The USS Cleveland, CL-55

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

1944

January 30, 1944, Admiral Merrill came aboard to award Captain A. G. Shepherd a Navy Cross and the Executive officer, Commander (now captain) E. Von Kleek, the Legion of Merit for the action November first and second, 1943.

February 13 to 18, 1944, the CLEVELAND patrolled between Truk and Green Island as American forces captured the latter.

During the first part of March the same force effected, without challenge, unprecedented westerly penetration into the Japanese South Pacific Empire. "It looks like the Japs have abandoned their forces in the South Pacific and left them to subsist on Victory Gardens," was the official comment following this uneventful sortie.

From March 17 to 23 the CLEVELAND supported the troops who captured Emirau Island.

May 20, 1944, the ship unexpectedly received return fire during a practice bombardment of live targets in the Shortland area. Three seconds after the CLEVELAND'S first salvo hit, the Japanese countered with a salvo that landed dead ahead. Though succeding fire straddled the ship, she silenced the shore batteries and escaped unscathed.

This "practice bombardment" of the Shortlands was only part of extensive training which prepared the ship for the long, monotonous Marianas campaign.

June 14, 1944, the CLEVELAND began a series of bombardments which ended only with the capture of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. As the guns blasted night and day to soften these potential B-29 bases, the crew got only snatches of sleep between the firing, loading ammunition, and G.Q.'s sounded at the approach of enemy night bombers.

Operation for a few days with Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's fast carrier task force relieved the tedium of the Marianas bombardments. The CLEVELAND was present when this force sought the First Battle of the Phillipine Sea. Though this action (which included the famed Marianas Turkey Shoot) was fought primarily by carrier-based planes, CLEVELAND gunners got two Jap torpedo bombers.

After delivering more support fire at Saipan, the ship bombarded for the capture of Guam, the first former U. S. possesion retaken from the Japs.

Prior to and following July 24, the CLEVELAND supported the landing on Tinian. Here, well-camouflaged Japanese shore batteries opened fire as landing craft made a feint at the beach. Fire from all ships present converged to silence the Japs. So heavy was the fire from the CLEVELAND'S batteries that a nearby ship reported her hit and burning. Several companion vessels suffered damage in this action; the CLEVELAND was again straddled but not hit.

The ship returned to Guam July 30, to support troops who had already captured the heart of the island. With Americans again in control, native Chamorros, laden with their household effects, returned to their homes.

As part of a newly formed task force, the CLEVELAND steamed to Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, where on August 14 Captain (now Rear Admiral) H.G. Hopwood took command of the ship. Then back to the old haunts of the Solomons.

Following a few weeks' rest and provisioning, the ship set out to cover the invasion of the southern Palau Islands. September 12 to 29, she supported the capture of Peleiu, Anguar and Ngesbus Islands. Six-foot Japanese Imperial Marines garrisoned Peleliu, so American troops encountered their fiercest resistance since Tarawa. Throughout this operation as well as the Marianas campaign, the CLEVELAND'S two catapault seaplanes spotted gunfire and flew reconnaissance missions.

As the ship weighed anchor after three days in the Admiralties, morale was high among the ship's twenty month Pacific veterans. They were homeward bound.

On a short full power run between the Hawaiian Islands and the West Coast, the ship achieved the same thirty-three knots she made long before in the Atlantic. The number of rounds fired through each barrel had well exceeded the normal life of the guns; the crew had performed major alterations which in normal times required yard facilities; but the CLEVELAND was still ready for battle as she slid into drydock at San Pedro, California, October 21, 1944.

Each member of the crew received a twenty-three day leave while yard workers, ably asisted by the ship's force, performed the overhaul.