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USS New Mexico

  • Displacement: 33,000 tons
  • Length: 624'
  • Speed: 21.5 knots
  • Armament (WWII): 4x3 14"/50, 6x1 5"/51, 8x1 5"/25, 10x4 40mm, 46x1 20mm, 8x1 .50-caliber MG; 2 planes
  • Complement: 2,116
  • Propulsion: Turbo-electric steam turbines, 4 300 psi boilers, 4 shafts, 40,000 hp
  • Commissioned: May 20, 1918
  • Rebuilt: Mar. 1931--Jan. 1933
  • Decommissioned: 1946, Scrapped: 1947

The First Turbo-Electric Dreadnought

Steam turbo-electric drives were first implemented on the collier USS Jupiter, (which was later converted to the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, Langley (CV-1) in 1922). An AC electric drive was used to achieve a reduction in rotation rates between the turbines and the propellers. Turbines use fuel most efficiently when they are run fast, but turning the ships propeller at high speed wastes energy by “cavitation”. Ships burn fuel to create steam to turn a turbine. In the turbo-electric drive, the turbine runs one or two generators, producing electric power. The electricity is then available to power electric motors, which turn the propellers. The steam turbine can then be run at a constant, most fuel-efficient rate, and the propellers can be driven at whatever rate is required.

Success with the Jupiter led to the construction of the USS New Mexico (BB-40), and five more turbo-electric battleships (USS Tennesee BB-43, USS California BB-44, USS Colorado BB-45, USS Maryland BB-46 and USS West Virginia BB-48). The U.S. Navy’s second and third aircraft carriers, USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3), also used turbo-electric plants.

By the 1940’s improvements in the metallurgy and manufacture of gears, allowed satisfactory weight, size and acoustic performance for direct gear reduction without electric motors. “Double reduction” gear systems were lighter and took up less space than the AC turbo-electric drive, and have been used in the big ships ever since.

Service in the Pacific Theater in World War II

In May 1941, New Mexico was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet, and so was not destroyed in Pearl Harbor along with the Battleships USS Arizona (BB-39) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) on December 7, 1941.

New Mexico participated in numerous shore-bombardment exercises. During the invasion of Luzon, on January 6, 1945, a kamikaze hit her bridge, killing her commanding officer, Captain R. W. Fleming, and 29 others, with 87 injured. She continued to participate in the pre-invasion bombardment while making repairs, through January 9, 1945, when troops went ashore. She was hit by another kamikaze on May 12, 1945, with 54 killed. (Photo of May 12, 1945 attack: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-n/bb40.htm)

Altogether, New Mexico earned six battlestars for action in World War II. After posing for a victory photograph in Tokyo Bay with Mt. Fuji in the background, New Mexico was decommissioned in 1946, and scrapped in 1947.


World Battleship List: U.S. Dreadnoughts: http://www.hazegray.org/navhist/battleships/us_dr.htm

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/dafs/BB/bb40.html

Bespoke for Everything Quests - the High Seas

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