These guns could fire a 2,700 pound armor piercing shell some 23 miles away. (Photo: USS Massachusetts Facebook)
The 16-inch guns on the USS Massachusetts were used to plaster enemy ships and troops during World War II but are in need of some attention to last another 75 years.
Commissioned in 1942, “Big Mamie” earned an impressive 11 Battle Stars during the War the hard way. Her mighty 16″/45cal guns (that’s a bore 16-inches wide and a barrel tube 45 calibers, or 720-inches long) silenced the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart in Morocco, then bombarded Kwajalein, Iwo Jima, the Philippines and even the Japanese Home Islands. In fact, she wore her guns down to the point that they had to be relined at least once during the war.
USS Massachusetts (BB-59) firing a full main battery salvo at Kamaishi on 9 August 1945 note the shells at the far left. (Photo: U.S. Navy Historical Command)
Decommissioned in 1947, she has been on display at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, since 1965 and an all volunteer group from the museum has spend a good deal of time cleaning the accumulated rust and layers of paint off one of her nine 16-inchers, bringing it down to the bare metal for the first time in some 75 years, then priming and painting the tube to protect it from the harsh Massachusetts weather and salt air.
It’s a dirty and thankless job, but worth it to the volunteers. (Photos: USS Massachusetts Facebook)
The 16″/45 (40.6 cm) Mark 6 guns were used on the battleships North Carolina, Washington, South Dakota, Indiana, Alabama and Massachusetts. The later Iowa-class used the slightly longer 16″/50 caliber Mark 7 guns.
Each barrel is 60 feet long and each of the nine guns weight 192,000 pounds. Barrel life was some 395 rounds.
A full charge of propellant was some 535lbs of very explosive powder held in silk bags. A reduced charge of about half that amount could be used when fighting at night to produce a very dim muzzle blast, but would cut the range down considerably.
Down to the bare metal
On goes the Kem Bond HS universal metal primer
And keeps going
And keeps going
Just 8 barrels more to go
[ USS Massachusetts BB59 Facebook . Data from Navweaps and DANFS ]