USS Washington BB-56 – Plastic Backing
A squadron patch of the USS Washington BB-56 with plastic backing
USS Washington (BB-56) was the second and final member of the North Carolina class of fast battleships, the first vessel of the type built for the United States Navy. Built under the Washington Treaty system, North Carolina’s design was limited in displacement and armament, though the United States used a clause in the Second London Naval Treaty to increase the main battery from the original armament of nine 14-inch (360 mm) guns to nine 16 in (410 mm) guns. The ship was laid down in 1938 and completed in May 1941, while the United States was still neutral during World War II. Her initial career was spent training along the East Coast of the United States until after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, bringing the United States into the war.
Washington was initially deployed to Britain to reinforce the Home Fleet, which was tasked with protecting convoys carrying supplies to the Soviet Union. She saw no action during this period, as the German fleet remained in port, and Washington was recalled to the US in July 1942 to be refitted and transferred to the Pacific. Immediately sent to the south Pacific to reinforce Allied units fighting the Guadalcanal campaign, the ship became the flagship of Rear Admiral Willis Lee. She saw action at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on the night of 14–15 November in company with the battleship USS South Dakota and four destroyers. After South Dakota inadvertently drew heavy Japanese fire by sailing too closely to Admiral Nobutake Kondō’s squadron, Washington took advantage of the Japanese preoccupation with South Dakota to inflict fatal damage on the Japanese battleship Kirishima and the destroyer Ayanami, while avoiding damage herself. Washington’s attack disrupted Kondō’s planned bombardment of marine positions on Guadalcanal and forced the remaining Japanese ships to withdraw.
From 1943 onward, she was primarily occupied with screening the fast carrier task force, though she also occasionally shelled Japanese positions in support of the various amphibious assaults. During this period, Washington participated in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign in late 1943 and early 1944, the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign in mid-1944, and the Philippines campaign in late 1944 and early 1945. Operations to capture Iwo Jima and Okinawa followed in 1945, and during the later stages of the Battle of Okinawa, Washington was detached to undergo an overhaul, though by the time it was completed, Japan had surrendered, ending the war. Washington then moved to the east coast of the US, where she was refitted to serve as a troop transport as part of Operation Magic Carpet and then carrying a group of over 1,600 soldiers home from Britain. She was thereafter decommissioned in 1947 and assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, where she remained until 1960 when she was stricken from the naval register and sold for scrap the next year.