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  USS South Dakota BB-57
South Dakota Class Battleship

35,000 Tons
680' x 108.2' x 36.3'
9 × 16 in 45 cal Mark 6 guns
16 × 5" 38 cal guns
68 × 40 mm guns
76 × 20 mm guns

Click For Enlargement
USN May 24, 1943

Ship History
Second ship in the US Navy named South Dakota. Her Keel was laid down on 5 July 1939 at Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. She was launched on June 7, 1941, and commissioned on March 20, 1942 with Captain Thomas L. Gatch in command. After fitting out at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, South Dakota held shakedown training from 3 June to 26 July.

Wartime History
The USS South Dakota served two tours in the Pacific Theater, with one tour with the British Home Fleet in between. South Dakota received 13 battle stars for World War II service.

First Tour in the Pacific
The battleship transited the Panama Canal on 21 August and set course for the Tonga Islands, arriving at Nukualofa, Tongatabu, on 4 September. Two days later, she struck an uncharted corral pinnacle in Lahai Passage and suffered extensive damage to her hull.

Initial repairs were made by USS Vestal AR-4. Vestal's divers commenced their work at 1600 on 6 September and began checking the ship's seams. With only six divers working, Vestal's party operated until 0200 on the 7th and reported the damage as a series of splits extending along some 150 feet of the ship's bottom. By the next morning, 8 September, Vestal's skilled repairmen, together with men of the battleship's crew, managed to mend the damage sufficiently to allow the ship to return to the United States for permanent repairs. On 12 September, the ship sailed for the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard and repairs.

South Dakota was ready for sea again on 12 October and began training with Task Force (TF) 16 which was built around aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6). The task force sortied from Pearl Harbor on 16 October to join TF 17, which was centered on carrier Hornet (CV-8), northeast of Espiritu Santo. The rendezvous was made on 24 October; and the combined force, now operating as TF 61 under Rear Admiral T.C. Kinkaid, was ordered to make a sweep of the Santa Cruz Islands and then move southwest to block any Japanese forces approaching Guadalcanal.

"Catalina" patrol bombers sighted a Japanese carrier force at noon on 25 October, and TF 61 steamed northwest to intercept it. Early the next morning, when all carrier forces were within striking range, a Japanese snooper spotted the American force, triggering the Battle of Santa Cruz. South Dakota and the Enterprise group were approximately 10 miles (20 km) from the Hornet group when the air battle began.

The first enemy attack was concentrated against Hornet. At 1045, South Dakota was operating near Enterprise to provide protective fire from her numerous antiaircraft guns when their group was attacked by dive bombers. Approximately an hour later, about 40 torpedo planes struck at the two ships. A third aerial assault, made by dive bombers and torpedo planes; came in at 1230. South Dakota sustained a 500 pound (250 kg) bomb hit on top of her number one turret. When the action was broken off that evening, the American forces retired toward Noumea, New Caledonia, with the battleship credited with downing 26 enemy planes.

At 0414 on 30 October, while avoiding a submarine contact, USS South Dakota and USS Mahan (DD-364) collided, causing damage to both ships. Mahan's bow was turned to port and crumpled to frame 14, and a fire, soon brought under control, started in her forward hold. Both ships continued to Noumea where Vestal (AR-4) repaired South Dakota's collision and battle damage.

On 11 November, South Dakota, as part of TF 16, sortied from Noumea for Guadalcanal. On 13 November, she joined battleship Washington (BB-56) and destroyers USS Preston (DD-379), USS Walke (DD-418), USS Benham (DD-397) and USS Gwin (DD-433) to form TF 64 under command of Rear Admiral W. A. Lee. The next evening at 2330, the force was operating 50 miles (90 km) southwest of Guadalcanal when Lee learned that an enemy convoy was coming through the passage off Savo sometime between 0030 and 0230. This was Admiral Nobutake Kondo's bombardment group consisting of the battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers Takao and Atago, and a destroyer screen.

Admiral Kondo's forces were divided into three sections: the bombardment group; a close screen of thea cruiser Nagara and six destroyers; and a distant screen of the cruiser Sendai and three destroyers in the van of the other forces. A quarter moon assured good visibility. Three ships were visually sighted from the bridge of South Dakota at a range 18,100 yards (16.6 km). Washington fired on the leading ship, thought to be a battleship or heavy cruiser; and, a minute later, South Dakota's main battery opened on the ship nearest to her. Both initial salvos started fires on the targets. South Dakota then fired on another target and continued firing until it disappeared from her radar screen. Turret No. 3, firing over her stern and demolishing her own planes in the process, opened on another target and continued firing until the target was thought to sink. Her secondary batteries were firing at eight destroyers close to the shore of Savo Island.

A short lull followed after which radar plot showed four enemy ships, just clear of the left tangent of Savo, approaching from the starboard bow; range 5,800 yards (5.3 km). Searchlights from the second ship in the enemy column illuminated South Dakota. Washington opened with her main battery on the leading, and largest, Japanese ship. South Dakota's secondary batteries put out the lights; and she shifted all batteries to bear on the third ship, believed to be a cruiser, which soon gushed smoke. South Dakota, which had been under fire from at least three of the ships, had taken 42 hits which caused considerable damage. Her radio communications failed; radar plot was demolished; three fire control radars were damaged; there was a fire in her foremast; and she had lost track of Washington. As she was no longer receiving enemy fire and there were no remaining targets, she withdrew; met Washington at a prearranged rendezvous; and proceeded to Noumea. Of the American destroyers, only Gwin returned to port. The other three had been severely damaged early in the engagement. Walke and Preston were sunk. Benham had part of her bow blown off by a torpedo and, while en route to Noumea with the damaged Gwin as her escort, had to be abandoned. Gwin then sank her by gunfire. On the enemy side, hits had been scored on Takao and Atago; Kirishima and destroyer Ayanami, severely damaged by gunfire, were abandoned and scuttled.

Prometheus (AR-3) repaired some of the damage inflicted on South Dakota at Noumea, enabling the battleship to sail on 25 November for Tongatabu and thence for home. South Dakota arrived at New York City on 18 December 1942 for an overhaul and the completion of repairs to her battle damage. She was back at sea on 25 February 1943 and, following sea trials, operated with Ranger (CV-4) in the North Atlantic until mid-April.

Second Tour in the Pacific
On 21 August, South Dakota stood out of Norfolk en route to Efate Island, arriving at Havannah Harbor on 14 September. She moved to Fiji on 7 November and sortied from there four days later with Battleship Divisions (BatDiv) 8 and 9 in support of Task Group (TG) 50.1, the Carrier Interceptor Group. for Operation Galvanic, the Gilbert Islands assault. The carriers launched attacks against Jaluit and Mili atolls, Marshall Islands, on 19 November, to neutralize enemy airfields there. The force then provided air support for the amphibious landings on Makin and Tarawa, Gilbert Islands.

South Dakota, with five other battleships, formed another task group on 8 December to bombard Nauru Island. A joint aerial attack and shore bombardment severely damaged enemy shore installations and airfields there. South Dakota retired to Efate on 12 December 1943 for upkeep and rearming. Her next action occurred on 29 January 1944 when the carriers launched attacks against Roi and Namur, Marshall Islands. The next day, the battleship moved in to shell enemy positions on Roi and Namur and then rejoined the carriers as they provided air support for the amphibious landings on Kwajalein, Majuro, Roi, and Namur.

South Dakota departed the Marshall Islands on 12 February with the Truk striking force which launched attacks against that Japanese stronghold on 17 February and 18 February. Six days later, she was in the screen for the carriers which launched the first air attacks against the Mariana Islands. The force was under constant enemy air attack, and South Dakota splashed four Japanese planes. She returned to Majuro from 26 February until 22 March when she sailed with the fast carrier forces of the Fifth Fleet. Air strikes were delivered from 30 March until 1 April against Palau, Yap, Woleai, and Ulithi in the Western Caroline Islands.

South Dakota returned to Majuro on 6 April and sailed the following week, again accompanying the fast carriers. On 21 April, strikes were launched against Hollandia, New Guinea, and the following day against Aitape Bay, Tanahmerah Bay, and Humboldt Bay to support the Army landings. On 29 April and 30 April, the carriers, with South Dakota still in the screen, returned to Truk and bombed that base. The next day, the battleship was part of a surface bombardment group that shelled Ponape Island in the Carolines. She returned to Majuro for upkeep from 4 May to 5 June when she got underway with TF 58 to participate in Operation "Forager," the landings on Saipan and Tinian. The carriers began launching attacks on 11 June against enemy installations throughout the islands. On 13 June, South Dakota and six other battleships were detached from the fast carrier groups to bombard Saipan and Tinian, South Dakota shelled the northwest coast of Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, for over six hours with both her primary and secondary batteries.

On the evening of 15 June, eight to 12 enemy fighters and bombers broke through the combat air patrol and attacked the task group. South Dakota fired at four bringing down one; the remaining 11 were shot down by fire from other ships. On 19 June, the battleship was again operating with the fast carriers. It was known that a major Japanese force was approaching from the west, and the American capital ships were placed so that they could continue to support the ground forces on Saipan and also intercept this enemy force.

At 1012, a large group of bogies was reported coming in from the west. At 1049, a D4Y "Judy" dropped a 500 pound (250 kg) bomb on South Dakota's main deck where it blew a large hole, cut wiring and piping, but inflicted no other serious material damage. However, personnel losses were heavy: 24 killed and 27 wounded. The ship continued to fight throughout the day as air attacks were continuous. This was the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot) as the Japanese lost over 300 aircraft. The air battle continued throughout 20 June. When it ended, the badly mauled Japanese fleet no longer posed a threat to the American conquest of the Marianas. The task group returned to Ulithi on 27 June, and South Dakota sailed via Pearl Harbor to the west coast, arriving at Puget Sound on 10 July.

The battleship was overhauled at the navy yard there; and, after sea trials, sailed on 26 August for Pearl Harbor. South Dakota was routed to Ulithi and, upon her arrival, was attached to TG 38.3; one of four task groups of formed Task Force 38, the Fast Carrier Task Force. The task force sortied on 6 October and, four days later, launched air attacks against Okinawa. On 12 October and 13 October, attacks were flown against shipping and installations in Formosa. Three of the groups, including South Dakota's, retired and operated east of the Philippine Islands until 24 December. During the operation, carriers of the group flew strikes against targets on Manila and Luzon to support the landings on Mindoro. From 30 December 1944 through 26 January 1945, the fast carriers alternated strikes between Formosa on January 3, January 4, January 9, January 15, and 21 January January; Luzon on 6 January and 7 January; Cape San Jacques and Camranh Bay on 12 January; Hong Kong and Hainan on 16 January; and against Okinawa on 22 January.

South Dakota operated with the fast carriers in their strikes against the Tokyo area on 17 February and against Iwo Jima on 19 February and 20 February in support of amphibious landings there. Tokyo again was the target on 25 February, and Okinawa's turn came on 1 March. After rearming at Ulithi, the task groups sailed toward Japan again and pounded targets in the Kobe, Kure, and Ky?sh? areas on 18 March and 19 March. They launched strikes against Okinawa on 23 March; and, on 24 March, the battleship joined a bombardment group which shelled southeastern Okinawa. She rejoined her task group which, after bombing Okinawa, struck enemy airfields in southern Ky?sh? on 29 March and then, from 31 March through 3 April, again pounded targets on Okinawa. On 7 April, all fast carriers launched attacks against an enemy fleet off southwest Ky?sh?, sinking Japan's fast super battleship Yamato, two cruisers, and four destroyers.

South Dakota once more participated in shore bombardment on southeastern Okinawa on 19 April in support of an all-out offensive by the XXIV Army Corps against enemy lines.

While rearming from Wrangell (AE-12) on 6 May, a tank of high capacity powder for the 16 inch (406 mm) guns exploded, causing a fire and exploding four more tanks. Turret No. 2 magazines were flooded and the fires put out. The ship lost three men killed instantly; eight more died of injuries; and 24 others suffered non-fatal wounds. The ship retired to Guam from 11 May to 29 May when she sailed for Leyte, arriving on 1 June. July 1, 1944.

South Dakota departed Leyte on 1 July, supporting the carriers of TG 38.1 which attacked the Tokyo area on 10 July. On 14 July, as part of a bombardment group, she participated in the shelling of the Kamaishi Steel Works, Kamaishi, Honsh?, Japan. This was the first gunfire attack on the Japanese home islands by heavy warships. From 15 March through 28 March, South Dakota again supported the carriers as they launched strikes against Honsh? and Hokkaid?. On the night of 29 July and 30 July, she participated in the shore bombardment of Hamamatsu, Honsh?, and, on 9 August, again shelled Kamaishi. The battleship supported the carriers in strikes against northern Honshu on 10 August, and in the Tokyo area on 13 August and 15 August. The latter was the last strike of the war for, later that day, Japan capitulated.

She anchored in Sagami Wan, Honshu, on 27 August and entered Tokyo Bay on 29 August. South Dakota steamed out of Tokyo Bay on 20 September and proceeded, via Okinawa and Pearl Harbor, to the west coast of the United States.

She sailed from the west coast on 8 January 1946 for Philadelphia and a yard overhaul. In June, she was attached to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. On 31 January 1947, she was placed in reserve, out of commission. The battleship remained in that status until she was struck from the Naval Vessel Registry on 1 June 1962. On October 25, 1962 sold for scrap to Lipsett Division, Luria Brothers and Company, Incorporated and broken up.

The ship is memorialized at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Last Updated
August 4, 2020


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