Tuesday, February 26, 2008
USS Pittsburgh (CA-72)
Figure 1: USS Pittsburgh (CA-72) underway in November 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 33, Design 18d. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Pittsburgh en route to Guam for temporary repairs, shortly after she lost her bow in a typhoon on 5 June 1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Pittsburgh’s detached and capsized bow under tow toward Guam in June 1945. It had broken loose in a typhoon on 5 June. While under salvage, Pittsburgh's bow was humorously called "USS McKeesport" and "suburb of Pittsburgh". Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: The Pittsburgh's detached and capsized bow (at left) under tow toward Guam in June 1945. It had broken loose in a typhoon on 5 June. Two fleet tugs seen at right are probably USS Munsee (ATF-107) and USS Pakana (ATF-108). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Pittsburgh anchored in Suda Bay, Crete, 8 May 1952. Photographed from a USS Midway (CVB-41) aircraft. Pittsburgh's gun directors still have World War II era fire control radars. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Pittsburgh underway, 11 October 1955. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the Collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
The 13,600-ton USS Pittsburgh (CA-72) was a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser built by the Bethlehem Steel Company at Quincy, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on 10 October 1944. The Pittsburgh was approximately 674 feet long and 70 feet wide, had a top speed of 33 knots, and had a crew of 1,142 officers and men. She was armed with nine 8-inch guns, twelve 5-inch guns and 48 20-mm guns.
After a shakedown cruise along America’s east coast and the Caribbean, the Pittsburgh left for the Pacific via the Panama Canal on 13 January 1945. She reached Ulithi atoll in the Caroline Islands on 13 February and joined a task force that was centered around the carrier Lexington (CV-16). The Pittsburgh screened aircraft carriers during strikes on the Japanese home islands and then took part in the American invasion of Iwo Jima. After Iwo Jima was secured, the Pittsburgh’s task force was sent back to Japan to bombard airfields and other military installations on Kyushu on 18 March. However, disaster struck on 19 March when a Japanese air raid on the carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) succeeded in severely damaging the carrier. The Franklin was ablaze and in danger of sinking, but the Pittsburgh steamed at 30 knots to assist the carrier in any way possible. Once arriving on the scene and after rescuing 34 of the Franklin’s men who were floating helplessly in the water, the Pittsburgh, along with the cruiser Santa Fe (CL-60), assisted in fighting the Franklin’s fires and managed to get a tow line on board the stricken carrier. After the tow line was secured, the Pittsburgh began pulling the Franklin to safety. The carrier’s crew tried to restore power while the Pittsburgh used her antiaircraft guns to fight off Japanese air attacks. The Pittsburgh continued towing the carrier until noon on 20 March, when what was left of the Franklin’s crew was able to cast off the tow line after regaining some power in her engines and extinguishing her fires. Captain John E. Gingrich, the Pittsburgh’s commanding officer, was at the conn for 48 hours during this operation and the assistance provided by the Pittsburgh and the Santa Fe undoubtedly played an enormous role in saving the Franklin.
From March to June, the Pittsburgh escorted carriers that were assigned to the invasion of Okinawa. On the evening of 4 June 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet, which had just completed pounding the Japanese on Okinawa and Kyushu, was hit by a violent typhoon southeast of the Ryukyu Islands. During the early morning hours of 5 June, Rear Admiral Joseph J. Clark’s Task Group 38.1 (which included the Pittsburgh) was right in the middle of the storm. All the ships in the Task Group were being tossed around and battered by the 70-plus knot winds and 100-foot waves. Just before 0600 on 5 June, the floatplane on the Pittsburgh’s port catapult was blown off. Approximately 30 minutes later the cruiser was hit by two very large waves and her bow broke away in front of her forward gun turret. Miraculously, all watertight bulkheads had been closed and the crew was at battle stations, so no lives were lost when the bow was torn away from the ship. Excellent damage control by the Pittsburgh’s crew prevented any significant flooding and the ship rode out the rest of the storm by keeping her stern to the wind.
After the typhoon ended, the Pittsburgh was able to steam to Guam, arriving there on 10 June. The cruiser was fitted with a temporary “stub” bow (the same type that was used previously on the torpedoed cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans during the Guadalcanal Campaign) and the repairs were completed in approximately two weeks. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh’s original bow was still afloat! From 6 June to 11 June, the fleet tug Munsee (ATF-107) and her sister ship Patana (ATF-108) towed the more than 100-foot long bow to Guam, where anything of value (such as the ship’s anchors) was salvaged from the structure.
The Pittsburgh left Guam on 24 June and was sent to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving there on 16 July. However, the war ended before a new bow could be attached to the cruiser. Once final repairs were completed, the Pittsburgh was placed in commission but in reserve on 12 March 1946. She was decommissioned on 7 March 1947.
During the Korean War, the Pittsburgh was called back to active duty. The cruiser was recommissioned 25 September 1951 and was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She twice deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in 1952 and 1953, with her second cruise also taking her to the Indian Ocean. The Pittsburgh returned to Norfolk, Virginia, for a major modernization overhaul and joined the Sixth Fleet at Gibraltar on 19 January 1954. After a tour of duty in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, the Pittsburgh was sent to the Pacific and cruised in the Far East from November 1954 to February 1955. Following operations off America’s west coast, the Pittsburgh was decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington, on 28 August 1956. The Pittsburgh remained in the Pacific Reserve Fleet until July 1973 and was sold for scrapping in 1974. A tough veteran that served the US Navy for 30 years, the Pittsburgh endured the horrors found in both war and nature and still remained afloat.
Posted by Remo at 9:04 AM