South Dakota and destroyers McCord (DD-534) and McDermut (DD-677) detached from TG 58.4 and proceeded to Guam, at 0754 on 13 May 1945. Lee served as the OTC in South Dakota. TG 58.4 continued to Ulithi. South Dakota moored to a buoy in berth 701 at Apra, Guam, at 1520 on 14 May. At 0932 the following morning, the ship crossed the sill of advance base sectional dock ABSD-3. The battleship received power and fresh and salt water from ashore while in the drydock, but distilled 50% of the fresh water on board. The inspection revealed that the vibration at high speeds had caused multiple problems with the shafts, strut bearings, and propellers, including wearing down the bushing brasses and the wood of No. 1 strut bearing, and pitting all four propellers. ABSD-3 and South Dakota repaired these deficiencies, and the ship floated from the dock and moored to a buoy in berth 561, on 27 May. A change in command from Spruance’s Fifth Fleet to Halsey’s Third Fleet meanwhile took place that adjusted all task number designations from the 50’s to the 30’s.
British battleship King George V (41) and destroyers Tenacious (R.45), Termagant (R.89), and Troubridge (R.00) moored at Apra, at 0925 on 28 May 1945. A USAAF helicopter landed on South Dakota’s Turret I at 1625. Vice Adm. Lee boarded the helo -- most likely a Sikorsky YR-4B or R-4B -- and took a flight around the harbor. The helo returned the admiral to his flagship and then lifted off at 1707. At one point while the British ships berthed at Apra, Vice Adm. Rawlings called upon Lee on board South Dakota.
South Dakota, Hale, and Stembel sailed from Ulithi at 0706 on 29 May 1945. The ships carried out antisubmarine exercises during the forenoon watch. The submarines fired practice torpedoes at the ships, and operated submerged at varying periscope depths for training surface lookouts. The battleship then fired her main and secondary batteries at a radar screen-equipped target sled. After dusk, Stembel made a practice torpedo run against South Dakota and Hale, illuminating her targets with star shells. South Dakota made a high speed run during the afternoon watch the following day, reaching a speed of 28.2 knots. The watchstanders on the bridge and in the engineering spaces noted little vibration at high speeds while turning, and evaluated the repairs as successful. The ships carried out additional night torpedo exercises and daily antiaircraft practice against TDDs through 31 May. The battleship stood into Leyte Gulf at 0702 on 1 June. Planes flying from ashore towed target sleeves for South Dakota’s antiaircraft guns, and at 1301 the battleship anchored in berth 43 at San Pedro Bay, reporting to TG 38.3.
Rear Adm. John F. Shafroth broke his flag in command of Bat-Div-2 in South Dakota on 16 June 1945. The battleship then reported to TG 38.1 in accordance with the reorganization of ships within the task groups of TF 38. South Dakota conducted practice shore bombardment at a target range on Dinagat Island and antiaircraft training against towed target sleeves during the forenoon watch on 23 June. Borie, John W. Weeks, and Waldron screened the ship. While returning to her berth in San Pedro Bay, South Dakota stood inside the line of sonobuoys crossing the bay and passed through the degaussing range. The battleship carried out additional antiaircraft training on 24 June, but at 1330 received a report of the possible sighting of a Japanese submarine between the operating area and the anchorage. Destroyer escorts and submarine chasers searched the area without success. The battleship remained underway overnight because of the danger, but returned the following day.
The Allies planned to invade the Japanese home islands through two principal operations: Operation Olympic — landings on Kyushu scheduled for 1 November 1945; and Coronet — landings on Honshū scheduled for 1 March 1946. Olympic included a diversion against Shikoku to precede the main landings. The enemy prepared to defend the islands ferociously. “The sooner [the Americans] come, the better…One hundred million die proudly,” a Japanese slogan exhorted their people. The enemy deployed massed formations of kamikazes, as well as kaiten manned suicide torpedoes, shinyo suicide motorboats, and human mines—soldiers were to strap explosives to their bodies and crawl beneath Allied tanks and vehicles. The preparations to support these landings included a series of carrier and surface raids by Halsey’s Third Fleet against Japanese airfields, ships, and installations from Kyūshū to Hokkaido. Nimitz defined Halsey’s mission to: “attack Japanese naval and air forces, shipping, shipyards, and coastal objectives,” and to “cover and support Ryukyus forces.”
McCain sailed with TF 38 from Leyte on 1 July 1945. The three task groups under McCain’s command, Sprague’s TG 38.1, Bogan’s 38.3, and Radford’s 38.4, each comprised an average of three Essex class carriers and two small carriers. In addition, a replenishment group and an antisubmarine group each included escort carriers. South Dakota stood out of the anchorage as part of TU 38.1.2 at 0556. The battleship carried out antiaircraft exercises en route, and refueled Bullard, Erben, Knapp, and Stembel on 3 July. At 1742, South Dakota joined TG 38.1 to continue training. Two days later, the crew manned their battle stations to check their gas masks, flash gear, and ointments for readiness. South Dakota refueled from Kankakee on 8 July.
The carriers began their first battles of the voyage with strikes on airfields in the Tōkyō plains area on 10 July. The Japanese camouflaged and dispersed most of their planes, reducing the aerial opposition encountered but also diminishing the results obtained. South Dakota conformed to the movements of the carriers during the daytime throughout these raids. The ship took on oil from Marias on 12 July. Harsh weather compelled the shift of attacks to airfields, vessels, and rails in northern Honshū and Hokkaido on 14 July.
South Dakota joined TU 38.8.1 when it formed at 0658 on 14 July 1945. The bombardment group comprised Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, heavy cruisers Chicago (CA-136) and Quincy (CA-71), and nine destroyers. Shafroth led the task unit from South Dakota. The ships closed northern Honshū, and South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1042. At 1210, South Dakota opened fire on the Kamaishi Steel Works at Kamaishi, Honshū. The concern comprised one of the seven major plants of the Japan Iron Co, but the complex of iron works and warehouses lay in the narrow valley of the Otatari River, surrounded by rugged crests that hindered the barrage. The battle marked the first gunfire attack on the Japanese home islands by heavy warships during WWII.
George E. Jones, a New York Times correspondent embarked on board South Dakota, described his view from the ship: “Intermittently the skies were overcast, but at times the sun broke through, slanting its rays on the green carpeted hills of Honshu. Behind these hills ranged higher mountains, disappearing finally in a faint haze which mingled with the blue outlines of the rugged peaks. The water similarly ranged from sullen gray to a hard, chilly blue.” SN1c Glenn D. Arnold of Scio, Ore., manned his battle station down in the main battery plot, pressing the trigger that sent the first 16-inch salvo hurtling inland.
The ship conducted slow and deliberate fire against her assigned targets. The concussions from the explosions spread numerous fires from people’s cooking fires to paper partitions and straw matting, kindling further blazes within warehouses and nearby oil tanks. Heavy smoke rose from these conflagrations and obscured the targets from the spotter planes. Planners had utilized aerial reconnaissance photographs and radar positioning data to pre-plot the shoots, and therefore continued the shelling.
Chicago spotted what she identified as an enemy escort and opened fire with her secondary batteries at the ship, beginning at 1251. The 5-inch rounds straddled the ship, and she trailed smoke, came about, and returned to port. The U.S. ships sailed past the harbor six times, firing 802 of their 16-inch, 728 of the 8-inch, and 825 of their 5-inch shells. South Dakota shot 231 of her 16-inch H.C. and eight 5-inch rounds. The Allied naval blockade gradually cut the flow of raw materials into Japan and the plant operated at only half its capacity. Following the war, the Allies inspected the effects of the bombardment and estimated that the shelling cost the Japanese the equivalent of two and one half months coke production, and one month of pig iron production. Shafroth ordered the ships to cease fire at 1420, and they then came about to rejoin TF 38.
The carriers launched strikes against northern Honshū and Hokkaido on 15 July 1945. These two days of raids on 14 and 15 July wrought havoc with the vital shipment of Japanese coal across the Tsugaru Strait. South Dakota refueled from Marias on 16 July. Rawlings’ TF 37, comprising King George V, carriers Formidable, Implacable (86), and Victorious, eight light cruisers, and 18 destroyers reinforced the Americans. Eight days later Indefatigable arrived.
The Allied carrier planes bombed targets around Tōkyō on 17 July, and night combat air patrols of planes from Bon Homme Richard protected U.S. and British ships that shelled six major industrial plants in the Mito-Hitachi area of Honshū. The following day the carriers launched aircraft against the naval station at Yokosuka and airfields near Tōkyō, sinking training cruiser Kasuga, incomplete escort destroyer Yaezakura, submarine I-372, submarine chaser Harushima, auxiliary patrol vessels Pa No. 37, Pa No. 110, and Pa No. 122, and motor torpedo boat Gyoraitei No. 28, and damaging Nagato, target ship Yakaze, motor torpedo boat Gyoraitei No. 256, landing ship T.110, and auxiliary submarine chaser Cha 225. Carrier raids damaged Haruna and carriers Amagi and Katsuragi on 19 July. South Dakota refueled from oiler Caney (AO-95) and rearmed from ammunition ship Vesuvius (AE-15) on 20 and 21 July. The battleship rearmed from ammunition ship Shasta (AE-6), received provisions and stores from cargo ship Alcyone (AK-24), and rearmed from Mauna Loa on 22 July.
McCain attacked Japanese airfields and shipping along the Inland Sea and northern Kyūshū, supported by long-range strikes by USAAF bombers, on 24 July 1945. Carrier planes flew 1,747 sorties and sank 21 ships including Hyūga, Tone, training cruiser Iwate, and target ship Settsu, and damaged 17 vessels. The carriers repeated their sweep the following day. South Dakota transferred patients by breeches buoy to hospital ship Rescue (AH-18) and refueled from oiler Aucilla (AO-56) on 26 July. Carrier planes struck targets between Nagoya and northern Kyūshū on 28 July, sinking a number of ships including Haruna, Ise, training ship Izumo, Aoba, light cruiser Ōyodo, escort destroyer Nashi, submarine I-404, and submarine depot ship Komahashi. Additional vessels sustained damage.
South Dakota detached and rendezvoused with other ships, including Indiana and Massachusetts, heavy cruisers Chicago, Quincy, and Saint Paul (CA-73), and ten destroyers, to reform TU 38.8.1 on 29 July 1945. Shafroth broke his flag in command of the unit, BatRon-2, and BatDiv-8, in South Dakota. The ships formed cruising disposition 4-S-B at 1050, and steamed toward a position to the east of Hamamatsu, Honshū. A British task unit, TU 37.1.2, consisting of King George V and destroyers Ulysses (R-69), Undine (R-42), and Urania (R-05), detached from TF 37 at noon and shaped northeasterly courses to rendezvous with Shafroth. At one point during their voyage, Ulysses and Urania collided. The impact slightly damaged Ulysses, but both ships continued in the operation.
Night CAP and spotters flying from Bon Homme Richard supported the operation. South Dakota manned her battle stations at 2132, the ships deployed for their night bombardment at 2158, and at 2319 South Dakota opened fire. King George V opened fire at 2319 at a range of 20,075 yards from her target, the Japanese Musical Instrument Co. (which manufactured aircraft propellers). The British battleship ceased fire at 2356 after firing 265 of her 14-inch rounds; however, only seven shells apparently struck the target. At one point, Undine fired at a small group of unidentified vessels that sailed nearby—most likely fishing boats. South Dakota fired her final 16-inch salvo of the shelling at 0011 on 30 July. Eleven minutes later, the ship opened fire with her 5-inch guns against the enemy airfield at Tenryu, ceasing fire at 0029. South Dakota shot 270 of her 16-inch 45 cal. H.C. and 72 of her 5-inch 38 cal. antiaircraft common projectiles.
The ships formed cruising disposition 4-S-B at 0035 on 30 July, the guide in South Dakota, and retired from the area. The battleship secured from General Quarters at 0050, but maintained condition 1 in her antiaircraft battery. The British ships detached and returned to their task force by steering southerly courses. TU 34.8.1 dissolved at 0611, and South Dakota rejoined TG 38.1, which steamed in cruising disposition 5-R. The carriers launched raids against Japanese forces in the Tōkyō and Nagoya areas. Comdr. Stillman relieved Capt. Momsen and assumed temporary command of the ship. The following day, the ship transferred Momsen to Samuel N. Moore for further transportation to the U.S. South Dakota refueled from Patuxent on 31 July. The battleship carried out antiaircraft practice several times during this period, and embarked two OS2N-1 Kingfishers of VO-6.
A typhoon approached the Third Fleet but Halsey brought the ships about on 31 July and 1 August southward to a position near 25°N, 137°E, to evade the tempest. Many of the ships replenished, and South Dakota took on oil from Ashtabula on 3 August. Full carrier air groups conducted simulated air attacks against TG 38.1 on 5 August. South Dakota refueled from Marias on 7 August.
South Dakota cleared the task group and rendezvoused with other ships to reform TU 34.8.1 at 0341 on 9 August 1945. The task unit included Boston, Chicago, Quincy, and Saint Paul, together with British light cruiser Newfoundland (59) and New Zealand light cruiser Gambia (48), escorted by ten American and three British destroyers. The ships formed cruising disposition 4-S-B and stood toward northern Honshū. The ships shifted their formation and deployed to their bombardment positions. South Dakota manned her battle stations at 1145, and commenced firing her main battery at Kamaishi at 1250. The ships shelled the iron works and docks until 1423, South Dakota firing 268 rounds of 16-inch 45 cal. H.C. and 109 of her 5-inch 38 cal. antiaircraft common ammunition. The task unit came about to form cruising disposition 4-S-B at 1447, and retired to rendezvous with TF 38. South Dakota secured from General Quarters at 1500, and set double condition 3 in her antiaircraft battery. An unidentified Japanese plane dove on the formation at 1602, but escaped despite fire from multiple ships including South Dakota.
The battleship supported the carriers in raids to defeat enemy attempts to concentrate planes for further suicide attacks and in preparation to repel the Allied landings. Planes bombed the Honshū-Hokkaido area on 9 and 10 August. South Dakota refueled from Cacapon on 11 August. Rear Adm. Shafroth shifted his flag from South Dakota to Alabama via breeches buoy on the morning of 12 August. Carriers launched strikes against the Tōkyō area on 13 August. South Dakota detached from TG 38.1 at 0704 on 14 August, and reported to TG 38.3 at 0900. The ship then refueled from oiler Cossatot (AO-77) and transferred patients to Rescue.
The carriers commenced launching strikes against the Tōkyō plains area at 0415 on 15 August 1945. The Japanese accepted the terms of unconditional surrender, and Halsey announced the end of the war. McCain cancelled follow-up strikes and recalled the attackers. The first raid of the day had reached their targets and 15 to 20 Japanese fighters intercepted six Hellcats of VF-88, embarked on board Yorktown, over an airfield at Tokurozama. The Americans claimed the destruction of nine enemy planes and lost four Hellcats. The second wave began launching at 0513 and approached the coastline, but heeded McCain’s recall and jettisoned their ordnance and returned. South Dakota received orders to cease offensive operations and retire at 0638. The Allies celebrated V-J [Victory in Japan] Day — 14 August in the Eastern Pacific. Fragmentary communications prevented some of the Japanese forces from learning of the surrender, and several planes approached the task group while the ships opened the range from the Japanese home islands. The fighters of the CAP splashed these aircraft, none of which closed TG 38.1.
Capt. Emmet P. Forrestel transferred from Taylor to South Dakota on 16 August, and the following day relieved Comdr. Stillman. The battleship refueled from Caney and received fresh provisions from attack cargo ship Thuban (AKA-19) on 18 August. On 19 and 20 August, South Dakota rearmed from ammunition ship Akutan (AE-13). The battleship refueled from Manatee on 21 August. Two days later, the ship detached from 38.3 and reported to TG 35.1, carrying out antiaircraft practice the following day. South Dakota spotted a lighted Japanese ship abeam to port, range 7,000 yards, at 0226 on 26 August. The battleship received a message that the (unidentified) vessel sailed under a guarantee of safe passage for a “mercy voyage” and allowed her to continue.
Emperor Hirohito ordered his troops to lay down their arms, but many Allied sailors and marines viewed the occupation of the Japanese home islands with trepidation. Rumors circulated concerning the likelihood of meeting fierce resistance. Halsey led ships of the Third Fleet into Sagami Wan, outside the entrance to Tōkyō Bay, on the morning of 27 August 1945. Aircraft carriers launched reconnaissance missions over the Japanese homeland from outside the bay. South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 0936, and dropped anchor in Sagami Wan at 1418. In addition to manning her battle stations, the ship enhanced her security precautions and sentries kept watch and manned machine guns. Crewmen noted with relief the absence of resistance, and that many Japanese troops and civilians stopped their activities and watched the fleet enter the bay, while others continued with their daily tasks.
The battleship proceeded to Tōkyō Bay at 0556 on 29 August, sounding General Quarters as a preventive measure, and dropping anchor in berth F-70 at 1016. South Dakota detached from TG 35.1 and assumed the task organization designation of TG 10.1. Capt. Forrestel broke his flag in command of the group, which consisted of South Dakota and transport Ancon (AP-66), in the battleship. Ancon served temporarily as a press release ship, coordinating her duties with Iowa. Halsey boarded South Dakota at 1330. Two Consolidated PB2Ys put down onto the water and taxied alongside the battleship shortly thereafter. Nimitz climbed from one of the Coronados and at 1420 boarded South Dakota and broke his flag in the ship. Halsey departed the battleship at 1535.
The Japanese formally surrendered on board battleship Missouri in Tōkyō Bay on 2 September 1945. Nimitz and his entourage departed South Dakota at 0802 to attend the surrender ceremony, returning at 1050. Nimitz hauled down his flag at 0645 on 3 September, and departed South Dakota to return to his headquarters on Guam. South Dakota shifted from her berth and went alongside the port side of Missouri to receive Halsey’s files and equipment during the morning and forenoon watches on 5 September. Twenty-nine officers and 146 enlisted men transferred from South Dakota to Missouri and further transfer to the U.S., to make room for Halsey and his staff. The admiral broke his flag in South Dakota at 1640, and the ship shifted to TG 30.1, the Third Fleet Flagship Group, Capt. Forrestel in command, returning to berth F-70 before dusk.
Halsey directed the naval phase of the occupation of the Japanese home islands while on board South Dakota. The ship shifted to buoy No. 1 at Yokosuka during the morning watch on 6 September 1945. Rear Adm. Howard F. Kingman, ComBatDiv-9, inspected the battleship during the forenoon watch on 17 September. The following day, the edge of a typhoon with winds reaching up to 60 knots struck the bay. Many of the ships maintained steam to their throttles and landed or hoisted in small boats. Halsey hauled down his flag at 0634 on 20 September and departed South Dakota to proceed to his headquarters at Pearl Harbor.
South Dakota stood out of Tōkyō Bay as part of TG 30.4 at 1236 on 20 September 1945. The ship sailed in company with battleships Alabama, Colorado (BB-45), Iowa, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, Ticonderoga, light cruisers Amsterdam (CL-101), Tucson (CL-98), and Vicksburg, and Blue, Collett, De Haven, Maddox, Samuel N. Moore, Lyman K. Swenson, and Taussig. The task group proceeded to the west coast of the U.S. South Dakota anchored at berth B-124 in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, at 0748 on 23 September. Nearly 600 men from all branches of the armed forces returning home embarked on board, and South Dakota continued to Pearl Harbor the following morning at 0902.
The ships reached Hawaiian waters and sailed in review past Diamond Head, and then divided into task groups to proceed to different ports along the west coast. Halsey broke his flag in South Dakota as he led the 53 other ships and submarines of TG 30.2 into San Francisco to celebrate the annual Navy Day on 27 October 1945. South Dakota dangled a large “Homeward Bound” pennant from her mast as she slid beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at 1300. The ship embarked Governor Earl Warren of California and Mayor Roger D. Lapham of San Francisco, who reviewed the procession of vessels. South Dakota steamed 246,970 miles, participated in nine bombardments, crossed the equator 30 times, the Arctic Circle twice, and the International Date Line 30 times during WWII.
Rear Adm. Kingman relieved Halsey of the command of the Third Fleet on 22 November, and Halsey hauled down his flag and departed from South Dakota. The ship moved down the coast from San Francisco to San Pedro on 29 October. Capt. Carlton R. Todd relieved Capt. Forrestel as the Commanding Officer on 1 December. Rear Adm. Kingman was promoted to vice admiral on 10 December 1945, and three days later shifted his flag from South Dakota to Quincy.
The battleship sailed from the west coast for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and a yard overhaul on 3 January 1946, arriving at Philadelphia on 20 January. Rear Adm. Cooley hoisted his flag as Commander Fourth (Reserve) Fleet on 21 February. Vice Adm. Charles H. McMorris relieved Cooley and broke his flag in South Dakota on 26 February. Comdr. William K. Parsons relieved Capt. Todd as the Commanding Officer of South Dakota on 20 June. McMorris shifted his flag to heavy cruiser Oregon City (CA-122) on 3 July 1946. Comdr. Matthew S. Schmidling relieved Comdr. Parsons as the Commanding Officer on 21 December. The Navy dissolved the Fourth Fleet at the stroke of the New Year, 1947. South Dakota decommissioned on 31 January 1947, and was placed in reserve.