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Washington file photo [3638]


CountryUnited States
Ship ClassNorth Carolina-class Battleship
Hull NumberBB-56
BuilderPhiladelphia Navy Yard
Laid Down14 Jun 1938
Launched1 Jun 1940
Commissioned15 May 1941
Decommissioned27 Jun 1947
Displacement35,000 tons standard
Length729 feet
Beam108 feet
Draft38 feet
Speed27 knots
Armament9x16in guns, 20x5in guns, 16x1.1in machine guns


ww2dbaseWashington had her shakedown and training cruises under the command of Captain Howard H. J. Benson on the east coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. She was the flagship was Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox's Battleship Division 6 of the Atlantic Fleet. On 26 Mar 1942, she became the flagship of Task Force 39, still under Admiral Wilcox, and sailed for Scapa Flow in Britain.

ww2dbaseIn the morning of 27 Mar, Wilcox was found face down in the water; rescue efforts by cruiser Tuscaloosa, two destroyers, and aircraft from Wasp failed, and efforts were abandoned at 1228. The reason of Wilcox being washed overboard was never fully explained. Some thought it might be a heart attack, while others pondered the possibility of a suicide. Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen took over the command of the task force from cruiser Wichita. The task force arrived at Scapa Flow on 4 Apr, and Giffen transferred his flag to Washington.

ww2dbaseIn late Apr 1942, Washington was designated the flagship of Task Force 99. She led the task force in reconnaissance and patrol duties in the North Atlantic. On 12 May, she was inspected by American and Danish politicians. Upon returning to Scapa Flow, she was made temporarily the flagship of Admiral Harold R. Stark on 4 Jun for the 7 Jun inspection by British King George VI. On 14 Jul, at Hvalfjordur, Giffen transferred his flag back to cruiser Wichita as the battleship began her voyage back to the United States. She received an overhaul at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York.

ww2dbaseUpon completion, Washington sailed out of the New York Navy Yard for the Pacific Ocean on 23 Aug 1942, escorted by three destroyers. She arrived at Nukualofa Anchorage, Tongatabu, Tonga Island on 14 Sep, and Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee broke his flag on Washington as his flagship of Battleship Division 6 and Task Group 12.2. She set sail with the group and formed the escort force around Task Force 17, which was centered around the carrier Hornet, as it participated in the Solomon Islands campaign. As a part of Task Force 64, she participated in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Japanese battleship Kirishima, heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, light cruisers Sendai and Nagara, and a screen of nine destroyers escorting four transports met with Task Force 64, which consisted of battleships Washington and South Dakota, supported by destroyers Walke, Benham, Preston, and Gwin. At 0016 on 13 Nov 1942, Washington opened fire first, followed by South Dakota, engaging in a battle that marked the first battleship-to-battleship battle of the Pacific War. Both sides took heavy casualties, but Washington escaped nearly unscathed. She landed nine 16-in shells and forty 5-in shells on Kirishima, disabling her; Kirishima was scuttled about two and half hours later due to the heavy damage. She remained in the South Pacific to support the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal Campaigns until 30 Apr 1943.

ww2dbaseBetween 8 and 28 May 1943, Washington participated in battle practice in Hawaiian waters. Upon completion of the exercises, she was put into the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for overhaul.

ww2dbaseWashington returned to active duty on 27 Jul 1943, joining Task Group 56.14 for the convoy to New Hebrides. Upon reaching the destination, she detached from the task group on 6 Aug and operated in the region in support of carriers. On 31 Oct, she joined Task Group 53.2 under Lee and performed exercises until 6 Nov.

ww2dbaseIn Nov 1943, from Fiji, Washington sailed with Task Group 50.1 for the Gilbert Islands. She escorted fleet carriers as the carriers launched aircraft to soften Japanese defensive positions before the landings. On 26 Nov, while escorting the carriers during the Makin operation, the group successfully fended off attacking Japanese aircraft. Toward the end of the Gilberts Campaign, Lee kept flag on Washington as the commander of Task Group 50.8 on 6 Dec. The group bombarded Nauru on 8 Dec. She spent the last days of 1943 conducting gunnery practice at Efate.

ww2dbaseAfter becoming a part of Task Group 37.2/Task Group 58.1, Washington escorted carriers as the aircraft attacked Taroa and Kwajalein in late Jan 1944. On 30 Jan, Washington, Massachusetts, and Indiana bombarded Kwajalein. On 1 Feb, while maneuvering at night, Washington rammed Indiana as Indiana crossed in front of Washington. Both ships were sent to Majuro for temporary repairs. Washington received further temporary repair at Pearl Harbor Navy Yard and permanent repairs at Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, United States. She returned to Majuro on 30 May, immediately becoming Vice Admiral Lee's flagship once again.

ww2dbaseIn Jun 1944, Washington escorted the carriers as the aircraft attacked the Mariana Islands while she taking part in bombardments against Saipan and Tinian. She participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19 Jun, assisting in the great destruction of Japanese air power that later came to be known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot. On 25 Jul, Washington, along with Task Group 58.4, sailed to the Palau Islands to raid Japanese shipping in preparation for the upcoming amphibious assault. Immediately after Palau, battleships Washington, Iowa, Indiana, Alabama, light cruiser Birmingham, and a destroyer screen formed Task Group 58.7 under Lee to sail to Eniwetok Atoll of the Marshall Islands for refueling and replenishing, where the task group remained until end of Aug 1944. In Sep 1944, Washington supported the invasion of the Palau Islands. On 10 Oct, she escorted carriers for air raids on Okinawa, in the same function between 11 and 14 Oct against Luzon and Taiwan, and again on 21 Oct between against Visaya Islands. From 5 Nov 1944 to 17 Feb 1945, she operated in the general region roughly enclosed by Okinawa, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. From 19 Feb to Mar 1945, her guns provided naval gunfire support for the Iwo Jima landing operation. On 18, 19, and 29 Mar, she screened carriers as the carrier aircraft attacked targets on the Japanese home island of Kyushu. On 24 Mar and 19 Apr, she bombarded Okinawa with her guns. She set sail from San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands on 1 Jun 1945 for Puget Sound Navy Yard in the United States on 6 Jun 1945, ending her WW2 service.

ww2dbaseWashington underwent a refit between 28 Jun and Oct 1945 at Puget Sound Navy Yard. She participated in Navy Day celebrations at Philadelphia Navy Yard on 27 Oct, then made one trip between Britain and the United States, carrying American servicemen home as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She was placed in reserve in New York and never saw active service again. She was sold for scrap on 24 May 1961. She left the legacy of being one of the few WW2-era battleships to see ship-to-ship combat, and additionally the only WW2-era battleship to fatally defeat another, Kirishima, in combat. She also had the distinction of never losing a single life in direct combat in the course of WW2.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: May 2007

Battleship Washington (BB-56) Interactive Map

Washington Operational Timeline

1 Jun 1940 Battleship Washington was launched at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, United States. She was the first American battleship to be launched since the 1921 launching of battleship West Virginia.
15 May 1941 Washington was commissioned into service.
25 Mar 1942 USS Washington departed Casco Bay near Portland, Maine, United States.
26 Mar 1942 US Navy warships Washington, Wasp, Wichita, Tuscaloosa, and eight destroyers sailed from Portland, Maine, United States for Britain to reinforce the Royal Navy Home Fleet.
27 Mar 1942 US Navy Admiral John Wilcox, Jr. drowned after being swept overboard from USS Washington during a storm at about 1030 hours.
1 May 1942 USS Washington suffered slight damage northeast of Iceland during the accident which saw HMS King George V ramming HMS Punjabi, detonating Punjabi's depth charges.
26 Jun 1942 After repairs at HM Dockyard Chatham, Sheerness, England, United Kingdom, HMS Cumberland became part of Home Fleet cover with HM Battleship Duke of York, US Navy Battleship USS Washington, HM Cruiser Negeria and screen of 14 RN/USN destroyers for passage of Russian Convoy PQ17.
12 Mar 1944 USS Washington arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an overhaul and repairs to her damaged bow.
30 Apr 1944 USS Washington departed Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in company with USS Colorado and USS Maryland.
5 May 1944 Battleships USS Maryland, Colorado, Washington, and California escorted by destroyers USS Mugford, Bagley, Sterett, Wilson, Shaw, Helm, Ross, and Selfridge departed San Francisco, California bound for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
10 May 1944 Battleships USS Maryland, Colorado, Washington, and California escorted by destroyers USS Mugford, Bagley, Sterett, Wilson, Shaw, Helm, Ross, and Selfridge arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from San Francisco.
18 Dec 1944 Many ships from the United States Third Fleet, Task Force 38 sailed into Typhoon Cobra in the Philippine Sea. Three destroyers and 790 men were lost.
23 Jun 1945 USS Washington arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an overhaul.
14 Sep 1945 USS Washington departed Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
27 Jun 1947 USS Washington was decommissioned from service.


USS Washington under construction, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Pennsylvania, United States, circa late 1938Battleship Washington under construction, Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, United States, 6 Jan 1939
See all 44 photographs of Battleship Washington (BB-56)


Map depicting Japanese and US Naval movements during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal the night of Nov 14, 1942.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. YOLO says:
11 Dec 2014 05:36:29 PM

Yo. What a great site. An idea is to add the armor of the vessel.
2. USS Washington (SSN 787) Commissioning Committee says:
1 Sep 2015 05:13:49 PM

The Commission Committee for the USS WASHINGTON (SSN 787), a USS VIRGINIA Class Attack Submarine is looking for surviving crew members of the USS WASHINGTON (BB 56) to honor them as veterans of prior warships named for the State of Washington.

Please reply to SSN-787@outlook.com with inquires, comments, or updates.
3. Jessica Niebel says:
12 Dec 2015 06:14:50 PM

My Grandfather, William B Norman, a crew member of the U.S.S Washington is still alive. He is 95 years of age will be 96 next month. I am the youngest serving member in my family and also a Marine Veteran and the first female in my family's history to serve in the military and was also born the same day as my grandfather. He served in WWII and I served in OEF
4. William Pezzaglia Jr. says:
6 Feb 2016 05:05:13 PM

Above article says Washington only made one magic carpet trip to England. My father's diary (written in the cover of a dictionary, he was an ensign) says there were 2 trips: 15 Nov 1945 left for Southhampton England, Arrive New York N.Y. 30 Nov 1945, Left for Southampton England on 5 Dec 1945, Arrive New York on 24 Dec, 1945 Christmas eve. Next left 8 Jan 1946 for Boston, arrived 9 Jan.
5. nicole johnson says:
26 Aug 2016 04:32:50 PM

very nice site ans thank you for sharing
6. angie bowers says:
10 Oct 2018 03:39:46 AM

my father, a yeomanof signals RN was seconded to the U navy for 18 months. serving on the flagship- of Rear Admiral Giffen. his name was John Patterson and he served on the USS Washington South Dakiota and USS Wichita. i doubt there is anyone left who knew him.
7. Mike schmittinger says:
20 Mar 2022 07:56:56 AM

My grandfather Dante Bertagna served on the Washington 1941-1947. He passed way in 2008 he was 86.

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More on Washington
» Lee, Willis

Event(s) Participated:
» Second Happy Time
» Guadalcanal Campaign
» Solomon Islands Campaign
» Gilbert Islands Campaign
» Marshall Islands Campaign
» Mariana Islands Campaign and the Great Turkey Shoot
» Palau Islands and Ulithi Islands Campaigns
» Typhoon Cobra
» Raid into the South China Sea
» Battle of Iwo Jima
» Okinawa Campaign
» Preparations for Invasion of Japan

Related Books:
» Tin Can Man

Battleship Washington (BB-56) Photo Gallery
USS Washington under construction, Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Pennsylvania, United States, circa late 1938Battleship Washington under construction, Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, United States, 6 Jan 1939
See all 44 photographs of Battleship Washington (BB-56)

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