Seventy-five years ago today, however, a different mindset held sway as the South Dakota-class battleship Alabama (BB-60) was launched at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Perhaps the ethos behind her conception and construction could be thought of as "Concentrated Lethality."
Two years and two weeks after her keel was laid at Norfolk Navy Yard, Alabama was launched on February 16, 1942. Commissioned in August, she taunted the Kreigsmarine in the North Atlantic for a year before earning her 9 battle stars in the Pacific, serving as protection for aircraft carriers and providing shore bombardment. Although her concentrated lethality in the form of nine 16-inch guns, 20 five-inch guns and numerous 20mm antiaircraft guns made Alabama a devastating machine of war, it was her air search radar that proved pivotal in the run-up to the June 1944 battle later called the "Marianas Turkey Shoot," from which Japanese naval air power would never recover.
Perhaps one of the greatest testaments of her effectiveness is that, despite repeated action against enemy forces during the war, during which over 1,200 16-inch shells were fired and 22 enemy aircraft were shot down, the only casualties incurred during the war were accidental. Like many of the most powerful and effective ships ever to sail the seas as a part of the most unrivaled navy ever assembled, however, Alabama's operational life was short. It was not because of obsolescence or any other reason that she was consigned to mothball status after the war. It was just that there were no worthy adversaries still afloat.
|USS Alabama (BB-60), seen here in September 1974, is permanently docked at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. (US Navy/ PH1 Richard Pendergist, National Archives via NHHC Flickr)|