In 1916 the Admirals of the United States Navy were very pleased with the latest battleship designs to be chosen, those of the California and Tennessee. In fact they were so satisfied that they wanted four more just like them for the 1916 Program but this time jazzed up with 16-Inch guns and a slightly thicker armored belt. The names chosen for this quartet were Colorado BB-45, Maryland BB-46, Washington BB-47 and West Virginia BB-48. The class is sometimes called the Colorado Class, since she had the first number in the sequence, and sometimes the Maryland Class, since she was the first one of the class to be laid down and placed into commission. Some may wonder about Washington BB-47. She was launched but became a victim of the Washington Treaty of 1921. Under the treaty the USN could not keep her and she was expended as a target in an incomplete state.
USS Marylandwas the third warship of the USN to bear that name. The first was a 20-gun sloop purchased in 1799 and the second was an armored cruiser of 13,680 tons launched in 1903. That cruiser gave up her name to be used for BB-46 and was renamed Frederick. USS Maryland BB-46 was ordered on December 15, 1916 from Newport News Shipbuilding, the same company that had built the armored cruiser Maryland. The keel was laid on April 24, 1917. On March 20, 1920 she was launched, being sponsored by Mrs. E. Brook Lee, wife of the Comptroller of Maryland and daughter-in-law of Senator Blair Lee. On July 21, 1921 she was commissioned with Captain C.F. Preston as her first commanding officer. During trials off of Rockland, Maine she achieved 22.49 knots on the measured mile. Colorado and West Virginia would not go into service until 1922.
Marylandfollowed in the path of California and Tennessee in being an "Electric Drive" battleship. The boilers fed steam to turbines, which in turn ran four 5,424 KW alternating current electric motors, each one of which ran one shaft. Every piece of machinery on the ship from the gun turrets to potato peelers was electric powered. Enough power was provided to supply current for a city of 100,000 people. Although Maryland was the first modern 16-Inch gun battleship to take to sea for the USN, she was not the first in the world. That honor belonged to Nagato of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which went into service in 1920.
In 1922 Maryland served as the test bed for the stern mounted catapult. The success of these trials led to the installation of the catapult on the remainder of the battleship force. As the first of the new class, she immediately became the flagship of Admiral Hilary Jones and retained this distinction until 1923. During this time she transported the Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes, to Brazil in order to represent the United States in the Brazilian Centennial Exposition.
The eight 16-Inch guns were 45 caliber with 30 degrees elevation, firing a 2,100 pound shell for a maximum distance of 34,500 yards (19 miles, 32 km). Each gun weighed 120 tons with the turret weighing 1,245 tons, as much as a destroyer. Maryland was originally equipped with fourteen 5-Inch/51 single purpose, anti-ship secondary guns. Five were located in each side in casemates and two on each side, above in open mounts. Four 3-Inch/50 guns were initially carried for anti-aircraft fire. It was quickly realized that this was an insufficient anti-aircraft battery and in 1922 two of the open mount 5_inch/51 were landed to make room for four more 3-Inch/50 AA guns. In a refit in 1928-1929 the AA battery was completely reworked with installation of eight 5-Inch/25 AA guns in place of the mixed bag of 3-Inch and the remaining open mount 5-Inch/51 guns. Also the two 21-Inch submerged torpedo tubes carried by Maryland were removed and a second catapult was installed, this time on X turret.
In July to September 1925 Maryland participated in the Battle Fleet Tour to Australia and New Zealand. The crew especially enjoyed the visit as liberty in the ports of these two countries, where beer and other alcoholic beverages flowed freely in a Prohibition Free environment. In 1928 after the election of Herbert Hoover but before his inauguration, President-Elect Hoover asked President Calvin Coolidge for a loan of a battleship for a goodwill tour of South America. Ever frugal, Coolidge suggested a nice cruiser instead, since a cruiser would be more economical. However, Hoover insisted on a battleship and received the Maryland. It was in some ways, a vacation cruise. The Maryland anchored off of the Baja California for Hoover to fish from a ship’s launch. Hoover would wear a Chief Yeoman’s cap and try shuffleboard, deck golf and trapshooting, when he wasn’t in a deck chair, reading detective novels. At nights he would invite the off duty members of the crew to view one of the 50 films given to Hoover by Cecil B. DeMille, when Maryland left California. During a storm on the night of November 30/December 1, the rough sea kept Hoover up, so he used the time to explore the interior of the battleship dressed in his bathrobe. The voyage included stops at Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, where the Hoovers and their entourage transferred to the USS Utah BB-31.
As the 1920s passed into the 1930s, the USN decided to update the battleship force with the older ships undergoing modernization first. As the two Tennessees and three Marylands, known as the Big Five, were the newest battleships in the fleet, they were the last scheduled for modernization. As the older ships underwent their refits, they lost their cage masts in favor of tripods. One result of being last in line was that they still had cage masts on December 7, 1941, when the rest had gone to the tripod, excluding Arkansas. Finally in April 1939 refit funds were authorized for the class but the outbreak of World War Two curtailed any significant rebuilding of the class. In 1940 Maryland was again tasked to test new equipment. This time it was underway refueling exercises with the tanker Brazos AO-4.
In late 1940 into early 1941 Maryland was the first of the class to receive a refit. In this refit she received her characteristic anti-torpedo bulge and the installation of two quad 1.1-Inch AA cannons, placed high on the forward superstructure. On the morning of December 7, 1941 Maryland and sistership West Virginia were present. Although of the same class, the ships could be easily distinguished by the presence of the anti-torpedo bulge and 1.1-Inch mounts on Maryland and their absence in West Virginia. It is ironic that West Virginia was the next of the Big Five scheduled for a refit and to receive bulges in a refit at Bremerton, Washington. Instead Colorado was substituted and was in her refit on December 7, 1941 at West Virginia was the recipient of nine torpedoes at Pearl Harbor. With that many hits torpedo bulges would not have prevented the sinking of West Virginia in any case.
On Friday December 5, 1941 Maryland, along with the rest of the battleships put into Pearl Harbor after two weeks of war exercises. She was moored at Quay 5 inboard of Oklahoma BB-37. Since the was no hint of the impending attack, her readiness condition was 3 or X, which signified the manning of two machine guns and ready ammunition and crew for two 5-Inch/25 AA guns. Seaman 1/c Leslie Short is credited with downing one of the first Japanese aircraft during the attack. He manned a .50 MG and knocked down a Kate torpedo bomber, who had made a run on the Oklahoma. As Oklahoma took on an ever-increasing list from five torpedo hits, her crewmen would use to connecting lines to cross to Maryland, until they snapped as the Oklahoma turned turtle. Maryland was undamaged in the first wave of the attack.
The second wave contained Kates armed with converted shells from the Nagato. They were used as level bombers to try and get at the inboard ships. Maryland took two hits, which caused minimal damage. The first hit splintered on the forecastle, opening a hole two feet by twenty feet. The second hit was in the bow near frame 10. This hit caused some flooding and put Maryland down five feet at the bow. Maryland suffered less damage and less casualties (4 dead) than any other battleship in the attack. In addition to Seaman Short’s Kate, gunners on the Maryland claimed an additional four aircraft, three of which were shared with the Helena CL-50. A total of 7,450 rounds of AA ammunition were expended in the attack. In the afternoon after the attack the band of the Maryland played on the quarterdeck to keep up morale.
She did not leave Quay 5 until December 11, when she was moved to the yard for repairs that did not include dry-docking. As one of the three battleships still afloat, Maryland with Tennessee and Pennsylvania left for Bremerton on December 20. She arrived on December 30 and only received the most important upgrades, since a battleship presence was needed back in service. In February 1942 she was the first of the Pearl Harbor battleline back into service. In this period she received 38 20mm Oerlikons some in new galleries on either side of the funnels, SC radar on the foretop, her mainmast was cut down to funnel level, her turret catapult was landed, the 5-Inch/25 guns were replaced with 5-Inch/38s with splinter shielding and she received four quad 40mm Bofors mounts. She left Bremerton in a Sea Blue Ms 11 paint scheme. Maryland, along with Colorado, Tennessee and Mississippi operated out of the mainland west coast ports.
In June 1942, during the Battle of Midway, Maryland, Colorado and the Escort Carrier Long Island steamed to a position 1,200 miles northeast of Hawaii, just in case a part of the Japanese force tried to get through for an attack on the west coast. Maryland and Colorado finally returned to Pearl Harbor in August. In November 1942 the pair were sent to the South Pacific to support the convoy routes to Australia. For half a year they were on this uneventful duty in the New Hebrides. In August 1943 they returned to Pearl Harbor for a five-week overhaul and then in October Maryland went back to the New Hebrides. This time she was to see action as the command center for Operation Galvanic, the invasion of Tarawa. Maryland, Tennessee and Colorado, along with cruisers and destroyers provided the fire support. On November 20, 1943 two Japanese 8-Inch guns opened up at Maryland and were quickly silenced by ten salvos of 16-Inch from Maryland. Then she started her shore bombardment. Her 16-Inch fire disrupted the radio gear installed the ship as a command center and contributed to the lack of coordination in the assault. After this operation a battleship would not be chosen as a command center.
In December she steamed back to the west coast and began preparing for Operation Flintlock, the invasion of the Marshall Islands. On January 31, 1944 she moved to within 1,000 yards of the island of Roi-Namur at the northern tip of the Kwajalein atoll. In February it was back to Bremerton for a refit.
Her next refit in 1944 replaced the stump main cage mast with a solid tower, new directors, new radar, increased deck protection and twelve quad 40mm Bofor mounts. When she was through with this refit her displacement had risen to 34,000 tons (39,000 tons full load). On June 10, 1944 Maryland left Kwajalein to support landings on Saipan, which was assaulted on the 14th. She destroyed two coast defense guns and many facilities and troop emplacements. On the night of June 22, after the battleships anchored southeast of Saipan, a lone Mitsubishi Betty put a torpedo into the port bow of Maryland with two men lost. She made her way back to Pearl Harbor, where she was dry-docked in order to receive a new bow. During this time Bob Hope and his USO troop came aboard to entertain the crew.
In September Maryland was back in action, bombarding Peleliu. On October 1, 1944 she was reunited with her sister, the newly rebuilt West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania and Mississippi, under Admiral Oldendorf for the invasion of Leyte. On the 20th of October, the group were bombarding the Japanese positions on Leyte. The group was shifted south on October 24 to block Admiral Nishimura’s southern attack force. As this force headed by the Fuso and Yamashiro, sailed up the Surigao Strait, the battleships of Pearl Harbor were waiting. At 0130 October 25, 1944 Maryland went to general quarters. At 0300 Yamashiro was picked up on the radar of Maryland. West Virginia opened fire at 0355 at the range of 20,000 yards with Maryland following soon after. Maryland used the returns of the splashes of the shells of the battleships with better radar to range her own guns. She fired six full eight-gun salvos at Yamashiro before she ceased fire. For the rest of the month and into November the Kamikaze appeared. On November 29 a kamikaze finally hit Maryland between A and B turrets. The hit killed 29 and wounded 31 of the crew. Three days later she headed back to Pearl.
She was repaired in time to participate in the Okinawa campaign. Maryland was paired with Texas. Another kamikaze hit X turret on April 7. The turret was not penetrated but the 20mm positions on top of the turret were destroyed. She left for her third refit on April 14, 1945.
After the two kamikaze hits Maryland underwent a three-month refit on May 7, 1945. All casemate and shielded 5-Inch mounts were landed and she received eight twin 5-Inch/38 enclosed mounts, four per side. She was undergoing shakedown tests when the war ended. On April 3, 1947 she was decommissioned. She stayed mothballed until July 8, 1959 when she was sold for scrap. (History from Free State Battlewagon, USS Maryland (BB-46) by Myron J. Smith, Jr. and United States Battleships by Alan F. Pater)
Iron Shipwright has produced a 1:350 scale one piece full hull model of Old Mary, as she appeared on December 7, 1941. The model was originally going to be issued by Toms Models as a follow-on to the USS West Virginia released by Toms. Jon Warneke reworked the casemate area and added the bulges of Maryland. A new forward superstructure with the 1.1-Inch Quad AA mounts and other more subtle superstructure differences was prepared. Apparently, Toms never released the Maryland and last year Iron Shipwright acquired the production rights to the kit. The casemate/01 level was again reworked but the bulk of the parts are from the original design for Maryland by Toms. Differences between the Maryland and West Virginia are of course the presence of bulges and two 1.1-Inch Chicago Piano quad AA mounts in Maryland. There are also some other differences in the forward superstructure. The instructions are the same as found in the Toms West Virginia. This is no problem, except that they do not show the forward superstructure assembly of Maryland. The parts are easily fitted together but it would have certainly been better to have included a sheet showing the different superstructure assembly for Maryland. The rest of the assembly will follow that of West Virginia. With 1:350 scale models of Arizona and West Virginia available, Maryland is the third of the Pearl Harbor battleline available from Iron Shipwright.