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USS Massachusetts (BB 59)

- decommissioned -

no coat of arms

USS MASSACHUSETTS was the third SOUTH DAKOTA - class Battleship and probably the last US Battleship to fire 16-inch shells in combat during World War II. It was also the MASSACHUSETTS which fired the first 16-inch shells fired by the US against the European Axis Powers during World War II. After decommissioning on March 2, 1947, the MASSACHUSETTS was saved from the scrap pile when she was transferred to the MASSACHUSETTS Memorial Committee June 8, 1965. She was enshrined at Fall River, Mass., August 14, 1965, as the Bay State's memorial to those who gave their lives in World War II. Click here for a photo tour of the preserved MASSACHUSETTS.

General Characteristics:Keel laid: July 20, 1939
Launched: September 23, 1941
Commissioned: May 12, 1942
Decommissioned: March 2, 1947
Builder: Bethlehem Steel, Quincy, Mass.
Propulsion system: boilers, four Westinghouse geared turbines
Propellers: four
Length: 680.8 feet (207.5 meters)
Beam: 108 feet (32.9 meters)
Draft: 36 feet (11 meters)
Displacement: Light: approx. 38,000 tons
Full: approx. 44,374 tons
Speed: 28 knots
Aircraft: three planes
Catapults: two
Crew: 2354 (War), 1793 (Peace)
Last armament: Nine 16-inch / 45 caliber guns; twenty 5-inch / 38 caliber guns; twenty-four 40 mm guns and thirty-five 20 mm guns

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Crew List:

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS MASSACHUSETTS. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

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USS MASSACHUSETTS was laid down 20 July 1939 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass., launched 23 September 1941, sponsored by Mrs. Charles Francis Adams; and commissioned 12 May 1942 at Boston. Capt. Francis E. M. Whiting in command.

After shakedown, MASSACHUSETTS departed Casco Bay, Maine, 24 October 1942 and 4 days later made rendezvous with the Western Naval Task Force for the invasion of north Africa, serving as flagship for Adm. H. Kent Hewitt.

While steaming off Casablanca 8 November, she came under fire from French battleship JEAN BART's 13-inch guns. She returned fire at 0740 firing the first 16-inch shells fired by the U.S. against the European Axis Powers. Within a few minutes she silenced JEAN BART's main battery; then she turned her guns on French destroyers which had joined the attack, sinking two of them. She also shelled shore batteries and blew up an ammunition dump. After a cease-fire had been arranged with the French, she headed for the United States 12 November, and prepared for Pacific duty.

MASSACHUSETTS arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, 4 March 1943. For the next months she operated in the South Pacific, protecting convoy lanes and supporting operations in the Solomons. Between 19 November and 21 November, she sailed with a carrier group striking Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama in the Gilberts; on 8 December she shelled Japanese positions on Nauru; and on 29 January 1944 she guarded carriers striking Tarawa in the Gilberts.

The Navy now drove steadily across the Pacific. On 30 January 1944, MASSACHUSETTS bombarded Kwajalein, and she covered the landings there 1 February. With a carrier group she struck against the Japanese stronghold at Truk 17 February. That raid not only inflicted heavy damage on Japanese aircraft and naval forces, but also proved to be a stunning blow to enemy morale. On 21 to 22 February, MASSACHUSETTS helped fight off a heavy air attack on her task group while it made raids on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. She took part in the attack on the Carolines in late March and participated in the invasion at Hollandia 22 April which landed 60,000 troops on the island. Retiring from Hollandia, her task force staged another attack on Truk.

MASSACHUSETTS shelled Ponape Island 1 May 1944, her last mission before sailing to Puget Sound to overhaul and reline her gun barrels, now well-worn. On 1 August she left Pearl Harbor to resume operations in the Pacific war zone. She departed the Marshall Islands 6 October, sailing to support the landings in Leyte Gulf. In an effort to block Japanese air attacks in the Leyte conflict, she participated in a fleet strike against Okinawa 10 October. Between 12 and 14 October, she protected forces hitting Formosa. While part of TG 38.3 she took part In the Battle for Leyte Gulf 22 to 27 October, during which planes from her group sank four Japanese carriers off Cape Engano.

Stopping briefly at Ulithi, MASSACHUSETTS returned to the Philippines as part of a task force which struck Manila 14 December 1944 while supporting the invasion of Mindoro. MASSACHUSETTS sailed into a howling typhoon 17 December, with winds estimated at 120 knots. Three destroyers sank at the height of the typhoon's fury. Between 30 December and 23 January 1945, she sailed as part of TF 38, which struck Formosa and supported the landing at Lingayen. During that time she turned into the South China Sea, her task force destroying shipping from Saigon to Hong Kong. concluding operations with air strikes on Formosa and Okinawa.

From 10 February to 3 March 1945, with the Fifth Fleet, MASSACHUSETTS guarded carriers during raids on Honshu. Her group also struck Iwo Jima by air for the invasion of that island. On 17 March, the carriers launched strikes against Kyushu while MASSACHUSETTS fired in repelling enemy attacks, splashing several planes. Seven days later she bombarded Okinawa. She spent most of April fighting off air attacks, while engaged in the operations at Okinawa, returning to the area in June, when she passed through the eye of a typhoon with 100-knot winds 5 June 1945. She bombarded Minami Daito Jima in the Ryukyus 10 June.

MASSACHUSETTS sailed 1 July from Leyte Gulf to join the 3rd Fleet's final offensive against Japan. After guarding carriers launching strikes against Tokyo, she shelled Kamaishi, Honshu, 14 July, thus hitting Japan's second largest iron and steel center. Two weeks later she bombarded the industrial complex at Hamamatsu and returning to blast Kamaishi 9 August 1945. It was here that MASSACHUSETTS fired what was probably the last 16-inch shell fired in combat in World War II.

Victory won, the fighting battleship sailed for Puget Sound and overhaul 1 September. She left there 28 January 1946 for operations off the California coast, until leaving San Francisco for Hampton Roads, arriving 22 April 1946. She decommissioned 27 March 1947 to enter the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Norfolk, and was struck from the Naval Register 1 June 1962.

"Big Mamie," as she was affectionately known, was saved from the scrap pile when she was transferred to the MASSACHUSETTS Memorial Committee 8 June 1965. She was enshrined at Fall River, Mass., 14 August 1965, as the Bay State's memorial to those who gave their lives in World War II.

MASSACHUSETTS received 11 battle stars for World War II service.

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