Battleship Wisconsin: 1952-1981

1952-1981Early in June 1952, Wisconsin resumed her role as a training ship, taking midshipmen to Greenock, Scotland; Brest, France; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before returning to Norfolk. She departed Hampton Roads on 25 August and participated in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise, Operation “Mainbrace” which commenced at Greenock and extended as far north as Oslo, Norway. After her return to Norfolk,Wisconsin underwent an overhaul in the naval shipyard there. She then engaged in local training evolutions until 11 February 1953, when she sailed for Cuban waters for refresher training. She visited Newport, Rhode Island, and New York City before returning to Norfolk late in April.

Following another midshipman’s training cruise to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Port-of-Spain, Trinidad; and Guantanamo Bay, Wisconsin put into the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 4 August for a brief overhaul. A little over a month later, upon conclusion of that period of repairs and alterations, the battleship departed Norfolk on 9 September, bound for the Far East.

Sailing via the Panama Canal to Japan, Wisconsin relieved New Jersey (BB-62) as Seventh Fleet flagship on 12 October. During the months that followed, Wisconsin visited the Japanese ports of Kobe, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Otaru, and Nagasaki. She spent Christmas at Hong Kong and was ultimately relieved of flagship duties on 1 April 1954 and returned to the United States soon thereafter, reaching Norfolk, via Long Beach and the Panama Canal, on 4 May 1954.

Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 11 June, Wisconsin underwent a brief overhaul and commenced a midshipman training cruise on 12 July. After revisiting Greenock, Brest, and Guantanamo Bay, the ship returned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for repairs. Shortly thereafter, Wisconsin participated in Atlantic Fleet exercises as flagship for Commander, Second Fleet. Departing Norfolk in January 1955, Wisconsin took part in operation “Springboard,” during which time she visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Then, upon returning to Norfolk, the battleship conducted another midshipman’s cruise that summer, visiting Edinburgh; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Guantanamo Bay before returning to the United States.

Upon completion of a major overhaul at the New York Naval Shipyard,Wisconsin headed south for refresher training in the Caribbean Sea, later taking part in another “Springboard” exercise. During that cruise, she again visited Port-au-Prince and added Tampico, Mexico, and Cartagena, Colombia, to her list of ports of call. She returned to Norfolk on the last day of March 1955 for local operations.

Throughout April and into May,Wisconsin operated locally off the Virginia capes. On 6 May, the battleship collided with the destroyerEaton (DDE-510) in a heavy fog;Wisconsin put into Norfolk with extensive damage to her bow and, one week later, entered drydock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. A novel expedient speeded her repairs and enabled the ship to carry out her scheduled midshipman training cruise that summer. A 120 ton, 68 foot (21 m) section of the bow of the uncompleted battleship Kentucky was transported by barge, in one section, from Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation of Newport News, Virginia, across Hampton Roads to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Working round-the clock, Wisconsin’s ship’s force and shipyard personnel completed the operation which grafted the new bow on the old battleship in a mere 16 days. On 28 June 1956, the ship was ready for sea.

Embarking 700 NROTC midshipmen, representing 52 colleges and universities throughout the United States,Wisconsin departed Norfolk on 9 July, bound for Spain. Reaching Barcelona on 20 July, the battleship next called at Greenock and Guantanamo Bay before returning to Norfolk on the last day of August. That autumn, Wisconsinparticipated in Atlantic Fleet exercises off the coast of the Carolinas, returning to port on 8 November 1956. Entering the Norfolk Naval Shipyard a week later, the battleship underwent major repairs that were not finished until 2 January 1957.

After local operations off the Virginia capes from 3 January to 4 January and from 9 January to 11 January,Wisconsin departed Norfolk on 16 January, reporting to Commander, Fleet Training Group, at Guantanamo Bay. Breaking the two-starred flag of Rear Admiral Henry Crommelin, Commander, Battleship Division 2, Wisconsinserved as Admiral Crommelin’s flagship during the ensuing shore bombardment practices and other exercises held off the isle of Culebra, Puerto Rico, from 2 February to 4 February 1957. Sailing for Norfolk upon completion of the training period, the battleship arrived on 7 February.

The warship conducted a brief period of local operations off Norfolk before she sailed, on 27 March, for the Mediterranean Sea. Reaching Gibraltar on 6 April, she pushed on that day to rendezvous with TF 60 in the Aegean Sea. She then proceeded with that force to Xeros Bay, Turkey, arriving there on 11 April for NATO Exercise “Red Pivot.”

Departing Xeros Bay on 14 April, she arrived at Naples four days later, After a week’s visit during which she was visited by Italian dignitariesWisconsin conducted exercises in the eastern Mediterranean. In the course of those operational training evolutions, she rescued a pilot and crewman who survived the crash of a plane from the carrier Forrestal (CVA-59). Two days later, Vice Admiral Charles R. Brown, Commander, Sixth Fleet, came on board for an official visit by high-line and departed via the same method that day. Wisconsin reached Valencia, Spain, on 10 May and, three days later, entertained prominent civilian and military officials of the city.

Departing Valencia on 17 April, Wisconsin reached Norfolk on 27 May. On that day, Rear Admiral L.S. Parks relieved Rear Admiral Crommelin as Commander, Battleship Division 2. Departing Norfolk on 19 June, the battleship, over the ensuing weeks, conducted a midshipman training cruise through the Panama Canal to South American waters. She transited the canal on 26 June; crossed the equator on the following day; and reached Valparaiso on 3 July. Eight days later, the battleship headed back to the Panama Canal and the Atlantic.

After exercises at Guantanamo Bay and off Culebra, Wisconsin reached Norfolk on 5 August and conducted local operations that lasted into September. She then participated in NATO exercises which took her across the North Atlantic to the British Isles. She arrived in the River Clyde on 14 September and subsequently visited Brest, France, before returning to Norfolk on 22 October.

Wisconsin’s days as an active fleet unit were numbered, and she prepared to make her last cruise. On 4 November 1957, she departed Norfolk with a large group of prominent guests on board. Reaching New York City on 6 November, the battleship disembarked her guests and, on 8 November, headed for Bayonne, New Jersey, to commence pre-inactivation overhaul.

Placed out of commission at Bayonne on 8 March 1958, Wisconsin joined the “Mothball Fleet” there, leaving the United States Navy without an active battleship for the first time since 1896. Subsequently taken to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Wisconsin remained there with her sistership Iowa into 1981.

Text provided by Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS), Vol. VIII, pp. 433-37.