Tag Archives: USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)

Learning all about the Anti-submarine …guns

Official caption: A blue jacket aboard Pennsylvania telling two feminine visitors all about the mechanism of the anti-submarine guns, December 1918.

Photo by Underwood & Underwood via the National Archives 165-WW-332D-42

The gun looks to be a low-angle 3-pounders (47mm), common on earlier battleships of the 1900s for use not only against oncoming torpedo boats but also submarines who, more often than not, were encountered awash or surfaced except during their final attacks. By 1918, they were more or less just used as saluting guns, which would jive for how the two above guns are mounted (i.e. side-by-side so that one crew could work both guns to keep up an easy cadence while the close mounting made it next to impossible to traverse or elevate).  

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), commissioned 12 June 1916, was originally completed with four 3-inch high angle guns for use as “balloon busters” and anti-aircraft artillery, her smallest “usable” guns. 


RADM Henry T. Mayo’s flagship in 1917, the battleship cooled her heels off the Atlantic coast during the Great War, only heading to France in early December 1918 to escort Mr. Wilson to Paris. She then escorted the coal-fired dreadnoughts of Battleship Divisions Nine and Six back to New York, which had served with the British, arriving back home on Christmas night to a big celebration.

Her Second World War would be much more exciting.

How you like me now?

Battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) firing her big 14″/45cal guns at Leyte on 20 October 1944, 75 years ago today, during the pre-invasion bombardment. Note her gunfire directors trained towards shore.

Naval History and Heritage Command Catalog # 80-G-288474.

Notably, Pennsylvania was present at Pearl Harbor and, while two destroyers next to her in drydock were not so lucky, was only lightly damaged and was ready for action at sea just six weeks after the attack.

Although a Great War-era battlewagon, she would prove her worth many times over in naval gunfire support across the Pacific, earning the nickname “Old Falling Apart” for her tendency to fire more ammunition than any other ship in such softening up operations.

Pennsy getting it done, 75 years ago today

Here we see Pearl Harbor veteran, USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) firing her 14″/45cal and 5″/38cal guns while bombarding Guam, south of the Orote Peninsula, on the first day of landings, 21 July 1944. On that day, the 3rd Marine Division launched an amphibious assault to liberate and recapture Guam after over two years of Japanese occupation.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 67584

Laid down eight months before Archduke Franz Ferdinand caught a Browning to the chest and the lights started going out over Europe, “Pennsy” commissioned on 12 June 1916, just in time to serve uneventfully in WWI. Her second world war was much more action-packed. Coming out of her meeting with Infamy in 1941 relatively lightly damaged– largely due to her location in drydock in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard– she patrolled off California’s coast in 1942 and was back in active combat starting with the Aleutian Campaign.

In all, Pennsylvania picked up eight hard-won battle stars over the course of 146,052 steaming miles in WWII and ended her proud 31-year career sunk off Kwajalein Atoll after atomic bomb testing on 10 February 1948.

Her only sister, Arizona, had a much more tragic involvement in the conflict.

Panama, class of ’21

“Combined Atlantic and Pacific Fleets in Panama Bay, Jan. 21st 1921,” taken by M.C. Mayberry, of Mayberry and Smith, Shreveport, Louisiana:

Click to big up 1777x529 Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, D.H. Criswell Collection. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 86082-B

Click to big up 1777×529. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, D.H. Criswell Collection. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 86082-B

Among the ships present in this image are (from left to right): USS Stoddert (DD-302), USS Melville (AD-2), USS Texas (BB-35), USS Partridge (AM-16), USS Birmingham (CL-2), USS Arkansas (BB-33), USS Idaho (BB-42), USS Mississippi (BB-41), USS Wyoming (BB-32), USS New York (BB-34), USS New Mexico (BB-40) and USS Pennsylvania (BB-38).