World War II: USS New Jersey (BB-62)

USS New Jersey (BB-62) during World War II
USS New Jersey (BB-62), in the Pacific, 1944/45. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
  • Laid Down: September 16, 1940
  • Launched: December 7, 1942
  • Commissioned: May 23, 1943
  • Fate: Museum ship

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Specifications

  • Displacement: 45,000 tons
  • Length: 887 ft., 7 in.
  • Beam: 108.2 ft.
  • Draft: 36 ft.
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 2,788 men

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Armament

Guns

  • 9 × 16 in./50 cal Mark 7 guns
  • 20 × 5 in./38 cal Mark 12 guns
  • 80 × 40 mm/56 cal anti-aircraft guns
  • 49 × 20 mm/70 cal anti-aircraft cannons

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Design & Construction:

In early 1938, work began on a new battleship design at the urging of Admiral Thomas C. Hart, head of the US Navy's General Board. Initially envisioned as an enlarged version of the South Dakota-class, the new ships were to mount twelve 16" guns or nine 18" guns. As the design evolved, the armament settled on nine 16" guns. This was a supported by a secondary battery of twenty dual-purpose 5" guns mounted in ten twin turrets.  Additionally, the design's anti-aircraft armament moved through several revisions with many of its 1.1" guns being replaced with 20 mm and 40 mm weapons. Funding for the new ships came in May with the passage of the Naval Act of 1938. Dubbed the Iowa-class, construction of the lead ship, USS Iowa (BB-61), was assigned to the New York Navy Yard.

Laid down in 1940, Iowa was to be the first of four battleships in the class.

Later that year, on September 16, the second Iowa-class battleship was laid down at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.  With the US entry into World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, building of the new ship, dubbed USS New Jersey (BB-62), quickly advanced.

On December 7, 1942, the battleship slid down the ways with Carolyn Edison, wife of New Jersey Governor Charles Edison, acting as sponsor.  Construction of the vessel continued for another six months and on May 23, 1943, New Jersey was commissioned with Captain Carl F. Holden in command.  A "fast battleship," New Jersey's 33-knot speed permitted it to serve as an escort for the new Essex-class carriers that were joining the fleet.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - World War II:

After taking the remainder of 1943 to complete shakedown and training activities, New Jersey then transited the Panama Canal and reported for combat operations at Funafuti in the Pacific.  Assigned to Task Group 58.2, the battleship supported operations in the Marshall Islands in January 1944 including the invasion of Kwajalein.  Arriving at Majuro, it became Admiral Raymond Spruance's, commander of the US Fifth Fleet, flagship on February 4.  On February 17-18, New Jersey screened Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher's carriers as they conducted large-scale raids on the Japanese base at Truk.  In the weeks that followed, the battleship continued escort activities as well as shelled enemy positions on Mili Atoll.  In the second half of April, New Jersey and the carriers supported General Douglas MacArthur's landings in northern New Guinea.

  Moving north, the battleship bombarded Truk on April 28-29 before attacking Ponape two days later.

Taking most of May to train in the Marshalls, New Jersey sailed on June 6 to take part in the invasion of the Marianas.  On June 13-14, the battleship's guns struck targets on Saipan and Tinian in advance of the Allied landings.  Rejoining the carriers, it provided part of the fleet's anti-aircraft defense during the Battle of the Philippine Sea a few days later.  Completing operations in the Marianas, New Jersey supported attacks in the Palaus before steaming for Pearl Harbor.  Reaching port, it became the flagship of Admiral William "Bull" Halsey who rotated in command with Spruance.  As part of this transition, Fifth Fleet became Third Fleet.  Sailing for Ulithi, New Jersey rejoined Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force for raids across the southern Philippines.

  In October, it provided cover as the carriers moved to aid MacArthur's landings on Leyte.  It was in this role when it took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and served in Task Force 34 which was detached at one point to aid American forces off Samar.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Later Campaigns:

The remainder of the month and November saw New Jersey and the carriers continue attacks around the Philippines while fending off numerous enemy air and kamikaze attacks.  On December 18, while in the Philippine Sea, the battleship and the rest of the fleet were struck by Typhoon Cobra.  Though three destroyers were lost and several vessels damaged, the battleship survived relatively unscathed.  The following month saw New Jersey screen the carriers as they launched raids against Formosa, Luzon, French Indochina, Hong Kong, Hainan, and Okinawa.  On January 27, 1945, Halsey departed the battleship and two days later it became flagship of Rear Admiral Oscar C. Badger's Battleship Division 7.  In this role, it protected the carriers as they supported the invasion of Iwo Jima in mid-February before moving north as Mitscher launched attacks on Tokyo. 

Beginning on March 14, New Jersey commenced operations in support of the invasion of Okinawa.  Remaining off the island for a little over a month, it protected the carriers from relentless Japanese air attacks and provided naval gunfire support for forces ashore.  Ordered to Puget Sound Navy Yard for an overhaul, New Jersey was out of action until July 4 when it sailed for Guam via San Pedro, CA, Pearl Harbor, and Eniwetok.

  Made Spruance's Fifth Fleet flagship again on August 14, it moved north following the end of hostilities and arrived in Tokyo Bay on September 17.  Used as the flagship of various naval commanders in Japanese waters until January 28, 1946, it then embarked around 1,000 US servicemen for transport home as part of Operation Magic Carpet.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Korean War:

Returning to the Atlantic, New Jersey conducted a training cruise to northern European waters for US Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen in the summer of 1947.  Returning home, it went through a deactivation overhaul at New York and was decommissioned on June 30, 1948.  Moved to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, New Jersey was idle until 1950 when it was reactivated due to the beginning of the Korean War.  Recommissioned on November 21, it conducted training in the Caribbean before departing for the Far East the following spring.  Arriving off Korea on May 17, 1951, New Jersey became Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Harold M. Martin's flagship.  Through the summer and fall, the battleship's guns struck targets up and down the east coast of Korea.  Relieved by USS Wisconsin (BB-64) late that fall, New Jersey departed for a six-month overhaul at Norfolk.

Emerging from the yard, New Jersey participated in another training cruise in the summer of 1952 before preparing for a second tour in Korean waters.  Arriving in Japan on April 5, 1953, the battleship relieved USS Missouri (BB-63) and resumed attacking targets along the Korean coast.

  With the cessation of fighting that summer, New Jersey patrolled in the Far East before returning to Norfolk in November.  The next two years saw the battleship take part in additional training cruises before joining the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean in September 1955.  Abroad until January 1956, it then served in a training role that summer before taking part in NATO exercises in the fall.  In December, New Jersey again underwent a deactivation overhaul in preparation for being decommissioned on August 21, 1957.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Vietnam War: 

In 1967, with the Vietnam War raging, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara directed that New Jersey be reactivated to provide fire support off the Vietnamese coast.  Taken from reserve, the battleship had its anti-aircraft guns removed as well as a new suite of electronics and radar installed.  Recommissioned on April 6, 1968, New Jersey conducted training off the California coast before crossing the Pacific to the Philippines.  On September 30, it commenced attacking targets near the 17th Parallel.  Over the next six months, New Jersey moved up and down the coast bombarding North Vietnamese positions and providing invaluable support to troops ashore.  Returning to Long Beach, CA via Japan in May 1969, the battleship prepared for another deployment.  These activities were cut short when it was decided to move New Jersey back into reserve.  Shifting to Puget Sound, the battleship was decommissioned on December 17.

USS New Jersey (BB-62) - Modernization:

In 1981, New Jersey found new life as part of President Ronald Reagan's plans for a 600-ship navy. Undergoing a large-scale program of modernization, much of the vessel's remaining anti-aircraft armament was removed and replaced with armored box launchers for cruise missiles, MK 141 quad cell launchers for 16 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and four Phalanx close-in weapons systems Gatling guns. Also, New Jersey received a full suite of modern radar, electronic warfare, and fire control systems. Recommissioned on December 28, 1982, New Jersey was dispatched to support US Marine Corps peacekeepers in Lebanon in late summer 1983.  Arriving off Beirut, the battleship acted a deterrent and later shelled Druze and Shi'ite positions in the hills overlooking the city in February 1984.

Deployed to the Pacific in 1986, New Jersey led its own battle group and that September operated close to the Soviet Union during a transit of the Sea of Okhotsk.  Overhauled at Long Beach in 1987, it returned to the Far East the following year and patrolled off South Korea prior to the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.  Moving south, it visited Australia as part of that nation's bicentennial celebration.  In April 1989, as New Jersey was preparing for another deployment, Iowa suffered a catastrophic explosion in one of its turrets.  This led to the suspension of live fire exercises for all ships of the class for an extended period.  Putting to sea for its final cruise in 1989, New Jersey took part in Pacific Exercise '89 before operating in the Persian Gulf for the remainder of the year.

Returning to Long Beach, New Jersey fell victim to budget cuts and was slated for decommissioning.  This occurred on February 8, 1991 and deprived it of a chance to participate in the Gulf War.  Taken to Bremerton, WA, the battleship remained in reserve until being struck from the Naval Vessel Registry in January 1995.  Through reinstated to the Naval Vessel Registry in 1996, New Jersey was struck again 1999 prior to being moved to Camden, NJ for use as a museum ship.  The battleship is currently open to the public in this capacity.  

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Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS New Jersey (BB-62)." ThoughtCo, Jan. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/uss-new-jersey-bb-62-2361293. Hickman, Kennedy. (2017, January 2). World War II: USS New Jersey (BB-62). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-new-jersey-bb-62-2361293 Hickman, Kennedy. "World War II: USS New Jersey (BB-62)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/uss-new-jersey-bb-62-2361293 (accessed December 13, 2017).