"We commissioned the Massachusetts only six months ago: never have I seen a more responsive and hard working ship’s company than this one. You have met every demand I have made. We have the finest ship'’ spirit possible. We are ready. If it becomes our duty to open fire tomorrow, never forget the motto of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts whose name we proudly bear. That motto is: Ense Petit Placidam Sub Libertate Quietem. With the Sword She Seeks Peace Under Liberty. If we wield the sword, do so with all of the strength of this mighty ship to destroy quickly and completely." (Captain Whiting, Commander USS Massachusetts to crew on November 7, 1942, USS Massachusetts, Techinical Reference 2, 2004, by Randall S. Shoker, at pages 7 & 8.)

The USS Massachusetts BB59 did have to draw her sword the next day and in her case it was nine swords, each of 16-inches in diameter, as her main battery went into action against another battleship. Of the ten battleships built by the USN after the Washington and London Treaties only three ever engaged in combat with an opposing battleship. None of the most modern Iowas ever did. Those three were the Washington of the North Carolina Class and the South Dakota and Massachusetts of the South Dakota Class. Massachusetts has the distinction as the only one to engage a foe in the Atlantic and her foe was the Jean Bart, of the Vichy French fleet.

It was a one sided contest in that Jean Bart was immobile in dock and only had one quadruple 15-inch gun turret operational. Although she had radar in place it was not operational and even her main range finders were not available. In spite of this she still fought the Massachusetts. Jean Bart never hit Massachusetts but was pummeled in return. The first hit on the French ship came at 0725 with the 16-inch shell detonating in a six-inch magazine, which fortunately for the Jean Bart was empty at the time. In all Jean Bart was hit five times by 16-inch shells. The third strike did not explode but ripped plating jammed the only operational main gun turret, rendering the Jean Bart helpless.

The above account is just a distillation of the action at Casablanca during the landings of Operation Torch found in seven pages of text, photographs, and maps in USS Massachusetts, Technical Reference 2 by Randall S. Shoker. Many of you might be familiar with Mr. Shoker’s first volume on the USS North Carolina. (Click for Review of USS North Carolina, Technical Reference 1) This new volume published 2004 by Oxford Museum Press follows the same format as the author’s earlier work. Through text, photographs, drawings and maps, Mr. Shoker thoroughly examines Massachusetts in detail with great benefits for the modeler.

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The volume is 64 pages in length plus covers. The front cover features a color photograph of Massachusetts and the back cover has two color profiles of her, one of her in Ms. 12 Mod worn May through October 1942 and the other in Ms. 22 worn October 1942 through January 1947. The title starts with a history of the ship. First of all the design of the class was covered as it represented the pinnacle of USN battleship design under the constraints of the Washington and London Treaties. The two ships of the North Carolina Class were the first modern design but their armor scheme left something to be desired. The answer was the shorter South Dakota design. It was designed to allow concentration of armor with a shorter length and shorter superstructure than the earlier design. However, the overriding benefit was the shorter design allowed for thicker armor in 35,000-ton design. Two negatives of the design were that the design was very crowded, especially late in the war with all of the additional crewmembers needed for the AA guns. The other problem was the need for more power than the preceding design. Due to the shorter length, the underwater hull form was not as efficient as the North Carolina and therefore 135,000 shp were needed to reach the same 27 knots speed that the earlier design achieved at 115,000 shp. The historical portion of this work contains design information such as just presented but the bulk of it is on the Casablanca action. In February 1943 Massachusetts was transferred to the Pacific and the historical portion concludes with an overview of her operations for the last two years of the war.

Starting on page sixteen the title goes into a combat systems analysis and presentation. One by one, gunnery and sensor systems are examined in text and photographs. Main guns –5 pages; Secondary guns – 3 pages; AA guns – 4 pages; Radars – 4 pages; Directors – 4 pages. Almost every system is also covered by interior profiles or detailed drawings in addition to the textual and photographic coverage.

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At page 36 the coverage shifts to superstructure and fittings. Changes in superstructure, such as the bridge appearance are covered through photographs with annotations. The photographic coverage also covers the changing AA fit that increased throughout the war. Particular deck fittings such as the breakwater, wildcats, chock, roller chock, bitt, stanchion and deck hatch have photographs devoted to them. Following this are seven pages of portraits of the Massachusetts as her appearance evolved from 1942 to 1946. Most of these are full page fine quality photographs.

There are five pages on the Kingfishers, a page on armor, one on machinery which includes a schematic, statistical data and one on camouflage schemes worn by the ship. The production quality of the pages is very high. Thick high gloss pages are used throughout. The photographs that accompany this review were taken with a camera, not scanned and accordingly do not reflect the quality of the photographs in this volume, which are significantly higher. In fact, you’ll notice a yellow glow in many of the photographs taken for this review. This was a reflection of the early morning sunlight off of the glossy paper used in the volume.

As with his first volume on the North Carolina, Mr. Shoker includes a very special bonus with USS Massachusetts, Technical Reference 2 in the form of a separate 1:350 scale detailed plan and profile. The original was done by Tom Walkowiak of Floating Drydock in 1:192 scale and shows the Massachusetts in 1945. There is full coverage on this large insert. Not only is there a full side profile, there are front and rear face profiles. In addition to the full overhead plan of the main deck, 14 other levels have their own overhead plans. Topping it off are drawings of the hull lines at about 40 different stations.

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This volume is perfect for the modeler. With excellent photographs of systems and fittings, color profiles of camouflage schemes, and a complete 1:350 scale plan and profile, USS Massachusetts, Technical Reference 2 is a superb value to any ship historian or modeler even remotely interested in the Massachusetts or other members of the class. With Trumpeter releasing a 1:350 scale model of North Carolina in 2005, I hope you already have Randall Shoker’s volume on that ship. With USS Massachusetts and USS Alabama still in existence as museum ships, I would not be surprised to see a plastic 1:350 scale of this class appear in the near future. Prepare yourself now! You can’t go wrong with USS Massachusetts, Technical Reference 2. This title is available from the Squadron Shop as well as most major specialist vendors, as well as directly from the publisher, Oxford Museum Press (www.oxfordmuseumpress.com).