USS South Dakota was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at the Camden, NJ dock works and launched on June 7, 1941 - the very site of the modern day museum dock for the battleship USS New Jersey. The designers of this warship class were instructed to produce battleships that would combine the firepower of the proceeding North Carolina-class with a defense to protection against a 16-inch (406mm) shell. These requirements would have to be constructed on a hull that did not exceed 35,000 tons based on the Washington Naval Treaty. The Washington Naval Treaty was an agreement from world powers to limit the size of warships to head-off a naval arms race and another world war. For centuries, a nations power was directly measured by its available naval power. This treaty included signings by the Empire of Japan and Germany, however, they would become the biggest violators of the pact by their building of heavier battleships such as Japan's 73,000-ton IJN Yamato and the German 50,900-ton KMS Bismarck.
The requirements forced a number of compromises to the design primarily making for a smaller class of ship equally cramped for crew and machinery compartments. Thicker side armor was added for greater protection and, to compensate for the weight gain, the citadel "castle" was reduced in size. The length of the BB-57 was reduced by 50ft (15m) as compared to the preceding 728.8 ft, 44,377 ton North Carolina-class. Her beam was the same as the North Carolina, making her less streamlined and reducing her sea-keeping. To sustain the required 27.8 kt speed (needed to escort the fast USN carriers of the day) the propulsion system needed to produce an additional 9,000 shaft horsepower. To assist in reaching the target speed the outermost pair of propeller shafts were placed further aft than the inner-most pair and eliminated propeller cavitations in the process. The belt armor around the hull of the ship was 12.2-inches (310mm). Bulkheads were allotted 11.0-inches (280mm) while the barbettes that covered the lower part of the 5-inch guns were given 11.3- to 17.3-inches (287 to 440mm) of armor. The main gun turrets were provided for with 18.0-inch (457mm) thick armor to protect the gun crews inside. Each conning tower was given 16.0-inches (406mm) around the communication and radar stations while the deck armor (to protect against air attack and ship "plunging fire") was 5.8- to 6.0-inches thick (147-152mm). The ships main armament (as completed in 1938) was her battery of 9 x 16-inch (406mm) /45 caliber Mark 6 guns. Each gun was 816-inches long and fired a projectile weighing 2,700lbs (1,225kg) at a maximum elevation of 45-degrees out to a distance of 38,720m (42,345 yards) with a rate-of-fire of 2 rounds-per-minute per each 16-inch rifle.
The battle was costly. USN destroyers DD Walke and DD Preston were sunk. DD Benham, having been hit by a Long Lance Japanese torpedo, was damaged and judge as not being "seaworthy", ultimately being targeted for destruction by her own escort DD Gwin. The Japanese lost battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers Takao and Atago and the destroyer Ayanami. South Dakota, due to the loss of her radar, received the most hits in the fracas while Washington came through the battle with little damage. The repair ship USS Prometheus (AR3) made repairs to BB-57 that allowed her to be labeled seaworthy to make her way back to New York for a complete overhaul before being battle ready once more. South Dakota was in repair dock for 40 days and left New York in late February 1943, assigned to operate with the carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in the North Atlantic until mid-April. For the next four months she was assigned to cruise the North Atlantic, stationed at Scapa Flow in England working with the British Home Fleet.
In late August she was called home to join Battleship Division 8 & 9 assigned to Task Force 50.1 heading to the Canal to take part in the attack of the Marshall Islands. In December 1943, South Dakota and five other battleships were used as shore bombardment against the islands of Roi and Namur and supported landings on Kwajalein and Majuro. She returned to Majuro at the end of February until late March when she was assigned to support the fast carrier forces of the 5th Fleet. The carriers of the fleet provided air strikes against Palau, Yap, Woleai, and Ulithi in the Western Caroline Islands until April 1944. She continued to support carrier actions against Hollandia, New Guinea, and the islands of Aitape, Tanahmerah. From early May for a month she was dock side at Majuro for minor repairs and to refit. Assigned to TF58, she helped support marine landings on Saipan and Tinian and shelled the island. As part of TF58, she also shelled the northwest coast of Tanapag Harbor, Saipan, for over six hours with her gun batteries.
On May 15, 1944, operating with TF58, South Dakota fired on enemy planes that had managed to break through the combat air patrol (CAP) to attack the task group. BB-57 splashed one and the other 11 planes were shot down by other ships in the force. On the 19th of June, the battleship was again operating with the fast carriers. It was known that a major Japanese force was approaching from the west and the American capital ships were placed so that they could continue to support the ground forces on Saipan and, if necessary, could also intercept these enemy forces. The same day, a Japanese "Judy" bomber dropped a 500-pound bomb on South Dakota, blowing a hole in the main deck but doing little damage to the ship's ability to operate - still, the blast killed 24 sailors and injured another 27. BB-57 steamed with the fast carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea where the Japanese lost over 300 aircraft. After the battle was over, South Dakota sailed to Pearl Harbor and then to the West coast, arriving on July 10th, 1944.
The battleship was overhauled at the navy yard at Puget Sound and, when completed, sailed back to Pearl Harbor on August 26th. When she arrived, South Dakota was attached to Task Force 38 - the fast carrier task force. The task force launched air attacks against Okinawa and Formosa. South Dakota operated with the fast carriers in their strikes against the Tokyo area in February 1945 and Iwo Jima later that month. They launched strikes against Okinawa from March through early April of 1945. During rearming from the USS Wrangell (AE12), an explosion in Turret No. 2 killed 11 sailors while injuring 24. She fell back to Leyte on June 1st, 1945, and, when the repairs were finished, she departed to attack the Tokyo area with TG 38.1 - being one of the first heavy warships to bombard the Japanese mainland. The battleship South Dakota supported the carriers in strikes against northern Tokyo on August 15th, 1945. This was BB-57's last action of the war as Japan surrendered by the end of the month. She entered Tokyo Bay as a victor on August 29th and steamed for the United States (San Francisco by way of Pearl), arriving on October 29, 1945. On January 3, 1946, she was placed in reserve. In 1962, much in line with other grand ships of the World War 2 American fleets, she was sold for scrapping - this after receiving 13 total Battle Stars in the service of her country. Some portions of the vessel were returned to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but today she mostly remains a memory.
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
680 ft (207.26 m)
108.2 ft (32.98 m)
36.3 ft (11.06 m)
28 kts (32 mph)
14,773 nm (17,000 miles; 27,359 km)
9 x 16-inch /45 cal Mark 6 main guns
16 x 5-inch /38 cal guns
68 x 40mm anti-aircraft cannons
76 x 20mm anti-aircraft cannons
2 x OS2U Kingfisher observation floatplanes