USS Massachusetts BB-59 Patch – Plastic Backing
A squadron patch of the USS Massachusetts BB-59 with plastic backing
USS Massachusetts (BB-59) is the third of four South Dakota-class fast battleships built for the United States Navy in the 1930s. The first American battleships designed after the Washington treaty system began to break down in the mid-1930s, they took advantage of an escalator clause that allowed increasing the main battery to 16-inch (406 mm) guns, but refusal to authorize larger battleships kept their displacement close to the Washington limit of 35,000 long tons (36,000 t). A requirement to be armored against the same caliber of guns as they carried, combined with the displacement restriction, resulted in cramped ships, a problem that was exacerbated as wartime modifications that considerably strengthened their anti-aircraft batteries significantly increased their crews.
On completion, Massachusetts was sent to support Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa, in November 1942. There, she engaged in an artillery duel with the incomplete French battleship Jean Bart and neutralized her. Massachusetts thereafter transferred to the Pacific War for operations against Japan; she spent the war primarily as an escort for the fast carrier task force to protect the aircraft carriers from surface and air attacks. In this capacity, she took part in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign in 1943 and early 1944 and the Philippines campaign in late 1944 and early 1945. Later in 1945, the ship supported Allied forces during the Battle of Okinawa and thereafter participated in attacks on Japan, including bombarding industrial targets on Honshu in July and August.
After the war, Massachusetts returned to the United States and was decommissioned and assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in 1947. She remained out of service until 1962, when she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. Three years later, she was transferred to the Massachusetts Memorial Committee and preserved as a museum ship at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts. Some material was removed in the 1980s to reactivate the Iowa-class battleships, but the ship otherwise remains in her wartime configuration.