Ships of Pearl Harbor: USS St. Louis

September 18, 2019

USS St. Louis (CL-49), a Brooklyn-class light cruiser, was launched on April 15, 1938 and commissioned into the US Navy on May 19, 1939. She was the fifth ship of the Navy to bear the name of the Midwestern city.

After her initial shakedown, completed in October of 1939, USS St. Louis began operating in the Atlantic, where she would remain until late 1940. In November of that year, she sailed for the Pacific via the Panama Canal, arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 12, 1940. Within a year, St. Louis and her crew would find themselves in the midst of the devastating Japanese attack of December 7, 1941.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Aerial Attack Photo

Aerial view of Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941

On the morning of December 7, 1941, USS St. Louis was moored in the Southeast Lock. The attack began at 0756, and within minutes the men of St. Louis rushed to their battle stations and began firing on the attackers. At around 0820, a Japanese torpedo plane was shot out of the sky, and USS St. Louis was credited with the downed craft. 40 minutes later,  two more Japanese planes had been shot down by the ship's guns.

After getting underway toward the harbor entrance and the open sea beyond, St. Louis came in the crosshairs of a Japanese midget submarine. In a stroke of luck, the torpedoes fired on St. Louis hit a nearby shoal and exploded harmlessly. While destroyers attacked the submarine with depth charges, St. Louis headed out to sea to join the cruisers USS Detroit (CL-8) and USS Phoenix (CL-46) in the hunt for the Japanese fleet. When no traces were found, the light cruiser returned to Pearl Harbor and began escorting transports to San Francisco until January 6, when she joined Task Force 17, the carrier group of USS Yorktown (CV-5). After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, St. Louis was given the nickname "Lucky Lou."

USS St. Louis at War

USS St. Louis in July, 1943, showing damage from a Japanese torpedo.

USS St. Louis in July, 1943, showing damage from a Japanese torpedo.

In the first months of 1942, USS St. Louis continued escort duties between Hawaii, the South Pacific, and San Francisco. In late May, she shifted course and headed to the Aleutians, where she would take part in her first shore bombardment. She remained in Alaskan waters through October of 1942, when she sailed for Mare Island for overhaul.

In 1943, the light cruiser saw more action in the Pacific. She participated in the bombardment of Vila and Bairoko Harbor in New Georgia and engaged the enemy in the Battle of Kolombangara, where a torpedo damaged her bow, requiring a return to Mare Island for repairs.

USS St. Louis spent 1944 and most of 1945 participating in actions throughout the South Pacific. Despite the many battles she took part in, including a deadly kamikaze attack in November of 1944, St. Louis survived the War in the Pacific, culminating in her participation in "Magic Carpet," the operation to return GIs to the US Mainland.

In February of 1946, USS St. Louis sailed for Philadelphia for decommissioning. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on January 22, 1951, and one week later was commissioned into the Brazilian Navy as Almirante Tamandare (C-12).

For her service in World War II, USS St. Louis was awarded 11 battle stars.

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