U.S. Navy Battleships - USS Alabama (BB 60)
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Displacement: 35,000 tons
Speed: 27.5 knots
Armament: Nine 16" guns; twenty 5" guns; twenty-four 40 mm guns and twenty-two 20 mm guns
Class: South Dakota
Text from The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships published by the Naval Historical Center
The third Alabama (BB-60) was laid down on 1 February 1940 by
the Norfolk (Va.) Navy Yard; launched on 16 February 1942;
sponsored by Mrs. Lister Hill, wife of the senior Senator from
Alabama; and commissioned on 16 August 1942, Capt. George B.
Wilson in command.
After fitting out, Alabama commenced her shakedown cruise in
Chesapeake Bay on Armistice Day (11 November) 1942. As the year
1943 began, the new battleship headed north to conduct
operational training out of Casco Bay, Maine. She returned to
Chesapeake Bay on 11 January 1943 to carry out the last week of
shakedown training. Following a period of availability and
logistics support at Norfolk, Alabama was assigned to Task Group
(TG) 22.2, and returned to Casco Bay for tactical maneuvers on
13 February 1943.
With the movement of substantial British strength toward the
Mediterranean theater, to prepare for the invasion of Sicily,
the Royal Navy lacked the heavy ships necessary to cover the
northern convoy routes. The British appeal for help on those
lines soon led to the temporary assignment of Alabama and USS South Dakota (BB-57) to the Home Feet.
On 2 April 1943, Alabama — as part of Task Force 22 sailed
for the Orkney Islands with her sister ship and a screen of five
destroyers. Proceeding via Little Placentia Sound, Argentia,
Newfoundland, the battleship reached Scapa Flow on 19 May 1943,
reporting for duty with TF 61 and becoming a unit of the British
Home Fleet. She soon embarked on a period of intensive
operational training to coordinate joint operations.
Early in June, Alabama and her sister ship, along with British
Home Fleet units, covered the reinforcement of the garrison on
the island of Spitzbergen, which lay on the northern flank of
the convoy route to Russia, in an operation that took the ship
across the Arctic Circle. Soon after her return to Scapa Flow,
she was inspected by Admiral Harold R. Stark, Commander, United
States Naval Forces, Europe.
Shortly thereafter, in July, Alabama participated in Operation
Governor, a diversion aimed toward southern Norway, to draw
German attention away from the real Allied thrust, toward
Sicily. It had also been devised to attempt to lure out the
German battleship Tirpitz, the sister ship of the famed, but
short-lived, Bismark, but the Germans did not rise to the
challenge, and the enemy battleship remained in her Norwegian
Alabama was detached from the British Home Fleet on 1 August
1943, and, in company with South Dakota and screening
destroyers, sailed for Norfolk, arriving there on 9 August. For
the next ten days, Alabama underwent a period of overhaul and
repairs. This work completed, the battleship departed Norfolk on
20 August 1943 for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal five
days later, she dropped anchor in Havannah Harbor, at Efate, in
the New Hebrides, on 14 September.
Following a month and a half of exercises and training, with
fast carrier task groups, the battleship moved to Fiji on 7
November. Alabama sailed on 11 November 1943 to take part in
Operation Galvanic, the assault on the Japanese-held Gilbert
Islands. She screened the fast carriers as they launched attacks
on Jaluit and Mille atolls, Marshall Islands, to neutralize
Japanese airfields located there. Alabama supported landings on
Tarawa on 20 November and later took part in the securing of
Betio and Makin. On the night of 26 November, Alabama twice
opened fire to drive off enemy aircraft that approached her
On 8 December 1943, Alabama, along with five other fast battleships, carried out the first Pacific gunfire strike
conducted by that type of warship. Alabama's guns hurled 535
rounds into enemy strong points, as she and her sister ships
bombarded Nauru Island, an enemy phosphate-producing center,
causing severe damage to shore installations there. She also
took the destroyer USS Boyd (DD-644), alongside after that ship had
received a direct hit from a Japanese shore battery on Nauru,
and brought three injured men on board for treatment.
She then escorted the carriers USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) and USS Monterey
(CVL-26) back to Efate, arriving on 12 December. Alabama
departed the New Hebrides for Pearl Harbor on 5 January 1944,
arrived on the 12th, and underwent a brief drydocking at the
Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. After replacement of her port outboard
propeller, and routine maintenance, Alabama was again underway
to return to action in the Pacific.
Alabama reached Funafuti, Ellice Islands, on 21 January 1944,
and there rejoined the fleet. Assigned to Task Group (TG) 58.2,
which was formed around Essex (CV-9), Alabama left the Ellice
Islands on 25 January to help carry out Operation Flintlock,
the invasion of the Marshall Islands. Alabama, along with sister
ship South Dakota and the fast battleship USS North Carolina (BB-
55), bombarded Roi on 29 January and Namur on 30 January; she
hurled 330 rounds of 16-inch and 1,562 of 5-inch toward Japanese
targets, destroying planes, airfield facilities, blockhouses,
buildings, and gun emplacements. Over the following days of the
campaign, Alabama patrolled the area north of Kwajalein Atoll.
On 12 February 1944, Alabama sortied with the Bunker Hill task
group to launch attacks on Japanese installations, aircraft and
shipping at Truk. Those raids, launched on 16 and 17 February,
caused heavy damage to enemy shipping concentrated at that
Leaving Truk Alabama began steaming toward the Marianas to
assist in strikes on Tinian, Saipan and Guam. During this
action, while repelling enemy air attacks on 21 February 1944,
5-inch mount no. 9 accidentally fired into mount no. 5. Five men
died, and 11 were wounded in the mishap.
After the strikes were completed on 22 February, Alabama
conducted a sweep looking for crippled enemy ships southeast of
Saipan, and eventually returned to Majuro on 26 February 1944.
There she served temporarily as flagship for Vice Admiral Marc
A. Mitscher, Commander, TF 58, from 3 to 8 March.
Alabama's next mission was to screen the fast carriers as they
hurled air strikes against Japanese positions on Palau, Yap,
Ulithi, and Woleai, Caroline Islands. She steamed from Majuro on
22 March 1944 with TF 58 in the screen of USS Yorktown (CV-10), On
the night of 29 March, about six enemy planes approached TG
58.3, in which Alabama was operating, and four broke off to
attack ships in the vicinity of the battleship. Alabama downed
one unassisted, and helped in the destruction of another.
On 30 March, planes from TF 58 began bombing Japanese airfields,
shipping, fleet servicing facilities, and other installations
on the islands of Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai. During that
day, Alabama again provided antiaircraft fire whenever enemy
planes appeared. At 2044 on the 30th, a single plane approached
TG 58.3, but Alabama and other ships drove it off before it
could cause any damage.
The battleship returned briefly to Majuro, before she sailed on
13 April with TF 58, this time in the screen of USS Enterprise (CV-
6). In the next three weeks, TF 58 hit enemy targets on
Hollandia, Wakde, Sawar, and Sarmi along the New Guinea coast;
covered Army landings at Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt
Bay; and conducted further strikes on Truk.
As part of the preliminaries to the invasion of the Marianas,
Alabama, in company with five other fast battleships, shelled
the large island of Ponape, in the Carolines, the site of a
Japanese airfield and sea lane base. As Alabama's Capt. Fred T.
Kirtland subsequently noted, the bombardment, of 70 minutes'
duration, was conducted in a "leisurely manner." Alabama then
returned to Majuro on 4 May 1944 to prepare for the invasion of
After a month spent in exercises and refitting, Alabama again
got under way with TF 58 to participate in Operation Forager.
On 12 June, Alabama screened the carriers striking Saipan. On 13
June, Alabama took part in a six-hour preinvasion bombardment
of the west coast of Saipan, to soften the defenses and cover
the initial minesweeping operations. Her spotting planes
reported that her salvoes had caused great destruction and fires
in Garapan town. Though the shelling appeared successful, it
proved a failure due to the lack of specialized training and
experience required for successful shore bombardment. Strikes
continued as troops invaded Saipan on 15 June.
On 19 June, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Alabama
operated with TG 58.7, providing antiaircraft support for the
fast carriers against attacking Japanese aircraft. The ships of
TF 58 claimed 27 enemy planes downed during the course of the
action which later came to be known as the "Marianas Turkey
In the first raid that approached Alabama's formation, only two
planes managed to penetrate to attack her sister ship South Dakota,
scoring one bomb hit that caused minor damage. An hour
later a second wave, composed largely of torpedo bombers, bore
in, but Alabama's barrage discouraged two planes from attacking
South Dakota. The intense concentration paid to the incoming
torpedo planes left one dive bomber nearly undetected, and it
managed to drop its load near Alabama; the two small bombs were
near-misses, and caused no damage.
American submarines sank two Japanese carriers and Navy pilots
claimed a third carrier. American pilots and antiaircraft
gunners had seriously depleted Japanese naval air power. Out of
the 430 planes with which the enemy had commenced the Battle of
the Philippine Sea, only 35 remained operational afterward.
Alabama continued patrolling areas around the Marianas to
protect the American landing forces on Saipan, screening the
east carriers as they struck enemy shipping, aircraft, and shore
installations on Guam, Tinian, Rota, and Saipan. She then
retired to the Marshalls for upkeep.
Alabama — as flagship for Rear Admiral E. W. Hanson, Commander,
Battleship Division 9 — left Eniwetok on 14 July 1944, sailing
with the task group formed around USS Bunker Hill. She screened the
fast carriers as they conducted preinvasion attacks and support
of the landings on the island of Guam on 21 July. She returned
briefly to Eniwetok on 11 August. On 30 August she got underway
in the screen of USS Essex (CV 9) to carry out Operation Stalemate II, the
seizure of Palau, Ulithi, and Yap. On 6 through 8 September, the
forces launched strikes on the Carolinas.
Alabama departed the Carolines to sail to the Philippines and
provided cover for the carriers striking the islands of Cebu,
Leyte, Bohol and Negros from 12 to 14 September. The carriers
launched strikes on shipping and installations in the Manila Bay
area on 21 and 22 September, and in the central Philippines area
on 24 September. Alabama retired briefly to Saipan on 28
September, then proceeded to Ulithi on 1 October 1944.
On 6 October 1944 Alabama sailed with TF 38 to support the
liberation of the Philippines. Again operating as part of a fast
carrier task group, Alabama protected the flattops while they
launched strikes on Japanese facilities at Okinawa, in the
Pescadores and Formosa.
Detached from the Formosa area on 14 October to sail toward
Luzon, the fast battleship again used her antiaircraft batteries
in support of the carriers as enemy aircraft attempted to attack
the formation. Alabama's gunners claimed three enemy aircraft
shot down and a fourth damaged. By 15 October, Alabama was
supporting landing operations on Leyte. She then screened the
carriers as they conducted air strikes on Cebu, Negros, Panay,
northern Mindanao, and Leyte on 21 October 1944.
Alabama, as part of the Enterprise screen, supported air
operations against the Japanese Southern Force in the area off
Suriago Strait then moved north to strike the powerful Japanese
Central Force heading for San Bernardino Strait. After receiving
reports of a third Japanese force, the battleship served in the
screen of the fast carrier task force as it sped to Cape Engano.
On 24 October, although American air strikes destroyed four
Japanese carriers in the Battle off Cape Engano, the Japanese
Central Force under Admiral Kurita had transited San Bernardino
Strait and emerged off the coast of Samar, where it fell upon a
task group of American escort carriers and their destroyer and
destroyer escort screen. Alabama reversed her course and headed
for Samar to assist the greatly outnumbered American forces, but
the Japanese had retreated by the time she reached the scene.
She then joined the protective screen for the Essex task group
to hit enemy forces in the central Philippines before retiring
to Ulithi on 30 October 1944 for replenishment.
Underway again on 3 November 1944, Alabama screened the fast
carriers as they carried out sustained strikes against Japanese
airfields, and installations on Luzon to prepare for a landing
on Mindoro Island. She spent the next few weeks engaged in
operations against the Visayas and Luzon before retiring to
Ulithi on 24 November.
The first half of December 1944 found Alabama engaged in various
training exercises and maintenance routines. She left Ulithi on
10 December, and reached the launching point for air strikes on
Luzon on 14 December, as the fast carrier task forces launched
aircraft to carry out preliminary strikes on airfields on Luzon
that could threaten the landings slated to take place on
Mindoro. From 14 to 16 December, a veritable umbrella of carrier
aircraft covered the Luzon fields, preventing any enemy planes
from getting airborne to challenge the Mindoro-bound convoys.
Having completed her mission, she left the area to refuel on 17
December; but, as she reached the fueling rendezvous, began
encountering heavy weather. By daybreak on the 18th, rough seas
and harrowing conditions rendered a fueling at sea impossible;
50 knot winds caused ships to roll heavily. Alabama experienced
rolls of 30 degrees, had both her Vought Kingfisher float
planes so badly damaged that they were of no further value, and
received minor damage to her structure. At one point in the
typhoon, Alabama recorded wind gusts up to 83 knots. Three
destroyers, USS Hull (DD-350), USS Monaghan (DD-354),
and USS Spence (DD-512), were lost to the typhoon. By 19 December, the storm had
run its course; and Alabama arrived back at Ulithi on 24
December. After pausing there briefly, Alabama continued on to
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, for overhaul.
The battleship entered drydock on 18 January 1945, and remained
there until 25 February. Work continued until 17 March, when
Alabama got underway for standardization trials and refresher
training along the southern California coast. She got underway
for Pearl Harbor on 4 April, arrived there on 10 April, and held
a week of training exercises. She then continued on to Ulithi
and moored there on 28 April 1945.
Alabama departed Ulithi with TF 58 on 9 May 1945, bound for the
Ryukyus, to support forces which had landed on Okinawa on 1
April 1945, and to protect the fast carriers as they launched
air strikes on installations in the Ryukyus and on Kyushu. On 14
May, several Japanese planes penetrated the combat air patrol to
get at the carriers; one crashed Vice Admiral Mitscher's
flagship. Alabama's guns splashed two, and assisted in splashing
Subsequently, Alabama rode out a typhoon on 4 and 5 June,
suffering only superficial damage while the nearby heavy cruiser
USS Pittsburgh (CA-7O) lost her bow, Alabama subsequently bombarded
the Japanese island of Minami Daito Shima, with other fast
battleships, on 10 June 1945 and then headed for Leyte Gulf
later in June to prepare to strike at the heart of Japan with
the 3d Fleet.
On 1 July 1945, Alabama and other Third Fleet units got underway
for the Japanese home islands. Throughout the month of July
1945, Alabama carried out strikes on targets in industrial areas
of Tokyo and other points on Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu; on
the night of 17 and 18 July, Alabama, and other fast battleships
in the task group, carried out the first night bombardment of
six major industrial plants in the Hitachi-Mito area of Honshu,
about eight miles northeast of Tokyo. On board Alabama to
observe the operation was retired Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd,
the famed polar explorer.
On 9 August, Alabama transferred a medical party to the
destroyer USS Ault (DD-698), for further transfer to the destroyer
Borie (DD-704). The latter had been kamikazied on that date and
required prompt medical aid on her distant picket station.
The end of the war found Alabama still at sea, operating off the
southern coast of Honshu. On 15 August 1945, she received word
of the Japanese capitulation. During the initial occupation of
the Yokosuka-Tokyo area, Alabama transferred detachments of
marines and bluejackets for temporary duty ashore; her
bluejackets were among the first from the fleet to land. She
also served in the screen of the carriers as they conducted
reconnaissance flights to locate prisoner-of-war camps.
Alabama entered Tokyo Bay on 5 September to receive men who had
served with the occupation forces, and then departed Japanese
waters on 20 September. At Okinawa, she embarked 700 sailors-
principally members of Navy construction battalions (or
"Seabees") for her part in the "Magic Carpet" operations. She
reached San Francisco at mid-day on 15 October, and on Navy Day
(27 October 1945) hosted 9,000 visitors. She then shifted to San
Pedro, Calif., on 29 October. Alabama remained at San Pedro
through 27 February 1946, when she left for the Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard for inactivation overhaul. Alabama was
decommissioned on 9 January 1947, at the Naval Station, Seattle,
and was assigned to the Bremerton Group, United States Pacific
Reserve Fleet. She remained there until struck from the Naval
Vessel Register on 1 June 1962.
Citizens of the state of Alabama had formed the "USS Alabama
Battleship Commission" to raise funds for the preservation of
Alabama as a memorial to the men and women who served in World
War II. The ship was awarded to that state on 16 June 1964, and
was formally turned over on 7 July 1964 in ceremonies at
Seattle. Alabama was then towed to her permanent berth at
Mobile, Ala., arriving in Mobile Bay on 14 September 1964.
Alabama received nine battle stars for her World War II service.
See also USS Alabama (BB 8)
Updated: 29 July 2009