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USS California (BB-44)

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Authorized:3 March 1915
Laid down:25 October 1916
Launched:20 November 1919
Commissioned:10 August 1921
Fate:sold for scrap
Struck:24 February 1959
General Characteristics
Displacement:32,300 tons
Length:624.5 feet
Beam:97.3 feet
Draft:30.3 feet
Speed:21 knots
Complement:57 officers, 1026 men
Armament:12 14-inch guns, 14 five-inch guns, four three-inch guns, two 21-inch torpedo tubes

USS California (BB-44), a Tennessee-class battleship, was the fifth ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 31st state. Her keel was laid down on 25 October 1916 by the Mare Island Navy Yard, making her the only US battleship built on the West Coast. She was launched 20 November 1919 sponsored by Mrs. R.T. Zane[?]; and commissioned 10 August 1921 with Captain H.J. Ziegemeier[?] in command. She immediately reported to the Pacific Fleet as flagship.

For 20 years from 1921 until 1941, California served first as flagship of the Pacific Fleet, then as flagship of the Battle Fleet[?] (Battle Force), U.S. Fleet. Her annual activities included joint Army-Navy exercises, tactical and organizational development problems, and fleet concentrations for various purposes. Intensive training and superior performance won her the Battle Efficiency Pennant for 1921 and 1922, and the Gunnery "E" for 1925 and 1926.

In the summer of 1925 California led the Battle Fleet and a division of cruisers from the Scouting Fleet[?] on a very successful good-will cruise to Australia and New Zealand. She took part in the Presidential reviews of 1927, 1930, and 1934. She was modernized in late 1929 and early 1930 and equipped with an improved antiaircraft battery.

In 1940 California switched her base to Pearl Harbor. On 7 December 1941 she was moored at the southernmost berth of "Battleship Row" and was with other dreadnoughts of the Battle Force when the Japanese launched their aerial attack. As she was about to undergo a material inspection, watertight integrity was not at its maximum; consequently, the ship suffered great damage when hit. At 0805 a bomb exploded below decks, setting off an antiaircraft ammunition magazine and killing about 50 men. A second bomb ruptured her bow plates. Despite valiant efforts to keep her afloat the in-rushing water could not be isolated and California settled into the mud with only her superstructure remaining above the surface. When the action ended, 98 of her crew were lost and 61 wounded.

On 25 March 1942 California was refloated and dry-docked at Pearl Harbor for repairs. On 7 June she departed under her own power for Puget Sound Navy Yard where a major reconstruction job was accomplished, including improved protection, stability, antiaircraft battery, and fire control system.

California departed Bremerton, Washington, on 31 January 1944 for shakedown at San Pedro, California, and sailed from San Francisco, California, on 5 May for the invasion of the Marianas. Off Saipan in June, she conducted effective shore bombardment and call fire missions. On 14 June she was hit by a shell from an enemy shore battery which killed one man and wounded nine. Following Saipan, her heavy guns helped blast the way for the assault force in the Guam and Tinian operations from 18 July to 9 August. On 24 August she arrived at Espiritu Santo[?] for repairs to her port bow damaged in a collision with USS Tennessee (BB-43).

On 17 September 1944 California sailed to Manus[?] to ready for the invasion of the Philippines. From 17 October to 20 November she played a key role in the Leyte operation, including the destruction of the Japanese fleet in the Battle of Surigao Strait[?] on 25 October. On 1 January 1945 she departed the Palaus[?] for the Luzon landings. Her powerful batteries were an important factor in the success of these dangerous operations driven home into the heart of enemy-held territory under heavy air attack. On 6 January while providing shore bombardment at Lingayen Gulf[?] she was hit by a kamikaze plane; 44 of her crew were killed and 155 were wounded. Undeterred she made temporary repairs on the spot and remained carrying out her critical mission of shore bombardment until the job was done. She departed 23 January for Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving 15 February, for permanent repairs.

California returned to action at Okinawa 15 June 1945 and remained in that embattled area until 21 July. Two days later she joined TF 95[?] to cover the East China Sea[?] minesweeping operations. After a short voyage to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands[?] in August, the ship departed Okinawa on 20 September to cover the landing of the Sixth Army occupation force at Wakanoura Wan[?], Honshu. She remained supporting the occupation until 15 October, then sailed via Singapore, Colombo, Ceylon, and Cape Town, South Africa, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arriving 7 December. She was placed in commission in reserve there on 7 August 1946, out of commission in reserve on 14 February 1947, and sold 10 July 1959.

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