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Original WW2 Official Use of Stationary for the U.S.S. Astoria

Ca. Mid 1930's - 1942


The second USS Astoria (CL/CA-34) was a New Orleans-class cruiser of the United States Navy that participated in both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, but was then sunk in August 1942, at the Battle of Savo Island. Astoria was the first Astoria-class cruiser to be laid down but launched after and received a hull number higher than New Orleans, which the class was renamed for after Astoria sank.


Immediately after the months-long Guadalcanal campaign ended in February 1943, the remaining ships of the class would go through major overhauls to lessen top-heaviness due to new electrical and radar systems and advanced anti-aircraft weaponry. In doing so the ships took on a new appearance, most notably in the bridge.


Between the fall of 1934 and February 1937, she operated as a unit of Cruiser Division 7 (CruDiv 7), Scouting Force, based at San Pedro, California. In February 1937, the warship was reassigned to CruDiv 6, though she continued to serve as an element of Scouting Force based at San Pedro. In both assignments, she carried out normal peacetime maneuvers, the culmination of which came in the annual fleet problem that brought the entire United States Fleet together in a single, vast exercise.


Assigned to the Hawaiian Detachment in October 1939, Astoria changed home ports from San Pedro to Pearl Harbor. The following spring, she participated in Fleet Problem XXI, the last of those major annual exercises that brought the entire United States Fleet together to be conducted before World War II engulfed the United States. The maneuvers took place in Hawaiian waters, and, instead of returning to the west coast at their conclusion, the bulk of the fleet joined Astoria and the Hawaiian Detachment in making Pearl Harbor its base of operations.


On 2 April 1941, Astoria departed Pearl Harbor for the west coast of the United States. She reached Long Beach, California, on 8 April and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard on the 13th. During her refit, she received quadruple-mount 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns and a pedestal fitted at her foremast in anticipation of the imminent installation of the new air-search radar. Emerging from the yard on 11 July 1941, the heavy cruiser sailed for Long Beach on the 16th. Later shifting to San Pedro, Astoria sailed for Pearl Harbor on 24 July 1941.


Following her return to Hawaii on 31 July, Astoria operated between Oahu and Midway through early September. That autumn, the specter of German raiders on the prowl in the Pacific prompted the Navy to convoy its ships bound for Guam and the Philippines. Astoria escorted Henderson to Manila and thence to Guam, before returning to Pearl Harbor on 29 October. Local patrols and training, alternated with upkeep in port, occupied Astoria during the final five weeks of peace.


After rising tensions in the Pacific intensified his concern over the defenses of his outlying bases at the beginning of December 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet/United States Fleet, ordered reinforcements, in the form of Marine Corps planes, to be ferried to Wake Island and Midway. Astoria put to sea on 5 December in the screen of Rear Admiral John H. Newton's Task Force 12 (TF 12) built around Lexington. Once the task force reached open sea, Lexington's air group and the 18 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators from Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 231 (VMSB-231) bound for Midway landed on the carrier's flight deck.


When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December, Astoria was some 700 mi (1,100 km) west of Hawaii steaming toward Midway with TF 12. At 0900 the following day, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis, flagship of Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, Commander, Scouting Force, joined up with TF 12, and Brown assumed command. Its ferry mission canceled, TF 12 spent the next few days searching an area to the southwest of Oahu, "with instructions to intercept and destroy any enemy ship in the vicinity of Pearl Harbor...."


The cruiser reentered Pearl Harbor with the Lexington force on 13 December, but she returned to sea on the 16th to rendezvous with and screen a convoy, the oiler Neches and the seaplane tender Tangier – the abortive Wake Island relief expedition. When that island fell to the Japanese on 23 December, however, the force was recalled. Astoria remained at sea until the afternoon of 29 December, when she arrived back at Oahu. When Astoria was moored in Pearl Harbor, she had about 40 sailors from the battleship California transferred to her ranks. They were survivors of 7 December, when California was sunk at Berth F4 on Battleship Row.


Astoria departed Pearl Harbor again on the morning of 31 December with TF 11, formed around Saratoga, and remained at sea into the second week of January 1942. On 11 January, the Japanese submarine I-6 torpedoed the carrier, forcing her retirement to Pearl Harbor. Astoria and her colleagues in the task force saw the crippled carrier safely into port on the morning of 13 January 1942.



Nevertheless, the fire below decks increased steadily in intensity, and those topside could hear explosions. Her list increased, first to 10° and then 15°. Her stern lowered in the dark waters, and her bow was distinctly rising. All attempts to shore the shell holes – by then below the waterline due to the increasing list – proved ineffective, and the list increased still more. Buchanan arrived at 11:30, but could not approach due to the heavy port list. Directed to stand off the starboard quarter, she stood by while all hands assembled on the stern, which was now wet with seawater. With the port waterway awash at noon, Commodore William G. Greenman gave the order to abandon ship.

Astoria turned over on her port beam, rolled slowly, and settled by the stern, disappearing completely by 12:16. Buchanan lowered two motor whaleboats and, although interrupted by a fruitless hunt for a submarine, came back and assisted the men in the water. Alchiba, which arrived on the scene just before Astoria sank, rescued 32 men. Not one man from the salvage crew lost his life. Officially, 219 men were reported missing or killed.

Original WW2 Official Use of Stationary for the U.S.S. Astoria

SKU: U.S.S. Astoria Stationary
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