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Battleship USS New Jersey Was the US Navy’s Black Dragon

USS New Jersey
The Nos. 1 and 2 Mark 7 16-inch/50-caliber guns are fired during a main battery firing exercise aboard the battleship USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62).

The second of the United States Navy’s Iowa-class battleships, USS New Jersey (BB-62) was often referred to fondly by her crew as “Big J,” but during the Second World War, she was also known as the “Black Dragon” due to her being painted in the dark Navy Blue 5-N on vertical surfaces and Deck Blue, 20-B, on horizontal surfaces.

The dark single-color Camouflage Measure 21 was employed early in the war on many smaller vessels, including destroyers, to make it different from them to be seen at night. This color was maintained from her launching until June 1945, when she was repainted in the horizontal “two-tone” Camouflage Measure 22, which was used throughout the rest of the World War II era.

USS New Jersey: A Short History 

BB-62 would prove to be America’s most decorated battleship – earning more battle stars for combat actions than the other three completed Iowa-class warships. She participated in nearly all of the Western Pacific campaigns from her arrival in the theater in January 1944 until the end of the Second World War. Her first combat action came when she served in the Fifth Fleet under Adm. Raymond A. Spruance and provided fire support during the landings on the Marshal Islands. Her 16-inch guns were next employed on Saipan and Tinian, while she also screened the American aircraft carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where the anti-aircraft fire from New Jersey and other screening ships proved virtually impenetrable.

USS New Jersey next served as the flagship of Adm. William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet, and took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf; and as part of Rear Adm. Oscar C. Badger II, commander of Battleship Division 7, supported the assault on Iwo Jima and then Okinawa.

After the war, she was decommissioned but was the only U.S. Navy battleship returned to duty in both the Korean War, where she took part in two combat tours; and the Vietnam War, where she conducted frequent bombardments along the South Vietnamese coast. USS New Jersey was recommissioned a final time in December 1982, and because she had been recalled to duty for Vietnam, her modernization differed from those of the other Iowa-class battleships. She was equipped with 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, eight Armored Box Launcher (ABL) mounts for 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles, and a quartet of the United States Navy’s Phalanx Close in Weapon System (CIWS) Gatling guns for defense against enemy anti-ship missiles and enemy aircraft.

Yet, she still fired her big 16-inch guns in combat operations during the Lebanon crisis of 1983-84. It marked the last time she would fire those guns in anger. In total, New Jersey earned nine battle stars for service in the Second World War, four more for Korea, three for the Vietnam War, and three for actions in Lebanon and the Persian Gulf Region. The warship had also received the Navy Unit Commendation for Vietnam service, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation from the Republic of the Philippines, and the Presidential Unit Citation from the Republic of Korea. This has made her the most decorated battleship in U.S. history.

Battleship Nuclear War

An overhead view of the battleship USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62) firing a full broadside during a main battery firing exercise.

In 1991 she was decommissioned for a final time, and eight years later USS New Jersey was towed from Bremerton to Philadelphia in preparation for final berthing as a museum ship in Camden, New Jersey. The “Big J” was opened to the public as a museum ship in October 2001.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.