Online Library of Selected Images:
U.S. NAVY SHIP TYPES -- BATTLESHIPS

Iowa Class (BB-61 through BB-66),
1940 & 1941 Building Programs

At 45,000 tons standard displacement, the six ships of the Iowa class were the U.S. Navy's first new World War II era battleships whose design was not encumbered by treaty limits. They were a new type for the Navy, the "fast battleship", intended to protect aircraft carriers against the threat of similar Japanese "big-gun" ships, as well as to form a "fast wing" for the traditional battle line. Though the even-larger Montana class were designed and ordered, four of the Iowas were the last battleships ever completed for U.S. Navy service. They were also arguably the Navy's most successful battleship design and certainly had the longest service lives.

Built under Fiscal Year 1940 (BB 61 & 62) and 1941 (BB 63-66) appropriations, the Iowa class were much longer, more powerfully engined and considerably faster than the preceding North Carolina and South Dakota classes. Their main battery, nine 16"/50 guns in triple turrets, was also somewhat more powerful than the 16"/45 armament of the two earlier types. The Iowas' internal armor protection scheme was similar in arrangement to that of the South Dakota class, and was designed to keep out the armor-piercing shells originally intended for their guns, though not the heavier (2700 pound) shells ultimately used.

The first two ships, Iowa (BB-61) and New Jersey (BB-62), were completed in the first part of 1943, and served through the rest of the Pacific war in the roles that had become normal for battleships by then: screening fast carrier task forces against air and surface threats, occasional shore bombardment, standing ready to haul into line of battle if the Japanese battle fleet should present itself, and providing flagships for tactical commanders. The second pair, Missouri (BB-63) and Wisconsin (BB-64), whose construction was somewhat delayed by other wartime priorities, came out to the Pacific during the war's last year. The conflict formally ended on Missouri's broad decks.

Construction of the last pair, Illinois (BB-65) and Kentucky (BB-66) stopped at or soon after the war's end, and three of the four completed ships were "mothballed" during the later 1940s. During the early 1950s, all four employed their sixteen-inch guns against enemy targets in Korea, but they were placed in reserve later in the decade. Thinking they were obsolete, the Navy played with various schemes to convert these fast, spacious and still relatively-new ships to more modern configurations, but nothing came of those ideas. New Jersey was briefly reactivated for Vietnam War bombardment duty, and the entire quartet was modernized and placed back in service during the 1980s' defense buildup. Though their active days were numbered, Missouri and Wisconsin provided heavy gunfire support for the 1991 war with Iraq, but soon rejoined their sisters in the reserve fleet. At present, all four are either serving as museums or probably soon will be, though Iowa and Wisconsin technically remain subject to a future call to seagoing duty.

The Iowa class consisted of six ships, four of which were completed. Construction of all was assigned to east coast Navy Yards

  • Iowa (BB-61), built at the New York Navy Yard. Keel laid in June 1940; launched in August 1942; commissioned in February 1943.
  • New Jersey (BB-62), built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Keel laid in September 1940; launched in December 1942; commissioned in May 1943.
  • Missouri (BB-63), built at the New York Navy Yard. Keel laid in January 1941; launched in January 1944; commissioned in June 1944.
  • Wisconsin (BB-64), built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Keel laid in January 1941; launched in December 1943; commissioned in April 1944.
  • Illinois (BB-65). Under construction at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Keel laid in January 1945. Cancelled in August 1945 when 22% complete. Scrapped on the shipway in 1958.
  • Kentucky (BB-66). Under construction at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Keel originally laid in March 1942; construction suspended in June 1942, resumed in December 1944 and suspended again in February 1947. Hull launched in January 1950 to clear the building dock. Sold for scrapping in 1958.

Iowa class design characteristics:

  • Displacement: 45,000 tons (standard)
  • Dimensions: 887' (length overall); 108' 2" (maximum beam)
  • Powerplant: 212,000 horsepower steam turbines, producing a 33 knot maximum speed
  • Armament (Main Battery): Nine 16"/50 guns in three triple turrets
  • Armament (Secondary Battery): Twenty 5"/38 guns in ten twin mountings (ten guns on each side of the ship).

This page features a small selection of photographs of Iowa class battleships, plus images related to these ships' basic design features, and provides links to more extensive pictorial coverage of the individual ships.

For more images related to the Iowa class design, see: Iowa Class - Drawings.

For coverage of other classes of U.S. Navy battleships, see: Battleships - Overview and Special Image Selection.

Click on the photograph to prompt a larger view

Photo #: 80-G-K-15631 (Color)

USS Iowa (BB-61)

At sea with Task Force 38 in December 1944.
Photographed by LCdr. Charles Fenno Jacobs, USNR.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collections

Online Image: 122KB; 740 x 510 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

Note: This image has been erroneously identified as showing USS New Jersey (BB-62). Iowa's distinctive pattern camouflage can be faintly seen in the original transparency.

 
Photo #: 80-G-K-12603 (Color)

USS Missouri (BB-63)


Fires a salvo of 16-inch shells from turret # 2 while bombarding Chongjin, North Korea, in an effort to cut enemy communications, October 1950.
Chongjin is only 39 miles from North Korea's northern border.

This is a color-tinted version of a black & white original. The original photograph is Photo #: 80-G-421049.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collections

Online Image: 84KB; 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: NH 90639

USS New Jersey (BB-62)


Bombarding enemy targets near Tuyho, on South Vietnam's central coast, during her last line period, late in March 1969.
Photographed by PH2 Monty L. Tipton.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History & Heritage Command collection

Online Image: 75KB; 740 x 520 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 97206-KN (Color)

USS Wisconsin (BB-64)

Underway at sea, circa 1988-91.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History & Heritage Command collection

Online Image: 190KB; 590 x 765 pixels

 
Photo #: DN-ST-85-05379 (Color)

USS Iowa (BB-61)

Fires a full broadside of nine 16"/50 and six 5"/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, 1 July 1984.
Photographed by PHAN J. Alan Elliott.
Note concussion effects on the water surface, and 16-inch gun barrels in varying degrees of recoil.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History & Heritage Command collection

Online Image: 183KB; 740 x 605 pixels

 


The following images show destinctive design features of the Iowa class battleships:

Photo #: 80-G-K-13507 (Color)

USS Iowa (BB-61)

Being prepared for launching, at the New York Navy Yard, NY, circa late August 1942.
Note: heavy chains used to brake the ship after she had entered the water; and men lounging at lower right, near a Navy Department safety poster, listening to a Marine Corps band.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collections

Online Image: 188KB; 580 x 765 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: NH 93911

USS New Jersey (BB-62)


Being prepared for launching, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, on 7 December 1942.
Note the shape of her after hull, with inboard propeller shafts incorporated in the hull skegs, and twin rudder posts directly aft of them. The starboard outboard propeller shaft is also visible, at right.

Copied from the Bureau of Ships monograph "United States Battleship Designs for World War II", dated 1 June 1946.

U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 128KB; 740 x 615 pixels

 
Photo #: 80-G-K-513 (Color)

USS Iowa (BB-61)

Hoisting one of the ship's nine 16"/50 Mark VII main battery guns on board, while she was fitting out, at the New York Navy Yard, circa Autumn 1942.
Another gun is still on the pier, at the bottom of the photo.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collections

Online Image: 112KB; 740 x 615 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 
Photo #: 80-G-K-515 (Color)

USS Iowa (BB-61)

Workmen installing the battleship's forward 16"/50 gun turrets, while she was fitting out at the New York Navy Yard, circa Autumn 1942.
View looks aft and to port, with the number two turret in the center of the view and the forward fire control tower at left.
Note "Moto Crane" in lower left.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collections

Online Image: 133KB; 740 x 610 pixels

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives.

 



For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.



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