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What Is the Largest US Battleship Ever Built?

What Is the Largest US Battleship Ever Built?

World War 2 (WW2)

During World War 2, the main Japanese islands were shelled by a Naval force for the first time in history, by none other than the USS Missouri. In 1945, the Missouri took out strategic targets. Such as the Nippon Steel Company, which had been producing a significant chunk of Japan’s steel. 

Just a couple of years later, the Missouri set out again to serve in the Korean war and here, did something similar; she took out a major steel factory [iron works]. 

Though the Korean War is an almost forgotten war for today’s generation. Largely being overshadowed by World War 2 and the Vietnam War, it was actually Missouri’s busiest, embarking on 2 tours.

Considering that Missouri’s three magazines only held 1,220 16-inch projectiles. The fact that Missouri fired a total of over 7,000 16-inch projectiles over the Korean War is incredible. The Missouri’s effort in Korea, while unnoticed by most, overshadows the 400 projectiles she fired in WWII and the 700 in the Gulf War.

Furthermore, the Missouri is capable of firing more than just 16-inch rounds. As when also counting 5-inch rounds, the total number of projectiles she fired is closer to 19,000 in that war.

The Missouri evolved over the decades of her service, improving and adjusting to developments in Naval warfare. During WW2, there weren’t enough beds for everybody to sleep on, and had to resort to “hot racking”, a system in which one person slept in a bed or rack then when they went to work, a crewmate slept in the same rack.

By the Korean War, Missouri’s crew size dropped a bit as they removed the 20 millimeter guns on board.

Decades later, in the Gulf War, the crew size dropped dramatically down to about 1600. As a result of the removal of all the entire aircraft guns, the quad forties, and four of the five inch gun mounts.

Missouri fired her first Tomahawk missile at Iraqi targets at 01:40 am on 17 January 1991, followed by 27 additional missiles over the next five days. What Is the Largest US Battleship Ever Built?

And the addition of Harpoon and Tomahawk Missile Launchers. Harpoon Missiles can fly up to 75 nmi at 500+ mph.

The defense mechanisms of Missouri are impressive.

On the front of the turrets, it’s almost 19 inches solid steel, consisting of a two-inch plate and a 17-inch solid cast. At Missouri’s conning tower, where the pilot watches conditions and relays commands, there’s a 17.3-inch solid cast. 

There’s an armored box as well, that protects all of the vitals of the ship. This protective box contains all the engine and boiler rooms, medical equipment. Moreover, everything else necessary to keep the ship afloat and crew safe. This box is made of solid steel armor over six inches on the top, and then it tapers down the sides to protect everything in a series of watertight compartments.

The Missouri is also completely self-sufficient, as they can make anything they need, with the exception of ammo.

There’s huge machine shops on board, and a 25-inch lathe to make all sorts of machinery parts. They can repair anything they need. There’s a post office, two barber shops, a brig, and the laundry. Anything you could need to run a city, Missouri has. She also has launch pads for helicopters. 

Back in World War II, the Missouri was capable of launching small aircraft as well. Just like a little catapult, the planes would be launched into the sky. And when they returned, they’d land in the water next to the ship, which would then pick them up with a crane and put them back on deck. By the Korean War, the Navy switched to helicopters. We have pictures of them landing the helicopters in Korea on turns one and two, which is quite neat to see.

To fire Missouri’s guns each turn is a little different, different sizes, between 77 and about 110 men per turret, average out around 94. 

Forecastle of USS Missouri (BB-63) in heavy seas c1951. Note her paintings on top of her main first turret.

Despite needing around 100 people to fire. Missouri’s max efficiency firing rate is only a round every 30 seconds per gun.

A significant upgrade Missouri got over the years was to the type of fuel its engines used. The Navy shifted from the stuff that is currently leaking out of the Arizona. For example, to an upgraded Marine diesel fuel. The upgraded fuel burns a little cleaner, a little more refined. But requires a 600-pound steam plant that releases high-temperature steam.

There are eight boilers that are located in four boiler rooms in addition to four engines for four massive propellers that power the ship. There’s five- blade and four-blade propellers that measure between 17 and 18 feet.

A close-up view of the stern of the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63), showing the ship’s propellers and rudders. The five-bladed inboard and four-bladed outboard propellers convert 212,000 shaft horsepower into thrust while the rudders. Located slight inboard of the center propellers, take advantage of the flow of water through the tunnel and the wash from the propellers.

Written by Meghan Rathbun Executive Director at Battleship Cove

What Is the Largest US Battleship Ever Built?

Meghan Rathbun
Executive Director at Battleship Cove & Former USS Missouri Curator
USS Missouri BB-63 : USS Missouri’s Curator Meghan Rathbun on Missouri’s History!

What Is the Largest US Battleship Ever Built?