Hi Neighbor Heritage: Save “Big Mamie”
Growing up in Southern New England, everyone remembers school field trips to Battleship Cove in Fall River. Adults just as much as kids, all gasp at the massive guns that once fired 16″ shells from the Battleship Massachusetts. Just before you drive over the Braga Bridge you can’t help but gaze at the giant hull. Then once you’re on the bridge you can see the tip of the ship’s antennas. On the tour you learn about the tight quarters the crew had to endure. It really makes you honor those brave men and women who served on such a vessel. About 50 years ago, this might not have been possible. With the help of Narragansett Brewing Company and Massachusetts school children, funds were raised to revive the battleship and make a U.S.S. War Memorial out of her in Fall River, MA. In June of 1965, Battleship Cove became one of five National Historic Landmark ships. We at Narragansett beer would like to take this moment to remember all of the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of this fine nation. Here is the complete history from Battleship Cove’s website.
Battleship Massachusetts was built in Quincy, Massachusetts at the Fore River Shipyard of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The ship was launched on September 23, 1941 and holds the record as the heaviest ship ever launched in Quincy. “Big Mamie”, as her crew knew her, was delivered to the Boston Navy Yard in April 1942 and commissioned the following month.
Following her shakedown period Battleship Massachusetts went into action on November 8, 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. While cruising off the city of Casablanca, Morocco, the Battleship engaged in a gun duel with the unfinished French battleship Jean Bart, moored at a Casablanca pier. In this battle, Massachusetts fired the first American 16″ projectile in anger of World War II. Five hits from Big Mamie silenced the enemy battleship, and other 16″ shells from Battleship Massachusetts helped sink two destroyers, two merchant ships, a floating dry-dock, and heavily damaged buildings and docks in Casablanca.
The ship returned to Boston for refitting and resupply and in February 1943 went through the Panama Canal to join the action in the Pacific, where she would remain for the remainder of her 3 1/2 years of active service. Assigned to the Southwest Pacific, the Battleship saw action in the New Guinea-Solomons area and participated in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943, the invasion of the Marshall Islands in January 1944, the powerful carrier strikes against Truk in February 1944, and a series of raids against Japanese bases in the Western Pacific and Asia.
Following a bombardment of Ponape Island in May 1944, Battleship Massachusetts returned to Bremerton, Washington for modernization and a well-deserved rest for her crew. In September 1944 the ship returned to action in the invasion of Palau Islands and acted as an escort for the fast carrier task forces using her 5″, 40mm, and 20mm guns to defend the carriers against enemy aircraft.
Big Mamie’s 16″ guns pounded Iwo Jima and Okinawa before those islands were invaded in 1945, and by July of that year she was off Japan with the Third Fleet. The Battleship bombarded the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Kamaishi, and then sailed south to bombard a factory at Hamamatsu. Returning to Kamaishi, Battleship Massachusetts fired the last American 16″ projectile of the war.
With peace achieved, “Big Mamie” returned to the United States and operated with the Pacific Fleet until mid-1946, when she was ordered deactivated. The Battleship remained in the Reserve Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia until she was stricken in 1962 from the Navy Register and ordered sold for scrap. However, her wartime crew had held annual reunions since 1945 and lobbied to save their ship as a memorial. With the assistance of Massachusetts school children, they raised enough money to bring Big Mamie to Fall River in June 1965. She was opened to the public two months later. Now the centerpiece of Fall River’s revitalized waterfront and one of the five National Historic Landmark ships at Battleship Cove, “Big Mamie” with her guns trained fore and aft in the posture of peace, stands ready to welcome visitors from around the nation and across the world as she has for more than a quarter century.
Please visit BattleShipCove.org for more details on visiting and how you can help.