U.S.S. Tennessee (1919)

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U.S.S. Tennessee (1919)
Hull Number: BB-43
Builder: New York Navy Yard[1]
Laid down: 14 May, 1917[2]
Launched: 30 Apr, 1919[3]
Commissioned: 3 Jun, 1920[4]
Decommissioned: 14 Feb, 1947[5]
Stricken: 1 Mar, 1959[6]
Sold: Jul, 1959[7]
This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

U.S.S. Tennessee (BB-43), the lead ship of her class of battleship, was the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 16th state of the United States of America.

Her keel was laid down on 14 May, 1917 at the New York Navy Yard. She was launched on 30 April, 1919 sponsored by Miss Helen Lenore Roberts, daughter of Albert Houston Roberts, the governor of Tennessee and commissioned on 3 June, 1920 with Captain Richard Henry Leigh in command.

Early career

Tennessee and her sister ship, California (BB-44), were the first American battleships built to a "post-Jutland" hull design. As a result of extensive experimentation and testing, her underwater hull protection was much greater than that of previous battleships; and both her main and secondary batteries had fire-control systems. The Tennessee class, and the three ships of the Colorado Class which followed, were identified by two heavy cage masts supporting large fire-control tops. This feature was to distinguish the "Big Five" from the rest of the battleship force until World War II. Since Tennessee's 14-inch turret guns could be elevated to 30 degrees-rather than to the 15 degrees of earlier battleships-her heavy guns could reach out an additional 10,000 yards. Because battleships were then beginning to carry airplanes to spot long-range gunfire, Tennessee's ability to shoot "over the horizon" had a practical value.


After fitting out, Tennessee conducted trials in Long Island Sound from 15 to 23 October, 1920. While Tennessee was at New York, one of her 300-kilowatt ship's-service generators blew up on 30 October, "completely destroying the turbine end of the machine" and injuring two men. Undaunted, the ship's force, navy yard craftsmen, and manufacturers' representatives labored to eliminate the "teething troubles" in Tennessee's engineering system and enabled the battleship to depart New York on 26 February, 1921 for standardization trials at Guantanamo. She next steamed north for the Virginia Capes and arrived at Hampton Roads on, 19 March. Tennessee carried out gunnery calibration firing at Dahlgren, Va., and was drydocked at Boston before full-power trials off Rockland, Maine. After touching at New York, she steamed south; transited the Panama Canal; and, on 17 June, arrived at San Pedro, California, her home port for the next, 19 years.

Interwar years

Here, she joined the Battleship Force, Pacific Fleet. In, 1922, the Pacific Fleet was redesignated the Battle Fleet (renamed the Battle Force in, 1931), United States Fleet. For the next two decades, the battleship divisions of the Battle Fleet were to include the preponderance of the Navy's surface warship strength; and Tennessee was to serve here until World War II. Peacetime service with the battleship divisions involved an annual cycle of training, maintenance, and readiness exercises. Her yearly schedule included competitions in gunnery and engineering performance and an annual fleet problem, a large-scale war game in which most or all of the United States Fleet was organized into opposing forces and presented with a variety of strategic and tactical situations to resolve. Beginning with Fleet Problem I in, 1923 and continuing through Fleet Problem XXI in April, 1940, Tennessee had a prominent share in these battle exercises. Yet her individual proficiency was not neglected. During the competitive year, 1922 and, 1923, she made the highest aggregate score in the list of record practices fired by her guns of various calibre and won the "E" for excellence in gunnery. In, 1923 and, 1924, she again won the gunnery "E" as well as the prized Battle Efficiency Pennant for the highest combined total score in gunnery and engineering competition. During, 1925, she took part in joint Army-Navy manœvres to test the defenses of Hawaii before visiting Australia and New Zealand. Subsequent fleet problems and tactical exercises took Tennessee from Hawaii to the Caribbean and Atlantic and from Alaskan waters to Panama.

Fleet Problem XXI was conducted in Hawaiian waters during the spring of 1940. At the end of this problem, the battleship force did not return to San Pedro; but, at President Roosevelt's direction, its base of operations was shifted to Pearl Harbor in the hope that this move might deter Japanese expansion in the Far East. Following an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard after the conclusion of Fleet Problem XXI, Tennessee arrived at her new base on 12 August, 1940. Due to the increasing deterioration of the world situation, Fleet Problem XXII-scheduled for the spring of 1941-was canceled; and Tennessee's activities during these final months of peace were confined to smaller scale operations.

Second World War

Tennessee's exploits in the Second World War were considerable, but outside of our scope. Please see the See Also section below for further information.



Dates of appointment are provided when known.

See Also


  1. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  2. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  3. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  4. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  5. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  6. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  7. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 420.
  8. Register of Officers, 1922. pp. 12-13.
  9. Register of Officers, 1925. pp. 12-13.
  10. Register of Officers, 1925. pp. 12-13.
  11. Register of Officers, 1928. pp. 12-13.
  12. Wikipedia.


Tennessee Class Dreadnought
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