Battleship Wisconsin: The Korean War

korean-war-bb64Her sojourn in “mothballs,” however, was comparatively brief because of the North Korean invasion of South Korea in late June 1950. Wisconsinwas recommissioned, on 3 March 1951 with Captain Thomas Burrowes in command. After shakedown training, the revitalized battleship conducted two midshipmen training cruises, taking the officers-to-be to Edinburgh, Scotland; Lisbon, Portugal; Halifax, Nova Scotia; New York City; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before she returned to Norfolk.

Wisconsin departed Norfolk on 25 October 1951, bound for the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canal on 29 October and reached Yokosuka, Japan, on 21 November. There, she relieved New Jersey (BB-62) as flagship for Vice Admiral H. M. Martin, Commander, Seventh Fleet.

On 26 November, with Vice Admiral Martin and Rear Admiral F.P. Denebrink, Commander, Service Force, Pacific, embarked, Wisconsin departed Yokosuka for Korean waters to support the fast carrier operations of TF 77. She left the company of the carrier force on 2 December and, screened by the destroyer Wiltsie (DD-716), provided gunfire support for the Republic of Korea (ROK) Corps in the Kasong-Kosong area. After disembarking Admiral Denebrink on 3 December at Kangnung, the battleship resumed station on the Korean “bombline,” providing gunfire support for the American 1st Marine Division. Wisconsin’s shellings accounted for a tank, two gun emplacements, and a building. She continued her gunfire support task for the 1st Marine Division and 1st ROK Corps through 6 December, accounting for enemy bunkers, artillery positions, and troop concentrations. On one occasion during that time, the battleship received a request for call-fire support and provided three star-shells for the 1st ROK Corps, illuminating a communist attack that was consequently repulsed with considerable enemy casualties.

After being relieved on the gunline by the heavy cruiser St. Paul (CA-78) on 6 December, Wisconsin retired only briefly from gunfire support duties. She resumed them, however, in the Kasong-Kosong area on 11 December screened by the destroyer Twining (DD-540). The following day, 12 December, saw the embarkation in Wisconsin of Rear Admiral H. R. Thurber, Commander, Battleship Division 2. The admiral came on board via helicopter, incident to his inspection trip in the Far East.

The battleship continued naval gunfire support duties on the “bombline,” shelling enemy bunkers, command posts, artillery positions, and trench systems through 14 December. She departed the “bombline” on that day to render special gunfire support duties in the Kojo area blasting coastal targets in support of United Nations (UN) troops ashore. That same day, she returned to the Kasong-Kosong area. On 15 December, she disembarked Admiral Thurber by helicopter. The next day, Wisconsin departed Korean waters, heading for Sasebo to rearm.

Returning to the combat zone on 17 December, Wisconsin embarked United States Senator Homer Ferguson of Michigan on 18 December. That day, the battleship supported the 11th ROK invasion with night illumination fire that enabled the ROK troops to repulse a communist assault with heavy enemy casualties. Departing the “bombline” on 19 December, the battleship later that day transferred her distinguished passenger, Senator Ferguson, by helicopter to the carrier Valley Forge (CV-45).

Wisconsin next participated in a coordinated air-surface bombardment of Wonsan to neutralize pre-selected targets. She shifted her bombardment station to the western end of Wonsan harbor, hitting boats and small craft in the inner swept channel during the afternoon. Such activities helped to forestall any communist attempts to assault the friendly-held islands in the Wonsan area. Wisconsin then made an anti-boat sweep to the north, firing the five inch (127 mm) batteries on suspected boat concentrations. She then provided gunfire support to UN troops operating at the “bombline” until three days before Christmas 1951. She then rejoined the carrier task force.

On 28 December, Francis Cardinal Spellman, on a Korean tour over the Christmas holidays, visited the ship, coming on board by helicopter to celebrate Mass for the Catholic members of the crew. He left the ship by helicopter off Pohang. Three days later, on the last day of the year, Wisconsin put into Yokosuka.

Wisconsin departed that Japanese port on 8 January 1952 and headed for Korean waters once more. She reached Pusan the following day and entertained the President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, and his wife, on 10 January. President and Mrs. Rhee received full military honors as they came on board, and he reciprocated by awarding Vice Admiral Martin the ROK Order of the Military Merit.

Wisconsin returned to the “bombline” on 11 January and, over the ensuing days, delivered heavy gunfire support for the 1st Marine Division and the 1st ROK Corps. As before, her primary targets were command posts, shelters, bunkers, troop concentrations and mortar positions. As before, she stood ready to deliver call-fire support as needed. One such occasion occurred; on 14 January when she shelled enemy troops in the open at the request of the ROK 1st Corps.

Rearming at Sasebo and once more joining TF 77 off the coast of Korea soon thereafter, Wisconsin resumed support at the “bombline” on 23 January. Three days later, she shifted once more to the Kojo region, to participate in a coordinated air and gun strike. That same day, the battleship returned to the “bombline” and shelled the command post and communications center for the 15th North Korean Division during call-fire missions for the 1st Marine Division.

Returning to Wonsan at the end of January, Wisconsin bombarded enemy guns at Hodo Pando before she was rearmed at Sasebo. The battleship rejoined TF 77 on 2 February and the next day, blasted railway buildings and marshaling yards at Hodo Pando and Kojo before rejoining TF 77. After replenishment at Yokosuka a few days later, she returned to the Kosong area and resumed gunfire support. During that time, she destroyed railway bridges and a small shipyard besides conducting call-fire missions on enemy command posts, bunkers, and personnel shelters, making numerous cuts on enemy trench lines in the process.

On 26 February, Wisconsin arrived at Pusan where Vice Admiral Shon, the ROK Chief of Naval Operations; United States Ambassador J.J. Muccio; and Rear Admiral Scott-Montcrief, Royal Navy, Commander, Task Group 95.12, visited the battleship. Departing that South Korean port the following day,Wisconsin reached Yokosuka on 2 March. A week later, she shifted to Sasebo to prepare to return to Korean waters.

Wisconsin arrived off Songjin, Korea, on 15 March 1952 and concentrated her gunfire on enemy railway transport. Early that morning, she destroyed a communist troop train trapped outside of a destroyed tunnel. That afternoon, she received the first direct hit in her history, when one of four shells from a communist 155 mm gun battery struck the shield of a starboard 40 mm mount. Although little material damage resulted, three men were injured. Wisconsin subsequently destroyed that battery with a 16 inch (406 mm) salvo before continuing her mission. After lending a hand to support once more the 1st Marine Division with her heavy rifles, the battleship returned to Japan on 19 March.

Relieved as flagship of the Seventh Fleet on 1 April by sistership Iowa (BB-61), Wisconsin departed Yokosuka, bound for the United States. En route home, she touched briefly at Guam, where she took part in the successful test of the Navy’s largest floating dry-dock on 4 April and 5 April, marking the first time that an Iowa-class battleship had ever utilized that type of facility. She continued her homeward-bound voyage, via Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Long Beach, California, on 19 April, she then sailed for Norfolk.

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