- USS San Diego (CL-53)
The second USS "San Diego" (CL-53) was an "Atlanta"-class
light cruiser( antiaircraft) of the United States Navy, commissioned just after the US entry into World War II, and active throughout the Pacific theater.
"San Diego" was laid down on
27 March 1940by Bethlehem Steelin Quincy, Massachusetts, sponsored by Grace Legler Benbough(wife of Percy J. Benbough, then-mayor of San Diego), launched on 26 July 1941, and acquired by the Navy and commissioned on 10 January 1942, Captain Benjamin F. Perry in command.
After shakedown training in
Chesapeake Bay, "San Diego" sailed via the Panama Canalto the west coast, arriving at her namesake city on 16 May 1942. Escorting "Saratoga" (CV-3) at best speed, "San Diego" barely missed the Battle of Midway. On 15 June, she began escort duty for "Hornet" (CV-8) in operations in the South Pacific. Early in August, she supported the first American offensive of the war, the invasion of the Solomons at Guadalcanal. With powerful air and naval forces, the Japanese fiercely contested the American thrust and inflicted heavy damage; "San Diego" witnessed the sinking of "Wasp" (CV-7) on 15 Septemberand of "Hornet" on 26 October.
"San Diego" gave antiaircraft protection for "Enterprise" (CV-6) as part of the decisive three-day
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12 Novemberto 15 November 1942. After several months of service in the dangerous waters surrounding the Solomon Islands, "San Diego" sailed via Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, to Auckland New Zealand, for replenishment.
Noumea, New Caledonia, the light cruiser joined "Saratoga", the only American carrier available in the South Pacific, and HMS "Victorious" in support of the invasion of Munda, New Georgia, and of Bougainville. On 5 Novemberand 11 November 1943, she joined "Saratoga" and "Princeton" (CVL-23) in highly successful raids against Rabaul. "San Diego" served as part of Operation Galvanic, the capture of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. She escorted "Lexington" (CV-16), damaged by a torpedo, to Pearl Harbor for repairs on 9 December. "San Diego" continued on to San Franciscofor installation of modern radarequipment, a Combat Information Centerand 40 millimeter antiaircraftguns to replace her obsolete 1.1 inch batteries.
She joined Vice Adm.
Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Forceat Pearl Harbor in January 1944 and served as an important part of that mighty force for the remainder of the war. Her rapid-fire guns protected the carriers against aerial attack. "San Diego" participated in Operation Flintlock, the capture of Majuroand Kwajalein, and " Catchpole," the invasion of Eniwetok, in the Marshall Islandsfrom 31 Januaryto 4 March. During this period, Task Force 58delivered a devastating attack against Truk, the Japanese naval base known as the "Gibraltar of the Pacific."
"San Diego" steamed back to San Francisco for more additions to her radar and then rejoined the carrier force at
Majuroin time to join in raids against Wake and Marcus Islands in June. She was part of the carrier force covering the invasion of Saipan, participated in strikes against the Bonin Islands, and shared in the victory of the First Battle of the Philippine Seaon 19 Juneand 20 June. After a brief replenishment stop at Eniwetok, "San Diego" and her carriers supported the invasion of Guamand Tinian, struck at Palau, and conducted the first carrier raids against the Philippines. On 6 Augustand 8 August, she stood by as the carriers gave close air support to Marines landing on Peleliu, Palau Islands.
21 September, the Task Force struck at the Manila Bayarea. After replenishing at Saipan and Ulithi, she sailed with Task Force 38 in its first strike against Okinawa. From 12 Octoberto 15 October, the carriers pounded the airfields of Formosa while "San Diego's" guns shot down 2 of 9 Japanese attackers in her sector and drove the others away; however, some enemy planes got through and damaged "Houston" (CL-81) and "Canberra" (CA-70). "San Diego" helped escort the two crippled cruisers out of danger to Ulithi. After rejoining the fast carrier force, she successfully rode out the typhoonof 17 Decemberand 18 December, despite heavy rolling of the ship. In January 1945, Task Force 38 entered the South China Seafor attacks against Formosa, Luzon, Indochina, and southern China. The force struck Okinawa before returning to Ulithi for replenishment.
"San Diego" next participated in carrier operations against the home islands of
Japan, the first since the Doolittle Raidof 1942. The carrier force finished the month of February with strikes against Iwo Jima.
1 March, "San Diego" and other cruisers were detached from the carrier force to bombard Okino Daijo Islandin support of the landings on Okinawa. After another visit to Ulithi, she joined in carrier strikes against Kyūshū, again shooting down or driving away enemy planes attacking the carriers. On the night of 27 Marchand 28 March, "San Diego" participated in the shelling of Minami Daito Jima; on 11 April, and again on 16 April, her guns shot down two attackers. She helped furnish antiaircraft protection for ships damaged by suicide attacks and escorted them to safety. After a stop at Ulithi, she continued as part of the carrier force supporting the invasion of Okinawa, until she entered an advanced base drydockat Guiuan, Samar Island, Philippines, for repairs and maintenance.
She then served once more with the carrier force operating off the coast of Japan from
10 Julyuntil hostilities ceased. On 27 August, "San Diego" was the first major Allied warship to enter Tokyo Baysince the beginning of the war, and she helped in the occupation of the Yokosuka Naval Baseand the surrender of the Japanese battleship "Nagato". After having steamed over 300,000 miles in the Pacific, she returned to San Francisco on 14 September 1945. "San Diego" gave further service as part of Operation Magic Carpet in bringing American troops home. She was decommissioned and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleeton 4 November 1946, berthed at Bremerton, Washington. She was redesignated CLAA-53 on 18 March 1949. Ten years later, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register, on 1 March 1959.
"San Diego" received 15
battle stars for service in World War II.
* [http://www.usssandiego.org/ The Unbeatable Ship Nobody Ever Heard Of]
* [http://www.portofsandiego.org/sandiego_publicart/usssandiegomem.asp USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial] The San Diego received 18 battle stars, more than any ship in Naval history except for the USS Enterprise. See, http://www.quarterdeck.org/uss_san_diego/index.htm
See USS "San Diego" for other ships of the same name.
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