Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Figure 1: USS New Orleans (CA-32) in English waters, circa June 1934. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS New Orleans (CA-32) in port, circa 1937. Note the broad band painted on her after smokestack, probably a recognition feature. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 9 February 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS New Orleans (CA-32) underway during exercises in Hawaiian waters, 8 July 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Port bow view as USS New Orleans (CA-32) entered Tulagi harbor in the Solomon Islands about 8 hours after being struck by a torpedo, 1 December 1942. US Navy photo from the collection of Fred Overman family. Courtesy Henry A. Wristen, FTCS(DV) USN (Ret.). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS New Orleans (CA-32) seen here after the Battle of Tassafaronga. The PT boat in the foreground is carrying survivors from the USS Northampton (CA 26). US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS New Orleans (CA-32) camouflaged at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, some days after she was torpedoed during the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942. Note that her stern is riding high, and that her forward end is low in the water. The torpedo and subsequent explosion had severed her bow between No. 1 and No. 2 eight-inch gun turrets. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Patched up in Australia, USS New Orleans (CA-32) is heading to the United States for a new bow and permanent repairs. In order to balance the ship, the barrels were removed from No. 2 turret and stored at the stern. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS New Orleans (CA-32) steams through a tight turn in Elliot Bay, Washington, 30 July 1943, following battle damage repairs and overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, following battle damage repairs and overhaul, 5 August 1943. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: USS New Orleans (CA-32) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 8 March 1945. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a city in Louisiana, the 9,950-ton USS New Orleans (CA-32) was the lead ship in a class of seven heavy cruisers. New Orleans was built at the New York Navy Yard, New York, and was commissioned on 15 February 1934. The ship was approximately 588 feet long and 61 feet wide, had a top speed of 32 knots, and had a crew of 708 officers and men. New Orleans was armed with nine 8-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, and eight .50-caliber machine guns, and carried four aircraft.
New Orleans conducted her shakedown cruise to northern Europe in May and June of 1934 and returned to New York on 28 June. The heavy cruiser then steamed to the Pacific to participate in exercises with the cruiser USS Houston and the airship Macon. For the next two years, New Orleans served in the Atlantic, though she periodically sailed to the Pacific and then was regularly stationed there after early 1937. New Orleans was based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and remained there for the next four years.
On the morning of 7 December 1941, New Orleans was moored at Pearl Harbor and was taking electricity from the dock while her engines were being repaired. Unfortunately, after the attack on Pearl Harbor started, all electrical power to the ship was halted. As the engineers on board frantically tried to restore power, Japanese bombs were exploding next to the ship. Crewmen were defiantly firing at the Japanese aircraft with rifles and pistols for several minutes until power was restored. Once the ship had electrical power, the ship’s anti-aircraft batteries started firing at the enemy planes. New Orleans continued firing at the enemy aircraft until the attack was over. Several crewmen were injured when a fragmentation bomb blew up next to the ship. But, other than that, the ship was ready to leave the harbor which was, by this time, engulfed in flames.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, New Orleans briefly escorted convoys until she was sent to San Francisco on 13 January 1942 for engineering repairs and the installation of a new search radar as well as several 20-mm guns. The ship then escorted a convoy to Brisbane, Australia, on 12 February and from there escorted yet another convoy to Noumea, New Caledonia. After that, New Orleans returned to Pearl Harbor.
New Orleans joined Task Force 11 and on 15 April 1942 she began escorting the carrier USS Yorktown. This large American task force steamed southwest of the New Hebrides and a few days later, on 7-8 May, the ships participated in the momentous Battle of the Coral Sea, which was the first major carrier battle of the war. Although American carrier pilots sank one Japanese carrier, the Japanese mortally wounded an American carrier, USS Lexington. Lexington was wracked by explosions and engulfed in flames. New Orleans was sent to assist the stricken carrier. As flames continued to spread on board Lexington, her crewmen began to abandon ship. As New Orleans stood by the sinking carrier, many of her crewmen dove into the water to rescue the survivors from the carrier, especially the wounded ones. The motor lifeboats from New Orleans came in close to the flaming Lexington to pick up even more men, even though bombs that were stored on board the carrier were exploding on a regular basis. Metal and debris showered the surrounding area, yet New Orleans’ boat crews continued plucking men out of the water. New Orleans rescued approximately 580 men from Lexington before the cruiser had to leave the area. Lexington, though, was a tough ship and even though she was devastated by fire and internal explosions, the carrier remained afloat. To prevent the burning hulk from falling into the hands of the Japanese, Lexington had to be sunk by two torpedoes from an American destroyer. She sank on an even keel after one last, major explosion. New Orleans brought her 580 survivors to Noumea and then patrolled the eastern Solomon Islands before sailing back to Pearl Harbor for supplies.
New Orleans left Pearl Harbor on 28 May 1942 and began escorting the carrier USS Enterprise. A few days later on 2 June, this task force participated in the cataclysmic Battle of Midway. Midway was the naval turning point in the Pacific during World War II, where American carrier pilots sank four Japanese carriers for the loss of one American carrier, USS Yorktown. New Orleans remained by the side of Enterprise, protecting her from Japanese aircraft. Fortunately for the US Navy, Enterprise survived the battle. The American victory at Midway stopped Japan’s eastward expansion and heavily crippled her naval air arm for the rest of the war. After the battle, New Orleans returned to Pearl Harbor.
New Orleans left Pearl Harbor on 7 July 1942 and rendezvoused off the Fiji Islands with an American task force for the invasion of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. New Orleans escorted the carrier USS Saratoga and assisted in repelling serious Japanese air attacks off Guadalcanal on 24-25 August. The task force New Orleans was in defended the American invasion of Guadalcanal and prevented the Japanese from reinforcing Guadalcanal during the Battle of the Eastern Solomon Islands. But when Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on 31 August, New Orleans escorted her back to Pearl Harbor for repairs, arriving there on 21 September.
Once Saratoga was repaired, New Orleans sailed with her to Fiji early in November and then proceeded to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, before arriving back in the Solomon Islands on 27 November 1942. On the night of 30 November, New Orleans, along with four other cruisers and six destroyers ran into a column of eight Japanese destroyers not far from Guadalcanal. What followed was the Battle of Tassafaronga and it turned out to be a disaster for the US Navy. The Japanese were not only experts at fighting at night, but their destroyers were armed with the powerful Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedoes, perhaps the best torpedoes in the world at that time. As the American task force attacked, the Japanese destroyers fired a large number of torpedoes at the American warships. The flagship of the American task force, the cruiser USS Minneapolis, was hit by two torpedoes. Minneapolis was severely damaged and slowed down almost immediately. New Orleans was in line right behind Minneapolis and was approaching the crippled flagship so rapidly that the commander of New Orleans, Captain Clifford H. Roper, was forced to throw his rudder hard right to avoid hitting Minneapolis. Unfortunately, in doing so, Captain Roper steered his ship right into the path of some oncoming torpedoes. One of the torpedoes hit New Orleans’ port bow abreast two gun magazines. The combined blast of the torpedo plus the two magazines going up completely tore off the bow of the ship as far back as the No. 2 8-inch turret. The crew was horrified as they watched the bow of their ship, with its No. 1 8-inch gun turret pointing skyward, pass along the port side of the ship, gouging holes in New Orleans along the way and tangling briefly with the propellers once it hit the cruiser’s stern. The entire event happened so suddenly that the crewmen at the stern of the ship thought that Minneapolis had sunk and that they were passing the remains of that ship.
New Orleans was in desperate shape. Roughly 120 feet of her bow, over one fifth of the ship’s length, was gone. All of the men in the detached bow and in the No. 2 turret, which had been consumed by flames, were killed by the initial blast. But the New Orleans’ engines were intact, power and lighting were normal, and the fires were under control. Captain Roper remained on the bridge where he had a clear view ahead while his executive officer stayed aft to control steering and the engines. Although water pressure severely strained the bulkheads on the forward part of the ship, the bulkheads held. The crew kept the ship afloat even though the forward end of the ship was down by about 40 feet into the water. So long as the bulkheads held, the ship remained afloat and could even make five knots, which was amazing considering the shape the ship was in. Blown to pieces but still afloat, New Orleans made it to the tiny American port at Tulagi, a small island just south of Florida Island in the Solomons. Of the five American cruisers that took part in the battle, one was sunk and three were severely damaged and out of action. The Japanese lost only one destroyer, making this one of the worst defeats for the US Navy during World War II.
Tulagi Harbor was very small and used mainly as a repair base for motor torpedo boats. The repair crews here were not used to seeing something as large as a heavy cruiser, but they did the best they could with what they had. They first put New Orleans under camouflage netting to hide the wounded warship from Japanese aircraft. Then they worked with the ship’s crew to create a jury-rigged temporary bow made from coconut tree logs. They also used the logs to strengthen the ship’s bulkheads. The repairs seemed to hold and on 12 December New Orleans left Tulagi and headed for Australia for more permanent repairs in a normal dockyard. Even though the ship was battered and missing her bow, New Orleans steamed gallantly into the harbor at Sydney, Australia, on 24 December 1942, Christmas Eve. It was an amazing journey, especially since Japanese aircraft, warships, or submarines could have easily sunk the ship on its way to Australia. On 7 March 1943, New Orleans left Sydney with a temporary steel bow and made its way back to the United States. The cruiser arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington, a few weeks later where a new bow was already built and waiting for her.
After the new bow was welded on and the ship was totally repaired, New Orleans returned to Pearl Harbor on 31 August 1943. For the remainder of the war in the Pacific, New Orleans used her guns to bombard Japanese shore positions and also escorted various carrier task forces. Her major combat operations in 1943 and 1944 included the invasions of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943, the Marshall Islands in January and February 1944, and attacks on New Guinea in April and the Marianas Islands in June and July. While steaming off the coast of New Guinea on 22 April, a disabled plane from the carrier USS Yorktown flew directly into New Orleans’ mainmast, with parts of the shattered aircraft hitting gun mounts as they fell into the sea. The ship was sprayed with flaming gasoline as the plane exploded on impact, with one crewmember on board the ship being killed and another seriously wounded. But New Orleans remained in action. She went on to bombard the Palau Islands in September, Leyte in the Philippines in October and Mindoro in December.
In December 1944, New Orleans returned to the United States and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, for an overhaul. After the overhaul was completed, New Orleans returned to battle and participated in the invasion of Okinawa from April to June 1945. As usual, she bombarded land targets and escorted other ships when needed. By late August, after the war in the Pacific had ended, New Orleans supported the American occupation operations in China and Korea. From late 1945 to early 1946, New Orleans transported US troops home from Asia. The ship arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, in March 1946 to prepare for inactivation. USS New Orleans was formally decommissioned on 10 February 1947 and was put in reserve until struck from the Navy List on 1 March 1959. This noble warship was sold for scrapping on 22 September later that year.
Rarely has one warship suffered such horrific damage and manage to survive. Not only did New Orleans survive, but she went on to serve in most of the major American amphibious invasions during the latter part of the war in the Pacific. A truly unique warship and one that earned 17 battle stars for her service during World War II.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Figure 1: USS Cincinnati (1862-1865) photographed on the Western Rivers in 1862-63. Note laundry drying on lines rigged from her mainmast and awnings spread over her upper deck. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Cincinnati (1862-1865) line engraving published in Harper's Weekly, 20 June 1863, soon after she was sunk off Vicksburg, Mississippi, by Confederate gunfire. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: "Gun-Deck of One of the Mississippi Gun-Boats Engaged in the Attack on Fort Henry." Line engraving after a sketch by Alexander Simplot, published in Harper's Weekly, 1862. It depicts a gun deck scene on board one of the "City" class ironclad gunboats. Of the seven ships of that class, Carondelet, Cincinnati and Saint Louis were present during the attack on Fort Henry, Tennessee, on 6 February 1862. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: "City" class ironclad gunboats off Cairo, Illinois, in 1863, with barges moored in the foreground. These ships are (from left to right): USS Baron de Kalb (1862-1863); USS Cincinnati (1862-1865) and USS Mound City (1862-1865). Boats are tied astern of Baron de Kalb and Cincinnati. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Sketch of USS Cincinnati (1862-1865) during the later part of the Civil War, with a long deckhouse fitted above her casemate. Courtesy of the Philibrick Collection, Kittery, Maine. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Battle of Fort Henry, 6 February 1862. Line engraving after a drawing by Rear Admiral Henry Walke, published in the History of the Great Rebellion, by Harper. The print depicts the federal gunboats Saint Louis, Carondelet, Essex and Cincinnati bombarding Fort Henry. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Bombardment and capture of Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River, April 7, 1862. Colored lithograph published by Currier & Ives, New York, circa 1862. It depicts the bombardment of the Confederate fortifications on Island Number Ten by federal gunboats and mortar boats. Ships seen include (from left to right): Mound City, Louisville, Pittsburg, Carondelet, Flagship Benton, Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Conestoga. Mortar boats are firing from along the river bank. Official US Navy Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: "Battle of Fort Pillow, First position." Engraving published in Rear Admiral Henry Walke's "Naval Scenes and Reminiscences of the Civil War in the United States ..." (1877), depicting the action between the Confederate River Defense Fleet and federal ironclads near Fort Pillow, Tennessee, 10 May 1862. Confederate ships, seen at right, include (from left to right): General Earl Van Dorn, General Sterling Price, General Bragg, General Sumter and Little Rebel. The federal ironclads, in the center and left, are (from left to right): Mound City, Carondelet and Cincinnati. A federal mortar boat is by the river bank in the lower right. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: “They Swam to and from Shore, Saving their Comrades." Artwork by Bacon, published in Deeds of Valor, Volume II, page 47, by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. It depicts Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran assisting fellow crewmen of USS Cincinnati as their ship sinks under fire of Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 27 May 1863. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at this time. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran, USN. Copied from Deeds of Valor, Volume II, page 47, published by the Perrien-Keydel Company, Detroit, 1907. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the loss of USS Cincinnati while in action with Confederate batteries at Vicksburg, Mississippi, 27 May 1863. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a city in Ohio, the 512-ton USS Cincinnati was a City class stern-wheel ironclad river gunboat that was built by James Eads at Mound City, Illinois, and was commissioned on 16 January 1862. The ship was built for the US Army’s Western Gunboat Flotilla and was technically under the command of the US Army. Cincinnati was approximately 175 feet long and 51 feet wide, had a top speed of 4 knots, and had a crew of 251 officers and men. The gunboat was armed with six 32-pounders, four 42-pounders, one 12-pounder, and three 8-inch smooth-bore cannons.
Cincinnati joined a flotilla of gunboats that was under the overall command of Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote and was immediately sent into action. Cincinnati participated in the attack and capture of Fort Henry, Tennessee, on 6 February 1862. From 12 March to 7 April 1862, Cincinnati joined the successful assault on Island No. 10 at the New Madrid or Kentucky Bend of the Mississippi River. Then on 10 May, Cincinnati was part of the attack on Fort Pillow, which overlooked the Mississippi River in western Tennessee. During the battle, Cincinnati was rammed repeatedly by gunboats from the Confederate River Defense Fleet and sank in shallow water.
Cincinnati, though, soon was raised, repaired, and returned to service. But although Cincinnati was repaired quickly, the lessons from Fort Pillow were not forgotten. To protect Union gunboats from future attacks by Confederate rams, the Union gunboats were reinforced with railroad iron around their stems and sterns and logs were suspended along their sides.
Cincinnati was officially transferred to the US Navy on 1 October 1862 and during the latter part of the year participated in attacks on Confederate positions along the Yazoo River in Mississippi. In January 1863, Cincinnati took part in the White River campaign and assisted in capturing Fort Hindman in Arkansas. More fighting along the Yazoo River was followed by the enormous Union assault on Vicksburg, Mississippi. During the struggle for Vicksburg, Cincinnati attacked Confederate shore batteries on 27 May 1863. Unfortunately, the ship came under heavy enemy fire and the battered ironclad started to sink. Seeing that his ship was about to go down, Cincinnati’s captain was still able to move his ship up the river and grounded close to shore. Once there, Cincinnati sank for the second time. The ship lost 40 men during the course of the battle.
Incredibly, Cincinnati was raised, repaired, and returned to service once again in August 1863. She was assigned to patrol duties along the Mississippi River and its tributaries until February 1865. Cincinnati then was transferred to the Union’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron and patrolled off Mobile Bay and in the Mississippi Sounds until decommissioned on 4 August 1865 at Algiers, Louisiana. USS Cincinnati was sold at New Orleans, Louisiana, on 28 March 1866 but sank for the last time later that year.
Ironclads like USS Cincinnati were tough and resilient warships. The Union ironclads were also critical in winning the battles along the Mississippi River, as well as the other western rivers of the United States. The Confederate states managed to build some ironclads, but there were not nearly enough of them and soon the few they did have were overwhelmed by the sheer number of ironclads produced by the Northern states. Few people today know how many naval battles actually took place on American rivers during the Civil War, but ships like Cincinnati made sure they were won by the North
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Figure 1: USS Helena (CL-50) anchored in President Roads, Boston, Massachusetts, 15 June 1940. Taken by a USS Wasp (CV-7) photographer. Courtesy of the US Naval Institute Photograph Collection, Annapolis, Maryland. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Helena (CL-50) at anchor in President Roads, Boston, Massachusetts, 15 June 1940. Taken by a USS Wasp (CV-7) photographer. Courtesy of the US Naval Institute Photograph Collection, Annapolis, Maryland. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Helena (CL-50) photographed circa 1940. Courtesy of the US Naval Institute Photograph Collection, Annapolis, Maryland. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. View from Pier 1010, looking toward the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's dry docks, with USS Shaw (DD-373) in floating dry dock YFD-2 -- and USS Nevada (BB-36) burning at right. In the foreground is the capsized USS Oglala (CM-4), with USS Helena (CL-50) further down the pier, at left. Beyond Helena is Dry Dock Number One, with USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) and the burning destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375). Official US Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. View looking down Pier 1010 toward the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's Dry Dock Number One, in center, which holds the battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38) and the burning destroyers Cassin (DD-372) and Downes (DD-375). Alongside Pier 1010, in the center middle distance, are the light cruiser Helena (CL-50), listing slightly from a torpedo hit, and the capsized minelayer Oglala (CM-4). Official US Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Helena (CL-50) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, following battle damage repairs and overhaul, 1 July 1942. This image has been retouched to censor radar antennas from the gun directors and masts. Courtesy of the US Naval Institute Photograph Collection, Annapolis, Maryland. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Helena (CL-50) at a South Pacific base, between battles, circa 1943. This image has been retouched to remove radar antennas from the gun directors and masts. Courtesy of the US Naval Institute Photograph Collection, Annapolis, Maryland. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: Munda-Vila Bombardment, 13 May 1943. USS Helena (CL-50) firing during the night bombardment, as seen from USS Honolulu (CL-48). Gunfire causes wavy pattern of tracers. Collection of Vice Admiral Walden L. Ainsworth. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: Central Solomons Campaign, 1943. Light cruisers maneuvering off Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, during exercises on 20 June 1943, ten days before the invasion of New Georgia. Ships are USS Saint Louis (CL-49), at left, USS Helena (CL-50), at right, and USS Honolulu (CL-48) in the center distance. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: Battle of Kula Gulf, 5-6 July 1943. USS Helena (CL-50), in the center, firing during the Battle of Kula Gulf, just before she was torpedoed and sunk. The next ship astern is USS Saint Louis (CL-49). Photographed from USS Honolulu (CL-48). Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: Battle of Kula Gulf, 5-6 July 1943. Wet and oil-covered survivors of USS Helena (CL-50) go over papers after their rescue from the waters of the Central Solomons, 6 July 1943. Photographed on board another US Navy warship, possibly USS Nicholas (DD-449). Helena was sunk by Japanese torpedoes the previous night. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: Battle of Kula Gulf, 5-6 July 1943. Marines aboard USS Honolulu (CL-48) fire a salute during funeral services for a casualty from the sunken USS Helena (CL-50), following the Battle of Kula Gulf. Note chaplain at right and audio equipment in left center, atop the cruiser's hangar cover. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the capital of Montana, the 10,000-ton USS Helena (CL-50) was a Saint Louis class light cruiser built at the New York Navy Yard, New York, and was commissioned on 18 September 1939. The ship was approximately 608 feet long and 61 feet wide, had a top speed of 33 knots, and had a crew of 888 officers and men. Helena was armed with 15 6-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, and eight .50-caliber machine guns.
After being commissioned, Helena was assigned to the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. Helena was based at Pearl Harbor and was there when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. She was moored at Pier 1010 on the east side of the harbor, a spot normally reserved for the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). As a result of this unfortunate coincidence, 1010 Dock became a prime target for Japanese aircraft that fateful morning.
Moored alongside Helena was USS Oglala (CM-4), flagship of the Pacific Fleet Mine Force and the Navy‘s principal minelayer. A few minutes after the first bombs started falling on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, a Japanese aircraft dropped a torpedo that ran underneath Oglala and hit Helena on the starboard side almost amidships. A tremendous explosion rocked the ship as the crew was still running to their battle stations. Soon water came pouring into the ship and one engine room and one boiler room were flooded. The wiring to the 5-inch batteries was severed, but quick action on the part of the crew brought the forward diesel generator on line within two minutes, making power available to all gun mounts. As soon as power was restored, the ship’s guns sent up a heavy and accurate curtain of fire that protected her from any further air attacks. Thanks to excellent damage control performed by the crew, plus the fact that all watertight doors and hatches were quickly secured throughout the ship, Helena was able to remain afloat. Oglala, unfortunately, was not so lucky. The massive torpedo explosion that damaged Helena also tore a huge hole in Oglala amidships and the minelayer started to flood rapidly. A bomb also exploded next to Oglala, causing even more underwater damage. As the old ship began to sink, Oglala was moved aft of Helena so that it would not pin the cruiser against the dock. Two hours after being hit, Oglala rolled over to port and sank adjacent to Pier 1010.
Once the attack on Pearl Harbor ended, preliminary repairs were made to Helena. The ship then was sent to the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, for more permanent repairs. After the repairs were completed in June 1942, Helena escorted several ships steaming to the South Pacific. Helena then made two quick trips from Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Once these trips were completed, Helena joined the task force that was being built around the carrier USS Wasp (CV-7).
Soon Wasp’s new task force was ordered to escort six transports filled with Marine reinforcements to Guadalcanal. But on 15 September 1942, Wasp was suddenly hit by three torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. The explosions caused enormous fires throughout the ship and soon the carrier had to be abandoned. Helena stood by to rescue survivors and eventually picked up 400 of Wasp’s officers and men. Helena brought the survivors back to Espiritu Santo.
Helena encountered Japanese warships on 11 October 1942, during the Battle of Cape Esperance. The Japanese sent warships and troop transports to try and neutralize Henderson Field, the American air strip on Guadalcanal, but an American task force that included Helena was there to stop the enemy assault on the island. In the naval battle that followed, Helena assisted in sinking a Japanese cruiser and a destroyer. Helena then came under attack on the night of 20 October 1942, while on patrol between Espiritu Santo and San Cristobal Islands. Several torpedoes were fired at the ship, but none of them hit. Helena then went on to bombard Japanese positions near Koli Point, Guadalcanal, on 4 November.
On 11 November 1942, Helena safely escorted a convoy of transports off San Cristobal Island, which is at the southern edge of the Solomon Islands. The convoy then made its way to Guadalcanal, but during the afternoon of 12 November a warning was issued that “enemy aircraft were approaching.” Unloading operations on Guadalcanal were halted and all of the ships moved away from the island to meet the oncoming Japanese attack. Once the Japanese aircraft arrived, the transports were basically in a tight formation while being protected by the escorting American warships. Because of the excellent maneuvering during the attack, the transports managed to avoid most of the bombs falling from the Japanese aircraft. The Japanese did damage two transports, but no ships were sunk. Helena’s antiaircraft gunners shot down eight of the attacking aircraft while sustaining no damage herself.
But as soon as the air battle of 12 November 1942 ended, some disturbing reports were received on Guadalcanal from patrolling American aircraft. Another major Japanese task force was headed for Guadalcanal, which meant that the Japanese Navy was intending to assault the American warships defending the island. Helena was attached to Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan’s task force and the two opposing forces collided on the evening of 13 November 1942, the bloody “Friday the 13th” battle off Guadalcanal. During the battle, Callaghan was on the bridge of the cruiser USS San Francisco (CA-38) when incoming Japanese shells killed him and most of his staff. Earlier in the battle, Rear Admiral Norman Scott had also been killed on board the cruiser USS Atlanta (CL-51), meaning that most of the senior staff in the American task force had been wiped out. Yet despite these losses, all of the American ships charged into the attacking Japanese warships. Helena received only minor damage to her superstructure during the battle. But Helena’s guns scored solid hits on several of the Japanese warships. The battle was a wild melee of shells flying in every direction because ships from both fleets steamed right next to each other, sometimes firing at point-blank range at an opponent. Added to this was that not all of the ships had radar, making shooting at targets at night even more confusing. With daylight came the end of the battle. The US Navy lost two cruisers and four destroyers, while the Japanese lost one battleship, one cruiser, and two destroyers. But the American warships had prevented the Japanese from pushing them away from Guadalcanal, which was a major strategic victory. The Japanese were forced to retreat and, once again, the Marines on Guadalcanal were safe (at least for a few more days). Both Admirals Callaghan and Scott were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their roles in the battle.
After this battle, Helena went on the offensive. In January 1943, Helena bombarded Japanese positions on New Georgia, also in the Solomon Islands. Her guns hit vital Japanese supply depots and artillery emplacements. Helena continued her participation in the Battle for Guadalcanal through February 1943, usually by escorting merchant ships and bombarding Japanese positions. After completing a brief overhaul in Sydney, Australia, Helena went back to Espiritu Santo in March and eventually took part in another bombardment of New Georgia.
On 5 July 1943, US Navy intelligence received word that Japanese warships were heading for the Solomon Islands once again. By midnight on 5 July, the task force Helena was in was steaming off the northwest corner of New Georgia. It consisted of three cruisers and four destroyers. Heading straight for them was a Japanese task force of ten destroyers. At 0157 on the morning of 5-6 July, the Battle of Kula Gulf had begun and Helena started blasting away at the Japanese warships. Unfortunately, Helena’s guns were firing so quickly that night that the flashes from her guns lit her up like a ball of fire, making her a perfect target for the Japanese ships. Seven minutes after she opened fire, Helena was hit by a torpedo from one of the Japanese destroyers. Within the next three minutes, Helena was hit by two more torpedoes. The ship began to jackknife into the air and then broke into three parts. Helena was flooding rapidly as crewmembers started abandoning ship. As the bow section of the ship rose into the air, many crewmen in the water clustered around it, only to be fired on by the Japanese. Roughly half an hour after she sank, the destroyers Nicholas (DD-449) and Radford (DD-446) started picking up the survivors.
As daylight broke, the two destroyers stopped their rescue operations because of a possible Japanese air attack. They returned to Tulagi carrying most of the crew except for roughly 275 survivors. One group of men still in the water organized themselves into three motor lifeboats, each towing a life raft. Among these 88 survivors was Captain C.P. Cecil, Helena’s commanding officer. This group made it to a small island and were rescued a day later by the destroyers USS Owin (DD-433) and USS Woodworth (DD-460).
For another group of almost 200 sailors, Helena’s shattered bow, which was torn from the rest of the ship by the torpedo explosions, acted as their life raft. But the bow was sinking slowly and soon these men would have nothing to cling to. Fortunately, a US Navy patrol bomber spotted them and dropped some life jackets and rubber life rafts to the struggling men in the water. The wounded were placed into the rafts while the able-bodied men held on to the boats while still in the water. The survivors tried to push themselves toward the nearby island of Kolombaranga, but wind and currents carried them away from the island and further into enemy waters. During a horrible day in the water, many of the wounded died. Evidently, American search planes had lost track of the survivors and could not find them. After spending another night in the water, the Japanese island of Vella Lavella appeared before them. Because the survivors were in no shape to remain in the water, they headed for it, regardless if it meant being murdered by the Japanese (who were not too fond of prisoners). By dawn, the survivors managed to pull the remaining three life rafts to shore. Fortunately, two Allied coastwatchers and friendly natives found the survivors and radioed news of them to Guadalcanal. Soon the destroyers Nicholas and Radford, augmented by the destroyers Jenkins (DD-447) and O’Bannon (DD-450), steamed towards the island to rescue the remaining crewmembers. On the evening of 16 July 1943, the ships arrived and rescued the last 165 members of Helena’s crew. Of Helena’s roughly 900 crewmembers, 168 perished during the battle or were lost at sea.
USS Helena was the first ship to receive the US Navy’s Unit Commendation. Her actions in the Battles of Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal, and Kula Gulf were named in the citation. Helena also earned the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign medal and seven battle stars.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Figure 1: "US Monitors Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Wyoming." Pen and ink side elevation and plan view, by the Bureau of Construction and Repair. These monitors (numbers 7-10, respectively) were built under the 1898 ship construction program. Connecticut (Monitor No. 8) was renamed Nevada in January 1901, after launching but more than two years before completion. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Launching of USS Arkansas (BM-7) at Newport News, VA, 10 November 1900. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: The monitor USS Arkansas (BM-7) fitting out at Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., 1 July 1902. Her armament has been completely installed and the ship is only four months away from commissioning. The ship in the background is the battleship Missouri (BB-11). US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Postcard of the Arkansas (BM-7). Photograph courtesy of SK/3 Tommy Trampp. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Officers and crew of the monitor USS Arkansas (BM-7), circa 1907. US National Archives photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Ozark (formerly USS Arkansas) as completed, port-side view. She was renamed Ozark in March 1909. Date and location of this photograph is unknown. Photograph from National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), Record Group 19-N, Box 33. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Ozark (formerly USS Arkansas) painted in wartime gray. She was renamed Ozark in March 1909. US Navy photograph courtesy of US Warships of WW1 by Paul Silverstone. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Ozark (BM-7) probably in a Mexican port, circa 1914-1918. The original photograph is printed on postal card stock. Photographed by Carreras. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2005. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the state of Arkansas, the 3,225-ton USS Arkansas (BM-7) was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Virginia, and was the lead ship in a class of single-turreted “New Steel Navy” monitors. She was one of the last monitors built for the US Navy and was commissioned on 28 October 1902. The ship was approximately 255 feet long and 50 feet wide, had a top speed of 12 knots, and had a crew of 220 officers and men. Arkansas carried two 12-inch guns in its single turret, plus four 4-inch guns and three 6-pounders.
After her shakedown cruise, Arkansas was initially used as a training ship for the US Naval Academy. She then was ordered to join the Coast Squadron of the North Atlantic Fleet. Her primary duties included patrolling off America’s east coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the West Indies. But Arkansas continued making summer training cruises for the midshipmen at the Naval Academy and in 1906 was assigned to the Academy as a training ship for more than three years.
To free up her name for a new battleship that was being built at the time, Arkansas was renamed USS Ozark on 2 March 1909. The ship then was assigned to the District of Columbia’s Naval Militia from 26 June 1910 to 6 March 1913. Later that month, Ozark was sent to Norfolk, Virginia, to be converted into a submarine tender. Although she began those new duties on 12 July 1913, Ozark was sent off the coast of Mexico for most of 1914 and participated in Atlantic Fleet training exercises in 1915. In 1916, Ozark was assigned to patrol the Chesapeake Bay area off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland.
On 6 April 1917, the day the United States entered World War I, Ozark was assigned to Submarine Division (SubDiv) 6 of the Atlantic Fleet as a submarine tender. But Ozark soon was ordered to steam to Tampico, Mexico, where she was used as a gunboat to protect American lives and property along the coast of that politically unstable country. Ozark left for New Orleans on 18 December 1918 and then patrolled off the coasts of Key West, Florida, as well as Central America and the Panama Canal Zone. Ozark returned to Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 23 June 1919 and was decommissioned at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 20 August. USS Ozark remained there until 26 January 1922, when she was sold for scrapping.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Figure 1: USS Adams moored off Vallejo, California, in mid-March 1898, shortly before the ship was placed out of commission at the Mare Island Navy Yard. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Adams class steam sloop at anchor in what appears to be a Far Eastern port, circa the later 1870s or the 1880s. Ships of this class included USS Adams (1876-1920), USS Enterprise (1877-1909), USS Essex (1876-1930), USS Alliance (1877-1911) and USS Nipsic (1879-1913). US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Adams class steam sloop in port, probably in the vicinity of New York City, circa the 1880s. Photographed by E.H. Hart, 1162 Broadway, New York City. Ships of this class included USS Adams (1876-1920), USS Enterprise (1877-1909), USS Essex (1876-1930), USS Alliance (1877-1911) and USS Nipsic (1879-1913). US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Vandalia (1876-1889) fitting out in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, circa early 1876. Behind her, at right, is USS Adams, also fitting out. In the distance is the Navy Yard's receiving ship, USS Ohio. Steam sloops like Adams and Vandalia made up the backbone of the US Navy until the steel warships of the “New Navy” started being commissioned in 1886. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Closer view of USS Vandalia (1876-1889) fitting out in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, circa early 1876. Behind her, at right, is USS Adams, also fitting out. In the distance is the Navy Yard's receiving ship, USS Ohio. Steam sloops like Adams and Vandalia made up the backbone of the US Navy until the steel warships of the “New Navy” started being commissioned in 1886. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after President John Adams, the 1,375-ton USS Adams was the lead ship in a class of single-screw, wooden-hull, bark-rigged steamers. She was laid down by Donald MacKay in February 1874 at Boston, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on 21 July 1876 at the Boston Navy Yard. Adams was approximately 185 feet long and 35 feet wide, had a top speed of 9.8 knots, and had a crew of 190 officers and men. The ship was armed with one 11-inch gun, four 9-inch guns, and one 60-pounder Parrott rifle.
After being commissioned, Adams spent most of her time visiting ports along America’s east coast. On 12 March 1877, Adams arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, and stayed there for five weeks. Then on 21 April, the ship set sail for duty on the South Atlantic Station. Adams arrived at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 2 June and over the next three months patrolled along the Brazilian coastline. On 8 September, Adams left Rio de Janeiro and headed south to the Strait of Magellan. Along the way, she made stops at Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Adams arrived at the Strait of Magellan on 12 November and remained there almost a month to assist Chilean government officials at Sandy Point during a mutinous situation there on board a ship. Adams resumed her voyage on 8 December and arrived at Valparaiso, Chile, on 14 December.
On 1 January 1878, Adams left Valparaiso and headed for Callao, Peru, to join the US Navy’s Pacific Station. The ship remained at Callao from 11 January to 5 February and then reached Panama on 21 February. Adams stayed at Panama for three months and then left for the island of Samoa, which had just completed negotiations with Washington on a treaty of “amity and commerce” between the United States and that island kingdom. Adams arrived at Apia, Samoa, on 28 June and remained there for roughly a month until the treaty was finalized. After the treaty was signed, Adams left Samoa and sailed back to Valparaiso. She remained there until late November. The ship continued making stops at ports in South and Central America, as well as Mexico, until the summer of 1879. Adams then headed for San Francisco, California. She arrived there on 19 July and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard two days later for a lengthy overhaul.
Adams completed her overhaul on 3 February 1880. She returned to the Pacific Station and made frequent trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Peru. The ship returned to San Francisco on 12 July and then re-entered the Mare Island Navy Yard on 28 July 1881. After that, Adams continued patrolling the waters off Mexico and Central America until 13 May 1882, when she returned to the Mare Island Navy Yard for yet another overhaul.
On 12 September 1882, Adams left San Francisco but instead of heading south, like she normally did, the ship headed north for Alaska. Adams reached Sitka, Alaska, on 1 October and remained in the northern Pacific for almost 23 months. During her stay in Alaska, Adams primarily monitored the seal fur industry and regulated the relations between the native Indian and Eskimo populations and the large number of traders, trappers, prospectors, sealers, and whalers that had established themselves in that area since the United States purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. Adams patrolled Alaskan waters from her base at Sitka until late in the summer of 1884. On 19 August, the gunboat departed Sitka and headed south along the coast of North America. Adams arrived in San Francisco on 27 August and went into the Mare Island Navy Yard the following day. On 20 September 1884, Adams was placed out of commission at Mare Island. She remained inactive for more than a year. On 2 November 1885, Adams was re-commissioned at Mare Island and spent the next month preparing for an extended tour of duty patrolling the waters of South and Central America.
Adams left San Francisco on 2 December 1885 and, after making several stops at Mexican ports along the way, arrived at the port of San Jose, Guatemala, on 4 January 1886. For the next 16 months, Adams “showed the flag” along the western coast of Latin America. But on 15 May 1887, Adams left Acapulco, Mexico, and set a new course for the Hawaiian Islands. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on 14 June.
After spending several months in Hawaii, Adams left on 2 October for Samoa. Adams reached Apia Harbor on 19 October. At that time, Germany was making moves to increase its influence in Samoa, but regular visits by American warships such as Adams discouraged the Germans from taking over the island. Adams remained in the area until 1 February 1888, when she returned to Hawaii. She arrived at Honolulu on 27 February and remained there until mid-May. On 14 May, Adams returned to Samoa and remained there until 6 December, when she began her journey back to the United States. After making a stop at Honolulu, the ship arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 1 February 1889. After being placed out of commission from 25 March to 22 April 1889, Adams was re-commissioned and sent back to Hawaii, arriving at Honolulu on 4 July.
Adams assisted in maintaining American control over the Hawaiian Islands. While there, a small insurrection group tried to overthrow the king that was installed by American business and missionary interests in Hawaii. Although a local militia unit put down the rebellion, a landing party from Adams went ashore and established itself in the vicinity of the American legation. The Hawaiian government restored order quickly without the necessity of American military intervention, so the landing party was sent back on board Adams the following morning.
On 4 August 1889, Adams left Honolulu and returned to Samoa. She remained there for the next nine months, serving as the American station ship there and making periodic visits to other islands. On 2 May 1890, Adams left Samoa and returned to the United States, via Hawaii. She arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 25 June 1890 and was decommissioned on 31 July. After almost 20 months at Mare Island, Adams was re-commissioned on 23 March 1892. She left San Francisco on 12 April 1892 and returned to Sitka, Alaska, to monitor the seal fur industry there. By 17 December, the ship was back at Mare Island and underwent yet another overhaul before she set sail once again for Hawaii. By 12 April 1893, Adams was on her way back to Hawaii. However, this time the warship was going to observe conditions and protect American lives and property during a period of domestic and political unrest. The political situation in Hawaii had worsened since Adams’ last trip there. A revolution had taken place in January of 1893, where the faction that favored annexation by the United States overthrew the native Hawaiian monarchy, replacing the government of Queen Liliuokalani with a republic. Adams arrived in Honolulu on 26 April 1893 and remained there for almost a year, making sure that the outcome of the political events there favored the United States.
On 15 April 1894, Adams left Honolulu and returned to Alaska after making a stop at Port Townsend, Washington, for some repairs. After patrolling the sealing grounds off Alaska for several months, Adams returned to San Francisco and Mare Island on 12 September. Adams was once again placed out of commission on 16 November 1894.
After more than 13 months of inactivity at Mare Island Navy Yard, Adams was placed back in commission there on 24 December 1895. What followed were a few more tours of duty in Hawaii, which included a training cruise for recruit apprentices in February 1897. On 30 April 1898, Adams was decommissioned once more at Mare Island, but was re-commissioned on 7 October of that same year. But time was catching up to Adams and with newer, more powerful, steel gunboats now being produced, her days as a warship were numbered. From then on, Adams was used primarily as a training ship, making many more trips to Hawaii, Samoa, and Alaska. On one of those training cruises, Adams left Samoa on 17 June 1907 and returned to the United States by way of the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. On 21 November 1907, while Adams was completing the last leg of her journey home, the Navy Department decided to loan her to the State of Pennsylvania as a training ship. The ship arrived at League Island, Pennsylvania, on 19 December 1907 and was decommissioned there on 31 December 1907.
Turned over to the state of Pennsylvania on 20 August 1908, Adams served as a school ship for the Public Marine School at Philadelphia until she was returned to the US Navy on 6 February 1914. On 1 May, the ship was loaned to the State of New Jersey and used as a training ship for that state’s naval militia. Adams continued to be used as a training ship for New Jersey naval militiamen until after the United States entered World War I in 1917. Re-commissioned on 27 August 1917, Adams served as a station ship in the Delaware River until well after the end of the war. USS Adams was decommissioned for the last time on 5 August 1919 and was sold in August 1920. The old warship served briefly as a merchant ship before being broken up in either 1921 or 1922.
USS Adams was one of the last wooden gunboats built by the US Navy before the advent of the all-steel warships. And even as newer, larger, and much more powerful steel gunboats were being built in the 1890s, ships like Adams were still used to “show the flag” and defend American lives and property around the world. Adams’ career spanned roughly 43 years and in that time she patrolled off the coasts of Mexico, South and Central America, Hawaii, Samoa, and Alaska; and when her days as a gunboat were over, she was used as a training ship. Adams proved that even though she was one of the last ships in the US Navy with a wooden hull, she still was a tough warship that could be used for numerous jobs over many years.