Tennessee-class battleship

USS Tennessee (BB-43)
Class overview
Name: Tennessee-class battleship
Operators: United States Navy
Preceded by: New Mexico class
Succeeded by: Colorado class
Built: 1916–1921
In commission: 1920–1947
Planned: 2
Completed: 2
Retired: 2
Preserved: 0
General characteristics [1]
Type: Battleship
  • 600 ft (180 m) pp
  • 624 ft (190 m) oa
  • 97 ft 5 in (29.69 m) (original)
  • 114 ft (35 m) (rebuilt)
Draft: 30 ft 2 in (9.19 m)
Installed power:
  • 26,800 shp (20,000 kW) (original)
  • 29,000 shp (22,000 kW) (rebuilt)
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Range: 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) @ 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Capacity: 4,893 tons (1,467,900 gallons) oil
  • 57 officers, 1,026 enlisted (peacetime)
  • 1,407 (wartime)
  • Belt: 8–13.5 in (203–343 mm)
  • Barbettes: 13 in (330 mm)
  • Turret face: 18 in (457 mm)
  • Turret sides: 9–10 in (229–254 mm)
  • Turret top: 5 in (127 mm)
  • Turret rear 9 in (229 mm)
  • Conning tower: 11.5 in (292 mm)
  • Decks: 3.5 in (89 mm)

The Tennessee class was a class of battleships of the United States Navy. The class comprised two ships: Tennessee and California. They were modified versions of the New Mexico class featuring improved underwater armor for better torpedo protection and 30-degree elevation on their main batteries, as opposed to 15 degrees for the New Mexicos.[1] Both ships were extensively rebuilt after being damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and survived World War II to be scrapped shortly after.

Class history

Tennessee and her sister ship California, already incorporating many of the innovations in the New Mexico class, were the first American battleships built to a "post-Jutland" hull design. As a result of extensive experimentation and testing, her underwater hull protection was much greater than that of previous battleships; and both her main and secondary batteries had fire-control systems.

Since Tennessee's 14-inch (356 mm) turret guns could be elevated to 30 degrees—rather than to the 15 degrees of earlier battleships—her heavy guns could reach out an additional 10,000 yards (9,100 m). Because battleships were then beginning to carry airplanes to spot long-range gunfire, Tennessee's ability to shoot "over the horizon" gave her a material tactical advantage.[2]

The Tennessee class, and the three ships of the Colorado class which followed, were identified by two heavy cage masts supporting large fire-control tops, twin funnels and no secondary gun casemates in their hulls.[1] These features distinguished the "Big Five" from the rest of the battleship force (older battleship classes had had their noticeably lighter cage masts replaced with tripod masts during inter-war modernization and were built with single funnels and casemates in their hulls).

In the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tennessee was damaged by two bombs and California was sunk by two torpedoes and two bombs. Both ships (and West Virginia of the Colorado class) were extensively reconstructed into essentially new vessels. Their hulls were 'bulged' for better stability, superstructures were scrapped down to the deck and completely rebuilt, their secondary battery of 5-inch (127 mm) 51-caliber anti-surface and 3-inch (76 mm) 50-caliber anti-aircraft guns was replaced by a uniform secondary of 5 in (127 mm) 38-caliber dual-purpose guns, and they added a number of 20 and 40 mm anti-aircraft weapons. The twin funnels were replaced by a single funnel flared into the superstructure tower, similar to the newer South Dakota class.

General characteristics

The Tennessees had a 624-foot (190 m) overall length and a beam at the waterline of 97 feet (30 m). They displaced 32,600 long tons (33,100 t) at normal load and 33,590 long tons (34,130 t) at deep load and had a draft of 30.5 feet (9.3 m). They were designed with a clipper bow to make them dryer in rough weather. However, also as in previous classes, the secondary battery was located in the upper hull, which proved to be excessively wet for effective use. This would be remedied in the Colorado class which followed.[3][4]

Place of Tennessee class in U.S. Navy planning

The Tennessee class was part of the standard-type battleship concept of the U.S. Navy, a design concept which gave the Navy a homogeneous line of battle (it allowed planning maneuvers for the whole line of battle rather than detaching "fast" and "slow" wings). The standard-type battleship concept included long-range gunnery, moderate speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph), a tight tactical radius of 700 yards (640 m) and improved damage control. The other standard-type battleships were the Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Colorado classes.

By the naval planning theory of the U.S. Navy, influenced strongly by Alfred Thayer Mahan, the ability to chase down enemy warships was of secondary importance to being able to win a battle, as naval objectives were seen to be more easily accomplished by seizing targets. The theory, thus, was that advancing on a target would force the enemy's naval forces to come out, give battle and be destroyed by the more heavily armed and armored battleships of the U.S. Navy.

Ships in class

Ship Name Hull No. Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
Tennessee BB-43 New York Naval Shipyard 14 May 1917 30 April 1919 3 June 1920 14 February 1947 Struck 1 March 1959; Sold for scrap 10 July 1959
California BB-44 Mare Island Naval Shipyard 25 October 1916 20 November 1919 10 August 1921 14 February 1947 Struck 1 March 1959; Sold for scrap 10 July 1959



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