The USS Cleveland, CL-55

This article appeared in the Mid-June 1949 issue of Our Navy magazine.

1942

THE USS CLEVELAND, 10,000-ton light cruiser and name-ship of her class first displayed her commission pennant and the National Ensign at Philadelphia 15 June 1942. Since that date her performance through more than three years of war was a credit to these symbols of her nation.

Almost as arduous as combat was the training necessary to produce a first-rate fighting ship. Under the command of Captain (now Rear Admiral) E.W. Burrough, an awkward crew sailed her during the first days in Chesapeake Bay. Again and again the boatswain's pipe sent all hands to their battle-stations; and when it wasn't general quarters, there were abandon ship, collision, fire and damage control drills to keep them busy. Actual firing on towed sleeves and drones prepared anti-aircraft gunners for enemy planes that would come diving in. The main battery turret and director crews practiced with twelve six inch guns to perfect the technique of surface fire and gunfire support for landing operations.

Then followed a full power run from the Chesapeake Bay back to Philadelphia. The 100,000 horsepower steam driven turbines and four twelve-foot screws propelled the ship at a crisp thirty-three knots. After a final tune-up, she returned to the Chesapeake for more training and eventual assignment to the fighting fleet.

The assignment came. October 10, 1942, the CLEVELAND set out for Bermuda, B.W.I., and anchored there after several days' steaming. Stripping ship foretold the imminence of battle. All non-essential inflammables - linoleum, furniture, paint - were removed to minimize fire hazards. And when the CLEVELAND departed two weeks later, valuable records, secret information and personal effects were left behind. Two days out she rendezvoused with a force steaming eastward to invade North Africa.

November 7, after zigzagging for more than a week through submarine-frequented waters, the force split. The CLEVELAND and RANGER were ordered to cover the landing of General Patton's troops near Fedala, French Morocco, on "D" day, November 8. These troops augmented the drive against "Desert Fox" Rommel and his famed Afrika Corps.

Following "D" day the two ships continued to patrol about thirty miles off Casablanca. On the second day of this patrol, CLEVELAND lookouts spotted four torpedo wakes off the port beam. Radical maneuvers avoided three. Two hundred yards away, the fourth dove sharply, passed under the stern, and surfaced on the starboard side.

Hostilities in French Morocco ceased November 11, and the ship once more joined the main group en route to Bermuda. Spending only one night in Great Sound, the ship got under way for Norfolk, Virginia, where she underwent necessary alterations from November 24 to December 5. On the latter date, the CLEVELAND, the WICHITA, three escort carriers and five destroyers sailed from Lynnhaven Roads to join Admiral Halsey's forces in the South Pacific.

After passing through the Panama Canal, the group set a great circle course for New Caledonia, and Januray 3, 1943, anchored at Noumea. Ten days later, the CLEVELAND proceeded to Havannah Harbor, Efate, New Hebrides, her first base in the South Pacific.