USS Houston (CL-81), Norfolk Navy Yard, 11 January 1944

US Heavy Cruisers 1941-45: Pre War Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'treaty cruisers' built in the US between the wars, limited by treaty to 10,000 tons and 8in guns. Five classes of treaty cruisers were produced and they played a major role in the fighting during the Second World War, despite the limits imposed on them by the treaty restrictions. [read full review]


After conducting a shakedown cruise in the Atlantic, Houston returned to the United States in October 1930. She then visited her namesake city, and joined the fleet at Hampton Roads. Steaming to New York, the cruiser departed on 10 January 1931 for the Pacific, and after stopping at the Panama Canal and the Hawaiian Islands, arrived at Manila on 22 February. Houston became flagship of the Asiatic Fleet upon arrival, and for the next year participated in training operations in the Far East. [5]

With the outbreak of war between China and Japan in 1931, Houston got underway on 31 January for Shanghai to protect American interests. She landed Marine and Navy gun platoons to help stabilize the situation and remained in the area, with the exception of a good will cruise to the Philippines in March and one to Japan in May 1933, until being relieved by Augusta on 17 November 1933. The cruiser sailed to San Francisco to join the Scouting Force, and for the years preceding World War II participated in Fleet Problems and maneuvers in the Pacific. [5]

During this period, Houston made several special cruises. President Franklin Roosevelt came aboard on 1 July 1934 at Annapolis, Maryland, for a cruise of almost 12,000 nautical miles (14,000 mi 22,000 km) through the Caribbean and to Portland, Oregon, by way of Hawaii. Houston also carried Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry L. Roosevelt on a tour of the Hawaiian Islands, returning to San Diego on 15 May 1935. [5]

After a short cruise in Alaskan waters, the cruiser returned to Seattle and embarked the President again on 3 October for a vacation cruise to Cedros Island, Magdalena Bay, Cocos Islands, and Charleston, South Carolina. Houston also celebrated the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco on 28 May 1937, and carried President Roosevelt for a Fleet Review at the same city on 14 July 1938. [5] Roosevelt's 24-day cruise aboard Houston concluded on 9 August 1938 at Pensacola, Florida. [6]

Houston became flagship of the U.S. Fleet on 19 September, when Rear Admiral Claude C. Bloch brought his flag aboard, and maintained that status until 28 December, when she returned to the Scouting Force. Continuing the routine of training exercises, she got underway for Fleet Problem XX, on 4 January 1939 from San Francisco, sailed to Norfolk and Key West, and there embarked the President and the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William D. Leahy, for the duration of the problem. She arrived in Houston on 7 April for a brief visit before returning to Seattle, where she arrived on 30 May. [5]

Assigned as flagship of the Hawaiian Detachment, the cruiser arrived Pearl Harbor after her post-overhaul shakedown on 7 December 1939, and continued in that capacity until returning to Mare Island on 17 February 1940. Sailing to Hawaii, she departed for the Philippine Islands on 3 November. Arriving at Manila on 19 November, she became the flagship of Admiral Thomas C. Hart, Commander Asiatic Fleet. [5]

Shortly before the war in the Pacific broke out, five quad-mount 1.1"/75 caliber antiaircraft cannons were shipped to Cavite Naval Yard in the Philippines four of these were installed aboard Houston to increase the ship's air defense protection. [7]

As the war crisis deepened, Admiral Hart deployed his fleet in readiness. On the night of the Pearl Harbor attack, Houston got underway from Panay Island with fleet units bound for Darwin, Australia, where she arrived on 28 December 1941 by way of Balikpapan and Surabaya. After patrol duty, she joined the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) naval force at Surabaya. [5]

Battle of Makassar Strait Edit

Air raids were frequent in the area, and Houston ' s gunners shot down four Japanese planes in the Battle of Bali Sea (also known as the Battle of Makassar Strait) on 4 February 1942, as Admiral Karel Doorman of the Royal Netherlands Navy took his force to engage Japanese reported to be at Balikpapan. Houston took one hit, disabling the number three turret, and the cruiser USS Marblehead was so damaged that she had to be sent out of the battle area. Doorman was forced to abandon his advance. [5]

Timor Convoy Edit

Houston arrived at Tjilatjap 5 February and stayed until 10 February, when she left for Darwin to escort a convoy carrying troops to reinforce forces already defending Timor. Escorting USAT Meigs, SS Mauna Loa, SS Portmar, and Tulagi, Houston with the destroyer USS Peary and sloops HMAS Warrego and HMAS Swan departed Darwin before two in the morning of 15 February for Koepang. By eleven in the morning, the convoy was being shadowed by a Japanese flying boat that dropped some bombs without causing damage before departing. The next morning another shadowing aircraft had taken position, and before noon the convoy was attacked by bombers and flying boats in two waves. During the first attack, Mauna Loa suffered slight damage and two casualties, one killed and one wounded. Houston ' s fire showed no effects. During the second attack, Houston distinguished herself with a barrage which made her "like a sheet of flame" [8] shooting down 7 of the 44 planes of the second wave. The convoy continued toward Timor for a few hours, with Houston launching a scout plane seeking the enemy position. ABDA suspected the presence of Japanese carriers, an imminent invasion of Timor, and a support fleet lying in wait and thus ordered the convoy back to Darwin, which it reached before noon on 18 February.

Houston and Peary departed later that day to rejoin combat forces at Tjilatjap. [9] Shortly after departure, Peary broke off to chase a suspected submarine, and expended so much fuel in doing so that the destroyer returned to Darwin instead of continuing with Houston. [9] Houston thus escaped the Japanese attack on Darwin on 19 February, in which Peary, Meigs and Mauna Loa were among the ships sunk and Portmar was forced to beach. [10] [11] [12]

Battle of the Java Sea Edit

Receiving word that the major Japanese invasion force was approaching Java protected by a formidable surface unit, Admiral Doorman decided to meet and seek to destroy the main convoy. Sailing on 26 February 1942 with the cruisers Houston, HMAS Perth, HNLMS De Ruyter, HMS Exeter, HNLMS Java and ten destroyers, he met the Japanese support force under Admiral Takeo Takagi consisting of four cruisers and 13 destroyers in the late afternoon of 27 February 1942. [5] As Japanese destroyers laid a smokescreen, the cruisers of both fleets opened fire. After one ineffective torpedo attack, the Japanese light cruisers and destroyers launched a second and sank the destroyer HNLMS Kortenaer. HMS Exeter and the destroyer HMS Electra were hit by gunfire, Electra sinking shortly after. At 17:30, Admiral Doorman turned south toward the Java coast, not wishing to be diverted from his main purpose of destroying the convoy. [5]

The Allied fleet dodged another torpedo attack and followed the coastline, during which time the destroyer HMS Jupiter was sunk, either by mine or internal explosion. The destroyer HMS Encounter was detached to pick up survivors from Kortenaer, and the American destroyers were ordered back to Surabaya as they had fired all their torpedoes. With no destroyer protection, Doorman's four remaining ships turned north again in a last attempt to stop the invasion of Java. [5] At 23:00, the cruisers again encountered the Japanese surface group. Sailing on parallel courses, the opposing units opened fire, and the Japanese launched a torpedo attack 30 minutes later. De Ruyter and Java were caught in a spread of 12 torpedoes, which resulted in their destruction. [5] Before De Ruyter sank, Doorman ordered Houston and Perth to retire to Tanjong Priok. [5] [13]

This battle was the largest surface engagement since the Battle of Jutland in World War I. [14] Two cruisers and three destroyers of the ABDA naval force were sunk, the cruiser Exeter had been damaged, and the remaining ships were ordered back to Surabaya and Tanjong Priok.

Battle of Sunda Strait Edit

Houston and Perth reached Tanjong Priok on 28 February, where they attempted to resupply, but were met with fuel shortages and no available ammunition. [15] The two cruisers were ordered to sail to Tjilatjap with Dutch destroyer Evertsen, but departed at 17:00 without Evertsen, which was delayed. [16] The Allies believed that Sunda Strait was free of enemy vessels, with the last intelligence reports indicating that Japanese warships were no closer than 50 miles (43 nmi 80 km), but a large Japanese force had assembled at Bantam Bay. [17] [16] [18] At 23:06, the two cruisers were off St. Nicholas Point when lookouts on Perth sighted an unidentified ship when it was realized that she was a Japanese destroyer, Perth engaged. [17] [16] However, as this happened, multiple Japanese warships appeared and surrounded the two Allied ships. [17] [16]

The two cruisers evaded the nine torpedoes launched by the destroyer Fubuki. [18] According to ABDA post-battle reports, the cruisers then reportedly sank one transport and forced three others to beach, but were blocked from passing through Sunda Strait by a destroyer squadron, and had to contend with the heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma in close proximity. [5] At midnight, Perth attempted to force a way through the destroyers, but was hit by four torpedoes in the space of a few minutes, then subject to close-range gunfire until sinking at 00:25 on 1 March. [16]

On board Houston, shells were in short supply in the forward turrets, so the crew manhandled shells from the disabled number three turret to the forward turrets. Houston was struck by a torpedo shortly after midnight, and began to lose headway. [5] Houston ' s gunners had scored hits on three different destroyers and sunk a minesweeper, but she was struck by three more torpedoes in quick succession. [5] Captain Albert Rooks was killed by a bursting shell at 00:30, and as the ship came to a stop, Japanese destroyers moved in, machine-gunning the decks and men in the water. A few minutes later, Houston rolled over and sank. [5] Of the 1,061 aboard, 368 survived, including 24 of the 74-man Marine Detachment, only to be captured by the Japanese and interned in prison camps. Of 368 Navy and Marine Corps personnel taken prisoner, 77 (21%) died in captivity. [19] [a]

Aftermath Edit

Houston ' s fate was not fully known by the world for almost nine months, and the full story of her last fight was not told until the survivors were liberated from prison camps at the end of the war. [5] Before then, on 30 May 1942, 1,000 new recruits for the Navy, known as the Houston Volunteers, were sworn in at a dedication ceremony in downtown Houston, to replace those believed lost on Houston. On 12 October 1942 the light cruiser Vicksburg (CL-81), then under construction, was renamed Houston in honor of the old ship, President Roosevelt declaring:

Our enemies have given us the chance to prove that there will be another USS Houston, and yet another USS Houston if that becomes necessary, and still another USS Houston as long as American ideals are in jeopardy. [21] [22]

Captain Rooks received posthumously the Medal of Honor for his actions. [5] Chaplain George S. Rentz, who had surrendered his life jacket to a younger sailor after finding himself in the water, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. He was the only Navy Chaplain to be so honored during World War II.

The crew of Houston is honored alongside that of Perth at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia, and in St John's Anglican Church, Fremantle.



After extensive work in New York, Houston steamed out of New York harbor on 11 October 1945. Following refresher training in the Caribbean Sea, she took part in training exercises from Newport, Rhode Island. She steamed on 16 April 1946 for an extended goodwill tour of European and African ports, visiting cities in Scandinavia, Portugal, Italy, and Egypt. [1]

Houston returned to the US on 14 December 1946 and engaged in training and readiness operations until 17 May 1947, when she steamed with Cruiser Division 12 (CruDiv 12) for a Mediterranean Sea voyage. [1]

Returning to Philadelphia on 16 August 1947, Houston was decommissioned on 15 December 1947, and then was placed in reserve for over a decade, and then finally stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 March 1959 and scrapped. [1]

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Torpedoing of the USS Houston and Remembering a Father

On October 14, 1944 the USS Houston became the first major ship attacked by Japanese pilots off the coast of Formosa, what is now called Taiwan. The USS Houston left for combat in April 1944 joining Task Force 58, the main striking force in the US Navy in the Pacific Theater. The boat and its crew participated in shore bombardments and covered landings of the island hopping campaign across the Pacific including the Marianas, Roto, Guam, Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Philippines, Anguar, Luzon, Mindanao, Leyte, and Samar.

Ordeal of the USS Houston from Jack Fellows’ book on the ship.

It was just after sunset on October 14, 1944 that the USS Houston’s was struck by a Japanese torpedo after successfully shooting down three of the four attacking planes. The ship was immediately dead in the water without power. During this time, the typical protocol was for the crew to abandon ship and let the vessel sink. The USS Houston was leaning over in the water, and the men were ordered to evacuate the ship.

The vast majority of the crew of 992 survived, but 4 officers and 51 enlisted perished. The Japanese reported that the USS Houston had sunk resulting in newspaper headlines describing that success on the Japanese Home Front. But in fact, the crew of the ship refused to let the USS Houston sink, and over 700 hundred of the crewmen and 33 of the officers were transferred to accompanying US ships and the ship was stabilized to tow. The boat was towed to Ulithi by USS Boston and USS Pawnee and eventually made its way to Brooklyn, New York for repairs that were completed just after the war’s end in 1945. The ship received 3 battle stars for its service during World War II.

Joseph Ignatius “J.I” Monte during WWII.

To commemorate the 70 th Anniversary of this event and to fulfill the last wishes of one of the USS Houston’s crew members, daughter Lori Besselman and son Frank Monte of Jim “J.I.” Monte will be taking a voyage to the coast of Taiwan to put the ashes of their father at rest where he lost his crew.

Born in 1925 J.I., a New Orleans native, joined the US Navy in September 1942 at the age of 17 after much fight with his father to sign for his underage enlistment. After becoming temporarily blind while working as a Welder-Burner at the Delta Shipbuilding Corporation in New Orleans, his family decided they might as well send him to war before he got killed in the shipyard. He served in New Orleans until he was 18 when he signed on for duty. He traveled to Norfolk, Virginia for training and joined as a plank member, the first crew, of the crew of the USS Houston in December 1943.

During the torpedoing by the Japanese on October 14, 1944, J.I. sprained his ankle due to the deck heaving up on the high side of the ship. Because of his injury, J.I. was thrown overboard by his shipmates where he was able to swim to a life raft. He spent the night in the raft with others from the ship before they were picked the following destroyer USS Grayson.

On October 17 J.I. transferred to the cruiser USS Birmingham, and the following day, October 18, he transferred to the escort carrier, USS Rudyerd Bay. The Rudyerd Bay transported him to Ulithi Atoll. There he boarded the USS Typhoon and traveled to Pearl Harbor. Upon arrival in Pearl Harbor, the Typhoon received a welcome by Admiral Nimitz and the Navy Band playing “Anchors Aweigh.” Jim described the scene as well as quite comical because the USS Houston survivors received the welcome while wearing nothing but their undergarments, boxers and undershirts. When the crewmembers were evacuated they were only given those items to wear.

Verna and J.I. or “Jim” as she called him. When they met in California, J.I. had his initials JIM for Joseph Ignatius Monte sewn on his clothes. Verna thought it was for his name being “Jim” and continued to call him that throughout their life together.

After returning from the Pacific Theater in December 1944, J.I. was stationed at the Alameda Naval Air Station outside of Oakland, California for the remainder of the war. It was here where he met his wife Verna, who was from Iowa, while riding the trolley. Verna was also working at the Naval Air Station painting instrument dials on planes. In July 1945 the couple married, and they ventured back to J.I.’s hometown of New Orleans upon his discharge in October 1945. Together they had 5 children.

From his time in the Navy to working for the US Treasury and the US Customs Department, J.I. accumulated over 40 years of services to the government. When he retired at the age of 65, he stayed active by volunteering and serving as the Gate Chairmen for the Destrehan Plantation Festival. Alongside his wife Verna, he delivered hot meals to people living with AIDS through the New Orleans AIDS Task Force multiple times a week.

Like many WWII veterans, he didn’t talk much about his experience in war until later in life. His wife Verna described that “as he got older, the time he spent in the service became more important to him.” From that time, he became more involved with the Houston Association and hosted a reunion for the ship in New Orleans at the Westin Hotel in 1997 with at least 150 survivors and their families in attendance. He even began proudly wearing a WWII Veterans Cap that was purchased from the Museum’s gift shop. It honored him greatly to receive words of gratitude from people both young and old for his service to our country. In 2010, he received another great honor from Governor Bobby Jindal when he was awarded the Louisiana Veterans Medal of Honor for his service during WWII. Jim “J.I.” Monte passed away on January 18, 2012.

The children of Jim, Lori and Frank, are excited to have made this venture to Asia to fulfill their father’s wishes. They grew up with him saying, “I want my ashes to be in the South China Sea,” and now they have made that wish come true.

The discharge papers of J.I.
USS Houston during a shore bombardment of Guam (closer to the camera) in a high speed turn with sister-ship Vincennes.
View looking aft showing the damage to the starboard catapult after the first torpedo hit. US Navy Official photograph.

USS Houston (CL 81) Off the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 11 January 1944.
Japanese aerial torpedo hits the ship's starboard quarter, during the afternoon of 16 October 1944. This view shows burning fuel at the base of the torpedo explosion's water column. Houston had been torpedoed amidships on 14 October, while off Formosa, and was under tow by USS Pawnee (ATF 74) when enemy torpedo planes hit her again. USS Canberra (CA 70), also torpedoed off Formosa, is under tow in the distance. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center #NH 98826.
View looking aft, showing damage to the ship's stern area resulting from a torpedo hit amidships received off Formosa on 14 October 1944. This photo was taken while Houston was under tow, but prior to the second torpedo hit on 16 October. Note OS2U floatplane that had been jarred off the port catapult, breaking its wing on impact with the aircraft crane. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives #19-N-106304.

J.I. during his service.
J.I. receiving the Louisiana Veterans of Medal of Honor from Governor Jindal alongside his wife Verna on April 16, 2010.
Ordeal of the USS Houston from Jack Fellows' book on the ship.

J.I. at the World War II Memorial with the Louisiana Honor Air in May 2011.
J.I. during his service.
As a plank member of the USS Houston, J.I. received a piece of the ship's plank when it was decommissioned and scrapped in 1959.

The medals J.I. was awarded for his service in the US Navy.
Verna and J.I. or "Jim" as she called him. When they met in California, J.I. had his initials JIM for Joseph Ignatius Monte sewn on his clothes. Verna thought it was for his name Jim and continued to call him that throughout their life together.

USS Spokane (CL 120)

USS SPOKANE was one of the OAKLAND - class light cruisers and the first ship in the Navy named after the city in Washington. Decommissioned at New York in late February 1950, SPOKANE became part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. At the beginning of April 1966, while in "mothballs", she was redesignated AG 191 in anticipation of conversion to a conformal array sonar test ship. This project did not materialize, however, and she remained laid up until stricken from the Navy list in April 1972. SPOKANE was sold for scrapping in May 1973.

General Characteristics: Awarded: 1943
Keel laid: November 15, 1944
Launched: September 22, 1945
Commissioned: May 17, 1946
Decommissioned: February 27, 1950
Builder: Federal Shipbuilding Co., Kearny, N.J.
Propulsion system: geared turbines, 75,000 shp
Propellers: two
Length: 541.7 feet (165.1 meters)
Beam: 53.15 feet (16.2 meters)
Draft: 20.7 feet (6.3 meters)
Displacement: approx. 8,340 tons fully loaded
Speed: 32.5 knots
Aircraft: none
Armament: twelve 12.7cm 5-inch/38 caliber guns in six twin mounts, 28 x 40mm guns
Crew: 63 officers and 785 enlisted

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS SPOKANE. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

USS SPOKANE was laid down on 15 November 1944 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J. launched on 22 September 1945 sponsored by Miss Patrice Munsel and commissioned on 17 May 1946, Capt. L. E. Crist in command.

SPOKANE shifted to Bayonne, N.J., and then to Brooklyn, N.Y., whence she sailed on 24 June for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for her shakedown cruise and to conduct battle practice and weapons firing. She returned to New York on 11 September. The cruiser was assigned to the 2nd Fleet for duty in European waters and sailed for Plymouth, England, on 7 October.

SPOKANE operated out of British ports until mid-January 1947. During her tour, she visited Scotland, Ireland, Norway, and Denmark. On 27 January, she stood out of Plymouth and proceeded to the United States via Portugal, Gibraltar, and Guantanamo Bay where she participated in fleet exercises before arriving at Norfolk, Va., on 18 March. Following fleet and bombardment exercises in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer, she had a period of yard availability at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 22 September to 14 October. The cruiser returned to Norfolk for Navy Day, 27 October, and then prepared for another deployment.

SPOKANE stood out of Norfolk on the 29th and rendezvoused with other units of the 2nd Task Fleet for tactical exercises off Bermuda until 8 November when she sailed for England. She arrived at Plymouth on 16 November and was assigned to duty with Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Four days later, the ship donned "full dress" in celebration of the marriage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Elizabeth of England. The cruiser visited Bremerhaven, Germany, from 24 to 26 November and returned to England for tactical operations. In February 1947, the ship called at Rotterdam, The Netherlands, where she was visited by his Royal Highness Prince Bernhard on the 17th. On 1 March, SPOKANE stood out of Plymouth en route to the east coast and arrived at Norfolk on 11 March. On the 18th, her designation was changed to CLAA 120.

SPOKANE's operations along the eastern seaboard during the remainder of the year were broken by an overhaul at the New York Navy Yard from 27 May to 15 September. On 4 January 1949, the ship sortied with PHILIPPINE SEA (CV 47) and MANCHESTER (CL 83) for the Mediterranean. On 25 January, at Athens, the cruiser was paid a royal visit by King Paul and Queen Fredrika of Greece. SPOKANE participated in war games with 6th Fleet units and visited ports in Turkey, Italy, France, Sardinia, Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria before returning to Norfolk on 23 May.

SPOKANE acted as a training ship for Naval Reserves of the 4th Naval District during the summer and then participated in training exercises in the Virginia Capes area.

On 24 October 1949, SPOKANE sailed to New York for inactivation. She was placed in reserve, out of commission, on 27 February 1950 and berthed at New York. On 1 April 1966, she was redesignated AG 191. SPOKANE was struck from the Navy list on 15 April 1972 and was sold to Luria Bros. & Co. Inc., on 17 May 1973 and scrapped.

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USS Houston (CL-81), Norfolk Navy Yard, 11 January 1944 - History

Tutuila (ARG-4)

History of The USS Tutuila (ARG-4)

Arthur P. Gorman was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 1179) on 11 August 1943 at Baltimore, Md., by the Bethlehem Steel Co., renamed USS Tutuila on 8 September and designated ARG-4 launched on 12 September transferred to the Navy when 80 percent complete for conversion to an internal combustion engine repair ship on 18 September, converted by the Maryland Drydock Co., and commissioned there on 8 April 1944, Comdr. George T. Boldizsar in command.

Tutuila underwent shakedown in Hampton Roads from 20 April to 24 May before sailing for the Panama Canal and proceeding via San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and Eniwetok to the South Pacific.

Early in August, the repair ship joined Service Squadron (ServRon) 10 based at Purvis Bay, in the once hotly contested Solomon Islands. Tutuila served the Fleet as a floating advance base as it swept its way across the Pacific toward Japan. For the final year of the war, the repair ship engaged in round-the-clock work schedules which seldom slackened.

Tutuila aided in the build up for the operations which led to the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese yoke. Upon completion of this campaign, American task forces set their sights on islands closer to the Japanese homeland. Iwo Jima and Okinawa fell to the telling power of American shells, bombs, and troops which stormed ashore supported by a great Allied armada. Soon, the Allied navies were within shelling distance of the Japanese home islands themselves.

During this time, the repair ship operated first out of Manus, in the Admiralties, before moving to Ulithi in the Carolines. In the wake of the liberation of the Philippines, Tutuila arrived at Leyte on 24 May 1945 and provided repair services there to a wide variety of ships and smaller craft from the date of her arrival until the end of hostilities.

Yet, Tutuila’s work was far from over. As American and Allied forces prepared for occupation of the Japanese homeland, the ship joined those forces headed north for duty off Nippon’s shores. On 30 August, Tutuila (in company with Jason (ARH 1), Whitney (AD-4) and 11 smaller ships) set out on the first leg of the voyage northward. One day out, a typhoon lashed at the convoy, forcing the slower repair ship to remain with the “small boys” while Jason and Whitney received orders to run for Japan. On 2 September, having weathered the storm and shepherded her charges to safe harbor, Tutuila dropped anchor in Buckner Bay, Okinawa.

From there, Tutuila proceeded with a 33-ship convoy, bound for Korea, making port at Jinsen (now called Inchon) on 24 September 1946. She operated there as a maintenance vessel for ships engaged in the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war. She continued this work after moving to Taku, China, where she arrived on 26 January 1946.

Departing Taku on 30 March, the ship steamed to Shanghai, China, where she dropped anchor on 2 April. Six days later, she sailed for the United States. The ship transited the Panama Canal and arrived at New Orleans on 20 May. Following repairs, she moved to Galveston, Tex., on 9 June 1946 for deactivation and was decommissioned there six months later, on 7 December 1946.

She lay basking in the Texas sun until the summer of 1950, when North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. As the United States armed forces mobilized to support the United Nations effort, Tutuila received the call to return to active service. Towed to Orange, Tex., she was reconditioned with new shop machinery which replaced her 5-inch and 40-millimeter guns and their magazines. On 7 May 1951 the ship was re-commissioned and assigned to the Service Force, Atlantic Fleet.

Tutuila arrived at Norfolk on 30 May 1951 and served there until 13 October, when she proceeded to Baltimore for one week before returning to Hampton Roads where she remained from 23 October 1951 to 16 June 1952.

Calling briefly at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 20 to 23 June, she operated out of Norfolk again from 28 June to 15 August and from 22 August to 30 October, with a stint at New York in between. She continued this routine of east coast operations from 1952 through 1957, with occasional calls at Port-au-Prince, Haiti Havana, Cuba and Guantanamo Bay.

In 1957, the ship paid good will calls to Bermuda in June and Nova Scotia in August, with groups of Explorer Scouts embarked for each cruise. In October 1958, Tutuila again visited Havana and then proceeded to Philadelphia, where she took part in a special project for reclaiming materiel from ships in reserve before returning to Norfolk. She underwent a major overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard from 31 October 1958 to 21 January 1959 before proceeding to Guantanamo Bay late in March. But for a round-trip cruise to Port-au-Prince from 10 to 12 April, the ship served there until summer when she returned to the Virginia capes for antisubmarine exercises. The ship continued her operations out of Norfolk until the autumn of 1962.

On one occasion, the repair ship encountered merchantman SS William Johnson in distress while en route to Norfolk and, within a short time, Tutuila sent over a repair crew to correct the engineering casualty.

American reconnaissance planes flying over Cuba in the fall of 1962 noticed unusual activities there, and, when photographic prints were developed, the unusual items and activities were found to be Russian-built missiles and missile sites. In reaction to this threat President John F. Kennedy ordered the Navy to throw a cordon around Cuba, instituting a “quarantine” of the island. In this tense climate, Navy destroyers and patrol planes formed a picket line, turning back Russian ships carrying missiles.

Tutuila proceeded to Morehead City, N.C., where she rendered services before stopping at Norfolk to load cargo and proceed south to support the quarantine line. Basing out of Roosevelt Roads and Vieques, Puerto Rico, the ship provided supplies and services for the ships engaged in blockading Cuban sea lanes.

After the Soviet Government complied with President Kennedy’s demand for the withdrawal of the missiles and all of their associated technicians, sites, and the like, tensions eased. Tutuila proceeded north toward Norfolk but encountered a storm (much like the one weathered in 1945, with 80-knot winds and heavy seas) which caused a three-day delay in her returning to home port.

Operating out of Norfolk and Charleston, S.C., through 1964, the ship provided repair services during Operation “Springboard” in January of 1965. Visits to San Juan and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, Frederiksted and St. Croix, in the American Virgin Islands and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. provided the crew with sightseeing and recreational activities in between her regular duties out of the east coast ports of Norfolk and Charleston. In March 1965, Tutuila participated in a program to reclaim materiel and special equipment installed on radar picket destroyers which were currently being decommissioned at Bayonne, N.J.

As flagship of ServRon 4, Tutuila returned to Norfolk before heading south to the strife-torn Dominican Republic. While performing repair and support duties during the months of April and May, the ship conducted a special series of operations geared toward supplying needed petroleum products to light and power facilities in Santo Domingo after rebel gunfire had prevented normal tanker deliveries

For the remainder of the year 1965, she continued operations out of Norfolk following the Dominican intervention, calling at San Juan and Guantanamo Bay for refresher training after her annual Portsmouth overhaul. During March and April 1966, Tutuila underwent extensive preparation for overseas deployment, as repair shops, berthing and messing spaces were air conditioned, and new communications equipment was procured and installed.

The repair ship sailed from Norfolk on 9 May and transited the Panama Canal on 18 May. After brief stops at Pearl Harbor and at Subic Bay in the Philippines, the repair ship arrived at An Thoi, Phu Quoc Island, in the Gulf of Siam, to support Operation “Market Time” off the coast of South Vietnam.

Relieving Krishna (APL-28) on 19 July, Tutuila commenced servicing the nimble and hard-hitting PCF’s, or “Swift” boats, attached to Division 11. WPB’s of the Coast Guard’s Division 11 were based on Tutuila as well. The following month found Tutuila’s LCM’s and their crews participating in Operation “Seamount,” an Army directed landing operation to clear the southern Phu Quoc Island of enemy forces. Landing South Vietnamese troops at four locations, Tutuila’s boats also carried supplies and ammunition to the Allied ground forces while helicopters evacuated casualties to the repair ship for medical attention.

Krishna returned to An Thoi on 8 October to relieve Tutuila , which then steamed to Bangkok, Thailand, for rest and relaxation for her crew. The repair ship then arrived back off the Vietnamese coast, reaching Vung Tau, off Cape St. Jacques, on 18 October. Here she supported Operations “Market Time”, “Game Warden”, and “Stable Door” through the end of 1966.

The opening days of the new year, 1967, saw the repair ship taking up support duties for the Mobile Riverine Force established at Vung Tau for operations in the Mekong Delta. Here, she assisted in the preparation of ASPB’s and other small patrol craft until USS Askari (APL-30) arrived and took over the major repair and maintenance work.

Tutuila conducted in-country availability for the first time on Hisser (DER-100) on 9 January. Her repair crews finished another difficult job in just five days the overhauling and repairing of the troublesome diesel generators of USS Benewah (APB 35).

Turned over to the operational control of Commander, Naval Support Activity, Saigon, in April 1967, the ship commenced services to LST’s engaged in operations off the mouth of the Mekong River. During this period, the repair ship continued to provide support and maintenance facilities for craft of the Mobile Riverine Assault Force and supported Coastal Division 13 as well. Further, Tutuila’s 3-inch guns spoke in anger for the first time in the Vietnam conflict, as the ship undertook a shore bombardment in the Rung Sat Special Zone, providing harassment and interdiction fire into an area of suspected Viet Cong activity north of Vung Tau.

Returning to An Thoi in October 1967, Tutuila relieved Krishna and provided support for coastal divisions of Navy and Coast Guard before proceeding to Kaoshiung, Taiwan, for five days of upkeep in late November. She returned to Vung Tau on 7 December to continue supporting coastal interdiction operations.

The repair ship remained at Vung Tau until taking over duties at An Thoi in April 1968 from Krishna. While remaining on station through the summer Tutuila also trained South Vietnamese sailors in the operation of PCF’s, four of which had been transferred to the Republic of Vietnam in August. Tutuila’s hard work earned the Navy Unit Commendation as a result of the labors conducted at both Vung Tau and An Thoi.

Extensive improvements in habitability highlighted the yard work conducted at Yokosuka in January 1969, while the main engine, auxiliary pumps, and the three main generators were all subjected to thorough overhauling. On 21 March, the ship departed from Yokosuka for sea trials and refresher training, a virtually new ship both inside and out. The final week of training completed by 22 April, Tutuila cleared the Japanese isles on the 27th, bound, once more, for Vietnam.

After a five-day visit to Hong Kong en route, the ship dropped anchor at Vung Tau on 14 May. She commenced work almost immediately, conducting a temporary availability on Brule (AKL-28) before 1 June and filling 36 work requests from Mark (AKL-12) as well as repair work and availability requirements for local YFR craft and the Republic of Korea LSM-610.

On 12 June, Tutuila got underway for An Thoi where she supported the continuation of “Market Time,” as well as “SEAFLOAT” and “SEALORDS,” while maintaining PCF’s, YFU’s, APUBI, and several LST’s.

For the months of June and July, the ship also undertook further training operations repairing 17 Vietnamese Navy PCF’s and training 39 Vietnamese blue jackets in diesel engine overhaul. Saint Francis River (LSMR-525) underwent two weeks of restricted availability, adding to the repair ship’s already busy and round-the-clock schedule. Fulfilling these and other requests for South Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, and United States Navy units, Tutuila remained busy for the remainder of her active career off Vietnam receiving three Navy Unit Commendations in the process. Late in 1971, she was selected for transfer to the Republic of China Navy.

On New Year’s Day 1972, Tutuila departed Vung Tau after six years of combat support duties. Many times she had hoisted PCF’s or other patrol craft onto pontoons alongside for complete overhauls her crew had taught their Vietnamese counterparts the intricacies of diesel power plants and generators. Her guns had even conducted one offensive shore bombardment. Vietnam lay behind her as she headed for Hong Kong on 1 January 1972. Six days of bad weather jostled her before she finally made port at the British Crown Colony on 7 January.

Her stay at Hong Kong was not all rest and relaxation, however, as much lay ahead to be done in preparation for the transfer to the Chinese Navy. Tutuila’s crew gave her a “face lift” which included painting, overhauling engines, and getting her records and accounts in order. She departed Hong Kong on 13 January and arrived at Subic Bay two days later, where upon arrival, the work of off-loading supplies and ammunition began.

Departing Subic Bay on 29 January, Tutuila made port at Kaoshiung on 2 February to the accompaniment of a Chinese military band which played tunes from the dockside. For the next three weeks, final checks were undertaken to put the finishing touches on the transfer. Finally, by 21 February 1972, all was in readiness. On that day, Tutuila was decommissioned and struck from the Navy list. Transferred to the Nationalist Chinese Navy, she was renamed Pien Tai and serves as a supply ship into 1979.

Tutuila received (7) Battle Stars , (3) Navy Unit Commendations , and for her Vietnam service.

Awards earned during the Vietnam War: (3) Navy Unit Commendations, Meritorious Unit Commendation, RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm, RVN Civil Action Medal, First Class, with Palm, RVN Campaign Medal with 60’s device and (7) Battle Stars for her Vietnam Service Medal.

USS Houston (CL-81), Norfolk Navy Yard, 11 January 1944 - History

USS Canberra , a 13,600 ton Baltimore class heavy cruiser, was built at Quincy, Massachusetts. She was commissioned in mid-October 1943 and arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, early in February 1944, in time to take part in the invasion of Eniwetok a few weeks later. During the next three months the new cruiser escorted aircraft carriers as they raided Japanese positions in the Central Pacific and supported landings on the north coast of New Guinea. In June Canberra participated in the assault on Saipan, and the resulting Battle of the Philippine sea. For the rest of the summer she continued her carrier screening operations as the Marianas Campaign was completed, more raids conducted closer to Japan, and U.S. forces stormed ashore in the Palaus and at Morotai.

In mid-October 1944 Canberra 's task group raided Japanese air fields and other facilities on Okinawa and Formosa, in preparation for the forthcoming Leyte invasion. Japanese torpedo planes counterattacked and, during the evening of 13 October, she was hit by a torpedo that opened her hull amidships, bent a propeller shaft, and left her with both engine rooms and the after firerooms flooded. Though the ship's forward boiler rooms could still generate plenty of steam, her engines were completely out of action, and she was dead in the water less than a hundred miles from Formosa, a major enemy air base. Demonstrating masterful night-time seamanship, the heavy cruiser Wichita (CA-45) rigged a tow line and began to slowly pull the stricken Canberra out of range of hostile planes. The following night the light cruiser Houston (CL-81) was also hit and taken under tow. Despite more air attacks, which hit Houston again on 16 October, by month's end both crippled cruisers made it safely to the Navy advanced base at Ulithi. Canberra was later taken to Manus, where she was repaired enough to return to the U.S. under her own power.

Completely refurbished at the Boston Navy Yard between February and October 1945, Canberra served in the West Coast area from late 1945 until March 1947, when she was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Bremerton, Washington. Nearly five years later, in January 1952, she was reclassified as a guided-missile heavy cruiser, with the new hull number CAG-2. She was then towed to Camden, New Jersey, for conversion work that lasted well into 1956.

USS Canberra 's history is continued on the page: USS Canberra (CAG-2, previously and later CA-70).

This page features all the views we have related to USS Canberra (CA-70), prior to her conversion to a guided-missile cruiser.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

Underway in Boston harbor, Massachusetts, 14 October 1943.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

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Underway in Boston harbor, Massachusetts, 14 October 1943.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

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Underway in Boston harbor, Massachusetts, 14 October 1943.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 136KB 740 x 615 pixels

Underway in Boston harbor, Massachusetts, 14 October 1943.
Note the ship's two aircraft cranes, stern 40mm quad gun mount offset somewhat to port and arrangement of 8"/55, 5"/38 and 40mm guns aft and amidships.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 113KB 590 x 765 pixels

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 63KB 740 x 530 pixels

Operating with Task Force 38 in the Western Pacific, 10 October 1944, three days before she was torpedoed off Formosa.
Her camouflage is Design 18a in the Measure 31-32-33 series.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 109KB 740 x 610 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Chart of the ship's operations in the Pacific Ocean with the Fifth and Third Fleet, from 14 February to 19 November 1944.
Drawn by Quartermaster J.L. Whitmeyer, USNR.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 175KB 1200 x 855 pixels

Under tow toward Ulithi Atoll after she was torpedoed while operating off Okinawa. USS Houston (CL-81), also torpedoed and under tow, is in the right background.
Canberra was hit amidships on 13 October 1944. Houston was torpedoed twice, amidships on 14 October and aft on 16 October.
The tugs may be USS Munsee (ATF-107), which towed Canberra , and USS Pawnee (ATF-74).

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Online Image: 106KB 740 x 605 pixels

Under tow on 17 October 1944, after she had been torpedoed twice by Japanese aircraft during operations off Formosa. The first torpedo hit Houston amidships on 14 October. The second struck the the cruiser's starboard quarter while she was under tow on 16 October. Damage from that torpedo is visible in this view.
USS Canberra (CA-70), also torpedoed off Formosa, is under tow in the distance.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 66KB 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

USS Claxton (DD-571) , at left,
USS Canberra (CA-70) , center, and
USS Killen (DD-593) , right

Undergoing battle damage repairs in the floating drydock ABSD-2 at Manus, Admiralty Islands, 2 December 1944.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 126KB 740 x 605 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

USS Killen (DD-593) , at left,
USS Canberra (CA-70) , right, and
USS Claxton (DD-571) , beyond Canberra 's bow

Undergoing battle damage repairs in the floating drydock ABSD-2 at Manus, Admiralty Islands, 2 December 1944.
Note men crowding the rails on Canberra , and her two forward 8"/55 triple gun turrets.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Online Image: 127KB 740 x 610 pixels

Reproductions of this image may also be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system.

Launching, at the Bethlehem Steel Company's Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts, 19 April 1943.


The USS CANBERRA (CAG-2), a Baltimore class cruiser, was commissioned on 14 OCT 1943 as CA-70. USS CANBERRA was built at the Bethlehem Steel Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass. Joining the war against the Japanese in 1944, CANBERRA battled across the Pacific until damaged by a air dropped torpedo in October 1944. She finished WWII in the Boston Naval Shipyard and was placed in reserve after the end of hostilities. CANBERRA underwent a extensive overhaul and conversion from 1952 to 1956 to be reconfigured as CAG-2, a guided missile cruiser. Recommissioned on 15 June 1956 and homeported at Norfolk, Virgina after returning to active service, CANBERRA carried President Eisenhower to Bermuda in 1957, circumnavigated the world in 1960 and participated in the Cuban Missile Blockade in 1962. CANBERRA deployed repeatedly to Vietnam in the late 1960s to provide shore bombardment. USS CANBERRA served her country, as CAG-2, for 23 years, 7 months and 17 days, until decommissioned on 2 FEB 1970. The hulk of the CANBERRA was scrapped in 1980.

The USS CANBERRA (CAG-2) deployment history and significant events of her service career follow:

Downes reached San Diego from Norfolk 24 November 1937, and based there for exercises along the west coast, in the Caribbean, and in the Hawaiian Islands until April 1940, when Pearl Harbor became her home port. In March and April 1941 she joined in a cruise to Samoa, Fiji, and Australia, and visited the west coast later in the year.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941, Downes was in drydock with Cassin (DD-372) and Pennsylvania (BB-38). The three came under heavy attack and an incendiary bomb landed between the two destroyers, starting raging fires fed by oil from a ruptured fuel tank. Despite heavy strafing, the crews of the two destroyers got their batteries into action driving off further attacks by Japanese planes. The drydock was flooded in an effort to quench the fires, but the burning oil rose with the water level and when the ammunition and torpedo warheads on board the destroyers began to explode, the two ships were abandoned. Later Cassin slipped from her keel blocks and rested against Downes. Listed at first as complete losses, both of these destroyers lived to fight again.

Salvage operations were soon begun on Downes with machinery and other salvageable equipment being shipped to Mare Island Navy Yard. She was officially decommissioned 20 June 1942.

Rebuilt and recommissioned at Mare Island on 15 November 1943, Downes sailed from San Francisco 8 March to escort convoys to Pearl Harbor and on to Majuro, arriving 26 March. She was assigned to blockade the bypassed Japanese stronghold, Wotje Atoll, until 5 April, then after replenishing at Pearl Harbor, arrived at Eniwetok 6 May for service as harbor entrance control vessel and task unit commander for the offshore patrol. During this duty she rescued a pilot in the lagoon at Eniwetok and four crewmen off Ponape, Caroline Islands. In July Downes began convoy duty from Eniwetok to Saipan in support of the Marianas operation, then patrolled off Tinian during its invasion. She gave fire support during the mopping up operations off Marpi Point, Tinian, and bombarded Aguijan Island. On 9 October she took part in the bombardment of Marcus Island as a diversion for carrier air strikes on the Nansei Shoto.

Downes sailed from Saipan 14 October 1944 to join TG 38.1 2 days later in a search for Japanese ships which Admiral W. F. Halsey hoped to lure into the open with damaged cruisers Canberra (CA-70) and Houston (CL-81). The task group returned to Leyte to support the landings there 20 October. Downes sailed the same day for Ulithi but was recalled to screen the carriers during the air strikes on the Japanese Fleet in the epic Battle for Leyte Gulf. She was detached again 27 October and sailed to Ulithi for replenishment.

Continuing to Pearl Harbor for overhaul, Downes returned to Ulithi 29 March 1945 escorting a convoy, then sailed for Guam. From 5 April to 6 June she operated in the Marianas on patrol, air-sea rescue, submarine training, and escort duty. She served at Iwo Jima on similar duty from 9 June. With the end of the war, Downes was ordered to return to the United States and sailed from Iwo Jima 19 September with homeward bound servicemen on board. She touched at San Pedro Calif., called at Beaumont, Tex., for Navy Day celebrations and arrived at Norfolk 5 November. Downes was decommissioned 17 December 1945, and sold 18 November 1947.

Watch the video: Cruiser USS Houston CL-81 launched - 19 June 1943 (January 2022).