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USS Arkansas (BB-33)

Ordered:3 March 1909
Laid down:25 January 1910
Launched:14 January 1911
Commissioned:17 September 1912
Fate:sunk by atomic bomb
Struck:15 August 1946
General Characteristics
Displacement:27,243 tons
Length:562 feet
Beam:93.1 feet
Draft:28.5 feet
Speed:21.05 knots
Complement:58 officers, 1005 men
Armament:12 12-inch guns, 21 five-inch guns, two 21-inch torpedo tubes

USS Arkansas (BB-33), a Wyoming-class battleship was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 26th state. Her keel was laid down on 25 January 1910 at Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Company. She was launched on 14 January 1911 sponsored by Miss Nancy Louise Macon, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 17 September 1912 with Captain Roy C. Smith in command.

The new battleship took part in a fleet review by President of the United States William H. Taft in the Hudson River off New York City on 14 October, and received a visit from the Chief Executive that day. She then transported President Taft to the Panama Canal Zone for an inspection of the unfinished isthmian waterway. After putting the inspection party ashore, Arkansas sailed to Cuban waters for shakedown training. She then returned to the Canal Zone on 26 December to carry President Taft to Key West, Florida.

Following this assignment, Arkansas joined the Atlantic Fleet for maneuvers along the east coast. The battleship began her first overseas cruise in late October 1913, and visited several ports in the Mediterranean Sea. At Naples, Italy, on 11 November 1913, the ship celebrated the birthday of King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy.

Earlier, in October 1913, a coup in Mexico had brought to power a dictator, Victoriano Huerta. President of the United States Woodrow Wilson disapproved of the way in which Huerta had come to power, and insisted on a representative government, rather than a dictatorial one, south of the American-Mexican border. Mexico had been in turmoil for several years, and the United States Navy maintained a force of ships in those waters ready to protect American lives.

In a situation where tension exists between two powers, incidents are bound to occur. One such occurred at Tampico in the spring of 1914, and although the misunderstanding was quickly cleared up locally, the prevailing state of tension produced an explosive situation. Learning that a shipment of arms for Huerta was due to arrive at Veracruz, President Wilson ordered the Navy to prevent the landing of the guns by seizing the customs house at that port.

While a naval force under Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo was already present in Mexican waters, the President directed that the Atlantic Fleet, under Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger, proceed to Veracruz. Arkansas participated in the landings at Veracruz, contributing a battalion of four companies of bluejackets, a total of 17 officers and 313 enlisted men under the command of Lieutenant Comdr. Arthur B. Keating. Among the junior officers was Lieutenant (junior grade) Jonas H. Ingram, who would be awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism at Veracruz, as would Lieutenant John Grady, who commanded the artillery of the Second Seaman Regiment.

Landing on 22 April, Arkansas's men took part in the slow, methodical street fighting that eventually secured the city. Two Arkansas sailors, Ordinary Seamen Louis O. Fried and William L. Watson, died of their wounds on 22 April. Arkansas's battalion returned to the ship on 30 April, and the ship remained in Mexican waters through the summer before setting course on 30 September to return to the east coast. During her stay at Veracruz, she received calls from Captain Franz von Papen, the German military attaché to the United States and Mexico, and Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock, on 10 May and 30 May 1914, respectively.

The battleship reached Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 7 October, and after a week of exercises, Arkansas sailed to the New York Navy Yard, for repairs and alterations. She then returned to the Virginia Capes area for maneuvers on the Southern Drill Grounds. On 12 December, Arkansas returned to the New York Navy Yard for further repairs.

She was underway again on 16 January 1915, and returned to the Southern Drill Grounds for exercises there from 19 January to 21 January. Upon completion of these, Arkansas sailed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for fleet exercises. Returning to Hampton Roads on 7 April, the battleship began another training period in the Southern Drill Grounds. On 23 April, she headed to the New York Navy Yard for a two-month repair period. Arkansas then left New York City on 25 June bound for Newport, Rhode Island. She conducted torpedo practice and tactical maneuvers in Narragansett Bay through late August.

Returning to Hampton Roads on 27 August, the battleship engaged in maneuvers in the Norfolk area through 4 October, then sailed once again to Newport. There, Arkansas carried out strategic exercises from 5 October to 14 October. On 15 October, the battleship arrived at the New York Navy Yard for drydocking. Underway on 8 November, she returned to Hampton Roads. After a period of routine operations, Arkansas went back to Brooklyn for repairs on 19 October. The ship sailed on 5 January 1916 for Hampton Roads. Pausing there only briefly, Arkansas pushed on to the Caribbean Sea for winter maneuvers.

She visited the West Indies and Guantanamo Bay before returning to the United States on 12 March for torpedo practice off Mobile Bay. The battleship then steamed back to Guantanamo Bay on 20 March and remained there until mid-April. On 15 April, the battleship was once again at the New York Navy Yard for overhaul.

On 6 April 1917, the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allied and Associated Powers. The declaration of war found Arkansas attached to Battleship Division 7 and patrolling the York River in Virginia. For the next 14 months, Arkansas carried out patrol duty along the east coast and trained gun crews for duty on armed merchantmen.

In July 1918, Arkansas received orders to proceed to Rosyth, Scotland to relieve Delaware (Battleship No. 28). Arkansas sailed on 14 July. On the eve of her arrival in Scotland, the battleship opened fire on what was believed to be the periscope wake of a German U-boat. Her escorting destroyers dropped depth charges, but scared no hits. Arkansas then proceeded without incident and dropped anchor at Rosyth on 28 July.

Throughout the remaining three and one-half months of war, Arkansas and the other American battleships in Rosyth operated as part of the British Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron.

The armistice ending World War I became effective on 11 November. The 6th Battle Squadron and other Royal Navy units sailed to a point some 40 miles east of May Island at the entrance of the Firth of Forth. Arkansas was present at the internment of the German High Seas Fleet in the Firth of Forth on 21 November 1918.

The American battleships were detached from the British Grand Fleet on 1 December. From the Firth of Forth, Arkansas sailed to Portland, England, thence out to sea to meet the transport SS George Washington, with President Wilson on board. Arkansas, along with other American battleships, escorted the President's ship into Brest, France, on 13 December 1918. From that French port, Arkansas sailed to New York City, where she arrived on 26 December to a tumultuous welcome. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels reviewed the assembled battleship fleet from the yacht SS Mayflower.

Following an overhaul the Norfolk Navy Yard, Arkansas joined the fleet in Cuban waters for winter maneuvers. Soon thereafter, the battleship got underway to cross the Atlantic. On 12 May 1919, she reached Plymouth, England; thence she headed back out in the Atlantic to take weather observations on 19 May and act as a reference vessel for the flight of the Navy Curtiss NC flying boats from Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, to Europe.

Her role in that venture competed, Arkansas proceeded thence to Brest, where she embarked Admiral William S. Benson, the Chief of Naval Operations, and his wife, on 10 June, upon the admiral's return from the Peace Conference in Paris, before departing for New York. She arrived on 20 June 1919.

Arkansas sailed from Hampton Roads on 19 July 1919, assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Proceeding via the Panama Canal, the battleship steamed to San Francisco, California, where, on 6 September 1919, she embarked Secretary and Mrs. Josephus Daniels. Disembarking the Secretary and his wife at Blakely Harbor, Washington, on 12 September, Arkansas was reviewed by President Wilson on 13 September, the Chief Executive having embarked in the famed Oregon (Battleship No. 3). On 19 September 1919, Arkansas entered the Puget Sound Navy Yard for a general overhaul. Resuming her operations with the fleet in May 1920, Arkansas operated off the California coast. On 17 July 1920, Arkansas received the designation BB-33 as the ships of the fleet received alphanumeric hull classification symbols. That September, she cruised to Hawaii for the first time. Early in 1921, the battleship visited Valparaiso, Chile, manning the rail in honor of President of Chile Arturo Alessandri Palma.

Arkansas's peacetime routine consisted of an annual cycle of training interspersed with periods of upkeep or overhaul. The battleship's schedule also included competitions in gunnery and engineering and an annual fleet problem. Becoming flagship for the Commander, Battleship Force, Atlantic Fleet, in the summer of 1921, Arkansas began operations off the east coast that August.

For a number of years, Arkansas was detailed to take midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy on their summer cruises. In 1923, the battleship steamed to Europe, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark (where she was visited by King Christian X of Denmark on 2 July 1923); Lisbon, Portugal; and Gibraltar. Arkansas conducted another midshipman training cruise to European waters the following year, 1924. In 1925, the cruise was to the west coast of the United States. During this time, on 30 June 1925, Arkansas arrived at Santa Barbara, California in the wake of an earthquake. The battleship, along with McCawley (DD-276) and Eagle class patrol craft PE-34 landed a patrol of bluejackets for policing Santa Barbara, and established a temporary radio station ashore for the transmission of messages.

Upon completion of the 1925 midshipman cruise, Arkansas entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard for modernization. Her coal-burning boilers were replaced with oil-fired ones. Additional deck armor was installed, a single stack was substituted for the original pair, and the after cage mast was replaced by a low tripod. Arkansas left the yard in November 1926 and, after a shakedown cruise along the eastern seaboard and to Cuban waters, returned to Philadelphia to run acceptance trials. Resuming her duty with the fleet soon thereafter, she operated from Maine to the Caribbean Sea; on 5 September 1927, she was present at ceremonies unveiling a memorial tablet honoring the French soldiers and sailors who died during the campaign at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781.

In May 1928, Arkansas again embarked midshipmen for their practice cruise along the eastern seaboard and down into Cuban waters. During the first part of 1929, she operated near the Canal Zone and in the Caribbean, returning in May 1929 to the New York Navy Yard for overhaul. After embarking midshipmen at Annapolis, Maryland, Arkansas carried out her 1929 practice cruise to Mediterranean and English waters, returning in August to operate with the Scouting Fleet off the east coast.

In 1930 and 1931, Arkansas was again detailed to carry out midshipmen's practice cruises; in the former year she visited Cherbourg, France; Kiel, Germany; Oslo, Norway; and Edinburgh, Scotland; in the latter her itinerary included Copenhagen, Denmark; Greenock, Scotland; and Cadiz, Spain, as well as Gibraltar. In September 1931, the ship visited Halifax, Nova Scotia. In October Arkansas participated in the Yorktown Sesquicentennial celebrations, embarking President Herbert Hoover and his party on 17 October and taking them to the exposition. She later transported the Chief Executive and his party back to Annapolis on 19 October and 20 October. Upon her return, the battleship entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she remained until January 1932.

Upon leaving the navy yard, Arkansas sailed for the west coast, calling at New Orleans, Louisiana, en route, to participate in the Mardi Gras celebration. Assigned duty as flagship of the Training Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, Arkansas operated continuously on the west coast of the United States into the spring of 1934, at which time she returned to the east coast.

In the summer of 1934, the battleship conducted a midshipman practice cruise to Plymouth, England; Nice, France; Naples, Italy, and to Gibraltar, returning to Annapolis in August; proceeding thence to Newport, Rhode Island, where she manned the rail for President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he passed on board the yacht Nourmalhal, and was present for the International Yacht Race. Arkansas' cutter defeated the cutter from the British light cruiser HMS Dragon for the Battenberg Cup, and the City of Newport Cup.

In January 1935, Arkansas transported the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, to Culebra for a fleet landing exercise, and in June conducted a midshipman practice cruise to Europe, visiting Edinburgh, Oslo (where King Haakon VII of Norway visited the ship), Copenhagen, Gibraltar and Funchal on the island of Madeira. After disembarking United States Naval Academy midshipmen at Annapolis in August 1935, Arkansas proceeded to New York City. There she embarked reservists from the New York area and conducted a Naval Reserve cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia in September. Upon completion of that duty, she under went repairs and alterations at the New York Navy Yard that October.

In January 1936, Arkansas participated in Fleet Landing Exercise No. 2 at Culebra, and then visited New Orleans for the Mardi Gras festivities before she returned to Norfolk for a navy yard overhaul which lasted through the spring of 1936. That summer she carried out a midshipman training cruise to Portsmouth, England; Goteborg, Sweden; and Cherbourg, before she returned to Annapolis that August. Steaming thence to Boston, the battleship conducted a Naval Reserve training cruise before putting into the Norfolk Navy Yard for an overhaul that October.

The following year, 1937, saw Arkansas make a midshipman practice cruise to European waters, visiting ports in Germany and England, before she returned to the east coast of the United States for local operations out of Norfolk. During the latter part of the year, the ship also ranged from Philadelphia and Boston to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and Cuban waters. During 1938 and 1939, the pattern of operations largely remained as it had been in previous years, her duties in the Training Squadron largely confining her to the waters of the eastern seaboard.

The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 found Arkansas at Hampton Roads, preparing for a Naval Reserve cruise. She soon got underway and transported seaplane mooring and aviation equipment from the naval air station at Norfolk to Narragansett Bay for the seaplane base that was to be established there. While at Newport, Arkansas took on board ordnance material for destroyers and brought it back to Hampton Roads.

Arkansas departed Norfolk on 11 January 1940, in company with Texas (BB-35) and New York (BB-34), and proceeded thence to Guantanamo Bay for fleet exercises. She then participated in landing exercises at Culebra that February, returning via St. Thomas and Culebra to Norfolk. Following an overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard (18 March to 24 May), Arkansas shifted to the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Norfolk, where she remained until 30 May. Sailing on that day for Annapolis, the battleship, along with Texas and New York, conducted a midshipman training cruise to Panama and Venezuela that summer. Before the year was out, Arkansas would conduct three V-7 Naval Reserve training cruises, these voyages taking her to Guantanamo Bay, the Canal Zone, and Chesapeake Bay.

Over the months that followed, the United States gradually edged toward war in the Atlantic; early the following summer, after the decision to occupy Iceland bad been reached, Arkansas accompanied the initial contingent of marines to that place. That battleship, along with New York, and the light cruiser Brooklyn (CL-40) provided the heavy escort for the convoy. Following this assignment, Arkansas sailed to Casco Bay, Maine, and was present there when the Atlantic Charter conferences took place on board Augusta (CA-31) between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. During the conference, the battleship provided accommodations for the Under Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, and Mr. Averell Harriman from 8 August to 14 August 1941.

The outbreak of war with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor found Arkansas at anchor in Casco Bay, Maine. One week later, on 14 December, she sailed to Hvalfjordur, Iceland. Returning to Boston via Argentia on 24 January 1942, Arkansas spent the month of February carrying out exercises in Casco Bay in preparation for her role as an escort for troop and cargo transports. On 6 March, she arrived at Norfolk to begin overhaul. Underway on 2 July, Arkansas conducted shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, then proceeded to New York City, where she arrived on 27 July.

The battleship sailed from New York on 6 August, bound for Greenock, Scotland. Two days later, the ships paused at Halifax, Nova Scotia, then continued on through the stormy North Atlantic. The convoy reached Greenock on 17 August, and Arkansas returned to New York on 4 September. She escorted another Greenock-bound convoy across the Atlantic, then arrived back at New York on 20 October. With the Allied invasion of North Africa, American convoys were routed to Casablanca to support the operations. Departing New York on 3 November, Arkansas covered a troop convoy to Morocco, and returned to New York on 11 December for overhaul.

On 2 January 1943, Arkansas sailed to Chesapeake Bay for gunnery drills. She returned to New York on 30 January and began loading supplies for yet another transatlantic trip. The battleship made two runs between Casablanca and New York City from February through April. In early May, Arkansas was dry-docked at the New York Navy Yard, emerging from that period of yard work to proceed to Norfolk on 26 May.

Arkansas assumed her new duty as a training ship for midshipmen, based at Norfolk. After four months of operations in Chesapeake Bay, the battleship returned to New York to resume her role as a convoy escort. On 8 October, the ship sailed for Bangor, Ireland. She was in that port throughout November, and got underway to return to New York on 1 December. Arkansas then began a period of repairs on 12 December. Clearing New York for Norfolk two days after Christmas of 1943, Arkansas closed the year in that port.

The battleship sailed on 19 January 1944 with a convoy bound for Ireland. After seeing the convoy safely to its destination, the ship reversed her course across the Atlantic and reached New York on 13 February. Arkansas went to Casco Bay on 28 March for gunnery exercises, before she proceeded to Boston on 11 April for repairs.

On 18 April, Arkansas sailed once more for Bangor, Ireland. Upon her arrival, the battleship began a training period to prepare for her new role as a shore bombardment snip. On 3 June, Arkansas sailed for the French coast to support the Allied invasion of Normandy. The ship entered the Baie de la Seine on 6 June, and took up a position 4,000 yards off "Omaha" beach. At 0552, Arkansas's guns opened fire. During the day, the venerable battleship underwent shore battery fire and air attacks; over ensuing days she continued her fire support. On 13 June, Arkansas shifted to a position off Grandcamp les Bains.

On 25 June 1944, Arkansas dueled with German shore batteries off Cherbourg, the enemy repeatedly straddling the battleship but never hitting her. Her big guns helped support the Allied attack on that key port, and led to the capture of it the following day. Retiring to Weymouth, England, and arriving there at 2220, the battleship shifted to Bangor, on 30 June.

Arkansas stood out to sea on 4 July, bound for the Mediterranean Sea. She passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and anchored at Oran, Algeria, on 10 July. On 18 July, she got underway, and reached Taranto, Italy, on 21 July. The battleship remained there until 6 August, then shifted to Palermo, Sicily, on 7 August.

On 14 August, Operation "Anvil," the invasion of the southern French coast between Toulon and Cannes, began. Arkansas provided fire support for the initial landings on 15 August, and continued her bombardment through 17 August. After stops at Palermo and Oran, Arkansas set course for the United States. On 14 September, she reached Boston, and received repairs and alterations through early November. The yard period completed on 7 November, Arkansas sailed to Casco Bay for three days of refresher training. On 10 November, Arkansas shaped a course south for the Panama Canal Zone. After transiting the canal on 22 November, Arkansas headed for San Pedro, California. On 29 November, the ship was again underway for exercises held off San Diego, California. She returned on 10 December to San Pedro.

After three more weeks of preparations, Arkansas sailed for Pearl Harbor on 20 January 1945. One day after her arrival there, she sailed for Ulithi, the major fleet staging area in the Caroline Islands, and continued thence to Tinian, where she arrived on 12 February. For two days, the vessel held shore bombardment practice prior to her participation in the assault on Iwo Jima.

At 0600 on 16 February, Arkansas opened fire on Japanese strong points on Iwo Jima as she lay off the island's west coast. The old battlewagon bombarded the island through 19 February, and remained in the fire support area to provide cover during the evening hours. During her time off the embattled island, Arkansas shelled numerous Japanese positions, in support of the bitter struggle by the marines to root out and destroy the stubborn enemy resistance. She cleared the waters off Iwo Jima on 7 March to return to Ulithi. After arriving at that atoll on 10 March, the battleship rearmed, provisioned, and fueled in preparation for her next operation, the invasion of Okinawa.

Getting underway on 21 March, Arkansas began her preliminary shelling of Japanese positions on Okinawa on 25 March, some days ahead of the assault troops which began wading ashore on 1 April. The Japanese soon began an aerial onslaught, and Arkansas fended off several kamikazes. For 46 days, Arkansas delivered fire support for the invasion of Okinawa. On 14 May, the ship arrived at Apra Harbor, Guam, to await further assignment.

After a month at Apra Harbor, part of which she spent in drydock, Arkansas got underway on 12 June for Leyte Gulf. She anchored there on 16 June, and remained in Philippine waters until the war drew to a close in August. On 20 August, Arkansas left Leyte to return to Okinawa, and reached Buckner Bay on 23 August. After a month spent in port, Arkansas embarked approximately 800 troops for transport to the United States as part of Operation Magic Carpet to return American servicemen home as quickly as possible. Sailing on 23 September, Arkansas paused briefly at Pearl Harbor en route, and ultimately reached Seattle, Washington, on 15 October. During the remainder of the year, the battleship made three more trips to Pearl Harbor to shuttle soldiers back to the United States.

During the first months of 1946, Arkansas lay at San Francisco, California. In late April the ship got underway for Hawaii. She reached Pearl Harbor on 8 May, and stood out of Pearl Harbor on 20 May, bound for Bikini Atoll, earmarked for use as target for atomic bomb testing in Operation Crossroads. On 25 July 1946, the venerable battleship was sunk in Test "Baker" at Bikini. Decommissioned on 29 July 1946, Arkansas was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 15 August 1946.

Arkansas received four battle stars for her World War II service.

See USS Arkansas for other ship of this name.