USS Savannah CL-42

USS Savannah (CL-42) was a Brooklyn class cruiser that took part in Operation Torch, the invasion of Sicily and the Salerno landings, where she was badly damaged by a radio-controlled bomb that ended her active career. Savannah received three battle stars for World War II service.

The Savannah was laid down in May 1934, launched in May 1937 and commissioned on 10 March 1938. After her shakedown cruiser she visited Britain as part of American preparations for a possible outbreak of war in 1938. After returning to the US she was allocated to the Pacific Fleet. She was based in California from June 1939 to May 1940, then at Pearl Harbor from May 1940 until June 1941 when she was allocated to the Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic.

USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938
USS Savannah (CL-42),
1938

The Savannah became the flagship of Cruiser Division 8. These patrols took her from Cuba in the south to Newfoundland in the north, and within a few hundred miles of the British coast when escorting convoys in the American half of the Atlantic. She was at New York when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

On the same day she set sail for Recife, in Brazil, arriving on 12 January 1942. She then joined the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in a patrol north of Bermuda, which became her new base. She remained there until early June, watching the Vichy French warships that were trapped at Martinique and Guadaloupe.

The Savannah was part of the fleet that supported Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. She formed part of the Northern Attack Group (Rear Admiral Monroe Kelly), which had the task of landing 9,099 men under General Truscott at Mehedia in Morocco. On 8 November she fired on French guns that were shelling the invasion fleet. On 9 November she performed a most unusual role, sending her spotting planes to attack a tank column with modified depth charges!  This was repeated on 10 November, before on 11 November the fighting at Mehedia ended. The Savannahremained off North Africa for another four days, then returned home.

Crew of USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938
Crew of USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938

In January 1943 she joined the South Atlantic Patrol, based at Recife, Brazil, and given the task of stopping German blockade runners. On her second patrol she was one of two American warships to intercept the German blockade runner Karin. The Germans destroyed their own ship before she could be boarded, killing eleven of an American boarding party in the process. The Savannah took on seventy two German prisoners.

In May the Savannah left Norfolk with a troop convoy heading for the Mediterranean to take part in the invasion of Sicily. On 10 July she provided fire support for the 1st Infantry 'Rangers' as they landed at Gela. For the first time she came up against determined Luftwaffe opposition and three of her four spotter planes were shot down on the first day of the invasion.

On 11 July the Savannah carried out shore bombardment duties until the two sides were too close together for her to fire. She was then able to shift her fire to Axis tanks further from the fighting, before helping repel an Italian counterattack. On 12 July she fired over 500 rounds from her 6in guns and also helped provide medical support. 13 July was a quieter day, and she was only called on once, to supporting fighting near the town of Butera. After that the fighting moved too far inland, and she returned to Algiers.

On 19 July she was back off Sicily, this time supporting the US 7th Army as it advanced along the coast. In early August she helped defend newly conquered Palermo against German aircraft. She then supported an amphibious landing east of Monte Fratello before returning to Algiers to prepare for the invasion of mainland Italy.

On 8 September the Savannah was the first American warship to open fire on the German shore defences at Salerno. Over the next few days she carried out shore bombardment duties to assist the badly pressed troops fighting at Salerno.

On 11 September she suffered the blow that effectively ended her active career. The Germans had developed a number of remote controlled anti-shipping weapons. On the morning of 11 September a glide bomb narrowly missed the Philadelphia. A few minutes later a FX1400 radio controlled bomb launched from a Dornier Do-217 hit the armoured roof of Number 3 Turret. The bomb went straight through the turret and exploded in the lower handling room, part of the magazine. A large hole was blown out of the bottom of the ship, and water reached 152ft along the ship. Secondary explosions followed for the next 30 minutes, but the rapid flooding helped prevent a disastrous magazine explosion.

Although the Savannah was very badly damaged, her crews managed to seal off the affected areas, and by 17.57 she was able to set off under her own steam. She lost 197 men in the attack, with fifteen seriously wounded. Four men were trapped in a watertight compartment and could only be rescued after she reached Malta.

The Savannah wasn't able to depart from Malta until 7 December, nearly three months after the attack. She reached Philadelphia on 23 December. It took eight months to carry out full repairs, and the chance was taken to improve both her secondary armament and her anti-aircraft firepower.

The repairs were completed by September 1944. She was allocated to Fleet Operational Training Command, then in October rejoined Cruiser Division 8. In January 1945 she escorted the Quincy (CL-71) as it carried President Roosevelt across the Atlantic on his way to the Yalta summit. She remained in the Mediterranean until the President returned from Yalta then escorted his convoy back across the Atlantic. From March to May 1945 she was used as a training ship for the crews of new ships that hadn't been commissioned. She then became the flagship of a Midshipman Training Squadron.

Her last active role was to carry out two 'Magic Carpet' missions across the Atlantic. The first saw her bring 1,370 men and 67 officers back to New York from Le Havre. The second ended on 17 December, and two days later she began to prepare to be inactivated. She was placed in the reserve on 22 April 1946 and decommissioned on 3 February 1959. She was finally struck off the Navy List on 1 March 1959 and sold for scrap in 1966.  

Displacement (standard)

9,767t

Displacement (loaded)

12,207t

Top Speed

32.5kts

Range

10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

5in on 0.625in STS

 - deck

2in

 - barbettes

6in

 - turrets

6.5in face
2in roof
1.25in side and rear

 - conning tower

5in
2.25in roof

Length

608ft 4in

Armaments

Fifteen 6in/47 guns (five triple turrets)
Eight 5in/25 guns (/38 on St Louis, Helena) (eight single positions)
Eight 0.5in guns
Four aircraft

Crew complement

868

Laid down

31 May 1934

Launched

8 May 1937

Completed

10 March 1938

Stricken

1 March 1959

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 May 2015), USS Savannah CL-42 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Savannah_CL42.html

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