USS Colorado (BB-45), the third ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the 38th state, was the lead ship of her class of battleships. Her keel was laid down on 29 May 1919 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on 22 March 1921 sponsored by Mrs. M. Melville, and commissioned on 30 August 1923 with Captain R. R. Belknap in command.
Colorado sailed from New York City on 29 December 1923 on a maiden voyage that took her to Portsmouth, England; Cherbourg, France, and Villefranche, France; Naples, Italy; and Gibraltar before returning to New York 15 February 1924. After repairs and final tests she sailed for the west coast 11 July and arrived at San Francisco, California, on 15 September 1924.
From 1924 to 1941 Colorado operated with the Battle Fleet in the Pacific, participating in fleet exercises and various ceremonies, and returning to the east coast from time to time for fleet problems in the Caribbean Sea. She also cruised to Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand from 8 June to 26 September 1925 to show the flag in the far Pacific. The eight 3" anti-aircraft guns were replaced by an equal number of 5"/25 caliber guns in 1928-1929. Colorado aided in earthquake relief at Long Beach, California, on 10 March and 11 March 1933 and during an NROTC cruise from 11 June to 22 July 1937 she assisted in the search for the missing Amelia Earhart.
Based in Pearl Harbor from 27 January 1941, Colorado operated in the Hawaiian training area in intensive exercises and war games until 25 June when she departed for the west coast and overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard which lasted until 31 March 1942. Two of the original twelve 5"/51 caliber guns were removed during overhaul, and the 5"/25 caliber guns were replaced by an equal number of 5"/38 caliber guns. On 31 May 1942, Colorado and USS Maryland set sail from the Golden Gate to form a line of defense against any Japanese attack mounted on San Francisco.
After west coast training, Colorado returned to Pearl Harbor 14 August 1942 to complete her preparations for action. She operated in the vicinity of the Fiji Islands and New Hebrides from 8 November 1942 to 17 September 1943 to prevent further Japanese expansion. She sortied from Pearl Harbor 21 October to provide preinvasion bombardment and fire support for the invasion of Tarawa, returning to port 7 December 1943. After west coast overhaul, Colorado returned to Lahaina Roads, Hawaiian Islands, on 21 January 1944 and sortied the next day for the Marshall Islands operation, providing preinvasion bombardment and fire support for the invasions of Kwajalein and Eniwetok until 23 February when she headed for Puget Sound Navy Yard and overhaul.
Joining other units bound for the Mariana Islands operation at San Francisco, Colorado sailed on 5 May 1944 by way of Pearl Harbor and Kwajalein for preinvasion bombardment and fire support duties at Saipan, Guam, and Tinian from 14 June. On 24 July during the shelling of Tinian, Colorado received 22 shell hits from shore batteries but continued to support the invading troops until 3 August. After repairs on the west coast, Colorado arrived in Leyte Gulf 20 November 1944 to support American troops fighting ashore. A week later she was hit by two kamikazes which killed 19 of her men, wounded 72, and caused moderate damage. Nevertheless as planned she bombarded Mindoro between 12 December and 17 December before proceeding to Manus Island for emergency repairs.
Returning to Luzon on 1 January 1945, she participated in the preinvasion bombardments in Lingayen Gulf. On 9 January accidental gunfire hit her superstructure killing 18 and wounding 51. After replenishing at Ulithi, Colorado joined the preinvasion bombardment group at Kerama Retto on 25 March 1945 for the invasion of Okinawa. She remained there supplying fire support until 22 May when she cleared for Leyte Gulf.
Returning to occupied Okinawa 6 August 1945, Colorado sailed from there for the occupation of Japan, covering the airborne landings at Atsugi Airfield, Tokyo, on 27 August. Departing Tokyo Bay 20 September 1945 she arrived at San Francisco on 15 October, then steamed to Seattle, Washington, for the Navy-Day celebration 27 October. Assigned to Operation Magic Carpet duty, she made three runs to Pearl Harbor to transport 6,357 veterans home before reporting to Bremerton Navy Yard for inactivation. She was placed out of commission in reserve there 7 January 1947, and sold for scrapping 23 July 1959.
Her bell is currently on display in the University Memorial Center (UMC) at the University of Colorado.
A five inch, 51 caliber deck gun from the USS Colorado was donated to the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society in 1959, and is displayed at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. It was one of eight such guns on the Colorado.
Colorado received seven battle stars for World War II service.