Would a sailor be injured if he stood on the deck of a US Navy Iowa-class battleship when it fired its 16-inch turrets?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 08, 2020 04:34 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 08, 2020 04:34 AM

I was Gunnery Officer aboard NEW JERSEY 1984–86. We returned from Beirut in the Mediterranean via the Panama Canal. On the way from Panama, we conducted “structural test firings” of Turret 2 and Turret 3 to determine the pressures on various pieces of electronic equipment around the ship. We had observers aboard from NAVSEA and they had placed various instruments around the ship in the vicinity of the exposed electronics. Then we elevated the inboard gun of Turret 2 to to its maximum elevation and rotated the turret all the way to the firing cut-outs. In other words, we fired in the “worst case” scenario as far as blast damage that might occur. We did the same thing with the inboard gun for Turret 3.

I conducted the test firings myself from the 0–5 open bridge and Spot 3, otherwise known as “the citadel”. The captain remained in the wardroom in conference with the NAVSEA representatives. He gave me permission to fire each round individually, but he himself never left the wardroom. I was, literally, “under the gun” when it fired, as close as an individual could be. For whatever the reason (I don’t remember the cause), I was out on the O-5 level one time when the gun fired. It felt like giant hands squeezed me in a huge bear hug, but much worse. I think I stopped breathing momentarily. I was, to say the least, rattled and disoriented. I will never forget the feeling. I made sure that I was inside the citadel for every shot after that.

One more point (this happened before I reported for duty, but people were still talking about it):

If you go aboard NEW JERSEY today in Camden, NJ, you will see a deck house just abaft of Turret 3. It was designed and used as an ammunition magazine during WWII. By the 80’s, it was just used for storage for various items. It is made of steel, perhaps 1/2 inch. Turret 3 has firing cutout so that it cannot fire when the gun is one-half calibre (8 inches) from any structure. One day during a close-range surface firing exercise the fire control was tracking a “Killer Tomato” target (a huge red, air-filled balloon that floated on the water) at about 5,000 yards. Unfortunately, they tracked it until it was almost dead astern (we NEVER intentionally fired over the superstructure). The guns were at low elevation and 8 inches from the deckhouse when the guns fired.

If you look at the deckhouse now, it looks like a giant sledgehammer banged it. There is a huge indent. Nothing touched it EXCEPT the blast from Turret 3’s gun.Also, the ships library and the ship’s store were directly underneath the guns. It looked like a bomb had been dropped. Many books were thrown off the shelves and many articles in the ship’s store as well. It was a mess.

Moral of the story: you don’t want to be near a 16″ gun when it fires.

Last point: My gunners had a sign painted above the Turret 3 hatch:


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