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  USS Columbia CL-56
USN
Cleveland Class
Light Cruise

10,000 Tons
610' 1" x 66' 6" x 20'
12 x 6" guns
12 x 5" guns
Click For Enlargement
USN 1943

Click For Enlargement

Click For Enlargement
USN January 6, 1943

Ship History
Built by New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, NJ. Laid down on August 18, 1940, launched December 17, 1941 and commissioned July 29, 1942 with Captain W. A. Heard in command.

Wartime History
Departed Norfolk, Virginia on November 9, 1942 and arrived at Espiritu Santo on December 10 and joined in the patrols west of the New Hebrides in support of operations on Guadalcanal.

Battle of Rennell Island
On January 29, 1943, while cruising off Rennell Island to cover the movement of transports to Guadalcanal, Columbia's group came under heavy air attack during the Battle of Rennell Island. Columbia aided in claiming three enemy bombers during the battle.

Based on Efate from February 1, Columbia continued her patrols in the Solomons, and in June carried out a bombardment and mining mission on the 29th and 30th, against Ballale and Shortlands. On 11 July and 12 July, she bombarded Munda.

On September 5, she sailed for a brief overhaul at Sydney, patrolled southeast of the Solomons. Columbia, rejoined her division on 24 September 1943 off Vella LaVella, as patrols to intercept Japanese shipping continued.

On November 1, 1943 in support of the Marine landing at Empress Augusta Bay, Columbia participated in the bombarded Buka and Bonis, then Ballale Island and Shortland Isalnd.

Battle of Empress Augusta Bay
On the night of November 2, Columbia Naval Task Force intercepted a Japanese group incoming to attack transports lying off Bougainville. In the furious fighting of the battle of Empress Augusta Bay which resulted, Columbia joined in sinking a Japanese cruiser and a destroyer, and turning the attackers back from their goal. She continued to support the Bougainville landings and bombard targets in the Solomons through December.

After training exercises in the New Hebrides in January 1944, Columbia helped spearhead the attack and occupation of Nissan Island from 13 February to 18 February. Early in March her group swept along the line between Truk and Kavieng in search of enemy shipping, then covered the assault and occupation of Emirau Island from 17 March to 23 March. On 4 April Columbia sailed from Port Purvis for an overhaul at San Francisco, returning to the Solomons 24 August.

Columbia sortied from Port Purvis 6 September 1944 with the covering force for the landings in the Palaus, and remained off Peleliu to provide gunfire support to forces ashore and protection to assault shipping until her return to Manus on 28 September.

She sailed on 6 October, guarding the force which was to seize Dinagat and other islands at the entrance of Leyte Gulf which must be neutralized before the vast Leyte invasion fleet could enter the Gulf. These islands were taken on 17 October, and Columbia sailed on to give gunfire cover to the main landings 3 days later. But as the landings proceeded, the Japanese fleet sailed south to give battle, and on the night of 24 October, its southern force entered Leyte Gulf through Surigao Strait. Columbia with other cruisers had joined the old BBs and lay in wait. In a classical maneuver, the American ships capped the T of the Japanese column, and opened heavy gunfire which sank the battleship Yamashiro, and forced the heavily damaged cruiser Mogami and other units to retire. Toward dawn, Columbia sped to deliver the final blows which sank destroyer Asagumo, crippled in earlier attacks.

After replenishing at Manus early in November, Columbia returned to Leyte Gulf to protect reinforcement convoys from air attack. In December, operating from Kossol Roads in the Palaus, she covered Army landings on Mindoro, and on 14 December, lost four of her men when a gun misfired during an air attack.

On 1 January 1945 Columbia sailed Lingayen Gulf and on January 6, as preinvasion bombardment. Columbia was hit by one of the kamikaze planes, then was struck on her port quarter by a second. The plane and its bomb penetrated two decks before exploding, killing 13 and wounding 44 of the crew, putting her after turrets out of action, and setting the ship afire. Prompt flooding of two magazines prevented further explosions, and impressive damage control measures enabled Columbia to complete her bombardment with her two operative turrets, and remain in action to give close support to underwater demolition teams.

On the morning of the landings, January 9, as Columbia lay close inshore and so surrounded by landing craft that she was handicapped in maneuver, she was again crashed by a kamikaze, knocking out six gun directors and gun mount. Twenty-four men were killed and 97 wounded, but drastically short-handed as she was, Columbia again put out fires, repaired damage, and continued her bombardment and fire support. Columbia departed that night, guarding a group of unloaded transports. Her crew's accomplishments in saving their ship and carrying out their mission without interruption were recognized with the Navy Unit Commendation for this operation.

Columbia received emergency repairs at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, and sailed on to an overhaul on the west coast, returning to Leyte 16 June 1945. Three days later she sailed for Balikpapan, Borneo, off which she lay from 28 June, guarding minesweeping which preceded the invasion of the island on 1 July. She covered the landing of Australian troops, and gave them gunfire support through the next day, sailing then to join TF 95 in its repeated sweeps against Japanese shipping in the East China Sea. At the close of the war, she carried inspection parties to Truk, the important Japanese base bypassed during the war, and carried Army passengers between Guam, Saipan, and Iwo Jima until sailing for home 31 October.

Postwar
After calling on the west coast, Columbia arrived at Philadelphia 5 December 1945 for overhaul and service training Naval Reserve men until 1 July 1946. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Philadelphia 30 November 1946, and sold for scrap on February 18, 1959.

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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