Tag Archives: USS Saint Louis

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, 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

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018: The Saint and the Terror

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 their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018: The Saint and the Terror

Catalog #: NH 59924

Here we see the U.S. Mail Steamer Saint Paul of the American Line in her guise as the auxiliary cruiser USS Saint Paul, photographed at the end of the Spanish-American War. The 11,612-ton ocean liner was the fastest thing on the Atlantic merchant trade when put in service, was the first to carry a wireless (and she needed it!) and served in two real-live shooting wars, with mixed results.

Saint Paul, a twin-screw steel passenger liner of the newest sort, along with her sister Saint Louis were ordered by the Philadelphia-based International Navigation Company (led by robber baron Clement Acton Griscom) for use by that firm and their subsidiary American Line and Red Star Line flags. As such, they were something of a keynote in U.S. merchant history. They had 17 watertight compartments (two decades before Titanic), could carry up to 1,540 passengers in a variety of styles (350 1st class, 290 2nd, 900 3rd), and were ultra-modern.

As explained by Kenneth J. Blume, they were the first large liners built in the U.S since 1857 (other large passenger liners were all European in origin) and were ordered to take advantage of subsidies set aside in the Merchant Marine Act of 1891. Further, he says “they were the last such large passenger liners built in the United States until the 1930s.”

Built at William Cramp & Sons Building & Engine Company, Philadelphia (yard # 277 and 278), these ships used quadruple expansion engines fed by double-ended boilers capable of speeding them forward at 20-knots (making International Navigation the first to offer such service across the Atlantic). Further, they had a more “modern” appearance than preceding liners, with two stacks and plumb bows. Built to last, they were completed by the same yard that was at the time working on the cruisers USS Minneapolis (C 13) and Brooklyn (ACR 3) as well as the battleship Iowa (BB 6)

Quadruple expansion engines of SS St. Louis (1894) in the workshop of William Cramp & Sons where they were built. Published in Howell’s Steam Vessels and Marine Engines. p. 11, 1896.

Steamliner SS Saint Paul of the International Navigation Co. 1895. Photo by Johnston, J. S. (John S.) postcard by Detroit Publishing Co.in the collection of the LOC. https://www.loc.gov/item/det1994011748/PP/

Famously, our new ocean liner ran aground off the New Jersey coast in January 1896 and required an extensive $400,000 effort to free her. Meanwhile, the rescue of her passengers and crew was national news for several months.


However, she was back in business and in April 1896 she crossed the Atlantic from New York to Southampton in just six days. Over the next two years, she would repeat her crossing 36 times along the same route, which is impressive by any standard.

Her peacetime passenger service came to a halt due to events in Cuba.

At 21:40 on 15 February 1898, the armored cruiser USS Maine suffered a terrible explosion in Havana Harbor while exercising tense gunboat diplomacy with Spain over Cuba, leading to the death of 266 Navy and Marine personnel.

Though the cause of the explosion would not be known anytime soon, the press whipped the event up to the point of conflict.

When war came, the Navy took up dozens of craft from trade including four large passenger liners for conversion to auxiliary cruisers from the American Line/International Navigation Co: the SS New York (which became USS Harvard), SS City of Paris (who became the matching USS Yale) as well as Saint Louis and Saint Paul, the latter pair of which served under their given names.

On 12 March 1898, Saint Paul was taken up for service by the Navy and, sailing to Newport for crew and conversion to an auxiliary cruiser, Capt. Charles Dwight Sigsbee (formerly commander of the stricken Maine) raised the national ensign and took down the American Line house colors. She commissioned on 20 April. The fast liner was given a coat of gray paint, armed with six 5″/40 Mark 4 guns, another six Hotchkiss 6-pounders, and six 3-pounders in a fit-out that lasted just 14 days. Could you imagine a similar thing today?

USS St. Paul (1898) View looking aft on her forecastle, following conversion to an auxiliary cruiser, 1898. Note 5-inch guns, capstans, winch and other deck gear as well as two Marines. The original photograph was taken by C.H. Graves and published on a stereograph card. Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(MSC, 1979) U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Photo #: NH 89086

Ready for service by the first part of May, the new USS Saint Paul would see the elephant, and soon.

But first, let’s talk about a little Spanish Terror.

In the lead up to the conflict, in 1896 the Spanish Navy ordered a half-dozen Furor-class torpedo destroyers from the shipyards of J & G Thompson of Clydebank in Scotland. These nimble 229-foot 380-ton ships could make 28-knots (when their machinery worked) and carried two 350mm torpedo tubes as well as four Nordenfelt popguns.

A Spanish Terror Class Destroyer in British Waters in about 1897. An unidentified example of the ship class, photographed in about 1897-1898 in British waters and very likely in builders’ hands. Six sisters were built in 1896-1897 by Thompson on the Clyde: AUDAZ (1897-1927), OSADO (1897-1927), PROSERPINA (1897-1931), TERROR (1896-1927), FUROR (1896-1898), PLUTON (1896-1898). NH 88619

NH 111967 Spanish Torpedo Boat Destroyer TERROR

On 28 April 1898, the Spanish Navy’s 1st Squadron, of four cruisers (Infanta Maria Teresa, Vizcaya, Almirante Oquendo, and Cristóbal Colón) and three sister-ship destroyers (Pluton, Terror, and Furor) set out from the Cape Verde Islands for the Caribbean, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico, then a Spanish colony. RADM Pascual Cervera y Topete’s mission was to rendezvous with other Spanish ships, engage the American squadron blockading Cuba, and ultimately to attack the United States.

Spain’s torpedo-boat flotilla en route from the Canaries to Puerto Rico. William Sontag. NYPL collection 1898. Terror shown in front

The loose Spanish ships sowed panic on the Eastern seaboard as every coastal town just knew they would wake up to Spanish bombardment at any time. However, Cervera’s fleet was in bad shape, with fouled bottoms, dangerously defective (or in some cases even uninstalled) guns, untrained crews, and poor engineering plants. Terror, carrying the flag of Capt. Fernando Villaamil Fernandez-Cueto (destroyer flotilla commander), and commanded by Lt. Francisco de la Bocha y Pérez, was nursing boiler problems.

Saint Paul sortied out from Philadelphia to look for Cervera on 5 May.

The Flying Squadron, under the command of Commodore Winfield S. Schley, joined the search for the Spanish fleet while the fleet four detailed ships, Saint Paul, her American Line companion auxiliary cruiser USS Yale, the similar USS Harvard, and USS Minneapolis, patrolled the waters off Santiago just in case Cervera made it to the Cuban hub.

In the meantime, the Spanish squadron popped up at the French colony of Martinique on 10 May 1898 and, with Terror‘s engines fully immobilized, the little destroyer that couldn’t was left behind while Cervera beat feet to Santiago, Cuba. Alone, the intrepid Lt. Bocha managed to cobble together Terror‘s condemned piping and nurse her solo to San Juan a week later.

Meanwhile, our hero liner-cruiser Saint Paul found the British steam collier Restormel, which was chartered to bring 2,400-tons of badly needed fresh Cardiff coal to Cervera and captured the same just outside of Santiago on 25 May after firing two blanks and one war shot from her 5-inch battery. She later arranged for the steamer to go to Key West as a prize. The British captain reportedly told his American captors he was glad the U.S. wound up with his valuable cargo since the Spaniards did not lift a finger to prevent his capture even though he was under the heavy guns of Castle Morro and a promised battleship escort into Santiago never materialized.

“I am glad you Yankees have the coal since those duffers inside didn’t have the nerve to come out and back me up with their guns when we were right within range,” he reportedly said as the prize crew of bluejackets and leathernecks from Saint Paul came aboard.

Saint Paul next appeared off Fort Caimanera near Guantánamo, where her 5-inch gunners helped plaster the Spanish shore batteries there from just 1,000 yards off the beach. By early June she was off San Juan along with USS Yosemite and the new cruiser USS New Orleans.

The trio effectively blockaded that Spanish Puerto Rican port, which held the aforementioned Terror as well as the ineffective 1,200-ton Velasco-class unprotected cruiser Isabel II (4×4.7-inch guns), and the two 500-ton 3rd class gunboats General Concha (3×4.7inch) and Ponce de Leon. On the morning of 22 June, while a German tramp steamer made for open ocean, the three Spanish warships made a move to test the harbor blockade and Saint Paul was there. A short and ineffective artillery duel resulted in the two larger Spaniards turning back while Terror made a David vs. Goliath torpedo run on our liner.

The auxiliary cruiser St. Paul repulsing the Spanish torpedo-boat destroyer Terror off San Juan de Puerto Rico, June 22, 1898, by Henry Reuterdahl, NYPL Collection

The run ended badly for the unsupported Terror, who never got closer than 5,400 yards to the big American before two 5-inch shells perforated her, one in the engine room. Listing, immobile and taking on water, the stricken torpedo destroyer had to be beached by towing as Saint Paul watched. For Terror, her war was over.

The damaged Spanish destroyer Terror at San Juan. She was allowed to return to Spain when the war ended.

Isabel II, General Concha, and Ponce de Leon again tried to force the American cordon on 28 June to make a hole for an incoming blockade runner, but after an ineffective artillery duel at long range from Saint Paul, the effort was called off. It was the last naval action at San Juan and the Spanish ships finished the war at anchor, eventually sailing home when peace was concluded.

For Saint Paul, she was recalled to New York in July and, reverting to her original design, brought first the 4th and later the 8th Ohio Volunteer regiments to the theater, carrying over 1,300 troops each trip.

This image shows the ST. PAUL embarking troops for Puerto Rico. Her superimposed gun sponson which she was outfitted with while operating as an auxiliary cruiser can be seen overhanging the side of the vessel. Via SpanAm War.com http://www.spanamwar.com/Stpaultroops.htm

It was some of the first major joint Army-Navy operations since the Civil War, and improvisation was key, with troops moving ashore via sugar lighters and cargo nets.

Troops transferring to sugar-lighters at sea. There was a heavy ground swell and the boat rose and fell alongside, making it a difficult task. NH 108558

Each sugar-lighter held one company of men. NH 108559

Her last trip from Puerto Rico, in August, was to bring soldiers home to New York. From there, she steamed to Cramp’s to be disarmed and refitted for merchant service, decommissioned and released by the War Department on 2 September. Her very active wartime life lasted less than five months.

Saint Paul was also notable as the first merchant ship fitted with a Marconi wireless, in 1899. On November 15 of that year Guglielmo Marconi issued The Transatlantic Times, the first newspaper ever published at sea, using information received by radio transmission from his wireless telegraph station on the Isle of Wight.

By November 1898, she was back on the Southampton run, which was her regular route, carrying passengers, mail, and coin. For example, on one 1902 run, she brought “670 passengers eastbound, 1.173 mailbags and $200.000 in gold” to England from New York. It was her bread and butter and in her career she completed more than 200 such crossings across two decades.

William M. Vander Weyde photo of ladies waving bon voyage as St. Paul leaves the pier, from the George Eastman Kodak Museum.

Photographed circa the 1890s or early 1900s. Description: Courtesy of the Saint Paul “Minnesota Dispatch,” 1963. Catalog #: NH 92841

SS St. Paul Bain News Service, 1915, via LOC

ST. PAUL sails, 8/7/14 (LOC)

Then it was back to peacetime liner operations for an uneventful (for us) 19 years other than a 1908 collision with the British Arrogant-class cruiser HMS Gladiator, killing 27 RN personnel and sending the smaller 5,700-ton manowar to the bottom off the Isle of Wright. A British high court held Gladiator responsible.

Then, war came once again.

Saint Paul was taken over by the War Department for use as the troop transport Knoxville on 27 October 1917, making 12 rushed crossings over the Atlantic carrying the boys “over there” to fight the Huns over the next five months. For such duty, the fast transport was given a Navy gun crew to man four newly-installed 6″ guns and painted in Thayer’s quarter-shading camo process. She was credited with carrying more than 30,000 GIs to France.

The Navy, in turn, arranged for the former auxiliary cruiser’s transfer in April 1918 to the sea service and, designated USS Saint Paul (SP 1643), was taken back into Navy service. While being further converted, on 28 April, she flooded and capsized in the North River in New York.

Lot-10821-4: USS Saint Paul (ID# 1643), salvage operations of the auxiliary cruiser during 1918. Shown: First stage of pumping and rolling operation. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. (2017/08/04).

Lot-10821-2: USS Saint Paul (ID# 1643), salvage operations of the auxiliary cruiser during 1918. Shown: As she lay on the bottom

Lot-10821-3: USS Saint Paul (ID# 1643), salvage operations of the auxiliary cruiser during 1918. Shown: 6-inch gun on the starboard side of the foredeck.

Salvage operations continued into 1919 and she was eventually returned to the American Lines in floating condition. Returning to service in the low-rent steerage trade, she was still too uneconomical to run at a profit and by 1923 was retired. She was towed across the Atlantic by Jacob van Heemskerk and broken up at the former naval dockyard at Wilhelmshaven in Weimar Germany, where labor at the time was dirt cheap.

As for her sister, Saint Louis, she also served in the Great War as the armed transport USS Louisville (there was another USS St. Louis in the fleet at the time), but was gutted in a fire in 1920 and scrapped in 1924. As it turned out, the proud “20-knot” liner never made it back to carry civilian passengers after their second war.

Their company likewise faltered. The American Line itself was defunct by 1932 as was the Red Star Line by 1935. The International Navigation Co. endured in a way, merging in 1931 with the Roosevelt Steamship Company under the United States Lines banner.

Curiously, Saint Paul‘s nemesis, the Spanish Terror, outlived her. Returning to Spain following the loss of Puerto Rico in 1899, she was repaired and served in the Spanish Navy in North Africa and European waters until she was retired in 1924.

Our liner is, of course, remembered in various period maritime art.

Displacement: 11,612 in commercial service, 14,910 long tons (15,150 t) as aux cruiser
Dimensions 535’6” (bp) x 63′ x 27’5”
Machinery 2 screws, VQE, 6 D/E & 4 S/E boilers, IHP 20000,
Speed: 19.25 knots practical but made 22 knots after funnel caps removed in 1900
Coal: 2677 tons
Complement 281 crew + 1540 passengers as liner,
1898: 357 Navy, 50 Marines
Armament: (1898)
6 5”/40 Mark 4 rapid-fire guns (four fwd, two aft) in open mounts with 600 rounds
6 6 pdr. Hotchkiss with 1800 rounds
6 3 pdr. Nordenfeldt guns (two on promenade deck, four on wings) with 1800 rounds
Extensive small arms locker for Marine detachment
6 6″/50 Mark 6 guns repurposed from old battleships and cruisers.

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