World War I: USS Wyoming (BB-32)

USS Wyoming (BB-32) before World War I
USS Wyoming (BB-32), 1912-1913. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Wyoming (BB-32) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, PA
  • Laid Down: February 9, 1910
  • Launched: May 25, 1911
  • Commissioned: September 25, 1912
  • Fate: Sold for Scrap

USS Wyoming (BB-32) - Specifications:

  • Displacement: 26,000 tons
  • Length: 562 ft.
  • Beam: 93.1 ft.
  • Draft: 28.5 ft.
  • Propulsion: 12 Babcock and Wilcox coal-fired boilers with oil spray, 4-shaft Parsons direct-drive steam turbines
  • Speed: 20.5 knots
  • Complement: 1,063 men​

Armament:

  • 12 × 12-inch/50 caliber Mark 7 guns
  • 21 × 5"/51 caliber guns
  • 2 × 21" torpedo tubes

​USS Wyoming (BB-32) - Design:

Originating at the 1908 Newport Conference, the Wyoming-class of battleship represented the US Navy's fourth type of dreadnought after the earlier -, -, and -classes.  The initial design came about through war games and discussions as the preceding classes had not yet entered service.  Key among the conference's conclusions was the need for increasingly larger calibers of main armament.  Through the latter part of 1908, debate ensued over the layout and armament of the new class with various configurations being considered.  On March 30, 1909, Congress approved construction of two Design 601 battleships.  This design called for a ship approximately 20% larger than the Florida-class and mounting twelve 12" guns.  

Designated USS Wyoming (BB-32) and USS Arkansas (BB-33), the two ships of the new class were powered by twelve Babcock and Wilcox coal-fired boilers with direct drive turbines turning four propellers.

 Layout of the main armament saw the twelve 12" guns spread through six twin turrets in superfiring (one firing over the other) pairs forward, amidships, and aft.  To support the main battery, designers added twenty-one 5" guns with the majority mounted in individual casemates below the main deck. In addition, the battleships carried two 21" torpedo tubes.

 For protection, the Wyoming-class possessed a main armor belt eleven inches thick.  

Assigned to William Cramp & Sons in Philadelphia, work commenced on Wyoming on February 9, 1910.  Moving ahead over the next fifteen months, the new battleship slid down the ways May 25, 1911, with Dorothy Knight, daughter of Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Jesse Knight, serving as sponsor.  With the completion of construction, Wyoming shifted to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where it entered commission on September 25, 1912, with Captain Frederick L. Chapin in command.  Steaming north, the new battleship finished final fitting out at the New York Navy Yard before sailing to join the Atlantic Fleet.

USS Wyoming (BB-32) - Early Service:

Arriving at Hampton Roads on December 30, Wyoming became flagship for Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, commander of the Atlantic Fleet.  Departing the following week, the battleship steamed south to the Panama Canal construction site before conducting exercises off Cuba.  Returning north in March, Wyoming underwent minor repairs before returning to the fleet.  The remainder of the year saw the battleship engaged in routine peacetime activities until October when it sailed for the Mediterranean to make goodwill visits to Malta, Italy, and France.

  Returning home in December, Wyoming entered the yard at New York for a brief overhaul before joining the Atlantic Fleet off Cuba for winter maneuvers the following month.

In May 1914, Wyoming steamed south with a contingent of troops to support the US occupation of Veracruz which had commenced a few weeks earlier.  Remaining in the area, the battleship assisted operations relating to the occupation into the fall.  Following repairs at New York, Wyoming spent the next two years following the US Navy's standard cycle of maneuvers in northern waters during the summer and in the Caribbean in the winter.  Having completed exercises off Cuba in late March 1917, the battleship found itself off Yorktown, VA when word arrived that the United States had declared war on Germany and entered World War I.

USS Wyoming (BB-32) - World War I:

For the next seven months, Wyoming operated in the Chesapeake training engineers for the fleet.  That fall, the battleship received orders to join USS New York (BB-34), USS Florida (BB-30), and USS Delaware (BB-28) in Battleship Division 9.  Led by Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, this formation departed in November to reinforce Admiral Sir David Beatty's British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.  Arriving in December, the force was redesignated the 6th Battle Squadron.  Commencing combat operations in February 1918, the American ships aided in protecting convoys bound for Norway.

Continuing similar operations through the year, Wyoming became the squadron's flagship in October after New York collided with a German U-boat.  With the conflict's end in November, the battleship sortied with the Grand Fleet on the 21st to escort the German High Seas Fleet into internment at Scapa Flow.  On December 12, Wyoming, carrying new squadron commander Rear Admiral William Sims, sailed for France where it rendezvoused with SS George Washington which was transporting President Woodrow Wilson to the peace conference at Versailles.  Following a brief port call in Britain, the battleship left European waters and arrived at New York on Christmas Day.

USS Wyoming (BB-32) - Postwar Years:

Briefly serving as flagship of Battleship Division 7, Wyoming aided in directing a flight Curtiss NC-1 flying boats on a trans-Atlantic flight in May 1919.  Entering Norfolk Navy Yard in July, the battleship underwent a modernization program in anticipation of its transfer to the Pacific.

  Designated flagship of the Pacific Fleet's Battleship Division 6, Wyoming departed for the West Coast later that summer and arrived at San Diego on August 6.  Conducting maneuvers through the following year, the battleship then cruised to Valparaiso, Chile in early 1921.  Transferred back to the Atlantic that August, Wyoming embarked the Atlantic Fleet's commander Admiral Hilary P. Jones.  Over the next six years, the vessel resumed its previous cycle of peacetime training which was only punctuated by a European cruise in 1924 which included visits to Britain, the Netherlands, Gibraltar, and the Azores.

In 1927, Wyoming arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for an extensive modernization.   This saw the addition of anti-torpedo bulges, the installation of new oil-fired boilers, as well as some alterations to the superstructure.  Completing a shakedown cruise in December, Wyoming became flagship of Vice Admiral Ashley Robertson's Scouting Fleet.  In this role for three years, it also aided in training NROTC detachments from several universities.  After brief service with Battleship Division 2, the aging Wyoming was pulled from frontline service and assigned to Rear Admiral Harley H. Christy's Training Squadron.  Placed in reduced commission in January 1931, efforts commenced to demilitarize the battleship in accordance with the London Naval Treaty.  This saw the anti-torpedo bulges, half the main battery, and the ship's side armor removed.

USS Wyoming (BB-32) - Training Ship:

Brought back to active service in May, Wyoming embarked a contingent of midshipmen from the US Naval Academy and NROTC cadets for a training cruise to Europe and the Caribbean.

  Redesignated AG-17 in August, the former battleship spent the next five years in a training role.  In 1937, while taking part in amphibious assault exercise off California, a 5" shell accidently exploded killing six and wounding eleven.  Later that year, Wyoming conducted a goodwill call to Kiel, Germany where its crew visited the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.  With the beginning of World War II in Europe in September 1939, the ship assumed a place in the Atlantic Naval Reserve Force.  Two years later, Wyoming commenced conversion into a gunnery training ship.

Beginning this duty in November 1941, Wyoming was operating off Platt's Bank when word was received of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  As the US Navy expanded to meet the demands of a two-ocean war, the old battleship remained engaged in training gunners for the fleet.  Earning the nickname "Chesapeake Raider" for its frequent appearances in the bay, Wyoming continued in this duty until January 1944.  Entering the yard at Norfolk, it commenced a modernization which saw the removal of its remaining 12" guns and the conversion of the turrets into single and dual mounts for 5" guns.  Resuming its training mission in April, Wyoming remained in this role until June 30, 1945.  Ordered north it joined the Operational Development Force and aided in devising tactics to combat Japanese kamikazes.

With the end of the war, Wyoming continued to operate with this force.  Ordered to Norfolk in 1947, it arrived on July 11 and was decommissioned on August 1.  Stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry on September 16, Wyoming was sold for scrap the following month.  Transferred to New York, this work began that December.

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