History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS South Dakota (BB-57) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on December 15, 1938. Her keel was laid down at New York Shipbuilding Corporation on July 5, 1939. She was launched on June 7, 1941 and commissioned on March 20, 1942 under the command of Captain Thomas L. Gatch.
USS South Dakota began training with Task Force 16 and the carrier USS Enterprise on October 12, 1942. The carrier group joined Task Force 17 northeast of Espiritu Santo on October 24, 1942, where when combined and operated as Task Force 61 under the command of Rear Admiral T. C. Kinkaid. TF 61 made a sweep of the Santa Cruz Islands before heading southwest to block Japanese forces from Guadalcanal.
The Battle of Santa Cruz took place on October 25. The USS South Dakota provided protective fire support from her position near the USS Enterprise. She was hit by a 500-pound bomb on her No. 1 turret. By the end of the battle, the battleship had downed 26 enemy planes.
The USS South Dakota collided with the destroyer USS Mahan while avoiding submarine contact on October 30. Both ships were damaged in the collision, and they headed to Nouméa for repairs. The battleship rejoined Task Force 16 on November 11, which combined forces to form TF 64 under the command of Rear Admiral W. A. Lee two days later.
The task force met up with a Japanese bombardment group three days later. USS South Dakota lost her radars during the fighting, and she sustained damage from 42 hits. When she was no longer under fire, she rendezvoused with the USS Washington on the way to Nouméa. Only one American destroyer returned to port. The battleship received emergency repairs before sailing home to New York City for overhaul and permanent repairs.
After repairs, the USS South Dakota sailed in the North Atlantic and operated with the British Home Fleet until August 1, 1943. She returned to the Pacific in autumn, where she sortied for Operation Galvanic, the assault on the Gilbert Islands. The battleship supported operations at Jaluit, Mili, Makin, Tarawa, Nauru Island, Roi, Namur, Kwajalein, and Majuro.
On February 12, 1944, USS South Dakota joined the Truk striking force. In the following weeks, she screened carriers in the Mariana Islands, where she helped splash four Japanese airplanes. She then joined the Fifth Fleet, where she supported the attacks on Palau, Yap, Woleai, and Ulithi.
In late April, USS South Dakota supported operations in Hollandia, Aitape Bay, Tanahmerah Bay, Humboldt Bay, and Truk. At the beginning of May, she bombarded Ponape Island before heading to Majuro for upkeep.
USS South Dakota joined Task Force 58 on June 5 for Operation Forager, the landings on Saipan and Tinian. She provided fire support and took down attacking enemy aircraft. She was struck by a 500-pound bomb that blew a large hole in her deck on June 19, killing 24 men and injuring 27 others. This was the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She remained there until June 27, when she sailed for repair and overhaul at Puget Sound via Ulithi and Pearl Harbor.
The USS South Dakota returned to the Pacific action to join in the assault on Okinawa. She then went on to support operations at Manila, Luzon, Mindoro, Formosa, Cape San Jacques, Camranh Bay, Hong Kong, Hainan, and again at Okinawa. She moved against Tokyo on February 17, 1945 and Iwo Jima a few days later.
USS South Dakota spent the spring of 1945 bombing targets and supporting air strikes against Kobe, Kure, Kyushu, and Okinawa. She was part of the attack group that sunk the battleship Yamato on April 7.
During July, USS South Dakota supported the carriers of TG 38.1 as they attacked the Tokyo area. She bombarded targets at Honshu and Hokkaido until the end of the war, when she entered Tokyo Bay. The battleship returned home for overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. She was decommissioned on January 31, 1947, removed from the Naval Vessel Register on June 1, 1962, and sold for scrap on October 25, 1962. The sale agreement included the return of some of her equipment and armor plating to the U.S. government. She received 13 battle stars for her service in World War II, and she is memorialized at Sioux Falls in South Dakota.
Like virtually all other World War II era battleships, the USS South Dakota was built with a number of asbestos-containing components. Asbestos was prized for its resistance to fire, heat, corrosion, and water, so it could be found in nearly all areas of the ship. Anyone who worked in or around the USS South Dakota is at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses like mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer.
USS South Dakota workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS South Dakota, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.