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NavSource Online: Battleship Photo Archive

BB-44 USS CALIFORNIA
1928 - 1940

Radio Call Sign: November - Alpha - Foxtrot - Tango

To Additional Pages

1916 - 1919 Construction - Launching
1920 - June 1921
Fitting Out

July 1921 - Launching Program - Mare Island History
August - December 1921 Commissioning / Shakedown
1922 - Scenes from the Ship's Welfare Fund
1923 - 1927
Pearl Harbor - 1942
1943 - 1945
1946 - 1959


Tennessee Class Battleship: Displacement 32,300 Tons, Dimensions, 624' (oa) x 97' 4" x 31' (Max). Armament 12 x 14"/50 14 x 5"/51, 4 x 3"/50AA 2 x 21" tt. Armor, 13 1/2" Belt, 18" Turrets, 3 1/2" +1 1/2" Decks, 16" Conning Tower. Machinery, 28,500 SHP; Turbines with electric drive, 4 screws. Speed, 21 Knots, Crew 1083.

Operational and Building Data: Laid down by Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, October 25, 1916. Launched November 20, 1919. Commissioned August 10, 1921. Decommissioned February 14, 1947. Stricken March 1, 1959.
Fate: Sold July 1, 1959 and broken up for scrap.
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BB-45 Colorado103kColorado (BB-45) at Puget Sound Navy Yard on 5 April 1928. Newly installed 5"/25 open mounts and Mark 19 directors, with their altimeters are easily seen. She had also just been fitted with a protected flag battle station and with a powder catapault on her quarterdeck. Her bridge has been enlarged. During a previous refit she had been fitted with a 12-foot armored range finder for flag use, on a platform just above the roof of No. 2 turret.
At the same time, air coolers and purifiers had been installed for her plotting room, central station, internal communication room, and torpedo tracking room. Main cage mast behind #2 turret belongs to an unidentified older battleship.
Note: The mast probably belongs to the California (BB-44), which was being modernized during that period.
USN photo. Text courtesy of U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman.
Battlefleet122kWatercolor of a Presidential review during President Hoover's term of office, 1928-32.
Crews line the rails of a Colorado class (BB-45-48) battleship as the ships pass in line astern of the reviewing stand with the airship Los Angeles (ZR-3) piercing the clouds accompanied by 9 biplanes.
Courtesy of Michael Schwarz.
BB-44 California81kIn San Diego harbor Dec. 1928, rails manned, cage mast still in use.USN photo.
BB-44 California205k Two Vought O2U's on the California (BB-44) in 1929. Note the handling truck that could be raised and lowered to the catapult level and securing lines for heavy weather storage.Photo courtesy of Pieter Bakels.
BB-44 California144kSan Diego Harbor, September 1930. The California (BB-44) shows standard Vickers-type 5-inch directors occupying the navigating bridge level platform and also abeam her boat crane. Note also the shield on her forward open-mounted 5in/51 gun and the conning tower roof range finder for flag use, fitted out at Puget Sound in October 1929. She retained the latter for many years.USN photo. Text courtesy of U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman.
SS 168 329k V-6 (SC-2), is departing Mare Island Navy Yard in October 1930. What appears to be the California (BB-44) is seen in the distance. US Navy photo courtesy of Darryl Baker.
BB-44 California233kCalifornia (BB-44) in the Pacific side of the Panama Canal Zone. Photo # 80-G-1025057 from the U.S. National Archives, courtesy of Bill Gonyo. Photo added 12/21/08.
BB-44 California50kAdmiral William V. Pratt, USN,Chief of Naval Operations; Charles F. Adams, Secretary of the Navy; and Admiral Frank H. Schofield, USN, Commander, Battle Force, United States Fleet (listed from left to right)enjoy a humorous moment on board California (BB-44), circa February 1931. USNHC # NH 75863. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral William V. Pratt.
BB-44 California83kAdmiral Richard H. Leigh, USN (center), Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. Receives the divisional right hand salute while inspecting the crew of his flagship, California (BB-44), in 1932. Photograph was taken on the battleship's forecastle, with the jackstaff in the right center background.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, USNHC # NH 55553, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
BB-44 California73k Wilson Brown Jr., CAPT of the California (BB-44) from 00.01.1932 to 00.07.1933. He appears here as a Vice Admiral in 1939. Image from the Lucky Bag Yearbook 1939, courtesy of Bill Gonyo. Text info courtesy of Wolfgang Hechler.
Standley411kWilliam H. Standley was appointed vice admiral on January 1932 while in command of the Battle Force’s cruisers, Standley was placed in command of the Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, with the rank of admiral, on 20 May 1933. Breaking his flag in his former command, California (BB-44), the admiral remained at sea until 1 July 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him CNO. Photo courtesy of the United States Naval Academy, courtesy of Bill Gonyo.
BB-44 California87kFiring her starboard 5"/51 secondary battery, during night battle practice in 1933. View looks aft from the forecastle, with the ship's forward 14" triple gun turrets at right.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, USNHC # NH 55030, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
BB-44 California1.6mThe crew is evenly spaced along the deck of the California (BB-44) with three Vought O2U's on her catapults in this early 1930's circa photo. USN Photo courtesy of Pieter Bakels.
BB-44 California763k California (BB-44) as Flagship US Navy Battle Force off San Pedro, Ca. in the 1930's. USN Photo courtesy of Pieter Bakels.
BB-44 California93kAt sea, during the middle-1930s.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, USNHC # NH 61483, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
BB-44 California71kLooking up at the main armament & bridge work of the California (BB-44) in dry dock at Hunters Point Naval Ship Yard in 1936. Note the concentration dial, or "Clock".
The practice of gunnery at the beginning of the 20th century put a lot of emphasis on shooting first. Radio communications was still in diapers (cumbersome, morse code, slow) and visual signals, light, flaghoist or semaphore, were not much better. When an enemy was detected it also took time to train and elevate the guns to shoot at him. In poor visibility this might give him the first shot. The range clocks, and their companion, the deflection markers, were developed to shorten the time needed to get off the first salvo.
Concentration of fire was also a major consideration, and usually all ships of a division would fire on the same target. Fire control was based on mechanical analog devices that incorporated input from the optical range finders located at several places on the ship. In USN ships this included the top of the cage mast.
Long range visibility under battle conditions was often poor. The heavy black smoke from burning coal just made it worse. But individual ships could be expected to have a reasonably clear view of the next ship ahead in the division line. The flagship was almost always in the lead, and could direct concentration of fire by passing range and deflection data to the other ships. This process was made much faster by simply training the flagships own guns in the direction of the enemy and displaying the ships own average rangefinder results on a circular display. Trailing ships often did not have as good a view f the enemy as the leader, but could observe where the leaders guns were aimed (and read numbers from the range clock) in order to set initial values for aiming their own guns. That is enough of the background theory.
There was no CIC as we know it today, but there was a central fire control plot on each ship. This plot included a MECHANICAL device for determining and transmitting refined settings for azimuth and elevation of the guns. Initial inputs were often set manually. Communications between the plot and the gun turrets (and the range clocks) included up to 4 separate and parallel methods. First, there was a mechanical connection, usually a bicycle chain and sprocket drive to ensure equivalent movement. Second, voice tubes connected the plot with rangefinder positions and guns. Third, when they became available, there were internal communications telephones matching the above circuits. Finally, if other means failed, you could write a note and send it by messenger.
There is an excellent series of articles on battleship gunnery fire control in this era in WARSHIP INTERNATIONAL. vol 38 numbers 1,2,3 (2001) and also vol 41. It is devoted to the plotting instruments, not range clocks.
As a final note, I'm sure you already noticed that the range "clocks" are numbered from 1 to 10, not 1 to 12. The figures were usually given in thousands of yards.
Photo courtesy of Jon Burdett. Text courtesy of Aryeh Wetherhorn, (USN & Israeli Navy, Retired).
BB-44 California70k Admiral William D. Leahy (right)shakes hands with Admiral Joseph M. Reeves during change of command ceremonies in which Admiral Leahy relieved Admiral Reeves as Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, circa June 1936. Probably taken on board California (BB-44). U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 47298 & submitted by Bill Gonyo.
BB-44 California131kOil on canvas painting by the artist James Flood entitled "California (BB-44) - 1936". The painting depicts the California, as Flagship of the Pacific Fleet, based in San Francisco. Photo and partial text courtesy of oldgloryprints.com
Battleship Row1.8Very large (1.8m.b) 1936 photo of Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor. Among the ships in the harbor are:
On the far left are two New Orleans (CA-32) class heavy cruisers. Neither ship can be positively identified, but I believe the outer one (the one furthest from the camera) to be either New Orleans (CA-32), Quincy (CA-39), or Vincennes (CA-44).
The battleships from left to right: Colorado (BB-45), or West Virginia (BB-48), outboard of Idaho (BB-42), Nevada (BB-36), outboard of Mississippi (BB-41), New Mexico (BB-40), outboard of Maryland (BB-46) or California (BB-44).
On the far right is the Hospital ship Relief (AH-1) with two unidentified ships ahead and to her port side.
Text courtesy of David Johnston, (USNR) & Aryeh Wetherhorn (USNR). Photo courtesy of Edward Cwalinski, submitted by Barry Litchfield.
BB-44 California188kAerial, starboard bow, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, under construction on 11 October 1936.National Archives # 80-CF-2055-8
BB-44 California105k Tennessee (BB-43) or California (BB-44) class battleship in San Diego Harbor circa 1936.Fairchild Air Survey photo courtesy of Cliff Boan.
BB-44 California80View looking aft from inside a Curtiss SOC-3 floatplane atop the turret # 3 catapult, 1938, showing two more SOC-3s parked on the after catapult.Official U.S. Navy Photograph, USNHC # NH 80513, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
BB-44 California62kCurtiss SOC-3 scout-observation float plane In flight, soon after delivery to Observation Squadron Two (VO-2B), 1938. The plane is assigned to California (BB-44). Note the "Winged Pelican" VO-2 insignia on the aircraft, .30 caliber machine gun in its after cockpit and extended leading-edge slats on the upper wing. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, USNHC # NH 80523 from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
BB-44 California49kA postcard of the California (BB-44) passing under the Brooklyn Bridge, note the Curtiss SOC-3 floatplane atop the turret # 3 catapult, 1938.Courtesy of Richard Leonhardt.
BB-44 California52k Forward Turrets of California (BB-44) in 1938.Photo courtesy of Pieter Bakels.
BB-44 California944k The signal force of the California (BB-44) holding flag hoist drill. Navy Recruiting Bureau, N.Y.via USNIP, 1938. USN photo courtesy of Pieter Bakels.
BB-44 California249k California (BB-44) poses for a George Winstead photo in the late 1930's. USN photo courtesy of Robert M. Cieri.
BB-44 California58kPre-WWII formal photo of the battleship California (BB-44) and her crew. Contributed by Sharon Gavin.
BB-44 California78kLiberty party prepares to go ashore, 1940. Note very large letters "CAL" painted on the whaleboat at left. Three Curtiss SOC-3 floatplanes are visible, parked atop the turret # 3 catapult and on the after catapult. The aircraft with the dark fuselage is the "Flag Plane" of Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet. Its color scheme was dark blue and silver. Boat in the foreground is from Detroit (CL-8).Official U.S. Navy Photograph, USNHC # NH 80516, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.
BB-40 New Mexico & family242kBetween 9 & 13 Sep 1940 the Arizona (BB-39) was under way with other ships of the US Fleet for simulated fleet engagement.
Pictured here is a New Mexico (BB-40 / 42) class battleship in the van with other battleships of the Pacific Fleet and a carrier air group, led by the Air Group Commander in a Curtiss SBC Helldiver.
The aircraft following are:
A torpedo squadron of eighteen Douglas TBD-1s;
A bombing squadron of eighteen Northrop BT-1s;
A scouting squadron eighteen Curtiss SBCs;
A fighting squadron of eighteen Grumman F2F-1s or F3F-3s from either the Yorktown (CV-5) or F3F-2s from the Enterprise (CV-6), plus possibly nine additional aircraft.
The Yorktown and Enterprise were the only two carriers whose bombing squadrons were equipped with the Northrop BT-1.
The text for the photo reads:
"The Navy uses enormous amounts of rubber. At least seventy-five tons of rubber, enough to makes 17,000 tires, are used in the construction of each of these battleships. Tons more are needed for the naval planes that are making history over the world. Medical and communication requirements--and countless other needs of the Navy--are met."
Photograph # LC-USE64 - DC-000944 & partial text courtesy of memory.loc.gov.
Aircraft i.d. & text & timeline courtesy of Alan Moore via the following sources: Airplane i.d.: Yorktown Class Carriers (Warship Pictorial No. 9) by Steve Wiper, Tucson, AZ: Classic Warships Publishing, 2000. & That Gallant Ship: U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5) by Robert Cressman, Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Pub Co, 1985. Timeline from Battleship Arizona: An Illustrated History by Paul Stillwell, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991.
BB-39 Arizona534kBetween 9 & 13 Sep 1940 the Arizona (BB-39) was under way with other ships of the US Fleet for simulated fleet engagement. She is pictured here in company with other ships of the Pacific Fleet taken during Fleet Ops. and at least one carrier air group.Scanned from: "The Fleet Today" by Kendall Banning. Funk & Wagnalls Company, N.Y. and London, 1942. Submitted by Pieter Bakels. Text & photo i.d. courtesy of Alan Moore via Battleship Arizona: An Illustrated History by Paul Stillwell, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991.

USS CALIFORNIA BB-44 History
View This Vessels DANFS History Entry
(Located On The Hazegray & Underway Web Site, This Is The Main Archive For The DANFS Online Project.)

Crew Contact And Reunion Information
Contact Name: Vincent Nonnon
Address: 23 Green Ave Valley Cottage, N.Y. 10989-1952
Phone: 845-268-7761
E-mail: prunebarge@verizon.net
Note About Contacts.

The contact listed, Was the contact at the time for this ship when located. If another person now is the contact, E-mail me and I will update this entry. These contacts are compiled from various sources over a long period of time and may or may not be correct. Every effort has been made to list the newest contact if more than one contact was found.


Additional Resources
Hazegray & Underway Battleship Pages By Andrew Toppan.

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