USS Washington (BB-56)

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USS Washington anchored at the Puget Sound Navy Yard
Washington anchored at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in April 1944. She has just had heavy damage repaired after a collision with the battleship Indiana left about 60 feet (18 m) of her bow hanging down and into the water. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Career (US)
Name:USS Washington
Namesake:State of Washington
Ordered:1 August 1937
Builder:Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down:14 June 1938
Launched:1 June 1940
Sponsored by:Virginia Marshall
Commissioned:15 May 1941
Decommissioned:27 June 1947
Struck:1 June 1960
Nickname:Mighty W
Honors and
awards:
Silver-service-star-3d.png Bronze-service-star-3d.png13 Battle Stars
Fate:Sold for scrap, 24 May 1961
General characteristics
Class & type:North Carolina-class battleship
Displacement:35,000 long tons (36,000 t)
Length:729 ft (222 m)
Beam:108 ft (33 m)
Draft:38 ft (12 m)
Speed:28 kn (32 mph; 52 km/h)[1]
Complement:108 officers, 1,772 men
Sensors and
processing systems:
CXAM-1 RADAR, and a series of upgrades[2]
Armament:9 × 16"/45 caliber Mark 6 guns[3]
20 × 5"/38 caliber guns
16 × 1.1"/75 caliber guns
Aircraft carried:3 × SOC Seagull[1]
Aviation facilities:2 × aircraft catapult[1]
 
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USS Washington anchored at the Puget Sound Navy Yard
Washington anchored at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in April 1944. She has just had heavy damage repaired after a collision with the battleship Indiana left about 60 feet (18 m) of her bow hanging down and into the water. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Career (US)
Name:USS Washington
Namesake:State of Washington
Ordered:1 August 1937
Builder:Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down:14 June 1938
Launched:1 June 1940
Sponsored by:Virginia Marshall
Commissioned:15 May 1941
Decommissioned:27 June 1947
Struck:1 June 1960
Nickname:Mighty W
Honors and
awards:
Silver-service-star-3d.png Bronze-service-star-3d.png13 Battle Stars
Fate:Sold for scrap, 24 May 1961
General characteristics
Class & type:North Carolina-class battleship
Displacement:35,000 long tons (36,000 t)
Length:729 ft (222 m)
Beam:108 ft (33 m)
Draft:38 ft (12 m)
Speed:28 kn (32 mph; 52 km/h)[1]
Complement:108 officers, 1,772 men
Sensors and
processing systems:
CXAM-1 RADAR, and a series of upgrades[2]
Armament:9 × 16"/45 caliber Mark 6 guns[3]
20 × 5"/38 caliber guns
16 × 1.1"/75 caliber guns
Aircraft carried:3 × SOC Seagull[1]
Aviation facilities:2 × aircraft catapult[1]

USS Washington (BB-56), the second of two battleships in the North Carolina class, was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 42nd state. Her keel was laid down on 14 June 1938 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Launched on 1 June 1940, Washington went through fitting-out before being commissioned on 15 May 1941 with Captain Howard H. J. Benson in command. In early 1942, Washington and twenty other American ships were the first to be equipped with fully operational radar.[2] She has the distinction of being the only American battleship to sink an enemy battleship during World War II in a "one on one" surface engagement.[4] Washington suffered no losses to hostile action during the entire course of the war, although she had some close calls: she was almost hit by "Long Lance" torpedoes off Guadalcanal, and was hit once by enemy ordnance, a 5-inch shell[3] that passed through her radar antenna without detonation.

In 1942, she was sent to the North Atlantic to fill in for British ships that had been redeployed around Madagascar. She was assigned to guard against a possible sortie by the German battleship Tirpitz, and to provide distant cover for several Iceland–Murmansk convoys. In July, she returned to the United States for an overhaul before being deployed to the Pacific in August for action against Imperial Japan, where she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Willis Augustus Lee. Two months after her arrival at Tonga in September 1942, Washington was tasked with intercepting a Japanese naval task force near Guadalcanal along with South Dakota and four destroyers. In the ensuing battle, South Dakota was severely damaged, but Washington sustained almost no damage while her guns sank the battleship Kirishima and the destroyer Ayanami. Washington operated as an escort for aircraft carrier task forces for most of 1943, and then bombarded Nauru in December in company with five other battleships. Around dawn on 1 February 1944, Washington rammed the battleship Indiana and incurred several fatalities when the latter was maneuvering across the formation to refuel destroyers. With around 60 feet (18 m) of her bow heavily damaged, Washington was forced to retire. The Pearl Harbor shipyards fitted the battleship with a temporary bow; a full restoration had to wait until the ship docked in the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

Washington arrived back in the war zone only in mid-1944. She took part in bombarding Saipan and Tinian before joining the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where the Japanese Combined Fleet's aircraft were decisively defeated by American sea-based fighters and anti-aircraft fire. For the rest of the war, Washington alternated between shore bombardment and carrier escort, including direct support in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On 1 July 1945, the battleship headed for the United States for a badly needed overhaul. She entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard and did not emerge until October, after the end of the war. She sailed to Philadelphia, participating in Navy Day celebrations there, before her assignment to Operation Magic Carpet, the withdrawal of American military personnel from overseas deployments. Washington was decommissioned on 27 June 1947, stricken on 1 June 1960, and sold for scrapping on 24 May 1961.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

A large warship, still missing most of its superstructure, sits in a dry dock, awaiting its launch. The ship is draped in a large banner and surrounded by crowds of spectators; a huge gantry towers over the ship.
Launching on 1 June 1940
For further information, see North Carolina-class battleship

Washington and sister ship North Carolina were both authorized in January 1937. Five shipyards, including three private corporations (Bethlehem Shipbuilding, New York Shipbuilding, and Newport News Shipbuilding), and two naval shipyards (Philadelphia and Brooklyn, New York) tendered bids to build the ships. As the government-owned yards had significantly lower bids, the Navy assigned North Carolina to Brooklyn and Washington to Philadelphia.[5]

Washington's keel was laid on 14 June 1938 in Philadelphia's Slipway No. 3, and the hull was launched on 1 June 1940, the first battleship launched in the United States since 1921. After a near debacle during the launch of the destroyer Buck, when a merchant ship did not heed the warnings of the Coast Guard, the Delaware River was closed for 2 miles (3.2 km) around the site of Washington's launch. This had the added—or primary—benefit of clearing the river to deprive potential spies of photographic and other information on the ships. Other efforts to prevent any photos included air patrols above the slipway, state police across the river, and the exclusion of any person who could not produce proper credentials. Still, 25,000 attended the ceremony and heard a speech by Senator David I. Walsh, the chairman of the Senate's Committee on Naval Affairs. Washington was sponsored and christened by 15-year-old Virginia Marshall (a direct descendant of former Chief Justice John Marshall), who broke a bottle of champagne over the bow as the ship slid into the water. Immediately after, tugboats pushed the incomplete ship into a nearby drydock for fitting-out. The main guns were installed during this time after being transported from the Washington Navy Yard on two barges towed by Navajo. Soon after being completed, Washington was commissioned into the United States Navy on 15 May 1941.[6][7][8]

During installation, the main gun turrets had to be lifted by cranes and swung into their emplacements. Their weight was sufficient to keep them stable, but they would fall out if the ship capsized.

Washington was 728 feet 11.625 inches (222.2 m) long, 108 feet 3.875 inches (33.01683 m) wide, and had a 34-foot-9-inch (10.6 m) maximum draft. The ship was powered by eight Babcock & Wilcox three-drum express-type boilers driving four sets of General Electric geared turbines. These were nominally rated at 121,000 shaft horsepower (shp) to four propellers, giving the ship a top speed of roughly 28 knots (32 mph; 52 km/h). At the more economical 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h), Washington could steam for 17,450 nautical miles (20,080 mi; 32,320 km).[9][N 1]

Washington's main battery was composed of nine 16"/45 caliber Mark 6 guns arranged in three turrets;[3] two superfiring turrets were located near the bow, while the third was at the stern. Secondary armament included dual purpose 5"/38 caliber Mark 12 guns, arranged all around the superstructure, and greatly varying numbers of 1.1"/75 caliber guns, Browning .50 caliber machine guns, and Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm autocannons.[11][12][N 2]

1941–1942: Atlantic service[edit]

Although commissioned, her engine had not been run at full power—like North Carolina, Washington had major problems with acute longitudinal vibrations from her propeller shafts. A problem shared with her sister and other ships like Atlanta, it was only cured after different propellers were tested aboard North Carolina, including four- and five-bladed versions, as well as a cut-down version of the original three-bladed propeller. Eventually, a combination of two four-bladed propellers on the outside and two five-bladed inboard propellers partially solved the issue, allowing Washington to run builder's trials on 3 August 1941. Loaded at about 44,400 long tons (45,100 t), the propulsion plant was tested at 123,850 shp, but speed was not recorded. On 2 December, Washington was able to steam at about 28 knots (32 mph; 52 km/h) when loaded at about 42,100 long tons (42,800 t), while a full power trial at 45,000 long tons yielded 27.1 knots (31.2 mph; 50.2 km/h). In February 1942 she achieved 127,100 and 121,000 shp. Still, various propeller combinations were employed through the greater part of 1943, and the vibrations were never fully corrected.[13]

Washington (BB56) 29 May 1941 shortly after commissioning 15 May.

During these tests, Washington joined Battleship Division Six as the flagship of Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox, Jr., the commander of the division and of all battleships in the Atlantic Fleet. During this time, she was accompanied at times by North Carolina and the recently commissioned aircraft carrier Hornet. On 26 March 1942, Washington was reassigned to Task Force 39, which was also commanded by Wilcox. She continued serving as his flagship as they departed that day from Portland, Maine with Wasp, Wichita, and Tuscaloosa and an escort of six destroyers.[14] Their destination was the United Kingdom; they were needed to reinforce the British Home Fleet in case Tirpitz left port and to take the place of British ships being sent to Madagascar as part of Operation "Ironclad".[15]

While crossing the Atlantic, a man went overboard in heavy seas. It was found shortly thereafter that it had been Wilcox. Planes from Wasp assisted while Tuscaloosa dropped life buoys and two destroyers combed the area behind the battleship. A crewman aboard Wilson saw a body face-down in the water, but the ship was unable to bring it aboard due to the sea conditions. It will probably never be known what exactly happened; he could have been washed overboard by a large wave, while the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships says "one school of thought has it that he had suffered a heart attack."[7][16][17]

Now commanded by Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen in Wichita, the force continued to Scapa Flow, arriving on 4 April 1942. They became part of the Home Fleet, which was commanded by Admiral John C. Tovey; he flew his flag on the battleship King George V. The majority of this month was filled with maneuvers and practicing. It was only on 28 April that Washington left Scapa Flow for an operation. Accompanied by various ships, including King George V, Victorious, Kenya and six destroyers from Britain and Wichita, Tuscaloosa and four destroyers from the United States, Washington was assigned to provide distant cover for PQ-15, one of the Iceland–Murmansk convoys. It was the first time that American ships had ever operated with the Home Fleet. Washington was damaged on 1 May when King George V accidentally rammed the destroyer Punjabi, cutting it in two. Directly behind King George V, Washington passed through the same stretch of sea as the sinking destroyer, receiving damage from depth charges as they went down with the ship and exploded as they sank. Though damage to the hull was minimal—limited to only one leaking fuel tank—many devices on the ship were damaged, including all of the main battery range finders and three circuit breakers. In addition, three fire control systems and the radar were put out of action from mechanical shock. King George V, her bow heavily damaged, was forced to leave the task force with an escort of destroyers to be repaired.[7][16][17][18]

Midshot with a large single engined propeller warplane in background. A man with military ribbons covering his chest—the King (see caption)—accompanied by navy officers walks down a lines of sailors who stand rigidly at attention.
King George VI of the United Kingdom (left column, walking toward the camera) aboard Washington, 7 June 1942. An OS2U Kingfisher is in the background.

The American ships in the group left formation on 5 May to put in at Hvalfjörður, Iceland to load supplies from Mizar. On 15 May they left to rejoin elements of the Home Fleet, and docked at Scapa Flow on 3 June. On 4 June, Washington hosted the commander of naval forces in Europe, Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark, who set up a temporary headquarters on the ship for the next few days. On 7 June, King George VI inspected the battleship. For the next month, Washington remained in the North Atlantic to provide distant cover against the threat of German heavy ships (including Tirpitz) for the next two PQ convoys, PQ-16 and PQ-17.[16][17][19]

PQ-17 was notable for being a complete disaster. In a confusing series of events, the British Admiralty ordered the convoy to scatter on 4 July; the way the messages were phrased indicated to the commanders of the convoy and escort that Tirpitz was nearby. However, Tirpitz, escorted by Admiral Hipper and six destroyers, was still off northern Norway. The decision to disperse the ships left many of the merchant ships alone; the ones that were lucky enough to still have an escort had only small warships, as all ships larger than destroyers had been ordered to sail west at high speed, fearing a U-boat attack. Only thirteen merchant ships of the thirty-four present before scattering reached Russia; the rest were sunk by U-boats and aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Washington was recalled to the United States shortly after this debacle. She departed Hvalfjörður on 14 July with an escort of four destroyers and set sail for New York. She put in at Gravesend Bay on 21 July, but two days later she moved to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for an overhaul.[16][20][21]

1942–1945: the war in the Pacific[edit]

Naval Battle of Guadalcanal[edit]

Map of the second phase of the engagement, approx. 23:30–02:00, 14–15 November 1942. Key:
A: U.S. warship force; Washington (solid black line), South Dakota (large dotted line), and four destroyers (small dotted line is route of Gwin and Benham)
B: Ayanami
C: Japanese light cruiser Sendai and destroyers Uranami and Shikinami
D: Japanese light cruiser Nagara and destroyers Shirayuki, Hatsuyuki, Samidare, and Inazuma
E: Japanese bombardment force: battleship Kirishima, heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, and destroyers Japanese destroyer Asagumo and Teruzuki
1: Location of sinking U.S. destroyers Preston and Walke
2: Location of sinking Japanese destroyer Ayanami
3: Location of sinking Japanese battleship Kirishima

Washington departed the navy yard on 23 August with an escort of three destroyers. She sailed south to the Panama Canal and traversed the locks on 28 August. Once through, she continued west into the Pacific, arriving off Nukuʻalofa, the capital of Tonga, on 14 September. She was chosen by Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr. to be his flagship. Washington was assigned to Task Force 17, based around the aircraft carrier Hornet, on the 15th. Along with various other ships, Washington operated out of Nouméa and Espiritu Santo and took part in various elements of the Solomon Islands campaign, including protecting the convoys moving needed materiel to the Battle of Guadalcanal, until early November.[16][17][20]

By this time, the naval outlook for the Allies in the Pacific was poor. With the torpedoing of Wasp by I-19 and the loss of Hornet, only one carrier, Enterprise, was available. In addition, the Japanese were using their naval night-fighting prowess to great effect by sending heavy warships to shell Henderson Field while light forces would run supplies to beleaguered soldiers on Guadalcanal.[N 3] After the Japanese army was repulsed during the Battle for Henderson Field, reinforcements were needed, so Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto loaded eleven transports with members of the Japanese 38th Infantry Division and put together a support force that included the rebuilt Kongō-class battleships Kirishima and Hiei. The latter group was to neutralize Henderson Field so that the slower transports could reach Guadalcanal. During the first attempt to accomplish this, made on the night of 12/13 November, the support force destroyed or damaged nearly every ship of an American task force of five cruisers and eight destroyers, as well as taking the lives of two US Navy Rear Admirals, Norman Scott aboard the light cruiser Atlanta[22] and the task force commander Daniel J. Callaghan[23] in the heavy cruiser San Francisco, but then turned and retreated, losing Hiei to American aircraft on the 13th. Running low on available undamaged ships, South Dakota and Washington, along with the destroyers Walke, Benham, Preston, and Gwin, were dispatched from the vicinity of Nouméa.[17][20][24]

Another Japanese fleet, this one made up of Kirishima, the cruisers Takao, Atago, Sendai, Nagara, and nine destroyers, was sent to Guadalcanal. The American submarine Trout spotted this force east of Santa Ysabel late in the afternoon of the 14th, and after firing and missing with three torpedoes, reported the position and number of the oncoming ships to Lee. Approaching on a northerly course, nine miles west of Guadalcanal, Task Force 64 was reported by the Japanese reconnaissance planes to consist of a battleship, a cruiser, and four destroyers steaming in column formation. Walke led, followed by Benham, Preston, Gwin, and the two battleships, Washington and South Dakota. Both the Japanese and Americans knew about the same information on each other's forces by the afternoon of 14 November.[20][25]

Vectored in, the American force prepared to intercept the Japanese. Prior to the battle, Preston's primitive SC radar equipment was interfering with the more advanced set on the Washington, so it was shut off. At 22:55, Washington's SG surface-search radar found a firm target 18,000 yards (16,000 m) to the northwest well off the starboard bow. This was Sendai. Although the American ships were in firing range, they held fire while they searched for additional targets. At 23:12 Washington obtained a visual sighting, and the South Dakota reported that they also had a sighting over the TBS (Talk Between Ships) radio. Four minutes later, Admiral Lee gave the order to all of TF 16 "open fire when you are ready." Washington and South Dakota both immediately opened fire at the Sendai with their 16 in (410 mm) guns at a range of 11,000 yards (6.3 mi; 10 km).[N 4] Almost simultaneously, Washington fired three of her starboard 5-inch guns at Shikinami. All of the 16 in (410 mm) shots missed—42 from Washington—and Rear Admiral Shintarō Hashimoto ordered Sendai and Shikinami to lay down a smoke screen and retreat. However, Washington fired until they were well out of visual view, using its 5 inch guns, hoping to discourage Ayanami and Uranami from attacking from that area.[26] However the South Dakota did not fire as they were afraid of hitting the Washington.[26] The four escorting destroyers moved in to fire torpedoes, but were easily destroyed or damaged enough to take no further part in the battle. Walke sunk directly in front of Washington at 2342, which was unable to turn away but dropped several lifeboats into the water.[20][27]

Two large gun turrets are trained to starboard, with the superstructure in the background. Flames are shooting out of one or more of the guns in both the nearer of the two turrets and an unseen gun astern.
Washington fires on Kirishima. Note the low elevation of the gun barrels.

Battleship Kirishima vs Washington[edit]

Admiral Kondo aboard the heavy cruiser Atago was still intent on accomplishing his mission of bombarding Henderson Field with 14-inch shells with his battleship Kirishima. And he still discounted sightings of US battleships, even while lookouts from his cruisers Atago and Takao consistently reported that US battleships were present in the American surface group.[28] With reports from his destroyers that the fight was going well against the US Navy, Kondo dispatched his light cruiser Nagara and destroyers to continue with the fray as he took the Kirishima, Atago and Takao to continue towards Henderson Field for bombardment.

South Dakota's effectiveness was drastically reduced by power failures caused by damage from a 5-inch shell. Having no radar and virtually blind, South Dakota sailed to within 5,000 yards (2.8 mi; 4.6 km) of the Japanese force and was illuminated by searchlights. She suffered heavy damage, receiving some 27 hits from 5-, 6-, 8- and 14-inch shells. However, with attention focused on South Dakota, the Washington was able to maneuver completely undetected. She moved to about 8400 yd from 12650 yd away from Kirishima and opened fire. In the span of seven minutes, the Japanese ship was struck by nine 16-inch and around forty 5-inch shells, destroying her ability to steer and setting her on fire. Now realizing Washington's position, some of the Japanese destroyers gave chase and fired torpedoes, forcing Washington to evade (several detonated in her wake), but they soon withdrew under the cover of a smoke screen. Washington found South Dakota later in the morning, and the two set course for Nouméa.[17][29][30]

Washington was not hit during the battle; the nearest shells fell 200 yards (180 m) away. She fired a total of 117 16-inch and 522 five-inch shells. South Dakota steamed for the Brooklyn, New York Navy Yard for two months of repairs and refitting. Kirishima and the destroyer Ayanami were scuttled during the day after the battle.[17][31][32]

1943[edit]

While South Dakota steamed all the way to New York City for major repairs, Washington remained in the South Pacific theater, based at New Caledonia and continuing as flagship for Rear Admiral Lee. The battleship protected aircraft carrier groups and task forces engaged in the ongoing Solomons campaign until late in April 1943, operating principally with TF 11, which included the recently repaired Saratoga, which had been hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine, and with TF 16, built around Enterprise.

Washington departed from Nouméa on 30 April 1943, bound for Hawaii. While en route, TF 16 joined up; and, together, the ships reached Pearl Harbor on 8 May, Washington, as a unit of, and the flagship of, TF 60, carried out battle practice in Hawaiian waters until 28 May 1943, after which time she entered the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for more overhaul.

Washington resumed battle practice in the Hawaiian operating area upon conclusion of those repairs and alterations and joined a convoy on 27 July to form TG 56.14, bound for the South Pacific. Detached on 6 August, Washington reached Havannah Harbor at Efate in the New Hebrides on 7 August. She then operated out of Efate until late in October, principally engaged in battle practice and tactics with the fast carrier task force.

Departing Havannah Harbor on the last day of October, Washington steamed as a unit of TG 53.2 – four battleships and six destroyers. The next day, carriers Enterprise, Essex, and Independence, as well as the other screening units of TG 53.3, joined TG 53.2 and came under Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee. The ships held combined maneuvers until 6 November, when the carriers departed the formation. Washington, with her escorts, steamed to Viti Levu, in the Fiji Islands, arriving on 7 November.

Four days later, however, Washington was again underway, with Rear Admiral Lee – by that point Commander, Battleships, Pacific – embarked, in company with other units of BatDivs 8 and 9. On 16 November, the battlewagons and their screens joined. Rear Admiral Charles Alan Pownall's TG 50.1, with Rear Admiral Pownall flying his flag on Yorktown. The combined force then proceeded toward the Gilbert Islands to join in the daily bombings of Japanese positions in the Gilbert Islands and Marshall Islands, softening them up for impending amphibious assault.

On 19 November, the planes from TG 50.1 attacked Mili and Jaluit in the Marshalls, continuing those strikes through 20 November, the day upon which Navy, Marine, and Army forces landed on Tarawa and Makin in the Gilberts. On 22 November, the task group sent its planes against Mili in successive waves; subsequently, the group steamed to operate north of Makin.

Washington rendezvoused with other carrier groups that composed TF 50 on 25 November and, during the reorganization that followed, she was assigned to TG 50.4, the fast carrier task group under the command of Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman. The carriers comprising the core of the group were Bunker Hill and Monterey. The other two battleships screening the carriers were Alabama and South Dakota. Eight destroyers rounded out the screen.

This task group operated north of Makin, providing air, surface, and antisubmarine protection for the unfolding unloading operations at Makin, starting on 26 November. Enemy planes attacked the group on 27 November and the next day, but these were driven off without inflicting any damage on the fast carrier task group.

As the Gilbert Islands campaign drew to a close, TG 50.8 was formed on 6 December, under Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, in Washington. Other ships of that group included sister ship North Carolina, Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, and Alabama and the fleet carrier Bunker Hill and the light carrier Monterey. 11 destroyers screened the heavy ships.

The group first steamed south and west of Ocean Island to take position for the scheduled air and surface bombardment of the island of Nauru. Before dawn on 8 December, the carriers launched their strike groups while the bombardment force formed in column; 135 rounds of 16-inch fire from the six battleships were fired at the Japanese installations on Nauru; and, upon completion of the shelling, the battleships' secondary batteries took their turn; two airplanes from each battleship spotted the fall of shells.

After a further period of air strikes had been flown off against Nauru, the task group steamed for Efate, where they arrived on 12 December. On that day, due to a change in the highest command echelons, TF 57 became TF 37.

1944[edit]

USS Washington at sea with collision damage
USS Washington in drydock at Pearl Harbor showing collision damage
USS Washington with false bow fitted at Pearl Harbor
Washington's damage after colliding with Indiana in February 1944; at sea shortly after collision (top), in drydock at Pearl Harbor prior to repair (middle), and with a false bow prior to returning to Puget Sound for full repairs.

Washington remained at Efate for less than two weeks. Underway on Christmas Day, flying Rear Admiral Lee's flag, the battleship steamed out in company with her sister ship North Carolina and a screen of four destroyers to conduct gunnery practice, returning to the New Hebrides on 7 January 1944.

Eleven days later, the battleship departed from Efate for the Ellice Islands. Joining TG 37.2, the aircraft carriers Monterey and Bunker Hill and four destroyers, Washington reached Funafuti, Ellice Islands, on 20 January. Three days later, the battleship, along with the rest of the task group, put to sea to make rendezvous with elements of TF 58, the Fast Carrier Task Force under the overall command of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher. Becoming part of TG 58.1, Washington screened the fast carriers in her group as they launched air strikes on Taroa and Kwajalein in the waning days of January 1944. Washington, together with Massachusetts and Indiana, left the formation with four destroyers as an ASW screen, and they shelled Kwajalein Atoll on 30 January. Further air strikes followed the next day.

On 1 February, the USS Washington, while maneuvering in the darkness, rammed Indiana as that ship cut across Washington's bow while dropping out of formation to fuel escorting destroyers. Both battleships retired for repairs. Washington had sustained 60 ft (18 m) of crumpled bow plating, and six of her sailors were killed with others seriously injured (Indiana lost four killed.) The captain of Indiana immediately admitted fault for this collision.

Both ships entered the lagoon at Majuro the next morning. Subsequently, after her damaged bow was temporarily reinforced, Washington departed from Majuro on 11 February, bound for Pearl Harbor, Oahu.

With a temporary bow fitted at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Washington continued on to the West Coast of the United States. Reaching the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, the Washington received a new bow over the weeks that followed her arrival. Joining BatDiv 4 at Port Townsend, Washington, Washington embarked 500 additional men as passengers, and she steamed towards Pearl Harbor, reaching her destination on 13 June, and disembarking her passengers.

Arriving back at Majuro on 30 May, Washington again flew Admiral Lee's flag as he shifted to this battleship soon after her arrival. Lee, now a Vice Admiral, rode on the battleship as she headed out to sea again, departing from Majuro on 7 June and joining Mitscher's TF 58.

Washington supported the air strikes pummeling enemy defenses in the Mariana Islands on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan. TF 58's fliers also attacked twice and damaged a Japanese convoy in the vicinity on 12 June. The following day, Vice Admiral Lee's battleship-destroyer task group was detached from the main body of the force and conducted shore bombardment against enemy installations on Saipan and Tinian. Relieved on 14 June by two task groups under Rear Admirals Jesse B. Oldendorf and Walden L. Ainsworth, Vice Admiral Lee's group retired momentarily.

On 15 June, Admiral Mitscher's TF 58 planes bombed Japanese installations on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands and Chichi Jima and Haha Jima in the Bonin Islands. Meanwhile, marines landed on Saipan under cover of intensive naval gunfire and carrier-based planes.

That same day, Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa, commanding the main body of the Japanese Fleet, was ordered to attack and destroy the invasion force in the Marianas. The departure of his carrier group, however, came under the scrutiny of the submarine Redfin, as it left Tawi Tawi, the westernmost island in the Sulu Archipelago.

Flying Fish also sighted Ozawa's force as it entered the Philippine Sea. Cavalla radioed a contact report on an enemy refueling group on 16 June and continued tracking it as it headed for the Marianas. She again sighted Japanese Combined Fleet units on 18 June.

Admiral Raymond Spruance, commanding the 5th Fleet, had meanwhile learned of the Japanese movement and accordingly issued his battle plan. Vice Admiral Lee's force formed a protective screen around the vital fleet carriers. Washington, six other battleships, four heavy cruisers, and 14 destroyers deployed to cover the flattops; on 19 June, the ships came under attack from Japanese carrier-based and land-based planes as the Battle of the Philippine Sea commenced. The tremendous firepower of the screen, however, together with the aggressive combat air patrols flown from the American carriers, proved too much for even the aggressive Japanese. The heavy loss of Japanese aircraft, sometimes referred to as the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot", caused serious losses in the Japanese naval air arm. During four massive raids, the enemy launched 373 planes; only 130 returned.

In addition, 50 land-based bombers from Guam fell in flames. Over 930 American carrier planes were involved in the aerial action; their losses amounted to comparatively few: 29 shot down and six lost operationally without the loss of a single ship in Mitscher's task force.

Only a few of the enemy planes managed to get through the barrage of flak and fighters, one scoring a direct hit on South Dakota, killing 27 and wounding 29. A bomb burst over the flight deck of the carrier Wasp, killing one man, wounding 12, and covering her flight deck with bits of phosphorus. Two planes dove on Bunker Hill, one scoring a near miss and the other a hit that holed an elevator, knocking out the hangar deck gasoline system temporarily; killing three and wounding 79. Several fires started were promptly quenched. In addition, Minneapolis and Indiana also received slight damage.

Not only did the Japanese lose heavily in planes; two of their carriers were soon on their way to the bottom. Taihō was torpedoed and sunk by Albacore; Shōkaku was sunk by Cavalla. His flagship Taihō sunk out from under him, Admiral Ozawa transferred his flag to Zuikaku.

As the Battle of the Philippine Sea proceeded to a close, the Japanese Mobile Fleet steamed back to its bases, defeated. Admiral Mitscher's task force meanwhile retired to cover the invasion operations proceeding in the Marianas. Washington fueled east of that chain of islands and then continued her screening duties with TG 58.4 to the south and west of Saipan, supporting the continuing air strikes on islands in the Marianas, the strikes concentrated on Guam by that point.

On 25 July, aircraft of TG 58.4 conducted air strikes on the Palau Islands and on enemy shipping in the vicinity, continuing their schedule of strikes through 6 August. On that day, Washington, with Iowa, Indiana, Alabama, the light cruiser Birmingham, and a destroyer screen, was detached from the screen of TG 58.4, forming TG 58.7, under Vice Admiral Lee. That group arrived at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands to refuel and replenish on 11 August, and remained there for almost the balance of the month. On 30 August, that group departed, headed for, first, the Admiralty Islands, and ultimately, the Palaus.

Washington's heavy guns supported the taking of Peleliu and Angaur in the Palaus and supported the carrier strikes on Okinawa on 10 October, on northern Luzon and Formosa from 11 to 14 October, as well as the Visayan air strikes on 21 October. From 5 November 1944 to 17 February 1945, Washington, as a vital unit of the fast carrier striking forces, supported raids on Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Islands; Formosa; Luzon; Camranh Bay and Saigon in French Indochina; Hong Kong; Canton; Hainan Island; Nansei Shoto; and the heart of the enemy homeland, Tokyo itself.

1945[edit]

Washington with other ships of Task Group 38.3 operating off Okinawa in May 1945

From 19 to 22 February, Washington's heavy rifles hurled 16-inch shells shoreward in support of the landings on Iwo Jima. In preparation for the assault, Washington's main and secondary batteries destroyed gun positions, troop concentrations, and other ground installations. From 23 February to 16 March, the fast battleship supported the unfolding invasion of Iwo Jima, including a carrier raid upon Tokyo on 25 February. On 18–19 March, and again on 29 March, Washington screened the Fleet's carriers as they launched airstrikes against Japanese airfields and other installations on the island of Kyūshū. On 24 March, and again on 19 April, Washington lent her support to the shellings of Japanese positions on the island of Okinawa.

Anchoring at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 1 June 1945 after an almost ceaseless slate of operations, Washington steamed for the west coast of the United States on 6 June, making stops at Guam and Pearl Harbor before reaching the Puget Sound Naval Yard on 28 June.

As it turned out, Washington would not participate in active combat in the Pacific theater again. Her final wartime refit carried on through V-J Day in mid-August 1945 and the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September. She completed her post-repair trials and conducted underway training out of San Pedro, California, before she headed for the Panama Canal returning to the Atlantic Ocean. Joining TG 11.6 on 6 October, with Vice Admiral Frederick C. Sherman in overall command, she soon transited the Panama Canal and headed for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the place where she had been "born". Arriving at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 17 October, she participated in Navy Day ceremonies there on 27 October.

Post-war[edit]

Assigned to troop transport duty on 2 November 1945 as part of Operation Magic Carpet, Washington went into dockyard hands on that day, emerging on 15 November with additional bunking facilities below and a crew that now consisted of only 84 officers and 835 men. Steaming on 16 November for the British Isles, Washington reached Southampton, England on 22 November.

After embarking 185 Army officers and 1,479 enlisted men, Washington steamed for New York City. She completed that voyage and, after that brief stint as a transport, was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 27 June 1947. Assigned to the New York group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Washington remained inactive through the late 1950s, ultimately being stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry on 1 June 1960. The vessel was sold on 24 May 1961, and was scrapped soon thereafter.

Awards[edit]

She earned 15 Battle Stars and was never hit or lost a man to the enemy.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The speed and endurance figures are for 1941. By 1945, Washington had been made much heavier, lowering the speed to about 26.8 knots (30.8 mph; 49.6 km/h) and the endurance to 16,320 nautical miles (18,780 mi; 30,220 km). at 15 knots.[10]
  2. ^ The smaller weaponry carried upon commissioning was exclusively 1.1 in and Browning .50 caliber machine guns, but the numbers changed often as these were removed in favor of the more effective Bofors and Oerlikon. See the "Smaller weaponry" section in the North Carolina class battleship article.[11][12]
  3. ^ This happened so often that American servicemen nicknamed it the "Tokyo Express". During the day, Allied supplies would be landed under the cover of planes from Henderson field. During the night, when the planes could not fly, the Japanese would bring in their supplies.[17]
  4. ^ Garzke and Dulin give this range as 16,000 yards (9.1 mi; 15 km).[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hammel, Eric (1988). "Appendix C". The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 13–15, 1942. Guadalcanal: Decision at Sea (1 ed.). New York City: Crown Publishers Inc. p. 462. ISBN 0-517-56952-3. 
  2. ^ a b Macintyre, Donald, CAPT RN (September 1967). Shipborne Radar. United States Naval Institute Proceedings. 
  3. ^ a b c Metric conversions for armaments: 1.1 inches (28 mm), 5 inches (130 mm), 16 inches (410 mm)
  4. ^ Hornfischer p. 366
  5. ^ Muir, "Gun Calibers and Battle Zones", 28
  6. ^ Muir, "Gun Calibers and Battle Zones", 30
  7. ^ a b c Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 41
  8. ^ Davies, "35,000-Ton Addition To Navy Launched"
  9. ^ Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 62, 65
  10. ^ Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 65
  11. ^ a b Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 63
  12. ^ a b Friedman, U.S. Battleships, 276
  13. ^ Friedman, U.S. Battleships, 274–275
  14. ^ Blair, Hitler's U-boat War, 514
  15. ^ Blair, Hitler's U-boat War, 514–515, 528
  16. ^ a b c d e Whitley, Battleships of World War II, 295
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Washington" in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
  18. ^ London Gazette, "No. 39041", 5142
  19. ^ Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 41, 44
  20. ^ a b c d e f Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 44
  21. ^ London Gazette, "No. 39041", 5145–5147
  22. ^ Hornfischer p. 286
  23. ^ Hornfischer p. 298
  24. ^ Hammel, The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal pp. 103, 190–215
  25. ^ Hammel, The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, p. 387
  26. ^ a b Hemmel, The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, pp. 423–424
  27. ^ Hammel, The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, p. 395, 400–402, 417
  28. ^ Hornfischer p. 359
  29. ^ Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 44, 46
  30. ^ Hammel, The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, pp. 428–229
  31. ^ Garzke and Dulin, Battleships, 46, 77
  32. ^ That Kirishima was scuttled appears in the official US Navy history of the engagement, based on an interview with a single surviving crew member. However, more recent analysis based on an underwater survey of the wreck and the accounts of other survivors, including Kirishima's damage control officer, has led at least one author to conclude that Kirishima was struck by up to 22 heavy shells, and capsized as a result of progressive flooding exacerbated by poor damage control. http://www.navweaps.com/index_lundgren/Kirishima_Damage_Analysis.pdf

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]