The Bora Bora battleship batteries at 75
Back in the days of the Great White Fleet, the six Connecticut-class pre-dreadnought battleships (Connecticut, Louisiana, Vermont, Kansas, Minnesota, and New Hampshire; BBs 18-25) were initially designed by BuOrd to carry a secondary battery of twenty-four new model 7″/44 (17.8 cm) Mark 1 rapid-fire naval guns. Designed around 1900, they could rocket out four 165-pound AP shells a minute to 16,500-yards and were considered able to penetrate 9.6-inches of armor at point blank range.
In actuality, the ships only mounted 12 each in the hull casemates on completion due to topside weight issues, with the slightly longer 7″/45 Mark 2 being the gun of choice. The only other vessel to carry these popguns were the follow-on USS Mississippi and her sistership USS Idaho, which were quickly sold to Greece in 1914.
When WWI came, 54 of these older guns were dismounted to be used in France as tractor and train-mounted mobile artillery though they did not make it there before the Armistice, and indeed not all were converted as such.
The Connecticuts? They were used as training ships after scant WWI service and under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, they were all sold for scrap by 1924 and broken up– but their Mark 2 7/45″ guns were saved. Still sitting around at the opening stages of WWII, some (originally from USS New Hampshire) were mounted at Ft. Derussy at Pearl Harbor. Others went to the Azores and USVIs.
Then, eight were sent to Bora Bora, northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia’s Society Islands just weeks after the war in the Pacific set off. Known as “Operation Bobcat” the Navy maintained a supply force of up to 7,000 men on the island for the duration of the war. The eight 7/45’s were set up in two, four-gun batteries overlooking strategic points around the island to protect it against potential Japanese attack.
These guns never fired a shot in anger and the U.S. pulled out 2 June 1946, turning the airstrip (French Polynesia’s only international airport until 1960), new port facilities and guns over to the locals.
The century-old guns are still there and are a popular tourist attraction, now celebrating their 75th year on the island this month. A little of the Great White Fleet still on watch.