USS Alabama (BB-60)


USS Alabama (BB-60)

USS "Alabama" (BB-60), a "South Dakota"-class battleship, was the sixth completed ship named "Alabama" of the United States Navy, however she was only the third commissioned ship with that name. "Alabama" was commissioned in 1942 and served in World War 2 in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was decommissioned in 1947 and assigned to the reserve duty. She 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.

Active service

Atlantic service

"Alabama" was laid down on 1 February 1940 by the Norfolk Navy Yard, launched on 16 February 1942, and sponsored by the wife of Lister Hill, the senior Senator from Alabama. "Alabama" was commissioned on 16 August 1942, Capt. George B. Wilson in command.

After fitting out, "Alabama" commenced her shakedown cruise in Chesapeake Bay on Armistice Day (11 November) 1942. As the year 1943 began, the new battleship headed north to conduct operational training out of Casco Bay, Maine. She returned to Chesapeake Bay on 11 January 1943 to carry out the last week of shakedown training. Following a period of availability and logistics support at Norfolk, "Alabama" was assigned to Task Group 22.2, and returned to Casco Bay for tactical maneuvers on 13 February 1943.

With the movement of substantial British strength toward the Mediterranean theater to prepare for the invasion of Sicily, the Royal Navy lacked the heavy ships necessary to cover the northern convoy routes. The British appeal for help on those lines soon led to the temporary assignment of "Alabama" and , alongside after that ship had received a direct hit from a Japanese shore battery on Nauru, and brought three injured men on board for treatment.

She then escorted the carriers USS|Bunker Hill|CV-17|2 and USS|Monterey|CVL-26|2 back to Efate, arriving on 12 December. "Alabama" departed the New Hebrides for Pearl Harbor on 5 January 1944, arrived on the 12th, and underwent a brief drydocking at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. After replacement of her port outboard propeller, and routine maintenance, "Alabama" was again underway to return to action in the Pacific.

Alabama reached Funafuti, Ellice Islands, on 21 January 1944, and there rejoined the fleet. Assigned to Task Group 58.2, which was formed around the carrier USS|Essex|CV-9|2, "Alabama" left the Ellice Islands on 25 January to help carry out Operation Flintlock, the invasion of the Marshall Islands. "Alabama", along with sister ship "South Dakota" and the fast battleship USS|North Carolina|BB-55|2, bombarded Roi on 29 January and Namur on 30 January; she hurled 330 rounds of 16 inch (406 mm) and 1,562 of 5 inch (127 mm) toward Japanese targets, destroying planes, airfield facilities, blockhouses, buildings, and gun emplacements. Over the following days of the campaign, "Alabama" patrolled the area north of Kwajalein Atoll. On 12 February 1944, "Alabama" sortied with the "Bunker Hill" task group to launch attacks on Japanese installations, aircraft and shipping at Truk. Those raids, launched on 16 February and 17 February, caused heavy damage to enemy shipping concentrated at that island base.

Leaving Truk "Alabama" began steaming toward the Marianas to assist in strikes on Tinian, Saipan, and Guam. During this action, while repelling enemy air attacks on 21 February 1944, 5 inch (127 mm) mount No. 9 accidentally fired into gun mount No. 5. Five men died, and 11 were wounded in the mishap.

After the strikes were completed on 22 February, "Alabama" conducted a sweep looking for crippled enemy ships southeast of Saipan, and eventually returned to Majuro on 26 February 1944. There she served temporarily as flagship for Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, Commander, TF 58, from 3 March to 8 March.

"Alabama's" next mission was to screen the fast carriers as they hurled air strikes against Japanese positions on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, Caroline Islands. She steamed from Majuro on 22 March 1944 with TF 58 in the screen of USS|Yorktown|CV-10|2. On the night of 29 March, about six enemy planes approached TG 58.3, in which "Alabama" was operating, and four broke off to attack ships in the vicinity of the battleship. "Alabama" downed one unassisted, and helped in the destruction of another.

On 30 March, planes from TF 58 began bombing Japanese airfields, shipping, fleet servicing facilities, and other installations on the islands of Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai. During that day, Alabama again provided antiaircraft fire whenever enemy planes appeared. At 2044 on the 30th, a single plane approached TG 58.3, but "Alabama" and other ships drove it off before it could cause any damage.

The battleship returned briefly to Majuro, before she sailed on 13 April with TF 58, this time in the screen of USS|Enterprise|CV-6|2. In the next three weeks, TF 58 hit enemy targets on Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura), Wakde, Sawar, and Sarmi along the New Guinea coast; covered Army landings at Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay; and conducted further strikes on Truk.

As part of the preliminaries to the invasion of the Marianas, "Alabama", in company with five other fast battleships, shelled the large island of Ponape, in the Carolines, the site of a Japanese airfield and seaplane base. As "Alabama"'s Capt. Fred T. Kirtland subsequently noted, the bombardment, of 70 minutes' duration, was conducted in a "leisurely manner". The "Alabama" then returned to Majuro on 4 May 1944 to prepare for the invasion of the Marianas.

After a month spent in exercises and refitting, "Alabama" again got under way with TF 58 to participate in Operation Forager. On 12 June, "Alabama" screened the carriers striking Saipan. On 13 June, the "Alabama" took part in a six-hour preinvasion bombardment of the west coast of Saipan, to soften the defenses and cover the initial minesweeping operations. Her spotting planes reported that her salvoes had caused great destruction and fires in Garapan town. Though the shelling appeared successful, it proved a failure due to the lack of specialized training and experience required for successful shore bombardment. Strikes continued as troops invaded Saipan on 15 June.

On 19 June, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, "Alabama" operated with TG 58.7, and provided the first warning to TF 58 of the incoming Japanese air strike when she reported having detected a large bogie “bearing 268º true, distance 141 miles, angels 24 or greater, closing...” on her air search radar at 1006. In response to Commander Task Force 58 (Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher)’s immediate request for confirmation: battleship “Iowa” (BB- 61) substantiated “Alabama’s” report.

Beginning at 1046 and continuing over the course of the next five hours, the Japanese hurled repeated strikes against Vice Admiral Mitscher’s fast carrier force, seven raids in all. Three of those involved TG 58.7, and two of which saw "Alabama" opening fire.

In the first instance, only two planes managed to penetrate the formation to attack "South Dakota", but her sister ship suffered one bomb hit that killed one officer and 20 enlisted men and wounded an additional 23. An hour later a second wave, composed largely of torpedo bombers, bore in, but “Alabama’s” barrage discouraged two planes from attacking the already bloodied “South Dakota”. The intense concentration paid to the incoming torpedo planes left one dive bomber nearly undetected, and it managed to drop its load near “Alabama”; the two small bombs were near-misses, and caused no damage. What U.S. Navy pilots came to call the "Marianas Turkey Shoot" severely depleted Japanese naval air power, and “Alabama” had had a hand in it, as Commander TG 58.7 (Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee) recognized in his TBS (low-frequency voice radio) message at 1247: "In the matter of reporting initial bogies, to "IOWA" well done, to "ALABAMA" very well done." "Alabama’s" “early warning” had allowed the carriers to scramble their fighters and intercept the in-bound enemy “at a considerable distance” from TF&nbsdp; 58 than would otherwise have been possible.

"Alabama" continued patrolling areas around the Marianas to protect the American landing forces on Saipan, screening the east carriers as they struck enemy shipping, aircraft, and shore installations on Guam, Tinian, Rota, and Saipan. She then retired to the Marshalls for upkeep.

"Alabama"—as flagship for Rear Admiral E. W. Hanson, Commander, Battleship Division 9—left Eniwetok on 14 July 1944, sailing with the task group formed around "Bunker Hill". She screened the fast carriers as they conducted preinvasion attacks and support of the landings on the island of Guam on 21 July. She returned briefly to Eniwetok on 11 August. On 30 August she got underway in the screen of "Essex" to carry out Operation Stalemate II the seizure of Palau, Ulithi, and Yap. On 6 through 8 September, the forces launched strikes on the Carolinas.

Alabama departed the Carolines to sail to the Philippines and provided cover for the carriers striking the islands of Cebu, Leyte, Bohol and Negros from 12 September to 14 September. The carriers launched strikes on shipping and installations in the Manila Bay area on 21 September and 22 September, and in the central Philippines area on 24 September. "Alabama" retired briefly to Saipan on 28 September, then proceeded to Ulithi on 1 October 1944.

On 6 October 1944 "Alabama" sailed with TF 38 to support the liberation of the Philippines. Again operating as part of a fast carrier task group, "Alabama" protected the flattops while they launched strikes on Japanese facilities at Okinawa, in the Pescadores and Formosa.

Detached from the Formosa area on 14 October to sail toward Luzon, the fast battleship again used her antiaircraft batteries in support of the carriers as enemy aircraft attempted to attack the formation. "Alabama's" gunners claimed three enemy aircraft shot down and a fourth damaged. By 15 October, "Alabama" was supporting landing operations on Leyte. She then screened the carriers as they conducted air strikes on Cebu, Negros, Panay, northern Mindanao, and Leyte on 21 October 1944.

"Alabama", as part of the "Enterprise" screen, supported air operations against the Japanese Southern Force in the area off Surigao Strait then moved north to strike the powerful Japanese Central Force heading for San Bernardino Strait. After receiving reports of a third Japanese force, the battleship served in the screen of the fast carrier task force as it sped to Cape Engano. On 24 October, although American air strikes destroyed four Japanese carriers in the Battle off Cape Engano, the Japanese Central Force under Admiral Kurita had transited San Bernardino Strait and emerged off the coast of Samar, where it fell upon a task group of American escort carriers and their destroyer and destroyer escort screen. "Alabama" reversed her course and headed for Samar to assist the greatly outnumbered American forces, but the Japanese had retreated by the time she reached the scene. She then joined the protective screen for the "Essex" task group to hit enemy forces in the central Philippines before retiring to Ulithi on 30 October 1944 for replenishment.

Underway again on 3 November 1944, "Alabama" screened the fast carriers as they carried out sustained strikes against Japanese airfields, and installations on Luzon to prepare for a landing on Mindoro Island. She spent the next few weeks engaged in operations against the Visayas and Luzon before retiring to Ulithi on 24 November.

The first half of December 1944 found "Alabama" engaged in various training exercises and maintenance routines. She left Ulithi on 10 December, and reached the launching point for air strikes on Luzon on 14 December, as the fast carrier task forces launched aircraft to carry out preliminary strikes on airfields on Luzon that could threaten the landings slated to take place on Mindoro. From 14 December to 16 December, a veritable umbrella of carrier aircraft covered the Luzon fields, preventing any enemy planes from getting airborne to challenge the Mindoro-bound convoys. Having completed her mission, she left the area to refuel on 17 December; but, as she reached the fueling rendezvous, began encountering heavy weather. By daybreak on the 18th, rough seas and harrowing conditions rendered a fueling at sea impossible; 50 knot winds caused ships to roll heavily. "Alabama" experienced rolls of 30 degrees, had both her Vought Kingfisher float planes so badly damaged that they were of no further value, and received minor damage to her structure. At one point in the typhoon, "Alabama" recorded wind gusts up to 83 knots. Three destroyers, USS|Hull|DD-350|2, USS|Monaghan|DD-354|2, and USS|Spence|DD-512|2, were lost to the typhoon. By 19 December, the storm had run its course; and "Alabama" arrived back at Ulithi on 24 December. After pausing there briefly, "Alabama" continued on to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for overhaul.

The battleship entered drydock on 18 January 1945, and remained there until 25 February. Shipyard work continued until 17 March, when the "Alabama" got underway for standardization trials and refresher training along the southern California coast. She got underway for Pearl Harbor on 4 April, arrived there on 10 April, and held a week of training exercises. She then continued on to Ulithi and moored there on 28 April 1945.

The "Alabama" departed from Ulithi with TF 58 on 9 May 1945, bound for the Ryūkyūs, to support forces which had landed on Okinawa on 1 April 1945, and to protect the fast carriers as they launched air strikes on installations in the Ryukyus and on Kyūshū. On 14 May, several Japanese planes penetrated the combat air patrol to get at the carriers; one crashed into Vice Admiral Mitscher's flagship. "Alabama's" guns splashed two, and assisted in splashing two more.

Subsequently, "Alabama" rode out a typhoon on 4 June to 5 June, suffering only superficial damage while the nearby heavy cruiser USS|Pittsburgh|CA-72|2 lost her bow. The "Alabama" subsequently bombarded the Japanese island of Minami Daito Shima, with other fast battleships, on 10 June 1945 and then headed for Leyte Gulf later in June to prepare to strike at the heart of Japan with the 3d Fleet.

On 1 July 1945, "Alabama" and other 3rd Fleet units got underway for the Japanese home islands. Throughout the month of July 1945, "Alabama" carried out strikes on targets in industrial areas of Tokyo and other points on Honshū, Hokkaidō, and Kyūshū; on the night of 17 July and 18 July, "Alabama", and other fast battleships in the task group, carried out the first night bombardment of six major industrial plants in the Hitachi-Mito area of Honshū, about eight miles (13 km) northeast of Tokyo. On board "Alabama" to observe the operation was retired Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, the famed polar explorer.

On 9 August, "Alabama" transferred a medical party to the destroyer USS|Ault|DD-698|2, for further transfer to the destroyer USS|Borie|DD-704|2. The latter had been struck by a kamikaze on that date and required prompt medical aid on her distant warning radar picket station.

According to data found at the USS Alabama Monument in Mobile, Alabama, the ship fired over 1250 16 inch shells on the enemy during supporting bombardments, shot down 22 enemy aircraft and never incurred any damage due enemy action. The ship suffered only 5 casualties during the war and they were inflicted by one of the ship's guns accidentally firing on one of the ship's other guns.

Post War service

The end of the war found "Alabama" still at sea, operating off the southern coast of Honshū. On 15 August 1945, she received word of the Japanese capitulation. During the initial occupation of the Yokosuka-Tokyo area, Alabama transferred detachments of marines and bluejackets for temporary duty ashore; her bluejackets were among the first from the fleet to land. She also served in the screen of the carriers as they conducted reconnaissance flights to locate prisoner-of-war camps.

"Alabama" entered Tokyo Bay on 5 September to receive men who had served with the occupation forces, and then departed Japanese waters on 20 September. At Okinawa, she embarked 700 sailors - principally members of Navy construction battalions (or "Seabees") for her part in Operation Magic Carpet. She reached San Francisco at mid-day on 15 October, and on Navy Day (27 October 1945) hosted 9,000 visitors. She then shifted to San Pedro, California, on 29 October. "Alabama" remained at San Pedro through 27 February 1946, when she left for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for inactivation overhaul. Alabama was decommissioned on 9 January 1947, at the Naval Station, Seattle, and was assigned to the Bremerton Group, United States Pacific Reserve Fleet. She remained there until struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1962.

"Alabama" received nine battle stars for her World War II service.

Nickname

Remarkably, the Alabama never lost a man in enemy action and earned the nickname the "Lucky A".Fact|date=April 2008 "Hell, we weren't lucky; we were good", insists Captain John Brown.Fact|date=April 2008

Museum ship

Infobox_nrhp_map
name = USS ALABAMA (battleship)
nrhp_type = nhl
boxwidth = 260px


caption = USS "Alabama" at permanent berth.
area =
built =1964 for museum
designated = 14 January 1986cite web|url=http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=1943&ResourceType=Structure
title=USS Alabama (Battleship)|date=2007-09-27|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service
]
added = 14 January 1986cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/ |title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
refnum=86000083
Citizens of the state of Alabama had formed the "USS "Alabama" Battleship Commission" to raise funds for the preservation of "Alabama" as a memorial to the men and women who served in World War II. (Nearly $100,000 was raised by Alabama schoolchildren, mostly in the form of small change and a corporate fundraising effort completed the nearly $1 million donation.) [ [http://www.ussalabama.com/html/misc/how_to_help.php How to help - Battleship fundraising] , ussalabama.com] The ship was awarded to that state on 16 June 1964, and was formally turned over on 7 July 1964 in ceremonies at Seattle. "Alabama" was then towed to her permanent berth at Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama, arriving in Mobile Bay on 14 September 1964 and opening as a museum ship on 9 January 1965. She was joined in 1969 by the submarine USS|Drum|SS-228|6 which was moored behind the "Alabama" until it was damaged in Hurricane Georges, resulting in its move to an onshore display.

The ship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/86000083.pdf National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: USS Alabama (BB 60)] and [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Photos/86000083.pdf "Accompanying 6 photos, exterior and interior"] , National Park Service, 1985.]

Visitors are allowed to view the inside of the main gun turrets and anti-aircraft guns. The powder magazine was opened to the public through some holes that were cut, and stairs put in. The bunk of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller is marked for those touring. Feller served on the USS "Alabama" for several years during World War II. The "Alabama" was used in filming the 1992 movie "Under Siege".

In recent years, "Alabama" has been occasionally used as a hurricane shelter. During Hurricane Katrina, "Alabama" suffered damage which resulted in an eight-degree list to port, [http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/002743.html Murdoc Online: Navy Ships and Hurricane Katrina] ] and shifting at her permanent anchorage. (The families of 18 museum employees were aboard during Katrina.) In addition, the Aircraft Pavilion was severely damaged, with three of the exhibited aircraft destroyed. At the end of 2005, damage estimates were in excess of four million dollars. The park reopened 9 January 2006, with the ship having a three-degree list (which was still being corrected). The battleship, submarine, and Aircraft Pavilion are all open.

ee also

*List of National Historic Landmarks in Alabama
*List of museum ships

References

*DANFS|http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/a4/alabama-iii.htm

External links

* [http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/60a.htm USS "Alabama" (BB-60) on NavSource.org]
* [http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/battlesh/bb60.htm USS "Alabama" (BB-60) on Hazegray.org]
* [http://www.ussalabama.com/ USS Alabama web site]
* [http://www.hnsa.org/ships/alabama.htm HNSA Web Page: USS Alabama]
* [http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/us_navy_pages/uss_alabama_bb60.htm USS "Alabama" BB-60 photo gallery on MariTimeQuest.com]
* [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/86000083.pdf National Historic Landmark nomination file on the USS Alabama]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/va3/bb60/alabama_well.htm "To Alabama, Very Well Done" concerning June 1944 actions in the Pacific]


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