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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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History of USS Mississippi

The first Mississippi was named for the Mississippi River; succeeding ones for the 20th State, admitted to the Union 10 December 1817.


(Stern wheel steamer: displacement 3,220; length 229'; beam 40'; draft 19'; armament (1841) 2 10", 8 8")

The first Mississippi, a side-wheel steamer, was laid down by Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1839; built under the personal supervision of Commodore Matthew C. Perry; commissioned 22 December 1841, Capt. W. D. Salter in command; and launched several weeks later.

After several years of service in the Home Squadron, during which she performed experiments crucial to development of the steam Navy, Mississippi joined the West Indian Squadron in 1845 as flagship for Commodore Perry. During the Mexican War, she took part in expeditions against Alvarado, Tampico, Panuco, and Laguna do los Terminos, all successful in tightening American control of the Mexican coastline and interrupting coastwise commerce and military supply operations.

She returned to Norfolk for repairs 1 January 1847, then arrived Vera Cruz 21 March carrying Perry to take command of the American Fleet. At once she and her men plunged into amphibious operations against Vera Cruz, supplying guns and their crews to be taken ashore for the battery which fought the city to surrender in 4 days. Through the remainder of the war, Mississippi contributed guns, men, and boats to a series of coastal raids on Mexico's east coast, taking part in the capture of Tobasco in June.

Mississippi cruised the Mediterranean during 1849-51, then returned to the United States to prepare for service as flagship in Commodore Perry's momentous voyage to Japan. The squadron cleared Hampton Roads 24 November 1852, for Madeira, the Cape of Good Hope, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, which was reached 4 May 1853.

The squadron now approached Japan by calls in the Ryukyus and Bonins, and entered Tokyo Bay 8 July 1853. Commodore Perry proceeded, in one of the most difficult, skillful, and significant naval/diplomatic missions ever recorded, to negotiate a trade treaty with the Japanese, hitherto absolutely opposed to opening their country to Western trade and influence. After further cruising in the Far East, Mississippi and the squadron returned to Japan 12 February 1854 and 31 March the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed.

Mississippi returned to New York 23 April 1855, and again sailed for the Far East 19 August 1857, to base at Shanghai and patrol in support of America's burgeoning trade with the Orient. As flagship for Commodore Josiah Tatnall, she was present during the British and French attack on the Chinese forts at Taku in June 1859, and 2 months later she landed a force at Shanghai when the American consul requested her aid in restoring order to city, torn by civil strife. She returned to ordinary at Boston in 1860, but was reactivated when the Civil War became inevitable. She arrived off Key West to institute the blockade there 8 June 1861, and 5 days later made her first capture, schooner Forest King bound with coffee from Rio de Janeiro to New Orleans. On 27 November, off Northeast Pass, Mississippi River, she joined Vincennes in capturing British bark Empress, again carrying coffee from Rio to New Orleans. The following spring she joined Farragut's squadron for the planned assault on New Orleans. After several attempts, on 7 April 1862 she and Pensacola successfully passed over the bar at Southwest Pass, the heaviest ships ever to enter the river to that time.

As Farragut brought his fleet up the river, a key engagement was that with Forts Jackson and St. Philip 24 April, during which Mississippi ran Confederate ram Manassas ashore, wrecking her with two mighty broadsides. The city was now doomed, and Mississippi, her heavy draft making her less suitable to river operations than lighter ships, remained off New Orleans for much of the next year.

Ordered upriver for the operations against Port Hudson, Mississippi sailed with six other ships, lashed in pairs while she sailed alone. On 14 March 1863, she grounded while attempting to pass the forts guarding Port Hudson. Under enemy fire, every effort was made to refloat her by her commanding officer Capt. Melancthon Smith, and his executive officer, later to be famed as Admiral George Dewey. At last her machinery was destroyed, her battery spiked and she was fired to prevent Confederate capture. When the flames reached her magazines, she blew up and sank. She had lost 64 killed, the ships in company saving 223 of her crew.


II

(Battleship BB-23: displacement 13,000; length 382'; beam 77'; draft 24'8"; speed 17 knots; complement 744; armament 4 12", 8 8", 8 7", 12 3", 6 3-pounders, 2 1-pounders, 6 .30 caliber machine guns, 2 21" torpedo tubes; class Mississippi)

The second Mississippi (BB-23) was laid down 12 May 1904 by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, Pa.; launched 30 September 1905; sponsored by Miss M. C. Money, daughter of Senator H. P. Money of Mississippi; and commissioned at Philadelphia Nary Yard 1 February 1908, Capt. J. C. Fremont in command.

Following shakedown off the coast of Cuba, 15 February to 15 March 1908, the new battleship returned to Philadelphia for final fitting out. Standing out 1 July, she operated along the New England coast, until returning to Philadelphia 10 September. The warship next put to sea 16 January 1909 to represent the United States at the inauguration of the President of Cuba at Havana, 25 to 28 January. Mississippi remained in the Caribbean until 10 February, sailing that day to join the "Great White Fleet" as it returned from its famous world cruise. With the fleet on Washington's Birthday, the battlewagon was reviewed by President Theodore Roosevelt. On 1 March she returned to the Caribbean.

The ship departed Cuban waters 1 May for a cruise up the river which shared her name, the mighty Mississippi. Calling at the major ports of this great inland waterway, she arrived at Natchez 20 May, and then proceeded 5 days later to Horn Island where she received a silver service from the State of Mississippi. Returning to Philadelphia 7 June, the battleship operated off the New England coast until sailing 6 January 1910 for winter exercises and war games out of Guantanamo Bay. The battleship departed 24 March for Norfolk and operated off the east coast until fall, calling at a number of large ports, serving as a training ship for Naval Militia, and engaging in maneuvers and exercises designed to keep the ship and crew in the best possible fighting trim.

She departed Philadelphia 1 November for a fleet rendezvous at Gravesend Bay, England, 16 November, and then sailed 7 December for Brest, France, arriving on the 9th. On 30 December, Mississippi set course for Guantanamo Bay for winter maneuvers until 13 March 1911.

Returning to the United States, the battleship operated off the Atlantic coast, basing alternately out of Philadelphia and Norfolk for the next year and 2 months, serving as a training ship and conducting operational exercises. She cleared Tompkinsville, N.Y., 26 May 1912 with a detachment from the 2d Marine Regiment on board to protect American interests in Cuba. Landing her Marine detachment at El Cuero 19 June, she remained on station in Guantanamo Bay until 5 July, when she sailed for home.

Following exercises with the 4th Battleship Division off New England, she returned to Philadelphia Nary Yard where she was put in the 1st Reserve 1 August 1912.

Mississippi remained in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia until detached 30 December 1913 for duty as aeronautic station ship at Pensacola, Fla. Departing 6 January 1914, the battleship arrived 21 January, transporting equipment for the establishment of a naval air station. At Pensacola, she stood by while her crew, along with the early naval aviators, rebuilt the old naval base, laying the foundation for the largest and most famous American naval air station.

With the outbreak of fighting in Mexico, Mississippi sailed 21 April to Vera Cruz, arriving on the 24th with the first detachment of naval aviators to go into combat. Serving as a floating base for the fledgling seaplanes and their pilots, the warship launched nine reconnaissance flights over the area during a period of 18 days, making the last flight 12 May. One month later, the battleship departed Vera Cruz for Pensacola. Serving as station ship there from 15 to 28 June, she then sailed north to Hampton Roads where she transferred her aviation gear to armored cruiser North Carolina (CA-12), 3 July.

On the 10th, Mississippi shifted to Newport News to prepare for transfer to the Greek Government. Mississippi decommissioned at Newport News 21 July 1914, and was turned over to the Royal Hellenic Navy the same day. Renamed Lemnos, the battleship served for the next 17 years as a coast defense vessel. She was sunk in an air attack by German bombers on Salamis harbor in April 1941; and, after World War II, her hull was later salvaged as scrap.


III

(Battleship BB-41: displacement 32,000; length 624'; beam 97'5"; draft 30'; speed 21 knots; complement 1,081; armament 12 14", 14 5", 4 3", 2 21" torpedo tubes; class New Mexico)

Mississippi (BB-41) was laid down 5 April 1915 by Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Va.; launched 25 January 1917; sponsored by Miss Camelle McBeath; and commissioned 18 December 1917, Capt. J. L. Jayne in command.

Following exercises off Virginia, Mississippi steamed 22 March 1918 for training in the Gulf of Guacanayabo, Cuba. One month later she returned to Hampton Roads and cruised between Boston and New York until departing for winter maneuvers in the Caribbean 31 January 1919. On 19 July she left the Atlantic seaboard and sailed for the west coast. Arriving at her new base, San Pedro, she operated along the west coast for the next 4 years, entering the Caribbean during the winter months for training exercises.

During gunnery practice on 12 June 1924 off San Pedro, 48 of her men were asphyxiated as a result of an explosion in her No. 2 main battery turret. On 15 April 1925 she sailed from San Francisco for war games off Hawaii, and then steamed to Australia on a good will tour. She returned to the west coast 26 September, and resumed operations there for the next 4 years. During this period she frequently sailed into Caribbean and Atlantic waters for exercises during the winter months.

Mississippi entered Norfolk Navy Yard 30 March 1931 for a modernization overhaul, departing once again on training exercises in September 1933. Transiting the Panama Canal 24 October 1934, she steamed back to her base at San Pedro. For the next 7 years she operated off the west coast, except for winter Caribbean cruises.

Returning to Norfolk 15 June 1941, she prepared for patrol service in the North Atlantic. Steaming from Newport, R.I., she escorted a convoy to Hvalfjordur, Iceland. She made another trip to Iceland 28 September 1941, and spent the next 2 month there protecting shipping.

Two days after the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor, Mississippi left Iceland for the Pacific. Arriving 22 January 1942 at San Francisco, she spent the next 7 months training and escorting convoys along the coast. On 6 December, after participating in exercises off Hawaii, she steamed with troop transports to the Fiji Islands, returning to Pearl Harbor 2 March 1943. On 10 May she sailed from Pearl Harbor to participate in a move to restore the Aleutians to their rightful possessors. Kiska Island was shelled 22 July, and a few days later the Japanese withdrew. After overhaul at San Francisco, Mississippi sailed from San Pedro 19 October to take part in the invasion of the Gilbert islands. Wile bombarding Makin 20 November, a turret explosion, almost identical to the earlier tragedy, killed 43 men.

On 31 January 1944 she took part in the Marshall Islands campaign, shelling Kwajalein. She bombarded Taroa 20 February, and struck Wotje the next day. On 15 March she pounded Kavieng, New Ireland. Due for an overhaul, she spent the summer months at Puget Sound.

Returning to the war zone, Mississippi supported landings on Peleliu, in the Palau islands, on 12 September. After a week of continuous operations she steamed to Manus, where she remained until 12 October. Departing Manus, she assisted in the liberation of the Philippines, shelling the east coast of Leyte on 19 October. On the night of the 24th, as part of Admiral Oldendorf's battleline, she helped to destroy a powerful Japanese task force at the Battle of Suriago Strait. As a result of the engagements at Leyte Gulf, the Japanese navy was no longer able to mount any serious offensive threat.

Mississippi continued to support the operations at Leyte Gulf until 16 November, when she steamed to the Admiralty Islands. She then entered San Pedro Bay, Leyte, 28 December, to prepare for the landings on Luzon. On 6 January 1945 she began bombarding in Lingayen Gulf. Despite damages near her waterline received from the crash of a suicide plane, she supported the invasion forces until 10 February. Following repairs at Pearl Harbor, she sailed to Nakagusuku Wan, Okinawa, arriving 6 May to support the landing forces there. Her powerful guns leveled the defenses at Shuri Castle, which had stalled the entire offensive. On 5 June, a kamikaze crashed into her starboard side, but the fighting ship continued to support the troops at Okinawa until 16 June .

After the announced surrender of Japan, Mississippi steamed to Sagami Wan, Honshu, arriving 27 August as part of the support occupation force. She anchored in Tokyo Bay, witnessed the signing of the surrender documents, and steamed for home on 6 September. She arrived 27 November at Norfolk, where she underwent conversion to AG-128, effective 15 February 1946. As part of the development force, she spent the last 10 years of her career carrying out investigations of gunnery problems and testing new weapons, while based at Norfolk. She helped launch the Navy into the age of the guided-missile warship when she successfully test fired the Terrier missile on 28 January 1953 off Cape Cod. She also assisted in the final evaluation of the Petrel, a radar-homing missile, in February 1956.

Mississippi decommissioned at Norfolk 17 September 1956, and was sold for scrapping to the Bethlehem Steel Co., on 28 November, the same year.

Mississippi received eight battle stars for World War II service.


8 August 2001