Tuesday, July 15, 2008
USS Marblehead (CL-12)
Figure 1: USS Marblehead (CL-12) underway in San Diego harbor, California, 10 January 1935. Photographed from USS Dobbin (AD-3). Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Marblehead (CL-12) in harbor, circa the early 1930s. The location may be San Diego, California. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Marblehead from overhead, starboard side underway, 10 January 1933. Excellent image showing details of this class. Courtesy National Archives, image # (80-G-466558). Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Marblehead (CL-12) at Tjilatjap, Java, after she had been damaged by Japanese high-level bombing attack in the Java Sea on 4 February 1942. This view shows the effect of an enemy bomb that struck her stern. Her after 6"/53 gun turret is at left. Note the blanked off portholes on her hull side. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Marblehead (CL-12) under repair at the New York Navy Yard, circa June 1942, after she had been damaged by Japanese high-level bombing attack in the Java sea on 4 February 1942. This view shows new deck plating on the cruiser's stern. Her after 6"/53 gun turret is in the center. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Marblehead (CL-12) off New York City, 11 October 1942. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Marblehead (CL-12) off New York City, 6 May 1944. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Marblehead (CL-12) underway at sea, 10 May 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a port in Massachusetts, the USS Marblehead (CL-12) was a 7,050-ton Omaha class light cruiser that was built by William Cramp & Son, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned on 8 September 1924. She was approximately 555 feet long and 55 feet wide, and had a top speed of 34 knots and a crew of 458 officers and men. Marblehead was armed with twelve 6-inch guns, four 3-inch guns and six 21-inch torpedo tubes.
After completing her shakedown cruise in Europe, Marblehead went to the South Pacific in 1925 and visited Australia. From 1927 to 1928 Marblehead cruised off the coast of Nicaragua, which was suffering from political turmoil at that time. She then was sent to China to protect American lives and property during that nation’s civil and military difficulties. For the remainder of the 1920s and for most of the 1930s, Marblehead was assigned to both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.
Marblehead was part of the US Asiatic Fleet from early 1938 to the beginning of 1942. During that time tensions escalated between the United States and Japan, especially over Japan’s invasion of China. Marblehead steamed throughout the Far East showing the flag and when war started between the United States and Japan on 7 December 1941, Marblehead was ordered to join the small Allied naval task force assigned to protect the Netherlands East Indies. On the night of 24 January 1942, Marblehead took part in the Battle of Balikpapan, in which several American destroyers made a bold attack against a Japanese convoy off the coast of Borneo. Marblehead covered the destroyers as they left the area after sinking several Japanese ships. Six days later, the small Allied task force (made up of American and Dutch warships) left Surabaja, Java, and again tried to intercept another Japanese convoy. On 4 February 1942, the Allied task force was attacked by 36 Japanese bombers off the coast of Java in the Makassar Strait. Marblehead successfully avoided three aerial attacks, but during the fourth attack the Japanese scored two direct hits as well as a near miss that exploded right next to the cruiser. Marblehead was severely damaged. Fires raged on deck and water poured into the ship from the bomb hits. The cruiser then began to list to starboard and settled by the bow. Damage control crews battled the fires and eventually managed to stop the flooding. Finally, Marblehead was able to make steam and began the long arduous task of limping back to port under her own power. But the attack killed 15 men and seriously injured 84.
Marblehead made it back to Tjilatjap, Java, for temporary repairs, but she needed the services of a much larger shipyard for more extensive repairs. She left Java on 13 February and made it to Trincomalee, Ceylon, on 21 February. Repairs couldn’t be made there for several weeks, so Marblehead left there and crawled to Simonstown, South Africa, docking there on 24 March. After getting more substantial repairs in Simonstown, Marblehead left South Africa on 15 April and sailed for New York City. She arrived in New York on 4 May after completing an amazing trip of more than 9,000 miles.
Marblehead was completely rebuilt and sent back to sea on 15 October 1942. Marblehead went to the South Atlantic, where she patrolled the waters between Brazil and Africa until February 1944. The cruiser then was assigned to convoy duty in the North Atlantic and in July and August 1944 Marblehead took part in the invasion of southern France, where her 6-inch guns were used to bombard German defensive positions on shore. Marblehead’s final assignment was to act as a training ship for midshipmen from the US Naval Academy during the summer of 1945. She was decommissioned on 1 November 1945 and was scrapped on 27 February 1946.
Although outdated by the start of World War II, Marblehead still was able to make a substantial contribution to the war effort. The Battle of Makassar Strait, in which she was almost sunk by Japanese aircraft, showed just how much punishment this ship could take and still return home. Her journey of more than 9,000 miles after being severely damaged also must rank as one of the greatest voyages ever undertaken by a single warship during World War II.
Posted by Remo at 6:18 AM