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USS Pennsylvania (BB 38)

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Name  Pennsylvania
Laid down  27 October 1913
Commissioned  12 June 1916
Construction started  27 October 1913
Builder  Newport News Shipbuilding
Ordered  22 August 1912
Sponsored by  Elizabeth Kolb
Length  185 m
Launched  16 March 1915
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Namesake  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Uss pennsylvania bb 38 and uss tennessee bb 43 bombard peleliu palau islands hd stock footage

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was the lead ship of the Pennsylvania class of United States Navy super-dreadnought battleships. She was the third Navy ship named for the state of Pennsylvania.


USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) USS Pennsylvania BB38 Leads Task Group 772 into Lingayen Gulf

She was laid down on 27 October 1913, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 16 March 1915, sponsored by Elizabeth Kolb of Philadelphia, and commissioned on 12 June 1916, with Captain Henry B. Wilson in command.

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) USS Pennsylvania BB38 Wikipedia

World War I

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) USS Pennsylvania BB38 by o484 on DeviantArt

Upon commissioning, Pennsylvania was attached to the Atlantic Fleet. On 12 October 1916, she became flagship of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, when Admiral Henry T. Mayo shifted his flag from Wyoming to Pennsylvania. In January 1917, Pennsylvania steamed for Fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea. She returned to her base at Yorktown, Virginia, on 6 April, the day of the American declaration of war against Germany. She did not sail to join the British Grand Fleet since she burned fuel oil rather than coal, and tankers could not be spared to carry additional fuel to the British Isles. In the light of this circumstance, only coal-burning battleships were selected for this mission. Based at Yorktown, she kept in battle trim with Fleet maneuvers, tactics, and training in the areas of the Chesapeake Bay, intervened by overhaul at Norfolk and New York City, with brief maneuvers in Long Island Sound.

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) Naval History USS Pennsylvania BB38

While at Yorktown, on 11 August 1917, Pennsylvania manned the rail and rendered honors as Mayflower, with President Woodrow Wilson aboard, stood in and anchored. At 12:15, President Wilson returned the call of Commander, Battle Force, aboard Pennsylvania and was given full honors.

Inter-war period

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) FileUSS Pennsylvania BB38 1945jpg Wikimedia Commons

On 2 December 1918, Pennsylvania steamed to anchor off Tompkinsville, New York. On 4 December, she got underway for Brest, France. At 11:00, the transport George Washington, flying the flag of the President of the United States, stood out with an escort of 10 destroyers. Pennsylvania manned the rail and fired a 21-gun salute. She took position ahead of George Washington as guide for the President's escort. Arriving in Brest on 13 December, the crew manned the rail and cheered as George Washington passed and proceeded to her anchorage. On 14 December, Pennsylvania departed for New York, arriving on 25 December.

In February 1919, Pennsylvania steamed for Fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea, returning to New York in the late spring. While at New York on 30 June, Admiral Mayo was relieved as Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, by Vice Admiral Henry B. Wilson, the first captain of the ship.

At Tompkinsville on 8 July, Pennsylvania embarked Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, Cabinet Secretaries Daniels, Glass, Wilson, Baker, Lane, and Senator Champ Clark, and then put to sea. At 10:00, Oklahoma was sighted with George Washington flying the President's flag and accompanied by her ocean escort. Pennsylvania fired a presidential salute, then took position ahead of Oklahoma and steamed to New York, stopping en route to disembark her distinguished guests before proceeding to her berth.

On 7 January 1920, she departed New York for Fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea, returning to New York on 26 April. She resumed a schedule of local training operations until 17 January 1921, when she departed New York for the Panama Canal. She arrived at Balboa, Panama, on 20 January to join units of the Pacific Fleet and become flagship of the combined fleets, the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet assuming command of the Battle Fleet on orders of the Navy Department.

On 21 January, the Fleet sailed from Balboa, en route to Callao, Peru, arriving on 31 January 1921. Departing on 2 February, Pennsylvania returned to Balboa on 14 February, and then conducted brief exercises while based at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Upon her return to Hampton Roads on 28 April, she rendered a 21-gun salute as she passed Mayflower. The Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy came aboard for a reception for the President of the United States. At 11:40, President Warren Harding came aboard and his flag was broken at the main mast.

On 22 August 1922, Pennsylvania departed Lynnhaven Roads to join the Pacific Fleet. Arriving at San Pedro, California, on 26 September 1922, her principal area of operations until 1929 was along the coast of California, Washington, and Oregon, with periodic maneuvers and tactics off the Panama Canal, in the Caribbean Sea, and Hawaiian operating areas. She departed with the Fleet from San Francisco on 15 April 1925, and after war games in the Hawaiian area, departed Honolulu, Hawaii, on 1 July, en route to Melbourne, Australia, via Sydney, Australia. After a visit to Wellington, New Zealand, she returned to San Pedro on 26 September.

In January 1929, Pennsylvania cruised to Panama, and after training maneuvers while based at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, steamed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, arriving on 1 June 1929, to undergo overhaul and modernization. She remained in the yard for nearly two years. The secondary battery was reduced to 12 5 in (130 mm)/51 cal guns and the 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns were replaced by eight 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal guns. On 8 May 1931, she departed for a refresher training cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then returned. On 6 August, she again sailed for Guantanamo, and later continued on to San Pedro, where she again joined the Battle Fleet.

From August 1931 to 1941, Pennsylvania engaged in Fleet tactics and battle practice along the west coast and participated in Fleet maneuvers which were held periodically in the Hawaiian area as well as the Caribbean Sea. Pennsylvania was one of 14 ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 radar. After overhaul in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (increasing the number of 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal guns to 12), on 7 January 1941, she again sailed for Hawaii where she carried out scheduled operations with units of Task Forces 1 and 5 (TF 1 and 5), throughout that year, making one brief voyage to the west coast with TF 18.

In February 1941, the Pacific Fleet's senior officers and the crew of the Pennsylvania watched the Kimmel/Richardson change-of-command ceremony in Hawaii.

World War II

At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Pennsylvania was in drydock in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. She was one of the first ships in the harbor to open fire as Japanese dive and torpedo bombers roared out of the high overcast. They did not succeed in repeated attempts to torpedo the caisson of the drydock, but Pennsylvania and the surrounding dock areas were severely strafed. The crew of one 5 inch (130 mm) gun mount was wiped out when a bomb struck the starboard side of her boat deck and exploded inside Casemate 9. Destroyers Cassin and Downes, just forward of Pennsylvania in the drydock, were seriously damaged by bomb hits. Pennsylvania was pockmarked by flying fragments. A part of a torpedo tube from Downes, about 1,000 lb (450 kg) in weight, was blown onto the forecastle of Pennsylvania. She had 15 men killed (including her executive officer), 14 missing, and 38 wounded.

On 20 December, Pennsylvania sailed for San Francisco, arriving on 29 December. She underwent repairs until 30 March 1942.


From 14 April to 1 August 1942, Pennsylvania conducted extensive training operations and patrol along the coast of California, punctuated by overhauls at San Francisco. On 4 June, Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, held brief ceremonies aboard Pennsylvania to present the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz for exceptionally meritorious service as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet since 31 December 1941. She then sailed as one of seven battleships under Vice Admiral William S. Pye to intercept Japanese forces should they try to attack the West Coast of the United States. After the Battle of Midway ended in an American victory, the force sailed to San Pedro.

On 1 August, Pennsylvania departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 14 August. She conducted gunnery exercises and took part in carrier task force guard tactics in the Hawaiian area. On 4 October, Pennsylvania returned to San Francisco for a major overhaul and refit at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The ship's anti-aircraft capabilities were enhanced, with ten Bofors 40 mm quad mounts and fifty-one Oerlikon 20 mm single mounts. The tripod mainmast was removed, with the stump replaced by a deckhouse above which the after main battery director cupola was housed. One of the new CXAM-1 radars was installed above the cupola. In addition the secondary 5 inch armament was replaced with the rapid fire 5 inch (130 mm)/38 cal guns in eight twin mounts for a total of 16 new dual purpose guns. These guns could elevate to 85 degrees and fire at a rate of one round every four seconds. They replaced the older 5 inch (130 mm)/51 cal anti-ship and 5 inch (130 mm)/25 cal anti-aircraft guns. The overhaul was completed on 5 February 1943. She then conducted refresher training and air defense patrol off the coast of California.


On 23 April, Pennsylvania left for Alaska to take part in the Aleutian Campaign. On 30 April, Pennsylvania arrived at Cold Bay, Alaska. On 11–12 May, she engaged in a shore bombardment of Holtz Bay, Attu and Chichagof Harbor, in support of the landings. As she retired from Attu on 12 May, a patrol plane warned that a torpedo wake was headed for Pennsylvania. She maneuvered at full speed as the torpedo passed safely astern. Destroyers Edwards and Farragut teamed to hunt down the attacker. After 10 hours of relentless depth charge attack, the Japanese submarine I-31 was forced to the surface and was shelled by gunfire from Edwards. Severely damaged, the enemy survived until 13 May, then was sunk by the destroyer Frazier. Torpedo wakes were again sighted on the morning of 14 May, and destroyers conducted a fruitless search for the enemy. That same morning, Pennsylvania's OS2U Kingfisher seaplanes were launched to operate from seaplane tender Casco in making strafing attacks on enemy positions on Attu.

On the afternoon of 14 May, Pennsylvania conducted her third bombardment mission, this time in support of the infantry attack on the west arm of Holtz Bay. She then operated to the north and east of Attu until 19 May, when she steamed for Adak. She departed Adak on 21 May and arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington on 28 May. She returned to Adak on 7 August, and departed on 13 August as the flagship of Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell, commanding the Kiska Attack Force. On 15 August, assault troops landed without opposition on the western beaches of Kiska. By the evening of 16 August, it became apparent that the Japanese had evacuated under cover of fog prior to the landing. She patrolled off Kiska for a time then returned to Adak on 23 August.

On 16 August, Pennsylvania steamed for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 1 September. There she took aboard 790 passengers and departed on 19 September for San Francisco where she arrived on 25 September. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 6 October, and, after debarking passengers, took part in rehearsal and bombardment exercises in the Hawaiian area. She became the flagship of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Commander Fifth Amphibious Force, and formed part of the Northern Attack Force, departing Pearl Harbor on 10 November, for the assault on Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.

The Task Force, comprising four battleships, four cruisers, three escort carriers, transports, and destroyers, approached Makin Atoll from the southeast on the morning of 20 November. Pennsylvania opened fire on Butaritari Island with her main battery at the initial range of 14,200 yd (13,000 m) and then opened with her secondary battery.

Just before general quarters on the morning of 24 November, a tremendous explosion took place off the starboard bow as Pennsylvania was returning to a screening sector off Makin. At almost the same instant, a screening destroyer reported sound contact and disposition, and immediately executed a course change. For several minutes after the explosion, a large fire lit up the entire area. Word soon came that escort carrier Liscome Bay had been torpedoed. She sank with tremendous loss of life, including the commander of the squadron, Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix. Determined night air attacks were made by enemy torpedo planes on the nights of 25–26 November but were repelled without damage to ships of the Task Force.


During the Battle of Kwajalein, on 31 January 1944, Pennsylvania commenced a bombardment of Kwajalein Island which was continued throughout the day. Landings were made on 1 February, with Pennsylvania joining in bombardment support before and after the landing operations. On the evening of 3 February, she anchored in the lagoon near Kwajalein. The success of the Kwajalein operation was ensured and Pennsylvania retired to Majuro Atoll to replenish her ammunition.

On 12 February, Pennsylvania got under way for operations against Eniwetok. On 17 February, Pennsylvania steamed boldly through the deep entrance into Eniwetok Lagoon with her batteries blazing away. She steamed up a swept channel in the lagoon to a position off Engebi Island and commenced a bombardment of enemy installations. On the morning of 18 February, Pennsylvania bombarded Engebi before and during the approach of the assault waves to the beach. When Engebi had been secured, Pennsylvania steamed southward through the lagoon to the vicinity of Parry Island, where she took part in a bombardment on 20–21 February, preparatory to the landing assaults. At the commencement of the bombardment, the island had been covered with a dense growth of palm trees extending to the water's edge. At conclusion of the bombardment, not a single tree remained standing. On the morning of 22 February, she gave bombardment support prior to the landing on Parry Island.

Pennsylvania retired to Majuro on 1 March, and then steamed south to Havannah Harbor, Efate Island, New Hebrides. She remained at Efate until late April. On 29 April, Pennsylvania arrived in Sydney, Australia. She returned to Efate on 11 May, and then sailed to Port Purvis, Florida Islands, from which she operated to conduct bombardment and amphibious assault exercises. She returned to Efate on 27 May, and after replenishment of her ammunition, departed on 2 June, arriving at Roi on 3 June.

On 10 June, Pennsylvania formed with a force of battleships, cruisers, escort carriers, and destroyers en route for the assault and occupation of the Marianas Islands. That night, a destroyer in the screen reported sound contact and an emergency turn left 90° was ordered. As a result of this maneuver, Pennsylvania collided with the high-speed transport Talbot and sustained minor damage. Talbot put into Eniwetok for emergency repairs.

On 14 June, Pennsylvania took part in the bombardment of Saipan preparatory to the assault landings made the next day while she cruised off the northeastern shore of Tinian, conducting heavy bombardment of that island to neutralize any enemy batteries which might have opened fire on the landing beaches of Saipan. On 16 June, she conducted a bombardment of targets on Orote Point, Guam, and then retired to cover the Saipan area. Pennsylvania departed the Mariana Islands on 25 June, and after a brief stay at Eniwetok, departed on 9 July to resume support of the Marianas Campaign.

From 12–14 July, Pennsylvania conducted a bombardment of Guam in preparation for the assault and landings on that island. On completion of firing the evening of 14 July, she returned to Saipan to replenish ammunition. She returned to Guam on 17 July, and delivered protective fire support for demolition parties. At the same time she continued deliberate destructive fire on designated targets through 20 July. During the Guam campaign, she fired more ammunition than any other warship in history during a single campaign. She in fact earned one of her nicknames, "Old Falling Apart" because she expelled so much metal she appeared to be falling apart.

On the early morning of 21 July, Pennsylvania took a position between Agat Beach and Orote Peninsula, and commenced a bombardment of beach areas in immediate preparation for the assault while troops and equipment were loaded into landing craft and landing waves were being formed. After the beachhead was established, she stood by for fire support missions as might be called for by shore fire control parties, continuing this duty until 3 August. She steamed to Eniwetok, then to the New Hebrides Islands, and after rehearsal of landing assaults on Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal, arrived at Port Purvis, Florida Island. She departed on 6 September as part of the Palau Bombardment and Fire Support Group. From 12–14 September, Pennsylvania took part in the intensive bombardment of targets on the island of Peleliu. On 15 September, she also furnished gunfire support for the landings on that island. She then delivered a devastating fire on enemy gun emplacements among the rocks and cliffs flanking Red Beach on Angaur Island.

On 25 September, Pennsylvania steamed for emergency repairs at Manus, Admiralty Islands, entering a floating drydock on 1 October. She departed on 12 October, one of six powerful battleships in Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Bombardment and Fire Support Group which formed a part of the Central Philippine Attack Force under command of Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, en route to the Philippine Islands.

Pennsylvania reached fire support station on the eastern coast of Leyte on 18 October, and commenced a covering bombardment for beach reconnaissance, underwater demolition teams, and minesweeping units operating in Leyte Gulf and San Pedro Bay. She conducted bombardment missions the next day and supported the landings on Leyte on 20 October. Gunfire support missions continued through 22 October, including harassing and night illumination fire.

On 24 October, all available United States vessels prepared for action as units of the Japanese Fleet closed the Philippines, preliminary to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Pennsylvania and five other battleships, with cruisers and destroyers of Rear Admiral Oldendorf's force, steamed south and by nightfall were steaming slowly back and forth across the northern entrance of Surigao Strait, awaiting the approach of the enemy. That night, American motor torpedo boats stationed well down in Surigao Strait made the first encounter with torpedo attacks. Destroyers of the force, on either flank of the enemy's line of approach, followed with torpedo and gun attacks. At 03:53 on 26 October, West Virginia opened fire, joined shortly thereafter by other battleships and cruisers. The Japanese had run head on into a perfect trap. Rear Admiral Oldendorf had executed the dream of every naval tactician by "crossing the T" of the enemy formation. The Japanese lost two battleships, Yamashiro and Fusō, and three destroyers in the Battle of Surigao Strait. The cruiser Mogami in company with a destroyer were the only ships that managed to escape. Rear Admiral Oldendorf's Force did not suffer the loss of a single vessel. Mogami was sunk the next day by aircraft carrier planes. Pennsylvania, sailing at one end of the battle line, was unable to find a target, partly because of her older fire control systems, but also because she was blocked by friendly ships sailing in her line of fire.

On 26 October, ten enemy planes made a simultaneous attack on a destroyer close aboard Pennsylvania which assisted in shooting down four planes and driving off the others. On the night of 28 October, she shot down a bomber as it attempted a torpedo run. She remained on patrol in Leyte Gulf until 25 November, and then steamed to Manus, Admiralty Islands, and thence to Kossol Passage where she loaded ammunition.


She departed on 1 January 1945 with Vice Admiral Oldendorf's Lingayen Bombardment and Fire Support Group, steaming for Lingayen Gulf. The Group came under heavy air attacks on 4–5 January, and the escort carrier Ommaney Bay was hit by a kamikaze and destroyed by the resulting fire. Many other ships were damaged.

On the morning of 6 January, Pennsylvania commenced a bombardment of target areas on Santiago Island at the mouth of Lingayen Gulf. That afternoon she entered the Gulf to conduct counter-battery fire in support of minesweeping forces, retiring at night. At daybreak on 7 January, the entire bombardment force entered Lingayen Gulf to deliver supporting and destructive fire. Preliminary assault bombardment was continued the next day. On 9 January, Pennsylvania provided gunfire support for the protection of the waves of landing troops. Enemy aircraft attacked the force in Lingayen Gulf on 10 January. Four bombs landed close by, but Pennsylvania was not hit. That afternoon she executed her last call fire mission in support of the operation by firing twelve rounds to destroy a concentration of enemy tanks which had been located inland by a shore fire control party.

From 10–17 January, Pennsylvania conducted a patrol in the South China Sea, off Lingayen Gulf, with other ships of the task group. On 17 January, she anchored in Lingayen Gulf, where she remained until 10 February, when she sailed for temporary repairs at Manus, Admiralty Islands. Departing on 22 February, she steamed via the Marshall Islands and Pearl Harbor to San Francisco arriving on 13 March. She entered the Hunter's Point Shipyard and underwent a thorough overhaul. Her main battery turrets and secondary battery mounts were regunned; some of the new 14 in (360 mm) guns that she received had been salvaged off Oklahoma, sunk at Pearl Harbor. Additional anti-aircraft weapons as well as improved radar and fire control equipment were installed.

Upon completion of this overhaul, Pennsylvania conducted trial runs out of San Francisco, followed by refresher training while based at San Diego. She departed San Francisco 12 July for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 18 July. She sailed for Okinawa on 24 July. En route she took part in the bombardment of Wake Island on 1 August; and, after loading ammunition at Saipan the next day, resumed her voyage. She anchored in Buckner Bay in Okinawa alongside Tennessee. On 12 August a Japanese torpedo plane penetrated undetected and launched a torpedo at Pennsylvania, which lay at anchor. Hit well aft, Pennsylvania suffered extensive damage. The torpedo's impact caused a hole of approximately 30 ft (9.1 m) in diameter in her stern. Twenty men were killed and ten, including Admiral Oldendorf, injured. Many compartments were flooded and Pennsylvania settled heavily by the stern. The flooding was brought under control by Pennsylvania's repair parties and with the prompt assistance of two salvage tugs. The following day, she was towed to shallower water where salvage operations continued.


On 18 August, Pennsylvania departed Buckner Bay, Okinawa, under tow by two tugs. She arrived Apra Harbor, Guam on 6 September and entered drydock where a large sheet steel patch was welded over the torpedo hole and repairs to permit her to return to the United States under her own power were made. On 4 October, she sailed for home in company with the destroyer Walke and the cruiser Atlanta. On 17 October, her No. 3 shaft suddenly carried away inside the stern tube and the shaft slipped aft. It was necessary to send divers down to cut through the shaft, letting the shaft and propeller drop into the sea. Shipping water and with only one screw turning, Pennsylvania limped into Puget Sound Navy Yard on 24 October.

Repairs were made to enable Pennsylvania to steam to the Marshall Islands, departing Long Beach on 28 April, where she was used as a target ship in the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll during July 1946. She was then towed to Kwajalein Lagoon where she decommissioned on 29 August. She remained in Kwajalein Lagoon for radiological and structural studies until 10 February 1948, when she was sunk stern first off Kwajalein. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 19 February.

Two of her 14-inch guns are now kept outside the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. Her bell is on display outside of the Wagner Building at Penn State University.

During her five years of World War II service, USS Pennsylvania travelled 146,052 miles (235,048 km) and fired 6,854 14-inch (360 mm) rounds at the enemy, with 31,678 shells from her 5-inch (130 mm) guns and 97,327 rounds from her anti-aircraft battery.

All personnel attached to the Pennsylvania and actually present and serving during the period of 4 May 1943 through 10 February 1945 in the Pacific, or any part thereof, earned a Navy Unit Commendation. The commendation awarded USS Pennsylvania reads as follows.

Pennsylvania also was awarded 8 service stars for her World War II service.

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)


USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) Wikipedia