Battleship Wisconsin : WWII

WWIIOn 24 September 1944, Wisconsin sailed for the west coast, transited the Panama Canal, and reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet on 2 October. The battleship later moved to Hawaiian waters for training exercises and then headed for the Western Caroline Islands. Upon reaching Ulithi on 9 December, she joined Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet.

The powerful new warship had arrived at a time when the reconquest of the Philippines was well underway. As a part of that movement, the planners had envisioned landings on the southwest coast of Mindoro, south of Luzon. From that point, American forces could threaten Japanese shipping lanes through the South China Sea.

The day before the amphibians assaulted Mindoro, the Third Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force (TF) 38, supported in art by Wisconsin, rendered Japanese facilities at Manila largely useless. Between 14 December and 16 December, TF 38’s naval aviators secured complete tactical surprise and quickly won complete mastery of the air and sank or destroyed 27 Japanese vessels; damaged 60 more; destroyed 269 planes; and bombed miscellaneous ground installations.

The next day the weather, however, soon turned sour for Halsey’s sailors. A furious typhoon struck his fleet, catching many ships refueling and with little ballast in their nearly dry bunkers. Three destroyers, Hull (DD-350), Monaghan (DD-354), and Spence (DD-512), capsized and sank. Wisconsin proved her seaworthiness as she escaped the storm unscathed.

As heavily contested as they were, the Mindoro operations proved only the introduction to another series of calculated blows aimed at the occupying Japanese in the Philippines. For Wisconsin, her next operation was the occupation of Luzon. Bypassing the southern beaches, American amphibians went ashore at Lingayen Gulf, the scene of the Japanese landings nearly three years before.

Wisconsin, armed with heavy antiaircraft batteries, performed escort duty for TF 38’s fast carriers during air strikes against Formosa, Luzon, and the Nansei Shoto, to neutralize Japanese forces there and to cover the unfolding Lingayen Gulf operations. Those strikes, lasting from 3 January to 22 January 1945, included a thrust into the South China Sea, in the hope that major units of the Japanese Navy could be drawn into battle.

Air strikes between Saigon and Camranh Bay, Indochina, on 12 January resulted in severe losses for the enemy. TF 38’s warplanes sank 41 ships and damaged heavily damaged docks, storage areas, and aircraft facilities. At least 112 enemy planes would never again see operational service. Formosa, already struck on 3 January and 4 January, again fell victim to the marauding American airmen, being smashed again on 9 January, 15 January, and 21 January. Soon, Hong Kong, Canton, and Hainan Island felt the brunt of TF 38’s power. Besides damaging and sinking Japanese shipping, American planes from the task force set the Canton oil refineries afire and blasted the Hong Kong Naval Station. They also raided Okinawa on 22 January, considerably lessening enemy air activities that could threaten the Luzon landings.

Assigned to the Fifth Fleet when Admiral Raymond A. Spruance relieved Admiral Halsey as Commander of the FleetWisconsin moved northward with the redesignated TF 58 as the carriers headed for the Tokyo area. On 16 February 1945, the task force approached the Japanese coast under cover of adverse weather conditions and achieved complete tactical surprise. As a result, they shot down 322 enemy planes and destroyed 177 more on the ground, Japanese shipping, both naval and merchant, suffered drastically, too, as did hangars and aircraft installations. Moreover, all this damage to the enemy had cost the American Navy only 49 planes.

The task force moved to Iwo Jima on 17 February to provide direct support for the landings slated to take place on that island on 19 February. It revisited Tokyo on 25 February and, the next day, hit the island of Hachino off the coast of Honshu. During these raids, besides causing heavy damage or ground facilities, the American planes sank five small vessels and destroyed 158 planes.

On 1 March, reconnaissance planes flew over the island of Okinawa, taking last minute intelligence photographs to be used in planning the assault on that island. The next day, cruisers from TF 58 shelled Okino Daito Shima in training for the forthcoming operation. The force then retired to Ulithi for replenishment.

Wisconsin’s task force stood out of Ulithi on 14 March, bound for Japan. The mission of that group was to eliminate airborne resistance from the Japanese homeland to American forces off Okinawa. Enemy fleet units at Kure and Kobe, on southern Honshu, reeled under the impact of the explosive blows delivered by TF 58’s airmen. On 18 March and 19 March, from a point 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Kyushu, TF 58 hit enemy airfields on that island. However, the Japanese drew blood during that action when Kamikaze attacks against TF58 on 19 March seriously damaged the carrier Franklin (CV-13).

That afternoon, the task force retired from Kyushu, screening the blazing and battered flattop. In doing so, the screen shot down 48 attackers. At the conclusion of the operation, the force felt that it had achieved its mission of prohibiting any large-scale resistance from the air to the slated landings on Okinawa.

On 24 March, Wisconsin trained her 16 inch (406 mm) guns on targets ashore on Okinawa. Together with the other battlewagons of the task force, she pounded Japanese positions and installations in preparation for the landings. Although fierce, Japanese resistance was doomed to fail by dwindling numbers of aircraft and trained pilots. In addition, the Japanese fleet, steadily hammered by air attacks from Fifth Fleet aircraft, found itself confronted by a growing, powerful, and determined enemy. On 17 April, the undaunted enemy battleship Yamato, with her 460 mm guns, sortied to attack the American invasion fleet off Okinawa. Met head-on by a swarm of carrier planes, Yamato, the light cruiser Yahagi, and four destroyers were sunk, the victims of massed air power. Never again would the Japanese fleet present a major challenge to the American fleet in the war in the Pacific.

While TF 58’s planes were off dispatching Yamato and her consorts to the bottom of the South China Sea, enemy aircraft struck back at American surface units. Combat air patrols (CAP) shot down 15 enemy planes, and ships’ gunfire shot down another three, but not before one Kamikaze attack penetrated the CAP and screen to crash on the flight deck of the fleet carrier Hancock(CV-19). On 11 April, the Japanese renewed their Kamikaze attacks; and only drastic maneuvers and heavy barrages of gunfire saved the task force. None of the strikes achieved any direct hits, although near-misses, close aboard, managed to cause some minor damage. Combat air patrols shot down 17 planes, and ships’ gunfire shot down 12. The next day, 151 enemy aircraft attacked TF 58, but Wisconsin, bristling with five inch (127 mm), 40 mm and 20 mm guns, together with other units of the screens for the vital carriers, kept the Kamikaze pilots at bay and destroyed them before they could reach their targets.

Over the days that ensued, American task force planes hit Japanese facilities and installations in the enemy’s homeland. Redoubling their efforts, suicide attacks managed to crash into three carriers on successive days Intrepid(CV-11), Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Enterprise (CV-6).

By 4 June, a typhoon was swirling through the Fleet. Wisconsin rode out the storm unscathed, but three cruisers, two carriers, and a destroyer suffered serious damage. Offensive operations were resumed on 8 June with a final aerial assault on Kyushu. Japanese aerial response was pitifully small; 29 planes were located and destroyed. On that day, one of Wisconsin’s floatplanes landed and rescued a downed pilot from the carrier Shangri-La (CV-38).

Wisconsin ultimately put into Leyte Gulf and dropped anchor there on 18 June for repairs and replenishment. Three weeks later, on 1 July, the battleship and her consorts sailed once more for Japanese home waters for carrier air strikes on the enemy’s heartland. Nine days later, carrier planes from TF 38 destroyed 72 enemy aircraft on the ground and smashed industrial sites in the Tokyo area. So little was the threat from the dwindling Japanese air arm that the Americans made no attempt whatever to conceal the location of their armada which was operating off her shores with impunity.

On 16 July, Wisconsin fired the 16 inch (406 mm) guns at the steel mills and oil refineries at Muroran, Hokkaido. Two days later, she wrecked industrial facilities in the Hitachi Miro area, on the coast of Honshu, northeast of Tokyo itself. During that bombardment, British battleships of the Eastern Fleet contributed their heavy shellfire. By that point in the war, Allied warships were able to shell the Japanese homeland almost at will.

Task Force 38’s planes subsequently blasted the Japanese naval base at Yokosuka, and put the former fleet flagshipNagato out of action, one of the two remaining Japanese battleships. On 24 July and 25 July, American carrier planes visited the Inland Sea region, blasting enemy sites on Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Kure then again came under attack. Six major fleet units were located there and badly damaged, marking the virtual end of Japanese sea power.

Over the weeks that ensued, TF 38 continue its raids on Japanese industrial facilities, airfields, and merchant and naval shipping. Admiral Halsey’s airmen visited destruction upon the Japanese capital for the last time on 13 August 1945. Two days later, the Japanese surrendered. World War II was over at last.

Wisconsin, as part of the occupying force, arrived at Tokyo Bay on 6 September, three days after the formal surrender occurred on board the battleship Missouri (BB-63). During Wisconsin’s brief career in World War II, she had steamed 105,831 miles (170,318 km) since commissioning; had shot down three enemy planes; had claimed assists on four occasions; and had fueled her screening destroyers on some 250 occasions.

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