Warship Cruise Books have been around since about 1919. They are not published or sponsored by the US Navy. Instead, in the manner of High School Yearbooks of
today, they are a private enterprise, sold by an independent publisher. They are put together by members of the crew. For some time almost every warship in the US
Navy has had a cruise book published at the end of each cruise. With longer life spans, each warship will have a great number of cruise books throughout its career.
This was not true of warships of World War Two, unless they had active careers after the war. These ships would have just one cruise book covering her entire war
service. This is certainly true for the
USS Massachusetts BB-59. She entered service during the war and went into reserve at the end of the war, never to see active
service again. Accordingly, this is the only cruise book to ever be published for the Big Mamie.
The volume has nice textured covers in dark blue with raised lettering in silver. In the center of the front cover is a raised, embossed bas-relief of the starboard
profile of
Massachusetts. It is 126 pages in length with 118 pages of photographs, cartoons and maps and 8 pages of text covering the history of the ship. In the
photographic section, there are from one to four photographs per page, some of which have captions. Color photographs are concentrated at the beginning and these
are the photographs that are one per page. The coverage starts with the battleship's construction. I was disappointed with the photographic coverage with her fight
with the
Jean Bart, as there was only one photograph. A portion of the text portion of this encounter goes, "French fleet units, including the huge new battleship,
Jean Bart, were at anchor in the harbor. The American force approached slowly, under orders not to fire unless resistance developed. Suddenly starshells lit the
sky and the Jean Bart fired four salvos. Rear Admiral R. C. Griffen, USN, in command of the American force, gave the agreed signal for action - 'Play Ball!' -
and the Massachusetts found herself in one of the hottest engagements of her career. Salvo after salvo poured from her main battery in reply to the fire from
the French ship as well as from the shore batteries. Her Kingfisher planes, sent up to spot her gunfire, were attacked by enemy planes and Big Mamie's
anti-aircraft guns opened up. Shells were falling all about her as she was bracketed by fire from the direction of Casablanca. At length the Jean Bart was
reported afire and in a short time her guns were silenced as she lay at her berth a blazing wreck.
After Casablanca, its on to the Pacific. Major topics are in bold, large type. The topics are: Birth of a Fighting Ship; On to the Pacific; Truk Struck; Stateside Duty;
Fleet Action; Tokyo Bombed; Steaming; Stormy Weather; Going Home; and The Big Push. Once in the Pacific it wasn't long before
Massachusetts encountered
Japanese aircraft. "
On November 19 she returned to the attack, accompanying a task force making air strikes on Makin in the Gilbert Islands. During the next five
days she played a supporting role for landing operations on Makin and Tarawa. Thanksgiving evening saw the Mamie's first brush with Japanese aircraft; her
guns opened up and splashed two enemy planes. That night and the next, the task force fought back repeated attacks by Jap torpedo planes in the Gilbert Island
" Her part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf only has one small paragraph and omits any mention that Admiral Halsey was deceived by Admiral Ozawa and left the San
Bernadino Strait open for Admiral Kurita's center force. "
Covering the invasion of Leyte, the force made new air strikes against the Philippines. Then, during the
period October 22 to October 27, the Massachusetts took part in one of the decisive battles of the Pacific war - the second battle of the Philippine Sea, now
officially termed the Battle for Leyte Gulf. The close of the battle found all three of the Japanese forces taking part in the encounter fleeing in defeat, the great
majority of their ships having been either sunk or seriously damaged.
" There is far greater coverage on the encounter with three typhoons. "An equally vicious
typhoon struck early in June - again interrupting a fueling operation. Many ships ran into difficulties, one cruiser lost her bow, and another reported her bow had
been buckled by the mountainous waves. The peak of the storm was reached in the early morning hours of June 5 when estimated wind was better than one
hundred knots. At 0700, Mamie passed through the 'eye' of the storm, and though the wind force dropped sharply, the waves became even more huge. Again
Mamie came through with only minor damage, but with a Kingfisher damaged beyond repair.
Getting a modern warship cruise book is relatively easy but not so easy when it is a cruise book from World War Two. The World War Two cruise book for the USS
BB-59 is a prize for any naval library. With very good physical quality standards and 126 pages of photographs and text it certainly is a collector's item.
The end the war found the U.S.S. Massachusetts still cruising and fighting, a member of the Third Fleet, present at the kill."
Steve Backer