Monday, October 21, 2019

USS Illinois (BB-65) in World War II

USS Illinois (BB-65) in World War II USS Illinois (BB-65) was a battleship that was laid down during World War II (1939-1945) but never completed. First proposed as a ship of the massive Montana-class of battleship, Illinois was re-ordered in 1940 as the fifth vessel of the US Navys Iowa-class. As work commenced, the US Navy found that it had a more pressing need for aircraft carriers than battleships. This led to efforts to convert Illinois into a carrier. The resulting designs proved impractical and construction resumed on the battleship but at a slow speed. In early August 1945, with Illinois only 22% complete, the US Navy elected to cancel the ship. Some debate ensued regarding completing the hull for use in nuclear testing, but the cost proved prohibitive and the decision was made to break up what had been built. A New Design In early 1938, work commenced on a new battleship design at the request of US Navy General Board head Admiral Thomas C. Hart. At first conceived as a larger version of the earlier  South Dakota-class, the new battleships were to mount twelve 16 guns or nine 18 guns.  As the design was revised, the armament changed to nine 16 guns. In addition, the class anti-aircraft complement underwent several evolutions with the majority of its 1.1 weapons being replaced with 20 mm and 40 mm guns. Funding for the new ships came in May with the approval of the Naval Act of 1938. Designated the  Iowa-class, construction of the lead ship,  USS  Iowa  (BB-61), was assigned to the New York Navy Yard. Laid down in 1940,  Iowa  was to be the first of four battleships in the class. Fast Battleships Though hull numbers BB-65 and BB-66 were originally slated to be the first two ships of the new, larger  Montana-class, the passage of the Two Ocean Navy Act in July 1940 saw them re-designated as two additional  Iowa-class  battleships named USS  Illinois  and USS  Kentucky  respectively. As fast battleships, their 33-knot speed would allow them to serve as escorts for the new  Essex-class  carriers that were joining the fleet.   Unlike the preceding  Iowa-class ships (Iowa,  New Jersey,  Missouri, and  Wisconsin),  Illinois  and  Kentucky  were to employ all-welded construction which reduced weight while increasing hull strength.  Some debate was also given as to whether to retain the heavy armor scheme initially intended for the  Montana-class. Though this would have improved the vessels protection, it would also have greatly extended construction time. As a result, standard  Iowa-class armor was ordered. One adjustment that was made in the design was to alter elements of the armor scheme to improve protection against torpedo attacks.   USS Illinois (BB-65) - Overview Nation:  United StatesType:  BattleshipShipyard:  Philadelphia  Naval ShipyardLaid Down:  December 6, 1942Fate: Scrapped, September 1958 Specifications (Planned) Displacement:  45,000 tonsLength:  887.2 ft.Beam:  108 ft., 2 in.Draft:  28.9  ft.Speed:  33  knotsComplement: 2,788 Armament (Planned) Guns 9 Ãâ€" 16 in./50 cal Mark 7 guns20 Ãâ€" 5 in./38 cal Mark 12 guns80 Ãâ€" 40 mm/56 cal anti-aircraft guns49 Ãâ€" 20 mm/70 cal anti-aircraft cannons Construction The second ship to carry the name USS Illinois, the first being an Illinois-class battleship (BB-7) commissioned in 1901, BB-65 was laid down at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on January 15, 1945.  The delay in the start of construction came as a result of the US Navy putting the battleship on hold following the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. In the wake of these engagements, the need for additional aircraft carriers became apparent and these types of vessels took priority in American shipyards. As a result, naval architects began exploring plans for converting Illinois and Kentucky (under construction since 1942) into carriers. The finalized conversion plan would have produced two vessels similar in appearance to the Essex-class. In addition to their aircraft complement, they would have carried twelve 5 guns in four twin and four single mounts. Assessing these plans, it was soon determined that the converted battleships aircraft complement would be smaller than the Essex-class and that the construction process would take longer and cost more than was practical.   Due to this, the decision was made to complete both vessels as battleships but very low priority was given to their construction.  Work moved forward on Illinois in early 1945 and continued into the summer.   With victory over Germany and the impending defeat of Japan, the US Navy ordered construction on the battleship to cease on August 11. Struck from the Naval Vessel Registry the next day, some thought was later given to using the vessels hulk as a target for nuclear testing. When the cost of completing the hull to permit this use was determined and concluded to be too high, the decision to break up the vessel on the ways was made. Scrapping of Illinois incomplete hull commenced in September 1958.

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