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FORUM WEEK 1,992-Battleship South Dakota

by Jon Michaels

Public Affairs Director, Jon Michaels speaks with Retired Navy Captain,Diane Diekman, and Karen Dunham about the Battleship Memorial in Sioux Falls.

(from the website)

South Dakota Class (BB-57 through BB-60),
1939 Building Program

The four South Dakota class battleships represented the second group of 35,000-ton capital ships whose construction began shortly before the Second World War. Built with Fiscal Year 1939 appropriations, they were more compact and better protected than the preceding North Carolina class , but had the same main battery of nine 16"/45 guns in triple turrets. Their innovative hull design featured an internal armor belt, to protect the ships' vitals against 16" shells, and outboard propeller shafts that extended further aft than the inboard ones. They also had improved anti-torpedo side protection and more powerful engines, the latter being necessary to drive their shorter hulls at the designed 27-knot speed. Compared with her three "sisters", South Dakota had extra command facilities and two fewer 5-inch twin gun mounts.

These ships were all completed in March-August 1942, providing a welcome reinforcement to the Navy's surface battle fleet at a critical stage of World War II. In 1942-43, they stood guard in the Atlantic against possible sorties by German battleships, took part in the invasion of North Africa and in operations around Guadalcanal. During the latter campaign, South Dakota was damaged in a gunnery engagement with a Japanese force that included the old battleship Kirishima . As the U.S. went on the offensive in the Central Pacific, they joined in escorting the fast carrier task forces, a job for which their heavy anti-aircraft gun batteries were well-suited. They also employed their main battery guns in shore bombardment, and were kept ready to form battle line in case their Japanese opposite numbers should appear.

All four South Dakota class battleships went into reserve after World War II and saw no further active service. When they were disposed of in the early 1960s, Alabama and Massachusetts became a memorials. The other two were sold for scrapping.

The South Dakota class consisted of four ships, all constructed at east coast shipyards:

  • South Dakota (BB-57) , built at Camden, New Jersey. Keel laid in July 1939; launched in June 1941; commissioned in March 1942.
  • Indiana (BB-58) , built at Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in November 1939; launched in November 1941; commissioned in April 1942.
  • Massachusetts (BB-59) , built at Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in July 1939; launched in September 1941; commissioned in May 1942.
  • Alabama (BB-60) , built at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Keel laid in February 1940; launched in February 1942; commissioned in August 1942.
  • South Dakota class design characteristics:

  • Displacement: 35,000 tons (standard)
  • Dimensions: 680' (length overall); 108' 2" (maximum beam)
  • Powerplant: 130,000 horsepower steam turbines, producing a 27 knot maximum speed
  • Armament (Main Battery): Nine 16"/45 guns in three triple turrets
  • Armament (Secondary Battery): Twenty 5"/38 guns in ten twin mountings (ten guns on each side of the ship). South Dakota had sixteen 5"/38 guns in eight twin mountings (eight guns on each side of the ship).
  • This page features a small selection of photographs of South Dakota class battleships, plus images related to these ships' basic design features, and provides links to more extensive pictorial coverage of the individual ships.

    Coverage of other classes of U.S. Navy battleships: Battleships - Overview and Special Image Selection .

    Click photograph for larger image.

    Photo #: NH 54603

    Opening Bids for Three New Battleships, 2 November 1938


    Scene in the Secretary of the Navy's office, as bids are opened for the construction of the battleships South Dakota (BB-57), Indiana (BB-58) and Massachusetts (BB-59).
    Seated at the table are (left to right):
    Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Naval Operations;
    Secretary of the Navy Claude Swanson;
    Rear Admiral Walter B. Woodson, Judge Advocate General; and
    Rear Admiral William G. DuBose, Chief, Bureau of Construction and Repair.
    Rear Admiral Harold G. Bowen, Chief, Bureau of Engineering, is standing at the far right, talking to Rear Admiral DuBose.
    The others present are not identified.

    U.S. Naval History &Amp Heritage Command Photograph.

    Online Image: 119KB; 740 x 610 pixels
    Photo #: NH 97264

    USS South Dakota (BB-57)


    Off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 20 August 1943.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

    Online Image: 93KB; 740 x 595 pixels
    Photo #: 80-G-222923

    USS Indiana (BB-58)


    Steaming with Task Force 58.1 on 27 January 1944, en route to attack Taroa Island airfield, Maloelap Atoll, Marshall Islands.
    Taken by a USS Enterprise (CV-6) photographer.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 174KB; 740 x 615 pixels

    Reproductions may also be available through the National Archives .
    Photo #: NH 97255

    USS Massachusetts (BB-59)


    Underway at 15 knots off Point Wilson, Washington, on 11 July 1944.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

    Online Image: 94KB; 740 x 595 pixels
    Photo #: NH 57209

    USS Alabama (BB-60)


    Anchored in Casco Bay, Maine, circa December 1942.

    U.S. Naval History &Amp Heritage Command Photograph.

    Online Image: 122KB; 740 x 620 pixels
    Photo #: 80-G-K-9410 (Color)

    USS Alabama (BB-60)

    Ship's forward 16"/45 guns train to starboard during a North Atlantic battle practice. Photographed during her shakedown period, circa December 1942 - January 1943.
    Note: Ice and snow on turrets and decks.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 152KB; 740 x 610 pixels

    Reproductions may also be available through the National Archives .

    The following images show distinctive interior and underwater design features of the South Dakota class battleships:

    Photo #: 19-N-28532

    USS South Dakota (BB-57)


    Under construction at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey, 1 April 1940.
    This view, taken looking forward from Frame # 115, shows the ship's interior amidships, including six major watertight transverse bulkheads and anti-torpedo longitudinal bulkheads along the sides. Note the inward slope of the side bulkheads, corresponding to the slope of the battleship's side armor.

    Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

    Online Image: 189KB; 590 x 765 pixels

    Reproductions may also be available through the National Archives .
    Photo #: NH 93908

    Hull test model for the BB-57 ( South Dakota ) class battleships


    Hull model number 3536, photographed at the Experimental Model Basin, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., in 1938.
    Note the widely spaced skegs, supporting the outboard propeller shafts, that were a unique feature of this battleship class.

    Copied from the Bureau of Ships monograph "United States Battleship Designs for World War II", dated 1 June 1946.

    U.S. Naval History &Amp Heritage Command Photograph.

    Online Image: 76KB; 580 x 765 pixels
    Photo #: NH 93910

    USS Indiana (BB-58)


    View of the ship's stern, showing her twin outboard skegs, with five-bladed propellers at their after ends. Four-bladed inboard propellers are faintly visible, with the ship's twin rudders directly aft of them.
    Taken in drydock at the Newport News Ship Building and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia, 13 March 1942.

    Copied from the Bureau of Ships monograph "United States Battleship Designs for World War II", dated 1 June 1946.

    U.S. Naval History &Amp Heritage Command Photograph.

    Online Image: 56KB; 595 x 765 pixels
    Photo #: NH 93909

    USS Indiana (BB-58)


    View under the ship's hull, looking aft to show all four propellers. Taken in drydock at the Newport News Ship Building and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia, 13 March 1942.
    This photograph shows the outboard skegs, incorporating the outer propeller shafts, that were a feature of this class of battleship. The ship's twin rudders are directly aft of the inboard propellers.

    Copied from the Bureau of Ships monograph "United States Battleship Designs for World War II", dated 1 June 1946.

    U.S. Naval History &Amp Heritage Command Photograph.

    Online Image: 59KB; 740 x 530 pixels

    The following images show general arrangment drawings, prepared for camouflage design purposes, of three of the South Dakota class battleships:

    Photo #: 80-G-156818

    USS Indiana
    (BB-58); USS Massachusetts (BB-59); and USS Alabama (BB-60)

    Drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for use in preparing camouflage designs, circa 1943.
    This plan shows the ship's starboard side, superstructure ends and exposed decks.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 156KB; 1500 x 680 pixels

    Reproductions may also be available through the National Archives .
    Photo #: 80-G-156819

    USS Indiana (BB-58); USS Massachusetts (BB-59);
    and USS Alabama (BB-60)

    Drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for use in preparing camouflage designs, circa 1943.
    This plan shows the ship's port side.

    Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

    Online Image: 71KB; 1500 x 470 pixels

    Reproductions may also be available through the National Archives .