USS Astoria (CA-34)

USS Astoria (CA-34)



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USS Astoria (CA-34)

Pre-War and Introduction

USS Astoria (CA-34) was a New Orleans class heavy cruiser that fought at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, before becoming one of three members of the class to be lost at the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942. Astoria (CA-34) earned three battle stars during World War II.

The Astoria was laid down in September 1930 as CL-34, but she was reclassified as heavy cruiser CA-34 on 1 July 1931. She wasn't launched until December 1933 and was commissioned on 28 April 1934. Her shakedown cruise took her into the Pacific and she visited Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia and Australia before reaching San Francisco in September 1934. She served with Cruiser Division 7 from then until February 1937 when she joined Cruiser Division 6, part of the Scouting Force. During her time with this division she visited Japan, returning the remains of Ambassador Saito Hirosi after his death in 1939. After Japan she went on to Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Guam before reaching her new home port of Pearl Harbor in October 1939.

In April 1941 she left Pearl Harbor and returned to the Mare Island Navy Yard for a refit. This was completed in July and she was back at Pearl Harbor by the end of the month. In September she moved between Hawaii and Midway. In October she was used to escort the transport Henderson to Manila and Guam in response to a rumour of German raiders.

On 5 December the Astoria was part of Task Force 12 (USS Lexington), which left Pearl Harbor to carry Marine bombers to Midway Island.

Wartime Service

The Astoria was thus at sea when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December. In the aftermath of the attack the task force searched the area south-west of Hawaii looking for the Japanese fleet, but without success. The task force returned to port on 13 December.

She put to sea three days later to join TF14, part of the relief effort for Wake Island. The island fell to the Japanese on 23 December, and the relief force was recalled. At the end of December she formed part of TF 11, based around the Saratoga. The carrier was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-6 on 11 January and the force had to retreat to Pearl Harbor, guarding the damaged carrier.

The second half of January was no more successful. She put to sea on 19 January with a task force that was meant to conduct a patrol north of Christmas Island. This was then changed to a raid on Wake Island, but a key oiler was sunk by a Japanese submarine and the raid was cancelled.

In mid-February the Astoria put to sea with Task Force 17 (USS Yorktown), two cruisers and four destroyers, under Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. This force was soon attached to Task Force 11 (Lexington) for a raid on Rabaul, but this was cancelled after the Japanese landed at Lae and Salamaua on New Guinea. The Americans responded by moving their carriers into the Gulf of Papua (west of Port Moresby on the south coast of New Guinea) and sending their aircraft across the island to hit the Japanese (10 March 1942). While this was going on the Astoria was part of a mixed force (with HMAS Australia) that operated in the Louisiade Archipelago (east of New Guinea), to protect the flanks of the carrier operation.

The Astoria operated with TF17 in the Coral Sea in March-April 1942, then took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942), still with TF17. She formed part of the screen for the Yorktown during the attack on the Shoho (7 May) then took part in the defence against the Japanese attack on the American carriers on 8 May. Although the US lost the Lexington, the Japanese invasion of Port Moresby was defeated.

On 30 May 1942 the Astoria set sail as part of the Yorktown task force, heading for Midway. She formed part of the carrier screen for the Yorktown during the battle of Midway. On 4 June the Yorktown came under attack. The screen shot down two aircraft, but six reached the Yorktown and three scored hits. The carrier survived this first attack, but later in the day was hit again. She was still afloat on the following day, but was hit by torpedoes from the submarine I-168, and sank on 7 June. The Astoria served as the flagship for Admiral Fletcher until the Saratoga arrived on 8 June.

In early August the Astoria became part of Task Group 62.3, Fire Support Group L, part of the fleet allocated to the landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi. On 7 August she supported the marines as they landed on both islands.

The Japanese responded in force during the night of 8-9 August, sending seven cruisers and a destroyer to attack the Americans (battle of Savo Island, 8-9 August 1942). The battle went badly for the Allies, and in particular for the New Orleans class ships, with three lost during the battle. The Astoria came under fire at about 1.50am on 9 August and was hit by accurate Japanese shell fire. She was set on fire, making her an easy target. She nearly rammed the badly damaged Quincy but became difficult to control from the bridge. At about 2.25am she began to steam south in an attempt to escape from the Japanese, but soon afterwards lost all power. At about the same time the Japanese withdrew, so the Astoria was still afloat at the end of the battle.

For some time it appeared that the Astoria might be saved. Fire fighting efforts had some impact; while the wounded and some trapped survivors were rescued by the destroyer USS Bagley (DD-386). After dawn on 9 August a salvage crew boarded the Astoria, and she was put under tow. The tow ships were called away at 10am, but there was still some hope of reaching safety. However below decks the fires were still raging and the ship began to list. This brought the shell holes below the water line, and soon after 11.30 Captain William Greenman was forced to give the order to abandon ship. The Astoria rolled over to port, settled at the stern, and had sunk by 12.15pm. The salvage crew was rescued safely.

Wartime Modification

All members of the New Orleans class received quad 1.1in gun mounts early in 1942, with two on the quarterdeck and two at the same level as the chart house. They also got search radar and had the foremast reduced in height. The Astoria was also given 12 single 20mm guns.

Displacement (standard)

10,136t

Displacement (loaded)

12,463t

Top Speed

32.7kts

Range

10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

5in to 3.25in over 0.75in STS

- over machinery

2.25in

- magazines

4in-3in side
2.25in above

- barbettes

6in-5in

- turrets

6in face
2.25in roof
1.5in side

Length

588ft oa

Armaments

Nine 8in/55 guns (three 3-gun turrets)
Eight 5in/25 guns (eight single positions)
Eight 0.5in guns (eight single positions)
Four aircraft

Crew complement

868

Laid Down

1 September 1930

Launched

16 December 1933

Completed

28 April 1934

Lost

9 August 1942


USS Astoria (CA-34) - History

9,375 tons
588' 2" x 61' 9" x 19' 5"
9 × 8"guns (3x3)
8 × 5" guns
2 x 37mm guns
8 × 50 cal machine guns

During the summer of 1934, Astoria conducted lengthy shake-down cruise in the course of which she voyaged extensively in the Pacific. In addition to the Hawaiian Islands, the heavy cruiser also visited Samoa, Fiji, Sydney Australia, and Nouméa on the island of New Caledonia. She returned to San Francisco on 26 September 1934.

Wartime History
On December 7, 1941 Astoria was part of Task Force 12 (TF-12) roughly 700 miles west of Hawaii bound for Midway after learning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, the voyage to Midway was canceled. On December 8, 1941 joined by USS Indianapolis flagship of Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, Commander, Scouting Force. Over the next few days, unsuccessfully searched the area southwest of Oahu. On December 13, 1941 returned to Pearl Harbor and three days later departs escorting a convoy including USS Neches (AO-5) and USS Tangier (AV-8) bound for Wake Island but was recalled when the garrison surrendered. On December 29, 1941 returned to Pearl Harbor and embarked 40 crew members formally assigned to USS California.

On December 31, 1941 departs Pearl Harbor was Task Force 11 (TF-11) with USS Saratoga until she was damaged by a torpedo on January 11, 1942 then escorts the damaged carrier back to Pearl Harbor two days later. On January 19, 1941 departs again with Task Force 11 (TF-11) with USS Lexington escorted by cruisers USS Chicago and USS Minneapolis plus nine destroyers to patrol a line from Kingman Reef to Christmas Island. On January 21, 1942 rendezvous with USS Neches (AO-5) but was sunk two days later and instead returns to Pearl Harbor January 24, 1942.

On February 16, 1942 departs Pearl Harbor with Task Force 17 (TF-17) under the command of Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher including USS Yorktown (CV-2) heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28) with destroyers USS Sims (DD-409), USS Anderson (DD-411), USS Hammann (DD-412) and USS Walke (DD-416) and oiler USS Guadalupe (AO-32) to operate off Canton Island. After February 20, 1942 TF-11 was spotted and attacked northeast of Rabaul and TF-17 was ordered to rendezvous March 6, 1942 southwest of New Hebrides. The combined force steamed towards Rabaul until Japanese forces landed at Lae and Salamaua and on March 8, 1942 these locations become their new target.

On March 10, 1942 carrier aircraft from USS Yorktown (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) launch from the Gulf of Papua to strike Lae and Salamaua. Meanwhile, a surface force including Astoria, Chicago, Louisville, and HMAS Australia plus destroyers Anderson, Hammann, Hughes, and Sims under the command of Rear Admiral John G. Crace off Rossel Island in the Louisiade Archipelago to protect their right flank.

Sinking History
On August 9, 1942 sunk during the Battle of Savo Island into Iron Bottom Sound to the southeast of Savo Island.

For her World War II service, Astoria earned three battle stars.

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USS Astoria (CA-34) - History


-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives record group 19-LCM

Preserving the history of the light cruiser Astoria and honoring the men who served aboard her.


World War II History
A detailed historical account of the Mighty Ninety through 1945.

About the Photography
Sources of images for this site and the restoration process.

Color Film Footage
40 minutes of silent color footage shot from the decks of USS ASTORIA during Okinawa operations.


Ship's Crew Complement
Images and stories of the officers and men who served aboard USS ASTORIA CL-90.


The Ship
ASTORIA CL-90 photographs and technical information from throughout her service life.



The Legacy of USS ASTORIA
Four ships have carried the namesake of Astoria, Oregon. This page covers CL-90's predecessors.

Voices of the Pacific War
Images and stories from friends and family involved in this Pacific War commemoration project.


If you would like to contribute, please contact me at [email protected] .


ASTORIA CA 34

This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.

    New Orleans Class Light Cruiser
    Keel Laid September 1 1930 - Launched December 16 1933
    Redesignated Heavy Cruiser (CA) July 1 1931

Naval Covers

This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).

Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.

Postmarks

This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.

A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
 
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.


Related Entries

Astor Expedition (1810-1813)

The Astor Expedition was a grand, two-pronged mission, involving scores…

Map This on the Oregon History WayFinder

The Oregon History Wayfinder is an interactive map that identifies significant places, people, and events in Oregon history.

Further Reading

McMurtrie, Francis E., ed. Jane&rsquos Fighting Ships, 1940. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1941.

Mooney, James L., ed. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Vol 1, Part A. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.

©2020 Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society

The Oregon Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Federal Tax ID 93-0391599

©2020 Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society

The Oregon Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Federal Tax ID 93-0391599


USS Astoria (CA-34) - History

Chapter 1: Beginnings


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The ways at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company where USS Astoria CL-90 was built. This photo was taken in October 1941, less than one month after her keel was laid and before America became a belligerent in World War II. Note the Defense Bonds poster at far left, the 1941 precursor to War Bond posters.
-photo from NARA Records Group 19-LCM

11 September 1940
With American involvement in the Second World War becoming more and more imminent, the U.S. Navy placed an order for six additional Cleveland-class cruisers to be added to their Fiscal Year 1941 building program. Construction of these six cruisers, Navy hull numbers CL-89 through CL-94, was awarded to the revitalized Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia, PA.

The six Cramp Clevelands kept with the tradition of naming cruisers after U.S. cities and were to be named:

USS Miami CL-89 USS Little Rock CL-92
USS Wilkes-Barre CL-90 USS Galveston CL-93
USS Oklahoma City CL-91 USS Youngstown CL-94

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Cramp employees working on the inner bottom of Hull 533 on 5 October 1941. Hull 533 was designated to become the Cleveland-class light cruiser CL-90 for the United States Navy.
-photo from NARA Records Group 19-LCM

6 September 1941
The keel of hull 533 was laid by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company, Philadelphia, PA. In the months that followed, this hull began to take on the sleek lines of a cruiser.


7 December 1941
Hull 533 was three months into its construction when the nation learned that U.S. military installations had been attacked by Imperial Japan on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, most notably at Pearl Harbor. In the days that followed, Japanese attacks were expanded to American, British, Dutch, and Australian interests across the Pacific. America became a nation at war.



USS California BB-44 is engulfed in an inferno of smoke and flame at left, while at center Oklahoma BB-37 lies capsized next to Maryland BB-46 on battleship row. Harbor tug Nokomis YT-142 moves in to assist on the morning of 7 December 1941.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection



The sign for Way "E" at Cramp Shipbuilding Company in January 1942. Hull 533 is shown as USS Wilkes-Barre.
-photo from NARA Records Group 19-LCM


Original 1942 Hull 533 plans from Cramp Shipbuilding Company.
-from Brent Jones collection


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By July 1942, the hull of Wilkes-Barre has taken the shape of a cruiser.
-photo from NARA Records Group 19-LCM

7 August 1942
Eight months after declaring war, the United States launched its first offensive against Japan. First light brought the kickoff of a pivotal invasion of the strategic Solomon Islands of Guadalcanal, Florida, and Tulagi. Three U.S. heavy cruisers took the lead in preparatory shore bombardment. USS Vincennes CA-44, USS Quincy CA-39, and USS Astoria CA-34.



USS Vincennes CA-44 fires her forward main battery in misting rain at dawn on 7 August 1942. The outline of Guadalcanal is just visible in the early morning light, as is the ship's camouflage pattern. This image was taken from HMAS Australia.
-Royal Australian Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

8-9 August 1942
In night action off Guadalcanal near Savo Island, the U.S. Cruisers Vincennes, Quincy, and Astoria were all sunk by a Japanese force along with the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra. Astoria CA-34, "Nasty Asty" to her crew, was hit at least 65 times by enemy shells. Her surviving crew worked through the night and morning to save their ship, but shortly after noon the next day, she gave in to overwhelming fires and slipped beneath the surface. Astoria was the last ship in the battle to sink.



One of the last photos of USS Astoria CA-34, 7 August 1942. Within two days she would be in the depths of what came to be known as "Iron Bottom Sound."
-RAN photo from Brent Jones collection

For over two months the American public was not informed of the losses at Savo. Meanwhile work continued on the two Cleveland-class cruisers at Cramp, Miami CL-89 and Wilkes-Barre CL-90. Although Cramp was also busy building submarines and auxiliaries, the shipyard's capacity for cruisers was only two at a time the keel-laying on Oklahoma City CL-91 had to wait until CL-89 was launched.


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On 13 October 1942 the American public learned of the losses in the Battle of Savo Island. By that time American progress in the Guadalcanal campaign was deemed sufficient to lessen the impact of the three lost heavy cruisers.
-from Brent Jones collection

USS Astoria had been a proud ship, serving with distinction throughout her career. In the early days of World War II, she performed screen duty for American carriers during the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and she went down fighting at Guadalcanal. It was only fitting that the Navy would christen a new USS Astoriaalong with other cruisers lost early in the war.

In late October 1942, the hull of CL-90 was renamed from Wilkes-Barre to Astoria to commemorate the sacrifices of Nasty Asty and her crew. Other "vengeance ships" began to slide down the ways in an American Navy that would come to dwarf its pre-war predecessor in scale.



On 8 December 1942, one year to the day after the declaration of war on Imperial Japan, USS Miami became the first WWII cruiser launched by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company. In the next shipway, USS Astoria neared her own launch.
-photo from Brent Jones collection



ID buttons worn by Cramp employees who built USS Astoria CL-90, Walter Mikus and Sal Indelicato.
-courtesy of Joe Mikus and Sal Indelicato


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Sal Indelicato (at right) with buddies from Cramp Shipbuilding Company in 1943.
-photo courtesy of Sal Indelicato

6 March 1943
After 18 months of construction, the completed hull of Astoria was launched into the Delaware River. She was sponsored by Mrs. Peggy Lucas, wife of the editor of the Astorian-Budget newspaper and a direct descendant of John Jacob Astor.


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Ship sponsor Peggy Lucas breaks a champagne bottle across the bow of the new Astoria at Cramp Shipyard, 6 March 1943.
-photo from NARA Records Group 80-G


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Cramp hull 533-Astoria slides down the way into the Delaware River, 6 March 1943.
-photo from NARA Records Group 80-G


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The launching of Astoria commemorated in a 1943 Cramp wartime publication.
-from Brent Jones collection


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Astoria in the Delaware River shortly after launching. Note the absence of gun turrets, masts, and much of her superstructure.
-photo from NARA Records Group 80-G


Once in the water, construction shifted to finishing out Astoria's superstructure. She was still fourteen months from completion and commissioning. Other ships were being built in unprecedented numbers, including more Cleveland-class cruisers.

Across the river from Astoria at New York Ship, CL-103 was launched several months later with the reassigned name of Wilkes-Barre. Up at the Bethlehem Fore River Yard in Quincy, MA, Pasadena CL-65 and Springfield CL-66 were also nearing completion. These four Cleveland-class cruisers would ultimately serve together as Cruiser Division 17 throughout 1945.



The launchings of future Cruiser Division 17 ships are commemorated on these philatelic envelopes.
-Brent Jones collection



Continue to CHAPTER 2: PLANKOWNERS

CLICK PHOTOS TO ADVANCE TO NEXT CHAPTER

U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History.

Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984

Jones, Brent. Private document collection.

MIGHTY NINETY: USS ASTORIA CL-90 cruise book. Unk. publisher, 1946.

Mikus, Joe. Private artifact collection.

Schmitt, Ron and Indelicato, Sal. Private photo and artifact collections.


USS Astoria (CA-34)


Figure 1: USS Astoria (CA-34) entering Honolulu harbor during her shakedown cruise, 9 July 1934. Photographed by Tai Sing Loo. Donated by the US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 2: USS Astoria (CA-34) anchored off Long Beach, California, during the 1930s. US Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 3: USS Astoria (CA-34) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 July 1941. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 4: USS Astoria (CA-34) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 11 July 1941. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 5: USS Astoria (CA-34) arriving at Pearl Harbor with Task Force 17, 27 May 1942, following the Battle of Coral Sea and shortly before the Battle of Midway. Her crew is in whites, paraded at quarters on the forecastle, and a motor launch is being lowered by her port boat crane. Photographed by Photographer 3rd Class T.E. Collins, USN. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the US National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 6: USS Astoria (CA-34) operating in Hawaiian waters during battle practice, 8 July 1942. She appears to be recovering floatplanes from off her starboard side. Note booms rigged below the forward superstructure to tow aircraft recovery mats, and starboard crane swung out. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 7: USS Astoria (CA-34) firing her after eight-inch guns, during battle practice in Hawaiian waters, circa 8 July 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 8: USS Astoria (CA-34) (center), and USS Minneapolis (CA-36) (left), moored near Aiea Landing, Pearl Harbor, in late June 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 9: Battle of Midway, June 1942. An SBD-3 scout bomber from Bombing Squadron Three (VB-3), probably flown by Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Paul A. Holmberg, ditches near USS Astoria (CA-34) at about 1342 hours on 4 June 1942. This was one of two VB-3 planes that ditched near Astoria after they were unable to land on the damaged USS Yorktown (CV-5). A PBY is flying nearby, in right center. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 10: Crew of 5-inch No. 3 gun (2nd gun from forward, starboard side) in action during gunnery practice, circa spring 1942, on board USS Astoria (CA-34). Note anti-flash head-dress and communications gear worn by the man operating the fuze setter, bearing markings on the gun's splinter shield, and old-style battle helmets. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 11: Guadalcanal-Tulagi Invasion, August 1942. USS Astoria (CA-34) joins Task Force 16 as it approaches Tulagi, about 6 August 1942. Official US Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a major port in Oregon, USS Astoria (CA-34) was a 9,950-ton New Orleans class heavy cruiser that was built at the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington, and was commissioned on 28 April 1934. The ship was approximately 588 feet long and 61 feet wide, had a top speed of 32.7 knots, and had a crew of 899 officers and men. Astoria was armed with nine 8-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, and several smaller caliber anti-aircraft guns.

After a shakedown cruise that took her across the Pacific to Australia, Astoria was assigned to the US Navy’s Scouting Force. She spent the rest of the 1930s participating in patrols and naval exercises in the eastern Pacific and in the Caribbean. After concluding a major naval exercise in 1939, Astoria was assigned to carry the remains of former Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Saito from the United States back to Japan. This was a gesture of gratitude to the Japanese after they returned the body of the late US Ambassador to Japan, Edgar A. Bancroft, back to the United States in one of their warships in 1926. After this mission was completed in late April 1939, Astoria visited ports in China, the Philippines, and Guam before resuming her regular patrol duties. As Japan and the United States drifted closer to war in the fall of 1941, Astoria escorted a troop transport to Manila in the Philippines. When war finally did erupt between the United States and Japan on 7 December 1941, Astoria was at sea escorting a task force that was carrying aircraft to the American base at Midway Island. Also in December 1941, Astoria was assigned to the task force that was to relieve the beleaguered American garrison on Wake Island, but that mission was later canceled when it became obvious that the island was going to fall to the Japanese.

During the first half of 1942, Astoria escorted aircraft carrier task forces, working primarily with the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). From February to May 1942, Astoria was assigned to escort duties in the south Pacific. She escorted aircraft carriers during the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May and then returned to Pearl Harbor in time to join the US Task Force that fought in the Battle of Midway one month later. After USS Yorktown was seriously damaged on 4 June during the Battle of Midway, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher transferred his flag to Astoria.

After the US Navy won the Battle of Midway, Astoria returned to Pearl Harbor for an overhaul. Astoria then participated in the American invasion of the Solomon Islands. On 7 and 8 August 1942, Astoria provided gunfire support for the US Marines landing on Guadalcanal and Tulagi. She also acted as an escort for the amphibious task force and guarded against Japanese aircraft. But on the night of 8-9 August 1942, Astoria was on patrol to the east of Savo Island with the cruisers USS Vincennes (CA-44) and USS Quincy (CA-39). The American ships were attacked by a larger Japanese task force made up of seven cruisers and a destroyer. At around 0150, the Japanese warships began firing at the three American cruisers. The US warships returned fire and after four Japanese salvos, Astoria was undamaged. But the fifth Japanese salvo hit Astoria squarely amidships, causing an enormous fire. Subsequent hits on Astoria destroyed Turret No. 1 and caused a major fire in the ship’s aircraft hanger. Astoria burned brightly in the night, making her a clear and visible target for all of the Japanese warships.

Despite this, she did manage to hit some of the Japanese warships with her guns. But at around 0225, Astoria lost all power and lay dead in the water. The cruiser had been hit by roughly 65 enemy shells and her crew was battling several serious fires throughout the ship. By 0300, approximately 400 men, including 70 wounded, assembled on the forecastle deck and started a bucket brigade to battle the blazes on the gun deck. The more seriously wounded were cared for by doctors in the captain’s cabin, but they eventually had to be moved when the deck beneath them grew too hot. The crew then moved the wounded to the ship’s forecastle. Fortunately, the Japanese warships withdrew, ending the battle.

At approximately 0445, the destroyer USS Bagley (DD-386) came alongside Astoria’s starboard bow and began taking off the cruiser’s wounded crewmembers. But as dawn approached, Astoria still remained afloat, despite the horrific damage she had sustained. Bagley returned to the heavy cruiser and pulled alongside her starboard quarter. A salvage crew of approximately 325 men was placed on board the ship in an effort to save her. Several other American ships also were sent to assist Astoria. But the fires below decks were out of control and the salvage crew on the main deck could hear explosions going off deep within the ship. Astoria began listing badly (first to 10 degrees and then 15) and, as the list increased, water poured into the shell holes that were made by the Japanese guns. Between the fires that were still burning and the increasing list, Captain William Greenman assembled his men on Astoria’s stern and gave the order to abandon ship. After all the men were evacuated from the ship and picked up by nearby American destroyers, Astoria turned over on her port beam and then settled by the stern. She finally slipped beneath the waves at around 1215. USS Astoria lost 216 men killed and 186 wounded. Given the amount of punishment the ship sustained, it’s amazing the number of casualties was not higher.

The US Navy simply was out fought during the Battle of Savo Island and it was a tragic loss for this nation. But ships like Astoria made a valiant stand at Guadalcanal and there would be several more months of vicious fighting before the US Navy finally forced the Japanese Navy to give up the Solomon Islands.


USS Astoria (CA-34) - History

World War II History 1941-1945
Click on the sections below to learn more about the wartime history of USS ASTORIA CL-90:


Chapter 1: Beginnings
Construction of USS ASTORIA CL-90 through Launching, September 1941-March 1943.


Chapter 2: Plankowners
Commissioning and Trials, March 1943-June 1944.


Chapter 3: Shakedown Cruise
Mighty Ninety's shakedown off Bermuda and Trinidad, June-July 1944.


Chapter 4: Mouth of the Dragon
ASTORIA CL-90 returns from her shakedown, July 1944.


Chapter 5: "Golden Gate in '48"
From Philadelphia to San Francisco, August-October 1944.

Chapter 6: The Mare Island Photographs
"Ready for her closeup," 21 October 1944.


Chapter 7: Here Be Dragons
Heading toward the Pacific War, October-November 1944.

Chapter 8: Reporting for Duty
Joining the Fast Carrier Task Force, December 1944.

Chapter 9: OPERATION LOVE III
Mighty Ninety's first sortie: the Mindoro landings, December 1944.


Chapter 10: The Storm
The Fast Carrier Task Force steams through the heart of a Pacific typhoon, December 1944.


Chapter 11: Home for the Holidays
Resting the fleet at Ulithi, December 1944.


Chapter 12: OPERATION MIKE I
Mighty Ninety returns to the Philippines for the Luzon landings, January 1945.


Chapter 13: OPERATION GRATITUDE part 1
Task Force 38 raids Japanese shipping in the South China Sea, January 1945.


Chapter 14: OPERATION GRATITUDE part 2
Task Force 38 is attacked off Formosa, January 1945.

Chapter 15: MOG MOG
Recreation, Inspection and Awards Jan-Feb 1945.


Chapter 16: OPERATION JAMBOREE
Strikes on the Tokyo Plain, February 1945.



Chapter 17: OPERATION DETACHMENT part 1
ASTORIA CL-90 at Iwo Jima on D+2, 21 February 1945.



Chapter 18: OPERATION DETACHMENT part 2
ASTORIA CL-90 at Iwo Jima on D+3, 22 February 1945.

Chapter 19: OPERATION JAMBOREE part 2
Return to the Tokyo Plain, late February 1945.

OPERATION ICEBERG part 1
The Mighty Ninety's heaviest action, off the Japanese Home Islands 18-21 March 1945.


OPERATION ICEBERG part 2
Task Force 58 supports Okinawa operations, late March 1945.

OPERATION ICEBERG part 3
Continued support of Okinawa operations, April 1945.


OPERATION ICEBERG part 4
Task Force 58 spends its third consecutive month at sea, May 1945.


Leyte Liberty
Rest and repair in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands, June 1945.

The Home Island Raids
ASTORIA and the fast carriers in Japanese waters, July-August 1945.


UNCLE SUGAR ABLE
Mighty Ninety comes home, September 1945.


BACK TO USS ASTORIA HOMEPAGE


Indice

Entrata in servizio e periodo interbellico Modifica

La nave fu impostata il 1º settembre 1930 nei cantieri navali della Puget Sound Naval Shipyard di Bremerton nello Stato di Washington, per poi essere varata il 16 dicembre 1933 con il nome di Astoria in onore dell'omonima città dell'Oregon madrina del varo fu Leila C. McKay, una discendente di uno dei partecipanti della spedizione che fondò il primo nucleo della città di Astoria nel 1811. La nave entrò quindi in servizio il 24 aprile 1934 [3] .

Nel corso dell'estate del 1934 l'Astoria intraprese una lunga crociera addestrativa nell'Oceano Pacifico, visitando gli arcipelaghi delle Hawaii, delle Samoa e delle Figi oltre ai porti di Sydney e Noumea prima di rientrare a San Francisco in settembre. L'incrociatore fu quindi assegnato in forza alla Cruiser Division 7 (CruDiv 7) della Scouting Force di base a San Pedro, passando alla CruDiv 6 nel febbraio 1937 [2] la nave trascorse il periodo interbellico impegnata in manovre addestrative di routine principalmente nel teatro del Pacifico. All'inizio del 1939 l'Astoria partecipò a una grande manovra addestrativa annuale nel teatro delle Indie Occidentali, per poi fare rotta per Annapolis dove imbarcò le spoglie dell'ambasciatore giapponese negli Stati Uniti Saito Hirosi, recentemente deceduto, al fine di riportarle in patria: un gesto di rispetto per ripagare il rimpatrio, nel 1925, del corpo dell'ambasciatore statunitense in Giappone Edgar Bancroft da parte di un incrociatore giapponese. L'Astoria salpò quindi da Annapolis il 18 marzo 1939, dirigendo via canale di Panama a Honolulu dove, il 4 aprile, furono presi a bordo la moglie e i due figli dell'ambasciatore Saito appena arrivati dal Giappone su una nave passeggeri l'incrociatore raggiunse quindi Yokohama il 17 aprile, presenziando alle cerimonie funebri per l'ambasciatore [3] .

L'Astoria lasciò il Giappone il 26 aprile, raggiungendo tre giorni dopo Shanghai dove prese a bordo per una visita di cortesia il comandante dell'United States Asiatic Fleet, viceammiraglio Harry Yarnell in seguito, la nave visitò Hong Kong e le Filippine prima di fare rotta per la base di Guam il 21 maggio. Da qui l'incrociatore partecipò alle operazioni di ricerca dello scrittore e avventuriero Richard Halliburton, scomparso in mare mentre tentava la traversata da Shanghai a San Francisco su una giunca le ricerche furono abbandonate il 29 maggio senza aver ottenuto esito, e la nave rientrò quindi a San Pedro. Nell'ottobre 1939 l'Astoria fu assegnato al distaccamento delle Hawaii, facendo di Pearl Harbor la sua nuova base a partire dall'8 aprile 1941 e fino all'11 luglio seguente la nave fu sottoposta a un ciclo di lavori di manutenzione presso il cantiere Mare Island Naval Shipyard di Vallejo in California, nel corso dei quali l'armamento antiaereo fu potenziato. Dopo il rientro a Pearl Harbor, la nave operò nelle acque tra Oahu e l'Atollo di Midway in manovre di addestramento e pattugliamento, scortando anche in ottobre una nave da trasporto a Manila prima di rientrare nelle Hawaii [3] .

La seconda guerra mondiale Modifica

Il 5 dicembre 1941 l'Astoria salpò da Pearl Harbor di scorta alla portaerei USS Lexington, diretta a Midway con un carico di aerei per la locale guarnigione quando, il 7 dicembre successivo, le portaerei giapponesi attaccarono la flotta statunitense a Pearl Harbor, l'Astoria si trovava 700 miglia a occidente delle Hawaii con il resto del suo gruppo: subito richiamata, la formazione compì un'infruttuosa ricerca delle portaerei nipponiche a sud-ovest di Oahu prima di rientrare a Pearl Harbor il 13 dicembre. Il 16 dicembre l'incrociatore prese il mare come scorta a un convoglio di truppe dirette all'Isola di Wake, ma la missione fu annullata il 23 dicembre visto che l'isola ormai era prossima a cadere in mano ai giapponesi. Dal 31 dicembre l'Astoria scortò la portaerei USS Saratoga in una sua sortita da Pearl Harbor, ma l'11 gennaio 1942 la portaerei riportò gravi danni dopo essere stata silurata dal sommergibile giapponese I-6 al largo delle Hawaii e l'intera formazione dovette rientrare alla base [3] [2] .

Il 19 gennaio 1942 l'incrociatore lasciò Pearl Harbor insieme alla Lexington per condurre una crociera offensiva nella zona compresa tra il Kingman Reef e l'Isola Christmas, ma l'azione fu annullata il 23 gennaio dopo che la petroliera assegnata alla formazione per il rifornimento di carburante fu silurata da un sommergibile giapponese. Il 16 febbraio seguente l'Astoria salpò nuovamente da Pearl Harbor, questa volta di scorta alla portaerei USS Yorktown diretta ad attaccare la nuova base allestita dai giapponesi a Rabaul nel Pacifico meridionale la missione fu poi modificata in un attacco aereo il 10 marzo alle teste di ponte allestite dai giapponesi sulla costa nord-orientale della Nuova Guinea a Lae e Salamaua: nel corso dell'azione l'Astoria coprì il fianco alla formazione di portaerei impegnata nel raid e contemporaneamente protesse l'arrivo a Noumea di un convoglio di truppe statunitensi [3] [2] .

A partire dal 14 marzo 1942 l'Astoria pattugliò l'area del Mar dei Coralli insieme ad altre unità statunitensi e australiane, facendo tappa a Noumea per rifornirsi. Tra il 4 e l'8 maggio l'incrociatore fece da scorta alla portaerei Yorktown durante gli eventi della battaglia del Mar dei Coralli con la flotta giapponese, fornendo uno sbarramento di fuoco antiaereo contro gli attacchi dei velivoli nemici e rivendicando l'abbattimento di quattro di essi la nave rientrò quindi a Pearl Harbor il 27 maggio. L'Astoria prese nuovamente il mare il 30 maggio seguente, sempre come parte del gruppo di scorta della portaerei Yorktown, dopo notizie circa un imminente grande attacco giapponese all'atollo di Midway l'azione sfociò quindi, tra il 4 e il 6 giugno, nella decisiva battaglia delle Midway: l'incrociatore fu ancora una volta chiamato a fornire fuoco antiaereo di protezione contro gli attacchi dei velivoli nipponici, e dopo che la Yorktown rimase gravemente danneggiata prese a bordo il comandante della formazione, ammiraglio Frank Fletcher, che da qui diresse il resto della battaglia [4] . La nave rientrò a Pearl Harbor il 13 giugno per sottoporsi a un ciclo di lavori di manutenzione nei cantieri locali [3] [2] .

L'affondamento Modifica

All'inizio di agosto 1942 l'Astoria fu assegnato alla flotta di invasione statunitense diretta ad attaccare le isole di Tulagi e Guadalcanal nell'arcipelago delle Isole Salomone parte delle forze di supporto all'assalto anfibio, la mattina del 7 agosto l'incrociatore protesse con i suoi grossi calibri lo sbarco dei marines statunitensi sulla costa nord di Guadalcanal, respingendo anche alcuni attacchi aerei giapponesi alle navi da trasporto [3] .

Nella notte tra l'8 e il 9 agosto seguenti, una formazione di incrociatori giapponesi diresse all'attacco della flotta statunitense che stazionava a nord di Guadalcanal l'Astoria stava in quel momento pattugliando le acque a oriente dell'Isola di Savo in squadra con gli incrociatori USS Vincennes e USS Quincy, e finì con il ritrovarsi all'improvviso coinvolto in una violenta battaglia notturna. A partire alle 01:50 del 9 agosto l'Astoria aprì il fuoco sugli incrociatori giapponesi salvo interrompere brevemente il tiro per paura di aver scambiato per nemici una formazione amica la nave fu quindi centrata dalla quinta salva sparata dagli incrociatori giapponesi ai suoi danni: almeno due proiettili di grosso calibro colpirono l'unità a mezza nave, mettendo fuori uso una delle torri dei cannoni da 203 mm e appiccando il fuoco all'hangar degli idrovolanti di bordo a poppa dell'unità. Le fiamme dell'incendio resero l'incrociatore un bersaglio perfettamente illuminato nel buio della notte, e una grandinata di colpi d'artiglieria prese ad abbattersi sull'Astoria: la nave incassò numerosi colpi, perdendo di velocità, vedendo aumentare gli incendi a bordo e trovandosi con buona parte dell'armamento fuori uso anche se la centrale di direzione del tiro era stata messa fuori combattimento, l'Astoria continuò a fare fuoco e con la sua dodicesima e ultima salva riuscì a mettere fuori uso una delle torri di artiglieria dell'incrociatore giapponese Chokai [3] [2] [5] .

Dopo aver incassato non meno di 65 colpi di grosso calibro, l'incrociatore cercò di allontanarsi dalla battaglia procedendo verso sud i membri dell'equipaggio, per gran parte isolati sul cassero di prua, lottarono per ore per soffocare i numerosi incendi a bordo. Alle 04:45 il cacciatorpediniere USS Bagley riuscì a portarsi, con un'abile manovra, di controbordo all'Astoria e ad evacuare i superstiti dell'equipaggio e i numerosi feriti dal cassero di prua, manovrando poi per andare a soccorrere altri superstiti isolati dalle fiamme nella sezione di poppa dell'incrociatore. Nonostante i danni gravissimi la nave rimaneva a galla e, allo spuntare dell'alba, il comandante dell'unità William Greenman tornò a bordo con un equipaggio di fortuna di 325 uomini con cui tentare di salvare l'incrociatore: le falle nello scafo furono turate e il cacciatorpediniere USS Hopkins tentò di prendere a rimorchio la nave intorno alle 07:00, mentre un altro cacciatorpediniere, il USS Wilson, si affiancava all'incrociatore per pompare altra acqua sugli incendi che continuavano a divampare a bordo [3] [2] [6] .

Nonostante i numerosi sforzi, il destino della nave era ormai segnato: intorno alle 11:00 un nuovo violento incendio riprese vita nei ponti interni dello scafo, e varie esplosioni interne furono avvertite dagli uomini sopracoperta lo sbandamento dello scafo prese ad accentuarsi, mentre le riparazioni delle falle cedevano una dopo l'altra. Il comandante Greenman dette quindi l'ordine di abbandono della nave, e l'equipaggio fu preso a bordo dal sopraggiunto cacciatorpediniere USS Buchanan lo scafo dell'Astoria si piegò lentamente sul lato di sinistra, per poi capovolgersi e affondare intorno alle 12:15 nella posizione 9° 12' S, 159° 52' E [3] [2] [7] .


Wreck of USS Astoria (CA-34)

Laid down at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in September 1930 as the lead ship in her class of Heavy Cruisers, USS Astoria commissioned into US Navy service in April 1934 as a member of the US Pacific Fleet. Operating primarily with Cruiser Divisions 6 & 7 out of San Pedro for the balance of the 1930’s, Astoria and her crew conducted regular deployments and took part in several Fleetwide training exercises and war games known as Fleet Problems in both the Pacific and Atlantic through 1939. Reassigned to Pearl Harbor as relations between the United States and Japan continued to worsen, the Astoria was en route to Midway Atoll when word came of the Surprise Attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of war with Japan. Immediately dispatched to hunt down the Japanese strike force, Astoria began what turned into two straight months of intensive patrols and abortive missions around Hawaii, frustrated by Japanese Submarines and the lack of fleet auxiliaries.

February 1942 found the US Navy on solid enough footing to go on the offensive, and Astoria departed Hawaii escorting Task Force 17 bound for the South Pacific, where US carriers conducted air raids in New Guinea and the surrounding areas. Subsequently involved in the Battle of Coral Sea in early May, Astoria returned to Pearl Harbor immediately after the battle escorting the damaged USS Yorktown and put to sea less than a month later to again meet the Japanese Fleet, this time off of Midway Atoll. Screening the Yorktown during the Battle of Midway, Astoria became the Flagship of TF17 after several torpedo and bomb hits knocked Yorktown out of action and left her dead in the water. Standing by the battered carrier until she was torpedoed and sunk two days after the battle, Astoria returned to Pearl Harbor where she spent over a month being upgraded and repaired at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard for further action.

Reassigned to Task Group 62.3, Fire Support Group L, Astoria stood out of Pearl Harbor for the final time and shaped a course for the Solomon Islands with orders to support the first American amphibious invasions of the Second World War at Guadalcanal and Tulagi Islands. Finding little land-based resistance and only moderate airborne opposition to the landings on August 7th & 8th, Astoria joined her sisterships USS Vincennes (CA-44) and USS Quincy (CA-39) on the night of August 9th on a patrol loop at the Northern entrance to Ironbottom Sound. Shortly before 0200hrs the crew of Astoria watched flashes and flares erupting to the South, which were incorrectly assumed to be part of fighting on Guadalcanal itself. In reality, the crew of Astoria were watching a powerful Japanese Cruiser and Destroyer force inflicting a savage beating on the HMAS Canberra and the USS Chicago (CA-29) Allied Cruisers operating to the South of Astoria’s position. That same Japanese force then split in two separate formations and steamed directly for the Astoria and her sisters, who were all totally unaware of the approaching danger.

Any illusions of a routine night patrol aboard the Astoria were dispelled at 0150hrs, when she and her sisters were illuminated by Japanese searchlights. While the duty officer elected to summon the then-sleeping Captain William Greenman to the bridge, Astoria’s Gunnery Officer took matters into his own hands and ordered all weapons to open fire. After barking out several rounds at the source of the searchlights, Captain Greenman ordered all guns to cease firing until the identity of the vessels could be determined. However, by this time Japanese gunners had taken their aim on Astoria and began sending dozens of shells hurtling towards the Cruiser. Bracketed by the first rounds of enemy fire, Astoria was soon struck across her midship aircraft hangars, which quickly became a gasoline-fueled inferno as her wrecked search planes dumped out their fuel loads and provided a brightly lit target in the moonless night. By the time Captain Greenman ordered the ship to resume firing and accelerate to maneuvering speed, Astoria was already doomed. Dozens of Japanese shells of Cruiser and Destroyer Caliber were soon slamming into Astoria’s superstructure and hull, knocking out her forward gun mount, gun director and severely damaging her bridge. Maneuvering frantically to avoid the rain of shells hitting her from both sides, Astoria narrowly avoided a collision with Quincy as she cut across her bow but managed to send off a full 12 salvos of 8-inch shells before turning Southwards to open the distance between herself and her assailants. Fires forward eventually made steering from the bridge impossible and as control was passed to the midship conn around 0225hrs the Japanese attack ceased as suddenly as it had started.

Slowing to a crawl with more than 65 shells in her hull, Astoria’s crew waited for the Japanese to finish the ship off but by 0300hrs it was clear that the enemy had withdrawn. Astoria’s crew immediately began firefighting efforts, resorting to a bucket brigade since the ships water main had been destroyed. Her crew were able to make steady headway against the fires and at 0445hrs the Astoria was joined by the USS Bagley (DD-386) which sent pumps and firefighting equipment aboard. By 0700hrs topside efforts had extinguished all fires and pumps seemed to be making headway against the heavy flooding below decks, so the Astoria was ordered towed to shallow waters off Guadalcanal. While several Destroyers attempted to get the battered and waterlogged Cruiser under tow, several fires burning deep within Astoria’s hull began to grow out of control. After 1000hrs crews topside began hearing numerous explosions below deck, signifying that the flames had located one of Astoria’s ammunition magazines. Shortly thereafter Astoria began listing to Port with increasing speed and swamping by the Stern, allowing water to enter her hull through the topside shell holes and flood more compartments. With her Port rail slipping underwater at Noon and her list still increasing, Captain Greenman passed the order to abandon ship onto awaiting Destroyers. After rolling fully onto her Port side, USS Astoria sank by the stern at this location at 1216hrs on August 9th, 1942.

For her actions on the date of her loss, USS Astoria received her third and final Battle Star for World War Two service.


Watch the video: Cruisers USS Biloxi u0026 USS Astoria join the. Navy