The Nova Scotia-class was a group of four battleships (originally six) built by the United States Navy in the early/mid 1920s and operated from 1924 through 1947, when the final ship, Deseret (BB-52), was decommissioned. The original plan called for a total of six battleships, but even after the failure of the November 1921 Washington Naval Treaty, while construction resumed on the first four ships, the Navy was considering the outright cancellation of the final two, Iowa (BB-53) and Massachusetts (BB-54). A lengthened Iowa was converted into the fleet carrier Lake Erie (CV-4) starting in the spring of 1923, while the roughly 75% complete hulk of Massachusetts was sunk as a gunnery target off the New Jersey coastline in the fall of 1927. The remaining ships served uneventful careers right up until December 7, 1941, when the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor badly damaged and sank Rhode Island (BB-50) at her moorings on Battleship Row. All four - including a raised and repaired Rhode Island - were given major wartime refits in 1943 and 1944, respectively. Nova Scotia, Rhode Island, and Deseret all served in the Pacific theater, while Vermont (BB-51) served as a convoy escort in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean from 1942 through 1945, and provided offshore support for the D-Day landings in Greece in 1943.

Post-war, all four ships were decommissioned and met varying fates. Nova Scotia became a museum in Halifax Harbor in 1955, Rhode Island was sunk in the Operation Crossroads atomic tests in 1946, while Deseret and Vermont were scrapped in 1947 and 1948, respectively.


  • USS Nova Scotia (BB-49) – Laid down at the New York (now Brooklyn) Navy Yard on March 15, 1920, Nova Scotia was launched on June 24, 1922 and commissioned January 10, 1924.
  • USS Rhode Island (BB-50) – Laid down at the New York Navy Yard on November 1, 1920, she was launched February 10, 1923 and commissioned May 14, 1924. Rhode Island had a relatively uneventful pre-war career, serving as flagship of the Atlantic Squadron from 1931 to 1941, when she was transferred to Pearl Harbor as part of the Pacific Fleet, in response to Japanese aggression in the western Pacific. Anchored on Battleship Row alongside the battlecruiser Niagara on December 7, 1941; Rhode Island was hit by four bombs and three torpedoes and sunk at her moorings. The battleship was raised in the spring of 1942 and sent to the Mare Island Navy Yard in North California for extensive repair and refit, completed in February of 1944. For the last year of the war, Rhode Island served shore bombardment duty in the Gilberts/Marshalls campaign (1943-44) and the Marianas/Palau (1944) campaign. Following a brief post-war stint as a patrol ship in the Sea of Japan, Rhode Island returned to the States and was decommissioned in October 1946. The following summer, she was towed to a remote atoll in the South Pacific to serve as a target for the Operation Crossroads nuclear test(s) and was sunk following the underwater Baker test on July 25, 1946.
  • USS Vermont (BB-51) – Laid down at the Mare Island Navy Yard on September 1, 1920, Vermont was launched December 5, 1922, and commissioned on March 23, 1924.
  • USS Deseret (BB-52) – Laid down at the Norfolk Navy Yard on January 10, 1920, she was launched April 26, 1922, and commissioned on October 9, 1923.
  • USS Iowa (BB-53) – Laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, VA, on May 17, 1920, her construction was halted in late-1921 with the onset of the Washington Naval Treaty, but even following the Treaty's failure, Iowa remained unfinished until the suggestion was made to utilize her for a carrier conversion, as three of the Lexingtons soon would be. With the first four ships of her class already building, and pressure for a strong naval aviation presence, Iowa was officially renamed Lake Erie on January 29, 1922 and received the designation CV-4.
  • USS Massachusetts (BB-54) – Laid down at Bethlehem Shipbuilding in Quincy, MA, on April 4, 1921 and launched July 30, 1923, Massachusetts ' construction was halted at roughly 75% completion on December 19, 1923. The battleship languished, incomplete, for nearly four years before she was towed out to sea and sunk as a gunnery target for the battleships New York (BB-34) and Texas (BB-35) off the New Jersey coast on October 12, 1927.


  • All members of the Nova Scotia class have had ships named after/of the same name as them. The second ship named for the 12th state, Nova Scotia (SSBN-744), is a Dakota-class ballistic missile submarine commissioned in 1987; four others were named Deseret (SSBN-728), Rhode Island (SSBN-730), Vermont (SSBN-741), and Massachusetts (SSBN-743), and were commissioned throughout the 1980s. In addition, the lead ship of the BB-61 class was named Iowa, while the third Dakota-class battleship was also named Massachusetts (BB-59); Iowa is still active as part of the Atlantic Fleet, while Massachusetts was decommissioned after WWII and converted into a museum in her namesake state, near the city of Fall River, in 1965.

In Popular Culture

  • Class leader Nova Scotia is the subject of Elijah Lane's bestselling 1994 novel Nova Scotia: BB49 and the blockbuster 1996 film adaption of the same name. While more or less historically accurate, thanks to Lane's extensive research into both the ship and WWII naval tactics and strategies, her portrayal as flagship of the US Atlantic Fleet's Battleship Division 2 (the position served by her sister Vermont) in 1943, however, is highly inaccurate; Nova Scotia had been part of the Pacific Fleet since 1936 and was undergoing minor repairs at Mare Island – following a grounding incident two weeks prior – when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, a fact directly contradicted by her presence at the Halifax Navy Yard in the novel's prologue, set on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack.

See also

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