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BB-45 Colorado Class

The USS MARYLAND BB-46 was the first battleship completed with 16" guns for her main battery which made her the most powerful battleship in the world in 1921 when she was new. Although this ship was officially a COLORADO (BB-45) class battleship, the MARYLAND was commissioned over 2 years before the lead ship was. The Colorado class battleships (or Maryland class, for those who prefer to name ship classes after the first unit to be completed) were up-gunned versions of the preceding Tennessee class, sharing their general design and appearance, but replacing the earlier ships' twelve 14"/50 guns with eight 16"/45s mounted in four turrets on the center line, two forward and two aft.

Built with Fiscal Year 1917 appropriations, their completion was delayed by higher priorities during World War I. By early 1919 the Maryland, authorized by the 1916 naval program, was nearing completion at the shipyard at Newport News, VA. This plant had been engaged in the building of thirty- two destroyers since the war broke out and has completed six of these. The specifications called for a minimum speed of 30 knots and provided for a bonus on excess speed. The average speed of the destroyers thus far delivered is a fraction over 35 knots. The speed attained and the time of building brought the Newport News yard the maximum bonus from the Navy Department. The keel of the 33,000-ton battleship was laid after the country went to war, and although the building of destroyers had the principal attention, the work on the Maryland had progressed well and she was launched in early 1920. The battleship Maryland will . Naval officials believe that she will be the equal, if not the superior, of any battleship afloat. Another of these superdreadnaughts of this class, the West Virginia, was started on the ways at the Newport News yard in May 1919.

Two of the Colorados were the last new U.S. battleships to enter service for nearly two decades. The fourth of the class, Washington, was the only new U.S. ship cancelled under the Naval Limitations Treaty that had actually been launched. Their 32,600-ton standard displacement was slightly heavier than that of the Tennessee class, and the power and accuracy of their sixteen-inch guns represented a notable improvement.

Apart from the 16-inch gun, the most interesting feature of these ships is their motive power. They were equipped entirely with oil-burning boilers and were driven by General Electric turbines, direct-connected to generators whose output was led by cables to motors on the propeller shafts. This is the system which had been tried out with conspicuous success on the U. S. Collier Jupiter. The contract calls for a shaft horsepower of 26,800, which gave these ships a speed of 21 knots. The Colorado carried two 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes.

The multi-layered anti-torpedo side protection system, armor, turbo-electric drive, and improved fire controls of the Tennessees were repeated in the Colorados, which were typical U.S. battleships of the day: robust, heavily-armed and armored but relatively slow. During the Twenties and Thirties, the five ships of these two classes were popularly known as the Battle Fleet's "Big Five".

During the early 1930s, it was intended to modernize the "Big Five", but the only work actually done produced a modest increase in anti-aircraft guns and the associated fire control systems. Two of the Colorado class, Maryland and West Virginia were at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attack there started the Pacific War. The latter was sunk, her side protection system overwhelmed by a mass of Japanese torpedoes. Colorado was then completing an overhaul that added additional depth to the side protection, increasing her beam to 108 feet, and Maryland soon received similar improvements.

Both ships were further altered later in 1942, with their "cage" mainmasts cut down and anti-aircraft guns increased in numbers. Later, they received new after superstructures to carry better gun directors. Following Kamikaze damage in late 1944, Maryland was fitted with a sixteen-gun 5"/38 dual-purpose secondary battery, replacing the previous mixed lot of low-angle 5"/51s and high-angle 5"/25s. Colorado finished her days with the mixed second battery.

The massively damaged West Virginia was salvaged in 1942 and 1943, and received the same extensive modernization applied to the two Tennessees: hull widened to 114 feet, greatly improved fire controls and anti-aircraft batteries, a secondary battery of sixteen 5"/38 guns in twin mounts, and a generally "modern" appearance.

These ships saw the usual wartime employment of older battleships, serving as a "fleet in being" in 1942-43 and thereafter providing big-gun bombardment in support of amphibious operations. Maryland and West Virginia were present for the last fight between opposing battleships, the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October 1944. Laid up after the War, the three Colorado class ships were part of the Reserve Fleet until 1959, when they were sold for scrapping.

The Colorado class included four ships, three of which were completed. All were built at east coast shipyards.

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