WAR CRUISE of the USS SAN FRANCISCO
FROM OFFICIAL US NAVY FILES ~ By Jake Jaekel
On 7 December, San Francisco was awaiting docking and the cleaning of her heavily fouled bottom. Her engineering plant was largely broken down for overhaul. Ammunition for her 5-inch and 8-inch guns had been placed in storage. Her 3-inch guns had been removed to permit installation of four 1.1-inch quadruple mounts. The 1.1-inch mounts had not been installed. Her .50 caliber machine guns were being overhauled. Only small arms and two .30 caliber machine guns were available. Moreover, a number of San Francisco's officers and men were absent.
At 0755, Japanese planes began bombing dives on Ford Island; and, by 0800, the surprise air attack was well underway. The men in San Francisco had secured the ship for watertightness and had begun looking for opportunities to fight back. Some crossed to New Orleans to man antiaircraft batteries. Others began using available rifles and machine guns. Fifty caliber machine gun ammunition was transferred to Tracy for use.
By 1000, the Japanese had left; and work to ready San Francisco for action was begun.
On 14 December, the cruiser left the yard; scaling had been postponed in favor of more necessary repairs on other ships. On 16 December, she sortied with Task Force (TF) 14 to relieve Wake Island. The force moved west with a Marine Corps fighter squadron on board Saratoga and a Marine battalion embarked in Tangier. But, when Wake fell to the Japanese on the 23d, TF 14 was diverted to Midway which it reinforced. On the 29th, the force returned to Pearl Harbor.
On 8 January 1942, San Francisco again moved west. In TF 8, she steamed toward Samoa to rendezvous with, and cover the offloading of, transports carrying reinforcements to Tutuila. Thence it joined TF 17 for raids on Japanese installations in the Gilberts and Marshalls. San Francisco arrived in the Samoan area on the 18th and, on the 24th, was detached to continue coverage for the transports while the remainder of the task force and TF 17 conducted offensive operations to the northwest.
On 8 February, San Francisco departed Tutuila. On the 10th, she rejoined CruDiv 6, then in TF 11, and set a course for an area northeast of the Solomons to strike Rabaul. However, the American force was sighted and attacked by two waves of twin-engined Japanese bombers. Sixteen of the planes were destroyed, but the element of surprise had been lost. TF 11 retired eastward.
During the next few days, TF 11, centered on Lexington, conducted operations in the South Pacific, then headed for New Guinea to participate with TF 17 in a raid against Japanese shipping and installations.
On 7 March, one of San Francisco's scout planes was reported missing and could not be found.
On the night of 9 and 10 March, TF's 11 and 17 entered the Gulf of Papua, whence, at dawn, Lexington and Yorktown launched their aircraft to cross the Owen Stanley range and attack the Japanese at Salaniaua and Lae.
The next day, the missing plane was sighted by Minneapolis and recovered by San Francisco. It had landed on the water, but had been unable to communicate. The pilot, Lt. J. A. Thomas, and the radioman, RMS 0. J. Gannan, had headed for Australia, sailing the plane backwards as it tended to head into the prevailing east wind. In five days and 21 hours, they had covered approximately 385 miles on a course within 5'/r of that intended.
San Francisco returned to Pearl Harbor on the 26th. On 22 April, the cruiser departed Oahu for San Francisco in the escort of convoy 4093. At the end of May, she headed west, escorting convoy PW 2076, made up of transports carrying the 37th Army Division, destined for Suva, and special troops bound for Australia. The cruiser remained in the escort force as far as Auckland; thence steamed for Hawaii, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 29 June.
San Francisco steamed west with Laffey and Bollard to escort convoy 4120 to the Fiji Islands. From there, she got underway to rendezvous with the Solomon Islands Expeditionary Force.
Operation "Watchtower," the Guadalcanal-Tulagi offensive, opened on the morning of 7 August. Through that day and the remainder of the month, San Francisco helped to cover the American forces in the area. The flag of Rear Admiral Norman Scott, commanding the cruisers attached to TF 18, was shifted to San Francisco.
On 3 September, San Francisco's force put into Noumea, New Caledonia, for fuel and provisions. On the 8th, the ships departed that island to cover reinforcements moving up to Guadalcanal. On the 11th, San Francisco's force, TF 18, rendezvoused with TF 17, the Hornet group; and, the next day both groups refueled at sea. On the 14th, the reinforcement convoy departed the New Hebrides. TF 61 commenced covering operations with TF 17 operating to the eastward of TF 18 and conforming to the movements of TF 18.
At about 1450, on the 15th, Wasp was torpedoed on the starboard side. Fires broke out on the carrier. Explosions multiplied the fires. Rear Admiral Scott took command of TF 18. San Francisco and Salt Lake City prepared to take the carrier in tow; but, by 1520, the fires were out of control and destroyers began taking on survivors. Lansdowne torpedoed the burning hulk. TF 18 headed for Espiritu Santo.
On the morning of 17 September, San Francisco, Juneau, and five destroyers put back to sea to rendezvous with TF 17 and resume coverage of reinforcement convoys. Other units of TF 18 had headed for Noumea with Wasp survivors.
On 23 September, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Boise, Helena, Minneapolis, Chester, and Destroyer Squadron 12 became TF 64, a surface screening and attack force under the command of Rear Admiral Scott in San Francisco. On the 24th, the force headed to the New Hebrides.
On 7 October, TF 64 departed Espiritu Santo and moved back into the Solomons to cover Allied reinforcements and to intercept similar operations by the Japanese. On the 11th, at about 1615, the ships commenced a run northward from Rennel Island, to intercept an enemy force of two cruisers and six destroyers reported heading for Guadalcanal from the Buin-Faisi area. The force continued north, to approach Savo Island from the southwest.
By 2330, when the ships were approximately six miles northwest of Savo, they turned to make a further search of the area. A few minutes after setting the new course, radar indicated unidentified ships to the west, several thousand yards distant. At about 2345, the Battle of Cape Esperance began.
Initial confusion caused both sides to momentarily check their fire in fear of hitting their own ships. Then, the battle was reopened and continued until 0020 on the 12th, when surviving Japanese ships retired toward Shortland. Two American cruisers, Salt Lake City and Boise, and two destroyers, Duncan and Farenholt, had been damaged. Later, Duncan went down. A Japanese cruiser and a destroyer had been sunk during the surface action. Two more enemy destroyers were sunk on the 12th by planes from Henderson Field. After the engagement, TF 64, having shown the United States Navy to be the equal of the Imperial Japanese Navy in night fighting, retired to Espiritu Santo.
On the 15th, San Francisco resumed operations in support of the Guadalcanal campaign. On the evening of the 20th, her group was ordered back to Espiritu Santo. At 2119, torpedoes were reported. Chester was hit amidships on the starboard side but continued under her own power. Three other torpedoes exploded: one off Helena's starboard quarter; a second between Helena and San Francisco; and the third about 1,200 yards off San Francisco's port beam. Two others were sighted running on the surface.
Saw Francisco reached Espiritu Santo on the night of the 21st, but departed again on the 22d to intercept any enemy surface units approaching Guadalacanal from the north and to cover friendly reinforcements. On the 28th, Rear Admiral Scott transferred to Atlanta. On the 29th, San Francisco returned to Espiritu Santo; and, on the 30th, Rear Admiral D. J. Callaghan, commanding officer of San Francisco when the United States entered the war, returned to the ship and raised his flag as CTG 64.4 and prospective CTF 65.
On the 31st, the newly-designated TF 65 departed Espiritu Santo; the ships again headed into the Solomons to cover troop landings on Guadalcanal. Bombardment missions in the Kokumbona and Koli Point areas followed. On the 6th, the transport group completed unloading, and the force retired, arriving at Espiritu Santo on the 8th. On the 10th, San Francisco, now flagship for TG 67.4, got underway again toward Guadalcanal.
Just before noon, a Japanese twin-float reconnaissance plane began shadowing the formation.
The force arrived off Lunga Point on the 12th, and the transports commenced unloading. By mid-afternoon, an approaching Japanese air group was reported. At 1318, the ships got underway. At 1408, 21 enemy planes attacked.
At 1416, an already damaged torpedo plane dropped its torpedo off San Francisco's starboard quarter. The torpedo passed alongside, but the plane crashed into San Francisco's control aft, swung around that structure, and plunged over the port side into the sea. Fifteen men were killed, 29 wounded, and one missing. Control aft was demolished. The ship's secondary command post, Battle Two, was burned out but was reestablished by dark. The after antiaircraft director and radar were put out of commission. Three 20 millimeter mounts were destroyed.
The wounded were transferred to President Jackson, just before the approach of an enemy surface force was reported. The covering force escorted the transports out of the area, then reassembled and returned. At about midnight, San Francisco, in company with one heavy cruiser, three light cruisers, and eight destroyers, entered Lengo Channel.
At 0125 on the 13th, the enemy force was discovered about 27,000 yards to the northwest. Rear Admiral Callaghan's task group maneuvered to intercept. At 0148, San Francisco opened fire on an enemy cruiser 3,700 yards off her starboard beam. At 0151, she trained her guns on a small cruiser or large destroyer 3,300 yards off her starboard bow. An enemy battleship was then sighted and taken under fire, initial range 2,200 yards.
At about 0200, San Francisco trained her guns on a second battleship. At the same time, she became the target of a cruiser off her starboard bow and of a destroyer which had crossed her bow and was passing down her port side. The enemy battleship joined the cruiser and the destroyer in firing on San Francisco whose port 5-inch battery engaged the destroyer but was put out of action except for one mount. The battleship put the starboard 5-inch battery out of commission. San Francisco swung left while her main battery continued to fire on the battleships which, with the cruiser and the destroyer, continued to pound San Francisco. A direct hit on the navigation bridge killed or badly wounded all officers except the communications officer. Steering and engine control were lost and shifted to Battle Two. Battle Two was out of commission by a direct hit from the port side. Control was again lost.
Control was then established in the conning tower which soon received a hit from the starboard side. Steering and engine control were temporarily lost, then regained. All communications were dead.
Soon thereafter, the enemy ceased firing. San Francisco followed suit and withdrew eastward along the north coast of Guadalcanal.
Seventy-seven sailors, including Rear Admiral Callaghan and Capt. Young, had been killed. One Hundred and five had been wounded. Of seven missing, three were subsequently rescued. The ship had taken 45 hits. Structural damage was extensive, but not serious. No hits had been received below the waterline. Twenty-two fires had been started and extinguished.
At about 0400, San Francisco, all her compasses out of commission, joined Helena and followed her through Sealark Channel.
At about 1000, Juneau's medical personnel transferred to San Francisco to assist in treating the numerous wounded. An hour later, Juneau took a torpedo on the port side, in the vicinity of the bridge. "The entire ship seemed to explode in one mighty column of brown and white smoke and flame which rose easily a thousand feet in the air. The Juneau literally disintegrated." San Francisco was hit by several large fragments from Juneau. One man was hit, both his legs were broken. Nothing was seen in the water after the smoke lifted.
On the afternoon of 14 November, San Francisco returned to Espiritu Santo. For her participation in the action of the morning of the 13th, and for that of the night of 11 and 12 October, she received the Presidential Unit Citation. On 18 November, the cruiser sailed for Noumea; and, on the 23d, she got underway toward the United States. She reached San Francisco on 11 December. Three days later, repairs were begun at Mare Island.
On 26 February 1943, she got underway to return to the South Pacific. After escorting convoy PW 2211 en route, San Francisco arrived at Noumea on 20 March. Five days later, she continued on to Efate. She arrived back in the Hawaiian Islands in mid-April; thence headed north to the Aleutians to join the North Pacific Force, TF 16; and reached Alaska toward the end of the month. Based at Kuluk Bay, Adak, she operated in the Aleutians for the next four and one-half months. She patrolled the western approaches to the area; participated in the assault and occupation of Attu in May and of Kiska in July; and performed escort duties.
In mid-September, she was ordered back to Pearl Harbor for repairs and reassignment to TF 14. On the 29th, San Francisco departed Pearl Harbor in Task Unit (TU) 14.2.1 for a raid against Wake and Wilkes islands. On 5 October, the group arrived off the target area and conducted two runs by the enemy positions. On the 11th, her task unit returned to Pearl Harbor.
On the 20th, the force arrived off Makin. San Francisco participated in the pre-invasion bombardment of Betio, then patrolled outside the transport area to the west of Makin. On the 26th, she was detached and assigned to TG 50.1, joining Yorktown, Lexington, Cowpens, five cruisers, and six destroyers. With that force, she steamed toward the Marshalls to strike Japanese shipping and installations in the Kwajalein area. On 4 December, the carriers launched their planes against the targets. Shortly after noon, enemy aerial activity increased; and, at 1250, San Francisco came under attack. Three torpedo planes closed her on the port bow. Her guns splashed two. The third was shot down by Yorktown. But the cruiser had been strafed several times. One man had been killed; 22 were wounded. After dark, the Japanese returned; and, on that night, Lexington was torpedoed. The force moved north and west. Shortly after 0130, on the 5th, enemy planes faded from the radar screens. On the 6th, the ships headed back to Pearl Harbor.
On 22 January 1944, San Francisco sortied with TF 52 and again headed for the Marshalls. On the 29th, the division, screened by destroyers, left the formation and moved against Japanese installations on Maloelap to neutralize them during the conquest of Kwajalein. Following the bombardment, the ships proceeded on to Kwajalein. San Francisco arrived off the atoll at about 0630 on the 31st. At 0730, she opened fire on targets of opportunity, initially a small ship inside Kwajalein lagoon. At 0849, she ceased firing. At 0900, she resumed firing at targets on Berlin and Beverly islands. Through the day, she continued to shell those islands, and, in late afternoon, added Bennett Island to her targets. During the next week, she provided pre-landing barrages and support fire for operations against Burton, Berlin, and Beverly islands. On the 8th, the cruiser sailed for Majuro, whence she would operate as a unit of TF 58, the fast carrier force.
On 12 February, San Francisco, in TG 58.2, cleared Majuro lagoon. Four days later, the carriers launched their planes against Truk. On the night of 16 and 17 February, Intrepid was torpedoed. San Francisco, with others, was assigned to escort her eastward. On the 19th, the group split: Intrepid, with two destroyers, continued toward Pearl Harbor; San Francisco and the remaining ships headed for Majuro. On the 25th, San Francisco sailed for Hawaii with TG 58.2. On 20 March, the group returned to Majuro, refueled, and departed again on the 22d to move against the Western Carolines. From 30 March to 1 April, carrier planes hit the Palaus and Woleai. San Francisco's planes flew rescue missions.
On 6 April, the force was back in Majuro lagoon. A week later, the ships set a course for New Guinea. From the 21st to the 28th, TG 58.2 supported the assault landings in the Hollandia area. On the 29th, the ships moved back into the Carolines for another raid against Truk. On the 30th, San Francisco was detached and, with eight other cruisers, moved against Satawan. On completion of that bombardment mission, the cruisers rejoined TG 58.2 and headed back to the Marshalls.
Initially at Majuro, Sore Francisco shifted to Kwajalein in early June, and, on the 10th, departed that atoll in TG 53.15, the bombardment group of the Saipan. invasion force. On the 14th, she commenced two days of shelling Tinian; then, after the landings on Saipan, shifted to fire support duties. On the 16th, she temporarily joined CruDiv 9 to bombard Guam. Word of a Japanese force en route to Saipan, however, interrupted the cannonade, and the ships returned to Saipan.
On the 17th, San Francisco refueled and took up station between the approaching enemy force and the amphibious force at Saipan. On the morning of the 19th, the Battle of the Philippine Sea opened for San Francisco. At about 1046, she was straddled fore and aft by bombs. "... a mass of enemy planes on the screen at 20 miles." At 1126, the cruiser opened fire. A 40 millimeter shell from Indianapolis set off San Francisco's smoke screen generators. By noon, quiet had returned. At 1424, dive bombers made the last Japanese attack. By the 20th, San Francisco steamed westward in pursuit of the Japanese force. On the 21st, she returned to the Saipan area and resumed operations with the covering force for the transports. On 8 July, San Francisco again steamed to Guam to bombard enemy positions. During the next four days, she shelled targets in the Agat and Agana areas. On the 12th, she returned to Saipan; replenished; refueled; and, on the 18th, again took station off Guam.
On that day and on the 19th and the 20th, she shelled enemy positions, supported beach demolition units, and provided night harassing and defense repair interdiction in the Agat and Faci Point areas. On the 21st, she began to support Marines assaulting the Agat beaches. On the 24th, the cruiser shifted her fire to the Orote Peninsula.
On the 30th, she headed, via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, for San Francisco. The cruiser arrived back on the west coast on 16 August for overhaul.
On October 31st, she steamed west again and, on 21 November, arrived at Ulithi where she resumed flagship duties for CruDiv 6. On 10 December, she cleared the anchorage and moved toward the Philippines in TG 38.1. On the 14th and 15th, during carrier strikes against Luzon, San Francisco's planes were employed on antisubmarine patrol and in rescue work. On the 16th, the force headed for a rendezvous with TG 30.17, the replenishment force. A typhoon interrupted the refueling operations; and, on the 17th and 18th, the ships rode out the storm. On the 19th, she participated in a search for survivors from three destoyers which had gone down during the typhoon.
On the 20th, TF 38 turned westward again to resume operations against Luzon; but high seas precluded strikes. On the 24th, the force returned to Ulithi.
Six days later, the force again sortied from Ulithi. On 2 and 3 January 1945, strikes were conducted against Formosa. On the 5th, 6th, and 7th, Luzon was hit. On the 9th, fighter sweeps against Formosa were resumed. The force then headed for the Bashi Channel and a five-day, high speed strike against enemy surface units in the South China Sea and against installations along the coast of Indochina. On the 15th and 16th, the Hong Kong-Amoy-Swatow area was hit; and, on the 20th, the force passed through Luzon Strait to resume operations against Formosa. On the 21st, aerial opposition was constant. Bogies appeared on the screen throughout the day. Langley and Ticonderoga were hit. On the 22d, strikes were launched against the Ryukyus; and, on the 23d, the force headed for the Western Carolines.
Arriving on 26 January, the ships sailed again on 10 February. On the 16th and 17th, strikes were conducted against air facilities in central Honshu. On the 18th, the force moved toward the Volcano and Bonin islands; and, on the 19th, covering operations for the Iwo Jima assault began. The next day, San Francisco closed that island with other cruisers and assumed fire support duties, which she continued until the 23d. Then she headed back toward Japan. On the 25th, Tokyo was the target. Poor weather prohibited operations against Nagoya on the 26th; and, on the 27th, the force headed back to Ulithi.
On 21 March, San Francisco, now attached to TF 54 for Operation "Iceberg," departed Ulithi for the Ryukyus. On the 25th, she approached Kerama Retto, west of Okinawa, and furnished fire support for minesweeping and underwater demolition operations. That night, she retired and the next morning moved back in to support the landings and supply counter battery fire on Aka, Keruma, Zamami, and Yakabi.
By the morning of the 27th, aerial resistance had begun. On the 28th, San Francisco shifted to Okinawa for shore bombardment in preparation for the assault landings scheduled for 1 April. On that day, she took up station in fire support sector 5, west of Naha, and, for the next five days, shelled enemy emplacements, caves, pill boxes, road junctions, and tanks, truck, and troop concentrations. At night, she provided harassing fire near the beachhead.
On 6 April, the cruiser retired to Kerama Retto; refueled and took on ammunition; assisted in spashing a "Jill;" then, rejoined TF 54 off Okinawa as that force underwent another air raid. San Francisco downed a "Kate." Dawn of the 7th brought another air raid, during which a kamikaze attempted to crash the cruiser. It was splashed 50 yards off the starboard bow. After the raid, San Francisco shifted to TF 51 for fire support missions on the east coast of Okinawa, rejoining TF 54 on the west coast in late afternoon. On the 11th, air attacks increased; and, the next day, San Francisco set a "Val" on fire. The plane then glanced off a merchant ship and hit the water, enveloped in flames.
On the 13th and 14th, the cruiser again operated with TF 51 off the east coast of the embattled island. On the 15th, she returned to Kerama Retto; thence proceeded to Okinawa and operations with TF 54 in the transport area. There she provided night illumination to detect swimmers and suicide boats and, just before midnight, assisted in sinking one of the latter. During the night, two further attempts by suicide boats to close the transports were thwarted.
With dawn, San Francisco returned to the Naha area to shell the airfield there. On the 17th, she moved up the coast and fired on the Machinate air field. On the 18th, she again shifted to the eastern side of the island and, that night, anchored in Nakagusuku Wan. The next day, San Francisco supported troops in the southern part of the island. From 21 April through 24 April, she shelled targets in the Naha airstrip area; and got underway for Ulithi.
On 13 May, San Francisco returned to Okinawa, arriving in Nakagusuku Wan and resuming support activities against targets in southern Okinawa. For the next few days, San Francisco supported the 96th Infantry Division in an area to the southeast of Yuna-baru. On the 20th, she shifted to Kutaka Shima; and, by the night of the 22d, she had depleted her supply of ammunition for her main batteries. On the 25th, the Japanese launched a large air attack against Allied shipping in Nakagusuku Wan. On the 27th, San Francisco provided fire support for the 77th Infantry Division; and, on the 28th, she retired to Kerama Retto. On the 30th, the cruiser returned to the western side of Okinawa and, for the next two weeks, supported operations of the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions.
On 21 June, San Francisco was ordered to join TG 32.15, 120 miles southeast of Okinawa. A week later, she put into Kerama Retto for a brief stay; then rejoined that group. In early July, she provided cover for the eastern anchorage. On the 3d, she sailed toward the Philippines to prepare for an invasion of the Japanese home islands. The cessation of hostilities in mid-August, however, obviated that operation, and San Francisco prepared for occupation duty.
On 28 August, the cruiser departed Subic Bay for the China coast. After a show of force in the Yellow Sea and Gulf of Pohai areas, she covered minesweeping operations and, on 8 October, anchored at Jinsen, Korea. From the 13th to the 16th, she participated in another show of force operation in the Gulf of Pohai area, then returned to Jinsen, where Rear Admiral J. Wright, ComCruDiv 6, acted as senior member of the committee for the surrender of Japanese naval forces in Korea.
On 27 November, San Francisco headed home. Arriving at San Francisco in mid-December, she continued on to the east coast in early January 1946 and arrived at Philadelphia for inactivation on the 19th. Decommissioned on 10 February, she was berthed with the Philadelphia Group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1 March 1959 when her name was struck from the Navy list. On 9 September, she was sold, for scrapping, to the Union Mineral and Alloys Corp., New York.
San Francisco (CA-38) earned 17 battle stars during World War II.