U.S. Navy Battleships - USS Arkansas (BB 33)
Full-screen images are linked from the images in the text below.
Displacement: 27,243 tons
Speed: 21.05 knots
Armament: Twelve 12" guns; twenty-one 5" guns; two 21" torpedo tubes
Text from The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships published by the Naval Historical Center
The third Arkansas (Battleship No. 33) was laid down on 25
January 1910 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding
Co.; launched on 14 January 1911; sponsored by Miss Nancy
Louise Macon; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard
on 17 September 1912, Capt. Roy C. Smith in command.
The new battleship took part in a fleet review by President
William H. Taft in the Hudson River off New York City on 14
October 1912, and received a visit from the Chief Executive that day.
She then transported President Taft to the Panama Canal Zone for
an inspection of the unfinished isthmian waterway. After putting
the inspection party ashore, Arkansas sailed to Cuban waters for
shakedown training. She then returned to the Canal Zone on 26
December to carry President Taft to Key West, Fla.
Following this assignment, Arkansas joined the Atlantic Fleet
for maneuvers along the east coast. The battleship began her
first overseas cruise in late October 1913, and visited several
ports in the Mediterranean. At Naples, Italy, on 11 November
1913, the ship celebrated the birthday of the King of Italy.
Earlier in October 1913, a coup in Mexico had brought to power a
dictator, Victoriano Huerta. The way in which Huerta had come to
power, however, proved contrary to the idealism of President
Woodrow Wilson, who insisted on a representative government,
rather than a dictatorial one, south of the American-Mexican
border. Mexico had been in turmoil for several years, and the
United States Navy maintained a force of ships in those waters
ready to protect American lives.
In a situation where tension exists between two powers,
incidents are bound to occur. One such occurred at Tampico in
the spring of 1914, and although the misunderstanding was
quickly cleared up locally, the prevailing state of tension
produced an explosive situation. Learning that a shipment of
arms for Huerta was due to arrive at Veracruz, President Wilson
ordered the Navy to prevent the landing of the guns by seizing
the customs house at that port.
While a naval force under Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo was already
present in Mexican waters, the President directed that the
Atlantic Fleet, under Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, proceed to
Veracruz. Arkansas participated in the landings at Veracruz,
contributing a battalion of four companies of bluejackets, a.
total of 17 officers and 313 enlisted men under the command of
Lt. Comdr. Arthur B. Keating. Among the junior officers was Lt.
(jg.) Jonas H. Ingram, who would be awarded the Medal of Honor
for heroism at Veracruz, as would Lt. John Grady, who commanded
the artillery of the 2d Seaman Regiment.
Landing on 22 April 1914, Arkansas's men took part in the slow,
methodical street fighting that eventually secured the city. Two
Arkansas sailors, Ordinary Seamen Louis O. Fried and William L.
Watson, died of their wounds on 22 April. Arkansas's battalion
returned to the ship on 30 April, and the ship remained in
Mexican waters through the summer before setting course on 30
September to return to the east coast. During her stay at
Veracruz, she received calls from Capt. Franz von Papen, the
German military attache to the United States and Mexico, and
Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, on 10 and 30 May 1914,
The battleship reached Hampton Roads, Va., on 7 October,
and after a week of exercises, Arkansas sailed to the New York
Navy Yard, for repairs and alterations. She then returned to the
Virginia capes area for maneuvers on the Southern Drill Grounds.
On 12 December, Arkansas returned to the New York Navy
Yard for further repairs.
She was underway again on 16 January 1915, and returned to the
Southern Drill Grounds for exercises there from 19 to 21 January. Upon completion of these, Arkansas sailed to Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, for fleet exercises. Returning to Hampton Roads on 7
April, the battleship began another training period in the
Southern Drill Grounds. On 23 April, she headed to the New York
Navy Yard for a two-month repair period. Arkansas then left New
York on 25 June bound for Newport, R.I. She conducted torpedo
practice and tactical maneuvers in Narragansett Bay through late
Returning to Hampton Roads on 27 August 1915, the battleship engaged
in maneuvers in the Norfolk area through 4 October, then sailed
once again to Newport. There, Arkansas carried out strategic
exercises from 5 to 14 October. On 15 October, the battleship
arrived at the New York Navy Yard for drydocking. Underway on 8
November, she returned to Hampton Roads. After a period of
routine operations, Arkansas went back to Brooklyn for repairs
on 19 October. The ship sailed on 5 January 1916 for Hampton
Roads. Pausing there only briefly, Arkansas pushed on to the
Caribbean for winter maneuvers.
She visited the West Indies and Guantanamo Bay before returning
to the United States on 12 March for torpedo practice off
Mobile Bay. The battleship then steamed back to Guantanamo
Bay on 20 March and remained there until mid-April. On 15
April, the battleship was once again at the New York Navy
Yard for overhaul.
On 6 April 1917, the United States entered World War I on the
side of the Allied and Associated Powers. The declaration of war
found Arkansas attached to Battleship Division 7 and patrolling
the York River in Virginia. For the next 14 months, Arkansas
carried out patrol duty along the east coast and trained gun
crews for duty on armed merchantmen.
In July 1918, Arkansas received orders to proceed to Rosyth,
Scotland, to relieve USS Delaware (Battleship No. 28). Arkansas
sailed on 14 July. On the eve of her arrival in Scotland, the
battleship opened fire on what was believed to be the periscope
wake of a German U-boat. Her escorting destroyers dropped depth
charges, but scored no hits. Arkansas then proceeded without
incident and dropped anchor at Rosyth on 28 July.
Throughout the remaining three and one-half months of war,
Arkansas and the other American battleships in Rosyth operated
as part of the British Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron.
The armistice ending World War I became effective on 11
November. The 6th Battle Squadron and other Royal Navy units
sailed to a point some 40 miles east of May Island at the
entrance of the Firth of Forth. Arkansas was present at the
internment of the German High Seas Fleet in the Firth of Forth
on 21 November 1918.
The American battleships were detached from the British Grand
Fleet on 1 December. From the Firth of Forth, Arkansas sailed to
Portland, England, thence out to sea to meet the transport
George Washington, with President Wilson on board. Arkansas —
along with other American battleships — escorted the
President's ship into Brest, France, on 13 December 1918. From
that French port, Arkansas sailed to New York City, where she
arrived on 26 December to a tumultuous welcome. Secretary of the
Navy Josephus Daniels reviewed the assembled battleship fleet
from the yacht Mayflower.
Following an overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Arkansas joined
the fleet in Cuban waters for winter maneuvers. Soon
thereafter, the battleship got underway to cross the Atlantic.
On 12 May 1919, she reached Plymouth, England: thence she headed
back out in the Atlantic to take weather observations on 19 May
and act as a reference vessel for the flight of the Navy Curtis
(NC) flying boats from Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, to Europe.
Her role in that venture completed, Arkansas proceeded thence to
Brest, where she embarked Admiral William S. Benson, the Chief
of Naval Operations, and his wife, on 10 June, upon the
admiral's return from the Peace Conference in Paris, before
departing for New York. She arrived on 20 June 1919.
Arkansas sailed from Hampton Roads on 19 July 1919, assigned to
the Pacific Fleet. Proceeding via the Panama Canal, the
battleship steamed to San Francisco, where, on 6 September 1919,
she embarked Secretary of the Navy and Mrs. Josephus Daniels.
Disembarking the Secretary and his wife at Blakely Harbor,
Wash., on the 12th. Arkansas was reviewed by President Wilson,
on the 13th, the Chief Executive having embarked in the famed
USS Oregon (Battleship No. 3). On 19 September 1919, Arkansas
entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard for a general overhaul.
Resuming her operations with the fleet in May 1920, Arkansas
operated off the California coast. On 17 July 1920, Arkansas
received the designation BB-33 as the ships of the fleet
received alphanumeric designations. That September, she cruised
to Hawaii or the first time. Early in 1921, the battleship
visited Valparaiso, Chile, manning the rail in honor of the
Arkansas's peacetime routine consisted of an annual cycle of
training interspersed with periods of upkeep or overhaul. The
battleship's schedule also included competitions in gunnery and
engineering and an annual fleet problem. Becoming flagship for
the Commander, Battleship Force, Atlantic Fleet, in the summer
of 1921, Arkansas began operations off the east coast that
For a number of years, Arkansas was detailed to take midshipmen
from the Naval Academy on their summer cruises. In 1923, the
battleship steamed to Europe, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark
(where she was visited by the King of Denmark on 2 July 1923);
Lisbon, Portugal; and Gibraltar. Arkansas conducted another
midshipman training cruise to European waters the following
year, 1924. In 1925, the cruise was to the west coast of the
United States. During this time, on 30 June 1925, Arkansas
arrived at Santa Barbara, Calif., in the wake of an earthquake.
The battleship, along with USS McCauley (DD-276) and USS Eagle 34 (PE-
34) landed a patrol of bluejackets for policing Santa Barbara,
and established a temporary radio station ashore for the
transmission of messages.
Upon completion of the 1925 midshipman cruise, Arkansas entered
the Philadelphia Navy Yard for modernization. Her coal-burning
boilers were replaced with oil-fired ones. Additional deck armor
was installed, a single stack was substituted for the original
pair, and the after cage mast was replaced by a low tripod.
Arkansas left the yard in November 1926 and, after a shakedown
cruise along the eastern seaboard and to Cuban waters, returned
to Philadelphia to run acceptance trials. Resuming her duty with
the fleet soon thereafter, she operated from Maine to the
Caribbean; on 5 September 1927, she was present at ceremonies
unveiling a memorial tablet honoring the French soldiers and
sailors who died during the campaign at Yorktown in 1781.
In May 1928, Arkansas again embarked midshipmen for their
practice cruise along the eastern seaboard and down into Cuban
waters. During the first part of 1929. she operated near the
Canal Zone and in the Caribbean, returning in May 1929 to the
New York Navy Yard for overhaul. After embarking midshipmen at
Annapolis, Arkansas carried out her 1929 practice cruise to
Mediterranean and English waters, returning in August to operate
with the Scouting Fleet off the east coast.
In 1930 and 1931, Arkansas was again detailed to carry out
midshipmen's practice cruises: in the former year she visited
Cherbourg, France: Kiel, Germany: Oslo, Norway: and Edinburgh,
Scotland; in the latter her itinerary included Copenhagen,
Denmark; Greenock, Scotland: and Cadiz, Spain, as well as
Gibraltar. In September 1931, the ship visited Halifax. Nova
Scotia. In October, Arkansas participated in the Yorktown
Sesquicentennial celebrations, embarking President Herbert
Hoover and his party on 17 October and taking them to the
exposition. She later transported the Chief Executive and his
party back to Annapolis on 19 and 20 October. Upon her return,
the battleship entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she
remained until January 1932.
Upon leaving the Navy Yard, Arkansas sailed for the west coast,
calling at New Orleans, La., en route, to participate in the
Mardi Gras celebration. Assigned duty as flagship of the
Training Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, Arkansas operated
continuously on the west coast of the United States into the
spring of 1934, at which time she returned to the east coast.
In the summer of 1934, the battleship conducted a midshipman
practice cruise to Plymouth, England; Nice, France; Naples,
Italy, and to Gibraltar, returning to Annapolis in August:
proceeding thence to Newport, R.I., where she manned the rail for
President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he passed on board the yacht
Nourmalhal, and was present for the International Yacht Race.
Arkansas' cutter defeated the cutter from the British light
cruiser HMS Dragon for the Battenberg Cup, and the City Newport
In January 1935, Arkansas transported the 1st Battalion,
5th Marines, to Culebra for a fleet landing exercise, and in June
conducted a midshipman practice cruise to Europe. visiting
Edinburgh, Oslo (where King Haakon VII of Norway visited the
ship), Copenhagen, Gibraltar and Funchal on the island of
Madeira. After disembarking Naval Academy midshipmen at
Annapolis in August 1935, Arkansas proceeded to New York. There
she embarked reservists from the New York area and conducted a
Naval Reserve cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September. Upon
completion of that duty, she underwent repairs and alterations
at the New York Navy Yard that October.
In January 1936. Arkansas participated in Fleet Landing Exercise
No. 2 at Culebra, and then visited New Orleans for the Mardi
Gras festivities before she returned to Norfolk for a Navy Yard
overhaul which lasted through the spring of 1936. That summer
she carried out a midshipman training cruise to Portsmouth,
England; Goteborg, Sweden; and Cherbourg, before she returned to
Annapolis that August. Steaming thence to Boston, the battleship
conducted a Naval Reserve training cruise before putting into
the Norfolk Navy Yard for an overhaul that October.
The following year, 1937, saw Arkansas make a midshipman
practice cruise to European waters, visiting ports in Germany
and England, before she returned to the east coast of the United
States for local operations out of Norfolk. During the latter
part of the year, the ship also ranged from Philadelphia and
Boston to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and Cuban waters. During
1938 and 1939, the pattern of operations largely remained as it
had been in previous years. her duties in the Training Squadron
largely confining her to the waters of the eastern seaboard.
The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 found Arkansas
at Hampton Roads, preparing for a Naval Reserve cruise. She soon
got underway and transported seaplane moorings and aviation
equipment from the naval air station at Norfolk to Narragansett
Bay for the seaplane base that was to be established there.
While at Newport, Arkansas took on board ordnance material for
destroyers and brought it back to Hampton Roads.
Arkansas departed Norfolk on 11 January 1940, in company with
USS Texas (BB-35)
and USS New York (BB-34), and proceeded thence to
Guantanamo Bay for fleet exercises. She then participated in
landing exercises at Culebra that February, returning via St.
Thomas and Culebra to Norfolk. Following an overhaul at the
Norfolk Navy Yard (18 March to 24 May), Arkansas shifted to the
Naval Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk, where she remained until 30
May. Sailing on that day for Annapolis, the battleship, along
with Texas and
New York, conducted a midshipman training cruise
to Panama and Venezuela that summer. Before the year was out,
Arkansas would conduct three V-7 Naval Reserve training cruises,
these voyages taking her to Guantanamo Bay, the Canal Zone, and
Over the months that followed, the United States gradually edged
toward war in the Atlantic; early the following summer, after
the decision to occupy Iceland had been reached, Arkansas
accompanied the initial contingent of Marines to that place.
That battleship, along with USS New York, and the light cruiser
USS Brooklyn (CL-40) provided the heavy escort for the convoy.
Following this assignment, Arkansas sailed to Casco Bay, Maine,
and was present there when the Atlantic Charter conferences took
place on board USS Augusta (CA-31) between President Franklin D.
Roosevelt an d British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. During
the conference, the battleship provided accommodations for the
Under Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, and Mr. Averell
Harriman, from 8 to 14 August 1941.
The outbreak of war with the Japanese attack upon the Pacific
Fleet at Pearl Harbor found Arkansas at anchor in Casco Bay,
Maine. One week later, on 14 December, she sailed to
Hvalfjordur, Iceland. Returning to Boston, via Argentia, on 24
January 1942. Arkansas spent the month of February carrying out
exercises in Casco Bay in preparation for her role as an escort
for troop and cargo transports. On 6 March, she arrived at
Norfolk to begin overhaul. Underway on 2 July, Arkansas
conducted shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, then proceeded to New
York City, where she arrived on 27 July.
The battleship sailed from New York on 6 August, bound for
Greenock, Scotland. Two days later, the ships paused at Halifax,
Nova Scotia, then continued on through the stormy North
Atlantic. The convoy reached Greenock on the 17th, and Arkansas
returned to New York on 4 September. She escorted another
Greenock-bound convoy across the Atlantic, then arrived back at
New York on 20 October. With the Allied invasion of North
Africa, American convoys were routed to Casablanca to support
the operations. Departing New York on 3 November, Arkansas
covered a troop convoy to Morocco, and returned to New York on
11 December for overhaul.
On 2 January 1943, Arkansas sailed to Chesapeake Bay for gunnery
drills. She returned to New York on 30 January and began loading
supplies for yet another transatlantic trip. The battleship made
two runs between Casablanca and New York City from February
through April. In early May, Arkansas was drydocked at the New
York Navy Yard, emerging from that period of yard work to
proceed to Norfolk on 26 May.
Arkansas assumed her new duty as a training ship for midshipmen,
based at Norfolk. After four months of operations in Chesapeake
Bay, the battleship returned to New York to resume her role as a
convoy escort. On 8 October, the ship sailed for Bangor,
Ireland. She was in that port throughout November, and got
underway to return to New York on 1 December. Arkansas then
began a period of repairs on 12 December. Clearing New York for
Norfolk two days after Christmas of 1943, Arkansas closed the
year in that port.
The battleship sailed on 19 January 1944 with a convoy bound for
Ireland. After seeing the convoy safely to its destination, the
ship reversed her course across the Atlantic and reached New
York on 13 February. Arkansas went to Casco Bay on 28 March for
gunnery exercises, before she proceeded to Boston on 11 April
On 18 April, Arkansas sailed once more for Bangor, Ireland. Upon
her arrival, the battleship began a training period to prepare
for her new role as a shore bombardment ship. On 3 June,
Arkansas sailed for the French coast to support the Allied
invasion of Normandy. The ship entered the Baie de la Seine on 6
June, and took up a position 4,000 yards off "Omaha" beach. At
0552, Arkansas's guns opened fire. During the day, the venerable
battleship underwent shore battery fire and air attacks; over
ensuing days she continued her fire support. On the 13th,
Arkansas shifted to a position off Grandcamp les Bains.
On 25 June 1944, Arkansas dueled with German shore batteries off
Cherbourg, the enemy repeatedly straddling the battleship but
never hitting her. Her big guns helped support the Allied attack
on that key port, and led to the capture of it the following
day. Retiring to Weymouth, England, and arriving there at 2220,
the battleship shifted to Bangor, on 30 June.
Arkansas stood out to sea on 4 July, bound for the
Mediterranean. She passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and
anchored at Oran, Algeria, on 10 July. On the 18th, she got
underway, and reached Taranto, Italy, on 21 July. The battleship
remained there until 6 August, then shifted to Palermo, Sicily,
on the 7th.
On 14 August. Operation Anvil, the invasion of the southern
French coast between Toulon and Cannes, began. Arkansas provided
fire support for the initial landings on 15 August, and
continued her bombardment through 17 August. After stops at
Palermo and Oran, Arkansas set course for the United States. On
14 September, she reached Boston, and received repairs and
alterations through early November. The yard period completed on
7 November, Arkansas sailed to Casco Bay for three days of
refresher training. On 10 November, Arkansas shaped a course
south for the Panama Canal Zone. After transiting the canal on
22 November, Arkansas headed for San Pedro, Calif. On 29
November, the ship was again underway for exercises held off San
Diego. She returned on 10 December to San Pedro.
After three more weeks of preparations, Arkansas sailed for
Pearl Harbor on 20 January 1945. One day after her arrival
there, she sailed for Ulithi, the major fleet staging area in
the Carolines, and continued thence to Tinian, where she arrived
on 12 February. For two days, the vessel held shore bombardment
practice prior to her participation in the assault on Iwo Jima.
At 0600 on 16 February, Arkansas opened fire on Japanese strong
points on Iwo Jima as she lay off the island's west coast. The
old battlewagon bombarded the island through the 19th, and
remained in the fire support area to provide cover during the
evening hours. During her time off the embattled island,
Arkansas shelled numerous Japanese positions, in support of the
bitter struggle by the Marines to root out and destroy the
stubborn enemy resistance. She cleared the waters off Iwo Jima
on 7 March to return to Ulithi. After arriving at that atoll on
the 10th, the battleship rearmed, provisioned, and fueled in
preparation for her next operation, the invasion of Okinawa.
Getting underway on 21 March, Arkansas began her preliminary
shelling of Japanese positions on Okinawa on 25 March, some days
ahead of the assault troops which began wading ashore on 1
April. The Japanese soon began an aerial onslaught, and Arkansas
fended off several kamikazes. For 46 days, Arkansas delivered
fire support for the invasion of Okinawa. On 14 May, the ship
arrived at Apra Harpor, Guam, to await further assignment.
After a month at Apra Harbor, part of which she spent in
drydock, Arkansas got underway on 12 June for Leyte Gulf. She
anchored there on the 16th, and remained in Philippine waters
until the war drew to a close in August. On the 20th of that
month, Arkansas left Leyte to return to Okinawa, and reached
Buckner Bay on 23 August. After a month spent in port, Arkansas
embarked approximately 800 troops for transport to the United
States as part of the "Magic Carpet" to return American
servicemen home as quickly as possible. Sailing on 23 September,
Arkansas paused briefly at Pearl Harbor en route, and ultimately
reached Seattle on 15 October. During the remainder of the year,
the battleship made three more trips to Pearl Harbor to shuttle
soldiers back to the United States.
During the first months of 1946, Arkansas lay at San Francisco.
In late April the ship got underway for Hawaii. She reached
Pearl Harbor on 8 May, and stood out of Pearl Harbor on 20 May,
bound for Bikini Atoll, earmarked for use as target for atomic
bomb testing in Operation Crossroads. On 25 July 1946, the
venerable battleship was sunk in Test "Baker' at Bikini.
Decommissioned on 29 July 1946. Arkansas was struck from the
Naval Vessel Registry on 15 August 1946.
Arkansas received four battle stars for her World War II
Updated: 30 July 2009