USS Mississippi (BB-41)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Mississippi.
USS Mississippi
USS Mississippi at sea in the late 1930s
Career (US)
Name: USS Mississippi
Namesake: State of Mississippi
Awarded: 23 November 1914
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 5 April 1915
Launched: 25 January 1917
Sponsored by: Camelle McBeath
Commissioned: 18 December 1917
Decommissioned: 17 September 1956
Reclassified: BB-41 to AG-128
Struck: 30 July 1956
Nickname: Ole Miss
Honors and
awards:
8 Battle Stars
Fate: Sold for scrap 28 November 1956
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: New Mexico-class battleship
Displacement: 32,000 long tons (32,500 t)
Length: 624 ft (190 m)
Beam: 97.4 ft (29.7 m)
Draft: 30 ft (9.1 m)
Speed: 21 kn (24 mph; 39 km/h)
Complement: 55 officers, 1,026 enlisted
Armament:
Armor:
  • Belt: 8–13.5 in (203–343 mm)
  • Barbettes: 13 in (330 mm)
  • Turret face: 18 in (457 mm)
  • Turret sides: 9–10 in (229–254 mm)
  • Turret top: 5 in (127 mm)
  • Turret rear 9 in (229 mm)
  • Conning tower: 11.5 in (292 mm)
  • Decks: 3.5 in (89 mm)

USS Mississippi (BB-41/AG-128), a New Mexico-class battleship, was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 20th state, and the second battleship to carry the name. Commissioned in 1917, too late to serve in World War I, she served extensively in the Pacific in World War II, for which she earned eight battle stars. She was one of several pre-war battleships that participated in the Battle of Surigao Strait, the last battleship engagement in history.

After the war, her two sisters were quickly decommissioned and scrapped, but Mississippi continued to serve another decade as a weapons testing ship (AG-128). She played an important role in the development of the RIM-2 Terrier missile system.

After an attempt to acquire her as a museum ship failed, she was sold for scrap in 1956.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

Her keel was laid down on 5 April 1915 by Newport News Shipbuilding Company of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 25 January 1917 sponsored by Miss Camelle McBeath, daughter of the Chairman of the Mississippi State Highway Commission; and commissioned on 18 December 1917, Captain J. L. Jayne in command.

World War I service[edit]

The ship was commissioned too late to participate in combat during World War I. Following exercises off Virginia, Mississippi steamed on 22 March 1918 for training in the Gulf of Guacanayabo, Cuba. One month later, she returned to Hampton Roads and cruised between Boston, Massachusetts, and New York City until departing for winter maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea on 31 January 1919.

Mississippi anchored off New York City in 1919.

Interwar period[edit]

Mississippi in drydock in San Francisco, 1920
Mississippi in Puget Sound drydock, 22 October 1940

On 19 July 1919, she left the Atlantic seaboard and sailed for the west coast. Arriving at her new base, San Pedro, California, she operated along the west coast for the next four years, entering the Caribbean during the winter months for training exercises. Two of the original 14 5 in (130 mm)/51 cal guns were removed in 1922.[2]

In 1923 the Mississippi was used as part of a public exercise with members of Congress and reporters from the various newspaper, watched as the Mississippi sank the old Spanish-American War era battleship Iowa, which had been converted to a radio controlled target ship, with her cannons, in the Gulf of Panama.[3]

During gunnery practice on 12 June 1924 off San Pedro, 48 of her men were asphyxiated as a result of an explosion in her Number Two main battery turret.[4] On 15 April 1925, she sailed from San Francisco, California, for war games off Hawaii, and then steamed to Australia on a good will tour. She returned to the west coast on 26 September, and resumed operations there for the next four years. During this period, she frequently sailed into Caribbean and Atlantic waters for exercises during the winter months.

Mississippi entered Norfolk Navy Yard on 30 March 1931 for a modernization overhaul. This overhaul significantly changed the ship's profile by removing the original fore and aft lattice mast. The former was replaced with a tower. Modernization also included replacement of earlier 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns with eight 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal guns.[2] She departed once again on training exercises in September 1933. Transiting the Panama Canal on 24 October 1934, she steamed back to her base at San Pedro. For the next seven years, she operated off the west coast, except for winter Caribbean cruises.

World War II service[edit]

Returning to Norfolk, Virginia on 16 June 1941, she prepared for patrol service in the North Atlantic. Steaming from Newport, Rhode Island, she escorted a convoy to Hvalfjordur, Iceland. She made another trip to Iceland on 28 September, and spent the next two months there protecting shipping.

Two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mississippi left Iceland for the Pacific. Arriving on 22 January 1942 at San Francisco, she spent the next seven months training and escorting convoys along the coast. Beginning in May 1942, the original 5 in (130 mm)/51 cal guns of the secondary battery were removed to make room for anti-aircraft machine guns.[2] On 6 December, after participating in exercises off Hawaii, she steamed with troop transports to the Fiji Islands, returning to Pearl Harbor on 2 March 1943. On 10 May, she sailed from Pearl Harbor to participate in a move to restore the Aleutian Islands to the United States. Kiska Island was shelled on 22 July, and a few days later the Japanese withdrew. After overhaul at San Francisco, Mississippi sailed from San Pedro on 19 October to take part in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. While bombarding Makin on 20 November, a turret explosion, almost identical to the earlier tragedy, killed 43 men.[4]

On 31 January 1944, she took part in the Marshall Islands campaign, shelling Kwajalein. She bombarded Taroa on 20 February, and struck Wotje the next day. On 15 March, she pounded Kavieng, New Ireland. Due for an overhaul, she spent the summer months at Puget Sound. This overhaul increased the number of 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal guns from eight to 14.[2]

Returning to the war zone, Mississippi supported landings on Peleliu, in the Palau Islands on 12 September. After a week of continuous operations she steamed to Manus, where she remained until 12 October. Departing Manus, she assisted in the liberation of the Philippines, shelling the east coast of Leyte on 19 October. On the night of 24 October, as part of Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf's battleline, she helped to destroy a powerful Japanese task force at the Battle of Surigao Strait; Mississippi herself fired the final salvo in history by a battleship against other warships. As a result of the engagements at Leyte Gulf, the Japanese navy was no longer able to mount any serious offensive threat. Her gunfire contributed to the sinking of Japanese battleship Yamashiro.

USS Mississippi (BB-41) supporting Lingayen Gulf landing. Ship in background is USS New Mexico (BB-40)

Mississippi continued to support the operations at Leyte Gulf until 16 November, when she steamed to the Admiralty Islands. She then entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte on 28 December, to prepare for the landings on Luzon. On 6 January 1945, she began bombarding in Lingayen Gulf. Despite damages near her waterline received from the crash of a kamikaze, she supported the invasion forces until 10 February. Following repairs at Pearl Harbor, she sailed to Nakagusuku Wan, Okinawa, arriving on 6 May to support the landing forces there. Her powerful guns destroyed the defenses at Shuri Castle, which had stalled the entire offensive. On 5 June, another kamikaze crashed into her starboard side, but the fighting ship continued to support the troops at Okinawa until 16 June.

After the announced surrender of Japan, Mississippi steamed to Sagami Wan, Honshū, arriving on 27 August as part of the support occupation force. She anchored in Tokyo Bay, witnessed the signing of the surrender documents, and steamed for home on 6 September.

Post-War[edit]

USS Mississippi after her postwar conversion
USS Mississippi firing a Terrier missile

Mississippi arrived on 27 November 1945 at Norfolk, where she underwent conversion to an auxiliary ship, retaining her original name but reclassified as AG-128, effective 15 February 1946. As part of the development force, she spent the last 10 years of her career carrying out investigations of gunnery problems and testing new weapons, while based at Norfolk.[4] She helped launch the Navy into the age of the guided-missile warship when she successfully test fired the Terrier missile on 28 January 1953 off Cape Cod. She also assisted in the final evaluation of the Petrel missile, a radar-homing weapon, in February 1956. She was succeeded in her missile testing role by USS Norton Sound (AVM-1). Mississippi was decommissioned at Norfolk, Virginia on 17 September 1956. It was proposed that the State of Mississippi convert the ship as a museum at sea, in the same way that the South Dakota-class battleship USS Alabama (BB-60) in Mobile, Alabama and USS North Carolina (BB-55) (the lead ship of her class) in Wilmington, North Carolina operate, but these plans were not carried out. Instead, the Bethlehem Steel Company purchased the ship as scrap metal on 28 November of the same year.[5]

Awards[edit]

Her bell is securely installed in the gardens at Rosalie Mansion, on the site of Fort Rosalie overlooking the Mississippi River[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 117.
  2. ^ a b c d e Breyer 1973, p. 219.
  3. ^ "Coast Battleship No. 4 (ex-USS Iowa, Battleship # 4) – As a Target Ship, 1921–1923". Department of the Navy—Naval Historical Center. 2009-09-08. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  4. ^ a b c "USS Mississippi (BB-41, later AG-128), 1917 – 1956."U.S. Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center website, 3 October 2000. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b Winona Times newspaper via historictravelsfortwo.com

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Pater, Alan F. (March 2006). "'Ole Miss': The Battleship That Ushered in the Missile Age". Sea Classics 39 (3).  Available on Questia.

External links[edit]

Media related to USS Mississippi (BB-41) at Wikimedia Commons