USS Alabama (BB 60) is the fourth of four South Dakota class battleships laid down in the 1930s and 1940s. She was built by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Her keel was laid on February 1, 1940 and she was launched on February 16, 1942. USS Alabama was commissioned on August 16, 1942.
The design of the South Dakota class was influenced by the same limitations as the previous North Carolina class, because it, too, was intended to meet Washington Treaty limits. The chief difference was that the South Dakota class, including USS Alabama, was designed from the start to carry a 16-inch main battery. To accommodate the heavier armour needed for a 16-inch battery and keep the required weight under 35,000 tons, the waterline length of the South Dakota class was shortened from that of the North Carolina class while the beam remained the same. This change meant that the South Dakota class has a much fuller hull form than the North Carolina class. More powerful engines were also installed to maintain the same fast speed obtained by the North Carolina class. 
USS Alabama is painted grey on metal surfaces exposed to the elements with the exception of a black stack cap and black "boot topping" at the waterline. Three quarters of the ship's deck is covered with teak laid on a bituminous base and bolted to the deck. USS Alabama was built with two explosively-driven catapults on the stern port and starboard, for launching observation airplanes. One of these was removed and discarded during the ships inactive period. One catapult is still in place with a fully restored OS2U Kingfisher airplane in place.
USS Alabama is in excellent condition and retains her World War II integrity. USS Alabama was decommissioned by the navy in 1947 and remained unaltered until the time of her transfer to the State of Alabama as a war memorial in 1964. In 1983 the navy removed some spare parts from USS Alabama for the reactivation of the Iowa class battleships.
Role of the Battleship in World War II
The first modern battleship had its inception with the launching of HMS Dreadnought by Great Britain in 1906. HMS Dreadnought was the world's first all-big-gun, fast, heavily armoured capital ship and her launching made all the major ships in all other navies obsolete. The design features of HMS Dreadnought were rapidly copied by other navies and by 1914 the modern gun heavily armoured battle ship dominated naval warfare.
Battleships fought their first and only decisive action of World War I in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. Although the British fleet won the day and forced the Germans to retire to the safety of their ports, the German design and construction of battleships was shown to be superior. After the Battle of Jutland, the Germans never again risked their battleships in open conflict with His Majesty's fleet but turned instead to unrestricted submarine warfare.
After the end of World War I the battleship continued to dominate naval strategy. In an effort to reduce the expenditures required to fund new battleships, the United States, Britain, France, Japan and Italy agreed to a moratorium on new battleship construction in 1922 at the Washington Naval Conference. As a result of this agreement, new American battleships in construction were broken up and scrapped. No new battleships were built until 1936 when USS North Carolina was authorized by the Congress.
During these years the nature of naval power was changing as a result of the perfection of the airplane and the introduction of a new capital ship utilizing this new weapon--the aircraft carrier. Supporters of air power argued that the battleship as the principal capital ship of the navy was obsolete because of the long reach of naval aircraft. This view was strengthened early in World War II when the British carried out a carrier strike on the Italian battle fleet at Taranto on November 11, 1940. Subsequent Japanese carrier strikes on the American battlefleet at Pearl Harbor and airstrikes from land based aircraft on the British ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse confirmed the new order of naval strategy.
While the rise of the aircraft carrier forever altered naval strategy it did not totally eclipse the importance of the battleship. In both the Atlantic and the Pacific, old American battleships carried out extensive bombardments on enemy held shores while new generations of fast American battleships escorted aircraft carriers and provided them with a dense thicket of antiaircraft fire when necessary.
Both old and new American battleships saw heavy service during the war, providing cover for other ships and eventually bombarding the Japanese home islands in 1945. When the war in the Pacific ended on September 2, 1943, the surrender of the Japanese was signed on board the battleship USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Harbor. Although replaced by the aircraft carrier as the principal capital ship of the navy, the battleship saw important and useful service during World War II, and contributed to the eventual American victory.
USS Alabama represents American battleships that fought against Japan in World War II for the following reasons:
Cheasnau, Roger. ed. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946. New York: Mayflower Books, 1980.
McMahon, William E. Dreadnought Battleships and Battle Cruisers. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1978.
Pater, Alan F. United States Battleships--The History of America's Greatest Fighting Fleet. Beverly Hills, California: Monitor book Company, 1968.
Stern, Rob. U.S. Battleships in Action Part 2. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc. 1984.
(click on the above photographs for a more detailed view)