Magazine article Sea Classics

Fighting Mary: USS MARYLAND BB-46

Magazine article Sea Classics

Fighting Mary: USS MARYLAND BB-46

Article excerpt

She gave the US Navy its first 16-inch guns and proved their worth seven Battle Stars later BY DALE GRUNNING

The guns of Jutland were still smoking in 1916 when, on the other side of the Atlantic, the American Congress approved the funding of four new 31,000-ton battleships boasting the largest guns ever fitted to an American dreadnought - eight 16-in/45 rifles, each capable of hurling a 2000-lb armor piercing shell 23-mi with amazing accuracy. For secondary armament she boasted twelve 5in/51-cal guns, plus eight 3-in/50cal guns and two submerged 21in torpedo tubes. Her maximum armor was 16-in thick. Also equipped with a very advanced aircraft catapult, and a host of other innovations, the four ships of the CoJorado-class - Colorado, Maryland, Washington and West Virginia - were state of the art in every way. Indeed, with the order for the four new battleships, the US Navy could boast of a fighting fleet second to none with 16 capital warships of better than 26,000-tons either at sea, building, or having been recently commissioned.

Unfortunately, the Great War of 1914-1918 would be history by the time the Colorados felt the lash of seawater against their hulls. Also, in the postwar rush to disarm, instead of the four ships intended, only three would be completed and commissioned. Although 75% complete, sister-ship Washington (BB-47) was ordered destroyed on the stocks as the result of the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty, leaving the three new sisters a promising, if materially reduced, battleship squadron.

Although the three Coiorado-class ships would each serve the nation with pride valor, USS Maryland (BBwent on to earn special throughout her long distinguished career. The ship to bear the name of the of Maryland, the first had a 20-gun 380-ton sloop of purchased by the citizens of for the Navy in 1799. second Maryland was a 13,600-ton armored cruiser in 1905. But, in 1916, her name was changed to Frederick so that Maryland be carried to greater glory one of the powerful new under construction.

Featuring many advances in firepower and overall performance, USS Maryland (BB-46) was the pride of the Navy when laid down 24 April 1917 by Newport News Shipbuilding Co., Newport News, Virginia. Launched 20 March 1920, sponsored by Mrs. E. Brook Lee, and commissioned 21 July 1921 with Capt. CF. Preston in command, the hand- some new dreadnought with its sharply raked bow and sleek profile found herself in great demand for special occasions following a successful east coast shakedown.

Maryland appeared at Annapolis for the 1922 Naval Academy graduation and at Boston for the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Fourth of July. Between 18 August and 23 September, she paid her first visit to a foreign port, transporting noted Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes to Rio de Janeiro for Brazil's gala Centennial Exposition. The next year, after fleet exercises off the Panama Canal Zone, Maryland transited the canal in the latter part of June to join the west coast battle fleet. So successful were her new aircraft catapults that the crew named the ship's newspaper "The Catapult"

"Mighty Mary" as she quickly became known to her hand-picked volunteer 1100 crewmen, made a goodwill voyage to Australia and New Zealand in 1925, then transported President-elect Herbert Hoover on the Pacific leg of his tour of Latin America in 1928. In a major 1928 refit, her eight as-built 3-in/50in AA guns were replaced by an equal number of 5-in/25-cal guns and new Vought seaplanes. Throughout these years and the 1930s, she served as a mainstay of fleet readiness through tireless training operations, winning many gunnery and engineering laurels in the process. For 20-yrs, she patrolled the seas amassing enough miles to have steamed around the world several times.

In 1940, Maryland and the other battleships of the battle force changed their bases of operations to Pearl Harbor. When Japan struck on 7 December 1941, Maryland and sister West Virginia (BB-48) (dubbed the "WeeVee") were present at battleship row flanking Ford Island. …

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