USS Maryland Battleship
The USS Maryland was a Colorado-class battleship that was launched on March 20, 1920, under the sponsorship of Mrs. E. Brook Lee, wife of the Comptroller of the State of Maryland and daughter-in-law of United States senator, Blair Lee. The third U.S. Navy ship to be named after the seventh state to enter the union, the USS Maryland was commissioned on July 21, 1921, and quickly became a showman amongst the other battleships, participating in many special occasions and transporting important statesmen to and from their diplomatic missions.
In 1925, the ship traveled to New Zealand and Australia on good-will missions, and in 1928, it ferried President-elect Herbert Hoover on his tour of Latin America. From the late 1920s through the 1930s, the USS Maryland partook in a host of training operations and fleet exercises. In 1940, it was deployed to Pearl Harbor as part of the Pacific fleet operations in Hawaiian waters.
On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the USS Maryland was moored at Battleship Row alongside the ill-fated USS Oklahoma, which capsized as a result of the bombings. The USS Maryland, on the other hand, was able to open fire against the enemy and send teams of its sailors on rescue missions to retrieve those stranded on the other battleships. The ship was eventually struck by two bombs, one of which exploded in the ship’s hull and caused serious flooding.
The battleship was sent to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington State for repairs on December 30, 1941. Two months later a newly-repaired and modernized USS Maryland emerged to re-join the war efforts in the Pacific. After assisting in the back-up fleet of the Battle of Midway, it ran fleet exercises for six months in the South Pacific. From November 1942 to February 1943, the battleship operated out of the Fiji Islands and then returned to Hawaii for a further upgrade of its armor and ammunition.
The USS Maryland played key roles in many of the battles in the South Pacific: In October 1943, it served as the flagship in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands; in January 1944, it participated in the bombardment campaign in the Marshall Islands; and in May 1944, it delivered a devastating attack against the Japanese in the significant Saipan campaign, during which it sustained significant damage and had return to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
With four other sister ships that had also been attacked during Pearl Harbor, the USS Maryland scored a decisive blow against the Japanese in the crucial Battle of Leyte, which many saw as a retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack. After this victory, as the USS Maryland was patrolling the waters of the Surigao Strait on November 19, a Japanese suicide plane crashed into the battleship, resulting in a catastrophic explosion in which 31 U.S. sailors died. The ship, fondly nicknamed Fighting Mary, returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs and was back in action two months later.
In March 1945, the USS Maryland joined Task Force 54 for its invasion of Okinawa. The task force pounded the fortress at Okinawa for weeks, but on April 7, the battleship was again attacked by a suicide plane carrying a 500-lb bomb. The explosion resulted in 53 casualties and destroyed much of the ship’s starboard side, but Fighting Mary kept on, as it always had, destroying two Japanese planes by mid-afternoon.
From May to August 1945, the USS Maryland was repaired at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, after which it participated in “Operation Magic Carpet,” transporting more than 8,000 combat veterans back to the U.S. from Hawaiian waters. On April 15, 1946, the battleship returned to Puget Sound and was placed in commission as a part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. It never again saw active duty and was decommissioned on April 3, 1947, and sold for scrapping to Learner Co. of Oakland, California, on July 8, 1959. The USS Maryland received seven battle stars for its service in World War II.
On June 2, 1961, the Honorable J. Millard Tawes, Governor of Maryland, erected a grand monument built of granite and bronze in Annapolis, Maryland, to commemorate Fighting Mary and the brave sailors who fought aboard the ship during World War II.