USS New Orleans (CA-32)
|Namesake:||City of New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Ordered:||13 February 1929|
|Builder:||Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York|
|Cost:||$12,000,000 (limit of price)|
|Laid down:||14 March 1931|
|Launched:||12 April 1933|
|Sponsored by:||Miss Cora S. Jahncke|
|Commissioned:||15 February 1934|
|Decommissioned:||10 February 1947|
|Reclassified:||CA-32, 1 July 1931|
|Struck:||1 March 1959|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap 22 September 1959|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Class and type:||New Orleans-class cruiser|
|Displacement:||9,950 long tons (10,110 t) (standard)|
|Beam:||61 ft 9 in (18.82 m)|
|Speed:||32.7 kn (37.6 mph; 60.6 km/h)|
|Capacity:||Fuel oil: 1,650 tons|
|Complement:||96 officers 819 enlisted|
|Aircraft carried:||4 × floatplanes|
|Aviation facilities:||2 × Amidship catapults|
|General characteristics (1945)|
|Aviation facilities:||1 × Amidship catapult|
USS New Orleans (CL/CA-32) was the lead New Orleans-class cruiser in service with the United States Navy. The New Orleans-class cruisers were the last U.S. cruisers built to the specifications and standards of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Such ships, with a limit of 10,000 tons standard displacement and 8-inch calibre main guns may be referred to as "treaty cruisers." Originally classified a light cruiser, because of her thin armor, she was reclassified, soon after being laid down, a heavy cruiser, because of her 8-inch guns. The term "heavy cruiser" was not defined until the London Naval Treaty in 1930.
New Orleans keel was laid on 14 March 1931 at the New York Navy Yard, commonly known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The ship was launched on 12 April 1933, sponsored by Cora S. Jahncke, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and daughter of Ernest L. Jahncke, a civil engineer and president of the Jahncke Shipbuilding Co. in New Orleans. Jahncke had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the administration of President Herbert Hoover, returning to private life in March 1933 with the inauguration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New Orleans was commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 15 February 1934, with Captain Allen B. Reed as the first commander. Attending the commissioning ceremonies were Rear Admiral Yates Stirling, Jr., Commandant of the New York Naval Yard and former Assistant Navy Secretary Jahncke. Among New Orleans' junior officer plankowners in 1934 were Jahncke's son, Ensign E.L. Jahncke, Jr. and Ensign T.H. Moorer, who as Admiral Thomas H. Moorer was Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) from 1967–1970 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970–1974.
New Orleans was lead ship in her class of seven heavy cruisers that collectively saw extensive service in all major engagements in the Pacific theater during World War II. New Orleans-class cruisers earned more than sixty battle stars during World War II. New Orleans herself received 17 battle stars, placing her among the top four highest decorated ships of World War II, along with two of her sister ships, USS San Francisco (CA-38) and USS Minneapolis (CA-36).
Under Captain Reed's command that ended on 30 August 1935, New Orleans made a shakedown Transatlantic crossing to Great Britain and Scandinavia in May and June 1934. New Orleans made ports of call and was greeted by thousands at Stockholm, Sweden, Copenhagen, Denmark, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Portsmouth, England, returning to New York on 28 June. On 5 July, New Orleans sailed to Balboa, Panama, the western entrance to the Panama Canal to rendez-vous with the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), carrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on a nearly 12,000 nmi. cruise to Hawaii and an exercise with the United States Airship Macon and her aircraft off the California coast.
New Orleans reached Honolulu, Hawaii on 26 July 1934 and Astoria, Oregon on 2 August, where the cruise ended. New Orleans sailed at once for Panama and Cuba, stopping at San Pedro, California on 7 August 1934. She exercised off New England into 1935, then visited her namesake city at the end of March while en route to join United States Fleet Scouting Force Cruiser Division 6 (CruDiv 6) based out of San Pedro and operating along the coast of California and the eastern Pacific. New Orleans was open for public viewing while visiting the "Crescent City" and thousands of citizens visited the ship during the time she was berthed there. Shortly after arriving at San Pedro, the cruiser participated in Fleet problem XVI from 29 April to 10 June. It was the largest mock battle ever staged and conducted in five separate stages over five million square miles of the North Central Pacific between Midway, Hawaii, and the Aleutian Islands, involving 321 vessels and 70,000 men. In June New Orleans visited San Diego for the first-ever Fleet Week, one of 114 American warships in the "mightiest fleet ever assembled under the U.S. flag" for the California Pacific International Exposition.
New Orleans returned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York where she was dry-docked for maintenance from 20 August to 7 December 1936. Early in 1937, she was once more in the Pacific. Aside from winter training in the Caribbean early in 1939, she served out of California ports until joining the Hawaiian Detachment on 12 October 1939, for exercises, training, and, as war drew close, vigilant patrol.
World War II
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Moored in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, New Orleans was taking power and light from the dock, her engines under repair. With yard power out during the attack, New Orleans' engineers fought to raise steam, working by flashlight, while on deck men fired on the Japanese attackers with rifles and pistols. The crew was forced to break the locks on the ammunition ready boxes as the keys couldn't be located, and because the ship was taking power from the dock, the 5"/25 cal AA gun had to be aimed and fired manually. The gunners topside were ducking machine gun bullets and shrapnel, training their guns by sheer guts and sweat, as they had no ammunition other than the few shells in their ready boxes. The ammunition hoists did not have power making it nearly impossible to get more ammunition topside to the gun crews. The 54 lb (24 kg) shells had to be pulled up the powerless hoists by ropes attached to their metal cases. Every man with no specific job at the moment formed ammunition lines to get the shells to the guns. A number of her crew were injured when a fragmentation bomb exploded close aboard. New Orleans suffered no severe damage during the attack.
Before having the engine work complete at Pearl Harbor the cruiser convoyed troops to Palmyra and Johnston Atoll operating on only three of her four engines; she then returned to San Francisco on 13 January 1942 for engineering repairs and installation of new search radar and 20 mm guns. She sailed on 12 February, commanding the escort for a troop convoy to Brisbane; from Australia she screened a convoy to Nouméa, and returned to Pearl Harbor to join Task Force 11 (TF 11).
Battle of Coral Sea
TF 11 sortied on 15 April to join the Yorktown task force southwest of the New Hebrides. It was this joint force, together with a cruiser-destroyer group, which won the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7–8 May, driving back a southward thrust of the Japanese which threatened Australia and New Zealand and their seaborne life lines. This mighty duel of carrier aircraft was not without price, Lexington was mortally wounded and New Orleans stood by, her men diving overboard to rescue survivors and her boat crews closing the burning carrier, oblivious to the dangers of flying debris and exploding ordnance as they saved 580 of Lexington's crew who were landed at Nouméa. New Orleans then patrolled the eastern Solomons until sailing to replenish at Pearl Harbor.
Battle of Midway
New Orleans sailed on 28 May, screening Enterprise, to surprise the Japanese in the Battle of Midway. On 2 June, she rendezvous with the Yorktown force, and two days later joined battle. Three of the four Japanese carriers were sunk by hits scored in dive bomber attacks. The fourth carrier was found and wrecked later, but not before her dive bombers had damaged Yorktown so badly she had to be abandoned. New Orleans, veteran of the battle that halted Japanese expansion southward, had now played a significant role protecting Yorktown in the victory that turned back Japan's eastward movement and heavily crippled her naval air arm in this decisive battle.
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Again New Orleans replenished at Pearl Harbor, sailing on 7 July to rendezvous off Fiji for the invasion of the Solomons, during which she screened Saratoga. Fighting off vicious enemy air attacks on 24–25 August, New Orleans aided the Marines holding the precious toehold on Guadalcanal, as a Japanese landing expedition was turned back in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. At this point, New Orleans had been in the Coral Sea for two full months, and food began to run low. The crew went on half rations and spam became the main course of every meal; eventually they ran out of rice. When Saratoga was torpedoed on 31 August, New Orleans guarded her passage to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 21 September.
Battle of Tassafaronga
With the repaired carrier, New Orleans sailed to Fiji early in November 1942, then proceeded to Espiritu Santo, arriving on 27 November to return to action in the Solomons. With four other cruisers and six destroyers, she fought in the Battle of Tassafaronga on the night of 30 November, engaging a Japanese destroyer-transport force. When the flagship Minneapolis was struck by two torpedoes, New Orleans, next astern, was forced to sheer away to avoid collision, and ran into the track of a torpedo which detonated the ship's forward magazines and gasoline tanks. This explosion severed 150 ft (46 m) of her bow just forward of turret No. 2. The severed bow, including Turret No. 1, swung around the port side and punched several holes in the length of New Orleans' hull before sinking at the stern and damaging the port inboard propeller. With one quarter of her length gone, slowed to 2 kn (2.3 mph; 3.7 km/h), and blazing forward, the ship fought for survival. Individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice along with skillful seamanship kept her afloat, and under her own power she entered Tulagi Harbor near daybreak on 1 December. The crew camouflaged their ship from air attack, jury-rigged a bow of coconut logs, and worked furiously clearing away wreckage. Eleven days later, New Orleans sailed stern first to avoid sinking to Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney, Australia, arriving on 24 December. At Cockatoo, the damaged propeller was replaced and other repairs were made including the installation of a temporary stub bow. On 7 March 1943, she left Sydney for Puget Sound Navy Yard, sailing backward the entire voyage, where a new bow was fitted, interestingly enough with the use of Minneapolis' No. 2 Turret. All battle damage was repaired and she was given a major refit involving the reducing of the forward superstructure along the lines of other pre-war cruisers, adding new air-search and surface search radars, as well as numerous 20mm and 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns. In addition, her boilers, machinery, and hull structures were overhauled to almost new condition. She continued to sail with the back portion (aft) riveted and the front portion (bow) welded.
- Titan lifting temporary bow to be welded New Orleans at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Returning to Pearl Harbor on 31 August for combat training, New Orleans next joined a cruiser-destroyer force to bombard Wake Island on 5–6 October, repulsing a Japanese torpedo-plane attack. Her next sortie from Pearl Harbor came on 10 November when she sailed to fire precision bombardment in the Gilberts on 20 November, then to screen carriers striking the eastern Marshalls on 4 December. In aerial attacks that day, the new Lexington, namesake of the carrier whose men New Orleans had pulled from the Coral Sea, was torpedoed, and New Orleans guarded her successful retirement to repairs at Pearl Harbor, arriving on 9 December.
From 29 January 1944, New Orleans fired on targets in the Marshalls, hitting air installations and shipping as the Navy took Kwajalein. She fueled at Majuro, then sailed 11 February to join the fast carriers in a raid on Truk, Japanese bastion in the Carolines on 17–18 February. While air strikes were flown, New Orleans, with other warships circled the atoll to catch escaping ships; the task force's combined gunfire sank a light cruiser, a destroyer, a trawler, and a submarine chaser. The force sailed on to hit the Marianas, then returned to Majuro and Pearl Harbor.
The carriers, with New Orleans in escort, again heaped destruction on targets in the Carolines late in March, then in April, sailed south to support Allied landings at Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura), New Guinea. There on 22 April, a disabled Yorktown plane flew into New Orleans' mainmast, hitting gun mounts as it fell into the sea. The ship was sprayed with gas as the plane exploded on hitting the water, one crew member was lost, another badly injured, but New Orleans continued in action, patrolling and plane guarding off New Guinea, then joining in further raids on Truk and Satawan, which she bombarded on 30 April. She returned to Majuro on 4 May.
Preparations were made in the Marshalls for the invasion of the Marianas, for which New Orleans sortied from Kwajalein on 10 June. She bombarded Saipan on 15–16 June, then joined the screen protecting carriers as they prepared to meet the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In this last major carrier combat the Japanese were able to mount, American naval aviators and submariners sank three enemy carriers and destroyed almost every aircraft launched against them, 395 in all. The few enemy planes which penetrated to the American carriers were shot down by New Orleans and other escorts. The Marianas operation continued, and Japanese naval aviation was virtually nonexistent after this great victory of 19–20 June.
New Orleans made patrols and bombardments on Saipan and Tinian into August, returned to Eniwetok on the 13th, and sailed the 28th for carrier raids on the Bonins, bombardments of Iwo Jima on 1–2 September, and direct air support for the invasion of the Palaus. After re-provisioning at Manus, the task force assaulted Okinawa, Formosa, and Northern Luzon, destroying Japanese land-based aviation which otherwise would have threatened the landings on Leyte on 20 October. The carriers continued to send raids, aiding troops ashore, as they prepared to meet the Japanese, who were sending almost every surface ship left afloat in one great effort to break up the Philippines operation. New Orleans guarded her carriers as they joined in the great Battle for Leyte Gulf, first attacking the Japanese Southern Force on 24 October, then raiding the Center Force in the Sibuyan Sea, and next destroying the Japanese Northern Force of decoy carriers in the Battle off Cape Engano. The carriers then sped south to aid the gallant escort carriers holding off the powerful Japanese battleship-cruiser force in the Battle off Samar. A stunning American victory was followed by strikes against the retreating Japanese remnant.
After replenishing at Ulithi, New Orleans guarded carriers during raids throughout the Philippines in preparation for the invasion of Mindoro, then late in December sailed for a Mare Island Navy Yard overhaul, followed by training in Hawaii. She returned to Ulithi on 18 April 1945, and two days later, departed to give direct gunfire support at Okinawa, arriving on 23 April. Here, she dueled with shore batteries and fired directly against the enemy lines. After nearly two months on station, she sailed to replenish and repair in the Philippines, and was at Subic Bay when hostilities ceased.
New Orleans sailed on 28 August with a cruiser-destroyer force to ports of China and Korea. She covered the internment of Japanese ships at Tsingtao, the evacuation of liberated Allied prisoners-of-war, and the landing of troops in Korea and China. She sailed on 17 November from the mouth of the Peking River (Hai He), carrying veterans homeward bound. More returning troops came aboard at the Sasebo U.S. Fleet Activities base, and all were disembarked at San Francisco 8 December. After similar duty took her to Guam in January 1946, she sailed through the Panama Canal for a 10-day visit to her namesake city. She then steamed to Philadelphia Navy Yard, arriving on 12 March. There, she decommissioned on 10 February 1947 and lay in reserve until struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 March 1959 and sold for scrapping on 22 September to Boston Metals Company, Baltimore, Maryland.
- New Orleans received 17 battle stars for her war service, placing her among the Most decorated US ships of World War II.
- Other honors include the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, as well as 5 Navy Crosses, 10 Silver Stars, 1 Bronze Star, 1 Air Medal and 206 Purple Hearts awarded to members of her crew.
- One Destroyer (DD) and four Destroyer Escorts (DE) were named after USS New Orleans sailors killed in action at the Battle of Tassafaronga.
- Diosdado Rome, OCC of New Orleans has been additionally honored by the naming of a Mess Hall at the Naval Station Pearl Harbor in his name, the Diosdado Rome Galley.
- The famous song "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" written by Frank Loesser was inspired by those heartened words uttered by chaplain Howell M. Forgy of New Orleans during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
- When New Orleans was sold for scrap, little was saved. However a few items from the ship are on display at the USS Kidd & Louisiana Veterans Memorial in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In particular are the ship's bell and the builders model of the ship as well as some mementos of the launching ceremony. There are some items at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina and at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland. A plaque was donated to the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas by New Orleans Reunion Association. A memorial honoring New Orleans has been installed in the New Orleans Walk of Fame outside the Hilton Hotel in downtown New Orleans.
The flag flown by New Orleans when she was struck by the torpedo on 30 Nov 1942 is on display in the US Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. The flag was seen by the contributor during a tour 16 Mar 2015.
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- "Ship Nicknames". zuzuray.com. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
- "Ships' Data, U. S. Naval Vessels". US Naval Department. 1 July 1935. pp. 16–23. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
- Rickard, J (19 December 2014). "USS New Orleans (CA-32)". Historyofwar.org. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
- U.S.Historical Society, http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/pers-us/uspers-f/h-forgy.htm
- Squadron/Signal Publications: Adcock, Al (2001). US Heavy Cruisers in Action part 1
– Warship Pictorial
- Brown, Herbert C. (2000). Hell at Tassafaronga
– An intensely personal and gripping memoir, a veteran of the gallant ship tells its history from rollicking peacetime days, on through 17 Pacific battles, to the hauling down of its commission pennant and its finally being broken up for scrap.
- Fahey, James C. (1941). The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, Two-Ocean Fleet Edition. Ships and Aircraft.
- Forgy, Chaplain Howell M. (1944). "... And Pass The Ammunition"
– First Hand accounts from the Chaplain of the New Orleans from the attack on Pearl Harbor to Bremerton after the Battle of Tassafaronga.
- Harrtzell, Carl T. (1997). From Bremerton To Philadelphia
– First Hand accounts from Bremerton after the New Orleans received a new bow till the end of hostilities in the Pacific.
- Classic Warship Publishing: Wiper, Steve (2000). New Orleans Class Cruisers
– Warship Pictorial
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
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