USS Wisconsin: This U.S. Navy Iowa-Class Battleship Is Still Unstoppable

USS Wisconsin Battleship Iowa-Class

USS Wisconsin: This U.S. Navy Iowa-Class Battleship Is Still Unstoppable

The USS Wisconsin (BB-64), an Iowa-class battleship, celebrated its 80th "Oak Anniversary" with a time capsule ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia. This historic warship, launched in 1943 and serving notably in World War II and the Gulf War, has been preserved as a museum ship.


Summary: The USS Wisconsin (BB-64), an Iowa-class battleship, celebrated its 80th "Oak Anniversary" with a time capsule ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia. This historic warship, launched in 1943 and serving notably in World War II and the Gulf War, has been preserved as a museum ship. Its notable service includes extensive operations in the Pacific during World War II and later missions in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. The USS Wisconsin is renowned for its formidable armament, including 16-inch guns and modern missile systems added during the Cold War. Decommissioned in 1991, it remains a significant piece of naval history and a testament to American naval prowess.

USS Wisconsin


USS Wisconsin Marks 80 Years with Time Capsule Ceremony in Norfolk

A World War II U.S. Navy veteran turned 80 on Tuesday – and there was quite the celebration in Norfolk, Virginia. It was all the more notable as this particular vet also served in the Gulf War in 1991. Of course, it wasn't a sailor, but rather was the U.S. Navy's Iowa-class battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64), which was commissioned 80 years ago on April 16 at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

To commemorate the ship's "Oak Anniversary," a time capsule ceremony was held on Tuesday, and it included artifacts from the battleship. Items included a flag from a ship, a menu from the 1944 commissioning dinner, part of the deck from the 1940’s, a commemorative coin, one of the 80th-anniversary hats, an engraved sailor's lighter, battleship coffee beans, and letter from Virginia Sen. Mark Warner into a time capsule.

The capsule will be opened on the vessel's 100th anniversary in April 2044.

The warship, which remains one of the largest and final battleships built for the U.S. Navy, has been preserved as a museum ship.

"It's one of the most iconic landmarks that we have here in the city of Norfolk," said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander.

A Fighting Battleship

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) was the third Iowa-class battleship to be constructed during the Second World War. Built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she was launched on December 7, 1943 – the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor raid. During the conflict, she served exclusively in the Pacific but later would see service that would take her around the globe.

As with her sister ships in the Iowa-class, BB-64 was designed as a "fast" battleship that mixed speed and firepower, which enabled her to maintain pace with a carrier strike force, while still sleek in design so as to be able to travel through the Panama Canal. She displaced 45,000 tons, was just under 900 feet in length, she had a crew of some 1,600 men.

Sponsored by the wife of then Wisconsin Governor Walter Goodland, her motto was "Forward for Freedom."

Well Armed

Armed with a main battery of 16-inch guns that could hit targets nearly twenty-four miles away with a variety of artillery shells, the Iowa -class battleships were among the most heavily armed U.S. military ships ever put to sea.

USS Wisconsin

USS Wisconsin's main battery consisted of nine 16-inch/50 caliber Mark 7 guns in three-gun turrets, which could fire 2,700-pound (1,225 kg) armor-piercing shells some 23 miles (42.6 km). Secondary batteries consisted of twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns mounted in twin-gun dual purpose (DP) turrets, which could hit targets up to nine miles (16.7 km) away.

Post-World War II Service

After the Second World War, the USS Wisconsin was briefly decommissioned, and then reactivated for the Korean War, and provided naval gunfire support duties against enemy bunkers, command posts, and artillery positions. Wisconsin earned five battle stars for her World War II service and one for the Korean War.

When she joined the United States Navy reserve fleet – the "Mothball Fleet" – in 1958, it was the first time the United States Navy was without an active battleship since 1895. However, in the 1980s, then-President Ronald Reagan called for a 600-ship U.S. Navy in the 1980s, and all four Iowa-class battleships – including BB-64 – were reactivated.

The Iowa-class battle wagons were upgraded with new combat systems that replaced many of the ships' smaller five-inch guns with a launcher for Harpoon anti-ship missiles, thirty-two Tomahawk cruise missiles and four Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS). Initially equipped with 40mm anti-aircraft guns, during the Cold War those were replaced with missiles, electronic-warfare suites, and Phalanx anti-missile Gatling gun systems.

USS Wisconsin

Along with her sister Iowa-class battle wagon, USS Missouri (BB-63), USS Wisconsin actually employed their new weapons in combat operations when she was deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Storm. During the campaign the two World War II-era battleships launched Tomahawk missiles at Iraqi targets and conducted naval fire missions to convince the Iraqi Army that the coalition forces would engage with an amphibious assault, tying up thousands of Iraqi units.

Decommissioned But Not Scrapped

In 1991, USS Wisconsin was decommissioned again, yet along with USS Iowa (BB-61) she was maintained in the United States Navy reserve fleet in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996 for potential use as a shore bombardment warship.

USS Wisconsin

In March 2006, the Secretary of the Navy exercised the authority to strike the two World War II battle wagons from the Naval Vessel Register (NVR). Along with the other Iowa-class battleships, Congress ordered that while each could be converted into museums, none could be altered in any way that would impair their respective military ability. Theoretically, Wisconsin and the other Iowa-class warships could be reactivated for service if the need came – yet that is unlikely to happen.

However, it does ensure that the warship can be enjoyed for years to come, and serves as a lasting memorial to those sailors who served onboard. Today, USS Wisconsin is preserved as a museum ship in Norfolk, Virginia. She is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and remains one of the last American battleships to fire her guns in anger.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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