USS Omaha (CL-4)

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Omaha CL4.jpg
USS Omaha (CL-4), in New York Harbor, 10 February 1943.
History
United States
Name: Omaha
Namesake: City of Omaha, Nebraska
Ordered: 29 August 1916
Awarded:
  • 26 December 1916
  • 21 February 1919 (supplementary contract)
Builder: Todd Dry Dock & Construction Co., Tacoma, Washington
Cost: $1,541,396 (cost of hull & machinery)[1]
Laid down: 6 December 1918
Launched: 14 December 1920
Sponsored by: Louise Bushnell White
Completed: 1 August 1921
Commissioned: 24 February 1923
Decommissioned: 1 November 1945
Struck: 28 November 1945
Identification:
Honors and
awards:
Bronze-service-star-3d.png 1 × battle star
Fate: Scrapped, February 1946
General characteristics (as built)[2][3]
Class and type: Omaha-class light cruiser
Displacement: 7,050 long tons (7,163 t) (standard)
Length:
  • 555 ft 6 in (169.32 m) oa
  • 550 ft (170 m) pp
Beam: 55 ft (17 m)
Draft: 14 ft 3 in (4.34 m) (mean)
Installed power:
Propulsion:
Speed:
  • 35 kn (65 km/h; 40 mph)
  • 33.7 kn (62.4 km/h; 38.8 mph) (Estimated speed on trials)
Crew: 29 officers 429 enlisted (peace time)
Armament:
Armor:
Aircraft carried: 2 × floatplanes
Aviation facilities:
General characteristics (1945)[4]
Armament:

USS Omaha (CL-4) was the lead ship of Omaha-class light cruiser, originally classified as a scout cruiser, of the United States Navy. She was the second US Navy ship named for the city of Omaha, Nebraska. She spent most of her career in the Pacific. 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 Pacific, Mediterranean and Caribbean during her peacetime cruises, displaying the Stars and Stripes. Later she was assigned to Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic, during which she captured the German blockade runner SS Odenwald. She also supported Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France.

Construction and design[edit]

Omaha was laid down on 6 December 1918, by the Todd Dry Dock & Construction Company of Tacoma, Washington. The ship was launched on 14 December 1920, and was sponsored by Louise Bushnell White, a descendant of David Bushnell, inventor of the submarine Turtle.[5] She was commissioned on 24 February 1923, with Captain David C. Hanrahan in command.[2]

Omaha was 550 feet (170 metres) long at the waterline with an overall length of 555 feet 6 inches (169.32 metres), her beam was 55 feet 4 inches (16.87 metres) and a mean draft of 14 feet 3 inches (4.34 metres). Her standard displacement was 7,050 long tons (7,163 t) and 9,508 long tons (9,661 t) at full load.[3] Her crew during peace time consisted of 29 officers and 429 enlisted men.[4][6]

Omaha was powered by four Westinghouse geared steam turbines, each driving one screw, using steam generated by 12 Yarrow boilers. The engines were designed to produce 90,000 ihp (67,000 kW) and reach a top speed of 35 kn (65 km/h; 40 mph).[3] Though the ship's design was intended to provide a range of 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at a speed of 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph), she actually delivered only 8,460 nmi (15,670 km; 9,740 mi) at that speed.[4][6]

Omaha in harbor, 8 December 1923, her lower twin torpedo tubes visible and her aircraft catapults installed.

Omaha's main armament went through many changes while she was being designed. Originally she was to mount ten 6-inch (150 mm)/53 caliber guns; two on either side at the waist, with the remaining eight mounted in tiered casemates on either side of the fore and aft superstructures. After the United States entry into World War I the US Navy worked alongside the Royal Navy and it was decided to mount four 6-inch/53 caliber guns in two twin gun turrets fore and aft and keep the eight guns in the tiered casemates so that she would have an eight gun broadside and, due to limited arcs of fire from the casemate guns, four to six guns firing fore or aft. Her secondary armament consisted of two 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber anti-aircraft (AA) guns in single mounts. She carried two triple and two twin, above-water, torpedo tube mounts for 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes. The triple mounts were fitted on either side of the upper deck, aft of the aircraft catapults, and the twin mounts were one deck lower on either side, covered by hatches in the side of the hull.[4] Omaha was also built with the capacity to carry 224 mines.[7]

The ship lacked a full-length waterline armor belt. The sides of her boiler and engine rooms and steering gear were protected by three inches (76 mm) of armor. The transverse bulkheads at the end of her machinery rooms were one and a half inches (38 mm) thick forward and three inches thick aft. The conning tower and the deck over the machinery spaces and steering gear had one and a half inches of armor. The gun turrets were not armored and only provided protection against muzzle blast and splinter damage.[4]

Omaha's #1 Vought UO-1

Omaha carried two floatplanes aboard that were stored on the two catapults. Initially these were Vought VE-9s, then Vought UO-1s, but the ship operated Curtiss SOC Seagulls from 1935, and Vought OS2U Kingfishers after 1940.[4]

Armament changes[edit]

During her career Omaha went through several armament changes, some of these changes were to save weight, but others were to increase her AA armament. On 8 September 1926, in accordance with recommendations of the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commanders in Chief of the US and Battle Fleets, in addition to their subordinate commanding officers, the Secretary of the Navy, Curtis D. Wilbur, ordered the removal of all mines and mine tracks from all Omaha-class cruisers. In December 1933, while undergoing overhaul at Bremerton, her 3-inch AA guns were increased from two to eight, all mounted in the ship's waist.[5] The lower torpedo tube mounts, which had proved to be very wet, were removed and the openings plated over before the start of World War II. After 1940, the lower aft 6-inch guns were removed and the casemates plated over for the same reason as the lower torpedo mounts. The ship's AA armament was first augmented by three quadruple 1.1-inch (28 mm)/75 gun mounts by early 1942, however, these didn't prove reliable and were replaced by twin 40-millimetre (1.57 in) Bofors guns later in the war. At about the same time, she also received 14 20-millimetre (0.79 in) Oerlikon cannons.[4]

Service history[edit]

Inter-war period[edit]

Omaha spent most of August 1923, in the vicinity of Puget Sound conducting her sea trials. On 6 October, she proceeded to Puget Sound Navy Yard to have her aircraft catapults installed. She then sailed for Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California, on 17 October, to load ammunition for target practice. The end of November and early December 1923, found Omaha conducting "Short Range Battle Practice" with the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41) before joining the Battle Fleet on 8 December.[8]

Rear Admiral Sumner E. W. Kittelle, Commander Destroyer Squadrons, was unsatisfied with the destroyer tender Melville's suitability as a flagship. Consequently, on 27 December 1923, Omaha reported at San Diego, California, to serve as RADM Kittelle's new flagship, a position she only held until 14 March 1924.[8]

Omaha fell into a routine of operations along the Pacific coast, Central America, and exercises in the Caribbean, with occasional trips to Pearl Harbor. In 1925, she visited Australia and New Zealand, and in 1930, she embarked member of the American Samoa Commission for their Congressional investigation of conditions at Pago Pago. In 1931, Omaha returned to the Atlantic, where she took part in joint maneuvers with the US Army in Hampton Roads before continuing in maneuvers at Newport, Hampton Roads, and the Southern Drill Grounds. Omaha put into the Boston Navy Yard on 30 October, where she remained until after the New Year when she returned to the Pacific.[8]

Again from early 1932, until the mid-summer of 1937, Omaha fell into a routine where she steamed along the western coast and returned on several occasions to Panama for exercises and fleet problems. She also operated in Hawaiian waters and visited the Aleutian Islands during that time.[8]

Grounding in the Bahamas[edit]

Omaha aground in the Bahamas 1937


On 19 July 1937, after having been relieved by the gunboat Erie as the flagship of the Special Service Squadron, Omaha grounded on a reef near Castle Island, Bahamas, near 22°07′35.1″N 74°19′42.0″W / 22.126417°N 74.328333°W / 22.126417; -74.328333. According to the ensuing investigation, "she quickly and evenly decelerated as the bottom engaged the smooth reef." The grounding had occurred during high tide which made dislodging the cruiser more difficult. After removing as much possible in an attempt to lighten the ship the salvagers employed tugs to pull on Omaha while destroyers circled around them to create waves. It was only after ten days, and many failed efforts, that Omaha was finally floated free on 29 July. She got underway the following day for the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, where she underwent repairs. A general court martial, on 11 October 1937, would find Captain Howard B. Mecleary, Omaha's commanding officer at the time of the grounding, of negligence "resulting in the stranding of the vessel" and sentenced him to lose 25 numbers on the captain’s list. After having her hull damage repaired, Omaha got underway with Captain Wallace L. Lind, her new commanding officer, on 14 February 1938, to conduct sea trials while en route to Guantánamo.[8]

Mediterranean visit[edit]

Omaha set sail for Gibraltar on 30 March 1938, for duty in the Mediterranean Sea. Arriving in Marseille, France, 27 April 1938, she would remain in the Mediterranean for over a year, until 2 May 1939. She visited Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Menton, France, during her time before departing from Malta, for her return to the US and an extensive overhaul that lasted from 17 June until October 1939. During this time, on 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland starting what would become World War II.[8]

Squadron 40-T service[edit]

Omaha operated in the Caribbean after her overhaul conducting gunnery and tactical exercise from the end of October until 6 December 1939, when she arrived at Havana. She had been tasked with the duty of transporting the body of J. Butler Wright, the US Ambassador to Cuba, who had died 4 December, to Washington, DC. Upon completion, Omaha reported to Naval Station Norfolk where she remained until 1 April 1940. [8]

On 1 April 1940, Omaha got underway for the Caribbean, after first visiting the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She put into San Juan, Puerto Rico, then proceeded to Guantánamo and Havana, before returning again to Philadelphia, 5 May. After a brief port call at Newport, Omaha was at sea in the Hampton Roads from 7 to 28 May, before returning to Norfolk. On 22 June, Omaha put to sea for her new assignment as the flagship for Squadron 40-T at Lisbon, Portugal. This was a temporary squadron under the direct command of the Chief of Naval Operations, formed during the Spanish Civil War to stand ready to protect US interests and civilians in Spain.[8]

As Omaha stood in to Lisbon harbor, she passed her sister ship Trenton, her predecessor, standing out bound for the US. As the two ships passed, each of their crews greeted their compatriots with waves and loud cheers. Omaha's band played "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" while Trenton's musicians responded with "Empty Saddles (in the Old Corral)". During her time as flagship, ship remained in the vicinity of Lisbon, until the squadron was disbanded in October 1940. She got underway for the US on 3 October, making port calls at Monrovia, Liberia, on 10 October, and Pernambuco, Brazil, on 15 October. She put into NOB Norfolk on 23 October, and remained in port until 7 November.[8]

The necessary conditions for modern military training and equipment for the Liberian Frontier Force (the Liberian armed forces) were set in 1940, at a meeting of the US admiral David McDougal LeBreton with the Liberian Secretary Clarence Simpson aboard Omaha off the coast of Monrovia.[9]

Overhaul – Germany invades Poland[edit]

From November 1940 until February 1941, Omaha made return voyages to the Caribbean for tactical and gunnery exercises before entering the New York Navy Yard on 17 February, for overhaul and to have her first radar system installed.[5]

Omaha got underway 28 April 1941, but engine trouble soon developed and she was forced to return to Brooklyn, for repairs to her No. 4 turbine until 25 June. On 15 June 1941, Task Force (TF) 3, commanded by RADM Jonas H. Ingram, had inaugurated patrol operations from the Brazilian ports of Recife and Bahia; resources available to Ingram included Omaha and three of her sister ships, and five destroyers. Her propulsion and engineering issues resolved, Omaha stood out on 30 June, to conduct Neutrality Patrols between Recife and Ascension Island, British Overseas Territory. It was Omaha's duty, as part of Ingram's force, to intercept, board, and inspect vessels to enforce a blockade against German trade in the region. She also served as a convoy escort to protect the shipping lanes between South America and West Africa. During that period she made port calls to Montevideo, Uruguay, as well as Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She operated under war conditions.[5]

Search for blockade runners[edit]

On 4 November 1941, the British oiler RFA Olwen reported a German surface raider attack at 03°04′N 22°42′W / 3.067°N 22.700°W / 3.067; -22.700, prompting Vice Admiral Algernon U. Willis, RN, Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, to order the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire (accompanied by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Canton) to investigate. Light cruiser HMS Dunedin and special service vessels HMS Queen Emma and Princess Beatrix were ordered to depart Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join in the search.[5]

Dorsetshire and Canton then parted company, with the former steaming southeast and the latter heading toward a position to the northwest, the Royal Navy ships to be supported by TG 3.6, Omaha and destroyer Somers, which were at that time well to the northwest of the reported position. Memphis and the destroyers Davis and Jouett, near to the location given by Olwen, searched the area without result, while Omaha and Somers search unsuccessfully for survivors. The next day, 5 November, the search for the "German raider" reported by Olwen continued, with VADM Willis informing his ships of the unsuccessful efforts by the five US ships (two light cruisers and three destroyers) that had been involved in the efforts the previous day.[5]

Ultimately, however, the unsuccessful search for the "German raider" reported by Olwen on 4 November 1941, proved not entirely fruitless, for on 6 November, TG 3.6, Omaha and Somers, en route to Recife, and returning from a 3,023 mi (4,865 km) patrol in Atlantic equatorial waters, sighted smoke on the horizon at 05:06. Captain Theodore E. Chandler put Omaha on a course to intercept. As Omaha grew closer, the ship, flying US colors and the name on her stern identifying her as Willmoto of Philadelphia, began taking evasive action. Multiple attempts made to communicate with the steamer went either unanswered or were given suspicious responses. Omaha's lookouts reported that many of the crew on the deck where "uniquely un-American in appearance."[5]

Capture of Odenwald[edit]
Omaha CL-4 with German Odenwald 1941, taken from Somers.

The ship identified herself as Willmoto, but did not satisfactorily identify herself to the American warships. After ordering Willmoto to heave to, Omaha's crew dispatched a boarding party. At 05:37, Lieutenant George K. Carmichael and an armed boarding party began making their way toward the vessel. At that point the steamer hoisted the international symbol "Fox Mike", indicating that she was sinking and required assistance. As the boarding party began ascending the ship's ladder, they heard two distinct explosions within the ship. Several of the sinking ship's crew had lowered lifeboats and were attempting to leave, but Carmichael ordered them back on board. At 05:58, Carmichael signaled Omaha stating that the ship that had acted in such a suspicious manner was indeed German and was sinking. She was the German blockade runner Odenwald – her holds filled with 3,857 t (3,796 long tons; 4,252 short tons) of rubber, 103 B. F. Goodrich truck tires and a sundry other cargo all totaling 6,223 t (6,125 long tons; 6,860 short tons) total.[5]

Omaha's sailors, joined by a diesel engine specialist from Somers's ship's company, prevented Odenwald's loss while the cruiser's SOC floatplanes and her accompanying destroyer screened the operation. The three ships then proceed to Port of Spain, Trinidad, because of possible complications with the Brazilian government. In view of the precarious fuel state in the US ships, Somers's crew ingeniously rigged a sail that cut fuel consumption, but all reached their destination with fuel to spare. Ironically, the British RFA oiler Olwen later reported that she had made the "raider" signal when what was probably a surfaced submarine had fired upon her at dawn. While ten US and British warships had searched for two days for a phantom enemy, however, two of the US ships had ended up capturing a blockade runner.[5]

Omaha crew members posing on the deck of Odenwald

On 17 November 1941, Omaha stood in to the harbor at Port of Spain, with Odenwald flying her German flag with the US colors flying above it on the mast. Several years later, on 30 April 1947, in a case brought by Odenwald's owners against the US, the District Court for Puerto Rico, held that since a state of war did not exist at that time between the US and Germany, the vessel was not taken for a prize or bounty. Also, given the fact Odenwald was saved from sinking, that the taking of the vessel was legally defined as a salvage operation. The US government was awarded the profits made off of Odenwald and the men of the boarding party were given $3,000 each while all the other crewmen in Omaha and Somers were entitled to two months' pay and allowances. Consequently, the laws were changed and this was the last time such an award was paid to members of the Navy.[5][10]

World War II[edit]

On 7 December 1941, while steaming with Somers to Recife, from San Juan, Omaha received communication informing her commanding officer about the Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and to "execute WPL (war plan) 46[11] against Japan." Captain Chandler mustered the crew and read them the entire message. The US Congress officially declared war on the Empire of Japan on 8 December. Three days later, Germany declared war on the United States. Prior to the German declaration, the Kriegsmarine had been prohibited from attacking US convoys. That restriction was now lifted. In just a few short days protecting the shipping lanes between South America and Africa became exponentially more hazardous for Omaha and her compatriots.[5]

Loss of Lammot du Pont[edit]

While on patrol in company with Jouett on 8 May 1942, Omaha came across the Swedish motor vessel Astri. The light cruiser's boarding party discovered Ensign John F. Kelly, USNR, six members of the armed guard detachment and eight crewmen from the US freighter Lammot Du Pont that had been torpedoed and sunk by U-125 (Kapitänleutnnt Ulrich Folkers) 500 mi (800 km) southeast of Bermuda, on 23 April. The 15 men had been adrift in life rafts for two days before being found by Astri. Omaha -- informed that the Office of Naval Operations (OpNav) had suspected Astri of being a tender for German submarines -- left Jouett on station to investigate the neutral vessel while Omaha set course to Recife, with Lammot Du Pont's survivors. Directed to the scene by a patrolling aircraft, destroyer Tarbell rescued the remaining 23 survivors on 16 May.[5]

Loss of Charlbury[edit]

On 1 June 1942, at 01:30, Omaha sighted a small light on the horizon. This light turned out to be a small lifeboat carrying eight crewmen from the British merchant Charlbury. The merchant had been attacked on 28 May, by the Italian submarine Barbarigo,[12] while en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The first enemy torpedo had missed the ship. The submarine then surfaced, attacked with "withering gunfire", and submerged. Charlbury was then struck by a second torpedo after which she sank by the stern. Several hours later, Omaha encountered more survivors. In all, Omaha pulled 40 men from the water and carried them to Recife. Two of Charlbury's men had been killed by the submarine's gunfire.[5][13]

Loss of Harpagon[edit]

A week later, on 8 June 1942, Omaha found eight British seamen on board the Argentinian merchantman Rio Diamante, the only survivors (41 men had perished in the sinking) from the British merchant Harpagon that had been torpedoed and sunk by U-109 (Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt) near Bermuda on 20 April. The men, who had been adrift for 35 days, opted to remain in Rio Diamante, which transported them to Buenos Aires, Argentina.[5]

In early June 1942, following a brief upkeep period at San Juan, during which she received a new camouflage pattern, Omaha escorted a convoy carrying 400 M4 Sherman tanks to Ascension Island. There she was relieved by a British convoy carrying soldiers to Europe. Throughout the summer, Omaha continued patrolling the southern Atlantic and escorting convoys.[5]

Brazil declares war on Germany[edit]

During 16–17 August 1942, U-507 (Korvettenkapitän Harro Schact) sank five Brazilian merchantmen, attacks that killed over 500 men, outside of Brazil's territorial waters, and destroyed a sixth vessel flying Brazilian colors on 19 August. Shortly thereafter, while waiting for a harbor pilot at Montevideo, Uruguay, Omaha's crew got a close look at the rusting wreck of the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, that had been scuttled there on 18 December 1939, following the Battle of the River Plate. After Omaha had moored, Captain Chandler received a visit from a Brazilian naval officer, who informed him that Brazil was preparing a declaration of war against Germany and Italy. The declaration was promulgated that day, 22 August 1942.[5]

Hazards of life at sea[edit]

Although the threat from the enemy had lessened by August 1942, there were other ways the men of Omaha could be harmed. While she was anchored in Carenage Bay, Trinidad, one of Omaha's sailors returned after indulging in an especially "hard liberty". The man was sleeping off the effects on the direction finder deck when the ship took an unexpected roll. The inebriated bluejacket rolled off of the deck, down the awning over the quarterdeck and over the side of the ship. According to Captain Chandler, he was uninjured "probably due to his perfectly relaxed condition." Other such incidents did not end as well.[5]

While back at Trinidad, 30 October 1942, the side of a truck carrying Omaha's baseball team fell off taking six players with it. There were no serious injuries, just some sprained ankles, lacerations and contusions. On 2 November 1942, Omaha launched one of her new Vought OS2U Kingfishers for the first time while on escort duty in company with Marblehead. Three days later, 5 November, an aviator flipped one of Omaha's new Kingfishers upon landing. The aviator was uninjured but the plane was seriously damaged and required an overhaul when Omaha put into port. Tragedy struck Marblehead on 17 November 1942. While hoisting her whaleboat carrying a landing party back aboard, one of the sailors fell overboard and never resurfaced. The man was wearing a new style life vest that required manual inflation by mouth. Following that fatality, Captain Chandler ordered that all of Omaha's boarding party members to wear the older style life jackets. Despite the fact they were cumbersome and bulky, the jackets were effective.[5]

Collision with Milwaukee[edit]

The year 1943, proved to be a quiet year for Omaha. Escorting the stores ship Pollux regularly out Recife, and patrolling the southern Atlantic with her sister ships Milwaukee, Memphis, Cincinnati, and the destroyer Moffett, she did not encounter any enemy vessels or the results of their handiwork.[5]

The only damage she took that year was while changing stations on formation, 30 April 1943, Milwaukee grazed Omaha' starboard bow, destroying one of her paravanes and ruptured some plating, causing flooding. Omaha's damage control party was able to execute makeshift repairs, stopping one leak by shoring up two mattresses in the hole. One compartment flooded completely and a second had to be pumped out every two hours. One of Milwaukee's port 6-inch guns and torpedo tube mount were put out of commission. She also had several holes in her side above the main deck. She had some leaking under the waterline due to damaged plates and rivets in addition to losing her No.3 main circulation pump. The damage having been determined not serious enough to discontinue their mission, the two cruisers completed their patrol, then put into Rio de Janeiro for repairs at the Brazilian Navy Yard.[5]

Sinking of Rio Grande and Burgenland[edit]

Omaha's time of relatively uneventful operations came to an abrupt halt very early in 1944. While patrolling out of Recife, Brazil, with Jouett on 4 January, one of Omaha's aircraft spotted a ship about 55 mi (89 km) northeast of the Brazilian coast. At 10:20, Omaha challenged the vessel with her searchlight but elicited no response. Lookouts spotted two guns on the ship's bow. Several minutes later, a large cloud of heavy smoke was seen issuing from the ship's stern, leading to the assumption that her crew was scuttling her to avoid capture. Omaha maneuvered along the ship's port side and began firing with her starboard battery. Jouett also opened fire. The ship's crew were seen trying to escape in lifeboats off of her stern. Omaha attempted to drive the men back using machine guns. It soon became obvious that the ship was lost. Omaha again opened fire on the vessel and shortly afterwards, she sank by the stern. Fearing that the action might have drawn the attention of enemy submarines, Omaha and Jouett departed the area without picking up the survivors. It was later determined that the ship was the German blockade runner Rio Grande. Omaha's sister ship Marblehead rescued 72 survivors on 8 January.[5][14]

The following day, while she steamed in the vicinity of where Rio Grande had met her end, Omaha encountered another unidentified steamer, and again challenged the ship with her searchlight. After receiving no response, she fired two shots over the suspect's bow as she appeared to be dead in the water. An explosion was seen on the ship followed by billows of smoke. Omaha trained her 6-inch battery on the ship and opened fire. Because many members of Omaha's crew had been unable to witness the previous day's action, Captain Elwood M. Tillson allowed his men to rotate topside to watch the gunfire. Thirty minutes later, the steamer -- later identified as Burgenland, another German blockade runner -- sank by the stern. Davis rescued 21 of her survivors on 7 January; Winslow retrieved an additional 35 on the following day.[5][14]

Recovery of U-177 survivors[edit]

Omaha hosted First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and RADM Oliver M. Read, Commander, Surface Patrol Force (TF 41), 16 March 1944, at Recife, Brazil.

On 6 February 1944, while Omaha was patrolling with Jouett and Memphis, the ships received orders to keep watch for survivors of a U-boat that had been sunk in their vicinity. Jouett sighted wreckage and shortly afterward Omaha's forward lookout spotted a yellow life raft that was occupied. When the cruiser neared the raft, she lowered one of her 26-foot whaleboats to collect the enemy submariners. The German sailors were survivors from sinking of U-177 that had been sunk earlier in the day. Before the submarine was attacked, U-177 lay on the surface with some of her crew sunning and swimming. The U-boat was spotted by a Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator from Bombing Squadron (VB) 107 operating from Ascension Island, which sunk her with its depth charges.[5]

According to Leutnant zur See Hans-Otto Brodt, one of 14 survivors, fifty men, including Korvettenkapitän Heinz Bucholz, their commanding officer, had gone down with the ship. While in Omaha, the prisoners were taken to the sick bay to be treated for shock and exposure. They were then placed under armed guard and given fresh clothing that was provided by the Red Cross. After the ship put into Bahia, 15 February, the Germans were disembarked and transported to Recife.[5]

Transfer to the European Theatre[edit]

On 4 July 1944, Omaha got underway to the European Theatre with destroyer escorts Marts, Reybold, and troop transport General W. A. Mann. The convoy arrived at Gibraltar on 13 July, with the addition of Marsh, Hollis, and the destroyer Kearny. Omaha then remained at Gibraltar until she got underway for Palermo, Sicily, with the battleships Nevada and Arkansas on 18 July.[5]

Operation Dragoon[edit]

On 6 August 1944, Omaha steamed to Ajaccio, Corsica, to join a task force preparing to assault Île de Port-Cros, France. As she lay off Île d' Hyeres, Omaha observed the bombardment of a fort still held by German forces at Île de Port-Cros. Once the enemy surrendered, Omaha embarked 10 Army casualties and 22 German prisoners.[5]

Omaha during the landings in Southern France, August 1944, photographed from Philadelphia. In the distance are (from left to right): a French Navy destroyer, a French light cruiser, and Augusta.

The following day, Omaha was protecting the flank of a formation, consisting of the heavy cruisers Quincy and Augusta, and Nevada and the French battleship Lorraine, bombarding Toulon, France. Omaha fired 24 rounds as part of the bombardment. At 17:17, she drew fire from a shore battery which Quincy responded to by laying out a smoke screen. Omaha fired 3.5-inch rockets to jam the enemy radar. After supporting Nevada on 20 August, the light cruiser once again drew enemy fire as she departed the area. Fortunately, the shells splashed 1,000 yd (910 m) off her stern and 3,000 yd (2,700 m) off her port quarter.[5]

While at Porquerolles, France, the net tender Hackberry came under fire from a shore battery. Omaha quickly sprang into action to protect the tender, silencing the enemy position with 73 6-inch rounds. On 23 August, Omaha was dispatched with a task force to Giens Peninsula at Rade d' Hyeres, France, to deploy a landing to force the occupying Germans to surrender. Once she arrived on station, flags of surrender were already flying so the bombardment was cancelled. Motor torpedo boat PT-533 carried the landing party ashore to confirm the surrender and arrange the landing of Allied troops.[5]

Omaha departed the assault area on 27 August 1944, to return to Palermo. She then got underway to Oran, Algeria, with Cincinnati, Marblehead, Quincy, and the destroyer McLanahan. The group departed Oran, on 1 September, with the addition of MacKenzie, to transit the Strait of Gibraltar and continued on to Bahia. When the formation entered the Atlantic, Marblehead was detached and proceeded to the west independently.[5]

Return to the Atlantic and overhaul[edit]

Once Omaha returned to Bahia, 9 September, she resumed her previous duties patrolling the southern Atlantic and providing escort services. During this period she made port calls at Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. She returned to the North Atlantic, escorting the transport General M. C. Meigs in company with the Brazilian Marcílio Dias-class destroyers Mariz e Barros and Marcilio Dias to Gibraltar. Omaha turned over her escort duty to Edison on 4 December, then proceeded independently to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She arrived at New Jersey, on 14 December, then put into the New York Navy Yard the next day. Omaha ended 1944 undergoing repairs and alterations to improve her living spaces.[5]

Search for the Brazilian cruiser Bahia[edit]

On 8 July 1945, Omaha departed Recife, on a search and rescue operation after the Bahia (C.12) had been reportedly sunk by a submarine. The British steamer Balfe reported that she had rescued 33 survivors, three of whom later succumbed to their injuries. Omaha intercepted Balfe and transferred over her medical staff to aid in treating the castaways. The Brazilian destroyer Greenhalgh (M.3) discovered one additional survivor on 11 July 1945. One Brazilian seaman reported that he had been in a life raft with three US sailors that eventually died. He did not know their names or rates. As the search continued, what caused the vessel to sink became unclear. Many of her sailors reported a large explosion but the source could not be determined. After the search was concluded, 44 men, of whom seven died, and eight bodies, were recovered. The remainder of the crew, 294 men, had been lost. Eventually, an investigation determined the cause of the explosion on board Bahia. While conducting anti-aircraft training on 4 July, one of her gunners had shot down a kite target and continued firing as he trailed the target's descent. Without proper safety stops installed on his gun, he inadvertently fired into a rack of live depth charges on the fantail.[5]

Decommissioning[edit]

Following the Bahia tragedy, Omaha remained in the South Atlantic area until 11 August 1945. She departed Recife, for the last time the next day. After pausing at San Juan and Norfolk, she got underway for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Soon thereafter, a Board of Inspection and Survey recommended that Omaha be taken out of commission.[5]

Decommissioned on 1 November 1945, Omaha was stricken from the Navy Register on 28 November 1945. She was scrapped at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by February 1946.[5]

Notable commanders[edit]

Name Date Final rank attained
Captain Frederick Joseph Horne 14 June 1924–16 January 1926 Admiral
Captain Cyrus Willard Cole 16 January 1926–25 August 1927 Rear Admiral
Captain Lyal Ament Davidson 1 February 1939–1 September 1939 Vice Admiral
Captain Theodore Edson Chandler 15 October 1941–April 1943 Rear Admiral

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Navy List 1921, p. 771.
  2. ^ a b Ships21 1921, pp. 54–59.
  3. ^ a b c Ships35 1935, pp. 24–31.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Terzibashitsch 1988.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Watts 2017.
  6. ^ a b Friedman 1984, p. 469.
  7. ^ Friedman 1984, pp. 80, 84.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Watt 2017.
  9. ^ Curtis 2008, pp. 188–230.
  10. ^ Nofi 2008.
  11. ^ Pike 2012.
  12. ^ Charlbury.
  13. ^ CDT 1942.
  14. ^ a b Whitley 1995, p. 229.

Bibliography[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

External links[edit]