Tag Archive | USS Massachusetts

Do you know the names of BB-59’s Turret Three’s guns?

The 16-inch guns on the USS Massachusetts were used to plaster enemy ships and troops during World War II and her caretakers are looking for help uncovering their lost history.

Commissioned in 1942, “Big Mamie” earned an impressive 11 Battle Stars during the War the hard way. Her mighty 16-inch/45cal guns (that’s a bore 16-inches wide and a barrel tube 45 calibers, or 720-inches long) silenced the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart in Morocco, then bombarded  Kwajalein, Iwo Jima, the Philippines and even the Japanese Home Islands. In fact, she wore her guns down to the point that they had to be relined at least once during the war.

Decommissioned in 1947, she has been on display at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, since 1965, where museum officials are hard at work figuring out the lost names to three of her big guns. You see, the trio in Turret One, towards the bow of the ship, are named after women, (Clara, Jeannie, and Lydia) while the guns in Turret Two are named after historic U.S. Navy ships lost in the opening battles of the war (Arizona, Utah, and Vincennes). As for the guns in Turret Three, pointing over Big Mamie’s stern? That’s where the public comes in.

“Looking for some help on Turret Three’s gun names,” the museum posted on social media last week. “Maybe some photos or first-hand accounts of them from the former crewmembers.”

For example, inside Turret One:

“Clara,” one of the guns in Turret One, was recently inspected to make sure her protective coating was intact. As every gun owner knows, you have to keep them cleaned and lubricated.

A look inside the breech. Not bad considering she hasn’t fired a shell since Truman was in office

“Lydia,” another Turret One gun. Note the huge breechblock open to the bottom of the image

Currently, the museum knows that the T3 tubes were all made at the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in 1941 and have very close numbers (#301, 303, and 304) which likely meant they were all “born” at close to the same time. While the nicknames are likely still there, they have been long ago covered by generations of paint.

In the meantime, the busy work of keeping an aging floating steel warship in a harsh salt-water environment continues no stop.

What the museum knows about the ship’s main battery

 

SoDaks representing, 73 years ago today

Artwork by John Hamilton from his publication, “War at Sea.” Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery:

89-20-Z: U.S. Navy battleships firing guns on the Japanese mainland, July 1945.

“Believed to detail the first naval gunfire bombardment of the Japanese mainland on July 14, 1945, by Task Unit 34.8.1. (TU 34.8.1) ships included the battleships: USS South Dakota (BB-57), USS Indiana (BB-58), Massachusetts (BB-59) along with the heavy cruisers: USS Quincy, USS Chicago, and nine destroyers.”

The tale of U.S. battleships at sea in WWII is often focused on the bookends of Pearl Harbor vets and the Iowa-class, with the four ships of the South Dakota class often forgotten (although two endure as floating museum ships), so it is nice to see them remembered.

Great painting.

Here is a Kodachrome of the actual event:

Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-K-6035 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Bombardment of Kamaishi, Japan, 14 July 1945: The U.S. Navy battleship USS Indiana (BB-58) fires a salvo from her forward 16″/45 guns at the Kamaishi plant of the Japan Iron Company, 400 km north of Tokyo. A second before, USS South Dakota (BB-57), from which this photograph was taken, fired the initial salvo of the first naval gunfire bombardment of the Japanese Home Islands. The superstructure of USS Massachusetts (BB-59) is visible directly behind Indiana. The heavy cruiser in the left center distance is either USS Quincy (CA-71) or USS Chicago (CA-136). Due to the Measure 22 camouflage, the cruiser is probably Quincy, as Chicago is only known to have been painted in Measure 21.

Volunteering to clean some of the largest guns in New England

The 16″/45cal guns on the USS Massachusetts were used to plaster enemy ships and troops during World War II but are in need of some attention to last another 75 years.

Decommissioned in 1947, she has been on display at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, since 1965 and an all volunteer group from the museum has spend a good deal of time cleaning the accumulated rust and layers of paint off one of her nine 16-inchers, bringing it down to the bare metal for the first time in some 75 years, then priming and painting the tube to protect it from the harsh Massachusetts weather and salt air.

11 Volunteering to clean some of the largest guns in New England (10) 12 Volunteering to clean some of the largest guns in New England (11) 7 Volunteering to clean some of the largest guns in New England (3) 6 Volunteering to clean some of the largest guns in New England (4)

More in my column at Guns.com

Warship Wednesday Feb 12, the Big Mass

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Feb 12, the Big Mass

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

Here we see the war veteran USS Massachusetts fitting out at the New York Navy Yard, 1904, USS Indiana (BB-01), her sister, is in the background. The second official US battleship, the Massachusetts had an interesting life including service against the Spanish, Germans, and a few stops in between before finally taking a beating from the Army.

Note the LOW freeboard...

Note the LOW freeboard…

Built by William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Co. in Philadelphia at a cost of $3-million, she and her sisters Indiana and Oregon were the young nations first all-steel seagoing battleships. Of course this term was relative as the ships could hardly take to sea due an extremely low free-board that threatened to swap them in heavy sea states.

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Ordered in 1890, she was laid down on 25 June 1891 and commissioned 10 June 1896, her construction drawn out almost six years which is evident to the new type of ship that she was. Just 350-feet long, she would be considered a small frigate today except for the fact that she was a massive 11,500-tons when fully loaded. This was because the ship was crammed with 4 double ended Scotch boilers,  two vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines, a dozen 13-inch and 8-inch guns, forty smaller cannon and five torpedo tubes.

This was all clad in a total of up-to 18-inches of  Harveyized steel and conventional nickel-steel armor, she was crewed by some 400+ officers and men.

The men in the late 1890s, were darlings of the media and some of their pictures remain in the Library of Congress, showing an interesting aspect of the ordinary lives of bluejackets more than a century ago.

bluejackets on BB-2 getting some officially sanctioned boxing in

bluejackets on BB-2 getting some officially sanctioned boxing in

According to the history of the ship, “To the men who served on her she was more than just a battleship. The men polished her brass fittings and cleaned her wooden deck because she was their home and their protector. They proudly sailed the seas knowing that they were aboard one of the most powerful and beautiful ships on Earth. But these men did not always have it easy, they had to constantly feed the coal burners to keep the ship powered, clean the guns and ammunition and then check and recheck them to maintain battle-readiness.

U.S.S. Massachusetts, fire room 1897 note the chalk on the boiler hatches

U.S.S. Massachusetts, fire room 1897 note the chalk on the boiler hatches

“They lived in small quarters, sailed through rough seas and were away from daily comforts. Yet throughout these difficult tasks and times, recreation was encouraged. The Navy learned long ago that it was important to keep up the men’s spirits in the face of such demanding times. Before retiring to their hammocks for the evening, the men were sometimes allowed to purchase small amounts of beer. They also formed a football team and held boxing matches to help relieve tensions aboard, and on holidays special dinners were cooked for those not lucky enough to be at home with family. Overall, those who lived, worked and died in her service know that Massachusetts was a fine ship”

Marine guards c1897

Marine guards c1897. White gloves and spiked Prussian style helmets were standard for the Army too in many units at this time. 

BB-2 sailors in summer whites

BB-2 sailors in summer whites

Inside one of her turrets

Inside one of her turrets. Note the old school Donald Ducks

Capable of steaming at up-to 16-knots, she was fast for her time.

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When war broke out in 1898 with Spain, her beautiful white and buff paint scheme switched to haze grey and she went off to the beat of the drums, joining the Flying Squadron under Commodore Winfield Scott Schley for the blockade of Cuba. Missing the main fleet battles due to having to be coaled, she did cause the old Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes to scuttle and assisted with the occupation of both Puerto Rico and Cuba.

The 3000-ton largely disarmed Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes, sunk in Santiago, Cuba 1898 after scuttling following an engagement with the USS Massachusetts

The 3000-ton largely disarmed Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes, sunk in Santiago, Cuba 1898 after scuttling following an engagement with the USS Massachusetts. She cruiser suffered no less than three direct hits from her 13-inch shells.

Over the next several years she was something of a cursed ship, grounding herself on no less than three occasions as well as suffering explosions in her turret and boiler rooms.

By 1910 she was used only for gunnery training and annual summer midshipmen s cruises around the Eastern seaboard and Caribbean. In 1917 when WWI became very real for the US, she was pressed into service to train naval gun-crews which she did admirably. With the end of the war came the end of her usefulness and in 1919 she was simply renamed the very awe-inspiring and creative  ‘Coastal Battleship No.2′ before being struck on 22 November 1920. The next year she was turned over to the Army, who desperately wanted a battleship to poke holes in

Her guns and coal stores were removed as was anything that was useful. But thats ok, as the Army just wanted her armor intact anyway.

Her guns and coal stores were removed as was anything that was useful. But that’s OK, as the Army just wanted her armor intact anyway.

Scuttled in shallow water near Pensacola, she was within range of the US Army Coastal Artillery positions at Forts Pickens and Fort Barrancas as well as by mobile railway artillery and tons of ordnance were fired at the old ship through 1925 when the Army offered her back to the Navy. The Navy said thanks but no thanks and instead used her for occasional bombing runs by pilots flying out of NAS Pensacola  as late as the 1950s when she finally slipped under the waves for good.

She is now owned by the state of Florida who maintains her as an artificial reef.

As such she is a very popular dive.

Specs:

Displacement: 10,288 long tons (10,453 t; 11,523 short tons)
Length:     350 ft 11 in (106.96 m)
Beam:     69 ft 3 in (21.11 m)
Draft:     27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion:

Two vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines
4 double ended Scotch boilers later replaced by 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
9,000 ihp (6.7 MW) (design)
10,400 ihp (7.8 MW) (trial)

Speed:

15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) (design)
16.2 kn (30.0 km/h; 18.6 mph) (trial)

Range:     4,900 nmi (9,100 km; 5,600 mi)
Complement:     473 officers and men
Armament:

4 × 13″/35 gun (2×2)
8 × 8″/35 gun (4×2)
4 × 6″/40 gun removed 1908
12 × 3″/50 gun added 1910
20 × 6-pounders
6 × 1 pounder guns
5 × Whitehead torpedo tubes

Armor:     Harveyized steel

Belt: 18–8.5 in (460–220 mm)
13″ turrets: 15 in (380 mm)
Hull: 5 in (130 mm)

Conventional nickel-steel

Tower: 10 in (250 mm)
8″ turrets: 6 in (150 mm)
Deck: 3 in (76 mm)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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Warship Wednesday March 14

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steampunk navies of the 1880s-1930s and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 14

Here we have the USS Massachusetts

USS Massachusetts (Battleship No. 2) was an Indiana-class battleship and the second United States Navy ship comparable to foreign battleships of the time. Authorized in 1890 and commissioned six years later, she was a small battleship, though with heavy armor and ordnance. The ship class also pioneered the use of an intermediate battery. She was designed for coastal defense and as a result her decks were not safe from high waves on the open ocean.

Massachusetts served in the Spanish–American War (1898) as part of the Flying Squadron and took part in the blockades of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. She missed the decisive Battle of Santiago de Cuba after steaming to Guantánamo Bay the night before to resupply coal. After the war she served with the North Atlantic Squadron, performing training maneuvers and gunnery practice. During this period she suffered an explosion in an 8-inch gun turret, killing nine, and ran aground twice, requiring several months of repair both times. She was decommissioned in 1906 for modernization.

Although considered obsolete in 1910, the battleship was recommissioned and used for annual cruises for midshipmen during the summers and otherwise laid up in the reserve fleet until her decommissioning in 1914. In 1917 she was recommissioned to serve as a training ship for gun crews during World War I. She was decommissioned for the final time in March 1919 under the name Coast Battleship Number 2 so that her name could be reused for USS Massachusetts (BB-54). In 1921 she was scuttled in shallow water off the coast of Pensacola, Florida and then used as a target for experimental artillery. The ship was never scrapped and in 1956 it was declared the property of the state of Florida. Since 1993 the wreck has been a Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. It serves as an artificial reef and diving spot.

Displacement:     10,288 long tons (10,453 t; 11,523 ST)
Length:     350 ft 11 in (106.96 m)
Beam:     69 ft 3 in (21.11 m)
Draft:     27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion:

Two vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines
4 double ended Scotch boilers later replaced by 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
9,000 ihp (6.7 MW) (design)
10,400 ihp (7.8 MW) (trial)

Speed:

15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) (design)
16.2 kn (30.0 km/h; 18.6 mph) (trial)

Range:     4,900 nmi (9,100 km; 5,600 mi)
Complement:     473 officers and men
Armament:

4 × 13″/35 gun (2×2)
8 × 8″/35 gun (4×2)
4 × 6″/40 gun removed 1908
12 × 3″/50 gun added 1910
20 × 6-pounders
6 × 1 pounder guns
5 × Whitehead torpedo tubes

Armor:     Harveyized steel

Belt: 18–8.5 in (460–220 mm)
13″ turrets: 15 in (380 mm)
Hull: 5 in (130 mm)

Conventional nickel-steel

Tower: 10 in (250 mm)
8″ turrets: 6 in (150 mm)
Deck: 3 in (76 mm)

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