USS St. Louis (CL-49)

USS St. Louis (CL-49)

USS "St. Louis" (CL-49), the lead ship of her class of light cruiser, was the fifth ship of the United States Navy named after the city of St. Louis, Missouri.

Construction and commissioning

"St. Louis" was laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia; launched on 15 April 1938; sponsored by Miss Nancy Lee Morrill; and commissioned on 19 May 1939, Captain Charles H. Morrison in command.

North Atlantic patrol duty

Fitted out and based at Norfolk, "St. Louis" completed shakedown on 6 October; then commenced Neutrality Patrol operations which, during the next 11 months, took her from the West Indies into the North Atlantic. On 3 September 1940, she put to sea with an inspection board embarked to evaluate possible sites, from Newfoundland to British Guiana, for naval and air bases to be gained in exchange for destroyers transferred to the British government. She returned to Norfolk on 27 October.

Pacific patrol duty

"St. Louis" sailed for the Pacific on 9 November 1940. Transiting the Panama Canal five days later, "St. Louis" reached Pearl Harbor on 12 December. She participated in fleet maneuvers and conducted patrols during the winter of 1940 and 1941; then steamed to California for an overhaul at Mare Island. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 20 June and resumed operations in Hawaiian waters.

Two months later, "St. Louis" sailed west with other cruisers of the Battle Force; patrolled between Wake Island, Midway, and Guam; then, proceeded to Manila, whence she returned to Hawaii at the end of September. On 28 September 1941, she entered the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for upkeep.

Pearl Harbor attack and the beginning of World War II

On Sunday 7 December 1941, "St. Louis" was moored to the pier in Southeast Lock at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At 07:56, Japanese planes were sighted by observers on board "St. Louis". Within minutes, the ship was at general quarters, and her operable antiaircraft guns were manned and firing on the attackers. By 08:06, preparations for getting underway had begun. At about 08:20, one of the cruiser's gun crews shot down its first enemy torpedo plane. By 09:00, two more enemy aircraft had joined the first. At 09:31, "St. Louis" moved away from the pier and headed for South Channel and the open sea. Fifteen minutes later, her 6 inch guns, whose power leads had been disconnected, were in full operating order.

As the cruiser moved into the channel entrance, she became the target of a midget submarine. The enemy's torpedoes, however, exploded on striking a shoal less than 200 yards from the ship. Destroyers then pounded the bottom with depth charges and "St. Louis" continued out to sea where she joined in the search for the Japanese fleet. After failing to locate the enemy strike force, the hunters returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 December.

Escort duty - California and Hawaii

"St. Louis" turned to escorting transports carrying casualties to San Francisco and troops to Hawaii.

On 6 January 1942, she departed San Francisco with Task Force 17, centered on carrier, "Yorktown", and escorted the ships transporting the Marine Expeditionary Force to Samoa to reinforce defenses there. Between 20 January and 24 January, the "Yorktown" group covered the offloading at Pago Pago; then moved to conduct air strikes in the Marshalls and the Gilberts before returning to Pearl Harbor on 7 February.

Upon her return to Pearl Harbor, "St. Louis" resumed escort duty with Hawaii–California convoys. In the spring, after a trip to the New Hebrides, she escorted SS "President Coolidge", which was carrying President Quezon of the Philippines to the west coast, arriving at San Francisco on 8 May. The following day, she was again bound for Pearl Harbor. There, she switched to a reinforcement group carrying Marine aircraft and personnel to Midway in anticipation of Japanese efforts to take that key outpost. On the 25th, she delivered her charges to their mid-ocean destination; then moved north as a unit of TP 8 to reinforce Aleutian defenses.

Patrol duty - Aleutians

On 31 May, "St. Louis" arrived at Kodiak; refueled; and got underway to patrol south of the Alaskan Peninsula. Through July, she continued the patrols, ranging westward to intercept enemy shipping. On 3 August, she headed for Kiska for her first shore bombardment mission. Four days later, she shelled that enemy-held island; then retired, returning to Kodiak on the 11th.

After that mission, the cruiser continued patrols in the Aleutian area and covered the Allied occupation of Adak. On 25 October, she proceeded via Dutch Harbor to California for an overhaul at Mare Island.

Combat duty - South Pacific

On 4 December, she departed San Francisco with transports bound for New Caledonia. She shepherded the convoy into its Nouméan anchorage on the 21st, then shifted to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, whence she proceeded into the Solomons. She commenced operations there in January 1943 with bombardments of Japanese air facilities at Munda and Kolombangara; and, during the next five months, repeated those raids and patrolled the "Slot" in the Central Solomons in an effort to halt the "Tokyo Express"-reinforcement and supply shipping that sought, almost nightly, to bolster Japanese garrisons.

Shortly after midnight on 4 July5 July, she participated in the bombardment of Vila and Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia. Her division, Cruiser Division 9 (CruDiv 9) and its screen, Destroyer Squadron 21 (DesRon 21), then retired back toward Tulagi to replenish as troops were landed at Rice Anchorage. Early on the morning of the 6th, however, the cruiser-destroyer force located and engaged ten enemy destroyers headed for Vila with reinforcements embarked. In the ensuing battle of Kula Gulf, "Helena" (CL-50) and two enemy ships were sunk.

Tulagi

Six nights later, the force, TF 18, reinforced by DesRon 12, moved back up the "Slot" from Tulagi and, soon after 01:00 on the 13th, engaged an enemy force of one light cruiser, Jintsu, and five destroyers in the battle of Kolombangara. During the battle, which raged for over an hour, the Japanese cruiser "Jintsu" and USS|Gwin|DD-433 were sunk and the light cruisers HMNZS "Leander", USS|Honolulu|CL-48, and "St. Louis" were damaged. "St. Louis" took a torpedo which hit well forward and twisted her bow, but caused no serious casualties.

She returned to Tulagi on the afternoon of the 13th. From there, she moved on to Espiritu Santo for temporary repairs; then steamed east, to Mare Island, to complete the work. In mid-November, she returned to the Solomons and, from the 20th to the 25th, covered marines fighting for Bougainville. In December, she returned to that island to shell troop concentrations and, in January 1944, shifted southward to bombard enemy installations in the Shortland Islands. Thence, she moved back to Bougainville to cover the landing of reinforcements at Cape Torokina. On 10 January, she headed back to Florida Island. In February, she again moved northwest, this time into the extreme northern Solomons and the Bismarcks. On the 13th, she arrived in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands off New Ireland.

At 18:55 on the 14th, six Vals were sighted approaching "St. Louis's" group. Crossing astern of the ships, the enemy planes went out to the southeast, turned, and reapproached. Only five remained in the formation which split into two groups. Two of the planes closed "St. Louis".

The first plane dropped three bombs, all near misses. The second released three more. One scored on the light cruiser; the other two were near misses just off the port quarter. The bomb which hit "St. Louis" penetrated the 40 millemeter clipping room near the number 6 mount and exploded in the midship living compartment. Twenty-three died and 20 were wounded, 10 seriously. A fire which had started in the clipping room was extinguished. Both of her planes were rendered inoperable; her ventilation system was damaged. Communication with the after engine room ceased, and the cruiser slowed to 18 knots. On the 15th, she survived another air attack and was then ordered back to Purvis Bay.

Marianas

Repairs were completed by the end of the month; and, in March, "St. Louis" resumed operations with her division. Through May, she remained in the Solomons. Then, on 4 June, she moved north to the Marshalls, whence, on the 10th, she sailed for the Marianas in TF 52, the Saipan assault force. Four days later, she cruised off southern Saipan. On the 15th, she shelled the Charan Kanoa area; retired as the landings took place; then moved back to provide call fire support and to shell targets of opportunity. On the 16th, she proceeded south and bombarded the Asan beach area of Guam. She then returned to Saipan and, on the 17th, shifted to an area north of that island where she remained through the battle of the Philippine Sea. On the 22nd, she returned to Saipan and, after screening the refueling group for two days, proceeded to the Marshalls.

On 14 July, "St. Louis" again headed for the Marianas. The next day, she damaged her number 3 propeller and lost 39 feet of the tail shaft. Nevertheless, two days later, she arrived off Guam as scheduled; and, during the afternoon, covered underwater demolition teams working the proposed landing beaches. Pre-invasion shore bombardment followed; and, after the landings on the 21st, she provided support fire and call fire. On the 29th, "St. Louis" departed the Marianas for Pearl Harbor, whence she was routed on to California for overhaul. In mid-October, she steamed back to Hawaii; trained until the end of the month; then moved on across the Pacific, via Ulithi and Kossol Roads, to the Philippines, arriving in Leyte Gulf on 16 November.

Surigao Strait

During the next 10 days, she patrolled in the gulf and in Surigao Strait, adding her batteries to the antiaircraft guns protecting shipping in the area. Shortly before noon on the 27 November, a formation of 12 to 14 enemy planes attacked the cruiser's formation. "St. Louis" was unscathed in the brief battle. A request was made for CAP cover, but Japanese planes continued to command the air. At 11:30, another 10 enemy planes filled the space vacated by the first flight and broke into three attack groups of four, four, and two. At 11:38, a Val, hit and aflame, made a suicide dive on "St. Louis" from the port quarter and exploded with its bomb on impact. Fires broke out in the cruiser's hangar area and spaces. All crew members of nowrap | 20 mm guns 7 through 10 were killed or wounded.

At 11:39, a second burning enemy plane headed at her on the port beam. Flank speed was rung up and the rudder was put hard right. The plane passed over number 4 turret and crashed 100 yards out.

At 11:46, there was still no CAP cover over the cruiser's formation; and, at 11:51, two more enemy planes, both burning, attacked St. Louis. The first was splashed off the port quarter; the second drove in from starboard and crashed almost on board on the port side. A 20-foot section of armor belt was lost and numerous holes were torn in her hull. By 11:52, the ship had taken on a list to port. At 12:10, another suicide-minded Japanese pilot closed "St. Louis". He was stopped 400 yards astern. Ten minutes later, enemy torpedo planes moved in to attack. "St. Louis", warned by a PT boat, barely avoided contact with a lethal package dropped by one of the planes.

By 12:36, the cruiser was back on an even keel. Thirty minutes later, all major fires were out; and salvage work had been started. Medical work was well under way: 15 were dead, 1 was missing; 21 were seriously wounded; 22 had sustained minor injuries. On the 28th, "St. Louis's" seriously injured were transferred; and, on the 30th, she put into San Pedro Bay for temporary repairs which allowed her to reach California toward the end of December.

Battle duty - Japanese home islands

On 1 March 1945, "St. Louis" departed California; and, at mid-month, she joined the fast carrier force at Ulithi. By the end of the month, she had participated in strikes against the southern Japanese home islands; then moved south to the Ryūkyūs to join TF 54, bombarded Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and underwater demolition teams clearing channels to the assault beaches. On the 31st, she put into Kerama Retto to replenish; then returned to the larger island to support the forces landed on the Hagushi beaches on 1 April.

Five days later, the cruiser covered minesweepers off Iwo Jima, then resumed fire support and antiaircraft duties off Okinawa. On 18 May, she departed Hagushi for a brief respite at Leyte; and, in mid-June, she resumed support operations off Okinawa. On 25 July, she shifted to TF 95; and on the 28th, she supported air strikes against Japanese installations on the Asiatic mainland. Sweeps of the East China Sea followed; and, in early August, she anchored in Buckner Bay, where she remained through the end of hostilities on 15 August.

"St. Louis" (CL-49) earned eleven battle stars during World War II.

Post World War II duties

China

Postwar duties kept the cruiser in the Far East for another two and one-half months. In late August 1945, while in the Philippines, she was assigned to TF 73, the Yangtze River Patrol Force. During September, as other ships joined the force, she was at Buckner Bay; and, in October, she moved on to Shanghai. In mid-October, she helped to lift Chinese Army units to Formosa.

Magic Carpet

"St. Louis" joined the "Magic Carpet" fleet to carry World War II veterans back to the United States. She completed her first "Magic Carpet" run at San Francisco on 9 November 1945; and by mid-January 1946, made two more runs, both to islands in the Central and Southwest Pacific.

Decommissioning

In early February 1946, "St. Louis" sailed for the east coast and arrived at Philadelphia for deactivation on the 25th. She was decommissioned on 20 June and berthed at League Island with the 16th (Inactive) Fleet through the decade.

Transfer to Brazil

Early in the 1950s, "St. Louis" was designated for transfer to the government of Brazil. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 22 January 1951; and, on the 29th, she was commissioned in the Brazilian Navy as "Tamandare".

"Tamandare" (C-12) was stricken from the Brazilian Navy in 1976. Sold to breakers four years later, she sunk in 24 August 1980, South Africa, near Cape of Good Hope (38 deg 48 min S and 01 deg 24 min W) while under tow to Taiwan.

References


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