On 6 May 1956, the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) collided with the Destroyer USS Eaton (DDE-510) in a heavy fog off the Virginia Capes.  The collision caused serious damage to both ships.  The Wisconsin sliced into the Eaton’s starboard bow forward of the bridge, breaking the destroyer’s keel. 

USS Wisconsin Radio Club associate member Tom O’Donnell, N6GVZ, was on-watch in the #1 Engine Room aboard BB-64 during the incident.

Tom O’Donnell – Future N6GVZ – In Engine Room #1 Photo courtesy of

Both ships made their way to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, for repairs – the Wisconsin under her own power and the Eaton being towed stern-first.  In an amazing feat of shipbuilding, repairs were made to the Wisconsin and she returned to sea in only  16 days.

But there was a “short-cut” available to the shipyard workers.  As World War II ended, final construction of another Iowa-class battleship, the USS Kentucky, had been cancelled, but her basic hull was intact.  A 120 ton, 68 foot section of the Kentucky’s bow was severed and transported by barge to Portsmouth where it was welded onto the Wisconsin.  After the “nose job,” the length of the USS Wisconsin was extended – she was now 889 feet.  Her sister Iowa-class Battleships (Iowa, Missouri, and New Jersey) are each 887 feet in length.  Thus, the USS Wisconsin became America’s largest battleship by two feet.

Here is the official log of the incident: