National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
USS Wisconsin, Norfolk, Virginia

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


[photo]USS Wisconsin
Courtesy of the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office

Measuring 887 feet 3 inches, the USS Wisconsin is nationally significant as a representation of the culmination of American naval engineering in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as for her participation in World War II, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War.

Authorized by Congress on July 6, 1939 and launched on December 7, 1943, the Wisconsin is one of four completed Iowa-class fast battleships, among the last built by the United States Navy. Freed from the weight and armament constraints of the Washington Treaty of 1922 and the London Conference of 1930, the Iowa-class ships are the largest American battleships ever built. Originally intended to engage Japanese surface vessels during WWII, the Iowa-class ships were built for speed and were heavily armed and armored.

Wisconsin received her first commission on April 16, 1944, when the ship embarked on several months of sea trials before joining combat forces in the Pacific as part of Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s Third Fleet. These ships took on additional duties escorting and screening Allied aircraft carriers from Japanese air strikes. The Wisconsin also contributed to the war effort by providing gunfire support for amphibious landings and shore troops. In 1945, Wisconsin became part of Admiral Raymond Spruance’s Fifth Fleet, supporting the landings at Iwo Jima, and firing her main batteries for the first time at Okinawa. For her service during WWII, Wisconsin earned five battle stars.

USS Wisconsin
Courtesy of the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office

The Korean War caused the Navy to reactivate the Iowa-class vessels, and the Wisconsin was recommissioned on March 3, 1951. The Wisconsin served as flagship for Task Force 77, providing naval gunfire support for the Republic of Korea Army Corps and the United States First Marine Division. In addition to direct fire, Wisconsin provided support to the ground forces through illumination rounds, which proved critical to fending off several nighttime assaults by the forces of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of North Korea. On April 1, 1952, Wisconsin was relieved from duty by her sister ship, the USS Iowa, and returned to the United States with a bronze battle star.

During the 1980s, U.S. defense spending increased, and the Navy responded by expanding their ship registry and modernizing their aging fleet. The Iowa-class battleships were reactivated, and refit with Tomahawk Land Assault Missiles (TLAM) and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The Wisconsin lost its anti-aircraft batteries in favor of Phalanx Close In Weapons Systems and missile launchers, and was recommissioned on October 22, 1988.

With the break-out of war in the Persian Gulf, the Wisconsin’s Commanding Officer served as the Navy’s Strike Warfare Commander for planning the TLAM assaults against Iraq. As a result, the Wisconsin launched 26 TLAMs, and then turned to naval gunfire support, bombarding Iraqi positions in southern Kuwait. On February 25, 1991, Wisconsin’s fire obliterated Iraqi armor entrenched at Kuwait International Airport, clearing the way for troops of the American First Marine Division. Wisconsin also assisted the Royal Saudi Marine Battalion in its advance to Kuwait. The Iowa-class vessels contributed greatly to coalition victory, as the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf prevented ships with smaller batteries from coming within range of Iraqi positions. Her guns were last fired on February 28, 1991, when a cease-fire was called. Iraqi troops on Faylaka Island who had not received word of the cease-fire eventually surrendered to one of the Wisconsin’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

[photo]USS Wisconsin
Courtesy of the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office

With the conclusion of Desert Storm, the USS Wisconsin was decommissioned. On December 7, 2000, the Navy moved the vessel to a dock adjacent to Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, where she opened as a museum vessel and remains open for tours. In 2009, the City of Norfolk, Virginia, assumed ownership and control of the ship.

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Visit the U.S.S. Wisconsin.

at One Waterside Drive
Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone: (757) 664-1000

Memorial Day - Labor Day: Open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Rest of the year: Closed Mondays, Open Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon - 5 p.m.