WisKy Delivering in the ROK
80 years ago: The Iowa-class fast battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) fires a three-gun salvo from her forward 16″/50 caliber gun turret, during bombardment duty on the “bombline” off Korea. The original Kodachrome color photograph is dated 30 January 1952.
Reactivated from mothballs, Wisconsin was recommissioned on 3 March 1951, and, arriving at Yokosuka, Japan, on 21 November, she relieved USS New Jersey (BB-62) as flagship for VADM Harold M. Martin, Commander, Seventh Fleet. By 2 December, she was providing naval gunfire support for the Republic of Korea (ROK) Corps in the Kasong-Kosong area. She would continue this spate of inshore bombardment for her Korean stint.
After disembarking Rear Adm. Denebrink on 3 December at Kangnung, the battleship resumed station on the Korean “bombline,” providing gunfire support for the U.S. First Marine Division. Wisconsin’s shellings 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 starshells for the 1st ROK Corps, illuminating a communist attack that was consequently repulsed with considerable enemy casualties.
After being relieved on the gunline by the heavy cruiser St. Paul (CA-73) on 6 December 1951, Wisconsin retired only briefly from gunfire support duties. She resumed them, however, in the Kasong-Kosong area on 11 December, screened by Twining. The following day, 12 December, saw the embarkation in Wisconsin of Rear Adm. Harry R. Thurber, Commander, Battleship Division Two (BatDivTWO), who came on board via helicopter, incident to his inspection trip in the Far East.
The battleship continued naval gunfire support (NGFS) duties on the bombline, shelling enemy bunkers, command posts, artillery positions, and trench systems through 14 December 1951. 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 (UN) troops ashore. That same day, she returned to the Kasong-Kosong area. On 15 December she disembarked Rear Adm. Thurber by helicopter. The next day, Wisconsin departed Korean waters, heading for Sasebo to rearm.
Returning to the combat zone on 17 December 1951, Wisconsin embarked U.S. Senator Homer S. Ferguson (R., Michigan) on 18 December. That day, the battleship supported the 11th ROK division with night illumination fire that enabled the ROK troops to repulse a communist assault with heavy enemy casualties. Departing the bombline on the 19th, the battleship later that day transferred her distinguished passenger, Senator Ferguson, by helicopter to the carrier Valley Forge (CV-45).
Wisconsin next participated in a coordinated air-surface bombardment of Wonsan to neutralize pre-selected targets. She shifted her bombardment station to the western end of Wonsan harbor, hitting boats and small craft in the inner swept channel during the afternoon. Such activities helped to forestall any communist attempts to assault the friendly-held islands in the Wonsan area. Wisconsin then made an anti-boat sweep to the north, utilizing her 5-inch batteries on suspected boat concentrations. She then provided gunfire support to UN troops operating at the bombline until three days before Christmas 1951. She then rejoined the carrier task force.
On 28 December 1951 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. The distinguished prelate departed 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 the 10th. President and Mrs. Rhee received full military honors as they came on board, and he reciprocated by awarding Vice Adm. Martin the ROK Order of the Military Merit.
Wisconsin returned to the bombline on 11 January 1952 and, over the ensuing days, delivered heavy gunfire support for the First Marine Division and the First 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 First 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 First Marine Division.
Returning to Wonsan at the end of January 1952, 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 marshalling 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 besides conducting call fire missions on enemy command posts, bunkers, and personnel shelters, making numerous cuts on enemy trench lines in the process.
Wisconsin arrived off Songjin, Korea, on 15 March 1952 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 155-millimeter gun battery struck the shield of a starboard 40-millimeter mount. Although little material damage resulted, three men were injured. Wisconsin responded by shelling that battery and destroying it with a 16-inch salvo before continuing her mission. After lending a hand to support once more the First Marine Division with her heavy rifles, the battleship returned to Japan on 19 March.
Relieved as flagship of the Seventh Fleet on 1 April 1952 by sister ship USS Iowa (BB-61), Wisconsin departed Yokosuka, bound for the United States.