Capt. Lynde D. McCormick assumed command of South Dakota at the Navy Yard, N.Y., on 1 February 1943. Workers removed the remaining 1.1-inch antiaircraft guns and installed an additional 13 quadruple 40 millimeter guns during these repairs. The ship’s Aviation Unit moved to Floyd Bennett Field, where the Sailors received a third Kingfisher to replace the final plane lost during the 2d Battle of Guadalcanal.
South Dakota reported 12-year-old crewman Graham as “absent over leave” since 0815 on 20 February. Seven days later, Graham turned himself in at the Navy Recruiting Station at Houston. He was then transferred to Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas. At times, Graham languished in the Brig. The office of the Chief of Naval Personnel subsequently cancelled his enlistment (as void), inasmuch that he had entered the service under the minimum age for enlistment. The action negated Graham’s credit for service from 16 August 1942 to 5 April 1943, costing the young sailor his regular and sea pay, and his mustering-out pay.
Graham appealed the decision on more than one occasion, but the Chief of Naval Personnel and the General Accounting Office upheld the action. Meanwhile, Graham enlisted in the USMC, serving in the continental U.S. during part of the Korean War, from 6 November 1950 to 1 August 1951. The veteran continued to fight for recognition of his service. Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Claytor, Jr., issued an honorable discharge to Graham on 2 May 1978. President Ronald W. Reagan then signed a bill, H.R. 610, assigned Private Law No. 100-44, authorizing a total lump-sum payment of all of Graham’s owed Navy pay of $4,916.99 on 10 November 1988. The bill also specified that Graham’s dental injuries, sustained while on board South Dakota during the 2d Battle of Guadalcanal, qualified him for the determination of “a permanent service-connected disability incurred in the line of duty.” That year also witnessed the release of a made-for-TV film, Too Young the Hero, starring Rick Schroder as Graham. The Navy eventually restored Graham’s decorations posthumously.
South Dakota returned to sea on 25 February 1943. The Aviation Unit remained at NAS Norfolk while the ship made her test runs. Following sea trials, the battleship operated with Ranger in the North Atlantic. South Dakota sailed to Portland, Maine, early in March 1943. An epidemic of spinal meningitis broke out in the city, and she prohibited shore liberty. A cold winter wind furthermore howled across the ship during her stay at the city and morale plummeted, but the ship’s company donated $1,064 to the American Red Cross in response to an appeal by the organization.
The Germans operated a powerful surface squadron in Norwegian waters, consisting at times of battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst, armored ship Lützow, cruisers, and destroyers, supported by U-boats. British Adm. Sir Bruce Fraser, RN, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, succinctly noted that these forces “…effectively blocked our route to north Russia, and threatened us with the possibility of a destructive break-out into the Atlantic…” The British deployed some of their battleships from British waters to support Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. The temporary reduction in the strength of the Home Fleet led the Admiralty to request U.S. reinforcements.
Rear Adm. Olaf M. Hustveldt, Commander TF 61, consolidated his task force at Argentia, Newfoundland. Battleships Alabama (BB-60) and South Dakota, and destroyers Ellyson (DD-454), Emmons, Fitch (DD-462), Macomb (DD-458), andRodman sailed at varying times for British waters, South Dakota setting out on 12 May 1943. The ships rendezvoused, and Hustveldt then brought TF 61 into Scapa Flow on 19 May. During South Dakota’s operations in this cold northern theater, she crossed the Arctic Circle into the North Sea, and operated off the coast of Norway, Spitzbergen, Iceland, Greenland, and Bear Island. Alabama and South Dakota often worked with their British counterparts, battleships Anson (79) and Duke of York (17).
Ships of the British Home Fleet, consisting of Duke of York, heavy cruiser Berwick (65), and destroyers Milne (G-14), Obedient (G-48), Obdurate (G-39), and Opportune (G-80), in conjunction with TF 61, sailed from Scapa for Hvalfjördur (Whale-fjord), Iceland, at 1600 on 31 May 1943. The combined force began reaching their anchorages at Hvalfjördur at 0900 on 2 June. The Home Fleet and TF 61 then launched Operation Gearbox III, the relief of the Anglo-Norwegian garrison of Spitzbergen, Svarlbard Archipelago. The force also escorted British corvettes Bluebell (K-80) and Camellia (K-31) during the return of the escorts from Soviet waters, and conveyed mail and supplies to British Sailors and Marines deployed to the Soviet Union.
Force R, a British scouting and screening group consisting of heavy cruiser Cumberland (57), light cruiser Bermuda (52), and destroyers Eclipse (H-08) and Canadian Athabaskan (G-07), sailed from Akureyri, Iceland, at 1900 on 7 June. The main force earmarked for Gearbox III, consisting of Alabama and South Dakota, Ellyson, Emmons, Fitch, Macomb, and Rodman operating as TG 92.4, and the British main force, comprising Anson and Duke of York, aircraft carrier Furious (47), Berwick, light cruiser Scylla (98), and Milne, Obedient, Obdurate, and Opportune, sailed from Akureyri at 0800 on 9 June. Furious embarked Supermarine Seafire 1bs of No. 801 Squadron, Martlet IIs of Detachment 7 of 881 Squadron, and Fairey Albacore Is of 822 Squadron. The ships steamed northwesterly courses for two days, reaching a position near 72°N, 10°E, at 0600 on 11 June. They then turned onto southerly courses, and TG 92.4 detached at 0800 the following day, proceeding to Hvalfjördur. Duke of York, Furious, Scylla, Milne, Obedient, Obdurate, and Opportune, accompanied by destroyer Orwell (G-98), returned to Scapa at 2200 on 13 June.
Task Group 92.4 arrived at Scapa on 21 June. At noon the following day, Emmons sailed for Invergordon, Scotland. Upon arrival, the destroyer embarked an entourage including Adm. Harold R. Stark, Commander Naval Forces, Europe, and Twelfth Fleet, John G. Winant, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and British First Lord of the Admiralty Albert V. Alexander. Emmons returned with her passengers to Scapa, where they inspected TG 92.4.
BB-57-4: The battleship anchors in wind-swept Hvalfjördur (Whale-fjord), Iceland, while operating with the British Home Fleet, 24 June 1943.
While South Dakota operated from Scapa, the British fleet recreation officer located a pasture where some of the men from the ship played softball. The Sailors played only a few games, however, because during a match on 1 July, a seaman from Kentucky collided with another Sailor near first base. The man suffered a skull injury from which he succumbed the following day, despite the assistance of a British brain surgeon. The ship’s company buried the man ashore in the local cemetery, and agreed to temporarily discontinue their softball games.
The British Home Fleet and TF 61 then carried out Operation Camera, a demonstration off the southern Norwegian coast to divert German attention from Operation Husky in July 1943. The Admiralty carefully orchestrated the complex operation, which required the movements of multiple groups of ships. British Force S, comprising heavy cruisers Berwick and Norfolk (78) and destroyer Scorpion (D-64), sailed from Hvalfjördur on 6 July. Force S made for an area from which the ships operated near two positions: A, 66°13'N, and 120°5'W; and B, 66°40'N, 10°01'W.
Obedient and Opportune sailed from Scapa as part of Force R, at 0700 on 7 July. The two destroyers initially operated separately while simulating a convoy. The balance of Force R put to sea at varying times, consisting of trawlers Bressay (T-214), Cape Barracouta (FY-122), Cape Nyemetzki (FY-670), Hamlet (T-167), Hawthorn (T-32), Larch (T-96), Macbeth (T-138), Oak (T-54), Skye (T-163), and Sycamore (T-37), together with motor launches ML-276, ML-286, ML-345, ML-445, ML-452, and ML-466. These vessels made for positions W, 61°15'N, 01°25'W, and X, 61°40'N, 01°00'E.
Force Q, comprising British heavy cruisers Kent (54) and London (69), light cruiser Belfast (35) and destroyer Onslaught (G-04), set out from Scapa at 0900 on 7 July. Force Q reached position T, 62°20'N, 5°30'W, at 2300. British destroyerObdurate (G-39) steamed from Skaalefjord in the Faroe Islands, rendezvousing with Force Q at position T. These ships then made for position V, 62°20"N, 01°00"E. Furious, again with Seafire 1bs of 801 Squadron, Martlet IIs of Detachment 7 of 881 Squadron, and Fairey Albacore Is of 822 Squadron embarked, and destroyers Mahratta (G-23), Meteor (G-73), and Musketeer (G-86), sailed from Scapa at 1600 that afternoon.
Adm. Fraser took the Battlefleet, of the Home Fleet, containing battleships Duke of York and Malaya (01), light cruiser Glasgow (21), and Milne, reinforced by TG 92.4, comprising South Dakota, Ellyson, Emmons, Fitch, Macomb, andRodman, to sea from Scapa at 1700 on 7 July 1943. Fraser made for positions Y, 62°52"N, 1°45"W, and Z, 61°20"N, 01°00"E. Furious and her three destroyers rendezvoused with Fraser at 2100.
Fraser and Hustveldt reached position Y at noon on 8 July. They then turned their ships to a south easterly course, steering for position Z. A German Luftwaffe Blohm & Voss Bv 138C-1 Seedrache (Sea Dragon) reconnaissance flying boat, probably of Staffel 2/Küstenflieger Gruppe (2d Squadron/Coastal Patrol Group) 406, flying from Billefjord, Norway, apparently sighted the Allied ships. A Martlet II, flown by Lt. Comdr. R.A Bird, RN, of 881 Squadron from Furious, splashed the intruder. The Anglo-American ships reached position Z at 2100, and then came about for Scapa, returning to the anchorage at 1000 on 9 July.
Fraser carried out a second demonstration: Operation Governor. Force C, comprising British destroyers Ripley (G-79) and Savage (G-20), trawlers Cedar (T-01), Hawthorn, Larch, Lilac (T-26), Oak, Skye, Switha (T-179), and Willow (T-66), motor launches ML-252, ML-286, ML-442, ML-445, and ML-473, and large infantry landing craft LCI(L)-167, sailed from Scapa for Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands, at 2100 on 25 July 1943. Ripley was former U.S. destroyer Shubrick (DD-268), exchanged as part of an agreement for the lease of British naval and air bases on 2 September 1940.
Force A, consisting of Anson and Malaya, Illustrious, Mahratta, Meteor, Milne, and Musketeer, supported by Alabama, Emmons, Fitch, Macomb, and Rodman, sailed from Hvalfjördur at 1200 on 26 July 1943. Fraser broke his flag in Anson, and Illustrious embarked Seafire IIcs of 894 Squadron, Martlet IVs of 878 and 890 Squadrons, and Fairey Barracuda IIs of 810 Squadron. Force A steered a course for positions N, 66°30'N, 08°00'W, and P, 66°00'N, 01°30'E. Force D, temporarily comprising only Belfast, departed from Scapa at noon the following day for position V, 62°15'N, 5°20'W. British destroyers Oribi (G-66) and Orwell sailed from Skaalefjord and rendezvoused with the cruiser. The three ships then made for position R, 62°00'N, 00°30'E.
South Dakota put to sea with Force B, consisting of Duke of York, aircraft maintenance and repair aircraft carrier Unicorn (I-72), Bermuda, and British destroyers Grenville (R-97), Impulsive (D-11), Matchless (G-52), Obedient, Obdurate, Onslow, Saumarez (G-12), and Scorpion, from Scapa at 1600 on 27 July 1943. Unicorn operated as a light fleet carrier with Seafire IIcs of 887 Squadron, Fairey Swordfish Is of 824 Squadron, and Swordfish IIs of 818 Squadron embarked. Force B steamed to positions W, 61°40'N, 4°40'W, and T, 61°30'N, 1°30'E. Force E, containing Kent, London, and Norfolk, sailed from Hvalfjördur and patrolled from position M, 67°20'N, 02°00'W. Forces A and B rendezvoused at 1000 on 28 July.
At least four Luftwaffe Bv 138C-1s shadowed the Allied ships at varying times on 28 July 1943. A Martlet IV of the CAP, flown by Lt. Comdr. J.W. Sleigh, RN, of 890 Squadron from Illustrious, splashed one of the shadowers, flown by Unteroffizier Feddersen of 2/406. Bristol Beaufighter XICs of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s No. 404 Squadron, claimed the destruction of up to three more Bv 138C-1s, all apparently operating from 3/Seeaufklärungsgruppe (Maritime Reconnaissance Group) 130 at Tromsø/Söreisa, Norway. German Type XIV class Milchkühe (‘milk cow’ refueling submarine) U-489 rescued three of the survivors of one of these planes. The ships of Forces A and B returned to Scapa beginning at 0900 on 29 July.
South Dakota, Ellyson, Emmons, Fitch, Macomb, and Rodman detached from Operation Governor, returning to Norfolk on 1 August 1943. Alabama reached Norfolk eight days later. The Americans deployed a number of ships to operate with the British to partially offset the departure of Alabama and South Dakota during the summer and autumn, including Ranger and heavy cruisers Augusta (CA-31) and Tuscaloosa. Ranger arrived at a time of minimal Fleet Air Arm support for the Home Fleet, because Illustrious sailed for the Mediterranean and Victorious had not returned from the Pacific, temporarily leaving Furious as the sole operational aircraft carrier with the Home Fleet, and Furious required a refit.
South Dakota lacked a soda fountain, and the omission in her design became a standing joke among the crew during this period, when they viewed magazines illustrating the “delightful accommodations” on board battleships, including the provision of ice cream. A repair station occupied the location where some of the other battleships in the class had a soda fountain.
Rear Adm. Edward W. Hanson broke his flag in South Dakota as Commander BatDiv-9, in August 1943. South Dakota embarked one OS2U-3 and two OS2N-1 Kingfishers of VO-9. Ensign John W. Church, USNR, of VO-9 flew an OS2U-3 (BuNo 5732) on a check-out flight from South Dakota on 23 August. The sea was calm, but as Church brought the plane alongside for a cast recovery, he landed the Kingfisher before reaching the slick, digging his port wing tip float into the ship’s wake. The port wing went down, carrying away the wing tip float, following which the plane capsized. Church survived, and a destroyer sank the wrecked plane with gunfire.
The battleship stood out of Norfolk en route to Efaté Island, New Hebrides (Vanuatu), on 21 August 1943. The ship reached Havannah Harbor, Efaté, on 14 September. Capt. Allan E. Smith relieved Capt. McCormick as the battleship’s Commanding Officer on 20 September. The ship’s Aviation Unit reduced the plane compliment from three Kingfishers to two planes, simultaneously dropping the number of pilots routinely embarked to three men, in October.
South Dakota sailed to the Fiji Islands on 7 November 1943, and four days later sortied from there with Battleship Divisions 8 and 9 to support TG 50.1, the Carrier Interceptor Group, for Operation Galvanic: the assault by the 2d Marine Division and elements of the Army’s 27th Infantry Division on the Gilbert Islands. The group included aircraft carriers Lexington (CV-16) and Yorktown (CV-10), and small aircraft carrier Cowpens (CVL-25). Rear Adm. Charles A. Pownall broke his flag in Yorktown in command of the group. The carriers launched attacks to neutralize enemy airfields on Jaluit and Mili atolls in the Marshalls on 19 November. The force then provided air support for the ensuing amphibious landings on Makin and Tarawa in the Gilberts. The group’s planes intercepted an enemy strike of 20 aircraft flying from the Marshalls, claiming the destruction of 17 planes, on 23 November. The following day, a similar battle occurred with comparable results.
Rear Adm. Lee commanded a striking force designated TG 50.4, including Alabama, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, aircraft carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17), and small aircraft carrier Monterey (CVL-26), that attacked Japanese shore installations and airfields on Nauru to the west of the Gilberts in December 1943. Rear Adm. Frederick C. Sherman acted as the OTC, and broke his flag in Bunker Hill. En route to their targets, the carriers launched planes that flew fighter coverage over the ships, antisubmarine patrols in sweeps around their route, and sorties against the Japanese on Makin. South Dakota refueled from oiler Neches (AO-47) during the forenoon watch on 1 December. At 1524, destroyer Izard (DD-589) gained a sound contact on an apparent submarine, bearing 120°, range approximately 8,000 yards. South Dakota increased speed to 25 knots and zigzagged on 225° while destroyers Charrette (DD-581) and Izard attacked the contact with depth charges until 1700, without result. At 1744 the formation resumed cruising disposition 5LS for the night.
A lookout on board Alabama sighted a Japanese Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 Betty, at 1109 on 5 December 1943. Four minutes later, Grumman F6F-3 Hellcats of VF-30 flying from Monterey shot down the Betty. A lookout on board South Dakota spotted the column of smoke rising from the downed enemy bomber, bearing 105°, range ten miles from the ship. The battleship refueled from Suamico (AO-49) to starboard the following day. Destroyer Burns (DD-588) simultaneously took on fuel from the other side of the oiler.
Task Group 50.8 organization became effective for the strike group at 1430 on 6 December. The group had been reinforced during the voyage, and consisted of Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts (BB-59), North Carolina, South Dakota, andWashington, Bunker Hill and Monterey, and destroyers Boyd (DD-544), Bradford (DD-545), Brown (DD-546), Burns (DD-588), Charrette, Conner (DD-582), Cowell (DD-547), Izard, Lang (DD-399), Stack, Sterett (DD-407), and Wilson. Lee broke his flag as OTC in Washington. Lang reported sighting a periscope at 1527, but investigated the sighting without success.
The group attacked the Japanese garrison on Nauru on 8 December 1943. At 0455, Sherman detached from the formation with Bunker Hill, Monterey, and their destroyers to launch the air strikes. The battleships formed column at 0544, and at 0619 launched their OS2U-3 and OS2N-1 Kingfishers of VOs 6 and 9 for gunnery spotting and antisubmarine patrols. South Dakota commenced firing at 0701, shooting 135 rounds of her 16-inch High Capacity (H.C.) shells, and 482 rounds of her 5-inch antiaircraft common shells, through 0738. The Kingfishers strafed and photographed the area around the barracks when the battleships ceased fire. South Dakota completed recovering her planes at 0855, and came about to the northward to clear possible retaliation by enemy shore batteries.
The Japanese deployed few planes on the island and the raiders achieved meager results, claiming the destruction of at least eight planes while losing four. Lee ordered Boyd to proceed to the west of Nauru and rescue the survivors of one of the downed planes at 1033. While the ship steamed toward the area, she received a report that the survivors drifted in a life raft about two miles west of the island. At 1140, Boyd hove to at what her watch team believed to be a plane, only to discover a smoke float. Japanese shore batteries suddenly opened fire, and two rounds struck the ship while she rolled in the swells at 1142. The first shell exploded in the forward engine room, sheering or puncturing all of the steam lines and the main power distribution board, and killing all of the men in that space. The second round detonated inside No. 1 stack. The ship returned fire and maneuvered to avoid the enemy shells, which straddled the destroyer at least five times, narrowly escaping an additional four gun salvo that exploded close aboard to port. Boyd lost 12 men killed and eight wounded, and subsequently came about for repairs at Espíritu Santo.
The ships of the group reformed cruising disposition 5L at 1151. Eight minutes into the afternoon watch, lookouts on board South Dakota sighted a Japanese Betty bearing 056°, 11 miles. The ships disengaged and steamed to the southward, and many of them refueled the following day. On 11 December, Alabama, Bunker Hill, Monterey, Boyd, Brown, Lang, Stack, Sterett, and Wilson left the formation and proceeded to Espíritu Santo. The remaining vessels of the group returned to Havannah Harbor, Efaté, South Dakota mooring to buoy no. 10, at 1143 on 12 December. Oiler Kankakee (AO-39) refueled the battleship, Burns, Charrette, and Izard. South Dakota accomplished upkeep and rearming through the end of 1943.
South Dakota received 16-inch H.C. shells and powder from transport William Ward Burrows (AP-6) on 5 January 1944. The battleship put to sea with Indiana and three destroyers for a series of gunnery exercises on 16 January. The weather deteriorated and the ships returned to Havannah, sailing again the following day to complete the exercises, but returning to port when the seas rose.
The battleship’s next action occurred as part of Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance’s Fifth Fleet during Operation Flintlock: the occupation of the Marshalls by the USMC and the Army’s 7th Infantry Division. Rear Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commander TF 51, led the Joint Expeditionary Force from amphibious force command ship Rocky Mount (AGC-3). The increasing complexity of amphibious operations necessitated the use of command ships, and the Marshalls marked their introduction to battle. Rocky Mount provided improved facilities for Capt. H.B. Sallada, Commander Support Aircraft, who assumed control of Target Combat Air Patrol, a task previously vested in carriers. A Force Fighter Director on Sallada’s staff coordinated fighter direction.
South Dakota sailed with TG 37.2, comprising Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington, screened by Burns, Charrette, Conner, Izard, Lang, and Wilson, for Funafuti, Elice Islands, on 18 January 1944. At 0930, strong winds and seas caused a huge wave to sweep over the forecastle, injuring a number of men and washing Seaman 1st Class J. P. Collura, USNR, overboard, at a point about 1,900 yards southwest of Knapp Island. Conner and high-speed minesweeperHopkins (DMS-13) searched unsuccessfully for Collura. Task Group 37.2 rendezvoused with Bunker Hill and Monterey and continued to Funafuti, South Dakota anchoring at berth B-9 at 1420 on 20 January. The battleship received orders redesignating TF 37 as TF 58.5, in accordance with the operations plan for Flintlock. Tanker Bennington then fueled South Dakota.
The battleship sailed on 23 January 1944. Carrier planes flew simulated bombing, strafing, and torpedo attacks against the ships of the fleet, which maneuvered individually, during the forenoon and afternoon watches the following day. On 25 January, many of the ships fueled in preparation for the battle. Alabama, North Carolina, and South Dakota, escorted by destroyers Lang, Stack, and Sterett, detached as TG 58.2.2 at 0645 and proceeded to their fueling rendezvous. While en route to fuel they met TG 58.2.1, Rear Adm. Alfred E. Montgomery commanding. Montgomery’s group comprised aircraft carriers Essex (CV-9) and Intrepid (CV-11), small aircraft carrier Cabot (CVL-28), light cruiser San Diego (CL-53), the destroyers of DesRon-52, numbering Hunt (DD-674), Lewis Hancock (DD-675), Owen (DD-536), Stembel (DD-644), Stephen Potter (DD-538), and The Sullivans (DD-537), and oilers Kaskaskia (AO-27) and Sabine. Montgomery broke his flag in Essex. South Dakota refueled from Sabine during the afternoon watch.
Sterett reported a sound contact and made two depth charge runs without results later that evening. At midnight, the fleet changed course to 120°. A lookout on board Kaskaskia reported spotting an object 500 yards abeam to starboard submerging, during the midwatch about two hours later. All of the ships made an emergency turn to 030° to avoid the area, and Stembel investigated but failed to detect a Japanese submarine. South Dakota dropped out of formation and received a sick man from The Sullivans at 1730 on 26 January.
Alarms and excursions continued to interrupt the almost daily gunnery training exercises and refueling operations, and Cabot reported a surface radar contact later that evening. Closer examination revealed a flock of birds attacking a school of fish. Shortly thereafter, Essex reported another contact, and South Dakota logged her response: “Avoiding emergency turn 50° to starboard while investigation proved contact to be a low cloud.” Additional false sighting and radar reports, as well as misleading sound contacts, plagued the fleet during Flintlock. South Dakota (separately) refueled Stephen Potter and then The Sullivans on 28 January. The battleship incurred a casualty to Turret III during drills, which necessitated working parties laboriously shifting the 16-inch rounds from that turret forward to Turrets I and II. At 2300, the fleet imposed radar silence (the forerunner of emission control procedures) on aircraft search and fire control equipment during the run in to the morning launch position.
During the morning watch on 29 January 1944, the fleet steamed a base course of 070°, increased speed to 26 knots, and lifted radar silence. The aircraft carriers of TF 58, Rear Adm. Marc A. Mitscher commanding, consisting of Bunker Hill, Enterprise, Essex, Intrepid, Saratoga, and Yorktown, and small aircraft carriers Belleau Wood (CVL-24), Cabot, Cowpens, Langley (CVL-27), Monterey, and Princeton (CVL-23), launched their planes against the Japanese garrisons of Kwajalein, Maloelap, and Wotje. South Dakota recorded that “The first strike of FLINTLOCK is off into the blue to start a new page of history.” The planes of raid “A” turned for Roi and Namur, 95 miles to the northeast, at 0605. Land-based planes of TF 57, Rear Adm. John H. Hoover commanding, also supported these operations.
South Dakota maneuvered at various courses and speeds to keep station with the carriers as they launched and recovered their raids throughout the day. Beginning at just before noon, the ships received reports that these strikes wiped-out the Japanese air strength on the islands. Smoke covered Roi and Namur, and numerous fires raged across the islands. A fighter pancaked 4,000 yards off the starboard bow of South Dakota at 1410, but Stembel rescued the pilot. Additional planes returned damaged from flak or suffering from mechanical malfunctions, and Burns retrieved three men in total, pulling alongside South Dakota at 1810 to transfer an aviation radioman injured in a crash.
The carriers completed their flight operations by 1925, and the fleet sailed to the southwest of Kwajalein overnight. North Carolina, Lang, and Sterett bombarded Roi and Namur intermittently during the night. Burns steamed en route to her carrier group when her radar plot discovered four ships off Ujae Atoll at 0050 on 30 January. The destroyer sank Japanese transport Akibasan Maru and guardboat Nichiei Maru with radar-controlled gunfire. Watchstanders on board South Dakota observed the faint light of the fires just over the horizon.
During the morning watch on 30 January 1944, Rear Adm. Hanson cleared the fleet disposition with TG 58.2.2, less North Carolina, Lang, and Sterett, but reinforced by Spruance’s flagship, heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35), to carry out a bombardment of the Japanese garrison on Roi and Namur. North Carolina, Lang, and Sterett rejoined Hanson, and the combined task group made for the bombardment area off the northern beaches of Roi and Namur. An artificial causeway linked the two small islands, effectively forming a single isle.
South Dakota sounded General Quarters at 1015, and fifteen minutes later catapulted both of her Kingfishers to fly gunnery observation and antisubmarine patrols. The ship steered course 060°, speed 17 knots, when she opened fire at Roi and Namur to starboard at a range of 20,000 yards at 1103. South Dakota’s first 16-inch salvo landed on the airfield, and she accomplished various changes of course and speed while making multiple runs against Japanese pill boxes and defensive positions. The ship ceased fire at 1620 after shooting 356 rounds of 16-inch H.C., nine rounds of 16-inch service, 1,542 rounds of 5-inch H.C., and 16 rounds of 5-inch service ammunition. Alabama and North Carolina also pounded the enemy. The ships then came about.
Marines and soldiers landed on islands at Kwajalein and Majuro on 31 January 1944. The following day, additional landings occurred on Kwajalein, and on Roi and Namur. Planes from TG 58.3, Rear Adm. Sherman commanding, bombed Japanese aircraft and airfields at Engebi Island, Eniwetok Atoll, Marshalls, into the first three days of February. TG 58.4, Rear Adm. Samuel P. Ginder commanding, later supplemented Sherman through 7 February.
South Dakota and the other battleships refueled cruisers and destroyers on 1 February. The ongoing problems associated with the lack of experience in the CIC concept continued to impede operations. Mustin reported a sound contact at 2331 on 2 February, but South Dakota recorded that it “apparently fizzled out.” The battleship’s CIC then reported “numerous contacts” during the midwatch into the next day, which the lookouts and the watch team on the bridge identified as rain squalls. South Dakota launched both of her Kingfishers to take photographs of Majuro Atoll to aid the ship in entering the haven, and then anchored at berth A-8 at 1849 on 4 February. The battleship’s war diarist recorded that the “number and power of the ships of the U.S. Navy anchored in this Atoll was a sight to behold. A quick count set the number at over 100 ships.” South Dakota refueled and loaded provisions.
The covering operations for the liberation of the Marshalls included Operation Hailstone: a strike on the Japanese naval anchorage at Truk Lagoon, Carolines. South Dakota departed the Marshalls in company with Spruance’s TF 50, the Truk Striking Force, on 12 February 1944. Mitscher led TF 58, the Fast Carrier Force. South Dakota took part in Hailstone with Sherman’s TG 58.3, consisting of battleships Alabama, Iowa (BB-61), Massachusetts, New Jersey (BB-62), and North Carolina, Bunker Hill, Cowpens, and Monterey, heavy cruisers Minneapolis (CA-36) and New Orleans, and their destroyer screens. Lee again commanded the battleships, and Rear Adm. Hanson broke his flag in command of Bat-Div-9 in South Dakota. The vast assemblage required hours to sail from Majuro, and South Dakota stood out of the atoll at 1549. At 1458 on 14 February, South Dakota’s CIC reported two bogies, bearing 293° (T), 53 miles from the ship. Hellcats of the CAP splashed two Bettys, bearing 281° (T), 46 miles at 1507.
Mitscher began launching planes from a position about 120 miles east of Truk, at 0643 on 16 February 1944. Bunker Hill operated as the formation guide. Destroyers rushed to carrier planes that crashed in the area from damage or malfunctions, rescuing men from the water. Iowa, New Jersey, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Brown, Burns, Charrette, Conner, and Izard detached and proceeded to “dispatch” Japanese ships reported north of Truk at 1142. Yorktown launched a night fighter to fly CAP, and at 0218 defied the risk of enemy submarine attack to turn on her lights in order to recover her plane. Planes flew additional strikes the following day. Iowa, New Jersey, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Brown, Burns, Charrette, Conner, and Izard rejoined the main force at 0835.
During the two-day attack, Bunker Hill, Enterprise, Essex, Intrepid, Yorktown, Belleau Wood, Cabot, Cowpens, and Monterey launched 1,250 combat sorties that dropped 400 tons of bombs and torpedoes, sinking 37 Japanese ships aggregating 200,000 tons, and damaging installations. The vessels sunk included light cruiser Naka, training cruiser Katori, destroyers Fumizuki, Maikaze, Oite, and Tachikaze, armed merchant cruiser Akagi Maru, auxiliary submarine depot ship Heian Maru, submarine chasers Ch 24 and Ch 29, aircraft transport Fujikawa Maru, transports Aikoku Maru, Amagisan Maru, Gosei Maru, Hanakawa Maru, Hokuyo Maru, Kensho Maru, Kiyozumi Maru, Matsutani Maru, Momokawa Maru, No. 6 Unkai Maru, Reiyo Maru, Rio de Janeiro Maru, San Francisco Maru, Seiko Maru, Taihō Maru, Yamagiri Maru, and Zukai Maru, fleet tankers Fujisan Maru, Hoyo Maru, No. 3 Tonan Maru, and Shinkoku Maru, water carrier Nippo Maru, auxiliary vessel Yamakisan Maru, army cargo ships Nagano Maru and Yubai Maru, merchant cargo ship Taikichi Maru, and motor torpedo boat Gyoraitei No. 10.
The force rendezvoused with oilers Cimarron (AO-22), Guadalupe (AO-32), Platte (AO-24), and Sabine, together with their four escorting destroyers, during the afternoon watch on 18 February 1944. Platte assumed the formation guide, and the fleet steamed in disposition 5LS around the tankers while the ships fueled. As the sun set, men on board South Dakota observed a “large glow over the horizon,” bearing 126°, emanating from the Japanese tankers burning at Truk. South Dakota refueled from Guadalupe on 19 February, and transferred Comdr. Joseph B. Berkley and Lt. Willard O. Backus by breeches buoy to the oiler.
Alabama and South Dakota detached from TG 58.3 to join TG 58.2 en route toward Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas Islands, at 0955 on 20 February. Mitscher led the raid for the dual purpose of reducing enemy air strength in those islands, and to gather photographic intelligence for the impending Allied invasion. Just after noon, the ships gained their new formation, and Alabama assumed the fueling formation guide while the ships commenced refueling the destroyers. South Dakota refueled destroyers Caperton (DD-650), Cogswell (DD-651), Ingersoll (DD-652), and Knapp (DD-653) from both sides of the battleship. South Dakota’s CIC reported a bogie (unknown plane) bearing 297°, 24 miles, at 1330 on 21 February. The ship’s Officer of the Deck sighted a twin engine plane in that direction shortly thereafter, but the Hellcats of the CAP failed to catch the elusive intruder. From this point forward in the operation, U.S. planners operated under the assumption that the Japanese plane alerted the enemy to the raid, thus forfeiting the element of surprise.
The force formed cruising formation 5V for possible enemy air attacks, at 2030 on 21 February 1944. At 2116, South Dakota’s CIC reported a bogie at 244°, 29 miles. The ship sounded General Quarters, but Lee maneuvered the formation to always show the ship’s stern and the plane passed. The force resumed the voyage, but CIC reported additional enemy planes inbound, at 286°, 31 miles, at 2242. South Dakota commenced firing with her 5-inch guns at 2308. Most of the attackers closed the ship at one degree or less in altitude, and only turned away at the last second, or fell in flames. South Dakota’s relative bearing talker in CIC over the 5JP circuit kept Air-Defense on the targets throughout the ship’s evasive maneuvers. During the confusion of the fighting in the darkness, Alabama’s 5-inch mount No. 9 accidentally fired into mount No. 5 on board that ship, killing five men and wounding another 11.
Japanese planes continued to shadow the ships overnight on 21 and 22 February 1944. The enemy aircraft usually flew at ranges of 30 to 40 miles, periodically closing to firing range. Their piecemeal attacks against the entire task group ensured their tactical failure. South Dakota’s CIC evaluated a radar pip as a single plane, or a pair of aircraft flying together, bearing 020°, eight miles at 0045. The ship opened fire within a minute, and reportedly splashed two intruders, her lookouts sighted two groups of flame in the water. The ship apparently splashed another plane when it simultaneously disappeared from the search and fire control radars, three minutes later. The battleship secured from General Quarters at 0123.
South Dakota’s CIC reported another plane, bearing 272°, 26 miles at 0207. The weary crewmen again manned their battle stations. The ship’s 5-inch guns opened fire on the closest plane at 0215, which burst into flames and fell into the sea. Another aircraft then attacked the ship unsuccessfully. The secondary batteries fired at the intruder but it escaped. The crew secured from General Quarters, but CIC reported another bomber approaching from 145°, 23 miles at 0551. The battleship again sounded General Quarters, and Japanese planes repeatedly attacked the task group during the following hour. The watchstanders on the bridge of South Dakota noted “gunfire observed around us,” but the task force repelled the attackers. The carriers began launching their first day of strikes against the Japanese garrisons on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian on the morning of 22 February 1944.
They launched the initial wave of their second day of air strikes at 0815 on 23 February. Enemy planes determinedly attacked the force. The defenders splashed a Betty that attacked the carriers at 0828. Hellcats intercepted multiple attackers, splashing one Betty at a range of 26 miles. Another Betty assaulted South Dakota from dead astern (in all likelihood because the pilot considered that area of the ship vulnerable to attack) which shot down the bomber at a range of 5,000 yards at 0850. Three Hellcats raced after a pair of bombers that approached the ships and splashed them 8,000 yards off the port beam of South Dakota ten minutes later. The Americans splashed another Betty, bearing 180°, 10,000 yards from the ship, at 0912. A dive bomber succumbed while attacking Essex, and South Dakota fired at three planes at 0929, only to discover U.S. aircraft. South Dakota fired a total of 406 5-inch shells (105 Mk 28 and 301 Mk 32) together with 792 rounds of 40 millimeter and 3,150 rounds of 20 millimeter ammunition during the two aerial attacks. The Americans claimed the destruction of 67 Japanese planes in the air and 101 on the ground. South Dakota retired with the force at 1550.
South Dakota’s CIC reported an unknown plane bearing 135°, 35 miles, at 1359 the following day. A single Betty shadowed the force, which formed cruising disposition 5V to repel the expected aerial attack. The Betty crashed into the water alongside Monterey at 1428, however, and the Americans recovered and captured the pilot. The ships returned to cruising disposition 5R. South Dakota fueled destroyers Caperton, Cogswell, Gatling (DD-671), Ingersoll, and Knapp during the forenoon watch the following day. In company with Alabama and a screen, South Dakota then detached from TG 58.3 and during the afternoon watch rejoined TG 58.2. The ship anchored in berth A-23 at Majuro at 1109 on 26 February. She completed gunnery exercises and repairs and refueled while at the atoll. South Dakota operated within BatDiv-9, and embarked two OS2U-3 Kingfishers of VO-9.
Capt. Ralph S. Riggs relieved Capt. Smith as the ship’s Commanding Officer, at 1044 on 17 March 1944. The battleship shifted her berth to A-3 to conduct antiaircraft firing practices during the afternoon watch. The ship expended thousands of rounds of ammunition of different calibers, but the gunners mates discovered that duds comprised approximately 50 of the 100 rounds of 5-inch ammunition fitted with Mk 18 fuses. While anchoring during the 1st dog watch, the anchor buoy flew up and struck two Coxswains: P.L. Favero received a fractured skull and was transferred to hospital ship Relief (AH-1) for treatment; and A.C. Banks incurred minor injuries.
On 22 March 1944, the Fifth Fleet sailed for Operation Desecrate One: raids against Palau, Yap, Woleai, and Ulithi in the Western Carolines. Planners intended for these strikes to eliminate Japanese opposition to landings at Hollandia on northern New Guinea, and to gather photographic intelligence for future battles. Spruance broke his flag in New Jersey. Three of the four carrier groups sailed with the admiral, and in the event of a sortie by the Japanese Combined Fleet against the raiders, Lee was to detach the battleships from these groups and form a battle line. The vast geographic area covered by Desecrate One required additional logistic measures to ensure adequate fuel and provisions for the ships, especially the destroyers. The creation of a support group facilitated the far-ranging operations of the battleships.
Capt. Riggs sailed South Dakota from the anchorage to join TG 58.9 at 1027 on 22 March 1944. The balance of the group comprised Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington, Lexington and Cowpens, heavy cruisers Indianapolis, Louisville (CA-28), and Portland (CA-33), and destroyers Bancroft (DD-598), Bell (DD-587), Bradford, Brown, Burns, Caldwell (DD-605), Charrette, Conner, Cowell, Edwards (DD-619), Frazier (DD-607), Izard, and Meade. Lee broke his flag in North Carolina. The group gained position in formation, sailing at a circle spacing of 1,000 yards between the ships, and settling on course 255°, speed 17 knots, at 1650.
Izard unsuccessfully depth charged a submarine contact the following day. South Dakota crossed the equator at 161', 13", 30"E, course 240°, at 1355 on 25 March. The ship noted that because of the lack of pollywogs on board, the crew “dispensed” with a crossing the line ceremony. Owens inconclusively depth charged an underwater sound contact later that day. Many of the ships fueled on 26 March, which proved a busy day as they also practiced gunnery exercises, and Frazier and Meade (separately) made depth charge runs on apparent submarine contacts, but without result. At times during the voyage, the carriers carried out flight operations.
Cowpens left the group to operate with TG 58.1, Rear Adm. John W. Reeves commanding, during the forenoon watch on 27 March 1944. The remaining ships of the group joined with TG 36.1 to form TG 58.3, under the command of Rear Adm. Ginder. TG 58.3 consisted of Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, Lexington and Yorktown, Langley and Princeton, heavy cruisers Canberra (CA-70), Indianapolis, Louisville, and Portland, San Juan, and destroyers Bancroft, Caldwell, Case (DD-370), Charles Ausburne (DD-570), Converse (DD-509), Craven (DD-382), Dyson (DD-572), Edwards, Frazier, Gridley (DD-380), McCall (DD-400), Maury, Meade, Spence (DD-512),Stanly (DD-478), and Thatcher (DD-514). Ginder broke his flag in Yorktown.
Ginder notified TG 58.1 that a Japanese plane sighted and reported the group, South Dakota receiving the message at 1130 on 29 March. During the afternoon watch, a Hellcat of VF-10 flying from Enterprise shot down a Betty about 45 miles from South Dakota. None of the ships of the group reported the contact on their radar. A Hellcat of VF-32, operating from Langley, splashed another enemy plane at 1715. The attacker crashed on the horizon bearing 275° from South Dakota, and watchstanders on the bridge viewed the column of smoke rising from the downed aircraft. These two clashes indicated the likelihood of a Japanese torpedo attack later that night.
South Dakota’s CIC reported a group of enemy planes that appeared on her radar, bearing 280°, 72 miles, at 1910. Thirty-five minutes later, lookouts sighted three planes on the horizon bearing 280°. The ship sounded General Quarters, and during the battle discovered numerous radar and visual contacts on enemy planes. Japanese aircraft repeatedly attacked the fleet, and the gunfire from the ships shot down at least two of the attackers, one of which fell in flames close to the bow of Yorktown. The attackers added to the confusion by dropping colored flares and float lights. Ginder took evasive action during each attack, turning the ships so that the attacking planes approached from astern or the quarter, but South Dakotadid not identify suitable targets and held her fire. The Japanese failed to damage any of the ships and retired by 2153. The Americans claimed the destruction of up to five planes.
Spruance began to launch the first strike against Palau at 0630 on 30 March 1944. The TBF-1C and TBM-1C Avengers of VTs 2, 8, and 16, embarked on board Bunker Hill, Hornet, and Lexington, dropped extensive minefields in and around the channels and approaches to the Palaus. Their missions marked the first U.S. large scale daylight tactical use of mines by carrier aircraft. Reeves detached with TG 58.1 at 1800, and steamed northeastward, launching raids against Yap on the morning of 31 March.
Bunker Hill reported bogies at 270°, 118 miles, at 1847. Cabot launched F6F-3 Hellcats of VF-31 that intercepted the attackers when they closed to a range of 57 miles. The Hellcats claimed to splash seven Japanese aircraft, and reported the escape of up to four more. Multiple ships of the task group reported radar tracks of additional Japanese planes, and South Dakota anticipated what the ship logged as “a major torpedo and bombing attack.” The ships of TG 58.2 opened fire at 1915, and shortly thereafter, watchstanders sighted a high flying plane on the ship’s starboard bow, crossing to port. The attacker dropped several bombs evidently intended for some of the other vessels, but the bombs fell wide of their marks. The battleship fired one 5-inch salvo at the plane as it crossed the bow, but the range proved excessive and the gunners ceased fire. Another wave of aircraft swept toward the ships. South Dakota opened fire at 2052, and intermittently shot at the attacking planes until 2105. The enemy retired and the ship secured from General Quarters at 2223.
The carriers commenced sending their planes aloft for a second wave against the Japanese, at 0730 on 31 March 1944. South Dakota received many reports of enemy plane contacts by radar, and her lookouts sighted a Betty on the horizon, bearing 250°, at 0756. The intruder shadowed the ships but did not attack. Hellcats of VF-23, flying CAP from Princeton, splashed another plane at 0811. The carriers recovered their final strike at 1946. Ginder and Montgomery repositioned their groups overnight, and at 0645 on 1 April, the carriers began launching their strikes against Woleai. South Dakota maneuvered at various courses and speeds throughout the day while the carriers launched and recovered their planes. The weather grew increasingly cloudy during the afternoon and 1st and 2d dog watches. By midnight, the visibility dropped to 500 yards because of rain and fog. The weather gradually cleared by the forenoon watch, and in addition to the raids against the Japanese ashore, many of the ships fueled. South Dakota refueled Charles Ausburne, Converse, and Dyson.
These raids claimed the destruction of 157 Japanese aircraft and denied the harbor to the enemy for an estimated six weeks. In addition, the Americans sank destroyer Wakatake; repair ship Akashi; fleet tankers Akebono Maru, Amatsu Maru, Iro,Ose, and Sata; submarine chaser Ch 6; auxiliary submarine chasers Cha 22, Cha 26, Cha 53, and No. 5 Showa Maru; Patrol Boat No. 31;netlayer No. 5 Nissho Maru; aircraft transport Goshu Maru; transports Gozan Maru, Nagisan Maru,Raizan Maru, Ryuko Maru, and No. 18 Shinsei Maru; tankers Amatsu Maru and Asashio Maru; guardboats Hakko Maru, Ibaraki Maru and No. 2 Seiei Maru; salvage vessel Urakami Maru; torpedo transport and repair ship Kamikaze Maru; army cargo ships Chuyo Maru, Kibi Maru, and Shoei Maru; army tanker No. 2 Unyo Maru; and army cargo ships Bichu Maru and Teisho Maru, and, at Angaur, small craft No. 3 Akita Maru, Akebono Maru, Chichibu Maru, Kiku Maru, Hinode Maru, Toku Maru, Ume Maru, Yamato Maru, and Yae Maru. The attackers damaged submarine chaser Ch 35, netlayer Shosei Maru, tanker No. 2 Hishi Maru, and army cargo ship Hokutai Maru.
Spruance encountered foul weather during his retirement from the battle area. Rain reduced the visibility to about 2,000 yards during the 1st and 2d dog watches on 3 April 1944. Rain continued intermittently throughout the following day, compelling the carriers to cancel flight operations after 1000. The weather front prohibited flight operations or navigation observations on 5 April as well, and the 0800 position reports indicated the deployment of the task group across hundreds of square miles. Overnight, Seaman 2d Class F.L. Price, USNR, fell overboard. Searchers failed to recover Price. The weather cleared marginally on the morning of 6 April, and the carriers launched Hellcats for CAP, while the battleships launched float planes for antisubmarine patrols during the return of the strike force to Majuro. South Dakota entered the lagoon during the afternoon watch, but discovered that because of a communications error, Lexington occupied the battleship’s assigned berth. South Dakota then anchored in berth X-9 four miles from the other battleships at 1401.
Frazier moored alongside South Dakota to port, to receive assistance during the destroyer’s overhaul, on 7 April. The following week, Mitscher and TF 58 sailed for Operation Desecrate Two: strikes against Japanese troops on New Guinea.S outh Dakota sent a trash disposal working party of ten men ashore, but they failed to return in time for the ship’s departure. The ship cleared Calalin Channel at 1314 on 13 April 1944, and then joined TG 58.3. Mitscher broke his flag in command of the group in Lexington. The ships carried out routine flight operations and gunnery exercises during their voyage. South Dakota’s Kingfishers often hunted for enemy submarines.
Many of the ships refueled on 19 April. South Dakota’s radar detected a Japanese plane that investigated the force, bearing 165°, 28 miles, at 1259. Seventeen minutes later, a Hellcat of VF-23 flying CAP from Princeton splashed the plane. Many of the destroyers refueled during the morning and forenoon watches on the following day, with South Dakota refueling Caperton, Cogswell, Healy (DD-672), Ingersoll, and Knapp. Canberra reported spotting a submarine periscope at a distance of 1,000 yards at 1052. Lee, acting as OTC in North Carolina, ordered an emergency turn to starboard. Shortly thereafter, lookouts identified the periscope as a swab handle and the force resumed the journey.
Planes from escort aircraft carriers Chenango (CVE-28), Coral Sea (CVE-57), Corregidor (CVE-58), Manila Bay (CVE-61), Natoma Bay (CVE-62), Sangamon (CVE-26), Santee (CVE-29), and Suwannee (CVE-27) flew cover and antisubmarine patrols over ships of the Attack Group during the approach to the targets. South Dakota’s radar picked up high mountains on the coast of New Guinea in the vicinity of Humbolt Bay on Hollandia, bearing 185°, 108 miles, at 0433 on 21 April 1944. At 0631, five heavy and seven light carriers launched the first planes of the strike, which pounded Japanese troops at Hollandia and their adjacent positions at Sarmi, Sawar, and Wakde. Within two hours, lookouts on boardSouth Dakota sighted the mountains of New Guinea on the horizon. The attackers reported mastery of the air and limited antiaircraft fire from the defenders. Planes sank Japanese army cargo ship Kansei Maru off Sarmi, and small Japanese cargo vessels No. 2 Hihode Maru and No. 51 Ume Maru near Mapia Island.
The group shifted position overnight and beginning at 0458 on 22 April 1944, launched additional raids to support the assault of the Army’s I Corps at Aitape and Tanahmerah Bay (Operation Persecution) and at Humboldt Bay (OperationReckless). Aircrew again reported limited aerial resistance and antiaircraft fire. The long voyage emptied oil bunkers and South Dakota refueled destroyers Albert W. Grant (DD-649), Caperton, Clarence K. Bronson (DD-668), Dortch (DD-670), Dyson, and Ingersoll. The carriers launched additional strikes the following day. During these battles, carrier aircraft claimed the destruction of 30 Japanese planes in the air and 103 on the ground.
The ships came about, but Japanese planes shadowed the strike force and beginning at about 1800 on 24 April, multiple vessels reported numerous radar contacts on enemy planes, varying at ranges from 95 to 28 miles. A Hellcat of VF-10, flying night CAP from Enterprise, splashed one intruder at 1921. Enemy planes maneuvered for advantageous positions from which to attack the ships, but disengaged within the hour. South Dakota refueled from oiler Monongahela (AO-42) the following day. Japanese planes returned in force on the morning of 26 April, and Hellcats of VF-23, operating from Princeton, intercepted and shot down the first enemy plane at 0821. Additional aerial battles took place into the afternoon watch, and Hellcats splashed four more planes, including at least two identified as Bettys. Intelligence analysts surmised that these planes flew “their usual search areas,” and did not ascribe special significance to the large number of aircraft contacts. An enemy plane observed the ships from long range and escaped on 29 April.
While Mitscher brought TF 58 back to Majuro following the landings in Persecution and Reckless, he launched a two day attack on Japanese oil and ammunition dumps, aircraft facilities, and supply dumps at Truk, on 29 and 30 April 1944. The previous strike on 17 February had wreaked havoc on the Japanese, and planes operating over the waters off Palau thus reported a paucity of vessels in the area. The first wave of the strike began launching at 0717 on 29 April.
Destroyer MacDonough (DD-351) reported an unknown surface contact, bearing 030°, 17 miles from TG 58.2, during the morning watch on 30 April. Destroyers Hull (DD-350) and MacDonough investigated the contact, and MacDonough discovered Japanese submarine I-174, which promptly submerged. Ships and planes continued to hunt their prey, and a TBF-1C Avenger of VT-30, flying from Monterey, in concert with destroyers MacDonough and Stephen Potter (DD-538), sank I-174 north of Truk near 06°13'N, 151°19'E, at 0917. A Japanese plane roared past Lexington on her starboard bow during the afternoon watch. The carrier opened fire but the plane continued across the formation, passing from starboard to port well ahead of South Dakota. The intruder disappeared to port, and the battleship lost radar contact at a range of 34 miles. The carriers recovered their final planes during the 1st dog watch, and the ships came about. On these raids, the attackers sank Japanese transport Nagisan Maru and merchant vessel No. 2 Tenyu Maru, and claimed the destruction of 145 enemy aircraft.
Rear Adm. Jesse B. Oldendorf led nine heavy cruisers that shelled Satawan Island in the Namoi Group on 30 April 1944. The cruisers fired 800 rounds of 8-inch and 1,400 rounds of 5-inch shells against the Japanese, but caused minimal damage. Lee deployed a surface bombardment group against the Japanese garrison on heavily forested Ponape Island in the Carolines on 1 May. The aircraft carriers of TG 58.1, Rear Adm. Joseph J. Clark commanding (a Cherokee Native American) launched planes that flew protective cover for the cruiser bombardment of Satawan, and then supported Lee with air cover and bombing and strafing runs.
Lee took tactical command of the battle line and formed TG 58.7, the Ponape Striking Force, at 0830 on 1 May 1944. The Battleship Divisions commenced leaving the formation to take up their bombardment stations at 1415, with BatDiv-7 operating to the southwest, BatDiv-8 to the northwest, and BatDiv-9 to the northeast of Ponape. The battleships steamed on a fleet axis of 085°, order of divisions from the left: BatDiv-9 (Alabama and South Dakota); BatDiv-8 (Indiana, Massachusetts, and North Carolina); and BatDiv-7 (Iowa and New Jersey). Each of the divisions fired at their own sector of the target area, each under the control of their own division commander: Rear Admirals Hanson, Glenn B. Davis, and Hustveldt, respectively. Bell, Burns, Charrette, Conner, and Izard screened Alabama and South Dakota.
The battleships opened fire at 1530. Alabama commenced firing at her targets from a range of 18,000 yards at 1534, followed nine minutes later by South Dakota. The first salvo from Turret II, which the gunners trained well aft to port, caused some slight blast damage to the ship thereabout. Japanese antiaircraft guns returned fire but almost immediately fell silent as the battleships’ 16-inch rounds exploded around them. Alabama, South Dakota, and their destroyers changed course to 300° at 1548. The ships then steamed on a generally northeast, southwest course off Ponape at ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 yards off the reef.
Iowa and New Jersey fired against the southern most of the three sectors, which covered roughly the west coast of Ponape. Intelligence reports indicated a battery of 8-inch guns emplaced in the area, but despite the steady fire of the 16-inch guns of the battleships, the spotters in the observation planes failed to locate the battery.
Destroyer Prichett (DD-561) reported sighting a submarine at 1643, which Hustveldt recalled “caused a considerable amount of concern for some time.” Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina and their escorting destroyers, Cassin Young (DD-793), Converse, Prichett, and Thatcher, made an emergency turn to port of 180° at full speed from the submarine, increasing to flank speed. The underwater menace did not interfere with the bombardment and the ships resumed their fire.
The battleships pounded the enemy airstrips, facilities, wharf areas, and seaplane base with their main batteries until 1649. Observers noted a scantiness of targets, and Lee ceased firing to conserve ammunition and ordered the ships to come about. South Dakota fired 81 rounds of 16-inch H.C., and 156 rounds of 5-inch Mk 38 antiaircraft common ammunition. These attacks inflicted little damage upon the Japanese but enabled the battleships to gain valuable experience operating together in combat. The vessels steamed an easterly course through the night. South Dakota fueled Bell, Bradford, Charrette, and Conner the following day. South Dakota returned to Majuro for refueling, provisioning, and upkeep, anchoring in berth No. 81 at 0904 on 4 May. South Dakota put to sea briefly for gunnery exercises on 15 and 16 May. The ship noted the improvement of the recreational facilities from her previous stay at the atoll because “a limited supply of beer is now available.” The sojourn ended tragically when Seaman 1st Class Joseph A. Nagy, USNR, drowned while on a recreation party on 5 June.
At 0827 on 6 June 1944, South Dakota sailed with TF 58 to participate in Operation Forager: amphibious landings on Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas. TF 58 included aircraft carriers Bunker Hill, Enterprise, Essex, Hornet (CV-12),Lexington, Wasp (CV-18), and Yorktown, and small aircraft carriers Bataan (CVL-29), Belleau Wood, Cabot, Cowpens, Langley (CVL-27), Monterey, Princeton (CVL-23), and San Jacinto (CVL-30). Vice Adm. Mitscher broke his flag inLexington.
The ship operated with TG 58.7, the Battle Line. Vice Adm. Lee his flag in Washington in command of TG 58.7, consisting of Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, heavy cruisers Minneapolis,New Orleans, San Francisco (CA-38), and Wichita, and destroyers Bagley (DD-386), Bennett (DD-473), Fullam (DD-474), Guest (DD-472), Halford (DD-480), Hudson (DD-475), Monssen (DD-798), Mugford (DD-389), Patterson (DD-392), Ralph Talbot, Stockham (DD-683), Twining (DD-540), and Yarnall (DD-541). Lee carried out repeated exercises during their three day voyage from Majuro to their rendezvous with Mitscher.
Lee joined Rear Adm. Reeves, who commanded TG 58.3, consisting of Enterprise, Lexington, Princeton, and San Jacinto, Indianapolis, light cruisers Birmingham (CL-62), Cleveland (CL-55), Montpelier (CL-57), and Reno (CL-96), and destroyers Anthony (DD-515), Braine (DD-630), Caperton, Clarence K. Bronson, Cogswell, Cotton, Dortch, Gatling, Healy, Ingersoll, Knapp, Terry (DD-513), and Wadsworth (DD-516), on 8 June 1944. South Dakota fueled Ingersoll andKnapp the following day. At sunrise on 11 June, Fletcher arrived alongside the starboard side of the battleship to ‘top off’ her fuel, but the vessels experienced great difficulty in staying in position, parting their lines and fuel hoses. A Hellcat of VF-50, flying from Bataan, splashed a Japanese Nakajima Ki-49 (Donryu, "Storm Dragon") Helen bearing 160°, range 43 miles, during the forenoon watch.
Mitscher originally intended to launch his initial strikes against the Japanese airfields on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian on 12 June, but he sent the first of 208 fighters and eight torpedo bombers aloft at 1300 on 11 June. One Avenger or Curtiss SB2C Helldiver guided each of the strike groups, consisting of 16 Hellcats from each aircraft carrier and 12 from each small carrier. The attacks surprised the Japanese and gained air superiority over the Marianas. Hellcats damaged Japanese auxiliary submarine chaser No. 8 Shonan Maru and cargo vessel Keiyo Maru, a further raid sank Keiyo Maru on 13 June.
The Japanese reacted strongly to these strikes and Hellcats of VF-31, operating from Cabot, shot down a Zero bearing 140°, distance 40 miles, at 1632. South Dakota’s CIC reported “various bogies” during the midwatch and bearing south and west from the ship, distance 30 miles. The task group changed formation from 5R to 5V to repel aerial attack, Lexington launched F6F-3 Hellcats of VF-16 as night fighters, and South Dakota sounded General Quarters. An enemy plane suddenly dropped a flare to port of South Dakota, which the bridge watch team noted provided “excellent brilliant long lasting light.” The ships made an emergency turn to 295° to avoid the intruders, but South Dakota opened fire on an approaching plane at 0358.
The battleship maneuvered to escape her attackers, and at least one plane fell burning into the sea. A 5-inch blast injured Signalman 3d Class Z.G. Stienwinder of the ships company. Additional Japanese planes attacked the other groups of TF 58, and the watchstanders on board the battleship observed the lights on the horizon as the ships repulsed the assaults. The carriers launched their second day of strikes commencing at 0415. Planes wreaked havoc with a Japanese convoy en route from Tanapag harbor for Japan northwest of Saipan, sinking 13 vessels and damaging eight more. A Hellcat of VF-31, flying from Cabot, shot down a Yokosuka D4Y1 Type 2 (Suisei, "Comet")Judy at 0620. Hellcats of VF-27, flying fromPrinceton, splashed a Kawasaki Ki-45 (Toryu, "Dragon Slayer") Nick at 0914.
The carriers launched their third day of strikes, beginning at about 0600 on 13 June 1944. Aerial reconnaissance flights reported a frenzy of activity as the Japanese strengthened their defenses ashore. The principal fire support ships would not reach the area until 14 June. Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and a number of destroyers therefore detached from the fast carrier groups to bombard Saipan and Tinian one day earlier than originally scheduled, at 0933 on 13 June. South Dakota opened fire with her main battery at 1042. Japanese coastal guns of light caliber returned fire, but their splashes fell harmlessly out of range, the initial salvoes striking the water up to 10,000 yards short of South Dakota.
South Dakota shelled the northwest coast of Tanapag Harbor on Saipan for over six hours with her main and secondary batteries, firing 369 rounds of her 16-inch H.C. and 1,270 rounds of 5-inch ammunition. The bombardment started a number of high fires and smoke columns visible from the battleships. The U.S. ships did not target the vessels in the harbor, but observers reported hits on at least two transports, “listing badly,” and several smaller vessels, though the smoke impeded confirmation. The ships ceased fire at 1726. The seven battleships fired a total of 2,432 of their 16-inch H.C. and 12,544 of their 5-inch shells.
The gunfire proved ineffective because: the ships steamed at ranges of 10,000 to 16,000 yards to avoid possible enemy mines in the shoals offshore; their crews lacked experience in shore bombardment; and the aerial spotters failed to differentiate between the targets. The bombardment devastated the Charan Kanoa sugar mill and a number of farms, but missed the Japanese defenses. A Japanese lookout climbed into the smokestack at the blackened shambles of the mill and observed the Americans for several days. Oldendorf led a bombardment by eight older battleships and their screens that attained greater success the following day.
South Dakota fueled Dortch at daylight on 14 June 1944. A man fell overboard from the destroyer, but Gatling rescued the Sailor. South Dakota then fueled Gatling. The battleship launched both her Kingfishers for rescue duty of downed fliers, recovering the planes during the afternoon watch. An alert lookout on board North Carolina heard cries from the water, and the battleship dispatched Caperton to investigate. The destroyer rescued a pilot from Cabot after he spent four days in the water.
The 2d and 4th Marine Divisions landed on Saipan on the morning of 15 June 1944. Despite resistance from the Japanese Thirty-first Army, the marines established beachheads ashore and pushed inland. The enemy developed a comprehensive system of well-sited defenses that harmonized with the surrounding terrain. Many of these positions escaped naval bombardment and the supporting ships normally only knocked out these emplacements with direct hits. Continuing enemy opposition compelled Lt. Gen. Howland M. Smith, USMC, Commander TF 56, Expeditionary Troops, to reinforce the marines with the Army’s 27th Infantry Division on 17 June.
The landings on Saipan penetrated the inner defensive perimeter of the Japanese Empire and triggered A-Go: an enemy counterattack that led to the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Japanese 1st Mobile Fleet, Vice Adm. Ozawa Jisaburō commanding, included aircraft carriers Taihō, Shōkaku, and Zuikaku, and light aircraft carriers Chitose, Chiyōda, Hiyō, Junyō, Ryūhō, and Zuihō. The Japanese intended for their shore-based planes to cripple Mitscher’s air power in order to facilitate Ozawa’s strikes, which were to refuel and rearm on Guam. Japanese fuel shortages and inadequate training and experience bedeviled A-Go, however, and U.S. signal decryption breakthroughs enabled attacks on Japanese submarines that deprived the enemy of intelligence. In addition, raids on the Bonin and Volcano Islands disrupted Japanese aerial staging en route to the Marianas, and their main attacks passed through U.S. antiaircraft fire to reach the carriers.
The CICs of several ships including South Dakota reported an unidentified plane, bearing 145°, at 1811 on 15 June 1944. Hellcats of VF-51, flying from San Jacinto, intercepted a Japanese Kawasaki Ki-61 (Hien, "Flying Swallow") Tony, bearing 095°, 42 miles. The battleship noted that the victory emphasized the “value of sharp lookouts when friendly planes confuse radar screen.” A strike group of Japanese fighters and bombers attacked the task group during the 2d dog watch.South Dakota’s CIC reported bogies bearing 190°, 62 miles, at 1815. Nine minutes later, the crew manned their battle stations. Hellcats from the task group splashed another Tony at 1843, but at 1909, eight to 12 Japanese fighters and bombers broke through the CAP. South Dakota made emergency turns, and opened fire with her 40 millimeter guns at 1911. The fouled ranges prevented the use of her 5-inch guns and the full use of the 40 millimeter mounts, but the ship fired at four of the attackers, splashing one. The other ships claimed the destruction of seven planes.
Dortch investigated a surface contact during the midwatch on 16 June. At 0231, the destroyer illuminated and fired on two sampans, which appeared to return fire. Dortch set the boats ablaze and they drifted out of the area. South Dakotarefueled from Platte from 1147 to 1442. At 0305 on 17 June, South Dakota’s CIC reported an unknown surface contact, and at times during the midwatch, the ship dispatched Clarence K. Bronson and Cotton to investigate. Cotton shot starshells and then opened fire, and Clarence K. Bronson identified the vessel as a sampan. Grumman F6F-3 Hellcats of VF-10, flying from Enterprise, splashed a Judy, bearing 000°, 42 miles, at 1325. The battleships and their screens of TG 58.7 detached from TG 58.3 at 1715. The departure of many of the ships supporting the landings to meet the Japanese fleet weakened the advance of the marines and soldiers ashore.
A series of sighting reports from submarines and planes revealed some of the movements of the approaching Japanese ships. Mitscher considered the option of deploying the Battle Line to the west to intercept Ozawa in a night surface battle. “Do you desire night engagement?” he questioned Lee on the morning of 18 June. “It may be we can make air contact late this afternoon and attack tonight. Otherwise we should retire to the eastward tonight.” Lee disagreed with the proposal: “Do not (repeat not) believe we should seek night engagement,” Lee replied. “Possible advantages of radar more than offset by difficulties of communications and lack of training in fleet tactics at night. Would press pursuit of damaged or fleeing enemy, however, at any time.” The tactically sound decision ensured that Lee’s battleships fought in the Battle Line against Ozawa’s planes, with disastrous results for the Japanese.
Lee deployed the battleships to intercept Ozawa’s counterattacks, but within proximity to come about and support the soldiers and marines fighting on Saipan. Indiana guided the Battle Line while the ships sailed in a circle of six miles in diameter, steering east by south at 22 knots. The Japanese battleships and cruisers launched 16 Aichi E13A1 Type 0 Jakes, followed by one of the reconnaissance floatplanes leading a second search group of 13 Kates (kankōs) from the carriers. The Battle Line reported the first bogies as Jakes scouted for the U.S. ships, to the north and the south, range about 50 miles, at 0530 on 19 June 1944. Reports flooded into South Dakota as Japanese planes repeatedly sought the Battle Line. The battleship’s air defense reported a low flying plane, bearing 305°, at 0551. Watchstanders observed firing on the horizon, and Yarnall claimed to shoot down a Val, most likely a Jake, Kate, or a land-based plane flying at the limit of its range. The battleship’s CIC then reported several small bogies. South Dakota reached a position at 14°28'00"N, 143°13'45"E, at 0800. A Hellcat of VF-50, flying from Bataan, splashed an apparent Fiat BR.20 Ruth, probably a Mitsubishi Ki-21 Sally, at 0945. These planes assaulted ships of the screen sailing at some distance from South Dakota.
The Japanese carriers meanwhile launched multiple waves of planes to attack the Americans. South Dakota first detected Raid I when the CIC reported a “large group of bogies,” bearing 264°, range 125 miles, at 1004. The ship sounded General Quarters, and changed course to 100°, speed 22 knots. The Japanese closed to 21 miles by 1043, but dogfights ensued as Hellcats swarmed the attackers. Multiple enemy planes determinedly broke through the CAP and the ship took evasive measures, firing at the aircraft in range.
A Judy dropped a 500-pound bomb on South Dakota’s main deck at frame 73 on the 01 deck, near 40 millimeter quad mount No. 4, at 1049. The explosion tore into the superstructure on the 01 level, and downward into officers country forward of the wardroom. The damage gauged an eight by ten foot a hole in the deck, and a hole in the superstructure about eight feet square. The bomb severed wiring and piping, cutting service to many of the telephones and other circuits, as well as knocking out the 40 millimeter gun. Twenty-seven men died during the attack or latter succumbed from their injuries, and 24 more sustained wounds.
The ship increased speed to 25 knots. A number of South Dakota’s 20 millimeter and 40 millimeter guns shot at the bomber, but despite many hits, the plane did not catch fire. Multiple gunners claimed to see the Judy fall into the water, but observers on board Alabama reported that the bomber escaped during the confusion. Additional aircraft roared through the ship’s fire, and at 1106 low flying torpedo planes hurtled past. The ship claimed to splash one of these attackers to port, but men watching from Alabama claimed that this plane also successfully broke away. A Japanese dive bomber dropped two bombs that narrowly missed Wichita, but gunfire splashed the plane not far from North Carolina, and a horizontal bomber scored a near miss on Minneapolis.
About 20 Japanese planes of Raid II reached the Battle Line at 1150. Two Nakajima B6N1 carrier attack planes began their torpedo runs against South Dakota, but gunfire from that ship and from Alabama drove off the Jills. Enemy planes, tentatively identified as Judys, dropped two bombs that missed Alabama, and a Jill attacked but missed Iowa. A suicide plane crashed Indiana at her waterline, but its torpedo failed to detonate. South Dakota decreased her speed to 21 knots, but at 1155 Japanese planes swarmed the battleship, and the ship’s guns fired both to port and starboard. The surviving enemy aircraft disengaged shortly after noon. Raids III and IV attacked other ships.
“…As always it is difficult to say just how many aircraft were brought down by a single ship’s fire,” Rear Adm. Hanson signaled the ship following the battle. “It was evident enough that the SOUTH DAKOTA bore the brunt of the attack and destroyed or helped to destroy at least twice her share of enemy planes.” The admiral further noted the ship’s “concentrated high rate of fire,” and effused that “She can take it and she can dish it out!”
South Dakota held a burial at sea for 24 of her fallen crewmen, at 14°05'15"N, 144°04'00"E, at 1701: Ensign J.J. Fullenlove; Seamen 1st Class O.P. Baker, A.B. Bruggman, R.L. Goforth, W.R. Linder, E.R. Lutts, W. Miller, Jr., C.E. Morris, R.H. Nimmo, A.R. Puzerski, and R.P. Youngchild; Storekeepers 1st Class A. Acierto and H.G. Skelton; Fireman 1st Class E.C. Ball; Steward’s Mate 1st Class R.F. Doyle; Boatswain’s Mate 2d Class L.V. Colangelo; Shipfitters 2d Class J.L. Clark and E.W. Gustafson; Machinist’s Mate 2d Class John Murphy; Seamen 2d Class G.L. Cavender and A. Nardiello; Coxswain G. Henneberry; Steward 3d Class J.J. Dillard; and Steward’s Mate 3d Class H.J. Smith, Jr. South Dakota then consigned Seaman 1st Class J.D. Chaney to the deep at 1930.
The air battle continued throughout 20 June. South Dakota buried Seaman 1st Class Herman D. Barnett, who died from the wounds he suffered during the bombing of the previous day, at 13°10'30"N, 139°29'00"E, at 1010. The battleship steered courses varying from 250° to 315° during the forenoon and afternoon watches. Mitscher launched an air attack at extreme range on the retreating Japanese ships. South Dakota received cursory information indicating the composition of Ozawa’s fleet as four battleships, six carriers, six cruisers, and a dozen destroyers, supported by “a number” of oilers. The ship recorded the estimated range to reach the enemy ships as “approximately 250 miles,” adding ominously that this meant that the planes were to fly at “…the extreme range limit for an air strike.”
American carrier planes sank Hiyō and fleet oilers Gen'yo Maru and Seiyo Maru, and damaged Zuikaku, Chiyōda, Junyō, Haruna, heavy cruiser Maya, destroyers Samidare and Shigure, and fast fleet tanker/seaplane carrier Hayasui. The carrier aircraft returned on rapidly emptying fuel tanks in the gathering darkness. Men on board the ships anxiously monitored radar plots and radios, South Dakota recording a VHF transmission “indicating many planes going in water due to being out of gasoline.” Despite the risk of Japanese submarine attacks, Mitscher ordered his ships to show their lights to guide the returning aircraft, thus saving lives when the planes consumed fuel and fell into the sea. Cruisers also fired star shells to illuminate the area, and destroyers rescued many of the men who entered the water.
South Dakota steamed a course on an axis of 280° overnight into 21 June, over the path of the air strike of the preceding day. Officers instructed the lookouts to keep a “sharp look out for life rafts,” and a plane reported a life raft with five survivors, bearing 200°, 41 miles, at 0817. The ship supported air raids against the Japanese garrisons of Pagan and the nearby islands. During the afternoon, South Dakota passed through debris and oil drums afloat in the area where Hiyō,Gen'yo Maru, and Seiyo Maru sank. Radioman 3d Class M.B. Horton succumbed to the wounds he sustained on 19 April, and the battleship buried Horton at sea at 15°45'00"N, 134°08'00"E, at 1720. South Dakota came about to easterly courses at 2002.
TF 58 repelled the Japanese air attacks and destroyed at least 300 planes in what USN pilots called the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.” A number of these pilots each shot down more than one enemy plane. Comdr. David S. McCampbell, Commander Carrier Air Group (CVG) 15, flew an F6F-3 Hellcat from Essex and splashed at least seven Japanese aircraft. The Japanese lost 395 carrier planes and an estimated 50 aircraft flying from Guam in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Americans lost 130 planes and 76 pilots and aircrewmen. Submarines Albacore (SS-218) and Cavalla (SS-244) sank Taihō and Shōkaku in separate attacks, respectively, Japanese suicide planes narrowly missed Bunker Hill and Wasp, and friendly fire struck Hudson.
South Dakota steamed eastward at 17 knots on 22 June 1944. Hellcats of VF-51 operating from San Jacinto splashed a Judy about 60 miles south of the battleship at 1637. At 0600 the following morning, the ship changed to westerly courses.South Dakota departed from TG 58.7 and proceeded to join TG 58.2 preparatory to returning to Eniwetok at 0940. Just before noon, the ship rendezvoused with the group. Rear Adm. Montgomery broke his flag in command of TG 58.2 inBunker Hill. The group came about to the eastward and made for Eniwetok, South Dakota anchoring at berth 421 in the atoll, at 0915 on 27 June.
Organized Japanese resistance ended on Saipan on 9 July. At least 3,126 Americans and 27,000 Japanese died on the island. The fighting on Saipan cost a total of 14,111 U.S. casualties of the 71,034 men committed to the Landing Force and Northern Troops, almost 20%. Following the ship’s departure, the USMC III Amphibious Corps carried out Operation Stevedore: landings by the 3d Marine Division, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, and the Army’s 77th Infantry Division on Guam on the morning of 21 July 1944. Effective enemy resistance ceased on 10 August. The liberation of Guam cost at least 2,124 U.S. and 18,000 Japanese killed. The 2d and 4th Marine Divisions assaulted the beaches of Tinian on 24 July. The Americans cleared the island of the final sizable pocket of enemy troops six days later, losing 328 dead, while the Japanese lost almost their entire garrison of more than 8,000 men.
South Dakota cleared Eniwetok at 1840 that evening and set sail for Pearl Harbor with TU 57.18.2, also consisting of Belleau Wood, heavy cruiser Baltimore (CA-68), and destroyers Cushing (DD-797) and Rowe (DD-564). The battleship stood out of the harbor quickly and left behind a mail detail comprising several men. In addition, the ship carried enough fuel for her anticipated speed of advance averaging 20 knots and did not refuel. South Dakota then received orders notifying her of an intended speed of 24 knots, but the ship carried insufficient fuel for the voyage at that rate of advance, and made the voyage at an average speed of 20 knots. The battleship moored to pier F-3, starboard side, at Pearl Harbor, at 1024 on 2 July 1944. South Dakota dispatched a leave party of 120 men to Baltimore for transportation to San Francisco, and received 248 troop class ambulatory patients for transit to the U.S., during the afternoon watch. During the forenoon watch the following day, the ship received an additional 279 sailors from the Receiving Station USN, and 90 marines from the Transient Center USMC. The battleship disembarked her two Kingfishers ashore.
The ship sailed from Pearl Harbor at 1339 on 3 July 1944, in company with Cushing and Rowe. South Dakota made for Puget Sound, Wash., passing the light ship at Juan de Fuca to port, at 0352 on 10 July. Shortly thereafter that morning, a Coast Guard vessel came alongside with a boarding party led by Capt. Uehlinger, and during the afternoon watch, ferry Malakat lay alongside and received the first leave party from the battleship, comprising almost half of the crew. The ship anchored overnight in berth C at Sinclair Inlet, Wash., transferring 21 wounded crewmen to the Naval Hospital. South Dakota shifted berths and moored starboard side to pier 3A, Puget Sound Navy Yard, at 0706 on 11 July. The ship disembarked all of her passengers from Pearl Harbor, and transferred the men of her V Division (aviation detachment) to temporary duty ashore. She entered Drydock No. 2 at 2100, and forty-five minutes later rested on keel blocks. The first leave party gradually returned, and the second leave party, comprising the remaining half of the crew, departed for 20 days leave on 29 July.
The ship completed repairs to the damage she sustained on 19 June 1944, as well as additional work concerning her operational capabilities. South Dakota floated from the drydock and shifted berths to pier 5 on 6 August. Rear Adm. Gatch of the Judge Advocate General’s office visited the ship on 11 August. The battleship loaded ammunition on 19 August. South Dakota carried out post repair sea trials in Puget Sound on 21 August. The crew manned their battle stations and condition watches, and compensated the magnetic compass. The ship accelerated from her lowest speed to 28 knots in four minutes, and made a turn with 25° rudder while making 28.1 knots (pit log reading). She also heeled over to eight degrees. Following the trials, the ship anchored at Sinclair Inlet, and loaded ammunition and provisions.
The ship distributed to officers entering her gunnery department instructions, Operation and Description of Ordnance Installation, U.S.S. SOUTH DAKOTA, on 24 August 1944. The instructions succinctly noted that the “Main Battery is the reason-for-being of this ship,” but elaborated upon the antiaircraft organization that proved crucial during her subsequent battles against Japanese kamikazes ("God Wind" or "Divine Wind", suicide planes). The Air Defense Station (forward), a target information designation station on the 011 level, controlled the 5-inch and machine gun batteries by means of battle telephone circuits to 5-inch directors and plotting room and to machine gun sector officers. The system provided for the following methods of fire: continuous fire throughout the roll of the ship; salvo fire at selected points of level; and salvo fire at selected points of cross-level. The Mk IV radar operated in Mk 37 gun directors for the secondary battery. This system was the oldest in use on board capital ships, and lacked many of the refinements of the other radars subsequently developed. The system detected large planes at ranges of up to 80,000 yards, and smaller aircraft out to 50,000 yards, though occasionally exceeded these detection ranges.
Experience against Japanese planes led to the inclusion of a cautionary recommendation: “It is important to note that radar ranging is far superior to optical ranging, but that optical training and pointing is far superior still to radar training and pointing. Therefore, when visibility permits, radar ranges should always be used in conjunction with optical training and pointing, for optimal performance. However, in training periods, full radar control should be used as much as possible.”
The machine gun battery consisted of four sectors. Sector I had a defensive area starting from the bow in a clockwise direction to 090° (relative) or the starboard beam, and comprised four quadruple 40 millimeter and 18 20 millimeter guns. The quads were numbered one to four, while the 20 millimeter guns operated in groups numbering from one to seven, beginning at the bow and going aft. The control station for Sector I lay on the starboard side of the platform outside the Batt II level. Sector II covered a defensive area from 270° (port beam, relative) forward to the bow, and consisted of three quad 40 millimeter and 18 20 millimeter guns. Their identification followed the same numbering system as in Sector I. In addition, five 20 millimeter guns, two of Sector II and the three starboard guns within Sector I, were mounted on Turret II. These guns normally only fired at dive bombers, because only one gun in each sector could be fired safely at planes passing up or down either beam. The control station lay on the port side of the platform outside the Batt II level.
Sector III extended from 090° to 180° (starboard beam to directly astern, relative), and comprised five quad 40 millimeter and 21 20 millimeter guns. The latter consisted of seven groups varying from one gun to five gun groups. The control officer operated on the starboard side of sky aft, which lay on the after side of the Main Battery Director Two. Sector IV covered an area extending from 180° to 270° (dead astern to the port beam, relative), and consisted of five quad 40 millimeter and 21 20 millimeter guns. These mounts were numbered from one to five and one to seven, respectively. The sector control officer fought from the port side of sky aft.
South Dakota sailed with destroyers Braine (DD-630) and Jarvis (DD-799) as TU 12.5.1 on 25 August 1944. Capt. Riggs broke his flag in command of the task unit in South Dakota. The standard cruising disposition deployed the two destroyers 4,000 yards off the battleship’s port and starboard bows, respectively. South Dakota accomplished gunnery training en route, and moored starboard side to pier F3, on the south side of Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, on 31 August. From 6 to 8 September, South Dakota and destroyers Uhlmann (DD-687) and Woodworth (DD-460) conducted gunnery training exercises in Hawaiian waters. Planes flew simulated dive bombing and torpedo bombing attacks against the vessels. The battleship’s machine guns splashed a radio controlled drone during the afternoon watch on the first day out. A second drone crashed without damage, apparently from an operating malfunction. Motor torpedo boats made a simulated torpedo run against South Dakota on the final day. The ship returned to berth F3 at Pearl Harbor, and refueled and took on ammunition and provisions on 9 September.
The three ships stood down the channel for additional exercises on 11 September 1944. South Dakota noted that the first wave of planes simulated a “well coordinated attack” that would have scored two hits on the ship. She commenced testing all of the engines and shafts to determine why No. 1 shaft took excessive pressures to give the prescribed turns at 1410. At 1700, South Dakota stopped engines and lay to while a diver inspected the propellers. Uhlmann and Woodworth circled clockwise around the battleship to protect her from enemy submarines. The diver surfaced within ten minutes to reveal the results of his inspection: four of the blades of No. 1 propeller and two of the blades of No. 2 propeller were bent and chipped, and one of the blades of No. 3 propeller was bent. The cause of the damage remained unknown. The ship completed further gunnery training, but the damage to the screws compelled the cancellation of scheduled gunnery exercises, followed by a voyage to Seeadler Harbor at Manus in the Admiralty Islands.
South Dakota thus returned to Pearl Harbor, her sail interrupted by a simulated pre-dawn aerial attack, on 12 September 1944. The ship moored starboard side to pier F3, but at 1430 shifted to Drydock No. 1. The shipyard workers completed pumping water from the drydock at 1845. A hull board immediately inspected the battleship. Following the repairs to the shafts and propellers, the drydock gate opened at 1100 on 16 September. The ship began backing out of the drydock at 1204, and thirteen minutes later began to depart the harbor. South Dakota completed two days of gunnery and engineering exercises without problems, and moored starboard side to berth H3, at 1037 on 17 September. South Dakota also operated as part of BatDiv-9 during this period, and embarked one OS2U-3 and one OS2N-1 of VO-9.
South Dakota resumed her voyage for Seeadler at 0857 on 18 September 1944. Uhlmann and Woodworth again escorted the battleship, the three ships forming TU 12.5.1. Into the afternoon watch the task unit completed a gunnery exercise. South Dakota refueled Uhlmann and Woodworth on 22 September. Two days later, Riggs received orders re-routing the ships to Ulithi. The task unit passed from the operational control of the Pacific Fleet to the Third Fleet the following day. The battleship’s CIC detected a bogie, bearing 336°, 105 miles, flying a course of 065°, forty minutes into the midwatch on 26 September. The bogie soon faded from the radar screen. South Dakota fueled Uhlmann and Woodworth on 28 September. Auxiliary motor minesweeper YMS-117 arrived to port of the battleshipand delivered charts of the harbor during the forenoon watch on 30 September. South Dakota entered the Mugai Passage at 1100, and shortly thereafter anchored at berth 7 at Ulithi.
The Japanese evacuated Ulithi just weeks before the arrival of the Americans, who captured the 30-odd islets of the atoll unopposed on 22 September. Ulithi’s location strategically poised the Allies to continue their offensives across the Pacific, and coral reefs enclosed a deep lagoon that provided an anchorage large enough to accommodate a major fleet. The men of the Naval Construction Battalions, "Seabees," expeditiously built a fleet recreational center on the island of Mogmog. The Seabees filled a swampy area with coral to control the mosquito infestation, and constructed baseball fields and further sports facilities, a 1,200-seat theater, a 25-by-40-foot stage with a Quonset hut roof, and a 500-seat chapel. When completed in January 1945, the center could accommodate up to 1,000 officers and 8,000 enlisted men per day.
Sailors and Marines who visited the center noted that their favorite venue comprised a ‘beverage storage’ facility that distributed a beer ration. Word spread quickly about the four ‘Bs’ available to Sailors ashore, “Beer drinking, baseball, boxing, and bathing.” The Navy distributed ‘chits’ (coupons) that allowed Sailors two beers per man, but some men turned a profit by selling their chits. Additional facilities on the neighboring islands eventually included a 1,600-seat theater, a boat pool, and a 100-bed hospital on Sorlen Island, and the extension of the Japanese airfield on Falalop Islet, augmented by a seaplane ramp. The anchorage enabled Seabees to supply ships with what they summarized as “beans, boots, and bombs.”
A typhoon drove most of the ships to sortie from Ulithi overnight on 3 and 4 October 1944. At 0805 on 3 October, South Dakota sailed with BatDiv-9, with Massachusetts serving as the guide. South Dakota returned to Ulithi the following day, anchoring at berth 7 at 0953. At 1130, while attempting to lay alongside, store ship Aldebaran (AF-10) rammed South Dakota on the port side of the battleship, in the vicinity of 5-inch mount No. 4. An inspection revealed superficial damage to both ships. Rear Adm. Hanson broke his flag in command of BatDiv-9 in South Dakota at 0930 on 5 October.
While South Dakota had plowed across the Pacific, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill led a meeting named Octagon of the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff at Québec, Canada, beginning on 11 September 1944. The participants cancelled a planned attack on Yap, approved the advance of the date for the invasion of the Philippines from 20 December to 20 October, and shifted the assault from southern Mindanão to Leyte. Their decision occurred in large part because of the recommendation of Halsey, who based his proposal upon intelligence that indicated Japanese weakness in the central Philippines, corroborated by a lack of aerial opposition, the Japanese preserved their forces to repel the landings. Ensign Thomas C. Tillar, USNR, of VF-2 from CVG-2, embarked on board Hornet, had crashed in an F6F-3 Hellcat off Apit Island, off southwestern Leyte. Filipino freedom fighters rescued Tillar, and revealed to the pilot the vulnerable state of the Japanese defenses prior to his return, via an SOC Seagull from Wichita. Octagon concluded on 16 September.
TG 38.3 thus sortied from Ulithi during the afternoon of 6 October 1944, South Dakota clearing the lagoon at 1750. The group also comprised Alabama, Massachusetts, and Washington, Essex and Lexington, Langley and Princeton, light cruisers Birmingham, Mobile (CL-63), and Reno, and DesRons 50 and 55. Mitscher broke his flag as OTC and Commander of the 1st Carrier Task Force and TF 38 in Lexington. Rear Adm. Frederick C. Sherman broke his flag in command of TG 38.3 in Essex. TG 38.2 also stood out, and consisted of Iowa and New Jersey, Bunker Hill and Intrepid, small aircraft carriers Cabot and Independence (CVL-22), light cruisers Houston (CL-81), Miami (CL-89), Oakland (CL-95), and San Diego, and DesRons 52 and 53. Rear Adm. Gerald F. Bogan commanded TG 38.2. The two groups proceeded independently to rendezvous with TGs 38.1 and 38.4, led by Vice Adm. John S. McCain and Rear Adm. Ralph E. Davison, respectively. Their operations marked the first time since the fighting in the Marianas in which all four carrier task groups sailed together as a single task force. Halsey broke his flag in command of the Third Fleet in New Jersey.
South Dakota refueled Clarence K. Bronson and Cogswell, and then took on fuel from oiler Saugatuck (AO-75), on 8 October 1944. At 1209 the following day, the group commenced a high speed approach (23 knots) to a striking position to the southeast of Okinawa Jima in the Nansei Shoto islands. The ships steamed course 300° and speed 25 knots overnight. All of the task groups of TG 38 began launching planes for a fighter sweep against the Japanese on Okinawa Jima and the accompanying islands of the Ryūkyūs, at 0535 on 10 October. Hellcats of VF-31, flying from Cabot, splashed a Japanese plane bearing 080°, 51 miles from TG 38.3, at 0645. The attackers sank 29 enemy vessels including submarine depot shipJingei, landing ship T-158, minelayer Takashima, and auxiliary minesweeper Shimpo Maru, and damaged five more vessels. The task force came about and retired overnight, turning to 195°, 25 knots, at 1806. Japanese planes unsuccessfully sought the ships piecemeal during the 2d dog watch.
New Jersey reported intercepting an enemy radar signal on 150°, at 0250 on 11 October. South Dakota confirmed the radar fix. South Dakota refueled Clarence K. Bronson and Dortch during the morning watch. A Japanese Betty shadowed the group, bearing 012°, range 47 miles, at 1020. Hellcats of VF-8, embarked on board Bunker Hill, followed a vector out and splashed the bomber. Lookouts on board South Dakota sighted a second enemy plane, bearing 060°, just over the horizon at 1129. Hellcats of VF-14, operating from Wasp, followed a vector and splashed the intruder. South Dakota then refueled from Platte. Mitscher feinted toward Luzon until after dusk, but then made for a striking position to the east of Formosa (Taiwan). Enemy planes shadowed the ships overnight. Iowa intercepted radar signals and Alabama and South Dakota confirmed the interceptions. McCain and Davison launched diversionary raids that struck Japanese airfields and other facilities on the north coast of Luzon. Their planes damaged escort destroyer Yashiro off San Vicente and cargo vessel No. 6 Banei Maru off Aparri.
South Dakota’s SG-1 radar detected the coast of Taiwan, bearing 305°, 142 miles, at 0330 on 12 October 1944. At 0540, the carriers reached their launching position and dispatched the first of 1,378 sorties against Japanese shipping, aerodromes, military installations, and factories. Bogan directed the planes of TG 38.2 against the northern end of Taiwan, Sherman’s TG 38.3 attacked the center, the planes of McCain’s TG 38.1 ranged against the southern end, and Davison’s TG 38.4 bombed the Takao area. Throughout the day, aircraft sank 18 enemy vessels and damaged six more including Teisho Maru, formerly German liner Havenstein.
The Japanese reacted aggressively. Lexington steamed seven miles from South Dakota when she opened fire on the first enemy plane recorded by the battleship at 0545. A Betty dropped chaff—a cloud of tiny, thin strips of aluminum spread as radar countermeasures also known as window—bearing 140°, range 50 miles. The chaff showed only faintly on the SK radar and partly deceived the U.S. defenses. Hellcats of VF-27, flying from Princeton, nonetheless splashed the Betty at 0825. Japanese planes returned in force during the 1st and 2d dog watches. Hellcats of VF-14, flying from Wasp, and F6F-5s of VF-28, embarked on board Monterey, shot down two Bettys at 1800. Another flight of attackers swept in, but F6F-5Ns of Night Fighting Squadron (VFN) 41, operating from Independence, claimed to splash four bombers.
South Dakota’s radar picked up two apparently large concentrations of approaching Japanese planes, labeled Raid I, bearing 350°, 15 miles, and Raid II, 325°, 27 miles, at 1855. The successful approach of the raiders to the close ranges may have resulted from their use of chaff to foil the U.S. radar, though South Dakota did not elaborate upon the enemy’s tactical ingenuity. The battleship’s secondary batteries opened fire on Raid I when the planes approached to 050°, five miles at 1903. The ship’s War Diary noted that she ceased firing when “the plane turned away,” the identification of a single attacker likely indicating confusion with the radar plotting.
Twenty-three minutes later, South Dakota opened fire on Raid II, bearing 288°, five miles. The identification issue reoccurred when the “plane turned away,” but the repeated failures to detect the attackers at extended ranges led TF 38 to execute an emergency turn at 1931. The force formed cruising disposition 3-W, axis 060°, course 075°, speed 20 knots at 1945, to retire to the eastward, returning to a striking position at dawn. At one point before the ships came about, another destroyer’s 40 millimeter guns mistakenly fired on destroyer Prichett (DD-561), killing one man and wounding 15 more.
Japanese aircraft dropped two flares off the port quarter of South Dakota at 1956, and another plane dropped a flare off the starboard bow at 2038. Throughout the night, Japanese planes attacked other ships, and South Dakota made numerous course and speed changes to avoid enemy aircraft. None of the attackers closed with range of her guns until 2231, when she splashed a bogey approaching from 060°, six miles. Just before midnight, another raid threatened the ship. Her 5-inch guns kept the aircraft at a range of five miles, but the Japanese shadowed the task force for an hour, dropping chaff and two flares. The ship’s gunfire drove off another plane 11 minutes into the midwatch, but at 0400 she intercepted radar signals from an enemy reconnaissance aircraft, which closed to within ten miles on bearing 090°, and then stood out to the northeast.
The carriers commenced launching a second day of strikes against Japanese military installations on Taiwan, at 0621 on 13 October 1944. Throughout the day, the enemy vigorously counterattacked. Just five minutes after the first plane launched, Hellcats of VF-21, flying from Belleau Wood, intercepted an estimated 25 Japanese planes, claiming the destruction of six Bettys and seven Nakajima Ki-43 (Hayabusa, "Peregrine Falcon") Oscars.
Aircraft carrier Franklin (CV-13) began landing eight Hellcats of VF-13 returning from a CAP during the 1st dog watch. Five Bettys carrying torpedoes suddenly emerged from a rain squall on the port side. The ship’s CIC failed to warn her of the approaching bombers, which flew at altitudes of 50 to 75 feet, spaced at just under one minute intervals. Gunfire from the ships of the screen drove off the first attacker. Franklin heeled over on left full rudder and fired at the planes, striking one of them. The Betty dropped a torpedo that passed under the fantail. The aircraft, partially out of control and aflame, crashed into the ship on the flight deck just abaft of the island. The plane slid across the flight deck and appeared to explode upon striking the water on the starboard beam. The ships of the screen splashed the third and fourth Bettys, and the fifth dropped a torpedo that passed ahead of Franklin as she swung right using full rudder and backed with her starboard engine. The crashing bomber slightly damaged two 20 millimeter guns and tore several holes in the flight deck, but the crew eventually repaired the scars.
Hellcats of VF-20, flying from Enterprise, and VF-32, from Langley, shot down two Bettys in two separate duels during the 2d dog watch. Shortly thereafter, additional Japanese aircraft swarmed the U.S. ships. An enemy plane torpedoedCanberra in her starboard side near frame 98, flooding both engine rooms and two fireooms, and killing 23 men instantly, at about 1830. Six minutes later, South Dakota changed course to 120°, speed 22 knots, and commenced firing at a Betty. The ship executed several emergency turns during the early evening to avoid aerial attacks. Wichita meanwhile took Canberra in tow, and Cruiser Division 13 (three light cruisers under Rear Adm. Laurance T. DuBose), four destroyers from TG 38.3, and two from TG 38.1, detached to provide cover. Fleet tug Munsee (ATF-107) subsequently relieved Wichita of towing Canberra, and the ships, nicknamed the “cripple group,” sailed for Ulithi.
The carriers of TF 38, less TG 38.4, launched pre-dawn air strikes against the enemy airfields on Taiwan to cover the retirement of Canberra and her consorts on 14 October 1944. South Dakota then refueled destroyers Clarence K. Bronson, Callaghan (DD-792), Cassin Young, and Dortch. Carrier planes damaged enemy coastal minelayer Enoshima and auxiliary submarine chasers Cha 7 and Cha 151 off Takao. Japanese planes repeatedly endeavored to penetrate the fighter patrols, and Hellcats from Hornet splashed an infiltrator. Fighters from Bunker Hill shot down a Nakajima C6N (Saiun, "Colored Cloud") Myrt carrier reconnaissance plane, and Hellcats from Lexington claimed the destruction of a Tony. A Judy slipped through the fighter screen undetected and made a near miss on Lexington at 1500.
Lookouts on board South Dakota sighted seven Jills 12 ½ miles off the starboard beam at 1702. The planes flew at an altitude of barely 50 feet, and split to attack the ships individually. Two of the Jills assaulted the formation near South Dakota, which opened fire on both planes, splashing one. Gunfire from the other ships shot down five of the remaining six attackers. The heavy Japanese air attacks, in conjunction with their radio propaganda broadcasts claiming devastating losses against TF 38, persuaded Halsey to order Bogan and Sherman to retire TGs 38.2 and 38.3, respectively, to the eastward, to intercept any enemy ships capable of attacking the “cripple group.” TF 38, less TG 38.4, came about overnight. South Dakota intercepted Japanese radar signals during the midwatch, indicating that enemy reconnaissance planes determinedly shadowed the task group. The battleship refueled from oiler Pecos (AO-65) the following afternoon.
Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur, USA, Commander Southwest Pacific Area, intended to develop Leyte as an air and logistics base to support the liberation of the Philippines. The Army’s 6th Ranger Battalion attacked Japanese installations on Dinagat and Suluan Islands at the entrance to Leyte Gulf, capable of providing early warning of a U.S. offensive, on 17 October 1944. The Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid commanding, then landed the Sixth Army’s 1st Cavalry and 7th, 24th, and 96th Infantry Divisions, of the X and XXIX Corps, on Leyte on 20 October. Gen. Walter Krueger, USA, led the Sixth Army, under MacArthur’s overall command. Eighteen escort aircraft carriers organized in TUs 77.4.1, 77.4.2, and 77.4.3 supported the landings.
The Japanese prepared four Shō-gō (Victory) plans to counterattack Allied moves, Shō-gō 1 countered operations against the Philippines, Shō-gō 2 against Taiwan, Shō-gō 3 the Ryūkyūs, and Shō-gō 4 the Kurile Islands, respectively. Their garrison on Suluan transmitted an alert that prompted Japanese Commander in Chief Combined Fleet Adm. Toyoda Soemu to order Shō-gō 1, thus helping to bring about the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Most of the larger Japanese ships lay near Lingga Roads off Singapore or in Japanese waters, providing them the strategic flexibility to respond to the various Shō-gō plans and access their dwindling fuel reserves. MacArthur’s landings at Leyte compelled the Japanese to redeploy their forces. South Dakota received information of the sighting of a Japanese fleet, at 1644 on 16 October 1944. The fleet comprised an estimated two battleships, one aircraft carrier, one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers, and eight destroyers, and steamed about 300 miles to the north on a southwesterly course. Independence launched a night search and tasking air group, but the planes failed to make contact with the enemy. The carriers sent additional patrols aloft after sunrise, but the Japanese ships eluded the searchers. Bogan and Sherman retired to the southeast, commencing at 1500 on 17 October. The two groups steamed for the next week to the eastward of the Philippines.South Dakota fueled from oiler Escambia (AO-80) on 18 October, and on 22 October from oiler Schuylkill (AO-76). Alabama, Washington, and DesRon-100 detached from TG 38.3 and joined TG 38.4, at 0610 the following day.
The Japanese charged Vice Adm. Fukudome Shigeru, Commander Second Air Fleet and Sixth Base Air Force, to provide air support for Shō-gō 1, but the ongoing U.S. raids depleted his air strength. In addition, Japanese shortages of fuel constrained their operations and they dispersed their fleet into the Northern, Central, and Southern Forces, which converged separately on Leyte Gulf. Attrition had reduced the Northern Force’s 1st Mobile Force, Vice Adm. Ozawa Jisaburō commanding, to a strike group consisting of aircraft carrier Zuikaku, light carriers Chitose, Chiyōda, and Zuihō, and converted battleship-carriers Hyūga and Ise. These carriers embarked only 108 planes, Hyūga and Ise deployed their surviving planes ashore, and operated as decoys to lure the U.S. carriers from the transports to enable the Central Force, Vice Adm. Kurita Takeo commanding, to savage the auxiliaries.
Kurita made a night passage through San Bernardino Strait on 24 and 25 October 1944. South Dakota steamed in company with TG 38.3 to a position east of the San Bernadino Strait to attack Kurita overnight. Several Japanese planes equipped with radar monitored the transit of the ships. In every identifiable instance, the battleships’ jammed the radar with their ‘Rug’ countermeasures transmitters, and the planes disengaged.
Planes attacked Kurita’s Central Force while he crossed the Sibuyan Sea. Aircraft from Enterprise, Franklin, Intrepid, and Cabot sank battleship Musashi south of Luzon. Planes from the three task groups also damaged Yamato and Nagato, Tone, and destroyers Fujinami, Kiyoshimo, and Uranami. These attacks apparently repelled Kurita’s thrust. Carriers also launched strikes against the Southern Force, Vice Adm. Nishimura Shoji commanding, and its attached Force C, Vice Adm. Shima Kiyohide, as these ships proceeded through the Sulu Sea, sinking destroyer Wakaba and damaging battleships Fusō and Yamashiro.
Japanese planes flying from Clark and Nichols Fields on Luzon counterattacked. A Judy followed a returning strike undetected and lunged from the clouds at Princeton, at 0940 on 24 October. The Judy dropped a bomb that penetrated to the hangar deck, erupting among six Avengers. Additional explosions and fires doomed Princeton, and Reno and destroyer Irwin (DD-794) scuttled the carrier. Fragments from Princeton and collisions while rolling against her in the swells damaged Birmingham, and destroyers Gatling, Irwin, and Morrison (DD-560), a jeep used to tow planes also fell from Princeton’s flight deck onto the bridge of Morrison. Enemy aircraft attacked the task group almost continuously from 1300 through the afternoon, though none of the attackers evidently closed South Dakota. Birmingham, Gatling, Irwin, and Morrison detached for repairs at Ulithi at 2300.
Ozawa’s Northern Force threatened the Americans, and Halsey ordered Mitscher to proceed with TF 38 northward to be in position to strike Ozawa the following morning. Mitscher operated with: Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Washington; Enterprise, Essex, Franklin, Intrepid, and Lexington; Belleau Wood, Cabot, Independence, Langley, and San Jacinto; New Orleans and Wichita; light cruisers Biloxi (CL-80), Miami, Mobile, Reno, Santa Fe (CL-60), and Vincennes (CL-91); and 41 destroyers. To facilitate the pursuit, TF 34 stood up from the ships of TF 38 at 0240 on 25 October 1944, fifteen minutes later, South Dakota received word of the action. Vice Adm. Lee commanded TF 34, which consisted of: the six battleships; New Orleans and Wichita; Biloxi, Miami, Mobile, Santa Fe, and Vincennes; and destroyers Bagley, Caperton, Clarence K. Bronson, Cogswell, Cotten (DD-669), Dortch, Healy, Hickox (DD-673), Hunt,Ingersoll, Knapp, Lewis Hancock, Marshall (DD-676), Miller (DD-535), Owen, Patterson, The Sullivans, and Tingey (DD-539).
Mitscher directed Lee to deploy his ships ten miles ahead of Lexington, the fleet’s guide. A palpable undercurrent of excitement (and fear) ran through the crewmen of South Dakota, and the ship recorded that she proceeded “to the northward to engage reported enemy force of battleships, cruisers, carriers, and destroyers.” The carriers slowed to ten knots while TF 34 sailed past them, and fell behind their pursuit of Ozawa in the process.
Dawn on 25 October 1944 brought a clear day marked only by scattered clouds but a brisk 13 to 16 knot northeast trade wind. Mitscher began launching the first of six strikes from 0540 to 0600. Shortly thereafter, TF 38 formed cruising disposition 4-V. Throughout the day, planes swamped the minimal enemy CAP and pummeled their ships off Cape Engaño, sinking or damaging all four Japanese carriers, Zuikaku, Chitose, Chiyōda, and Zuihō. In addition, planes sank destroyer Akitzuki, and damaged Hyūga and Ise, mostly by near misses, and light cruisers Ōyodo and Tama.
While South Dakota took part in the destruction of the Northern Force, Rear Adm. Oldendorf’s TG 77.2, augmented by Rear Adm. Russell S. Berkey’s TG 77.3 and the 39 motor torpedo boats of TG 70.1, defeated Nishimura and Shima’s Southern Force in the Battle of Surigao Strait. When Halsey began his pursuit of Ozawa, however, he did not explain his decision to Kinkaid. The U.S.-held airfields proved incapable of operating night reconnaissance aircraft, and the only carrier equipped to operate such planes, Independence, sailed from the area with Mitscher. Kurita thus gained surprise when he came about overnight, and at daylight off Samar attacked the escort carriers of Rear Adm. Clifton A.F. Sprague’s TU 77.4.3, known as Taffy 3. Valiant rearguard efforts threw Kurita’s ships into disarray and eventually compelled his retirement, despite the Japanese superiority in weight and firepower.
Frantic messages describing the plight of Taffy 3 reached Halsey in his flag plot on board New Jersey, and he ordered Lee to come about at 1055. TF 34 swung around at 1115, and at 1140 formed cruising disposition 4-S and proceeded southward at high speed. Halsey detached Rear Adm. DuBose with a cruiser-destroyer group, comprising Mobile, New Orleans, Santa Fe, and Wichita, together with Bagley, Caperton, Clarence K. Bronson, Cogswell, Cotten, Dortch, Healy, Ingersoll, Knapp, Patterson, and Porterfield (DD-682), to finish off the Japanese Northern Force. DuBose overtook some of Ozawa’s retiring ships and sank Chitose and destroyer Hatsuzuki with gunfire and torpedoes. Submarine Jallao (SS-368) sank Tama.
The bulk of TF 34 continued southward, the battleships slowing to 12 knots to refuel the destroyers during the afternoon and 1st dog watches. South Dakota refueled destroyers Halsey Powell (DD-686), Owen, and Yarnall. Halsey formed TG 34.5, comprising Iowa and New Jersey, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers, under the command of Rear Adm. Oscar C. Badger, ComBatDiv-7, at 1626 on 25 October 1944. Badger detached his ships and raced toward San Bernadino Strait at high speed to intercept Kurita, but reached the area after Kurita escaped, sinking only destroyer Nowaki south-southwest of Legaspi. Lee continued southward and also missed intercepting Kurita, but the Battle of Leyte Gulf effectively finished the Japanese surface fleet.
South Dakota refueled from Monongahela on 26 October. At 1835 on 28 October, South Dakota, Stockham, and Yarnall left TG 38.2, and at 1955 rendezvoused with TG 38.4. South Dakota refueled Gridley and McCall, to starboard and port, respectively, during the forenoon watch on 30 October. At 1124, lookouts on board the battleship sighted a Betty on the horizon, and the destroyers cast off without completing their refueling. Both ships returned alongside and topped off during the afternoon watch, casting off at 1414.
Two minutes later, enemy planes heavily attacked the task group off Samar. Five kamikazes broke through the CAP andattacked the carriers. Antiaircraft fire splashed three of the aircraft, but a suicide plane struck Franklin on the flight deck starboard of the centerline at about frame 127, killing 56 men and wounding 60. Another plane, tentatively identified as a Mitsubishi A6M3 Hamp Type 0 carrier fighter Model 32, dropped a bomb that narrowly missed Franklin and then crashedBelleau Wood amidst a group of 11 Hellcats, igniting fires and killing 92 men and wounding 97. The Japanese attacks continued until 1603. The following day, South Dakota fueled Gridley and McCall, and then refueled from Guadalupe.Franklin, Belleau Wood, Bagley, Gridley, Mugford, and Patterson detached from the formation that afternoon. Both carriers completed temporary repairs at Ulithi. Franklin proceeded to Puget Sound Navy Yard, and Belleau Wood made for Hunters Point, Calif., respectively.
The Pacific Fleet assigned South Dakota to BatDiv-6 and Alabama to BatDiv-8, effective on 1 November 1944. The action temporarily removed all battleships from BatDiv-9 pending the arrival of Wisconsin (BB-64), which reached Ulithi on 9 December. Because of the nature of the operations following the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Rear Adm. Hanson, ComBatDiv-9, remained in South Dakota. The ship anchored in berth A-6 at Ulithi at 0652 on 2 November.
Determined Japanese resistance, reinforcements of enemy planes staged through Luzon, and torrential monsoon rains that turned the ground into a muddy quagmire and washed out bridges, delayed the construction of airfields on Leyte. The enemy consequently contested the skies, and the advance slowed to a costly crawl. The collapse of the offensive impeded MacArthur’s plans to develop Leyte as a base for further operations. Halsey received orders to deploy the Third Fleet to ease the pressure on MacArthur’s troops by striking Japanese planes and aircraft installations.
South Dakota sailed with Montgomery’s TG 38.1 for operations to the east of the Philippines, at 1223 on 2 November 1944. The following day, the ship refueled from oiler Lackawanna (AO-40). Japanese submarine I-41 torpedoed Reno in the port quarter, off Leyte just before midnight on 3 November. The ship temporarily lost steering control, suffered flooding in her after engine room and firerooms, and lost two dead and four wounded. Four destroyers briefly shepherded the cruiser, and then ocean tug Zuni (AT-95) took her in tow to Ulithi, where they arrived on 11 November. South Dakota detached from Montgomery at 1041 on 4 November, and at 1150 reported to Rear Adm. Sherman and TG 38.3, also consisting of North Carolina and Washington, aircraft carriers Essex, Lexington, and Ticonderoga (CV-14), Langley, Biloxi, Mobile, and Santa Fe, and the 18 destroyers of Destroyer Squadrons 50 and 55. South Dakota took station in cruising disposition 5-R.
The carriers commenced launching strikes from off the Polillo Islands against the airfields and shipping on and around Luzon, at 0613 on 5 November. The planes of TG 38.1 focused principally on northern Luzon, including Aparri, Clark Field, and vessels in Lingayen Gulf; TG 38.2 on Luzon south of 14°N, Cape Verde Passage, airfields on Mindoro, and shipping in the North Sibuyan Sea; and TG 38.3, targets located from 14° and 15°N, including vessels in Manila Bay. The battleships conformed to the movements of the carriers while the latter launched and recovered their planes. Japanese aircraft attacked the task group at 1339. Despite the reinforced CAP, a number of the enemy planes pierced the defenses, diving through intense antiaircraft fire regardless of their losses. Fragments from the antiaircraft rounds from these ships killed Seaman 2d Class Joseph Cavaliere, USNR, and wounded seven more men on board South Dakota at 1415. The ships company buried Cavaliere at sea, at 16°10'30"N, 124°02'03"E, at 1604.
The task group formed cruising disposition 5-V to repel enemy aerial attack when a large group of bogies reportedly closed the ships, at 0819 on 6 November. The attack did not develop, and the ships returned to cruising formation 5-R. South Dakota refueled Cassin Young, Ingersoll, and Preston the following day. The battleship then refueled from oiler Tallulah (AO-50). Heavy seas pounded the ships during the morning watch on 10 November. North Carolina temporarily dropped out of the formation when her boilers salted up, and Washington slowed to 17 knots because of structural damage. Two destroyers on each end screened the battleships until they rejoined the formation, which then steamed at high speed toward a striking position east of Samar. South Dakota refueled Benham, Cassin Young, Clarence K. Bronson, Porterfield, and Pritchett on 11 November. The following day, the battleship fueled destroyers Laws (DD-558) and Longshaw (DD-559), and she then refueled from oiler Tappahannock (AO-43).
Rear Adm. Sherman, who, in the temporary absence of Vice Adm. McCain commanded all three carrier task groups of TF 38 (TGs 38.1, 38.3, and 38.4) dispatched planes against Japanese shipping and port facilities at Manila and across central Luzon on 13 November 1944. These attacks sank 19 enemy ships including light cruiser Kiso, and destroyers Akebono, Akishimo, Hatsuharu, and Okinami, and damaged destroyer Ushio. Several Japanese planes closed the formation at times during the day, but did not attack South Dakota. The carriers launched additional raids which sank six more merchant and auxiliary ships on 14 November. The ships then came about, and South Dakota anchored in berth 26 at Ulithi, at 0728 on 17 November.
Rear Adm. Hanson hauled down his flag and departed South Dakota, at 1300 on 18 November. His staff and administration shifted temporarily to destroyer tender Dixie (AD-14). Vice Adm. Lee shifted his flag as Commander Battleships, Pacific Fleet (ComBatPac) from Washington to South Dakota at 1535. The collective command of ComBatPac and ComBatDiv-6 then split into two separate commands, at 1100 on 21 November 1944. Rear Adm. Thomas R. Cooley relieved Lee as ComBatDiv-6 and hoisted his flag in Washington.
South Dakota stood out of Ulithi as part of Sherman’s TG 38.3, at 0458 on 22 November 1944. Sherman also sailed with North Carolina and Washington, Essex and Ticonderoga, Langley and San Jacinto, Biloxi, Mobile, and Santa Fe, and Destroyer Squadrons 50 and 55. The carriers and some of the destroyers operated independently while the remaining ships conducted surface and antiaircraft firing practices. South Dakota refueled Clarence K. Bronson, Cotten, and Dortch on 24 November. The battleship then fueled from oiler Manatee (AO-58).
Destroyer Johnston and U.S. planes had damaged Japanese heavy cruiser Kumano during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Submarines Bream (SS-243), Guitarro (SS-363), and Raton (SS-270) then each torpedoed Kumano west of Lingayen, at 16°11'N, 119°44'E, on 6 November 1944. Enemy destroyers damaged Guitarro by depth charges but she escaped. The Japanese towed Kumano to Santa Cruz, Luzon, but the cruiser broke her anchor and drifted aground three days later. Bogan and Sherman launched strikes against Japanese ships off central Luzon on 25 November. Planes from Ticonderoga sank Kumano in Dasol Bay.
Hellcats, Helldivers, and TBM-1C Avengers flying from Essex, Ticonderoga, and Langley attacked a convoy about 15 miles southwest of Santa Cruz, sinking coast defense ship Yasojima (former Chinese light cruiser Ping Hai) and three landing ships. South Dakota recorded that “with no warning, two explosions occurred almost in the center of the formation” at 1214. Japanese planes followed U.S. aircraft returning from a strike and penetrated the CAP. A kamikaze crashed the port edge of the flight deck of Essex, wreaking havoc amidst fully fueled planes preparing to launch, killing 15 men and wounding 44 more. The carrier continued in action. The task group came about and retired at high speed to a fueling rendezvous at 1900. The following day, South Dakota refueled from Guadalupe. The battleship practiced antiaircraft drills on many of these days, and on 28 and 29 November, she carried out expanded training. Cotten and Longshaw screenedSouth Dakota while the battleship temporarily fell out formation, and Kingfishers flying from the ship towed target sleeves for the gunners.
On 30 November 1944, South Dakota’s Executive Officer, Comdr. Carl R. Stillman, assumed temporary command of the ship, pending the arrival of the new Commanding Officer, Capt. Charles B. Momsen. Cotten and Gatling refueled fromSouth Dakota to port and starboard, respectively, during the morning and forenoon watches. Capt. Riggs transferred to Cotten by breeches buoy, and the destroyer delivered the captain to Essex, where a plane flew him ashore to Tacloban. Riggs subsequently commanded Cruiser Division-12. South Dakota then refueled from oiler Taluga (AO-62).
South Dakota anchored at berth 6 in Ulithi, at 1908 on 2 December 1944. During the following days, her crew utilized the time to good advantage doing upkeep and repair work, provisioning, and enjoying liberty ashore. Lee held a test with his battleships to determine the effectiveness of using their searchlights to blind pilots as a defense against Japanese suicide planes on 8 December. The searchlights failed to adversely affect the pilots. Capt. Momsen reported on board and assumed duty as South Dakota’s Commanding Officer, at 1745 on 9 December.
Sherman put to sea again with TG 38.3, consisting of North Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington, Essex, Langley and San Jacinto, Oakland, and 13 destroyers, at 0730 on 11 December 1944. Ticonderoga, Biloxi, Mobile, and Santa Fe, and destroyers Callaghan, Cotten, Ingersoll, and Preston (DD-795) had already sailed for training exercises, and rendezvoused with the balance of the group during the morning and forenoon watches on 11 December. At 1300 the following day, the group joined Halsey, who broke his flag in command of the Third Fleet in New Jersey, steaming with TGs 38.1 and 38.2. Vice Adm. McCain broke his flag in command of TG 38.2 in aircraft carrier Hancock (CV-19). South Dakota refueled Longshaw and Pritchett on 13 December, and then fueled from oiler Patuxent (AO-44).
TF 38 supported a bold thrust into Japanese-held waters to secure an all-weather airfield on Mindoro capable of supporting large-scale landings on Luzon. The carriers launched fighter sweeps over the Japanese airfields on Luzon, commencing at 0700 on 14 December 1944. Planes flying from Essex, Ticonderoga, Langley, and San Jacinto, sailing in company with South Dakota, covered the northern sector. A low ceiling until mid-morning reduced the effectiveness of the strikes. The planes continued with successive combat air patrols that spread an aerial blanket over the area to pin-down Japanese aircraft on the island, as well as attacking shipping. TF 38 claimed the destruction of 41 Japanese planes in the air and “at least” 183 on the ground. Destroyers operating as advance radar and fighter director pickets deployed to their early warning stations during the evening, and night fighters from the carriers flew over the enemy airfields as “hecklers.” Japanese planes repeatedly attempted to penetrate the CAP to attack the ships, and South Dakota manned her battle stations throughout the daylight watches during many of these battles.
The task force launched additional strikes from the east of Luzon at dawn the following day, claiming the destruction of at least 37 enemy planes on the ground. Intelligence analysts estimated that the raids heavily impaired the Japanese air strength on Luzon, leaving them with fewer than 200 operational aircraft. Identification problems occurred, however, because the Japanese camouflaged and dispersed their planes whenever possible, rendering their detection all but impossible from the air without photography. The carrier planes also destroyed two locomotives and several railroad cars.
Rear Adm. Felix B. Stump commanded the six escort carriers of TU 77.12.1, which combined with USMC shore-based aircraft to support the landings on Mindoro. These planes covered the passage of the transports and assault shipping through the Visayas from 12 to 14 December, and then supported the landings through 18 December. On the night of D-day seaplanes also joined with operations from Mangarin Bay. Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble’s TG 78.3 landed the 24th Infantry Division, 19th Infantry Regiment, and 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team of the Sixth Army on southwestern Mindoro on 15 December.
Despite attempts by enemy planes to detect TF 38 overnight on 15 and 16 December 1944, Halsey dispatched additional strikes against the Japanese on Luzon, beginning at 0630 on 16 December. The Americans claimed the destruction of 15 enemy planes in the air and 22 on the ground, while damaging a further 46. The attackers also struck airfields and their facilities, and shipping. Rear Adm. Cooley, who broke his flag in Washington, reported upon the apparent success of the raids in gaining air superiority over Luzon, emphasizing that TF 38 “has demonstrated its ability, by maintaining a devastating target combat air patrol by day and a strong force of hecklers by night, to spread a blanket over a large number of airfields with a suffocating effect.” Halsey came about that evening and refueled his ships overnight.
The Third Fleet commenced fueling exercises northeast of Samar, steering a base course of 040° at a speed of 10 knots, at noon on 17 December 1944. Within minutes, BatDiv-6 reported that the “wind is increasing and the sea becoming rough,” as a typhoon roared into the fleet. Halsey broke off the refueling and ordered the ships to make for a position at 17°N, 128°E, at 1253. The admiral anticipated the arrival of the fleet at that position at 0600 the following morning, at which point they were to renew their refueling. Halsey re-scheduled a total of four fueling rendezvous’ on 17 and 18 December. The BatDiv-6 War Diary further records that: “The wind is increasing and the sea running heavier. We are on the edge of a storm.” The ships reduced speed to 14 knots to conserve fuel, but many of the destroyers sailed with critical shortages, imperiling their buoyancy. South Dakota placed the rough weather bill into effect at 1257.
The fleet steered an easterly course, and then reduced speed to ten knots while continuing to conserve fuel. Several planes tore loose from their cables and spread fires within the hangar deck of Monterey, but the crew contained the blazes. The ships company included her Assistant Navigator, Lt. Gerald R. Ford, Jr., USNR. Monterey heeled over on a 25° roll at one point, and Ford lost his footing and slid toward the edge of the deck. A two inch steel ridge around the edge of that part of Monterey slowed the young lieutenant, enabling him to roll onto the catwalk below. “I was lucky,” he later recounted, “I could have easily gone overboard.” Lt. Comdr. Ford discharged from the Naval Reserve on 28 June 1963, and afterward became the 38th President of the United States. Additional ships reported fires and difficulties in station keeping amidst the towering swells. Escort aircraft carrier Kwajalein (CVE-98) reported that “as each wave rolled under, the entire bow would come out of the water, hover for a few seconds, and then crash, taking the flight deck almost to sea level.” The raging weather reduced Kwajalein’s battle ensign to “a small scrap showing two stars.”
Ensign John Mullen, Jr., of South Dakota observed the battleship heel on a 22° roll to port, and then heel 22° to starboard before she returned to her course. “I thought the director would roll off its pedestal!” Mullen recalled. At one point, water poured over the fantail of South Dakota when a heavy swell swept over the vessel. The navigation team believed that the ship passed within 20 miles of the center of the storm. South Dakota steamed generally to the southeast to seek favorable weather.
Destroyers Hull, Monaghan (DD-354), and Spence capsized in the high seas during the forenoon and afternoon watches. The fury of the tempest did not overpower the screams of men torn by machinery ripped loose from ships or swept overboard. The typhoon reached its full fury between 1100 and 1400 on 18 December. The barometer on board Washington recorded a low of 29.30 inches and the wind a high of 60 knots from 300°, with gusts of up to 93 knots at 1330. Sailors plotted the storm center bearing 006°, range 35 miles from TF 38, moving west at about 12 knots.
The heavy swells compelled the ships to cease zigzagging after sunset. TF 38, the Fueling and Replacement Aircraft Group, and the Air Search and Antisubmarine Group changed course to 200° at 1755. The barometer gradually rose and the wind velocity lessoned. Ships searched determinedly for survivors in the water, and on two occasions, the crew of destroyer escort Tabberer (DE-418) used rifle fire to drive away sharks that attacked men in the water. Many vessels reported hearing shouts from the water, and of seeing lights from flashlights with reflectors attached to kapok life jackets. Ships also collected their consorts scattered by the typhoon, some of which had veered off course. Washington bleakly reported: “Their positions are not definitely known.” The vessels damaged by the maelstrom, and those that stood by to assist them, proceeded on a southerly course. Halsey then organized the heavily battered ships into TG 30.3 and TU 30.8.18, and directed them to make for Ulithi for repairs.
The typhoon killed at least 790 men, sank Hull, Monaghan, and Spence, and seriously damaged 21 ships: Cabot, Cowpens, Monterey, and San Jacinto; escort aircraft carriers Altamaha (CVE-18), Cape Esperance (CVE-88), Kwajalein, andNehenta Bay (CVE-74); Miami; destroyers Aylwin, Benham (DD-796), Buchanan (DD-484), Dewey, Dyson, Hickox, and Maddox (DD-731); destroyer escorts Melvin R. Nawman (DE-416), Tabberer, and Waterman (DE-740); oiler Nantahala (AO-60); and fleet ocean tug Jicarilla (ATF-104). The fleet also recorded the loss of 146 planes swept or blown overboard, jettisoned, or crushed by debris or other aircraft torn lose from the carriers, battleships, and cruisers.
The devastating storm delayed the Third Fleet from furnishing air support to MacArthur for two days. Acting upon a suggestion from Vice Adm. McCain, Halsey inquired of MacArthur about the availability of the airfields on Mindoro for planes as staging points in the event of another attack by the Japanese fleet. MacArthur responded that the Army engineers would have the fields cleared and ready by 20 December.
Cooley hoped that the “…storm we just encountered may keep the Japanese planes grounded if it continues on westerly course…” The typhoon led the Navy to establish weather stations on a number of Japanese bastions as the Allies seized them, including the Caroline Islands, Manila, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, and to create weather central offices to coordinate data on Guam and Leyte.
South Dakota refueled from oiler Marias (AO-57) on 19 December 1944. The task force steamed westerly courses to a striking position east of Luzon to launch raids against the Japanese forces on the island on 21 December. The ships proceeded at high speed and thus began to overtake the harsh weather in the wake of the typhoon. The wind increased in velocity and the seas became progressively heavier during the 1st and 2d dog watches on 20 December. Halsey and McCain conferred by radio and decided that the worsening weather rendered flight operations impossible, and the fleet retired to the eastward at 0155 on 21 December. The foul weather continued and the fleet came about for Ulithi at 0900.South Dakota refueled from Kankakee on 22 December, and anchored at berth 4 in Ulithi at 1152 on Christmas Eve.
1. The battleship’s veteran died from heart failure in his home at Fort Worth, Texas, on 6 November 1992. He was survived by his wife of 24 years, Mary W. O’Donley, stepson Ronnie and stepdaughter Lora O’Donley, and sister Eve L. Sharman.
Mark L. Evans
10 January 2013