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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Indiana (BB-58)

1944

See also 1939-1942, 1943, 1945-1963

Indiana joined Lee’s TG 37.2 on 1 January 1944. Capt. James M. Steele relieved Capt. Fechteler as the ship’s commanding officer at 0845 on 13 January 1944. Three days later, Indiana fired 96 of her 5-inch shells in gunnery exercises with South Dakota, Burns, Charrette, and Conner. Heavy seas, rain, and poor visibility compelled the cancellation of the remainder of the exercises, and the ships returned to Havannah. They put to sea again the next day and Indiana fired 16-inch rounds at a floating target. Harsh weather drove a second cancellation of the exercises and the ships returned to port.

The battleship’s next action occurred as part of Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance’s Fifth Fleet during Operation Flintlock—the occupation of the Marshalls by the USMC and the Army’s 7th Infantry Division. Indiana sailed with TG 37.2, comprising Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, screened by Burns, Charrette, Conner, Izard, Lang, and Wilson, for Funafuti in the Elice Islands, at 0800 on 18 January 1944. At 0930, strong winds and seas caused a huge wave to sweep over South Dakota’s forecastle, injuring a number of men and washing Seaman 1st Class J.P. Collura, USNR, overboard, at a point about 1,900 yards southwest of Knapp Island. Conner and high-speed minesweeper Hopkins (DMS-13) searched unsuccessfully for Collura. Lang also lost a man overboard.

The remainder of the voyage passed uneventfully, and Indiana test fired her 20 millimeter and 40 millimeter guns on her third day at sea. TG 37.2 rendezvoused with Bunker Hill and Monterey and continued to Funafuti. Indiana’s lookouts sighted Funafunti bearing 310° at 0940 on 20 January, and at 1429, she anchored in berth B-1. The battleship received orders redesignating TF 37 as TF 58.5 in accordance with the operations plan for Flintlock.

Indiana transferred from TG 58.5 to TG 58.1, also consisting of aircraft carriers Enterprise (CV-6) and Yorktown and small aircraft carrier Belleau Wood (CVL-24), light cruiser Oakland (CL-95), and destroyers Caperton (DD-650), Clarence K. Bronson (DD-668), Cogswell (DD-651), Cotten (DD-669), Dortch (DD-670), Gatling (DD-671), Healy (DD-672), Ingersoll (DD-652), and Knapp (DD-653). Rear Adm. John W. Reeves, Jr., commanded the group.

Photo Indiana at anchor
Indiana trains with TF 58.1 while preparing to attack the Japanese forces in the Marshall Islands, on 27 January 1944. Taken by a photographer from aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6). (National Archives Photograph 80-G-222923, Still Pictures Branch, National Archives & Records Administration, College Park, Md.)

Photo Indiana at anchor
Indiana sails in the Pacific, probably while the ship made for the Marshall Islands to support the invasion of Kwajalein in late January 1944. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 52662, Naval History & Heritage Command)

The ships trained from 25 to 28 January 1944. Indiana zigzagged, carried out gunnery practice firing her 20 millimeter and 40 millimeter guns at towed targets, practiced emergency maneuvers, simulated an enemy ship while carrier torpedo bombers flew torpedo attacks against her, and fueled destroyers.

Indiana sailed as part of TF 58 toward Kwajalein for a scheduled air strike and naval bombardment to weaken its defenses in advance of the U.S. assault on 30 January. Rear Adm. Marc A. Mitscher broke his flag in command of TF 58 in Yorktown, Rear Adm. Lee hoisted his flag in command of Battleships Pacific Fleet and Task Unit (TU) 58.1.3 in Washington, and Rear Adm. Glenn B. Davis broke his flag in command of Battleship Division (BatDiv) 8 in Indiana. TU 58.1.3, which included Indiana, split from the main task group.

Indiana, Massachusetts, and Washington, screened by Caperton, Cogswell, Ingersoll, and Knapp, detached to bombard Japanese installations at Kwajalein. Washington served as the guideship as they approached their firing positions on 1 February 1944. At 0856, lookouts sighted Kwajalein, and Indiana catapulted a plane to provide the gunners with accurate observation and spotting during the bombardment. The ship sounded general quarters at 0915, and at 0956 her 16-inch guns roared to life from a range of 19,000 yards off the coast of Kwajalein. Small Japanese craft attempted to escape the island’s harbor, but the attackers sank some of the escapees with 5-inch gunfire. Japanese losses during the pre-invasion bombing and the shelling supporting the landings included auxiliary submarine chaser No. 11 Fuji Maru and guardboats Kikyo Maru, Meiho Maru, Palau Maru, Takeura Maru, and Yamashiro Maru.

The Japanese shore batteries returned fire, and Indiana reported that “occasional splashes could be seen in the water—several nearby.” Most of the enemy shells, however, splashed more than 1000 yards from the battleship. Indiana finished the first phase of her 16-inch and 5-inch bombardment at 1115, and opened the range to recover her Kingfishers. She refueled the planes, and launched them for additional spotting at 1150.

Seventeen minutes later, Indiana renewed fire, noting that “numerous fires were still burning…from the morning bombardment.” The shelling devastated two Japanese ammunition dumps on Kwajalein, sending “billows of smoke and flame several thousand feet high.” Indiana ended the second phase of her bombardment at 1448, and at 1715 Indiana and TU 58.1.3 regrouped with the carriers. The ship fired a total of 306 of her 16-inch High Capacity (H.C.) rounds and 2385 of her 5-inch shells. North Carolina meanwhile sank Japanese transport Eiko Maru off the west coast of Roi.

Following the bombardment, Indiana’s main directive was to support the Southern Attack Force. The ship maneuvered independently to fuel some of the nine destroyers of the screen, which steamed equally spaced 36° apart in a circle surrounding the heavier ships. Capt. William K. Phillips broke his flag as Commander of the Screen in Oakland, and the task group steered 340° at 19 knots. The ships enjoyed fair weather with clear visibility to the westward, but reduced visibility to the eastward.

Indiana came right to 150° at 0415 on 1 February 1945, but men suddenly sighted Washington about 25° off Indiana’s starboard bow at a range of 1500 yards. Lookouts on board Washington sighted Indiana close on Washington’s port bow. Washington ordered “back, emergency full,” put her rudder hard left, and sounded two short blasts and the danger signal on her whistle. The ship passed “Stand by for collision.” Both battleships had way and Washington struck Indiana forward of her starboard catapult at 0428, glancing down on her starboard quarter. The steel hulls scraped against each other, causing Indiana to lose at least 200 feet of her armor plating, and at least 20 feet of Washington’s forecastle embedded in Indiana’s side. Lt. Bartlett H. Stoodley, USNR, fell overboard from Washington, but Caperton rescued Stoodley.

Indiana sounded collision quarters and held a muster with all hands reporting, but subsequently discovered the loss overboard of Seaman 2d Class Lawrence H. Neville, USNR, of the ships company. Destroyers searched unsuccessfully for Neville. Seaman 2d Class John F. Gerou, USN, and Coxswain Paul R. McClanahan, USN, died. Seaman 1st Class Robert F. Eucke, USN, Fireman 1st Class William M. Kelly, USNR, Seaman 2d Class Milton L. Pattenaude, USNR, Seaman 2d Class John A. Trouiller, USNR, Fireman 2d Class Morris L. Stafford, USNR, and Private 1st Class Dan V. Thompson, USMC, suffered injuries.

Washington backed down, stopping within three minutes, and resumed her assigned course shortly afterward. Lt. Wildric F. Hynes, Jr., USNR, Lt. Stanley K. Turner, Jr., USNR, and Lt. j.g. Robert R. Kyser, USNR, died on board Washington, and the ship reported three more men missing: Lt. Comdr. Charles J. Allen, MC, Ensign Harrison E. Kendall, USNR, and Seaman 1st Class Robert C. Gross, USN. Washington continued fueling operations that afternoon, while Indiana took station on the starboard quarter of Washington but at reduced speed. Caperton, Cotton, Gatling,and Healy screened the damaged ships. Repair ship Vestal (AR-4) reinforced Washington’s damaged bow at Majuro from 3 to 10 February, and the battleship completed further repairs at Pearl Harbor.

Photo Indiana at anchor
Indiana completes repairs at Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Islands, on 13 February 1944, following her collision with battleship Washington (BB-56) on 1 February. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 92880, Naval History & Heritage Command)
Photo Indiana at anchor
Another shot of Indiana at Pearl Harbor on 13 February 1944, showing the damage to her starboard side received during the collision. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 92882, Naval History & Heritage Command)

Photo Indiana at anchor
Washington sails with a collapsed bow. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 68353, Naval History & Heritage Command)
Photo Indiana at anchor
Sailors ingeniously rig anchor chains to retain the collapsed bow of Washington. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 68355, Naval History & Heritage Command)

Photo Indiana at anchor
Washington completes temporary repairs in drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in March 1944. (U.S. Navy Photograph NH 101174, Naval History & Heritage Command)

A Court of Inquiry subsequently found Indiana at fault because of her failure to transmit all her maneuvering changes to the other vessels in the formation. The court described Washington as a “smart ship” but excluded Indiana from that description, and held Steele responsible because he “inadvertently” and admittedly “made a mistake” when he turned to 280° and reduced speed to 15 knots, thereby indicating a lack of appreciation of the danger involved in maneuvering heavy ships in a high speed disposition at night. Indiana failed to properly log her movements from 0420 to the collision eight minutes later, precluding the recreation of an accurate plot of her positions and maneuvers.

Indiana held a burial service at sea during the afternoon watch on 1 February. The following day, she steamed toward Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands, putting into port at 2045 in berth C-2. Private 1st Class Thompson, one of the six men hurt during the collision, died at 1700 as a result of his injuries. The ship held a burial service for Thompson the next afternoon.

Indiana sailed from Majuro escorted by destroyer Remey (DD-68) and destroyer escort Burden R. Hastings (DE-19) on 7 February 1944. The three ships made for Pearl Harbor at a steady 16 knots. The Pacific Fleet directed two additional destroyers to escort Indiana on 11 February, and destroyers Marshall (DD-676) and Norman Scott (DD-690) joined the damaged ship. The ship test fired her 20 millimeter, 40 millimeter, and 5-inch guns each day. At 1500 on 13 February, the escorts detached, and Indiana then moored port side to Berth No. 16 at Pearl Harbor. The battlewagon entered Drydock No. 4 for repairs at 1420 the next day.

Capt. Thomas J. Keliher, Jr., relieved Capt. Steele as the commanding officer on 17 March 1944. Indiana floated from the drydock and completed her repairs in berth B-12, emerging anew from the yard work on 7 April. She ran post repair trials and structural firing tests escorted by destroyers Capps (DD-561) and Prichett (DD-561). Indiana fired 18 of her 16-inch shells including a ‘triumphant’ salvo to starboard to mark her return to operational service. The ship returned to port at 1905, mooring port side to Degaussing Dock, Beckoning Point, Pearl Harbor. For the remainder of her time in Hawaiian waters, Indiana conducted firing tests including 5-inch Mark 32 fuse projectiles, target practice on drones, and illuminating projectile tests at sunset.

Indiana sailed in TG 12.1, escorted by destroyers Cassin Young (DD-793) and Prichett, on 15 April 1944. The battleship anchored in berth X-7 at Majuro on 19 April. The Task Group left Majuro the next day, steaming toward Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands. Indiana served as the guideship, with Cassin Young and Prichett forming an anti-submarine screen around her. The voyage spanned six days without contacting the enemy, although Cassin Young reported a sound contact at 1043 on 25 April. The destroyer executed an emergency turn of 50° but lost contact, and evaluators later determined that a school of fish comprised the likely culprit—lookouts had spotted porpoises earlier that morning.

Indiana entered Seeadler Harbor at 1038 on 26 April 1944, anchoring in Berth No. 2. TF 12.1 was dissolved and the battleship shifted to TG 58.3. Rear Adm. Davis shifted his flag to Indiana on 28 April. Indiana, Massachusetts, Cassin Young, Converse, Prichett, and Thatcher sailed on 28 April, and the following day rendezvoused with TF 58. Indiana took station 4180 in TG 58.3, which comprised Enterprise and Lexington, small aircraft carriers Langley (CVL-27) and Princeton (CVL-23), two battleship divisions, a cruiser division, and two destroyer squadrons. The carriers launched air strikes against the Japanese garrison on Truk briefly before dawn on 29 April, continuing the attacks into the next day. Indiana received several reports of enemy aircraft in the area but did not fire her guns against the intruders or the garrison.

The battleship then took part in a raid against Ponape Island on 1 May 1944. Vice Adm. Lee broke his flag in North Carolina and took command of the Battle Line. Indiana operated with the battleships of TF 58 and detected Ponape on her radar at 1241, when the battle group reached a position 55 miles from shore. Indiana launched one of her planes at 1450 to spot for her 16-inch guns, and at 1552 she opened fire, while steaming at 15 knots. The ship checked fire several times “due to a lack of suitable targets in our assigned areas,” and ceased fire at 1653. The battleship group returned to Majuro through the Louella Pass on 4 May. Indiana spent the remainder of May training in anticipation of operations in the Marianas.

Indiana set out with TF 58 from Majuro on 6 June 1944 to take part in Operation Forager—amphibious landings on Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas. Japanese planes attacked the ships while they steamed en route to Saipan. Indiana sounded general quarters at 0336 and executed emergency maneuvers as parachute flares cut through the darkness directly above her. The surrounding ships unsuccessfully fired at the attackers, but the proximity of her consorts in the confusion of the darkness prevented Indiana from firing. The enemy aircraft disengaged and Indiana’s radar screens cleared at 0428.

Following this nighttime interruption, Indiana, North Carolina, and Washington, in company with destroyers Dewey (DD-349), Hull (DD-350), MacDonough (DD-351), and Selfridge (D-357), formed TU 58.7.3, Commander Western Bombardment Unit. The ships approached their firing position against Saipan at 0944, and Indiana shot 584 of her 16-inch projectiles—the majority H.C. rounds.

While Indiana sailed to the west of Saipan and Tinian, waves of Japanese planes began to appear on radar screens at 1800 on 15 June 1944. The carriers launched their fighters and intercepted two enemy formations 30 and 60 miles out, respectively, claiming the destruction of eleven Japanese planes. Some of the enemy planes broke through toward the main formation, which reported approaching bogies at 1850. Washington opened fire, and “many planes were observed dead ahead, flying low.” Indiana sounded general quarters and executed an emergency turn left to 100°.

Indiana survived several close calls. An enemy plane flew toward Indiana at 1910. The ship opened fire, hitting the plane, but the attacker continued and dropped a torpedo. Sailors on board the ship did not spot the torpedo’s wake and it inexplicably failed to detonate. The ship’s gunfire set the plane afire and it crashed 400 yards off Indiana’s port beam. Three minutes later, another low flying plane headed toward her port bow, dropping what the ship reported as “more like a bomb than a torpedo.” The weapon failed to explode and the aircraft slammed into the water 400 yards off Indiana’s port quarter. The attacks concluded at 1914, and at 2032 the radar screens cleared.

The landings on Saipan penetrated the inner defensive perimeter of the Japanese Empire and triggered A-Go—an enemy counterattack that led to the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Japanese 1st Mobile Fleet, Vice Adm. Ozawa Jisaburō commanding, included aircraft carriers Taihō, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku, and light aircraft carriers Chitose, Chiyōda, Hiyō, Junyō, Ryūhō, and Zuihō. The Japanese intended for their shore-based planes to cripple Mitscher’s air power in order to facilitate Ozawa’s strikes—which were to refuel and rearm on Guam. Japanese fuel shortages and inadequate training and experience bedeviled A-Go, however, and U.S. signal decryption breakthroughs enabled attacks on Japanese submarines that deprived the enemy of intelligence. In addition, raids on the Bonin and Volcano Islands disrupted Japanese aerial staging en route to the Marianas, and their main attacks passed through U.S. antiaircraft fire to reach the carriers. This wall of flak included the battleships of the Battle Line.

As the opposing fleets neared on the morning of 19 June 1944, Alabama and South Dakota reported large incoming enemy air formations. The crew of Indiana manned their antiaircraft positions at 1010. One of the enemy formations began to split into three distinct groups, and reached the first U.S. major warships about thirty minutes later. At 1048, Indiana opened fire on an enemy plane that approaching her port quarter, shooting off a wing and sending the burning plane into the deep only 200 yards from the battleship’s port beam.

Japanese planes swept through the formation while engaging several American ships including the South Dakota, which suffered a bomb hit on the port side of her first superstructure deck. At 1150, a low-flying Japanese plane passed Indiana on her starboard side. As it turned around to make another pass it dropped a torpedo, after which it erupted into flame and splashed off the ship’s starboard quarter. Keliher swung Indiana hard right to avoid the attack, but the torpedo exploded a mere 50 yards from the starboard beam. The ship’s War Diary noted that the weapon detonated for an “unknown reason,” but added that it “was a poor drop being made on a turn, the torpedo falling at a sharp angle.” Eyewitnesses could not determine whether gunfire from the ship destroyed the weapon or the torpedo malfunctioned.

Enemy planes continued to harass Indiana. At 1213 antiaircraft fire from the ship tore the tail off a Japanese fighter as it approached Indiana’s starboard quarter. As the aircraft descended into a flaming downward spiral, it dropped a bomb but missed the ship, a plume of water erupting in her wake.

A burning Nakajima B5N2 Type 97 Kate carrier attack plane (kanjō kōgekiki or kankō—torpedo bomber) flew low on Indiana’s starboard beam and crashed into the ship at 1214 on 19 June 1944. The impact sent flaming debris across the main deck. Immediately following the crash, another detonation boomed 1,500 yards astern of Indiana. Eyewitnesses debated the origins of the explosion during the chaos of battle, with some men recalling a falling bomb and others a crashing plane, but the explosion marked the final attack of the day. The ship emerged otherwise unscathed and continued the battle.

Indiana fired 416 of her 5-inch projectiles, 9000 of her 20 millimeter rounds, and 4832 of the 40 millimeter shells. Five seamen sustained wounds from fragments from U.S. antiaircraft fire: Floyd Bailey, George H. Bell, Donald E. Cason, Earl E. Cox, and Charles J. Figler. TF 58 repelled the Japanese air attacks and destroyed at least 300 planes in what USN pilots called the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.”

The ship’s Kingfishers rescued two pilots from Lexington who crashed in the water off Guam on 4 July. Indiana supported carrier operations in the Marianas until August, when she began a 20-day respite at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. On 15 August, Rear Adm. Davis presented the Navy Cross to Lt. j.g. Rollin M. Batten, Jr., USNR, for his role in rescue operations on 4 July 1944, and awarded the Purple Heart to four of the men wounded during the air attack of 19 June in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

The battleship steamed from the Marshall Islands in company with TF 34 on 30 August, and on 3 September 1944 rendezvoused with TG 38 to support carrier operations against the enemy forces in the Palau, Negros, and Cebu Islands. Indiana’s Kingfishers rescued a pilot from Lexington who ditched in water on 14 September, but the battleship also developed engine trouble. Her maximum speed dropped to 23 knots, and after a dissatisfactory trial run she came about for Manus Island to repair the damaged turbine thrust bearing on her No. 4 engine. She anchored in berth No. 10, Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island, from 21 September to 4 October. Rear Adm. Davis shifted his flag from Indiana to Massachusetts on 30 September.

Following satisfactory trials, Indiana rendezvoused with TG 31.11, including battleship Idaho (BB-42), heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35), and light cruiser Cleveland (CL-55), en route to Pearl Harbor on 4 October 1944. On 14 October, she moored at berth F-8 Pearl Harbor. Two days later, Indiana sailed in company with Idaho and destroyers Bennet (DD-473) and Guest (DD-472) for Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash. Coast Guard cutter Bittersweet (CGC-389) passed Indiana close aboard from port to starboard at 1112 on 22 October. Both ships narrowly averted a collision.

Indiana disembarked 48 officers and 923 enlisted sailors at Bremerton for three weeks leave. The battleship then shifted to Drydock No. 4 for an overhaul, which she completed on 30 November 1944. Following her post-repair trials and radar calibration, the ship sailed for Pearl Harbor on 6 December 1944. Indiana conducted training exercises, such as a “simulated pre-dawn air attack,” and finalized repairs while at Pearl Harbor through the end of the year.

Rewritten and expanded by Joseph M. Soriero and Mark L. Evans