USS Birmingham (CL-62)
USS Birmingham (CL-62), a United States Cleveland-class light cruiser named for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, the "Pittsburgh of the South", was laid down at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of Newport News, Virginia on 17 February 1941 and launched on 20 March 1942 by Mrs. Cooper Green, wife of the president of the Birmingham City Commission. She was commissioned on 29 January 1943, Captain John Wilkes in command. Birmingham was one of the "fightingest" ships of the Navy and suffered heavy damage on at least three occasions.
USS Birmingham (CL-62), underway in the Hampton Roads area, Virginia, on 20 February 1943.
|Namesake:||City of Birmingham, Alabama|
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia|
|Laid down:||17 February 1941|
|Launched:||20 March 1942|
|Commissioned:||29 January 1943|
|Decommissioned:||2 January 1947|
|Struck:||1 March 1959|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap on 12 November 1959|
|Class and type:||Cleveland-class light cruiser|
|Beam:||66 ft 4 in (20.22 m)|
|Speed:||32.5 kn (37.4 mph; 60.2 km/h)|
|Range:||11,000 nmi (20,000 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)|
|Complement:||1,255 officers and enlisted|
|Aircraft carried:||4 × floatplanes|
|Aviation facilities:||2 × stern catapults|
|Operations:||World War II|
|Awards:||8 × battle stars|
World War II
Following her shakedown cruise, Birmingham was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. Departing Norfolk, Virginia on 2 June, she steamed to the Mediterranean and gave gunfire support during the invasion of Sicily (10–26 July 1943). Returning to the United States on 8 August, she was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 6 September.
Joining the fast carrier task force screen, she took part in the raids on Tarawa (18 September 1943) and Wake Island (5–6 October). At the Solomons, she took part in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay (8–9 November), along with her sister ships Cleveland, Columbia, Montpelier, and Denver. This was the first major action by the new Cleveland-class light cruisers that were entering the fleet. Birmingham's gunners shot down at least four enemy Japanese aircraft. During the daytime, Japanese planes hit Birmingham with two bombs and a torpedo. The ship's casualties included two killed and 34 wounded. The hits kept her out of the night surface battle with the Imperial Japanese Navy fleet that followed. Birmingham retired to Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs which lasted until 18 February 1944, when she rejoined the Pacific Fleet.
Assigned to Task Force 57 (TF 57), she took part in the battle of Saipan (14 June – 4 August); the Battle of the Philippine Sea (19–20 June); battle of Tinian (20 July – 1 August); battle of Guam (21 July); and Philippine Islands raids (9–24 September). She then served with TF 38 during the Okinawa raid (10 October), northern Luzon and Formosa raids (15 October and 18–19 October), and the Battle of Leyte Gulf (24 October). During the latter, she suffered great topside damage from explosions on board the aircraft carrier Princeton while courageously attempting to aid that stricken vessel. 239 men died, 408 were wounded, and the bodies of four were never recovered. Birmingham retired to Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs which lasted from November 1944 to January 1945.
Rejoining the Pacific Fleet, the cruiser supported the battle of Iwo Jima (4–5 March 1945) and battle of Okinawa (25 March – 5 May). On 4 May, after fighting off three attacks, she was damaged for a third time when a Japanese kamikaze plane hit her forward. The resulting explosion killed 47, with 4 missing and 81 wounded. Returning to Pearl Harbor, she underwent repairs from 28 May to 1 August.
Birmingham rejoined the 5th Fleet at Okinawa on 26 August, and then in November steamed to Brisbane, Australia. She visited other Australian ports including Melbourne on 8 Nov 1945. She returned to San Francisco on 22 March 1946 and was taken out of commission and placed in reserve there on 2 January 1947. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 March 1959 and scrapped at Long Beach, California.
Awards and legacy
Birmingham earned nine battle stars during her World War II service.
An 8-foot (2.4 m) long waterline model of USS Birmingham, owned by the U. S. Navy, has been loaned for display at Birmingham City Hall, at the Southern Museum of Flight, and currently, at the Birmingham History Center.
- The Saga of the U.S.S. Birmingham: A Compilation of Her Officers & Men. San Angelo, Texas: Newsfoto Publishing Company. 1946. OCLC 31159156.
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