USS Pennsylvania Battleship

The third U.S. Navy ship to be named after the second state of the union, the USS Pennsylvania was launched on March 16, 1915, under the sponsorship of Miss Elizabeth Kolb of Philadelphia. After its commission on June 12, 1916, this “super-dreadnought” battleship went on to serve as the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet until the mid 1920s.

Since the USS Pennsylvania was an oil-burning ship, which required more expense than the older coal-burning battleships, during World War I, it was stationed at Yorktown, Virginia, to run fleet exercises rather than being sent to foreign waters. In 1921, it became the flagship of the newly-formed Battle Fleet and for the next eight years led maneuvers in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Caribbean.

After a training mission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it sailed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard in June 1929 to be overhauled and extensively modernized over the next two years. In the following decade, the USS Pennsylvania ran fleet exercises and drills in the Caribbean Sea and in Hawaiian waters. In January 1941, it received further modifications at the Puget Sound Naval Yard, including the early RCA CXAM-1 RADAR as well as twelve 5’’/25 cal anti-aircraft guns.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, the USS Pennsylvania was drydocked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. It was one of the first ships to open fire on enemy ships, and though it was not nearly as damaged as the surrounding ships, it lost 15 men; and a further14 went missing in action and 38 were wounded. The battleship sailed to San Francisco in December 1941 and was repaired there till March 1942.

After resuming service along the West Coast and in Hawaiian waters and being overhauled and further modernized, the USS Pennsylvania sailed to Alaska, where it partook in bombardment missions to recapture Attu in May 1943. In the next several months, the ship led the Kiska Attack Force and participated in the Northern Attack Force’s assault on the Gilbert Islands.

From 1944 to 1945, the USS Pennsylvania led bombardment missions and assaults on Kwajalein Island, Eniwetok, the Marianas Islands, Saipan and Guam; and after being drydocked on September 25 to receive emergency repairs in the Admiralty Islands, it participated in the noted Battle of Leyte. Here it fought alongside five other battleships that had been attacked in Pearl Harbor. In many missions, the USS Pennsylvania fired more ammunition than any other ship and expelled so much metal that it earned the nickname “Old Falling Apart.”

In January 1945, the battleship took part in the Lingayen Gulf Invasion. After it was again repaired and endowed with guns salvaged off the wrecked USS Oklahoma, the ship sailed for Okinawa on July 24. While it was anchored in Buckner Bay on August 12, the USS Pennsylvania was struck by a Japanese aerial torpedo, which caused the deaths of 20 men and created a 30-foot-wide hole in its stern. On August 18, the battleship was towed to Guam for repairs and then returned to the United States, where it was chosen to be a target ship in the Bikini atomic experiments in July of 1946. After the tests, the USS Pennsylvania was towed to Kwajalein Island for radioactivity testing. It was decommissioned on August 29 and sunk off the shore of Kwajalein Island on February 10, 1946.