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USS Marblehead (CL-12)
USS Marblehead
USS Marblehead (CL-12)
Name: USS Marblehead
Builder: William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia
Laid down: 4 August 1920
Launched: 9 October 1923
Commissioned: 8 September 1924
Decommissioned: 1 November 1945
Struck: 28 November 1945
Fate: Scrapped in 1946
General characteristics
Class & type: Omaha-class cruiser
Displacement: 7,050 long tons (7,160 t)
Length: 555 ft 6 in (169.32 m)
Beam: 55 ft 4 in (16.87 m)
Draft: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Speed: 34 kn (39 mph; 63 km/h)
Complement: 458 officers and enlisted
Armament: 12 × 6 in (150 mm)/53 cal guns (2x2, 8x1), 4 × 3 in (76 mm)/50 cal guns (4x1), 6 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes
Service record
Operations: World War II
Battle of Makassar Strait
Operation Dragoon
Awards: 2 battle stars (World War II)

USS Marblehead (CL-12) was an Omaha-class light cruiser of the United States Navy. She was the third Navy ship named for the town of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Marblehead was laid down on 4 August 1920 by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; launched on 9 October 1923; sponsored by Mrs. Joseph Evans; and commissioned on 8 September 1924, Captain Chauncey Shackford in command.

Inter-war period

After commissioning, Marblehead departed Boston for shakedown in the English Channel and Mediterranean. In 1925, she visited Australia, stopping en route in the Samoan and Society Islands and, on her return, in the Galápagos Islands. A year after her return, Marblehead was underway again on an extended voyage. Early in 1927, she cruised off Bluefields and Bragman's Bluffs, Nicaragua, her mission there to aid American efforts to bring together and reconcile the various political factions then fighting in that country. With one exception, Augusto César Sandino, faction leaders agreed to the terms of the Peace of Tipitapa on 4 May 1927, and the United States was requested to supervise elections in 1928.

Marblehead next sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she joined Richmond and Trenton and headed for Shanghai, China. Upon arrival there she contributed to the show of force aimed at the protection of American and other foreign nationals of Shanghai's international settlement during operations against that city through the summer of 1927 in China's civil war.

In addition to her stay at Shanghai, Marblehead spent two months up the Yangtze River at Hankow, and visited several Japanese ports before leaving the Far East in March 1928. En route home, the cruiser stopped at Corinto, Nicaragua to assist in the preparations for elections under the Peace of Tipitapa, delaying her return to Boston until August.

During the next decade Marblehead operated with both the Atlantic (August 1928-January 1933) and Pacific (February 1933-January 1938) Fleets. In January 1938, she was temporarily assigned to the Asiatic Fleet, receiving permanent assignment there seven months later. Home ported at Cavite, Philippine Islands, she cruised the Sea of Japan and the South and East China seas as tension, political and military, rapidly increased in the Far East.

World War II

"About on 24 November 1941," her war diary reported, "the Commander–in–Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet sensed that the relations between the United States and Japan had reached such a critical state that movement of men–of–war...was indicated." The next day, Marblehead, with Task Force 5 (TF 5), departed Manila Bay for seemingly "routine weekly operations." She anchored at Tarakan, Borneo on 29 November and waited for further instructions. On 8 December (7 December in the United States) she received the message "Japan started hostilities; govern yourselves accordingly."

Battle of Makassar Strait, 1942

USS Marblehead in February 1942 showing bomb damage received in the Battle of Makassar Strait

Marblehead and other American warships then joined with those of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Australian Navy to patrol the waters surrounding the Netherlands East Indies and to screen Allied shipping moving south from the Philippines. On the night of 24 January 1942, Marblehead covered the withdrawal of a force of Dutch and American warships after they had attacked, with devastating effect, an enemy convoy off Balikpapan. Six days later, in an attempt to repeat this success, the force departed Surabaja, Java, to intercept an enemy convoy concentration at Kendari. The Japanese convoy, however, sailed soon after, and the Allied force changed course, anchoring in Bunda Roads on 2 February. On the 4th, the ships steamed out of Bunda Roads and headed for another Japanese convoy sighted at the southern entrance to the Makassar Straits. At 0949, 36 enemy bombers were sighted closing in on the formation from the east.

In the ensuing Battle of Makassar Strait, Marblehead successfully maneuvered through three attacks. After the third an enemy plane spiraled toward the cruiser, but her gunners splashed it. The next minute a fourth wave of seven bombers released bombs at Marblehead. Two were direct hits and a third a near miss close aboard the port bow causing severe underwater damage. Fires swept the ship as she listed to starboard and began to settle by the bow. Her rudder jammed, Marblehead, continuing to steam at full speed, circled to port her gunners kept firing, while damage control crews fought the fires and helped the wounded. By 1100, the fires were under control. Before noon the enemy planes departed, leaving the damaged cruiser with 15 dead or mortally wounded and 84 seriously injured.

Marblehead's engineers soon released the rudder angle to 9° left, and at 1255, she retired to Tjilatjap, steering by working the engines at varying speeds. She made Tjilatjap with a forward draft of 30 ft (9 m), aft 22 ft (7 m). Unable to be docked there, her worst leaks were repaired and she put to sea again on the 13th, beginning a voyage of more than 9,000 mi (14,000 km) in search of complete repairs.

Still steering with her engines, she made Trincomalee, Ceylon on the 21st. Repairs could not be made there or anywhere in India for several weeks. So Marblehead departed for South Africa on 2 March. After touching at Durban and Port Elizabeth, Marblehead arrived at Simonstown on 24 March. There she underwent extensive repairs and on 15 April sailed for New York. Steaming via Recife, Brazil, she finally arrived in New York on 4 May, completing a journey of over 16,000 miles from where she was damaged in action and immediately entered drydock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Atlantic, Mediterranean, 1942-1944

On 15 October, the rebuilt Marblehead again put to sea. Attached to the South Atlantic Force, she operated against the enemy in the South Atlantic from Recife and Bahia, Brazil, until February 1944. Returning to New York on 20 February, she operated along the convoy lanes of the North Atlantic for the next five months. She then sailed for the Mediterranean. Arriving at Palermo on 29 July, she joined the task force then staging for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. From 15 to 17 August, the cruiser bombarded enemy installations in the vicinity of Saint Raphael, where Allied assault troops were landing. On the 18th, she withdrew to Corsica, her mission complete.

End of career

Marblehead returned to the United States, conducted a summer training cruise for Naval Academy midshipmen and then entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she decommissioned on 1 November 1945. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 28 November and her hulk was scrapped on 27 February 1946.


Marblehead received two battle stars for World War II service.


External links

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