USS Alabama: The U.S. Navy Battleship That Seemed Unstoppable

USS Alabama South Dakota-Class Battleship
February 21, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: U.S. NavyNavyMilitaryUSS AlabamaBattleshipsSouth Dakota-Class

USS Alabama: The U.S. Navy Battleship That Seemed Unstoppable

The USS Alabama was the final of four powerful South Dakota-class battleships built for the US Navy in the 1930s. Though designed earlier, treaty restrictions delayed her construction until World War II. Alabama saw action protecting Allied convoys and in the Pacific, notably providing early warning against Japanese air attacks.

Summary: The USS Alabama was the final of four powerful South Dakota-class battleships built for the US Navy in the 1930s. Though designed earlier, treaty restrictions delayed her construction until World War II. Alabama saw action protecting Allied convoys and in the Pacific, notably providing early warning against Japanese air attacks. Continually upgraded with new weapons and radar, she decommissioned in 1947. USS Alabama is now a museum and National Historic Landmark in her namesake state.

USS Alabama: A Battleship Like No Other 

As the first post-Washington Naval Treaty battleships to enter U.S. Navy service in the 1930s, the South Dakota-class played a vital role in World War II. Designed a decade prior, limitations imposed by the Five-Power Treaty delayed their construction. However, when several signatories abandoned the treaty, the U.S. built four ships: USS South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Alabama.

Following the implementation of the “Escalator Clause” of the Second London Naval Treaty, Congress approved the development of 35,000-ton battleships. The preceding North Carolina-class ships were constructed with the same tonnage. In fact, both classes also were fitted with the same main battery of nine 16-inch/45 caliber Mark 6 guns in three-gun turrets. However, the South Dakota battleships were designed to rectify other design flaws and, as a result, were more survivable and compact than their predecessors

USS Alabama (BB-60) was the fourth and final South Dakota-class battleship constructed for the U.S. Navy. Launched in 1942, she was powered by four General Electric steam turbines and equipped with a main battery of nine 16-inch guns, alongside a powerful anti-aircraft battery.

USS Alabama was continually upgraded throughout her wartime career. New anti-aircraft weaponry, modern radar sets like the Mark 3 and Mark 8, and expanded light anti-aircraft batteries significantly enhanced her capabilities by 1943.

USS Alabama's Operational History

After shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay, Alabama protected lend-lease convoys to Britain and Russia.

Her first major Pacific engagement was in the Gilbert Islands in 1943. During the Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign, Alabama's radar gave critical early warning of incoming Japanese aircraft, allowing Navy fighters to intercept the attack.

USS Alabama decommissioned in Seattle in 1947 and was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register fifteen years later. In 1964, she was transferred to her namesake state for preservation as a museum.

Her cinematic career includes appearances in films like USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. Alabama was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

About the Author: Maya Carlin 

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin