Touring The Battleship USS Alabama Part 3 of 4
For the next ten days, Alabama underwent a period of overhaul, repair, and shore leave for the sailors. This work completed, Alabama departed from Norfolk on 20 August, bound for the Pacific Ocean. She transited the Panama Canal five days later, and then steamed across the Pacific. She reached her assigned destination of Havannah Harbor, Efate Island, the New Hebrides Islands, in the southwestern Pacific, on 14 September. Following a month and a half of exercises and training with fast carrier task groups, Alabama steamed to the Fiji Islands, arriving on 7 November.
Alabama steamed out of port on 11 November to take part in Operation Galvanic, the assault on the Japanese-held Gilbert Islands. The battleship screened the fast carriers, for defense against surface and air attacks, while they launched air attacks on Jaluit and Milli Atolls, in the Marshall Islands, attempting to neutralize Japanese airfields located there, within range of the Gilberts. Alabama supported the U.S. Marine landings on the main island Betio of the Tarawa Atoll on 20 November, and soon afterwards, she supported the U.S. Army landing on Makin Atoll.
During the night of 26 November, Alabama twice opened up antiaircraft fire to drive off Japanese aircraft that approached her task group. On 8 December, Alabama along with five other fast battleships, bombarded Nauru Island, an enemy phosphate-producing center, causing severe damage to shore installations there. Firing some 535 large caliber rounds in the bombardment, she also took the destroyer Boyd alongside, after that warship had received a direct hit from a Japanese shore battery on Nauru. Alabama took aboard three wounded sailors for treatment by the battleship's doctors – since the smaller warships did not have doctors.
Alabama next escorted the aircraft carriers Bunker Hill and the Monterey back to the port of Efate, arriving on 12 December. The battleship departed from the New Hebrides on 5 January 1944 for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. arriving on 12 January. She underwent a brief stint in the large dry dock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. The major need for dry dock repair was the replacement of her port outboard screw, one of her four propellers. Alabama was soon underway again to return to the combat area of the Pacific Ocean. 1944: The USS Alabama reached Funafuti, the Ellice Islands, on 21 January 1944, and there she rejoined the Fast Carrier Task Forces. She was assigned to Task Group 58.2, which was centered around the carrier Essex and light carriers.
Alabama left the Ellice Islands on 25 January to help carry out "Operation Flintlock", the wresting of selected members of the Marshall Islands, such as Kwajalein Atoll and Eniewetok Atoll, from the Japanese. Alabama, South Dakota, and North Carolina bombarded Roi Islet on 29 January and Namur Islet on 30 January. She fired 330 rounds of 16 in (410 mm) shells and 1,562 rounds of 5 in (130 mm) ammunition toward Japanese targets, destroying planes, airfield facilities, blockhouses, other buildings, and artillery emplacements. Over the following days of this campaign, Alabama patrolled the area north of Kwajalein.
On 12 February, Alabama sortied out with the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill 's Task Group, and many other members of the Fast Carrier Task Force to launch very major carrier air attacks on the Japanese installations, aircraft, and shipping at the major Japanese Central Pacific base of Truk Atoll. This large series of air attacks, flown on 16 and 17 February, caused heavy damage to all of the Japanese airfields, and other installations, and the enemy shipping that had remained there. Very little of the Imperial Japanese Navy fleet, which had used Truk as a major forward base for years, remained there, since it had already departed northwards to safer waters.
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