USS Pennsylvania War Cruise
From offical US Navy Files by Jake Jaekel
At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, the Pennsylvania was in drydock in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. She was one of the first ships in the harbor to open fire as enemy dive bombers and torpedo planes roared out of the high overcast. They did not succeed in repeated attempts to torpedo the cassion of the drydock but the Pennsylvania and the surrounding dock areas were severely strafed. The crew of one 5-inch gun mount was wiped out when a bomb struck the starboard side of her boat deck and exploded inside casemate 9. The destroyers Cassin and Downes, just forward of the Pennsylvania in drydock were seriously damaged by bomb hits. The Pennsylvania was pockmarked by flying fragments. A part of a torpedo tube from destroyer Downes, about 1000 pounds in weight, was blown onto the forecastle of the Pennsylvania. She had 15 men killed, 14 missing in action, and 38 men wounded.
On 20 December 1941, Pennsylvania sailed for San Francisco, arriving 29 December 1941. She underwent repairs until 30 March 1942. From 14 April to 1 August 1942, Pennsylvania conducted extensive training operations and patrol along the coast of California, intervened by overhaul at San Francisco. During this duty, 4 June 1942, Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet, held brief ceremonies aboard Pennsylvania to present the Distinguished Service Medal to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz for exceptionally meritorious service as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet since 31 December 1941.
On 1 August 1942, Pennsylvania departed San Francisco for Pearl Harbor, arriving 14 August. She conducted gunnery exercises and took part in carrier task force guard tactics in the Hawaiian area. On 4 October, Pennsylvania returned to San Francisco, remaining for overhaul which was completed by 5 February 1943. She then conducted refresher training and air defense patrol off the coast of California. On 23 April Pennsylvania sailed for Alaska to take part in the Aleutian Campaign.
On 30 April, Pennsylvania arrived at Cold Bay, Alaska. During 11–12 May, she engaged in shore bombardment of Holtz Bay and Chicago Harbor, Attu, in support of the landings. As she retired from Attu on 12 May, a patrol plane warned that a torpedo wake was headed for Pennsylvania. She maneuvered at full speed as the torpedo passed safely astern. Destroyer Edwards teamed with Farragut to hunt down the attacker. After ten hours of relentless depth charge attacks, submarine I–31 was forced to the surface and was shelled by gunfire from Edwards. Severely damaged, the enemy survived until 13 June, then being sunk by destroyer Frazier. Torpedo wakes were again sighted, the morning of 14 May, and destroyers conducted a fruitless search for the enemy. That same morning Pennsylvania’s seaplanes were launched to operate from seaplane tender Casco in making strafing attacks on enemy positions on Attu.
The afternoon of 14 May, Pennsylvania conducted her third bombardment mission, this time in support of the infantry attack on the west arm of Holtz Bay. She then operated to the north and east of Attu until 19 May when she steamed for Adak. She departed Adak 21 May and arrived at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., 28 May. She returned to Adak, 7 August, and departed 13 August as flagship of Admiral Rockwell, commanding the Kiska Attack Force. On 15 August assault troops landed without oppositition on the western beaches of Kiska. By the evening of 16 August it became apparent the Japanese had evacuated under cover of fog prior to the landing. She patrolled off Kiska for a time then returned to Adak, 23 August.
On 25 August Pennsylvania steamed for Pearl Harbor, arriving 1 September. Here she took aboard 790 passengers and departed 19 September for San Francisco where she arrived 25 September. She returned to Pearl Harbor, 6 October, and after debarking passengers, took part in rehearsal and bombardment exercises in the Hawaiian areas. She became flagship of Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Commander Fifth Amphibious Force, and formed part of the Northern Attack Force, departing Pearl Harbor, 10 November, for the assault on Makin Atoll, Gilbert Islands.
The Task Force, comprising four battleships, four cruisers, three escort carriers, transports and destroyers, approached Makin Atoll from the southeast on the morning of 20 November. Pennsylvania opened fire on Butaritari Island with her main battery at the initial range of 14,200 yards and then opened with her secondary battery.
Just before general quarters on the morning of 24 November a tremendous explosion took place off the starboard
bow as Pennsylvania was returning to a screening sector off Makin. At almost the same instant a screening destroyer reported sound contact and disposition immediately executed a course change. For several minutes after the explosion, a large fire lighted up the entire area. Word soon came that escort carrier Liscome Bail had been torpedoed. She sank with tremendous loss of life. Determined night air attacks were made by enemy torpedo planes on the nights of 25 and 26 November but were repelled without damage to ships of the Task Force.
On 31 January 1944, Pennsylvania commenced bombardment of Kwajalein Island which was continued throughout the day. Landings were made 1 February, with Pennsylvania joining in bombardment support before and after the landing operations. On the evening of 3 February, she anchored in the lagoon near Kwajalein Island. The success of the Kwajalein operation was ensured and Pennsylvania retired to Majuro Atoll to replenish ammunition.
On 12 February The Pennsylvania got underway for operations against Eniwetok, Marshall Islands. On 17 February, Pennsylvania steamed boldly through the deep entrance into Eniwetok Lagoon with her batteries blazing away. She steamed up a swept channel in the lagoon to a position off Engebi Island and commenced bombardment of enemy installations. On the morning of 18 February, Pennsylvania bombarded Engebi before and during the approach of the assault waves to the beach. When Engebi had been secured, Pennsylvania steamed southward through the lagoon to the vicinity of Parry Island, where she took part in bombardment 20–21 February, preparatory to the landing assaults. At the commencement of bombardment the island had been covered with a dense growth of palm trees extending to the waters edge. At conclusion of bombardment, not a single tree remained standing. On the morning of 22 February, she gave bombardment support prior to the landing on Parry Island. and retired to Majuro,
Then 1 March, steamed south to Havannah Harbor, Efate, New Hebrides Islands. She remained at Efate until late April. On 29 April, Pennsylvania arrived in Sydney, Australia. She returned to Efate, 11 May, then sailed to Port Purvis, Florida Islands, from which she operated to conduct bombardment and amphibious assault exercises. She returned to Efate 27 March, and after replenishment of ammunition, departed, 2 June, arriving at Roil 3 June.
On 10 June, Pennsylvania formed with a force of battleships, cruisers, escort carriers, and destroyers enroute for the assault and occupation of the Marianas Islands. That night a destroyer in the screen reported sound contact and emergency turn left 90 degrees was ordered. As a result of this maneuver, Pennsylvania collided with high-speed transport Talbot and sustained minor damage. Talbot put into Eniwetok for emergency repairs.
On 14 June, Pennsylvania took part in the bombardment of Saipan preparatory to the assault landings made the next day while she cruised off the northeastern shore of Tinian, conducting heavy bombardment of that island to neutralize any enemy batteries which might have opened fire on the landing beaches of Saipan. On 16 June she conducted bombardment of targets on Orote Point, Guam, then retired to cover the Saipan area. Pennsylvania departed the Marianas, 25 June, and after a brief stay at Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, departed 9 July to resume support of the Marianas Campaign.
From 12 through 14 July, Pennsylvania conducted bombardment of Guam in preparation for the assault and landings on that island. On completion of firing the evening of 14 July, she returned to Saipan to replenish ammunition. She returned to Guam, 17 July, and delivered protective fire support to demolition parties. At the same time she continued deliberate destructive fire on designated targets through 20 July.
On the early morning of 21 July, Pennsylvania took a position between Agat Beach and Orote Peninsula, and commenced bombardment of beach areas in immediate preparation for the assault while troops and equipment were loaded into landing craft and landing waves were being formed. Upon establishment of the beachhead she stood by for fire support missions as might be called for by shore fire control parties, continuing this duty until 3 August. She then steamed to Eniwetok, thence to the New Hebrides Islands, and after rehearsal of landing assaults on Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal, arrived at Port Purvis, Florida Island. She departed 6 September as part of the Palau Bombardment and Fire Support Group. From 12 through 14 September, Pennsylvania took part in intensive bombardment of targets on the island of Peleliu. On 15 September, she also furnished gunfire support for the landings on that island. She then delivered a devastating fire on enemy gun emplacements among the rocks and cliffs flanking Red Beach on Angaur Island.
On 25 September Pennsylvania steamed for emergency repairs at Manus, Admiralty Island, entering floating drydock, 1 October 1944. She departed 12 October, one of six battleships in Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s Bombardment and Fire Support Group which formed a part of the Central Philippine Attack Force under command of Vice Admiral Thomas Cassin Kinkaid, enroute to the Philippine Islands.
Pennsylvania reached fire support station on the eastern coast of Leyte, 18 October, and commenced covering bombardment for beach reconnaissance, underwater demolition teams, and minesweeping units operating in Leyte Gulf and San Pedro Harbor. She conducted bombardment missions the next day and supported the landings on Leyte, 20 October. Gunfire support missions continued through 22 October, including harrassing and night illumination fire.
On 24 October, all available United States vessels prepared for action as units of the Japanese Fleet closed the Philippines, preliminary to the Battle for Leyte Gulf. The Pennsylvania and five other battleships, with cruisers and destroyers of Rear Admiral Oldendorf’s Force, steamed south and by nightfall were steaming slowly back and forth across the northern entrance of Surigao Strait, awaiting the approach of the enemy. That night, American motor torpedo boats stationed well down in Surigao Strait made the first encounter with torpedo attacks. Destroyers of the Force, on either flank of the enemy’s line of approach, followed with torpedo and gun attacks. At 0353, 25 October, The West Virginia opened fire, joined shortly thereafter by other battleships and cruisers. The Japanese had run head on into a perfect trap. Rear Admiral Oldendorf had executed the dream of every naval tactician by crossing the enemy’s “T”. The Japanese lost two battleships and three destroyers in the Battle of Surigao Strait. Cruiser Mogami in company with a destroyer, all that remained of the enemy force, managed to escape. Rear Admiral Oldendorf’s Force did not suffer the loss of a single vessel. The 0Mogami was sunk the next day by carrier planes.
On 25 October 1944 ten enemy planes made a simultaneous run on a destroyer close aboard the Pennsylvania which assisted in splashing four and driving off the others. On the night of 28 October, she shot down a bomber as it attempted a torpedo run.
Remaining on patrol in Leyte Gulf until 25 November, Pennsylvania then steamed to Manus, Admiralty Islands, and thence to Kossol Passage where she loaded ammunition. She departed 1 January 1945 with Vice Admiral Oldendorf’s Lingayen Bombardment and Fire Support Group, steaming for Lingayen Gulf. The Group came under heavy air attacks 4–5 January and the escort carrier Ommaney Bay was hit by a suicide plane and destroyed by the resulting fire. Many other ships were damaged.
On the morning of 6 January, Pennsylvania commenced bombardment of target areas on Santiago Island at the mouth of Lingayen Gulf. That afternoon she entered the Gulf to conduct counter-battery fire in support of minesweeping forces, retiring at night. At daybreak, 7 January, the entire bombardment force entered Lingayen Gulf to deliver supporting and destructive fire. Preliminary assault bombardment was continued the next day. On 9 January, Pennsylvania provided gunfire support for the protection of the waves of landing troops. Enemy aircraft attacked the force in Lingayen Gulf, 10 January. Four bombs landed close by, but Pennsylvania was not hit. That afternoon she executed her last call fire mission in support of the operation by firing twelve rounds to destroy a concentration of enemy tanks which had been located inland by a shore fire control party.
From 10 to 17 January, Pennsylvania conducted patrol in the South China Sea, off Lingayen Gulf, with other ships of the task group. On 17 January she anchored in Lingayen Gulf, remaining until 10 February when she sailed for temporary repairs at Manus, Admiralty Islands. Departing 22 February, she steamed via the Marshall Islands and Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, arriving 13 March. She entered the Hunter’s Point Shipyard and underwent thorough overhaul. Her main battery turrets and secondary battery mounts were regunned. Additional close range weapons as well as improved radar and fire control equipment were installed.
Upon completion of overhaul, the Pennsylvania conducted trial runs out of San Francisco, followed by refresher training while based at San Diego, Calif. She departed San Francisco 12 July for Pearl Harbor, arriving 18 July. She sailed for Okinawa, 24 July. Enroute she took part in the bombardment of Wake Island, 1 August, and, after loading ammunition at Saipan the next day, resumed her voyage. She anchored in Buckner Bay alongside Tennessee. On 12 August a Japanese torpedo plane slipped in over Buckner Bay without detection and launched a torpedo at Pennsylvania which lay at anchor. Hit well aft, the Pennsylvania suffered extensive damage. Twenty men were killed and ten injured. Many compartments were flooded and Pennsylvania settled heavily by the stern. The flooding was brought under control by efforts of Pennsylvania’s repair parties and the prompt assistance of two salvage tugs. The following day, she was towed to more shallow water where salvage operations continued.
On 18 August, Pennsylvania departed Buckner Bay, Okinawa, under tow of two tugs. She arrived Apra Harbor, Guam 6 September, and entered drydock where a large sheet steel patch was welded over the torpedo hole and repairs to permit her to return to the United States under her own power were completed. On 4 October, she sailed for the Puget Sound Navy Yard in company with destroyer Walke and cruiser Atlanta. On 17 October number 3 shaft suddenly carried away inside the stern tube and the shaft slipped aft. It was necessary to send divers down to cut through the shaft, letting the shaft and propeller drop into the sea. Shipping water and with only one screw turning, Pennsylvania limped into Puget Sound Navy Yard, 24 October.
Repairs were made to enable Pennsylvania to steam to the Marshall Islands where she was used as a target ship in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini during July 1946. She was then towed to Kwajalein Lagoon where she decommissioned 29 August 1946. She remained in Kwajalein Lagoon for radiological and structural studies until 10 February 1948 when she was sunk off Kwajalein. She was struck from the Navy List 19 February 1948.
Pennsylvania received eight battle stars for World War II service.
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