Tennessee V (Battleship No. 43)
(Battleship No. 43: dp. 33,190; 1. 624'; b. 97'3-"; dr. 31'; s. 21 k.; cpl. 1,401; a. 12 14", 14 5", 4 3" AA, 2 21" tt.; cl. Tennessee)
Tennessee, the 16th state, was admitted to the Union on 1 June 1796. The word Tennessee is derived from a Cherokee Indian term which referred to several Cherokee settlements formerly located in territory now within the state.
The fifth Tennessee was laid down on 14 May 1917 at the New York Navy Yard; launched on 30 April 1919; sponsored by Miss Helen Lenore Roberts, daughter of the governor of Tennessee; and commissioned on 3 June 1920, Capt. Richard H. Leigh in command.
Tennessee and her sister ship, California (Battleship No. 44), were the first American battleships built to a "post-Jutland" hull design. As a result of extensive experimentation and testing, her underwater hull protection was much greater than that of previous battleships; and both her main and secondary batteries had fire-control systems. The Tennessee class, and the three ships of the Coforado-class which followed, were identified by two heavy cage masts supporting large fire-control tops. This feature was to distinguish the "Big Five" from the rest of the battleship force until World War II. Since Tennessee's 14-inch turret guns could be elevated to 30 degrees, rather than to the 15 degrees of earlier battleships, her heavy guns could reach out an additional 10,000 yards. Because battleships were then beginning to carry airplanes to spot long-range gunfire, Tennessee's ability to shoot "over the horizon" had a practical value.
After fitting out, Tennessee conducted trials in Long Island Sound from 15 to 23 October 1920. While Tennessee was at New York, one of her 300-kilowatt ship's-service generators blew up on 30 October, "completely destroying the turbine end of the machine" and injuring two men. Undaunted, the ship's force, navy yard craftsmen, and manufacturers' representatives labored to eliminate the "teething troubles" in Tennessee's engineering system and enabled the battleship to depart New York on 26 February 1921 for standardization trials at Guantanamo. She next steamed north for the Virgina capes and arrived at Hampton Roads on 19 March. Tennessee carried out gunnery calibration firing at Dahlgren, Va., and was drydocked at Boston before full-power trials off Rockland, Maine. After touching at New York, she steamed south; transited the Panama Canal; and, on 17 June, arrived at San Pedro, Calif., her home port for the next 19 years.
Here, she joined the Battleship Force, Pacific Fleet. In 1922, the Pacific Fleet was redesignated the Battle Fleet (renamed the Battle Force in 1931), United States Fleet. For the next two decades, the battleship divisions of the Battle Fleet were to include the preponderance of the Navy's surface warship strength; and Tennessee was to serve here until World War II.
Peacetime service with the battleship divisions involved an annual cycle of training, maintenance, and readiness exercises. Her yearly schedule included competitions in gunnery and engineering performance and an annual fleet problem, a large-scale war game in which most or all of the United States Fleet was organized into opposing forces and presented with a variety of strategic and tactical situations to resolve. Beginning with Fleet Problem I in 1923 and continuing through Fleet Problem XXI in April 1940, Tennessee had a prominent share in these battle exercises. Yet her individual proficiency was not neglected. During the competitive year 1922 and 1923, she made the highest aggregate score in the list of record practices fired by her guns of various caliber and won the "E" for excellence in gunnery. In 1923 and 1924, she again won the gunnery "E" as well as the prized Battle Efficiency Pennant for the highest combined total score in gunnery and engineering competition. During 1925, she took part in joint Army-Navy maneuvers to test the defenses of Hawaii before visiting Australia and New Zealand. Subsequent fleet problems and tactical exercises took Tennessee from Hawaii to the Caribbean and Atlantic and from Alaskan waters to Panama.
Fleet Problem XXI was conducted in Hawaiian waters during the spring of 1940. At the end of this problem, the battleship force did not return to San Pedro; but, at President Roosevelt's direction, its base of operations was shifted to Pearl Harbor in the hope that this move might deter Japanese expansion in the Par East. Following an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard after the conclusion of Fleet Problem XXI, Tennessee arrived at her new base on 12 August 1940. Due to the increasing deterioration of the world situation, Fleet Problem XXII, scheduled for the spring of 1941, was cancelled; and Tennessee's activities during these final months of peace were confined to smaller scale operations.
On the morning of 7 December 1941, Tennessee was moored starboard side to a pair of masonry "mooring quays" on Battleship Row, the name given to a line of these deep water berths located along the southeast side of Ford Island. West Virginia (BB-48) was berthed alongside to port. Just ahead of Tennessee was Maryland (BB-46), with Oklahoma (BB-37) outboard. Arizona (BB-39), moored directly astern of Tennessee, was undergoing a period of upkeep from the repair ship Vestal (AR-4), berthed alongside her. The three "nests" were spaced about 75 feet apart.
At about 0755, Japanese carrier planes began their attack. As the first bombs fell on Ford Island, Tennessee went to general quarters and closed her watertight doors. In about five minutes, her antiaircraft guns were manned and firing. Sortie orders were received, and the battleship's engineers began to get steam up. However, this quickly became academic as Oklahoma and West Virginia took crippling torpedo hits. Oklahoma capsized to port and sank, bottom up. West Virginia began to list heavily, but timely counterflooding righted her. She, nevertheless, also settled on the bottom but did so on an even keel. Tennessee, though her guns were firing and her engines operational, could not move. The sinking West Virgina had wedged her against the two massive concrete quays to which she was moored, and worse was soon to come.
As the Japanese torpedo bombers launched their weapons against Battleship Row, dive bombers were simultaneously coming in from above. Strafing fighters were attacking the ships' antiaircraft batteries and control positions as high-level horizontal bombers dropped heavy battleship-caliber projectiles modified to serve as armor-piercing bombs. Several bombs struck Arizona; and, at about 0820, one of them penetrated her protective deck and exploded in a magazine detonating black-powder saluting charges which, in turn, set off the surrounding smokeless-powder magazines. A shattering explosion demolished Arizona's foreport, and fuel oil from her ruptured tanks was ignited and began to spread. The torpedo hits on West Virginia had also released burning oil, and Tennessee's stern and port quarter were soon surrounded by flames and dense black smoke. At about 0830, horizontal bombers scored two hits on Tennessee. One bomb carried away the after mainyard before passing through the catapult on top of Turret III, the elevated after turret, breaking up as it partially penetrated the armored turret top. Large fragments of the bomb case did some damage inside the turret and put one of its three 14-inch guns out of operation. Instead of exploding, the bomb filler ignited and burned, setting an intense fire which was quickly extinguished.
The second bomb struck the barrel of the center gun of Turret II, the forward "high" turret, and exploded. The center gun was knocked out of action, and bomb fragments sprayed Tennessee's forward superstructure. Capt. Meryyn S. Bennion, the commanding officer of West Virginia, had stepped out on to the starboard wing of his ship's bridge only to be mortally wounded by one of these fragments.
While her physical hurts were relatively minor, Tennessee was still seriously threatened by oil fires raging around her stern. When Arizona's magazines erupted, Tennessee's after decks were showered with burning oil and debris which started fires that were encouraged by the heat of the flaming fuel. Numerous blazes had to be fought on the after portion of the main deck and in the officers' quarters on the deck below. Shipboard burning was brought under control by 1030, but oil flowing from the tanks of the adjacent ships continued to flame.
By the evening of 7 December, the worst was over. Oil was still blazing around Arizona and West Virginia and continued to threaten Tennessee for two more days while she was still imprisoned by the obstacles around her. Although her bridge and foremast had been damaged by bomb splinters, her machinery was in full commission; and no serious injury had been done to ship or gunnery controls. Ten of her 12 14-inch guns and all of her secondary and antiaircraft guns were intact. By comparison with most of the battleships around her, Tennessee was relatively unscathed.
The first order of business was now to get Tennessee out of her berth. Just forward of her, Maryland, similarly wedged into her berth when Oklahoma rolled over and sank, was released and moved away on 9 December. The forward most of Tennessee's two concrete mooring quays was next demolished, a delicate task since the ship's hull was resting against it, and had been cleared away by 16 December. Tennessee carefully crept ahead, past Oklahoma's sunken hull, and moored at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard.
Temporary repairs were quickly made. From Turret III to the stern on both sides of the ship, Tennessee's hull gave mute evidence of the inferno that she had survived. Every piece of hull plating above the water-line was buckled and warped by heat; seams had been opened and rivets loosened. These seams had to be rewelded and rivets reset, and a considerable amount of recaulking was needed to make hull and weather decks watertight. The damaged top of Turret III re-received a temporary armor patch.
On 20 December, Tenessee departed Pearl Harbor with Pennsylvania (BB-38) and Maryland, both superficially damaged in the Japanese attack, and a screen of four destroyers. From the moment the ships put to sea, nervous lookouts repeatedly sounded submarine alarms, making the voyage something more than uneventful. Nearing the west coast, Pennsylvania headed for Mare Island while Maryland and Tennessee steamed north, arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 29 December 1941, and commenced permanent repairs.
Working around the clock during the first two months of 1942, shipyard craftsmen repaired Tennessee's after hull plating and replaced electrical wiring ruined by heat. To allow her antiaircraft guns a freer field of fire, her tall cage mainmast was replaced by a tower similar to that later installed in Colorado (BB-45) and Maryland. An air-search radar was installed; firecontrol radars were fitted to Tennessee's main-battery and 5-inch antiaircraft gun directors. Her three-inch and .50-caliber antiaircraft guns were replaced by 1.1-inch and 20-millimeter automatic shell guns, and her 5-inch antiaircraft guns were protected by splinter shields. Fourteen-inch Mark-4 turret guns were replaced by improved Mark-11 models. Other modifications improved the battleship's habitability.
On 25 February 1942, Tennessee departed Puget Sound with Maryland and Colorado. Upon arriving at San Francisco, she began a period of intensive training operations with Rear Admiral William S. Pye's Task Force 1, made up of the Pacific Fleet's available battleships and a screen of destroyers.
However, her role in the war was not to be in the line of battle for which she had trained for two decades. Most of the great battles of the conflict were not conventional surface-ship actions, but long-range duels between fast carrier striking forces. Fleet carriers, with their screening cruisers and destroyers, could maintain relatively high force speeds; and a new generation of fast battleships: beginning with the North Carolina (BB-55)-class and continuing into the South Dakota (BB-57)- and Iowa (BB-61)-classes, were coming into the fleet and were to prove their worth in action with the fast carrier force. But the older battleships,Tennessee and her kin, simply could not keep up with the carriers. Thus, while the air groups dueled for the aproaches to Port Moresby and the Japanese naval offensive reached its zenith in the waters west of Midway, the battleship force found itself steaming restlessly on the sidelines.
On 31 May, Admiral Pye sent two of his battleships to search for a Japanese carrier erroneously reported approaching the California coast. Reports of the battle of Midway came in, and Pye sortied from San Francisco on 5 June with the rest of his battleships and destroyers and the escort carrier Long Island (AVG-1). The battleship force steamed to an area some 1,200 miles west of San Francisco and about the same distance northeast of Hawaii in the expectation that part of the Japanese fleet might attempt an "end run" raid on our Pacific coast. On 14 June, after it had become clear that Admiral Yamamoto's fleet-reeling from its loss of four carriers 10 days before-had returned to Japanese waters, Pye ordered his force back to San Francisco.
On 1 August, Tennessee again sailed from San Francisco with Task Force 1. After a week of exercises the battleships joined Hornet (CV-8), on her way to the South Pacific to support the Guadalcanal operation, and escorted the carrier as far as Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 14th, Tennessee returned to Puget Sound on the 27th for modernization.
California, Tennessee's sister ship, had been sunk in shallow water during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Refloated, and her hull temporarily patched, she returned to Puget Sound in June for permanent repairs which included a thorough modernization. It was decided to include Tennessee in this program as well.
By the time Tennessee emerged from the navy yard on 7 May 1943, she bore virtually no resemblance to her former self. Deep new blisters increased the depth of her side protection against torpedoes by eight feet-three inches on each side, gradually tapering toward bow and stern. Internal compartmentation was rearranged and improved. The most striking innovation was made in the battleship's superstructure. The heavy armored conning tower, from which Tennessee would have been controlled in a surface gunnery action, was removed, as were masts, stacks, and other superstructure. A new, compact, superstructure was designed to provide essential ship and gunnery control facilities while offering as little interference as possible to the fields of fire of the ship's increasingly essential antiaircraft guns. A low tower foremast supported a main-battery director and bridge spaces; boiler uptakes were trunked into a single fat funnel which was faired into the after side of the foremast. Just abaft the stack, a lower structure accommodated the after turret-gun director. Tennessee's old 5-inch battery, and combination of 5"/25 antiaircraft guns and 5"/51 single-purpose "anti-destroyer" guns, was replaced by eight 5"/38 twin mounts. Four new directors, arranged around the superstructure, could control these guns against air or surface targets. All of these directors were equipped with fire-control radars; antennas for surface- and air-search radars were mounted at the mastheads. Close-in antiaircraft defense was the function of 10 quadruple 40-millimeter gun mounts, each with its own optical director, and of 43 20-millimeter guns.
Thus revitalized, and her battleworthiness greatly increased, Tennessee ran trials in the Puget Sound area and, on 22 May 1943, sailed for San Pedro. The days of seeming purposelessness were over. Though the slow battleships were still incapable of serving with the carrier striking force, their heavy turret guns could still hit as hard as ever. Naval shore bombardment and gunfire support for troops ashore, then coming to be a specialty in its own right, was well suited for this the earlier generation of battleships which were also still quite usable for patrol duty in areas where firepower was more important than speed. The refurbished Tennessee's first tour of duty combined both of these missions.
Tennessee departed San Pedro with the cruiser Portland (CA-33) on 31 May, bound for the North Pacific, and arrived at Adak, Alaska, on 9 June to begin patrol operations with Task Force 16, the North Pacific Force. During the Midway operation, the Japanese had occupied the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. Attu was recaptured in May 1943; but Kiska was still in hostile hands; and Japanese air and naval forces still operated in the Aleutians area from bases in the Kuril Islands. Tennessee plied back and forth through the legendary fogs and foul weather of the Aleutians, with her crew heavily bundled in arctic clothing for protection against intense cold and freezing rain as her radars probed for some sign of the enemy. There was still much to be learned about radar and its pitfalls; on several occasions, convincing images on the radar screens sent patrolling forces to general quarters. During one patrol in July, radio messages reported a force of nine surface ships 150 miles away, steaming rapidly to intercept Tennessee and her consorts. Tension grew as the unknown enemy drew closer, and all hands intently prepared for their first action. The radar images were only 45 miles away, and Tennessee's crew were at battle stations when the enemy suddenly disappeared. Where the screens had been displaying what semed to be a hostile squadron, there was nothing. The hostile fleet had been a mere electronic mirage. During this same period, another surface force fought a brief, but energetic, gunnery action with the same kind of electronic "ghost" force south of Kiska. Distant land masses had appeared on ships' early radar sets as ship contacts at much closer ranges.
At about noon on 1 August, Tennessee was out on what all thought another routine patrol when the word was passed to prepare to bombard Kiska. At 1310, she began a zigzag approach through the usual murk to the island with Idaho (BB-42) and three destroyers. As the water grew more shallow, the ship slowed down and streamed mine-cutting paravanes from her bows. Tennessee approached the island from the east, closing to a range from which she could open fire with her 5-inch secondary battery. Her two OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes were catapulted to observe fire; and, at 1610, the battleship commenced firing from 7,000 yards. Though the island's shoreline could be seen, the target area-antiaircraft gun sites on high ground-were shrouded in low-hanging clouds and were invisible from the ship. Tennessee's aerial spotters caught an occasional glimpse of the impact area and reported the ship's fire as striking home.
The task group continued along Kiska's southern coast. Tennessee's 14-inch guns chimed in at 1624, hitting the location of a submarine base and other areas with 60 rounds before firing ceased at 1645. Visibility had dropped to zero, and results could not be seen. The battleship recovered her floatplanes, and the force turned back toward Adak.
In the early morning hours of 15 August, Tennessee again approached Kiska as troops prepared to assault the island. At 0500, the ship's turret guns began to fire at coastal-battery sites on nearby Little Kiska as the 5-inch guns struck antiaircraft positions on that island. The 14-inch guns then shifted their fire to antiaircraft sites on the southern side of Kiska, while the secondary battery turned its attention to an artillery observation position on Little Kiska and set it on fire. The landing force then went ashore, only to discover that nobody was home.
After the loss of Attu, the Japanese, knowing that Kiska's turn would soon come, decided to save the island's garrison. A small surface force closed the island in dense fog and tight radio silence and, on 27 and 28 July 1943, succeeded in evacuating 5,183 troops from Kiska.
Arriving at San Francisco on 31 August, Tennessee began an intensive period of training and carried out battle exercises off the southern California coast before provisioning and shoving off for Hawaii. After a week's exercises in the Pearl Harbor operating area, the ship headed for the New Hebrides to rehearse for the invasion of the Gilberts.
The Japanese had occupied Betio on Christmas Day 1941. In nearly two years, with the help of conscripted Korean laborers, they had done a thorough job of digging themselves in. Americans still had a great deal to learn about pre-landing bombardment. Air attacks and naval gunfire damaged, but did not knock out, the beach defenses; and the landing Marines met an intense fire from artillery, mortars, and machine guns. Casualties mounted rapidly, and the landing force asked for all possible fire support. At 1034, Tennessee's 14-inch and 5-inch guns reopened fire. The battleship continued to shoot until 1138, resuming fire at 1224 and firing until a ceasefire order was issued at 1300. The desperately contested struggle went on until dark, with close support being provided by destroyers which closed the beach to fire their 5-inch guns at short range and by waves of carrier planes which bombed and strafed. To reduce the chance of submarine or air attack, Tennessee and Colorado withdrew for the night to an area southwest of Betio and returned to their fire-support area the next morning to provide antiaircraft protection for the transports and to await a call for gunfire.
The battleships retired to their night area again at dusk. By this time, the battle for the island, its outcome uncertain for the first day and one-half of fighting, had taken a definite turn for the better. By 1600, the Marine commander ashore, Colonel David Shoup, could radio back that "we are winning." Tennessee was back in position south of Betio on the morning of the 22d. At 0907, she began to deliver call fire on Japanese defenses at the eastern tip of Betio, dropping 70 rounds of 14-inch and 322 rounds of 5-inch ammunition on gun positions in 17 minutes of shooting.
During the afternoon, the screening destroyers Frazier (DD-607) and Meade (DD-602) made a sonar contact. Depth charging drove 7-55, a Japanese long-range submarine, to the surface. Her position was hopeless, but the enemy crew scrambled to man the undersea boat's single 5.5-inch deck gun as Tennessee's secondary guns joined Frazier and Meade in hurling 5-inch projectiles. Tennessee swung clear as Frazier rammed the submarine; four minutes later, I-35 went to the bottom.
Betio was secured by the afternoon of 23 November. Tennessee operated in the general area of Tarawa and Abemama atolls, alert for possible counterattacks by air or sea. At dusk on 3 December, Tennessee departed the area for Pearl Harbor and, on the 15th, headed for the United States with Colorado and Maryland. On arrival at San Francisco, four days before Christmas, she was quickly repainted in a "dazzle" camouflage scheme designed to confuse enemy observers. On 29 December, Tennessee began intensive bombardment practice, pounding San Clemente Island in rehearsal for the invasion of the Marshall Islands.
In the early morning of 13 January 1944, Tennessee set her course for Hawaii with Task Unit 53.5.1 and anchored in Lahaina Roads, off Maui, on the 21st. That day, the ship was inspected by a group headed by Undersecretary of the Navy James Forrestal. On the 29th, Tennessee, with Forrestal on board, headed for the Marshalls.
D-Day was set for 31 January 1944. As one attack force landed on the unoccupied Majuro atoll, the major force approached Kwajalein. Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and two destroyers took up their stations 2,900 yards to the east of the atoll. At 0625, Tennessee catapulted off her observation floatplanes; and, at 0701, she began throwing 14-inch salvoes at Japanese pillboxes on Roi Island. Her two forward turrets were busily engaged when fire had to be checked to allow carrier dive bombers to strike the island. Japanese antiaircraft guns opened up on the planes. As soon as the attackers were clear of the area, the ship demolished the enemy guns with two three-gun salvoes. The 5-inch battery then opened up on beach defenses. Main and secondary guns continued to pound Roi and adjacent Namur until noon, the high point of the morning coming when the guns of Mobile (CL-63) detonated a Japanese ammunition dump on Namur and sent an enormous mushroom of thick black smoke into the air. At midday, Tennessee retired from the firing area to recover and service her spotting planes. Following a welcome midday meal served to the crew at their battle stations, the battleship returned to the fighting and shelled Roi and Namur through the afternoon. At 1700, Tennessee turned away to screen supporting escort carriers for the night.
While the fire support ships pounded Roi and Namur on the 31st, Marines captured five small nearby islands; and the northern passage into Kwajalein lagoon was cleared for ships to pass in. On 1 February, Tennessee and Colorado, with Mobile and Louisville, were back in their assigned area to the eastward and commenced firing at 0708. The ships pounded Namur through the morning; Marines began to land on both islands at about noon; and Tennessee and her unit continued supporting fire until 1245. Roi fell quickly, but Namur's defenders were well dug in and fought fiercely until the early afternoon on 2 February.
Later that day, the battleship entered Kwajalein lagoon. Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance and Rear Admiral Richard Conolly, commander of the Roi-Namur invasion force, visited Mr. Forrestal on board Tennessee; the Undersecretary and his party then went ashore to inspect the newly seized islands and departed the following day by seaplane.
Useful lessons were learned from this operation. Since the Navy had won command of the surface and in the air around the landing area, gunfire support ships could close their objective and fire at what was, for a battleship, virtually point-blank ranges. The heavy, short-range fire of the supporting gunfire ships "met the most sanguine expectations" of the assaulting Marines and foretold the shape of operations to come.
By 7 February, the whole Kwajalein atoll was in American hands; and preparations began for the capture of Eniwetok atoll, at the northwest end of the Marshalls group in the direction of the Marianas. Prewar Japanese security had been tight, and little was known about the atoll, but aerial photographs and a Japanese chart found in a beached enemy ship on one of Kwajalein's small islets gave planners enough to work with.
Tennessee arrived at Majuro on 7 February to take on ammunition and supplies before returning to Kwajalein. On the afternoon of the 15th, she sailed for Eniwetok with Colorado, Pennsylvania, and transports carrying Army troops and Marines. Ships of the fast carrier force screened their approach, and cruisers and destroyers opened the action on the morning of 17 February by bombarding Eniwetok island, on the southwest side of the circular atoll, and the smaller islands flanking the selected entry to the lagoon, Deep Passage. Minesweepers cleared Deep Passage and the nearby, though shallower, Wide Passage; and, at 0915, Tennessee led the transport convoy into the lagoon and headed for the atoll's northern island of Engebi. The battleship bombarded Engebi while landing forces went ashore on neighboring islets to site artillery pieces. Her 5-inch guns were active during the early evening in support of a Marine reconnaissance company which approached Engebi to plant marker buoys for the next day's assault waves and to acquaint themselves with the beaches. During the night, Tennessee drew off into the lagoon as light field pieces from the newly captured ground harassed Engebi's defenders. The pre-landing bombardment began at 0700 the next morning, and Tennessee joined in at 0733.
The first wave went ashore at 0844 and, with the help of supporting ships and planes, had Engebi in their hands by late afternoon.
The atoll was not yet secure. Japanese defenders on Eniwetok and Parry Islands had carefully dug in and camouflaged their positions. Transports and landing vehicles carried a force of soldiers and Marines to the southern end of the lagoon and, after a preparatory bombardment, the troops went ashore on Eniwetok. There had not been enough time to give the island a satisfactory softening, and progress was slow.
Tennessee spent the day anchored 5,500 yards north of the island, but her services were not called for until night fell. During the night, Army troops called several times for illumination. Destroyers played their searchlights over Japanese-held areas, while Tennessee's 5-inch guns fired large numbers of star shells. The fight for Eniwetok went on into the afternoon of 21 February, but Tennessee's efforts had, by then, been diverted to Parry Island.
Parry, at the mouth of Deep Channel, was defended by more than 1,300 well-trained, carefully-entrenched Japanese troops. The assault plan called for a careful preliminary working-over with bombs and gunfire, and Marine light howitzers began to shell Parry from a nearby islet in the evening of 20 February while carrier planes carried out repeated attacks. Tennessee and Pennsylvania took up positions 900 yards off Parry during the morning of the 20th and, at 1204, began to blast the island.
The bombardment continued through the 21st, ships and planes taking their turns. Gun crews paused for a "breather" while planes from the escort carriers unloaded their ordnance, then resumed their work. Colorado's 16-inch rifles added to the weight of Tennessee and Pennsylvania's 14-inch fire, and Louisville and Indianapolis joined in with their 8-inch turret guns. Tennessee was firing at so short a range that, during the afternoon of the 20th, she was able to take on beach defenses with her 40-millimeter guns.
The final shelling, on the morning of 22 February, kicked up a dense mixture of smoke and dust as the landing craft went in. Tennessee's heavy guns checked fire at 0852 when the first amphibian tractors were 300 yards from the beach, and her 40-millimeters took up the fire until the vehicles landed. Ships' guns continued to provide support during the first two hours of land fighting but ceased firing as the troops expanded their foothold and advanced across the island. By afternoon, Parry was secured, and Eniwetok atoll was securely in American hands.
On 23 February 1944, Tennessee sailed for Majuro. Here, she joined New Mexico (BB-40), Mississippi (BB-41), and Idaho (BB-42). Under the command of Rear Admiral Robert M. Griffin, the battleships sortied from Majuro on 15 March with two escort carriers and a screen of 15 destroyers.
Their objective was the Japanese air and naval base at Kavieng, at the northern end of New Ireland. The Bismarck Archipelago, the two large islands of New Britain and New Ireland, lie just to the east of New Guinea. Rabaul, the by-now legendary Japanese operating base, is at the eastern end of New Britain, just across a narrow channel from New Ireland. About 240 miles northwest of Rabaul, across the Bismarck Sea, is the small Admiralty Island group. Another small island, Emirau, lies northwest of New Ireland and east of the Admiralties. Southeast from Rabaul, the Solomons chain extended for more than five hundred miles. Since the first landing on Guadalcanal in August 1942, the chain had been slowly climbed in a series of strongly contested actions by sea, land, and air. By the end of 1943, American forces held a strong foothold on Bougainville, little more than 200 miles from Rabaul.
The final steps in Rabaul's encirclement and isolation were planned for the spring of 1944. Kavieng was to have been captured early in April, but the success of the land-based air offensive against Rabaul convinced Admiral Nimitz that it would be more profitable to occupy undefended Emirau instead, sending the bombardment ships against Kavieng to convince the Japanese that a landing on New Ireland was planned.
Admiral Griffin, accordingly, headed for Kavieng and, on the morning of 20 March 1944, approached the harbor. Rain squalls and low-hanging clouds shrouded the area as Tennessee and the other gunfire ships zigzagged toward New Ireland. The island appeared through the overcast at about 0700. Tennessee launched her spotting planes an hour later, and they were soon out of sight in the rain and mist. By 0905, the range to the target was within 15,000 yards, and the battleships opened a deliberate fire. Steaming at 15 knots, Tennessee dropped single 14-inch rounds and two- or three-gun salvoes on Kavieng as the bombardment force slowly closed the range. Poor visibility made gunfire spotting difficult, and the pace of firing was held down to avoid wasting ammunition.
Tennessee was about 7,500 yards from the island when her lookouts reported gun flashes from the beach, quickly followed by shell splashes just off the starboard bow and close to one of her screening destroyers. At 0928, Tennessee's port 5-inch guns opened rapid continuous fire at the coastal battery, estimated to consist of four to six 4-inch guns. A 180-degree turn brought the battleship's starboard secondaries to bear, and the duel continued. The Japanese gunners began to get the range, and some projectiles hit close aboard on the starboard beam while others came similarly close to Idaho. Tennessee was straddled several times and drew away from the shore at 18 knots before checking fire at 0934. Reducing speed to 15 knots and turning back to firing position, Tennessee reopened fire at 0936. Her main and secondary batteries pounded the enemy guns for 10 minutes, and nothing more was heard from the Japanese guns. For the next three hours, the ships steamed back and forth off Kavieng, shelling the Japanese airfield and shore facilities. Other coastal gun positions were sighted, but the battleship's 14-inch fire silenced them before they could get off a round. Visibility continued to be a problem; observers in the ships' floatplanes could not get a clear view of the targets. When the 5-inch guns were firing at targets in wooded areas, spotters in the ship's gun directors could not observe hits in the heavy foliage. More than once, rounds had to be dropped in the water to obtain a definite point of reference before "walking" fire onto the desired target.
The bombardment ended at 1235. Tennessee turned away and made rendezvous with the covering escort carriers as Admiral Halsey wired his "congratulations on your effective plastering of Kavieng." This diversion had had its effect. While Admiral Griffin's battleships blasted Kavieng, Emirau had been seized without opposition. Pausing at Purvis Bay and Efate, Tennessee arrived at Pearl Harbor on 16 April to refurbish and prepare for her next task.
Operation "Forager," the assault on the Marianas, was planned as a two-pronged thrust. Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner's Task Force 51 was organized into a Northern Attack Force (TF 52), under his command, and a Southern Attack Force (TF 53) under Rear Admiral Richard Conolly. While TF 52 attacked Saipan and nearby Tinian, Conolly's TF 52 was aimed at Guam. The bombardment and fire support force arrayed for this operation included Tennessee and seven other older battleships, 11 cruisers, and about 26 destroyers. These ships were divided into two fire support groups. Tennessee, with California, Maryland, and Colorado, was assigned to Fire Support Group One (TG 52.17) under Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf.
The Northern Attack Force assembled at Hawaii in mid-May 1944. After rehearsals off Maui and Kahoolawe, Fire Support Group One sailed for Kwajalein while the transports staged at Eniwetok. On 10 June 1944, Tennessee and her task group departed Kwajalein, bound for Saipan.
Early on 13 June, as the force approached the Marianas, signs of Japanese activity began to appear. A patrol plane reported sighting a surfaced submarine some 20 miles ahead and attacked it. Another plane shot down a landbased Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" which had been trailing along 10 miles astern of the ships. Another submarine contact was reported to port of the formation, and screening destroyers dropped depth charges. During the 13th, Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee's Task Group 58.7-seven new fast battleships of the North Carolina, South Dakota, and Iowa classes, temporarily detached from Vice Admiral Marc Mit-scher's Task Force 58, hurled a furious bombardment at Saipan.
Throughout the following night, lookouts reported gun flashes on the horizon, and escorting destroyers attacked suspected submarines. General quarters was sounded at 0400 on 14 June as the old battleships drew near to Saipan. Near the horizon, a Japanese cargo ship, set afire by the guns of Melvin (DD-680), burned brightly. Shortly before dawn, Oldendorf's battleships passed to the north of Saipan as the second fire-support group steamed through Saipan Channel at the southern end of the island. The southern group opened fire at 0539. Nine minutes later, Tennessee began a methodical bombardment of the selected landing area, the southern portion of Saipan's west coast, in support of minesweepers carrying out an assault sweep on the landing zone. Enemy coastal guns had fired a few shots at Oldendorf's ships as they rounded the northern tip of the island, and attacking carrier planes as well as the ships' observation floatplanes encountered heavy antiaircraft fire. Maryland drew fire from a battery concealed on a tiny islet off Tanapag harbor. She and California turned on this foe and soon silenced it.
Released from this duty, Tennessee sailed southward to the area of Agingan Point, at the southwest corner of Saipan and the southern end of the designated landing area. Underwater demolition teams (UDT) approached the beach in small craft to reconnoiter the landing beaches and to plant radar beacons which would provide reference points to the next day's landing. Tennessee closed to 3,000 yards of Agingan Point and, at 0831, opened up with 14-inch, 5-inch, and 40-millimeter batteries. Some smoldering powder grains from the 5-inch guns fell on the port side of the battleship's quarterdeck and burst into flame, but were quickly extinguished. Japanese guns dropped shells near the UDT's as mortars and machine guns joined in; at about 0920, projectile splashes began to appear near the supporting ships as batteries on nearby Tinian opened fire. Cleveland (CL-55) was straddled, and California and Braine (DD-630) took hits. Tennessee aimed counterbattery fire at the defenders who were opposing the UDT's, and her turret guns fired at Tinian. Shortly before noon, she moved to the northwest to bombard Japanese fortifications on Afetna Point, near the center of the landing zone. At 1331, the ship ceased fire and withdrew from the firing area to recover her seaplanes, later closing Wadleigh (DD-689) and Brooks (APD-10) to take on board five wounded UDT men for treatment. She joined the rest of her fire support group and took up night stations to the west of Saipan.
D-Day on Saipan was 15 June 1944. Circling to the north of the island, well out of sight from shore during the last hours of darkness, the assault force was off the landing beaches by dawn. Reserve landing forces staged an elaborate feint off Tanapag harbor, hoping to induce the Japanese to reinforce its defenses before the actual landing took place further south. At 0430, the p re-landing bombardment began. Tennessee joined in at 0540 with a heavy barrage from her main, secondary and 40-millimeter guns from 3,000 yards west of Agingan Point. At 0542, the landing craft and amphibian tractors of the landing force began to load and assemble for the movement to shore. Gunfire was lifted at 0630 to allow carrier planes to bombard the island's defenses, resuming at 0700. At 0812, the assault waves headed for the beach. The first went ashore at 0844 and met heavy opposition. The pre-landing bombardment, though prolonged and intense, had left much of the Japanese defenses still able to fight; and, as the 2d and 4th Marine Divisions landed on a 4-mile front south of Garapan, they found that much still remained to be done.
Tennessee's assault station was off the southern end of the landing beach. During the first wave's approach, her guns enfiladed that end of the objective to prepare the way for the right-hand elements of the 4th Division. She checked fire as the troops neared the beach, resuming it a few minutes later as the Marines fought to establish themselves ashore. Japanese 4.7-inch field guns, emplaced in a cave on Tinian, opened on Tennessee. The battleship commenced counterbattery fire, but the third enemy salvo scored three hits, all of which burst on impact. One projectile knocked out a 5-inch twin gun mount; the second struck the ship's side, while the third tore a hole in the after portion of main deck and sprayed fragments into the wardroom below. An intense fire inside the disabled gun mount was subdued in two minutes by repair parties and men from nearby gun crews; the hit to the hull damaged external blister plating, but was prevented from inflicting further damage by the battleship's heavy belt armor. Eight men were killed by projectile fragments, while 25 more were wounded by fragments and flash burns. Tennessee's damages did not prevent her from delivering call fire to help break up a developing Japanese counterattack near Agingan Point before leaving the firing line to make emergency repairs. During the afternoon and night, she took station to screen assembled transports. Four Japanese dive bombers attacked nearby ships at 1845, and Tennessee's, 5-inch guns briefly engaged them but claimed no hits. That evening, Tennessee buried her dead. Tokyo radio claimed victory in the battle for Saipan, stating that they had sunk a battleship which they identified as "probably the New Jersey."
The "sunken" Tennessee returned to Saipan Channel early the next day. Several Japanese counterattacks had been stopped during the night, and Tennessee's supporting fire assisted the Marines in organizing and consolidating their beachhead. During the evening, the first troops of the Army's 27th Infantry Division began to come ashore; another counterattack, this one involving tanks, was turned back during the night of 16 and 17 June.
The original plan had called for landings on Guam on the 18th. However, during the afternoon of the 15th and the early hours of the 16th, Admiral Spruance was advised that Japanese warships were at sea, off the Philippines, heading for the Marianas. The Japanese plan for the defense of these vital islands called for their garrison to hold out while a naval force mounted a counterstroke to destroy the American invasion fleet. By the morning of the 16th, Spruance decided to cancel the attack on Guam while continuing the fight for Saipan and disposing his naval forces for battle. The fast carrier force was sent to counter the Japanese thrust, while the fire-support battleships were to be deployed to the west of Saipan in case the Japanese should evade Task Force 58 and direct a surface thrust at the island. Tennessee held station west of Saipan with the other elderly battleships as the two fleets groped toward each other about 150 miles away.
On the 19th, Mitscher's task force clashed with Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa's Mobile Fleet in what was to be called the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." By this time, American carrier operations had attained a high level of excellence while the Japanese air arm, its experienced airmen mostly lost during the long campaigns of 1942 and 1943, had to make do with unskilled pilots. The result was striking. In more than eight hours of intense aerial combat, more than 300 Japanese planes were knocked down, most of these by carrier fighters. By the 20th, counterattacking American planes and submarines had sent carriers Hiyo, Shokaku, and Taiho to the bottom. Thus, Japan's last serious carrier offensive operation ended in disaster.
Ozawa's fleet never got close enough to Saipan for Tennessee and her cousins to be called upon. On the 20th, she fueled east of Saipan as the Japanese carrier force headed westward. The next day, she was back on the gun line to blast gun positions on Manigassa Island, off Tanapag harbor. Call fire occupied the afternoon, as she took on several targets near Garapan. Tennessee's 14-inch guns commenced firing at 0555 the next day, pounding Garapan from 6,000 yards. Shell hits on the battered town raised clouds of smoke and dust, reminding the battleship's gunners of the Aleutian murk. Fire was shifted onto Mount Tapotchau, east of Garapan, before being returned to Garapan to assist the American troops who were working their way into the southern part of town.
On the night of 22 June, Tennessee got underway for Eniwetok where Hector (AE-7) repaired her battle damage as the fight for Saipan ground to its end on 9 July. Her next destination was Guam. Departing Eniwetok on 16 July with California, she joined Bear Admiral Ainsworth's Southern Fire Support Group (TG 53.5) off Guam in the afternoon of the 19th. The next day, she joined in a systematic bombardment begun on the 8th which was carefully planned to soften up the enemy's defenses while avoiding harm to the island's friendly Chamorro population. Tennessee launched her planes; and, at 0742, her turret guns opened fire while the 5-inch battery raked nearby Cabras Island. The ship slowly maneuvered to a position north of Asan Point, several miles north of Apra harbor, where one of two landing beaches was sited. UDT's scouted the beaches while planes laid smoke screens to cover their movements, and the ships' guns kept the Japanese defenders occupied. Firing ceased at midday and resumed late in the afternoon, as Tennessee continued to hammer Japanese positions north of Apra.
Shortly after dawn on 21 July, the bombardment ships again took up their work. Tennessee renewed her attentions to Cabras Island as the assault waves formed and headed for shore and continued to provide support during the first stage of the landing. At 1003, she ceased firing. Late that day, she put to sea with California and Colorado and returned to Saipan on 22 July.
Tennessee anchored in Tanapag harbor to replenish ammunition before taking up her night position to the west of Tinian. At 0607 on 23 July, she opened fire on the waterfront area of Tinian Town, as part of a deception scheme intended to convince the strong Japanese garrison that the landing would take place at Sunharon Bay, on the southwest coast of the island. A UDT even made a daylight reconnaissance of the beaches to strengthen the impression, and Tennessee's guns supported the frogmen. Fire paused around midday and resumed again in the afternoon before the ship retired to her night position off the island.
Early in the morning of the 24th, Tennessee took up her position off Tinian's northwest coast with California, Louisville (CA-28), and several destroyers. From 2,500 yards offshore, the ships opened fire at 0532, ceasing fire as the first wave closed the beach at 0747. For the rest of the day, the ship stood by to deliver fire if needed, then retired for the night. In the morning of 25 July, Tennessee relieved California as the "duty ship" to furnish call fire upon request from the beach. Through the 25th and 26th, Tennessee delivered supporting fire by day and star shell by night. After returning briefly to Saipan to replenish on the 27th, the battleship was back on the firing line on the 28th, and her fire supported the advancing Marines through the afternoon. Following replenishment at Saipan on the 29th, Tennessee began the 30th in support of Marines advancing southward through Tinian Town. In the early morning, one of her observation planes collided in midair with a landbased Marine OY-1 spotting plane. Both aircraft plummeted to earth behind Japanese lines and burst into flames; the crews of both were killed.
Firing continued through that day and into the 31st, as the Marines crowded the last defenders into the southern tip of the island. At 0830 on 31 July, Tennessee's guns fell silent, and she returned to Saipan with her task accomplished. On the evening of 2 August, she arrived off Guam to resume fire-support duty. Rejoining Ainsworth's gunfire task group, she delivered call fire and illumination until 8 August when she joined California and Louisville for the voyage to Eniwetok and thence to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. The ships arrived at Espiritu Santo on 24 August. On 2 September, Tennessee arrived at Tulagi for a brief period of amphibious support training.
Meanwhile, decisions had been made which would reshape the Allied offensive in the western Pacific. Meeting at Pearl Harbor in July 1944, President Roosevelt, Admiral Nimitz, and General MacArthur had finally reached an agreement that the Philippines were to be liberated, not merely bypassed. After further discussions, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved landings beginning at Mindanao, continuing north through Leyte, then taking either Luzon or Formosa and Amoy. During early September, Task Force 38 hit Japanese bases from the Palaus to the Visayas, inflicting considerable damage. Surprisingly little resistance was encountered by the roving carriers, leading to a conclusion that enemy air strength was virtually nonexistent. Nimitz, MacArthur, and Halsey agreed that this eliminated any need for a network of southern air bases to support the capture of the Philippines. Proposed landings on Yap and Mindanao were scrapped, although Morotai was invaded in September and preparations were made for an assault on the Palaus before bypassing the southern Philippines and going into Leyte.
The Palaus were to be Tennessee's next objective. This group is not an atoll, but an elongated cluster of islands just north of the Equator and at the western end of the Carolines. The group is about 110 miles long from small islands and reefs to the north through the large island of Babelthuap to the small southern islands of Peleliu and Angaur.
The objectives of the assault force were Kossol Roads, a reef-sheltered anchorage at the northern end of the chain, and the two southern islands; the large Japanese garrison on Babelthuap was to be isolated and left to its own devices. Planes and gunfire ships took turns pounding Peleliu from the morning of 12 September until the assault waves went ashore on the 15th. The battle for that island was to be one of the most bitter of the Pacific war, and organized resistance was not eliminated until November, at a heavy cost in lives.
Tennessee's target was the smaller island of Angaur, a few miles south of Peleliu. On the morning of 12 September, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, with four light cruisers and five destroyers, began a prolonged bombardment as carrier aircraft did their share.
The flash and roar of bombs and gunfire from ships and planes attacking Peleliu were plain on the horizon as Tennessee closed Angaur early on 12 September. The battleship opened fire at 0632, hurling 14-inch shells at targets ashore from 14,000 yards. Through the morning and afternoon, her guns hit coast-defense positions and antiaircraft sites. During the afternoon, minesweepers cleared the approaches to the beaches. By this time, Tennessee was only 3,750 yards from shore, and her 40-millimeters had joined in. A prominent masonry lighthouse on the west coast of Angaur was ordered destroyed to keep the Japanese from using it as a gunfire observation point. Twelve 14-inch rounds were aimed at it, scarring the area and scoring three hits, but the tower remained standing. Other targets absorbed Tennessee's attention for the next three days. Tennessee stood by off Peleliu during the morning of the 15th in case her guns should be needed to assist the assault landing. When this work was completed, she returned on the evening of 16 September to finish off the stubborn tower before the next morning's scheduled landings. As the ship's turret guns trained out on the target, a 6-inch projectile from Denver (CL-58) screamed in from the far side of the island and sent the lighthouse crashing down in a cloud of smoke and dust.
Ships and carrier planes pounded the island for five days before Army troops of the 81st Infantry Division went ashore on Angaur on the morning of 17 September. Tennessee's guns supported the soldiers through the 19th. By the morning of 20 September, organized resistance was at an end; and the battleship steamed away from the island to Kossol Roads to refuel and to take on ammunition. On 28 September, she arrived at Manus to prepare for her next operation.
Tennessee weighed anchor on 12 October and set her course for Leyte Gulf. Under the supreme command of General MacArthur, Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid's 7th Fleet carried two Army corps toward the invasion area. Their objectives were two landing zones on the eastern coast of Leyte. A Northern Attack Force (TF 78) under Rear Admiral Daniel Barbey was aimed at Tacloban, while Vice Admiral Theodore Wilson command TF 79, the Southern Attack Force whose target was Dulag. The old battleships were divided between two fire-support units. Tennessee, with California and Pennsylvania, sailed with the Dulag attack force under Rear Admiral Oldendorf.
During its approach to the Philippines, the invasion force was alert for air and submarine attack; but none came. As the ships steamed under hot, clear skies, their radios brought news of Task Force 38 as the fast carriers ranged an arc from the Ryukyus to Formosa before turning on Japanese air bases in Luzon and the central Philippines. Preliminary minesweeping and bombardment, to clear the way into Leyte Gulf, began on the morning of 17 October 1944. The entrance to the gulf was secured, but the approaches to the objective area were partially swept when Oldendorf, to avoid delaying the operation, decided to order his ships into the gulf. At 0609 on the morning of the 18th, Tennessee, with her fire-support unit, entered the channel between Homonhon and Dinagat islands. Paravanes streamed from her bows, and Marines were stationed in her upperworks to sink or explode floating mines. The minesweepers continued their work as the heavy ships moved slowly up Leyte Gulf.
Tennessee took up her position off Dulag before dawn on 19 October and, at 0645, began to bombard the landing area north of the town. Her main battery opened up from 8,300 yards, and her secondaries chimed in a few minutes later as she aimed at fortifications and antiaircraft gun emplacements. Catmon Hill, a 1,000-foot elevation just inland, received particular attention from the ships. Japanese planes were reported in the offing, but the only attack came from a horizontal bomber which dropped one bomb into the water near Honolulu (CL-48) before being knocked down by gunfire. Heavy shelling continued through the afternoon, and the bombardment ships took up night cruising stations off the mouth of Leyte Gulf.
The landings were scheduled for 20 October; and, at 0600, Tennessee opened neutralization fire on the beaches. As the northern force pounded Tacloban and went in to the attack, transports assembled off Dulag and put the landing force into the water. Infantry landing craft armed with heavy mortars (LCI(M)) began dropping shells on reverse slopes at 0915; and, at 0930, the landing waves crossed the line of departure and moved for the beach. At 0945, rocket-firing landing craft (LCI(R)) began to hurl their masses of explosive bombardment rockets at the beach defenses, and the first troops went ashore 15 minutes later. Naval gunfire was shifted inland and to the flanks to assist the landing troops as they began to carve out a beachhead. The landing went well. During the afternoon, Honolulu was again attacked, this time by a torpedo bomber which scored a hit and forced the cruiser to withdraw. Night air attacks were feared; a screen of destroyers was placed around the ships in the gulf, smoke was generated, and much nervous firing flared up in the darkness and caused some casualties.
The Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on noting the scale of the operation being mounted against Leyte, had decided to make that island the focus of a decisive naval counterstroke. The principal surface strength of the Combined Fleet had gone to Lingga Roads, an anchorage in the Lingga Archipelago off Sumatra at the southwest end of the South China Sea, to be near their fuel supply since American submarines had made it increasingly difficult to get oil through to Japan. The surviving carriers had returned to the Inland Sea to train aircrews. Under the Japanese plan, dictated by a combination of geography, logistics, and the lack of adequate carrier aviation, four widely separated forces were to converge on the area of Leyte Gulf in an effort to destroy, at whatever cost, the American invasion force.
While the Japanese fleet set out for Leyte, Tennessee continued her work off the beachhead. Fire support was not required from her for the time being, but the increasing tempo of Japanese air activity in the area required her to place herself where her antiaircraft guns could assist in the defense of the assembled transports and cargo ships. In the evening of 21 October, while lying dead in the water in a smoke screen laid to protect the shipping from attacking planes, Tennessee was rammed near the stern by the transport War Hawk (AP-168). No one was injured, and the battleship's tough hull was little harmed, but her orders for a night fire-support mission were cancelled.
Matters continued to go well ashore, where the town of Tacloban was captured and declared a temporary seat of the Philippine government. Air defense, rather than shore bombardment, was still Tennessee's mission; on the morning of the 24th, enemy planes sank an LCI(L) and damaged a cargo ship before being driven off. A larger raid came in from several directions before noon, hitting American positions on Leyte. The afternoon was mostly quiet. A third attack occurred at 1700. As the enemy aircraft drew away, the battleship's executive officer passed the electrifying word that a Japanese naval task force was expected to try to enter Leyte Gulf that night. The six old battleships of the fire support groups formed columns and moved south to take up positions at the mouth of Surigao Strait, the body of water between Leyte and Dinagat which formed a southern entrance to Leyte Gulf.
The Japanese forces set in motion some days earlier were now approaching their objective. A force of four carriers and two converted hermaphrodite "battleship-carriers" was steaming south from Japan toward the Philippine Sea, while a small surface force under Admiral Shima had sailed from Japanese waters heading for the Sulu Sea. Two striking forces of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers had sailed from Lingga Roads; north of Borneo they separated. The larger force, under Admiral Kurita, passed north of Palawan (losing three cruisers to submarine attack) to transit the Sibuyan Sea and emerge to the north of Samar. A smaller force, commanded by Admiral Nishimura, turned to the south of Palawan and crossed the Sulu Sea to pass between Mindanao and Leyte. Shima's orders directed him to support Nishimura, and his force followed some miles behind Nishimura's.
If the Sho plan, as it was called, worked properly, Kurita would approach Leyte Gulf from the north while Nishimura and Shima came up from the south, catching the massed amphibious shipping in the jaws of a vise and destroying it. Ozawa's force was toothless since prolonged heavy casualties and an inadequate pilot training program had left the Imperial Navy with few experienced carrier pilots. The carrier force advancing southward from Japan carried only enough planes to make a convincing decoy; its job was to lure Halsey's 3d Fleet to the north while the converging surface forces did their job.
During the morning of 24 October, carrier planes sighted the three Japanese groups in the Sulu and Sibuyan seas. Recognizing Kurita's as the most powerful, Halsey directed the fast carriers' air groups against him as the Japanese ships steamed across the Sibuyan Sea. With no air cover, Kurita had to endure repeated bomb and torpedo attacks which forced one of his cruisers to turn back with serious damage and, as the day ended, sank the giant battleship Musashi. Complaining of the lack of air support, Kurita turned back in midafternoon; and this movement was reported to Halsey by his pilots.
Early on the 24th, a Japanese scout plane from Luzon had spotted Task Force 38 east of that island. All available landbased planes were sent against it, mortally wounding the light carrier Princeton (CVL-23). Halsey concluded that the attackers were carrier-based. During the morning, Ozawa's reconnaissance planes sighted Halsey's carriers; and an unproductive air strike was launched against Task Force 38 at 1145. In the afternoon, the Japanese carriers were sighted and, in the evening of 24 October, Halsey ordered the fast carrier force to go after them. Shortly before sunset, Kurita had again reversed course and was heading back in the direction of Leyte Gulf; Halsey had been informed of this, but exaggerated reports of damage inflicted by his planes led him to believe that the Japanese force had been more grievously hurt than was the case. Judging that Kurita was too badly crippled to do any harm to the ships in Leyte Gulf, Halsey continued north through the night. By midnight the Japanese Center Force, as the American commanders referred to it, was pushing, unobserved, toward San Bernardino Strait before turning south toward Leyte Gulf.
Halsey had not sent his planes against the surface forces of Nishimura and Shima, believing that Kinkaid's warships would be able to deal with them. This was to be Oldendorf's job; and, in the evening of the 24th, he deployed his six battleships across the northern end of Surigao Strait. Besides his capital ships, Oldendorf had available eight cruisers and 28 destroyers. These were arranged toward the flanks, the destroyers placed in suitable position to launch torpedo attacks. A great deal of shooting in support of the landing operation had already occurred, and most of the shells remaining in the battleship's magazines were thin-walled, high-capacity bombardment ammunition rather than armor-piercing projectiles. Their handling-room crews carefully arranged the projectile supply so that high-capacity shells would be ready for use against anything smaller than a battleship. The big ships were directed to hold their fire until the enemy was within 20,000 yards to insure as many hits as possible.
The sea was smooth and the moonless night intensely dark as the ships steamed slowly to and fro along their assigned lines of position. Tennessee quietly awaited her first action against her own kind.
All available 7th Fleet PT boats had been stationed in Surigao Strait and along its approaches. At 2236, the first PT's made radar contact with Nishimura. Successive torpedo attacks were launched as Nishimura entered Surigao Strait and steamed north, with Shima trailing well behind; Nishimura was annoyed but not injured, though one of Shima's cruisers took a torpedo and had to drop out of the running. Shortly before 0300, Nishimura was well into the strait and taking up battle formation when he was hit by a well-planned torpedo attack by five American destroyers. The battleship Fuso was hit and dropped out of formation; other torpedo spreads sank two Japanese destroyers and crippled a third. Another torpedo struck, but did not stop, Fuso's sistership Yamashiro. Ten minutes later, another destroyer attack scored a second hit on Yamashiro. The disabled Fuso had apparently been set afire by the torpedo that had hit her; her magazines exploded at 0338 as Arizona's had on the morning of 7 December; and the two shattered halves of the battleship slowly drifted back down the strait before sinking.
On board Tennessee, observers had seen distant flashes of gunfire, star shells, and searchlights as the torpedo boats and destroyers engaged the Japanese. Soon explosions could be heard. At 0302, the battleship's radar picked up Nishimura's approach at nearly 44,000 yards and began to track the lead ship. This was the flagship, Yamashiro. With the cruiser Mogami and destroyer Skigure, she was all that remained of the first Japanese force. At 0351 Oldendorf ordered the flanking cruisers to open fire; and, at 035B, the battleships let fly from 20,500 yards.
Tennessee's forward turret fired a three-gun salvo, and the rest of her 14-inch battery joined in. In this duel, Tennessee, California, and the recently arrived West Virginia had a considerable advantage over the other battleships. During their wartime modernization, all three had received new Mark 34 main-battery directors provided with Mark 8 fire-control radars and associated modern gunfire computing equipment. The main batteries of the other ships were still controlled by systems developed 20 years or more before and were using earlier Mark 3 radars. This handicap showed in their shooting. Firing in six-gun salvos to make careful use of her limited supply of armor-piercing projectiles, Tennessee got off 69 of her big 14-inch bullets before checking fire at 0408. The battle line had increased speed to 15 knots before opening fire, and, as it drew near the eastern end of its line of position, simultaneous turns brought the ships around to a westward heading. California miscalculated her turn and came sharply across Tennessee's bow, narrowly avoiding a collision and fouling Tenneesee's line of fire for about five minutes.
The effect of this intense bombardment was awesome. As one of Tennessee's crew described it, "when a ship fired there would be a teriffic whirling sheet of golden flame bolting across the sea, followed by a massive thunder, and then three red balls would go into the sky; up, arch-over, and then down. When the salvoes found the target there would be a huge shower of sparks, and after a moment a dull orange glow would appear. This glow would increase, brighten, and then slowly dull." Little of the enemy could be seen from Tennessee. Occasionally, the vague outline of a ship could be seen against the glare of an explosion; and, at one point, the single stack and high "pagoda" foremast of Yamashiro could be seen. Nishimura's three ships found themselves at the focus of a massive crossfire of battleship and cruiser fire. By 0400, both of the larger Japanese ships had been hit repeatedly as they gallantly attempted to return fire; Mogami, sorely damaged and her engineering plant crippled, had turned back, and Yamashiro, burning intensely, came about to follow. Oldendorf ordered gunfire to cease at 0409, after hearing that flanking destroyers were being endangered by American gunfire. Yamashiro, still able to make 15 knots after her frightful beating, was fatally hurt and, at 0419, rolled over and sank with all but a few of her crew. Mogami was able to draw out of radar range but had been slowed to a crawl. Shigure, more or less overlooked and relatively undamaged, escaped southward.
Shima's force, following along in Nishimura's wake, was unaware of what had befallen. When they were about halfway up Surigao Strait, they sighted what seemed to be two flaming ships; these were the broken halves of Fuso. Shima's two cruisers made a radar torpedo attack on what they believed to be American ships but was, in fact, Hibuson Island. "The island," as Samuel E. Morison remarked, "was not damaged." The Japanese admiral decided that Nishimura's force had met with disaster and decided on a retreat. As his ships turned to steam back, cruiser Nachi collided with limping, burning Mogami, but both vessels were able to continue southward. Collecting Shigure, the only other survivor of Nishimura's attack, Shima retired back through the strait. Oldendorf sent some of his cruisers and destroyers after him, and the patrolling PT's joined in. Fire was engaged with the stubborn Mogami, but she continued on her way only to be sunk by carrier planes shortly afterward. Destroyer Asagumo, her bow blown off by destroyer torpedoes during Nishimura's approach, was sighted and sent to the bottom with her guns still firing. Oldendorf now received reports that Kurita's "crippled" force had emerged from San Bernardino Strait and joined action east of Samar with some of the supporting escort carrier force stationed there. Plans were hurriedly drawn for another surface battle, and Oldendorf's ships turned toward the northern entrance to Leyte Gulf to defend the landing area.
Their services were, however, not needed. In an epic action off Samar, the escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts of Rear Admiral C. A. F. Sprague's "Taffy Three" put up so desperate a fight that Kurita judged the odds against him hopeless and turned back. Halsey's carrier planes and surface ships sank all four of Ozawa's decoy carriers, and a submarine finished off a damaged cruiser.
The Battle for Leyte Gulf was over. The last major Japanese naval counterstroke had been defeated, and Tennessee had had a share in the last naval action fought by a battle line.
The next several days were quiet ones for Tennessee, though the Japanese sent numerous land-based air strikes against Leyte Gulf. On 29 October, the battle-wagon's crew was told that their next destination was to be the Puget Sound Navy Yard. Late that day, she got underway for Ulithi with West Virginia, Maryland, and four cruisers. From there, she proceeded to Pearl Harbor and thence to Bremerton where she entered the shipyard on 26 November.
Unlike her last yard overhaul, this refit made no remarkable changes in Tennessee's appearance. She retained her battery of 10 40-millimeter quadruple antiaircraft mounts and 43 20-millimeter guns, but her main-battery directors received improved models of the Mark 8 radar, and the Mark 4 radars used with the 5-inch gun directors were replaced by the newer combination of paired Mark 12 and Mark 22 dual-purpose equipments. Tennessee's usefulness as an antiaircraft ship was enhanced by the addition of a model SP height-finding radar. Her pattern camouflage scheme was replaced by a dark gray finish which was calculated to provide a less conspicuous aiming point for kamikaze suicide planes, introduced during the recapture of the Philippines and becoming more and more of a fact of naval life during the winter of 1944 and 1945.
On 2 February 1945, Tennessee headed back toward the western Pacific. While she was being refitted, landings had been made in the Central Philippines and on Luzon; and the liberation of the Philippines was nearly accomplished. From its base in the Marianas, the 20th Army Air Force was hitting Japan with B-29s. Their track led past the Benin Islands, whose garrison could send an early warning to Japanese airfields and gunners in the home islands. To eliminate this danger, provide an advanced base for fighter escorts, and obtain an emergency landing field for damaged bombers, Nimitz had been directed to capture Iwo Jima before going on to the Ryukyus to seize Okinawa as an advanced base for the assault on Japan proper. Japanese resistance on Leyte delayed the landing on Luzon from 20 December 1944 to 9 January 1945, while the landing in the Bonins, scheduled for 20 January 1945, had to be deferred until 19 February. The schedule for landings in the new year was tight; but planners deemed it essential to move as expeditiously as possible since the invasion of southern Japan, scheduled for the fall, depended on the use of Iwo Jima and Okinawa as bases for a long and intensive aerial bombardment.
The Japanese had predicted that a landing would be made on Iwo Jima, and a large garrison of good troops under Lieutenant General Tadanichi Kuribayashi had done a thorough job of digging themselves in. The volcanic island's rugged terrain was heavily fortified with strongly built firing positions supported by a deep and intricate network of tunnels.
B-24 Liberators of the 7th Army Air Force bombed Iwo Jima for 74 consecutive days to soften it up for an assault, and five naval bombardments were delivered. This pounding had no significant effect except to accelerate the work of the defenders.
Steaming by way of Pearl Harbor and Saipan, Tennessee was just in time to join Rear Admiral W. H. P. Blandy's bombardment force. Blandy, an ordnance specialist, had been Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance earlier in the war. With the expert help of Lt. Col. Donald Weller, USMC, the preinvasion bombardment was thoroughly planned and was modified to meet immediate needs as the shelling progressed. The Japanese defensive tactic called for the landing troops to be stopped on the beaches before they could move inland, and a heavy belt of defenses extended along the shoreline. The mission of the bombarding ships and planes was to break down the Japanese cordon and permit the landing Marines to push through before they could be cut to pieces.
Blandy's gunfire force arrived off Iwo Jima early on 16 February 1945. The morning was cool, with occasional rain squalls, and low cloud cover hindered spotting planes. Shortly after daybreak, the warships deployed to their stations, with escort carriers in the near distance providing air coyer. Minesweepers began to clear the approaches to the island at 0645, and gunfire opened at 0707. Tennessee's assigned firing course took her along the southeastern shore of Iwo Jima, and her 14-inch guns struck the slopes of Mount Suribachi while the secondaries aimed at the high ground at the north end of the beach. Floatplanes and fighters observing gunfire over the island were followed by dark puffs of antiaircraft fire. Blandy ordered the ships to fire only when air spot could function effectively in the intermittent visibility. Whenever the airplanes could observe the results, the ships kept their fire up through the day. During the afternoon, an OS2U Kingfisher seaplane from the cruiser Pensacola (CA-24) found a Japanese "Zeke" on its tail. The observation pilot, determined to put up all the fight he could, went at the fighter though his plane was much slower and less maneuverable, and armed only with one .30-caliber forward-firing machine gun plus a second flexible gun in the observer's cockpit. Against all the odds, the "Zeke" went down in flames.
Visibility was better the next day, and the ships began to approach beaches at 0803. Beginning at 10,000 yards, Tennessee, with Idaho and Nevada, soon closed to 3,000 yards and delivered heavy direct fire to assigned targets while assault minesweeping went on. At 1025, the battleships were ordered to retire to make way for UDT's supported by LCI(G)'s. The defenders concluded that this was the beginning of the actual landing and unmasked guns and mortars in a heavy fire on the gunboats and frogmen. Casualties mounted; one gunboat was sunk, another set afire. The other LCI's returned fire but had to withdraw as the bombardment ships resumed firing against the defenses. Three damaged gunboats came alongside Tennessee to transfer their wounded to the battleship's sick bay.
Bombardment continued through the 18th under orders prescribing concentrated hammering of the landing beaches. Once more, Tennessee's big guns pounded Suribachi while her secondaries attacked gun positions overlooking the right flank of the objective area. While the heavier guns fired from ranges varying between 2,200 and 6,000 yards, the 40-millimeter battery raked other targets on cliffs at the north end of the beach and shot up the wrecks of several Japanese ships beached near the shore; these had been used as havens for snipers and machine gunners at Tarawa and in later landings, and were always treated as potential threats. Several fires were started ashore; an ammunition dump exploded spectacularly and burned for several hours. Coastal guns and antiaircraft weapons were still firing when Tennessee retired for the night, even though she and Idaho had been able to demolish many massive masonry pillboxes with direct hits.
Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner arrived off Iwo Jima at 0600 on the morning of 19 February with the main body of the invasion force and assumed command. Transports formed up in the darkness and, at daybreak, put their landing craft into the water as troops clambered down the ship's cargo nets. The loaded landing craft circled near the transports as they awaited the signal to land. Tank landing ships moved closer to shore, opened their bow doors, and launched LVT's carrying the first wave of assault troops. Shortly after daylight, a heavy bombardment was opened by the ships of Task Force 54 reinforced by the newer battleships North Carolina (BB-55), Washington (BB-56), and three cruisers lent for the occasion by Task Force 58. A total of seven battleships, four 8-inch gun heavy cruisers, and three light cruisers armed with 6-inchers laid their fire on the landing areas. At first, the fire was slow and deliberate. It was checked for an air strike, as planes from the fast carrier force delivered bombs, rockets, and napalm before the ships resumed a heavier fire. Beginning at 0850, fire was so adjusted that carrier fighters could strafe the beaches during the last few minutes before H-hour. One minute before H-hour, the turret guns ceased firing, and the secondary guns began to drop a rolling barrage just ahead of the Marines as they landed and moved inland. Shore fire control parties (SFCP) accompanied the Marines ashore; one SFCP was assigned to work with each of the supporting battleships and cruisers.
The first wave crossed the line of departure at 0830 and landed only a fraction before the scheduled 0900 H-hour. As the troops landed, the Japanese, who had waited out the bombardment in their deep tunnels, manned guns and mortars in protected emplacements and opened an increasingly heavy fire. The ships' guns were kept busy; main batteries took on gun positions as they were located while the lighter guns kept up their barrage ahead of the men on the ground. Tennessee's station was 3,000 yards from Suribachi at the southern end of the landing area, and the water around her was churned by hundreds of vehicles and landing craft as the successive waves moved in. By the end of the day, some 30,000 Marines were on Iwo Jima, and some tanks and artillery had been landed.
Ground fighting on Iwo Jima continued until 26 March, as the stubborn Japanese were slowly rooted out of the positions that they continued to defend to the last. Even before the struggle ended, though, Army engineers had patched up the island's battered airstrip; and damaged B-29s were able to seek refuge on dry land instead of ditching. Tennessee was a part of this struggle until 7 March, when she sailed for Ulithi. The days after the landing were a steady routine of call fire and counterbattery work as Japanese guns continued to reveal themselves by opening fire on the hovering support ships before being located and taken out. For this purpose, it had been found that single-gun salvoes at close range, using "pointer fire" (in which the gun is directly aimed by telescopic sight), were the most precise and effective. The notion of using a 14-inch naval gun for sniping was rather new, but it seemed to work very well.
Tennessee left the area, having deposited 1,370 rounds of main-battery fire on Iwo Jima along with 6,380 5-inch and 11,481 40-millimeter projectiles. At Ulithi, she began to prepare for the Okinawa operation. Supplies and ammunition were loaded, and the tired sailors stretched their legs and drank beer on tiny Mog Mog Island, whose principal selling point as a vacation resort seemed to be that it did not move underfoot.
Everyone involved knew that this job would be attended by special hazards. Censorship had prevented any mention of the Japanese kamikaze weapon in the American press, but it was much in the mind of the Fleet. Admiral Oldendorf, injured and hospitalized shortly after reaching Ulithi, was replaced by Rear Admiral Morton Deyo, who broke his flag in Tennessee on 15 March. On the 21st, Task Force 54, the gunfire force, was underway for the Ryukyus. As Kerama Retto, a small cluster of islands near Okinawa, was taken for use as an advanced base, the battleships arrived off the main island. With Tennessee were Colorado, Maryland, West Virginia, New Mexico, and Idaho, as well as Nevada, New York, Texas, and the venerable
Arkansas (BB-33), first commissioned in 1912 and still pulling her weight; she was the only battleship in the fleet still armed with 12-inch guns. With the capital ships came 10 cruisers, 32 destroyer and destroyer escorts, and numerous gun- and rocket-firing LCI's and LSM's.
Shortly after midnight on 26 March 1945, Task Force 54 approached Okinawa with its crews at general quarters in the darkness. At daylight, it deployed; the bombardment began at long range since the nearer waters had not yet been swept for mines. The minesweepers began to work as the ships fired on targets located by previous aerial reconnaissance. No enemy fire answered the American guns though antiaircraft shells pecked at spotting planes. Japanese submarines were in the area, and a number of ships sighted torpedo wakes, but no damage resulted. Planes from the escort carriers and from Task Force 58 mounted strikes on the island, took detailed photographs, and flew air cover for the surface ships. The need for this became quite evident early on the next morning, when a number of kamikazes came in at a time when no combat air patrol (CAP) was overhead. One suicider hit Nevada, knocking out one of her turrets; another damaged Biloxi (CL-80) at the waterline, while a third went into the water to port of Tennessee. The converted "flushdecker" Dorsey (DMS-1) was hit by a kamikaze which glanced off the ship, damaging, but not crippling, her.
This was to be the pattern of life off Okinawa during the grueling weeks to come, as the "fleet that came to stay" battled to see the land battle through while keeping itself alive. Long hours at general quarters kept all hands tense and tired as the ships prowled off the island firing at every likely target while reports of suicide attacks piled up.
The day of the landing, 1 April 1945, Easter Sunday, was bright and fair, with a gentle breeze. At 0600, Admiral Turner assumed overall command of the operation as Deyo continued to direct the gunfire ships. After a morning bombardment which Morison dsecribed as "the most impressive gunfire support that any assault troops had ever had," the landing began. H-Hour was 0830, preceded by the by-now customary intense battering by everything from battleships and carrier planes to sheaves of rockets from flat-bottomed landing craft. As the troops hit the beach, the bombardment was lifted. Early progress was good, meeting surprisingly light opposition. Veterans of earlier landings, and even the intelligence staffs, were puzzled at not having to fight the usual savage struggle to get ashore. Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, commanding nearly 100,000 defenders-three-quarters of whom were regular Army troops-had decided to make no attempt to stop the landing at the beaches. Instead, he dug his main strength into the hilly southern end of Okinawa, thoroughly fortified as Iwo Jima had been but on a much larger scale. Japanese artillery held its fire during the pre-landing bombardment so that their positions would not be given away; instead of dueling with the ships, they would save their fire for the landing troops. His general idea was to pin down the invasion force and delay it as long as possible, while a massive suicide air offensive wore down the supporting naval forces.
By 18 April, all of northern and central Okinawa was in American hands. The long fight for the Japanese citadel around the old island capital of Naha was to last much longer, and the island was not secured until 21 June. In the meanwhile, the Navy battled by day and night against the unremitting kamikaze offensive. On the afternoon of 12 April, Tennessee- instead of taking up a fire-support station-was steaming- in air-defense formation. Deyo had been warned that a heavy air attack was on the way and, during the afternoon, it arrived. Some suiciders were knocked down by picket destroyers or splashed by CAP; others, though, got through and aimed themselves at the firing, maneuvering ships. More bandits were shot down by antiaircraft fire, but Zellars (DD-777) was set ablaze by a crashing plane. Five more picked Tennessee and came in through puffs of shell bursts and the heavy smoke from Zellars. Four were shot down, the last three only hundreds of yards from the battleship. The last diver came down on the bow at a 45-degree angle, was set aflame by 5-inch fire, and plunged into the water. At the same time, an Aichi A6M "Val" dive-bomber, flying low on the starboard bow, headed directly for Tennessee's bridge. Lookouts spotted the "Val" at 2,500 yards, and every automatic weapon that could bear opened up. One of the plane's fixed wheels was torn off, and its engine began to smoke. Heading at first for Tennessee's tower foremast, the Japanese pilot swerved slightly and crashed into the signal bridge. The burning wreck slid aft along the superstructure, crushing antiaircraft guns and their crews, and stopped next to Turret Three. It had carried a 250-pound bomb which, with what was left of the plane, went through the wooden deck and exploded. Twenty-two men were killed or fatally wounded, with another 107 injured.
This was not enough to put Tennessee out of action. The dead were buried at sea, and the wounded transferred the following day to the casualty-evacuation transport Pinkney (APH-2). The ship's company turned to on emergency repairs; and, by 14 April, the ship was back on the firing line. Tennessee remained off Okinawa for two more weeks. On 1 May, Admiral Deyo shifted his flag to a cruiser, and Tennessee set her course for Ulithi. Here, the repair ship Ajax (AR-6) made repairs, cutting away damaged plating and installing new guns to replace those lost. On 3 June, the ship sailed for Okinawa, arriving on the 9th. By now, the worst was over. Army troops were making a final drive to clear the island, and Tennessee's gunfire again helped to clear the way. With the other old battlewagons, she remained in support until organized resistance was declared at an end on 21 June. By this time, the scene in the air was different. Besides Navy carrier planes, large numbers of Army Air Force fighters were now flying from Okinawan fields; and the days when everything that flew was a cause for alarm had ended-for the time being.
Vice Admiral Oldendorf was subsequently placed in command of naval forces in the Ryukyus, and Tennessee flew his flag as she covered minesweeping operations in the East China Sea and patrolled the waters off Shanghai for Japanese shipping as escort carriers sent strikes against the China coast. This was Tennessee's station until V-J Day brought an end to the war in the Pacific. When this glad day came, the big ship was operating out of Okinawa and preparing to take part in the planned invasion of Japan.
The battleship's final assignment of the war was to cover the landing of occupation troops at Wakayama, Japan. She arrived there on 23 September, then went on to Yokosuka. Tennessee's crew had the chance to look over the Imperial Navy's big shipyard and operating base and do some sightseeing before she got underway for Singapore on 15 October. At Singapore, Oldendorf shifted his flag to the cruiser Springfield (CL-66), and Tennessee continued her long voyage home by way of the Cape of Good Hope.
On the fourth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the old veteran moored at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. During those years, she had hurled 9,347 14-inch rounds at the enemy, with 46,341 shells from her 5-inch guns and more than 100,000 rounds from her antiaircraft battery.
The process of trimming the wartime Navy down to postwar size was already well underway. Tennessee was one of the older, yet still useful, ships selected for inclusion in the "mothball fleet;" and, during 1946, she underwent a process of preservation and preparation for inactivation. The work went slowly; there were many ships to lay up and not too many people to do it. Finally, on 14 February 1947, Tennessee's ensign was hauled down for the last time as she was placed out of commission.
Tennessee remained in the inactive fleet for another 12 years. By then, time and technology had passed her by; and, on 1 March 1959, her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. On 10 July of that year, she was sold to the Bethlehem Steel Company for scrapping.
Tennessee earned a Navy Unit Commendation and 10 battle stars for World War II service.