U.S. Navy Battleships - USS New Mexico (BB 40)
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Displacement: 32,000 tons
Speed: 21 knots
Armament: Twelve 14" guns; fourteen 5" guns; four 3" guns; two 21" torpedo tubes
Class: New Mexico
Text from The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships published by the Naval Historical Center
New Mexico (BB-40) was laid down 14 October 1915 by the New York
Navy Yard: launched 13 April 1917; sponsored by Miss Margaret C.
DeBaca, daughter of the Governor of New Mexico; and commissioned
20 May 1918, Capt. Ashley H. Robertson in command.
After initial training, New Mexico departed New York 15 January
1919 for Brest, France, to escort home the transport George
Washington carrying President Woodrow Wilson from the Versailles
Peace Conference, returning to Hampton Roads 27 February. There
on 16 July she became flagship of the newly-organized Pacific
Fleet, and three days later sailed for the Panama Canal and San
Pedro, Calif., arriving 9 August. The next 12 years were marked
by frequent combined maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet both in
the Pacific and Caribbean which included visits to South
American ports and a 1925 cruise to Australia and New Zealand.
Modernized and overhauled at Philadelphia between March 1931 and
January 1933, New Mexico returned to the Pacific in October 1934
to resume training exercises and tactical development
operations. As war threatened, her base was Pearl Harbor from 6
December 1940 until 20 May 1941, when she sailed to join the
Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk 16 June for duty on neutrality patrol.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she returned to the
west coast, and sailed 1 August 1942 from San Francisco to
Hawaii prepare for action. Between 6 December and 22 March 1943,
she sailed to escort troop transports to the Fijis, then
patrolled the southwest Pacific, returning to Pearl Harbor to
prepare for the campaign against the Japanese in the Aleutians.
On 17 May she arrived Adak, her base while serving on the
blockade of Attu, and on 21 July she joined in the massive
bombardment of Kiska that forced its evacuation a week later.
After refitting at Puget Sound Navy Yard, New Mexico returned to
Pearl Harbor 25 October 1943 to rehearse the assault on the Gilbert
Islands. During the invasion, begun 20 November, she pounded
Butaritari, guarded transports during their night withdrawals
from the islands, and provided antiaircraft cover during
unloading operations, as well as screening carriers. She
returned to Pearl harbor 5 December 1943.
Underway with the Marshall Islands assault force 12 January
1944, New Mexico bombarded Kwajalein and Ebeye 31 January and 1
February, then replenished at Majuro. She blasted Wotje 20
February and Kavieng, New Ireland 20 March, then visited Sydney
before arriving in the Solomons in May to rehearse the Marianas
New Mexico bombarded Tinian 14 June, Saipan 15 June, and Guam 16
June, and twice helped drive off enemy air attacks 18 June. She
protected transports off the Marianas while the carrier task
force spelled the doom of Japanese naval aviation in its great
victory, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 19-20 June 1944. New
Mexico escorted transports to Eniwetok, then sailed 9 July
guarding escort carriers until 12 July, when her guns opened on
Guam in preparation for the landings 21 July. Until 30 July she
blasted enemy positions and installations on the island.
Overhauled at Bremerton August to October 1944, New Mexico arrived in
Leyte Gulf 22 November to cover the movement of reinforcement
and supply convoys, firing in the almost daily air attacks over
the Gulf, as the Japanese posed desperate resistance to the
reconquest of the Philippines. She left Leyte Gulf 2 December
for the Palaus, where she joined a force covering the Mindoro-
bound assault convoy. Again she sent up antiaircraft fire as
invasion troops stormed ashore 15 December, providing cover for
two days until sailing for the Palaus.
Her next operation was the invasion of Luzon, fought under a sky
full of would-be suicide planes, against whom she was almost
continually at general quarters. She fired pre-landing
bombardment 6 January 1945, and that day took a suicide hit on
her bridge which killed her commanding officer, Captain R. W.
Fleming, and 29 others of her crew, with 87 injured. Her guns
remained in action as she repaired damage, and she was still in
action 9 January as troops went ashore.
After repairs at Pearl Harbor, New Mexico arrived at Ulithi to
stage for the invasion of Okinawa, sailing 21 March with a heavy
fire support group. Her guns opened on Okinawa 26 March, and
were not silent until 17 April as she gave every aid to troops
engaged ashore. Again on 21 and 29 April 1945, she opened fire,
and on 11 May she destroyed eight suicide boats.
approaching her berth in Hagushi anchorage just after sunset 12
May, New Mexico was attacked by two suicides; one plunged into
her, the other managed to hit her with his bomb. She was set on
fire, and 54 of her men were killed, with 119 wounded. Swift
action extinguished the fires within half an hour, and on 28 May
she departed for repairs at Leyte, followed by rehearsals for
the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands. Word of the
war's end reached her at Saipan 15 August, and next day she
sailed for Okinawa to join the occupation force. She entered
Sagami Wan 27 August to support the airborne occupation of
Atsugi Airfield, then next day passed into Tokyo Bay to witness
the surrender 2 September.
New Mexico was homeward bound 6 September, calling at
Okinawa, Pearl Harbor, and the Panama Canal before arriving
Boston 17 October. There she decommissioned 19 July 1946.
She was sold for scrapping 13 October 1947 to Lipsett, Inc.,
New York City.
New Mexico received 6 battle stars for World War II service.
Updated: 30 July 2009