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South Dakota class battleship

Two classes of battleships have been called the South Dakota class -- one that was cancelled before launching and one that commissioned and saw action.

The first South Dakota class was authorized 4 March 1917, and keels were laid down in 1920 for six ships. However, the Washington Naval Treaty prohibited their completion, construction was halted 8 February 1922, and the unfinished hulls were sold in 1923.

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General Characteristics (designed)

  • Displacement: 43,200 tons
  • Length: 684 feet
  • Beam: 105 feet
  • Draft: 33 feet
  • Speed: 23 knots
  • Armament
    • Primary: 12 16-inch/50-caliber guns
    • Secondary: 16 five-inch/53 caliber guns, eight three-inch/50-caliber antiaircraft guns, two 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes

Construction of the second South Dakota-class began shortly before World War II. Built with Fiscal Year 1939 appropriations, they were more compact and better protected than the preceding North Carolina class[?], but had the same main battery of nine 16-inch/45-caliber guns in triple turrets. Their innovative hull design featured an internal armor belt, to protect the ships' vitals against 16-inch shells, and outboard propeller shafts that extended further aft than the inboard ones. They also had improved anti-torpedo side protection and more powerful engines, the latter being necessary to drive their shorter hulls at the designed 27-knot speed. Compared with her three "sisters", South Dakota had extra command facilities and two fewer 5-inch twin gun mounts.

These ships were all completed between March and August 1942, providing a welcome reinforcement to the Navy's surface battle fleet at a critical stage of World War II. In 1942 and 1943, they stood guard in the Atlantic against possible sorties by German battleships, took part in the invasion of North Africa and in operations around Guadalcanal. During the latter campaign, South Dakota was damaged in a gunnery engagement with a Japanese force that included the old battleship Kirishima[?]. As the U.S. went on the offensive in the Central Pacific, they joined in escorting the fast carrier task forces, a job for which their heavy anti-aircraft gun batteries were well-suited. They also employed their main battery guns in shore bombardment, and were kept ready to form battle line in case their Japanese opposite numbers should appear.

All four South Dakota-class battleships went into reserve after World War II and saw no further active service. When they were disposed of in the early 1960s, Massachusetts and Alabama became museum ships. The other two were sold for scrapping.


General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 35,000 tons (standard)
  • Length: 680 feet
  • Beam: 108.2 feet
  • Powerplant: 130,000 horsepower steam turbines
  • Speed: 27 knots
  • Armament
    • Main: Nine 16-inch/45-caliber guns in three triple turrets
    • Secondary: Twenty five-inch/38-caliber guns in ten twin mountings (South Dakota had eight twin mountings)

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