Tag Archives: Cleveland-class light cruiser

Queen City Slammer

Here we see, 70 years ago today, the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83) alongside the ammunition ship USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) at Wonsan Harbor, Korea, on 3 May 1951. To save time the re-arming took place within sight of enemy-held Wonsan. Rows of propellent canisters can be seen on the deck of Mount Katmai, projectiles, and canisters on the deck of Manchester.

NARA 80-G-428168.

USS Manchester (CL-83) replenishing ammunition while alongside USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) in Wonsan harbor, North Korea, within sight of enemy gun batteries, circa early 1951. Note projectiles on deck on both ships, powder tanks stacked on Mount Katmai, and wooden planks laid on Mount Katmai’s decks. It appears that projectiles are being brought on board Manchester, while empty powder tanks are being carried off of her. Projectiles are being hoisted into Manchester’s turret number two (in the lower left). NH 97184

Completed too late for use in WWII, Manchester was commissioned on 29 October 1946. All of her 26 sisters were decommissioned before the Korean War with Manchester being the only active Cleveland during the conflict.

And she was very active.

Operating with TF 77, she provided support for the Inchon landings in September 1950, go on to bombard North Korean troop concentrations on Tungsan Got, supported the invasion at Wonsan, stood by for the evac of Hungnam then switched back to the Wonson area to lend her guns to the blockade there.

In her second tour in Korea, the cruiser covered the grounded Thai corvette Prasae where she prevented the vessel from being swarmed by Norks. In addition, “Manchester patrolled along the Korean peninsula shelling military targets in areas such as Chinampo, Chongjin, Tong-Cho‑Ri as well as regularly returning to Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan to add to the destruction of those tightly held enemy positions,” notes DANFS.

Although completed with catapults for seaplanes, they had been removed by Korea and replaced with a wooden deck for a whirlybird.

Sikorsky HO3S helicopter, of squadron HU-1, lands on the cruiser’s after deck after a gunfire spotting mission off the Korean coast, March 1953. Note Manchester’s wooden decking with aircraft tie-down strips and hangar cover tracks; 6/47 triple gun turrets; 5/38 and 3/50 twin mounts in place of WWII-era 40mm Bofors– the only such Cleveland to receive this conversion. NH 92578

Speaking of which, one of Manchester’s choppers, an H03S1, flown by enlisted pilot Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic ADC(AP) Duane “Wilbur” Thorin of HU-1, became a lifesaver of international renown. Besides earning a DFC in saving 126 Thai sailors from Prasae over the course of 40 sorties, the NHHC elaborates that he:

[M]ade over 130 rescues in hostile territory before his helicopter crashed under fire during an attempted rescue in February 1952 and he was captured. He escaped from a POW camp in July 1952 but was recaptured. He was awarded a Silver Star and two more DFCs for his rescues. With his trademark green scarf, he was the inspiration for the fictitious Chief Petty Officer (NAP) Mike Forney in James Michener’s book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, played by Mickey Rooney in the movie adaptation. Thorin was commissioned after the war and served as an analyst at the National Security Agency.

On Manchester’s third Korean war tour, she was again a regular sight on the gunline, often dueling with enemy shore batteries.

USS Manchester (CL-83) returns enemy counter-battery fire with her forward turret’s 6/47 guns, while operating off the North Korean east coast, March 1953. Note life rafts and floater nets stowed atop turret two. NH 97186

USS Manchester (CL-83) fires the left 6/47 gun of turret three at enemy shore batteries while operating off Wonsan, North Korea. NH 97185

USS Manchester (CL-83) engaging shore batteries off Wonsan, North Korea. Note splash from an enemy shell that has hit over. The small island on right is Hwangto-Do. 80-G-483203

She wrapped up her last tour just a week before the truce at Panmunjom.

A lone sailor observes the enemy coastline as the cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83), her shore bombardment completed, steams away from Wonsan Harbor. Photo and caption released by Commander Naval Forces Far East, under date of 7 July 1953. NH 97187

In all, she earned nine battlestars for the conflict and suffered no major battle damage. It would be her only war, being decommissioned 27 June 1956 after just 10 years of service and was scrapped four years later.

Of the rest of the Clevelands, most never left 1940s mothballs and were sent to the razor blade factory by 1960. Five were given a new lease on life and modified post-Korea as Galveston- and Providence-class guided missile cruisers, going on to see duty in the Vietnam era– with some receiving shells from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) ironically. Just one of the class, the converted USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), is preserved, serving since 1977 as a museum ship at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Referred to as the “Queen City” reportedly due to being the most populous city in northern New England, Manchester, New Hampshire’s name is currently carried by an Independence-class littoral combat ship, LCS-14, commissioned in 2018.

Warship Wednesday January 28, 2015: The Lucky Okie

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger.

Warship Wednesday January 28, 2015: The Lucky Okie

Life Magazine cover 1965 1024

Here we see the forward 6″/47 (15.2 cm) Mark 16 mount of the Cleveland-class light cruiser (guided missile) USS Oklahoma City (CL-91/CLG-5/CG-5) dropping it like its hot on the heads of Viet Cong forces, “somewhere off the coast of South Vietnam,” in an August 1965 LIFE Magazine cover. At the time the 21-year old Okie Boat, as she was known, was one of the last WWII-era ‘gun cruisers” still afloat but she had been brought into the Atomic-era as a hybrid missile slinger and for nearly a generation served as the “Fighting Flagship” of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific, often coming in close just like this to rain fire and brimstone when called.

She was part of the large and successful USS Cleveland (CL-55) class of light cruisers during WWII. Originally planned to be some 52-ships strong, 9 were carved off to become USS Independence class light carriers, while about half of the others were canceled as the end of the war was fast approaching. These were mighty “10,000-ton” designed light cruisers capable of making 32-knots while cruising some 14,500 nm at half that to reach those out-of-the-way Pacific battlegrounds without stopping for gas.

USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5) View of the ship's 6"/47 guns. Photograph was received in August 1972 and was probably taken during naval gunfire support operations off Vietnam earlier in that year as the paint on the gun barrels is charred and blistered from the heat of firing. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98680.

USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5) View of the ship’s 6″/47 guns. Photograph was received in August 1972 and was probably taken during naval gunfire support operations off Vietnam earlier in that year as the paint on the gun barrels is charred and blistered from the heat of firing. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98680.

Packing a dozen Mk.16 guns in four triple turrets each protected by 6-inches of armor themselves) these rapid-fire guns could bring an incredible amount of pain to enemy warships and land forces in a short time. As noted in prewar tests with these mounts, during gunnery trials in March 1939, USS Savannah (CL-42) fired 138 6-inch rounds in one minute. When you keep in mind that each of these guns fired a 130-lb. shell to 26,118 yards at maximum elevation, that’s pretty strong medicine. To augment this, these ships also carried a dozen 5-inch DP guns as well as an impressive AAA suite.

USS Oklahoma City (CL 91) Underway in the Delaware River, while operating out of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 9 April 1945. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland. Collection of James C. Fahey. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 95753.

USS Oklahoma City (CL 91) Underway in the Delaware River, while operating out of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 9 April 1945. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland. Collection of James C. Fahey. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 95753.

Oklahoma City (as CL-91) was laid down 8 December 1942 by the Cramp Shipbuilding Co., Philadelphia, Pa. She was finally commissioned 22 Dec. 1944, with just nine months left in the World War. Rushing to the Pacific, she joined Carrier Task Group 38.1 by June 1945 and saw some hot service off Okinawa and in Japan’s home waters just before the end of the war. In the first of a stream of luck, she suffered no wartime casualties and won a battle star for her service.

With a surplus of ships and a shrinking Navy, the gently used cruiser was mothballed 30 June 1947 where she sat for the next decade, often surrounded by her sisterships.

While many of her sisters never saw active service again, the Okie was far luckier. In 1957, she began a three-year conversion to a guided missile cruiser to fire the gigantic Talos long-range surface-to-air missile system. Two of her sisters, Galveston (CL-93/CLG-3) and Little Rock (CL-92/CLG- 4), both ironically also built by Cramp, were similarly converted. This conversion consisted of removing the two aft 6-inch mounts and their magazines to make room for the two-armed bandit Talos system and a below-deck magazine for 46 of the comically large (38-foot long 7800-pound) Bendix RIM-8 missiles. These beasts, to include a RIM-8D W30 nuclear-warhead version, could make Mach 2.2 and reach out to 100 nm– that made them among the best SAMs of the era.

Talos missiles on CG-5 USS Oklahoma City 1979. These things are huge!

Talos missiles on CG-5 USS Oklahoma City 1979. These things are huge! Photo Courtsey of then-ET1 John Andresen. His blog is yokosukasasebojapan.wordpress.com

Forward of the bridge, the No.2 6-inch mount was replaced by a twin 5-inch DP to help offset the weight of all the added surface search radars, fire control directors and commo gear. Much of her WWII armament, such as the 20mm guns, and gear were ditched. Gone were her seaplanes, which had been retired a decade earlier anyway, and their catapults, replaced by deck space and refueling facilities for naval helicopters. Below decks, she (and Little Rock) was given extra room and facilities to support a fleet flag operation.

All these extras pushed the boat to some 14,000-tons, which included additional ballast to help fight that 113-foot above deck height, all of which resulted in awful hogging in high seas and an increased draft to the near battleship-worthy 26-feet of seawater.

Underway, Showing general details of missile conversion rebuild

Underway, Showing general details of missile conversion rebuild

Port bow view while underway, date and location unknown photo by Charles Lamm via navsource

Port bow view while underway, date and location unknown photo by Charles Lamm via Navsource. Note the twin 5-inch mount forward and the huge radar masts.

Recommissioned 7 Sept 1960, she became 7th Fleet flagship at Yokosuka, Japan that Christmas Eve. It was a job she would keep for much of her second career.

From the Gulf of Tonkin include in August 1964 to the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975, she spent the majority of those ten+ years somewhere between the coastline of Vietnam, delivering gunfire support, and Yankee Station, providing air defense for the carriers stationed there.

Six inch 47 caliber guns in action, date unknown photo by Craig Chaddock

Six inch 47 caliber guns in action, date unknown photo by Craig Chaddock

 

USS Oklahoma City 6 Inch Guns firing. Photo From Okie Boat.com

USS Oklahoma City 6 Inch Guns firing. Photo From Okie Boat.com

While Talos missiles splashed three North Vietnamese MIGs during the conflict, these came from other cruisers and not the Okie boat. She herself survived an attack by two MIG-17s on 19 April 1972.

Her missiles did draw some significant blood however when she conducted the first surface-to-surface war shot in Navy history, destroying a NVA air control radar with a Talos RIM-8H anti-radar homing missile from fifty miles offshore.

Port quarter view, underway in Sydney Harbor, Austrailia, late 1970s Barry A. Seward via navsource

Port quarter view, underway in Sydney Harbor, Australia, late 1970s Barry A. Seward via Navsource. Note the Sea King on her pad.

In all she earned 13 battle stars for Vietnam and by 1975, at age thirty, the lucky penny was well-worn but, with all of the other big gun ships of her era turned to scrap or laid up, she was an interesting niche. However, even having the 6-inch hood ornament only went so far.

USS Oklahoma City CG-5 visiting Singapore in 1979. The old girl was the ultimate flag-waver around the Western Pacific from 1960-79

USS Oklahoma City CG-5 visiting Singapore in 1979. The old girl was the ultimate flag-waver around the Western Pacific from 1960-79. Note how small the huge 55-foot long SH-3H Sea King helicopter looks when compared to the Talos launcher on her stern . Courtsey of then-ET1 John Andresen. His blog is yokosukasasebojapan.wordpress.com

Her class had all been decommissioned by 1976 and her Talos missile system, designed in the 50s, was an Edsel in a world of AMC Pacers. Oklahoma City‘s last designation, applied at this time, was to simply drop the “L” from her hull number, making her CG-5.

Moored at Pearl Harbor, HI, 18 October 1979 with friendship lights lit. The "Okie Boat" was on her way to San Diego for decommissioning after serving as Flagship of the Seventh Fleet for eleven years. This picture was taken from the roof of the old Enlisted Barracks, which has since been torn down. Photo by Tom Bateman via Navsource.

Moored at Pearl Harbor, HI, 18 October 1979 with friendship lights lit. The “Okie Boat” was on her way to San Diego for decommissioning after serving as Flagship of the Seventh Fleet for eleven years. This picture was taken from the roof of the old Enlisted Barracks, which has since been torn down. Photo by Tom Bateman via Navsource.

She had one more thing to before being decommissioned.

A view of a Talos surface-to-air guided missile, moments after being launched from the starboard side of the guided missile cruiser USS OKLAHOMA CITY (CG 5) at the Pacific Missile Test Range. This is the final firing of the Talos missile by the United States Navy conducted on 1 Nov 1979 National Archive# NN33300514 2005-06-30 by PH1 DAVID C. MACLEAN.

A view of a Talos surface-to-air guided missile, moments after being launched from the starboard side of the guided missile cruiser USS OKLAHOMA CITY (CG 5) at the Pacific Missile Test Range. This is the final firing of the Talos missile by the United States Navy conducted on 1 Nov 1979 National Archive# NN33300514 2005-06-30 by PH1 DAVID C. MACLEAN.

By 15 December 1979, she was decommissioned, the last WWII-era cruiser in the U.S. Navy on active service, and remained in mothballs for twenty years, contributing many of her parts to help recondition WWII era museum ships around the country.

She spent 1979-99 in layup on red lead row. It was speculated by the Lehman-Reagan Navy of the 1980s of reactivating her for a third tour but funds were never allocated. After 1989 ,with the Cold War over, it became open season on the salvage of minor parts for museum donation that went to help outfit her sister Little Rock as well as the USS Missouri.

She spent 1979-99 in layup on red lead row. It was speculated by the Lehman-Reagan Navy of the 1980s of reactivating her for a third tour but funds were never allocated. After 1989 ,with the Cold War over, it became open season on the salvage of minor parts for museum donation that went to help outfit her sister Little Rock as well as the USS Missouri.

Finally, she was towed to deep water in February 1999 and subjected to a series of target shoots by U.S. and Allied fleets.

The battered 44-year old was sent to the bottom by a final merciful SUT torpedo coup de grâce from the South Korean Navy Chang Bogo Type 209/1200 Submarine Lee Chun (SS-062) on 26 March 1999. Let us face it; she belonged in the 20th Century and it was better this way than to have her turned to scrap.

Under attack and taking water, her keel is broken

Under attack and taking water, her keel is broken

Broken in two and headed to the bottom.

Broken in two and headed to the bottom.

The memory of the “Fighting Flagship” is maintained by the Okieboat website as well as the USS OK City Association.

As for her sisters, most of them had been long scrapped in the 1950s and 60s. Only three survived into the disco era, USS Springfield (CL-66/CLG-7/CG-7) who was decommissioned in 1974 and sold for scrap in 1980, USS Providence (CL–82/CLG-6/CG-6) who shared the same fate and timeline, and USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4) who was decommissioned in 1976 and is now a museum ship at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

USS Little Rock, the only ship of her kind that was given the same conversion as the OKC. She is a museum ship in Buffalo New York. Photo by Wiki

USS Little Rock, the only ship of her kind that was given the same conversion as the OKC. She is a museum ship in Buffalo New York. Photo by Wiki

Please visit her if you have a chance.

Specs

As commissioned, WWII, Image by Ship Bucket http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/United%20States%20of%20America/CL-55%20Cleveland%201942.png

As commissioned, WWII, Image by Ship Bucket

At end of service post missile modification Image by Ship Bucket http://www.shipbucket.com/images.php?dir=Real%20Designs/United%20States%20of%20America/CG-5%20Oklahoma%20City%201978.png

At end of service post missile modification Image by Ship Bucket

Displacement: 10,000 designed, 14,100 full load final
Length: 610 ft. 1 in
Beam: 66 ft. 2 in
Draft: 24 ft. 10 in, 26+ post conversion
Height above waterline: 113 feet
Propulsion: Four Babcock & Wilcox, 634 psi boilers
Four GE geared steam turbines, 100,000 hp (74,570 kW) total, 4 shafts
Speed: 32.5 as designed, 31.6 knots post conversion, 25 post-1975
Complement: 992 designed, 1255 actual (WWII) 1,426 post conversion
Armament (as completed):

12 Mk.16 6 inch guns (4 × 3)
12 5 in/38 cal gun (6 × 2)
28 40 mm Bofors guns (4 × 4, 6 × 2)
10 20 mm Oerlikons cannons
Aircraft carried: Four seaplanes launched from two catapults

(Post Conversion)
• 3 × 6 in (152 mm) guns in 1 Mark 16 turret
• 2 × 5 in/38 cal guns in 1 Mark 32 mount
• 1 × twin-rail Mark 7 Talos SAM launcher, 46 missiles
Aircraft carried: Kaman SH-2B Seasprite (1964–1972) SH-2H Sea King (1975–79) helicopter (Call Sign: Blackbeard 1)

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