Posted by: arbeam | September 5, 2015

USS Washington History: BB-56

USS Washington BB-56 at Puget Sound Navy Yard April 1944

USS Washington BB-56 at Puget Sound Navy Yard                                  April 1944

USS Washington (BB-56) was laid down on 14 June 1938 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 1 June 1940; sponsored by Miss Virginia Marshall, of Spokane, Wash., a direct descendant of former Chief Justice Marshall; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 May 1941, Capt. Howard H. J. Benson in command.

Characteristics: Displacement 36,000; length 729’; beam 108’; draft 38′; speed 28 knots; complement 108 officers, 1,772 men; armament 9-16 inch, 20-5 inch, 16 1.1 inch guns, 2 aircraft Catapults; class Carolina

USS Washington BB-56 1Washington was assigned operations in the Atlantic fleet with the Home Fleet, patrolling part of the Allied shipping lanes leading to Russian ports. Washington sailed for the Pacific on 23 August 1942, with Rear Admiral Willis A. “Ching” Lee, Jr., embarked as Commander, Battleship Division (BatDiv) 6, and Commander, Task Group 12.2.

Washington was one of the first to be equipped with fully operational radar. She has the distinction of being the only American battleship to sink an enemy battleship during World War II in a “one on one” surface engagement.

On 15 November 1942 Washington engaged the Japanese Battleship Kirishima, in the first head-to-head confrontation of battleships in the Pacific war. USS Washington and USS South Dakota as part of Task Force 64 was defending the invasion of Guadalcanal in what became the Battle of Savo Island. In seven minutes, tracking by radar, Washington sent 75 rounds of 16-inch and 107 rounds of 5-inch at ranges from 8,400 to 12,650 yards, scoring at least nine hits with her main battery and about 40 with her 5-inchers, silencing the enemy battleship in short order. The Japanese had lost the battleship Kirishima. Left burning and exploding, she later had to be abandoned and scuttled.

USS Washington went on to fight in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea, then Washington’s heavy guns supported the taking of Peleliu and Angaur in the Palaus. Washington, as a vital unit of the fast carrier striking forces, supported raids on Okinawa, in the Ryukyus; Formosa; Luzon; Camranh Bay, French Indochina; Saigon, French Indochina; Hong Kong; Canton; Hainan Island; Nansei Shoto. Washington’s heavy rifles hurled 16-inch shells shoreward in support of the landings on Iwo Jima. Washington lent her support to the shellings of Japanese positions on the island of Okinawa.


On 1 February 1944, Washington rammed the battleship Indiana when the latter was maneuvering across the formation to refuel destroyers. With around 60 feet (18 m) of her bow heavily damaged, a full restoration was conducted at Puget Sound Navy Yard.

Washington suffered no losses to hostile action during the entire course of the war. Washington (BB-56) earned 13 battle stars during World War II in operations that had carried her from the Arctic to the western Pacific.

Washington (BB-56) earned 13 battle stars during World War II in operations that had carried her from the Arctic to the western Pacific.

After a brief stint as a transport, Washington was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 27 June 1947. Assigned to the New York group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Washington remained inactive through the late 1950’s, ultimately being struck from the Navy list on 1 June I960. The old warrior was sold on 24 May 1961 to the Lipsett Division, Luria Bros., of New York City, and was scrapped soon thereafter.


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