Posted tagged ‘gun platform’

Development of Aerial Combat in World War II

May 30, 2010

Fighter development slowed between World War I and II, with the most significant change coming late in the period, when the classic World War I type machines started to give way to metal monocoque or semi-monocoque monoplanes, with cantilever wing structures. Given limited defense budgets, air forces tended to be conservative in their aircraft purchases, and biplanes remained popular with pilots because of their agility. Designs such as the Gloster Gladiator, Fiat CR.42, and Polikarpov I-15 were common even in the late 1930s, and many were still in service as late as 1942. Up until the mid-1930s, the vast majority of fighter aircraft remained fabric-covered biplanes. Fighter armament eventually began to be mounted inside the wings, outside the arc of the propeller, though most designs retained two synchronized machine-guns above the engine (which were considered more accurate). Rifle-caliber guns were the norm, with .50 caliber machine guns and 20 mm cannons deemed “overkill.” Considering that many aircraft were constructed similarly to World War I designs (albeit with aluminum frames), it was not considered unreasonable to use World War I-style armament to counter them. There was insufficient aerial combat during most of the period to disprove this notion.

The rotary engine, popular during World War I, quickly disappeared, replaced chiefly by the stationary radial engine. Aircraft engines increased in power several-fold over the period, going from a typical 180 hp in the 1918 Fokker D.VII to 900 hp in the 1938 Curtiss P-36. The debate between the sleek in-line engines versus the more reliable radial models continued, with naval air forces preferring the radial engines, and land-based forces often choosing in-line units. Radial designs did not require a separate (and vulnerable) cooling system, but had increased drag. In-line engines often had a better power-to-weight ratio, but there were radial engines that kept working even after having suffered significant battle damage.

Some air forces experimented with “heavy fighters” (called “destroyers” by the Germans). These were larger, usually a two- engine aircraft, sometimes adaptations of light or medium bomber types. Such designs typically had greater internal fuel capacity (thus longer range) and heavier armament than their single-engine counterparts. In combat, they proved ungainly and vulnerable to more nimble single-engine fighters.

The primary drive for fighter innovation, right up to the period of rapid rearmament in the late thirties, was not military budgets, but civilian aircraft races. Aircraft designed for these races pioneered innovations like streamlining and more powerful engines that would find their way into the fighters of World War II.

At the very end of the inter-war period came the Spanish Civil War. This was just the opportunity the German Luftwaffe, Italian Regia Aeronautica, and the Soviet Union’s Red Air Force needed to test their latest aircraft designs. Each party sent several aircraft to back their side in the conflict. In the dogfights over Spain, the latest Messerschmitt fighters (Bf 109) did well, as did the Soviet Polikarpov I-16. The German design, however, had considerable room for development and the lessons learned in Spain led to greatly improved models in World War II. The Russians, whose side lost in the conflict, nonetheless determined that their planes were sufficient for their immediate needs. I-16s were later slaughtered en masse by these improved German models in World War II, although they remained the most common Soviet front-line fighter until well into 1942. For their part, the Italians were satisfied with the performance of their Fiat CR.42 biplanes, and being short on funds, continued with this design even though it was obsolescent. The Spanish Civil War also provided an opportunity for updating fighter tactics. One of the innovations to result from the aerial warfare experience this conflict provided was the development of the “finger-four” formation by the German pilot Werner Mölders. Each fighter squadron (German: Staffel) was divided into several flights (Schwärme) of four aircraft. Each Schwarm was divided into two Rotten ,which was a pair of aircraft. Each Rotte was composed of a leader and a wingman. This flexible formation allowed the pilots to maintain greater situational awareness, and the two Rotte could split up at any time and attack on their own. The finger-four would become widely adopted as the fundamental tactical formation over the course of World War II.

Aerial combat formed an important part of World War II military doctrine. The ability of aircraft to locate, harass, and interdict ground forces was an instrumental part of the German combined-arms doctrine, and their inability to achieve air superiority over Britain made a German invasion unfeasible. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel noted the effect of airpower: “Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success.”

During the 1930s, two different streams of thought about air-to-air combat began to emerge, resulting in two different approaches to monoplane fighter development. In Japan and Italy especially, there continued to be a strong belief that lightly armed, highly maneuverable single-seat fighters would still play a primary role in air-to-air combat. Aircraft such as the Nakajima Ki-27, Nakajima Ki-43 and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in Japan, and the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200 in Italy epitomized a generation of monoplanes designed to this concept.

The other stream of thought, which emerged primarily in Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States was the belief that the high speeds of modern combat aircraft and the g-forces imposed by aerial combat meant that dogfighting in the classic World War I sense would be impossible. Fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Yakovlev Yak-1 and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk were all designed for high level speeds and a good rate of climb. Good maneuverability was desirable, but it was not the primary objective.

The 1939 Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkhyn Gol and the initial German invasion of Poland that same year were too brief to provide much feedback to the participants for further evolution of their respective fighter doctrines. During the Winter War, the greatly outnumbered Finnish Air Force, which had adopted the German finger-four formation, bloodied the noses of Russia’s Red Air Force, which relied on the less effective tactic of a three-aircraft delta formation.

European theater (Western Front)

The Battle of France, however, gave the Germans ample opportunity to prove they had mastered the lessons learned from their experiences in the Spanish Civil War. The Luftwaffe, with more combat-experience pilots and the battle-tested Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter operating in the flexible finger-four formation, proved superior to its British and French contemporaries relying on the close, three-fighter “vic” (or “V”) and other formations, despite their flying fighters with comparable maneuver performance.

The Battle of Britain was the first major military campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and it offered further lessons for both sides. Foremost was the value of radar for detecting and tracking enemy aircraft formations, which allowed quick concentration of fighters to intercept them farther from their targets. As a defensive measure, this ground-controlled interception (GCI) approach allowed the Royal Air Force (RAF) to carefully marshal its limited fighter force for maximum effectiveness. At times, the RAF’s Fighter Command achieved interception rates greater than 80%.

In the summer of 1940, then Flight Lieutenant Adolph Malan introduced a variation of the German formation that he called the “fours in line astern”, which spread into more general use throughout Fighter Command. In 1941, Squadron Leader Douglas Bader adopted the “finger-four” formation itself, giving it its English-language name.

The Battle of Britain also revealed inadequacies of extant tactical fighters when used for long-range strategic attacks. The twin-engine heavy fighter concept was revealed as a failed concept as the Luftwaffe’s heavily armed but poorly maneuverable Messerschmitt Bf 110s proved highly vulnerable to nimble Hurricanes and Spitfires; the Bf 110s were subsequently relegated to night fighter and fighter-bomber roles for which they proved better-suited. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe’s Bf 109s, operating near the limits of their range, lacked endurance for prolonged dogfighting over Britain. When bomber losses induced Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to assign most fighters to close-in escort duties, forcing them to fly and maneuver at reduced speeds, German fighter effectiveness fell and losses rose.

The Allies themselves, however, would not learn this latter lesson until they sustained heavy bomber losses of their own during daylight raids against Germany. Despite the early assertions of strategic bombing advocates that “the bomber will always get through”, even heavily armed U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) bombers like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator suffered such high losses to German fighters (such as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 “bomber destroyer”) and flak (AAA) that – following the second raid on Schweinfurt in August 1943 – the U.S. Eighth Air Force was forced to suspend unescorted bombing missions into Germany until longer-range fighters became available for escort. These would appear in the form of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs. The use of drop tanks also became common, which further made the heavy twin-engine fighter designs redundant, as single-engine fighters could now cover a similar distance. Extra fuel was carried in lightweight aluminum tanks below the aircraft, and the tanks were discarded when empty. Such innovations allowed American fighters to range over Germany and Japan by 1944.

As the war progressed, the growing numbers of these advanced, long-range fighters flown by pilots with increasing experience eventually overwhelmed their German opposition, despite the Luftwaffe’s introduction of technological innovations like jet- and rocket-powered interceptors. The steady attrition of experienced pilots forced the Germans to more frequently dip into their training pool to make up numbers when casualties surged. While new Allied airmen in Europe were well-trained, new Luftwaffe pilots were seldom able to get effective training – particularly by the summer of 1944, when Allied fighters often loitered around their airfields. Luftwaffe training flights were additionally hampered by the increasingly acute fuel shortages that began in April 1944.

European theater (Eastern Front)

On the Eastern Front, the strategic surprise of Operation Barbarossa demonstrated that Soviet air defense preparations were woefully inadequate, and the Great Purge rendered any lessons learned by the Red Air Force command from previous experience in Spain and Finland virtually useless. During the first few months of the invasion, Axis air forces were able to destroy large numbers of Red Air Force aircraft on the ground and in one-sided dogfights. However, by the winter of 1941–1942, the Red Air Force was able to put together a cohesive air defense of Moscow, successfully interdict attacks on Leningrad, and begin production of new aircraft types in the relocated semi-built factories in the Urals, Siberia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. These facilities produced more advanced monoplane fighters, such as the Yak-1, Yak-3, LaGG-3, and MiG-3, to wrest air superiority from the Luftwaffe. However, Soviet aircrew training was hasty in comparison to that provided to the Luftwaffe, so Soviet pilot losses continued to be disproportionate until a growing number of survivors were matched to more effective machines.

Beginning in 1942, significant numbers of British, and later U.S., fighter aircraft were also supplied to aid the Soviet war effort, with the Bell P-39 Airacobra proving particularly effective in the lower-altitude combat typical of the Eastern Front. Also from that time, the Eastern Front became the largest arena of fighter aircraft use in the world; fighters were used in all of the roles typical of the period, including close air support, interdiction, escort and interception roles. Some aircraft were armed with weapons as large as 45 mm cannon (particularly for attacking enemy armored vehicles), and the Germans began installing additional smaller cannons in under-wing pods to assist with ground-attack missions.

Pacific theatre

In the Pacific Theater, the experienced Japanese used their latest Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” to clear the skies of all opposition. Allied air forces – often flying obsolete aircraft, as the Japanese were not deemed as dangerous as the Germans – were caught off-guard and driven back until the Japanese became overextended. While the Japanese entered the war with a cadre of superbly trained airmen, they were never able to adequately replace their losses with pilots of the same quality, resulting in zero leave for experienced pilots and sending pilots with minimal skill into battle, while the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and U.S. schools produced thousands of competent airmen, compared to hundred the Japanese graduated a year before the war. Japanese fighter planes were also optimized for agility and range, and in time Allied airmen developed tactics that made better use of the superior armament and protection in their Grumman F4F Wildcats and Curtiss P-40s. From mid-1942, newer Allied fighter models were faster (Wildcat was 13 mph slower than the Zero, but the Warhawk was 29 mph faster) and better-armed than the Japanese fighters. Improved tactics such as the Thach weave helped counter the more agile Zeros and Nakajima Ki-43 ‘Oscars’. Japanese industry was not up to the task of mass-producing fighter designs equal to the latest Western models, and Japanese fighters had been largely driven from the skies by mid-1944.

Technological innovations

Piston-engine power increased considerably during the war. The Curtiss P-36 Hawk had a 900 hp (670 kW) radial engine but was soon redesigned as the P-40 Warhawk with a 1100 hp (820 kW) in-line engine. By 1943, the latest P-40N had a 1300 hp (970 kW) Allison engine. At war’s end, the German Focke-Wulf Ta 152 interceptor could achieve 2050 hp (1530 kW) with an MW-50 (methanol-water injection) supercharger and the American P-51H Mustang fitted with the Packard V-1650-9 could achieve 2218 hp (1650 kW) under war emergency power. The Spitfire Mk I of 1939 was powered by a 1030 hp (770 kW) Merlin II; its 1945 successor, the Spitfire F.Mk 21, was equipped with the 2035 hp (1520 kW) Griffon 61. Likewise, the radial engines favored for many fighters also grew from 1,100 hp (820 kW) to as much as 2090 hp (770 kW) during the same timeframe.

The first turbojet-powered fighter designs became operational in 1944, and clearly outperformed their piston-engined counterparts. New designs such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Gloster Meteor demonstrated the effectiveness of the new propulsion system. (Rocket-powered interceptors – most notable the Messerschmitt Me 163 – appeared at the same time, but proved less effective.) Many of these fighters could do over 660 km/h in level flight, and were fast enough in a dive that they started encountering the transonic buffeting experienced near the speed of sound; such turbulence occasionally resulted in a jet breaking up in flight due to the heavy load placed on an aircraft near the so-called “sound barrier”. Dive brakes were added to jet fighters late in World War II to minimize these problems and restore control to pilots.

More powerful armament became a priority early in the war, once it became apparent that newer stressed-skin monoplane fighters could not be easily shot down with rifle-caliber machine guns. The Germans’ experiences in the Spanish Civil War led them to put 20 mm cannons on their fighters. The British soon followed suit, putting cannons in the wings of their Hurricanes and Spitfires. The Americans, lacking a native cannon design, instead chose to place multiple .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns on their fighters. Armaments continued to increase over the course of the war, with the German Me 262 jet having four 30 mm cannons in the nose. Cannons fired explosive shells, and could blast a hole in an enemy aircraft rather than relying on kinetic energy from a solid bullet striking a critical subsystem (fuel line, hydraulics, control cable, pilot, etc.). A debate existed over the merits of high rate-of-fire machine guns versus slower-firing, but more devastating, cannon.

With the increasing need for close air support on the battlefield, fighters were increasingly fitted with bomb racks and used as fighter-bombers. Some designs, such as the German Fw 190, proved extremely capable in this role – though the designer Kurt Tank had designed it as a pure interceptor. While carrying air-to-surface ordnance such as bombs or rockets beneath the aircraft’s wing, its maneuverability is decreased because of lessened lift and increased drag, but once the ordnance is delivered (or jettisoned), the aircraft is again a fully capable fighter aircraft. By their flexible nature, fighter-bombers offer the command staff the freedom to assign a particular air group to air superiority or ground-attack missions, as need requires.

Rapid technology advances in radar, which had been invented shortly prior to World War II, would permit their being fitted to some fighters, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 110, Bristol Beaufighter, de Havilland Mosquito, Grumman F6F Hellcat and Northrop P-61 Black Widow, to enable them to locate targets at night. The Germans developed several night-fighter types as they were under constant night bombardment by RAF Bomber Command. The British, who developed the first radar-equipped night fighters in 1940–1941, lost their technical lead to the Luftwaffe. Since the radar of the era was fairly primitive and difficult to use, larger two- or three-seat aircraft with dedicated radar operators were commonly adapted to this role.

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B-25 : The Pistol Packing Bomber

May 16, 2010

B-25 Mitchell

The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.The B-25 was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. The B-25 is the only American military aircraft named after a specific person. By the end of its production, nearly 10,000 B-25s in numerous models had been built. These included a few limited variations, such as the United States Navy’s and Marine Corps’ PBJ-1 patrol bomber and the United States Army Air Forces’ F-10 photo reconnaissance aircraft.

Design and development

Flight Performance School also included work in evaluating the performance of this B-25 Mitchell medium bomberThe B-25 was a descendant of the earlier XB-21 (North American-39) project of the mid-1930s. Experience gained in developing that aircraft was eventually used by North American in designing the B-25 (called the NA-40 by the company). One NA-40 was built, with several modifications later being done to test a number of potential improvements. These improvements included Wright R-2600 radial engines, which would become standard on the later B-25.

In 1939, the modified and improved NA-40B was submitted to the United States Army Air Corps for evaluation. This aircraft was originally intended to be an attack bomber for export to the United Kingdom and France, both of which had a pressing requirement for such aircraft in the early stages of World War II. However, those countries changed their minds, opting instead for the also-new Douglas DB-7 (later to be used by the US as the A-20 Havoc). Despite this loss of sales, the NA-40B re-entered the spotlight when the Army Air Corps evaluated it for use as a medium bomber. Unfortunately, the NA-40B was destroyed in a crash on 11 April 1939. Nonetheless, the type was ordered into production, along with the Army’s other new medium bomber, the Martin B-26 Marauder.

Early production

An improvement of the NA-40B, dubbed the NA-62, was the basis for the first actual B-25. Due to the pressing need for medium bombers by the Army, no experimental or service-test versions were built. Any necessary modifications were made during production runs, or to existing aircraft at field modification centers around the world.A significant change in the early days of B-25 production was a re-design of the wing. In the first nine aircraft, a constant-dihedral wing was used, in which the wing had a consistent, straight, slight upward angle from the fuselage to the wing tip. This design caused stability problems, and as a result, the dihedral angle was nullified on the outboard wing sections, giving the B-25 its slightly gull wing configuration. Less noticeable changes during this period included an increase in the size of the tail fins and a decrease in their inward cant.A total of 6,608 B-25s were built at North American’s Fairfax Airport plant in Kansas City, Kansas.A descendant of the B-25 was the North American XB-28, meant to be a high-altitude version of the B-25. Despite this premise, the actual aircraft bore little resemblance to the Mitchell. It had much more in common with the B-26 Marauder.

Operational history

The B-25 first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which sixteen B-25Bs led by the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, attacked mainland Japan four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mission gave a much-needed lift in spirits to the Americans, and alarmed the Japanese who had believed their home islands were inviolable by enemy troops. While the amount of actual damage done was relatively minor, it forced the Japanese to divert troops for the home defense for the remainder of the war. The raiders took off from the carrier USS Hornet and successfully bombed Tokyo and four other Japanese cities without loss. However, 15 subsequently crash-landed en route to recovery fields in Eastern China. These losses were the result of the task force being spotted by Japanese fishing vessels forcing the bombers to take off 170 mi early, fuel exhaustion, stormy nighttime conditions with zero visibility, and lack of electronic homing aids at the recovery bases. Only one landed intact; it came down in the Soviet Union, where its five-man crew was interned and the aircraft confiscated. Of the 80 aircrew, 69 survived their historic mission and eventually made it back to American lines.Following a number of additional modifications, including the addition of Plexiglas windows for the navigator and radio operator, heavier nose armament, and deicing and anti-icing equipment, the B-25C was released to the Army. This was the second mass-produced version of the Mitchell, the first being the lightly-armed B-25B used by the Doolittle Raiders. The B-25C and B-25D differed only in location of manufacture: -Cs at Inglewood, California, -Ds at Kansas City, Kansas. A total of 3,915 B-25Cs and -Ds were built by North American during World War II.

Although the B-25 was originally designed to bomb from medium altitudes in level flight, it was used frequently in the Southwest Pacific theater (SWPA) on treetop-level strafing and parafrag (parachute-retarded fragmentation bombs) missions against Japanese airfields in New Guinea and the Philippines. These heavily-armed Mitchells, field-modified at Townsville, Australia, by Major Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn and North American tech rep Jack Fox, were also used on strafing and skip-bombing missions against Japanese shipping trying to re-supply their land-based armies. Under the leadership of Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, B-25s of the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces devastated Japanese targets in the SWPA from 1942 to 1945, and played a significant role in pushing the Japanese back to their home islands. B-25s were also used with devastating effect in the Central Pacific, Alaska, North Africa, Mediterranean and China-Burma-India theaters.Because of the urgent need for hard-hitting strafer aircraft, a version dubbed the B-25G was developed, in which the standard-length transparent nose and the bombardier were replaced by a shorter solid nose containing two fixed .50 in machine guns and a 75 mm M4 cannon, one of the largest weapons fitted to an aircraft, similar to the experimental British Mosquito Mk. XVIII, and German Ju 88P heavy cannon carrying aircraft. The cannon was manually loaded and serviced by the navigator, who was able to perform these operations without leaving his crew station just behind the pilot. This was possible due to the shorter nose of the G-model and the length of the M4, which allowed the breech to extend into the navigator’s compartment.

The B-25G’s successor, the B-25H, had even more firepower. The M4 gun was replaced by the lighter T13E1, designed specifically for the aircraft. The 75 mm gun fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,362 ft/s . Due to its low rate of fire (approximately four rounds could be fired in a single strafing run) and relative ineffectiveness against ground targets, as well as substantial recoil, the 75 mm gun was sometimes removed from both G and H models and replaced with two additional .50 in machine guns as a field modification. The -H also mounted four fixed forward-firing .50 machine guns in the nose, four more fixed ones in forward-firing cheek blisters, two more in the top turret, one each in a pair of new waist positions, and a final pair in a new tail gunner’s position. Company promotional material bragged the B-25H could “bring to bear 10 machine guns coming and four going, in addition to the 75 mm cannon, a brace of eight rockets and 3,000 lb of bombs.”

The B-25H also featured a redesigned cockpit area, with the top turret moved forward to the navigator’s compartment (thus requiring the addition of the waist and tail gun positions), and a heavily modified cockpit designed to be operated by a single pilot, the co-pilot’s station and controls deleted, and the seat cut down and used by the navigator/cannoneer, the radio operator being moved to the aft compartment, operating the waist guns. A total of 1,400 B-25Gs and B-25Hs were built.

The final version of the Mitchell, the B-25J, looked much like the earlier B, C and D, having reverted to the longer nose. The less-than-successful 75 mm cannon was deleted on the J model. Instead, 800 of this version were built with a solid nose containing eight .50 machine guns, while other J-models featured the earlier “greenhouse” style nose containing the bombardier’s position. Regardless of the nose style used, all J-models also included two .50 in guns in a “fuselage package” located directly under the pilot’s station, and two more such guns in an identical package just under the co-pilot’s compartment. The solid-nose B-25J variant carried an impressive total of 18 .50 in guns: eight in the nose, four in under-cockpit packages, two in an upper turret, two in the waist, and a pair in the tail. No other bomber of World War II carried as many guns. However, the first 555 B-25Js (the B-25J-1-NC production block) were delivered without the fuselage package guns, because it was discovered muzzle blast from these guns was causing severe stress in the fuselage;this was cured with heavier fuselage skin patches, while later production runs returned these guns, they were often removed as a field modification for the same reason. In all, 4,318 B-25Js were built.

The B-25 was a safe and forgiving aircraft to fly. With an engine out, 60° banking turns into the dead engine were possible, and control could be easily maintained down to 145 mph . However, the pilot had to remember to maintain engine-out directional control at low speeds after take off with rudder – if this was attempted with ailerons, the aircraft would snap out of control. The tricycle landing gear made for excellent visibility while taxiing. The only significant complaint about the B-25 was the extremely high noise level produced by its engines; as a result, many pilots eventually suffered from various degrees of hearing loss. The high noise level was due to design and space restrictions in the engine cowlings which resulted in the exhaust “stacks” protuding directly from the cowling ring and partly covered by a small triangular fairing. This directed exhaust and noise directly at the pilot and crew compartments. Crew members and operators on the airshow circuit frequently comment that “the B-25 is the fastest way to turn aviation fuel directly into noise”. Many B-25’s now in civilian ownership have been modified with exhaust rings that direct the exhaust through the outboard bottom section of the cowling.

The Mitchell was also an amazingly sturdy aircraft and could withstand tremendous punishment. One well-known B-25C of the 321st Bomb Group was nicknamed “Patches” because its crew chief painted all the aircraft’s flak hole patches with high-visibility zinc chromate paint. By the end of the war, this aircraft had completed over 300 missions, was belly-landed six times and sported over 400 patched holes. The airframe was so bent, straight-and-level flight required 8° of left aileron trim and 6° of right rudder, causing the aircraft to “crab” sideways across the sky.

An interesting characteristic of the B-25 was its ability to extend range by using one-quarter wing flap settings. Since the aircraft normally cruised in a slightly nose-high attitude, about 40 gal of fuel was below the fuel pickup point and thus unavailable for use. The flaps-down setting gave the aircraft a more level flight attitude, which resulted in this fuel becoming available, thus slightly extending the aircraft’s range.

By the time a separate United States Air Force was established in 1947, most B-25s had been consigned to long-term storage. However, a select number continued in service through the late 1940s and 1950s in a variety of training, reconnaissance and support roles. Its principal use during this period was for undergraduate training of multi-engine aircraft pilots slated for reciprocating engine or turboprop cargo, aerial refueling or reconnaissance aircraft. Still others were assigned to units of the Air National Guard in training roles in support of F-89 Scorpion and F-94 Starfire operations. TB-25J-25-NC Mitchell, 44-30854, the last B-25 in the USAF inventory, assigned at March AFB, California as of March 1960[6], was flown to Eglin AFB, Florida, from Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, on 21 May 1960, the last flight by a USAF B-25, and presented by Brig. Gen. A. J. Russell, Commander of SAC’s 822nd Air Division at Turner AFB, to the Air Proving Ground Center Commander, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Warren, who in turn presented the bomber to Valparaiso, Florida Mayor Randall Roberts on behalf of the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. Four of the original Tokyo Raiders were present for the ceremony, Col. Davy Jones, Col. Jack Simms, Lt. Col. Joseph Manske, and retired Master Sgt. Edwin W. Horton. Donated back to the Air Force Armament Museum circa 1974 and marked as Doolittle’s 40-2344.

Empire State Building incident

On Saturday, 28 July 1945, at 0940 (while flying in thick fog), a USAAF B-25D crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, hitting between the 79th and 80th floor. Fourteen people were killed — 11 in the building, along with Colonel William Smith and the other two occupants of the bomber. Betty Lou Oliver, an elevator attendant, survived the impact and a subsequent accident with the elevator. It was partly because of this incident that towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center were designed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707 aircraft (unfortunately NOT Arab terrorist hijacked airliners).

Variants

B-25

The first version of the B-25 delivered. No prototypes were ordered. The first nine aircraft were built with constant dihedral angle. Due to low stability, the wing was redesigned so that the dihedral was eliminated on the outboard section. (Number made: 24.)
B-25A
Version of the B-25 modified to make it combat ready; additions included self-sealing fuel tanks, crew armor, and an improved tail gunner station. No changes were made in the armament. Re-designated obsolete (RB-25A designation) in 1942. (Number made: 40.)
B-25B
Rear turret deleted; manned dorsal and remotely-operated ventral turrets added, each with a pair of .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. The ventral turret was retractable, but the increased drag still reduced the cruise speed by 30 mph (48 km/h). 23 were delivered to the RAF as the Mitchell Mk I. The Doolittle Raiders flew B-25Bs on their famous mission. (Number made: 120.)
B-25C
Improved version of the B-25B: powerplants upgraded from Wright R-2600-9 radials to R-2600-13s; de-icing and anti-icing equipment added; the navigator received a sighting blister; nose armament was increased to two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, one fixed and one flexible. The B-25C model was the first mass-produced B-25 version; it was also used in the United Kingdom (as the Mitchell II), in Canada, China, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union. First mass-produced B-25 model. (Number made: 1,625.)
ZB-25C
B-25D
Identical to the B-25C, the only difference was that the B-25D was made in Kansas City, Kansas, whereas the B-25C was made in Inglewood, California. First flew on 3 January 1942. (Number made: 2,290.)
ZB-25D
XB-25E
Single B-25C modified to test de-icing and anti-icing equipment that circulated exhaust from the engines in chambers in the leading and trailing edges and empennage. The aircraft was tested for almost two years, beginning in 1942; while the system proved extremely effective, no production models were built that used it prior to the end of World War II. Many prop aircraft today use the XB-25E system. (Number made: 1, converted.)
ZXB-25E
XB-25F-A
Modified B-25C that tested the use of insulated electrical de-icing coils mounted inside the wing and empennage leading edges as a de-icing system. The hot air de-icing system tested on the XB-25E was more practical. (Number made: 1, converted.)
XB-25G
Modified B-25C in which the transparent nose was replaced by a solid one carrying two fixed .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and a 75 mm (2.95 in) M4 cannon, then the largest weapon ever carried on an American bomber. (Number made: 1, converted.)
B-25G
To satisfy the dire need for ground-attack and strafing aircraft, the B-25G was made following the success of the prototype XB-25G. The production model featured increased armor and a greater fuel supply than the XB-25G. One B-25G was passed to the British, who gave it the name Mitchell II that had been used for the B-25C. (Number made: 420.)
B-25H

B-25H Barbie III taxiing at Centennial Airport, ColoradoAn improved version of the B-25G. It featured two additional fixed .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose and four in fuselage-mounted pods; the heavy M4 cannon was replaced by a lighter 75 mm (2.95 in) T13E1. (Number made: 1,000; number left flying in the world: 1.)
B-25J
The last production model of the B-25, often called a cross between the B-25C and the B-25H. It had a transparent nose, but many of the delivered aircraft were modified to have a solid nose. Most of its 14–18 machine guns were forward-facing for strafing missions. 316 were delivered to the Royal Air Force as the Mitchell III. (Number made: 4,318.)
CB-25J
Utility transport version.
VB-25J
A number of B-25s were converted for use as staff and VIP transports. Henry H. Arnold and Dwight D. Eisenhower both used converted B-25Js as their personal transports.

U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps variants

PBJ-1C
Similar to the B-25C for the US Navy; often fitted with airborne search radar and used in the anti-submarine role.
PBJ-1D
Similar to the B-25D for the US Navy and US Marine Corps. Differed in having a single .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun in the tail turret and beam gun positions similar to the B-25H. Often fitted with airborne search radar and used in the anti-submarine role.
PBJ-1G
US Navy/US Marine Corps designation for the B-25G
PBJ-1H
US Navy/US Marine Corps designation for the B-25H
PBJ-1J
US Navy designation for the B-25J-NC (Blocks -1 through -35) with improvements in radio and other equipment. Often fitted with “package guns” and wingtip search radar for the anti-shipping/anti-submarine role.

Survivors

There are more than one hundred surviving B-25 Mitchells scattered over the world, mainly in the United States. Most of them are on static display in museums, but about 45 are still airworthy.

On 18 April 2010, 17 airworthy B-25s took off from the airfield behind the National Museum of the United States Air Force and flew over in formation to commerate the 68th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. Four of the surviving members of the Raid were in attendance for the reunion; Cole, Griffin, Hite and Thatcher, although Hite departed before the flyover. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Commander of Air Force Material Command General Donald Hoffman and the Director of the National Museum of the United States Air Force Major General Charles Metcalf were there also.

Specifications (B-25J)

North American B-25 Mitchell

Role Medium bomber

Manufacturer North American Aviation

First flight 19 August 1940

Introduction 1941

Retired 1979 (Indonesia)

Primary users United States Army Air Forces,Royal Canadian Air Force,Royal Air Force,Soviet Air Force

Number built 9,984

Developed from XB-21

Developed into North American XB-28

General characteristics

Crew: six (two pilots, navigator/bombardier, turret gunner/engineer, radio operator/waist gunner, tail gunner
Length: 52 ft 11 in (16.1 m)
Wingspan: 67 ft 6 in (20.6 m)
Height: 17 ft 7 in (4.8 m)
Wing area: 610 sq ft (57 m²)
Empty weight: 21,120 lb (9,580 kg)
Loaded weight: 33,510 lb (15,200 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 41,800 lb (19,000 kg)
Powerplant: 2× Wright R-2600 “Cyclone” radials, 1,850 hp (1,380 kW) each
Performance

Maximum speed: 275 mph (239 kn, 442 km/h)
Cruise speed: 230 mph (200 kn, 370 km/h)
Combat radius: 1,350 mi (1,170 nmi, 2,170 km)
Ferry range: 2,700 mi (2,300 nmi, 4,300 km)
Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
Rate of climb: 790 ft/min (4 m/s)
Wing loading: 55 lb/ft² (270 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.110 hp/lb (182 W/kg)
Armament

Guns: 12-18 × .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
Hardpoints: 2,000 lb (900 kg) ventral shackles to hold one external Mark 13 torpedo[15]
Rockets: 3,000 lb (1,360 kg) bombs + eight 5 in (130 mm) high velocity aircraft rockets (HVAR)
Bombs: 6,000 lb (2,700 kg)

USS Texas: Battleship of the Republic

May 8, 2010

USS Texas (BB-35)

 

USS Texas BB 35, the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the U.S. state of Texas, is a New York-class battleship. The ship was launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914.

 

Soon after her commissioning, Texas saw action in Mexican waters following the “Tampico Incident” and made numerous sorties into the North Sea during World War I. When the United States formally entered World War II in 1941, Texas took on the role of escorting war convoys across the Atlantic, and she later shelled Axis-held beaches for the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings before being transferred to the Pacific Theater late in 1944 to provide naval gunfire support during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Texas was decommissioned in 1948, having earned a total of five battle stars for service in World War II, and is presently a museum ship near Houston, Texas. Among the world’s remaining battleships, Texas is notable for being the oldest remaining dreadnought battleship. She is also noteworthy for being one of only six remaining ships to have served in both World Wars. Among US-built battleships, Texas is notable for her sizable number of firsts: the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers, the first US battleship to launch an aircraft, one of the first to receive the CXAM-1 version of CXAM commercial radar in the US Navy, the first US battleship to become a permanent museum ship, and the first battleship declared to be a US National Historic Landmark.

 Construction

 

Texas was the first of two New York-class battleships authorized on 24 June 1910. Bids for Texas were accepted from 27 September-1 December with the winning bid of $5,830,000 — excluding the price of armor and armament — submitted by Newport News Shipbuilding Company. The contract was signed on 17 December and the plans were delivered to the building yard seven days later. Texas’s keel was laid down on 17 April 1911 at Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 18 May 1912, sponsored by Miss Claudia Lyon, daughter of Colonel Cecil Lyon, Republican national committeeman from Texas, and commissioned on 12 March 1914 with Captain Albert W. Grant in command.

Texas’s main battery consisted of ten 14 in /45 cal Mark 1 guns, which fired 1,400 lb  armor piercing shells with a range of 13 mi . Her secondary battery consisted of twenty-one 5 in /51 cal guns. She originally also mounted four 21 in  torpedo tubes, two on each side of the 2nd Platform at frames 32 and 34.5 with the Torpedo Rooms also storing 12 torpedoes. Texas and her sister New York were the only battleships to store and hoist their 14 in  ammunition in a nose-down position, in cast-iron cups.

 

 Service history

 

On 24 March 1914, Texas departed Norfolk Navy Yard and set a course for New York City, making an overnight stop at Tompkinsville, New York on the night of 26 March. Entering New York Navy Yard on the next day, she spent the next three weeks there undergoing the installation of fire-control equipment.

During her stay in New York, President Woodrow Wilson ordered a number of ships of the Atlantic Fleet to Mexican waters in response to tension created when a detail of Mexican federal troops detained an American gunboat crew at Tampico. The problem was quickly resolved locally, but Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo sought further redress by demanding an official disavowal of the act by the Huerta regime and a 21-gun salute to the American flag.

President Wilson saw in the incident an opportunity to put pressure on a government he felt was undemocratic. On 20 April, Wilson placed the matter before the United States Congress and sent orders to Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, commanding the naval force off the Mexican coast, instructing him to land a force at Veracruz and to seize the customs house there in retaliation for what is now known as the “Tampico Incident”. That action was carried out on 21–22 April.

Due to the intensity of the situation, Texas put to sea on 13 May and headed directly to operational duty without benefit of the usual shakedown cruise and post-shakedown repair period. After a five-day stop at Hampton Roads from 14–19 May, she joined Rear Admiral Fletcher’s force off Veracruz on 26 May. She remained in Mexican waters for just over two months, supporting the American forces ashore. On 8 August, she left Veracruz and set a course for Nipe Bay, Cuba, and from there steamed to New York where she entered the Navy Yard on 21 August.

The battleship remained there until 6 September, when she returned to sea, joined the Atlantic Fleet, and settled into a schedule of normal fleet operations. In October, she returned to the Mexican coast. Later that month, Texas became the station ship at Tuxpan, a duty that lasted until 4 November, when the ship steamed for Galveston, Texas. While at Galveston on 7 November, Texas Governor Oscar Colquitt presented the ship’s silver service to Captain Grant. The Young Men’s Business League of Waco, Texas, raised the $10,000 to purchase the silver.

Texas sailed for Tampico on 14 November and thereafter to Veracruz, where she remained for a month. The ship finally bade Mexico farewell on 20 December and set a course for New York. The battleship entered New York Navy Yard on 28 December and remained there undergoing repairs until 16 February 1915. On 25 May, Texas , along with battleships South Carolina, Louisiana, and Michigan rescued 230 passengers from the damaged Holland America Line passenger ship Ryndam, which had been rammed by Norwegian-flagged fruit steamer Joseph J. Cuneo. In 1916, Texas became the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft weapons with the addition of 3 in /50 cal guns, and the first to control gunfire with directors and rangefinders, analog forerunners of today’s computers.

 

 World War I

 

Upon her return to active duty with the fleet, Texas resumed a schedule of training operations along the New England coast and off the Virginia Capes, alternated with winter fleet tactical and gunnery drills in the West Indies. That routine lasted just over two years until the February-to-March crisis over unrestricted submarine warfare catapulted the US into World War I in April 1917. The 6 April declaration of war found Texas riding at anchor in the mouth of the York River with the other Atlantic Fleet battleships. She remained in the Virginia Capes–Hampton Roads vicinity until mid-August, conducting exercises and training Naval Armed Guard gun crews for service on board merchant ships. One of the gun crews trained aboard Texas was assigned to the merchant vessel Mongolia at the beginning of the war. On 19 April, the crew of Mongolia sighted a surfaced German U-boat and the gun crew trained aboard Texas opened fire on the U-boat averting an attack on Mongolia and firing the first American shots of World War I.

In August, she steamed to New York for repairs, arriving at Base 10 on 19 August and entering the New York Navy Yard soon thereafter. She completed repairs on 26 September and got underway for Port Jefferson that same day. During the mid-watch on 27 September, she ran hard aground on Block Island. Captain Victor Blue and his navigator, confused about shore lights and more concerned about the minefield at the opening of Long Island Sound made the turn at the wrong time and ran the ship aground on the island from the bow all the way aft beyond midships. For three days, her crew lightened ship to no avail. On 30 September, tugs came to her assistance, and she finally backed clear. Hull damage dictated a return to the yard, and the extensive repairs required precluded her departure with Battleship Division 9  for the British Isles in November. The secondary battery was reduced to eighteen 5 in guns in October 1917. Captain Blue, a protege of Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels, was never court-martialed and remained in command of Texas. The Navy Department held his navigator entirely responsible for the accident.

Mid-January 1918 found the battleship back at New York preparing for the voyage across the Atlantic, including the removal of two more 5 in  guns reducing the total number aboard to sixteen. She departed New York on 30 January 1918, arrived at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland on 11 February, and rejoined BatDiv 9, by then known as the 6th Battle Squadron of Britain’s Grand Fleet.

Texas’s service with the Grand Fleet consisted entirely of convoy missions and occasional forays to reinforce the British squadron on blockade duty in the North Sea whenever German heavy units threatened. The fleet alternated between bases at Scapa Flow and at the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Texas began her mission only five days after her arrival at Scapa Flow, where she sortied with the entire fleet to reinforce the 4th Battle Squadron, then on duty in the North Sea. She returned to Scapa Flow the next day and remained until 8 March, when she put to sea on a convoy escort mission from which she returned on 13 March. Texas and her division mates entered the Firth of Forth on 12 April but got underway again on the 17th to escort a convoy. The American battleships returned to base on 20 April. Four days later, Texas again stood out to sea to support the Second Battle Squadron the day after the German High Seas Fleet had sortied from Jade Bay toward the Norwegian coast to threaten an Allied convoy. Forward units caught sight of the retiring Germans on 25 April, but at such an extreme range there was no possibility of bringing the German fleet into engagement with the Grand Fleet. The Germans returned to their base that day, and the Grand Fleet, including Texas, did likewise on the next.

Texas and her division mates passed a relatively inactive May in the Firth of Forth. On 9 June, she got underway with the other warships of the 6th Battle Squadron and headed back to the anchorage at Scapa Flow, arriving there the following day. From 30 June-2 July, Texas and her colleagues acted as escort for American minelayers adding to the North Sea mine barrage. After a two-day return to Scapa Flow, Texas put to sea with the Grand Fleet to conduct two days of tactical exercises and war games. At the conclusion of those drills on 8 July, the fleet entered the Firth of Forth. For the remainder of World War I, Texas and the other battleships of Division 9 continued to operate with the Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron. With the German Fleet increasingly tied to its bases in the estuaries of the Jade and the Ems rivers, the American and British ships settled into a routine schedule of operations with little-to-no hint of combat operations. That state of affairs lasted until the Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November 1918. At 03:35 on 21 November, she got underway to accompany the Grand Fleet to meet the surrendering German Fleet. The two fleets rendezvoused about 46 mi east of the Isle of May and proceeded to the Firth of Forth. Afterward, the American contingent moved to Portland Harbour, England, arriving there on 4 December.

 

 Inter-War period

On 12 December 1918, Texas put to sea with BatDivs 9 and 6 to meet President Woodrow Wilson embarked in George Washington on his way to the Paris Peace Conference. The rendezvous took place around 07:30 the following morning and provided an escort for the President into Brest, France, where the ships arrived at 12:30 that afternoon. On the afternoon of 14 December, Texas and the other American battleships departed Brest to return to the United States. The warships arrived off Ambrose light station on Christmas Day, 1918, and entered New York on the next day.

Following overhaul, Texas resumed duty with the Atlantic Fleet early in 1919. On 10 March, she became the first American battleship to launch an airplane when Lieutenant Commander Edward O. McDonnell flew a British-built Sopwith Camel off the warship. Later in 1919 that accomplishment was expounded upon when Texas’s captain, Nathan C. Twining, successfully employed naval aircraft to spot for the fall of shells during a main battery exercise. The results were that gunfire spotted by aircraft was significantly more accurate than shipboard spotters. In testimony to the Navy General Board, Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Whiting attested that the increase in gunfire effectiveness with air spotting was likely to be as great as 200%. As a result of these first experiments, the Navy would add floatplanes to all

the fleet’s battleships and the newer cruisers. In May 1919, Texas served as a plane guard and navigational aid for the successful attempt by Navy Curtiss NC flying boat NC-4 to become the first airplane to cross the Atlantic. On 26 July 1919 Texas entered the Pacific Ocean as part of the newly formed Pacific Fleet and she would spend the next five and half years as a part of Pacific Fleet. On 17 July the following year, she was designated BB-35 under the Navy’s newly adopted alpha-numeric system of hull classification symbols.

Texas left the Pacific on 16 January 1924 and returned to the east coast for overhaul and to participate in a training cruise to European waters with Naval Academy Midshipmen embarked. While operating in the Atlantic, on 25 November 1924, she sank the incomplete battleship Washington for compliance with the Naval Arms Limitation Treaty of 1922, and later that fall, conducted maneuvers as a unit of the Scouting Fleet. On 31 July 1925 ,until 23 November 1926, she entered Norfolk Navy Yard for a major modernization overhaul during which both cage masts were replaced with tripod masts, her coal-fired boilers were converted to oil-fired, and her fire-control equipment was upgraded to the very latest.

Following completion of her overhaul, Texas was designated the flagship of the United States Fleet and resumed duty along the eastern seaboard. She kept at that task until late 1927, when she did a brief tour of duty in the Pacific from late September till early December. In 1927, Texas set another first with the showing of “talking” pictures for crew entertainment. Near the end of the year, Texas returned to the Atlantic and resumed normal duty with the Scouting Fleet. In January 1928, she transported President Calvin Coolidge to Havana, Cuba, for the Pan-American Conference and then continued on via the Panama Canal and the west coast to maneuvers with the fleet near Hawaii.

She returned to New York early in 1929 for her annual overhaul and had completed it by March when she began another brief tour of duty in the Pacific. She returned to the Atlantic in June and resumed normal duty with the Scouting Fleet. In April 1930, she took time from her operating schedule to escort Leviathan into New York when that ship carried the returning US delegation to the London Naval Conference. In January 1931, she left the yard at New York as flagship of the United States Fleet and headed via the Panama Canal to San Diego, California, and then on to Los Angeles  which became her home port for the next six years and three months. There would be a temporary redeployment back to the Atlantic from April to October 1934. During this Pacific period, she served first as flagship for the entire Fleet and, later, as flagship for BatDiv 1.

In the summer of 1937, she once more was reassigned to the east coast, as the flagship of the Training Detachment, United States Fleet. Late in 1938 or early in 1939, the warship became flagship of the newly organized Atlantic Squadron, built around BatDiv 5. Through both organizational assignments, her labors were directed primarily to training missions, Midshipman cruises, Naval Reserve drills, and training members of the Fleet Marine Force. In December 1938, Texas received for testing the first shipborne radar designed and made by a commercial company RCA for the US Navy, the 385 megacycles CXZ. In 1941, Texas was one of fourteen ships to receive the RCA CXAM-1 radar.

 

 

 World War II

 Early operations

Soon after war broke out in Europe in September 1939, Texas began operating on the “Neutrality Patrol”, an American attempt to keep the war out of the western hemisphere. Later, as the United States moved toward more active support of the Allied cause, the warship began convoying ships carrying Lend-Lease matériel to the United Kingdom. In February 1941, the US 1st Marine Division was founded aboard Texas. On 1 February, Admiral Ernest J. King hoisted his flag as Commander-in-Chief of the re-formed Atlantic Fleet aboard Texas. That same year, while on “Neutrality Patrol” in the Atlantic, Texas was stalked unsuccessfully by the German submarine U-203.

 Convoy duty

Sunday, 7 December 1941, found the battleship at Casco Bay, Maine, undergoing a rest and relaxation period following three months of watch duty at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. After 10 days of Casco Bay, she returned to Argentia and remained there until late January 1942, when she got underway to escort a convoy to England. After delivering her charges, the battleship patrolled waters near Iceland until March when she returned home. Around this time, the secondary battery was reduced to six 5 in  guns. For the next six months, she continued convoy-escort missions to various destinations. On one occasion, she escorted Guadalcanal bound Marines as far as Panama; on another, the warship screened service troops to Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. More frequently, she made voyages to and from the United Kingdom escorting both cargo and troop carrying ships.

 Operation Torch

On 23 October, Texas embarked upon her first major combat operation when she sortied with Task Group 34.8 , the Northern Attack Group for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The objective assigned to this group was Mehedia near Port Lyautey and the port itself. The ships arrived off the assault beaches early in the morning of 8 November and began preparations for the invasion. Texas transmitted Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first “Voice of Freedom” broadcast, asking the French not to oppose Allied landings on North Africa. When the troops went ashore, Texas did not come immediately into action to support them. At that point in the war, amphibious warfare doctrine was still young; and many did not recognize the value of a pre landing bombardment. Instead, the Army insisted upon attempting surprise. Texas finally entered the fray early in the afternoon when the Army requested her to destroy an ammunition dump near Port Lyautey. One more gunfire mission was provided on the 10th before the ceasefire on 11 November. Thus, unlike in later operations, she expended only 273 rounds of 14 in  ammunition and six rounds of 5 in  ammunition. During her short stay, some of her crew briefly went ashore to assist in salvaging some of the shipping sunk in the harbor. On 16 November, she departed North Africa and headed for home in company with Savannah, Sangamon, Kennebec, four transports, and seven destroyers.A young Walter Cronkite was aboard Texas from Norfolk through her tenure off the North African coast and back to the US. On the return trip to the US, Cronkite was catapulted off Texas in one of the ship’s OS2U Kingfishers once Norfolk was within flying distance. He was granted permission to be flown, from the ship, the remaining distance to Norfolk so he could beat a rival correspondent, aboard the Massachusetts, back to the US and have the first uncensored stories published on the Torch landings. Cronkite’s experiences aboard Texas launched his career as a war correspondent.

 Operation Overlord

Throughout 1943, Texas carried out the familiar role of convoy escort. With New York as her home port, she made numerous transatlantic voyages to such places as Casablanca and Gibraltar, as well as frequent visits to ports in the British Isles. That routine continued into 1944 but ended on 22 April of that year when, at the European end of one such mission, she remained at the Clyde estuary in Scotland and began training for the invasion of Normandy.

 Rehearsal

During the next twelve days, Texas carried out many 14 in  gun-firing exercises with British battleships HMS Ramillies and Rodney. The firing was done in conjunction with Royal Air Force airplanes as spotters. On 29 April, Texas, Nevada, and Arkansas relocated to Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland. There, final preparations were made, including the removal of the airplane catapult and the ship’s OS2U Kingfisher observation planes. The three pilots who flew Texas’ Kingfishers during this period were temporarily transferred to a newly formed squadron, VCS-7, that was composed of the pilots who flew observation and scouting planes from the cruisers Augusta, Quincy, and Tuscaloosa and the battleships Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas. VCS-7 received training in defensive fighter tactics, aerobatics, navigation, formation flying and spotting procedures in Royal Air Force Spitfires; they flew spotting missions in the Spitfires because of the threat from German fighters. The pilots of VCS-7 would fly spotting missions for the US warships off OMAHA and UTAH beaches during D-Day. Also, during this time additional radio equipment was added, including a device to detect and jam radio-guided missiles. Final exercises were carried out to the south in Dundrum Bay and Belfast Lough. During the final preparations, General Eisenhower came aboard on 19 May to speak to the crew. On 31 May, the ship was sealed and a briefing given to the crew about the upcoming invasion. For the invasion, Texas was designated Bombardment Force Flagship for Omaha Beach, in the Western Taskforce. Her firing area of Omaha was the western half, supporting the US 29th Infantry Division and the US 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc, and the US 5th Ranger Battalion, which had been diverted to Western Omaha to support the troops at Pointe du Hoc.

The bombardment force consisted of two sections with Texas and the British light cruiser HMS Glasgow responsible for the western half of Omaha Beach. The east half of Omaha Beach included Arkansas and the French light cruisers Georges Leygues and Montcalm. Also assigned to Omaha Beach were the American destroyers Frankford, McCook, Carmick, Doyle, Emmons, Baldwin, Harding, Satterlee, Thompson, and the British destroyers HMS Tanataside, Talybont and Melbreak.

At 02:09 on 3 June, Texas and the rest of the Western Taskforce sailed from Belfast Lough for Normandy. In sight, on a parallel course was a group of British ships, including the battleships HMS Warspite and Ramillies. At 07:10 on 4 June, the taskforce had to reverse course due to unacceptable weather in the Normandy. Later that evening, off Lundy Island, the taskforce reversed course and headed for and joined the invasion fleet gathering at Area Z. The invasion fleet then headed south toward Normandy and navigated the German minefield, through which minesweepers had cleared channels; not a single Omaha Beach vessel was lost.

 D-Day

At 03:00 on 6 June 1944, Texas and the British cruiser Glasgow entered the Omaha Western fire support lane and into her initial firing position 12,000 yd offshore near Pointe du Hoc at 04:41, as part of a combined total US-British flotilla of 702 ships, including seven battleships and five heavy cruisers.

The initial bombardment commenced at 05:50, against the site of six 5.9 in guns, atop Pointe du Hoc. When Texas ceased firing at the Pointe at 0624, 255 14 in  shells had been fired in 34 minutes , an average rate of fire of 7.5 shells per minute, which was the longest sustained period of firing for Texas in World War II. While shells from the main guns were hitting Pointe du Hoc, the 5 in  guns were firing on the area leading up to Exit D-1, the route to get inland from western Omaha. At 06:26, Texas shifted her main battery gunfire to the western edge of Omaha Beach, around the town of Vierville. Meanwhile, her secondary battery went to work on another target on the western end of “Omaha” beach, a ravine laced with strong points to defend an exit road. Later, under control of airborne spotters, she moved her major-caliber fire inland to interdict enemy reinforcement activities and to destroy batteries and other strong points farther inland.

By noon, the assault on Omaha Beach was in danger of collapsing due to stronger than anticipated German resistance and the inability of the Allies to get needed armor and artillery units on the beach. In an effort to help the infantry fighting to take Omaha, some of the destroyers providing gunfire support closed near the shoreline, almost grounding themselves to fire on the Germans. Texas also closed to the shoreline; at 12:23, Texas closed to only 3,000 yd  from the water’s edge, firing her main guns with very little elevation to clear the western exit D-1, in front of Vierville. Among other things, she fired upon snipers and machine gun nests hidden in a defile just off the beach. At the conclusion of that mission, the battleship attacked an enemy anti-aircraft battery located west of Vierville.

On 7 June, the battleship received word that the Ranger battalion at Pointe Du Hoc was still isolated from the rest of the invasion force with low ammunition and mounting casualties; in response, Texas obtained and filled two LCVPs  with provisions for the Rangers. Upon their return, the LCVPs brought thirty-five wounded Rangers to Texas for treatment of which one died on the operating table. Along with the Rangers, a deceased Coast Guard sailor and twenty-seven prisoners (twenty Germans, four Italians, and three French) were brought to the ship. The prisoners were fed, segregated, and not formally interrogated aboard Texas, due to the ship bombarding targets or standing by to bombard, before being loaded aboard a LST for transfer to England. Later in the day, her main battery rained shells on the enemy-held towns of Formigny and Trévières to break up German troop concentrations. That evening, she bombarded a German mortar battery that had been shelling the beach. Not long after midnight, German planes attacked the ships offshore, and one of them swooped in low on Texas’s starboard quarter. Her anti-aircraft batteries opened up immediately but failed to hit the intruder. On the morning of 8 June, her guns fired on Isigny, then on a shore battery, and finally on Trévières once more.

After that, she retired to Plymouth to rearm, returning to the French coast on 11 June. From then until 15 June, she supported the army in its advance inland. By 15 June, the troops had advanced to the edge of Texas’s gun range; her last fire support mission was so far inland that to get the needed range, the starboard torpedo blister was flooded with water to provide a list of two degrees which gave the guns enough elevation to complete the fire mission. With combat operations beyond the range of her guns on 16 June, Texas left Normandy for England on 18 June.

 Battle of Cherbourg

On the morning of 25 June Texas, in company with Arkansas, Nevada, four cruisers and eleven destroyers, closed in on the vital port of Cherbourg to suppress the fortifications and batteries surrounding the town while the US Army’s VII Corps attacked the city from the rear. While enroute to Cherbourg, the bombardment plan was changed and Task Group 129.2 , built around Arkansas and Texas, was ordered to move six miles to the east of Cherbourg and engage the guns of Battery Hamburg, a large shore battery composed of four 9.4 in guns. At 12:08, Arkansas was the first to fire at the German positions, while the German gunners waited for Arkansas and Texas to be well in range to return fire. At 12:33, Texas was straddled by three German shells; five minutes later Texas returned fire with a continuous stream of two-gun salvos. The battleship continued her firing runs in spite of shell geysers blossoming about her and difficulty spotting the targets because of smoke; however, the enemy gunners were just as stubborn and skilled. At 13:16, a German 9.4 in shell skidded across the top of her Conning Tower, sheared the top of the fire control periscope off (the periscope remains fell back into the Conning Tower and wounded the gunnery officer and three others), hit the main support column of the Navigation Bridge and exploded. The explosion caused the deck of the Pilot House above to be blown upwards approximately 4 ft , wrecked the interior of the Pilot House, and wounded seven. Of the eleven total casualties from the German shell hit, only one man succumbed to his wounds — the helmsman on duty, Christen Christensen. Texas’s commanding officer, Captain Baker, miraculously escaped unhurt and quickly had the bridge cleared. The warship herself continued to deliver her 14 in  shells in two-gun salvos and, in spite of damage and casualties, scored a direct hit that penetrated one of the heavily reinforced gun emplacements to destroy the gun inside at 13:35.

At 14:47, an unexploded 9.4 in shell was reported. The shell crashed through the port bow directly below the Wardroom and entered the stateroom of Warrant Officer M.A. Clark, but failed to explode. The unexploded shell was later disarmed by a Navy bomb disposal officer in Portsmouth and is currently displayed aboard the ship. Throughout the three-hour duel, the Germans straddled and near-missed Texas over sixty-five times, but she continued her mission firing 206 14 in  shells at Battery Hamburg until 15:01 when, upon orders to that effect, she retired.

 Operation Dragoon

After Texas underwent repairs at Plymouth from damage sustained at Cherbourg, she then drilled in preparation for the invasion of southern France. On 16 July, she departed Belfast Lough and headed for the Mediterranean. After stops at Gibraltar and Oran, Algeria, the battleship arrived in Taranto, Italy on 27 July. Departing Taranto on 11 August, Texas rendezvoused with three French destroyers off Bizerte, Tunisia, and set a course for the French Riviera. She arrived off Saint-Tropez during the night of 14 August and was joined early the next morning by battleship Nevada and cruiser Philadelphia At 04:44 on 15 August, she moved into position for the pre-landing bombardment and, at 0651, opened up on her first target, a battery of five 5.9 in guns. The beaches had been fortified and heavy resistance was expected. Due to very poor visibility that morning, Texas relied on her SG radar equipment to determine her position and track for both navigation and gunnery purposes. No land marks whatsoever were visible during the firing and for the greater part of the forenoon.

The heavy opposition that was expected never materialized, so the landing forces moved inland rapidly. As such, fire support from Texas’s guns was no longer required, so she departed the southern coast of France on the early morning of 17 August. After a stop at Palermo, Sicily, she left the Mediterranean and headed for New York where she arrived on 14 September 1944.

 Operations Detachment and Iceberg

At New York, Texas underwent a 36-day repair period during which the barrels on her main battery were replaced. After a brief refresher cruise, she departed Maine in November and set a course, via the Panama Canal, for the Pacific. She made a stop at Long Beach, California, and then continued on to Oahu. She spent Christmas at Pearl Harbor and then conducted maneuvers in the Hawaiian Islands for about a month at the end of which she steamed to Ulithi Atoll. She departed Ulithi on 10 February 1945, stopped in the Marianas for two days’ invasion rehearsals, and then set a course for Iwo Jima. She arrived off the target on 16 February, three days before the scheduled assault. She spent those three days pounding enemy defenses on Iwo Jima in preparation for the landings. After the troops stormed ashore on 19 February, Texas switched roles and began delivering naval gunfire support and on-call fire until 21 February.

Though Iwo Jima was not declared secured until 16 March, Texas cleared the area on 7 March  and returned to Ulithi to prepare for the Okinawa operation. She departed Ulithi with TF 54, the gunfire support unit, on 21 March and arrived in the Ryukyus on the 26th. Texas did not participate in the occupation of the islands but moved in on the main objective instead, beginning the pre-landing bombardment that same day. For the next six days, she fired multiple salvos from her main guns to prepare the way for the US Army and the Marine Corps. Each evening, she retired from her bombardment position close to the Okinawan shore only to return the next day and resume her poundings. The enemy ashore, preparing for a defense-in-depth strategy as at Iwo Jima, made no answer. Only air units provided a response, as several kamikaze raids were sent to harass the bombardment group. Texas escaped damage during those small attacks. On 1 April, after six days of aerial and naval bombardment, the ground troops went ashore, and for almost two months, Texas remained in Okinawan waters providing gunfire support for the troops and fending off the enemy aerial assault. In performing the latter mission, she claimed one kamikaze kill on her own and claimed three assists. On 14 May the ship departed Okinawa for the Philippines.

 

 End of the War

 

On 17 May, Texas arrived at Leyte in the Philippines and remained there until after the Japanese capitulation on 15 August. She returned to Okinawa toward the end of August and stayed in the Ryukyus until 23 September. On that day, she set a course for the United States with homeward bound troops embarked as part of the ongoing Operation Magic Carpet. The battleship delivered her passengers to San Pedro, California on 15 October, and celebrated Navy Day there on 27 October before resuming her mission to bring American troops home. She made two round-trip voyages between California and Oahu in November and a third in late December.

 Museum Ship

On 21 January 1946, the warship departed San Pedro and steamed via the Panama Canal to Norfolk where she arrived on 13 February, and soon began preparations for inactivation. On 18 June, she was placed officially in reserve at Baltimore, Maryland. The Battleship Texas Commission was established on 17 April 1947 to care for the ship by the Texas Legislature. The $225,000 necessary to pay for the towing of the ship from Baltimore to San Jacinto was the first task of the Commission. On 17 March 1948, the ship began her journey to her new anchorage along the busy Houston Ship Channel near the San Jacinto Monument, at San Jacinto State Park, arriving on 20 April, where she was turned over to the State of Texas the next day (21 April) to serve as a permanent memorial. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 April 1948. The date of 21 April is significant in that it was the date in 1836 of the decisive Battle of San Jacinto that ended the War for Texas Independence and led to the creation of the Republic of Texas, which joined the US as a state in 1845. Texas was the first battleship memorial museum in the US. When the battleship was presented to the State of Texas, she was commissioned as the flagship of the Texas Navy.

The funding produced by the Battleship Texas Commission was not up to the task of maintaining the ship. Consequently, years of neglect resulted in cracks and gaps in coated surfaces, water intrusion, and steel deterioration. Paint in interior spaces began to crack, then flake, exposing metal surfaces underneath, which began to rust. At the same time, pipes open to the sea ultimately failed, flooding various voids and bunkers. By 1968, the wooden main deck of the ship was so rotted that rainwater was leaking through the deck into the interior of the ship and pooling in various compartments. The Commission found that replacing the decayed deck timbers was prohibitively expensive. The solution at the time was to remove the wooden deck and replace it with concrete. The concrete eventually cracked, and again, rainwater began to leak through the main deck into spaces below. In 1971, three local charitable institutions, the Brown Foundation, the Moody Foundation, and the Houston Endowment, together contributed $50,000 to the ship to enable the Commission to sandblast and paint the hull. By this time, newspaper articles reported that Texas was “under attack” from neglect and insufficient funding. Nevertheless, Texas was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1975, and a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1976.

By 1983, concerns with the leadership of the Battleship Texas Commission led to the decision by the State Legislature to turn over control of the ship to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department . The legislature abolished the commission effective 31 August 1983, and TPWD assumed operational control the next day. One of the first actions by TPWD was to hire a firm of naval architects to survey the ship in order to assess the deterioration and make recommendations as to what actions should be taken to preserve the ship. The survey revealed that the ship’s watertight integrity was badly compromised, the hull was open to the sea in many places, and many compartments were full of standing rain water. The architects determined that the ship needed to go to dry dock for major repairs to the hull and to keep rain water from coming through the porous concrete deck. As part of this plan, serious consideration was given to protecting sensitive fabrics and restoring the interior of the ship. After a five-year-long fund-raising campaign, $15 million was collected to dry dock the ship and complete necessary repairs.

Finally, on 13 December 1988, Texas was pulled from her berth with great difficulty over the course of six hours by six large tugboats to begin a 56 mi trek from her berth to Todd Shipyard in Galveston, Texas. Once under tow in the Houston Ship Channel she started taking on water, with a serious breach just forward of the engine rooms. The crew had three 4 in  pumps and two 2 in  pumps in continuous service to combat the flooding. During the nine plus hour transit, the ship’s draft increased 18 in  to 20 in  in the stern. Texas entered the yard’s floating drydock at approximately 10:30 pm on 13 December, at high tide with only 6 in  to spare between her hull and the blocks she would sit on. She underwent a 14 month refit that sought to restore the ship to her 1945 condition. While under refit, yard workers sand-blasted paint from not only the hull but also the superstructure of the ship and replaced many tons of rusted metal from the hull. Inside the ship, welders and fabricators replaced weakened structural beams and numerous rusted-out deck plates. Topside, workers removed the concrete from the main deck and made repairs. (A new pinewood deck would be installed in Greens Bayou ). In total, more than 375,000 lb  of steel (amounting to about 15% of the ship’s hull) was replaced and more than 40,000 rivets were seal-welded on the underwater hull. On 24 February 1990, tugboats moved the Texas from dry dock to a repair facility on Green’s Bayou for further repairs. It was here that the wood deck was installed and four of the ten mounts of quad 40 mm guns were installed. On 26 July, the ship was returned to her berth at San Jacinto where the final six mounts of 40 mm guns were installed. Repairs complete, the ship officially reopened to the public on 8 September 1990. Since returning to her slip at San Jacinto, members of the ship’s staff and volunteers have moved forward with restoring the interior spaces.

On 6 November 2007, Texas voters approved $25 million in funds to dry-berth the ship to prevent further deterioration from the corrosive waters of the ship channel. This solution will permanently cradle the ship in a dry berth at her current location. Accordingly, the depth of the current slip will be increased to 38 ft  below sea level before driving over 1,000 concrete piles into the bottom soil to support a 5 ft thick 108,800 sq ft concrete foundation. A cradle of 1,500 ft of concrete pylon beams and cribbing will rest upon this foundation and support the ship. This entire structure will be enclosed by a 1,680 ft long cofferdam with a concrete sidewalk and viewing platform on the top, all of which is projected to be completed by the centennial of the construction of the ship in 2011. When complete, Texas will be the first ship of her size to be permanently dry-docked.

Texas was the first and will be the oldest of an eventual total of eight US battleships that have become floating museums; the other battleships honored in this way are Massachusetts, Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

 Media

Texas has appeared in several films since her retirement. Her cinema debut was in the 1966 Steve McQueen film The Sand Pebbles. In the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, Texas stood in for the battleship West Virginia in scenes depicting Cuba Gooding, Jr. as native-Texan Doris Miller. Some of the ship’s interiors were also used to portray the interior of the aircraft carrier Hornet later in the film. Texas also appears as herself in the 2006 films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima; in both movies the ship is depicted shelling Iwo Jima in preparation for the Marines’ amphibious assault.

 

 

USS Texas

 Career (US) 

 Name: USS Texas

 Namesake: The State of Texas

 Ordered: 24 June 1910

 Awarded: 17 December 1910

 Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company

 Cost: $5,830,000 (excluding armor and armament)

 Laid down: 17 April 1911

 Launched: 18 May 1912

 Sponsored by: Miss Claudia Lyon

 Completed: 12 March 1914

 Commissioned: 12 March 1914

 Decommissioned: 21 April 1948

 Struck: 30 April 1948

 Honors and awards:

 Combat Action Ribbon, Mexican Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (w/ 2 battle stars), European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (w/3 battle stars), World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal

 Fate: Museum ship

 General characteristics

 Class and type: New York-class battleship

 Displacement: 27,000 long tons (27,000 t)

Length: 573 ft

Beam: 95 ft 3 in 

Draft: 27 ft 10.5 in (normal) 29 ft 3.25 in (full)

Propulsion: 14 Babcock and Wilcox boilers, 8 superheated, 295 PSI

Speed: 21 kn 

Complement: 954 officers and men

Sensors and processing systems: RADAR CXZ from December 1938; 1941CXAM-1[7] SC-1 (foremast) SG (foremast and mainmast); SK (mainmast)

Armament: 10 × 14 in /45 cal guns (5×2)

21 × 5 in /51 cal guns

4 × 3-pounder  guns

4 × 21 in  submerged torpedo tubes

 

Armor: Belt: 10 to 12 in  (amidships); 6 in  (aft)

Bulkheads: 10 in  and 11 in ; 9 in  (lower belt aft)

Barbettes: 5 to 12 in 

Turrets: 14 in  (face); 4 in  (top); 8 in  – 9 in  (sides); 8 in  (rear);

Decks: 1.5 to 3 in

Here Comes the General

May 6, 2010

The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, was an American light tank of World War II. It was used by British and Commonwealth forces prior to the entry of the USA into the war, and thereafter by US and Allied forces until the end of the war. The name General Stuart or Stuart given by the British comes from the American Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart and was used for both the M3 and the derivative M5 Light Tank; in British service it also had the unofficial nickname of Honey (named when a tank driver remarked “She’s a honey”). To the United States Army the tanks were officially known only as “Light Tank M3” and “Light Tank M5”.

Development

Observing events in Europe, American tank designers realized that the Light Tank M2 was becoming obsolete and set about improving it. The upgraded design, with thicker armor, modified suspension and new gun recoil system was called “Light Tank M3”. Production of the vehicle started in March 1941 and continued until October 1943. Like its direct predecessor, the M2A4, the M3 was armed with a 37 mm M5 gun and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns: coaxial with the gun, on top of the turret in an M20 AA mount, in a ball mount in right bow, in the right and left hull sponsons.

To relieve the demand for the radial aero-engines used in the M3, a new version was developed using twin Cadillac V-8 automobile engines. The new model (initially called M4 but redesignated M5 to avoid confusion with the M4 Sherman) also featured a redesigned hull with sloped glacis plate and driver’s hatches moved to the top. Although the main criticism from the units using it was that the Stuarts lacked firepower, the improved M5 series kept the same 37 mm gun. The M5 gradually replaced the M3 in production from 1942 and was in turn succeeded by the Light Tank M24 in 1944.


Combat history

The British Army was the first to use the Light Tank M3 as the “General Stuart” in combat. In November 1941, some 170 Stuarts took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armoured fighting vehicles used in the North African, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel. On the positive side, crews liked its high speed and mechanical reliability. The high speed[citation needed] and high reliability distinguished the Stuart from cruiser tanks of the period, in particular the Crusader, which composed a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942.From the summer of 1942, when enough US medium tanks had been received, the British usually kept Stuarts out of tank-to-tank combat, using them primarily for reconnaissance. The turret was removed from some examples to save weight and improve speed and range. These became known as “Stuart Recce”. Some others were converted to armored personnel carriers and were known as “Stuart Kangaroo”, and some were converted command vehicles and known as “Stuart Command”. M3s, M3A3s, and M5s continued in British service until the end of the war, but British units had a smaller proportion of these light tanks than US units.The other major Lend-Lease recipient of the M3, the Soviet Union, was even less happy with the tank, considering it undergunned, underarmored, likely to catch fire, and too sensitive to fuel quality. The narrow tracks were highly unsuited to operation in winter conditions, as they resulted in high ground pressures under which the tank sank into the snow. Further, the M3’s radial aircraft engine required high-octane fuel, which complicated Soviet logistics as most of their tanks used diesel. However, the M3 was superior to early-war Soviet light tanks such as the T-60, which were often underpowered and possessed even lighter armament than the Stuart. In 1943, the Red Army tried out the M5 and decided that the upgraded design was not much better than the M3. Being less desperate than in 1941, the Soviets turned down an American offer to supply the M5. M3s continued in Red Army service at least until 1944.

In US Army service, the M3 first saw combat in the Philippines. Two battalions, comprising the Provisional Tank Group fought in the Bataan peninsula campaign. When the American army joined the North African Campaign in late 1942, Stuart units still formed a large part of its armor strength. After the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass the US quickly followed the British in disbanding most of their light tank battalions and subordinating the Stuarts to medium tank battalions performing the traditional cavalry missions of scouting and screening. For the rest of the war, most US tank battalions had three companies of M4 Shermans and one company of M3s or M5/M5A1s.

In Europe, Allied light tanks had to be given cavalry and infantry fire support roles since their main cannon armament could not compete with heavier enemy AFVs. However, the Stuart was still effective in combat in the Pacific Theater, as Japanese tanks were both relatively rare and were generally much weaker than even Allied light tanks. Japanese infantrymen were poorly equipped with anti-tank weapons and tended to attack tanks using close-assault tactics. In this environment, the Stuart was only moderately more vulnerable than medium tanks. In addition, the poor terrain and roads common to the theatre were unsuitable for the much heavier M4 medium tanks, and so initially, only light armor could be deployed. Heavier M4s were eventually brought to overcome heavily entrenched positions, though the Stuart continued to serve in a combat capacity until the end of the war.

Though the Stuart was to be completely replaced by the newer M24 Chaffee, the number of M3s/M5s produced was so great (over 25,000 including the 75 mm HMC M8) that the tank remained in service until the end of the war and well after. In addition to the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, who were the primary users, it was also used by France, China (M3A3s and, immediately post-war, M5A1s) and Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia (M3A3s and few M3A1).

After the war, some countries chose to equip their armies with cheap and reliable Stuarts. The Republic of China Army, having suffered great attrition as a result of the ensuing civil war, rebuilt their armored forces by acquiring surplus vehicles left behind in the area by the US forces, including 22 M5A1s to equip two tank companies. They would have their finest hours during the Battle of Kuningtou, for which the tank came to be known as the “Bear of Kinmen”. The M5 played a significant role in the First Kashmir War (1947) between India and Pakistan, including the battle of Zoji-la pass fought at an altitude of nearly 12,000 ft. The vehicle remained in service in several South American countries at least until 1996.During the 60s and 70s, the Portuguese Army also used some in the war in Angola, where its all terrain capability (compared to wheeled vehicles) was greatly appreciated. An unspecified number of M5A1 Light Tanks served with the 1927th Cavalry Battalion stationed at Nambuangongo, being employed mostly for convoy escort duties and limited counterinsurgency operations. Period photographs show some modifications in the basic design, namely the omission of the bow machine gun, re-installed on a pintle mount in the roof of the turret and a small searchlight fitted in front of the commander’s copula .


In the media

A heavily modified M5A1 Stuart was featured in the movie Tank Girl as the eponymous heroine’s tank.

Modified Stuarts were used in the movie Attack! as German tanks.

“The Haunted Tank” was a DC Comics feature that appeared in GI Combat starring an M3 Stuart scout tank commanded by Lieutenant Jeb Stuart, a direct descendant and namesake of the Civil War cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart. The tank was haunted by the Confederate officer, who would appear to warn his kinsman of impending danger or offer usually cryptic advice on how to handle a combat action. The original series ran from 1961 to 1987.


Light Tank M3A3 (Stuart V)

Type     Light tank

Place of origin      United States

Produced     1941–1945
Specifications

Weight      32,400 lb
Length      14.8 ft
Width      8.1 ft
Height      7.5 ft
Crew      4 (Commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Armor      13–51 mm
Primary
armament 37 mm M6 in M44 mount 174 rounds

Secondary
armament 3 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 MG 7,500 rounds

Engine     Continental W-670-9A, 7 Cylinder air-cooled radial 250 hp

Power/weight     17.82 hp/tonne

Suspension     Vertical volute spring

Operational
range     74 mi
Speed     36 mph (road) 18 mph (off-road)

Note:  All of the photographs were taken on my visit to the Tank Museum in Danville, Va. in April 2006

USS North Carolina : The Showboat

May 5, 2010

USS North Carolina BB-55 “Showboat” was the lead ship of her class of battleship and the fourth in the United States Navy to be named in honor of this U.S. state. She was the first new-construction U.S. battleship to enter service during World War II, participating in every major naval offensive in the Pacific theater to become the most decorated United States battleship of the war with 15 battle stars. She currently rests as a museum ship at the port of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Construction and shakedown

Fitting-out stage, 17 April 1941

She was laid down on 27 October 1937 at the New York Naval Shipyard and launched on 13 June 1940, sponsored by the young daughter of Clyde R. Hoey, Governor of North Carolina. The ship was commissioned in New York City on 9 April 1941 with Captain Olaf M. Hustvedt first in command. The first commissioned of the navy’s fast, heavily-armed battleships with 16-inch guns, North Carolina received so much attention during her fitting-out and trials that she won the enduring nickname “Showboat”.

As the first newly designed American battleship constructed in 20 years, North Carolina was built using the latest in shipbuilding technology. Constrained to 36,000  tons  standard displacement by both the Washington Naval Treaty and the London Naval Treaty, to a beam of less than 110 feet  by the locks of the Panama Canal, and to a draft of 38 feet  to enable the ship to use as many anchorages and navy yards as possible, she was a challenge to design.

To save weight, North Carolina was built using the new technique of welded construction. Her machinery arrangement is unusual in that there are four main spaces, each with two boilers and one steam turbine connected to one of the four propeller shafts. This arrangement served to reduce the number of openings in watertight bulkheads and conserve space to be protected by armor. The long sweeping flush deck of North Carolina and her streamlined structure made her far more graceful than earlier battleships. Her large tower forward, tall uncluttered stacks, and clean superstructure and hull were a sharp break from the elaborate bridgework, heavy tripod masts, and casemated secondary batteries which characterized her predecessors. North Carolina was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 RADAR.


Service in World War II

North Carolina completed her shakedown in the Caribbean prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Early in 1942, North Carolina was scheduled to head to Pearl Harbor. However, she remained in the Atlantic a few more months so she would be available to take on the German battleship Tirpitz, in the event that ship began to attack Atlantic convoys carrying goods from America to England. North Carolina was ordered to the Pacific in the summer of 1942.

After intensive war exercises, North Carolina departed for the Pacific theater. She was the first new battleship to arrive in the Pacific since the beginning of the war, clearing the Panama Canal on 10 June, four days after the end of the Battle of Midway. She sailed to San Pedro and San Francisco before arriving in Pearl Harbor. According to sailors there, North Carolina was “the most beautiful thing they had ever seen”, and her arrival in Hawaii greatly increased the morale of the Pacific Fleet. North Carolina departed Pearl Harbor on 15 July with the carrier Enterprise, heavy cruiser Portland, light cruiser Atlanta and eight screening destroyers, bound for operations in the South Pacific.

North Carolina joined the long island-hopping campaign against the Japanese by landing Marines on Guadalcanal and Tulagi 7 August 1942, beginning the Guadalcanal campaign. She was the only battleship in this naval contingent, accompanied by the carriers Saratoga, Enterprise, and Wasp, along with their cruisers and other escorts. After screening Enterprise in the Air Support Force for the invasion, North Carolina guarded the carrier during operations protecting supply and communication lines southeast of the Solomons. Enemy carriers were located on 24 August, and that engagement became known as the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. The Americans struck first, sinking carrier Ryūjō; Japanese retaliation came as dive and torpedo bombers, covered by fighters, roared in on Enterprise and North Carolina. In an eight-minute action, North Carolina shot down between seven and fourteen enemy aircraft, her gunners remaining at their guns despite the jarring detonations of seven near misses. One man was killed by a strafer, but the ship was undamaged. Her sheer volume of anti-aircraft fire was such as to lead Enterprise to query, “Are you afire?” The protection North Carolina could offer Enterprise was limited as the speedier carrier drew ahead of her. Enterprise took three direct hits while her aircraft severely damaged seaplane carrier Chitose and hit other Japanese ships. Since the Japanese lost about 100 aircraft in this action, the United States won control of the air and averted a threatened Japanese reinforcement of Guadalcanal.

USS North Carolina during Marshall Islands Campaign, 25 January 1944

North Carolina now gave her strength to protect Saratoga. Twice during the following weeks of support to Marines ashore on Guadalcanal, North Carolina was attacked by Japanese submarines. On 6 September, she maneuvered successfully, dodging a torpedo which passed 300 yd  off the port beam. Nine days later, on 15 September, sailing with Wasp and Hornet, North Carolina took a torpedo portside, 20 ft  below her waterline, and six of her men were killed. This torpedo originated from I-19, and other torpedoes in the same salvo sank Wasp. Skillful damage control by the crew of North Carolina and the excellence of her construction prevented disaster; a 5.6° list was righted in as many minutes, and she maintained her station in a formation at 26 kn.

After temporary repairs in New Caledonia, the ship proceeded to Pearl Harbor to be dry docked for a month for repairs to her hull and to receive more antiaircraft armament. Following repairs, she returned to action, screening Enterprise and Saratoga and covering supply and troop movements in the Solomons for much of the next year. She was at Pearl Harbor in March and April 1943 to receive advanced fire control and radar gear, and again in September, to prepare for the Gilbert Islands operation.

With Enterprise, in the Northern Covering Group, North Carolina sortied from Pearl Harbor on 10 November for the assault on Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama. Air strikes began on 19 November, and for ten days mighty air blows were struck to aid marines ashore engaged in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. Supporting the Gilberts campaign and preparing the assault on the Marshalls, North Carolina’s highly accurate big guns bombarded Nauru on 8 December, destroying air facilities, beach defense revetments, and radio installations. Later that month, she protected Bunker Hill in strikes against shipping and airfields at Kavieng, New Ireland and in January 1944 joined the Task Force 58 (TF 58), Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher in command, at Funafuti, Ellice Islands.

During the assault and capture of the Marshall Islands, North Carolina illustrated the classic battleship functions of World War II. She screened carriers from air attack in pre-invasion strikes as well as during close air support of troops ashore, beginning with the initial strikes on Kwajalein 29 January. She fired on targets at Namur and Roi, where she sank a cargo ship in the lagoon.[19]

The battlewagon then protected carriers in the massive air strike on Truk, the Japanese fleet base in the Carolines, where 39 large ships were left sunk, burning, or uselessly beached, and 211 planes were destroyed, another 104 severely damaged.[20] Next she fought off an air attack against the flattops near the Marianas 21 February splashing an enemy plane, and the next day again guarded the carriers in air strikes on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.

During much of this period she was flagship for Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Willis A. Lee, Jr., Commander Battleships Pacific.

With Majuro as her base, North Carolina joined in the attacks on Palau and Woleai on 31 March–1 April, shooting down another enemy plane during the approach phase. On Woleai, 150 enemy aircraft were destroyed along with ground installations. Support for the capture of the Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura) area of New Guinea followed (13–24 April); then another major raid on Truk (29–30 April), during which North Carolina splashed yet another enemy aircraft. At Truk, North Carolina’s planes were catapulted to rescue an American aviator downed off the reef. After one plane had turned over on landing and the other, having rescued all the airmen, had been unable to take off with so much weight, Tang saved all involved. The next day, North Carolina destroyed coastal defense guns, antiaircraft batteries, and airfields at Ponape. The battleship then sailed to repair her rudder at Pearl Harbor.

Returning to Majuro, North Carolina sortied with the Enterprise’s carrier group on 6 June (D-Day in Europe) for the Marianas. During the assault on Saipan, North Carolina not only gave her usual protection to the carriers, but starred in bombardments on the west coast of Saipan covering minesweeping operations, and blasted the harbor at Tanapag, sinking several small craft and destroying enemy ammunition, fuel, and supply dumps. At dusk on invasion day, 15 June, the battleship downed one of the only two Japanese aircraft able to penetrate the combat air patrol.

On 18 June, North Carolina cleared the islands with the carriers to confront the Japanese 1st Mobile Fleet, tracked by submarines and aircraft for the previous four days. Next day began the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and she took station in the battle line that fanned out from the carriers. American aircraft succeeded in downing most of the Japanese raiders before they reached the American ships, and North Carolina shot down two of the few which got through.

On that day and the next American, air and submarine attacks, with the fierce antiaircraft fire of such ships as North Carolina, virtually ended any future threat from Japanese naval aviation: three carriers were sunk, two tankers damaged so badly they were scuttled, and all but 36 of the 430 planes with which the Japanese had begun the battle were destroyed. The loss of trained aviators was irreparable, as was the loss of skilled aviation maintenance men in the carriers. Not one American ship was lost, and only a handful of American planes failed to return to their carriers.

After supporting air operations in the Marianas for another two weeks, North Carolina sailed for overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard. She rejoined the carriers off Ulithi on 7 November as a furious typhoon, Typhoon Cobra, struck the group. The ships fought through the storm and carried out air strikes against western Leyte, Luzon, and the Visayas to support the struggle for Leyte. During similar strikes later in the month, North Carolina fought off her first kamikaze attack.

As the pace of operations in the Philippines intensified, North Carolina guarded carriers while their planes kept the Japanese aircraft on Luzon airfields from interfering with the invasion convoys which assaulted Mindoro on 15 December. Three days later the task force again sailed through a violent typhoon, which capsized several destroyers. With Ulithi now her base, North Carolina screened wide-ranging carrier strikes on Formosa, the coast of Indo-China and China, and the Ryūkyūs in January, and similarly supported strikes on Honshū the next month. Hundreds of enemy aircraft were destroyed which might otherwise have resisted the assault on Iwo Jima, where North Carolina bombarded and provided call fire for the assaulting Marines through 22 February.


Strikes on targets in the Japanese home islands laid the ground-work for the Okinawa assault, in which North Carolina played her dual role, of bombardment and carrier screening. Here, on 6 April, she downed three kamikazes, but took a 5 in hit from a friendly ship during the melee of anti-aircraft fire. Three men were killed and 44 wounded. Next day came the last desperate sortie of the Japanese Fleet, as Yamato, the largest battleship in the world, came south with her attendants. Yamato, as well as a cruiser and a destroyer, were sunk, three other destroyers were damaged so badly that they were scuttled, and the remaining four destroyers returned to their fleet base at Sasebo badly damaged. On the same day, North Carolina splashed an enemy plane, and she shot down two more 17 April.

After overhaul at Pearl Harbor, North Carolina rejoined the carriers for a month of air strikes and naval bombardment on the Japanese home islands. Along with guarding the carriers, North Carolina fired on major industrial plants near Tokyo, and her scout plane pilots performed a daring rescue of a downed carrier pilot under heavy fire in Tokyo Bay.

North Carolina sent both sailors and members of her Marine Detachment ashore for preliminary occupation duty in Japan immediately at the close of the war, and patrolled off the coast until anchoring in Tokyo Bay on 5 September to re-embark her men. Carrying passengers from Okinawa, North Carolina sailed for home, reaching the Panama Canal on 8 October. She anchored at Boston 17 October, and after overhaul at New York exercised in New England waters and carried United States Naval Academy midshipmen for a summer training cruise in the Caribbean.


Decommissioning and battleship memorial

After inactivation, she was decommissioned at New York on 27 June 1947. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1960, North Carolina was transferred to the people of North Carolina on 6 September 1961. She was purchased from the U.S. Navy for $330,000 raised by the efforts of North Carolinian school children who saved their spare change and lunch money for the “Save Our Ship” (SOS) campaign. In 1961, a fleet of tugboats was used to maneuver the 728 ft  ship through an area of the river 500 ft  wide. During this move the ship struck the restaurant “Fergus’ Ark”, near Princess Street. The river-based restaurant was damaged severely and ceased operation. On 29 April 1962, she was dedicated at Wilmington, North Carolina as a memorial to North Carolinians of all services killed in World War II and may be visited to this day.This battleship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Visitors to the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial can tour the main deck of the ship, many interior rooms, and some of the gun turrets. Visitors can also view one of the nine surviving OS2U Kingfisher aircraft in the world, located on the stern of the ship. Various events are held at the memorial including the annual Fourth of July fireworks display from the adjacent battleship park and spaces may be rented for special events. A Roll of Honor in the Wardroom lists the names of North Carolinians who gave their lives in service in all the branches of the military during World War II. The site is accessible by car or a short water taxi ride originating from downtown Wilmington and also features a gift shop, visitors center and picnic area.

The memorial is administered by North Carolina Battleship Commission which was established by statutes of the State of North Carolina in 1960. The memorial relies upon its own revenues as well as donations and does not receive any tax revenues.

In 1999, a reunion was held on the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial. While standing on the signal bridge, the site of the friendly fire strike during the Okinawa assault of 6 April, former PFC Marine Gunner Richard R. Fox recalled the incident, describing to his daughters and granddaughters how he helped carry a severely injured sailor down to the sickbay. Fox had never been able to find out whether the other man had survived. During his story, Fox was approached by the fellow North Carolina veteran Richard W. Reed, who had overheard the story and interrupted it to identify himself as the injured sailor and offer his thanks. Neither man had known the other’s identity for over a half-century.

Recent projects undertaken to maintain the battleship include the replacement of the teak deck. Following a visit by officials from Myanmar, she received the most generous donation in her history: the gift of two tractor-trailer loads of the highest quality teak decking in the world, valued at approximately one quarter million dollars, and a very substantial discount on another eight tractor-trailer loads of the precious wood, valued at another quarter million dollars, to permit the entire re-decking of the ship’s more than one acre of deck.

Several near-term restoration projects are planned which will not require closure of the memorial. The next major restoration project for North Carolina is a refit of her hull. This may require the ship to leave Wilmington for several months, and she might be towed to the nearest suitable drydock in Norfolk, Virginia. Towing and drydocking are expected to take place no earlier than 2012.


Career (US)

Name:             USS North Carolina (BB-55)
Namesake:     North Carolina
Ordered:     1 August 1937
Builder:     New York Naval Shipyard
Cost:             $76,885,750
Laid down:     27 October 1937
Launched:     13 June 1940
Sponsored by:     Isabel Hoey
Commissioned:     9 April 1941
Decommissioned: 27 June 1947
Struck:     1 June 1960
Nickname:     Showboat
Honors and
awards:

Silver-service-star

Bronze-service-star

15 Battle Stars

*  American Defense Service Medal
*  American Campaign Medal
*  Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
*  Philippine Independence Medal
*  Philippine Liberation Medal
*  Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
*  World War II Victory Medal
*  Navy Occupation Medal

USS Torsk: Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast

May 4, 2010

The USS Torsk SS-423 is docked at the Baltimore Maritime Museum and is one of two Tench Class submarines still located inside the United States. Nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast,” the vessel is the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the torsk, a food fish of the North Atlantic. Torsk is the Norwegian word for codfish.


Service History

1944-1945

Her keel was laid down on 7 June 1944 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. She was launched on 6 September 1944 sponsored by Mrs. Allen B. Reed, and commissioned on 16 December 1944 with Commander Bafford E. Lewellen in command.Completed on the last day of 1944, Torsk trained out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Newport, Rhode Island, and New London, Connecticut, until 11 February 1945, when she headed for Florida. On 16 February, the submarine arrived at Port Everglades, Florida, where she provided services for antisubmarine research. She departed that Florida port on 20 February, transited the Panama Canal, and reached Hawaii on 23 March.After a repair and training period, she got underway from Pearl Harbor for her first war patrol. Torsk paused briefly at Guam en route to an area off Kii Suido which she reached on 11 May and began lifeguard duty. Air contacts were few in this period, and the submarine found no opportunity to conduct rescue operations. Toward midnight on 11 May, she set course for her patrol area off the northeastern coast of Honshū. She arrived there on 13 May and, for two days, attempted to contact other members of the wolf pack, “Lewellen’s Looters.” On 16 May, she made rendezvous with submarines Sand Lance (SS-381) and Cero (SS-225). For more than a fortnight, their careful coverage of the east coast of Honshū turned up nothing more interesting than naval mines.

On 2 June, while patrolling between Honshū and Hokkaidō, Torsk came upon a small coastal minelayer. The submarine fired six torpedoes—which the small vessel avoided by maneuvering—and then dove and rigged for depth charges which did not materialize. Torsk had another disappointing encounter on 4 June when, while patrolling off Kobe Saki, she fired four torpedoes at a 700-ton freighter without scoring. The following day, she set her course homeward, stopped at Midway Island on 11 June, and returned to Pearl Harbor on 16 June.After refitting and the installation of new equipment, the submarine got underway for her second war patrol on 17 July. She spent the first two days of August at Guam and set her course for the Sea of Japan.She passed through the minefields of Tsushima Strait on 10 August and, on the morning of 11 August, rescued seven Japanese merchant seamen who had survived the sinking of the Koue Maru some four days before. Early that afternoon, the submarine entered her patrol area and, on the following morning off Dogo Island, Torsk made a submerged periscope attack which sank a small coastal freighter.

On 13 August, she patrolled off Ando Saki and, after sighting a number of fishing boats during the morning, sighted another small freighter which she promptly sank. Later the same day, she made an unsuccessful attack on a cargo ship as it entered Wakasa Wan; then dodged through a 75-boat fishing fleet, and outdistanced the maru’s escort.Off Amarubi Saki on the morning of 14 August, Torsk sighted a medium cargo ship and took up the chase. A 745-ton Kaibokan-class patrol escort vessel accompanied the freighter to seaward, presenting the submarine with a tempting target. At 1035, as the freighter and her escort approached Kasumi Ko, Torsk launched one of the new experimental Mark 28 torpedoes at the escorting ship. Minutes later, the “fish” found its mark; an explosion bent the stern of the frigate up to a 30 degree angle, and shortly thereafter the target sank. As the freighter entered the harbor half an hour later, Torsk attempted to sink her but was unsuccessful, possibly because the torpedoes struck undetected reefs near the mouth of the harbor.Around noon, another frigate appeared, apparently a reinforcement which had been called in. Continuing her aggressive action, Torsk fired a Mark 28 torpedo at the frigate which had already detected the submarine’s presence. Commander Lewellen then initiated deep submergence procedures and ordered the crew to rig for silent running. After a tense five minutes, she reached 400 feet (120 m) and there she launched another torpedo, this time the new acoustic Mark 27. Almost immediately, a loud explosion announced that the first torpedo had found its mark, and a minute later a second explosion sounded, followed by strong breaking up noises. The secret new torpedoes had proven their worth in battle and Torsk was credited, not only with two enemy warships, but also with sinking the last Japanese warship sunk in World War II. Held down by enemy planes and patrol vessels, the submarine remained submerged more than seven hours. Then, she surfaced and headed for the Noto peninsula.

On 15 August, following four highly successful days of aggressive patrolling, Torsk received word of the cessation of hostilities. She continued her patrol in the Sea of Japan, conducting visual and photo surveillance and destroying floating mines. On 31 August, what was thought to be a torpedo wake was sighted, an indicator that not everyone had heard the news of the war’s ending..The submarine set her course for the Mariana Islands on 1 September, passed through Tsushima Straits on 3 September, and arrived at Guam on 9 September, successfully completing her second war patrol.

1946-1968

She departed the Marianas on the next day, proceeded via Pearl Harbor and the Canal Zone, and arrived at New London in mid-October. For the next seven years, she operated out of that port serving as a training ship, participating in exercises and tests, and occasionally making naval reserve training cruises. In June 1949, she was assigned to Submarine Squadron 2; and; in the summer of 1950, she was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea. The ship returned to New London in the fall for fleet exercises and, the following year, extended her operations into the Caribbean Sea.

Early in 1952, she completed her conversion to a Fleet Snorkel submarine and was deployed again to the Mediterranean that summer. Returning on 27 November, she continued operations out of New London ranging from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Havana, Cuba, as she trained prospective submarine personnel and laid exercise mine fields. In 1955, she was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 6 at Norfolk, Virginia. There, her duties included services to aircraft and surface ships to help them hone their skills in antisubmarine warfare. She made frequent Caribbean voyages and participated in Operation “Springboard.” In June 1959, she proceeded via the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes, visited various ports on Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan, then returned to the Norfolk operating area in mid-August.

In the early 1960s, she made Mediterranean deployments; joined Commonwealth countries in Exercise “New Broom X”, and continued her duties in training antisubmarine forces in the Atlantic. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962, she patrolled in support of the blockade of that Caribbean island.

1968-1972 & legacy

On 4 March 1968 the veteran submarine was decommissioned and, following modifications at the Boston Navy Yard, was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard for use in training reserves. Torsk operated out of Washington until 1971 and, on 15 December of that year, was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. On 26 September 1972, she was turned over to the state of Maryland to be used as a museum ship in the Inner Harbor at Baltimore, Maryland. She is currently part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum.

Torsk received two battle stars for World War II service and the Navy Commendation Medal for her service during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She set the all-time record of career dives, at 11,884. She is also the only submarine converted in the Fleet Snorkel program that has the original snorkel.

Career

Builder:     Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine
Laid down:     7 June 1944
Launched:     6 September 1944
Commissioned:     16 December 1944
Decommissioned:     4 March 1968
Struck:     15 December 1971
Fate:     Museum ship at Baltimore, Maryland, 26 September 1972
General characteristics
Class and type:     Tench-class diesel-electric submarine
Displacement:     1,570 tons (1,595 t) surfaced
2,414 tons (2,453 t) submerged
Length:     311 ft 8 in (95.00 m)
Beam:     27 ft 4 in (8.33 m)
Draft:     17 ft 0 in (5.18 m) maximum
Propulsion:

4 × Fairbanks-Morse Model 38D8-⅛ 10-cylinder opposed piston diesel engines driving electrical generators
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries
2 × low-speed direct-drive General Electric
two propellers
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced
2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged
Speed:     20.25 knots (38 km/h) surfaced
8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged
Range:     11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Endurance:     48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged
75 days on patrol
Test depth:     400 ft (120 m)

Complement:     10 officers, 71 enlisted
Armament:     10 × 21-inch (533
mm) torpedo tubes
(six forward, four aft)
28 torpedoes
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon electric motors

USS Wisconsin Battleship BB 64

May 1, 2010

Overview

USS Wisconsin (BB-64)  is an Iowa-class battleship, the second ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. state of Wisconsin. She was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and launched on 7 December 1943, sponsored by the wife of Governor of Wisconsin, Walter Goodland. She was launched on the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor raid.

During her career, Wisconsin served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, where she shelled Japanese fortifications and screened United States aircraft carriers as they conducted air raids against enemy positions. During the Korean War, Wisconsin shelled North Korean targets in support of United Nations and South Korean ground operations, after which she was decommissioned into the United States Navy reserve fleets, better known as the “mothball fleet.” She was reactivated 1 August 1986 and modernized as part of the 600-ship Navy plan, and participated in Operation Desert Storm in January and February 1991.

Wisconsin was last decommissioned in September 1991, having earned a total of six battle stars for service in World War II and Korea, as well as a Navy Unit Commendation for service during the January/February 1991 Gulf War. She currently functions as a museum ship operated by Nauticus, The National Maritime Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Wisconsin was struck from the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) 17 March 2006, and, as of December 14, 2009, has been donated for permanent use as a museum ship. On April 15, 2010, the City of Norfolk officially took over ownership of the ship.

Construction

Wisconsin was one of the “fast battleship” designs planned in 1938 by the Preliminary Design Branch at the Bureau of Construction and Repair. She was the third of four completed ships of the Iowa class of battleships. Her keel was laid down on 25 January 1941, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was launched on 7 December 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Goodland, wife of Walter S. Goodland, the Governor of Wisconsin, and commissioned on 16 April 1944, with Captain Earl E. Stone in command.

Wisconsin’s main battery consisted of nine 16 in (410 mm)/50 cal Mark 7 guns, which could hurl 2,700 lb (1,200 kg) armor piercing shells some 20 mi (32 km). Her secondary battery consisted of 20 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal guns in ten twin turrets, which could fire at targets up to 10 mi (16 km) away. With the advent of air power and the need to gain and maintain air superiority came a need to protect the growing fleet of allied aircraft carriers; to this end, Wisconsin was fitted with an array of Oerlikon 20 mm and Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns to defend allied carriers from enemy airstrikes. When reactivated in 1986, Wisconsin had her 20 mm and 40 mm AA guns removed, and was outfitted with Phalanx CIWS mounts for protection against enemy missiles and aircraft, and Armored Box Launchers and Quad Cell Launchers designed to fire Tomahawk missiles and Harpoon missiles, respectively.Although Wisconsin is numerically the highest numbered US battleship built, she was completed before USS Missouri.

History

After the ship’s trials and initial training in the Chesapeake Bay, Wisconsin departed Norfolk, Virginia, on 7 July 1944, bound for the British West Indies. Following her shakedown cruise (conducted out of Trinidad) she returned to the builder’s yard for alterations and repairs.

On 24 September 1944, Wisconsin sailed for the west coast, transiting the Panama Canal, and reporting for duty with the Pacific Fleet on 2 October. The battleship later moved to Hawaiian waters for training exercises and then headed for the Western Caroline Islands. Upon reaching the Caroline Island Ulithi she joined Admiral William F. Halsey’s 3rd Fleet on 9 December.

Due to the length of time it took to build, Wisconsin missed much of the initial thrust into Japanese-held territory, having arrived at a time when the reconquest of the Philippines was well underway. As a part of that movement, the planners had envisioned landings on the southwest coast of Mindoro, south of Luzon. From that point, American forces could threaten Japanese shipping lanes through the South China Sea. In preparation for the coming invasion of Mindoro, Wisconsin was assigned to protect the 3rd Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 38), as they conducted air raids at Manila to soften up Japanese positions.

On 18 December, the ships of TF 38 unexpectedly found themselves in a fight for their lives when Typhoon Cobra overtook the force – seven fleet and six light carriers, eight battleships, 15 cruisers, and about 50 destroyers – during their attempt to refuel at sea. At the time the ships were operating about 300 mi (480 km) east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea. The carriers had just completed three days of heavy raids against Japanese airfields, suppressing enemy aircraft during the American amphibious operations against Mindoro in the Philippines. The task force rendezvoused with Captain Jasper T. Acuff and his fueling group 17 December with the intention of refueling all ships in the task force and replacing lost aircraft. Although the sea had been growing rougher all day, the nearby cyclonic disturbance gave relatively little warning of its approach. On 18 December, the small but violent typhoon overtook the Task Force while many of the ships were attempting to refuel. Many of the ships were caught near the center of the storm and buffeted by extreme seas and hurricane force winds. Three destroyers, Hull, Monaghan, and Spence, capsized and sank with nearly all hands, while a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three destroyers suffered serious damage. Approximately 790 officers and men were lost or killed, with another 80 injured. Fires occurred in three carriers when planes broke loose in their hangars and some 146 planes on various ships were lost or damaged beyond economical repair by fires, impact damage, or by being swept overboard. Wisconsin reported two injured sailors as a result of the typhoon, but otherwise proved her seaworthiness as she escaped the storm unscathed.

Wisconsin’s next operation was to assist with the occupation of Luzon. Bypassing the southern beaches, American amphibious forces went ashore at Lingayen Gulf, the scene of initial Japanese assaults to take Luzon nearly three years before.

Wisconsin, armed with heavy anti-aircraft batteries, performed escort duty for TF 38’s fast carriers during air strikes against Formosa, Luzon, and the Nansei Shoto to neutralize Japanese forces there and to cover the unfolding Allied Lingayen Gulf operations. Those strikes, lasting from 3-22 January 1945, included a thrust into the South China Sea, in the hope that major units of the Imperial Japanese Navy could be drawn into battle.

Wisconsin’s carrier group launched air strikes between Saigon and Camranh Bay, French Indochina, on 12 January, resulting in severe losses for the enemy. TF 38’s warplanes sank 41 ships and heavily damaged docks, storage areas, and aircraft facilities. Formosa, already struck on 3-4 January, was raided again on 9 January, 15 January, and 21 January. Throughout January Wisconsin shielded the carriers as they conducted air raids at Hong Kong, Canton, Hainan Island, the Canton oil refineries, the Hong Kong Naval Station, and Okinawa.

Wisconsin was assigned to the 5th Fleet when Admiral Raymond A. Spruance relieved Admiral Halsey as Commander of the Fleet. She moved northward with the redesignated TF 58 as the carriers headed for the Tokyo area. On 16 February, the task force approached the Japanese coast under cover of adverse weather conditions and achieved complete tactical surprise. As a result, Wisconsin and the other ships shot down 322 enemy planes and destroyed 177 more on the ground. Japanese shipping, both naval and merchant, also suffered drastically, as did hangars and aircraft installations.

Wisconsin and the task force moved to Iwo Jima on 17 February to provide direct support for the landings slated to take place on 19 February. They revisited Tokyo on 25 February and hit the island of Hachino off the coast of Honshū the next day, resulting in heavy damage to ground facilities; additionally, American planes sank five small vessels and destroyed 158 planes.

Wisconsin’s task force stood out of Ulithi on 14 March bound for Japan. The mission of that group was to eliminate airborne resistance from the Japanese homeland to American forces off Okinawa. Enemy fleet units at Kure and Kobe, on southern Honshū, reeled under the impact of the explosive blows delivered by TF 58’s airmen. On 18-19 March, from a point 100 mi (160 km) southwest of Kyūshū, TF 58 hit enemy airfields on that island; unfortunately, allied anti-aircraft fire on 19 March failed to stop an attack on the carrier Franklin. That afternoon, Wisconsin and the task force retired from Kyūshū, screening the blazing and battered flattop, and shooting down 48 attackers.

On 24 March, Wisconsin trained her 16 in guns on targets ashore on Okinawa. Together with the other battle-wagons of the task force, she pounded Japanese positions and installations in preparation for the landings. Japanese resistance, while fierce, was doomed to failure by dwindling numbers of aircraft and trained pilots.

 
While TF 58’s planes were dealing with Yamato and her escorts, enemy aircraft attacked the American surface units. Combat air patrols (CAP) shot down 15 enemy planes, and ships’ gunfire shot down another three, but not before one kamikaze attack penetrated the CAP and screen to crash on the flight deck of the fleet carrier Hancock. On 11 April, the Japanese renewed their kamikaze attacks; and only drastic maneuvers and heavy barrages of gunfire saved the task force. Combat air patrols shot down 17 planes, and ships’ gunfire shot down 12. The next day, 151 enemy aircraft attacked TF 58, but Wisconsin, together with other units of the screens for the vital carriers, kept the kamikaze pilots at bay and destroyed them before they could reach their targets. Over the days that ensued, Japanese kamikaze attacks managed to crash into three carriers — Intrepid, Bunker Hill and Enterprise — on successive days.

By 4 June, a typhoon was swirling through the Fleet. Wisconsin rode out the storm unscathed, but three cruisers, two carriers, and a destroyer suffered serious damage. Offensive operations were resumed on 8 June with a final aerial assault on Kyūshū. Japanese aerial response was virtually nonexistent; 29 planes were located and destroyed. On that day, one of Wisconsin’s floatplanes landed and rescued a downed pilot from the carrier Shangri-La.

Wisconsin ultimately put into Leyte Gulf and dropped anchor there on 13 June for repairs and replenishment. Three weeks later, on 1 July, the battleship and her escorts sailed once more for Japanese home waters for carrier air strikes on the enemy’s heartland. Nine days later, carrier planes from TF 38 destroyed 72 enemy aircraft on the ground and smashed industrial sites in the Tokyo area. Wisconsin and the other ships made no attempt whatsoever to conceal the location of their armada, due in large part to a weak Japanese response to their presence.

On 16 July, Wisconsin fired her 16 in guns at the steel mills and oil refineries at Muroran, Hokkaido. Two days later, she wrecked industrial facilities in the Hitachi Miro area, on the coast of Honshū-, northeast of Tokyo itself. During that bombardment, British battleships of the British Pacific Fleet contributed their heavy shellfire. By that point in the war, Allied warships such as Wisconsin were able to shell the Japanese homeland almost at will.

TF 38’s planes subsequently blasted the Japanese naval base at Yokosuka, and put the former fleet flagship Nagato out of action, one of the two remaining Japanese battleships. Throughout July and into August, Admiral Halsey’s airmen visited destruction upon the Japanese, the last instance being against Tokyo on 13 August. Two days later, the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II.

Wisconsin, as part of the occupying force, arrived at Tokyo Bay on 5 September, three days after the formal surrender occurred onboard the battleship Missouri. During Wisconsin’s brief career in World War II, she had steamed 105,831 mi (170,318 km) since commissioning; had shot down three enemy planes; had claimed assists on four occasions; and had fueled her screening destroyers on some 250 occasions.

Post World War II (1945–1950)

Shifting subsequently to Okinawa, the battleship embarked homeward-bound GIs on 22 September 1945, as part of Operation Magic Carpet staged to bring soldiers, sailors, and marines home from the far-flung battlefronts of the Pacific. Departing Okinawa on 23 September, Wisconsin reached Pearl Harbor on 4 October, remaining there for five days before she pushed on for the west coast on the last leg of her state-side bound voyage. She reached San Francisco, California on 15 October.

1946, Wisconsin transited the Panama Canal from 11-13 January and reached Hampton Roads, Virginia on 18 January. Following a cruise south to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the battleship entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul. After repairs and alterations that consumed the summer months, Wisconsin sailed for South American waters.

Over the weeks that ensued, the battleship visited Valparaíso, Chile, from 1-6 November; Callao, Peru, from 9-13 November; Balboa, Canal Zone, from 16-20 November; and La Guaira, Venezuela, from 22-26 November, before returning to Norfolk on 2 December 1946.

Wisconsin spent nearly all of 1947 as a training ship, taking naval reservists on two-week cruises throughout the year. Those voyages commenced at Bayonne, New Jersey, and saw visits conducted at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the Panama Canal Zone. While underway at sea, the ship would perform various drills and exercises before the cruise would end where it had started, at Bayonne. During June and July 1947, Wisconsin took United States Naval Academy midshipmen on cruises to northern European waters.

In January 1948, Wisconsin reported to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Norfolk for inactivation. Placed out of commission, in reserve on 1 July, Wisconsin was assigned to the Norfolk group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.

 The Korean War (1950–1952)
 
Buck, Wisconsin and Saint Paul steam in close formation during operations off the Korean coast, 1952Her sojourn in “mothballs”, however, was comparatively brief, due to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in late June 1950. Wisconsin was recommissioned on 3 March 1951 with Captain Thomas Burrowes in command. After shakedown training, the revitalized battleship conducted two midshipmen training cruises, taking the officers-to-be to Edinburgh, Scotland; Lisbon, Portugal; Halifax, Nova Scotia; New York City; and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before she returned to Norfolk. While leaving New York Wisconsin was accidentally grounded on mud flats in New York Harbor, but was freed on 23 August 1951 with no damage to the ship.

Wisconsin departed Norfolk on 25 October, bound for the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canal on 29 October and reached Yokosuka, Japan, on 21 November. There, she relieved New Jersey as flagship for Vice Admiral H. M. Martin, Commander, 7th Fleet.

On 26 November, with Vice Admiral Martin and Rear Admiral F.P. Denebrink, Commander, Service Force, Pacific, embarked, Wisconsin departed Yokosuka for Korean waters to support the fast carrier operations of TF 77. She left the company of the carrier force on 2 December and, screened by the destroyer Wiltsie, provided gunfire support for the Republic of Korea Corps in the Kasong-Kosong area. After disembarking Admiral Denebrink on 3 December at Kangnung, the battleship resumed station on the Korean “bombline”, providing gunfire support for the American 1st Marine Division. Wisconsin’s shelling accounted for a tank, two gun emplacements, and a building. She continued her gunfire support task for the 1st Marine Division and 1st ROK Corps through 6 December, accounting for enemy bunkers, artillery positions, and troop concentrations. On one occasion during that time, the battleship received a request for call-fire support and provided three star-shells for the 1st ROK Corps, illuminating an enemy attack that was consequently repulsed with considerable enemy casualties.

After being relieved on the gunline by the heavy cruiser Saint Paul on 6 December, Wisconsin briefly retired from gunfire support duties. She resumed them, however, in the Kasong-Kosong area on 11 December screened by the destroyer Twining. The following day, 12 December, saw the embarkation in Wisconsin of Rear Admiral H. R. Thurber, Commander, Battleship Division 2 . The admiral came on board via helicopter, incident to his inspection trip in the Far East.

Wisconsin continued her naval gunfire support duties on the “bombline,” shelling enemy bunkers, command posts, artillery positions, and trench systems through 14 December. She departed the “bombline” on that day to render special gunfire support duties in the Kojo area blasting coastal targets in support of United Nations troops ashore. That same day, Wisconsin returned to the Kasong-Kosong area. On 15 December, she disembarked Admiral Thurber by helicopter. The next day, Wisconsin departed Korean waters, heading for Sasebo to rearm.

Returning to the combat zone on 17 December, Wisconsin embarked United States Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan on 18 December. That day, the battleship supported the 11th ROK invasion with night illumination fire that enabled the ROK troops to repulse a North Korean assault with heavy enemy casualties.[3][4] Departing the “bombline” on 19 December, the battleship transferred her distinguished passenger, Senator Ferguson, by helicopter to the carrier Valley Forge.

On 20 December, Wisconsin participated in a coordinated air-surface bombardment of Wonsan to neutralize pre-selected targets in the Wonson area. The ship shifted its bombardment station to the western end of Wonsan harbor, hitting boats and small craft in the inner swept channel with her 5 in guns during the afternoon. Such activities helped to forestall any attempts to assault the friendly-held islands in the Wonsan area. Wisconsin then made an anti-boat sweep to the north, firing her 5 in batteries on suspected boat concentrations. She then provided gunfire support to UN troops operating at the “bombline” until 22 December, when she rejoined the carrier task force.

 
Wisconsin shells North Korean targets during the Korean WarOn 28 December, Francis Cardinal Spellman, on a Korean tour over the Christmas holidays, visited the ship, coming on board by helicopter to celebrate Mass for the Catholic members of the crew. He left the ship by helicopter off Pohang. Three days later, on the last day of the year, Wisconsin put into Yokosuka.

Wisconsin departed that Japanese port on 8 January 1952 and headed for Korean waters once more. She reached Pusan the following day and entertained the President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, and his wife, on 10 January. President and Mrs. Rhee received full military honors as they came on board, and he reciprocated by awarding Vice Admiral Martin the ROK Order of the Military Merit.

Wisconsin returned to the “bombline” on 11 January, and over the ensuing days delivered heavy gunfire support for the 1st Marine Division and the 1st ROK Corps. As before, her primary targets were command posts, shelters, bunkers, troop concentrations and mortar positions. As before, she stood ready to deliver call-fire support as needed. One such occasion occurred; on 14 January when she shelled enemy troops in the open at the request of the ROK 1st Corps.

Rearming at Sasebo and once more joining TF 77 off the coast of Korea soon thereafter, Wisconsin resumed support at the “bombline” on 23 January. Three days later, she shifted once more to the Kojo region, to participate in a coordinated air and gun strike. That same day, the battleship returned to the “bombline” and shelled the command post and communications center for the 15th North Korean Division during call-fire missions for the 1st Marine Division.

Returning to Wonsan at the end of January, Wisconsin bombarded enemy guns at Hodo Pando before she was rearmed at Sasebo. The battleship rejoined TF 77 on 2 February, and the next day blasted railway buildings and marshaling yards at Hodo Pando and Kojo before rejoining TF 77. After replenishment at Yokosuka a few days later, she returned to the Kosong area and resumed gunfire support. During that time, she destroyed railway bridges and a small shipyard while conducting call-fire missions on enemy command posts, bunkers, and personnel shelters, making numerous cuts on enemy trench lines in the process.

On 26 February, Wisconsin arrived at Pusan where Vice Admiral Shon, the ROK Chief of Naval Operations; United States Ambassador J.J. Muccio; and Rear Admiral Scott-Montcrief, Royal Navy, Commander, Task Group 95.12 (TG 95.12), visited the battleship. Departing that South Korean port the following day, Wisconsin reached Yokosuka on 2 March, and a week later she shifted to Sasebo to prepare to return to Korean waters.

Wisconsin arrived off Songjin, Korea on 15 March and concentrated her gunfire on enemy railway transport. Early that morning, she destroyed a communist troop train trapped outside of a destroyed tunnel. That afternoon, she received the first direct hit in her history, when one of four shells from a communist 6 in gun battery struck the shield of a starboard 40 mm mount; Although little material damage resulted, three men were injured. Wisconsin subsequently destroyed that battery with a 16 in salvo before continuing her mission. After lending a hand to support once more the 1st Marine Division with her heavy rifles, the battleship returned to Japan on 19 March.

Relieved as flagship of the 7th Fleet on 1 April by sister ship Iowa, Wisconsin departed Yokosuka, bound for the United States. En route home, she touched briefly at Guam, where she took part in the successful test of the Navy’s largest floating dry-dock on 4-5 April, marking the first time that an Iowa-class battleship had ever utilized that type of facility. She continued her homeward-bound voyage, via Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Long Beach, California on 19 April; she then sailed for Norfolk.

Post Korean War (1952–1981)
 
Wisconsin off Norfolk during the 1950s.On 9 June, Wisconsin resumed her role as a training ship, taking midshipmen to Greenock, Scotland; Brest, France; and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before returning to Norfolk. She departed Hampton Roads on 25 August and participated in the NATO exercise Operation Mainbrace, which was held out of Greenock, Scotland. After her return to Norfolk, Wisconsin underwent an overhaul in the naval shipyard there. Wisconsin remained in the Atlantic fleet throughout 1952 and into 1953, training midshipmen and conducting exercises. After a month of routine maintenance Wisconsin departed Norfolk on 9 September 1953, bound for the Far East.

Sailing via the Panama Canal to Japan, Wisconsin relieved New Jersey as 7th Fleet flagship on 12 October. During the months that followed, Wisconsin visited the Japanese ports of Kobe, Sasebo Navy Yard, Yokosuka, Otaru, and Nagasaki. She spent Christmas at Hong Kong and was ultimately relieved of flagship duties on 1 April 1954 and returned to the United States soon thereafter, reaching Norfolk, via Long Beach and the Panama Canal, on 4 May.

Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 11 June, Wisconsin underwent a brief overhaul and commenced a midshipman training cruise on 12 July. After revisiting Greenock, Brest, and Guantánamo Bay, the ship returned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs. Shortly thereafter, Wisconsin participated in Atlantic Fleet exercises as flagship for Commander, Second Fleet. Departing Norfolk in January 1955, Wisconsin took part in Operation Springboard, during which time she visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Then, upon returning to Norfolk, the battleship conducted another midshipman’s cruise that summer, visiting Edinburgh; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Guantánamo Bay before returning to the United States.

Upon completion of a major overhaul at the New York Naval Shipyard, Wisconsin headed south for refresher training in the Caribbean Sea, later taking part in another Springboard exercise. During that cruise, she again visited Port-au-Prince and added Tampico, Mexico, and Cartagena, Colombia, to her list of ports of call. She returned to Norfolk on the last day of March 1955 for local operations.[3] On 19 October, while operating in the East River in New York Harbor, Wisconsin was accidentally grounded. However, the ship was freed in about an hour without any serious damage.

 
Throughout April and into May, Wisconsin operated locally off the Virginia capes. On 6 May, the battleship collided with the destroyer Eaton in a heavy fog; Wisconsin put into Norfolk with extensive damage to her bow, and one week later entered dry dock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. A novel expedient sped her repairs and enabled the ship to carry out her scheduled midshipman training cruise that summer. A 120 ton, 68 foot  section of the bow of the uncompleted Iowa-class battleship Kentucky was transported by barge, in one section, from Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation of Newport News, Virginia, across Hampton Roads to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Working round-the clock, Wisconsin’s ship’s force and shipyard personnel completed the operation which grafted the new bow on the old battleship in a mere 16 days. On 28 June 1956, the ship was ready for sea.

 
Wisconsin resumed her midshipman training on 9 July 1956. That autumn, Wisconsin participated in Atlantic Fleet exercises off the coast of the Carolinas, returning to port on 8 November 1956. Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard a week later, the battleship underwent major repairs that were not finished until 2 January 1957.

After local operations off the Virginia capes on 3-4 January 1957 and from 9-11 January, Wisconsin departed Norfolk on 16 January, reporting to Commander, Fleet Training Group, at Guantánamo Bay. Wisconsin served as Admiral Henry Crommelin’s flagship during the ensuing shore bombardment practices and other exercises held off the isle of Culebra, Puerto Rico, from 2-4 February. Sailing for Norfolk upon completion of the training period, the battleship arrived on 7 February and resumed local operations off Norfolk. On 27 March, Wisconsin sailed for the Mediterranean Sea, reaching Gibraltar on 6 April, she pushed on that day to rendezvous with TF 60 in the Aegean Sea before reporting to Turkey for the NATO Exercise Red Pivot.

Departing Xeros Bay on 14 April, she arrived at Naples four days later, Wisconsin conducted exercises in the eastern Mediterranean. In the course of those operational training evolutions, she rescued a pilot and crewman who survived the crash of a plane from the carrier Forrestal. Wisconsin reached Valencia, Spain, on 10 May and, three days later, entertained prominent civilian and military officials of the city.

Departing Valencia on 17 April, Wisconsin reached Norfolk on 27 May. On that day, Rear Admiral L.S. Parks relieved Rear Admiral Crommelin as Commander, BatDiv 2. Departing Norfolk on 19 June, the battleship, over the ensuing weeks, conducted a midshipman training cruise through the Panama Canal to South American waters, and reached Valparaiso on 3 July. Eight days later, the battleship headed back to the Panama Canal and the Atlantic.

 

Wisconsin’s days as an active fleet unit were numbered, and she prepared to make her last cruise. On 4 November, she departed Norfolk with a large group of prominent guests on board. Reaching New York City on 6 November, the battleship disembarked her guests and, on 8 November, headed for Bayonne, New Jersey, to commence a pre-inactivation overhaul. She was placed out of commission at Bayonne on 8 March 1958, and joined the United States Navy reserve fleet there, leaving the United States Navy without an active battleship for the first time since 1895. Subsequently taken to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Wisconsin remained there with her sister ship Iowa into the 1980s. While berthed in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, Wisconsin fell victim to an electrical fire, which damaged the ship and left her as the Iowa-class battleship in the worst material condition prior to her 1980s reactivation.

 Reactivation (1986–1990)
 
As part of President Ronald Reagan’s Navy Secretary John F. Lehman’s effort to create a “600-ship Navy” Wisconsin was reactivated 1 August 1986 and moved under tow to the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, Louisiana, to commence pre-re-commissioning workups. The battleship was then towed from the Avondale Shipyard and arrived at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi on 2 January 1987 to receive weapons system upgrades for her modernization. During the modernization, Wisconsin had all of her remaining 20 mm and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns removed, due to their ineffectiveness against modern day jet fighters and enemy anti-ship missiles; additionally, the two 5 in gun mounts located at mid-ship and in the aft on the port and starboard side of the battleship were removed.

Over the next several months, the ship was upgraded with the most advanced weaponry available; among the new weapons systems installed were four MK 141 quad cell launchers for 16 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, eight Armored Box Launcher (ABL) mounts for 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles, and a quartet of the United States Navy’s Phalanx Close In Weapon System (CIWS) gatling guns for defense against enemy anti-ship missiles and enemy aircraft. Wisconsin also received eight RQ-2 Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, which are remotely controlled drones that replaced the helicopters previously used to spot for her nine 16 in /50 cal guns. Also included in her modernization were upgrades to radar and fire control systems for her guns and missiles, and improved electronic warfare capabilities. Armed as such, Wisconsin was formally recommissioned on 22 October 1988 in Pascagoula, Mississippi under the command of Captain Jerry M. Blesch, USN. Assigned to the United States Atlantic fleet, she was subsequently homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, where she became the centerpiece of her own surface action group (SAG), also referred to as a battleship battle group (BBBG).

Wisconsin spent the first part of 1989 conducting training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean and off the coast of Puerto Rico before returning to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for a post recommissioning shakedown that lasted the rest of the year. In mid-1990 the battleship participated in a fleet exercise.

 Gulf War (January/February 1991)
 
On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In the middle of the month, President George H. W. Bush, in keeping with the Carter Doctrine, sent the first of several hundred thousand troops, along with a strong force of naval support to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf area to support a multi-national force in a standoff with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. On 7 August, Wisconsin and her battle group were ordered to deploy in defense of Kuwait for Operation Desert Shield, and they arrived in the Persian Gulf on 23 August. On 15 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced operations, and Wisconsin found herself serving alongside her younger sister Missouri, just as she had done in Korea forty years previously. Both Wisconsin and Missouri launched Tomahawk Missile attacks against Iraq; they were among the first ships to fire cruise missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. Wisconsin served as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) strike commander for the Persian Gulf, directing the sequence of launches that marked the opening of Operation Desert Storm and firing a total of 24 of her own TLAMs during the first two days of the campaign. Wisconsin also assumed the responsibility of the local anti-surface warfare coordinator for the Northern Persian Gulf Surface Action Group.

Wisconsin, escorted by Nicholas, relieved Missouri on 6 February, then answered her first combat call for gunfire support since March 1952. The most recently recommissioned battleship sent 11 shells across 19 mi of space to destroy an Iraqi artillery battery in southern Kuwait. Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle  as a spotter in combat for the first time, Wisconsin pounded Iraqi targets and Iraqi boats that had been used during raids along the Saudi Arabian coast.[17] On 7 February, Wisconsin fired her guns against Iraqi artillery sites, missile facilities, and electronic warfare sites along the coast. She also targeted naval sites with her 16 in  guns, firing several rounds which severely damaged or sunk 15 Iraqi boats, and destroyed several piers at the Khawr al-Mufattah Marina. In response to calls for fire support from US and coalition forces, Wisconsin’s turrets boomed again on 9 February, blasting bunkers and artillery sites, and shelling Iraqi troop positions near Khafji after the Iraqis were ousted from the city by Saudi and Qatari armor. On 21 February, one of Wisconsin’s UAVs observed several trucks resupplying an Iraqi command post; in response, Wisconsin trained her 16 in (410 mm) guns on the complex, leveling or heavily damaging 10 of the buildings. Wisconsin and Missouri alternated positions on the gun line, using their 16 in guns to destroy enemy targets and soften defenses along the Kuwait coastline for a possible amphibious assault.

 
On the night of 23 February, Missouri and Wisconsin turned their big guns on Kuwait’s Faylaka Island to support the US-led coalition ground offensive to free Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation forces. The two ships were to conduct a diversionary assault aimed at convincing the Iraqi forces arrayed along the shores of Faylaka Island that Coalition forces were preparing to launch an amphibious invasion. As part of this attack, Missouri and Wisconsin were directed to shell known Iraqi defensive positions on the island. Shortly after Missouri completed her shelling of Faylaka Island, Wisconsin, while still over the horizon (and thus out of visual range of the Iraqi forces) launched her RQ-2 Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to spot for her 16 in guns. As Wisconsin’s drone approached Faylaka Island, the pilot of the drone was instructed to fly the vehicle low over Iraqi positions so that the soldiers would know that they were once again being targeted by a battleship.[16] Iraqi troops on the ground heard the Pioneer’s distinctive buzzing sound, and having witnessed the effects of Missouri’s artillery strike on their trenchline the Iraqi troops decided to signal their willingness to surrender by waving makeshift white flags, an action dutifully noted aboard Wisconsin. Amused at this sudden development, the men assigned to the drone’s aircrew called Wisconsin’s commanding officer, Captain David S. Bill III, and asked, “Sir, they want to surrender, what should I do with them?” This surrender to Wisconsin’s Pioneer has since become one of the most remembered moments of the Gulf War; the incident was also the first-ever surrender of enemy troops to an unmanned aircraft controlled by a ship.

The next day, Wisconsin answered two separate call fire support missions for coalition forces by suppressing Iraqi troops barricaded in a pair of bunkers. After witnessing the effects of Wisconsin’s strike against the Iraqi positions an elated Saudi marine commander commented over the radio, “I wish we had a battleship in our navy.”

Both Wisconsin and Missouri passed the million-pound mark of ordnance delivered on Iraqi targets by the time President George H. W. Bush ended hostilities on 28 February. With one last salvo from her big guns, Wisconsin fired the last naval gunfire support mission of the war. Wisconsin remained in the Persian Gulf after the cease-fire took effect, and returned home on 28 March 1991. During the six months Wisconsin spent in the Persian Gulf, she had flown 348 UAV hours, recorded 661 safe helicopter landings, steamed 46,000 nmi (53,000 mi; 85,000 km), fired 319 16 in rounds, 881 5-inch rounds, 5,200 20 mm Phalanx CIWS rounds, and launched 24 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Since all four remaining battleships were decommissioned and stricken following the Gulf War, this was the last time that United States battleships actively participated in a war.

 Museum ship (1992–present)
 
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the absence of a perceived threat to the United States came drastic cuts in the defense budget. The high cost of maintaining and operating battleships as part of the United States Navy’s active fleet became uneconomical; as a result, Wisconsin was decommissioned on 30 September 1991 and was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) on 12 January 1995. On 15 October 1996, she was moved to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and on 12 February 1998, she was restored to the Naval Vessel Register. On 7 December 2000, the battleship was towed from Portsmouth, Virginia and berthed adjacent to Nauticus, The National Maritime Center in Norfolk. On 16 April 2001 the battleship’s weather decks were opened to the public by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, a U.S. Navy museum charged with Wisconsin’s interpretation and public visitation. The ship is still owned by the Navy and is considered part of the mothball fleet.

Wisconsin was named as one of two US Navy battleships that were to be maintained in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996 (the other was Iowa). Both battleships were maintained in the United States Navy reserve fleets for use as shore bombardment vessels since their 16 in guns are capable of firing 2,700 lb (1,200 kg) projectiles approximately 24 nmi (28 mi; 44 km) inland; However, Wisconsin is now over 60 years old and would require extensive modernization to return to the fleet since most of her technology dates back to World War II, and the missile and electronic warfare equipment added to the battleship during her 1980s modernization are now considered obsolete.Furthermore, during the 1991 Gulf War, she was said to be hindered by Iraqi naval mines, and reports on the Internet suggest that the majority of the shore bombardments were successfully carried out by US Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and their 3 in guns. In addition, the cost of modernizing Iowa and Wisconsin is estimated to be somewhere around $500 million for reactivation and $1.5 billion for a full modernization program.

On 17 March 2006, the Secretary of the Navy exercised his authority to strike Iowa and Wisconsin from the NVR, which has cleared the way for both ships to be donated for use as museums; however, the United States Congress remains “deeply concerned” over the loss of naval surface gunfire support that the battleships provided, and has noted that “…navy efforts to improve upon, much less replace, this capability have been highly problematic.”Partially as a consequence, Congress passed Pub.L. 109-163, the National Denfense Authorization Act 2006, requiring that the battleships be kept and maintained in a state of readiness should they ever be needed again. Congress has ordered that the following measures be implemented to ensure that, if need be, Wisconsin can be returned to active duty:

Wisconsin must not be altered in any way that would impair her military utility;
The battleship must be preserved in her present condition through the continued use of cathodic protection, dehumidification systems, and any other preservation methods as needed;
Spare parts and unique equipment such as the 16 in gun barrels and projectiles be preserved in adequate numbers to support Wisconsin, if reactivated;
The Navy must prepare plans for the rapid reactivation of Wisconsin should she be returned to the Navy in the event of a national emergency.
 
These four conditions closely mirror the original three conditions that the Nation Defense Authorization Act of 1996 laid out for the maintenance of Wisconsin while she was in the Mothball Fleet. It is unlikely that these conditions will impede the current plan to turn Wisconsin into a permanent museum ship at her berth in Norfolk.

On December 14, 2009 the US Navy officially transferred Wisconsin to the city of Norfolk, ending the requirement for the ship to be preserved for possible recall to active duty. The US Navy had paid the city of Norfolk $2.8 million between 2000 and 2009 to maintain the ship. A formal ceremony transferring the ship to the city of Norfolk took place on April 16, 2010.

Career (US) 
Ordered: 12 June 1940
Builder: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down: 25 January 1941
Launched: 7 December 1943
Commissioned: 16 April 1944
Recommissioned: 22 October 1988
Decommissioned: 30 September 1991 (final)
Struck: 17 March 2006
Motto: Forward for Freedom
Nickname: “Wisky”
Honors and
awards: 6 Battle Stars
Fate: Museum ship
Badge: 
General characteristics
Class and type: Iowa-class battleship
Displacement: 45,000 tons
Length: 887.2 ft (270.4 m)
Beam: 108.2 ft (33.0 m)
Draft: 28.9 ft (8.8 m)
Speed: 33 kn (38 mph; 61 km/h)
Complement: 1,921 officers and men
Sensors and
processing systems: AN/SPS-49 Air Search Radar
AN/SPS-67 Surface Search Radar
AN/SPQ-9 Surface Search / Gun Fire Control Radar
Electronic warfare
and decoys: AN/SLQ-32
AN/SLQ-25 Nixie Decoy System
8 × Mark 36 SRBOC Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Chaff Rocket Launchers
Armament: 1943:
9 × 16 in (410 mm)/50 cal Mark 7 guns
20 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal Mark 12 guns
80 × 40 mm/56 cal anti-aircraft guns
49 × 20 mm/70 cal anti-aircraft guns
1983:
9 × 16 in (410 mm)/50 cal Mark 7 guns
12 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal Mark 12 guns
32 × BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles
16 × RGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles
4 × 20 mm/76 cal Phalanx CIWS
Armor: Belt: 12.1 in (310 mm)
Bulkheads: 11.3 in (290 mm)
Barbettes: 11.6 to 17.3 in (290 to 440 mm)
Turrets: 19.7 in (500 mm)
Decks: 7.5 in (190 mm)

Awards

Wisconsin earned five battle stars for her World War II service, and one for the Korean War. The ship also received the Combat Action Ribbon and Navy Unit Commendation for actions in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm in 1991. She also received over a dozen more awards for World War II, the Korean War and Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm.