South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, simultaneously with North Dakota, and the first U.S. Navy warship named in honor of the state was Armored Cruiser No. 9, a Pennsylvania-class ACR of some 15,000-tons that commissioned in 1908.
That vessel was renamed USS Huron (CA-9) in 1920 so that “South Dakota” could be recycled to a new BB-49-class of six 47,000-ton 23-knot battlewagons, each armed with 16″/50 caliber Mark 2 guns.
Well, the Washington Naval Treaty of 1921 caused their cancellation before any of these behemoths were launched, and they were all broken up in place, their guns passed on to the Army to use in coastal defense batteries.
The second SoDak that commissioned was, of course, the leader of a new class of four fast battleships laid down in 1939-40. Winner of a full 13 battlestars, BB-57 was known in the media as “Battleship X” across some of her more spectacular deployments during the war in the Pacific in the interest of OPSEC.
Decommissioned 31 January 1947, after less than five years with the fleet, she was laid up in Philadelphia for the next 15 years and was sold for scrap.
Now, the third SoDak, USS South Dakota (SSN-790), a brand new Virginia-class submarine built at EB’s Groton Shipyard, was commissioned Saturday, adding the name back to active service. Gratefully, some of BB-57s WWII crew were able to make it to the event.
“It is very impressive and I am very honored to be a part of this,” said Richard Hackley, a seaman 1 st Class (Radar Striker) aboard the battleship USS South Dakota during World War II. “I’ve got fond memories from serving on South Dakota and to be included in the new South Dakota is quite an honor for me.”
Artwork by John Hamilton from his publication, “War at Sea.” Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery:
“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.
Here is a Kodachrome of the actual event:
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.
Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.
Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Dwight Shepler
Dwight C. Shepler was born in Everett, Massachusetts, in 1905 and studied art at Williams College then became a member of the American Artists’ Group and the American Artists Professional League. When the war came, the 36-year-old bespectacled Shepler volunteered for the Navy and, in recognition of his skills and education, was assigned to the sea service’s Combat Art Section as an officer-artist.
As noted by the Navy, “he first traveled with a destroyer on Pacific convoy duty. From the mud of Guadalcanal, through the years of the Allied build-up in England, to the memorable D-Day on the French coast, he painted and recorded the Navy’s warfare.”
But then, there is war…
He observed the landings at Normandy in the ETO and Ormoc Bay and Lingayen Gulf and operations at Corregidor and Bataan in the PTO.
He also did a number of historic scenes for the branch.
This image was used in a number of adverts during the War.
For his service as a Combat Artist, the Navy awarded Shepler the Bronze Star. He left the branch in 1946 as a full Commander, USNR, having produced more than 300 paintings and drawings.
After the war, he continued his career as a pioneer watercolorist of the high ski country and later served as president of the Guild of Boston Artists.
He died at age 69 in Weston, Mass. His works are on wide display from the Smithsonian to the Truman Library and various points in between. His oral history is in the National Archives.
Thank you for your work, sir.
Task Group 38.3 enters Ulithi anchorage in column, December 1944, while returning from strikes on targets in the Philippines. Ships are (from front): Independence-class light aircraft carrier USS Langley (CVL-27); Essex-class fleet carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14); fast battleship sisters USS Washington (BB-56) and USS North Carolina (BB-55); fast battleship class leader USS South Dakota (BB-57); three Cleveland-class light cruisers USS Santa Fe (CL-60); USS Biloxi (CL-80); USS Mobile (CL-63) and the Atlanta-class light cruiser USS Oakland (CL-95). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives (photo # 80-G-301351).
All told you are looking at 150~ aircraft and float-planes, 27 x 16-inch naval guns, 36 x 6-inch guns, at least 104 5-inch guns, and well over 700 40mm and 20mm AAA guns spread across these nine hulls. Now that‘s firepower.
Of these the mast of the USS Biloxi is in downtown Biloxi, Mississippi next to the Hard Rock Casino, the USS North Carolina is preserved as an intact museum ship in Wilmington, and the mast of the USS Oakland at the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, CA. As such, the ships in this picture in one form or another now stretch from the East to the Gulf to the West coasts of the United States, keeping the ghost of Task Group 38.3 very much alive.