Pennsylvania file photo

USS Pennsylvania

CountryUnited States
Ship ClassPennsylvania-class Battleship
Hull NumberBB-38
BuilderNewport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia, United States
Laid Down27 Oct 1913
Launched16 Mar 1915
Commissioned12 Jun 1916
Decommissioned29 Aug 1946
Sunk10 Feb 1948
Displacement31400 tons standard
Length608 feet
Beam97 feet
Draft29 feet
MachineryFive White-Forster and one Bureau Express boilers, four Curtiss geared turbines, four shafts
Bunkerage5,780 tons oil
Power Output35000 SHP
Speed21 knots
Range8,500nm at 20 knots; 13,600nm at 15 knots
Armament4x3x14in guns, 8x2x5in guns, 10x4x40mm guns, 22x2x20mm guns, 27x1x20mm guns, 8x0.50cal machine guns, 2x21in torpedo tubes
Armor8-14in hull, 2-6in deck, 9-15in funnel, 2-18in turret, 4.5-13in barbettes, 4-16in conning tower


ww2dbaseCommissioned in 1916 to Captain H. B. Wilson, Pennsylvania soon became the flagship of Admiral Henry Mayo's US Navy Atlantic Fleet. On 6 Apr 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany and entered WW1, she was in Yorktown, Virginia, United States. She remained in the United States, however, because of the high demand for the oil tanker fleet and for fuel oil; only coal-burning battleships were sent to the United Kingdom early in WW1. She performed training and other various missions on the east coast of the United States and in the Caribbean Sea. On 22 Aug 1922, she steamed for the west coast to join the Pacific Fleet, arriving at San Pedro, California, United States on 26 Sep 1922. She visited Australia and New Zealand in 1925. Beginning on 1 Jun 1930, she was modernized, returning to the Pacific Fleet in Aug 1931. Until 1941, she engaged in fleet tactics and battle practices along the west coast, off Hawaii, off Panama, and in the Caribbean Sea. She was overhauled at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, United States on 7 Jan 1941.

ww2dbaseOn 7 Dec 1941, Pennsylvania was in a drydock in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in Hawaii. When the Japanese aircraft began the raid, her guns were among the first to fire, preventing the Japanese torpedo bombers from hitting the caisson of the drydock, but she was still strafed and bombed. A bomb destroyed a 5-inch gun mount, wiping out the entire crew, while another bomb that hit the boat deck on the starboard side also caused considerable damage. Destroyer USS Downes, in the drydock just forward of Pennsylvania, was hit by a bomb, causing one of Downes' 1,000-pound torpedo tubes to fly into Pennsylvania's forecastle. At the end of the day, Pennsylvania's crew suffered 15 men killed (including the executive officer), 14 missing, and 38 wounded. She left Pearl Harbor on 20 Dec 1941, arriving at San Francisco, California, United States on 29 Dec. She remained in San Francisco for repairs until 30 Mar 1942.

ww2dbaseBetween 14 Apr and 1 Aug 1942, Pennsylvania was engaged in training and patrol duties off the coast of California, in fear that the Japanese might attempt the bombardment or even invasion on the continental United States. After the Japanese defeat at Midway in Jun 1942, however, that fear was much alleviated. Between 14 Aug and 4 Oct, she served at Pearl Harbor, conducting gunnery exercises. Between Oct 1942 and Feb 1943, she was back in San Francisco for overhaul. After training and patrols, she set sail for the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, United States on 23 Apr, arriving at Cold Bay, Alaska on 30 Apr.

ww2dbaseBetween 11 and 12 May, Pennsylvania bombarded Japanese positions at Holtz Bay and Chicago Harbor at Attu, Alaska. On 12 May, she was attacked by the Japanese submarine I-31, whose torpedo missed Pennsylvania; although attacked and severely damaged, I-31 escaped from this engagement, but was later destroyed before she completed her war patrol. In the morning of 14 May, another torpedo was sighted toward her, also missing her by a relatively safe distance; the attacker was not found. In the afternoon of 14 May, she bombarded Holtz Bay once again in support of the ground troops in the area. She remained in the Aleutian Islands until 21 May, returned to Puget Sound Navy Yard for refitting, then returned to the Aleutian Islands on 7 Aug. On 13 Aug, she became Admiral Francis W. Rockwell's flagship; Rockwell led the Kiska, Alaska invasion force. On 15 Aug, she covered the unopposed Kiska landings. By 16 Aug, the Americans realized that the Japanese had already abandoned the island. On 23 Aug, she steamed for Adak, Alaska, then on 25 Aug for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

ww2dbaseBetween 19 and 24 Sep, Pennsylvania transferred 790 passengers from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, and then brought passengers back to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 6 Oct. Following bombardment exercises, she became the flagship of Fifth Amphibious Force's Rear Admiral Richmond Turner. On 10 Nov, she departed Pearl Harbor for the Gilbert Islands. She supported the Makin Atoll landing by bombarding Butaritari Island on 20 Nov. She also participated in the Marshall Islands campaign, bombarding Kwajalein Island from 31 Jan until 3 Feb 1944. She retired to Majuro Atoll, also of the Marshall Islands, after the Kwajalein action. On 17 Feb, she sailed close to shore and opened fire on Engebi Island, destroying Japanese defensive structures before the American forces landed on Eniwetok on the next day. Until 22 Feb, she bombarded Engebi and Parry Islands to provide naval gunfire support for the ground forces. She retired to Majuro once again on 1 Mar, then went on to Efate in the New Hebrides then Sydney in Australia for rest, replenishment, and training.

ww2dbaseOn 10 Jun 1944, Pennsylvania sailed with the force tasked with the invasion of the Mariana Islands. On the first night, the destroyer screen reported a sound contact; in the confusion of darkness, Pennsylvania and destroyer Talbot collided, requiring Talbot to return for repairs. On 14 Jun, she bombarded Saipan, Mariana Islands, followed by the bombardment of Tinian on the next day and Guam on 16 Jun. Between 17 and 25 Jun, she covered the ground actions on Saipan, and then between 12 and 14 Jul and then again between 17 and 3 Aug at Guam.

ww2dbaseBetween 12 and 15 Sep 1944, Pennsylvania bombarded Peleliu and Angaur of the Palau Islands. Between 1 and 12 Oct, she received emergency repairs at the floating drydocks at Manus, Admiralty Islands. Upon departure from Manus, she joined Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf's group, which sailed for the Philippine Islands.

ww2dbaseBetween 18 and 22 Oct 1944, Pennsylvania supported the landing and ground actions at Leyte, Philippine Islands. In the night of 25 Oct, she engaged in the Battle of Surigao Strait, in which the American battle line crossed the "T" of the Japanese fleet, sinking two battleships and three destroyers by the end of the engagement. She remained in the Leyte Gulf region until 25 Nov, fighting off regular Japanese air attacks in the mean time. She returned to the Philippine Islands in Jan 1945, supporting the Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands landing operation between 6 and 7 Jan, remaining in the area to provide naval gunfire support until 10 Jan. Between 10 and 17 Jan, she patrolled in the South China Sea, then returned to the Lingayen Gulf area until 10 Feb. She returned to the United States for overhaul and the installation of improved radar and fire control equipment.

ww2dbaseArriving at Pearl Harbor on 18 Jul following trial cruises and training, Pennsylvania departed for Okinawa, Japan on 24 Jul. En route, she bombarded Wake Island on 1 Aug. On 12 Aug, while at anchor in Buckner Bay in Okinawa, a Japanese torpedo bomber struck her, flooding many compartments and causing her to settle at the stern. On 18 Aug, she was towed out of Buckner Bay for Apra Harbor, Guam for repairs. Arriving on 6 Sep, she had a large steel sheet welded to cover the torpedo hole so that she could return to the United States on her own power. She departed Guam on 4 Oct, arriving at the Puget Sound Navy Yard under the escort of destroyer Walke and light cruiser Atlanta on 24 Oct. Shaft problems en route caused her to enter Puget Sound with only one screw turning, but she completed the journey nevertheless. Okinawa was to be her final campaign in the war.

ww2dbaseIn Jul 1946, Pennsylvania was used as a target ship during the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. After the blasts, she was tolled to Kwajalein, where she was decommissioned. She remained in Kwajalein for radiological and structural studies until 10 Feb 1948 when she was towed of Kwajalein and sunk.

ww2dbaseSource: US Navy Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) Interactive Map

USS Pennsylvania Operational Timeline

18 Jan 1911 Eugene Ely, completing a series of tests, landed a Curtiss pusher aboard the cruiser USS Pennsylvania at anchor in San Francisco, California, United States. Less than one hour later he took off and returned to Selfridge Field, San Francisco.
12 Jun 1916 Pennsylvania was commissioned into service.
20 Dec 1941 US Navy battleships Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee, damaged during the attack earlier in the month, departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for shipyards on the west coast of the United States.
29 Dec 1941 USS Pennsylvania arrived at San Francisco, California, United States for repairs.
29 Aug 1946 Pennsylvania was decommissioned from service.


Battleship Pennsylvania at anchor in the evening, circa 1916PennsylvaniaPennsylvaniaPennsylvania
See all 31 photographs of Battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)

Share this article with your friends:

 Facebook  Reddit
 Twitter  Digg
 Google+  Delicious

Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Anonymous says:
    15 Mar 2016 04:32:50 PM

    looking for any info regarding my Uncle William C. Heinzelman service aboard this ship during 1940 to around 1945.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Your Comments
Security Code


Note: We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

Search WW2DB & Partner Sites
More on USS Pennsylvania
» Holden, Carl
» Turner, Richmond

Event(s) Participated:
» Attack on Pearl Harbor
» Aleutian Islands Campaign
» Gilbert Islands Campaign
» Marshall Islands Campaign
» Mariana Islands Campaign and the Great Turkey Shoot
» Palau Islands and Ulithi Islands Campaigns
» Philippines Campaign, Phase 1, the Leyte Campaign
» Philippines Campaign, Phase 2
» Okinawa Campaign

» US Navy Report of Japanese Raid on Pearl Harbor, Enclosure E, USS Pennsylvania

Battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) Photo Gallery
Battleship Pennsylvania at anchor in the evening, circa 1916
See all 31 photographs of Battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)

Current Site Statistics

Famous WW2 Quote
"The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945