Tag Archives: USS Washington (BB-56)

Galvanic Battlewagon

Some 78 years ago today:

A Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber from the Essex-class fleet carrier USS Lexington (CV-16)— or possibly her sistership Yorktown (CV-10)— in the background, flies anti-submarine patrol over the North Carolina-class fast battleship USS Washington (BB-56) while en route to the invasion of Tarawa and Makin Islands in the Gilbert Island chain (Operation Galvanic). 12 November 1943.

USN photo # 80-G-204897, now in the collection of the National Archives.

Laid down by Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard, 14 June 1938, Washington commissioned 15 May 1941 and earned 13 battle stars during World War II in operations that carried her from the Arctic Circle to the western Pacific. Decommissioned in mid-1947 and assigned to the New York group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, she was stricken and sold in 1961 for scrap.

Ironically, both Lexington and Yorktown are preserved as floating museum ships.

That’s one good looking battlewagon

Here we see the North Carolina-class battleship USS Washington (BB-56) maneuvering off Oahu, Hawaii, in mid-1943 during the height of the War in the Pacific. Taken by a USS Yorktown (CV-10) photographer in beautiful original color.

(NHHC: 80-G-K-15103) Click to big up.

I always liked the North Carolina-class profile with their twin thin stacks. They look a lot like really big cruisers. The follow-on SoDaks, with their stubby hull and single fat stack and the Iowas with their twin fat stacks don’t have the same “feeling” of speed to me, even though they were actually faster.

For reference, at their 46,000-ton heaviest, the 728-foot Washington could make 26.8-knots on a 121,000 hp Babcock &Wilcox/GE plant.

The South Dakotas, at 44,519-tons with a 130,000 hp plant could still hit 27.5-knots on a tighter 680-foot hull.

In contrast, the behemoth Iowas, with a 58,000-ton full load (post-1980s modernization) were still able to pull down 30+ even in their advanced age largely due to their very impressive 212,000 total shaft horsepower– almost twice that of Washington and her sistership North Carolina, proving them to be the king of the “fast battleship” concept. This fact, that they were the only battleships with the speed required for post- VJ Day operations based on fast aircraft carrier task forces, left them still in the U.S. inventory after 1962 when the six low-mileage dreadnoughts of the North Carolina and South Dakota-classes were scrapped or, in the case of half of them, donated as museum ships while the Iowas of the same era went on to another three decades on the Naval List.

The Ghost of Ulithi anchorage

(click to big up)

(click to big up)

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.