South Dakota-class battleship, South Dakota (BB-57) (1945)

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South Dakota-class battleship, South Dakota (BB-57) (1945)


Battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57)

Sub Category: Battleship
Class: South Dakota class



South Dakota (BB-57)

The battleship South Dakota (BB-57), the first in the series, entered service on 20 March 1942. Captain Thomas L. Gatch became its commander. The battleship was soon destined to become one of the most famous ships of the Second World War.

Usually, American sailors give their ships nicknames. South Dakota became known as SoDak, or Battleship X, as it was named in the first official news release. The crew also had a playful nickname for their ship - “Big xxxxxxx” . But this was not pronounced contemptuously, but, on the contrary, with love.

Until August, the battleship passed in the Atlantic a standard, but wartime shortened cycle of tests, crew development and combat training.

Then the ship was transferred to the Pacific Ocean. He passed the Panama Canal on August 21 and headed for the Tonga Islands. Participation in the long and bloody epic off Guadalcanal, which began with the landing of the American marines on it, became the first page in the history of the new battleship’s service. Two of a series of almost continuous battles for the island and the surrounding waters were perhaps the most striking combat episodes in the life of the South Dakota. But before that, the ship was damaged. On September 6, in the Tongatabu area, he caught the tip of a coral reef not marked on the map. The outer lining of the empty compartments of the double bottom at the stem was ripped open. The ship received extensive flooding. On September 12, he came to Pearl Harbor to repair the damage. Subsequently, there were reasons to consider this accident a gift of fate, since during the repair, light anti-aircraft artillery was reinforced. The two quadruple Chicago pianos were removed, and 16 Bofors were installed and at least 20 Erlikons were added. This was done very well. Soon “South Dakota” was to engage in the first battle with enemy aircraft. A very correct approach to the Captain case by Thomas Gatch should be noted. He was a born commander and educator of subordinates. Constant training and disregard for the ostentatious side of the service, which annoyed sailors at all times, he managed to rally his team into a single family eager to fight.

USS South Dakota (BB-57) under construction

The battleship was again ready for a campaign on October 12 and began joint voyages and exercises with the ships of the TF-16 (Task Force 16), led by the famous “Big E” (the nickname of the aircraft carrier “Enterprise”). On October 16, this group left Pearl Harbor and headed for the Espiritu Santo area to join TF-17 of the aircraft carrier Hornet.

On October 24, information was received about a large force of the Japanese fleet aimed at the Guadalcanal area. The Americans prepared to give them a fight. The combined group under the tactical designation TF-16 was commanded by Rear Admiral Kincaid (flag on the Enterprise). In addition to two aircraft carriers, it included the battleship South Dakota, three heavy cruisers, three air defense cruisers and 14 destroyers. Kincaid ordered a search for the enemy in the area of the Santa Cruz Islands. At noon on the 25th Patrol Catalina reported the sighting of Japanese carriers, and TF-16 turned northwest to intercept the enemy.

The main battle took place on October 26. At about 7:00, almost simultaneously, the opponents found each other at a distance of 200 miles. Both groups raised shock waves of carrier-based aircraft to attack enemy ships, and the Japanese did so about 20 minutes earlier. On the way to the target, the aircraft armada saw each other in the air. The fighters engaged in several battles, but the bulk of the bombers and torpedo bombers rushed to the enemy ships.

At 9.10 the Japanese were the first to strike at the Hornet and its group. The American aircraft carrier received two torpedoes, several bombs and two ram attacks from damaged enemy aircraft. After 10 minutes the sky cleared, but the fate of the Hornet was sealed. The ship, engulfed in flames, lost its speed. At this point, his own aircraft had not yet reached the Japanese aircraft carriers.

The first wave of Japanese aviation could not find the Enterprise and South Dakota. At 0900 hours, these ships entered a small rain storm, which sheltered them from the approaching enemy aircraft, all of whose fury fell on the Hornet. However, this did not last long.

The American battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) leaves Philadelphia on June 4, 1942 for training until July 26.

At 09:27, the Japanese concluded from the intercepted radio communications that another American aircraft carrier was nearby. At about 10:00 am, the Enterprise group was attacked by a Japanese submarine 1-21. The destroyer Porter was torpedoed. The second, “Shaw”, stayed with him to remove the crew and then finish off the mortally injured comrade. But even without two destroyers, the Big E was much more heavily covered by anti-aircraft fire than the Hornet. The South Dakota and other escort ships formed a ring-shaped chain, in the center of which was the aircraft carrier. The strongest air defense link was, of course, the new battleship. Soon, South Dakota’s radar detected a group of aircraft 55 miles away. TF-16 unit prepared to meet the enemy. The first to arrive were 43 D3A Val dive-bombers. They attacked without waiting for the torpedo bombers that were on the way. The long-awaited time has come for the gunners, perfectly trained by Captain Gatch. The South Dakota’s fire was surprisingly effective. The battleship traveled 1,000 yards from the Enterprise and provided it with reliable protection against deadly dive bombers. They came out of the attack very low, at an altitude of no more than 200 m. At that moment, light and mobile “Erlikons” with well-trained crews literally tore the enemy aircraft to pieces with their dagger fire. 26 bombers were shot down (the ship’s crew claimed that even 32, but 26 were officially counted). Of the 23 bombs dropped, only one hit the battleship. There was also a close gap at the side. Two direct hits and one close gap went to the Enterprise. Soon the Japanese torpedo bombers arrived - 14 dark green “keits”. However, only seven planes managed to drop their torpedoes, which the American ships successfully dodged. While the guns were still rattling, one of the “keits”, already damaged, made a suicidal attack. With a suspended torpedo, he crashed into the superstructure of the destroyer “Smith”. From a powerful explosion, the entire bow of the American ship was engulfed in flames. 28 people were killed, 23 were injured. The accident allowed the South Dakota to extinguish this fire in an original way (albeit solely thanks to the courage and resourcefulness of the destroyer crew). Continuing to fire at the planes with her stern guns, Smith quickly passed through the formation of other ships and crashed into the foaming waves of the wake of the battleship, which was in full swing. Streams of water hit the destroyer and helped to cope with the fire.

After the Keits raid, the Japanese gave TF-16 40 minutes of respite. Then the air attacks resumed. In total, 29 aircraft took part in them (mainly dive bombers). And this time a single 500-pound bomb hit the battleship. The hit fell on the roof of tower No. 1 on the right side. The armor withstood, and the turret crew, with the exception of one officer at the periscope, did not suffer. But 50 other crew members were injured (one later died). The shrapnel hit the neck of Captain Gatch, who was standing on the bridge in front of the conning tower. The two 16-inch guns of tower # 2 were severely damaged (not used during the entire subsequent battle at Guadalcanal). One of them later had to be replaced. There was momentary confusion following the bombing of the South Dakota. Management was transferred to post No. 2. However, it turned out that the telephone did not work there. For this reason, the uncontrollable South Dakota rushed straight for the Enterprise for a minute. The aircraft carrier had to hastily get out of its way. “Big E” itself in the second series of attacks by enemy aircraft escaped with one close gap at the side. The cruiser San Juan received an armor-piercing bomb. Fortunately for the ship, it pierced through its hull and exploded outside.

In the afternoon and evening, Japanese aircraft attacked the Hornet three times, first in tow, and then left by the crew and motionless. The ship received a torpedo and two bomb hits. Already in the dark, their destroyers tried to finish him off, firing countless shells and torpedoes. However, the stubborn aircraft carrier, the hero of the first raid on Tokyo, did not want to go to the bottom, and he was left by the Americans to fend for themselves. The case was completed by the Japanese destroyers of Rear Admiral Abe. At 1.35 on October 27, hit by four 610-mm torpedoes, the Hornet finally disappeared under water.


Battleship USS “South Dakota” at port, February 1943.

The battle at Santa Cruz ended there. The Americans lost their aircraft carrier, destroyer and 74 aircraft. Aviation of the Imperial Navy lost 100 aircraft and many experienced pilots, which markedly darkened the Japanese with the joy of victory. Here the South Dakota gunners played their part. 26 aircraft shot down by the ship’s anti-aircraft fire in one battle is an absolute record and, it seems, for all time.

That same night, while retreating to Noumea, the South Dakota and the destroyer Mahan maneuvered unsuccessfully in an attempt to evade an attack by a Japanese submarine. There was a collision that caused quite serious damage. At first it seemed that the battleship would have to be sent for repairs from the United States. The database conducted a detailed examination. It turned out that the damage was not so great. Only five fuel tanks were damaged. The repair was carried out by the forces of the floating workshop. A few days later, the South Dakota returned to service in order to soon re-engage in the fight for Guadalcanal.

In November 1942, the battle for the island boiled with renewed fury. After some lull, both sides decided to attack the enemy with large forces and turn the course of events in their favor on Guadalcanal and in the surrounding waters. “South Dakota” faced severe tests.

By November 10, the Japanese had concentrated in nearby bases a large number of aircraft and warships of the 2nd and 8th fleets of Vice Admirals Nobutake Kon-do and Ginichi Mikawa. As always, the “Tokyo Express” was ready for dispatch as part of the famous 2nd destroyer squadron of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka and the transport convoy she guarded.

Three days later, events entered their climax. The battle went on day and night. Both sides suffered heavy losses. The Japanese lost the battleship Hiei and two destroyers. The Americans lost the light cruisers Atlanta, Juno and four destroyers. Many hundreds of sailors gave their lives on this bloody Friday the 13th. Among them were two American admirals: Scott and Callahan. The latter was a personal friend of President Roosevelt.

The next day was no less intense. On the night of November 14, Admiral Mikawa’s 8th Fleet cruisers managed to fire at Henderson Field (named after the Marine Corps SB2U “Vindicator” dive-bomb commander, Major LR Henderson, who died in the Battle of Midway). He was one of the main targets of the Japanese and the key to the American defense on Guadalcanal. However, the results were not as large-scale as during the raid on October 14-15. This time, 18 aircraft were destroyed and 32 damaged, but the airfield continued to operate. During the day, his planes, as well as aviation from Espiritu Santo and from the aircraft carrier Enterprise, inflicted the greatest losses on the Japanese. They destroyed the heavy cruiser “Kinugasa” of the 8th fleet of Mikawa and 7 of 11 transports with troops from the Tanaka convoy. Several more warships and transport ships were damaged. Admiral Mikawa, the hero of the famous night battle off the Savo Island, withdrew. In fact, he left Tanaka’s convoy without cover from large ships.

The battle did not stop there. The actions of the American aircraft seriously disrupted the plans of the Japanese commander, Admiral Kondo (flag on the heavy cruiser Atago). However, he did not want to give up this goal. Admiral Tanaka, who was abundantly endowed with the notorious Japanese tenacity, was also an unshakable supporter of continuing the operation. Under cover of darkness, Kondo intended to bombard Henderson Field again and land reinforcements for his forces on Guadalcanal. The denouement came in the night battle from November 14 to 15. The battleship South Dakota took part in it as part of Task Force 64, under the command of Rear Admiral Willis Augustus Lee, who was flying the flag on the Washington. Except for two linear ships, the Americans had four destroyers. On the evening of the 13th, this group separated from Admiral Kincaid’s forces, who were cruising with the Enterprise south of Guadalcanal. She was tasked with preventing the shelling of the airfield on the island. Lee did not have time to do this on the night of November 14, and the Japanese were able to more or less successfully bombard Henderson Field. But in the evening his ships approached the island. Soon they were to meet with the main forces of Kondo (battleship “Kirishima”, heavy cruisers “Atago” and “Takao”, light “Sendai” and “Nagara”, nine destroyers).

Battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) August 21, 1944

Skirting the western tip of Guadalcanal in the evening twilight, Lee led his unit towards the enemy. Based on the latest information received at about 16.00, the Americans expected to intercept the enemy soon. Although the battleship admiral’s wrinkled, weather-beaten face remained unchanged, Lee was uneasy. The 64th task force has just been formed, it had no experience of joint actions. The ships did not have time to float. Even a night signal system has not been developed. In addition, there was no well-functioning encryption communication with the landing forces on Guadalcanal. Willis Augustus Lee was a very capable, resourceful and confident commander, well versed in the latest technology. Before the war, he was involved in the introduction of radar in the fleet and knew more about radars than the operators sitting at their consoles. During the day, the admiral would not worry about anything. His one and a half dozen 16-inches were able to quickly deal with the enemy. But now he was threatened with the confusion of a fight in complete darkness. Unidentified markers appeared and disappeared on the radar screens every now and then. The system of recognition “friend or foe” in 1942 was in its infancy and in practice has not yet worked. Radar operators in such conditions could simply get confused. And the sophisticated in night battles, the Japanese were able to easily sneak up and plant their powerful torpedoes on board the newest American battleships. In addition, in the dark, you can get hit by their mosquito forces patrolling in the straits between the islands of Guadalcanal, Savo and Florida. Their base was nearby, on Tulagi. By the way, this almost happened: three torpedo boats were talking on the radio for a long time, deciding whether to send the “fish” (torpedo) into the hulks that had emerged from the darkness of the night.

Lee had no specific operational plan. There was simply no time to develop it. He only ordered other ships to follow their signals. Having rounded the island of Savo, the 64th unit turned right at 21.10 and entered the dangerous waters of the Iron Bottom Strait, so named because of the large number of ships sunk here. Destroyers were moving ahead, followed by Washington and South Dakota. There has been no contact with the enemy yet. Only far to the west could be seen the reflection of the burning Japanese transports from the landing party destroyed the day before. The young moon illuminated a completely clean strait. A light breeze blew from the left shell and slightly rippled the surface of the sea. When at 21.48 Savo was exactly on the right traverse, Lee turned on a course of 150 °. The radar screens reflected only the shores of the islands. The arrows of the magnetic compasses gave anomalous readings - the connection went exactly over the graveyard of ships sunk here in large numbers during previous battles. It was at this moment that negotiations of American torpedo boats were spotted. Lee reacted quickly. He personally knew Major General of the Marine Corps Alexander E. Vanderlift, with whom they attended the academy. He was now on Guadalcanal. The admiral hoped Vanderlift hadn’t forgotten his old nickname (Ching Li, “The Chinese”) and sent an open request over the radio with

the demand to stop the boatmen and give information about the enemy. Fortunately, he was understood. But there was no fresh information about the enemy ships. It was only clear that they were somewhere nearby. Lee correctly assumed that the Japanese were descending to Guadalcanal through the Slot Strait.

Battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) August 21, 1944

Meanwhile, Kondo’s squadron was approaching in several groups. Two detachments made up the near and far curtain of the light forces. A bombardment group (the battleship “Kirishima” and two heavy cruisers) moved behind them. Kondo planned to begin shelling the airfield at the same time as the landing from the four surviving Tanaka transports approaching Savo with a destroyer escort.

The first to notice the enemy was the Japanese light cruiser Sendai, the flagship of the commander of the 3rd destroyer squadron, counter-admiral Shintaro Hashimoto. At 10.10 pm, he reported to Kondo that six enemy ships had been found. At the same time, the battleships were mistaken for heavy cruisers. The commander gave the order to regroup to strike at the enemy, who did not yet suspect about the proximity of the Japanese. The calculation was, as always, on superiority in night torpedo attacks. Then it was necessary to finish off the enemy with artillery.

The Japanese have been following the American ships for over 30 minutes. At 22.52 the moon was closed by the mountains. Lee found it too dangerous to go the previous course in total darkness. He ordered to turn right towards Cape Esperanz. As soon as the ships made this maneuver, a mark appeared on the radar screens of first “Washington” and then “South Dakota”. It was the light cruiser Sendai, which was 9 miles northwest. At 23.12 the target was captured by the director’s periscopes of the main caliber of “Washington”. Around the same time, enemy ships were visually detected from the South Dakota bridge at a distance of 16.5 km. The leading destroyers have not seen anything yet. At 23.15 the Japanese fired torpedoes at TF-64, and a minute later Admiral Lee ordered the battleships to open fire. After the first volleys, the Sendai with the destroyer Sikin rushed north, setting up a smoke screen. To the limit of the range of the artillery radar, they were pursued by heavy shells from battleships.

At 23.22, American destroyers joined the battleships’ fire. However, they almost missed the danger from other directions. Japanese ships lurking in the shadows of the southern coast of the Savo were only seen at the last moment. This oversight cost many lives. Six destroyers and the light cruiser Nagara enveloped the head of the American column and opened heavy fire. Then they fired torpedoes. The American crews’ hopes for radars did not materialize. Marks from the surrounding mountains interfered. I had to fire, guided by gun flashes. In such conditions, the battleship’s gunners were even more difficult. The fire from their guns did little to help the destroyers.

The Japanese counter-shooting was very accurate. Affected by training and hard training at night (and besides in the harsh Sea of Okhotsk!). Found their victims and two Japanese torpedoes. As a result, after 20 minutes of combat, all American destroyers were withdrawn from the game, not having time to release a single of their “fish”. Two of them, which received torpedo hits, soon sank. The third was crippled by enemy artillery and was completely incapable of combat (in the morning he had to be finished off). Only the heavily damaged destroyer Guin could still somehow fight (after the battle, she independently returned to the base on the island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides). For the Japanese, only the destroyer Ayanami was in a hopeless state (later sunk).

On the whole, the first phase of the battle was going badly for the Americans. They walked as a single group, and Kondo divided his forces into several parts, which in the darkness attacked the enemy from different directions. The pugnacious Sendai with the destroyer Sikin also returned to the scene of the battle. They were now looming over Lee’s compound from the stern. In addition, the destroyers of Tanaka, who was a real master of night combat, could also join the case (two weeks later at Tassafarong, he brilliantly proved this by defeating Rear Admiral Wright’s 67th unit of five cruisers and four EMs with just eight destroyers) … In such a situation, American radar operators found themselves in a quandary. They looked in confusion at the screens with numerous marks, wondering what was behind them. And the commanders were completely bewildered by the conflicting reports of the movement of enemy ships.

At the start of the battle, South Dakota followed Washington. However, at 23.33, after 17 minutes of firing, an unpleasant accident occurred on the ship. The shocks from their own fire first led to short circuits in the power cables of the fourth director of medium artillery. Automation blocked the supply of electricity, and a general overload in the network led to the loss of half of the battleship’s electrical power. The fuses were blown and the power supply to the front of the ship was cut off. The backup network suffered the same fate, as the cause of the short circuit persisted. Following this, the mains voltage completely disappeared. The power drives of all the towers stopped, the gyroscopes stopped rotating. But the loss of radars had a particularly frightening effect on the crew. This plunged people into a state close to panic. However, after a few minutes, the problems were localized, and the ship’s power supply resumed. Remained de-energized only two directors of universal artillery (By the way, a week earlier the same type of “Massachusetts” got into a similar situation off the coast of North Africa. The reason was the same - the concussion from their own shooting. Subsequently, on all new battleships, to avoid such accidents, the electrical panels and power wiring were redone)…

All this time “South Dakota” tried to follow in the wake of the flagship. However, she had to duck to the left in order not to ram the sinking destroyer Benham. At this moment, the silhouette of the battleship was clearly outlined in the light of the fire on two other American destroyers. In addition, the gunners brought in the newly earned artillery, firing a volley from the stern guns of the main caliber at the cruiser Sendai. As a result, the battleship received additional “illumination” in the form of its own seaplanes set on fire by muzzle gases, frivolously left on catapults. The next volley swept both vehicles overboard, leaving several small fires in the stern.

Damage to the battleship USS South Dakota in the naval battle of Guadalcanal

At this point, South Dakota had already lost contact with Washington. Without the SG-radar, it could not be restored. But the enemy saw everything perfectly. Eight minutes after the battleship’s artillery resumed action (at 23.43), Japanese searchlights illuminated it for 30 seconds. A flurry of fire from the Kirishima, Takao and Atago hit the South Dakota from a very close range (approximately 5300 m). Then other Japanese ships joined in. In a short time (from 23.24 to 00.05) the American battleship received 27 hits with shells ranging from 5 to 14 inches. Fortunately for the ship, a swarm of torpedoes fired at it passed by. It was just incredible luck!

While the Japanese were shooting South Dakota, her comrade, Washington, was left out of the attention of the enemy. It was his turn to say the decisive word in battle. The boldest mark was chosen on the artillery radar screen. Lee hesitated for a while, trying to make sure it wasn’t South Dakota. Just then she was lit by Japanese searchlights. Doubts were dispelled, and the admiral ordered to open fire. From a distance of 7.5 - 8 km, “Washington” without interference began to thrust shells into the target one after another. She was, of course, the Kirishima, the only battleship of the Kondo formation. For 7 - 8 minutes the Japanese ship received nine 406-mm armor-piercing “suitcases” (out of 75 fired at it), at least 40 127-mm shells and was completely disabled. Lee watched with satisfaction as the Kirishima burned and exploded. The enemy battleship was fatally damaged. After the battle, the crew left it, and at 3.20 the old ship disappeared under water.

And “South Dakota” at 0.08 managed to get out of enemy fire. There was no way to continue the night battle. The battleship had serious problems: only one radar could operate, the directors and internal communication systems were disabled, the third main battery tower did not rotate. It could be even worse, if not for the large deceleration of the fuses of Japanese shells (0.4 - 0.08 s versus 0.035 - 0.02 for the Americans). They counted on drawing underwater holes in the waterline area. In addition to the long delay of the fuse, the projectiles had a special shape of the head tips, which created better conditions for movement on the underwater part of the trajectory. However, as a result, many of them pierced the superstructures through and through and flew into the sea without breaking or exploded from the opposite side at a fairly large distance from the enemy ship.

For some time Washington successfully pretended to be an entire unit, constantly trying to communicate by radio with the South Dakota and distract the enemy’s attention from it. At 0.20, he turned onto a 340 ° course, leading to Tanaka’s transports. Japanese cruisers and destroyers rushed to intercept. The American battleship skillfully evaded the released (last!) Torpedoes. Finally, Kondo lost the desire to continue pursuit, and at 0.25 he ordered to begin the retreat. Admiral Lee, making sure that nothing threatened the South Dakota, also ordered the commander of the Washington to withdraw. It was too risky to remain in a dangerous area and develop success, and aviation could finish off the damaged enemy ships in the morning. The Americans were already very lucky - not one of the many “long spears” fired by the enemy hit their battleships. “Washington” went full speed and melted into the darkness of the night. With Chinese observation, Lee plotted a course as far west as possible, close to the Japanese-occupied shores. The admiral was afraid of torpedo attacks and wanted to entice possible pursuers with him in order to further secure the damaged South Dakota.

Without SG-radar and radio communication, the battered battleship was unable to re-establish contact with the flagship. I had to go alone to the pre-appointed rendezvous point. The American battleships met safely at 9:00. Despite 27 shell hits, there was no serious danger to the South Dakota. The armor reliably protected all the vital centers of the ship: gun turrets, cellars, vehicles, main control posts (by the way, after this battle, no one else disputed the usefulness of the heavily armored cabin of battleships). Some compartments were flooded, but the barely noticeable list to starboard was easily corrected by counter-flooding. Many small fires were soon put out. Losses in the crew were 38 killed and 60 wounded. The superstructures were extensively damaged. But the main thing is the almost complete loss of the radar, without which the crew felt depressed, as if blindfolded.

The battle that ended was the only battle between the new American battleships and an enemy of their own ship class (except for the battle of Massachusetts with the unfinished Jean Bar in the base, which will be discussed later). It was also a turning point in the epic off Guadalcanal (although the Japanese fought unsuccessfully for the island for more than two months). “South Dakota” did not become, as it might seem, just a passive victim of the night battle. The battleship riveted the enemy’s attention to itself, thereby ensuring the successful actions of “Washington” and the overall victory of the 64th task force.

Upon the South Dakota’s arrival in Noumea, the repair ship Prometheus hastily patched the holes and repaired some of the battleship’s other damage. On November 25, he came to Tongataba and then went home. The ship docked at the New York Naval Port on December 18. Elimination of damages required 62 days of round-the-clock work. At the same time, anti-aircraft artillery was reinforced. We removed all 28 mm assault rifles. Instead, the ship received numerous “erlikons” and “bofors”. They also made minor alterations in the superstructure in order to expand the firing sectors of anti-aircraft guns. In general, the South Dakota from this time has always carried several more barrels of light artillery than its sister ships. This partially compensated for the shortage of four universal 5-inches. Repairs and rebuilding were completed by February 25, 1943, and the battleship entered service. Until mid-April, he went through a cycle of tests and training voyages in a group with the aircraft carrier “Ranger”. The ship was then sent to England and until August 1943 operated in conjunction with the British Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow. Here “South Dakota” together with the same type “Alabama” mainly provided cover for the northern convoys.

American ships in Philadelphia. Left to right - USS Huntington (CL-107), USS Dayton (CL-105) and USS South Dakota (BB-57)

Then the battleship returned to the Pacific Ocean. Now his main occupation was the bombardment of Japanese coastal fortifications and air defense of aircraft carrier formations. In November 1943, South Dakota took part in Operation Galvanic (the invasion of the Gilbert Islands). She later supported landings on the Marshall Islands, Makin Atoll and Tarawa with fire. On December 6, South Dakota, together with five other battleships, bombarded the island of Nauru. At the end of January 1944, the ship, together with the North Caroline and Alabama, fired at Roy, Namur, Kwajelin, in February - March it covered carrier formations during the attack on the Caroline Islands, shooting down four aircraft. Then there was the Japanese stronghold on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Archipelago, Truk, Tinian, Ponape, Uliti, Yap in the Carolines, Palau, Hollandia in New Guinea, and so on … US battleships did not remain without combat work (unlike many of their European and Japanese classmates).

On the evening of May 15, 1944, during Operation Forager (capture of Saipan and Tinian), a group of Japanese fighters and bombers broke through an air barrier to TF-58, which included South Dakota. When repelling the raid, the anti-aircraft gunners of the battleship shot down four aircraft and damaged one.

From June 19 to June 20, the battleship took part in the famous battle with the first mobile fleet of Admiral Ozawa in the Philippine Sea (more about this battle will be told when describing the history of the service “Alabama”). During the morning battle on June 19 at 10.49, the Japanese dive bomber Judy hit the South Dakota with a 500-pound bomb. The hit fell on the first deck of the superstructure. The admiral’s and command premises, electrical cables and pipelines were damaged. The ship turned out to be 24 killed and 27 wounded, but this did not violate its combat effectiveness. Two minutes later, the battleship’s universal artillery shot down two Japanese aircraft using shells from a radio fuse.

In July - August 1944, the South Dakota underwent maintenance and modernization at Puget Sound. Quadruple Bofors were added in large numbers.

Subsequently, the ship continued fighting until the end of the war. He participated in operations to capture the Philippine Islands, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as in the bombing of the islands of the Japanese metropolis.

On May 6, 1945, an emergency occurred on the battleship near Okinawa. The South Dakota was receiving ammunition from the Wrangler supply vessel when a powder charge ignited during the loading of the main battery cellars. From one cap flared up, four more ignited and exploded. The urgent flooding of the cellars of tower No. 2 saved the ship. During the incident, three people died, 32 were injured, burned and poisoned. Eight of them subsequently died. It was not possible to find out the cause of the fire to the end. Perhaps it was a spark due to static electricity accumulated in the powder. The ship was taken for repairs to the island of Guam, and then to Leyte.

The American battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) is being repaired in the floating dry dock ABSD-6 due to the consequences of a fire in the main battery cellars. 1945 year

From there, on July 1, 1945, the South Dakota headed for the Japanese Islands. She continued to provide cover for aircraft carrier formations and carried out shelling of coastal fortifications. On July 14, the battleship, as part of an artillery group, bombarded the coast of Honshu. The blow was struck at the Kamaichi metallurgical plants. This was the first time heavy US ships were fired upon a Japanese homeland. Then Hokkaido (Homatsu) and again Honshu were bombed with the participation of the South Dakota. The shelling continued until the surrender of Japan and even a little later.

Finally, on August 27, the battleship anchored at Sagami Won (Honshu Island), and two days later crossed into Tokyo Bay. From there, on September 20, the South Dakota sailed through Okinawa and Pearl Harbor to the US West Coast. On January 3, 1946, the ship arrived at the Philadelphia shipyard.

During the war years, the battleship South Dakota covered 247 thousand miles. His versatile guns and anti-aircraft guns shot down 64 enemy aircraft. The ship was awarded 13 battle stars.

On January 31, 1947, the South Dakota’s flag was lowered and she was put into reserve. Since that time, the battleship has been stored at the Philadelphia Naval Dockyard.

In 1954, a preliminary project was considered to modernize battleships of the South Dakota and North Caroline type in terms of increasing their speed to 31 knots. For this, it was planned to remove the main caliber aft tower and place a new power plant in the hull. For “South Dakota” its capacity was supposed to be equal to 256 thousand hp. In addition, it was supposed to modernize the electronics and strengthen the protection. The project cost was estimated at $ 40 million. However, this restructuring was soon canceled, since the role of battleships in the future and the need of the fleet for them looked unclear.

On June 1, 1962, the battleship South Dakota was officially removed from the list of the US Navy, and in October its hull was sold for scrap for $ 466,425. Separate parts - the mainmast and fragments of 16-inch guns - were bought by the state, whose name the ship bore … They were subsequently installed at the Sioux Falls memorial, on a simulated deck, surrounded by a bush hedge.


  • Belt - 310–25 mm
  • Bulkheads - 287 mm
  • Barbettes - 287–439 mm
  • Turrets - 457 mm
  • Conning tower - 406 mm
  • Decks -38 mm, 146–154 mm, 16–25 mm


Technical component:

  • Crew - 2350
  • Standard displacement: 37970 t
  • Full-load displacement: 44500 t
  • Max length: 207
  • Max width: 32
  • Average draft at trial state: 11
  • Main boiler: 8 × water tube boilers
  • Main engine: 4 × geared steam turbines
  • Power: 130000
  • Speed: 27,8 knots
  • Aircraft: 3 seaplanes


  • 3х3 - 406 mm 16"/45 (40.6 cm) Mark 6
  • 8x2 - 127 mm 5"/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12
  • 17х4 - 40 mm/56 Mark 2
  • 64x1 - 20 mm/70 (0.79") Mark 2

    Starboard and overhead line art drawing by A.L. Raven shows the South Dakota (BB-57) in 1945.

More historical photos:


South Dakota (BB-57) returns to Philadelphia for mothballing on 20 January 1946.

Construction progresses of South Dakota (BB-57) on 1 April 1940 looking aft. Visible are foundations for turret 1, barbette for turret 2, auxiliary machinery room, and four combination fire-engine rooms. Wing tank torpedo defense system is clearly shown.

Superstructure looking aft from frame 65, 1 January 1942.

South Dakota (BB-57) completing fitting out and shakedown training in June, 1942 at Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Gun crew with 1.1-Inch, 75-Cal. ‘on station’ aboard the South Dakota (BB-57) , during her shakedown.

The South Dakota (BB-57) view looking aft showing alteration on 20 February 1943.

"Note the “SN”, a lightweight portable radar set by General Electric, for emergency use aboard ships atop #2 turret. Detection of a battleship at 6 nm., a surfaced submarine at 2nm. The antenna was a 48in paraboloid. Manual scan only. Feed by a vertical dipole.

Note the large spotting glass atop the Fire Control tower with the Main Battery Fire Control Radar Mk.3 Mod.2 (“FC”) behind it.

“FC” had a 12ft x 3ft antenna and operated at a short wavelength (40cm) which gave it good resolution and introduced lobe switching, a process by which bearing was refined by switching the signal alternately between horizontal halves of the aerial and comparing the returns until they were approximately equal.

This radar was not employed only for fire control but also as a back-up search set, at night and in poor visibility. It was then used to sweep the horizon every 15 or-so, minutes looking for formation changes etc. This radar proved effective against single low-flying aircraft at 3,500 yd and formations at 10-12,000 yd. It could be diverted back to its original purpose, fire control, at any time. In this role, an accuracy of 50 yd at a range of 23,000 yd on a destroyer was reported.

Also note the “FD” (Mk.4) radars atop the three (of 4) Mk.37 Dual Purpose directors. This radar equipment had essentially the same electronics as the “FC” (Mk.3), except that the two radar halves were stacked vertically. The aerial was aligned to the optics of the Mk.37. A range of 40,000yd was reported for a single aircraft at medium altitude, 30,000yd for an aircraft at low altitude and 26,000 yd on a destroyer or cruiser.

View fwd.,looking aft showing alterations on 20 February 1943.

The South Dakota (BB-57) in the Atlantic with the British Home Fleet, 1943.

The South Dakota (BB-57) & Alabama (BB-60) during combined operations in the Northern Atlantic in 1943.

Note the “FC” (Mk.3) Main battery Fire Control radar atop her Fire Control tower (Spot 3) for ranging and training purposes and on the MK.38 Director on her Foretop (Spot 1).

The height of this armored director above the designed waterline is 117 feet, 7.5/16 inches. That of Spot 2, located just aft of the Stack, 63 feet, 7.5/16 inches.

This gave Director #1 a horizon of about 24,000 yards and director #2 a horizon of about 18,000 yards.

Note that Director #2 has received the (then) new microwave radar MK.8. with the radar operator’s station with Mod.1 equipment in Gun Director MK 38) seen here.

The large stove pipes at the ends of her yards are IFF antennas and inboard of them anemometers and weather-vanes. (weather effects on fire control).

Atop the Foremast radar platform SC-2, an air search radar with a 15ft x 4ft 6in reflector using a 6x2 array of dipoles. SC-2 incorporated a PPI.

One “SG” Surface search radar is fitted atop the Mainmast, the other Fwd.of her Air Defense Level.

South Dakota had an extra Conning Tower level to fit her for duty as Flagship. Weight compensation included the elimination of two 5-Inch Twin Mounts. A quadruple 40mm mount such as fitted atop her three near-sister’s #2 16-Inch turret would block the view of the lower vision slits. South Dakota therefore received an extra quadruple 40mm mount Mk.2 on both sides of her stack. (Pictured here is Antenna Mount MK.25 Mod.O, installed on the quadruple 40mm mount MK.4..

(Pictured here is an image of Antenna Mount MK.25 Mod.O with radar Mk.34(taken aboard a Canadian destroyer, HMCS Haida .

South Dakota (BB-57) followed by Alabama (BB-60) on their way to the Marshalls to shell Roi and Namur islands on 1 February 1944.

Japanese harbor pilot aboard South Dakota (BB-57) entering Tokyo Bay.


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