Colorado Class battleships

The Colorado class battleships were the last class of 'old' battleships completed for the US Navy, and were a repeat of the previous Tennessee class but with twin 16in gun turrets replacing the triple 14in turrets of the older ships. Four ships were built, but only three completed, the fourth being scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty and sunk as a target in 1924.

USS Colorado (BB-45) at Puget Sound, 1928
USS Colorado (BB-45) at Puget Sound, 1928

The Colorado class ships were built with the same five layer anti-torpedo defence system as the Tennessee class. They were the first class of American dreadnoughts to be planned without hull mounted secondary armament, and were thus built from the start with deck mounted secondary guns (the previous two classes had been planned with hull guns but completed without them). They had oil fired boilers and turbo-electric engines, twin funnels, twin control tops on their heavy cage masts and a large forward superstructure.

The USS Maryland, first of the Colorado class ships, was laid down in 1917, but work on the remaining three ships didn't begin until after the end of the First World War. All four were launched but the Washington Naval Treaty limited the number of capital ships in the US Navy. The USS Washington was the most modern ship to be sacrificed, and she was sunk as a target ship on 25 November 1924.

USS Maryland (BB-46) under Construction
USS Maryland (BB-46) under Construction

The Washington treaty suspended battleship construction in the United States and in Britain. The US Navy abandoned construction of the six ships of the South Dakota class and four of the six Lexington class battlecruisers, all of which had been laid down. The last two Lexington class ships were completed as the carriers USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Saratoga (CV 3). The Royal Navy also cancelled eight new capital ships, four G 3 class battlecruisers and four N 3 type battleships, but none of these ships were under construction at the time, and financial limits suggest that they would probably never have been built. Instead the two Nelson class battleships were built during the 1920s, armed with nine 16in guns but without the speed that would soon be needed.

Construction resumed in both countries in 1937 with very similar ships. In Britain work began on the five ships of the King George V class, with ten 14in guns and a top speed of 28kts, while in the United States construction resumed with the North Carolina class, armed with nine 16in guns but with the same speed, and the similar South Carolina Class of 1939-40. Both countries then planned a series of faster battleships - the Lion class in Britain and the Iowa class in the United States, but the British ships were cancelled after the outbreak of the Second World War while four of the six Iowa class ships were completed, giving the US Navy a force of 'fast' battleships to go with its 'old' battleships.

USS Colorado was undergoing a refit at the time of Pearl Harbor and was thus undamaged. She was ready for action by the middle of 1942, and took part in the invasions of Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Guam and Tinian, the landings at Leyte Gulf and the invasion of Okinawa.

USS Maryland suffered minor damage at Pearl Harbor and was back in action in February 1942. She took part in the invasion of Tarawa, the Marshalls and Saipan, where she was hit by an air-launched torpedo. After repairs she returned to take part in the invasion of the Palau Islands, the landings in the Philippines and the battle of Surigao Strait. She was hit by a kamikaze later in the Philippines campaign and needed more repairs but was back to take part in the invasion of Okinawa.

USS Colorado (BB-45) arriving at San Francisco, 1945
USS Colorado (BB-45) arriving at San Francisco, 1945

USS West Virginia (BB-48) off Pearl Harbor, 1943
USS West Virginia (BB-48) off Pearl Harbor, 1943

USS Washington was cancelled after the agreement of the Washington Naval Treaty and the largely completed ship used as a gunnery target.

USS West Virginia was the worst damaged ship from Pearl Harbor to be repaired and return to action. She didn't return to action until October 1944 when she supported the landings at Leyte Gulf. She was present at the battle of Surigao Strait where she fired more shells from her main guns than any other American battleship involved. She then took part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



8,000nm at 10kts

Armour – belt


 - deck


 - turret faces

18in or 16in

 - turret sides


 - turret top


 - turret rear


 - barbettes


 - coning tower


 - coning tower top





97ft 5in


Eight 16in guns in four twin turrets
Fourteen 5in guns
4 3in guns
Two 21in submerged beam torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Ships in Class


USS Colorado (BB 45)

Stricken 1959

USS Maryland (BB 46)

Stricken 1959

USS Washington (BB 47)

Sunk 25 November 1924
(as target ship)

USS West Virginia (BB 48)

Stricken 1959

US Standard Type Battleships 1941-45 (2): Tennessee, Colorado and Unbuilt Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'Big Five', the last standard-type battleships built for the US Navy, and the most powerful ships in the US Navy for much of the interwar period. Covers their design, original purpose and actual Second World War service, where their limited speed meant they could no longer serve with the battle fleet. Despite that limit they played a major part in the Pacific War, and four fought in the last battleship action of the war. [read full review]
cover cover cover


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 April 2012), Colorado Class battleships ,

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