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  USS California BB-44
Tennessee Class Battleship

32,300 tons
624.5' x 97.3' x 114'
As built
12 x 14" main guns
14 x 5" guns
4 x 3" guns
2 x torpedo tubes
Click For Enlargement
USN December 7, 1941

Ship History
The fifth ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 31st state. Her keel was laid down on 25 October 1916 by the Mare Island Navy Yard. She was launched 20 November 1919 sponsored by Mrs. R.T. Zane; and commissioned 10 August 1921 with Captain H.J. Ziegemeier in command. She immediately reported to the Pacific Fleet as flagship.

Between 1921 until 1941, California served first as flagship of the Pacific Fleet, then as flagship of the Battle Fleet (Battle Force), U.S. Fleet. Her annual activities included joint Army-Navy exercises, tactical and organizational development problems, and fleet concentrations for various purposes. Intensive training and superior performance won her the Battle Efficiency Pennant for 1921 and 1922, and the Gunnery "E" for 1925 and 1926.

In the summer of 1925 California led the Battle Fleet and a division of cruisers from the Scouting Fleet on a good-will cruise to Australia and New Zealand. She took part in the Presidential reviews of 1927, 1930, and 1934. She was modernized in late 1929 and early 1930 and equipped with an improved anti-aircraft battery. In 1940, California began operating from Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor Attack
On December 7, 1941 she was moored at the southernmost berth of Battleship Row when the Japanese aircraft attacked. As she was about to undergo a material inspection, watertight integrity was not at its maximum; consequently, the ship suffered great damage when hit. At 08:05 a bomb exploded below decks, setting off an antiaircraft ammunition magazine and killing about 50 men. A second bomb ruptured her bow plates. Despite valiant efforts to keep her afloat the in-rushing water could not be isolated and California settled into the mud with only her superstructure remaining above the surface. When the action ended, 100 of her crew were dead and 62 wounded.

Reloated & Repaired
On March 25, 1942 California was refloated and dry-docked at Pearl Harbor for repairs. On June 7, she departed under her own power for Puget Sound Navy Yard where a major reconstruction job was accomplished, including improved protection, watertight compartmenting, stability, antiaircraft battery, and fire control system. She was a virtually new ship built on the structure of the old.

California departed Bremerton, Washington, on 31 January 1944 for shakedown at San Pedro, and sailed from San Francisco on 5 May for the invasion of the Marianas. Off Saipan in June, she conducted effective shore bombardment and call fire missions. On 14 June she was hit by a shell from an enemy shore battery which killed one man and wounded nine. Afterwards, her heavy guns helped blast the way for the assault force in the Guam and Tinian from 18 July to 9 August. On 24 August she arrived at Espiritu Santo for repairs to her port bow damaged in a collision with USS Tennessee (BB-43).

Wartime History
On September 17, 1944 California sailed to Manus to ready for the invasion of the Leyte. From October 17 to November 20 she played a key role in the operation, including the destruction of the Japanese fleet in the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October. On 1 January 1945 she departed the Palaus for the Luzon landings. Her powerful batteries were an important factor in the success of these dangerous operations driven home into the heart of enemy-held territory under heavy air attack. On 6 January while providing shore bombardment at Lingayen Gulf she was hit by a kamikaze plane; 44 of her crew were killed and 155 were wounded. Undeterred she made temporary repairs on the spot and remained carrying out her critical mission of shore bombardment until the job was done. She departed 23 January for Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving 15 February, for permanent repairs.

Returned to action off Okinawa 15 June 1945 and remained in that embattled area until 21 July. Two days later she joined TF 95 to cover the East China Sea minesweeping operations. After a short voyage to San Pedro Bay, Philippines in August, the ship departed Okinawa on 20 September to cover the landing of the Sixth Army occupation force at Wakanoura. She remained supporting the occupation until 15 October, then sailed via Singapore, Colombo, Ceylon, and Cape Town, South Africa, to Philadelphia, arriving 7 December.

She was placed in commission in reserve at Philadelphia on August 7, 1946, out of commission in reserve on February 14 1947, and sold July 10 1959 and was scrapped.

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Last Updated
December 5, 2020


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