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Alabama anchored in Casco Bay, Maine, circa December 1942. NH 57209
Alabama anchored in Casco Bay, Maine, circa December 1942. NH 57209
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
BB57 South Dakota New York Shipbuilding 5 July 39 7 June 41 20 Mar 42 Stricken 1 June 62
BB58 Indiana Newport News 20 Nov 39 21 Nov 41 30 April 42 Stricken 1 June 62
BB59 Massachusetts Bethlehem, Quincy 20 July 39 23 Sept 41 12 May 42 Memorial 14 Aug 65
BB60 Alabama Norfolk NY 1 Feb 40 16 Feb 42 16 Aug42 Memorial 9 Jan 65

Displacement: 37,970 tons/38,577 tonnes (standard); 44,519 tons/45,231 tonnes (full load)
Length: 680ft/207.26m (oa); 666ft/202.99m (wl)
Beam: 108ft 2in/32.96m
Draught: 29ft 3in/8.91m (mean)
Machinery: eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers; 4-shaft General Electric geared turbines
Bunkerage: 6,959 tons oil
Performance: 130,000shp = 27.5kts
Range: 15,000nm at 15kts
Protection: main belt 12.2in; Blkhds 13.4in; deck 5.3in; barbettes 17.3in; CT 15in; turrets 18in
Guns: nine (3x3) 16in; sixteen (8x2) 5in DP; twelve (3x4) 1.1 in; twelve 0.5in MGs
Torpedo tubes: nil
Aircraft: three, catapults two
Complement: 1,793

In July 1936, when the General Board were discussing the 1938 Programme battleships, the intention had been to build two more ships to the North Carolina design but the Chief of Naval Operations wanted a new design. This delayed the ship into the 1939 Programme, design work not being started until March 1937. The parameters of the previous design, BB55, had been quite heavily criticised on the grounds of both speed and protection, and initial thoughts for the new ship centred around one in which speed was sacrificed to protection, and armed with 16in guns (note that the change from 14in to 16in in North Carolina had not yet been approved, although it soon would be). This design had a speed of 23 knots, nine 16in guns and at least 6in armour on the deck. While this could be accommodated within the treaty limits, the side armour presented a problem in that at least 15.5in would be necessary. This in turn affected the siting of the belt, it needing to be internal rather than external, which led to quite ingenious methods being put forward to achieve the desired effect. In the end the protection scheme gave good defence against 16in gunfire, but at the expense of a cramped hull and reduced underwater protection.

The low speed of approximately 23-25 knots accepted initially, now became the subject of discussion, possibly because the credited speeds of foreign battleships, notably those of Japan, had to be revised upwards in the light of new intelligence. This led to considerations as to how the machinery of North Carolina could be squeezed into the shorter hull, which again produced novel solutions to the problem, including one wherein the boilers were placed over the turbines. During the course of 1937 eight alternative designs for a fast battleship armed with 14in guns and heavily protected were also discussed, and as time went on higher speed assumed more importance given known developments in Europe. The usual conflicting demands of speed v. protection v. size complicated discussion as the design staffs struggled to keep the displacement below the 35,000-ton treaty limit and to fit all the necessary equipment and machinery into the short hull.


The final design displaced 35,412 tons (standard) and had hull dimensions some 49 feet shorter in length but with the same beam as compared to North Carolina. Full load displacement was 42,782 tons. The protective scheme comprised a 12.25in main waterline belt, 10.5ft in depth, backed by .75in plate, inclined outwards from bottom to top by 19°. This reduced to 6in some 7 feet below the design waterline and the taper continued down to the inner bottom plating where it was l.75in thick. The belt itself was internal to the hull, and between it and the skin plating were two light torpedo bulkheads (.5in and 1in) parallel to the main belt, which divided the outboard space into three compartments used for oil bunkers. The hull on the waterline was given l.5in STS plating, and behind the main armour belt was a .5in splinter bulkhead. End transverse bulkheads were 13.4in. The horizontal protection included a 1.5in weather deck. The main armoured deck, which was flat across the ship and abutted the top of the side belt, was 5in, increasing to 5.3in at the sides; 2.5ft below it was a .5in splinter deck. Conning tower armour was 16in with 7.5in on the roof. Weight of protection amounted to about 40 per cent of the standard displacement.

The designed speed for these ships was 27.5 knots which, given the shorter hull, required 130,000shp as opposed to North Carolina's 121,000. This was achieved by a four-shaft double reduction geared turbine layout supplied by eight Babcock & Wilcox HP steam boilers. The two fire room compartments were amidships, with the turbine rooms ahead and astern of them. These ships had greatly increased generating capacity, no less than seven l,000kW turbo-generator sets being installed, and two 200kW emergency diesel sets.

The main armament remained the standard nine 16in 45cal Mk 6 in three triple turrets, as in North Carolina. The secondary armament was twenty 5in/38 DP in twin gunhouses, but South Dakota carried only sixteen because she was fitted as a Force Flagship with a larger conning tower the weight of which necessitated the deletion of two twin 5in mountings. Heavy AA defence was, as designed, three quadruple 1.1in. Twelve 0.5in machine-guns completed the armament. No torpedo tubes were fitted as was usual with US battleships. There were two catapults on the quarterdeck, the ship being designed to operate three Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes. No hangar was incorporated.

Two ships, South Dakota and Indiana, were authorised under FY39, but a further Act of Congress on 25 June 1938 added two more, Alabama and Massachusetts, even though work had already begun on the next class (the Iowas). Three of the ships were contracted to private yards and one to a Navy yard. Orders were placed on 15 December 1938 (Alabama 1 April 1939)


Only South Dakota completed with 1.1in guns and in fact shipped five quadruple mountings, later increased to seven. During repairs from September to October 1942, two of her 1.1in mountings were replaced by two quadruple 40mm, and two other mountings were fitted to give a total of five quadruple 1.1in and four quadruple 40mm. The remaining 1.1in were finally landed in February 1943 and further quadruple 40mm added, giving her seventeen quadruple 40mm which she retained until the end of the war. She completed with thirty-four 20mm singles and eight 0.5in machine-guns. In September 1942 the 0.5in were increased to sixteen, by which time another 20mm had also been added. By November 1942 the 20mm battery had been increased to fifty-seven mounts, and at the end of the war these had increased to seventy-two. Indiana, Massachusetts and Alabama completed with six quadruple 40mm, the intention being to increase these to ten mountings. This had been carried out in the former pair by the end of 1942, and were increased again, to twelve, in these two ships in February 1943. By the end of the war Massachusetts had eighteen quadruple 40mm, but these were reduced to fifteen during her post-war 1945 refit. Indiana and Alabama only received twelve quadruple 40mm (the latter ship only in November 1943). Indiana, Massachusetts and Alabama completed with thirty-five 20mm and no 0.5in guns. Indiana had her 20mm gradually augmented, and eight more 20mm added in January 1943 gave her a total of fifty-three. In December 1943 she received more 20mm making sixty, later sixty-three. But the space required by the extra quadruple 40mm necessitated a reduction in the less effective 20mm battery, and by July 1944 she had only fifty-five, reduced again by the end of the war to fifty-two, all singles. Massachusetts had forty-eight 20mm in December 1942, sixty-one in February 1943 and forty-three in September. By October 1944 she had thirty-two, including one quadruple and one twin, which she retained until the end of the war. Alabama had sixty 20mm by May 1943, reduced to fifty-six by the end of the war. This ship had received the new Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk floatplane to replace the Kingfishers by early 1945, but it is not certain if her sisters ever received them.


After completion and work-up, South Dakota arrived in the Pacific in August 1942, reaching the Tonga Islands on 4 September. On 6 September she hit an uncharted rock and was badly damaged, necessitating repairs at Pearl Harbor which were completed by 12 October. She joined TF16 with the carrier Enterprise and sailed from Pearl on 16 October to join TF17, north-east of Espiritu Santo. After joining up on the 24th, the combined force became TF61 and sailed to support the Guadalcanal campaign. During the carrier battle of Santa Cruz on 26 October, the ship provided AA protection to the carriers, and was credited with the shooting down of twenty-six aircraft, but was herself struck by a bomb on No. 1 turret, which caused no damage. En route back to Noumea, she collided with the destroyer Mahan, the resultant damage being repaired at Noumea. On 11 November South Dakota sailed with TF16 for Guadalcanal to join Washington, forming TF64. In the early hours of the 15th TF64 fought an engagement with the Japanese Kirishima off Savo Island. During this action South Dakota was badly hit by one 14in shell and more than forty lighter shells, mostly concentrated on the bridge and forward superstructure. The Japanese battleship was sunk by Washington, and South Dakota retired to Noumea for makeshift repairs. She sailed for home on 25 November and arrived at New York on 18 December. Repairs were completed by 25 February 1943 and on 2 April she sailed together with Alabama and five destroyers as TF22, bound for Scapa Flow, where they arrived on 19 May to replace British battleships deployed to the Mediterranean for Operation 'Husky', the invasion of Sicily. During her period with the British Home Fleet the ship participated in operations against Spitzbergen and in diversionary raids off the Norwegian coast before returning home. She arrived back at Norfolk on 9 August.

South Dakota off the U.S. east coast, 9 August 1943, with a destroyer in the background. NH 97263
South Dakota off the U.S. east coast, 9 August 1943, with a destroyer in the background. NH 97263
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South Dakota
South Dakota
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On the 21st she sailed for the Pacific again, arriving at Fiji on 7 November. Her next operation was with TG50.1, the Carrier Interceptor Group, for the landings in the Gilbert Islands, followed by screening duties for the carriers during the landings on Makin and Tarawa. South Dakota was with TG50.8 for the bombardment of Nauru on 8 December, before putting into Efate for maintenance. In January 1944 she participated in the Marshalls campaign with TG58.2, covering the carriers and then bombarding Roi and Namur on 30 January. She remained in support of the carriers off the Marshalls until 12 February when she covered the carrier raid on Truk by TG58.3 on 17-18 of that month. From 22 March to 6 April when she returned to Majuro, South Dakota operated with the fast carrier forces of the 5th Fleet, attacking Palau, Yap, Woleai and Ulithi in the western Caroline Islands. On 21 April she was with carrier forces again for the Hollandia campaign, and on the 29th and 30th participated in another attack against Truk. On 31 April she bombarded Ponape Island in the Carolines. During the landings on Saipan and Tinian she screened the carriers of TF58 and, on 13 June participated in a bombardment of Tanapag Harbour, Saipan. While operating off Saipan on 19 June, the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, South Dakota was hit by a 2501b SAP bomb on the port side of the superstructure deck abreast the conning tower, and though material damage was slight, 24 men were killed and 27 wounded. After this she returned home for refit, arriving at Puget Sound on 10 July 1944. On completion of post-refit work-up, she sailed again on 26 August, bound for Ulithi, where she joined TG38.3, one of the fast carrier groups. She sailed on 6 October for the Okinawa campaign and from this date until 22 January 1945 screened the carriers in strikes against Okinawa, Formosa, Luzon, Camranh Bay, Hong Kong and Hainan. On 10 February South Dakota sailed with TG58.3 to participate in the first major strike against Tokyo on the 17th, and on 19-20 February against Iwo Jima in support of the landings on that island. Further strikes were made against Tokyo (25 February) and Okinawa (1 March) as well as Kobe, Kyushu and Kure on 18-19 March. On the 24th, after screening the carriers the day before, South Dakota bombarded Okinawa followed by cover for further attacks on the Japanese mainland and Okinawa by the carriers. On 6 May, she suffered damage and casualties when a cordite explosion occurred, eleven men being killed. After a stay at Guam for repairs, she sailed for Leyte, where she arrived on 1 June. From here she sortied with the carrier groups for the final raids against Japan and on 14 July participated in the shelling of the Kamaishi steelworks on Honshu. Carrier raids and bombardments of the Japanese mainland occupied July and extended to the final surrender in August. South Dakota left Tokyo Bay on 20 September 1945 and arrived back at San Pedro at the end of October. On 3 January 1946 she sailed for Philadelphia and refit and in June was attached to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was decommissioned on 31 January 1947 and remained in reserve at Philadelphia until stricken on 1 June 1962 and sold for $466,665 to the Lipsett Division of Luria Bros. & Co. Inc. for scrapping on 25 October of that year. She arrived at Kearny, N.J., for breaking up in November.

Indiana, the second ship of the class to complete, initially joined Battleship Division 7 in the Atlantic. On 28 November 1942 she joined the Carrier Screening Force in the Pacific, operating in support of the Guadalcanal campaign. From January to May 1943 she was in the Noumea/New Caledonia area and by June 1943 was operating with TG36.3 in support of the Solomon Islands campaign with the carriers Enterprise and Saratoga. At the end of August she participated in the first operation by the Fast Carrier Attack Force, (TF15) when she accompanied Yorktown, Essex and Independence on the Marcus Island raid. On 21 October Indiana arrived in Pearl Harbor where she remained until 11 November, after which she sailed for the Gilbert Islands campaign, covering the carriers off Tarawa. On 19 November she screened the carrier raid against Mili, and on 8 December participated in the bombardment of the island of Nauru by TG50.8.

Indiana with Task Force 58.1 on 27 January 1944, en route to attack Taroa Island airfield, Maloelap Atoll, Marshall Islands. 80-G-222923
Indiana with Task Force 58.1 on 27 January 1944, en route to attack Taroa Island airfield, Maloelap Atoll, Marshall Islands. 80-G-222923
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She bombarded positions on Kwajalein with TG58.1, 23-31 January 1944, prior to the landings in the Marshall Islands on 1 February. On the night of 1/2 February she was in collision with Washington and sailed to Majuro lagoon for temporary repairs before steaming to Pearl Harbor on 13 February, where full repairs were carried out. These were completed in March and Indiana joined TF58 for the Truk raid and a bombardment of Ponape, 29 April to 1 May. In June Indiana participated in the Marianas campaign, bombarding Saipan on 13-14 June and was present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 19-20 June. During this campaign she remained at sea for sixty-four days, avoiding two torpedo attacks and suffering a glancing hit on the starboard quarter by a Kamikaze on 19 June. In August she joined TF38.3, bombarding the Palaus and, later, targets in the Philippines until September in preparation for the assault on Leyte. She did not take part in the battles around Leyte Gulf in October, having been ordered to Bremerton for refit, where she arrived on 23 October 1944. On completion of this refit, Indiana sailed once more for the Pacific, arriving back at Pearl on 12 December. The ship left for Iwo Jima on 10 January 1945 and bombarded that island with 203 rounds of 16in on the 25th, after which she joined TF58 at Ulithi for the start of the assault on that island.

With TG58.1 she sailed from Ulithi on 10 February and screened the carriers during a raid on the Japanese mainland in the Tokyo area on the 17th, followed by strikes against Iwo Jima and a further raid against Tokyo on the 25th. She also covered a strike against Okinawa before returning to Ulithi where she arrived on 5 March. She sailed again with TF58 on 14 March and bombarded Okinawa on the 24th, remaining in support of this campaign and the carrier attacks on Japan itself until June. On 5 June Indiana was damaged in a typhoon off Okinawa, but reached the Philippines on the 13th.

Battleships and heavy cruisers steam in column off Kamaishi, in the operation to bombard the iron works, from South Dakota. Indiana is the nearest ship, followed by Massachusetts and the cruisers Chicago and Quincy. 80-G-490143
Battleships and heavy cruisers steam in column off Kamaishi, in the operation to bombard the iron works, from South Dakota. Indiana is the nearest ship, followed by Massachusetts and the cruisers Chicago and Quincy. 80-G-490143
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From 1 July to 15 August she screened the carriers during raids against Japanese coastal targets as well as participating in shore bombardments herself. Finally she entered Tokyo Bay on 5 September, returning to San Francisco on the 29th. Indiana reduced to reserve on 11 September 1947 to become part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Bremerton. On 11 September 1948 she paid off and remained in reserve until stricken from the Navy List on 1 June 1962. On 6 September 1963 she was sold for scrapping to the Nicolai Joffe Corpn. of Beverly Hills, for $418,387, and in November that year was towed to Richmond for breaking up.

Massachusetts was one of the few US battleships to see action in the European theatre. After working-up, she sailed from Casco Bay, Maine, on 24 October 1942 to join the North Africa landings (Operation 'Torch'). She was with the Western Task Force, TG34.1, for this operation and, off Casablanca, engaged in a duel with the incomplete French battleship Jean Bart, scoring five hits and badly damaging her. She was also instrumental, with the cruiser Tuscaloosa, in sinking two French destroyers, Fougueux and Boulonnais, but was herself hit twice, by 240mm shells from a shore battery, though sustaining only minor superficial damage. After French resistance ceased, Massachusetts sailed for the USA on 12 November for transfer to the Pacific, arriving at Noumea in New Caledonia on 4 March 1943. From 29 June to 13 July she was with TG36.3, off New Georgia in the central Solomon Islands. Until November she participated in sorties in support of the Solomons campaign, then with TG50.2 covered a carrier strike against Makin, Tarawa and Abemama in the Gilbert Islands 19-21 November. On 8 December she was one of several battleships engaged in bombarding Nauru. In January 1944 she screened the carriers of TG58.1 against Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, and bombarded Kwajalein on 30 January prior to covering the landings there on 1 February 1944. She was with TG58.3 at Truk on 17 February and on 21-22 February covered raids on Saipan, Tinian and Guam. In March she was in the Carolines and participated in the landings at Hollandia on 22 April followed by another strike on Truk. On 1 May Massachusetts bombarded Ponape and then sailed for the US west coast to refit at Puget Sound, returning to Pearl Harbor at the end of July.

Massachusetts at 15 knots off Point Wilson, Washington, on 11 July 1944. NH 97255
Massachusetts at 15 knots off Point Wilson, Washington, on 11 July 1944. NH 97255
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On 1 August she left Pearl for Eniwetok and with TG38.3 participated in carrier strikes against the Philippines, attacking Mindanao, the Visayas and Luzon during September. At the beginning of October, still with TG38.3, Massachusetts participated in attacks against Formosa, Okinawa and targets in the South China Sea until the middle of the month when the Leyte Gulf landings required her assistance. She remained with TG38.3 for this operation, taking part in the Battle for Leyte Gulf 22-7 October after which she returned to Ulithi.

Massachusetts at Ulithi, November 1944. Autographed by Admiral Nimitz. An evocative photo. NH 58573
Massachusetts at Ulithi, November 1944. Autographed by Admiral Nimitz. An evocative photo. NH 58573
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On 11 December, with TG38.1, she sailed for an attack on Manila on the 14th to support the landings at Mindoro. The end of the year saw her engaged in screening carrier raids against Formosa and Okinawa before moving into the South China Sea in January 1945 for attacks on Saigon and Hong Kong before finally returning to Ulithi on 23 January.

Indiana with Task Force 58.1 on 12 February 1945, while en route to raid Tokyo. Ships of Task Group 58.3 are in the background. 80-G-303478
Indiana with Task Force 58.1 on 12 February 1945, while en route to raid Tokyo. Ships of Task Group 58.3 are in the background. 80-G-303478
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From 10 February to 3 March Massachusetts was with TF58 (TG58.1) engaged in attacks on the Japanese mainland, hitting targets on Honshu and, from 23 February, attacking Iwo Jima before returning to Ulithi on 4 March. TF58 sailed again on 14 March for a strike against Japan, hitting targets on Kyushu on the 17th. On the 24th, with her sister Indiana and destroyers, the battleship shelled Okinawa. She supported operations on Okinawa in April and May, and in June bombarded Minami Daito Jima in the Ryukus. July saw the ship screening carrier raids against Japan with the 3rd Fleet until the end of the war. After the end of hostilities Massachusetts sailed to refit at Puget Sound and on 28 January 1946 sailed for San Francisco. She moved into the Atlantic later and paid off at Norfolk on 27 March 1947. After fifteen years in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, she was stricken from the Navy Register on 1 June 1962. On 8 June 1965 she was taken over by The Massachusetts Memorial Trust for preservation as a memorial and moved to Battleship Cove in the Fall River, Mass., being dedicated on 14 August 1965.

Alabama in Casco Bay, Maine, during her shakedown period, circa December 1942. 80-G-K-443
Alabama in Casco Bay, Maine, during her shakedown period, circa December 1942. 80-G-K-443
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Alabama completed work-up training on the east coast and then joined TG22.2. She remained on the eastern seaboard until April 1943 when, as part of TF22, she and South Dakota sailed to reinforce the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, where she arrived on 19 May to become a component of TF61. This deployment lasted until 1 August when she sailed for the USA, arriving at Norfolk on 9 August. After a few days' refit the ship sailed for the Pacific on 20 August, reaching Efate in the New Hebrides on 14 September to serve with Battleship Division 9. On 7 November she moved to Fiji, sailing four days later with TG58.2 to support the assault on the Gilbert Islands when the carriers attacked Jaluit and Mili Atolls in the Marshall Islands. She covered the landings on Tarawa on 20 November, and later assisted in the taking of Betio and Makin. On 8 December she was part of the bombarding force which attacked the island of Nauru, firing 535 rounds of 16in, before returning to Efate on 12 December. Alabama left this base on 5 January 1944 for a brief refit at Pearl Harbor, leaving for Funafuti in the Ellice Islands on 21 January. Her next operation was in support of the assault on the Marshall Islands with TG58.2, the ship bombarding Roi on 29 January and Namur the following day, expending 330 rounds of 16in. On 12 February she left Majuro for a carrier strike against Truk on 17-18 February, after which she operated in the Marianas, screening attacks against Saipan, Tinian and Guam, which were completed on the 22nd. She returned to Majuro on 26 February, but sailed again on 22 March with TF58 to screen carrier strikes against Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai in the Carolines. From 13 April until the end of the month she operated in support of the carrier Enterprise (TG58.3) making strikes against Hollandia and the coast of New Guinea, and further strikes against Truk. On 1 May Alabama was part of the force which shelled Ponape in the Carolines before returning to Majuro on the 4th to prepare for the assault on the Marianas. Operating with the Battle Line as TG58.7, she participated in the shelling of Saipan on 13 June, and in the middle of the month, still with TG58.7, she was present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After a period of maintenance in the Marshalls, she left Eniwetok as Flagship, Battleship Division 9 on 14 July to cover the assault on Guam, and at the end of August, covered the attacks on Palau, Yap and Ulithi with TG38.3. In September she operated against targets in the Philippines and in October covered carrier strikes against Okinawa, the Pescadores and Formosa, to support the landings in the Philippines. Alabama covered the Leyte landings and remained in this theatre until 24 November when she sailed for Ulithi. She returned to the Philippines in December and then sailed for refit at Puget Sound, entering dock on 18 January 1945. This work was completed in March and she sailed on the 17th for California before finally arriving back in Ulithi on 28 April. For the remainder of the war Alabama served with the fast carrier groups of the 5th and 3rd Fleets, engaged in the attacks on the Japanese mainland, on occasions bombarding targets herself. After the Japanese surrender she moved to Tokyo Bay but sailed for home on 20 September 1945, reaching San Francisco on 15 October before moving to San Pedro on the 29th. She remained at this port until 27 February 1946, when she sailed to Puget Sound for overhaul prior to paying-off. Alabama decommissioned on 9 January 1947 at Seattle and was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Bremerton where she remained inactive until stricken from the Navy Register on 1 June 1962. On 16 June 1964 she was presented to the state of Alabama as a memorial, being officially taken over on 7 July that year. She was towed to Mobile, Ala., where she arrived on 14 September 1964.