Then Secretary of the Navy Gordon England named LPD 22 San Diego on 30 April 2004. "San Diego is home to a large number of the Pacific Fleet's ships. For decades our Nation's Sailors and Marines have begun their service to America at boot camps in San Diego. Thousands of military families and veterans have fallen in love with the area and are fortunate enough to live and work in San Diego. USS San Diego will project American power to the far corners of the earth and support the cause of freedom well into the 21st century," England said.
Secretary England noted the longstanding relationship between the U.S. Navy and residents of San Diego, "San Diego is a great Navy town and one of the world's finest harbors. For more than a century, the city has served as a vital base of operations for the U.S. Navy and the citizens of 'America's Finest City' have welcomed our Sailors and Marines as neighbors." Current USS San Diego
USS San Diego (LPD 22), a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, is the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named for San Diego, California. San Diego's keel was laid down on 23 May 2007, at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was launched on 7 May 2010, christened on 12 June 2010 and commissioned on 19 May 2012, in a ceremony at the Navy Pier (next to the USS Midway Museum) in San Diego, California.
USS San Diego (LPD 22) was declared fit for duty after successfully completing Final Contract Trials (FCTs) Dec. 7 2012.
1st USS San Diego
USS California (Armored Cruiser No. 6), a 13,680-ton Pennsylvania class armored cruiser, was originally named the USS California but later renamed the USS San Diego. She was laid down in 1902 and launched 28 April 1904 by the Union Iron Works, San Francisco, Calif.; sponsored by Miss F. Pardee; and commissioned 1 August 1907, with Captain V. L. Cottman in command. She was 503 feet long and had a beam of almost 70 feet. The ship weighed about 15,000 tons fully outfitted and loaded for duty and was powered by two coal burning, four cylinder, triple expansion steam engines, which drove her two 37,000 pound bronze/magnesium propellers and produced 25,000 horsepower.
She operated in the Pacific Ocean, visiting many ports including the Philippines, China, Japan, Hawaii, Peru, and Guam. In January of 1911, she was designated the flagship of the Pacific fleet. On September 1, 1914, she was renamed the USS San Diego. This was done as a result to make her original name available for assignment to a battleship, as directed by Congress. Shortly after her renaming, a boiler explosion kills nine of her crew during a full speed run in the Gulf of California, and places her in reduced commission through the summer of 1915. A summary of what occurred follows
On 21 January 1915 the San Diego suffered a boiler explosion. While taking the half hour readings of the steam pressure at every boiler, Ensign Robert Webester Cary Jr. had just read the steam and air pressure on number 2 boiler. He had just stepped through the electric watertight door into number 1 fire room when the boilers in number 2 fire room exploded. In fire room number 2 at the time was Second Class Fireman Telesforo Trinidad, of the Philippines and R. E. Daly, along with one other man. Ensign Cary stopped and held open the watertight doors which were being closed electrically from the bridge, and yelling to the men in No. 2 fire room to escape through these doors, which 3 of them did do. Ensign Cary held the doors open for a full minute with the escaping steam from the ruptured boilers around him. For His extraordinary heroism Ensign Cary was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He would later retire with the rank of Rear Admiral. Fireman Telesforo Trinidad was driven out fire room No. 2 by the explosion, but at once returned and picked up R. E. Daly, Fireman Second Class, whom he saw injured, and proceeded to bring him out. While coming into No. 4 fire room, Trinidad was just in time to catch the explosion in No. 3 fire room, but without consideration of his own safety, passed Daly on and then assisted in rescuing another injured man from No. 3 fire room. Trinidad was himself burned about the face by the blast from the explosion in No. 3 fire room. For his extraordinary heroism Fireman Second Class Trinidad was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor also for this incident.
The San Diego returned to duty as flagship through 12 February 1917, when she went into reserve status until the opening of World War I.
On April 6, 1917, California Governor William D. Stephens received a telegram from the Secretary of the Navy calling the State’s Naval Militia into Federal Service. Upon the Governor’s orders the Naval Militia was immediately directed to assemble at their Armories and prepare for muster. The following organizations were mustered in as National Naval Volunteers: First Division, San Francisco; Second Division, San Francisco; Third Division, San Diego; Fourth Division, Santa Cruz; Engineer Section, Fourth Division, Santa Cruz; Fifth Division, Eureka; Sixth Division, Santa Barbara; Seventh, Eight, and Ninth Divisions, Los Angeles; Aeronautic Section, Ninth Division, Los Angeles; Tenth Division, San Diego; Eleventh Division, Los Angeles; First Engineer Division, San Francisco; Second Engineer Division, Los Angeles; and the First Marine Company, Los Angeles. The entire organization was subsequently mobilized on board the USS Oregon, USS San Diego, USS Huntington and USS Frederich.
On April 15th Lieutenant Adolph B. Adams and his 5th Division, California Naval Militia left with the San Francisco and Santa Cruz Divisions for Mare Island. At Mare Island the Division reported to George W. Williams on the USS Oregon and were assigned to the Armored Cruiser USS San Diego. On April 17th, sixteen men of the division were transferred to the USS Frederich. Between May 31st and July 18th 1917 those of the Division that were aboard the USS San Diego participated in Convoy duty along the California coast. One mission was a trip from Honolulu, Hawaiian Territory to Port Townsend with an interned German vessel under convoy escort. These duties entitled all the members of the ship to the “Escort” bar for their World War I Victory Medals.
On 18 July, the USS San Diego was ordered to the Atlantic Fleet. Reaching Hampton Roads, Virginia on 4 August, she joined Cruiser Division 2, and later bore the flag of Commander, Cruiser Force, Atlantic, which she flew until 19 September. San Diego's essential mission was the escort of convoys through the first dangerous leg of their passages to Europe. Based on Tompkinsville, New York, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, she operated in the weather-torn, submarine-infested North Atlantic safely convoying all of her charges to the ocean escorts.
On 8 July 1918, the San Diego left Portsmouth, New Hampshire, en route to New York. She had rounded Nantucket Light and was heading west. On 19 July 1918, she was zigzagging as per war instructions on a course for New York. The Sea was smooth, and the visibility was 6 miles. At 11:23 AM, a huge explosion tore a large hole in her port side amidships. The explosion crippled the port engine. Captain Christy immediately sounded the submarine defense quarters, which involved a general alarm and closing of all watertight doors. Soon after two more explosions ripped through her hull. These secondary explosions were later determined to have been caused by the rupturing of one of her boilers and the ignition of one of her magazines. The ship immediately started to list to port. Captain Christy ordered the starboard engine rung up to full speed and headed toward the shore in an attempt to ground the San Diego in a salvageable depth of water. Soon afterward the starboard engine quit. The Officers and crew quickly went to their battle stations. Guns were fired from all sides of the warship at anything that could be a periscope or submarine. Her port guns fire until they were awash. Her starboard guns fired until the list of the ship pointed them into the sky. Under the impression that a submarine was in the area, the men stayed at their posts until Captain Christy gave the order “All hands abandon ship” after the starboard engine quit. At 11:51 AM the San Diego sunk only 28 minutes after the initial explosion. As per Navy tradition Captain Christy was the last man off the ship. As the Captain left the ship, the crew in the lifeboats gave him a cheer and burst in to signing the National Anthem. As the Officers and crew watched from their lifeboats the San Diego gently rolled over and was gone, along with six of her crew. It is amazing that 1,177 of the ship's crew and officers were able to abandon ship in such a short time.
The German submarine U156 is credited with sinking the USS San Diego. The submarine laid mines in the area where the cruiser was lost. Unfortunately we will never know the details of the U156 operations, as the submarine was sunk on her return voyage after entering a mine field.
The USS San Diego (ACR 6) today lies upside down about eleven miles southeast of Fire Island inlet, Long Island, New York at Loran 26543.4 43693.2 in 115 feet of sea water.
2nd USS San Diego
The second San Diego (CL-53), an antiaircraft light cruiser, was commissioned on 10 January 1942. The ship supported the first American offensive of the war, the invasion of the Solomon’s at Guadalcanal in 1942, participated in operations throughout the Pacific during World II and o n 27 August 1945, San Diego was the first major Allied warship to enter Tokyo Bay since the beginning of the war. USS San Diego was decommissioned and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet on 4 November 1946. She earned 18 battle stars for service in World War II.
USS SAN DIEGO: CL 53 (1941 - 1945) - The Unbeatable Ship That Nobody Ever Heard Of by Fred Whitmore
Few knew of her during World War 11, and few know of her even today: a ship named for the city of San Diego. The light antiaircraft cruiser USS SAN DIEGO (CL 53) received the honor of being the first victorious American warship to enter Tokyo Bay. A former crewman, Bill Butcher, gunners mate second class, wonders about the SAN DIEGO and her place in history books. He recently wrote, "...Nothing ever happened to us that was 'headline news' until we were the first major Allied warship to enter Tokyo Bay. We were straddled by bombs, dodged torpedoes and (were) attacked by suicide planes that missed. We never lost a man in combat, never surrendered to the enemy, and earned eighteen battle stars while steaming 300,000 miles without a major overhaul." (Butcher now lives in Massachusetts and is petitioning Congress and the Postal Service to put the SAN DIEGO on a commemorative postage stamp.)
John Supino, seaman first class, was assigned to a specialized damage control party whose duties were to make repairs when the ship got hit. Supino maintains that since the ship never got hit, the damage control people virtually had a pleasure cruise. (Supino. who entered the Navy from Everett, Massachusetts, still lives at the same address.)
World War II went out with two stupendous, thundering booms in August, 1945. The atomic bombs brought the Japanese to the peace table. On August 15 Japan gave up, and everything changed. Only a few months earlier, everyone believed that to end the war, Japan would have to be invaded at a cost of a million lives or more.
Now the ship's crew suddenly realized the end of the war was at hand, and got to wondering about going to Tokyo. It turned out that a little delay going home via Tokyo was quite acceptable, especially when they were being honored to act as flagship as well as the first ship to dock in Japan. That would fulfill a promise made back in Boston in January 1942, "that she wouldn't stop until she dropped her hook in Tokyo Bay."
On August 12, Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, colorful commander of the huge United States Third Fleet, sent a message to a light cruiser, the USS San Diego (CL 53), as follows: "San Diego designated as flagship for Commander Task Force 31, and thus in the center of all activity. Seeing an imminent end of combat, Halsey handpicked the San Diego to be the first major warship to enter Tokyo Bay once the enemy surrendered unconditionally. That event happened two days later, on August 14, signaling the end to the long and vicious fighting that started with the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
The crew of the San Diego felt that they had rightfully earned the honor with a remarkable wartime record. She'd won 18 battle stars. She took part in 34 major battle actions; steamed an incredible 300,000 miles at sea with only short stops at such out-of-the-way places as Majuro, Eniwetok and Ulithi atolls; and never took a direct hit or lost a man in combat from the day she was commissioned in January' 1942. Bob Alderson, yeoman third class, attributed the success of the San Diego to his shipmates. He said, "I think it was the accuracy of our aim. The more our ship was in battle, the greater our chances of survival because we knew what we were doing. We had complete confidence and good skippers."
Then there was the design of San Diego, which made life a nightmare for the enemy aviators. As one officer observed, "When seven turrets with fourteen five-inch guns were all firing at the enemy, it looked like the ship itself was on fire."
A rather crusty Rear Admiral Oscar Badger had been selected by Admiral Halsey to be Commander Task Force 31 on the San Diego. The accompanying minesweepers, destroyers, seaplane tenders, and high-speed transport making up Task Force 31 had also compiled exceptional combat records. The task force headed into the narrow but heavily fortified entrance to Tokyo Bay after taking some Japanese navigational pilots aboard. Heeding Admiral Halsey's warning "to be vigilant in light of the enemy's reputation for treachery," all ships stayed at General Quarters, manning; their battle stations while en route to their anchorage in the Bay just outside the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard.
The previous day, Rear Admiral Badger had given Lieutenant Junior Grade Will Templeton, the San Diego Officer-of-the-Deck (OOD), a sample of his personality. A Japanese tug with thirteen military personnel waiting to board the ship was standing off some distance away. When Templeton asked the admiral what signal he should send the tug, the Admiral barked that when he was ready, he would say what he wanted to do. "Yes sir!" said Templeton, who now lives in Oceanside, CA. Rear Admiral Badger had a mean look and a nasty disposition when encountering those Japanese.
Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney was scheduled to take command of Yokosuka Naval Shipyard the next morning after the San Diego had moved from her anchorage to a dock in the Shipyard at 1000 (10 a.m.). By then a coxswain and sideboys piped aboard and saluted Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Admiral Halsey and a bevy of V.I.P. admirals, generals and civilians, plus about 20 press and radio people. The radio group set up on the bridge for a direct broadcast to the USA.
Gun captain and coxswain Earl Burton said, "It was the damnedest day I ever spent on this ship, with more gold and silver aboard than any ship has ever had at one time. During all this, I had the Bos'n Side Boy watch and piped nearly all the big boys either aboard or over the side. I was glad when the sun set. Almost everybody aboard has all sorts of souvenirs." Burton now lives in Endwell, N.Y.
Soon after Admiral Halsey came aboard, he decided he needed a haircut. With little ceremony, the Admiral was escorted down to the ship's barber, Harry Mcllvaine, a young seaman first class, who easily clipped the Admiral. When Admiral Halsey was finished, he wanted to tip the barber, who said," No thanks, but I sure would like one of your cigars." The admiral gladly gave him one, the start of one more true sea story.
After the San Diego completed her historic mooring to mainland Japan, Admiral Badger decided he needed seven staff cars, so he summoned a Marine orderly. He bellowed to the Marine to go get seven staff cars. The bewildered orderly departed the ship with seven Marines following. They disappeared over a small hill nearby. Soon seven Japanese cars paraded up the dock. The Admiral smiled. The Marines had found a busy street right over the hill and simply went out and stopped traffic, commandeering seven decent cars. (Yeoman third class Bob Alderson, who was the Captain's yeoman, was witness to the show. He is retired in San Diego.) This and other incredible events capped the exceptional career of an exceptional ship and her crew.
The saga of the San Diego dates back to 1938 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a large appropriations bill to build new warships. The President believed what few did then, that Adolph Hitler was building a powerful armed force preparing to go to war against the Atlantic alliance, a conflict we could not avoid.
A strong contingent of energetic San Diegans went to Washington to support rebuilding the Navy, and to persuade the President to name a new cruiser after the city of San Diego. They were successful.
The keel was laid in March, 1940, for the new cruiser USS San Diego (CL 53) at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was the third of eight of a new design that came to be known as the Atlanta Class, essentially constructed to produce heavy anti-aircraft fire from eight twin five inch 38 caliber gun mounts, along with many secondary machine guns. She had a three and a half-inch armor belt, with two inches of deck armor. The three tiered mounts forward and aft gave her a beautiful silhouette.
In July, 1941, the San Diego sponsoring group went to Quincy to take part in the christening and launching festivities. Mrs. Grace Benbough, wife of Mayor Percy Benbough, splashed the champagne for the launching. San Diego Chamber of Commerce members and other dignitaries attended.
The ship fitted out at the Boston Navy Yard, and about a month after Pearl Harbor the SAN DIEGO was commissioned on January 10, 1942. It was snowing, and the weather was cold and miserable, perhaps a portent of the tough year ahead. A nucleus crew of officers and senior crewmen had been assigned months prior to the completion of the ship. The full complement of 650 men arrived on commissioning day, consisting largely of graduate recruits from boot camp and reserve officers, to supplement the experienced regular Navy petty officers and Naval Academy-trained officers.
The ship's Commanding Officer, Captain Benjamin Franklin Perry, commendably was a man of few but measured words. In the subzero temperature and eight inches of snow, Captain Perry said, "This ship will be an honor to the city of San Diego. The time for talk is over; let's get going." The executive officer was Commander Timothy O'Brien, who later made admiral.
The new light cruiser was 541 feet in length with a beam of 53 ft. Her full load displacement was 7,500 tons. She was destined to build a formidable record and set a high example for her seven sister ships.
San Diego went through a condensed shakedown and training period in the Portland, Maine, area. She then headed for the Panama Canal, en route to her namesake city for special training before heading, out to the Pacific combat zone.
From day one of the War, a cloak of secrecy surrounded all ship and personnel movements. Nearly everyone in the city of San Diego was unaware that her namesake had arrived in port on May 17, 1942. While the training exercises continued until the end of May, the crew took every opportunity for liberty when in port. One anonymous young fireman from the engineering department went on a royal "toot". At length, he encountered a local policeman who noticed his instability. As the hour was late the policeman asked, "Where are you from, sailor?" The sailor: "San Diego." Policeman: "What part of San Diego?" Sailor: "The forward boiler room." The policeman led the sailor off to the drying-out tank, having never heard of a ship with that name.
The ship's disbursing officer (paymaster), Ensign Len Shea, had handled millions of dollars with great integrity throughout his regular Navy career. But finding himself a bit shy on funds while ashore on liberty, he sauntered into a bank to cash a check. His uniform said he was in the Navy but when the cautious teller asked what ship he was on Ensign Shea stalled a bit before finally revealing the name "San Diego." The teller rather sourly said, "Get outa here! There's no ship named San Diego." (The former paymaster retired as captain, and lives in Coronado.)
Two weeks later, on June 1, 1942, the ship departed San Diego. (It would be 41 months before the city and the USS San Diego would get together again, and that for a huge postwar victory jamboree.)
The ship escorted the Saratoga, a large carrier, to Pearl Harbor. Further training, exercises over four weeks brought the feeling of war closer, until in mid-August the San Diego got underway as part of Task Force 17 escorting carriers and tankers to the battle area in the southwest Pacific. She arrived a week after the tragic Battle of Savo Island.
For 41 days the ship was at sea supporting the Marines' invasion of Guadalcanal. Fierce fighting called for periodic reinforcements for both the Marines and the Japanese. While on patrol off Guadalcanal, the ship's crew saw the carrier WASP sunk by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine, which also damaged the destroyer O'Brien and the battleship North Carolina.
Toward the end of September, Task Force 17, headed up by Rear Admiral George D. Murray, sailed into Noumea, New Caledonia. After provisioning in four days, they set out to sea for what proved to be the first action of the War for the San Diego. A raid on enemy islands Buin and Faisi earned the ship her first battle star.
At the end of October came the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, considered by the crew as the first major action of their careers. American naval forces were beginning to threaten Japan's control of the sea and the air around Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. The enemy mounted a large force of carriers and heavy ships to wipe out the threat. The SAN DIEGO was stationed to protect the port side of the valiant USS Hornet which had been bombed and torpedoed on the starboard side. The carrier could not be saved, but the San Diego took off 200 survivors. Her five-inch guns were credited with bringing down three planes. Gunner's mate Tom Kane, manning a 20 millimeter machine gun on the aft end of the ship, shot down a torpedo plane directly astern. The gunnery officer, Lieutenant Commander Brooke Schunim, witnessed and confirmed the kill. (For 30 years after the war, Kane was a writer for actor John Wayne.)
The enemy, failing to unload a large contingent of infantry reinforcements, suffered three damaged cruisers, a wounded battleship and 123 planes knocked down, and then withdrew from the fray as did the enemy troop ships. The San Diego survived without casualties or real damage, and won its second battle star. Santa Cruz was decisive because the expansion of Japan's power was stopped cold by a US force whose warships were outnumbered 46 enemy ships to 33 of ours.
Nearly everyone on board the San Diego remembers well the days their task force spent near Guadalcanal at night. An enemy twin-engined plane, nicknamed "Washing Machine Charley," flew over nearly every night. His engines were out of synchronization, and made a loud, annoying noise, enough to keep everyone awake. He'd drop a few bombs but never hit anyone.
Many of the crew recalled tying up alongside anchored sister ship San Juan, in one of several atolls. In the evening, while awaiting movies on the fantail, a potato fight would break out between ships, amid hearty insults flying back and forth. That would bring some officers roaring back to the fantail to halt "the disrespectful treatment of Navy food." Entertainment was difficult to come by.
November 1942 found the enemy making a last desperate attempt to reinforce their beleaguered troops and regain control of the Island and Henderson Field. At the conclusion of the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, all 11 Japanese troop ships involved were destroyed - either sunk or beached - with an estimated 24,000 personnel losses. This time the San Diego was with the carrier Enterprise, whose planes helped demolish the reinforcement effort. The action earned the light cruiser another battle star.
Early in February 1943, the Japanese frantically sent 20 destroyers at high speed "down the Slot" to Guadalcanal. It appeared to be still another reinforcement action, but was, in fact, a clever evacuation of 11,000 enemy troops, which Admiral Nimitz praised. That ended the Guadalcanal stalemate. From then on, the American forces took the offensive that led to Tokyo, as a relentless flow of new ships and planes established superiority over a weakening enemy. The San Diego survived the darkest days, fighting in nearly every battle to finally turn the tide.
Over the next six months or so, the San Diego operated in and around Espiritu Santo and Noumea, either on patrol or on exercises, with one large interlude. On March 14, the ship got underway bright and early. At 0600, Captain Perry announced over the public address system that "this ship is underway for Auckland, New Zealand, for about a 12-day stay. We will steam at 26 knots." It was an electrifying message. New Zealand was a dream place for liberty, dining and friendliness.
Auckland was magnificent, as were such treats as fresh milk, fresh vegetables and excellent waitress service. (Americans tipped handsomely, contrary to Kiwi practices). The crew favored the nightlife at the Peter Pan Ballroom, especially the New Zealand girls from 15 to 50 who mobbed the place. During their stay, a special national holiday festival was held to honor the Maori natives. Prime Minister Peter Fraser and the King and Queen of the Maori tribe attended. Seventy-five sailors from the ship were invited. Some hostesses were present, but most of the sailors arranged their own dates. What a highlight!
On March 19, Captain Perry was relieved of command by Captain J. L. Hudson. Under the firm leadership of Captain Perry, SAN DIEGO had established a solid reputation for being dependable and always ready to go. He'd fashioned a fine ship while earning the first four of eighteen battle stars.
Except for 30 days from the end of June, when the San Diego joined Task Force 14 to provide support for the successful invasion of Munda, a British protectorate in the Solomon Islands, the ship sailed mostly in and around New Hebrides and New Caledonia. Bill Butcher, a gunner's mate second class, recalled that before arriving in New Hebrides someone removed some water from a flask on a life raft and replaced it with some raisins. With the normal motions of the ship at sea, the flask got quite a shaking, so much so that when the ship entered port in New Hebrides, it blew up. Since there were many mines in those waters, some sailors celebrated, thinking the ship had taken a hit, and would be heading home.
Starting in November, San Diego and her "playmates" were assigned to the Central Pacific theater, joining the Third Fleet, which became the Fifth Fleet by a flick of the numbers. Many new ships were steadily arriving and the task forces were burgeoning into powerful groups.
In November, the San Diego participated in two raids on the Japanese strong -hold base of Rabaul (another battle star) followed by the invasion and capture of the Gilbert Islands (still another battle star).
With her sister ship San Juan, San Diego was dispatched to Mare Island in December for more extensive yard work. The weather en route was pretty rough. Cliff Rayl, seaman first class, (now retired in California) was assigned a bunk directly below five inch twin gun mount number eight. While the ship tossed about in the rough seas, he and four shipmates were enjoying a friendly poker game. For a card table they were using the closed hatch to the ammunition magazine below; the hatch to the gun mount above was open for ventilation. On one bad roll, a five-inch shell broke loose, and fell down the hatch. It landed on their "card table" with a live nose fuse. An alert sailor picked up the shell, rushed it topside and threw it overboard. That wasn't the end to their troubles.
Two new four-bladed propellers that had been welded and chained to the deck for transit to the States started to come loose in heavy seas. In the dark of night, deck hands were summoned topside to secure them. The decks were awash. Coxswain George Horton was hit by a wave coming over the port side that carried him through the lifelines. Just as it looked like he was a "goner" he was able to grab the middle guard line, when another wave washed him back on board.
In November came the gigantic typhoon that was the most violent anyone had encountered. The wind speed rose rapidly to over 100 mph. San Diego took rolls of 37 degrees then 45 degrees, then 50 degrees. A huge wave came over her amidships, tore the #1 motor whaleboat off the davits and sent it reeling into the superstructure, smashing it in two. Three men were injured when five-inch ammunition came loose and bashed them. Over 120 planes on board the carriers were wrecked by the fierce storm. Three destroyers capsized, they had been light on fuel and hadn't sufficient ballast. A dozen other ships were damaged. It took four days for this worst of typhoons to fade, and was the most frightening, vicious storm in memory.
About mid-December Lieutenant Commander Joe Eliot, the gunnery officer, put out a special notice about a threat worse than typhoons - kamikaze attacks."' More and more, the Japanese kamikaze tactic was seen as the last possible hope for Japan's badly decimated air arm. These suicide missions caused tremendous damage to over one-hundred ships. The gunnery officer set about training gun crews to fire the guns manually, in case all electrical power was lost. It wasn't much fun. But it paid off.
The Third Fleet became the Fifth Fleet in the first part of February, 1945 as the same ships in the same groups took off to support the invasion of Iwo Jima. As March came in, the San Diego joined Rear Admiral F. E. M. Whiting with Vincennes (CA 44), MIAMI (CL 89) and Destroyer Squadron 61 for a shore bombardment of Okino Daito (or Borodino) Island, 195 miles east of Okinawa. The force made three firing runs on a reported enemy radar station there.
In mid-March, and for the next two months, life for the San Diego crew was an endless schedule of sorties to support invasion landings in the Okinawa area. The one important diversion involved towing and escorting the USS Haggard (DD 555), a destroyer that was terribly damaged by a kamikaze. The San Diego took off 31 of the badly wounded while en route to Kerama Retto, a protected island repair base off Okinawa. The crew turned from fighting to tending the sick, giving up their bunks to the seriously wounded. They provided food, candy, ice cream; new uniforms and comfort. A few days later, the survivors were transferred to a hospital ship, and the San Diego rejoined its formation.
At the end of May, another switch in fleet numbers put everyone back in the Third Fleet, in support of the Okinawa campaign. Admiral Halsey commanded the Third Fleet, Admiral Spruance the Fifth.
For two days at the end of June, the ship was dry docked in the Philippines for minor repairs, a routine inspection of her bottom, and rest for the crew. In mid-July, San Diego skipper Captain William Mullan passed word to the crew that the ship would be going back to the States for a yard availability, or maintenance period, in mid-August. The crew exploded with joy. At the end of three years in the combat zone without a full overhaul, the ship and crew deserved a little relief. However, it was not to be: such are the Navy's ways. The U.S. forces began massive and incessant B-29 bombing attacks and shore bombardment of the Japanese seacoasts by powerful naval forces -aggressive preparations for the invasion of Japan. SAN DIEGO was ordered back to operate with the Third Fleet through July into early August, when Admiral Halsey sent all fleet units to rendezvous 200 miles east of Tokyo. But two atomic bomb blasts virtually ended the War, and the Japanese Finally surrendered unconditionally in mid-August.
The climax of San Diego's war career was her selection to be flagship of Task Force 31. With her dramatic entry into Tokyo Bay, the United States accepted the surrender of the giant Yokosuka Naval Shipyard. The ship had been winning battle stars right up until September 2, when, weary of the great long battle, she headed for home, having thereby earned the Japanese Occupation Medal as well.
On the last of the three days they were docked in the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard, all of the San Diego's crew were allowed to set foot in Japan. One clever sailor put it, "It was like thirty seconds over Yokosuka," but everyone was proud to be number one.
On September 1, they pulled away from the dock to anchor a short distance offshore, where they took aboard 250 officers and men as passengers. They were fully qualified for discharge and were eligible to go home. The following, morning, San Diego pulled her hook out of the Tokyo Bay mud and steamed out at 27 knots on a direct course for home - San Francisco. That same day, the formal surrender by Japan took place aboard the USS MISSOURI, as 258 allied ships filled the bay to celebrate their victory. From the San Diego's cruise book: "Anchoring in Tokyo Bay will be remembered for two things. We saw a real setting sun over Fujiyama, and we had movies on the fantail. If we needed any last assurance that the war was over that was it."
San Francisco gave a giant welcome to the decorated ship passing under the Golden Gate upon arrival in the USA. The city of San Diego then invited the USS San Diego to a much larger celebration on Navy Day, October 27th, the most extravagant bash the city ever hosted.
Chief electrician's mate Mike Lawless, of the Navy Veterans Association, composed this tribute; "Of all the ships and all the crews I served with the U.S.S. San Diego, CL-53 and crew has a special place in my heart. It always has and always will be my favorite ship and crew. The day I left the San Diego CL-53, I walked from the gangway to the bow with my seabag slung over my shoulder, and I said to myself, I am just going to keep walking and not look back. When I was parallel to the bow, I stopped, took a look back at that beautiful ship and said, 'You carried me all through that war safely and brought me back,' then I proceeded to cry like a baby."
USS SAN DIEGO was decommissioned and placed in the Bremerton, Washington reserve fleet on November 4, 1946. She was redesigned CLAA-53 (light antiaircraft cruiser) in March 1949, On March 1, 1959, the Navy struck her from the lists and she was scrapped
|* GUADALCANAL CAPTURE
||AUG. 31, 1942 To FEB. 8,1943|
|* Buin-Faisi-TONOLAI RAID
||OCT. 5, 1942|
|* SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS
||OCT. 26, 1942|
|* GUADALCANAL (Third Salvo)
||Nov. 12-15, 1942|
|* RENNEL ISLAND
||JAN. 29-30, 1943|
|* NEW GEORGIA-RENDOVA-VAUGUNU
||JUNE 27-JULY 23, 1943|
|* BUKA-BONINS STRIKE
||Nov. 1-2, 1943|
||Nov. 5, 1943|
||Nov. 11, 1943|
|* GILBERT ISLANDS OCCUPATION
||Nov. 24-29, 1943|
||DEC. 4, 1943|
|KWAJELEIN AND MAJURO OCCUPATION
||JAN 29 To FEB. 4, 1943|
|JALUIT ATOLL ATTACK
||FEB. 20, 1944|
|* TRUK ATTACK
||FEB. 16-17, 1944|
|* SAIPAN-PAGAN ATTACKS
||JUNE 11-13, 1944|
||JUNE 15-16, 1944|
|IWO JIMA ATTACKS
||JUNE 16, 1944|
||JUNE 19 To AUG. 10, 1944|
||JUNE 19 To AUG. 10, 1944|
||JUNE 19 To AUG. 10, 1944|
|PHILIPPINE SEA BATTLE
||JUNE 19-20, 1944|
|* SOUTHERN PALAU ISLANDS
||SEPT. 6 TO OCT. 14, 1944|
|PHILIPPINE ISLANDS ASSAULTS
||SEPT. 9-24, 1944|
|* SOUTHERN PALAU ISLANDS
||SEPT. 6 TO OCT. 14, 1944|
|PHILIPPINE ISLANDS ASSAULTS
||SEPT. 9-24, 1944|
|* OKINAWA ATTACK
||OCT. 10, 1944|
|NORTHERN LUZON, FORMOSA ATTACKS
||OCT. 11-14, 1944|
||OCT. 17-19, 1944|
||OCT. 20-21 AND Nov. 11, 1944|
||Nov. 20 AND DEC. 14-16, 1944|
|* FORMOSA ATTACKS
||JAN. 3-4, 1945|
||JAN. 7, 1945|
|* CHINA COAST ATTACKS
||JAN. 12, 16, 1945|
|NANSEI SHOTO ATTACKS
||JAN. 22, 1945|
|* IWO JIMA
||FEB. I5 TO MARCH 16, 1945|
|* OKINAWA ASSAULT AND OCCUPATION MARCH
||17 TO JUNE 11, 1945|
3rd USS San Diego
The third USS San Diego (AFS 6), a Mars-class combat stores ship, was laid down on 11 March 1967 by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company at San Diego, California, launched on 13 April 1968, sponsored by Mrs. Frank Curran and commissioned on 24 May 1969 with Capt. John W. Wells as the commanding officer.
As the largest of the three previous San Diego’s, AFS 6 was 581 feet long and had a beam of 79 feet - still smaller than LPD 22. Over the years she provided underway replenishment and refueling- at-sea services to thousands of ships. This USS San Diego was decommissioned and simultaneously placed in service by MSC as USN San Diego (T-AFS-6), on 11 August 1993 and eventually placed out of service in December 1997.
After shakedown and refresher training in late 1969, San Diego began a seven-month, deployment to the Mediterranean in support of the U.S. 6th Fleet. She returned to her home port, Norfolk, Virginia, and remained on the U.S. East Coast until February of 1971 when she was selected to represent the U.S. Atlantic Fleet at the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In April, she deployed again to the 6th Fleet and stayed in the Mediterranean until October. During this tour of duty, she earned the Supply Efficiency "E," rescued sailors from a burning Greek freighter, and represented the 6th Fleet at Admiral Farragut Day at Minorca, Balearic Islands.
On 27 July 1972, following more than nine months back in the United States operating and training along the Atlantic seaboard, San Diego got underway to return to the 6th Fleet. She arrived at Rota, Spain, on 4 August and relieved Sylvania (AFS-2) as the on-station combat store ship with the 6th Fleet. At the end of another six months of service in the Mediterranean, San Diego got underway to return to Norfolk, Virginia, in January 1973. She arrived on the 26th and resumed normal operations with the Atlantic Fleet.
San Diego operated out of Norfolk, along the eastern seaboard, and in the Caribbean until late October 1973. At that time, she departed Norfolk for her fourth tour of duty in the Mediterranean. She arrived at Rota, Spain, on 4 November. The combat store ship cruised the “middle sea” with the 6th Fleet for the next six months, getting underway from Rota on 19 April 1974 to return to Norfolk. San Diego reached Norfolk on the 27th and, as of 30 June 1974, was still in port there.
Between June 1974 and June 1976 San Diego made 2 more deployments to the 6th Fleet and an additional excursion to Guantanamo Bay for "refresher training". Sailors considered deployed duty on AF/AFS ships to be excellent as port visits were made regularly to resupply, giving sailors an opportunity to visit more places and smaller ports than the warship fleet. Supply ships usually steamed independently and were freed from some of the military bearing that was required when in formation with US warships and under the eyes of a Commodore or Admiral. Captain Fellowes and Captain Burns were naval aviators getting their ticket punched for Deep Draft Command and a better opportunity for selection as Rear Admiral.
During the 3 Med cruises from 1973 - 1976, USS San Diego stopped in ports from Lisbon, Portugal to the Greek Island of Corfu, just off the coast of Albania. The eastern most port was Athens, the only north African port was Tunis, Tunisia. Palma de Mallorca and Naples, Italy were the most frequented ports during those years.
On 11 August 1993 San Diego was decommissioned and placed in service as USNS San Diego (T-AFS-6). She remained in service as a USNS until 10 December 1997 when she was laid up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was struck from the Navy List on 10 December 1997 and she was sold for scrap at Philadelphia on 9 April 2006.