USS South Carolina (BB-26)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS South Carolina.
South Carolina
South Carolina
Career (United States)
Name: USS South Carolina
Namesake: State of South Carolina
Ordered: 3 March 1905
Builder: William Cramp and Sons[1]
Laid down: 18 December 1906
Launched: 11 July 1908
Sponsored by: Frederica Ansel
Commissioned: 1 March 1910
Decommissioned: 15 December 1921
Struck: 10 November 1923
Fate: Sold April 24 1924 and broken up for scrap.
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: South Carolina-class battleship
Displacement: 16,000 tons
Length: 452.8 ft (138.0 m)
Beam: 80.2 ft (24.4 m)
Draft: 24.5 ft (7.5 m)
Installed power: 16,500 ihp
Propulsion: 12 Babcock & Wilcox Boilers
Speed: 18.86 kn (21.70 mph; 34.93 km/h)[2]
Range: 5000nm @ 10kts
Complement: 751 officers and men
Armament: 8 × 12 in (300 mm)/45 cal guns, 22 × 3 in (76 mm) guns, 2 × 3 pounders (47 mm (1.9 in)), 2 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes
Armor: Belt:11 – 9 in over mach and 12 – 10 in over mag (both 8 ft (2 m) wide tapering uniformly from top to bottom). 10 – 8 in forward of forward magazine. 60 lb NS from belt forward (frame 8 to 17) and after from belt to stern (Frame 81 aft)
Casemates: 8 – 10 in
Barbettes:10 – 8 in
Turrets: 12 in / 2.5 in NS / 8-inch
Decks: 50 lb NS + 30 lb over mag, 30 lb structural + 30 lb structural over mach; 70 lb NS + 30 lb forward of Forward mag over forward belt; 40 lb NS + 20 lb to bow; 80 lb NS +30 lb abaft belt; 100 lb NS + 20 sloping to stern.

USS South Carolina (BB-26), the lead ship of her class of dreadnought battleships, was the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the eighth state, and was the first American dreadnought (i.e. a battleship armed with eight or more major caliber (12-inch or greater) guns).

Her keel was laid down on 18 December 1906 at Philadelphia by William Cramp and Sons. She was launched on 1 July 1908, sponsored by Miss Frederica Ansel, daughter of the Governor of South Carolina Martin F. Ansel; and commissioned on 1 March 1910, Captain Augustus F. Fechteler in command. She was armed with eight 12" guns with four turrets of 2 guns each.

Design and construction[edit]

The idea of an all-big-gun battleship had been discussed in the U.S. Navy beginning in 1901. When the eight-inch intermediate gun then in use was seen to be inadequate in penetrating foreign armor at greater battle ranges, it appeared only natural to replace them with larger guns. In an article published in the March 1902 Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, Lieutenant Matt H. Signor proposed a ship armed with six 12-inch guns in two triple turrets and two 10-inch triple turrets amidships. This article was taken seriously enough for the Proceedings to publish rebuttals by Professor P. R. Alger, then the Navy's chief gunnery expert, and David W. Taylor, a future chief constructor whose work on ship propulsion was becoming well known in Navy circles. While Alger did not agree with the suggestion of triple turrets, he did recommend a main battery of eight 12-inch guns for future battleships. Taylor proposed steam turbines for future capital ships; their low fuel economy, he added, could be overcome by using variable-pitch propellers.[3]

All-big-gun proponents in the Navy argued, as did their Royal Navy counterparts in Great Britain, that the increasing range of naval actions demanded more heavy guns. They also cited the need for guns that could outrange torpedoes fired by hostile battleships. They eventually won the argument by increasing effective gun range. The longer the range, the more of an advantage heavy guns showed over intermediate ones. Also, at long range, gunners had to "spot" the fall of shot to correct their aim. This reduced the effective rate of fire that had been the intermediate gun's main advantage since a round could not be fired until the gunner had seen where the previous one had fallen. The longer the range, the lower the theoretical rate of fire. By 1904, gunnery had improved to the point that decisive hits in a naval battle would be made at the longest ranges possible.[4]

South Carolina was the first American dreadnought; her design actually predated the British HMS Dreadnought, although she was completed later. She was the first vessel of any nation to incorporate all of its main guns (8 x 12in guns) in a superfire arrangement, where the second row of guns are higher and can fire over the top of the forward weapons. It was considered essential to conserve length and volume, especially with the 16,000-ton limit for capital ships imposed by Congress at that time. The result was a 3,000-ton savings in displacement over Dreadnought and a better protected broadside.[5] She was the last US ship to be limited to 16,000 tons displacement by congressional mandate.[1] The South Carolina was also the first ship to feature cage style masts, that would become standard on American dreadnoughts.

The South Carolina's speed, 18 knots, was designed to conform to the earlier American battleships and this would prove to be a significant weakness later on as she could not operate with the newer, faster battleship designs.[1]

Pre-World War I[edit]

South Carolina departed Philadelphia on 6 March for shakedown, cruised to the Danish West Indies and Cuba, and then visited Charleston, South Carolina from 10 to 15 April. After conducting trials off the Virginia Capes and off Provincetown, Massachusetts, the battleship visited New York City on 17 to 18 June on the occasion of a reception for former President Theodore Roosevelt. Voyage repairs at Norfolk, Virginia, naval militia training duty, and Atlantic Fleet maneuvers off Provincetown and the Virginia Capes occupied her time from the end of June-the beginning of November. From 1 November 1910 to 12 January 1911, she voyaged to Europe and back with Battleship Division 2 (BatDiv 2). This visit took her to Cherbourg, France, and the Isle of Portland, England. Upon her return to Norfolk, she entered the navy yard for repairs, and then conducted tactics training and maneuvers off the New England coast.

Following a short visit to New York, she steamed east with the Second Battleship Division for a visit to Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; and Kronstadt, Russia. During the return from Kronstadt, she reached Kiel, Germany on 21 June in time to join in the Kiel Week, hosted by Kaiser Wilhelm II. On 13 July, she arrived off Provincetown, Massachusetts, and engaged in battle practice along the coast to the Chesapeake Bay.

Late in 1911, she took part in the naval review at New York and maneuvers with the First Squadron out of Newport, Rhode Island on 3 January 1912, she departed New York for winter operations in the vicinity of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. South Carolina returned to Norfolk on 13 March and, until late June, cruised the East Coast as far north as Newport. In June, she joined in the welcome receptions at Hampton Roads and New York given in honor of the visiting German Squadron, composed of Moltke, Bremen and Stettin. On 30 June, she entered the yard at Norfolk for overhaul.

Just over three months later, she sailed to New York for a visit, which lasted from 11–15 October. Next came a month of exercises off the coast of New England and the Virginia Capes. From mid-November-mid-December, South Carolina steamed with the Special Service Division on visits to Pensacola, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana, Galveston, Texas, and the Mexican port, Veracruz. She returned to Norfolk on 20 December and remained there until 6 January 1913, when she sailed to Colón, Panama, where her crew saw the newly completed canal. After maneuvers in the area of Guantánamo Bay, she reentered Norfolk on 22 March, then cruised north as far as Newport, stopping at New York from 28 March – 31 May for the dedication of a memorial to Maine.

After a brief period training midshipmen in the Virginia Capes area, South Carolina embarked upon a 16-month period during which she carried the "Big Stick" to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. From late June until mid-September 1913, she cruised the eastern coast of Mexico protecting American interests at Tampico and Veracruz. She was overhauled at Norfolk from late September 1913-early January 1914, and then headed for maneuvers off Culebra Island off Puerto Rico.

On 28 January, the battleship landed marines at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to guard the United States legation and to establish a field radio station during that period of political convulsions. She departed Port-au-Prince on 14 April after the restoration of some order under General Oreste Zamor, the new Haitian President. She coaled at Key West, Florida, then steamed to Veracruz where she sent a landing force ashore to join in the occupation of that city until her departure a month later. South Carolina spent the troubled summer of 1914 investigating conditions in Santo Domingo and Haiti.

World War I[edit]

By the time South Carolina returned to Norfolk on 24 September, World War I had already been raging for almost two months. On 14 October, the battleship entered the yard at Philadelphia. She emerged revitalized on 20 February 1915 and headed south for the usual battle practice in the vicinity of Cuba. The exercises took on new meaning since they were hard on the heels of the diplomatic crisis triggered by Germany's declaring the waters around England to be a war zone. The sinking of Lusitania did not cause the United States to enter the war. For almost two years, South Carolina continued her routine of winter and spring exercises out of Guantánamo Bay, summer operations off Newport, and periodic repairs at Philadelphia.

The entry of the United States into the war on the side of the Allies in April 1917 did not presage dramatic events for the Navy. Except for U-boats and an occasional disguised commerce raider, the Royal Navy had already cleared the seas of German naval might at such battles as the Battle of Jutland and the Battle of the Falkland Islands. Therefore, South Carolina continued to operate along the East Coast through 1917 and for the first eight months of 1918.

On 9 September 1918, she joined the escort of a convoy bound for France. A week later, she turned the convoy over to other escorts in mid-ocean and steamed back to the United States. After a brief repair period at Philadelphia, she returned to gunnery training service and was so employed at the time of the Armistice on 11 November. During the war, William Gilmer commanded her, for which he received the Navy Cross.

Inter-War period[edit]

From mid-February-late July 1919, South Carolina made four round-trip voyages between the United States and Brest, France. By 26 July, when she entered Hampton Roads at the end of the last of these voyages, she had returned over 4,000 World War I veterans to the United States. Following an overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard, she embarked midshipmen at Annapolis, Maryland for a cruise to the Pacific. She departed Annapolis on 5 June 1920, transited the Panama Canal, sailed to Hawaii, and then to the West Coast. She visited Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, California, and San Diego, California, as she sailed down the western seaboard. South Carolina cleared San Diego on 11 August, retransited the canal, and sailed for Annapolis on 2 September; then she headed on to Philadelphia, where she remained for seven months.

South Carolina being dismantled in Philadelphia Navy Yard in December 1923.

In early April 1921, she cruised to Culebra Island, Puerto Rico in the West Indies for training, and then operated in the Chesapeake Bay. On 29 May, the battleship embarked another complement of midshipmen at Annapolis. She called at Kristiania, Norway, and Lisbon, Portugal, before heading to the Guantánamo Bay area to round out the midshipmen's summer training cruise. She debarked the midshipmen at Annapolis on 30 August and steamed to Philadelphia where she arrived the following day. South Carolina was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 15 December and remained there until her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Registry on 10 November 1923. Her hulk was sold for scrap on 24 April 1924 in accordance with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty.

Her silver service is presently on display in the South Carolina Governor's Mansion.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d Conway, 1985, p.112-113
  2. ^ "South Carolina". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Friedman, 51.
  4. ^ Friedman, 52.
  5. ^ Friedman, 51, 55.


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