Colorado class battleship

Colorado class battleship
USS Colorado (BB-45) New York 1932.jpg
Colorado steaming off New York City, circa 1932
Class overview
Name: Colorado class
Builders:
Operators: US flag 48 stars.svg United States Navy
Preceded by: Tennessee-class battleship
Succeeded by:
In commission: 1921–1947
Planned: 4
Completed: 3
Retired: 3
Preserved: 0
General characteristics [1]
Type: Battleship
Displacement: 32,600 long tons
Length: 624 ft 3 in (190.27 m)
Beam: 97 ft 4 in (29.67 m)
Draft: 38 ft (12 m)
Propulsion:
  • 4 screws
  • Steam turbines with electric drive
  • 28,900 shp (22 MW) forward
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)
Range: 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) (design)[2]
Complement: 1,080
Armament:
  • 8 × 16 inch 45 caliber Mark 5 gun (4×2)
  • 12 or 14 × 5 inch/51 caliber guns
  • 2 × 21 inch torpedo tubes
  • (1920s) 8 × 5 inch/25 caliber guns
Armor:
  • Belt: 8–13.5 in (203–343 mm)
  • Barbettes: 13 in (330 mm)
  • Turret face: 18 in (457 mm)
  • Turret sides: 9–10 in (229–254 mm)
  • Turret top: 5 in (127 mm)
  • Turret rear 9 in (229 mm)
  • Conning tower: 11.5 in (292 mm)
  • Decks: 3.5 in (89 mm)
Notes: Last U.S. battleship class constructed with four turrets

The Colorado class battleships[a] was a group of four battleships built by the United States Navy after World War I. However, only three of the ships were completed: Colorado, Maryland, and West Virginia. The fourth, Washington, was over 75% completed when she was canceled under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922. As such, the Colorado class ships were the last battleships built by the US Navy until the North Carolina class entered service on the eve of World War II.

The Colorados were part of the Navy's "standard battleships," a group of battleship classes that were designed to have similar speed and handling in order to simplify maneuvers with the line of battle. The ships were essentially repeats of the earlier Tennessee class. The primary difference was that the Colorados were equipped with eight 16"/45 caliber Mark 1 (later upgraded to 16"/45 cal Mark 5)[3] naval guns, as opposed to the earlier ships' twelve 14 inch/50 caliber guns.[1] The change to larger guns was made to counter the Japanese Nagato class battleships, which also mounted eight 16-inch guns.

All three ships had extensive careers during World War II. Maryland and West Virginia were both present during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941; Maryland escaped relatively unscathed, but West Virginia was sunk in the shallow waters of the harbor. During the war, all three ships served as artillery support ships during amphibious operations. Maryland and West Virginia were both present at the last surface action between battleships, the Battle of Surigao Strait during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944. The three ships were put into the reserve fleet after the end of the war, and were all scrapped by the late 1950s.

Contents

Design

The design of the Colorado class was taken from the preceding Tennessee class; other than the notable improvement of eight 16 in (410 mm)/45 caliber in four dual turrets taking the place of the other class' twelve 14 in (360 mm)/50 caliber guns in four triple gun turrets, there was not a major difference between the two designs.[1][4][5]

The Tennessees were the results of modifications to the New Mexico class. Most of the changes were incorporated into the Tennessees prior to any of their keels being laid. However, plans for the underwater protection—the ships' main defense against torpedoes and shells that fell short of the ship but traveled through the water to hit underneath the waterline—could not be worked out in time. The problem was that tests in caissons—experiments that would eventually prove that a series of compartments divided between being filled with liquid and being left empty would be a very effective defense against torpedoes—were not yet complete. In order to commence construction of the ships as soon as possible, bids sent out to shipbuilding corporations noted that if they were selected to build the ships, an alteration to the design of the ships three months after their keels were laid must be allowed.[6][7]

The new underwater protection scheme featured five compartments separated by bulkheads on either side of the ship: an outer empty one, three filled, and an empty inner one. In addition, the eight boilers were moved from their location in previous designs and placed in separate spaces to port and starboard of the turbo-electric power plant, forming another line of defense; the ship could still sail even if one or even an entire side of boilers was incapacitated due to battle damage. This new arrangement forced the chief aesthetic change between the New Mexicos and Tennessees: the single large funnel of the former was replaced by two smaller funnels in the latter.[7][8]

Other improvements in the Tennessee class included an attempt to move the forward torpedo room away from the 14" gun magazines, as the room was viewed as vulnerable; also, the design called for the use of external, rather than internal, belt armor so that a "break in the continuity of the side structure"[6] would not exist in the ships. The secondary 5" battery was located in the superstructure rather than the upper hull as in earlier classes, where it had proved to be excessively wet. The elevation of the main battery was increased to 30 degrees due in part to rumors that Imperial German capital ships' guns could elevate to 30° and a picture of the guns of the British dreadnought Queen Elizabeth that appeared to indicate the same ability.[6] The "Big Five" were also the first US battleships built from the outset with masthead fire-contol directors.

Class history

Illustration of the Colorado class design, created in 1917

With fiscal year 1917 appropriations, bids on the four Colorados were opened on 18 October 1916; though Maryland's keel was laid on 24 April 1917, the other three battleships were not until 1919–1920. With the cancellation of the first South Dakota class, the Colorados were the last U.S. battleships to enter service for nearly two decades. They were also the final U.S. battleships to use twin gun turrets—the North Carolinas and second South Dakota classes had nine 16"/45 caliber guns and the Iowas used nine 16 in/50 caliber[1][9][10] in three triple turrets.

Planning for modernizations of the Tennessee and Colorado classes in October 1931. Included was some protection against chemical shells which contained poisonous gas, although the General Board stated in the late 1920s that decontaminating a battleship hit with these shells would not be possible—the ship would have to be scuttled. Also, the deck armor was to be bolstered with 80 lb (36 kg)-special treatment steel (STS)—which would add 1,319 long tons (1,340 t; 1,477 ST) to the displacement of the ships—the armor on the tops of the main turrets was to be made thicker, fire controls were to be improved with the latest technology, and new shells for the main guns were to be designed. Two, later four, 1.1"/75 caliber machine cannons were to be added, and all of the machinery in place would be removed in favor of newer equipment so that the ships would not lose any speed with the great increase in weight. These improvements would cost about $15,000,000 per ship ($71,723,000 total), but with the country in the throes of the Great Depression, there was not much money available for the Navy; savings of $26,625,000 could be realized by reconditioning the propulsion machinery (rather than replacing it; this would lower the ship's speed), not adding the protection against chemical shells and not designing or producing the new shells, but the cost-saving elements of the later proposal were later dropped. The Navy asked the Secretary of the Navy to request money in the fiscal year 1933 to modernize the two classes from Congress, but the depression worsened and plans were put on hold and never carried out, although there were still proposals for modifications.[11]

West Virginia in October 1935 off Hawaii

In the beginning of 1934, the Bureau of Construction and Repair proposed that the "Big Five"—the two Tennessees and three Colorados—be fitted with anti-torpedo bulges so that the ships could benefit from increased buoyancy; because of, among other factors, the normal procedure of leaving port with the maximum amount of fuel possible on board, the five ships were quite overweight and rode low in the water. For example, in June 1935, Tennessee had a normal operating displacement of 38,200 long tons (38,800 t; 42,800 ST)—more than 2,000 long tons (2,000 t; 2,200 ST) above the maximum emergency load her original design called for. This made her draft higher—meaning that the ship's waterline was down 5 ft 4 in (1,630 mm). Construction and Repair called for a bulge on the Colorados that would displace about 2,000 long tons (2,000 t; 2,200 ST) and raise the ships' draft by 20 in (510 mm). Installing these would be a year's worth of work, with each ship spending six months of that in a dry dock—the first month docked so that the hull shape could be determined, the next six sailing while the bulge was built, and the last five back in the dock so it could be added to the ship.[12]

Three years later (1937), the various Navy bureaus held a joint meeting to discuss a possible partial modernization of the Tennessee's and Colorado's. They were much different than the changes proposed in 1933; there were no provisions for extra deck armor, but many additions and replacements. To gain space for newer fire control systems, the ships were to be reboilered. The main and secondary battery fire controls were to be replaced, including new rangefinders and plotting room instruments for the main, while new Mark 33 anti-aircraft fire control directors were planned. The mainmast and M2 Browning machine guns would be removed, and studies of the feasibility of a torpedo bulge, the addition of which Construction and Repair believed to be paramount, which would increase the beam to 108 ft (33 m) and displacement to 39,600 long tons (40,200 t; 44,400 ST). Varying plans for these were complete by October 1938. None was a full reconstruction; costs ranged from $8,094,000 to $38,369,000 per ship. However, as the money for the improvements would lessen the amount available for new battleship construction, and these would be better than even reconstructed old battleship, the Secretary of the Navy rejected these plans in November. Congress did appropriate $6,600,000 in 1939 for some of these improvements, including the bulges.[12]

With the beginning of World War II in Europe, the Navy began to apply lessons learned by the British there to U.S. ships. The King Board of 1940–1941 proposed sweeping changes to the secondary armament of the old battleships to increase their defense against air attacks. These included the removal of all 5 in (130 mm)/25 caliber guns and 5 in/51 in favor of the dual-purpose 5 in/38, the addition of six quadruple 1.1 in (28 mm) machine cannons, and the cutting away of superstructure to clear arcs of fire for the new anti-aircraft weapons. An ultimate secondary battery of sixteen 5"/38 in dual mounts, sixteen Bofors 40 mm in quadruple mounts and eight single Oerlikon 20 mm was called for by the board in 1941, although they were not certain the ships could handle the added weight and it would take a large amount of time in dry dock for these modifications to take place. With these concerns, an interim measure of four 1.1 in guns was proposed by the board; however, the gun was not being produced in any great number very quickly, so a second interim solution was implemented. 3 in (76 mm)/50 caliber guns were added to all of the U.S.' battleships except for Arizona and Nevada by June 1941; these were replaced on the three battleships in the Atlantic by the 1.1 in by November—they received them first because they were closer to a war zone.[13]

As these modifications were carried out upon the various battleships, much additional weight was added onto the already overweight ships, forcing torpedo bulges to be added so that a decent freeboard could be maintained. These would cost $750,000 and around three or four months in a dry dock. The King Board suggested that the deck armor be bolstered and 5 in/38 dual-purpose guns be added, but the Chief of Naval Operations decreed that any major changes such as these had to wait due to the wars raging around the world at the time. The addition of bulges, however, was approved for the "Big Five", with each ship spending three months in dry dock at the Puget Sound Naval Yard. Maryland would be first (17 February 1941 to 20 May), followed by West Virginia (10 May to 8 August), Colorado (28 July to 28 October), Tennessee (19 January 1942 to 21 April) and California (16 March to 16 June).[b] However, the estimates for how long the addition of bulges would take were too low; Puget Sound believed that they could complete work on Maryland in 123 calendar days (about four months)—if the work would be given a priority equal to that of Saratoga's refit and higher than new construction.[12]

Only two of the ships had bulges added to them through this program, Maryland (completed 1 August 1941) and Colorado (26 February 1942); the attack on Pearl Harbor interrupted the refits intended for West Virginia and the two Tennessees. The surprise strike did not touch Colorado, which was at Puget Sound, and did not hurt Maryland very badly; however, West Virginia was severely damaged and needed a major refit at minimum.[14]

Maryland on 9 February 1942, little changed from her pre-war configuration

Little to no major modifications were made to the two active Colorados in the opening months of the U.S.'s entry into the war; all of the battleships in the Pacific Fleet had a constant order to be ready to sail within 48 hours in case of a Japanese attempt to invade Hawaii or the West Coast and could not be spared for any major yard work. Colorado was hurried through the rest of her refit with the addition of essential items like radar, splinter protection, 14 Oerlikon 20 mm and four 1.1 in light anti-aircraft guns; Maryland received a similar treatment later, the only difference being 16 20 mm's and no 1.1 in. Although tower masts were constructed for Colorado and Maryland and a majority of the old cage masts were cut down by the ships' crews in the beginning of 1942, the ships could not be spared the time needed to install the new masts. The tower masts were placed into storage and not used until early 1944.[15]

Colorado and Maryland were greatly needed in the war zone, and as such did not undergo a major refit until 1944, although minor additions and removals, mainly to the anti-aircraft weaponry, were made in-between. Throughout the war, both ships saw their anti-aircraft battery changed constantly. Beginning in 1942, they carried eight 5 in/25, four quadruple-mounted 1.1 in guns, a greatly varying number of 20 mm, and eight .50 caliber machine guns. In June 1942, Colorado had fourteen 20 mm; just five months later, this was upped to twenty-two, with thirty-six temporarily approved for a later time. By February 1943, both Colorado and Maryland had two more quad 1.1 in added (for a total of 6) and forty-eight total 20 mm; a month later she was given an additional ten .50 caliber machine guns. November 1943 saw the removal of two of the single-purpose 5 in/51, the six quad 1.1 in, and a small number of 20 mm (six in Colorado, eight in Maryland) in favor of thirty-two Bofors 40 mm—six quad and two twin.[16]

Both ships finally underwent major refits in 1944. Here the remaining cage masts were taken off in favor of the tower masts, the two twin 40 mm replaced by quads, a quadruple 20 mm added, and a new radar fitted. Although more extensive refits were proposed by Admiral Ernest J. King, including the addition of eight twin 5 in/38, more advanced fire control systems, and a second protective deck plating, the Bureau of Ships, after demonstrating what would have to be removed as compensation for the weight added for King's ideas, counter-proposed that a smaller reconstruction, like the ones given to the New Mexico class, would be more desirable. However, no action was taken until Maryland was struck by a kamikaze aircraft. While undergoing repair, eight twin 5 in/38 were added, but nothing else; her conning tower was removed and replaced by a 50 lb (23 kg) special-treated steel structure to balance the additional weight of the 5 in guns.[17]

Ships in class

USS Colorado

USS Colorado

USS Colorado (BB-45) was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 38th state. Her keel was laid down on 29 May 1919 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on 22 March 1921 and commissioned on 30 August 1923, Captain R. R. Belknap in command. During her career, Colorado was involved in various ceremonies and fleet exercises, and assisted Long Beach residents following an earthquake there in 1933. In 1937, she was one of several ships that searched for Amelia Earhart after her plane went missing. Colorado was at Puget Sound at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.[18]

She returned to Pearl Harbor April 1942. From November 1942 to September 1943 she was stationed in the South West Pacific.[18] In November 1943, Colorado participated in operations against the Japanese during both the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign and Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, and she shelled Luzon and Okinawa in advance of the planned amphibious assaults there. Following World War II Colorado participated in Operation Magic Carpet before being decommissioned in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1957.[19]

USS Maryland

USS Maryland

USS Maryland (BB-46) was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the seventh state. Her keel was laid down 24 April 1917 by Newport News Shipbuilding Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 20 March 1920 and commissioned on 21 July 1921, with Captain C.F. Preston in command. During her career she made a goodwill voyage to Australia and New Zealand in 1925, and transported President-elect Herbert Hoover on the Pacific leg of his tour of Latin America in 1928. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, she served as a mainstay of fleet readiness through tireless training operations.[20]

In 1940, Maryland changed her base of operations to Pearl Harbor. She was present at Battleship Row along Ford Island during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Damaged during the attack, Maryland reported to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, where she was repaired and modernized. Maryland supported the amphibious landings during the Battle of Tarawa, and thereafter participated in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, the Battle of Peleliu, the Philippines Campaign, and the Battle of Okinawa. Following the end of World War II Maryland participated in Operation Magic Carpet before decommissioning in 1947. She was sold for scrap in 1959.[20]

USS Washington

USS Washington

USS Washington (BB-47) was the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 42nd state. Her keel was laid down on 30 June 1919 at Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. She was launched on 1 September 1921, but on 8 February 1922, two days after the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments, all construction work ceased on the 75.9% completed dreadnought.[21][22][page needed]

The ship was towed out in November 1924 to be used as a gunnery target. On the first day of testing, the ship was hit by two 400 pounds (180 kg) torpedoes and three 1 short ton (0.91 t) near-miss bombs with minor damage and a list of three degrees. On that day, the ship had 400 pounds of TNT detonated onboard, but she remained afloat. Two days later, the ship was hit by fourteen 14-inch (360 mm) shells dropped from 4,000 feet (1,200 m), but only one penetrated. The ship was finally sunk by the battleships New York and Texas with fourteen 14 in shells. After the test, it was decided that the existing deck armor on battleships was inadequate, and that future battleships should be fitted with triple bottoms.[23]

USS West Virginia

USS West Virginia

USS West Virginia (BB-48) was the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 35th state. Her keel was laid down on 12 April 1920 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 17 November 1921 and commissioned on 1 December 1923, Captain Thomas J. Senn in command. Despite a grounding incident early in her career West Virginia received high acclaim for gunnery and armor protection, and was involved in exercises to test the defenses of the Hawaiian Islands in the 1930s. On the morning of 7 December 1941, West Virginia sustained heavy damage, but thanks in large part to counter flooding orders the battleship sank at her berth on an even keel, which is similar to that of California. Resurrected from the mud on 17 May 1942, West Virginia received enough patchwork to sail for Washington State; she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1942 for repairs and modernization.[24]

In July 1944 she emerged from her repairs and overhaul, and set out to rejoin the Pacific Fleet for combat operations. She joined the fleet on the eve of the Philippines Campaign. There she participated in the Battle of Surigao Strait, the last battleship vs battleship duel of World War II, where her new Mk. 8 fire-control radar allowed her to hit the Yamashiro with her first salvo, in the dark at 22,800 yards. In February 1945 West Virginia participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima, initially by preinvasion bombardment, and later by callfire support for the ground forces on the island. Her last combat operations were during the Battle of Okinawa; after the surrender of Japan, she was called upon to participate in Operation Magic Carpet. Decommissioned in 1947, she was sold for scrapping in 1959.[24]

See also

  • Standard type battleship

References

Notes
  1. ^ The class is sometimes referred to as the Maryland class. European conventions name a class of ship after the first unit to be completed — in this case, Maryland was finished first.
  2. ^ The Colorado's and West Virginia's refits were later swapped, explaining why the former was at Puget Sound and the latter was at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.
Citations

Bibliography

  • Ferguson, John C. (2007). Historic Battleship Texas: The Last Dreadnought. Military History of Texas #4. Abilene, Texas: State House Press. ISBN 1-933337-07-9. 
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870217151. OCLC 12214729. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger, eds (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870219138. OCLC 18121784. http://books.google.com/?id=bJBMBvyQ83EC. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0870219073. OCLC 12119866. 
  • Newhart, Max (1995). American Battleships: A Pictorial History of BB-1 to BB-71. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. ISBN 1-57510-004-5. 
Online sources

External links


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