Maryland, My Maryland: She Rose from the Ashes of Pearl Harbor

By Van Halen, Sydney | Sea Classics, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Maryland, My Maryland: She Rose from the Ashes of Pearl Harbor


Van Halen, Sydney, Sea Classics


Fighting Mary's 16-in guns knew no rest until they had avenged the attack that sought to destroy her

One of the ghosts of Battleship ow at Pearl Harbor in World War II, battleship Maryland (BB-46) lived to strike at the Japanese again and again. Under attack a hundred times during the war, the famous old ship was reported sunk by the Japanese on three different occasions. But, with indomitable spirit, "Old Marf or "Fighting Mary" as she was affectionately called by ber crew, could not and would not be deterred. Battle-damaged three times in the course often months, the heavy slugger was on her way to strike again when the Japanese surrender was officially announced.

There were two predecessors to the Maryland. The first was a sloopof-war, a 380-ton vessel carrying 20 guns and 180 men, built for the United States Government by the citizens of Baltimore and purchased for the Navy in 1799. During the ship's entire career she was commanded by one man - Capt. John Rod. She served in the West Indies in the Naval war with France, 1799-1800, and was the flagship for Commodore Silas Talbot's Squadron.

Maryland carried the Treaty of Peace to France at the close of the quasi-war and was sold at Baltimore in October 1801.

The second ship named Maryland was an armored cruiser of 13,680-tons built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. Launched in 1903, the ship was commissioned in April 1905. She was attached to the cruiser and transport service during WWI. In 1916, her name was changed to Frederick, since a new monarch of the deep was soon destined to carry the name Maryland to greater glory.

The Navy building program of 1916 provided for the construction of several new battleships, one of which was to be named Maryland (BB-46). She, too, was built at Newport News and she was launched in a gala ceremony on 20 March 1920. Sponsor of the ship was Mrs. E. Brook Lee, wife of the Comptroller of the State of Maryland and daughter-in-law of Senator Blair Lee. Maryland was commissioned 21 July 1921, and was commanded by Capt. C.F. Preston, USN, the first in a distinguished line of commanding officers.

Maryland had a length overall of 624-ft; extreme beam, 97-ft 6-in; normal displacement, 32,600-tons; mean draft, 30-ft, 6-in; designed speed, 21-kts, and a designed complement of 58 officers and 1022 men. She was originally armed with eight 16-in/45-cal guns; twelve 5-in/51-cal guns; eight 3-in/50-cal guns and two 21-in submerged torpedo tubes. The maximum thickness of her armor was 16-in.

The battleship logged enough nautical miles, during her career, to take her many times around the world. In 1921, shortly after her commissioning, she was assigned as flag-ship of Adm. Hilary P. Jones, and she continued in this capacity until 1923, when the flag was shifted to Pennsylvania. Within this period, Maryland made her first visit to a foreign port when she carried Charles Evans Hughes, then Secretary of State, to Brazil as representative of the President on the occasion of the Brazilian Centennial Exposition. Here, the ship played host to the representatives of virtually every Navy in the world. In the same year, 1922, the aircraft catapult of the Maryland type was perfected, and the ship's paper, The Catapult, published by the ship's complement, drew its name from this newly developed contrivance.

For 20 years, "Fighting Mary," the cream of the Navy's battleship fleet, patrolled the seas, constantly in readiness to match her skill and power with any adversary. During those years, the ship practiced and prepared for all contingencies, not knowing that when the fateful hour arrived it would be on 7 December 1941 at Pearl Harbor.

It was a fairly quiet Sunday morning aboard Maryland on 7 December 1941. Some of the crew were preparing for liberty at 0900. Others were finishing breakfast. Just back from battle maneuvers with Maryland were other battleships, moored along Ford Island. …

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