One of two surviving South Dakota-class battleships, Alabama was commissioned in 1942 and spent forty months in active service in World War II's Pacific theater, earning nine battle stars over twenty-six engagements with the Japanese. The keel of the USS ALABAMA (BB-60) was laid at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 1 February 1940, the sixth vessel to bear the name of Alabama. At the outbreak of hostilities, her hull construction was nearing completion. Some two years later (16 February 1942), the new South Dakota Class battleship was launched in a colorful ceremony attended by many national figures. Sponsoring the vessel was Mrs. Lister Hill, wife of Alabama's Senator Hill. On 16 August 1942, in ceremonies at Portsmouth, Virginia, the new ship was placed in full commission and Captain George B. Wilson, USN, assumed command.
Battle History of the USS Alabama:
The USS Alabama's first major Pacific engagement was in the Gilbert Islands in November and December 1943. From this assignment, the battleship proceeded to Roi and Nauru. After heavily bombarding these installations, she moved to Kwajalein and Majuro were secured, the fleet moved into anchorage, and commenced planning the forthcoming attack on the Caroline and Marianas Islands.
The days and nights of 21-24 April 1944 were spent in supporting the operations along the North coast of New Guinea, where General MacArthur's troops moved ashore at Hollandia, Ataipe, and Humboldt Bay. Steaming at top speed, ALABAMA arrived back in the Carolines in time to participate in the bombardment and strikes on Ponape and Truk on 29, 30 April, and 1 May 1944. The remainder of May 1944 was spent at anchor in Majuro Harbor.
ALABAMA steamed with TG58.7 during the battle of the Philippine Sea, 19-20 June 1944, and her group downed nine enemy planes. The result of the action was some 476 enemy planes destroyed out of a total of 545 sighted, to only 130 American planes lost and minor damage to four ships. When the fight was broken off, the U.S. force made an attempt to catch the enemy fleet, but their high speed retirement made it impossible to make surface contact. Pursuit was abandoned and ALABAMA, in company with other units, returned to support operations ashore.
While undergoing an 18 day logistics period at Eniwetok, Captain Vincent R. Murphy, USN, relieved Captain Kirtland as commanding officer of BB-60. With Captain Murphy as skipper, ALABAMA participated in the series of attacks and raids in connection with the capture and occupation of the Southern Carolines and the Palaus. This operation was carried on throughout September 1944.
Moving southward, the fast ships launched strikes at various enemy installations in the Philippines, shooting down 3 enemy planes and damaging a 4th. In late October, it became apparent that the enemy was moving a strong surface force into the area to oppose U.S. landings. ALABAMA was the member of Admiral Halsey's force which fought in battle off Cape Ehgano on 25 October as a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. This battle removed the enemy's threat to Allied landing in the Philippines, and cleared the path for further operations.
During the vessel's overhaul, crewmen was granted rehabilitation leave to rest up after two long years of continuous operation in the forward area. After clearing the shipyards, ALABAMA held refresher training exercises in the waters off Lower California, and proceeded then to join the Fleet at the anchorage in Ulithi, arriving in early May 1945. As a member of the THIRD and FIFTH Fleet, the battleship participated in the Okinawa Gunto supporting raids on the Japanese home islands.
On 5 June, while conducting operations off Kyushu, the task force rode out a typhoon with ALABAMA experiencing slight damage, and cruiser PITTSBURGH losing nearly 100 feet of her bow. On 10 June, ALABAMA received orders to proceed southward and join other battleships in the bombardment of Minami Daito Jima. This new assignment was carried out, and the ship proceeded to the newly developed base in Leyte Gulf.
ALABAMA got her chance on 17 July 1945, with her principal target for the bombardment an engineering works on Honshu Island, about 50 miles north of Tokyo. Some 1500 tons of shells were thrown into the mills and factories under the cover of darkness, but the destruction could not be observed due to a heavy rainstorm. Nevertheless, ALABAMA later learned that she had done a very handsome job of demolishing the targets assigned her.