Battleship Casualties in the United States Navy, 1898-1989
Beginning in 1895 with the second class battleships Texasand Maine, the United States Navy would
eventually put into commission 61 battleships, more than any other fleet save the
Royal Navy. By the time the four sisters
of the Iowa Class were stricken from
the Navy List, nearly 110 years later, various American battleships had seen wartime
service in six wars: that with Spain in 1898, the world wars of 1917-1918 and
1941-1945, Korea, 1950-1953, Vietnam, 1968-1969, and Operation Desert Storm,
1991, not to mention occasional more limited operations, such as the Vera Cruz
landings in 1914.
In the course of their active careers, these vessels
suffered the loss of over 2,400 sailors killed in the line of duty.
Some 260 men perished when the Maine exploded on February 15, 1898, an incident which, despite
strenuous – and often strident – claims to the contrary has still not been adequately
Nearly 300 other battleship sailors were killed in various shipboard
accidents, about half of them in turret explosions,
July 15, 1907
June 12, 1924
April 19, 1989
Nearly 2,000 American battleship men were killed by Japanese
air attack. Most of these men, about
1,500, perished at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Of those who died that day, over a thousand
were crewmen of the USS Arizona (BB-39)
and the rest were serving aboard the other six battleships present. In the course of the 44 months of war that
followed Japanese air attacks, notably kamikaze,
killed over 400 American battleship men. In addition, approximately 30 American
battleship sailors were killed by “friendly fire” during enemy air attacks.
During World War II and later conflicts American battleships
were occasionally struck by enemy coast defense fire during shore bombardments. Several of these resulted in casualties, but
it seems that only one man was killed; On February 17, 1945, during the preliminary
bombardment of Iwo Jima , the USS Tennessee (BB-43) received a hit on one
of her 5”/38 gun mounts, which killed Seaman First Class Leon Andrew Giardini
and wounded four others.
Apparently only 38 American battleship sailors were killed in
surface combat. This occurred off Guadalcanal on the night of November 14-15, 1942. This was a wildly confusing action that saw
the South Dakota (BB-57) and the Washington (BB-56) take on HIJMS Kirishima. During the action the “Sodak” was struck by numerous enemy 5-, 6-,
and 8-inch rounds, plus one – possibly two – 14-inchers. The 14" round – or rounds – that South Dakota collected on this occasion make
Kirishima the only enemy battleship ever
to lay a glove an American one.
But then, there were only two other occasions when American
battleships engaged enemy ones.
The first encounter between an American battleship and an
enemy one occurred on November 8, 1940, just a week before the Guadalcanal
shoot-out, when the USS Massachusetts (BB-59), sister to the South Dakota, swapped rounds with the French Richelieu at Casablanca, to the misfortune of the latter; the “Big
Mamie” received one hit in return during this action, but it was from a French
shore battery, not the battleship, and she suffered no casualties from the
third, and last time, American battleships engaged enemy ones occurred during
the Battle of Surigao Strait (October 24-25, 1944), during which Mississippi (BB-41), Maryland (BB-46), West Virginia (BB-47),Tennessee (BB-43),
California (BB-44), and Pennsylvania (BB-38) engaged the
Japanese Fuso and Yamashiro, with most of the work being
done by the first three plus flocks of cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats
that were in support; Pennsylvania apparently
didn’t even get a chance to fire. None of the American ships
Note: Lest any
Lone Star Staters take offense [trust us, it’s happened] over the phrase
“second class battleship” used to describe the Texas of 1895, it’s not a put down, but the official designation of
the ship, which was what might be described as a “lite battleship.” She was replaced in the fleet by the “first
class” battleship Texas (BB-35), ordered in 1910 and
commissioned in 1914, which is now preserved at San
"If there was ammunition . . . ."
In August of 1847, having lost the battles of Contreras and San Antonio to the advancing American forces, the Mexican Army fell back further into the interior. On August 20, 1847, about 2,600 Mexican troops made at stand at the old Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria de Churubusco, in the village of the same name, guarding a bridge over a small river. They were soon beset by 8,500 U.S. troops under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott. The resulting Battle of Churubusco was a see-saw fight that saw the Mexican defenders – who included a very determined battalion of Irishmen, many of them deserters from the American ranks – repeatedly beat off American attempts to storm across the bridge.
But after about four hours of hard fighting, a fresh American attack secured the bridge, and then succeeded in capturing virtually the entire Mexican force.
Although the Mexican Army of the Center had been virtually destroyed, with some 260 men killed and nearly 1,300 captured, it had inflicted a heavy price on the attackers; American losses were nearly 150 killed and some 850 wounded.
As the American troops occupied the Mexican positions, they came upon the badly wounded Maj. Gen. Pedro Maria Anaya. Maj. Gen. David Twiggs, who had commanded the division that overran the village, demanded that Anaya tell him where the Mexican ammunition was stored, to which the dying officer replied, “If there was ammunition, you would not be here, General.”