USS Oklahoma

What is a Battleship?

During World War II, a battleship was the biggest type of ship you could find in a navy, and it had bigger guns than any other type of ship. When the USS Oklahoma was built in 1916, she was the one of the largest and most advanced ship in the US Navy. The USS Oklahoma needed 2,166 sailors and marines to function properly. The Oklahoma could travel 20,000 miles without refueling. She weighed 11,000 tons and carried ten 14-inch guns. The guns on battleships are so big, that they rate them on how large their ammunition is in diameter. A 14-inch gun has shells that are 14 inches in diameter and weigh about 1,400 pounds each. That means that each shell fired by one of these guns weighed about the same as three motorcycles. Each of the Oklahoma’s guns could fire almost twelve miles. That’s farther than anyone could see, even with binoculars or a telescope, so the Oklahoma had two airplanes it would use to find targets. They called them “Spotter Planes.”

Sailors moving a 14-inch shell around the deck, by hand.
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress,

Sailors on the USS Oklahoma, cleaning one of her 14-inch guns. The gun barrel for a 14-inch gun is over 53 feet long, which is longer than three average sized cars.
(Photo #: NH 44422 – National Archives photo courtesy Naval Heritage & History Command -

The USS Oklahoma is showing off her firepower during gunnery practice. Each shell fired by her 14-inch guns required 420 pounds of gunpowder.
(Photo #: 80-G-1023157 – National Archives photo courtesy Naval Heritage & History Command -

The USS Oklahoma at the Puget Sound Naval Yard in Washington, September 28, 1940.
(21256-40-1701 - USS Oklahoma Memorial Association Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division)