Tryon Departs for White Poppy (Part 2)

6 Oct

Tryon has been riding the hook for a while, but she is ready to sail again!


We pick up where we left off, examining the fascinating stories behind the ships convoying to the south Pacific with Tryon in the fall of 1942.

Three days’ sailing south and west from San Diego Tryon, Mormacport, Delbrasil, and Brastagi rendezvoused with the other ships convoying to the south pacific: USS Raleigh, USS Rochambeau and SS “Perita.” Raleigh served as the convoy’s escort from that point until the convoy neared Pago Pago, when USS Monssen took over escort duties.

USS Raleigh (CL-7) July, 1942

USS Raleigh

Raleigh, commissioned in 1924, was an old-style four-stacker Omaha-class light cruiser. Though outdated by the start of World War II, this class of cruisers still saw service in the Pacific. Designed largely in response to the British Centaur-class cruisers, the Omaha-class was part of a naval arms race between Japan, the US, and Britain that developed after World War I which found it’s origin at least in part in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.(1) Deteriorating relations with Japan coupled with the alliance with their British led some American military planners to see Britain as a unlikely but potential foe. The demise of the alliance between the Japanese and British in 1922 in favor of the Washington Naval Treaty (which set a ratio of capital ships for the British, American and Japanese navies at 5:5:3, a totally unsatisfactory ratio to Japan) led the Japanese to feel they had been betrayed by the British, and laid the groundwork for Japan’s involvement in World War II.(2) These two treaties (and the Japanese reactions to them) created a backdrop for the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War, though their influence in that regard is seldom discussed. I hope to revisit them for a more detailed discussion later.

1942 Omaha-class ship recognition chart

Suffice to say, in World War I Japan fought beside Great Britain, sending ships to the Mediterranean and elsewhere to protect British shipping, sending sailors to serve on British warships, and attacking German forces and holdings in the Pacific. After the war, the South Pacific Mandate by the League of Nations awarded the previously held German islands – the Palaus, the Northern Marianas, the Marshalls, and Micronesia – to Japan in honor of her participation in the war with Great Britain. This led these island chains to be collectively called “the Mandate Islands” or “the Mandates.” Between wars certain islands in these chains would see construction of fortifications, runways, ports, and other military installations that would play an important roll in the battle for the Pacific once war between Japan and the Allies broke out, and would require the spilling of much Allied blood to wrest them back from the Japanese again.(3)

Raleigh was laid down by Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Quincy, Massachusetts on 16 August 1920; launched on 25 October 1922; and commissioned in the Boston Navy Yard on 6 February 1924. She was active in both the Atlantic and Pacific during the inter-war period.(4) Of most interest in this discussion is that Raleigh was moored at Berth F-12 on the northwest side of Ford Island, one of four ships tied up opposite Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. Forward of Raleigh that morning was another Omaha-class cruiser, Detroit; aft was the battleship Utah, and aft of Utah was the seaplane tender Tangier. (5)

Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, during the early minutes of the attack. Row of ships on the middle left (left to right) are USS Detroit, USS Raleigh, USS Utah (already listing to port) and USS Tangier. USS Curtiss is visible in the lower left corner. On the opposite side of Ford Island a water plume indicates the explosion of a Japanese torpedo on USS Oklahoma. A number of Japanese bombers can be seen in the air.

At 0756, just minutes into the first wave of the Japanese attack (some sources list Raleigh as the first ship in Pearl Harbor to be hit), two torpedoes were launched at Raleigh – the first missed twenty five yards forward, but the second struck her amidships. Almost immediately Raleigh began to list to port. All hands went to general quarters, and within minutes the anti-aircraft batteries opened fire.(6) It was thought for a time that Raleigh would capsize, and the order was given for every man not manning guns to jettison all topside weights.(7) Jettisoned items included two search planes (which were unloaded manually then taxied to Ford Island to report for duty), catapults, unarmed torpedoes, torpedo tubes, stanchions, boat skids, life rafts and cargo booms, as well as both anchors. The estimated weight of the jettisoned gear was 60 tons. Most ot the jettisoned gear would be retreived later. (8)

Within fifteen minutes of the torpedo strike counter-flooding was initiated in an attempt to correct the list. A short time later, at about 0900, Raleigh was subjected to a dive-bombing attack, with several near misses, but one bomb did strike the ship, giving a glancing blow to a 3” ready ammunition box, passing through the carpenter shop, through the engineers’ quarters, and exiting the port hull below water line through the side wall of a fuel oil tank, detonating on the harbor bottom about 100 feet to port. In it’s flight the bomb had passed just over the heads of a gun crew, barely missed the ammunition box as well as two large tanks filled with 3000 gallons of aviation fuel, and failed to ignite the oil tank that it DID pass through. Also, in spite of the extensive damage, no men were killed aboard Raleigh, and only three were injured.(9) Lady luck certainly rode Raleigh that day.

Although the bomb didn’t detonate on impact, the puncturing of the hull below the water line allowed extensive flooding, and that, coupled with the flooded section amidships, reduced buoyancy and stability so that Raleigh became exceedingly tender (heeling over easily).10 The captain’s report stated that after the attack and during the night of December 7th, the ship would vary in list from 11 degrees port to 8 degrees starboard without any apparent reason.(11)

The seaplane tender Curtiss burns after a Val divebomber crashed into her deck. According to the captain’s report from the USS Raleigh it was Raleigh’s gun crews that shot the Val down – although other gunnery crews, including those from Curtiss and Tangier, also claimed the kill.

While all of this was going on, the gunnery crews continued to man the guns, putting up heavy and accurate fire. Five Japanese bombers that these crews took under fire were seen to crash, either in flames or in fragments. The executive officer reported that most of the gun crews were firing for the first time.(12)

By mid-afternoon a barge bearing four 80-ton salvage pontoons was attached to the port quarter of Raleigh to lessen the likelihood of capsizing, acting essentially like an outrigger to the ship. These remained lashed to Raleigh during salvage efforts.(13)

According to the captain’s report, the Japanese were apparently hoping to find the aircraft carriers Lexington and Enterprise in the area of berths F-12 and F-13, but in their absence bombed Raleigh and Utah instead.(14)

What the Japanese bomber pilots had hoped to find:the USS Lexington moored on the northwest side of Ford Island, opposite Battleship Row, on November 10, 1941. Raleigh was moored near this spot on the morning of December 7, 1941.

The ships moored near Raleigh that morning were also targeted by the Japanese. USS Detroit, moored in Berth F-11 forward of Raleigh, though strafed by Japanese aircraft, did not receive significant damage and was successful in getting under way. She was ordered to sail at once to investigate the west coast of Oahu for any indications of a landing by the Japanese, then to join the search for the retiring Japanese force. Unsuccessful in locating the Japanese, she returned to Pearl Harbor on December 10.(15)

A picture worth a thousand words – much of this story is represented in this photo – the listing USS Raleigh tied up to a quay marking berth F-12; the barge loaded with four repair pontoons (lacking proper equipment for placing the pontoons, they were left on the barge and the barge and all were lashed to the ship); the USS Sunnadin rendering aid; and Utah, keel up, in the background.

The battleship Utah, moored in Berth F-13 aft of the Raleigh, was not so fortunate. Around 0801 she was hit by two torpedoes; by 0812 her mooring lines snapped, and she heeled over on her side, eventually settling “bottom up”. When tapping was heard from within, the Raleigh was called upon to help rescue trapped sailors, and, in spite of her own difficulties, provided a cutting torch and a small rescue party. They were successful in rescuing a lone sailor from inside the ship.

Some reports say that help was first requested from Tangier, whose captain was Commander Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague. Sprague would later gain fame as the commander of Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy 3) consisting of 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers, and 4 destroyer escorts, when they fought off the vastly superior Japanese Center Force in the Battle Off Samar, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944. (Tryon arrived at Leyte Gulf on October 30 to evacuate survivors of this great sea battle.) In his History of United States Naval Operations in World War II Naval Historian Samuiel Eliot Morison would say, “In no engagement of its entire history has the United States Navy shown more gallantry, guts and gumption than in those two morning hours between 0730 and 0930 off Samar.” On December 7, 1941, however, for unknown reasons, and though his ship was lightly damaged, Sprague refused to offer either men or equipment to render aid to Utah. Some speculate it was because he was attempting to get his ship under way – although reports of a Japanese submarine in the main channel caused him to quickly change his mind.

In spite of rescue efforts, six officers and fifty two enlisted men perished on Utah. Already obsolete and being used as a target ship, salvage efforts proved too challenging and costly, and the wreckage of Utah was left on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. In 1972 a memorial was dedicated nearby to honor the memory of those that lost their lives aboard Utah.(16)

Though hit by 47 bomb fragments, the worst damage done to USS Tangier was this broken window on the bridge.

Though Japanese bombers directed five bombs at the seaplane tender Tangier, all missed. She was struck in forty-two places by bomb fragments, but no serious damage was done. She was successful in shooting down several Japanese planes, and after the attack ended, was able to rescue survivors from Utah. She served with valor throughout the remainder of the war.(17)


After the attack concluded repair efforts began almost immediately. The tug USS Sunnadin came along side to help keep Raleigh upright, and also provided fresh water, electricity, food, and clothing where needed.(18) Later, Sunnadin would help tow Raleigh around Ford Island to the Navy Yard for repairs. She remained beside Raleigh, day and night, for three days.

Damage done by the torpedo was sealed off and water was pumped from flooded compartments (though some “water-tight” doors leaked and required additional shoring). Damage done to the hull by the unexploded bomb proved to be more challenging. First, the 24” hole was stuffed with life jackets, and a wooden caisson was strapped in place over the hole, temporarily sealing the hole and allowing the internal compartments to be pumped clear of water. This work was completed by December 12. Then a semi-permanent patch using steel and concrete and buttressed with wooden beams was placed from inside. When exiting the ship the bomb had punctured the side wall of a full fuel oil tank. Performing this repair must have been an extremely challenging – and messy – job. The patch was completed by December 15.(19)

As soon as it was possible, oil soaked gear and bedding was removed from the ship and compartments were wiped down to reduce the constant menace of fire. Also, the 3000 gallons of aviation fuel which the bomb had missed was transferred to a gasoline barge. Spoiled meat from the flooded refrigerator was removed and non-perishable commissary stores were placed clear of damaged area.(20)

Drydock #1 soon after the Japanese attack. An incindiary bomb landed between USS Downes
and USS Cassin, rupturing an oil tank, setting both ships on fire and capsizing Downes. Both, incredibly, would later br returned to duty. USS Pennsylvania, in the background, was also in Drydock #1 at the time of the attack. She received limited damage but she suffered 15 men killed (including her executive officer), 14 missing in action, and 38 wounded. By December 20 Pennsylvania was ready to sail for the west coast. The smoke in the background comes from the sunken but still burning Arizona.

Drydock #1 after the Pennsylvania had been sufficiently repaired to return to the west coast and the Raleigh had taken her place. The Downes and the Cassin are still undergoing repairs.

Photograph from the foremast of USS Raleigh, January 23, 1942, showing continued repairs on the Downes and Cassin.

Drydock #1 on February 5, 1942, the day that the Cassin was uprighted from her capsized position. Repairs continue on the Raleigh, in the background.

By December 23 the ship was repaired sufficiently to allow Raleigh (with the the aid of Sunnadin) to be towed around Ford Island to the navy yard repair basin where repairs continued; January 3, 1942 Raleigh was moved to the nearby Drydock #1.(21)  On February 21 she joined a convoy bound for the west coast, undergoing overhaul at San Francisco’s Mare Island. Raleigh left San Francisco on July 23, 1942 assigned to convoy escort duty.(22) It was in this capacity that she took the lead of the Tryon’s convoy on October 23.

Perry reported that, “On November 1st, passed almost due east of Pago Pago, American Samoa and early on the morning of the 2nd, before daylight, the Destroyer Monssen joined up as our escort, with the Raleigh taking her departure.” Other sources indicate that after leaving the convoy Raleigh first went to Pago Pago, then on November 3 was sent on a search and destroy mission for Japanese picket ships between the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. Finding none, she stopped at Pearl Harbor from November 13-17, then was ordered to the Aleutian Islands, arriving there on November 24. Raleigh would spend most of the rest of the war in the Aleutians. She was decommissioned on November 2, 1945, and was sold for scrap on February 27, 1946 She received three battle stars for her service during World War II.(23)

USS Raleigh near Mare Island on July 23, 1942, after completion of overhaul.

USS Raleigh in Puget Sound after overhaul, May 25, 1944. The ship is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 1d.

USS Raleigh in the Aleutian Islands.

Camouflage Measure 32v1, Design 1D – Drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for light cruisers of the CL-7 class.
This plan shows the ship’s starboard side, stern, superstructure ends and exposed decks. It is marked: “Approved by E.W. 8/19/43”
This pattern was worn by USS Raleigh (CL-7).

Sketch of Torpedo Damage –
Torpedo struck at juncture armor and side plating. Did not penetrate. Seams opened and hull crushed. 45′ x 30′

Sketch of Bomb Damage
Includes concrete patch.

Sketch of jettisoned gear

Illustration of Pearl Harbor anchorage on the morning of December 7, 1941. Shows the mooring locations of Raleigh, Detroit, Utah, Tangier, and Curtiss, as well as Battleship Row, the repair basin, and the location of Drydock #1, which contained Downes, Cassin, and Pennsylvania at the time of the attack; also shown are many of the other ships present in Pearl Harbor that morning.

Capsized Utah with Raleigh and Sunnadin in background.

Aerial view looking aft over the sunken Utah’s upturned hull, showing righting headframes in place prior to the beginning of righting operations, 15 November 1943.
Utah, which had capsized to port during the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was partially righted in salvage operations, but was not refloated.

Operations to roll the sunken Utah toward the Ford Island shore, seen from off-shore during the first pulling period, 8 February 1944.

Under salvage at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 13 February 1944. The ship, which capsized to port after being torpedoed in the Japanese attack of 7 December 1941, is seen at about the 68 degree position at the completion of the first pulling period.

The ship in its final position after completion of righting operations, still rolled 37 degrees 45′ to port, 13 March 1944.

USS Utah and Memorial as they look today. Photo taken December, 2007.

Pearl Harbor as it appears today. Photo taken October 27, 2009

(1) Wikipedia – Omaha class cruiser

(2) Kennedy, Malcolm D. The Estrangement of Great Britain and Japan. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), 56

(3) Wikipedia – Anglo-Japanese Alliance

(4) Wikipedia – USS Raleigh (CL-7)

(5) Wikipedia – List of United States Navy ships present at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

(6) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(7) USS Raleigh Action Report 13 December 1941

(8) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(9) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(10) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(11) USS Raleigh Action Report 13 December 1941

(12) USS Raleigh Action Report 13 December 1941

(13) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(14) USS Raleigh Action Report 13 December 1941

(15) Wikipedia – USS Detroit (CL-8)

(16) Forgotten Casualty: USS Utah at Pearl Harbor and her Memorial

(17) USS Tangier, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack

(18) Donald L. Raymond has a souvenier that nearly killed him.

(19) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(20) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(21) USS Raleigh Pearl Harbor Damage Report

(22) Wikipedia – USS Raleigh (CL-7)

(23) Wikipedia – USS Raleigh (CL-7)


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