"Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships," (1976)
U.S. Navy Ship, 1940-1945
USS Pensacola CA24
Pensacola class Heavy Cruiser:
Displacement: 9100 tons (normal) / 11,512 (full load)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Armament: 2x3 8"/55, 2x2 8"/55, 4 5"/25, 7x4 40mm, 28x1 20mm; 2 planes
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 8 boilders, 4 shafts, 107,000 hp
Built at New York Navy Yard and commissioned 6 Feb 1930
The third PENSACOLA (CA-24) was laid down by the New
York Navy Yard 27 October 1926; launched 25 April 1929;
sponsored by Mrs. Joseph L. Seligman; and commissioned 6
February 1930, Capt. Alfred G Howe in command.
PENSACOLA departed New York 24 March 1930 transited the
Panama Canal to Callao, Peru, and Valparaiso Chile, before
returning to New York 5 June. For the next four years she
operated along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean
Sea, several times transiting the Panama Canal for combined
Fleet battle practice ranging from California to Hawaii.
PENSACOLA departed Norfolk 15 January 1935 to join the
Pacific Fleet arriving San Diego, her new home port, 30
January. Fleet problems ranged to Hawaii, one cruise took
her to Alaska, and combined fleet maneuvers returned her
briefly to the Caribbean Sea before she sailed 5 October
1939 to base at Pearl Harbor, arriving the 12th. Maneuvers
frequently found the cruiser off Midway and French Frigate
Shoals, and she made one voyage to Guam.
PENSACOLA departed Pearl Harbor 29 November 1941 with a
convoy bound for Manila in the Philippines. After the
infamous raid on Pearl Harbor, the convoy was diverted to
Australia, entering Brisbane Harbor 7 January 1942.
PENSACOLA returned to Pearl Harbor 19 January and put to sea
5 February to patrol the approaches to the Samoan Islands.
On 17 February 1942, she rendezvoused off Samoa with Carrier
Task Force 11, built around the aircraft carrier LEXINGTON
Near Bougainville, Solomons, PENSACOLA's gunners helped
repel two waves of Japanese bombers, 20 February. Not a
ship of the carrier task force was damaged. Antiaircraft
fire and LEXINGTON Combat Air Patrol planes shot down 17 of
the 18 attackers. One pilot, Lt. Edward H. O'Hare,
destroyed five enemy planes in a gallant fight that made him
the first Ace of the Navy in World War II and won him the
Medal of Honor.
PENSACOLA continued to help guard LEXINGTON on
offensive patrol in the Coral Sea until carrier YORKTOWN
(CV-5) joined the task force 6 March. The American ships
steamed for the Gulf of Papua where, 10 March, LEXINGTON
launched planes for a surprise strike over the Owen Stanley
mountains at Japanese shipping and installations at Salamaua
and Lae. A complete surprise, the raid caused heavy damage.
The task force then turned toward Noumea, New Caledonia, to
replenish. PENSACOLA patrolled with the YORKTOWN carrier
task force until 8 April, then headed, via Samoa, for Pearl
Harbor, arriving 21 April. She carried Marine Fighting
Squadron 212 to Efate in the New Hebrides Islands and
returned to Pearl Harbor with famed carrier ENTERPRISE
(CV-6) 26 May.
PENSACOLA departed Pearl Harbor 28 May with the
ENTERPRISE task force for a rendezvous 2 June northeast of
Midway with units of Task Force 17. Two days later, 4 June,
when the Japanese armada came within range of the American
carriers, the decisive Battle of Midway commenced.
Adm. Spruance's torpedo planes and dive-bombers
attacked the Japanese carriers. AKAGI and KAGA went up in
flames, and SORYU was badly damaged. A fourth enemy
carrier, HIRYU, still at large, launched strikes at YORKTOWN
and the American flattops struck back, leaving the enemy
carrier hit many times, in a mass of flames. Meanwhile,
gallant YORKTOWN, hit by three bombs, was fighting for her
life. PENSACOLA raced from the ENTERPRISE screen to aid the
stricken carrier. YORKTOWN was dead in the water when
PENSACOLA arrived, and the cruiser assisted in shooting down
four enemy torpedo bombers during a second attack.
Despite all that could be done, YORKTOWN received two
torpedo hits amidships and had to be abandoned. PENSACOLA
rejoined the screen of ENTERPRISE to pursue the retiring
PENSACOLA returned to Pearl Harbor 13 June and, with
ENTERPRISE, again put to sea 22 June carrying 1,157 marines
of Marine Aircraft Group 22 to Midway. She patrolled and
trained in Hawaiian waters until 7 August. As Marines
stormed the shores of Guadalcanal, the cruiser set course
for the Solomons in the screen of carriers SARATOGA (CV-3),
HORNET (CV-8) and WASP (CV-7) to support the leathernecks in
that bitter campaign. In submarine infested waters,
torpedoes damaged SARATOGA 31 August and sank WASP 15
PENSACOLA arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, 26
September and departed with carrier HORNET 2 October to
strike the enemy in the Santa Isabel-Guadalcanal area. On
24 October, HORNET's carrier task group joined ENTERPRISE
and the combined force steamed to intercept enemy warships
approaching the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area.
On 26 October 1942, search planes located a Japanese
carrier and battleship formation, beginning the Battle of
Santa Cruz Islands which was fought without contact being
made between surface ships of the opposing forces. Air
strikes inflicted severe bomb damage to Japanese carriers
ZUIHO and SHOKAKU, and sank Japanese light cruiser YURA.
Bomb hits damaged battleship KIRISHIMA and other enemy
PENSACOLA helped fight off a coordinated dive bombing
and torpedo plane raid which damaged HORNET so severely that
she had to be abandoned. Within minutes of the attack on
HORNET, 24 dive bombers dropped 23 bombs in a run on
ENTERPRISE. Despite damage, the famed "Fighting Lady"
launched a large number of planes from abandoned HORNET
besides her own.
PENSACOLA received 55 officers and 133 men--survivors
from HORNET whom she debarked at Noumea, 30 October 1942.
The Task Force had turned back a Japanese attempt to regain
Guadalcanal, sunk cruiser YURA(?), and damaged a number of
enemy capital ships. Japanese carriers had lost 123 planes.
PENSACOLA departed Noumea 2 November 1942 to guard
transports landing Marine reinforcements, and supplies, at
Aola Bay, Guadalcanal. She helped guard ENTERPRISE during
the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal 12-13 November 1942. Planes
from ENTERPRISE assisted in the sinking of battleship HIEI,
one cruiser, three destroyers, and eleven auxiliaries and
the damaging of four Japanese cruisers and four destroyers.
PENSACOLA returned to Espiritu Santo to join
cruiser-destroyer Task Force 67 under Rear Admiral Carleton
H. Wright. On 29 November, the task force sailed to
intercept a Japanese destroyer-transport force expected off
Guadalcanal the next night. Just before midnight of the
30th, the American ships transited Lengo Channel and headed
past Henderson Field on Guadalcanal as the Japanese task
group steamed on a southerly course west of Savo Island to
enter "Ironbottom Sound."
The two opposing task forces clashed in the Battle of
Tassafaronga. American destroyers launched torpedoes as the
enemy range came within five miles of PENSACOLA's cruiser
formation. Now gun flashes, tracers, and star shell candles
stained the inky darkness. Japanese destroyer TAKANAMI, hit
many times, was afire and exploding. American flagship
MINNEAPOLIS (CA-36) took two torpedo hits that blasted her
bow downward like an immense scoop and left her forecastle
deck awash, but she continued to fight on. NEW ORLEANS
(CA-32) next astern, closed the disabled MINNEAPOLIS and ran
into the track of a torpedo that ripped off the forward part
of the warship.
PENSACOLA turned left to prevent collision with two
damaged American ships ahead of her. Silhouetted by the
burning American cruisers, she came in the Japanese line of
fire. One of 18 torpedoes launched by Japanese destroyers
hit her below the mainmast on the portside. Her engine room
flooded, three gun turrets went out of commission, and her
oil tanks ruptured to make a soaked torch of her mast.
Meantime, HONOLULU (CL-48) maneuvered radically at 30 knots,
her guns continuing their rapid fire as she escaped the
trap. But the last American cruiser in column, NORTHAMPTON
(CA-26), took two torpedo hits to duplicate on a larger
scale the havoc inflicted on PENSACOLA.
The oil-fed flames engulfed PENSACOLA's main deck aft
where torpedoes and machine gun ammunition exploded. Only
supreme effort and skillful damage control by her gallant
men saved the ship. The fire, punctuated by the frightful
explosion of 8-inch projectiles in her Number 3 turret,
gradually subsided. PENSACOLA made steady progress towards
Tulagi. She arrived there still aflame. After twelve hours
the last fire was quenched. Her dead numbered 7 officers
and 118 men. One officer and 67 men were injured.
Camouflaged as part of the island, PENSACOLA made
repairs in Tulagi Harbor that enabled her to steam to
Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Island. She arrived there 6
December for emergency repairs by repair ship VESTAL (AR-4)
until she sailed 7 January 1943 via Samoa to Pearl Harbor,
arriving 27 January.
On 8 November, PENSACOLA sailed from Pearl Harbor in
the screen of Southern Attack Force aircraft carriers. On
19 November, PENSACOLA made bombardment runs on Betio and
Tarawa. She rained 600 projectiles to put coast defense
guns out of action, and destroyed enemy beach defenses and
numerous buildings. As troops stormed ashore on Tarawa 20
November, the cruiser screened carriers launching air
strikes supporting the landings. That night she fought off
Japanese torpedo bombers and assisted torpedo-damaged
carrier INDEPENDENCE (CVL-22) into Funafuti, Ellice Islands.
For the next two months, she ranged out of that base to
screen carriers covering the movement of reinforcements and
supplies to the Gilberts. On 29 January 1944, she began
strikes and bombardments to destroy Japanese air power and
shipping in the Marshall Islands. That night, PENSACOLA
helped bombard Tarao in the Eastern Marshalls. She then
slammed shells into airfield runways, seaplane ramps,
ammunition stowage areas and buildings on Wotje. She
continued pounding these targets as Marines and Army troops
landed 31 January to seize Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls.
Invasion of the Marshall Islands continued 1 February as
Marines occupied Roi and Namur Islands. PENSACOLA continued
to hit hard at Tarao, Maloelap Atoll through 18 February,
destroying coastal defenses and air bases of the enemy in
the eastern Marshalls. Operating from Majuro and Kwajalein,
she continued to patrol in approaches of the Marshalls. She
again served in the screen of fast carriers conducting raids
in the Carolines 30 March-1 April, against Japanese defenses
at Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai.
PENSACOLA departed Majuro 25 April sailing via Pearl
Harbor and Mare Island for duty in the Northern Pacific,
arriving in Kulak Bay 27 May. On 13 June, she joined her
cruiser-destroyer task force in raining destruction on the
airfields of Matsuwa, Kuriles. In the early morning of 26
June, she fired 300 8-inch projectiles to destroy shipping,
airfields and installations at Kurabu Zaki, Paramushiru To,
Kuriles, returning to Kulak Bay 28 June. PENSACOLA
continued patrol in Alaskan waters until departing Kulak Bay
8 August for Hawaii.
PENSACOLA arrived Pearl Harbor 13 August and put to sea
the 29th. Enroute to the Marianas 3 September, she joined
an air-sea bombardment of Wake Island. On 9 October, she
pounded the main radio station and installations on Marcus
Island. She and her sister cruisers and destroyers stirred
up a fire melee in their "impersonation" of Halsey's 3rd
Fleet to lead the Japanese into thinking the ladder of
islands to the Bonins was next on the American timetable for
invasion. Meanwhile, Adm. Halsey's units advanced on the
Philippines while Fast Carriers rained destruction on the
enemy air and Fleet bases at Okinawa and Formosa.
PENSACOLA made rendezvous with the units of the Fast
Carrier Task Force retiring from the great air battles over
Formosa. After protecting battle damaged cruisers CANBERRA
(CA-70) and HOUSTON (CL-81) to Ulithi, she joined a Fast
Carrier Task Group, including WASP (CV-18), 16 October. The
following day, troops supported by the 7th Fleet, began the
liberation of the Philippine Islands.
PENSACOLA screened fast aircraft carriers striking
Luzon and directly supported the invasion of Leyte beginning
20 October. She raced north to aid in the destruction of
the enemy carrier force in the Battle of Cape Engano 25
October, then turned south as the fast carriers launched
planes to aid the gallant escort carriers.
PENSACOLA bombarded Iwo Jima the night of 11-12
November and returned to Ulithi the 14th. As she was about
to depart for Saipan 20 November, she spotted a periscope
about 1,200 yards to starboard. As she maneuvered clear,
destroyer CASE (DD-370) rammed the enemy. Four minutes
later, her men witnessed the flaming explosion that
destroyed fleet oiler MISSISSINEWA (AO-59), victim of a
Japanese midget submarine.
PENSACOLA arrived Saipan 22 November to prepare for the
invasion of Iwo Jima. Five nights later, she helped splash
several attacking Japanese aircraft. She departed Saipan 6
December, plastered Iwo Jima with 500 8-inch projectiles on
the 8th. She returned to Iwo Jima on the 24th and the 27th,
pounding mountain gun positions north of Suribachi Mountain.
She hit defenses on Chichi Jima and Haha Jima as well as Iwo
Jima on 5 and 24 January 1945.
At Ulithi, 27 January, PENSACOLA formed with a
battleship-cruiser-destroyer gunstrike task force under Rear
Admiral B. J. Rodgers. Six battleships, four cruisers and a
destroyer screen comprised the bombardment force which
sailed 10 February via Tinian to Iwo Jima.
On 16 February, PENSACOLA opened fire on the northwest
sector of Iwo Jima to prepare for the landings. That
afternoon Lt. (j.g.) Douglas W. Gandy, USNR piloting one of
PENSACOLA's gun-spotter scout planes, shot down a Japanese
fighter. The next morning, PENSACOLA took six hits from
enemy shore batteries as her guns covered operations of the
minesweepers close inshore. Three of her officers and 14
men were killed. Another five officers and 114 men were
PENSACOLA fired back as she retired for temporary
repairs then returned to her bombardment station. The
morning of 19 February she commenced harassing and
counter-battery fire in direct support of the invasion
landings. Her deadly guns fought day and night into 1 March
when she silenced enemy shore batteries which had hit
destroyer TERRY (DD-513) amidships. After helping TERRY's
wounded, she resumed direct bombardment support to advancing
Marines that continued into 3 March.
She arrived in Ulithi 5 March and put to sea on the
20th to support the invasion and capture of Okinawa, the
"last stepping stone" to Japan.
On 25 March, PENSACOLA bombarded enemy defenses and
covered the operations of minesweepers preparing the way for
the Okinawa invasion landings. On 27 March, she spotted a
torpedo wake on her port quarter. A second "fish" streaked
towards the ship from dead astern. As her 40mm gunners
opened fire on the torpedoes, PENSACOLA went hard left then
hard right to parallel the deadly missiles. The first
torpedo missed her starboard quarter by less than twenty
feet. The second passed some twenty yards along the port
side of the cruiser as her gunners opened with automatic
weapons on a submarine periscope.
PENSACOLA gave direct bombardment support to the
initial invasion of Okinawa 1 April and continued to blast
at enemy targets until the 15th. She then sailed via Guam
and Pearl Harbor for home. She arrived at Mare Island 7 May
She sailed 3 August for Adak, Alaska and was there when
hostilities ended. On the 31st, she sailed with units of
Cruiser Division Five enroute to Ominato, Northern Honshu,
Japan. She anchored in the outer harbor of Ominato 8
PENSACOLA departed Ominato 14 November to embark 200
veterans at Iwo Jima, then touched Pearl Harbor enroute to
San Francisco, Calif., arriving 3 December. Five days
later, she put to sea for Apra Harbor, Guam, where she
embarked nearly 700 veterans for transport to San Diego,
arriving 9 January 1946.
PENSACOLA departed San Pedro 29 April to stage with
units of Joint Task Force One at Pearl Harbor in preparation
for operation "Crossroads," the atomic bomb experiments at
Bikini Atoll. She stood out of Pearl Harbor 20 May and
reached Bikini the 29th to serve as a target ship. She
survived the tests of 1 July and 25 July 1946. On 24 August
1946 she was taken in tow for Kwajalein where she
decommissioned 26 August 1946. Her hulk was turned over to
the custody of Joint Task Force One for radiological and
structural studies. On completion of these studies, her
hulk was sunk 10 November 1948.
PENSACOLA received thirteen battle stars for World War
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
TIDBITS OF INFORMATION
The Pensacola was like the unlucky little sister to the SLC. Whenever it
was in battle with the SLC, the Pensacola was the one that always seem to
get hurt and had to go back to the States for repairs. Once when the SLC
ran a-ground during a island bombardment, it had to wait for high-tide to
get itself off. After sitting off the shore "stuck" most of the night it
was moving back off the sand bar and the Pensacola came in to help surpress
the island's gun fire as the SLC moved out to sea. It was at this point the
Pensacola took on heavy shore fire and had to return to the States again for
Long after the war, we found that story from the Japanese point of view. It
seems that the shore commander was so angry that an American Heavy Cruiser
was stuck off his island and he didn't have a gun big enough to hit it. So
he ordered a large shore battery (gun) taken apart and hauled by men and
beast across the island during the night and then set the gun up where it
could hit the SLC. The gun was ready to fire only after the SLC was moving
back to sea. That's when the Pensacola came into range and was hit. But the
SLC came through without a scratch.