U.S. Navy Battleships - USS Massachusetts (BB 59)
Full-screen images are linked from the images in the text below.
Displacement: 35,000 tons
Speed: 27 knots
Armament: Nine 16" guns; twenty 5" guns; twenty-four 40 mm guns and thirty-five 20 mm guns
Class: South Dakota
Text from The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships published by the Naval Historical Center
USS Massachusetts (BB-59) was laid down 20 July 1939 by Bethlehem
Steel Co., Quincy, Mass.: launched 23 September 1941: sponsored
by Mrs. Charles Francis Adams; and commissioned 12 May 1942 at
Boston. Capt. Francis E. M. Whiting in command.
After shakedown, Massachusetts departed Casco Bay, Maine, 24
October 1942 and 4 days later made rendezvous with the Western
Naval Task Force for the invasion of north Africa, serving as
flagship for Adm. H. Kent Hewitt.
While steaming off Casablanca 8 November, she came under fire
from French battleship Jean Bart's 13-inch guns. She returned
fire at 0740 firing the first 16-inch shells fired by the U.S.
against the European Axis Powers. Within a few minutes she
silenced Jean Bart's main battery; then she turned her guns on
French destroyers which had joined the attack, sinking two of
them. She also shelled shore batteries and blew up an ammunition
dump. After a cease-fire had been arranged with the French, she
headed for the United States 12 November, and prepared for
Massachusetts arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, 4 March 1943.
For the next months she operated in the South Pacific,
protecting convoy lanes and supporting operations in the
Solomons. Between 19 November and 21 November, she sailed with a
carrier group striking Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama in the
Gilberts; on 8 December she shelled Japanese positions on Nauru;
and on 29 January 1944 she guarded carriers striking Tarawa in
The Navy now drove steadily across the Pacific. On 30 January
1944, Massachusetts bombarded Kwajalein, and she covered the
landings there 1 February. With a carrier group she struck
against the Japanese stronghold at Truk 17 February. That raid
not only inflicted heavy damage on Japanese aircraft and naval
forces, but also proved to be a stunning blow to enemy morale.
On 21 to 22 February, Massachusetts helped fight off a heavy air
attack on her task group while it made raids on Saipan, Tinian,
and Guam. She took part in the attack on the Carolines in late
March and participated in the invasion at Hollandia 22 April
which landed 60,000 troops on the island. Retiring from
Hollandia, her task force staged another attack on Truk.
Massachusetts shelled Ponape Island 1 May 1944, her last mission
before sailing to Puget Sound to overhaul and reline her gun
barrels, now well-worn. On 1 August she left Pearl Harbor to
resume operations in the Pacific war zone. She departed the
Marshall Islands 6 October, sailing to support the landings in
Leyte Gulf. In an effort to block Japanese air attacks in the
Leyte conflict, she participated in a fleet strike against
Okinawa 10 October. Between 12 and 14 October, she protected
forces hitting Formosa. While part of TG 38.3 she took part In
the Battle for Leyte Gulf 22 to 27 October, during which planes
from her group sank four Japanese carriers off Cape Engano.
Stopping briefly at Ulithi, Massachusetts returned to the
Philippines as part of a task force which struck Manila 14
December 1944 while supporting the invasion of Mindoro. Massachusetts
sailed into a howling typhoon 17 December, with winds estimated
at 120 knots. Three destroyers sank at the height of the
typhoon's fury. Between 30 December and 23 January 1945, she
sailed as part of TF 38, which struck Formosa and supported the
landing at Lingayen. During that time she turned into the South
China Sea, her task force destroying shipping from Saigon to
Hong Kong. concluding operations with air strikes on Formosa and
From 10 February to 3 March 1945, with the Fifth Fleet,
Massachusetts guarded carriers during raids on Honshu. Her group
also struck Iwo Jima by air for the invasion of that island. On
17 March, the carriers launched strikes against Kyushu while
Massachusetts fired in repelling enemy attacks, splashing
several planes. Seven days later she bombarded Okinawa. She
spent most of April fighting off air attacks, while engaged in
the operations at Okinawa, returning to the area in June, when
she passed through the eye of a typhoon with 100-knot winds 5
June 1945. She bombarded Minami Daito Jima in the Ryukyus 10
Massachusetts sailed 1 July from Leyte Gulf to join the 3d
Fleet's final offensive against Japan. After guarding carriers
launching strikes against Tokyo, she shelled Kamaishi, Honshu,
14 July, thus hitting Japan's second largest iron and steel
center. Two weeks later she bombarded the industrial complex at
Hamamatsu. returning to blast Kamaishi 9 August 1945. It was
here that Massachusetts fired what was probably the last 16-inch
shell fired in combat in World War II.
Victory won, the fighting battleship sailed for Puget Sound and
overhaul 1 September. She left there 28 January 1946 for
operations off the California coast, until leaving San Francisco
for Hampton Roads, arriving 22 April 1946. She decommissioned 27
March 1947 to enter the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Norfolk, and
was struck from the Naval Register 1 June 1962.
"Big Mamie," as she was affectionately known, was saved from the
scrap pile when she was transferred to the Massachusetts
Memorial Committee 8 June 1965. She was enshrined at Fall River,
Mass., 14 August 1965, as the Bay State's memorial to those who
gave their lives in World War II.
Massachusetts received 11 battle stars for World War II service.
See also USS Massachusetts (BB 2)
Updated: 29 July 2009