Sunday, August 25, 2019

Battleship Week Concludes, With a Blast from the Past

USS Wisconsin (BB-64)
Now a museum ship in Norfolk, VA
Being thoroughly bitten by the "battleship bug" I was somewhat loathe to end the week without one last battleship post. As I have actually visited one of the old battlewagons in the not-so-distant past and as the old girl isn't far from Chez Sarge, I thought I'd revisit an old post, the one where Murphy and I visited Battleship Cove over in Fall River, MA.

Because the Big Badger Boat is one of "My" Ships, and because she's the favorite of a certain badger of my acquaintance, I have USS Wisconsin gracing the top of the post. A fine ship from a bygone era.

So 'tis with a bit of a tear that I conclude "Battleship Week" (thanks again juvat) with this Sunday rerun. Harking back to the day Murphy and I walked the decks of Big Mamie, USS Massachusetts (BB-59).

USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) followed by the amphibious assault ship USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10)
I saw my first battleship in 1987. I was TDY (temporary duty) to Biloxi, Mississippi. I was able to bring the family so we lived just up the road in Long Beach, literally across the road from the Gulf of Mexico. As The Missus Herself had a sister living in Fort Walton Beach over Florida way, we did get a chance to go over and visit.

On the way there we had seen the signs for the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, which piqued my interest, a lot. As we rolled east on I-10 I just happened to notice, off to the starboard side, a rather large, gray warship. I was awe struck, an honest to goodness battleship, queen of the seas. The Naviguesser expressed some interest in seeing that wondrous sight again, perhaps up close and personal.

"Let me find a spot to turn around and we can..."

"Eyes front Mister! Maintain course and speed!" commanded The Missus Herself.

"Maintaining course and speed AYE!" I barked in my most manly voice.

"MOM!!!" sayeth my son, the future black shoe, er, the future Professional Surface Warfare Officer I mean, of course.

Now the matriarch of our little clan explained to the male members of the tribe, in no uncertain terms, that we were going to Florida, to visit Uncle Smitty (yes, that Uncle Smitty) and we would by God enjoy ourselves. Perhaps, if all and sundry managed to exhibit good behavior, we could maybe, possibly, stop at the park on the way back to Mississippi.


Needless to say, the progeny behaved as angels all weekend. Even I managed to maintain a certain decorum and "kept my nose clean." The beach was fun, the visit was grand and...

"MOM!!! We need to leave now so we can see the battleship!"

So off we went and there I was able to walk the decks of the mighty USS ALABAMA. She is...
a South Dakota-class battleship and was the sixth ship of the United States Navy named after the state of Alabama. She was commissioned in 1942 and served in World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was retired in 1962. In 1964, ALABAMA was taken to Mobile Bay and opened as a museum ship the following year. The ship was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1986. W
USS ALABAMA (BB-60) today.
There's something about these big gray ladies. Whether tied up to the pier or on the high seas, battleships inspire awe.

I remember the opening scenes from the movie Under Siege, not a bad film, not a great film, but that opening was breath taking. (Fast forward to the 0:31 mark and, yeah, go full screen.)

That's USS MISSOURI, BB-63, in the opening scene. From what I understand most of the exterior shots in the movie are of MISSOURI, but the interior scenes were done on ALABAMA. No doubt there were other sets involved but at least they had real battleships on hand.

One battleship with which I have a fairly close relationship is not too far from Chez SargeMurphy and I paid her a visit on a beautiful fall day last year. That would be the ship over at Battleship Cove over in the Bay State. The USS MASSACHUSETTS of course. Now it hit me the other day that I had never shared the photos I took on board Big Mamie. Their website has this to say (in part) about the old girl -
Battleship MASSACHUSETTS was built in Quincy, Massachusetts at the Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The ship was launched on September 23, 1941, the heaviest ship ever launched in Quincy. “Big Mamie”, as her crew knew her, was delivered to the Boston Navy Yard in April 1942 and commissioned the following month.

Battleship MASSACHUSETTS went into action on November 8, 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. While cruising off the city of Casablanca, Morocco, the Battleship engaged in a gun duel with the unfinished French battleship Jean Bart, moored at a Casablanca pier. In this battle, Massachusetts fired the first American 16″ projectile in anger of World War II. Five hits from Big Mamie silenced the enemy battleship, and other 16″ shells from Battleship MASSACHUSETTS helped sink two destroyers, two merchant ships, a floating dry-dock, and heavily damaged buildings and docks in Casablanca. The ship’s battle flag, holed by a shell from the Jean Bart, is on display in the Battleship.
Big Mamie’s 16″ guns pounded Iwo Jima and Okinawa before their invasion in 1945, and by July of that year she was off Japan with the Third Fleet. The Battleship bombarded the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Kamaishi, and then sailed south to bombard a factory at Hamamatsu. Returning to Kamaishi, Battleship MASSACHUSETTS fired the last American 16″ projectile of the war. With peace achieved, “Big Mamie” returned to the United States and operated with the Pacific Fleet until mid-1946, when she was ordered deactivated. 
You can still see shrapnel damage from her fight with Jean Bart near the ship's bell on the quarterdeck -

She's an awesome warship, it's nice having the old girl nearby.

I tried to get a few people into some of the shots to give you an idea of how big these ships were. The guy in the red shirt above is obvious. I didn't realize there was anyone in the next photo until I got home. So in the shot immediately below I drew you an arrow. The one after that, he's not so obvious.

These next three shots were taken inside the number one main battery turret. (Any battleship sailors can correct me on that terminology if I got it wrong. I'm only used to modern destroyers, the 
Arleigh Burkes only have a single turret, Mount 51 = 5 inch gun, most forward mount. Zumwalts have two, both forward, Mount 61 and Mount 62. She has 6 inch guns.)

Powder charges on the loading tray.

Inside the turret isn't 
that claustrophobic, though it's not that roomy. Getting into the turret was an adventure. The hatch is underneath the aft overhang of the turret. Ya gotta get low, ya gotta get small. Going in was kinda easy. Going out, not so much. I should have taken a picture, I was just too excited about being able to get into the gun mount!

The deck is in rough shape in spots.

Yup, that's a BIG anchor.

Get Seaman Schmuckatelli out here on the double. I think he missed a spot when he was scraping and painting.

View from the bridge.
Dude, you can't sit there!
East German corvette alongside, prepare to repel boarders!

Man, that was a good day!


  1. The Song of he Sea Service is not Eternal Father, it's the sound of a needle gun.

    1. The siren song of corrosion control. The sea wants to eat your ships and planes!

  2. That's a LOT of paint.......guess I'll stop complaining having to repaint the back concrete steps every year after winter does it's thing on them. Chilling to see that splash damage on the steel plate. Nice reprise for Battleship Week Sarge, enjoyed the photos.

    1. I remember that it was a glorious day for a visit.

  3. It takes a lot of “deck apes” to keep those wooden decks shipshape.
    I was going to comment about the exposed red lead in the shrapnel photos, but I’d bet that was just for effect (and prolly not really red lead).
    The needle gun is a real time saver.
    Sometimes all that’s available is a chipping hammer and paint scraper.

    1. The work of Deck Division is never done. The Nuke was in charge of 1st Deck Division (IIRC) aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) during her 1st Class cruise as a midshipman. A six week cruise in the Med and she got to be a "real" officer. Yup, she loved it, but yes, it was a LOT of work.

  4. I remember refueling the first recommissioned BB in Westpac in the early 80s, and a couple of years later riding two more through the Panama Canal. Standing next to the bronze plaque on the Missouri was moving.

  5. Great wrap up for the Battleship series.

    The Wisconsin was built in "my" shipyard.

    As others have said, rust never sleeps.

    Thank you.

    1. Rust will put in a double shift to undo all of your chipping and painting!

  6. I find it interesting your timing for a battleship post. It just so happens that a couple weeks ago
    while Kendy was was watching one of her shows, I was browsing the web looking at battleships (I have
    a 17" laptop that I keep by my comfy chair in the living room for this purpose). I had no idea how
    much goes into the care and feeding of the big guns until I came across this great video:

    1. Great video! The care and feeding of most artillery pieces is time-consuming, dangerous, and messy. Those big rifles on the battlewagons were awfully complex, true marvels of engineering.

  7. Well since you asked to be corrected in terminology, CruDes ships do not have turrets; they have gun houses. These are intended as protection from weather, nothing else. The older gun cruisers ( Salem, Des Moines) still had turrets but none of the more recent ships have them and Destroyers never have.
    Boat Guy

    1. Good to know. I like to be current with my naval terminology.

  8. As an additional clarification, all of those 5"/38 twins seen amidships (main mounts on Summer/Gearing class DD') are in gun houses

  9. I have thought on and off today about how to get the word "fluke" into a pun in relation to your anchor photo, but nothing has come to mind. I suspect that an anchor pun is beyond the "scope" of my skill set.

    I noticed that the signage near the shrapnel damage has quarterdeck spelled with two words.

  10. Great stuff, Sarge. Thanks. I learn stuff here every day.

    Here's something for you in return--


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)