Skip to content

USS Massachusetts: A Ship Built to Defend

The USS Massachusetts was among the four South Dakota-class battleships and was one of the most sophisticated battleships of those times. She was named after the state of Massachusetts, making her the seventh ship to be named after a state.

The construction of Massachusetts

Massachusetts was among the first battleships that the United States congress constructed. Her design was influenced by the Washington Treaty, which was signed in 1922. This treaty was among the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Japan, which were the major allies during World War II. It limited the tons of battleships to 35,000 and had a specific ratio of ships among the leading naval powers.

The Massachusetts base was laid on 29th July 1939 at Fore River Shipyard of Quincy, Massachusetts. Her construction was completed in 1941 and launched the same year under the sponsorship of Mrs. Charles Francis Adams, wife to the former Secretary of the Navy.

Battleship USS Massachusetts with the Braga Bridge in the background

The Massachusetts features

The USS Massachusetts had many great features, and those that stood out the most were:

The batteries

She had two batteries whose size and thickness exceeded any other ship in the United States. The main battery consisted of nine 16 inch Mark 6 caliber guns within three triple turrets. These batteries could fire 2,700-pound armor and could pierce (AP) Mark 8 shells. Her second battery had twenty38 caliber guns, which could hit targets up to 9 miles away. Massachusetts had an anti-aircraft (AA) battery of 75 caliber guns and 0.50 caliber machine guns for airstrike defense.

Weight, height and length

Massachusetts was the heaviest ship ever launched hence nicknamed “Big Mamie.” She weighed 25,000 tons, had a length of 681 feet and a 108-foot beam. She had a capacity of 2300 crew members which was extremely unique in those times.

Coal bunkers

The most significant advantage of the Massachusetts battleship was the capacity of her coal bunkers. The coal bankers allowed the ship to cross the ocean without recoiling, which was unheard of. The constructors combined this feature with armament and heavy armour, which is an excellent combination for war times.

One disadvantage of Massachusetts was that she had a slightly low freeboard, making it hard to operate guns on heavy seas. Another disadvantage was that the gun mountings were not centralized. Therefore, when the guns were aimed towards the side, she would submerge towards that side. This made it difficult to aim, but the issue was eventually rectified.

USS Constitution museum frigate of the US Navy at the Charlestown Navy Yard

The Pacific War

In 1944, Massachusetts joined the Pacific war and was operating against Japan. Her task in this war was to protect the aircraft carriers against air and surface attacks. While carrying out this task, she participated in the following campaigns;

Marshall and Gilbert Islands campaign

This campaign took place in 1943 and part of 1944, and Massachusetts was escorting battleship group TG 50.2. She was accompanied by other battleships such as North Carolina and Indiana. Here they carried out several air attacks on Abemama, Makin and Tarawa. These attacks weakened the Japanese and isolated them from the nearby garrisons, which could have reinforced them. From 21st to 22nd September, she escorted the carriers for more strikes, and the campaign destroyed and sank 1,000 Japanese aircraft.

Philippines campaign

Massachusetts was also part of the Philippines campaign in late 1944 and early 1945. The first primary task was to strike the Japanese airbase on Okinawa Island on 10th October. The attack was to reduce the Japanese interference with airbase landings in the area. From December to January of 1945, Massachusetts worked with several carriers of TF38 and made several attacks on Okinawa and Formosa.

The World War II

From 1945, she assisted the federal forces in the Battle of Okinawa and participated in Japan’s attacks in World War II. She was even the one behind the bombarding of industries in Honshu during July and August 1945. Her role in this war was to represent the American battleship against Japan in World War II. She played a significant role in this war and was evidence that America was developing more complex battleships. Massachusetts fired the first American projectiles of the war in 1942 and the last one. During World War II, she shot 39 aircraft, destroyed five enemy vessels and earned 11 battle stars for her wartime service.

The decommissioning of Massachusetts.

After several decommissions, Massachusetts faced the last decommissioning on 31st March 1946 and was given over to the War Department. In 1962, her skeleton was given to the US Navy, and she was offered for sale as scrap. Strangely, no one bought Massachusetts even after World War II. She was eventually declared Florida State’s property by Florida’s Supreme Court. On 10th June 1993, her centennial anniversary, she became among the National Register of Historic Places. Up to date, she is used as an underwater archaeological monument in the state of Florida.

Find The Right Mortgage

For more than 20 years, Phil have been helping customers achieve their home purchase and refinance goals by providing them with invaluable resources and support.

Schedule a FREE Consultation
Phil Ganz

Subscribe to Get Your First Time Homebuyer Checklist

Sign up for the weekly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest real estate market trends, loan news, and so much more!