USS Wisconsin (BB-64)

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) was an Iowa class battleship that served in the Pacific in 1945, served as a bombardment ship during the Korean War and was reactivated during the 1980s, fighting in the First Gulf War of 1991.

The Wisconsin was laid down in January 1941, launched in December 1943 and commissioned on 16 April 1944. Her early cruises were in Chesapeake Bay and the West Indies, and she was ready to steam to the war zone in the Pacific by September 1944.

The Wisconsin joined the Pacific Fleet on 2 October, but didn't reach the fighting area until the start of December, when she joined Halsey's Third Fleet.

Her fist mission was to escort the Fast Carrier Task Force as it raided Manila (14-16 December 1944). She was then caught up in the typhoon that sank three destroyers, surviving intact.

She was next sent towards Cam Ranh Bay in an attempt to find some Japanese capital ships reported to be sheltering there. The raid was cancelled on 12 January 1945 after aerial reconnaissance proved that the bay was empty.

In January 1945 she supported the carriers as they attacked Formosa, Luzon and the Nansei Shoto to cover the landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon.

In February she supported the carriers during a raid on the Tokyo area in which 322 Japanese planes were claimed for the loss of only 49 American aircraft. She then took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima.

In March the Wisconsin escorted the carriers in a raid on Japan designed to reduce the aerial threat to the invasion of Okinawa. Honshu was hit on 18-19 March and the task force then returned to Okinawa. On 24 March the Wisconsin fired her main guns in action, bombarding Japanese positions on the island.

In June the Wisconsin supported another attack on Kyushu. She then returned to the Philippines for repairs which lasted to the end of the month. In July she was back in action off Japan, and on 15 July she carried out a direct bombardment of the steel mills and oil refineries at Muroran, Hokkaido. The attacks on Japan continued until 13 August, and ended with a raid on Tokyo only two days before the Japanese surrender.

The Wisconsin entered Tokyo Bay on 5 September, three days after the surrender was signed on her sister ship Missouri. She then moved to Okinawa, from where she departed for the US on a 'Magic Carpet' mission, carrying US servicemen home. She served as a training ship in 1947, before being decommissioned in 1948.

The Wisconsin was recommissioned in 1951 for use as a shore bombardment ship during the Korean War. She reached the war zone in December 1951 and was used to attack North Korean positions near the coast. She had to return to base to replenish her stocks of ammunition in mid-December, but was back in the line by 17 December. She continued to serve in the firing line off Korea in January-March 1952. She left for the United States on 1 April, ending her combat time in Korea. She remained in service for another six years, before being decommissioned for a second time on 8 March 1958. This meant that the US Navy had no battleships in commission for the first time since 1895.

The Wisconsin was decommissioned in 1948 but was re-commissioned during 1951 and used for shore bombardment during the Korean War. She was decommissioned for a second time on 8 March 1958, leaving the US Navy without an active battleship.

In 1986 the Wisconsin was reactivated as part of President Reagan's '600 ship navy'. She was given a massive upgrade which included modern anti-aircraft weapons, and she was recommissioned in October 1988. She was thus available to take part in Operation Desert Storm, the offensive phase of the First Gulf War of 1991. Before the Allied invasion she fired her new cruise missiles and served as the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strike commander for the Persian Gulf area. On several occasions during the war she fired her main guns in support of allied troops and giving the impression that there might be an amphibious assault on the Kuwaiti coastline. The mix of technologies involved in this fighting is best demonstrated by the use of a remote controlled drone to spot for the 16in guns, a mix of modern and 1930s technology. The Wisconsin fired the last naval gun shots of the war, thus ending the period of the battleship.

In September 1991 the Wisconsin was decommissioned for the final time. She is now berthed at Naucticus, The National Maritime Centre, in Norfolk Verginia, where she is a museum ship.

Displacement (standard)

48,110t

Displacement (loaded)

57,540t

Top Speed

32.5kts

Range

15,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

12.1in on 0.875in STS

 - lower belt

12.1in-1.6in on 0.875in STS

 - armour deck

6in with 1.5in weather deck and 0.625in splinter deck

 - bulkheads

11.3in

 - barbettes

11.6in-17.3in

 - turrets

19.7in face, 7.25in roof, 9.5in side, 12.0in rear

 - CT

17.5in, 7.25in roof

Length

887ft 3in

Width

108ft 2in

Armaments

Nine 16in/50 guns
Twenty 5in/38 guns in ten turrets
Eighty 40mm guns in quad mounts
Forty nine 20mm guns
3 aircraft

Crew complement

1921

Ships in Class

Fate

Laid Down

25 January 1941

Launched

7 December 1943

Commissioned

16 April 1944

Decommissioned

1991

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 October 2014), USS Wisconsin (BB-64), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Wisconsin_BB64.html

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