- USS Salt Lake City (CA-25)
The first USS "Salt Lake City" (CL/CA-25) of the
United States Navywas a "Pensacola"-class heavy cruisersometimes known as "Swayback Maru". She had the (unofficial) distinction of having taken part in more engagements than any other ship in the fleet.
She was laid down on 9 June 1927, by the
American Brown Boveri Electric Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, at Camden, New Jersey; launched on 23 January 1929, sponsored by Helen Budge; and commissioned on 11 December 1929, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Captain F.L. Oliverin command.
"Salt Lake City" departed Philadelphia on 20 January 1930, for shakedown trials off the
Mainecoast. She began her first extended cruise on 10 February; visited Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; Culebra, Virgin Islands; Rio de Janeiroand Bahia, Brazil; then returned to Guantanamo Bay where, on 31 March, she joined Cruiser Division (CruDiv) 2 of the Scouting Force. With this division, she operated along the New England coast until 12 September, when she was reassigned to CruDiv 5. "Salt Lake City" then operated in the New York, Cape Cod, and Chesapeake Bayareas through 1931. On 1 Julyof that year, she was reclassified as a heavy cruiser, CA-25.
Early in 1932, "Salt Lake City", with USS|Chicago|CA-29|2 and USS|Louisville|CA-28|2, steamed to the West Coast for fleet maneuvers. They arrived at
San Pedro, California, on 7 March; and, following the scheduled exercises, were reassigned to the Pacific Fleet. "Salt Lake City" visited Pearl Harborin January and February 1933; and, in September, she was attached to CruDiv 4. From October 1933 to January 1934, she underwent overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard; then resumed duty with CruDiv 4. In May, she sailed for New York to participate in the Fleet Review and returned to San Pedro on 18 December.
Through 1935, "Salt Lake City" ranged the West Coast from
San Diegoto Seattle. In the first months of 1936, she conducted extensive gunnery exercises at San Clemente Islandand then, on 27 April, departed San Pedro to participate in combined surface-subsurface operations at Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. "Salt Lake City" returned to San Pedro on 15 Juneand resumed West Coast operations until sailing for Hawaiion 25 April 1937. She returned to the West Coast on 20 May.
Her next extended cruise began on 13 January 1939, when she departed for the
Caribbean, via the Panama Canal. During the next three months, she visited Panama, Colombia, the Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Cuba, and Haiti; returning to San Pedro on 7 April. From 12 Octoberuntil 25 June 1940, she cruised between Pearl Harbor, Wake, and Guam; utilizing the services of tender USS|Vestal|AR-4|2 while at Pearl Harbor. In August 1941, she visited Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
World War II
After Pearl Harbor
On 7 December 1941, when the
United Stateswas brought into World War IIby the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, "Salt Lake City", under the command of Capt. Ellis W. Zacharias, was with the USS|Enterprise|CV-6|2 task group, returning from Wake Island, 200 nautical miles (370 km) west of Pearl Harbor when they received word of the attack. The group immediately launched scouting planes in hopes of catching possible stragglers from the enemy force, but the search proved fruitless. The ships entered Pearl Harbor toward sundown on the 8th.
After a tedious night refueling, they sortied before dawn to hunt submarines north of the islands. Submarines were encountered on the 10th and 11th. The first, warship|Japanese submarine|I-70, was sunk by dive bombers from "Enterprise"; the second, sighted ahead of the group on the surface, was engaged with gunfire by "Salt Lake City" as the ships maneuvered to avoid torpedoes. Screening destroyers made numerous depth charge runs, but no kill was confirmed. Operations against a third contact brought similar results. The group returned to Pearl Harbor on
15 Decemberto refuel.
"Salt Lake City" operated with Task Force 8 until
23 December, covering Oahu and supporting the task force strike that was planned to relieve beleaguered Wake Island. After Wake fell, "Salt Lake City"'s group carried out air strikes in the eastern Marshalls at Wotje, Maloelap, and Kwajaleinto reduce enemy seaplane bases. While conducting shore bombardment during those strikes, "Salt Lake City" came under air attack and assisted in downing two Japanese bombers. In March, she supported air strikes at Marcus Island.
In April, she escorted the USS|Hornet|CV-8|2 and "Enterprise" group, TF 16, which launched the
Doolittle Raidon Tokyoand other Japanese cities, and returned to Pearl Harbor on 25 April. Orders awaited the ships to sail as soon as possible to join the USS|Yorktown|CV-5|2 and USS|Lexington|CV-2|2 forces in the Coral Sea. Although the task force moved fast, it had only reached a point some 450 miles (830 km) east of Tulagiby 8 May, the day of the Battle of the Coral Sea. What followed was essentially a retirement, and "Salt Lake City" operated as cover with her group; on the 11th off the New Hebrides, and from the 12th to the 16th eastward from Efateand Santa Cruz. On 16 May, she was ordered back to Pearl Harbor and arrived there 10 days later.
The carrier groups began intensive preparations to meet the expected Japanese thrust at Midway. During the battle, early in June, "Salt Lake City" provided rear guard protection for the islands.
From August through October 1942, "Salt Lake City" was in the south Pacific to support the campaign to seize and hold
Guadalcanal. She escorted USS|Wasp|CV-7|2 during the landings of 7 Augustand August 8and subsequent operations.
"Salt Lake City" protected USS|Wasp|CV-7|2 as she shuttled planes for USS|Saratoga|CV-3|2 and "Enterprise", and provided CAP and scouting patrols during the landings. "Salt Lake City" was with "Wasp", on
15 September, when that carrier was torpedoed by Japanese submarines and sunk. She assisted in rescue operations for survivors, and took on board others who had been picked up by destroyerUSS|Lardner|DD-487|2.
Battle of Cape Esperance
The campaign in the Solomons developed into a grim struggle which climaxed on the night of
11 Octoberand 12 Octoberin the Battle of Cape Esperance. Task Force 64was formed around cruisers "Salt Lake City", USS|Boise|CL-47|2, USS|Helena|CL-50|2, and USS|San Francisco|CA-38|2 to thwart the " Tokyo Express", a steady flow of Japanese vessels maintaining reinforcement and resupply to Guadalcanal. The force was not considered large enough to get involved with a major Japanese covering force; they were interested primarily in inflicting maximum damage to the transports. They arrived off Espiritu Santo on 7 Octoberand, for two days, steamed near Guadalcanal and waited. Land-based search-plane reports came in that an enemy force was steaming down the "slot;" and, that night, the Task Force moved to the vicinity of Savo Island to intercept it.
Search planes were ordered launched from the cruisers, but in the process of launching, "Salt Lake City's" plane caught fire as flares ignited in the cockpit. The plane crashed close to the ship and the pilot managed to get free. He later found safety on a nearby island. The brilliant fire was seen in the darkness by the Japanese flag officers, who assumed that it was a signal flare from the landing force which they were sent to protect. The Japanese flagship answered with blinker light, and receiving no reply, continued to signal. The American force formed a battle line at right angles to the Japanese T-formation, and thus were able to
enfiladethe enemy ships. The American cruisers opened fire and continued scoring hits for a full seven minutes before the confused Japanese realized what was taking place. They had believed that, by error, their own forces were taking them under fire. When the Japanese warships replied, their fire was too little and too late. The action was over in half an hour. One Japanese cruiser sank; another was reduced to rubble; a third was holed twice, and a destroyer sank. One destroyer of the five-ship force escaped damage. "Salt Lake City" sustained three major hits during the action. "Boise" was severely crippled, but managed to rejoin the group under her own power. The destroyer USS|Duncan|DD-485|2 was left gutted off Savo Island. The ships formed up and steamed to Espiritu Santo.
Battle of the Komandorski Islands
"Salt Lake City" spent the next four months at Pearl Harbor undergoing repairs and replenishing. Late in March 1943, she departed for the
Aleutian Islandsand operated from Adak to prevent the Japanese from supporting their garrisons on Attu and Kiska. Operating in TF 8, "Salt Lake City" was accompanied by USS|Richmond|CL-9|2 and four destroyers when they made contact on 26 Marchwith some Japanese transports and supporting vessels, leading to the Battle of the Komandorski Islands.
Mistakenly believing that easy pickings were in store, the American warships formed up and closed the range. Two transports fled for safety as the Japanese warships turned to engage. The American group was outgunned and outnumbered, but pressed on and made a course change in hopes of getting a shot at the transports before the escorts could intervene. There was also a possibility that the Japanese would split their force and that "Salt Lake City" and "Richmond" could tackle a portion of them on more equal terms.
The opposing cruisers simultaneously opened fire at a range of 20,000 yards (18.3 km, more than ten miles). The ensuing battle was a retiring action on the part of the Americans, for the Japanese foiled their attempt to get to the auxiliaries. "Salt Lake City" received most of the attention and soon received two hits, one of them amidships, mortally wounding two men, but she responded with very accurate fire. Her rudder stops were carried away, limiting her to 10 degree course changes. Another hit soon flooded forward compartments. Under cover of a thick smoke screen and aggressive torpedo attacks by the destroyers, the American cruisers were able to make an evasive turn, which for a while allowed the range to open. "Salt Lake City" soon began taking hits again and her boiler fires died one by one. Salt water had entered the fuel oil feed lines. There was now cause for grave concern; she lay dead in the water, and the Japanese ships were closing fast. Luckily, she was hidden in the smoke, and the enemy was not aware of her plight.
The destroyers charged the Japanese cruisers and began to draw the fire away from the damaged Salt Lake City. "Bailey suffered" two 8 inch hits while launching a spread of five torpedoes at long range. In the meantime, "Salt Lake City" engineers purged the fuel lines and fired the boilers. With fresh oil supplying the fires, she built up steam and gained headway. Suddenly, the Japanese began to withdraw, because they were fast exhausting their ammunition. They did not suspect that the Americans were in far worse shape in terms of both ammunition and fuel.
Despite being outnumbered two to one, the Americans succeeded in their purpose. The Japanese attempt to reinforce their bases in the Aleutians had failed and they turned tail and headed home. "Salt Lake City" later covered the American occupation of Attu and Kiska which ended the Aleutian Campaign. She departed Adak on
23 Septemberand sailed, via San Francisco, to Pearl Harbor where she arrived on 14 October.
Further Pacific operations
The Allied offensive strategy in the Pacific now focused on the Marshall Islands. A two column thrust through Micronesia and the Bismarcks would force the enemy to disperse his forces, deny him the opportunity for a flanking movement, and provide the Allies with the choice of where and when to strike next. To obtain adequate intelligence for planning the Marshalls operation, the Gilberts would have to be secured for use as a
staging areaand launch point for photographic missions. "Salt Lake City" was assigned to Task Group 50.3of the Southern Carrier Groupfor the Gilbert Islands Campaign, Operation Galvanic.
"Salt Lake City" conducted rigorous gunnery training until
8 Novemberwhen she sailed to join carriers USS|Essex|CV-9|2, USS|Bunker Hill|CV-17|2, and USS|Independence|CVL-22|2 which had carried out preliminary strikes on Wake, as a diversion on 5 Octoberand 6 October, and at Rabaulon 11 November. "Salt Lake City" joined on the 13th off Funafuti, Ellice Islands, following the carriers' fueling rendezvous at Espiritu Santo. She then saw action on the 19th as she bombarded Betioat Tarawa, in the Gilberts. That day and the next, she fought off repeated torpedo plane attacks aimed for the flattops. Tarawa was secured by the 28th. This was the first Pacific amphibious operation to be vigorously opposed at the beach, and many lessons were learned here to be applied in the island campaigns to follow.
"Salt Lake City" was attached to the
Neutralization Group, TG 50.15, for the long awaited Marshalls Campaign. Between 29 Januaryand17 February 1944, she conducted shore bombardment at Wotje and Taroaislands which were bypassed and cut off from support as the major forces concentrated on Majuro, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein. This leapfrog technique worked well and eliminated the needless casualties that would result in mopping up every Japanese-held island. On 30 Marchand 1 April, "Salt Lake City" participated in raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleaiin the western Caroline Islandsarchipelago. The cruiser anchored at Majuro on 6 Apriland remained until 25 Aprilwhen she sailed, unescorted, for Pearl Harbor.
"Salt Lake City" arrived at Pearl Harbor on
30 Apriland sailed the next day for Mare Island Naval Shipyard. She arrived on 7 Mayand operated in the San Francisco Bay area until 1 July. She then proceeded to Adak, Alaska arriving on the 8th. In the Aleutians, her operations, including a scheduled bombardment at Paramushiro were curtailed by severe weather, and she returned to Pearl Harbor on 13 August.
"Salt Lake City" sortied with USS|Pensacola|CA-24|2and USS|Monterey|CVL-26|2 on
29 Augustto attack Wake Island. They shelled that island on 3 September, and then proceeded to Eniwetok to remain until the 24th. The cruisers then moved to Saipan for patrol duty after which, on 6 October, they proceeded to Marcus Island to create a diversion in connection with raids on Formosa. They shelled Marcus on 9 Septemberand returned to Saipan.
In October, during the second
Battle of the Philippine Sea, "Salt Lake City" returned to screen and support duty with the carrier strike groups against Japanese bases and surface craft. Based at Ulithi, she supported the carriers between 15 Octoberand 26 October. From 8 November 1944, through 25 January 1945, she operated with CruDiv 5, TF 54, in bombardment against the Volcano Islandsto neutralize airfields through which the Japanese staged bombing raids on the B-29s based at Saipan. These raids were coordinated with B-24strikes. In February, she operated in the Gunfire and Covering Force, TF 54, during the final phases of securing Iwo Jimaand the initial operations in the campaign to capture Okinawa.
"Salt Lake City" provided call-fire at Iwo Jima until
13 March, and then concentrated her activities at Okinawa until 28 Maywhen she put into Leyte for repairs and upkeep. She returned to Okinawa to cover minesweeping operations and general patrol in the East China Seaon 6 July. A month later, on 8 August, she sailed for the Aleutians via Saipan. While en route to Adak, she received word on 31 Augustto proceed to northern Honshū, Japan, to cover the occupation of Ominato Naval Base. The long war in the Pacific was now at a close.
"Salt Lake City" earned eleven
battle stars for her war service. She was awarded the Navy Unit Commendationfor her action during the Aleutian Campaign.
Like many warships at the close of the war, "Salt Lake City" was almost immediately slated for deactivation. She was originally ordered to report to Commander,
3rd Fleet, upon arrival on the west coast, in October, for deactivation. On 29 October, however, she was diverted to Operation Magic Carpet duty to return veterans of the Pacific theater to the United States.
14 November, she was added to the list of warships to be used as test vessels for " Operation Crossroads", the Atomic Bomb Experiments and Evaluation Tests at Bikini Atoll. She was partially stripped and her crew reduced prior to sailing to Pearl Harbor in March 1946.
"Salt Lake City" was used in evaluating the effects on surface vessels during the initial test with an aerial burst on
1 July, and during the second test with a subsurface burst on the 25th. Surviving two atomic bombblasts, she was decommissioned on 29 Augustand laid up to await ultimate disposal. She was sunk as a target hull on 25 May 1948, 130 miles (240 km) off the coast of southern California and struck from the Naval Vessel Registeron 18 June 1948.
* [http://ussslcca25.com USS Salt Lake City CA25 Association]
* [http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-s/ca25.htm Official Navy pictures]
The events described by Robert J. Casey in his book, "Torpedo Junction", take place aboard the "Salt Lake City".
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