- USS Arkansas (BB-33)
USS "Arkansas" (BB-33), a Sclass|Wyoming|battleship was the third ship of the
United States Navynamed in honor of the 25th state.
Her keel was laid down on
25 January 1910at Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. She was launched on 14 January 1911sponsored by Miss Nancy Louise Macon, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yardon 17 September 1912with Captain Roy C. Smith in command.
The new battleship took part in a fleet review by
President of the United States William H. Taftin the Hudson Riveroff New York Cityon 14 October, and received a visit from the Chief Executive that day. She then transported President Taft to the Panama Canal Zonefor an inspection of the unfinished isthmian waterway. After putting the inspection party ashore, "Arkansas" sailed to Cuban waters for shakedown training. She then returned to the Canal Zone on 26 Decemberto carry President Taft to Key West, Florida.
First overseas cruise
Following this assignment, "Arkansas" joined the Atlantic Fleet for maneuvers along the east coast. The battleship began her first overseas cruise in late October 1913, and visited several ports in the
Mediterranean Sea. At Naples, Italy, on 11 November 1913, the ship celebrated the birthday of King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy.
Earlier, in October 1913, a coup in
Mexicohad brought to power a dictator, Victoriano Huerta. President of the United States Woodrow Wilsondisapproved of the way in which Huerta had come to power, and insisted on a representative government, rather than a dictatorial one, south of the American-Mexican border. Mexico had been in turmoil for several years, and the United States Navy maintained a force of ships in those waters ready to protect American lives.
In a situation where tension exists between two powers, incidents are bound to occur. One such occurred at
Tampicoin the spring of 1914, and although the misunderstanding was quickly cleared up locally, the prevailing state of tension produced an explosive situation. Learning that a shipment of arms for Huerta was due to arrive at Veracruz, President Wilson ordered the Navy to prevent the landing of the guns by seizing the customs house at that port.
While a naval force under Rear Admiral
Henry T. Mayowas already present in Mexican waters, the President directed that the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, under Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, proceed to Veracruz. "Arkansas" participated in the landings at Veracruz, contributing a battalion of four companies of bluejackets, a total of 17 officers and 313 enlisted men under the command of Lieutenant Comdr. Arthur B. Keating. Among the junior officers was Lieutenant (junior grade) Jonas H. Ingram, who would be awarded the Medal of Honorfor heroism at Veracruz, as would Lieutenant John Grady, who commanded the artillery of the Second Seaman Regiment.
22 April, "Arkansas" 's men took part in the slow, methodical street fighting that eventually secured the city. Two "Arkansas" sailors, Ordinary Seamen Louis O. Fried and William L. Watson, died of their wounds on 22 April. "Arkansas"'s battalion returned to the ship on 30 April, and the ship remained in Mexican waters through the summer before setting course on 30 Septemberto return to the east coast. During her stay at Veracruz, she received calls from Captain Franz von Papen, the German military attaché to the United States and Mexico, and Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock, on 10 Mayand 30 May 1914, respectively.
The battleship reached
Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 7 October, and after a week of exercises, "Arkansas" sailed to the New York Navy Yard, for repairs and alterations. She then returned to the Virginia Capesarea for maneuvers on the Southern Drill Grounds. On 12 December, "Arkansas" returned to the New York Navy Yard for further repairs.
She was underway again on
16 January 1915, and returned to the Southern Drill Grounds for exercises there from 19 Januaryto 21 January. Upon completion of these, "Arkansas" sailed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for fleet exercises. Returning to Hampton Roads on 7 April, the battleship began another training period in the Southern Drill Grounds. On 23 April, she headed to the New York Navy Yard for a two-month repair period. "Arkansas" then left New York Cityon 25 Junebound for Newport, Rhode Island. She conducted torpedo practice and tactical maneuvers in Narragansett Baythrough late August.
Returning to Hampton Roads on
27 August, the battleship engaged in maneuvers in the Norfolk area through 4 October, then sailed once again to Newport. There, "Arkansas" carried out strategic exercises from 5 Octoberto 14 October. On 15 October, the battleship arrived at the New York Navy Yardfor drydocking. Underway on 8 November, she returned to Hampton Roads. After a period of routine operations, "Arkansas" went back to Brooklynfor repairs on 19 October. The ship sailed on 5 January 1916for Hampton Roads. Pausing there only briefly, "Arkansas" pushed on to the Caribbean Seafor winter maneuvers.
She visited the
West Indiesand Guantanamo Bay before returning to the United Stateson 12 Marchfor torpedopractice off Mobile Bay. The battleship then steamed back to Guantanamo Bay on 20 Marchand remained there until mid-April. On 15 April, the battleship was once again at the New York Navy Yard for overhaul.
World War I
6 April 1917, the United States entered World War Ion the side of the Allied and Associated Powers. The declaration of war found "Arkansas" attached to Battleship Division 7 and patrolling the York River in Virginia. For the next 14 months, "Arkansas" carried out patrol duty along the east coast and trained gun crews for duty on armed merchantmen.
In July 1918, "Arkansas" received orders to proceed to
Rosyth, Scotlandto relieve "Delaware" (Battleship No. 28). "Arkansas" sailed on 14 July. On the eve of her arrival in Scotland, the battleship opened fire on what was believed to be the periscope wake of a German U-boat. Her escorting destroyers dropped depth charges, but scored no hits. "Arkansas" then proceeded without incident and dropped anchor at Rosyth on 28 July.
Throughout the remaining three and one-half months of war, "Arkansas" and the other American battleships in Rosyth operated as part of the British Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron.
The armistice ending World War I became effective on
11 November. The 6th Battle Squadron and other Royal Navy units sailed to a point some 40 miles east of May Islandat the entrance of the Firth of Forth. "Arkansas" was present at the internment of the German High Seas Fleet in the Firth of Forth on 21 November 1918.
The American battleships were detached from the
British Grand Fleeton 1 December. From the Firth of Forth, "Arkansas" sailed to the Isle of Portland, England, then out to sea to meet the transportSS "George Washington", with President Wilson on board. "Arkansas", along with other American battleships, escorted the President's ship into Brest, France, on 13 December 1918. From that French port, "Arkansas" sailed to New York City, where she arrived on 26 Decemberto a tumultuous welcome. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Danielsreviewed the assembled battleship fleet from the yacht SS "Mayflower".
Following an overhaul the
Norfolk Navy Yard, "Arkansas" joined the fleet in Cuban waters for winter maneuvers. Soon thereafter, the battleship got underway to cross the Atlantic. On 12 May 1919, she reached Plymouth; thence she headed back out in the Atlantic to take weather observations on 19 Mayand act as a reference vessel for the flight of the Navy Curtiss NC flying boats from Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, to Europe.
Her role in that venture competed, "Arkansas" proceeded thence to Brest, where she embarked Admiral
William S. Benson, the Chief of Naval Operations, and his wife, on 10 June, upon the admiral's return from the Peace Conference in Paris, before departing for New York. She arrived on 20 June 1919.
"Arkansas" sailed from Hampton Roads on
19 July 1919, assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Proceeding via the Panama Canal, the battleship steamed to San Francisco, California, where, on 6 September 1919, she embarked Secretary and Mrs. Josephus Daniels. Disembarking the Secretary and his wife at Blakely Harbor, Washington, on 12 September, "Arkansas" was reviewed by President Wilson on 13 September, the Chief Executive having embarked in the famed "Oregon" (Battleship No. 3). On 19 September 1919, "Arkansas" entered the Puget Sound Navy Yardfor a general overhaul. Resuming her operations with the fleet in May 1920, "Arkansas" operated off the California coast. On 17 July 1920, "Arkansas" received the designation BB-33 as the ships of the fleet received alphanumeric hull classification symbols. That September, she cruised to Hawaiifor the first time. Early in 1921, the battleship visited Valparaíso, Chile, manning the railin honor of President of Chile Arturo Alessandri Palma.
"Arkansas"'s peacetime routine consisted of an annual cycle of training interspersed with periods of upkeep or overhaul. The battleship's schedule also included competitions in gunnery and engineering and an annual fleet problem. Becoming flagship for the Commander, Battleship Force,
U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in the summer of 1921, "Arkansas" began operations off the east coast that August.
For a number of years, "Arkansas" was detailed to take midshipmen from the
United States Naval Academyon their summer cruises. In 1923, the battleship steamed to Europe, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark(where she was visited by King Christian X of Denmarkon 2 July 1923); Lisbon, Portugal; and Gibraltar. "Arkansas" conducted another midshipman training cruise to European waters the following year, 1924. In 1925, the cruise was to the west coast of the United States. During this time, on 30 June 1925, "Arkansas" arrived at Santa Barbara, Californiain the wake of an earthquake. The battleship, along with "McCawley" (DD-276) and Eagle class patrol craftPE-34 landed a patrol of bluejackets for policing Santa Barbara, and established a temporary radio station ashore for the transmission of messages.
Upon completion of the 1925 midshipman cruise, "Arkansas" entered the
Philadelphia Navy Yardfor modernization. Her coal-burning boilers were replaced with oil-fired ones. Additional deck armor was installed, a single stack was substituted for the original pair, and the after cage mast was replaced by a low tripod. "Arkansas" left the yard in November 1926 and, after a shakedown cruise along the eastern seaboard and to Cuban waters, returned to Philadelphia to run acceptance trials. Resuming her duty with the fleet soon thereafter, she operated from Maineto the Caribbean Sea; on 5 September 1927, she was present at ceremonies unveiling a memorial tablet honoring the French soldiers and sailors who died during the campaign at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781.
In May 1928, "Arkansas" again embarked midshipmen for their practice cruise along the eastern seaboard and down into Cuban waters. During the first part of 1929, she operated near the Canal Zone and in the Caribbean, returning in May 1929 to the
New York Navy Yardfor overhaul. After embarking midshipmen at Annapolis, Maryland, "Arkansas" carried out her 1929 practice cruise to Mediterranean and English waters, returning in August to operate with the Scouting Fleetoff the east coast.
In 1930 and 1931, "Arkansas" was again detailed to carry out midshipmen's practice cruises; in the former year she visited
Cherbourg, France; Kiel, Germany; Oslo, Norway; and Edinburgh, Scotland; in the latter her itinerary included Copenhagen, Denmark; Greenock, Scotland; and Cadiz, Spain, as well as Gibraltar. In September 1931, the ship visited Halifax, Nova Scotia. In October "Arkansas" participated in the Yorktown Sesquicentennial celebrations, embarking President Herbert Hooverand his party on 17 Octoberand taking them to the exposition. She later transported the Chief Executive and his party back to Annapolis on 19 Octoberand 20 October. Upon her return, the battleship entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she remained untilJanuary 1932.
Upon leaving the navy yard, "Arkansas" sailed for the west coast, calling at
New Orleans, Louisiana, en route, to participate in the New Orleans Mardi Grascelebration. Assigned duty as flagship of the Training Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, "Arkansas" operated continuously on the west coast of the United States into the spring of 1934, at which time she returned to the east coast.
In the summer of 1934, the battleship conducted a midshipman practice cruise to
Plymouth; Nice, France; Naples, Italy, and to Gibraltar, returning to Annapolis in August; proceeding thence to Newport, Rhode Island, where she manned the railfor President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he passed on board the yacht "Nourmalhal", and was present for the International Yacht Race. "Arkansas"' cutter defeated the cutter from the British light cruiserHMS "Dragon" for the Battenberg Cup, and the City of Newport Cup.
In January 1935, "Arkansas" transported the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, to
Culebrafor a fleet landing exercise, and in June conducted a midshipman practice cruise to Europe, visiting Edinburgh, Oslo(where King Haakon VII of Norwayvisited the ship), Copenhagen, Gibraltarand Funchalon the island of Madeira. After disembarking United States Naval Academymidshipmen at Annapolis in August 1935, "Arkansas" proceeded to New York City. There, she embarked reservists from the New York area and conducted a Naval Reserve cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotiain September. Upon completion of that duty, she under went repairs and alterations at the New York Navy Yard that October.
In January 1936, "Arkansas" participated in Fleet Landing Exercise No. 2 at Culebra, and then visited New Orleans for the Mardi Gras festivities before she returned to Norfolk for a navy yard overhaul which lasted through the spring of 1936. That summer she carried out a midshipman training cruise to
Portsmouth, England; Goteborg, Sweden; and Cherbourg, before she returned to Annapolis that August. Steaming thence to Boston, the battleship conducted a Naval Reserve training cruise before putting into the Norfolk Navy Yardfor an overhaul that October.
The following year, 1937, saw "Arkansas" make a midshipman practice cruise to European waters, visiting ports in Germany and England, before she returned to the east coast of the United States for local operations out of Norfolk. During the latter part of the year, the ship also ranged from Philadelphia and Boston to St. Thomas,
U.S. Virgin Islands, and Cuban waters. During 1938 and 1939, the pattern of operations largely remained as it had been in previous years, her duties in the Training Squadron largely confining her to the waters of the eastern seaboard.
World War II
The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 found "Arkansas" at
Hampton Roads, preparing for a Naval Reserve cruise. She soon got underway and transported seaplane mooring and aviation equipment from the naval air station at Norfolk to Narragansett Bayfor the seaplane base that was to be established there. While at Newport, "Arkansas" took on board ordnance material for destroyers and brought it back to Hampton Roads.
"Arkansas" departed from Norfolk on
11 January 1940, in company with "Texas" (BB-35) and "New York" (BB-34), and proceeded thence to Guantanamo Bay for fleet exercises. She then participated in landing exercises at Culebra that February, returning via St. Thomas and Culebra to Norfolk. Following an overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard ( 18 Marchto 24 May), "Arkansas" shifted to the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk, where she remained until 30 May. Sailing on that day for Annapolis, the battleship, along with "Texas" and "New York", conducted a midshipman training cruise to Panamaand Venezuelathat summer. Before the year was out, "Arkansas" would conduct three V-7 Naval Reserve training cruises, these voyages taking her to Guantanamo Bay, the Canal Zone, and Chesapeake Bay.
Over the months that followed, the United States gradually edged toward war in the Atlantic; early the following summer, after the decision to occupy
Icelandhad been reached, "Arkansas" accompanied the initial contingent of marines to that place. That battleship, along with "New York", and the light cruiser"Brooklyn" (CL-40) provided the heavy escort for the convoy. Following this assignment, "Arkansas" sailed to NS Argentia, Newfoundland for the Atlantic Charterconference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which took place on board the Royal Navy battleship HMS "Prince of Wales". During the conference, "Arkansas" provided accommodations for the Under Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, and Mr. Averell Harriman from 8 Augustto 14 August 1941.
The outbreak of war with the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harborfound "Arkansas" at anchor in Casco Bay, Maine. One week later, on 14 December, she sailed to Hvalfjordur, Iceland. Returning to Boston via NS Argentia on 24 January 1942, "Arkansas" spent the month of February carrying out exercises in Casco Bay in preparation for her role as an escort for troop and cargo transports. On 6 March, she arrived at Norfolk to begin overhaul. The secondary battery was reduced to six 5"/51 caliber guns. Underway on 2 July, "Arkansas" conducted shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, then proceeded to New York City, where she arrived on 27 July.
The battleship sailed from New York on
6 August, as flagship of Task Force #38, a troopship convoy of twelve transports, with fourteen destroyers, bound for Greenock, Scotland. Two days later, the ships paused at Halifax, Nova Scotia, then continued on through the stormy North Atlantic. The convoy reached Greenock on 17 August, and "Arkansas" returned to New York on 4 September. She escorted another Greenock-bound convoy across the Atlantic, then arrived back at New York on 20 October. With the Allied invasion of North Africa, American convoys were routed to Casablancato support the operations. Departing from New York on 3 November, "Arkansas" covered a troop convoy to Morocco, and returned to New York on 11 Decemberfor overhaul.
2 January 1943, "Arkansas" sailed to Chesapeake Bayfor gunnery drills. She returned to New York on 30 Januaryand began loading supplies for yet another transatlantic trip. The battleship made two runs between Casablanca and New York City from February through April. In early May, "Arkansas" was dry-docked at the New York Navy Yard, emerging from that period of yard work to proceed to Norfolk on 26 May.
"Arkansas" assumed her new duty as a training ship for midshipmen, based at Norfolk. After four months of operations in Chesapeake Bay, the battleship returned to New York to resume her role as a convoy escort. On
8 October, the ship sailed for Bangor, Northern Ireland. She was in that port throughout November, and got underway to return to New York on 1 December. "Arkansas" then began a period of repairs on 12 December. Clearing New York for Norfolk two days after Christmasof 1943, "Arkansas" closed the year in that port.
The battleship sailed on
19 January 1944with a convoy bound for Northern Ireland. After seeing the convoy safely to its destination, the ship reversed her course across the Atlantic and reached New York on 13 February. "Arkansas" went to Casco Bay on 28 Marchfor gunnery exercises, before she proceeded to Boston on 11 Aprilfor repairs.
18 April, "Arkansas" sailed once more for Bangor, Northern Ireland. Upon her arrival, the battleship began a training period to prepare for her new role as a shore bombardment ship. On 3 June, "Arkansas" sailed for the French coast to support the Allied invasion of Normandy. The ship entered the Baie de la Seineon 6 June, and took up a position 4,000 yards off "Omaha" beach. At 0552, "Arkansas"'s guns opened fire. During the day, the venerable battleship underwent shore battery fire and air attacks; over ensuing days, she continued her fire support. On 13 June, "Arkansas" shifted to a position off Grandcamp les Bains. VCS-7, a U.S Navy Spotter Squadron flying Supermarine SpitfireVBs and Seafire IIIs, was one of the units which provided targeting coordinates and fire control. [ [http://spitfiresite.com/history/articles/2008/01/spitfires-in-us-navy.htm VCS-7] ]
25 June 1944, "Arkansas" dueled with German shore batteries off Cherbourg, the enemy repeatedly straddling the battleship but never hitting her. Her big guns helped support the Allied attack on that key port, and led to the capture of it the following day. Retiring to Weymouth, England, and arriving there at 2220, the battleship shifted to Bangor, on 30 June.
"Arkansas" stood out to sea on
4 July, bound for the Mediterranean Sea. She passed through the Strait of Gibraltarand anchored at Oran, Algeria, on 10 July. On 18 July, she got underway, and reached Taranto, Italy, on 21 July. The battleship remained there until 6 August, then shifted to Palermo, Sicily, on 7 August.
14 August, Operation "Anvil," the invasion of the southern French coast between Toulonand Cannes, began. "Arkansas" provided fire support for the initial landings on 15 August, and continued her bombardment through 17 August. After stops at Palermo and Oran, "Arkansas" set course for the United States. On 14 September, she reached Boston, and received repairs and alterations through early November. The yard period completed on 7 November, "Arkansas" sailed to Casco Bay for three days of refresher training. On 10 November, "Arkansas" shaped a course south for the Panama CanalZone. After transiting the canal on 22 November, "Arkansas" headed for San Pedro, California. On 29 November, the ship was again underway for exercises held off San Diego, California. She returned on 10 Decemberto San Pedro.
After three more weeks of preparations, "Arkansas" sailed for
Pearl Harboron 20 January 1945. One day after her arrival there, she sailed for Ulithi, the major fleet staging area in the Caroline Islands, and continued thence to Tinian, where she arrived on 12 February. For two days, the vessel held shore bombardment practice prior to her participation in the assault on Iwo Jima.
At 0600 on
16 February, "Arkansas" opened fire on Japanese strong points on Iwo Jima as she lay off the island's west coast. The old battlewagon bombarded the island through 19 February, and remained in the fire support area to provide cover during the evening hours. During her time off the embattled island, "Arkansas" shelled numerous Japanese positions, in support of the bitter struggle by the marines to root out and destroy the stubborn enemy resistance. She cleared the waters off Iwo Jima on 7 Marchto return to Ulithi. After arriving at that atoll on 10 March, the battleship rearmed, provisioned, and fueled in preparation for her next operation, the invasion of Okinawa.
Getting underway on
21 March, "Arkansas" began her preliminary shelling of Japanese positions on Okinawa on 25 March, some days ahead of the assault troops which began wading ashore on 1 April. The Japanese soon began an aerial onslaught, and "Arkansas" fended off several kamikazes. For 46 days, "Arkansas" delivered fire support for the invasion of Okinawa. On 14 May, the ship arrived at Apra Harbor, Guam, to await further assignment.
After a month at Apra Harbor, part of which she spent in drydock, "Arkansas" got underway on
12 Junefor Leyte Gulf. She anchored there on 16 June, and remained in Philippine waters until the war drew to a close in August. On 20 August, "Arkansas" left Leyte to return to Okinawa, and reached Buckner Bayon 23 August. After a month spent in port, "Arkansas" embarked approximately 800 troops for transport to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet to return American servicemen home as quickly as possible. Sailing on 23 September, "Arkansas" paused briefly at Pearl Harbor en route, and ultimately reached Seattle, Washington, on 15 October. During the remainder of the year, the battleship made three more trips to Pearl Harbor to shuttle soldiers back to the United States.
During the first months of 1946, "Arkansas" lay at
San Francisco, California. In late April the ship got underway for Hawaii. She reached Pearl Harbor on 8 May, and stood out of Pearl Harbor on 20 May, bound for Bikini Atoll, earmarked for use as target for atomic bombtesting in Operation Crossroads. On 1 July 1946, the "Arkansas" was to have been sunk via atomic bomb as part of nuclear test ABLE, but survived. On 25 July 1946, the venerable battleship was sunk by the United States first underwater nuclear test BAKER at Bikini Atoll. Decommissioned on 29 July 1946, "Arkansas" was struck from the Naval Vessel Registeron 15 August 1946.
"Arkansas" received four
battle stars for her World War IIservice.
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-a/bb33.htm US Navy Historical Center - USS Arkansas gallery]
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq76-4.htm US Navy Historical Center - List of ships sunk during test Baker]
* [http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/us_navy_pages/uss_arkansas_bb33.htm Maritimequest USS Arkansas BB-33 photo gallery]
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/albums/s582/s582.htm "Our European Cruise. October 25th, to December 15th, 1913"] , a contemporary album of photographs from the 1913 Mediterranean cruise of the "Arkansas", with typed commentary by a crewmember.
* [http://eeweems.com/uss_arkansas/index.html USS Arkansas BB-33] Images, text and links about the American Battleship
* [http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/33a.htm NavSource Online: Battleship Photo Archive BB-33 USS ARKANSAS 1910 - 1926]
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