Contrary to popular belief, the War in the Pacific was not won by the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was preceded by four years of intensive effort by many men who preformed beyond the call of duty. The U.S.S. Salt Lake City was involved in most of the action directed in bringing the Japs to their knees.
Our illustrious ship was the oldest heavy cruiser on duty serving the country for seventeen years, from date of commission in 1929 to 1948 when she was sunk in target practice. She miraculously escaped many scrapes with the enemy by shear good fortune and exceptional seamanship. During the four years the ship was in continuous motion logging 243,510 miles. Since she was the oldest heavy cruiser of the fleet and deemed expendable, she was thrusted into the most perilous of duties in seeking the enemy out.
The Salt Lake was at sea on that fateful day of Dec. 7th, only 200 miles from Pearl Harbor, returning from escorting the carrier Enterprise in delivering planes to Wake Island. The Salt Lake began but three weeks later on Dec. 31st, 1941 on raids of the Marshall Island and gained the distinction of firing the first salvos on Jap-held land at Wotje, a fortress in the Pacific. The ship continued in the harassment of the enemy through the war by the bombardment of 31 additional Islands.
In trying to impress the Japanese that they did not knock out the whole fleet at Pearl, although we had very few ships in service, the Salt Lake traveled extensively in the early days of the war. On February 5th, 1942, the Japs were amazed when we bombarded Wake and Marus Island, which was only 750 miles from Tokyo. Two months later in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, the Salt Lake traveled in perilous waters only 400 miles from Japan. We plyed[?] the ocean continuously at high speed in an effort to intercept the enemy fleet. August 5th, 1942 began the first big campaign in the defeat of the Japanese at the Guadalcanal landings and eventual securing the area. In the Naval Battles of Coral Sea, Savo Island, and Cape Esperance, the Salt Lake inflicted heavy damage and sinking of enemy ships. On the night of October 11th, 1942, the Salt Lake was credited in sinking two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and one destroyer. She also saved the cruiser Boise from further damage and extinction by shielding her under heavy fire from Jap guns.
After minor repairs at Pearl, the ship was dispatched to the frigid waters of the Aleutians and credited in stopping the enemy from reinforcing Attu and Kiska Islands, thus ending their domination in the North Pacific. On March 26th, 1943, outmanned and outgunned two to one, the Salt Lake miraculously engaged the enemy and successfully won the upper hand in the longest naval duel in Navy history.
After the landing and recapturing of Attu and Kiska Islands, and securing the Aleutians, the ship was sent down to the Equator and its continuous trek across the Pacific starting with the invasion of the Gilbert Island at Tarawa on November 19th, 1943. In the meantime the harassment and bombardment of many Jap-held islands continued. Wotje, Taroa, Kwajalein, Majuro, Palau. The following month the Marshall Islands fell.
Again the ship was sent back to the Aleutians on July 7th, in an effort to contain the Japs from any intentions of expansion and as a diversionary tactic. The plan to bombard the fortress of the naval base at Paramushiro in the Kuril Islands was averted at the last moment when a patrol plane discovered our mission and denied us the element of surprise.
We returned south in September with the invasion of Saipan and Tinian establishing a base for our B29s. On Oct 9th, a diversionary raid on Marcus Island only 750 miles from Tokyo was performed. The next was the annihilation of the Japanese fleet in the 1st and 2nd Battle of the Philippine Islands.
Preceded by 12 raids to draw the enemy out, the invasion of Iwo Jima on Feb. 16th proved that the Salt Lake and the U. S. Navy was invincible. In 25 continuous days and nights, the ship fired 6400 rounds of 8-inch and 5-inch shells.
On March 24th, 1945, seven days before the actual invasion of Okinawa, the Salt Lake pounded the shoreline of the island while ducking Kamikaze planes. Again, in 66 continuous days and nights we fired 23,376 rounds of 8-inch and 5-inch shells, and 7280 rounds of Ach-Ach.
With another job well done we set sail back to the Aleutians in the early part of August with plans of an actual invasion of the Japanese mainland from the North. The dropping of the bomb ended the war and we did occupational duty at Ominato in Northern Honshu and Hododate, the cities of Aomori and Otaru.
The Salt Lake left for the U.S.A. on October 12th, 1945 and fought a typhoon all the way back. We were accorded honors on October 23rd, a navy Day celebration at Astoria and Portland, Oregon. The ship continued in many trips after the war, in ferrying soldiers back to the States.
Her duty was not yet complete when the Salt Lake again was put in service at Bikini in the participation of the atom blasts to prove the capabilities of the future navy. The Japs couldn't sink her, nor could the two atom bombs. Highly radioactive, she was towed out to sea and subjected to intensive gunnery practice for a full day by four auxiliary ships, three cruisers, six destroyers, two submarines, and a hundred or more planes and still wouldn't go down. At dusk two torpedoes were fired at point blank, the mortal would that finally sent the Salt Lake to its honorable watery grave.
Added to website on July 30th, 2010
Thus are some of the highlights of this most remarkable ship. Listed below are some of the many achievements to the Salt Lake war record.
First ship in the War in the Pacific to fire salvos on Jap-held land.
Took part in 31 Pacific War Engagements, the most of any other ship in the fleet.
Besides sinking 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, and 1 destroyer, she also sank 11 cargo transports and knocked down 12 bombing planes.
Longest naval duel in Navy history, 3 hours - 42 minutes firing 832 rounds of 8-inch shells.
Traveled the most, 243,510 miles
Earned 99 meritorious awards including 4 Navy Crosses.
Bombardment duty of 25 continuous days at Iwo Jima and 66 continuous days at Okinawa, no other ship gave that much support.
In volumes 3 thru 11 of the History of the United States Naval Operations, the Salt Lake is mentioned in action on 55 pages.
Feature Articles includes Time Magazine March 8th, 1943; Swayback Maru PP 55-56; Saturday Evening Post Feb. 5th, 1944; My Speed Zero 6000 words; Milwaukee Journal May 17th, 1948, Elegy for Old Swayback 4000 words; Chicago Sunday Tribune, March 28th, 1948, 5000 words.