USS Omaha (CL-4)

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Omaha, World War II configuration
Omaha, World War II configuration
Career (United States)
Name: USS Omaha (CL-4)
Namesake: Omaha, Nebraska
Builder: Todd SB & DD Co. of Tacoma, Washington
Laid down: 6 December 1918
Launched: 14 December 1920
Commissioned: 24 February 1923
Decommissioned: 1 November 1945
Honors and
awards:
one battle star
Fate: Scrapped in February 1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Omaha-class light cruiser
Displacement: 7,050 tons (7,160 metric tons)
Length: 556 ft 6 in (169.62 m)
Beam: 55 ft 4 in (16.87 m)
Draft: 20 ft (6.1 m)
Speed: 34.7 kn (39.9 mph; 64.3 km/h)
Complement: 458 officers and enlisted
Armament: 12 (10 after 1939) × 6 in (152 mm)/53 cal guns (8x1, 2x2), 4 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 cal guns, 6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (2x3)
For other ships of the same name, see USS Omaha.

USS Omaha (CL-4) was the lead ship of Omaha class of light cruiser of the United States Navy. She was the second US Navy ship named for the city of Omaha, Nebraska.

Omaha was laid down on 6 December 1918 by the Todd SB & DD Co. of Tacoma, Washington. The ship was launched on 14 December 1920 and was sponsored by Louise Bushnell White. She was commissioned on 24 February 1923, with Captain David C. Hanrahan in command.

Inter-war period[edit]

Following her commissioning, Omaha joined the Atlantic Fleet in peacetime. At this time, her primary mission was training, and she proved to be very capable by consistently winning fleet awards in gunnery and communications. She made many ports-of-call throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean during her peacetime cruises, displaying the US flag.

Capture of Odenwald[edit]

Just prior to the US entry into World War II, on 6 November 1941, while on neutrality patrol with Somers in the mid-Atlantic near the Equator, Omaha sighted a vessel which aroused much suspicion by her actions. Refusing to satisfactorily identify herself, and taking evasive action, the stranger was ordered to heave to. She flew the American flag and carried the name Willmoto of Philadelphia on her stern.

Omaha crew members posing on the deck of the Odenwald

As Omaha's crew dispatched a boarding party to the freighter, its crew took to lifeboats and hoisted a signal which indicated that the ship was sinking. When their party pulled alongside, they could hear explosions from within the hull, while one of the fleeing crewmen shouted "This is a German ship and she is sinking!" In short order, the men of Omaha – despite the extreme risk – salvaged the vessel, rendered her safe and had her underway for Puerto Rico. The "American freighter Wilmoto", as it turned out, was the German freighter Odenwald carrying a cargo of rubber.

Odenwald was taken to Puerto Rico. An admiralty court ruled that since the ship was illegally claiming American registration, there was sufficient grounds for confiscation. A legal case was started claiming that the crews of the two American ships had salvage rights because Odenwald's crew attempting to scuttle the ship was the equivalent of abandoning her. The court case – settled in 1947 – ruled the members of the boarding party and the prize crew were entitled to $3,000 apiece while all the other crewmen in Omaha and Somers were entitled to two months’ pay and allowances. This was the last prize money awarded by the US Navy.[1]

World War II[edit]

After the United States entered the war, Omaha continued her South Atlantic patrol, instructed to stop German blockade runners. While patrolling out of a base in Brazil on 4 January 1944, with Jouett, she spotted a ship which immediately showed signs of being scuttled. The ship's crew took to the boats and she began settling by the stern. The following day, another ship was sighted and its crew set her afire. Omaha opened fire and the vessel disappeared beneath the waves. Both ships carried cargoes of rubber, which the Germans desperately needed.

In March, Omaha proceeded to Naples to prepare for landings in southern France. On 19 August, she protected the flank of the units bombarding Toulon, and three days later took part in the operations that resulted in the surrender of the German garrison on the island of Porquerolles.

Omaha was present at the surrender of Giens on 23 August, and on 25 August, she delivered a sustained bombardment on targets in the Toulon area. Shortly thereafter, she was detached from the operation and returned to patrol duties. The termination of hostilities (15 August) found her patrolling in the South Atlantic.

Omaha sailed for Philadelphia upon detachment from patrol, arriving on 1 September. By 17 October, she was slated for retirement, and she decommissioned on 1 November. Omaha was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 28 November, and scrapped in February 1946 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Awards[edit]

Omaha earned one battle star for service in World War II.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nofi, Al (20 July 2008). The Last “Prize” Awards in the U.S. Navy? (205). Strategypage.com. "Oldenwald was taken to Puerto Rico. An admiralty court ruled that since the ship was illegally claiming American registration, there was sufficient grounds for confiscation. At that point, some sea lawyers got into the act. Observing that the attempt to scuttle the ship was the equivalent of abandoning her, they claimed that the crews of the two American ships had salvage rights, to the tune of $3 million. This led to a protracted court case, which was not settled until 1947. At that time it was ruled that the members of the boarding party and the prize crew were entitled to $3,000 apiece, the equivalent today of over $25,000 according to the Consumer Price Index, but easily nearly twice that on the basis of the prevailing minimum wage, while all the other crewmen in Omaha and Somers were entitled to two months’ pay and allowances at their then current rate." 

The Chief Petty Officer peering from between the American and German Flags in the upper center of the photograph is Antonio Giuseppe Pelosi aka "Tony", son of Italian Immigrants Luigi Antonio Pelosi and Rosa (Paolo) Pelosi form Gallo Matese Italy. He was a veteran of WWI and WWII. He was a Chief Gunners Mate and subsequently after the Odenwald salvage he served aboard the U.S.S. Belleau Wood in US Navy sea battles of Tarawa, Wake, Gilberts, Marshalls, Palau, Hollandia, Truk, Marianas, Bonins, Ryukyus,and Japan. He was aboard the U.S.S. Belleau Wood in Oct. 1944 when it was struck by a Kamakazi killing 92 sailors. The U.S.S. Franklin which was nearby was also hit. The U.S.S. Belleau Wood received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces. The picture is an original of the crew from the U.S.S. Omaha. An original picture signed by the crew is now in the possession of Antonio's son, Lou Pelosi. Several years after the war Antonio received $3000.00 as part of the salvage award. Antonio passed away in 1959 losing his last battle against cancer.

External links[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.