To say that the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was devastating is an understatement, but it actually could have been even worse. The absence of the aircraft aircraft carriers that morning was certainly a lucky break, but there was another member of the fleet that was also missing.

Eight battleships were moored along Battleship Row on that infamous day, and as the highest-value ships present they became Japan’s main targets.

But the Pacific Fleet had nine active battleships.

A Stroke of Luck

Ships at Puget Sound Navy Yard, July 1941

On June 25th, 1941, the USS Colorado (BB-45) had just finished intensive training exercises when she was ordered to Puget Sound Navy Yard on the west coast of the United States. It was there that the crew of the Colorado learned about the horrors of Pearl Harbor, thousands of miles away. Though they were safe, they also felt helpless, separated from the men whose home port they shared, the sailors who were forced to endure the hell of the Japanese surprise attack.

Prior to her service in the war, the USS Colorado was launched in May 1921, over 20 years before the Pearl Harbor attack. Two years later, she was commissioned and became the proud lead ship of the Colorado-class battleships. Her initial trip took her to Europe before she joined the Battle Fleet in the Pacific. Though she wasn’t present at the Pearl Harbor attack, her first orders afterward were related to another feared Japanese assault.

USS Colorado in the Pacific Theater

In May of 1942, she was ordered to stand guard near the Golden Gate Bridge, which she did until she departed for Fiji to help cut off further Japanese advances in the Pacific. Her presence in the Pacific became more important as American troops started to land in Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.

USS Colorado

USS Colorado (BB-45) during the bombardment of Okinawa

After suffering major damage during the shelling of Tinian, she continued her duties in the South Pacific. On November 20th, 1944, she arrived in the Leyte Gulf, supporting American landing troops. Five days later, she sustained more damage when two Kamikazes slammed into her deck. Still, she pressed on, this time sailing to Luzon in January, 1945. From the Lingayen Gulf to Okinawa, the Colorado supported American ground troops until the war’s end in August of 1945.

On October 15th, she returned to San Francisco and three months later, she was decommissioned. With no further activity planned for the USS Colorado, in 1959, she was broken down and sold for scrap, her seven battle stars providing a lasting legacy for the mighty American battleship.

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