Tuesday, February 28, 2012
USS Nashville (CL-43)
Figure 1: USS Nashville (CL-43) in the Hudson River, New York City, in 1939. The Palisade Amusement Park is in the right distance. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Nashville (CL-43) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 1 April 1942. She is wearing Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Nashville (CL-43) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 4 August 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942. USS Nashville (CL-43) firing her 6-inch main battery guns at a Japanese picket boat encountered by the raid task force, 18 April 1942. Photographed from USS Salt Lake City (CA-25). Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Nashville (CL-43) bombarding Kiska Island, Aleutians, on 8 August 1942. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Leyte invasion, October 1944. General Douglas MacArthur's flagship, USS Nashville (CL-43), anchored off Leyte during the landings, circa 21 October 1944. Nashville wears camouflage Measure 33, Design 21d. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Leyte invasion, October 1944. General Douglas MacArthur (right, seen in profile) on the bridge of USS Nashville (CL-43), off Leyte during the landings there in late October 1944. Standing in the center (also seen in profile) is Lieutenant General George C. Kenney. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Nashville (CL-43) crewmen cleaning up the port side 5-inch gun battery, after the ship was hit in that area by a Kamikaze on 13 December 1944, while en route to the Mindoro invasion. Note fire damage to the guns and nearby structure. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Nashville (CL-43) underway in Puget Sound, Washington, on 25 March 1945. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the capital of the state of Tennessee, the 9,475-ton USS Nashville (CL-43) was a Brooklyn class light cruiser that was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 6 June 1938. The ship was approximately 608 feet long and 61 feet wide, had a top speed of 32 knots, and had a crew of 868 officers and men. As built, Nashville was armed with fifteen 6-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, and eight .50-caliber machine guns.
After being commissioned, Nashville went on a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean. In early August, the ship steamed to northern Europe for a goodwill visit, arriving at Cherbourg, France, on 24 August 1938. Nashville continued her trip to Portland, England, where 25 million dollars in British gold bullion was placed on board the ship. The cruiser left Portland on 21 September and arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, nine days later. Once there, she unloaded the gold and on 5 October went to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for an overhaul.
In the spring of 1939, Nashville brought American representatives for the Pan American Defense Conference to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and then carried them back to Annapolis, Maryland, on 20 June 1939. On 23 June, the cruiser left Norfolk, Virginia, for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, arriving at San Pedro, California, on 16 July. Nashville remained based there for two years. In February 1941, Nashville and three other cruisers brought US Marines to garrison Wake Island. Then on 20 May, she left Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for the east coast, arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, on 19 June to escort a convoy carrying Marines to Iceland.
From August to December 1941, Nashville was based at Bermuda and escorted “neutrality patrols” in the central Atlantic. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Nashville steamed to Casco Bay, Maine, where she escorted a troop and cargo convoy to Iceland. She then continued escorting convoys between Bermuda and Iceland until February 1942.
On 4 March 1942, Nashville rendezvoused with the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) off the coast of Virginia and escorted the carrier to California via the Panama Canal. The ships arrived at San Diego, California, on 20 March. Hornet and Nashville then left San Diego on 2 April under the command of Admiral William Halsey. What made this trip different was that Hornet was carrying a full load of 16 US Army Air Corps B-25 bombers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle. On 13 April 1942, Hornet and Nashville rendezvoused with Task Force 16 just north of Midway Island in the Pacific. The big task force set course for Japan.
On 17 April 1942, when the American warships were 1,000 miles from Japan, the small destroyers were detached from the group and told to return to Pearl Harbor. Nashville, along with the other cruisers in the task force, accompanied the carriers Hornet and USS Enterprise (CV-6) on a high-speed run to the launching point for the B-25 bombers. On 18 April, the task force was sighted by a Japanese picket boat, which reported the position of the task force before being sunk by scout planes from Enterprise. A second scout boat then was spotted and sunk by Nashville’s guns. But now the planes had to be launched since the element of surprise was lost. Doolittle’s planes were launched that day 150 miles short of their intended destination and in heavy seas. As soon as all of the bombers were launched, all of the ships in the task force reversed course and headed back to Pearl Harbor. They all returned unharmed to Pearl Harbor on 25 April 1942. The famous “Doolittle Raid” also turned out to be a major success (perhaps not militarily in terms of the number of targets destroyed, but it certainly was a huge morale boost for the American people at a time when all the war news looked pretty grim).
Nashville left Pearl Harbor on 14 May 1942 and became the flagship of Task Force 8, which was given the job of defending Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Nashville arrived at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on 26 May and then sailed to Kodiak two days later to join other units of the task force. On 3 and 4 June, Japanese carrier planes struck Dutch Harbor, but Nashville and her task force were unable to make contact with the enemy due to a heavy fog. Major Japanese naval forces were withdrawn from the area after Japan’s huge defeat at Midway, but as the Japanese departed the area they left occupying forces behind on the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. From June to November 1942, Nashville patrolled the north Pacific and participated in the attack on Kiska on 7 August in which heavy damage was inflicted on Japanese shore installations.
On 22 November 1942, Nashville left the Aleutians and returned to Pearl Harbor. The ship was transferred to the south Pacific, where she took part in raids against Japanese bases in the central Solomon Islands. While shelling New Georgia and Kolombangara on the night of 12-13 May 1943, an explosion in one of her gun turrets killed eighteen of her crewmen. Nashville left the Solomon Islands and returned to the United States, going to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, for repairs.
Nashville left Mare Island on 6 August 1943 and returned to Pearl Harbor on 12 August to join a carrier task force for strikes on Marcus and Wake Islands. After those raids were completed, Nashville returned to the south Pacific in October 1943. During the next year, Nashville participated in amphibious landings at Bougainville, New Britain, northern New Guinea, Morotai, and Leyte, providing gunfire support and frequently serving as General Douglas MacArthur’s combat flagship. While en route to the invasion of Mindoro, the Philippines, on 13 December 1944, Nashville was hit by a Japanese kamikaze. The aircraft crashed into her port 5-inch gun mount, with both of the plane’s bombs exploding about ten feet off the deck. Gasoline fires and exploding ammunition made her midships area an inferno, but although 133 men were killed and 190 wounded, her remaining 5-inch guns continued to provide antiaircraft fire. The damaged cruiser limped back to Pearl Harbor and from there went to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington, for extensive repairs. Nashville remained in the shipyard from January to March 1945.
Nashville returned to active duty in May 1945 and participated in operations in the East Indies and the South China Sea during the last months of World War II. In mid-September 1945, soon after Japan surrendered, Nashville arrived at Shanghai to support the removal of Japanese forces from China. After leaving the Far East in November 1945, Nashville made two voyages to America’s west coast as part of “Operation Magic Carpet,” helping to bring home US service personnel from the Pacific.
Nashville was ordered to steam to the Atlantic in January 1946, where she was inactivated at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The ship was decommissioned on 24 June 1946, but remained in reserve until 1950. After being overhauled at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, USS Nashville was sold to Chile on 9 January 1951 and renamed Capitan Prat. The ship was an active unit of the Chilean Navy until 1982. In 1983 the cruiser was renamed once again and became Chacabuco, but was sold for scrapping shortly after that.