Tag Archives: saipan

St. Louis, arriving

Over the weekend, in an understated COVID-era ceremony, the latest USS St. Louis joined the fleet.

She is the 7th such vessel to carry the name and SECNAV made sure to touch on the missions of the first one, the 19th Century 24-gun sloop-of-war, rather than the two 20th Century cruisers with the same legacy. Because mission.

“Nearly 200 years after the first ship to bear the name was launched, today we commission the seventh USS St. Louis,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite. “Much like that sloop of war did in 1828, LCS-19 and her crew will protect the U.S. and our interests near and abroad. Whether conducting counter-narcotic operations in the Caribbean or working to enhance interoperability with partners and allies at sea, USS St. Louis will provide maneuverability, stability, and lethality in today’s era of Great Power Competition.”

St. Louis is the 22nd LCS to be delivered to the Navy, and the tenth of the Freedom-variant to join the fleet and is the seventh ship to bear the name. The first St. Louis, a sloop of war, was launched in 1828. It spent the majority of its service patrolling the coasts of the Americas to secure interests and trade. In addition, it served as the flagship for the West Indies Squadron working to suppress piracy in the Caribbean Sea, the Antilles, and the Gulf of Mexico region.

Of course, the most celebrated St. Louis in U.S. Navy history was past Warship Wednesday Alum “Lucky Lou,” the Brooklyn-class light cruiser that was the first to clear the Channel at Pearl Harbor and went on to earn 11 battle stars in WWII before going on to serve Brazil as the Lobster War flagship Almirante Tamandaré for another quarter-century.

Warship Wednesday, March 4, 2020: The Saipan Jug Carrier

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 4, 2020: The Saipan Jug Carrier

Here we see the deck of a Kaiser-built Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) filled with some unusual aircraft– USAAF P-47D Thunderbolts– flying off her stubby deck just after a Japanese attack on the ship in June 1944. Her first exposure to combat, the next seven months would be a wild ride for Manila Bay, one that would see her count coup on some of the most iconic Japanese warships.

No matter if you call them “jeep carriers,” “baby flattops,” or “Combustible, Vulnerable, and Expendable,” the escort carrier concept is one we have covered a few times in the past several years on WW. Besides one-off training carriers and prototype ships, four large classes of U.S.-built CVEs (Bogue, Sangamon, Casablanca, Commencement Bay) were cranked out during WWII, approaching 150~ hulls planned or completed for Uncle Sam and his Allies.

Manila Bay and her multitude of sisters (CVE-55 through CVE-104) were basically Liberty ships, C-3-S-A1 freighters, whose topsides were sliced away and fitted with flight decks and a small island on the starboard side with a modicum of AAA guns placed in tubs alongside the flight deck for self-protection.

Cranked out by the Kaiser yard in Vancouver, the Casablancas was the most prolific CVEs to see service, with a solid 50 ordered in bulk, to be completed within two years.

Think about that: one yard making 50 carriers in two years. You couldn’t beat that, even though they were not nice, larger fleet carriers. Quantity over quality.

Besides, the CVEs could be used for supporting beachheads during amphibious operations, escorting slow-moving convoys, and easily shuttling aircraft from location to location– all jobs that typically tied down the more valuable large flattops, freeing the big boys up for strategic and decisive fleet actions ala Mahan.

Mr. Henry J. Kaiser, right, presents President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a model of the escort carriers that he was constructing at Vancouver, Washington, on 18 March 1943. Kaiser built 50 of these CASABLANCA class carriers CVE-55-104 in 1943-44. Notably, Henry J. Kaiser had no prior shipbuilding experience or education as a naval engineer– he had reportedly never even been on a ship! NH 75629

Just 513-feet long overall, the Casablancas could carry a couple dozen aircraft in a composite squadron, typically a mix of upgraded FM‑2 Wildcat fighters and lumbering TBF Avenger torpedo bombers. However, they only had one catapult (most other CVEs had two) which limited their op-tempo a bit.

Manila Bay’s wartime embarked air wings (squadrons):
VC-7, 29 Jan – 28 Feb 44 – Marshall Islands.
VC-7, 19 Mar – 19 Apr 44 – Bismarck Archipelago.
VC-7, 27 Apr – 2 May 44 – Western New Guinea.
VC-80, 12-26 Oct 4 4- Leyte Operation.
VC-80, 12-18 Dec 44 – Luzon Operation.
VC-80, 4-18 Jan 45 – Luzon Operation.
VC-71, 9 Jun – 20 Jun 45 – Okinawa Gunto Operation.

For reference, see the below overhead shot of sister USS Savo Island (CVE-78) with a nice starboard bow aerial view of the Casablanca-class escort carrier underway.

Note disassembled aircraft on the flight deck, and camouflage paint scheme. It is not hard to see these are freighter hulls with a simple flight deck thrown on top and a small offset island to house antenna, a bridge, and an air boss. 80-G-409217

Laid down originally as Bucareli Bay (ACV‑61) on 15 January 1943, our featured carrier was renamed the more warlike Manila Bay (CVE-61) just two months later. Launched 10 July 1943, she was commissioned 5 October 1943 at Astoria, Oregon. In all, she went from first steel laid to joining the fleet in 263 days. Not bad.

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61), at launching, sliding down the ways at Kaiser Company Inc., Vancouver, Washington, July 10, 1943. 80-G-372761

The Casablancas carried a smaller armament than other CVEs, but they still weren’t helpless, packing a single open 5″/38cal DP mount for use in scaring off a small surface attacker, 16 dual 40mm Bofors, and 20 Oerlikon singles.

Testing the sole 5-inch gun USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) 3 November 1943. Note fuzed ready shells. 80-G-372778

Testing 40 mm anti-aircraft guns onboard USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) 3 October 1943 80-G-372776

She spent the rest of 1943 on shakedown along the west coast, where plane handling was often a new thing for many on both sides of the stick.

Crash of FM1 Wildcat, Bu# 46789, on the flight deck of USS Manila Bay (CVE 61), as she bursts into flames, December 16, 1943. 80-G-372821

And as the fire spreads to other parked aircraft. 80-G-372823

By January 1944, she was forward deployed, with her planes socking it to the Japanese on Kwajalein with Task Force 52, where she carried the flag of RADM Ralph Davidson for CarDiv 24.

Kwajalein Island, 4 February 1944, on the last day of major fighting between Japanese defenders and the U.S. Army invaders. Seen from a USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) plane from the Pacific, looking west, with landing beaches in the upper left distance surrounded by landing craft. Several LVT’s are on the beach in the foreground, moving toward the front lines, off the view to the right. The block-house area is in the right-center, with some buildings still burning. 80-G-373059

From there, she continued operating in the Marshalls including Eniwetok and then to Majuro, before chopping to TF 37 to hit Kavieng and then support operations in the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea.

Relieved of her flag duties, the now-veteran carrier turned for Pearl Harbor for a quick refit and a mission to pick up a load of Army aircraft, 37 P-47-D Thunderbolts, for transshipment to points West. They would be headed to still-hot Saipan in the Marianas, where the “Jugs” would be engaged in combat immediately.

Pilots of the 73rd Fighter squadron, 7th USAAF, receive a briefing on the flight deck of USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) before taking off for Saipan, where they will be based, 20 June 1944. Planes are P-47s. 80-G-238677

There, just East of Saipan, the ship had her literal baptism of fire when she was jumped by a quartet of Mitsubishi A6Ms. Dropping small 100-pound bombs, they just missed the carrier by 400 to 600 yards. In return, her crew fired five 5-inch, 190 40mm, and 465 20mm rounds at the planes. Likewise, these also evidently caused no damage.

USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) under bombing attack by four Japanese “Zeke” aircraft, off Saipan, at 1205 on 23 June 1944. Note USAAF P-47 fighters on deck, for delivery to Saipan airfields. 80-G-238680

During the attack, the Army fighter pilots calmly tended their planes while the bluejackets tended their guns. Just after the attack was over, the first four P-47s launched for Aslito Field.

USAAF P-47 fighters of the 73rd fighters SQ., 7th AF, being launched from USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) for delivery to airfields on Saipan, 24 June 1944. 80-G-238689

Catapult USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) P-47D-11-RA of 318th FG, 73rd FS, 42-23038 pilot Eubanks Barnhill in “Sonny Boy”

P-47 Thunderbolt #34 of the 73rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group takes off from the USS Manila Bay CVE-61

P-47D “Spittin’ Kitten” 404 of the 318th FG, 73rd FS prepares to launch from USS Manila Bay CVE-61, 23 June 1944

P-47D Thunderbolt #29 42-75302 “Dee Icer” of the 73rd FS, 318th Fighter Group Cpt John O’Hare

P-47D Thunderbolt Razorback serial 42-75302 “Dee Icer” of the 73rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group

Lt. Joseph J. DeVona in the cockpit of his 73rd Fighter Squadron, P-47N “Empire Express.” Note the squadron’s “Bar Flies” insignia. The 73rd would prove itself on Saipan, ranging on 1,300-mile escorts as far as Iwo Jima, then transfer to Okinawa in April 1945 to finish the war. They would later become a bombing squadron flying B-52s in the Cold War. 

This great video covers the 318th FG and their trip to Saipan.

On Manila Bay‘s return trip to Pearl, she was used as a hospital ship, embarking 207 wounded troops for a return stateside.

Returning to CarDiv24, Manila Bay picked up a new skipper, CAPT. Fitzhugh Lee III (USNA 1926), who was the great-great-grandson of Light Horse Harry Lee of Revolutionary War fame and grandson Virginia cavalry general Fitzhugh Lee of Civil War and SpanAm War fame. Like his forefathers, he would lead his men into harm’s way.

–But first, she had to shlep a load of Navy and Marine bombers to the front.

USS Manila Bay (CVE-61) with a mix of about two dozen PBJ-1D (navalized B-25 Mitchell) and JM-1 (navalized Martin B-26 Marauder) aircraft embarked on 24 August 1944. 80-G-243546

North American PBJ-1D Mitchell bomber of U.S. Marine Corps bombing squadron VMB-611 spotted on the deck of the escort carrier USS Manila Bay (CVE-61), August 1944. Note the radar nose cone. The squadron made a major contribution with these planes in the Mindanao campaign

Then, as part of Escort Carrier Group (TG 77.4), came the push for the Philippines, where Manila Bay was part of the famed Taffy 2 during the Battle of Samar.

About the last week of October 1944 from DANFS:

Prior to the invasion, her planes pounded enemy ground targets on Leyte, Samar, and Cebu. She launched ground support, spotting, and air cover strikes during the amphibious assaults 20 October; thence, she sent bombers and fighters to support ground forces during the critical first few days at Leyte.

As Manila Bay cruised to the east of Leyte Gulf with other carriers of Rear Adm. Felix B. Stump’s Taffy 2 (TU 77.4.2), powerful Japanese naval forces converged upon the Philippines and launched a three‑pronged offensive to drive the Americans from Leyte. In a series of masterful and coordinated surface attacks, an American battleship, cruiser, and destroyer force met and smashed enemy ships in the Battle of Surigao Strait early 25 October. Surviving Japanese ships retreated into the Mindanao Sea pursued by destroyers, PT boats, and after sunrise by carrier‑based bombers and fighters.

Manila Bay sent an eight‑plane strike against ground targets on Leyte before sunrise; subsequently, these planes bombed and strafed retiring enemy ships southwest of Panaon Island. A second strike about midmorning pounded the disabled heavy cruiser Magami. In the meantime, however, Manila Bay turned her planes against a more immediate threat-the enemy attack against ships of Taffy 3.

The running battle between the escort carriers of Rear Adm. Clifton Sprague’s Taffy 3 and the larger, vastly more powerful surface ships of Admiral Kurita’s Center Force; the brilliant, self‑sacrificing attacks by gallant American destroyers and destroyer escorts, and the prompt, aggressive, and unceasing torpedo, bomb, and strafing strikes by planes from Taffy 2 and Taffy 3, all contributed to the American victory against great odds in the Battle off Samar.

Manila Bay launched two airstrikes during the enemy pursuit of Taffy 3 and two more as the Japanese retreated. At 0830 she sent four torpedo‑laden TBMs and a seven‑plane escort to join the desperate fight. Three launched torpedoes at a battleship, probably Yamato, but she combed the wakes. The fourth plane launched her torpedo at a heavy cruiser, most likely Chikuma. It hit her to starboard near the fantail, forcing her out of control. The second strike an hour later by two TBMs resulted in one torpedo hit on the portside amidships against an unidentified battleship.

As the Japanese ships broke off attack and circled off Samar, the fierce airstrikes continued. At 1120 Manila Bay launched four TBMs, carrying 500‑pound bombs, and four bombers from other carriers. Escorted by FM‑2s and led by Comdr. R. L. Fowler, they soon joined planes from other Taffy carriers. Shortly after 1230, some 70 planes jumped the retiring Center Force, strafing and bombing through intense antiaircraft fire. Manila Bay’s bombers made a hit and two near misses on the lead battleship, probably Kongo or Haruna. Manila Bay launched her final strike at 1245, strafing destroyers and getting two hits on a cruiser.

Later that afternoon, Manila Bay‘s CAP intercepted a Japanese bomber‑fighter strike about 50 miles north of Taffy 2. Her four fighters broke up the enemy formation, and with reinforcements drove off the attackers before they reached the carriers. Her planes continued to pound enemy ships the following day. Laden with rockets and bombs, one of her TBMs scored two hits on light cruiser Kinu and several rocket hits on Uranami, an escorting destroyer. Both ships sank about noon in the Visayan Sea after numerous air attacks.

Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 1944. USS MANILA BAY (CVE-61) and USS BOISE (CL-47) operating off Leyte, 28 October 1944. Photographed from NATOMA BAY (CVE-62). 80-G-287558

Some of her downed aircrews managed to be returned quickly.

Ensign Crandell, TBM Pilot of VC-80, and his aircrewman were brought back on-board USS Manila Bay (CVE 61) by a U.S. Navy PT Boat 523 after they were shot down over Leyte Island beachhead, Philippines, October 22, 1944. Note the PT-boat’s field-expedient 37mm gun forward, salvaged from an AAF P-39 Airacobra. 80-G-372892

Of note, one of her Avenger pilots, LT (j.g.) Horace D. Bryan was presented with the Navy Cross, for landing two 500-pound bombs on the Japanese Nagara-class light cruiser Kinu in the Camotes Sea area on 26 October, which proved key in sending her to the bottom.

With no rest, the flattop was soon active in the Mindoro invasion and operations around Luzon for the rest of the year and going into 1945.

There, she felt the Divine Wind. Sistership USS Ommaney Bay (CVE–79) was sunk after an attack by a kamikaze Yokosuka P1Y Ginga twin-engine bomber on 4 January. The next day, it would be Manila Bay’s turn in the barrel.


The enemy air attacks intensified 5 January. Patrolling lighters broke up morning and early afternoon strikes, shooting down numerous raiders. At 1650 a third attack sent all hands to general quarters. Vectored CAP bagged several enemy planes and antiaircraft fire splashed still more. Three planes got through to Louisville, Stafford, and HMAS Australia. Just before 1750, two kamikazes dove at Manila Bay from the portside. The first plane [a Mitsubishi A6M Zeke] hit the flight deck to starboard abaft the bridge, causing fires on the flight and hangar decks, destroying radar transmitting spaces, and wiping out all communications. The second plane, aimed for the bridge, missed the island close aboard to starboard and splashed off the fantail.

View from the flight deck of the escort carrier Manila Bay (CVE 61) under attack by Japanese kamikazes off Mindoro in the Philippines Jan 5, 1945

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61). Japanese kamikaze fighter bomber starting an attack on the carrier escort in the South China Sea during operations in support of the invasion of Luzon. Released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273176

Firefighting parties promptly brought the blazes under control including those of two fueled and burning torpedo planes in the hangar deck.

USS Manila Bay (CVE 61). Crew combating fire after Japanese kamikaze crashed into the ship’s flight deck at Luzon, South China Sea, during operations in the support of the invasion of Luzon. Released January 5, 1945. 80-G-273184

VC80s 23 on-board planes on Manila Bay when suicide plane hit, via her war diary in National Archives.

Within 24 hours she resumed limited air operations. Most repairs to her damaged electrical and communication circuits were completed by 9 January when the amphibious invasion in Lingayen Gulf got underway.

Manila Bay had 14 men killed and 52 wounded, but by 10 January she resumed full duty in support of the Lingayen Gulf operations,” notes DANFs. “In addition to providing air cover for the task force, her planes flew 104 sorties against targets in western Luzon. They gave effective close support for ground troops at Lingayen and San Fabian and bombed, rocketed, and strafed gun emplacements, buildings, truck convoys, and troop concentrations from Lingayen to Baguio.”

Sent stateside for repairs, Manila Bay was back in action off the coast of Okinawa by 13 June, launching rocket and strafing strikes in the Ryukyus. Then, given a break with a cruise to the Aleutians, she ended the war in support of occupation operations in northern Japan, dropping supplies to POWs.

Switching to Magic Carpet duty, Manila Bay landed her aircraft and made three runs from the Western Pacific to Pearl and San Francisco. By 27 January 1946, she was given orders for the peacetime East Coast and eventual lay up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, being decommissioned at Boston on 31 July.

Manila Bay received eight battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for her wartime service.

While some CVEs, typically late-war Bogue-class escort carriers, found use in Korea and Vietnam, primarily as aircraft shuttles, the Casablancas remained at anchor growing rusty. Only five of the class saw any significant post-war service past 1946– USS Petrof Bay (CVE–80), Sitkoh Bay (CVE-86), Cape Esperance (CVE-88), Tripoli (CVE-64), and Corregidor (CVE-58)— typically as unarmed MSC-controlled aircraft ferries with a mostly civilian crew. Even this limited role would end by 1959.

Five of the 11 American carriers lost during WWII were sisterships of Manila Bay, earning the class the perhaps unfair nickname of “Kaiser’s Coffins.”

As a class, the remaining Casablancas was retyped as utility carriers (CVU) or aircraft ferry (AKV), which saw Manila Bay designated CVU‑61 on 12 June 1955 while still in mothballs.

USS Manila Bay CVE-61, USS Woolsey DD-437, USS Chenango CVE-28. USS Baldwin DD-624 South Boston Naval Annex Jul 1959. 19590700S-20

Subsequently, her name was struck from the Navy list on 27 May 1958 and she was sold for scrap to Hugo New Corp., 2 September 1959, a fate largely shared by the rest of her class.

By 1969, no Casablancas would remain anywhere in the world.

There has not been a second Manila Bay on the Navy List.

I can’t find her bell, but much of her war diaries are available online at the National Archives.

As for her 1944-45 skipper, Fitzhugh Lee III, he was present at the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, aboard Missouri and would go on to retire as a Vice Admiral in 1962. He was a double Navy Cross recipient, both for his command of Manila Bay at the Battle of Samar and on her kamikaze strike. He passed in 1992 and is buried in Northern Virginia, naturally.


Inboard and outboard profiles of a U.S. Navy Casablanca-class escort carrier, via Wiki Commons

Displacement: 7,800 long tons (7,900 t)
Length: 512 ft overall
Beam: 65 ft
Draft: 22 ft 6 in
4 × 285 psi boilers 9,000 shp
2 × 5-cylinder reciprocating Skinner Uniflow engines
2 × screws
Speed: 19 kn
Range: 10,240 nmi at 10 kn
Embarked Squadron: 50–56, Ship’s Crew: 860
1 × 5 in/38 caliber dual-purpose gun
16 × 40 mm Bofors guns (8×2)
20 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons (20×1)
Aircraft carried: 27

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Aug.21, 2019: Of Long Lances and Lobsters

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-3971

In this beautiful original color photograph, we see the modified Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS St. Louis, often also seen written as “Saint Louis”, (CL-49) at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, circa 1943. At the time this image was taken, the cruiser had already seen much of the Pacific War and would see much more.

Significantly different from the seven other ships of the Brooklyn-class, St. Louis and her follow-on sister USS Helena (CL-50) was ordered under the 1934 Naval Plan. While they used the same hull, engineering plant, and general layout as the rest of their class– to include 15 6″/47 caliber Mark 16 guns in five triple turrets– there were enough differences for the two sisters to often be considered a distinct class of their own. This included a better secondary battery (eight 5″/38 DP guns in four double enclosed mounts vs. eight low-angle 5″/25 open singles), a different boat stowage scheme and cranes for the same, a smaller secondary tripod mast in a different location, higher boiler pressure, and a different fire control arrangement.

Brooklyn plan, top, St. Louis plan, bottom, both from the 1945 ed of Jane’s

The whole class could also carry as many as six floatplanes in their below-deck hangar as well as spare parts and engines, although typically would only deploy with four.

SOC-3 Seagull aircraft stripped for maintenance in the hangar of St. Louis’s near sister, the Brooklyn-class light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938. Note the close up of the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 9-cylinder radial engine and caster tracks to roll the planes out of the hangar on its truck and on deck for launch NH 85630

USS St. Louis (CL 49) with SOC-3 Seagull biplanes on her catapults while at the Tulagi harbor. Seen from USS O’Bannon (DD 450) after the Battle of Kula Gulf, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55501

Capable of breaking more than 32.5 knots, they also had very long legs, able to make 14,500 nm at 15 knots without refueling.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off Rockland, Maine, while on trials, 28 April 1939. Note that her 5/38 secondary gun battery has not yet been installed. NH 48998

Laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., our cruiser was the fifth U.S. warship vessel to carry the name of the Missouri city and gateway to the West.

Commissioned on 19 May 1939, she was still on her shakedown cruise when Hitler marched into Poland in September, sparking WWII, a move that introduced St. Louis to Neutrality Patrol operations over the next 11 months that took her from the balmy West Indies and British Guiana to the freezing North Atlantic.

However, with tensions ramping up with Imperial Japan over China, Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies, St. Louis received orders to head for the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 December 1940. From there, she ranged from the West Coast to Manila and back on exercises and patrols in 1941, with stops at Wake, Midway, and Guam.

St. Louis off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 4 June 1941. She is wearing Measure 5 (false bow wave) camouflage. NH 80564

Lucky Lou

On the morning of 7 December 1941, St. Louis was at anchor in Pearl Harbor, moored at Berth B-17 in the Southeast Loch since 28 November with two of her eight boilers offline for maintenance. The ship’s aviation detachment was shore-based at Ford Island and many of her crew and Marine det were ashore on libo.

According to the ship’s log, now in the National Archives:

“At 0756 two of the ship’s officers observed a large number of dark-colored planes heading towards Ford Island from the general direction of AIEA. They dropped bombs and made strafing attacks. At the same time, a dark olive drab colored plane bearing the aviation insignia of Japan passed close astern and dropped a torpedo…The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its entire battery.”

By 0800, her skipper was on the bridge and both her .50 caliber and 1.1″ batteries were “already manned and in action delivering a full volume of fire at the attackers,” as steam was ordered up from her six operational boilers.

St. Louis at far right, about 0930 7 December 1941, leaving Pearl. USS California off her starboard side hit and sinking.

At 0931, St. Louis got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots, and stood out to sea via South Channel. Just 30 minutes later, she reportedly suffered a near miss from two torpedoes fired from a Japanese midget submarine just inside the channel entrance buoys.

At 1016, St. Louis was the first U.S. Navy ship to clear the channel from Pearl during the attack and she engaged a number of aircraft from the Japanese second wave between then and 1147 with her twin 5″ mounts before joining with the cruisers Montgomery and Minneapolis, along with several destroyers, to proceed “southward with the intention of locating and attacking the [Japanese] carrier.”

Between 1213 and 1234, her guns engaged the Japanese second wave as they withdrew. In all, she fired 207 5″ shells, 3,950 rounds from her 1.1″ battery and a very decent 12,750 .50-cal BMG rounds, claiming at least three probable Japanese planes seen to flame and crash.

Of course, the little force of cruisers and destroyers did not find the Japanese flattops and retired to Pearl Harbor on 10 December. While Battleship Row was the scene of carnage, St. Louis was only very lightly damaged from machine gun rounds and suffered no casualties in the attack.

USS Arizona (BB-39) burned out and sunk in Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1941, three days after she was destroyed during the 7 December Japanese raid. Ships in the background are USS Saint Louis (CL-49), in the center, and the hulked minelayer Baltimore (CM-1) at left. NH 63918

Joining the shooting war with a bang, St. Louis was used to escort the steamer SS President Coolidge, carrying Philippine President Quezon to San Francisco, as well as riding shotguns on convoys to reinforce Midway and the Aleutians.

St. Louis at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, circa May 1942. NH 50796

She was in the Northern Pacific during the Battle of Midway, missing out on the initial carrier clash, but did her first round of naval gunfire support on 3 August when she plastered the newly Japanese-occupied island of Kiska in the Aleutians. On 16 August, she lost an aircraft with four aviators aboard somewhere between Kodiak and Whitehorse.

After staying in Alaskan waters to cover the Allied liberation of Adak, St. Louis caught a refit at Mare Island where she picked up a much better AAA suite of 40mm and 20mm guns.

From there she proceeded to the West Pac where she joined RADM “Pug” Ainsworth’s TF cruiser-destroyer force, dubbed the “Ainsworth Express,” in fighting the Japanese in the near-nightly efforts to prevent the Empire from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal and/or wiping out the Marines trying to keep a toe-hold there. The Tokyo Express and Ainsworth Express collided in the high-traffic waterway of New Georgia Sound through the middle of the Solomon Islands, better known as “The Slot,” in a series of pitched battles in the summer of 1943.

At Kula Gulf, Ainsworth’s force of three light cruisers– St. Louis, her sister Helena, and near-sister USS Honolulu (CL-48) — collided with 10 destroyers of RADM Teruo Akiyama’s 3rd Destroyer Squadron off the coast of Kolombangara Island carrying 2,600 Japanese troops. The action, all in pitch darkness, left Akiyama dead, two Japanese destroyers sunk, and Helena lost, a victim of the deadly Type 93 Long Lance torpedo.

Night Battery of USS St. Louis (CL 49) during the Battle of Kula Gulf. Photographed by CPU-2, July 5-6, 1943. 80-G-55522

Covered with oil of their torpedoed ship, USS Helena (CL-50), survivors respond to a roll call aboard the destroyer USS O’Bannon (DD 450) which picked them up. Three times the destroyer had to leave off its rescue work to do battle with Japanese warships. Catalog #: L45-122.07.01

Less than a week later, the two opposed Expresses crashed into each other again in the same area with RADM Shunji Isaki’s force, consisting of the cruiser Jintsu, along with five destroyers, duking it out in a night action with Honolulu and St. Louis backed up by the Kiwi light cruiser HMNZS Leander. In the wild fight, which was considered a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese that turned into a strategic defeat as they shifted operations away from the vital Slot moving forward, sent Jintu to the bottom– plastered by radar-directed 6-inch guns from the Allied cruisers, killing Isaki.

Battle of Kolombangara, 13 July 1943, firing by USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49) during this battle. #: 80-G-342762

However, in her final act, the Japanese cruiser had gone down illuminating her killers with her searchlights and all three of the Allied cruisers as well as the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433), was hit by Long Lances before the action was over. While Gwin ultimately could not be saved, Honolulu, St. Louis and Leander managed to limp away to fight another day.

The bow of USS Saint Louis (CL-49), showing torpedo damage received during the Battle of Kolombangara. Photographed while the ship was under repair at Tulagi on 20 July 1943. USS Vestal (AR-4) is alongside. #: 80-G-259410

Damage to the bow of USS St. Louis (CL 49). Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943 80-G-259411

Note the sign that reads, “Danger / All Boats Slow Down.” Photographed by PHOM1/C George E. Gates, Jr., CPU-2, July 20, 1943. 80-G-259412

St. Louis received a temporary bow at an advanced base in the Pacific. With this bow, the cruiser was able to return to a West Coast navy yard for more permanent repairs. Incredibly, Lucky Lou had come out of both Kula Gulf– where her sister had been sunk– and Kolombangara with no serious casualties.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) has guns removed from her forward 6/47 turrets, during overhaul and battle damage repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa September 1943. The upper section of her midships searchlight platform is hanging from a crane in the immediate background. It was removed to reduce the ship’s topside weights. #: 80-G-K-15536

In mid-November, Lou returned to the Solomons and, from the 20th to the 25th, covered Marines fighting for Bougainville. She would continue to work her way along the Pacific, delivering salvos of accurate 6-inch and 5-inch shells in NGF support.

On 13 January 1944, while operating in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland, she was attacked by five Vals. One managed to make it through flak fire to hit St. Louis in her 40mm clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in the midship living compartment, killing 23 and wounding another 20.

Her spell had been broken.

Still, she licked her wounds once more and got back to work, supporting operations on Saipan and Guam, while picking up a new camo pattern.

Camouflage Measure 32, Design 2C drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for USS St. Louis (CL-49). She was painted in this pattern during much of 1944. This plan, showing the ship’s port side, is dated 31 March 1944 and was approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN. #: 80-G-109719

Saipan Invasion, June 1944. Units of cruiser division six bombard Saipan on 14-15 June 1944. The nearest ship is USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32). Beyond her is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). #: 80-G-K-1774

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) bombarding Japanese positions on Guam, 21 July 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 80-G-K-16463

USS St Louis, 1944, off Orote Point, Guam

After her 1944 campaigns, she was beaten and broken, in need of an urgent refit. In Late July she headed for the West Coast to get some work done.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) off San Pedro, California, on 5 October 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 32, Design 2c. #: 19-N-72219

Then, refreshed and ready to go again, it was now time to deliver on MacArthur’s “I Shall Return” promise and Lou made a course for the Philippines, where she felt the Divine Wind.

One of the most effective Japanese kamikaze attacks of the war occurred on 27 November in the Leyte Gulf against Task Group 77.2., when a mixed force of 13 Jills, Kates and Vals came in low at 1125 while the ships were fueling. The task group was composed of four battleships, five cruisers, and seven destroyers, of which the larger ships were singled out for attack. Corresponding hits were scored on Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), Montpelier (CL-57), and Aulick (DD-569) as well as St. Louis.

Two suicide planes hit St. Louis, one aft and one amidships, burning the after part of the cruiser, destroying catapults and seaplanes, and damaging her after turrets. She took a hard list to port for nearly an hour and looked in bad shape.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) crewmen fight fires in the cruiser’s hangar after she was hit by a Kamikaze off Leyte on 27 November 1944. Note wrecked SOC floatplane in the left background, and hangar hatch cover threw atop the port catapult, at right. #: 80-G-361985

Her crews managed to contain the fires, right the ship, and head for San Pedro Bay for repairs. In the twin kamikaze strike, 16 men were killed or missing and another 43 injured.

After another stint in a California shipyard to fix her back up, St. Louis returned to the battle line in March 1945, bombarding Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and UDT teams clearing channels to the assault beaches.

By August, the end of the war found her assigned to TF 73, the Yangtze River Patrol Force, and she made Shanghai in October, supporting KMT Chinese forces.

After three Magic Carpet runs across the vast expanse of the Pacific to bring returning Vets back home Lou sailed for the East Coast and arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation in February 1946.

In all, from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Home Islands, St. Louis earned 11 battle stars during her war.

Her payment? She was stricken from the U.S. Naval List on 22 January 1951.

Cruisers and other warships laid up in the Philadelphia Yard Reserve Fleet Basin, circa 1947. Outboard ship in the left group is USS ST. LOUIS (CL-49). Ships in background include (in no order): USS SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), USS MINNEAPOLIS (CA-36), USS NEW ORLEANS (CA-32), USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28), and USS PORTLAND (CA-33).
“All Hands” magazine Catalog #: NH 92254

However, Lucky Lou would get a reprieve from the rust squadron and go on to live a very long second career

Cruzador Tamandaré

In the 1900s, a Latin American naval race led South America’s major powers to acquire numerous battleships to include a modicum of dreadnoughts, along with a veneer of escorting armored/protected cruisers. While these vessels had grown quite long in the tooth and put on the list for the breakers by the end of the 1940s, the big regional players still needed ships for prestige and to be taken seriously. The logical replacement for those 30-40-year-old coal burners was relatively new Allied WWII-surplus cruisers which could be bought for a song.

This led to the curious phenomenon that, outside of the U.S., Europe and India/Pakistan, all the world’s cruisers from the 1950s to 1970s were operated by Latin American fleets:

Argentina– Two ex-Brooklyn class light cruisers (Phoenix, Boise, recommissioned as Gen. Belgrano and Nueve de Julio in 1951-52) as well as the old Vickers-made training cruiser La Argentina (8,610-tons, 9×6″ guns)

Chile– Two ex-Brooklyns (Brooklyn, Nashville, recommissioned as Prat and O’Higgins in 1951-52) as well as the Swedish-built Latorre (ex-Gota Lejon) bought in 1971.

Peru– Two ex-British Colony-class light cruisers (ex-HMS Ceylon, Newfoundland recommissioned as Almirante Grau and Col. Bolognesi, in 1959-60) replacing a pair of Vickers built scout cruisers commissioned in 1908. The Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter later became Peru’s only cruiser, recycling the Grau name, serving until 2017.

As for Brazil, they got the same sweetheart cruiser deal from Uncle Sam hat Argentina and Chile got on their scratch and dent Brooklyns— pay just 10 percent of the vessels’ original cost plus the expense of reconditioning them after their short stint in mothballs.

With that, Rio plunked down cash for the Brooklyn-class USS Philadelphia (CL-41) as well as our St. Louis in 1951 with the latter being transferred on 29 January and the former on 21 August.

While Philly picked up the moniker of NAeL Barroso (C11), St. Louis became Almirante Tamandaré (C12) after the famed 19th Century Brazilian naval hero Joaquim Marques Lisboa, Marquês de Tamandaré, the third vessel to bear this name in the Marinha do Brasil.

This guy

In the end, Brazil got a 12-year-old ship that had been hit by Long Lance torpedos, Japanese bombs, and kamikazes, but still looked great.

ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE (Brazilian Cruiser, ex USS ST. Louis) in U.S. waters photographed circa early 1951. Courtesy of Robert Varrill, 1977 Catalog #: NH 85261

TAMANDARE (Brazilian cruiser, ex-USS ST. LOUIS, CL-49) underway, 20 to 30 miles off Fort Story, Virginia, 5 March 1952, shortly after she was commissioned by the Brazilian Navy. #: 80-G-440057

Same day 80-G-440059

Other than adding LORAN, halting the operation of seaplanes and landing their catapults (the Brazilians later used Sikorsky H-34 and Westland Wasp helicopters on their cruisers), and getting rid of their Oerlikons, the vessels remained essentially the same as during their WWII service, to include carrying their 40mm Bofors mounts, SPS-12 (surface search), SPS-6C (air search) and SPS-10 (tactical) radar sets.

Taking further advantage of good deals on certified pre-owned naval warships, Brazil also bought 7 surplus Fletcher-class destroyers, a Sumner-class destroyer, 7 Bostwick-class destroyer escorts, and four GUPPY’d fleet boat style diesel submarines from the U.S. Navy. This gave the country two effective surface action groups well into the early 1970s centered around the cruisers with the tin cans and subs in support– even if they did look a repeat of the Pacific War.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro 20 April 1952 after four months of shakedowns with her new Brazilian crew, Tamandare became the fleet flagship until 1960 when the aircraft carrier NAeL Minas Gerais (A11) joined the fleet. This led to a simple life of friendship missions (she carried President Dr. Café Filho and entourage on an official visit to Portugal in 1955 and a revisit in 1960), midshipman cruises, and regular training exercises such as DRAGÃO, UNITAS, and ASPIRANTEX.

The closest she came to combat in her decades under the Brazilian flag was the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état (Golpe de 64), which started with a sailor’s revolt, and the so-called Lobster War with France.

The what?

In the early 1960s, French lobstermen sailing from African waters came increasingly close to Brazil, within about 100 miles of Pernambuco, which became a real issue when Rio kicked their economic exclusion zone out to 200 miles, as is now common. The friction led to the seizure of at least one French fishing boat by the Brazilians and a muscular response from Paris that saw the gunboat Paul Goffeny (A754) sail over from Dakar.

The heated rhetoric saw a French naval task force sail from Toulon in February 1963– officially for a West African cruise– headed by the brand-new aircraft carrier Clemenceau (who was carrying helicopters only as she would not get her first F-8 Crusaders until the next year), the AAA cruiser De Grasse (12,350-tons, 8 x 5-inch guns), the big destroyers Cassard, Jauréguiberry and Tartu; and the corvettes Le Picard, Le Gascon, L’Agenais, Le Béarnais, and Le Vendéen, along with support vessels.

Rio reciprocated by putting Brazilian Air Force RB-17 Flying Fortresses into the air along with shore-based S-2 Trackers on long-range patrol over the disputed fishing grounds– and mobilizing both the cruisers Barroso and Tamandaré along with six Fletcher-class destroyers.

Tamandaré, at sea flanked by a heavy escort of former Fletcher-class tin cans, from top: Pernambuco (D30) ex-USS Hailey, Paraná (D29) ex-USS Cushing, Pará (D27) ex-USS Guest, and Paraíba (D28) ex-USS Bennett. Of note, the Brazilians would keep most of these greyhounds well into the 1980s.

In terms of guns, the Brazilan fleet had a distinct advantage if it came to a naval clash with the French, who would have been handicapped by the fact that the Latin American country could also bird dog the area of operations with land-based aircraft. Still, the French had more bluewater experience, coupled with better sensors, and may have made it count.

In the end, only the French destroyer Tartu entered the disputed area and remained there for 17 days until 10 March while the Brazilians sent air patrols to keep tabs on the interloping French ship. The two fleets never got within several hundred miles of each other, as the French kept close to Africa, in Dakar and Abidjan, while the Brazilians likewise remained in their coastal waters.

Brazilian cruiser ALMIRANTE TAMANDARE C12 former USS ST.LOUIS (CL-49) note H34 helicopters in the air

No shots were fired in the surreal crustacean contest known in Brazil as the “Guerra da Lagosta” and both sides de-escalated, later settling the dispute in 1966 amicably.

In all, Tamandaré steamed over 200,000 nautical miles with the Brazilian Navy and served her adopted country proudly.

NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), da Marinha do Brasil, fevereiro de 1971. Arquivo Nacional. Note her helicopter deck

While Barroso/Philadelphia was scrapped in 1974, Tamandaré endured for another two years and was only decommissioned on 28 June 1976.

Sold for $1.1 million in scrap value to Superwinton Enterprises of Hong Kong, a Philippine-flagged tugboat, Royal, arrived in Brazil to haul the old cruiser to the breakers in Asia in August 1980. However, St. Louis wasn’t feeling another trip to the Pacific via South Africa and, unmanned, on the night of 24 August near -38.8077778°, -001.3997222°, she started to submerge. Unable for Royal to save her, the towline was released, allowing her to settle on the seabed where she remains in deep water.

Today, a WWII St. Louis Veterans’ Association exists, though its ranks are thinning. The U.S. Navy recycled her name for an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-116) and a planned Freedom-class littoral combat ship (LCS-19) set to commission in 2020.

As for Brazil, that country’s Navy has recently reissued the name Tamandaré to the lead ship of a new class of Meko A100 type corvettes scheduled for delivery between 2024 and 2028.


Scheme from 1973 Janes, as Brazilian NAeL Tamandaré (C-12), redrawn in 1971

Standard: 10,000 long tons (10,000 t)
Full load: 13,327 long tons (13,541 t)
Length: 608 ft 8 in
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
19 ft 10 in (6.05 m) (mean)
24 ft (7.3 m) (max)
8 × Babcock & Wilcox Express steam boilers
4 × Parsons geared turbines, 4 × screws, 100,000 shp (75,000 kW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 14,500nm at 15 knots on 2,100 tons fuel oil
(As designed) 888 officers and enlisted men
(1944) 1070 men, 58 officers, plus Marine and Aviation detachments
(1973, Brazil) 975
Belt: 3 1⁄4–5 in (83–127 mm)
Deck: 2 in (51 mm)
Barbettes: 6 in (150 mm)
Turrets: 1 1⁄4–6 in (32–152 mm)
Conning Tower: 2 1⁄4–5 in (57–127 mm) (although Jane’s states 8)
(As designed)
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts
16 x 1.1″ AAA guns in four quad mounts
8 x .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns
1 depth charge thrower
15 x 6″/47 cal cannons in five triple Mk-16 mounts three at the bow and two at the stern
8 x 5″/38cal guns in four double Mk-38 mounts,
28 x 40 mm Bofors L60 guns in four Mk 2 quadruple mounts and six Mk 1 doubles
8 x 20 mm Oerlikon submachine guns on single Mk 4 mounts.
Aircraft carried:
(1940s) 4-6 × SOC Seagull floatplanes, 2 catapults
(1958) 2-3 helicopters, first H-34s later Westland Wasps

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Nothing says ‘good morning’ like 5″ batteries, 75 years ago today

This beautiful originial Kodachrome shows the 5″/25cal (127 mm) Mark 10 battery aboard the U.S. Navy battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) preparing to fire during the bombardment of Saipan, 15 June 1944.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # 80-G-K-14162

Note the time-fuze setters on the left side of each gun mount, each holding three fixed shells; the barrels of 20 mm cannon at the extreme right; and triple the 14″/50 (34.5 cm) Mark 4 main guns in the background. On the two nearest weapons, note the “Hot Case Man” standing behind the breech and equipped with asbestos catcher’s mitts. Their job was to catch the ejected casing and then toss it out of the way of the gun crew as best they could.

The lead ship of a class of three battleships, and the first ship to be named for the state of New Mexico, Battleship No. 40 was a Great War baby, commissioning 20 May 1918, and famously escorted the ship that carried President Wilson to Brest to sign the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Missing Pearl Harbor as she was at the time on neutrality patrols in the Atlantic, she came through the Panama Canal on 17 January 1942 and earned six battlestars in the Pacific War.

She was in Tokyo Harbor for the end of the war.

The U.S. Navy battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) anchored in the Tokyo Bay area, circa late August 1945, at the end of World War II. Mount Fuji is in the background. NH 50232

The U.S. Navy battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) anchored in the Tokyo Bay area, circa late August 1945, at the end of World War II. Mount Fuji is in the background. NH 50232

Decommissioned in 1946 after 28 years of faithful service, she was paid off the next year and sold for $381,600, her value as scrap metal.


Of duck hunter camo and recycled popguns “somewhere in the Pacific”

“After the Marines captured this mountain gun from the Japs at Saipan, they put it into use during the attack on Garapan, the administrative center of the island.”

National Archives Identifier: 532383 Photo by Cpl. Angus Robertson, ca. July 1944 USMC 27-GR-114-83270.

Feeling froggy? Like 1944 froggy?

IMA  has a great grouping from a frogman of Underwater Demolition Team 7 during WWII.They include a set of Owen Churchill of LA swim fins, a Waterproof Bag BG 160 by U.S. Rubber Company, a wetsuit with feet and hood, as well as decorations from one D.A. Leavy of UDT 7 for action in the summer of 1944 off Saipan and Tinian.

It is a really great set, head on over and check it out in detail.

More on UDT 7 here.

A battered relic of Saipan


Click to big up 1800×301


Japanese Arisaka Type 99 7.7x58mm bolt action rifle with grenade damage and inscribed presentation plaque captured at Saipan 16 June 1944. The “mum” is present on the receiver, a rarity in an of itself. This rifle recently came up at auction with an estimated price of $1,500.

Via Rock Island Auction