Allied planners sought to smash Japanese air power in the area of Taiwan, the Philippines, Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), and Singapore, the Malay Barrier, and the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia). In addition, they intended to cut the enemy’s merchant lifeline to the Japanese home islands, and to pursue the ships that escaped from the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
South Dakota thus sailed with TG 38.1 from Ulithi at 0630 on 30 December 1944. Rear Adm. Arthur W. Radford broke his flag in command of the task group in Yorktown, which also included Massachusetts, Wasp, Cabot and Cowpens, heavy cruisers Baltimore, Boston (CA-69), and San Francisco, San Diego, and destroyers Benham, Blue (DD-744), Brush (DD-745), Colahan (DD-658), Collett (DD-730), Cushing, De Haven, Lyman K. Swenson (DD-729), Maddox, Mansfield, Samuel N. Moore (DD-747), Stockham, Taussig (DD-746), Twining, Uhlmann, Wedderburn (DD-684), and Yarnall. TG 38.1 sortied as part of TF 38.3, composed of TGs 38.1, 38.2, and 38.3. Halsey broke his flag in command of the Third Fleet in battleship New Jersey (BB-62), McCain flew his flag in command of TF 38 in Hancock, and Lee broke his flag in command of TF 34 and BatRon-2 in South Dakota.
The ships formed what South Dakota labeled an ‘Hour Glass’ formation during the morning and forenoon watches. This formation comprised the heavy ships, less the carriers, and one half of the destroyer screen, in a single group about ten miles on the port hand of the carriers and the remaining destroyers. South Dakota steamed as the guide of the column of heavy ships in ‘Hour Glass Two.’ Lee served as the OTC. The ships shifted to routine cruising dispositions to enable the carriers to conduct flight operations during the afternoon watch. South Dakota took part in multi-faceted exercise Mousetrap the following morning. The fleet carried out additional training during the voyage to a striking position east of Taiwan. South Dakota refueled Mansfield on 2 January 1945, and the battleship then refueled from oiler Chicopee (AO-34).
The carriers began launching raids against the Japanese forces on Taiwan at 0545 on 3 January 1945. The ships of the task force reported a few Japanese planes in the distance, but none closed the vessels. Poor weather over the targets hampered the bombing missions. In addition to the strikes against the airfields and shore facilities, planes sank only Japanese landing ship Shinshu Maru—which submarine Aspro (SS-309) had damaged on 2 January—and five army cargo ships, and damaged another five such vessels. The carriers recovered their planes, and the task force came about and retired to the eastward at 24 knots to escape possible enemy aerial retaliation.
Just before midnight, the ships swung about and made a “run in” at 24 knots to reach their striking position east of Taiwan by morning. The carriers launched their first planes of the second day of strikes at 0656 on 4 January. These raids sank Japanese auxiliary netlayer Iwato Maru and auxiliary submarine chasers Cha 163, Cha 176, and Cha 210, and damaged escort vessel Ikuna, auxiliary submarine chaser Cha 204, and minesweeper W.41. The Americans came about and retired to the eastward overnight. South Dakota refueled Taussig on 5 January and then refueled from oiler Tomahawk (AO-88).
While Halsey and McCain pounded the Japanese on Taiwan, Kinkaid’s TF 77 transported troops of Gen. Krueger’s Sixth Army to the assault beaches in Lingayen Gulf on Luzon. Japanese kamikazes ferociously attacked the ships during their voyage along the west coast of Mindoro and Luzon. McCain consequently shifted his strikes against Japanese airfields and shipping in Luzon, the carriers launching their first planes at 0517 on 6 January. In addition to bombing these airfields, the planes sank one army cargo ship and six merchant tankers in the South China Sea off northern Luzon. The ships came about and at 1344 commenced a high speed approach to a striking position to the east of Taiwan. Kinkaid requested further strikes to relieve the pressure of the Seventh Fleet, and the ships swung around and returned to a launching position east of Luzon.
The carriers launched their initial strikes at 0515 on 7 January 1945. South Dakota refueled Collett and Cushing. The weather rapidly grew stormy during the afternoon watch and many ships discontinued topping off the destroyers, but South Dakota partially refueled Wedderburn. The ships turned and made for a striking position to the east of Taiwan, South Dakota completing her refueling of Wedderburn the following day, and then refueled from oiler Cache (AO-67). The task force then steamed to a position to the east of Taiwan.
The carriers launched further strikes against the enemy airfields and shipping in the area, commencing at 0528 on 9 January. Planes sank Coast Defense Vessel No. 3, submarine chaser Ch 61, and five merchantmen, and damaged escort destroyer Miyake, escort vessel Yashiro, Coast Defense Vessel No. 9, Coast Defense Vessel No. 13, and Coast Defense Vessel No. 60, minesweeper W. 102, three auxiliary submarine chasers, and two merchantmen. A Mitsubishi Ki-46 Dinah dove through the formation, hotly pursued by four Hellcats, which splashed the intruder just ahead of the task force at 1348. Camranh Bay in Cochin China, part of Vichy French and Japanese occupied-Indochina (Vietnam), possessed an anchorage capable of sheltering large vessels. The Third Fleet therefore came about, and passed at high speed through the Bashi Strait into the South China Sea overnight on 9 and 10 January. The replenishment group passed through Balintang Channel. On 11 January, many of the ships topped off their oil bunkers. South Dakota fueled Collett and Wedderburn, and then refueled from Guadalupe.
The carriers launched strikes along 420 miles of the Indochina coast from Cam Ranh Bay to Cap St. Jacques (Vung Tau) on 12 January 1945. TG 38.5, consisting of Enterprise and Independence, with air groups trained to fight at night, escorted by six destroyers, sent planes aloft before dawn. These aircraft provided intelligence information to the strike planes, though they failed to locate Hyūga and Ise. Allied intelligence analysts suspected that the battleship-carriers fled to Vietnamese waters following the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but the hybrid ships escaped to Lingga Roads near Singapore. In spite of intermittent rain showers that impeded flying, planes flew 1,465 sorties. The attackers claimed the destruction of more than 100 planes, and sank training cruiser Kashii, 14 small warships including escort vessel Chiburi, minesweeper W. 101, landing ship T. 140, and Patrol Boat No. 103 [ex-U.S. minesweeper Finch (AM-9)], ten tankers, and 16 transports and cargo vessels totaling 126,000 tons. The raiders also sank Vichy French colonial cruiser Lamotte-Picquet and surveying vessel Octant in proximity to Japanese ships. The Americans lost 23 planes, but the Vietnamese rescued many of the pilots, who escaped through Kunming, China.
Kinkaid meanwhile landed Krueger’s Sixth Army in Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945. The ongoing Japanese attacks against these ships inflicted heavy casualties, and Fleet Adm. King ordered “that the Third Fleet be maintained in a strategic position to intercept enemy forces approaching the Lingayen Gulf area from either the north or south.” Fleet Adm. Nimitz so directed Halsey, but added the flexibility of attacking the Japanese garrison and shipping at Hong Kong—if Halsey considered such an operation feasible. Many of the Third Fleet’s destroyers attempted to refuel, but the northeast monsoon hindered their efforts and a number of ships failed to complete their replenishments on 13 January. The fleet stood to the northeast overnight to outrun the stormy weather and to continue fueling the following day. On 14 January, South Dakota refueled from Cimarron. The ships sailed to a striking position southwest of the southern tip of Taiwan.
Search planes scoured the Pescadore Islands and the Chinese coast seeking unsuccessfully for the elusive Hyūga and Ise. The first strike planes launched a half hour before sunrise, at 0730 on 15 January 1945. The attackers concentrated on Taiwanese waters but encountered heavy antiaircraft fire and low ceilings in some areas, and sank destroyers Hatakaze and Tsuga and three merchant vessels. The Americans lost 12 planes from enemy action or accidents, while claiming 16 in the air and 18 on the ground. The Allies subsequently discovered Hyūga and Ise at Lingga Roads, and Nimitz so informed King, Halsey, Kinkaid, Spruance, and MacArthur on 17 January.
Halsey meanwhile turned toward a striking position east of Hong Kong. The carriers launched their first planes at 0732 on 16 January. Foul weather interfered with the attacks. In addition, the Avengers suffered from flak during their low altitude runs, and dropped many of their torpedoes with deeper depth settings, the weapons burying into the mud of the harbor. The Americans claimed the destruction of 13 Japanese planes but lost 22 in combat—mostly from the enemy’s improved antiaircraft tactics—and 27 operationally. The attackers sank transport Hokkai Maru and seven other merchant ships, and damaged destroyer Hasu, escort destroyers Daito, Nomi, and Shinnan, Coast Defense Vessel No. 60, and two other vessels at Hong Kong and off Hainan. The ships retired to the southeast overnight.
The northeast monsoon plowed into the Third Fleet on 17 January. South Dakota refueled Mansfield and Wedderburn, but the heavy seas wreaked havoc with fueling efforts. Escort aircraft carrier Nehenta Bay (CVE-74) had sustained damage during the typhoon in December 1944, and the heavy seas broke over her, carrying away a part of her flight deck. Nehenta Bay continued to operate with the fleet. A number of ships proved unable to cope with the weather and discontinued their refueling. The northeast monsoon impeded operations the following day, and fleet aerologists predicted that the harsh weather would extend into 19 January. Halsey sailed southerly courses to escape the tempest and pass through Surigao Strait.
The requirement to support MacArthur’s campaigns in the Philippines, and the possibility of another Japanese thrust with their surviving ships, persuaded Nimitz to order Halsey to refuel to the eastward of the Philippines. TF 38 sailed easterly courses toward the Balintang Channel. South Dakota refueled Buchanan, Uhlmann, and Yarnall, and then refueled from oiler Neosho (AO-48), on 19 January. On 20 and 21 January, the ships sailed through the channel. The Japanese evacuated some of their stranded aircrew and maintainers from the Philippines, and a number of their planes passed over the ships of the other task groups, which sailed to the northeastward of TG 38.1. Hellcats claimed the destruction of 15 of these aircraft.
The Pacific Fleet’s operational forces underwent an organizational revision at 0000 on 27 January 1945. Adm. Spruance relieved Halsey and the Third Fleet was redesignated the Fifth Fleet. This action enabled many of the ships and submarines that had fought against the enemy to complete repairs and provided a respite for their crews, while newly arrived vessels entered battle. South Dakota reported to Spruance and served within Sherman’s TG 58.3 as part of Vice Adm. Mitscher’s TF 58—who also commanded the Fast Carrier TF. The order of battle of the operational fast battleships comprised: Indiana and Massachusetts in TG 58.1; Missouri (BB-63) and Wisconsin in TG 58.2; New Jersey and South Dakota in TG 58.3; and North Carolina and Washington in TG 58.4.
South Dakota carried out antiaircraft practice and shifted from berth 6 to firing berth Able at Ulithi on 4 February 1945. As the ship completed the training and returned to berth 6, LCI-681 collided with South Dakota while the infantry landing craft sailed on a reverse heading. The two vessels scraped port to port, but neither sustained heavy damage.
On 10 February 1945, Mitscher sortied TF 58 to launch the first attack by carrier aircraft against Honshū, Japan, in preparation for Operation Detachment—landings on Iwo Jima in the Kazan Rettō (Volcano Islands) by the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. Many of the men involved in the planning viewed the sweep apprehensively. American planes had not flown from carriers against the Japanese home islands since Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, USAAF, had led 16 North American B-25B Mitchells of the Army’s 17th Bombardment Group from Hornet during the Halsey-Doolittle Raid on 18 April 1942. More than half of the aircrew assigned to Mitscher’s air groups lacked combat experience. The ferocity of the kamikaze attacks influenced a reorganization of these air groups toward defensive screens, and the fleet carriers normally sailed with up to double the number of fighters over dive bombers and torpedo bombers per ship, reducing the strike forces available to task force commanders.
Mitscher broke his flag in command of the five task groups of TF 58 in Bunker Hill. TF 58 included nine fleet and five small carriers, together with the night-fighting Enterprise and Saratoga of TG 58.5. Mitscher’s carriers also embarked 144 Vought F4U-1D and Goodyear FG-1 Corsairs of VMFs 112, 123, 124, 213, 216, 217, 221, and 451. South Dakota stood out of Ulithi as part of TG 58.3 at 0905. The other vessels in the task group comprised New Jersey, Bunker Hill, and Essex, Cowpens, light cruisers Astoria (CL-90), Pasadena (CL-65), and Wilkes-Barre (CL-103), and destroyers Ault (DD-698), Borie (DD-704), Callaghan, Cassin Young, Charles S. Sperry (DD-697), Haynsworth (DD-700), John W. Weeks (DD-701), Hank (DD-702), Porterfield, Preston, Waldron (DD-699), and Wallace L. Lind (DD-703). Rear Adm. Sherman commanded the group.
Consolidated PB4Y Liberators and USAAF Boeing B-29 Superfortresses flying from the Marianas augmented carrier air patrols that swept the seas ahead of the ships to prevent their discovery. The ships carried out antiaircraft training during the voyage. Hank reported a submarine contact to the eastward of the formation at 1520 on 11 February. TG 58.3 changed course to the west to clear the area, and stood on an east northeasterly course overnight. South Dakota refueled from oiler Chikaskia (AO-54) on 13 February. Indianapolis, with Spruance embarked and accompanied by destroyer English (DD-696), rejoined the group during refueling. The fleet commenced a high speed approach to a striking area southeast of Tōkyō at 1556 on 14 February. During the forenoon watch the next day, South Dakota fueled Charles S. Sperry, English, Porterfield, and Waldron.
The carriers began launching the planes of their first attack wave at 0640 on 16 February 1945, and the first aircraft of their second day of strikes at 0713 on 17 February. Carrier planes bombed Japanese aircraft frame and engine factories, airfields, and ships around the Tōkyō area. Heavy clouds and snow and rain squalls impeded operations, but a momentary break in the weather enabled scores of U.S. and Japanese fighters to mêlée east of the capital. Many pilots complained that the cold temperatures froze their machine guns. Aircraft sank army cargo vessel Yamashiro Maru at Yokohama on 17 February.
South Dakota’s radar detected several unidentified aerial contacts, but the planes did not attack the battleship or any of the vessels steaming nearby. Haynsworth sank Japanese guardboat No. 36 Nanshin Maru southwest of Mikimoto light and auxiliary submarine chaser Wafu Maru off Omaezaki Light with gunfire during the afternoon watch on 17 February. The destroyer took nine survivors prisoner, later transferring her charges to Essex. Aircraft also flew neutralization strikes against the Bonins. The foul weather persuaded Mitscher to cancel further attacks, and he brought the ships about to refuel and to support the landings on Iwo Jima at about 1800. The Americans lost 60 planes shot down and 28 in accidents, while claiming the destruction of 341 Japanese aircraft in the air and 190 more on the ground.
Four small Japanese picket boats attempted to penetrate the task force screen overnight on 17 and 18 February. Destroyers Barton, Ingraham, and Moale (DD-693) sank three of the vessels. One of the boats damaged Dortch with her 3-inch guns, killing three crewmen. Because of the proximity of Charles S. Sperry and Dortch maneuvering in the darkness, Waldron could not bring her guns to bear and at 0509 rammed the enemy vessel at 21 knots, cutting her in half. Waldron later came about and made for repairs at Saipan. Spruance departed from the task group on board Indianapolis for the waters off Iwo Jima. South Dakota fueled Ault, English, Hank, and Preston during the afternoon.
Previous carrier raids and Liberator and Superfortress missions from the Marianas had weakened but warned the Japanese defenders on Iwo Jima, and the garrison prepared extensive defenses utilizing the island’s caves. The volcanic terrain limited the effectiveness of all but direct hits against these positions and the marines sustained appalling casualties. TF 58 commenced launching planes to support the landings, at 0632 on 19 February 1945. Shortly after dark, several unidentified planes closed the task group. Only one of the planes approached the battleships within range of their gunfire, and New Jersey opened fire on the prowler, which turned away. South Dakota refueled from oiler Cacapon (AO-52) on 20 February.
The task group meanwhile proceeded to an operating area north and west of Iwo Jima to give direct air support to the marines fighting ashore. Large cruiser Alaska (CB-1), light cruiser Flint (CL-97), Laws, Longshaw, Morrison, and Pritchett joined the formation for temporary duty in TG 58.3, at 1010 on 21 February. Twice during the 2d dog watch, South Dakota made smoke and opened fire to starboard with her 5-inch guns against unidentified planes that crossed over the formation. The ship and her screen carried out several emergency turns to keep the aircraft on her quarter, but did not record hits on either plane.
Wallace L. Lind reported a sound contact and the task group executed an emergency turn to clear the area during the 2d dog watch on 22 February. Indianapolis, Astoria, Pasadena, and Wilkes-Barre joined TG 58.3 at 0703 on 23 February. South Dakota refueled from Schuylkill and at 1655, Alaska, Flint, Laws, Longshaw, Morrison, and Pritchett detached. South Dakota topped off Charles S. Sperry, Haynsworth, and Wallace L. Lind during the morning and early afternoon of 24 February 1945. Heavy seas and winds pounded the ships, rendering footing treacherous during the refueling. The ships commenced a high speed run to a striking position southeast of Tōkyō at about 1330, but the foul weather compelled them to gradually reduce their speed to 16 knots.
The carriers launched their first planes of the raid from a range of about 200 miles to Tōkyō, at 0732 on 25 February. Harsh weather then compelled their retirement to an area south of Nagoya to conduct air strikes from there the following day. Porterfield’s radar detected a 140-foot Japanese picket boat 40 minutes into the midwatch on 26 February. The enemy vessel resisted stoutly and inflicted several hits on Porterfield with her deck gun and machine guns before the destroyer finished her off.
The weather slowly improved and South Dakota increased speed to 22 knots, refueling Borie, Callaghan, English, Hank, Haynsworth, and John W. Weeks on 28 February 1945. Mitscher followed his attacks on Tōkyō with raids on Okinawa and the Ryūkyūs on 1 March. Many ships practiced light force attacks after sunset on 3 and 4 March. During one of these exercises on 4 March, Ringgold and Yarnall collided. The collision sheared-off Ringgold’s bow, and killed one man and injured six more on board Yarnall. Both ships sustained heavy damage, and fleet ocean tug Molala (ATF-106) towed Yarnall to Ulithi for repairs. South Dakota anchored in berth 5 at Ulithi at 1411 on 5 March. TF 58 left in its wake the destruction of an estimated 643 Japanese aircraft—393 in the air and 250 on the ground—and 30,000 tons of merchant shipping. A crippled B-29 named Dinah Might made the first of at least 2,251 Superfortress emergency landings on Iwo Jima through the end of the war, on 4 March. On 16 March 1945, the U.S. declared the island secured.
The Japanese shrewdly modified their tactics to penetrate the U.S. air defenses during these battles. Fighters loaded with small bombs changed their altitude upon approach, using cloud cover whenever possible. Rear Adm. Hanson reported to Nimitz that despite intensive countermeasures, “under conditions of poor visibility when operating comparatively close to large land areas this method of attack is the most difficult with which to cope.” The full extent of the kamikaze menace had not become apparent to the Allies, and Hanson vainly hoped that “the suicide attack was a temporary expedient caused by the very large losses…suffered by the Japanese since 1 September 1944.”
The Japanese launched Dainiji Tan Sakusen (Operation Tan No. 2), a surprise attack against the U.S. fleet anchorage at Ulithi, on 11 March 1945. At least 24 Yokosuka P1Y Ginga land attack planes of the 762nd Kōkūtai (air group) kamikaze attack unit, flying directly from an airfield at Kanoya on Kyūshū, flew a one-way mission at the limit of their range. Enemy submarines and additional planes assisted the attackers with navigational information during their extended flights. Aircraft carrier Randolph (CV-15) rode at her anchor less than 1,000 yards on the starboard beam of South Dakota. One of the Frances’ crashed the stern of Randolph just below her flight deck at 2007. The attack killed 27 men and wounded 105 more, and started fires that destroyed planes and cooked off ammunition. Another bomber smashed into Sorlen Island. Salvage vessel Current (ARS-22) collided with Randolph during the fire-fighting, suffering slight damage.
Many of South Dakota’s crewmen viewed a film on the fantail. “I heard a plane zoom over the ship,” Ens. Mullen of the ships company recalled. “I looked up but couldn’t see it.” Mullen failed to spot the intruder in the darkness, and considered the lack of running lights odd. The ensign disregarded the interruption and returned his attention to the film. “All of a sudden, the whole sky was lit up from a terrific explosion on the fantail of the Randolph…Then came the sickening sound of the explosion. Then, smaller explosions, and the roar of flames.” South Dakota sounded General Quarters within 30 seconds, and men scrambled to clear the fantail and man their battle stations, jostling each other during the press of the crowd. Mullen observed the crew of Randolph through a range finder, noting the efforts by the carrier’s “brave men” to battle the blaze “amid explosion after explosion.”
Rear Adm. Worrall R. Carter, Commodore, Service Squadron 10, and the Senior Officer Present Afloat, ordered Condition Red set throughout the lagoon at 2010. Cargo ship Bucyrus Victory (AK-234) lay alongside South Dakota to port, delivering 16-inch 45 caliber powder. The cargo ship cast off and cleared the battleship by 2026. South Dakota lighted fires under boilers Nos 2, 3, and 5, and then cut in Nos 2, 3, 5, and 8 on the main steam line. Randolph contained the flames, and Commodore Carter ordered Condition White set across the atoll at 2057. South Dakota secured from General Quarters at 2122. Following the attack, repair ship Jason (ARH-1) assisted Randolph, enabling the carrier to return to battle in April.
The Pacific Fleet deployed TF 59, a ‘Heavy Striking Force,’ from Ulithi on 14 March 1945 to support Operation Iceberg—the invasion of Okinawa in the Ryūkyū Islands. Iceberg included the first sustained carrier air strikes against airfields and installations in the Kōbe, Kure, and Kyūshū areas of the Japanese home islands. Allied planners envisioned three phases to Iceberg: Phase 1 involved the capture of Kerama Rettō and the southern portion of Okinawa; Phase 2 the occupation of the remainder of Okinawa and of Ie Shima; and Phase 3 the further exploitation of the positions in the Nansei Shoto by the capture of additional islands in that group, in order to extend the Allied bombing raids and tighten the blockade of Japan.
Adm. Spruance ordered Vice Adm. Lee, who broke his flag in command of TF 59 and served as the OTC on board South Dakota, to “Destroy enemy naval forces when specifically directed.” TF 59 comprised battleships Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin, large cruisers Alaska and Guam (CB-2), heavy cruisers Baltimore (CA-68) and Pittsburgh (CA-72), light cruisers Astoria, Miami, Pasadena, Springfield (CL-66), Vicksburg (CL-86), Vincennes (CL-64), and Wilkes-Barre, and 23 destroyers. The ships conducted gunnery and tactical exercises until the evening of 15 March.
The Navy dissolved TF 59 that evening, ordering the ships to join carrier task groups as assigned. South Dakota shifted to TF 58 to operate with Sherman’s TG 58.3, consisting of New Jersey, Bunker Hill and Essex, Cabot, Indianapolis, Astoria, Pasadena, Springfield, and Wilkes-Barre, and destroyers Ault, Black (DD-666), Borie, Bullard (DD-660), Charles S. Sperry, Chauncey (DD-667), English, Erbin (DD-631), Hale (DD-642), Hank, Haynsworth, John W. Weeks, Kidd (DD-661), Waldron, Walker (DD-517), and Wallace L. Lind. Sherman broke his flag as Commander TG 58.3 and CarDiv-1 in Essex; Mitscher as Commander TF 58 and First Carrier TF in Bunker Hill; and Spruance broke his flag in command of the Fifth Fleet in Indianapolis. The ships sailed northerly courses toward a striking position to the southeast of Kyūshū. South Dakota fueled from Platte on 16 March, and during the forenoon watch on 17 March, she refueled Black, Chauncey, Hale, Haynsworth, Stembel, and Walker. Several enemy planes approached the task group during the evening but no attacks developed.
Japanese planes shadowed the task group during the mid and morning watches overnight. At 0505 on 18 March 1945, several planes closed to within four miles of South Dakota and dropped flares. The battleship made emergency maneuvers to avoid attacks, and ships of the screen opened fire, splashing a plane at 0521 and a second prowler at 0602. Mitscher’s ten fleet and six small aircraft carriers began launching their first strikes at 0717. Japanese planes lashed the ships, which reported ‘bogeys’ at least once during every watch. The first attack occurred within ten minutes, and men on board South Dakota sighted enemy planes attacking ships of one of the other task groups on the horizon, reporting that one of the attackers crashed “in flames.”
An unidentified Japanese plane dove on Bunker Hill without warning at 0824. South Dakota fired at the plane, which dropped its bomb about 500 yards astern of Bunker Hill and then swooped low and started across South Dakota’s bow while trying to escape. The battleship’s 20 millimeter guns shot the plane down barely 500 yards ahead of her. Numerous U.S. planes closed the task group throughout the day, generating alarms until identification eased the tense encounters. A Betty crashed close aboard Intrepid, killing two men and wounding 43. A dud bomb inflicted minor damage on Enterprise and the ship later sailed to Ulithi for repairs. Three Yokosuka D4Y1 Type 2s attacked Yorktown and a bomb from the third Judy damaged the ship.
Lookouts on board the ships also spotted multiple floating mines, which destroyers detonated with gunfire. Carrier planes sank auxiliary submarine chaser No. 43 Yusen Maru and merchant vessel No. 1 Nansei Maru, and damaged merchantmen Tokuho Maru and Asahi Maru. The task force came about and retired overnight, and made for a striking position east of Kyūshū and south of Shikoku in time to launch dawn air strikes. Japanese planes shadowed and attacked some of the other task groups overnight, but did not close South Dakota or her screen.
The carriers commenced their second day of strikes at 0533 on 19 March 1945. Planes attacked targets from Kure to Kōbe and Osaka. A Japanese bomber dropped two 550-pound bombs on Franklin, igniting fires and exploding ordnance and fuel among planes spotted on the flight deck or parked below. Men on board South Dakota learned of the attack at 0715, and the bridge team observed “several large explosions” on the horizon as Franklin burned furiously. Astoria detached from TG 58.3 to TG 58.2 at 1400. The latter task group temporarily divided into an operating group and a “Cripple Group,” and Astoria joined a number of destroyers in shepherding Franklin. Despite 724 men killed or missing and 265 wounded, following brief tows, Franklin sailed under her own power to New York.
A Japanese kamikaze and a bomber damaged Wasp, killing 101 men and wounding 269. South Dakota reported a large carrier “on fire” as Wasp fought her conflagration, but the ship continued in action for several days before retiring for repairs. Japanese planes swarmed the ships during the forenoon watch. Essex claimed to splash a Zeke (Zero) and a Judy, while the other vessels shot down an unidentified attacker. Hellcats flying CAP splashed a Zeke four miles from South Dakota during the afternoon watch, and the other ships of the screen downed a second Zeke. An unidentified plane suddenly flew near South Dakota’s port quarter at 1418, but her 40 millimeter guns on the main deck aft splashed the intruder.
Astoria’s departure disrupted TG 58.3’s initial cruising disposition, and many of the ships switched stations to equalize the spacing between those in Circle 3. The carriers continued to operate without shifting their stations. The enemy aerial attacks continued into the afternoon watch, and South Dakota’s antiaircraft crews manned their guns throughout the day. The battleship reported that the raids diminished and no attacks against South Dakota or her screen occurred from 1534. An hour later, the ship set Condition II to allow her gunners to “get a hot meal, answer calls of nature, and relax a bit.” The carrier planes destroyed incomplete Japanese submarine I-205 in drydock, and damaged: battleships Yamato, Haruna, and Hyūga; aircraft carriers Amagi, Ikoma, Katsuragi, and Ryūhō; small carrier Hōshō; escort carrier Kaiyo; Tone; light cruiser Ōyodo; escort destroyer Kaki; submarines I-400 and RO-67; and auxiliary submarine chaser Cha 229. The task force came about to the southward overnight, operating in direct support of Point Option—a shifting position to facilitate the safety of Franklin and her consorts.
Mitscher continued to retire to the southward and the carriers did not launch strikes on 20 March 1945. During the morning and afternoon, South Dakota fueled English, Haynsworth, and Wallace L. Lind. Japanese planes closed the formation at 1643 and South Dakota sounded General Quarters. The destroyers shifted stations as TG 58.3 formed cruising disposition 5-R. An enemy plane crashed “in flames” on the horizon ahead of the battleship at 1711. South Dakota reported that unidentified enemy aircraft operated as “Homing” planes, and Charles S. Sperry splashed a control plane at 2338.
South Dakota topped off Stembel during the afternoon watch on 21 March. Shortly thereafter, a raid comprising an estimated 50 enemy planes closed the task group from the northwest. South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1425. The fighter directors vectored a reinforced CAP toward the attackers, and a melee ensued at a range varying from 50 to 60 miles from South Dakota. The Hellcats claimed the destruction of more than 40 Japanese planes, and the survivors disengaged and escaped. South Dakota secured from battle stations at 1548. Sixteen Bettys carrying MXY7 Ohka (cherry blossom) Model 11 flying bombs attacked TF 58 at one point, but Hellcats intercepted the attackers and they prematurely released the Ohkas. South Dakota refueled from oiler Ashtabula (AO-51) on 22 March. The U.S. claimed the destruction of 482 Japanese planes by aerial attack and 46 by antiaircraft fire from 18 to 22 March.
The task groups comprising TF 58 underwent a reorganization resulting from the casualties and the detachment of ships for other duties on 22 March. TG 58.3 consisted of North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, Bunker Hill, Essex, and Hancock, Bataan and Cabot, Indianapolis, Astoria, Pasadena, Springfield, and Wilkes-Barre, and Ault, Black, Borie, Charles S. Sperry, Chauncey, English, Erbin, Hale, Hank, Haynsworth, John W. Weeks, Kidd, Stembel, Waldron, Walker, and Wallace L. Lind. The group commenced a high speed approach to a striking position south of Okinawa.
The carriers launched their first planes of the day’s strikes against Japanese airfields and installations across the islands of the Okinawa area at 0556 on 23 March 1945. A flight of enemy planes threatened the task group during the afternoon watch. South Dakota briefly manned her battle stations, but the attackers flew toward other targets. Carrier planes sank army cargo ship Kachosan Maru and cargo vessel No. 19 Yamato Maru, claimed to sink a midget submarine and damaged a second boat, and damaged Coast Defense Ship No. 29 and submarine chaser Ch 58.
Japanese Gen. Ushijima Mitsuru, the commanding general of the Thirty-second Army, skillfully defended Okinawa. Ushijima lavishly equipped his troops with artillery, and developed a series of strongpoints utilizing interlocking fields of fire. Allied intelligence analysts estimated that the Japanese deployed 317 guns, howitzers, and mortars of 70 millimeter or larger—one of the heaviest concentrations of firepower the Allies encountered in the Pacific during World War II. Planners therefore launched air raids and deployed ships for naval bombardments to destroy these positions.
South Dakota operated in the vicinity of Okinawa overnight, but then shifted into another task group with the establishment of TG 59.7 on 24 March. This bombardment group consisted of TUs 59.7.1, 59.7.2, and 59.7.3: Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin; Indianapolis; and destroyers Black, Benham, Bullard, Chauncey, Colahan, Cushing, Dashiel (DD-659), Kidd, Schroeder (DD-501), Sigsbee (DD-502), and Uhlmann. Rear Adm. Cooley commanded TU 59.7.2, which numbered North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, escorted by Benham, Colahan, Cushing, and Uhlmann.
Minesweepers swept the tracks inshore and ahead of the battleships. The group opened fire at Japanese coastal defense installations along southeastern Okinawa from a range of 22,000 yards at 0930. The destroyers screened North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington to seaward. The battleships carried out what South Dakota reported as “slow, deliberate fire,” utilizing spotting from their observation planes, closing the range to 13,000 yards as the minesweepers swept the fire lanes. Ensign Mullen observed the fall of shot through a range finder on board South Dakota, and because the Japanese troops sheltered from the barrage, the only life he spotted appeared to be a mare and her colt racing about bewildered. Ancestral burial vaults, many of them dug into limestone chambers and with thick walls, protected some of the Japanese troops and their Okinawan laborers. In addition, the necessity of maneuvering outside the minefields kept the ships at excessive ranges, and in combination with poor visibility reduced the effectiveness of the shelling.
South Dakota moved to seaward and recovered and serviced her Kingfishers, and then returned to the operating area and continued the barrage. Washington then fell out of line to recover her Kingfishers, and at 1245 Capt. Momsen assumed temporary command of TG 59.7.1. The eight battleships of the three groups fired a total of 1,375 of their 16-inch projectiles through the completion of the bombardment at 1355. South Dakota fired 60 three-gun salvoes (180 of her 16-inch rounds), and then shifted to seaward and recovered her planes. The ship served as the guide and OTC while the group retired. Japanese sources list two vessels sunk by naval gunfire on this date, perhaps the victims of the bombardment: Tosan Maru and No. 10 Maiko Maru. The bombardment force utilized a new international grid system for marking target areas for the first time. The system permitted the ships to extend their ‘arbitrary’ grid system beyond the networked area as printed whenever necessary. TG 59.7.1 dissolved at 1729, and the ships returned to their respective divisions and screens.
South Dakota refueled from Escalante and then carried out antiaircraft practice against Radioplane TDD drones on 25 March. During this voyage, TDD Unit No. 10 embarked with 21 drones, and the ship reported that they “furnished excellent services for AA [antiaircraft] practice.” The drones sometimes dove through scattered clouds at speeds of 150 knots, providing an “excellent duplication of Kamikaze tactics.” She stood with TG 58.3 toward a striking position east of Okinawa, primarily to support Rear Adm. Ingolf N. Kiland’s TG 51.1, which landed an army task force on Kerama Rettō. Planners intended to utilize the islands, which stretched west by southwest of Okinawa, as an advanced fueling and repair base. The carriers launched their first strike of the day against the Japanese forces on Okinawa and Kerama Rettō at 0532 on 26 March.
South Dakota launched both of her Kingfishers to deliver urgent mail to Rear Adm. William H.P. Blandy, Commander Amphibious Group 1, at 0900 on 26 March 1945. Blandy broke his flag in amphibious force flagship Estes (AGC-12), coordinating the operations of TF 52, the Amphibious Support Force, to the westward of Okinawa. Pilot Lt. j.g. Cooke, and observer Aviation Radioman 3d Class C.C. Jacobs, manned plane No. 1. Lt. S.F. Hutchins, USNR, flew plane No. 2 (BuNo 05651). A pair of Vought F4U-1D Corsairs flying from Bunker Hill escorted the Kingfishers.
The Kingfishers delivered the mail and returned to South Dakota. Hutchins brought his plane alongside the port sled and hooked on to the leading edge of it. His starboard wing tip rode up over the breast line of the sled. The ship turned hard to port and the pilot turned to port to avoid being sucked into or running into the battleship. The Boatswain Mate hauled in the breast line but the line fouled in the wing tip float. The seaplane drifted off the forward edge of the sled, and the line hooked and started to tow the Kingfisher. Witnesses heard a “distinct ripping noise” and saw an opening appear in the top of the wing tip float. Hutchins added throttle and hooked onto the sled, but water quickly filled the float and it sank. The plane capsized, and Hutchins attempted to climb out on the high port wing but plunged into the waves. Hale rescued the pilot, and gunfire sank the plane.
An F6F-5N -- a night-fighting Hellcat -- of CVG-84 flying from Bunker Hill splashed a Betty, bearing 345°, 23 miles from South Dakota, at 2040. Watchstanders on the bridge of the battleship observed the ensuing fire and explosion of the Japanese bomber. Enemy planes threatened the task group shortly thereafter, and the ships made smoke and fired at the aircraft without result. South Dakota operated in an area about 60 to 100 miles east of Okinawa overnight.
British TF 57, Vice Adm. Sir H. Bernard Rawlings, RN, commanding, fought south of Okinawa (26 March–20 April and 3–25 May 1945). British carriers Formidable (67), Illustrious (87), Indefatigable (10), Indomitable (92), and Victorious launched strikes at airfields on Taiwan and Sakishima Gunto and intercepted air raids. The armored flight decks of the carriers enabled them to survive hits by kamikazes.
The carriers of TF 58 hurled the first planes of their ongoing strikes against the Japanese forces on Okinawa at 0531 on 27 March 1945. An F6F-5 Hellcat flying from Hancock splashed a Zeke nine miles from South Dakota. Several other unidentified planes closed the group, which South Dakota noted maneuvered “radically” to avoid direct attacks. Hale sailed alongside the battleship and returned Hutchins. South Dakota refueled from Sabine on 28 March, and carried out antiaircraft practice against TDDs. Planes sank Japanese guardboats No. 13 Choun Maru and No. 27 Yusen Maru, and army cargo ships No. 28 Suma Maru and No. 12 Myojin Maru. During the 1st dog watch, the battleship turned rapidly to the northward to a striking position south of Kyūshū.
Mitscher launched his first planes of his strikes against the airfields and shipping in the Kagoshima Bay area of southern Kyūshū at 0545 on 29 March 1945. Ships sighted several Japanese search planes during the morning and forenoon watches, and a few such aircraft closed the task group during the afternoon watch. The screen opened fire at the closest of these intruders at 1411 and a minute later, South Dakota shot at one of the planes when it dove on the formation. Carrier-based planes sank auxiliary submarine chasers Cha 200, Cha 205, and Chikuto Maru, and cargo vessels No. 5 Yusen Maru, 8 Seizan Maru, 11 Ebisu Maru, 17 Koshin Maru, 27 Koan Maru, 32 Koan Maru, Genyo Maru, Holin Maru, and Taimokuzan Maru, and damaged merchant vessel No. 3 Yamato Maru. South Dakota came about with the task group and commenced a high speed run to a striking position east of Okinawa at 1530.
The carriers launched their next planes against Japanese positions on Okinawa, beginning at 0535 on 30 March 1945. South Dakota catapulted two Kingfishers to deliver urgent mail to Vice Adm. Turner, Commander TF 51, the Joint Expeditionary TF, during the afternoon watch. Two Corsairs from Bunker Hill escorted the Kingfishers to seaplane tender Chandeleur (AV-10) anchored off Kerama Rettō, which delivered the message to the admiral. The planes remained with Chandeleur overnight. South Dakota meanwhile refueled Bullard, Erben, and Stembel.
The battleship next supported the occupation of Kiese Jima, the carriers resuming their strikes at 0530 on 31 March 1945. South Dakota refueled Black and Haynsworth. The ship recovered her two Kingfishers during the 1st dog watch. TG 58.3 operated in an area east of Okinawa to support the amphibious operations—the largest the Allies had yet mounted in the Pacific Ocean Areas. Vice Adm. Turner signaled “Land the Landing Force” at 0406 on 1 April, and at 0543 the carriers launched their first strikes in support of the assault troops. Ten battleships, nine cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 177 additional vessels bombarded the Hagushi beaches as the Tenth Army landed, the first wave reaching the beaches at 0830. Four assault divisions from two corps landed abreast—the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions of the III Amphibious Corps on the left or northern flank, and the Army’s 7th and 96th Infantry Divisions of the XXIV Corps on the right. The marines and soldiers encountered intermittent Japanese mortar and artillery fire but otherwise light opposition, and seized the airfields at Kadena and Yontan (Yomitan) and established a consolidated beachhead by nightfall.
Kamikazes damaged battleship West Virginia (BB-48), British fleet carrier Indefatigable, attack transports Alpine (APA-92) and Hinsdale (APA-120), and tank landing ship LST-884. Shell fragments—possibly U.S. rounds—struck battleship Tennessee (BB-43). Japanese dive bombers damaged destroyer Prichett (DD-561) and minesweeper Skirmish (AM-303). An enemy horizontal bomber damaged attack transport Elmore (APA-42). A plane bombed British destroyer Ulster. A mysterious attack—possibly a depth charge dropped by a Japanese assault demolition boat—damaged destroyer escort Vammen (DE-644). An accidental mortar explosion erupted on board mortar infantry landing craft LCI(M)-807, and medium landing ship LSM-192 became an operational casualty.
TG 58.3 came about to rendezvous with the Logistic Support Group overnight on 1 and 2 April. South Dakota refueled from Tappahannock on 2 April. The ships cleared the Logistic Support Group during the 2d dog watch, and stood to the northwest to return to an operating area east of Okinawa. The carriers launched their next series of strikes beginning at 0542 on 3 April. South Dakota topped off Erben. Japanese planes attacked TG-58.3 twice. Corsairs and Hellcats of the CAP intercepted the first strike group at ranges of 55 to 40 miles during the afternoon watch. At 1717, the task group formed cruising disposition 5-V when the second raid approached, but the CAP again intercepted the attackers before they closed South Dakota. The battleship refueled Ault, Black, Bullard, Erben, Haynsworth, and John W. Weeks on 4 April. South Dakota rearmed from ammunition ship Mauna Loa (AE-8) and then refueled from Lackawanna on 5 April.
The Japanese launched Operation Ten-Go—an aerial counteroffensive involving 1,465 planes in nearly 1,900 sorties from 6 April to 28 May 1945. Their scout planes shadowed TG 58.3 during the midwatch on 6 April, and at 0256, South Dakota set condition 1 in her antiaircraft battery when some of these planes closed the group. The gunners stood down at 0312 when no attack developed, but the ship again set condition 1 when several unidentified planes closed the group at 0500. At 0605, a night fighter flying from Essex splashed a Betty about 30 miles from South Dakota. The battleship returned to condition 3 fifteen minutes later. The lull proved illusory when the first of Ten-Go’s series of ten mass kamikaze attacks, interspersed with smaller raids and named Kikusui (Floating Chrysanthemum) No. 1, savaged the ships operating off Okinawa with 355 planes—230 naval and 125 army. An overcast sky reduced visibility, the wind rose at times to a strong breeze, and the day dawned with a slight chill in the air.
Two large groups of unidentified planes closed TG 58.3 at 1211, and the ships formed cruising disposition 5-V to repel the attackers. The destroyers shifted their positions into the antiaircraft screen, but the other ships initially steamed on their allotted courses. Japanese planes swarmed the task group, and ships maneuvered radically at high speed emergency turns to avoid the attackers. The Corsairs and Hellcats of the CAP splashed several Zekes but at 1226, a Judy dove out of the sun onto Cabot. South Dakota opened fire on the Japanese plane, which dropped a bomb that struck the water barely 500 yards astern of Cabot and crashed into the sea about 1,000 yards ahead of the carrier.
The ships fired without result at another attacker at 1303, and two minutes later, North Carolina shot down an Oscar. Another enemy plane splashed into the water about 200 yards ahead of Cabot. A 5-inch round mistakenly slammed into North Carolina, killing three men and wounding 44 at 1313. Eight minutes later, a kamikaze crashed Haynsworth, which came about on 9 April for repairs at Ulithi and then Mare Island. The task group claimed the destruction of 22 enemy planes by the CAP, gunfire, and suicide crashes. South Dakota set condition 3 in her antiaircraft battery at 1903. The ship fired a total of 423 rounds of 20 millimeter and 242 rounds of 40 millimeter ammunition.
The Japanese also dispatched the First Diversion Attack Force across the East China Sea toward Okinawa. These ships—including battleship Yamato—were to lure U.S. carriers from the island to facilitate kamikaze attacks. They carried only enough fuel to reach the battle area, however, and the Japanese intended to beach the vessels and use them as coastal batteries, and to deploy many of their sailors ashore to fight as infantry. Submarines Hackleback (SS-295) and Threadfin (SS-410) and a plane from Essex sighted and reported the enemy ships. Lt. James R. Young, USNR, and Lt. j.g. R.L. Simms, USNR, of VPB-21 piloted two Martin PBM-3D Mariners that shadowed the ships and assisted in guiding aircraft toward their targets.
Cloudy skies prevailed throughout 7 April 1945. The ceiling averaged from 3,000 feet to unlimited, with visibility stretching from 10 to 12 miles. South Dakota received her first sighting report of the First Diversion Attack Force at 0910. The report erroneously estimated the force at one battleship, two cruisers, and ten destroyers, but correctly placed the position of the enemy ships off the southwestern tip of Kyūshū—within range of carrier planes. Mitscher ordered all of the carriers under his command to arm their planes to attack the Japanese ships and to stand to the northward to reduce the flying time for their aircraft. The first of 386 planes launched at 1005.
Kamikazes took advantage of the diversion but the ongoing attrition limited the raid to only 114 planes. The Corsairs and Hellcats of the CAP splashed some of the attackers, but a report of the first of these planes closing the task group reached South Dakota at 1207. The ship set condition 1 in the antiaircraft battery, and she opened fire at an attacker four minutes later. The ships heeled over sharply in high speed turns to avoid the enemy aircraft, but a kamikaze crashed Hancock and started a large fire at 1212. Additional Japanese planes penetrated the CAP and South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1220. Hancock reported the fire under control at 1231, and at 1248, extinguished the blaze. The carrier lost 62 men killed and 71 wounded but continued the fight. Essex splashed a Judy on her starboard beam at 1340, and a minute later, South Dakota shot down a Kate on the battleship’s starboard beam. South Dakota ceased firing at 1342, and at 1418 secured from battle stations.
The carrier planes attacked the First Diversion Attack Force throughout the forenoon and afternoon watches, and sank Yamato—she slid beneath the waves at 1423—light cruiser Yahagi, and destroyers Asashimo, Hamakaze, Isokaze, and Kasumi, and damaged destroyers Fuyuzuki, Hatsushimo, Suzutsuki, and Yukikaze. Antiaircraft fire downed ten U.S. planes. South Dakota received a report of the success of the aerial assaults, which incorrectly claimed the demise of Yamato, two cruisers, and four destroyers. Additional reports flooded in, and BatDiv-9 laconically reported the battle: “1 battleship, 1 cruiser, 3 destroyers sunk; 5 destroyers afloat of which 2 were burning and dead in the water.”
South Dakota set condition 1 in her antiaircraft when an unidentified plane approached the task group at 0908 on 8 April 1945, only to discover an Avenger. North Carolina and Washington detached from TG 58.3 for TG 58.2 at 1222. Eight minutes later, New Jersey reported to TG 58.3. Japanese planes attacked the formation at 1440, and at 1448 South Dakota manned her battle stations to repel aerial attack. The fighters of the CAP splashed several of the enemy planes, and the ship secured from General Quarters at 1524. The battleship refueled from Chikaskia and then fired her antiaircraft guns at sleeves towed by carrier planes during the morning of 9 April. Hancock and Haynsworth came about for repairs shortly thereafter, and Cabot joined them for an overhaul. South Dakota topped off Chauncey, Hale, Kidd, and Walker on 10 April. Enterprise and Oakland jointed TG 58.3 later that day. Rear Adm. M.B. Gardner, Commander TG 58.5, broke his flag in Enterprise and served as OTC of TG 58.3 during night operations. The ships continued to support the troops fighting on Okinawa from the east of the island.
A large group of Japanese planes attacked TG 58.3 at 1348. The ships formed cruising disposition 5-V, and South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1350. The CAP splashed some of the attackers, but planes broke through the fighters and South Dakota opened fire at the closest attacker at 1405. Additional aircraft dove on the ships and a kamikaze crashed Kidd at 1412. The suicide plane killed 38 men and wounded 55, and the destroyer later came about for repairs at Ulithi and then Hunter’s Point, Calif. Through 1420, ships shot down at least four Japanese planes—two by South Dakota.
A second enemy strike group fought through the CAP at 1500. A kamikaze crashed Enterprise, glancing off the carrier but setting fire to a fighter spotted on the catapult. The carrier splashed a second attacker five minutes later. Astoria shot down a Zeke that dove on the formation at 1619. South Dakota secured from her battle stations at 1652, but prudently maintained condition 1 watches in her antiaircraft battery. Gunfire from several ships splashed another Zeke at 1700. A third raid attacked the task group and South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1910. Twenty-nine minutes later, an enemy plane dropped flares that the battleship recorded as “brilliant and long-lasting.” Japanese planes used the flares to close the task group individually, but repeatedly turned away when the ships fired at them. South Dakota secured from her battle stations at 2046. Night fighters splashed two enemy planes that shadowed the ships overnight.
South Dakota supported landings on Eastern Island off Nakagusuku Bay, Okinawa, on 11 and 13 April. Groups of Japanese planes approached TG 58.3 at least three times on 12 April, but the fighters of the CAP splashed several of the attackers, none of which closed the battleship. An unidentified plane dove through scattered clouds and across the formation. South Dakota opened fire, and the visibility and side-view altitude of the plane rendered identification difficult, but gunners noted the attacker as a Corsair and ceased fire. The ship reported that the incident emphasized that “practical recognition” continued to depend largely “on the plane’s maneuvers rather than appearance.” Enemy aircraft attacked TG 58.1 after dusk, and watchstanders on board South Dakota observed the gunfire of the ships. Springfield reported a torpedo wake that passed astern of the cruiser and headed into the formation at 2101. The ships swung over in an emergency turn to avoid the torpedo.
Gunnery communications on board South Dakota began to deteriorate from the lack of wire and spare parts for the repair of sound-powered battle telephones. In one attack, a director officer’s phones cut out just as he prepared to open fire, but an alert pointer saved the situation by giving the control and firing orders over his own phones on the director officer’s circuit. The ship made every effort to obtain spare parts through normal means and by cannibalizing surveyed sets.
The battleship also noted hearing Japanese broadcasts on the task group or task force frequency modulated circuits on “several occasions.” The enemy used both English and Japanese transmissions, and attempted to imitate voice calls of the task group. Carrier aircrew reported similar attempts on their strike frequencies. South Dakota easily identified the radio intrusions and did not experience jamming on the radio circuits monitored by the battleship. The discovery of the enemy’s practices nonetheless required “strict adherence to the proper voice procedure so as to make deception attempts immediately obvious and to deny the enemy any information of value.”
South Dakota catapulted her two Kingfishers to deliver mail to Chandeleur at Kerama Rettō on 13 April. Two fighters from Bunker Hill escorted the seaplanes, which returned without incident. South Dakota rearmed from ammunition ship Wrangell (AE-12) and refueled from Tallulah on 14 April. New Jersey, Enterprise, Hale, Hank, and Kidd detached to rear areas for repairs and overhauls. North Carolina and Washington returned to TG 58.3 on 15 April.
The following day, South Dakota steamed to an operating area off the Motabu Peninsula to support landings by the Army’s 77th Infantry Division on lejima (Ie Shima). The Fleet Marine Force Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion began the operation by seizing the un-garrisoned island of Minna-shima on 13 April, from which Army artillery supported the landings on lejima. The USMC reported that the Japanese “performed a masterful camouflage job,” concealing pillboxes and gun emplacements amidst houses and tombs on lejima, linked by a network of trenches and tunnels. An enemy machine gun killed war correspondent Ernest T. Pyle near the town of Ie on 18 April. The Americans overcame the final organized Japanese resistance by 21 April, though sporadic fighting continued through the end of the month.
Japanese planes often shadowed or threatened the task group during the nighttime in this period but did not attack South Dakota. The battleship sounded General Quarters to repel enemy aircraft during the forenoon watch, and again in the afternoon watch, on 16 April 1945, but neither of the attacks closed the ship. At 1846, air defense lookouts on board the ships of the screen sighted a Frances at a range of 27,000 yards. The plane closed South Dakota, which opened fire at the attacker at 1852. Shortly thereafter, the ship noted that “a cone of fire from five-inch, forty millimeter, and twenty millimeter batteries from almost every ship in the formation” caught the intruder. The apex of the antiaircraft cone reached just astern of South Dakota, and the Frances crashed close aboard to port of the battleship at 1855. At 1929, other ships fired unsuccessfully at a second enemy plane, but a night fighter then claimed to splash the intruder.
Japanese planes dropped flares and repeatedly attacked TGs 58.1 and 58.4 during the 2d dog watch. South Dakota reported heavy concentrations of fire from these ships, indicating “several single plane attacks.” The enemy resorted to spreading tactical deception including chaff, and the battleship’s CIC noted that the large volume dropped almost “blanked out” the air search radar scope. The ship reported that the Japanese cut their window to “the proper frequency,” effectively using it with “strong echoes” and in “profuse quantities.”
Misidentification of planes continued to plague South Dakota. Long range patrols by PBM Mariners caused special identification problems, and the battleship reported that “Peter Bogey Mike has become an every day expression in all CIC’s.” South Dakota detected the second of four raids during the 2d dog watch at 010°, 65 miles, which closed to 336° at 25 miles—and then opened to the west. The ships vectored one of the two night fighter teams covering the task force and a plane ‘tallyhoed’ and identified the intruder as a Mariner at 2048. Three Japanese planes meanwhile attacked the ships while 50% of the night fighters pursued a U.S. plane in error. South Dakota summarized the problem by noting that the “situation is not an isolated case and indicates the danger inherent in such faulty self-identification.”
Randolph, Hickox, Hunt, Lewis Hancock, Marshall, Miller, Owen, Stephen Potter, The Sullivans, and Tingey reported to TG 58.3 at 0635 on 17 April 1945. A large Japanese strike group closed the ships at 0826. Fighters from the CAP intercepted the attackers at a range of 70 to 80 miles, and an aerial mêlée ensued. South Dakota manned her battle stations at 0851, and at 0926, opened fire on the first plane that attacked the ship. Gunfire splashed an enemy plane a minute later. Several ships claimed the kill, and South Dakota reported that she “assisted” in the victory. A kamikaze attempted to crash Essex but struck the water short and close aboard the carrier at 0939. South Dakota also contributed to this kill.
Friendly 20 millimeter rounds struck the ship twice. The first round lodged unexploded in the decking first superstructure deck, starboard, about three feet outboard of Turret II at frame 64. The Bomb Disposal Officer removed this shell without difficulty. The second 20 millimeter round hit the starboard catapult near frame 154, cutting several strands of the catapult launching cable, and necessitating its removal. South Dakota secured from General Quarters at 1031 but maintained condition 1-easy in her antiaircraft battery. The fighters and vessels collectively claimed the destruction of 29 enemy planes. The ship briefly manned her battle stations again that afternoon when an attack appeared imminent, but no assault developed. Bataan detached to operate with TG 58.4. South Dakota refueled from oiler Cowanesque (AO-79) and then replenished her stores from cargo ship Mercury (AK-42) on 18 April.
The Japanese on Okinawa expanded the natural system of caves into veritable fortresses, using contiguous tunnels to flank the invaders, and to provide communications and supplies in spite of U.S. bombardments. Ushijima anchored his defenses in the south-central portion of the island, selecting Shuri-jō (a castle near the town of Shuri) as his headquarters. The Japanese and their Okinawan laborers delved a tunnel with ventilation shafts beneath the castle, enabling the general and his staff to withstand bombing and gunfire. U.S. planners labeled these defensive positions the Shuri Line.
TG 58.7 stood up to support the attack on the Shuri Line at 1343 on 18 April 1945. The task group comprised North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, escorted by Black, Bullard, Chancey, Erben, and Walker of DesRon-48. Lee broke his flag in command of the group in South Dakota, and Cooley broke his flag in command of BatDiv-6 in Washington. The ships formed column, and the destroyers then formed a bent line screen ahead while the group made for an operating area off the southeast coast of Okinawa. Destroyer Hailey (DD-556) rendezvoused with the group to deliver the latest available target information and detailed instructions for the bombardment at 2050.
The Army’s 7th, 27th, and 96th Infantry divisions of the XXIV Corps attacked the Shuri Line across Okinawa from a point about four miles north of Naha on 19 April 1945. The fleet’s meteorologists reported the weather as “partly cloudy to becoming cloudy.” A ceiling of 3,000 to 4,000 feet, visibility stretching from 10 miles to unrestricted, and a moderate sea provided sufficient conditions for the preliminary bombardment. Six battleships, six cruisers, and eight destroyers opened fire at 0540. The ships of TG 58.7 meanwhile arrived in their bombardment positions along the south and southwest coasts at about 0630. Lee maneuvered the ships offshore displaying few lights to deceive the Japanese about the impending offensive.
North Carolina commenced firing at the enemy positions at 0647. South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 0739, and at 0853, she fired the first salvo of 16-inch H.C. shells. The ship alternated fire against designated targets and at targets of opportunity as reported by her Kingfishers. South Dakota fired 227 rounds of 16-inch H.C. and 114 rounds of five-inch (four antiaircraft, common, and 110 Mk 18) ammunition. Twenty-seven USA and USMC artillery battalions, equipped with tubes ranging from 75 millimeter to 8-inch howitzers, fired 19,000 rounds against the enemy for 40 minutes. In addition, 650 USN and USMC planes—more than 300 launched from carriers—bombed, rocketed, napalmed, and strafed the Japanese troops. The USMC described the salvoes of this storm of fire as “awesome in their magnitude.” The enemy soldiers and sailors sheltered within their deep caves and bunkers, however, and emerged from the bombardment relatively unscathed and halted the offensive. Lee ordered the task group to come about at 1245. At 1530, TG 58.7 rendezvoused with TG 58.3 and then dissolved, the ships resuming their operations with TG 58.3. South Dakota refueled Hickox, Hunt, Lewis Hancock, and Walker on 20 April.
Enemy aircraft closed the formation during the midwatch on 21 April 1945. South Dakota set condition 1 in her antiaircraft battery, and a night fighter claimed to shoot down a Japanese plane at 0055. Three minutes later, the enemy aircraft opened the range, and South Dakota set condition 3 in her antiaircraft battery. A night fighter splashed a second intruder at 0140. At 0301 on 22 April, a night fighter shot down a Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryū (Flying Dragon) Peggy. Eight minutes later, the ships of TG 58.4 splashed a Japanese plane as it passed over the group. South Dakota refueled from oiler Mascoma (AO-83) on 23 April, and the following day refueled Lewis Hancock, Owen, The Sullivans, and Waldron. Bataan returned to TG 58.3 on 26 April. South Dakota refueled from Lackawanna and then rearmed from ammunition ship Mauna Loa on 27 April.
Japanese planes approached the task group at 2025 on 28 April 1945. South Dakota set condition 1 in her antiaircraft battery, and the other ships in the formation opened fire at an aerial intruder at 2032. Two minutes later, the ships made smoke, effectively screening the group. The enemy planes retired without penetrating the smoke screen, and the vessels ceased making smoke and stood down their watches at 2104. South Dakota refueled Erben, Miller, Owen, and Walker during the afternoon of 29 April. Japanese planes threatened the task group while Erben and Owen steamed alongside South Dakota. The battleship set condition 1 in her antiaircraft battery and the destroyers expeditiously cleared South Dakota at 1646. The formation shifted to cruising disposition 5-V, and some of the ships opened fire unsuccessfully at a single intruder at 1711. No attack developed against TG 58.3, however, which formed cruising disposition 5-R at 1835. Enemy planes shadowed the group without incident on the night of 30 April.
South Dakota steamed on the port side of hospital ship Bountiful (AH-9) and transferred patients, from 0733 to 0823 on 1 May 1945. The ships carried out the difficult transfer while underway and in formation—a first for the battleship. South Dakota then refueled from oiler Niobrara (AO-72), and dropped astern of the formation to conduct antiaircraft gunnery practice against TDD drones. The battleship refueled Black, Bullard, Chauncey, Erben, Hunt, Lewis Hancock, and Marshall on 3 May. At 1507 on 5 May, Missouri reported to TG 58.3. The task group retired from the operating area overnight to rendezvous with the Logistic Support Group to replenish.
During this deployment, South Dakota received for treatment three wounded men from Hancock and six from Bunker Hill (all transferred via destroyers), 13 from Haynsworth, and one from Charles S. Sperry. The patients from Haynsworth included ten men suffering from major burns, one compound fracture of the skull, and one fracture of the femoral shaft, complicated with extensive burns. The three Hancock and six Bunker Hill aircrew had all been rescued from the sea and suffered from burns, two critical—one of whom later died. The ships transferred all of these patients by the standard trolley method, and South Dakota’s medical team treated the burn cases with Vaseline gauze, pressure dressings, plasma, oxygen, and penicillin. The battleship consequently replenished her supply of penicillin on two occasions.
TG 58.3 formed cruising disposition modified 5-R with the Logistic Support Group, course and axis 070°, speed 10 knots, at 0543 on 6 May 1945. South Dakota refueled from Manatee during the morning and forenoon watches. The battleship then dropped astern and carried out antiaircraft exercises against drones. The ships reached a position at 24°, 03', 30"N, 131°, 31', 15"E, at noon.
South Dakota lay along the port side of Wrangell to rearm at 1528. A working party hoisted ammunition on board the battleship but at 1558, a tank of 16-inch H.C. powder exploded as the men passed it into magazine A-419-M. The explosion and the ensuing fires set off four other tanks, dashing in bulkheads in the dental office, x-ray office, and the isolation ward. A thick yellow-orange cloud of ether smoke poured from the trunk descending to sick bay, choking and blinding men in its path. South Dakota sounded Fire Quarters, and the battleship and Wrangell jointly let go all lines and rapidly cleared each other. South Dakota maneuvered clear of the other ships in the formation but continued to sail within the screen.
Lt. Comdr. Frederick T. Weaver, USNR, the Damage Control Officer, took charge of trapped men, and also inspired firefighters, directing their efforts to defeat the blaze. Weaver was afterward awarded the Bronze Star. Powder fumes overwhelmed Seaman 1st Class John Becker, USNR, as he made his way toward the scene of the explosion as a member of a repair party. Sailors carried Becker topside and revived him with artificial respiration. On regaining consciousness, he again headed for the fire, and aided in extinguishing the flames and clearing away the casualties and debris. Becker suffered severe lung and respiratory complications, but recovered and subsequently received the Bronze Star.
South Dakota’s firefighters flooded magazine A-419-M. Crewmen reported fires or high temperatures in the lower magazines of Turret II; A-416-M, A-417-M, and A-418-M. The damage control team ordered these magazines flooded at 1606. The ship reported all fires out at 1634. Crewmen then utilized submersible pumps to remove the additional water.
“Superb damage control measures and fire fighting,” South Dakota’s war diarist noted, “quickly brought the fire under control and narrowly averted a major disaster.” The ship lost three men killed instantly; eight more died of injuries; and 24 others suffered non-fatal injuries, primarily from smoke inhalation. The battleship flew her colors at half mast in honor of her dead, and the crew held a memorial service that evening. South Dakota sustained superficial hull damage in the trunk at frame 64 starboard side, from the main deck to the first platform deck and surrounding areas on these and intervening decks. Electrical circuits in the vicinity of the fires and explosions also suffered “considerable damage.” TG 58.3 cleared the Logistic Support Group at 1819, and stood northward to an operating area east of Okinawa. South Dakota’s crew gradually repaired the damage and she continued in action. The ship jettisoned 60 charges of powder of mixed indices and 34,387 of her 20 millimeter rounds damaged by the fires and flooding through 7 May. At 2245, the ship received the news of the unconditional surrender of the Germans to the Allies.
South Dakota rearmed from Wrangell and then provisioned from store ship Aldebaron (AF-10) on 10 May. Japanese planes repeatedly probed the task group on 11 May. Corsairs and Hellcats of the CAP splashed three Zekes during the forenoon watch. Two kamikazes tentatively identified as a Zeke and a Judy crashed flagship Bunker Hill at 1009. A third plane struck the water about 100 yards astern of the carrier. These attackers dove from directly overhead and surprised the Americans. South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1011. The bridge team observed the huge “fires and explosions” that tore through Bunker Hill. The ships of the task group maneuvered on high speed emergency turns to repel the air attack and to support the stricken carrier. The CAP claimed the destruction of several additional enemy planes that attempted to penetrate the screen. South Dakota secured from General Quarters at 1124, but continued to set condition 1 in her antiaircraft battery. Astoria, Charles S. Sperry, and English stood by Bunker Hill, which reported her fires under control at noon. Bunker Hill suffered 353 men killed, 43 missing, and 264 wounded. Mitscher shifted his flag to Enterprise, and Bunker Hill later sailed for repairs at Bremerton.
South Dakota detached from TG 58.3 to proceed in company with TG 58.4 to the rear area, at 1628 on 11 May 1945. The battleship’s orders directed her to sail to Guam for inspection and repairs of her shafts and strut bearings to determine the cause of excessive vibration at high speeds, especially when she made 23 knots and used 10° or more left rudder. This shaking reached its greatest in the superstructure decks and above, causing difficulties in radar adjustment and optical tracking that rendered the equipment inoperative because of the breakage of wire tubes, wiring connections, and small shafting. The ongoing operations—the ship steamed for 59 days—prevented her from carrying out routine boiler maintenance, and engineering problems consequently grew progressively troublesome. TG 58.4 was to make for Ulithi for replenishment, upkeep, and recreation. The ships came about and commenced their retirement at 1930.
Following the departure of South Dakota from the waters off Okinawa, the Americans gradually advanced across the island. General Ushijima and Lt. Gen. Cho, Isamu, his Chief of Staff, committed seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) on 21 June 1945. Organized Japanese resistance on Okinawa ceased shortly thereafter, though isolated but determined pockets of troops held out for sometime, and the aerial counterattacks continued against the ships offshore. Carrier planes flew more than 40,000 combat sorties during Iceberg, claimed the destruction of 2,516 Japanese aircraft, dropped 8,500 tons of bombs, and fired 50,000 rockets. Marine squadrons flying from ashore claimed the destruction of another 506 Japanese aircraft, and expended 1,800 tons of bombs and 15,865 rockets. Many ships fought for long periods and Essex logged 79 consecutive days in battle. At least 12,281 Americans and 110,071 Japanese and Okinawans died on Okinawa—accurate totals of the Japanese and Okinawan casualties are unavailable because of the ferocity of the campaign and the destruction of enemy records. For the first time, appreciable numbers of Japanese troops surrendered—nearly 7,400. The fighting cost the USN 763 aircraft, and 36 ships and craft sunk and 368 damaged. At least 4,907 men on board these ships died or disappeared, and 4,824 suffered wounds.
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.