USS St. Louis (CL-49)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS St. Louis.
USS St. Louis (CL-49).jpg
USS St. Louis off San Pedro, c. 5 October 1944.
Career (United States)
Name: St. Louis
Namesake: St. Louis, Missouri
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 10 December 1936
Launched: 15 April 1938
Commissioned: 19 May 1939
Decommissioned: 20 June 1946
Struck: 22 January 1951
Fate: Sold to Brazil in 1951
Career (Brazil)
Name: Tamandare (C-12)
Acquired: 22 January 1951
Commissioned: 29 January 1951
Struck: 1976
Fate: sunk while under tow for scrapping, 24 August 1980, 38°48′S 01°24′W / 38.800°S 1.400°W / -38.800; -1.400
General characteristics
Class & type: St. Louis class light cruiser
Displacement: 10,000 tons
Length: 608.3 ft (185.4 m)
Beam: 61.7 ft (18.8 m)
Draft: 19.8 ft (6.0 m)
Speed: 33 kn (38 mph; 61 km/h)
Complement: 888 officers and enlisted men
Armament: 15 × 6 in (150 mm)/47 cal guns (5x3), 8 × 5 in (130 mm)/38 cal guns (4x2), 16 × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal AA guns (4x4), 12 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons, 1 × depth charge track

USS St. Louis (CL-49), the lead ship of her class of light cruiser, was the fifth ship of the United States Navy named after the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Commissioned in 1939, she was very active in the Pacific during World War II, earning eleven battle stars.

She was deactivated shortly after the war, but was recommissioned into the Brazilian Navy as Almirante Tamandaré in 1951. She served until 1976, and sank under tow to the scrappers in 1980.

Construction[edit]

St. Louis was laid down on 10 December 1936 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia; launched on 15 April 1938; sponsored by Miss Nancy Lee Morrill; and commissioned on 19 May 1939, Captain Charles H. Morrison in command.

Inter-war period[edit]

Atlantic[edit]

Fitted out and based at Norfolk, St. Louis completed shakedown on 6 October, then commenced Neutrality Patrol operations which, during the next 11 months, took her from the West Indies into the North Atlantic. On 3 September 1940, she put to sea with an inspection board embarked to evaluate possible sites, from Newfoundland to British Guiana, for naval and air bases to be gained in exchange for destroyers transferred to the British government. She returned to Norfolk on 27 October.

Pacific[edit]

St. Louis sailed for the Pacific on 9 November. Transiting the Panama Canal five days later, St. Louis reached Pearl Harbor on 12 December. She participated in fleet maneuvers and conducted patrols during the winter of 1940-1941, then steamed to California for an overhaul at Mare Island. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 20 June and resumed operations in Hawaiian waters.

Two months later, St. Louis sailed west with other cruisers of the Battle Force, patrolled between Wake Island, Midway Atoll, and Guam, then, proceeded to Manila, returning to Hawaii at the end of September. On 28 September 1941, she entered the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for upkeep.

World War II[edit]

This message denotes the first US ship, USS St. Louis (CL49) to clear Pearl Harbor. (National Archives and Records Administration) [Note that this is in answer to question "Is channel clear?" and faint writing at bottom concerning the answer being held until St. Louis had successfully cleared.]

On 7 December 1941, St. Louis was moored to the pier in Southeast Lock at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At 0756, Japanese planes were sighted by observers on board St. Louis. Within minutes, the ship was at general quarters, and her operable antiaircraft guns were manned and firing on the attackers. By 0806, preparations for getting underway had begun. At about 0820, one of the cruiser's gun crews shot down its first enemy torpedo plane. By 0900, two more enemy aircraft had joined the first. At 0931, St. Louis moved away from the pier and headed for South Channel and the open sea. 15 minutes later, her 6 in (150 mm) guns, whose power leads had been disconnected, were in full operating order.

As the cruiser moved into the channel entrance, she became the target of a midget submarine. The enemy's torpedoes, however, exploded on striking a shoal less than 200 yd (180 m) from the ship. Destroyers then pounded the bottom with depth charges and St. Louis continued out to sea where she joined in the search for the Japanese fleet. After failing to locate the enemy strike force, the hunters returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 December.

For her success during the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the ship was given the nickname the "Lucky Lou."

1942[edit]

On 6 January 1942, she departed San Francisco with Task Force 17 (TF 17), centered around Yorktown, and escorted the ships transporting the Marine Expeditionary Force to Samoa to reinforce defenses there. From 20–24 January, the Yorktown group covered the offloading at Pago Pago, then moved to conduct air strikes in the Marshalls and the Gilberts before returning to Pearl Harbor on 7 February.

Upon her return to Pearl Harbor, St. Louis resumed escort duty with Hawaii–California convoys. In the spring, after a trip to the New Hebrides, she escorted President Coolidge, which was carrying President Quezon of the Philippines to the west coast, arriving at San Francisco on 8 May. The following day, she was again bound for Pearl Harbor. There, she switched to a reinforcement group carrying Marine aircraft and personnel to Midway in anticipation of Japanese efforts to take that key outpost. On the 25th, she delivered her charges to their mid-ocean destination, then moved north as a unit of TF 8 to reinforce Aleutian defenses.

On 31 May, St. Louis arrived at Kodiak Island, refueled, and got underway to patrol south of the Alaskan Peninsula. Through July, she continued the patrols, ranging westward to intercept enemy shipping. On 3 August, she headed for Kiska for her first shore bombardment mission. Four days later, she shelled that enemy-held island, then returned to Kodiak on the 11th.

After that mission, the cruiser continued patrols in the Aleutian area and covered the Allied occupation of Adak Island. On 25 October, she proceeded via Dutch Harbor to California for an overhaul at Mare Island.

1943[edit]

On 4 December 1942, she departed San Francisco with transports bound for New Caledonia. She shepherded the convoy into its Nouméan anchorage on the 21st, then shifted to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, where she proceeded into the Solomons. She commenced operations there in January 1943 with bombardments of Japanese air facilities at Munda and Kolombangara, and during the next five months, repeated those raids and patrolled the "Slot" in the Central Solomons in an effort to halt the "Tokyo Express": reinforcement and supply shipping that sought, almost nightly, to bolster Japanese garrisons.

Shortly after midnight on 4–5 July, she participated in the bombardment of Vila and Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia. Her division, Cruiser Division 9 (CruDiv 9) and its screen, Destroyer Squadron 21 (DesRon 21), then retired back toward Tulagi to replenish as troops were landed at Rice Anchorage. Early on the morning of the 6th, however, the force located and engaged ten enemy destroyers headed for Vila with reinforcements embarked. In the Battle of Kula Gulf, Helena and two enemy ships were sunk.

St. Louis after the Battle of Kolombangara, showing torpedo damage to her bows

Six nights later, the force, TF 18, reinforced by DesRon 12, moved back up the "Slot" from Tulagi, and soon after 0100 on the 13th, engaged an enemy force consisting of the Japanese cruiser Jintsu and five destroyers in the Battle of Kolombangara. During the battle, which raged for over an hour, Jintsu and Gwin were sunk and Leander, Honolulu, and St. Louis were damaged. St. Louis took a torpedo which hit well forward and twisted her bow, but caused no serious casualties.

She returned to Tulagi on the afternoon of the 13th. From there, she moved on to Espiritu Santo for temporary repairs, then steamed east, to Mare Island, to complete the work. In mid-November, she returned to the Solomons, and from the 20th-25th covered Marines fighting for Bougainville Island. In December, she returned to that island to shell troop concentrations and, in January 1944, shifted southward to bombard enemy installations in the Shortland Islands. Then, she moved back to Bougainville to cover the landing of reinforcements at Cape Torokina.

1944-1945[edit]

On 10 January 1944, St. Louis headed back to Florida Island. In February, she again moved northwest, this time into the extreme northern Solomons and the Bismarcks. On the 13th, she arrived in the area between Buka and St. George Channel to support landing operations in the Green Islands, off of New Ireland.

At 1855 on the 14th, six Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers were sighted approaching St. Louis's group. Crossing astern of the ships, the enemy planes went out to the southeast before turning and coming back. Only five remained in the formation, which split off into two groups. Two of the planes closed on St. Louis.

The first plane dropped three bombs, all near misses. The second released three more. One scored on the light cruiser, the others being near misses just off the port quarter. The bomb that hit penetrated the 40 mm clipping room near the No. 6 gun mount, and exploded in the midships living compartment. Twenty-three died and 20 were wounded, 10 seriously. A fire, which had started in the clipping room, was extinguished. Both of her scout planes were rendered inoperable, and her ventilation system was damaged. Communication with the after engine room ceased, and the cruiser slowed to 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h). On the 15th, she survived another air attack and was then ordered back to Purvis Bay.

Repairs were completed by the end of the month, and in March, St. Louis resumed operations with her division. Through May, she remained in the Solomons. On 4 June, she moved north to the Marshalls, where on the 10th, she sailed for the Mariana Islands in TF 52, the Saipan assault force. Four days later, she cruised off southern Saipan. On the 15th, she shelled the Chalan Kanoa area, retired as the landings took place, then moved back to provide call fire support and to shell targets of opportunity. On the 16th, she proceeded south and bombarded the Asan beach area of Guam. She then returned to Saipan and, on the 17th, shifted to an area north of that island where she remained through the battle of the Philippine Sea. On the 22nd, she returned to Saipan and, after screening the refueling group for two days, proceeded to the Marshalls.

On 14 July 1944, St. Louis again headed for the Marianas. The next day, she damaged her No. 3 propeller and lost 39 ft (12 m) of the tail shaft. Nevertheless, two days later, she arrived off Guam as scheduled; and, during the afternoon, covered underwater demolition teams working the proposed landing beaches. Pre-invasion shore bombardment followed, and after the landings on the 21st, she provided support fire and call fire. On the 29th, St. Louis departed the Marianas for Pearl Harbor, where she was routed on to California for overhaul. In mid-October, she steamed back to Hawaii, trained until the end of the month, then moved on across the Pacific, via Ulithi and Kossol Roads, to the Philippines, arriving in Leyte Gulf on 16 November.

St. Louis hit by a kamikaze off Leyte, 27 November 1944

During the next 10 days, she patrolled in the gulf and in Surigao Strait, adding her batteries to the anti-aircraft guns protecting shipping in the area. Shortly before noon on 27 November, a formation of 12-14 enemy planes attacked the cruiser's formation. St. Louis was unscathed in the brief battle. A request was made for CAP cover, but Japanese planes continued to command the air. At 1130, another 10 enemy planes filled the space vacated by the first flight and broke into three attack groups of four, four, and two. At 1138, a "Val" made a kamikaze dive on St. Louis from the port quarter, and exploded with its bomb on impact. Fires broke out in the cruiser's hangar area and spaces. All crew members of 20 mm guns 7-10 were killed or wounded.

At 1139, a second burning enemy plane headed at her on the port beam. Flank speed was rung up and the rudder was put hard right. The plane passed over No. 4 turret and crashed 100 yd (91 m) out.

At 1146, there was still no CAP cover over the cruiser's formation, and at 1151, two more enemy planes, both burning, attacked St. Louis. The first was splashed off the port quarter, and the second drove in from starboard and crashed almost on board on the port side. A 20 ft (6.1 m) section of armor belt was lost and numerous holes were torn in her hull. By 1152, the ship had taken on a list to port. At 1210, another kamikaze closed on St. Louis. It was stopped 400 yd (370 m) astern. Ten minutes later, enemy torpedo bombers moved in to attack. St. Louis, warned by a PT boat, barely avoided contact with a lethal package dropped by one of the planes.

By 1236, the cruiser was back on an even keel. Thirty minutes later, all major fires were out, and salvage work had been started. Medical work was well under way: 15 were dead, one was missing, 21 were seriously wounded, and 22 had sustained minor injuries. On the 28th, St. Louis's seriously injured were transferred, and on the 30th, she put into San Pedro Bay for temporary repairs which allowed her to reach California toward the end of December.

On 1 March 1945, St. Louis departed California, and at mid-month, she joined the fast carrier force at Ulithi. By the end of the month, she had participated in strikes against the southern Japanese home islands, then moved south to the Ryukyu Islands to join TF 54, bombarded Okinawa, and guarded minesweepers and underwater demolition teams clearing channels to the assault beaches. On the 31st, she put into Kerama Retto to replenish, then returned to the larger island to support the forces landed on the Hagushi beaches on 1 April.

Five days later, the cruiser covered minesweepers off Iwo Jima, then resumed fire support and antiaircraft duties off Okinawa. On 18 May, she departed Hagushi for a brief respite at Leyte, and in mid-June, she resumed support operations off Okinawa. On 25 July, she shifted to TF 95, and on the 28th, she supported air strikes against Japanese installations on the Asiatic mainland. Sweeps of the East China Sea followed, and in early August, she anchored in Buckner Bay, where she remained until the end of hostilities on 15 August.

Post-war[edit]

China[edit]

Post-war duties kept the cruiser in the Far East for another two and one-half months. In late August 1945, while in the Philippines, she was assigned to TF 73 of the Yangtze River Patrol Force. During September, as other ships joined the force, she was at Buckner Bay, and in October, she moved on to Shanghai. In mid-October, she helped to lift Chinese Army units to Formosa.

Magic Carpet[edit]

St. Louis joined the "Magic Carpet" fleet to carry World War II veterans back to the United States. She completed her first "Magic Carpet" run at San Francisco on 9 November 1945, and by mid-January 1946 had made two more runs, both to islands in the Central and Southwest Pacific.

In early February 1946, St. Louis sailed for the east coast and arrived at Philadelphia for deactivation on the 25th. She was decommissioned on 20 June and berthed at League Island with the 16th (Inactive) Fleet through the decade.

Transfer to Brazil[edit]

In the 1951, St. Louis was designated for transfer to the government of Brazil. Her name was struck from the Navy List on 22 January 1951, and on the 29th, she was commissioned in the Brazilian Navy as Tamandare (C-12). Formally activated for duty on January 29, 1951, the St. Louis was renamed C Tamandare (C-12) and served with the Marinha do Brasil as Fleet Flagship until 1976. Decommissioned for the final time and once again placed into reserve, the Tamandare was eventually sold for scrapping in Taiwan in 1980 and was under tow to the breakers yard (Taiwan) when she flooded and sunk in August 24, 1980, near Cape of Good Hoope, at 38°48'28"S 1°23'59"W.

Awards[edit]

St. Louis earned 11 battle stars during World War II.

References[edit]

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