World War I/II: USS New York (BB-34)

USS New York (BB-34) after commissioning
USS New York (BB-34), 1915. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS New York (BB-34) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: Brooklyn Navy Yard
  • Laid Down: September 11, 1911
  • Launched: October 30, 1912
  • Commissioned: April 15, 1914
  • Fate: Sunk July 8, 1948 as a target ship

USS New York (BB-34) - Specifications:

  • Displacement: 27,000 tons
  • Length: 573 ft.
  • Beam: 95.2 ft.
  • Draft: 28.5 ft.
  • Propulsion: 14 Babcock and Wilcox coal-fired boilers with oil spray, triple expansion steam engines turning two propellers
  • Speed: 20 knots
  • Complement: 1,042 men​

Armament (as built):

  • 10 × 14-inch/45 caliber guns
  • 21 × 5"/51 caliber guns
  • 4 × 21" torpedo tubes

USS New York (BB-34) - Design & Construction:

Tracing its roots to the 1908 Newport Conference, the New York-class of battleship was the US Navy's fifth type of dreadnought after the earlier -, -, -, and Wyoming-classes.  Key among the conference's conclusions was the requirement for increasingly larger calibers of main guns.  Though debate ensued regarding the armament of the Florida- and Wyoming-class ships, their construction moved forward using 12" guns.  Complicating the discussion was the fact that no American dreadnought had entered service and designs were based on theory and experience with pre-dreadnought ships.  In 1909, the General Board advanced designs for a battleship mounting 14" guns.  The following year, the Bureau of Ordnance successfully tested a new gun of this size and Congress authorized the construction of two vessels.

Designated USS New York (BB-34) and USS Texas (BB-35), the new type featured ten 14" guns mounted in five twin turrets.  These were placed with two forward and two aft in superfiring arrangements while the fifth turret was situated amidships.  The secondary armament consisted of twenty-one 5" guns and four 21" torpedo tubes.

 Power for the New York-class ships came from fourteen Babcock & Wilcox coal-fired boilers driving vertical triple expansion steam engines.  These turned two propellers and gave the vessels a speed of 21 knots.  Protection for the ships came from a 12" main armor belt with 6.5" covering the vessels' casemates.  

Construction of New York was assigned to the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn and work commenced on September 11, 1911.  Proceeding over the next year, the battleship slid down the ways on October 30, 1912, with Elsie Calder, daughter of Representative William M. Calder, serving as sponsor.  Eighteen months later, New York entered service on April 15, 1914, with Captain Thomas S. Rodgers in command.  A descendant of Commodore John Rodgers and Captain Christopher Perry (father of Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew C. Perry), Rodgers immediately took his ship south to support the American occupation of Veracruz.

USS New York (BB-34) - Early Service & World War I:

Arriving off the Mexican coast, New York became the flagship of Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher that July.  The battleship remained in the vicinity of Veracruz until the end of the occupation in November.  Steaming north, it conducted a shakedown cruise before arriving at New York City in December.

  While in port, New York hosted a Christmas party for local orphans.  Well-publicized, the event earned the battleship the moniker "The Christmas Ship" and established a reputation of public service.  Joining the Atlantic Fleet, New York spent much of 1916 conducting routine training exercises along the East Coast.  In 1917, following the US entry into World War I, the battleship became flagship of Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman's Battleship Division 9.  

That fall, Rodman's ships received orders to reinforce Admiral Sir David Beatty's British Grand Fleet.  Reaching Scapa Flow on December 7, the force was re-designated the 6th Battle Squadron.  Commencing training and gunnery exercises, New York stood out as the best American ship in the squadron.  Tasked with escorting convoys in the North Sea, the battleship accidentally rammed a German U-boat on the night of October 14, 1918 as it entered Pentland Firth.

  The encounter broke off two of the battleship's propeller blades and reduced its speed to 12 knots.  Crippled, it sailed for Rosyth for repairs.  En route, New York came under attack from another U-boat, but the torpedoes missed.  Repaired, it rejoined the fleet to escort the German High Seas Fleet into internment following the war's conclusion in November.  

USS New York (BB-34) - Interwar Years:

Briefly returning to New York City, New York then escorted President Woodrow Wilson, aboard the liner SS George Washington, to Brest, France to take part in the peace negotiations.  Resuming peacetime operations, the battleship conducted training activities in home water before a brief refit which saw a reduction in the 5" armament and the addition of 3" anti-aircraft guns.  Transferred to the Pacific later in 1919, New York began service with the Pacific Fleet with San Diego serving as its home port.  Returning east in 1926, it entered Norfolk Navy Yard for an extensive modernization program.  This saw the coal-fired boilers replaced with new Bureau Express oil-fired models, the trunking of the two funnels into one, installation of an aircraft catapult on the amidships turret, addition of torpedo bulges, and the replacement of the lattice masts with new tripod ones. 

After conducting training with USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) and USS Arizona (BB-39) in late 1928 and early 1929, New York resumed routine operations with the Pacific Fleet.  In 1937, the battleship was selected to transport Rodman to Britain where he was to serve as the US Navy's official representative at the coronation of King George VI.

  While there, it took part in the Grand Naval Review as the lone American vessel.  Returning home, New York commenced a refit which saw the expansion of its anti-aircraft armament as well as the installation of XAF radar set.  The second ship to receive this new technology, the battleship conducted tests of this equipment as well as transported midshipmen on training cruises.

USS New York (BB-34) - World War II:

With the beginning of World War II in Europe in September 1939, New York received orders to join the Neutrality Patrol in the North Atlantic.  Operating in these waters, it worked to protect the sea lanes against encroachment by German submarines.  Continuing in this role, it later escorted American troops to Iceland in July 1941.  In need of further modernization, New York entered the yard and was there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7.  With the nation at war, work on the ship moved quickly and it returned to active duty four weeks later.  An older battleship, New York spent much of 1942 aiding in escorting convoys to Scotland.  This duty was broken up in July when its anti-aircraft armament underwent a major enhancement at Norfolk.  Departing Hampton Roads in October, New York joined the Allied fleet to support the Operation Torch landings in North Africa.

On November 8, in company with USS Philadelphia, New York attacked Vichy French positions around Safi.  Providing naval gunfire support for the 47th Infantry Division, the battleship neutralized enemy shore batteries before steaming north to join Allied forces off Casablanca.

  It continued to operate off North Africa until retiring to Norfolk on November 14.  Resuming escort duties, New York shepherded convoys to North Africa into 1943.  Later that year, it underwent a final overhaul which saw further additions to its anti-aircraft armament.  Assigned to the Chesapeake as a gunnery training ship, New York spent from July 1943 to June 1944 engaged in educating sailors for the fleet.  Though effective in this role, it badly reduced morale among the permanent crew.

USS New York (BB-34) - Pacific Theater:

Following a series of midshipmen cruises in the summer of 1944, New York received orders to transfer to the Pacific.  Passing through the Panama Canal that fall, it arrived at Long Beach on December 9.  Completing refresher training on the West Coast, the battleship steamed west and joined the support group for the invasion of Iwo Jima.  En route, New York lost a blade from one of its propellers which necessitated temporary repairs at Eniwetok.  Rejoining the fleet, it was in position on February 16 and commenced a three-day bombardment of the island.  Withdrawing on the 19th, New York underwent permanent repairs at Manus before resuming service with Task Force 54.  

Sailing from Ulithi, New York and its consorts arrived off Okinawa on March 27 and began bombardment of the island in preparation for the Allied invasion.  Remaining offshore after the landings, the battleship provided naval gunfire support for the troops on the island.  On April 14, New York narrowly missed being struck by a kamikaze though the attack resulted in the loss of one its spotting aircraft.  After operating in the vicinity of Okinawa for two and half months, the battleship departed for Pearl Harbor on June 11 to have its guns relined.  Entering the harbor on July 1, it was there when the war ended the following month.

USS New York (BB-34) - Postwar:

In early September, New York conducted an Operation Magic Carpet cruise from Pearl Harbor to San Pedro to return American servicemen home.  Concluding this assignment, it shifted to the Atlantic to take part in Navy Day festivities in New York City.  Due to its age, New York was selected as a target ship for the Operation Crossroads atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in July 1946.  Surviving both the Able and Baker tests, the battleship returned to Pearl Harbor under tow for further examination.  Formally decommissioned on August 29, 1946, New York was taken from port on July 6, 1948 and sunk as a target.

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