texas is still wth us today. She can be visited at the San Jacinto Battleground State Park, the last dreadnought in existence. This story is a whole league in itself. Indeed, USS texas after the war participated in Operation Magic Carpet, then, the Navy Days celebrations, and placed in june 1946 in reserve at Baltimore, Maryland; SHE WAS DECOMMISIONED. But on 17 April 1947 Texans made the project established the Texas Commission to take care of the ship with the long term project of turning her into a memorial…

Kearsage class battleships (1898)

Kearsarge class battleships (1898)

USA (1896-99) USS Kearsarge, Kentucky
The tandem turreted battleships:

The Kearsarge class was certainly not the best remembered of the USN’s battleships as they played a minor part in WW1 and were scrapped afterward, but from a design standpoint, they were out an interesting out-of-the-box solution to an old problem: That of cramming firepower in a limited space, maximizing the efficiency of armor and thus, preserving some speed. The Kearsarge was one such possible solution, although it demonstrated it was all but practical. The concept was uniquely American – It did not spread in other navies but was repeated on the Virginia class battleships of 1904.

The singularity of this design was to use “tandem turrets”, a system in which a turret was simply fitted upon another. This had of course some advantages but also drawbacks, Conway’s rightfully called it “a most unfortunate arrangement”. Indeed, the ships were armed with the usual for pre-dreadnoughts: A main batter of 13-in guns (330 mm), and a secondary battery of 8-in guns. The tradition of USN capital ships until then has been the combination of 6-in, 8-in, and 13-in guns.

On the Indiana class, the 8-ins were in casemate corners barbettes. On the USS Iowa, they were in four single broadside turrets. For the Kearsarge class, something new was tried, in order to free broadside space for more artillery. The solution of stacking turrets allowed designers to place fourteen 5-in guns, faster firing than the four previous 6-ins on the Indiana class and having a much better punch than the USS Iowa’s six 4-in guns. On paper an ingenious solution by the Bureau of Ships.

USS Kearsage underway

Design process and development

Before going into the design, context is important: The Navy was struck by the economic depression in 1893. The new Secretary of the Navy Hilary A. Herbert, was not favorable to expensive battleship designs until he was convinced by Alfred Thayer Mahan’s Influence of Sea Power upon History like so many politicians of the time. Thus the same year he requested Congress to fund at least one new battleship, which was delayed until 1895.

This left the Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R) time to refine existing designs and debate over the best options. The Kearsarge was authorized by the Act of 2 March 1895. The admiralty decided to get rid of the raised forecastle and tried to find compromises for coal storage, a crucial point at that time for autonomy. Armor protection was reworked and arguably better than previous US pre-dreadnoughts, notably introducing a revised armor deck that gave more volume to the hull. At the same time, it was brought into question the effectiveness of returning to the Iowa’s main gun caliber of 12-inch (305 mm) guns instead of 13-in.

But the greater improvement was the introduction of a consistent tertiary battery of 5-inch (127 mm) quick-firing guns, which were just being developed, instead of relying only on 8-in guns and much smaller weapons. This shift up radically increased firepower. Discussions about the range and arc of fire left brought up suggestions of turning the ship into an all-turret design, but it soon proved unrealistic. Instead, classic barbettes were chosen to free space on the deck and armored walls. The limits were the increased weight of a turret arrangement and ammunition supply or fire control. The choice of a central battery amidships pushed the secondary armament of 8-in guns to the ends of the hull, therefore two-story turrets were chosen.

In general, by designing the ship, the engineering staff decided to depart from the low-freeboard Indiana class and high-freeboard USS Iowa, trying to find an in-between with a higher flush deck overall. The design incorporated many other improvements such as quick-firing guns and improved armor protection, apart from the two-story turrets.

The design eventually settled on three designs for the secondary artillery:
-“A”: Eight guns, two in centerline, superfiring, two wing turrets amidships.
-“B”: No forward turret, two wing turrets further forward, one superfiring aft.
-“C”: Centerline turrets, no wing mounts
-“D”: Reverse of “C”, wing mounts only.

In the end, C&R preferred the “A” design, maximizing firepower, but was opposed by the Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) which wanted to scrap all four designs and requested a new proposal. The two-story turret. It was the concept of Joseph Strauss from BuOrd, and he proposed this solution to solve issues with the space available. The very unorthodox turret design with the second turret fixed atop the first seemed evident on paper, at the time turrets existed already for 40 years, but that solution had never been adopted. This led to a fifth version, called “E”.

The only limitation, fire-control-wise, was the obligation of the second battery to target the very same objectives as the main artillery. The idea was at almost the same range, the 8-in guns fired faster and still could engage the superstructures instead of the hull for example due to the fact they still had independent elevation. It was thought that at closer ranges, the faster 8-in could take over while the 12-in guns were reloading, thus making independent rotation unneeded.

Supply problems such as the elevator for ammunition were relegated to technicalities to be solved by engineers after the design was approved. However, it was done in the context that much better, a lighter turret design with weight savings was to be created. This was so much so that the twin-story arrangement was thought to be lighter than the two-gun turrets used on USS Iowa.

BuOrd also strongly advocated for the return of 13-in guns instead of 12-in as they were thought to be 30% more powerful. The 8-in guns still compensated for the slightly slower 13-in gun’s reload as well. The other argument was that tests performed with 15 in (381 mm) armor plates showed they could be penetrated by 13-in shells.

In the end, the Navy preferred BuOrd’s “E” design with the 13-in guns.

The design was later criticized long after the ships were in service because of its poorly-designed turrets (which engineers thought to improve on the Virginia class) and the fact that despite its slightly higher freeboard than the Indianas it still had a “wet” lower battery. But the worst point was about the development of quick-firing 12-in guns; They rendered the whole concept a failure as the new main guns fired nearly as quickly as the 8-inches. In both cases, the main guns could not be fired without severe concussion effects for the crew of the 8 inch gun and great strain on the upper mount.

Design of the Kearsarge class

The two new battleships on paper, as authorised under the Act of 2.3.1895, were longer than the Iowa, with 368 feet (112 m) in length (waterline), 375 ft 4 in (114.4 m) overall. Their beam was 72 ft 3 in (22.02 m) and their draught 23 ft 6 in (7.16 m). Displacement reached 11,540 long tons standard, thus reaching 12,850 long tons (13,060 t) fully loaded in battle order. They shared the low freeboard of the Indiana class, 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m) forward under normal conditions, but in heavy weather, the entire deck could submerge. Also a common feature of the time, a prominent ram bow was featured.


The machinery room contained two 3-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines. They each drove a single shaft, ended by a single screw propeller. The steam engines were fed by five coal-fired Scotch marine boilers. Exhausts were truncated and went through two funnels. These engines produced a total of 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW). Their top speed as a result was 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph).

However, on sea trials, both their horsepower and speed exceeded these figures. USS Kearsarge showed 11,674 indicated horsepower for 16.8 knots, and USS Kentucky did better, at 12,179 horsepower for 16.9 knots. For range, their coal storage was made better than previous designs at 410 long tons (420 t) in peacetime and up to 1,591 long tons (1,617 t) fully load in wartime. Their cruising speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) allowed them a 5,070 nautical miles (9,390 km; 5,830 mi) radius of operations. These were the first US battleships to make extensive use of electrical auxiliary machinery, with the total output for their dynamos being 350 kilowatts.

The Kearsarge class was steered by a single rudder and at 12 knots they needed 475 yards (434 m) to make a full turn to port, and 455 yards to starboard. Kearsarge’s crew comprised 38 officers and 548 enlisted men, with 549 on Kentucky, but in WW1 it fell down to 40 officers and 513 enlisted men.


Outside the low freeboard, side battery, two funnels, and ram bow, the Kearsarge, and Kentucky’s appearance were also marked by two heavy lattice masts, carrying anti-torpedo boats light guns, and spotting tops.

Main & secondary guns: The 2-story turrets

The core of the design, dictated by the adoption of their new armament, forced the creation of these ‘double deck’ turrets with one stage housing two 13-inch (330 mm)/35 caliber guns, and on the upper turret, welded on the roof, two 8 in (203 mm)/35 caliber guns. Guns and turret armor were designed by BuOrd. But the cheese box turret was designed by C&R. They had the vertical walls of the first generation turrets and their ports were very large for sufficient elevation. William Sims participated in the design and criticized this choice as he noted that the turret floors were accessible through the ports.

A lucky hit could claim both turrets in one go. But even worse, on trials, the Kearsarge and Kentucky quickly gained the reputation of being very bad gun platforms. Not only was the blast concussion a problem for the gunners above, but when both turrets fired, heat conduction made temperatures in the upper turret soar up, whereas when the weather was rough, the top turret was leaning even more than the lower one, complicating fire direction.

Main battery – 13-in guns: They were Mark II type models, mounted in Mark III turrets, and were electrically driven. Brown powder propellant charges were used. They weighed 500 lb (230 kg) and therefore were difficult to handle and slow in their rate of fire. But they were later replaced by 180 lb (82 kg) smokeless charges. Their muzzle velocity was 2,000 ft/s (610 m/s), enough to penetrate 25 in (640 mm) of regular steel at optimal range, closer at 2,500 yd (2,300 m) in direct fire, 20 in (510 mm) of steel could be penetrated.

Their turret elevation was −5 degrees up to 15 degrees, giving them a maximal range of 12,100 yd (11,100 m) well in excess of their possible gunnery direction. Thus their fire was inaccurate at best. BuOrd recommended firing at 8,000 yd (7,300 m) instead to have any chance of scoring a hit by anything other than sheer luck. As shown in trials, even this was rather optimistic. The guns rate of fire was one shot every 320 seconds (5 minutes) with the obligation to down the guns at 2° elevation to reload them. Of course in these conditions, the faster 8-in guns were a blessing, although after the adoption of the smokeless charges, this main gun’s reload time dropped significantly.

Secondary battery – 8-inch guns: These were Mark IV artillery pieces mounted on fixed Mark IX turrets. The guns possessed a muzzle velocity of 2,080 ft/s (630 m/s). Brown-powder charges were later replaced by lighter smokeless charges, in the same early 1900s refit. Their rate of fire was originally one rpm and jumped to one every 40 sec, but reloading had to be done horizontally. The arrangement adopted for the higher rate of fire of the 8-inch guns but both the smokeless propellant adoption and a rapid-fire modification made these changes obsolete in the early 1900s.

Tertiary Battery – 5-in guns: A battery of fourteen 5 in/40 cal. artillery pieces were mounted in casemates in the upper deck. Seven per side, fourteen in all. To see the characteristics of these famous guns, which were brand new when the ships were built, see the armament section of WW1 USN battleships. Due to the low freeboard, this battery appeared in service to have been placed way too close to the waterline. As a result, in heavy weather the casemates were washed out, and firing was difficult to say the least, having to fire through waves and splashes of seawater, which also penetrated the battery.

Light battery – torpedo boat defence: This consisted of twenty 6-pounder (57 mm or 2.2 in) Hotchkiss guns, and eight 1-pounder (37 mm or 1.5 in) guns. They were all placed in individual open mounts, on elevated positions on decks and fighting tops. However, eight 57 mm guns were in a broadside battery, below the 5-inch guns, four on each side plus four more in the bow and stern casemates. Needless to say, all were useless in heavy weather. For close quarters but mostly to be mounted in boats for landing parties, two M1895 Colt–Browning machine gun 6 mm (0.24 in) Lee Navy models were also carried.

Torpedo Tubes: In the typical fashion of the time, four 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes were carried and placed in fixed mounts on the broadside, and above the waterline. Two abreast of the forward main battery turret, two on either side of the aft superstructure. Six torpedoes were carried as reloads. They were of the Mark II Whitehead, 140-pound (64 kg) warhead model, which covered 800 yards (730 m) at 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph). There was just one setting.

Armor protection

These flush deck ships had a freeboard of 14ft 6in forward at legend draught, with a thick belt extending from 3ft 6in above to 4ft below the waterline and from the centre line of the after barbette to the forward end of the boiler rooms, it was 16½in thick at the top, tapering to 13¼-in at waterline level and 9½in at the lower edge. It was gradually reduced to 10½in maximum at the centre line of the fore barbette, and in the next 30ft to a uniform 4in. The important factor was the decreased belt, which left an area with weak armour, but this was compensated for to an extent with a strengthened, 5 in thick.

The bulkheads were 10in fore and 12in aft with an upper belt of 5in. The armoured deck was 24in on the flat, at the top of the heavy belt, and curved down at the ends, being locally increased to 3in forward and aft. The gun training was electric, with 13 in-turret crowns 3½in thick while the 8in ones were 2in thick. The 5in mounts on the upper deck battery had 6in armour plating. The conning tower had 10 in thick walls, and a 2-inch-thick (51 mm) roof. The 5-in casemate battery however lacked splinter screens between each gun, making it vulnerable to hits in these gaps. This was quite a shortcoming.

launch of USS Kearsage
Launch of USS Kearsage, BB-5, launched in Newport News, March 1898, named after the famous 1861 sloop named for Mount Kearsarge (Merrimack County, New Hampshire) celebrated for defeating CSS Alabama in duel. A modern LHD is named after her also, and the name was to be freed for CV3 (later USS Hornet).


Rapid firing for main guns was introduced in the USN by 1903. USS Kearsarge and Kentucky received automated shutters in the ammunition hoists to prevent explosions in the magazines and later the electrical wiring was protected or removed entirely. This happened after a propellant charge accidentally detonated because of an electrical short in USS Kentucky in April 1906. Bulkheads between guns in each turret were also added and gas evacuators were added into breeches to expel propellant gasses.

In 1909-1911, the 57 mm guns were removed, but four additional 5-inch guns were installed. The heavy military masts were replaced by the new lattice models. The torpedo tubes were removed. The boilers were replaced by eight Mosher models. The last refit happened in 1919: All but eight of 5-inch guns were removed, and recycled onboard auxiliary merchant ships to fight German U-boats in the Atlantic. Two 3 in (76 mm) AA guns were added, and at last, splinter bulkheads inside the 5-inch battery were added as protection.

The USS Kearsarge (BB-5) in service

North Atlantic Squadron’s head
USS Kearsarge started as the flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron and operated down to the Caribbean Sea. By May 1901 Captain Bowman H. McCalla took command of the battleship, followed by Captain Joseph Newton Hemphill in 1902, as the ship became the flagship of the European Squadron. She departed from Sandy Hook in June and reached Kiel, to host an official state visit by Emperor Wilhelm II and the Prince of Wales in July when back visiting the UK.

Mediterranean and the Caribbean
The battleship was later based in Bar Harbor, Maine, still as flagship, and in December sailed to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to assume control of the Guantánamo Naval Reservation. By March 1904, Captain Raymond P. Rodgers took command and after exercises in the Caribbean Sea she crossed the Atlantic to Lisbon for a state visit where she hosted King Carlos I of Portugal in June. She later reached the Mediterranean and headed east to Greece, where she assisted the Independence Day celebrations in Phaleron Bay, hosting King George I of Greece, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Alice of Battenberg. She went back west, halting at Corfu, Trieste, and Fiume, before returning to Newport, Rhode Island in August. USS Maine later replaced Kearsarge as the flagship of the North Atlantic Fleet. In December 1904, Captain Herbert Winslow was in command, and in April 1906, she was a victim of a grave accident off Cuba when a gunpowder charge for 13-inch guns ignited after a short, killing two officers and eight men. This led to drastic safety measures being taken during a subsequent refit.

USS Kearsage with the great white fleet
USS Kearsage with the great white fleet

The Great White Fleet

After joining the fourth Division, Second Squadron under command of Captain Hamilton Hutchins, she departed in December 1907 with the Great White Fleet. She halted at Trinidad and Rio de Janeiro, joined the west coast of South America (Punta Arenas, Valparaíso, Callao, Magdalena Bay), and halted in May 1908 to San Francisco. Later she departed for Hawaii and joined Auckland, Sydney in Australia, and Melbourne. 

A third journey took place from Albany, Western Australia, bound to the Philippine Islands, Japan, China, and Ceylon, back to the Suez Canal, Port Said, Malta, Algiers, Gibraltar, and back to Hampton Roads on 22 February. She hosted U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt on her return in celebration. The great white fleet had achieved its advertising and training cruise around the globe. Until 1914, she spent her service between the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific without notable event. USS Kearsarge was modernized and therefore decommissioned for this, placed in drydock at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 4 September 1909. This rebuild was completed in 1911 for $675,000 USD.

USS Kearsage after refit in 1916
USS Kearsage after refit in 1916

The great War
From her return from the dockyard in 1911 until August 1914, USS Kearsarge was in reserve. She was recommissioned on 23 June 1915, to patrol the Western Atlantic coast. She later landed US Marines at Veracruz in September 1915 and stayed there until January 1916 bringing back Marines to New Orleans. She was in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia, training naval militia and Armed Guard crews, and naval engineers in the Atlantic after the US entered the war. In August 1918 she rescued survivors of the Norwegian barque Nordhav, sunk by U-117. The rest of the war ended without noticeable event. She was decommissioned in May 1920 after training in 1919 United States Naval Academy midshipmen in the Caribbean.

The Interwar
That summer it was decided to convert her into a crane ship, later denominated IX-16 on 17 July 1920 and AB-1 on 5 August. This was a radical rebuild. Kearsarge was converted into a crane ship, with all her armament and former superstructures, plus the armor removed in accordance with the Washington Treaty tonnage limitations. She was fitted with a large revolving crane with a lifting capacity of 250 tons (230 tonnes) plus 10-foot (3.0 m) blisters to improve stability during operations. She started her new career, which would span the whole interwar, and even afterward. She was found useful on many occasions, for example in 1939 when she raised the submarine USS Squalus from the bottom.

USS Kearsarge in 1920, just before conversion. She was converted to a crane ship in 1920, stability being increased by bulges and a very large 250t revolving crane fitted. She was renamed Crane Ship No 1 in by November 1941.

Word War Two

Amazingly, USS Kearsarge/AB-1 was still active when Pear Harbor happened in December 1941. On 6 November she just has been renamed again Crane Ship No. 1, to free her name for the future CV-33. She served as a heavy lifter for guns, turrets, and apparatus for the battleships and cruisers USS Indiana, Alabama, Savannah, Chicago, and Pennsylvania.

In 1945 she was transferred to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard to assist in the fitting out of USS Hornet (ii) and USS Boxer, and the rebuild of USS Saratoga. Later she assisted in the reconstruction of YD-171 on Terminal Island and three years after in 1948, she left the West Coast, at the Boston Naval Shipyard. By June 1955 at last she struck from the register and sold for scrap in August.

USS Kentucky (BB-6) career

BB-6’s first captain after commission was Captain Colby Mitchell Chester. She had been fitted out at the New York Navy Yard and her first mission was to replace USS Newark in the Eastern squadron during the Boxer Rebellion, under Rear Admiral Louis Kempff. Next, until 1904 she toured many Asian ports such as Chefoo, Wusong, Nanking, Taku Forts, Hong Kong, Xiamen, Nagasaki, Kobe, and Yokohama. She was the flagship of Rear Admiral Frank Wildes and later Robley D. Evans. In 1904 she departed Manila for NYC, going through the Suez Canal halting at Alexandria and Gibraltar on her way.

A painting of USS Kentucky at Newport News
A painting of USS Kentucky at Newport News

She became part of the British North Atlantic Squadron at Annapolis in 1905 for exercises and alternated manoeuvres between there and Cuban waters. She landed Marines during the 1906 Cuban Insurrection. She attended the Jamestown Exposition at Norfolk, Virginia, in April 1907 and took part later in the Great White fleet, touring the same cities as her sister ship BB-5 in her three cruises (see above). This took over her career until 1909.

Like USS Kearsarge, she was modernized in August 1909, decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and emerged from the drydock in 1911, with notably new cage masts, water-tube boilers, and a revised armament. Due to her age, she was placed in the Second Reserve, and in 1913 was transferred to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Philadelphia.

She was recommissioned on 23 June 1915 to carry Marines to Veracruz, and remained there until 2 June 1916, making a hop to New Orleans for the traditional Mardi Gras celebrations and to rest her crew. She stopped on her way back to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Santo Domingo and was later trained by naval militias from Maine before heading to NY naval shipyard for another refit on 2 January 1917.

When the war broke up, she resumed training recruits from Yorktown, Virginia, and eventually trained several thousand men, 15 groups of recruits in all until the end of the war. She was overhauled at the Boston NyD on 20 December 1918, and on March 1919, departed for new exercises and training, this time for the US Naval Academy midshipmen. After the Washington treaty was signed she was either to be disarmed, demilitarized, or converted for other uses as her sister was, or broken up. The latter option was chosen and she was written off on 27 May 1922, sold, and BU in March 1923.

USS Kentucky in Sidney with the great white fleet, 1906
USS Kentucky in Sydney with the great white fleet, 1906

Author’s illustration of the Kearsage in 1917


Dimensions 114.4 x 22 x 7.16 m (375 x 72 x 23 ft)
Displacement 11,540 long tons standard, 12,850 long tons FL
Crew 38+549
Propulsion 2 shafts TE steam engines, 5 scotch boilers 10,000 hp
Speed 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Range 5,070nm (9,390 km; 5,830 mi) at 10 knots
Armament 4 × 13 in/35, 4 × 8 in/35, 14 × 5 in/40, 20 × 6-Pdr, 8 × 1-pdr, 4 × 18 in TTs.
Armour (max. figures) Belt 16.5 in, Turrets 17 in/11 in, CT 10 in, Deck 5 in.

Sources/Read More

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History.
Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860–1905
Reilly, John C. & Scheina, Robert L. (1980). American Battleships 1886–1923
Albertson, Mark (2007). They’ll Have to Follow You!: The Triumph of the Great White Fleet.
Bauer, Karl Jack & Roberts, Stephen S. USN Register 1775–1990: Major Combatants
“Crane Ship No. 1 (AB 1)”. Naval Vessel Register.
Evans, Mark L.; Marcello, Paul J. “Kearsarge II (Battleship No. 5): 1896–1955
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905–1970. Doubleday and Company
Hore, Peter (2006). Battleships of World War I. London: Southwater Books
US Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command (11 May 2009) USN BBs.
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Seaforth Publishing
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1921.

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Chester class cruisers (1907)

Chester class cruisers (1907)

Scout Cruisers (1907) – USS Chester, Birmingham, Salem

The last American cruisers

The title seems a bit exaggerating, but there were indeed no new cruisers construction since 1907 and 1920. An immense gap explained by a strong focus on battleships, and on the other hand, the new US fleet destroyers which filled that scouting role to some degree. However towards the end of WW1, naval operations soon showed these fleet destroyers were limited in range, and needed also larger coordinating ships. Therefore, the admiralty requested a new scout cruiser/destroyer leader which became the Omaha class.

The three Chesters were the only USN ships ever to be denominated as “scout cruiser” (as CS or SCR). Their main characteristics were a high speed and little armor as well as reduced armament. Distant relatives, the first three Omaha-class ships were designated “scout cruisers” as ordered, but the classification system was soon revised and they were commissioned as “light cruisers” or “CL”.

In their service, USS Birmingham would be remembered as the world’s first ship worldwide to launch an airplane. This happened in 1910 and the feat was performed by pilot Eugene Ely, also later making the first landing in 1911, this time on the larger USS Pennsylvania, fitted with a platform. The three cruisers spent their prewar years patrolled the Caribbean, with some artillery support during interventions like the operation of Veracruz in 1914. After neutrality patrols, when the USA went at war, they maintained patrols and escorted convoys from 1917. After a life without notable incident they were quietly retired and decommissioned in 1921-1923, but kept in mothballs until sold for scrap to comply with London Naval Treaty limitations in 1930. By that time their active career had spanned barely 14 years.

The USS Chester, racing towards the sinking Titanic
The USS Chester, racing towards the sinking Titanic

Design of the Chester

Hull and armor

Protection was bare minimum to resist small caliber and shrapnel at 2 in (51 mm) for the belt which was 9.5 ft (2.9 m) high above the waterline, and down around the engine and engine rooms, with 6.5 ft (2.0 m) high around the boiler room area and 3.25 ft (1 m) below. No protective deck was found as the ship was not a protected cruiser, but there was a stray of 1 in (25 mm) plate armor on the roof deck above the steering gear. In short, the Chester class was not even immune against destroyer fire, despite their large size and high freeboard.


The Chester, Birmingham and Salem all tested different propulsion system in order for the Navy to test each configuration. It was customary with the USN and allowed later to combine advantage on future series. USS Chester innovated in the matter by receiving steam turbines. This was the very first ship in the USN to be fitted with Parsons types. USS Salem on her part received Curtis turbines and Birmingham stayed with traditional triple-expansion engines. Requirement speed was 24 knots (27.6 mph; 44.4 km/h) only for USS Birmingham, the triple-expansion one, but one knot more for the two turbine cruisers.

On the boilers front, all three ships differed also: USS Chester had 12 coal-fired Normand boilers mated with the Parsons direct-drive, rated for a total of 23,000 shp (17,000 kW), and four shafts. On trials she was able to reach 26.52 knots (30.5 mph; 49.1 km/h) on about 16,000 shp (12,000 kW).
USS Salem had like her sister ship the same number of coal-fired boilers, this time of the Fore River model, mated to Curtis direct-drive steam turbines. Design power as specified was 23,900 shp (17,800 kW), but this power was passed on two shafts. Max speed on trials was 25.95 kn (29.9 mph; 48.1 km/h) on a total of 22,242 shp (16,586 kW).

Lastly, USS Birmingham, the TE version on her part was fitted with twelve coal-fired Fore River boilers. Working pressure was 275 psi (1,900 kPa), and the engines were two four-cylinder vertical triple-expansion models, which were rated for 16,000 ihp (12,000 kW) as designed, and two shafts. On trials she reached 24.33 kn (28.0 mph; 45.1 km/h) at 15,670 ihp (11,690 kW).
All three ships had relatively similar coal arrangements, with a coal capacity of 475 tons in peacetime, and up to 1,400 tons in wartime.

Blueprint of the cruiser
Blueprint of the cruiser


Primary armament: It consisted in two 5-in (127 mm)/50 cal. Mark 6 guns. They were of the same model used on the Battleships and cruisers of this era.
In service by 1904, these guns were weighting 10,550 lb (4,790 kg) with breech, for a length 255.65 in (6,494 mm), and barrel length of 250 in (6,400 mm) bore, 50 calibers. It fired 50 lb (23 kg) armor-piercing shells, with an elevation ranging from −10° to +15° to −10° to +25° between the Mark 9 and Mark 12 mounts (The Mark 6 gun used both). Average rate of fire was comprised between 6 and 8 rounds per minute and muzzle velocity for the 50 lb AP shell was 3,000 ft/s (910 m/s) and for the 60lb HE shell 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s), at a maximum firing range of 19,000 yd (17,000 m) at 25.3° elevation.

Secondary Armament:
This comprised six 3 in (76 mm)/50 caliber rapid fire (RF) guns and two 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes. The original uniform gun design was of twelve 3-inch guns, an idea supported by the Navy’s General Board to simplify fire control and have a standard among main and secondary armaments of dreadnoughts as well. In the end however two 5-inch guns were substituted for six of the planned 3-inch guns. The idea was to give these scout cruisers a better capability to fight light cruisers. But this was a simplification overall as they were the first US cruiser design not fitted with smaller 6-pounder and less guns.

All three ships underwent a major refit in 1917 as the USA were found at war: USS Salem received a 20,000 shp (15,000 kW) General Electric geared steam turbine installation which saved coal consumption, as she was the only one without turbines. They all were rearmed with four of the new model 5-inch (127 mm)/51 caliber guns. Secondary armament was upgraded too, with two 3-inch/50 caliber guns plus two 3-inch/50 AA guns, but torpedo tubes were kept, whereas they had been removed from nay cruisers at that stage.

The Chesters in action

USS Chester

wow rendition 3d Chester

From her commission and first crash course, USS Chester trained off the East Coast and Caribbean, and participated in the Fleet Reviews of February 1909, October 1912, and May 1915. She also carried a Congressional committee to North Africa in 1909, and was part in 1910 to the special South American cruise for the centennial of Buenos Aires. She patrolled off Mexico, Santo Domingo, and Haiti, carrying by all times a Marine batallion for occupation in 1911. By April, 1912, she escorted the SS Carpathia back to New York, after picking up the survivors from the RMS Titanic. She was placed in reserve in 1911 – 1913, and was back in the Gulf of Mexico to protect US Citzens and property during the revolution, and took part in the occupation of Veracruz. On 2 January 1914 she hosted President Woodrow Wilson holding a conference with John Lind (Mexican affairs).

On 21 April, Admiral Henry T. Mayo was ordered to send the Chester from Tampico, to Veracruz and she arrived Around midnight, under captain William A. Moffett. He took the inner harbor, running straight in showing a breath-taking display of seamanship and nerve and was later awarded the Medal of Honor. She landed safely her batallion and provided support fire during its advance in the southeastern sector of Veracruz. She targeted notably the Naval Academy and later carried refugees to Cuba as well as mail and storage for the local squadron until June 1914. Afterwards she went into reserve to Boston and overhaul, which lasted until April 1915.

By late 1915 – early 1916 USS Chester departed for the Mediterranean for a relief aid operation in the Middle East and to protect US Citizens on the Liberian coast during the insurrection. She retuned to the reserved until 24 March 1917. She operated on off the East Coast until 23 August, and from Gibraltar escorted convoys bound to Plymouth, England. On 5 September 1918, she correctly identified a U-boat. She tried to ram the German submersibles, but the latter dove quicker. However she managed to damage her own port paravane. In 1918, after a career without notable incident, USS Chester carried the Allied armistice commissions inspecting German ports. In 1919 she would ferry US Army troops to support actions of the “whites” in northern Russia. She later would depart Brest in April 1919, with veterans to New York and later was sent at Boston NyD for overhaul, and decommissioned, until 10 June 1921. By 1927, she was renamed USS York at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, scrapped on 13 May 1930.

USS Birmingham

Birmingham was commissioned on 11 April 1908, taking her service under captain Burns Tracy Walling. She served in the Atlantic Fleet until June 1911, then was placed in reserve at Boston. Later from her deck, a daring civilian pilot Eugene Ely attempted the first ship-borne takeoff, on 14 November 1910, in a Curtiss Model D biplane designed by Glenn Curtiss and piloted by Eugen Ely. By 15 December 1911, the cruiser was fully recommissioned and toured the West Indies and was stationed at the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Philadelphia NyD in April 1912. Until 11 July, she made the infamous “Ice Patrols” and was later versed to the previous Reserve Group. In 1913 she carried carried Commissioners of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

She left the yard on 2 February 1914, and resumed operations with the Atlantic Fleet as flagship of the Torpedo Flotilla. From 22 April – 25 May, she operated with the fleet in Mexican waters. During this time, one of her two Curtiss Model F flying boats performed the first military mission by a US heavier-than-air aircraft, while scouting for mines off Veracruz on 25 April. In 1916, she became flagship of Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet, and Torpedo Flotilla 3.
World War I and fate

Following American entrance into World War I, Birmingham patrolled along the northeast U.S. coast until 14 June 1917, when she sailed from New York as part of the escort for the first US troop convoy to France. After returning to New York she was fitted for service in Europe and in August reported to Gibraltar as flagship for Rear Admiral A. P. Niblack, Commander, US Forces Gibraltar. She escorted convoys between Gibraltar, the British Isles, and France until the Armistice. After a short cruise in the eastern Mediterranean, she returned to the United States in January 1919.

From July 1919 to May 1922, she was based at San Diego, California as flagship of Destroyer Squadrons, Pacific Fleet, and then moved to Balboa, Canal Zone as flagship of the Special Service Squadron. After cruising along the Central American and northern South American coast, she returned to Philadelphia and was decommissioned there on 1 December 1923, being sold for scrap on 13 May 1930.

In a painting titled “The Beginning” by the late, great aviation artist R. G. Smith, 24-year-old civilian pilot Eugene Ely takes off in a 50-horsepower Curtiss biplane from a wooden platform built over the bow of the USS Birmingham (then designated as Scout Cruiser #2) at anchor in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Ely landed moments later on Willoughby Spit.

USS Salem

USS Birmingham CL2

USS Salem was the Navy’s first turbine-powered warships. So she was to be tested and evaluated in detail. She departed Boston on 17 October 1908 for a test campaign on the Atlantic coast. Together with USS Birmingham and Chester she formed the Scout Cruiser Division, patrolling in the Atlantic. She toured Funchal on the island of Madeira. This was the further away she went at that time. She joined the 5th Division, Atlantic Fleet and in 1910, she was stationed in Haitian waters. She was back to NYD on 11 September and placed in reserve at the Boston NyD by April 1912, as a receiving ship. She would return in the Atlantic Fleet and toured Gibraltar.

In 1913-14 she remained in Philadelphia until placed in reserve to be on duty again by 23 April 1914. She joined the Special Service Squadron in Mexican waters, took part in the Veracruz operation, and returned to the Atlantic Fleet, but returned in reserved on 1 December as receiving ship at Boston NyD by March 1915. She cruised in the Caribbean by May 1916, and off Mexican and Dominican ports, transported Marine detachments and other taks before being decommissioned again on 2 December 1916.

Recomm. in 21 April 1917 she left Philadelphia NyD for Boston NyD and entered a drydock to have her original Curtis turbines replaced by General Electric turbines. This was completed by 25 July, and she departed for a crash test from Boston to New London (Ct) and a force made of sub-chasers to protect Atlantic convoys. She served as flagship for two convoys up to the Azores and back. She headed later a flotilla of 12 sub-chasers at Key West. Patrols stretched from Florida to the Yucatán Peninsula. By 27 November, the squadron was disbanded and after a short overhaul at Boston, Salem sailed to the west coast, and as CL-3 (from 17 July 1920) she was decommissioned at Mare Island, struck on 13 November 1929, sold in 1930 and BU in California.

Read More/Src
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860–1905.
Burr, Lawrence. US Cruisers 1883–1904: The Birth of the Steel Navy. Oxford : Osprey, 2008.
Photo archives

Wyoming class battleships (1911)

Wyoming class battleships (1911)

US Navy ww2USA (1910) Wyoming, Arkansas

The Wyoming class: Last USN 12-in battleships:
The Wyoming and Arkansas were a gradual improvement of the 12-in gun battleship formula, cumulating three pairs of superfiring turrets, all axial. They were completed before the Royal Navy revealed their first 13.5 in gun armed battleships, and would be the last of their kind. On the next class, the USN embarked on a 14-in or 340 mm gun design (New York class). The Wyoming and Arkansasn also innovated in armour design, which was improved compared to the Florida, and were substantially larger and heavier as well, jumping to 27,000 tonnes fully loaded versus 23,000. The “stopgap” USS Wyoming and USS Arkansas were completed in 1912 and served during both wars.

USS Wyoming circa 1912, fresh from the yard.

In 1942, they were the oldest American dreadnoughts to participate in operations with the exception of USS Utah, previously converted into a target ship and sunk at Pearl Harbour. The two Wyoming were also the only battleships in service before the Great War to be operational in WW2. Their main artillery was obsolete in 1942, both in terms of range and hitting power. In fact barely two years after, the Alaska class “battlecruisers” emerged with the same caliber.

Against a Scharnhorst-class much faster and equipped with advanced telemetric, fire control, ballistic computing and Zeiss sights they would have been badly hurt, despite their much superior armour. However that twelve gun battery was not an argument to take lightly. Modified in 1927, receiving dual 5-in guns and light 3-in AA guns, new superstructures with tripods in 1938, the old veterans were still valiant.
Wyoming was a training ship but Arkansas remained frontline in the Atlantic fleet, refitted later in New York with a modern AA, and she was in Normandy (Overlord) Provence (Anvil) and the Pacific at Iwo Jima and Okinawa but was blasted during Operation Crossroad after the war.

USS Wyoming in the east river, 1912
USS Wyoming in the east river, 1912

Development and design of the Wyoming class

Authorized in early 1909 and built between 1910 and 1912, the Wyoming class were the last 12-in gun armed battleships of the US Navy, with a twist: They were also better armed than the former Florida class, having six instead of five turrets. At the same time, the British were built the first next step, the Orion class featuring five turrets with 13.5 inches (340 mm) main guns. The expedient was to use rebored 12-in guns, but it worked and gave an instant advantage to the British three years prior to the war.

However it was not meant to be so. Indeed, the actual president which ordered them was Theodore Roosevelt, and he planned a serie of 355 mm guns-armed battleships instead back in 1908, whereas the Dreadnought concept was not even two years old. On 22 July 1908, the Newport Conference was held with the General Board, Naval War College and headed by President Theodore Roosevelt to decide over the next design:
-Design 601: A ship armed with twelve 12-in (’12-12′) guns
-Design 404: Eight 14-in guns (probably 2×2)
-Design 502: Ten 14-in guns (5×2).

The Ordnance wants compromises
However at the time, the Bureau of Ordnance estimated infrastructures were just not yet fit to handle larger calibers and the development of a 14-in gun would take two years. Another argument was the armor-piercing 12-in calibers were still efficient at 8,000 to 8,500 yd (7,300 to 7,800 m) against the current armour thickness in service. In the ends, the views of the Bureau of Ordnance were adopted, against the President’s wish, notably to avoid delays. Despite of this, the new displacement and size only made two spots for repairs and maintenance available worlwide, in Pearl Harbor and Puget Sound.

Armour scheme of the Wyoming class
Armour scheme of the Wyoming class

Wet secondary battery and stability issue
Provisionally, it was decided to go for the ‘601’ design, a new arrangement of 12-in guns. As a result, both units were given one extra turret. For the first time also the designers tried a “flush deck” concept, able to deal with the North Atlantic heavy weather in winter. Also evoked in discussions indeed, the wet casemates on the main deck, as shown by the cruise of the great white fleet. However replacing them in the superstructure would have cause concerns of stability as for the excessive top weight. The 5-in guns the navy used were quite heavy indeed. So the casemates were kept but the designers chose a flush-deck hull which made a rise of 4 ft (1.2 m) of the casemates without compromising too much stability.

Innovations in armour
On the armour side, improvements were also on the menu: The belt and barbette armor was increased by an inch (2.5 cm). The funnels base were also reinforced, as shown by damage reports of the Russians at the Battle of Tsushima. They highlighted the high risk of a destroyed exhaust system. The need for improved underwater protection was also put on the table, and for the first time, the Wyoming class incorporated a torpedo bulkhead.


Main battery of USS Arkansas firing

Main battery
Twelve 12-inch/50 caliber Mark 7 Mod 0 guns was the real noverlty of this class. They were placed in six Mark 9 twin-gun turrets, as always, in the centerline. Two were placed in a superfiring pair forward while the other four were also un superfiring pairs aft of the superstructure, intertwined with the rear mast and superstructure. They fired a 870 lb (395 kg) shell with a 353 lb (160 kg) propellant charge. Muzzle velocity was 2,900 ft/s (880 m/s). This model was the last 12-in in service and USS Wyoming and Arkansas were the last and only ships using this ordnance. Previous 12-in guns were in standard the lower-velocity 12-inch/45-caliber Mark 5 gun.

The Mark 7 heavy gun had increased armor penetration figures due to the better muzzle velocity, notably at 12,000 yd (11,000 m), it could pierce through 12.3 in (310 mm) of face-hardened armor. The previous models figure was 10.8 in (270 mm). They were mounted in the Mark IX gun turret complete with their cradle mounts which allowed a 15 degrees elevation and −5 degrees depression. These new turrets had also a previous advantage compared to previous models, they did not required the guns to return to 0 degrees to reload.

Secondary battery
It consisted of twenty-one 5-inch/51 caliber guns (127 mm) in single mounts, in casemates along the hull. As it was said above, the new flush deck design allowed the guns to be higher up and therefore not wet. These guns fired a 50 lb (23 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 3,150 ft/s (960 m/s). Part of the telemeters were installed on the two lattice masts.

Tertiary armament
The Wyoming class BBs did not possessed any light gun, either anti-torpedo or AA (aviation was not taken seriously at that time anyway). Like other battleship however they carried a pair of submerged 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes in the hull, broadside. This was linked to a large belief that firing torpedo in a battleline, against another battleline could result in random kills. The tactic was used at Tsushima without success, and at Jutland again with the same result. Distance was too great and the concept as later dropped. These torpedoes used the Mark III Bliss-Leavitt design, carrying a 218 lb (99 kg) warhead, and its range was 4,000 yd (3,700 m). They could reach 26.5 kn (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph).

Top and side view of the Wyoming class, as built (the blueprints)


The main belt was 8 ft (2.4 m) high overall, 11 in (280 mm) thick over the citadel, protecting the ammunition magazines and boilers rooms. It was reduced to 5 in (130 mm) near the stern and on the bottom edge down to 9 in (230 mm). The forward end met an 11 in thick transverse bulkhead. It was in front of the main battery barbette, while the rear of the citadel was protected by a 9 in bulkhead. The main armored deck was 2.5 in (64 mm) thick. This was a special treatment steel, down to 1.5 in (38 mm) in less important spaces. The conning tower had 11.5 in (292 mm) thick walls, and its roof was 3 in (76 mm) in thickness.

The gun turrets were protected by the same equivalent of caliber, 12 in (305 mm) on their face faces, sides, down to 3 inches thick roofs (76 mm). The barbettes rings were 11 inches thick on the exposed part above the citadel. Below the armoured deck it was down to 4.5 in (110 mm). The lower half of the casemate was 11 in thick (280 mm), upper half 6.5 in (170 mm). It was enclosed by longitudinal bulkheads also protecting the funnels uptakes as learnt during the Russo-Japanese War. Smoke proved a liability in this battle, and draft collapsed (so speed) after the funnel bases were hit. The other innovation, certainly more important, was for the first time the adoption of a comprehensive ASW compartmentation and torpedo bulkhead. The brand new feature was repeated on all subsequent USN Battleships designs.

USS Wyoming at sea
USS Wyoming at sea (wow)


Te Wyoming class were propelled by four shaft Parsons steam turbines, rated for a total of 28,000 shp (21,000 kW). They were fed by twelve mixed oil/coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers. They were truncated into two spaced funnels. Top speed as designed was 20.5 knots (38.0 km/h; 23.6 mph). But on trials, USS Arkansas reached 21.22 knots (39.30 km/h; 24.42 mph) with a total output of 25,546 shp (19,050 kW). Both battleships carried 1,667 long tons (1,694 t) of coal, 266 long tons (270 t) of oil, enough to reach 6,700 nautical miles (12,400 km; 7,700 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), down to 2,655 nmi (4,917 km) at 20 knots. The ships were moderately agile, with a single rudder for steering. The flush-deck option proved its worth in service as their secondary battery was less wet.


Congress approved two new battleships, BB-32 and BB-33, on 3 March 1909. Design 502 was also used, with few modifications on the next New York class.
USS Wyoming (BB-32) was started at William Cramp & Sons NyD on 9 February 1910 and launched on 25 May 1911. She was completed on 25 September 1912. Her sister ship USS Arkansas (BB-33) was laid down at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on 25 January 1910, so before the Wyoming, and launched on 14 January 1911, so way earlier, to be completed on 17 September 1912. This is why the class is often referred to Arkansas class as well. Both were among the most powerful battleships afloat at that date, with an unmatched axial battery which favour broadsides. The design was repeated on the New York and influenced the Argentine Rivadvia class greatly.

For more, see the detailed plans of the Wyoming there.

Interwar modifications

Evolution of USS Wyoming, various modernizations as a battleship in 1912, training ship in 1937 and AA training ship ACG-17 in 1944 (bottom)

Both battleships already received modifications during and shortly after the great war: The horizontal armor was improved, the roof of the conning tower was thickened as well as those of the main gun turrets. Deck armor was increased to 3.5 in (89 mm). Armament-wise, eight 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber AA guns were installed, the only light artillery on board.

Detail of the front section
Details of the bridge and forward section (wow)

After the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, modernization process fell under tight treaty controls, and that included restrictions on armor and armament. Displacement could be increased to 3,000 long tons (3,000 t), a provision for whatever needed, but the main battery guns and their mounts were forbidden of any improvements. Protection wise, main areas it concentrated on aerial and underwater threats, and the propulsion systems could be upgraded as well.

This work was undergone in the 1920s, first off in drydock, they received oil-fired boilers from the cancelled South Dakota-class battleships. Exhausts were truncated into a single funnel. These new boilers allowed an increase in cruising radius, 11,000 nmi (20,000 km; 13,000 mi). Both featured anti-torpedo bulges, to improve their underwater protection. These additional spaces were also used for additional oil storage capacity. Their fore cage mast was also deposed and replaced by a short tripod, on top fo which were placed searchlights and radio antennas. The secondary battery was also partly relocated on the deck to improve the ship’s seaworthiness. The eight 3-inch AA guns were relocated to the top sponson top. Of course, the torpedo tubes were removed.

In 1930 the London Naval Treaty imposed new limitations and USS Wyoming was demilitarized, converted into a training ship. Due to this process, anti-torpedo bulges were removed, as well as the side armor half of the main battery, a process which took place at Norfolk Navy Yard 12 January-3 April 1944. The refit saw the last of her three 12-in gun turrets removed, replaced by four twin and two single enclosed mounts, supporting 5-inch/38 guns. A brand new fire control radar was installed and these modifications allowed the ship to train AA gunners. USS Arkansas was modified up to 1942, with a new tripod foremast, modified bridgework and AA guns, with new quadruple 40 mm Bofors mounts (nine quad), twenty-eight 20 mm Oerlikon and ten 3-inch guns in 1945.

USS Wyoming in the Mediterranean
USS Wyoming in the Mediterranean (WoW screenshot)

USS Wyoming in service

USS Wyoming prewar service

Soon after commission, USS Wyoming join the fleet at Hampton Roads in December 1912, as flagship of Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, Atantic fleet commander. She served in the Caribbean, visited the Panama Canal nearing completion, and made exercises off Cuba. She was back in Chesapeake Bay in March and to the East River.

On 18 April, she entered the drydock of York Navy Yard for repairs, until 7 May and participated in maneuvers off Block Island but her machinery proved troublesome, and she was again repaired at Newport later in May. She joined Annapolis to trainnaval cadets taking them in a summer midshipman cruise. She also took part in gunnery and torpedo training, returned to New York for further repairs, which lasted until 2 October. She underwent full–power sea trials to test these new machinery and sailed to the Virginia Capes for fleet maneuvers.

She later sailed to Europe in a goodwill cruise from 26 October via the Mediterranean Sea, visiting Valletta, Malta, Naples, Italy, Villefranche and sailed back to NY on 30 November. In January 1914 she was out in commission again, out of drydock maintenance. She participated in the annual fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean until 15 March, stopping at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Tangier Sound, and after an overhaul in New York until 9 May 1914, she went back to Hampton Roads, carryong troops to Veracruz (18 May) during the Mexican Revolution. She returned to Virginia Capes and in October joined New York for maintenance.

Wyoming’s Operations in WW1

After joining Hampton Roads, exercizes off Cuba, Block Island, she was back to New York for an overhaul and in January 1916, proceeded to the Caribbean, visiting Culebra, Puerto Rico, Port-au-Prince, and Guantanamo for more fleet maneuvers. After her usual New York maintenance, she was back in June for fleet maneuvers off the Virginia Capes and by January 1917, she was in Cuban waters and was off Yorktown, Virginia when the US declared war on Germany (6 April). After some preparations and training of extra personal which lasted until September, from 25 November she joined Battleship Division 9 (BatDiv 9), together with USS New York, Delaware, and Florida, and joined the firth of forth, Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. There, she was soon part of the new integrated 6th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet, making exra training in these waters.

USS Wyoming with BatDiv 9 at Scapa Flow

By 6 February 1918, USS Wyoming made her first wartime operation, escorting a convoy to Stavanger in Norway, covered by eight British destroyers. Lookouts mistook German U-boats attacking the ships with torpedoes and the convoy eventually reached unharmed Norway. She was back to Scapa, withing two more days. She then patrolled the North Sea, preventing any sortie of the German High Seas Fleet. On 30 June the 6th Battle Squadron covered a minelaying operation, until 2 July. Later the squadron joined covered Convoy HZ40 returning from Norway.

On 14 October, USS New York collided an U-boat, damaging her screws, therefore admiral Rodman transferred his flag to Wyoming for the remainder of the operations. On 21 November, the Armistice saw the USN battleships escorting the High Seas Fleet in the North Sea, to Scapa Flow. On 12 December USS Wyoming was flagship of Rear Admiral William Sims which replaced Rodman at the head of BatDiv 9, and the squadron left UK for France, Brest, with USS George Washington carrying President Woodrow Wilson to the peace negotiations. She was back to Britain and departed for the US, New York for an overhaul and was back in service with BatDiv 7 as a flagship in January 1919, flying Rear Admiral Robert Coontz colors.

USS Wyoming through the Panama canal in 1919
USS Wyoming through the Panama canal in 1919

Interwar modifications

In 1919, USS Wyoming took part in the annual fleet maneuvers off Cuba, alternated with overhauls in New York. In 12 May she guided a group of Navy Curtiss NC flying boats for their first aerial transatlantic crossing. She also trained midshipmen off the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Capes. She was drydocked at Norfolk Navy Yard on 1 July for afirst modernization, this tile to serve in the Pacific. The secondary battery was reduced among others, and she was re-commissioned as flagship, BatDiv 6 Pacific Fleet. In July she passed the Panama Canal and sailed to San Diego, California by August. She then sailed to San Pedro and Puget Sound for an overhaul lasting until April 1920.

She left San Pedro for Hawaii, for more training exercises and later maneuvers back on the west coast. She left San Francisco on 5 January 1921 for a long cruiser in South American waters, stopping at Valparaíso, Chile for a state visit and back to Puget Sound on 18 March. In August she was in Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, with Rear Admiral Rodman. She went back through New York to the Atlantic Fleet, as flagship of Admiral Hilary P. Jones. The next three this was the usual routine of winter fleet exercises off Cuba and summer maneuvers off the east coast. She was nect the flagship of Vice Admirals John McDonald, Newton McCully, and Josiah McKean, Scouting Fleet. In the summer of 1924, she trained midshipman in an European cruise, stopping in Torbay (UK), Rotterdam, Gibraltar, and the Azores. She also took part in February 1924 to Fleet Problem II, III, and IV, in the “Blue” force.

By February 1925, she went through the Panama Canal agaon to serve with the Pacific Fleet. She made exercizes off California and Hawaii, stopped at San Diego and was back to the east coast, making a later cruise to Cuba and Haiti. Her NY overhaul lasted until 26 January 1926 and she received a new Commander, William F. Halsey, Jr., ready to serve on 4 January 1927. In August, she sailed to Philadelphia for extensive modernizations in drydocks. All boilers were replaced, anti-torpedo bulges added, and work resumed by 2 November. She made a trials cruiser off Cuba and the Virgin Islands and was back in Philadelphia by December 1927, becoming flagship of the Scouting Fleet (Vice Admiral Ashley Robertson).

USS Wyoming in March 1930
USS Wyoming in March 1930

The next three years were spent in this new Scouting Fleet service, training Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) cadets throughout the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Azores, Nova Scotia. In November 1928, she picked up survivors from the wrecked steamship SS Vestris and on 19 September 1930, she joined BatDiv 2 as flagship of Rear Admiral Wat T. Cluverius. On 4 November she was withdrawn from front-line service at last. She became the flagship of the Training Squadron (Rear Admiral Harley H. Christy).

At Philadelphia on 1 January 1931 she was placed on reduced commission under the London Naval Treaty limitations. She was to be demilitarized, with her anti-torpedo bulges, side armor, half of her main battery guns removed. In May 1931 she was back into service, training midshipmen from Annapolis to Europe, rescuing en route the disabled submarine O-12 and stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark, Greenock, Scotland, Cadiz, Spain, and Gibraltar. Back in Hampton Roads (13 August) she was reclassified as “AG-17”. While training NROTC cadets one of her 5-in turret blasted on 18 February 1937 during exercises, when a 5-inch shrapnel shell exploded, killing 6, while 11 were wounded. In 1938 she was temporary flagship for Rear Admiral Wilson Brown (Training Squadron Cdr).

USS Wyoming in 1935 after modernization as training battleship
USS Wyoming in 1935 after modernization as training battleship

The USS Wyoming during WW2

When the war broke out, USS Wyoming was assigned to the Atlantic naval reserve force alongside New York, Arkansas, Texas and the carrier USS Ranger and she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs (Patrol Force, 2 January 1941). By November, she became a full-time gunnery training ship and was off Platt’s Bank when the attack at Pearl Harbor took place. She went to serve as a gunnery training ship from February 1942, mainly in the Chesapeake Bay area and her role cannot be underestimated: The “Chesapeake raider” trained thousands of young anti-aircraft gunners on all the AA arsenal in servce with the USN, from the .50 cal. “Ma Deuce” to the dual 5-in gun. At some point the admiralty contemplated her conversion back to a full battleship configuration, but costs were prohibitive.

USS Wyoming in 1944

Wyoming was modernized at Norfolk Navy Yard, 12 January-3 April 1944, loosing her last 12-in turrets, while four twin and two single 5-inch/38 gun mounts were installed instead along with brand new fire control radars, back in service by 10 April. She would trainin total on average 35,000 AA gunners on the 5-in, 3-in, 1.1-in, 40 mm, 20 mm Oerlikon, and smaller .50 cal/.30 cal, firing more ammunition than any other USN ship in the fleet !

Her training duties in the Chesapeake ended on 30 June 1945. She went to New York Navy Yard for her last modifications and she joined Casco Bay, Composite Task Force 69 (CTF 69) (Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee.) to answer Japanese kamikaze tactics, with many experimental gunnery drills in which towed sleeves, drone aircraft, and radio-controlled targets were used. CTF 69 became the “Operational Development Force”, and she served in this guuse until September 1945, testing new fire control equipment. On board was also the ensign Jimmy Carter, future President. On 11 July 1947, she was decommissioned in Norfolk while Mississippi as AG-128 took over her previous gunnery role. She was stricken from Registry on 16 September, sold for scrap on 30 October and dismantled by Lipsett, Inc. New York.

USS Wyoming on 30 April 1945 as AG-17, Chesapeake bay, after her last modernization.

USS Arkansas

The Arkansas in 1912-18

Prior to WW1, USS Arkansas underwent a routine of training cruises, and New York Navy Yard for periodic maintenance. She participated soon after commission in a fleet review on 14 October 1912 for President William Howard Taft. She carried the president to the Panama Canal zone. She started from Key West, Florida to NY and the Atlantic fleet, making later a tour of the Mediterranean Sea from late October 1913. In 1914 she also participated in the American occupation of Veracruz. Two of Arkansas’s crewmen were killed in the fighting and two others received the Medal of Honor. She also served from Newport, Rhode Island, making torpedo practice and tactical maneuvers in Narragansett Bay. She served routinely in the Carribean waters.

USS Arkansas circa 1918

In 1917, when US declared war on Germany, USS Arkansas was at Battleship Division 7 stationed in Virginia. She patrolled the east coast and trained her crews for several months. She sailed to UK in July 1918, relieving the battleship USS Delaware of BatDiv 9, Grand Fleet 6th Battle Squadron. Apperently during a patrol she mistook an U-Boat persicopes and soon dropped depth charges but did not hit the alleged target, which was never identified. She also secorted the German Hochseeflotte to Scapa Flow after Germany surrendered, and escorted later the ocean liner SS George Washington carrying President Wilson to France. She was back to NY on 26 December, participating in a Naval Review for Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

USS Arkansas in 1920

The interwar

Top view of the USS Arkansas in 1927, during a naval review

The ship was yearly busy between individual training, annual fleet maneuvers and periodic maintenance in NY, but also engineering and gunnery competitions. She also served as a reference vessel to guide Navy Curtiss NC flying boats over the Atlantic for their first crossing. In 1920-21 she served in the Pacific, via the Panama Canal and based at San Francisco, carrying Secretary and Mrs. Josephus Daniels and later participated in a naval review for President Wilson. She was back in August 1921 as flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. She made a tour of Europe in 1923, visiting Copenhagen, Lisbon and Gibraltar and did the same in 1924. In 1925 she served on the east coast and California. Later that year she was overhauled in Philadelphia Navy Yard, receiving new boilers.

USS Arkansas at Kiel.

In 1928 after a cruise with midshipmen she participated in a fleet exercize as part of the hostile “attacking” fleet. In 1929 USS Arkansas cruised in the Caribbean and Canal Zone and after maintenance at NYC, cruiser in Europe, stopping at Cherbourg, Kiel, Oslo, and Edinburgh. In 1931 she did the same, stopping at Copenhagen, Greenock, Cadiz and Gibraltar. She also participated in Fleet Problem XII in which she was “sank” by a dummy torpedo as flagship under Admiral Arthur L. Willard. After the Yorktown Sesquicentennial celebrations in October 1931 she carried President Hoover to the exposition, and to Annapolis at the end of the year. In 1932 she was refitted and recommissioned under George Landenberger, joining the Pacific Fleet.

She made another tour of Europe in 1934, stopping at Plymouth, Nice, Naples, and Gibraltar. She carried the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines to Culebra, for Fleet Landing Exercise No. 1 (FLEX 1), January 1935 and FLEX 2 in January 1936, before another tour of Europe in 1936, visiting Portsmouth, Gothenburg, and Cherbourg. She made another 1937 European tour, carrying midshipmen and the next year until 1939 stayed in the Western Atlantic.

Wartime service

wow’s Arkansas, details of the bridge

USS Arkansas was based at Hampton Roads when the war broke out. She went to the Naval Reserve and carried men, equipments to the future naval air base of Narragansett. She joined her sister ship to the reserve force for the Neutrality Patrols in the Atlantic. She completed a tour of maneuvers off Cuba and went to an overhaul at Norfolk (18 March-24 May 1940). On 19 December 1940 however, with 500 naval reservists on board, USS Arkansas collided with the outbound Collier Melrose during night hours, and the latter sank. But her survivors were picked up. Her only damages were some paint scratched and a smashed lifeboat.

Her active wartime career took an interesting twist when she particopated in the occupation of Iceland, in July 1941, together with USS New York, two cruisers and eleven destroyers, deployed from NS Argentia, Newfoundland. She resumed her duties in neutrality patrol in the mid-Atlantic, but was in Casco Bay, Maine, on 7 December 1941. She sailed to Hvalfjordur, Iceland, and returned to Boston on 24 January 1942, for later more training and patrols. On 6 March, she entered drydock at Norfolk, for an overhaul. Her light AA armament and 3-inch/50 armament were increased. She became the flagship of Task Force 38 (TF 38), escorting convoys to Greenock.

By the fall of 1942 she was ecorting convoys this time to North Africa, to support the invasion of North Africa. She was back in NYC for another overhaul and returned to the Mediterranean from January 1943 to assist US Forces after Operation Torch, bound to, and back from Casablanca. On 8 October, she steamed to Bangor, Northern Ireland and made other escorts until 1944. By April of that year she trained for shore bombardment duties, in preparation for operation Overlord. On the morning of 6 June, she take a position about 4,000 yd (3,700 m) from Omaha Beach ans commenced firing (for the first time in anger) at 05:52 on German bunkers and positions. On 13 June she supported operations of ground forces in Grandcamp les Bains. On 25 June she bombarded Cherbourg, helping troops to advance in the German-occupied port.

Arkansas in 1944

She will ater depart to Weymouth, and then to Bangor, Ireland, then she sailed for the Mediterranean Sea, reached Oran inAlgeria, and Tarento, in July 1944 in preparation for Operation Anvil Dragoon, the landings in Provence. She covered the landings for two days with six Allied cruisers, starting on 15 August. She withdrew to Palermo, Oran and departed for Boston for another refit which lasted until November 1944.

She went through thePanama canal to California, spending the rest of 1945 in training maneuvers before departing on 20 January 1945 for Pearl Harbor, and the Ulithi Attoll in preparation for the amphibious assault on Iwo Jima, with TF 54. On 16 February, 06:00, USS Arkansas opened fre on Japanese positions. Her shelling lasted until 19 February, but she stayed there in order to provied on demand fire support to US Marines until 7 March. She departed to be rearmed and refueled in order to be ready to participate in the last great amphibious assault of the war, the invasion of Okinawa. She was in place by 21 March, providing gunfire support over the course of 46 days. During these days she was repeatedly attacked by Kamikaze squadrons. Her consistent AA provision repelled them all, and despite some near-hits, none struck her. She was back in Guam by 14 May.

She was in Leyte gulf in June 1945, together with Task Group 95.7, along with USS Texas and three cruisers. She remained there until 20 August, and until the Japanese surrendered. In all she would earn four battle stars for her wartime service. Her end was however less glamorous -albeit useful-. After participating in Operation Magic Carpet, the repatriation of American servicemen from the Pacific, she went to San Francisco and Hawaii, Pearl Harbor (8 May 1946) and sailed on 20 May, for the Bikini Atoll, in preparation for Operation crossroads. Ths nuclear experiment started on 1 July (Test ABLE), hit by the air burst. 24 days later at test BAKER however she was sunk by the blast, hit wave and seawave. The shock was apparently “transmitted directly to underwater hulls”, and she capsized, broken only at 230 m (250 yd) from the epicenter. The photo is telling enough. Her she layed up to this day, bottom up, under 180 ft (55 m) of water, an irradiated hulk.

Specifications in 1914

Dimensions 171.30 x 28.40 x 8.7 m – 93 ft 3in, 28 ft 6 in, 29 ft 7 in

Displacement 26,000 long tons Standard, 27,240 tonnes Fully Loaded
Crew 1063 total
Propulsion 4 shafts Parsons turbines, 12 mixed Babcock et Wilcox, 28,000 ihp
Speed 20.5 knots (), Range: xxxxx nm
Armament 12 × 12in (305), 21 × 5in (127), 2x 21in (533 mm) TTs sub bd
Armor Belt, casemate, barbettes 11in (280 mm), turrets 12 in, CT 11.5 in

Specifications (Arkansas) in WW2

Dimensions Same but width 30 m (100 feets)

Displacement 26,066 long tons Standard, 31,000 tons FL
Crew 1650
Propulsion 4 shafts Parsons turbines, 4 oil-fired Babcock et Wilcox boilers 28,000 ihp
Speed 20.5 knots (), Range: 11,000 nmi (20,000 km; 13,000 mi)
Armament 12 × 12 in, 6 × 5 in, 10 × 3 in, 36 × 40 mm, 26 × 20 mm AA
Armor Same but Decks 51-76 mm, Conning tower 12 in

USS Wyoming in 1917
USS Wyoming in 1917

USS Arkansas in 1942
USS Arkansas in 1942 – Both, author’s illustrations

Sources/Read More

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History.
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905–1970. Doubleday and Company
Hore, Peter (2006). Battleships of World War I. London: Southwater Books
US Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command (11 May 2009). “USN Ship Types-Battleships
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Seaforth Publishing
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1921.

Models corner:
To complete.

US Navy WW1
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