The "Fighting Mary": USS Maryland

July 14, 2017

For the men of the USS Maryland (BB-46), December 7th, 1941 started off like any other quiet Sunday morning. With the sun rising into the sky, many were getting ready for shore leave, while others were enjoying their breakfast and looking forward to another day of no action.

Sundays were typically quiet aboard the battleship, and since the Maryland had just returned from maneuvers, there wasn’t much of anything that would keep the hours from dragging. Then, as everyone was going about their day, time froze at 0755, when a swarm of Japanese fighters and bombers appeared out of nowhere and began the attack that would change the world.

Fighting Mary Fights Back

The Maryland wasn’t immediately targeted by the incoming Japanese attackers. The first explosions rocked nearby ships, and they were loud enough to terrify everyone aboard. Instead of the panic that could have erupted, the crew of the Maryland shifted into a defensive mode.

While many of the vessels along Battleship Row suffered immediate casualties and couldn’t fire back, the Maryland’s crew brought every gun into action and continued mounting an anti-aircraft assault, with the help of men from the USS Oklahoma who were forced to abandon their ship.

USS Maryland next to capsized USS Oklahoma

USS Maryland on the left next to capsized USS Oklahoma

It was inevitable that the Fighting Mary would suffer direct hits from the Japanese and before long, two armor-piercing bombs struck the lower section of her hull. The ship started to flood but her crew held steady, even after the Japanese planes pulled back after releasing their payload.

As a result of the attack, two officers and two sailors were killed. The USS Maryland would have to undergo repairs before being sent back to service, but by June of 1942, she returned with new guns, making her the first ship damaged at Pearl Harbor to return to duty.

After Pearl Harbor

USS Maryland

Rear Admiral Harry W Hill

Once the Maryland was relaunched and ready to go back into combat, she received her first mission,  supporting the troops at the Battle of Midway. Too slow to keep up with the aircraft carriers, the Maryland was delegated to a backup fleet that protected the western coast of Midway. It was the first battle she took part in after her repairs, and she saw no combat action, although that changed when she became the flagship for Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill’s V Amphibious Force and Southern Attack Force.

As part of the attack force, the Maryland took part in the invasion of Gilbert Islands and the Battle of Tarawa. Rather than wait to be fired on, her crew took their first offensive action of the war and destroyed the shore battery and Japanese defenses. Risking damage, the Maryland was moved closer in hopes of drawing Japanese fire and locating the position of artillery emplacements. When the Marines finally landed, she provided covering fire and destroyed Japanese machine gun nests.

The USS Maryland and her crew took part in several additional battles in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Kwajalein Atoll and Battle of Okinawa. When the war finally ended, she was directed to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1946. Within a year, she was decommissioned and in 1959, the Fighting Mary was sold for scrap, ending her proud service with the US Navy.

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