Posted tagged ‘Navy’

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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My Memorial Day

May 29, 2010

It was pitch black outside and all I could hear was the crashing of the waves on Gold Beach. I closed my eyes, trying to hear the chatter of the machine guns as the spit out fire towards the growing waves of human flesh clawing their way forward.Opening my eyes again, I tried to imagine rows of landing craft rushing towards me. Yet all I could see was the lights of a French fishing trawler, lazily bouncing through the water.  It was 1987, and I was 13 years old. I had come to Europe that fall on my family’s version of the National Lampoon European Vacation (yes we did get caught in a traffic circle in Paris going 6 times around before exiting). Six countries in 14 days and roughly 2000 miles worth of driving. Although I have many “firsts” accomplished during this trip, the only thing I wanted to see was this span of beach.

If you are my age, or older, you’ll remember that our introductions to World War II, were through films made in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Tora, Tora, Tora…Sands of Iwo Jima…the Longest Day, were all done in black and white. Nothing was computer generated and the special effects were primitive.  The only thing I requested from my parents during this trip was to be taken to the Normandy Beaches.  I wanted to see what those thousands of soldiers saw on that fateful day of June 6th 1944. I started out at Gold beach and the next day I went to Omaha and Utah beaches. Standing on Omaha beach, I could only imagine the enormity of the task that those grunts went through.  The German pillboxes are empty but they still bore the signs of the intense fighting that took place. Shell markings and bullet holes still remain, along with a beached burnt out landing craft still there. I went to the National Cemetary nearby and although I didn’t see an old guy collapse crying near Capt. Miller’s grave (movie Saving Private Ryan), I will never forget the hundreds of rows of crosses and the eerily quiet sound I experienced.  I went to Arnhem and tried to figure out what they meant by a Bridge too Far.  Funny how, years later,I can understand the German being spoken in those movies without having to utilize the subtitles.

When I was 8 years old, I went to Pearl Harbor. There is a rule that states that persons younger than 6 could not go to the Arizona Memorial. I actually witnessed two groups of elderly gentlemen, one American, the other Japanese get into a heated argument and tussel while I stood there trying to imagine that there were over 1000 men entombed below me. I’ve been to the Bridge of the river Kwai (it’s a mile and half away from the original) and have even seen the British fortress in Singapore.  I’ve stood on the walls of Fort Macon thinking how absurd it was that they felt secure not thinking they could be flanked from the “land” side.  I stood on the earthen walls of Fort Fisher trying to imagine how it took the US Marines 4 tries to finally defeat the fort. I’ve even stood inside the Baltimore Harbor looking towards Fort McHenry and knowing that the British felt like fools for not being able to take it.

History. Most of you absolutely hated the subject in high school, and avoided it in college. A subject taught so watered down, you couldn’t tell me who was the US president after Abe Lincoln was assissinated BUT you could tell me how many seasons American Idol has been on and who won the 3rd one. History is often fueled by people’s passion and interpreted incorrectly the same way. For me history is simply the event. We all know that the twin towers in New York City were brought down. That is the event, it cannot be disputed. What cannot be agreed upon is, who did it.  Anyway, I feel I was just about to go on a tangent so let me get back to the subject.

Here are the cold hard facts. I was born in the United States.  I was born in Texas and raised in North Carolina. By default, making me a Southerner. I enlisted into the US Marine Corps at age 18.  Watching movies, reading books, and traveling to different historical landmarks has made me wholely appreciate the sacrifices of many generations of Americans that lived before me. You cannot step on places like Gettysburg and not feel the enormous sadness  of entire bloodlines being wiped out with one volley of 58 calibre musket fire. While at the same time knowing that as Americans, they fought and stood up for what they believed in. For me, that was enough. I felt that for a country to give “me” such liberties and freedoms, I should feel obligated to repay them, even if it meant my life.

I guess I had always wanted to be a Marine since I saw my uncle in his Dress Blues at age 4.  I said that would be me one day.  In high school, I latched onto the visiting Marine recruiters making sure that I wanted in real bad. I was a two sport athlete and ready for any challenges that lay ahead. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait in my senior year and it was on…This was my chance, go fight for my country and repay my blood debt.  It of course was not meant to be…It was over in 100 hours and I still had 4 months till graduation. My uncle was killed in an accident at Quantico, two days after I turned 18. I never looked back.  My mother cried on the telephone when she found out, my father was just pissed because he wanted me to go to college.  I bent a little and and did both. I made it through literally by the skin of my toenails and earned the coveted title Marine.

For me, 8 1/2 years was literally boring.  I was a Marine during the Clinton era. Not much going on and the only excitement was getting orders to Somalia.  I did however fulfill another promise.  My unit was based out of Raleigh North Carolina. A 330 man supply unit with nothing (really) to do during training weekends.  I got into a little trouble due to the monotony of it all and decided to be a better Marine by joining the color guard.  So every month, my little detail would go down to the capital(NC) area and participate in the POW/MIA ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial.  This ceremony is simply where participants would read off all the dead and missing Carolina natives from the Vietnam War. After years of being the port rifleman, I actually was promoted to the NCOIC of this ceremony. Other times we’d participate in parades throughout the region, including strangely enough a Cinco de Mayo parade. Marine Corps Balls were always my favorite and even events that had camera crews filming inches from your face.  Funerals were often taxing due to having to be stone faced yet compassionate towards the grieving families. For me though, it was an honor, being bestowed by strangers to allow me to help lay to rest, a warrior that went before me.  I remember every single funeral I did in those 8 1/2 years. I don’t remember every name or even one name. To me though, that was history.

I remember is high school how the school newspaper found out that I was pro Helms(Helms vs. Gantt race), pro war, and joining the Marine Corps after graduation.  I had countless people approaching me after the “sound byte” and berating me and chastising me for my opinions.  I never backed down and interestingly enough, 3 of my friends actually joined the Navy after graduation. Your are damn right I point that out everytime it comes up too. I am absolutely appalled at most Americans for their views on practically everyting.  During Desert Shield/Desert Storm we had “everyone” flying the American flag from their car antennae trying to “bury” the ghosts of Vietnam. As quickly as it appeared, the faux patriotism quickly disappeared with me constantly getting fussed out by parents ,when calling an applicant’s home  while on recruiting duty, because there was no way their son was going into the military. The one thing that annoys me to this day is someone finding out you were in the service and saying,” Well I was gonna join but (fill in the blank)….” It doesn’t make me respect you nor does it make me connect with you. If you are one of those types…just don’t do it. I was honorably discharged in 2000. Obviously the events of 9/11 happened. Afghanistan and Iraq now have US forces in them. There yet again was the reemergence of faux patriotism…instead of flags on cars, we had magnetic yellow ribbons. That sooned disappeared when it was popular to hate Bush and to hear people say,”I support the Troops, but don’t support the War.” Newsflash: Soldiers and Marines don’t like to hear this statement b/c in reality, you don’t support them at all. There are countless anti war protests with former soldiers and Marines (some in wearing their former uniform) taking place even today. Although these same individuals served their country, they’ve lost sight of what it meant to serve their country, choosing instead to say that their country “lied to them”.  This is not honoring your brother that has sacrificed and gone before you. You cannot mix politics and military service while in uniform.

I have friends that suffer from PTSD and are alcoholics due to what they’ve seen and been through. The thing is, they know the risks. Suicide rate is up high, there is no money to treat every case to PTSD at the VA. Barracks are in shambles. I knew Marines that were on food stamps and working at pizza delivery places after work, just to have some extra money. Yet peoples’ political passions are strong and their support for the military man, weak.

My whole point in this is, it’s another Memorial Day. When they play the National Anthem at whatever ballpark you are going to this weekend, take your hat off, shut up, and stand still for those 2 1/2 minutes. If you run into a veteran and are truly thankful for his service, give him a strong handshake and say thanks. Say a prayer to whatever God you worship and thank him for giving you ancestors that stood up and fought for that 93% lean beef patty your grilling out on the Weber. If you don’t know much about your own family, research it. You might find that your great great granddad made a stand at Little Round Top or shot down a Japanese fighter defending the USS Nevada during the attack on Pearl Harbor. I believe in God, County, the Corps. I believe in defending the Constituition of the United States. I believe in fighting for and upholding the rights of all “American” citizens, even when I don’t share their views. I made a difference. Those are who I will always remember on Memorial Day. All Gave Some, Some Gave All.
Semper Fi!

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.