Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Salute To A Great Lady

The USS Maryland, named for my home state, was commissioned in 1921. The Mighty Mary was 624 feet long and weighed in at 32,800 tons, and carried eight 16 inch guns. At one time, the Maryland and her sisters, the Colorado and West Virginia, were among the most powerful warships in the world.

She is shown here, in a more peaceful time.

The Maryland passing through the Panama Canal.

December 7, 1941...the day of infamy. The Maryland is at the left center of the photo, just to the right of the overturned Oklahoma.

Seaman Leslie Short was addressing Christmas cards near his machine-gun on the USS Maryland when the attack on Pearl Harbor began; Short brought the first of the Maryland’s guns into play, shooting down one of two torpedo planes that had just released a torpedo against USS Oklahoma.

Berthed inboard of Oklahoma, and thereby protected from the initial torpedo attack, the Maryland managed to bring all her antiaircraft batteries into action. During the fighting the Maryland was struck by two armor-piercing bombs. The first struck the forecastle awning and made a hole about 12 feet by 20 feet. The second exploded after entering the hull at the 22-foot water level at frame 10. The latter hit caused flooding and increased the draft forward by five feet. The Maryland continued to fire and, after the attack, sent firefighting parties to assist her sister ships.

The Pacific Fleet was calmly resting at anchor on that Sunday morning when they were attacked. More than 360 Japanese aircraft from 6 aircraft carriers struck the fleet without warning. When the smoke settled that day, the USS Arizona had been blown in two, the USS Oklahoma had capsized, the USS Maryland, USS Tennessee, USS California, and USS West Virginia had been sunk. The USS Nevada had taken a severe beating while making a run for the open sea, and was finally beached at Hospital Point, and lastly, the USS Pennsylvania took damage while sitting in drydock. The Pacific Fleet was in shambles.

Within days of the attack, the Maryland had been moved to a dry-dock where temporary repairs were made. With temporary repairs completed the Maryland sailed for the United States, arriving at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on December 30. Just eight weeks later, on February 26, 1942 the Maryland had not only been fully repaired but modernized and was ready for service. The first of the Pearl Harbor battleships was now ready to fight...and itching for some payback.

For two years the Maryland served with distinction, serving as part of the back up force for the battle of Midway, she bombarded Japanese held islands, most notably Saipan. Yet ship and crew were still itching for retribution for the cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor. They would get their chance on October 25, 1944.

A Japanese force built around two battleships, the Yamashiro and Fuso, and a number of escorting vessels sailed up a narrow stretch of water called Surigao Strait. At the far end of the straight they ran into a trap, set by Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf. Attacked initially by American cruisers and destroyers, the Japanese force came on. As they did they ran headlong into six American battleships, five of which had been hauled out of the mud at Pearl Harbor: the West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania, and the Maryland. It was a one-sided fight, and the Japanese took a severe mauling, but Pearl Harbor had been ships the Japanese thought they had sunk three years earlier.

After the war, the Maryland and her sisters went their seperate ways, some stayed in service, some acted as training ships, while others were retired, or added to the mothballed fleet. The Maryland, a veteran of Pearl Harbor, and recipient of 7 battle stars was mothballed, and eventually sent to Alameda, Californina. She was decommissioned in 1959 and cut up for scrap.

The bell of the USS Maryland at the Statehouse in Annapolis. 67 years ago today, this bell frantically rang out the call of 'General Quarters' to announce to the crew that they were at war.

1 comment:

June said...

Great post...good history any day, but especially this!