The USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was the lead ship of the Pennsylvania class of the United States super-dreadnought battleships. She was launched on March 16, 1915, sponsored by Elizabeth Kolb of Philadelphia, and commissioned (placed on the active-duty list) on June 12, 1916, with Captain Henry B. Wilson at the helm.
During World War I, Pennsylvania was attached to the Atlantic Fleet, whose mission was to organize, man, train, and equip Naval Forces for assignment to Unified Command Combatant commanders. On October 12, 1916, she became the flagship of Commander in Chief, Admiral Henry T. Mayo.
At the time of the Japanese Pearl Harbor Attack on December 7, 1941, Pennsylvania was in dry-dock in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. She was one of the first ships in the harbor to open fire as Japanese dive and torpedo bombers attacked. The Pennsylvania was damaged but not destroyed. Destroyers Cassin and Downes, just in front of the Pennsylvania in the dry-dock, were seriously damaged by bomb hits. During the attack, 15 men stationed on the Pennsylvania were killed, 38 wounded. She underwent repairs until March 30, 1942.
On April 23, 1943, Pennsylvania left for Alaska to contribute to the Aleutian Campaign. On May 11-12, she engaged in a shore bombardment of Holtz Bay, Attu, and Chichagof Harbor, in support of infantry landings. On May 14, the Pennsylvania conducted a bombardment mission of Holtz Bay in support of an infantry attack. On August 15, assault troops landed on the beaches of Kiska without opposition. By the evening of August 16, it became apparent that the Japanese had evacuated the island under the cover of fog.
In 1944 and 1945, the Pennsylvania traveled throughout the Pacific Theater, providing support at Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan-Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, Angaur, Leyte, Lingayen, Santiago Island, Wake, and Okinawa. During the Guam campaign, the Pennsylvania fired more ammunition than any other warship in history during a single campaign. She earned the nickname “Old Falling Apart” because she expelled so many metal casings she looked like she was falling apart.
After World War II, The USS Pennsylvania was used as a target ship during July 1946, Operation Crossroads atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. She remained in Kwajalein Lagoon for radiological and structural studies until February 10, 1948, when she was sunk of Kwajalein. She was taken off the Naval Vessel Register on February 19, 1948.
During her five years of World War II service, the USS Pennsylvania traveled 146,052 miles and fired 6,854 14-inch rounds, 31,678 5-inch shells, and 97,327 anti-aircraft battery rounds. She received 8 Service Stars and was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, the World War I Victory Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Navy Occupation Medal.