Old Battleship Will Live On Through New USS South Dakota

During its time at sea, it was one of the most decorated ships in the United States Navy. The USS South Dakota served just under five years, and was decommissioned in 1947. Now 75 years later, the former battleship will live on.

“It was there for the major battles and the bombardments, and supporting the air craft carriers,” said Former U.S. Navy Captain and President of the Board of Directors for the USS South Dakota Battleship Memorial Diane Diekman.

The USS South Dakota was commissioned in 1942, the lead ship of her class in the Pacific Theater. Her lifespan was short, but her history rich.

Diekman said, “It was the first battleship to bomb the homeland of Japan and was in Tokyo Bay during the surrender ceremony.”

A lot of what’s left sits inside the battleship memorial, but in a nearby building, lies a special piece of her–the teak wood or decking from the old battleship.

“This one has a little burn mark here.” USS South Dakota (SSN 790) Commissioning Committee Chairwoman Debra Bodenstedt said, “They’ve seen war. I mean, these things have to battle in World War II, and thousands of sailors have walked on them. Thousands of sailors have taken the holy stone and the way the took care of them was to get down there on their hands and knees, and you know, polish this.”

At the request of sailors, the wood will be driven to Groton, Connecticut. That’s where the 17th Submarine of the Virginia Class is being built. When the ‘PCU South Dakota’ is christened next month it will become the ‘South Dakota’. When it’s commissioned next year it will then officially become the ‘USS South Dakota’, the third ship to bear the state’s name.

“It’s mission is a hunter killer,” said Bodenstedt. “They’re out there to find the bad guys, and if necessary, take care of the bad guys.”

The teak will be milled down to fit into thresholds of the new ship. Among other things, the wood will go into thresholds of the wardroom and in officers’ quarters.

“It makes you wonder, if these things could talk, what stories they would tell,” said Bodenstedt. “When you think about that, and then holding a piece of that history in my hand, it just kinda, almost gives me goose bumps.”

Near and dear to their hearts and other South Dakotans, the Battleship Memorial’s Board of Directors gave up ten pieces.

“We’re still holding some because when they’re gone, there are no more,” said Diekman.

But a worthy place for it to be, once again in the hands of the Navy.

Diekman said, “Now we’ll have another USS South Dakota sailing the seas.”

The new submarine will be christened on Oct. 14. At that time, a bottle of sparkling wine from Belle Joli Winery in Sturgis will be smashed on the ship in Connecticut.

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