World War II: USS Indiana (BB-58)

uss-indiana-january-1944.jpg
USS Indiana (BB-58), January 1944. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Indiana (BB-58) Overview

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Laid Down: November 20, 1939
  • Launched: November 21, 1941
  • Commissioned: April 30, 1942
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, 1963

Specifications

  • Displacement: 35,000 tons
  • Length: 680 ft.
  • Beam: 107.8 ft.
  • Draft: 29.3 ft.
  • Propulsion: 30,000 hp, 4 x steam turbines, 4 x propellers
  • Speed: 27 knots
  • Complement: 1,793 men

Armament

Guns

  • 9 × 16 in. Mark 6 guns (3 x triple turrets)
  • 20 × 5 in dual-purpose guns

Aircraft

  • 2 x aircraft

Design & Construction

In 1936, as design of the North Carolina-class moved towards completion, the US Navy's General Board gathered to address the two battleships that were to be funded in Fiscal Year 1938.  Though the group preferred constructing two additional North Carolinas, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William H. Standley favored pursuing a new design.  As a result, building of these vessels was delayed to FY1939 as naval architects began work in March 1937.  While the first two ships were formally ordered on April 4, 1938, a second pair of vessels was added two months later under the Deficiency Authorization which passed due to rising global tensions.  Though the escalator clause of the Second London Naval Treaty had been invoked permitting the new design to mount 16" guns, Congress required that the vessels stay within the 35,000 ton limit set by the earlier Washington Naval Treaty.

In planning for the new South Dakota-class, naval architects created a wide array of designs for consideration.  A central challenge proved to be finding ways to improve upon the North Carolina-class but remain within the tonnage limit.  The answer was the design of a shorter, by around 50 feet, battleship that utilized an inclined armor system.

  This provided better underwater protection than earlier vessels.  As fleet commanders called for vessels capable of 27 knots, naval architects worked to find a way to achieve this despite the reduced hull length.  This was solved through the creative layout of machinery, boilers, and turbines.  For armament, the South Dakotas matched the North Carolinas in carrying nine Mark 6 16" guns in three triple turrets with a secondary battery of twenty dual-purpose 5" guns.  These guns were supplemented by an extensive and constantly evolving array of anti-aircraft weapons. 

Assigned to Newport News Shipbuilding, the second ship of the class, USS Indiana (BB-58), was laid down on November 20, 1939.  Work on the battleship progressed and it entered the water on November 21, 1941, with Margaret Robbins, daughter of Indiana Governor Henry F. Schricker, serving as sponsor.  As building moved toward completion, the US entered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Commissioned on April 30, 1942, Indiana commenced service with Captain Aaron S. Merrill in command. 

Journey to the Pacific

Steaming north, Indiana conducted its shakedown operations in and around Casco Bay, ME before receiving orders to join Allied forces in the Pacific.

 Transiting the Panama Canal, the battleship made for the South Pacific where it was attached Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee's battleship force on November 28.  Screening the carriers USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Saratoga (CV-3)Indiana supported Allied efforts in the Solomon Islands.  Engaged in this area until October 1943, the battleship then withdrew to Pearl Harbor to prepare for a campaign in the Gilbert Islands.  Leaving port on November 11, Indiana covered the American carriers during the invasion of Tarawa later that month.  

In January 1944, the battleship bombarded Kwajalein in the days prior to the Allied landings.  On the night of February 1, Indiana collided with USS Washington (BB-56) while maneuvering to refuel destroyers.  The accident saw Washington hit and scrape down the after portion of Indiana's starboard side.

 In the aftermath of the incident, Indiana's commander, Captain James M. Steele, admitted to being out of position and was relieved of his post.  Returning to Majuro, Indiana made temporary repairs before proceeding to Pearl Harbor for additional work.  The battleship remained out of action until April while Washington, whose bow was severely damaged, did not rejoin the fleet until May.    

Island Hopping

Sailing with Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force, Indiana screened the carriers during raids against Truk on April 29-30.  After bombarding Ponape on May 1, the battleship proceeded to the Marianas the following month to support the invasions of Saipan and Tinian.  Pounding targets on Saipan on June 13-14, Indiana aided in repelling air attacks two days later.  On June 19-20, it supported the carriers during the victory at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.  With the end of the campaign, Indiana moved on to attack targets in the Palau Islands in August and protected the carriers as they raided into the Philippines a month later.  Receiving orders for an overhaul, the battleship departed and entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on October 23.  The timing of this work led it to miss the pivotal Battle of Leyte Gulf.

With the completion work in the yard, Indiana sailed and reached Pearl Harbor on December 12.  Following refresher training, the battleship rejoined combat operations and bombarded Iwo Jima on January 24 while en route to Ulithi.  Arriving there, it put to sea a short time later to assist in the invasion of Iwo Jima.

  While operating around the island, Indiana and the carriers raided north to strike targets in Japan on February 17 and 25.  Replenishing at Ulithi in early March, the battleship then sailed as part of the force tasked with the invasion of Okinawa.  After supporting the landings on April 1, Indiana continued to conduct missions in the waters offshore into June.  The following month, it moved north with the carriers to mount a series of attacks, including shore bombardments, on the Japanese mainland.  It was engaged in these activities when hostilities ended on August 15.

Final Actions

Arriving in Tokyo Bay on September 5, three days after the Japanese formally surrendered aboard USS Missouri (BB-63), Indiana briefly served as a transfer point for liberated Allied prisoners of war.  Departing for the US on ten days later, the battleship touched at Pearl Harbor before proceeding on to San Francisco.  Arriving on September 29, Indiana underwent minor repairs before proceeding north to Puget Sound.  Placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet in 1946, Indiana was formally decommissioned on September 11, 1947.  Remaining at Puget Sound, the battleship was sold for scrap on September 6, 1963.         

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Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Indiana (BB-58)." ThoughtCo, May. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/uss-indiana-bb-58-2361288. Hickman, Kennedy. (2017, May 8). World War II: USS Indiana (BB-58). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-indiana-bb-58-2361288 Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS Indiana (BB-58)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-indiana-bb-58-2361288 (accessed December 14, 2017).