Battleships South Dakota Class

Battleships of the American South Dakota class and action with USS Massachusetts in the F2P game WoWs.
History, construction, missions, specifications and pictures of the USS battleships South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts and Alabama in World War II.

USS Massachusetts in the F2P game WoWs
South Dakota-class battleship USS Massachusetts in the F2P game WoWs.

South Dakota Class (South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts, Alabama).
Type: battleships (built between 1939 and 1942).


Battleship South Dakota
Battleship South Dakota
The design of the South Dakota class was developed at the same time as the Washington class of 1939. Unlike the latter, they were even supposed to be armored against artillery fire from 16-inch (406-mm) guns.
However, since they were still subject to international tonnage restrictions, it was difficult to increase the weight of the armor while maintaining the same maximum speed of 28 knots and the nine 16-inch (406-mm) guns compared to the Washington class.
Weight could be saved by reducing the length of the waterline, but the improved armor protection required a wider hull, which in turn required stronger engines to achieve the same speed as the previous class.

The size of the engine room was successfully reduced, saving weight due to the shorter citadel. The shorter hull also allowed for better handling and maneuverability of the battleship.
The weight thus saved was used to improve the armor protection and to divide the ship better against torpedo hits.

In many respects, the South Dakota class battleships proved to be the most cost-effective capital ships built within the tonnage limitations of the Washington treaty, as they combined excellent armor with heavy armament and a useful speed. Their main disadvantage was that they were too slow to operate together with the fast fleet carriers. But this could not be foreseen at the time of their construction.


South Dakota (BB-57) was laid down in July 1939 at the New York shipbuilder’s Camden shipyard. She was launched on 7 June 1941 and was put into service in March 1942.

Indiana (BB-58) was laid down in November 1939 on Newport News, was launched on 21 November 1941 and was commissioned in April 1942.

Massachusetts (BB-59) was laid down in July 1939 near Bethlehem on the Fore River, was launched on 23 September 1941 and entered service in May 1942.

Alabama (BB-60) was laid down in February 1940 at the Norfolk Navy Yard, launched on 16 February 1942 and entered service in August 1942.


South Dakota was dispatched to the Pacific Ocean immediately after their training was completed, but in August 1942 she ran onto a coral reef near Tangarebu. Her repairs were completed in time for her to participate in the Battle of Santa Cruz. She reported a record 26 Japanese aircraft shot down on October 26, 1942, when anti-aircraft shells with proximity fuses were used for the first time.

damaged battleship 'USS South Dakota'
After the battles of Guadalcanal the damaged battleship ‘USS South Dakota’ and two destroyers lay next to the repair ship ‘Prometheus’ at Noumea.
Their next action took place during the naval battle of Guadalcanal in the night of November 14-15, 1942, and shortly after the battle began, the battleship suffered a total power failure when the shock wave from the firing of its own 5-inch (127 mm) cannon penetrated the ring line.
Without radar, fire control and lighting, South Dakota drifted towards the Japanese fleet line and was fired upon by the Japanese battle cruiser Kirishima and the heavy cruisers Takao and Atago. She was saved only by the intervention of the battleship Washington, which constantly fired at the Japanese searchlights and knocked them out. As a result, South Dakota was able to partially restore power and defend itself.

She was hit 27 times by 14-inch (356-mm), 18 times by 8-inch (203-mm), six times by 6-inch (152-mm), one 5-inch (127-mm) and one shell of unknown caliber. Although the damage was considerable, it was only superficial.
The ship lost 38 dead and 60 wounded and the repair of the damage took 62 days.

USS South Dakota
USS South Dakota in service in August 1943 with the British Home Fleet.
In 1943, she was then deployed as reinforcements to the British Home Fleet in the Atlantic Ocean for the possible defense against German capital ships in the Arctic, including in particular against the German battleship Tirpitz.

After her return to the Pacific, she participated in operations against the Philippines in 1944 and against Iwo Jima and Okinawa the following year. Towards the end of the war she fired on the Japanese home islands.

Indiana replaced her damaged sister ship South Dakota after the Battle of Guadalcanal and covered the landings on Tarawa in 1943, and in February 1944 she was severely damaged in a collision with the battleship Washington and had to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
She was back in action in time for the operations against Hollandia off New Guinea, then participated in assisting the landings on the Mariana Islands and then in the shelling of Truk.
With her sister ships she was in action in the Battle of the Philippines Sea in June 1944 and in 1945 she covered the landings on Iwo Jima and finally bombard the Japanese home islands.

Massachusetts was involved in the allied invasion of French Northwest Africa (Operation Torch), fighting the French battleship Jean Bart. After a refit, she went to the Pacific in 1943, where she participated in operations against the Gilbert Islands, Kwajalein, Truk, the Caroline Islands and Okinawa. She was also involved in the battles in the Philippine Sea and the Gulf of Leyte.

Alabama, like South Dakota, served with the British Home Fleet in 1943 before being sent to the Pacific. In February 1944, in a skirmish against Japanese aircraft, one of its 5-inch (127-mm) anti-aircraft gun positions accidentally fired into the back of another, claiming several lives.
Like her sisters, she took part in the battles in the Philippine Sea and the Gulf of Leyte, covering operations against the Marianas and participating in the shelling of the Japanese home islands.

All four ships were taken out of service at the beginning of 1947. In July 1954 a study was launched to find ways to increase the speed of the South Dakota and Washington class ships. The proposal was to remove the aft 16-inch (406-mm) triplet turret to make room for additional boilers. It was advised that 256,000 hp would be needed to increase speed to 31 knots. In addition, a major redesign of the aft hull, rudder and propeller would have been necessary.
As this would have cost an estimated $40 million, without updating the electronics or other systems on board, the project was not pursued further.

All four ships were decommissioned in 1962, with parts of the South Dakota being salvaged for a war memorial, while Alabama and Massachusetts were preserved as museum ships by their namesake states. The other two battleships, however, were scrapped.



South Dakota classSpecification
Displacement (standard)38,000 tons
Displacement (full loaded)44,000 - 45,000 tons
Length (over all)680 ft (207.3 m)
Beam108 ft 3 in (33 m)
Draught36 ft 3 in (11.1 m)
Propulsion4-shaft geared steam turbines
Power130,000 shp
Oil ?
Speed28 kts


South Dakota ClassSpecification
Main Armament9 x 16-inch (406-mm) L/45 Mk 6 guns (in three triples)
Secondary Armament 16 or 20 x 5-inch (127-mm) DP Mk 12 guns
Anti-aircraft guns48 to 68 x 40-mm Bofors; 40 to 52 x 20-mm Oerlikon
Torpedo tubes-
Aircraft 2 Kingfisher float planes

Armor protection:

South Dakota ClassProtection
Side (belt)12.25 in (311 mm)
Decks1.5-5 in (38-127 mm)
Main artillery turrets18 in (457 mm)
Secondary artillery?

Service statistics:

FiguresSouth Dakota (BB-57)Indiana (BB-58)Massachusetts (BB-59)Alabama (BB-60)
Laid downJuly 1939November 1939July 1939February 1940
LaunchedJune 7, 1941November 21, 1941September 23, 1941February 16, 1942
CommissioningMarch 1942April 1942May 1942August 1942
FateDecommissioned in early 1947, scrapped in 1962Decommissioned in early 1947, museum ship in 1962Decommissioned in early 1947, museum ship in 1962Decommissioned in early 1947, scrapped in 1962

Massachusetts in WoWs

American research tree of WoWs
The battleship Massachusetts can be found to the right with the premium ships (middle, Tier VIII) in the American research tree of WoWs.
The American battleship Massachusetts (BB-59) of the South Dakota class is also available as a premium ship in the free-to-play online game World of Warships (WoWs).

The not exactly cheap ship is offered from time to time for a short period in the premium shop of the developer Wargaming, but it has the reputation to be even better than all German battleships that are actually specialized for brawling.
As the owner of the Battleship Bismarck and a fan of the in-game brawling ships, I immediately took the opportunity to purchase the ship in the premium shop.

Just to be clear from the start: Massachusetts, after an adjustment period, has quickly proven to be the best and most fun of all my battleships available for brawling so far.
In addition, with every battle it creates a large amount of in-game currency, free research points, captain points, and also normal research points, in order to achieve the daily rewards or progress in missions and campaigns faster – especially if ships from Tier VIII on are necessary for it.

Layout of Massachusetts armor protection
Layout of Massachusetts armor protection in WoWs.

Reasons for this are the placement and the heavy caliber of the main artillery, of which six barrels of 16-inch (40.6-cm) guns point forward. If the ship is slightly angled with the bow towards the enemy, it also receives relatively little damage when hit and the torpedo protection is excellent together with the anti-aircraft defense.
To compensate for the relatively short range of the main artillery, a reconnaissance plane can be launched for longer fire distances at the beginning of the naval battle and then guns have a sufficient range. Later in the battle, the secondary battery is of great carrying capacity and, if handled correctly, it is clearly superior to most enemy battleships in close combat, even if they are ships higher than Tier VIII level.

upgrades for Massachusetts
The currently used upgrades for Massachusetts.
Of course I have equipped Massachusetts optimally for close combat or brawling. This applies to technical improvements as well as to the skills of her captain.
That’s why the ‘Upgrades’ from left to right use ‘Auxiliary Armaments Modification 1’, ‘Damage Control System 1’, ‘Secondary Battery Modification 1’, ‘Damage Control System Modification 2’ and ‘Torpedo Lookout System’.

Especially important are the two modules for the secondary artillery (the first and third module) and since the ship is often as the spearhead in close combat which increases the danger of torpedo attacks, the last module is useful to detect them earlier.

distribution of skill points of Captain George Doe
The distribution of skill points of Captain George Doe on the Massachusetts.
As a captain, I added one of the American elite commanders from the ‘Arsenal’, who already had 10 experience points and special skills in changing grenade types (‘Expert Loader’) and in the speed of rotating the main artillery (‘Expert Marksman’).
Currently, George Doe has 16 skill points, distributed as follows:
Preventive Maintenance, Expert Marksman and Adrenaline Rush, Basic Fire Training, Manual Fire Control for Secondary Armament and Advanced Fire Training.
The last three skills are especially important for effective use of secondary guns in close combat. ‘Basic Fire Training’ increases the rate of fire, ‘Manual Fire Control for secondary Armament’ increases effectiveness by 60% by marking a target on the mini-map, and ‘Advanced Fire Training’, together with the modules, ensures that the secondary guns have an optimum range of fire.
In addition, the flag with an increased firing range for secondary guns should always be raised.
The remaining three possible skill points are later planned for ‘Expert Loader’ and ‘High Alert’.

Concealment, i.e. reducing the visibility of the ship, is completely eliminated – both in terms of modules and captain’s skills. The reason for this is that the ship can be led into close combat relatively quickly anyway, and because of its relatively slow top speed for a Tier VIII battleship, it can hardly retreat anyway. Here it is ‘go in, fight and win or go down’.
As long as the Massachusetts battleship always runs, staying stationary, or runs back at a slight angle towards the enemy, it will usually receive little damage from armor-piercing shells. A slight angle to the marked enemy is necessary to be able to use the secondary artillery effectively.

Video of a great action with the battleship Massachusetts and five kills in WoWs:


If you are new to World of Warships, you can download the free game client here:

Further information:

The player statistics for ships in World of Warships can be found here:
battleships Tier VIII statistics.

The specifications and features of the Massachusetts in World of Warships are here:
Massachusetts – American Premium Tier VIII battleship.

A more detailed review about Massachusetts can be found here:
review from Little White Mouse to Massachusetts.

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