U.S. Navy Battleships - USS Idaho (BB 42)
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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
The fourth Idaho (BB-42) was launched by New York
Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, N.J., 30 June 1917; sponsored
by Miss H. A. Limons, granddaughter of the Governor of
Idaho; and commissioned 24 March 1919, Captain C. T.
Vogelgesang in command.
Idaho sailed 13 April for shakedown training out of Guantanamo Bay, and after returning to New York received President Pessoa of Brazil for the voyage to Rio de Janeiro. Departing 6 July with her escort, the battleship arrived Rio 17 July 1919. From there she set course for the Panama Canal, arriving Monterey, Calif. in September to join the Pacific Fleet. She joined other dreadnaughts in training exercises and reviews, including a Fleet Review by President Wilson 13 September 1919. In 1920, the battleship carried Secretary Daniels and the Secretary of the Interior on an inspection tour of Alaska.
Upon her return from Alaska 22 July 1920, Idaho took part In fleet maneuvers off the California coast and as far south as Chile. She continued this important training until 1925, taking part in numerous ceremonies on the West Coast during the interim. Idaho took part in the fleet review held by President Harding in Seattle shortly before his death in 1923. The battleship sailed 15 April 1925 for Hawaii, participated in war games until 1 July, and then got underway for Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand. On the return voyage Idaho embarked gallant Cmdr. John Rodgers and his seaplane crew after their attempt to fly to Hawaii, arriving San Francisco 24 September 1925.
For the next 6 years Idaho operated out of San Pedro on training and readiness operations off California and in the Caribbean. She sailed from San Pedro 7 September 1931 for the East Coast, entering Norfolk Navy Yard 30 September for modernization. The veteran battleship received better armor, "blister" antisubmarine protection, better machinery, and tripod masts during this extensive overhaul, and was readied for many more years of useful naval service. After completion 9 October 1934 the ship conducted shakedown in the Caribbean before returning to her home port, San Pedro, 17 April 1935.
As war clouds gathered in the Pacific, the fleet increased the tempo of its training operations. Idaho carried out fleet tactics and gunnery exercises regularly until arriving with the battle fleet at Pearl Harbor 1 July 1940. The ship sailed for Hampton Roads 6 June 1941 to perform Atlantic neutrality patrol, a vital part of U.S. policy in the early days of the European fighting. She moved to Iceland in September to protect American advance bases and was on station at Hvalfjordur when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941 and catapulted America into the war.
Idaho and sister ship USS Mississippi (BB 41) departed Iceland 2 days after Pearl Harbor to join the Pacific Fleet, and arrived San Francisco via Norfolk and the Panama Canal 31 January 1942. She conducted additional battle exercises in California waters and out of Pearl Harbor until October 1942, when she entered Puget Sound Navy Yard to be regunned. Upon completion of this work Idaho again took part in battle exercises, and sailed 7 April 1943 for operations in the bleak Aleutians. There she was flagship of the bombardment and patrol force around Attu, where she gave gunfire support to the Army landings 11 May 1943. During the months that followed she concentrated on Kiska, culminating in an assault 15 August. The Japanese were found to have evacuated the island in late July, thus abandoning their last foothold in the Aleutians.
Idaho returned to San Francisco 7 September 1943 to prepare for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Moving to Pearl Harbor, she got underway with the assault fleet 10 November and arrived off Makin Atoll 20 November. She supported the fighting ashore with accurate gunfire support and antiaircraft fire, remaining in the Gilberts until sailing for Pearl Harbor 5 December 1943.
Next on the Pacific timetable was the invasion of the Marshalls, and the veteran battleship
arrived off Kwajalein early 31 January to soften up shore positions. Again she hurled tons of shells into Japanese positions until 5 February, when the outcome was one of certain victory. After replenishing at Majuro she bombarded other islands in the group, then moved to Kavieng, New Ireland, for a diversionary bombardment 20 March 1944.
Idaho returned to the New Hebrides 25 March, and after a short stay in Australia arrived Kwajalein with a group of escort carriers 8 June. From there the ships steamed to the Marianas, where Idaho began a pre-invasion bombardment of Saipan 14 June. With this brilliantly executed landing assault underway 15 June, the battleship moved to Guam for bombardment assignments. As the American fleet decimated Japanese carrier air power in the Battle of the Philippine Sea 19 to 21 June, Idaho protected the precious transport area and reserve troop convoys. After returning briefly to Eniwetok 28 June to 9 July the ship began pre-invaslon bombardment of Guam 12 July, and continued the devastating shelling until the main assault eight days later. As ground troops battled for the island, Idaho stood offshore providing vital fire support until anchoring at Eniwetok 2 August 1944.
The ship continued to Espiritu Santo and entered a floating dry dock 15 August for repairs to her "blisters." After landing rehearsals on Guadalcanal in early September, Idaho moved to Peleliu 12 September and began bombarding the island, needed as a staging base for the invasion of the Philippines. Despite the furious bombardment, Japanese entrenchments gave assault forces stiff opposition, and the battleship remained off Peleliu until 24 September providing the all-important fire support for advancing Marines. She then sailed for Manus and eventually to Bremerton, Wash., where she arrived for needed repairs 22 October 1944. This was followed by battle practice off California.
Idaho's mighty guns were needed for the next giant amphibious assault on the way to Japan. She sailed from San Diego 20 January 1945 to join a battleship group at Pearl Harbor. After rehearsals she steamed from the Marianas 14 February for the invasion of Iwo Jima. As Marines stormed ashore 19 February Idaho was again blasting enemy positions with her big guns. She remained off Iwo Jima until 7 March, when she got underway for Ulithi and the last of the great Pacific assaults — Okinawa.
Idaho sailed 21 March 1945 as part of Rear Admiral Deyo's Gunfire and Covering Group and flagship of Bombardment Unit 4. She arrived offshore 25 March and began silencing enemy shore batteries and pounding installations. The landings began 1 April, and as the Japanese made a desperate attempt to drive the vast fleet away with suicide attacks, Idaho's gunners shot down numerous planes. In a massed attack 12 April the battleship shot down five kamikazes before suffering damage to her port blisters from a near-miss. After temporary repairs she sailed 20 April and arrived Guam five days later.
The veteran of so many of the landings of the Pacific
quickly completed repairs and returned to Okinawa 22
May to resume fire support. Idaho remained until 20
June 1945, then sailed for battle maneuvers in Leyte Gulf
until hostilities ceased 15 August 1945.
Idaho made her triumphal entry into Tokyo Bay with occupation troops 27 August, and witnessed the signing of the surrender on board Missouri 2 September. Four days later she began the long voyage to the east coast of the United States, steaming via the Panama Canal to Norfolk 16 October 1945. She decommissioned 3 July 1946 and was placed in reserve until sold for scrap 24 November 1947 to Lipsett Inc., of New York City.
Idaho received seven battle stars for World War II service.
See also USS Idaho (BB 24)
Updated: 2 May 2000