A historic ship of the US Navy is closing her log book for the last time, and will join the stalwarts of the past who look out at us only from the pages of history. The "USS PENSACOLA", first of our "Treaty Cruisers," docked at San Diego, Jan. 10th, from a Magic Carpet run, out of Guam, and is scheduled for her last operation at Bikini next July.
She was a heavy handed termagant whose raucous voice was heard in many a
hot action in the Pacific. when the Pearl Harbor Navy stretched its heroic
thin line across the path of the Japs, the PENSACOLA was one of the ships
that fought with her back to the wall. In those early days of 1942 and
1943, called "the dark days of the war," one ship did the work of a dozen,
one man the work of a hundred. "Sleepless Lagoon," :Torpedo Junction,"
"Boneyard Bay,"...the PENSACOLA became familiar with the colorful, tragic
terms American seamen gave to the Solomon Seas.
In February of 1942, when the surge of the Rising Sun was in full swing
from the Aleutians to Singapore, the PENSACOLA was operating deep within
enemy waters. She was one of the ships in the task force that struck the
Japs off Bouganville on the 20th of February, and that hit the
Salamaua-Lae area on March 10th. She earned her star at Midway, in June
of '42. when the HORNET sent her planes in to blast the Japs at Faisi,
Oct. 5, 1942, the PENSACOLA was one of the cruisers protecting her.
On October 26, 1942, the HORNET and the ENTERPRISE were flung into the path
of an armada of Japs sweeping down toward our precarious position on
Guadalcanal. Admiral Halsey had only thirteen destroyers, the SOUTH
DAKOTA, SAN DIEGO, SAN JUAN & JUNEAU, and a trio of heavy cruisers, to
protect his two remaining carriers. Those three CAs were PORTLAND,
NORTHAMPTON and the PENSACOLA. The job done by all ships that day at
Santa Cruz was magnificent.
Again the PENSACOLA took part in an engagement that had a vital effect on
the outcome of the war. She was one of our ships that stopped the Japs
cold at Guadalcanal in the great three day battle that extended from
shortly after midnight, Nov. 12, to the night of Nov. 15th.
Despite the intensity of the Guadalcanal action, it was less than two
weeks before the PENSACOLA was again blazing away at the enemy. At
Tassafaronga, in a pitch black night, Nov. 30, she helped destroy a Jap
fleet of transports and destroyers, only to learn the deadliness of a
destroyer torpedo attack. The NORTHAMPTON went down that night, but the
PENSACOLA limped to a rear base for repairs and lived to fight again.
With her wounds patched up, she returned to action, and helped blast the
Gilberts at the close of 1943. In Jan. and early Feb. of 1944 she was
blazing away at Kwajalein and Majuro atolls.
As our offensive swept relentlessly across the Pacific, the old cruiser
made her appearance off Palau, Yap, Ulithi, Wolei, and a dozen other spots
that have become household words in America. She was at the Marianas, Iwo
Jima, and Okinawa.
Altogether, through the long months of the war, the PENSACOLA took part in
13 major engagements and 53 separate strikes and missions.
The PENSACOLA, and her sistership, USS SALT LAKE CITY, were launched in
1929. there were many criticisms of their design and they were called
"Swayback Marus," whose low freeboard provided poor gunnery platforms.
Regardless of the criticisms that were heaped upon them, the two vessels
had one thing that showed to good advantage.... they packed a mighty wallop.
Their ten 8-inch main batteries, mounted in triple turrets over double
turrets, could throw out a weight of shells exceeding that of the heavy
cuirass that came after them.
The PENSACOLA was 585 feet, 7 inches long, and had a rated speed of 32.7
knots. She was built at the New York Navy Yard, launched April 25, 1929
and commissioned Feb. 6, 1930.