The two battleships of the Tennessee Class, Tennessee BB-43 and California BB-44 were part of the huge 1916 USN construction program. As a design the California improved upon the preceding New Mexico Class. However, all vestiges of hull secondary casemates were eliminated and the design had a smooth hull with the classic clipper bow. Completed with a more substantial forward superstructure than the New Mexico's the two ships of the class kept their appearance from commissioning until 1942. Armed with twelve 14-inch guns, as in the preceding New Mexicos, these two ships were the first two of what became known as the "Big Five" as the ships of the Tennessee Class and three ship Colorado Class were known. Until 1941, they were the most advanced battleships in the US Navy. Nicknamed the "Prune Barge" because of the great quantity of prunes exported from the State of California, USS California was deemed a smart ship and possessed many trophies from her commissioning in 1921until the eve of World War Two. California was often a flagship and on December 7, 1941 was moored at quay F-3 as the flagship of Commander Battle Force, Vice-Admiral William S. Pye. Here readiness state on that morning was poor as many covers between the double bottoms were left open. This may or may not have been due to an impending readiness inspection, in which case the voids were left open for venting. In any case California was not prepared to combat damage on that morning.
At 0805 California took a torpedo under the third turret and a second one between 2 turret and the bridge. Counter-flooding was required to trim the ship. Because of the poor readiness condition of California the water intake from these two hits, as well as the counter-flooding would be disastrous for the California. Although hit by a further two bombs, the California was preparing to get under way when at 1000 burning oil from West Virginia surrounded the stern of California. Abandon Ship was sounded. Within 15 minutes the oil had drifted clear and hands were ordered to reboard the ship. In spite of receiving pumping assistance from all sources, California continued to settle on the floor of the harbor because of her lack of water-tight integrity. By December 10, she was completely settled on the bottom. California, sistership Tennessee and West Virginia were scheduled for complete rebuilds. Although lightly damaged at Pearl Harbor, since the Tennessee was armed with the lighter 14-inch guns she was given the rebuild instead of the lightly damaged Maryland and undamaged Colorado which had 16-inch guns.
Refloated in March 1942, California was made seaworthy and arrived at Puget Sound in October 1942 for her big make-over. She was completely rebuilt in the next year and appeared entirely different from her prewar appearance. In October 1943 she received her new commander and on January 3, 1944 moved under her own power for the first time in her new appearance. Equipped with huge anti-torpedo blisters, she was now too wide to pass through the Panama Canal but now had deck space for huge quantities of 20mm Oerlikon and 40mm Bofor AA guns. California was present for operations at Saipan, Tinian and Guam in the summer of 1944. She was part of the battle line at the Battle of Surigao Strait in which she fired 63 rounds of 14-inch ammunition. After participating in operations against Luzon, she went on to support the landings at Okinawa. She was placed in reserve status on August 7, 1947 and remained mothballed until sold for scrap on March 1, 1959. The new Neptun model of USS California N-1304a, shows her after her rebuild in 1943 and accordingly is loaded down with Oerlikons, Bfoors and radar.