Tuesday, September 23, 2008
USS South Dakota (BB-57)
Figure 1: USS South Dakota (BB-57) off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 20 August 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS South Dakota (BB-57) anchored in the Hvalfjordur area, Iceland, 24 June 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS South Dakota (BB-57) operating off the US East Coast, 9 August 1943, with a destroyer keeping company in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS South Dakota (BB-57) underway in the Atlantic during her shakedown period, July 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Port beam view of USS South Dakota while underway in the Atlantic, probably during her shakedown period, July 1942. USN photo BuAer #19079 courtesy of David Buell. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Guadalcanal Campaign, 1942-43. USS South Dakota (BB-57) and two destroyers alongside USS Prometheus (AR-3) for repairs, probably at Noumea, New Caledonia, in November 1942. The inboard destroyer, with the distorted bow, is probably USS Mahan (DD-364), which was damaged in a collision with South Dakota at the close of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 27 October 1942. South Dakota received damage in both that battle and in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 15 November 1942. The other destroyer may be USS Lamson (DD-367). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS South Dakota (BB-57) crewmen haul down the National Ensign as the battleship is decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Base, Pennsylvania, 31 January 1947. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Listed from left to right: USS Huntington (CL-107), USS Dayton (CL-105) and USS South Dakota (BB-57) laid up in reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Pennsylvania, 24 August 1961. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
USS South Dakota (BB-57), the lead ship of a class of 35,000-ton battleships, was built at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 20 March 1942. She was approximately 680 feet long and 108 feet wide, had a top speed of 27.8 knots and a crew of 2,354 officers and men. South Dakota was armed with nine 16-inch guns, 16 5-inch guns, 68 40-mm guns, and 76 20-mm guns. She was modern, fast, and heavily armed and was built just in time to take an active part in some of the most dramatic naval battles of World War II.
After her shakedown cruise off America’s East Coast, South Dakota was sent to the Pacific where she was soon drawn into the intense naval battles off Guadalcanal. On 26 October 1942, she provided critical anti-aircraft support during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, during which a Japanese bomb hit her forward 16-inch gun turret. Soon after being hit by that bomb, South Dakota accidentally rammed the destroyer USS Mahan (DD-364). Although only temporary repairs were made to the battleship locally, South Dakota quickly returned to duty. She then played an important role in the major naval battle off Guadalcanal during the night of 14-15 November 1942, a battle which basically ended Japan’s bid to retake the island. South Dakota was hit several times by Japanese warships during the battle and the damage forced her to leave the area and head for Noumea, New Caledonia, for repairs. But South Dakota scored numerous hits on the attacking Japanese warships and the battle turned out to be a major victory for the United States Navy.
After returning to the United States for more permanent repairs and a major overhaul, South Dakota was assigned to the Atlantic from February to August 1943. She worked briefly with the British Home Fleet, but was soon sent back to the Pacific to take part in the invasion of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands from November 1943 to February 1944. South Dakota escorted the Navy’s fast carriers during that time and assisted in raids on Japanese bases, continuing these operations well into the spring of 1944. In June 1944, she took part in the Marianas Campaign, using her heavy guns to bombard enemy targets on Saipan and Tinian. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19 June, South Dakota was hit by another Japanese bomb, killing 24 men and wounding 27 others. After this battle, South Dakota was sent back to the United States for repairs and arrived at Puget Sound Navy Yard on 10 July 1944.
South Dakota was, once again, sent back to the Pacific after being repaired. From October 1944 until the end of the war, she escorted carrier task forces in the Western Pacific, from the South China Sea to Japan itself. She also participated in the invasions of Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In March and April 1945, South Dakota bombarded Okinawa and also shelled targets on the Japanese home islands in July and August. She took part in the ceremonies in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945 during Japan’s formal surrender to the United States. South Dakota returned to America shortly after that and was decommissioned in Philadelphia on 31 January 1947. She remained in reserve but out of commission until 25 October 1962, when she was sold for scrapping. South Dakota received 13 battle stars for her service in World War II.
The many battles fought by South Dakota could certainly fill a book. The above comments are a very brief outline of what was an amazing career in the US Navy. Like most old warhorses, South Dakota met her end not in a battle but in the scrapper’s yard. But her contributions in battle were invaluable, as were the men who sailed her.
Posted by Remo at 8:18 AM