USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Battleship
The USS Wisconsin was decommissioned for the final time on September 30, 1991.
Authored By Dan Alex with JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Though numbered before the USS Missouri (BB 63), the USS Wisconsin (BB 64) actually completed construction before her sister and is part of the Iowa-class of battleships that includes the USS Iowa and USS New Jersey. These mammoth sea-going vessels were a pivotal part of US Navy supremacy during and after World War 2 despite the appearance of the aircraft carrier as the new king of the seas. She was launched from Chesapeake Bay in 1944 and traveled the West Indies before settling with the Pacific Fleet in 1944. The USS Wisconsin arrived relatively late in the Pacific Theater but took part in Task Force 38's push into Luzon, Formosa, Nansei Shoto, Saigon, Camranh Bay and French Indochina. Additional escort duties took her to operation in raids against Honk Kong, Canton, Hainan Island and Okinawa.
Like her sister ships, the USS Wisconsin's profile was dominated by the 16" main guns in her three main turrets - two forward and one aft - complimented by an additional 20 x 5" guns. The superstructure was protected by 80 x 40mm and 49 x 20mm anti-aircraft guns which accounted for several enemy kills throughout the war in support of the carrier groups. The 1982 modernization program for the Iowa-class ships saw the introduction of 32 x BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 16 x RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles added to the mix. Anti-missile and anti-aircraft defense was further augmented by the addition of 4 x 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) replacing the old AA mounts. Three Vought Kingfisher floatplanes were kept aboard and these systems served well in the roles of reconnaissance, patrol and - most importantly - search and rescue of downed pilots.
By 1945, the Wisconsin was touring the Pacific in force with her Task Force. Now in prime position, she opened up on the Japanese mainland with her 16" main guns and struck at industrial targets within. With next to little in the way of defense, the joint American and British armada could shell positions on the island at will and that they did, eventually forcing the Japanese surrender on August 15th, 1945. The world war was officially over. The Wisconsin then took part in the voyage home, repatriating hundreds of American G.I.'s in the process. She slowly made her way back to the east coast of the United States and later went on a tour of South America. Like her sister ships, she was later placed on inactive status with the reserve fleet at made home in Norfolk, Virginia on July 1st, 1948.
Following her entire class, the Wisconsin was quickly brought back into active service with a re-commissioning in 1951 due to the escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula. In the Korean War, the Wisconsin did what she does best in laying down suppressive shelling support and attacking targets of opportunity as directed against North Korean positions. In the conflict, the USS Wisconsin received her first direct hit from a 155mm howitzer fortunately resulting in little damage and no deaths. By 1952, she was back at home and being used as a training vessel and conducted several more journeys in the Atlantic until finally being deactivated once more in 1958.
Under a new president and naval direction, the Iowa-class was reactivated in 1986. This meant that the class would have to undergo refitting and modernization to be able to compete with the new threats of the Cold War. Upgrades to her radar and fire control system ensued along with the addition of new guided weaponry replacing old sighted cannons. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were also part of the program to which the Wisconsin received some eight RQ-2 Pioneer types. The system was online and ready for her nest task - the Persian Gulf War.
With the unprovoked invasion by Iraqi forces against the tiny Gulf nation of Kuwait, and oil rich land, the United Nations was set into motion to liberate the country. The Wisconsin and her sister, the USS Missouri, were the only two Iowa-class ships called to action in the region in support of naval, marine and air forces from multiple nations. Her 16" guns were once again called into play and leveled into Iraqi targets in the region along with providing on-call fire support when needed. Her UAV systems were put to good use in coordinating several 16" gun strikes as well. With the invasion repelled, the Wisconsin was on her way home for the last time in 1991 - a fitting end to a ship born to fight.
The USS Wisconsin was ordered in 1940, laid down in 1941 and launched in 1943. She was officially commissioned in 1944 and decommissioned for the final time in 1991. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 2006. She is affectionately known by the names of "Wisky" or "WisKy" and received 6 battle stars throughout her storied career on the high seas. Today, she resides in a protected condition as a floating museum in Norfolk, Virginia.
The city of Norfork was granted the USS Wisconsin as a floating museum in December of 2009 with the transfer ceremony taking place on April 16th, 2010. She is currently open for public tours, being docked next to the Nauticus museum. The main and two of her upper decks (with access to the radio room, sleeping quarters, Captain's cabin, combat engagement center and main bridge) are available as a self-guided tour while a picture/written history of the vessel is available for viewing within the Nauticus building. Norfolk holds a distinction in US Naval history as being the site of the Battle of Hampton Roads between the Monitor and Merrimack ironclads of the American Civil War. As the ironclad replaced the wooden fighting ship, so too did the steel battleship replace the ironclad in turn.