Forces for the projected Marshall Islands invasion were assembled on the Pacific Coast and in the Hawaiian Islands with a few elements brought from the Ellice and Samoan areas. Battleship COLORADO departed Lahaina Roads in the Hawaiians on January 22, and proceeded to the attack area off the northern sector of Kwajalein Atoll shortly before the troops landed on D-Day, January 31, 1944.
The COLORADO’s mission was to destroy fortifications along the beaches and support assault waves by pounding the enemy troop areas immediately adjacent to the landing points. Fire and large columns of smoke on her target areas indicated that the damage caused by the battleship barrage was extensive. In company with other vessels, the COLORADO shelled strategic objectives throughout the day as the troops swarmed ashore, resumed fire shortly before dawn the following day. By February 4, it was all over on Kwajalein.
An assault force and necessary supporting forces for the now familiar pattern of amphibious attack were rapidly organized at Kwajalein and sortied for Eniwetok in the Marshalls on February 15. A coordinating aerial blow at nearby Truk accounted for the almost complete lack of enemy aerial opposition at Eniwetok. Again on hand to assure the success of the invasion was USS COLORADO; her big guns swept the beaches clear of landing obstacles on the 17th (D-Day at Eniwetok) and provided an umbrella of fire for the assault forces as they fanned out from their beachheads. Skipper Granat took his mighty battleship back to the United States with the completion of the Eniwetok job on February 23, for a much-needed period of relaxation prior to the next amphibious operation. Sailing with a 2-day stop-over at Pearl Harbor, the COLORADO entered Washington’s Puget Sound on March 13, 1944.
As the COLORADO rode at anchor in Puget Sound, a series of carrier air strikes were being carried out with ever increasing intensity against the Jap-held Southern Marianas, the build-up period for “Operation Forager.” On April 30, the COLORADO left the safety of Puget Sound and went south to join other “Operation Forager” units at San Francisco, then sped to aid the landings in the Southern Marianas.
Moving in close to Saipan on June 14, the COLORADO hammered away at the beaches and on the 15th, Yank troops moved in to gain their foothold. The battleship was in as dangerous a position as she had been in all the previous landings which she had covered. Enemy shore installations stood a good chance of knocking one of the prides of the U. S. Fleet out of the war with a well aimed shell. This was close-range exchange of heavy explosives. Yet, those in charge of Pacific invasions felt that it was worth risking such famed battle heavies as USS COLORADO, the risk being counter-balanced by the effectiveness of the barrage they were able to lay down.
Resistance encountered on Saipan was strong, so strong that the planned invasion of the sister Marianas isles of Guam and Tinian had to be postponed. Throughout the month of June and well into July the COLORADO delivered call fire on targets of opportunity at Saipan. By mid-July the tempo of aerial activity was stepped up around Guam, the low-level dive-bombing and strafing attacks serving to demolish practically all Jap artillery there.
For two hours on July 21, COLORADO and other surface units stood off-shore to complete the ruination of Japanese defenses. Then, rocket salvos pouring from plucky LCIs heralded the first wave of landing forces. Into the crumbling enemy lines the COLORADO continued hurling 16-inch projectiles for the next three days in collaboration with the advancing troops. Tinian was next.
On July 24, the veteran COLORADO nosed in alongside Tinian to pound the shore installations and unexpectedly received a pounding herself. Her first battle damage came as a result of accurate fire from the Tinian batteries opposing her, 22 shells in all ripping into the COLORADO. Continuing her cannonading despite heavy damage, the COLORADO tenaciously held her covering position to rip apart enemy forts within the invasion area as 35,000 troops began taking over at 0740. Limping away from the Tinian area on August 3, the COLORADO sailed home via Pearl Harbor, was berthed in the Bremerton Navy Yard undergoing repairs by August 21. (See Album for additional pictures.)
On the day of her arrival at Bremerton, Washington, Navy Cross recipient Captain Granat (awarded for his “superb ship-handling and unrelenting aggressiveness” in evidence at Tinian) relinquished his command to Captain Walter S. Macaulay, USN.
With the enormous man-of-war reestablished at her peak of fighting trim at Bremerton and her crew rejuvenated after long leaves, the COLORADO proceeded to San Pedro, California, on October 9, 1944, for a 2-week refresher training prior to her next test.
By the early fall of 1944, the steady advance of United States forces across the Pacific had brought Japan to a position of grave peril. The loss of the Marianas had been recognized by those in responsible position as a mortal blow, and any further advance to the westward would clearly end all hope for success or even prolonged resistance. A trickle of Nipponese commerce which still crept behind the Philippine-Fromosa-Ryukyu Island screen would only last as long as the screen remained unpierced. At U. S. Pacific bases in the forward area, the salient sword was being sharpened.
Out of Bremerton to Pearl Harbor went the COLORADO, then on to Ulithi in the western Carolines. By the time she weighed anchor in Ulithi on November 17, 1944, and proceeded to Leyte in the Central Philippines, the conquest of the Archipelago was in full swing. However, Japanese reinforcements had been successfully landed on Luzon by the thousands and the Nipponese High Command’s Operations Sho. No. 1 (Defense of the Philippines) was meeting with frequent success. In company with the destroyers SAUFLEY and RENSHAW, the COLORADO sped to Leyte Gulf to lend her assistance to the American invaders on Leyte Island.
A week after her arrival in Leyte Gulf, the COLORADO was struck by one of the myriad of suicide aircraft that roamed the skies over the Philippines; incurred heavy casualties and moderate damage. Through the efforts of her repair crews, the COLORADO was able to remain operational, her 5-inch guns roaring out in challenge to other planes hovering above. Determined aerial attacks characterized this period in Leyte Gulf. See Album Page 2.
In early December the COLORADO moved to the China Sea side of the Philippines for the invasion of Mindoro, key island in the planned Lingayen Gulf incursion. Her guns liberally shelled Mindoro’s beaches on the 12th of December and kept up the bombardment as a cover for the troops until the 18th. Five days later she was safely anchored at Manus Island undergoing needed battle damage repairs.
Final operation of consequence in the Southwest Pacific was the invasion of Lingayen Gulf, an indentation of the west coast of the Philippine jackpot – Luzon. Sailing from Manus to participate in the Luzon landings, the COLORADO levelled her guns on Luzon on January 2, in the softening-up period.
A week later, January 9, she moved in on a determined inland shore battery and opened up an all-out artillery assault. However, a heavy caliber shell from one of the shore guns rocked the COLORADO as it detonated on her superstructure causing severe casualties among those on the navigation bridge and in sky control. See Album Page 3.
Suicide planes played havoc with the surface forces throughout the Luzon Campaign, but despite them the COLORADO rendered fire support service to the Army units on Luzon until February 14, 1945. On that date she returned to Ulithi, Western Caroline Islands, to await further assignment. By January 1945, Japan was being considered a defeated nation. In her home islands of the Empire, the situation was being realized and mutterings of a negotiated conditional peace arose even within her own armed services.
The neutralization and occupation of Okinawa was one of the most difficult operations of the Pacific war by United States forces and was considered the largest Pacific amphibious operation — wherein some 1,213 ships participated.
On the 21st of March, 1945, the USS COLORADO began firing the first of two million pounds of high explosives, which were to be her donation to the destruction of the Okinawa stronghold. With recently seized Kerama Retto as her fuel and ammunition base, the COLORADO struck again and again at beleaguered Okinawa Gunto, with the battlewagon’s plotting jammed with anxious officers scanning their charts and maps for locations of enemy gun emplacements, pillboxes, and troop concentrations.
D-Day at Okinawa was scheduled for April 1, 1945, so the job had to be done thoroughly and quickly. The COLORADO’s 16-inch guns blasted Okinawa’s sea wall, reduced railroad junctions to rubble, and knocked out many of the guns which would have poured fire on U. S. troops as they hit the beaches.
Her Kingfisher observation planes winged into the air over Okinawa to transmit target positions to eager COLORADO gunners. And the suicide attacks began. Low over the water they came, dozens of them, and the antiaircraft fire was like a storm in the sky. In seconds a small dot on the horizon would loom as a suicider loaded with bombs and on a one-way trip. Shrapnel continuously clattered on the mighty vessel’s decks, on one occasion causing injury to thirteen of the ship’s company. At 0830, April 1, 1945, the amphibious assault on Okinawa began. See Album Page 3.
Previous suicide assaults were almost paltry in comparison to the deluge that ensued. Starting on April 6, the Japanese Air Force struck with a fury never before encountered, the majority of the strikes being against surface ships. For 63 days and night the COLORADO endured the hell of Okinawa to deliver the necessary support fire for the troops pushing their way inland. On May 22, she arrived in Leyte Gulf to await further assignment in the relentless campaign being waged to bring the enemy to capitulation.
The COLORADO left her Leyte Gulf anchorage to return to fully-occupied Okinawa on August 3, 1945. It was while she was anchored in Okinawa’s Buckner Bay that the Japanese made the August 15 decision to accept the provisions of the Potsdam Ultimatum.
On August 27, the COLORADO was among the first group of Allied warships to enter Japanese homeland waters, dropping anchor in Sagami Bay to help cover initial airborne landings at Atsugi Airfield (Tokyo Area) in preparation for General MacArthur’s arrival in Japan.
From Sagami Bay where stately snow-capped Fujiyama made a fine background for the ships of the THIRD Fleet all brilliantly illuminated at night, it was just a five hour trip into Tokyo Bay past the devastated Yokosuka Naval base where the pagoda mast of Japan’s last battleship, the NAGATO, could be plainly seen.
September 1, saw the COLORADO in Tokyo Bay supporting occupation forces in that area. On September 2, 1945, the official instrument of surrender was signed aboard our battleship MISSOURI. Also on September 2, 1945, Captain Augustus J. Wellings became the COLORADO’s new commanding officer. Together with many other war-weary THIRD Fleet units, the COLORADO got underway on September 20, for Okinawa, then Oahu, then home!
Those who manned her take just pride in the COLORADO’s war record. As America went to war, the USS COLORADO remained the only major active fleet unit in the Pacific standing between our country and a Jap naval attack. In the 10 major invasions and occupation support actions in which she participated, a total of more than 5,802 tons of antipersonnel, armor piercing, and illuminating projectiles have been expended from her heavy batteries in support of ground troops. Adorning the bulkhead of the COLORADO pilot house are 11 Japanese flags, each representing an enemy plane which her guns have accounted for. Since the outbreak of the war the COLORADO has cruised over 150,000 miles and has lost 77 of her complement in enemy action (6 missing, 388 wounded, also.)
After several days in San Francisco, the COLORADO proceeded to Seattle for the 1945 Navy Day observances there (October 27th); received a heart-warming welcome. One newspaper generously dubbed her the “friendly COLORADO” because youngsters were free to train her antiaircraft guns and visitors were welcome early and late. The ship saw the rest of 1945 out making three runs to Pearl Harbor to transport a total of 6,457 high point veterans home.
In January of 1946, the USS COLORADO reported to Bremerton, Washington, to be deactivated. Through a lengthy process the giant ship was made weatherproof and rustproof and placed out of commission on January 7, 1947.
By Directive dated January, 1947, the USS COLORADO(BB-45) was to be placed out of commission, in reserve, attached to the U. S. Pacific Reserve Fleet.
On June 23, 1959 the USS COLORADO was sold for scrap for a total of $611,777.77 but the ship will live forever in the hearts and minds of her crew. See Album Page 4.
The ship was dismantled in Seattle, Washington at Todd Shipyards. Some of her teakwood decking is featured in walls of buildings around Seattle, including a Boeing cafeteria, a University of Washington building, and the Washington Athletic Club. One of her 5″ guns stands at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.