21,000 Rounds Fired: How the Battleship USS New Jersey Fought the Vietnam War

21,000 Rounds Fired: How the Battleship USS New Jersey Fought the Vietnam War
21,000 Rounds Fired: How the Battleship USS New Jersey Fought the Vietnam War  

Key Point: The USS New Jersey caused a lot of damage, firing more shells than during its service in World War II. Yet, even the addition of battleships failed to win Washington the war.

As the war in Vietnam reached its crescendo, the U.S. Navy prepared to recommission one of the most powerful ships ever to serve in the fleet. USS New Jersey, an Iowa-class battleship, was reactivated to provide naval gunfire support for American and allied forces fighting in South Vietnam. The battlewagon fired nearly twenty thousand shells during its tour of duty, bombarding enemy forces the way only a battleship can.

The USS New Jersey was the second Iowa-class battleship ever built, and the third from last U.S. Navy battleship ever built. New Jersey was part of the Navy's prewar rearmament program, as the United States began to build up its forces in response to war in both Europe and the Pacific. Construction began at the Philadelphia Naval Yard on September 16, 1940, and the ship was launched exactly one year after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1942. She was finally commissioned into the U.S. Navy on May 23, 1943.

New Jersey was built to the same specifications as her three sister ships: Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin. (Two additional ships, Illinois and Kentucky, were ordered but never completed.) Each battleship was 860 feet long, weighed 57,350 tons fully loaded with ammunition and fuel, and were powered by four General Electric steam turbines, giving them a top speed of 33 knots. The battleships were armed with nine sixteen-inch guns, twenty five-inch dual purpose guns, eighty 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and forty nine 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns.

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