HISTORY OF U.S.S. INDIANA
(Part 1 of 2)
Named for Indiana, the 19th State, admitted to the Union 11 December 1861, and was named because it had been the home of Indians.
The first Indiana (BB-1) was laid down 07 May 1891 by William Cramp & Son, Philadelphia; launched 28 February 1893; sponsored by Miss Jessie Miller, daughter of Attorney General of the United States; and commissioned 20 November 1895, Captain Robley D. Evans in Command.
When commissioned, the first battleship (BB-1) displaced 10,288 tons; was 350'11" in length; had a beam of 69'3"; drew 24' of water; could make 15 knots of speed; was manned by 473 officers and men; and was armed with 4 13" guns, 8 8" guns, 4 6"guns, 20 6-pounders, and 6 1-pounders.
Following fitting out at Philadelphia Navy, Indiana trained off the coast of New England. This duty continued until the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, when Indiana formed part of Admiral Sampson's squadron. The ten ships sailed south to intercept Cervera's Spanish Squadron, known to be en route to the Caribbean. Indiana took part in bombardment of San Juan 12 May 1898, and returned to Key West with the squadron to guard Havana 18 May. After it was discovered that Cervera was at Santiago, Sampson joined Schley there 1 June and took up the blockade.
In late June 1898, Army units arrived and were landed for an assault on Santiago. Cervera saw that his situation was desperate and began his gallant dash out of Santiago 03 July 1898, hoping to outrun the American blockaders. Indiana did not join in the initial chase because of her extreme eastern position on the blockade, but was near the harbor entrance when destroyers Pluton and Furor emerged. In a short time both ships were destroyed by Indiana's guns and those of the other ships. Meanwhile the remaining Spanish vessels were sunk or run ashore, in one of the two major naval engagements of the war.
Indiana returned to her previous pattern of training exercises and fleet maneuvers after the war, and made practice cruises for midshipmen of the Naval Academy before decommissioning 29 December 1903.
The battleship was recommissioned at New York Navy Yard 09 January 1906. During this phase of her career, Indiana served with the Naval Academy Practice Squadron, sailing to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. At Queenstown, Ireland, she fired a 21-gun salute 22 June 1911 in honor of the coronation of King George V. This important work in training the Navy's future leaders ended in 1914 and she was decommissioned at Philadelphia 23 May 1914.
Indiana was recommissioned a second time 24 May 1917, and served through World War I as a training ship for gun crews off Tomkinsville, NY, and in the York River, VA. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia 31 January 1919. The name Indiana was canceled 29 March 1919 and she was reclassified Coast Battleship Number 1 so that the name could be assigned to a newly authorized battleship. She was used as a target in an important series of tests designed to determine the effectiveness of aerial bombs and was sunk in November 1920. Her hulk was sold for scrap 19 March 1924.
Indiana (BB-50) was laid down by the New York Navy Yard 01 November 1920, but her
construction was canceled 08 February 1922 in accordance with the terms of the Washington Treaty
for Naval Limitation.
The third battleship to be named in honor of the State of Indiana was laid down on 20 November 1939 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company Newport News, Virginia. Two years and a day later 20 November 1941 the vessel was launched in a brilliant pre-war ceremony with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox giving the keynote address.Serving as sponsor for the new battleship was Mrs. Lewis C. Robbins, daughter of Indiana's Governor, Henry F. Schricker.
While INDIANA was being fitted out, the Japanese struck their treacherous blow at Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941), which temporarily eliminated almost all of the U.S. Navy's heavy striking power. The emergency was at hand! USS INDIANA s completion was hurried even more, and on 30 April 1942 she was commissioned with Captain Aaron Stanton Merrill, USN, as her first commanding officer. From her foremast fluttered the old National Ensign that BB-1 had flown when she steamed into battle at Santiago, Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
When commissioned the second of the South Dakota Class battleships displaced 35,000 tons; was 680' in length; had a beam of 108'2"; drew 29'3" of water; could make 27 knots of speed; was manned by 2,109 officers and men; was armed with 9 16" guns, 20 5" guns, 24 40 mm guns (later increased to 48) and 16 20 mm guns (later increased to 52); could carry 7,340 tons of fuel oil, 188 tons of diesel oil, 22 tons of gasoline, 341 tons of reserve feed water, and 439 tons of potable water; and had an endurance of 17,450 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 15 knots or 6,400 nautical miles at a speed at 25 knots.
The Japanese had quickly advanced through the Philippines, other Pacific islands, and in Asia, expanding their ill-fated empire, while the United States steadily recovered. During this period INDIANA had her outfitting and arming completed and conducted her shakedown cruise in the Casco Bay, Maine area. Gunnery exercises were among the most important features of the intensive training with every gun mount, from the 16-inch rifles of the main batteries to the 20mm mounts of the anti-aircraft guns being given considerable workout.
Fully laden with ammunition and supplies, USS INDIANA churned out of Hampton Roads, Virginia on 9 November 1942 enroute to Tongatabu Island via the Panama Canal. The vessel dropped anchor in Nukualofa Harbor, Tongatabu, Tonga Islands and reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet on 28 November, joining Rear Admiral Lee's Carrier Screenig Force 28. For the next 11 months, Indiana helped protect carriers Enterprise and Saratoga, then supporting American advances in the Solomons. At this time the U.S. Navy was at a low in the Pacific with only the battleships USS WASHINGTON, USS SOUTH DAKOTA, and now USS INDIANA, along with the aircraft carriers USS SARATOGA and USS ENTERPRISE carrying the burden of the Pacific war.
These major ships, plus a few cruisers and destroyers protected the American landings on Guadalcanal. There was never a battle for the INDIANA group, only a constant threat of one, with the Jap Fleet feinting and dodging, but never clashing with this group. Earlier in this campaign, however, the enemy had struck another hard blow. A group of Jap cruisers and destroyers approached Guadalcanal undetected, and had smashed an Allied cruiser force there, sinking HMAS CANBERRA, USS ASTORIA, USS QUINCY, and USS VINCENNES, in what is now know as the First Battle of Savo Island.
INDIANA supported the Rennell Island operation on 29-30 January 1943 and from February to May 1943 she operated from Noumea, New Caledonia, guarding against the Japanese threat in the South Pacific and engaging in training exercises. During June and part of July the ship operated with Task Group 36.3 in support of the New Georgia campaign..
During this period, the addition of USS MASSACHUSETTS and USS ALABAMA from the Atlantic; USS NORTH CAROLINA from Pearl Harbor, and the first of the new aircraft carriers, culminated in the ultimate forming of Task Force 58 / Task Force 38
INDIANA departed from Noumea on 31 July 1943, enroute to Pearl Harbor, arriving there on 9 August 1943.
In early 1942, the United States navy had a limited number of carriers and was therefore cautious in their deployment. To maximize firepower, carriers would launch combined air attacks upon agressors. Once these air attacks were completed the carriers would split-up in an effort to minimize the concentration of ships (targets) in one area. However, by 1943, American industry had produced a wealth of new carriers making the experimentation of carrier strategy feasible. Undecided whether to implement fast carriers as a long-range mobile strike force or as an amphibious invasion support ship Admiral Nimitz decided to baptise his new Essex Class Carriers by fire in small strikes agains enemy outposts. The first attempt to operate a multi-carrier group as a strike force occured on August 23, 1943 when the carriers Essex (CV-9), Yorktown (CV-10), and Independence (CVL-22) along with ten destroyers, two cruisers and the battleship Indiana (BB-58) were grouped together to form Taskforce 15. By August 31st the taskforce was in striking posistion 130 miles north of Marcus Island. Home to a Japanese airfield and weather station, Marcus Island, was quickly desimated by the suprise air attack.
Following the Marcus Island raid INDIANA returned to Pearl Harbor, where she was drydocked for 16 days.
On 21 October 1943 she left Pearl Harbor with the support forces designated for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, arriving in the Fiji Islands on 07 November 1943. Four days later, however, the battleship was again underway, with rear Admiral Lee now Commander, Battleships, Pacific, in company with other units of BatDivs 8 and 9. On the 16th, the battlewagons and their screens joined. Rear Admiral C. A. "Baldy" Pownall's TG 50.1, Rear Admiral Pownall flying his two-starred flag in Yorktown (CV-10), the namesake of the carrier lost at Midway. The combined force then proceeded toward the Gilbert Islands to join in the daily bombings of Japanese positions in the Gilberts and Marshalls- softening them up for impending assault. On the 19th, the planes from TG 50.1 attacked Mili and Jaluit in the Marshalls, continuing those strikes through 20 November, the day upon which Navy, Marine, and Army forces landed on Tarawa and Makin in the Gilberts. On the 22d, the task group sent its planes against Mili in successive waves; subsequently, the group steamed to operate north of Makin.
It was at Tarawa that she shot down her first plane. She was with the northern group of our forces, near Makin Island, when enemy torpedo bombers from the Marshalls attacked. They came in at dusk from the east, leaving the ships of the task force silhouetted against the western sun, and against flares that other Japs had dropped. The torpedo planes came in low, just off the water, with INDIANA s guns sending up a terrific barrage. She made her first kill when one of the enemy planes made the mistake of coming too close to her.
Indiana rendezvoused with other carrier groups that composed TF 50 on 25 November and, during the reorganization that followed, was assigned to TG 50.4, the fast carrier task group under the command of Rear Admiral Frederick C. "Ted" Sherman. The carriers comprising the core of the group were Bunker Hill (CV-17) and Monterey (CVL-26); the battleships screening them were Alabama (BB-60), South Dakota (BB-57) in addition to the the Indiana. Eight destroyers rounded out the screen.
The group operated north of Makin, providing air, surface, and antisubmarine protection for the unfolding unloading operations at Makin, effective on 26 November. Enemy planes attacked the group on the 27th and 28th but were driven off without inflicting any damage on the fast carrier task forces.
As the Gilbert Islands campaign drew to a close, TG 50.8 was formed on 6 December 1943, under Rear Admiral Lee, in Washington. Other ships of that group included North Carolina (BB-55), Massachusetts (BB-59), Indiana (BB-58), South Dakota (BB-57), and Alabama (BB-60) and the Fleet carriers Bunker Hill and Monterey. Eleven destroyers screened the heavy ships. The group first steamed south and west of Ocean Island to take position for the scheduled air and surface bombardment of the island of Nauru, the rich little phosphate island the Japs had stolen from the British. Before dawn on 8 December, the carriers launched their strike groups while the bombardment force formed in column; 135 rounds of 16-inch fire from the six battleships fell on the enemy installations on Nauru; and, upon completion of the shelling, the battleships secondary batteries took their turn; two planes from each battleship spotted the fall of shot. After a further period of air strikes had been flown off against Nauru, the task group sailed for Efate, where they arrived on 12 December. On that day, due to a change in the highest command echelons, TF 57 became TF 37.
Last Updated 18 May 2005
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