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USS Massachusetts (BB-59):

Historical Overview:

Battleship Massachusetts was built in Quincy, Massachusetts at the Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The ship was launched on September 23, 1941 and holds the record as the heaviest ship ever launched in Quincy. "Big Mamie", as her crew knew her, was delivered to the Boston Navy Yard in April 1942 and commissioned the following month.

Following her shakedown period Battleship Massachusetts went into action on November 8, 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. While cruising off the city of Casablanca, Morocco, the Battleship engaged in a gun duel with the unfinished French battleship Jean Bart, moored at a Casablanca pier. In this battle, Massachusetts fired the first American 16" projectile in anger of World War II. Five hits from Big Mamie silenced the enemy battleship, and other 16" shells from Battleship Massachusetts helped sink two destroyers, two merchant ships, a floating dry-dock, and heavily damaged buildings and docks in Casablanca.

The ship returned to Boston for refitting and resupply and in February 1943 went through the Panama Canal to join the action in the Pacific, where she would remain for the remainder of her 3 1/2 years of active service. Assigned to the Southwest Pacific, the Battleship saw action in the New Guinea-Solomons area and participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943, the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944, the powerful carrier strikes against Truk in February 1944, and a series of raids against Japanese bases in the Western Pacific and Asia.

Following a bombardment of Ponape Island in May 1944, Battleship Massachusetts returned to Bremerton, Washington for modernization and a well-deserved rest for her crew. In September 1944 the ship returned to action in the invasion of Palau Islands and acted as an escort for the fast carrier task forces using her 5", 40mm, and 20mm guns to defend the carriers against enemy aircraft.

Big Mamie's 16" guns pounded Iwo Jima and Okinawa before those islands were invaded in 1945, and by July of that year she was off Japan with the Third Fleet. The Battleship bombarded the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Kamaishi, and then sailed south to bombard a factory at Hamamatsu. Returning to Kamaishi, Battleship Massachusetts fired the last 16" projectile of the war.


With peace achieved, "Big Mamie" returned to the United States and operated with the Pacific Fleet until mid-1946, when she was ordered deactivated. The Battleship remained in the Reserve Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia until she was stricken in 1962 from the Navy Register and ordered sold for scrap. However, her wartime crew had held annual reunions since 1945 and lobbied to save their ship as a memorial.


With the assistance of Massachusetts school children, they raised enough money to bring Big Mamie to Fall River in June 1965. She was opened to the public two months later. Now the centerpiece of Fall River's revitalized waterfront and one of the five National Historic Landmark ships at Battleship Cove, "Big Mamie" with her guns trained fore and aft in the posture of peace, stands ready to welcome visitors from around the nation and across the world as she has for more than a quarter century.

Ship Characteristics

A member of the South Dakota class, Massachusetts is 680 feet long overall, a beam of 108 ft. 2 in,  and a draft of 35 ft. 1 in.  She displaced 37,970 long tons as designed and up to 44,519 long tons at full combat load. The ship was powered by four General Electric steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by eight oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Rated at 130,000 shaft horsepower, the turbines were intended to give a top speed of 27.5 knots. The ship had a cruising range of 15,000 nautical miles  at a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). "Big Mamie" carried three Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes for aerial reconnaissance, which were launched by a pair of aircraft catapults on her fantail. Her peace time crew numbered 1,793 officers and enlisted men, but during the war the crew swelled to 2,500 officers and enlisted.

The ship was armed with a main battery of nine 16"/45 caliber Mark 6 guns in three triple-gun turrets on the centerline, two of which were placed in a superfiring pair forward, with the third aft. The secondary battery consisted of twenty 5-inch /38 caliber dual purpose guns mounted in twin turrets clustered amidships, five turrets on either side. Massachusetts  was equipped with an anti-aircraft battery that included quadruple 40 mm Bofors guns and 20 mm  Oerlikon autocannon instead of the .50-cal. guns.

The main armored belt was 12.2 inch thick, while the main armored deck was up to 6 in.  thick.  The main battery gun turrets had 18 inch thick faces, and they were mounted atop barbettes that were 17.3 inch  thick. The conning tower had 16 inch thick sides.


Uss_massachusetts_bb11 July 1944.jpg
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