USS Hawaii (CB-1916)

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USN's first Dreadnought Scout Cruiser.

The USN could only watch in amazement as the German -v- British Naval Race fuelled a revolution in dreadnoughts that pushed them from 20,000 tons and 12" to 30,000 tons and 16" in less than 10 years. The changes were almost from class to class. From Dreadnought battleship to Dreadnought cruiser the sizes of the ships just skyrocketed. A brand new ship could be obsolete six months later as new developments passed it by. The only way the USN could hope to keep up was to try and guess what was coming next and try and better it. So it proved with the USN's first try at a battlecruiser. The USN gleaned knowledge of the new Lion class battlecruisers and decided they could do better than that.

At 752x90 feet they were big ships. 32,000 tons of armour and steel speeding through the water at 30 knots. Three of the new triple 14" turrets gave them a decided advantage over their British and German peers. The tertiary armaments were not stinted either with 14x5", 14x4" and 4x3"AA. The problem was that in the time the USN built its one ship class, the British had built four of their similar Lion/Tiger types. Laid down in 1912, the ship completed in early 1916, just in time to see the British Renown and Repulse being completed. Personally I would prefer to be aboard the Hawaii with its nine guns than the R&R's six. Armour with a 10" belt and 2" deck was more than enough to counter the older battlecruisers but the new 15" guns and better would have no trouble piercing it.

In 1937 on its 20th birthday, the Hawaii returned to its yard of birth for a complete refit. Everything between 'A' and 'X' turrets were removed and either renovated or replaced. The old 120,000shp propulsion system was removed and replaced with a 160,000shp plant. Even after this there was space left over which was used for extra fuel stowage. While the deck armour was up a new deck of 5" thickness was placed over the top. A complete new bridge structure funnels and tertiary armament were fitted. The aircraft handling arrangements which had been in place since 1932 was retained.

With a new dual purpose armament replacing the old 5" / 4" / 3", this left room for a modern AA cannon armament. The first mountings were the 28mm 'Chicago Pianos'. The mounting turned out to be a failure in service and was rapidly replaced with twin and quadruple 40mm. The number of 20 mm Oerlikon cannons increased markedly from 1942 on. On completion of its rebuilding and during trials the ship made 33.5 knots with a maximum output of 169,000shp. Generally the Hawaii was credited with 160k and 32 knots.

The Hawaii was sent, just days before Pearl Harbour, to be based on Oahu and take up the role as flagship of the Aircraft Carrier Divisions Escort force. These ships would all be 30+ knot cruisers and destroyers for screening the carriers. On the occasion of the Pearl Harbour attack, the Hawaii was at sea with the carriers.


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