After the Battle of Midway the Japanese retained superiority in battleships (courtesy US losses at Pearl Harbor and the nearly simultaneous loss of the British ships Prince of Wales and Repulse), cruisers and destroyers. The massive Japanese battleship Yamato had been launched barely a week after Pearl Harbor and had been deemed “operable” by Admiral Yamamoto in May. It is hard to understand why Yamato did not at least sortie with one of the Guadalcanal task forces. Musashi had been launched in August of 1942 but spent months getting prepared.
IJN Fuso was built in Japan and commissioned in November 1915, but did not take part in any actions during World War I. She was mostly used as a training ship in the first two years of World War II. She was sunk at the Battle of Surigao Strait in 1944.
IHN Yamashima was built in Japan and commissioned in November 1917 as a sister to the Fuso. Yamashima did not take part in any actions during World War I. She was mostly used as a training ship in the first two years of World War II. Like Fuso, she was sunk at the Battle of Surigao Strait in 1944.
For the staff of the Imperial Navy Fuso and Yamashima were a challenge – could the ships keep pace with the rest of the task force, sail to within a few miles of Henderson field, be useful in a night battle, contribute to the bombardment and retreat safely? Was their participation worth the oil it would consume? The answer was apparently ‘no’.
IJN Ise and Hyugo were originally built after the two Fuso class ships and intended to resemble them. After Midway, Ise and Hyugo were converted to be hybrid light aircraft carriers during 1943, but never really served in this role. They both survived being used as bait in the Battle of Engano in late October of 1944. Both eventually sunk in port during 1945
IJN Kongo was actually built as a battlecruiser in Great Britain from 1911 to 1913. She was rebuilt as a fast battleship in Japan during 1935. Kongo and Haruna bombarded Henderson field on the night of October 13, firing 973 14 inch shells. She also was present for the Battle of Santa Cruz Island October 25-27.
IJN Hiei was built in Japan as a battlecruiser of the Kongo class and commissioned in 1914. She was eventually rebuilt as a battleship between 1937 and 1941 and participated in all the naval battles of the Guadalcanal campaign. She was badly damaged by naval gunnery November 13 and further damaged by air attacks November 14. She was sunk by Japanese destroyers that night.
IJN Haruna was built in Japan as a battlecruiser of the Kongo class and commissioned on April 19 1915 the same day as the Kirishima. She was eventually rebuilt as a battleship first in 1926 and then in 1933. With Kongo, Haruna bombarded Henderson field on the night of October 13. She also was present for the Battle of Santa Cruz Island October 25-27.
IJN Kirishima was built in Japan as a battlecruiser of the Kongo class and commissioned on April 19 1915 the same day as the Haruna. She was eventually rebuilt as a battleship between 1927 and 1934. She participated as an escort for the carriers in the first three battles of the Guadalcanal campaign. She and Hiei engaged American cruisers and destroyers on November 13. On November 14 she heavily damaged South Dakota, but was in turn heavily damaged by Washington. Kirishima capsized and sank on November 15.
IJN Nagato was built in Japan and commissioned in November 1920. She was Admiral Yamamoto’s flagship for the Pearl Harbor attack. She acted as a training vessel after Midway (June 1942) and was eventually sent to Truk in the middle of 1943. She survived the war and was sunk during atomic bomb testing in 1946.
IJN Mutsu was built in Japan and commissioned in October 1921 as a sister ship to the Nagato. Mutsu accompanied carriers at the battles of both Midway in June and the Eastern Solomons in August 1942. She returned to Japan in early 1943 and suffered a serious magazine explosion in June which destroyed the ship and cost over 1100 lives.
By November 1 the United States had four battleships near Guadalcanal: Colorado, Maryland, Washington and South Dakota. North Carolina was being repaired. Fortunately, battleships were not critical.
USS New Mexico (BB-40) was commissioned in December 1917. Like several of the older, slower battleships, she escorted troop transports to Fiji, patrolled the southwest Pacific and took part in the bombardment of Kiska before joining bombardment and air protection groups during the Central Pacific offensive.
USS Mississippi (BB-41) was commissioned in December 1917. She was transferred from Iceland in December 1941 to the Pacific, but spent most of 1942 escorting convoys between Seattle and San Diego.
USS Idaho (BB-42) was commissioned in March 1919 and was in Iceland when World War II started. She was transferred to the Pacific in January 1942 and served in the Alaskan campaign during 1943.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) was commissioned in June of 1920. She was damaged at Pearl Harbor, but repaired by February 1942 and on active service by May. She was withdrawn from duty for modernization and rejoined the fleet for operations against Kiska in June of 1943.
USS California (BB-44) was commissioned in August of 1921. She was the flagship of the Pacific fleet for 20 years. She suffered major damage at Pearl Harbor, but was repaired and rejoined the fleet in May 1944.
USS Colorado (BB-45) was commissioned in August of 1923. She started operating with the Maryland near Fiji in November (see below).
USS Maryland (BB-46) was commissioned in July of 1921. She was damaged at Pearl Harbor, but was repaired and ready for duty by March of 1942. She participated at the Battle of Midway and was operating with the USS Colorado out of Fiji in November. I am not altogether certain why Maryland and Colorado did not sortie with South Dakota and Washington in November.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) was commissioned in December of 1923. She was struck by seven torpedoes at Pearl Harbor as well as several bombs. She was ultimately repaired and refitted and returned to active service in the Pacific in October 1944.
USS North Carolina (BB-55) was commissioned in May 1941 and served primarily with the USS Enterprise’s battle group throughout the Solomons campaign. She was torpedoed on September 15 1942 and was being repaired at Pearl Harbor during November.
USS Washington (BB-56) was commissioned in May 1941 and served in the Atlantic from December 1941 to July 1942. She was refitted at Brooklyn and transferred to the Pacific arriving in Tonga on September 14. She served as Admiral Lee’s flagship and escorted convoys to and from Guadalcanal until the battle November 14. Washington was basically undamaged, and remained active in the Solomons campaign until April 1943.
USS South Dakota (BB-57) was commissioned in March 1942 and arrived in Tonga on September 4. She struck a reef and had to be repaired. She left Pearl Harbor in October 1942 with the USS Enterprise’s battle group and joined the USS Hornet’s battle group off Espiritu Sancto and participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 26. South Dakota was hit by one 500 pound bomb, but collided with the destroyer USS Mahan (DD-364) on October 30. With most damage repaired, South Dakota joined USS Washington and the four destroyers of Admiral Lee’s task force on November 13 and went into action the next night. South Dakota was damaged in the battle and was ultimately sent to New York in December for repairs.
USS Indiana (BB-58) was commissioned in April 1942 and joined Admiral Lee’s force on November 28, 1942.
USS Massachusetts (BB-59) was commissioned in May 1942, fitted out and trained for five months and fought in the initial North African landings. She transferred to the Pacific in March 1943.
USS Alabama (BB-60) was commissioned in August 1942, fitted out and trained for eight months and served for five months in the Atlantic before transferring to the Pacific.
USS Iowa (BB-61) was not commissioned until February 1943. USS New Jersey (BB-62) followed in May 1943, USS Missouri (BB-63) in June 1944 and USS Wisconsin (BB-64) in April 1944.