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This is another one of the reports that I've come across with really weird formatting... heavy indentation. I've kept true for the purpose of this posting.

War Record of USS Birmingham (CL-62)


     1.          Date of Commissioning:

                 (a) The Birmingham was commissioned 29 January 1943

     2.          Number of "star" operations participated in:

                 (a)   The Birmingham has participated in eight (8) "star" operations. The operations and periods in which the ship took part are as follows:

                       (1) Sicilian Occupation - The initial attack and invasion of Sicily, including the bombardment of shore batteries and other military objectives, 10-26 July 1943.

                       (2) Pacific Raids 1943 - The attack on Tarawa Island on 18 September and on Wake Island 5-6 October 1943.

                       (3) Treasury-Bougainville Operation - Assault on Bougainville, including the night air attack during which the ship was damaged, 8-9 November 1943.

                       (4) Marianas Operation - The Marianas Islands campaign, including the capture and occupation of Guam and Tinian Islands, 14 June - 1 August 1944.

                       (5) Western Caroline Islands Operation - Capture and occupation of Southern Palau Islands, 6 September - 14 October 1944, and assaults on the Philippine Islands, 9-24 September 1944.

                       (6) Leyte Operation - Third Fleet Supporting Operations; Okinawa attack 10 October, Northern Luzon and Formosa attacks, 11-14 October, Luzon attacks 17-19 October, and Battle for Leyte Gulf, 24 October, off Luzon.

                       (7) Iwo Jima Operation - Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima Island, 28 February - 5 March 1945.

                       (8) Okinawa Gunto Operation - Assault and occupation of Okinawa Island, 28 March - 5 May 1945 and le Shima, 13-17 April 1945.

                 (b)   In addition the Birmingham has taken part in the occupation of Japan having been assigned to a force furnishing cover for minesweepers, removing prisoners of war from Nagasaki and Sasebo and the landing of troops. Participation was limited because upon arrival in the vicinity the Birmingham received orders to proceed to Brisbane, Australia for duty under Commander U. S. Naval Forces Australia - New Guinea.

                 (c)   By participating in action against the enemy for the liberation of the Philippine Islands, as defined in AlNav //64-45, during the period of 17-26 October 1944, the personnel of the Birmingham became eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with star.

     3.          Number of enemy surface units sunk or accredited assistance given:

                 (a)   During the pre-invasion strikes on the Palaus and Eastern Philippines on 9 September 1944 the Birmingham was credited with destroying 3,000 tons of shipping and assisting in the destruction of approximately 3,000 more when the task unit to which she was attached intercepted a convoy off Hinatuan Bay. Sunk by the ship's gunfire were three small AK's, a large Sampan and a 30-foot motor boat, the latter having been previously damaged by automatic weapons. Two small AK's were set on fire the latter sunk with the assistance of gunfire from other ships. Four beached Sampans were set on fire and damaged. Other ships assisted in the sinking of two more sampans.

                 (b)   At Okinawa two mines were sunk and two exploded by the ship's 40 MM fire.

                 (c)   In addition the Birmingham has been attached to bombardment units at Sicily, Wake, Shortland Island, the Marianas Campaign, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In each instance the ship destroyed or damaged numerous military targets, including pillboxes, blockhouses, gun emplacements and aircraft.

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     4.          Number of enemy aircraft shot dovm or accredited assistance given.

                 (a)   The Birmingham has brought down one German and ten (10) Japanese planes and assisted in the destruction of six (6) others, all Japanese. The German plane was shot down at Sicily. Five Jap aircraft were destroyed at Bougainville with assists on one other; assists were recorded on one plane during the Marianas Operations and one in the Philippine assaults. Five enemy planes were destroyed at Okinawa, two making suicide dives, and three (3) assists were made.

     5.          Number of anti-Submarine actions:

                 (a)   None.

     6.          Outstanding performances participated in by the ship while in actual contact with the enemy;

                 (a)   The night air attack off Bougainville 8-9 November 1943 during which the ship was badly damaged. The ship was attached to CruDiv 13 which was protecting transports at Empress Augusta Bay from a Jap Task Force steaming south from Truk. Jap bombers smashed at the unit and the Birmingham received a torpedo hit forward, a torpedo or bomb struck astern and a bomb landed on Turret No. 4. Despite the severe material damage the ship sustained, she succeeded in bagging her largest total of planes in any one operation.

                 (b)   The escort duty performed in returning the USS Houston and USS Canberra from the forward area after they had been hit off the Formosa coast 12 October 1944. The Houston and Canberra, both crippled by torpedo hits from aircraft, were taken in tow at 4.5 knots 60 miles east of the island and Birmingham was assigned as one of three cruisar escorts. The slow moving unit used as a lure to draw a Jap task force within range of the Third fleet, almost succeeded in the mission. The enemy fled, however, when the Third Fleet was sighted. Hammered by air attacks almost continually for four days the unit managed to withdraw from the area without further damage, except for the Houston being hit by anothor torpedo.

     7.          Outstanding performance participated in by the ship while not in actual contact with the enemy:

                 (a)   In an effort to aid the light carrier USS Princeton which blew up as a result of a bomb hit during the Second Battle of the Phillippine Sea the Birmingham suffered 237 killed, four missing and 426 wounded in addition to receiving severe damage to her superstructures. Shortly after a single Jap plane dropped a bomb on the Princeton's flight deck on the morning of 24 October 1944 the carrier was torn by two internal explosions and fires. The Birmingham fell back to aid the carrier and at one time had 14 streams of water pouring into her. Other ships at the scene begun picking up survivors while 35 volunteers from the Birmingham climbed over on the carrier and fought to control the flames. Air attacks were pressed by the enemy, causing the Birmingham and other vessels to draw away from the Princeton for an hour after the flames had been controlled. The Birmingham pulled alongside again after and was only 50 feet from the Princeton when the carrier's after magazines blew up. Most of the Birmingham crew were topside at the time of the blast, rigging for towing the Princeton, and as a result her decks were covered with dead and wounded. Flying fragments and debris riddled her topside.

     8.          Number of awards made aboard:

  (a)   One Navy Cross.
(b) One Silver Star Medal.
(c) Two Legion of Merit Medals.
(d) Five Air Medals.
(e} Fifty Two Bronze Star.
(f) Two Navy and Marine Corps Medals.
(g) 465 Purple Heart Medals.
(h) Five letters of Commendation.

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                 (i)   The ship was recommended by ComCruDiv 13 for the Navy Unit citation for her many actions. Disapproval first, was followed by a recommendation by Rear Admiral Mitcher for the Presidential Unit Citation. Both Com. 5th Flt and Cincpoa have favorably endorsed, but no final action has been taken.

                 (j)   Recommendation of awards during the Okinawa Gunto Operation are pending.

     9.          Personnel casualties and damage to the ship, incurred in action against the enemy;

                 (a)   Casualties;

                       (1)  Sicily, 25 July 1943 - one killed on flight observation patrol.
                       (2)  Bougainville, 8 November 1943 - one killed, one missing and 32 wounded.
                       (3)  Saipan, 17 June 1944 - two wounded.
                       (4)  Saipan, 16 July 1944 - three wounded.
                       (5)  Princeton explosion, 24 October 1944 - 237 killed, four missing and 426 wounded.
                       (6)  Okinawa, 1 April 1945 - one wounded.
                       (7)  Okinawa, 4 May 1945 - 47 killed, 4 missing and 81 wounded.

                 (b)   Damage to the ships

                      (1)  As a result of the air attack off Bougainville damage to the Birmingham was severe but localized. The torpedo struck forward on the starboard counter just above the waterline and a hole 14 by 15 feet was blown in the shell with most of the damage above the waterline. The bomb which hit astern detonated upon impact with the port shell about ten feet above the surface. The shell was ruptured over an area of approximately 28 x 32 feet. Interior structures on the port side were demolished and some compartments below the third deck flooded. The second bomb which exploded over No. 4 Turret scarred and pitted the turret face plates and gun barrels. Fragments entered the turret through the gun ports and caused some damage in the interior of the turret, which was jammed in elevation. Steering control was impaired slightly.

                      (2)  Damage sustained as a result of the explosion of the USS Princeton was extensive yet, in a military sense, superficial. Large holes were pierced in the starboard shell plating above the second decks. Knocked out of commission were the after sky director, both planes, catapults and the crane. All fire control batteries were out of alignment due to shock and vibrations of the superstructure, No. 1 shaft was in operative. Radio communications were restricted to VRF Channels by the destruction of all other radio antennas. Two smoke generators were lost in addition to all signal halyards„ Some starboard guns were forced inboard.

                      (3)  As a result of a suicide plane attack at Okinawa on 4 May 1945 the Birmingham sustained considerable damage forward. The plane, with bomb load, struck the main deck to starboard and penetrated to the third deck. The ensuing explosion wiped out sick bay and ruptured the main, second and third decks. Bulkheads were blown in and a hole five feet by 14 inches ripped in the starboard side below the waterline. Four living compartments, the armory and three 5" magazines flooded. The forward distribution board and many electrical cables were put out of operation.

                 (c)   A copy of the ship's history forwarded to CinCPac (Public Relations Office), covering the war record of the ship is submitted herewith:

                       The story of the light cruiser USS BIRMIHGHAM is a saga replete with the courage, devotion and sacrifice of the thousands of officers and men who have served aboard her.

                       From the invasion of Sicily, where she underwent enemy fire for the first time, to the bombardment and seizure of the Island of Okinawa in the Japanese homeland, the BIRMINGHAM has held her own with the more famous fighting ships of the Navy.

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                       Since she was commissioned, January 29, 1943, the BIRMINGHAM has aided in the support of many amphibious operations and has helped account for numerous enemy aircraft and thousands of tons of shipping.

                       But it was during the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea that she really earned the plaudits of the combined fleets and captured the admiration of the nation. There, with her crew almost cut in half when the light carrier USS PRINCETON blew up alongside and her decks literally running with blood, the BIRMINGHAM turned in one of the most stirring and heroic chapters of the war.

                       Following her baptism of fire in the Mediterranean area she has operated consistently with elements of the Third and Fifth Fleets or with the famed fast Carrier Task Forces 58 and 38.

                       The ship's log records tersely the American progress of victory - Africa, Sicily, Wake, Tarawa, Solomon Islands, Shortland Islands, the Marianas, First Battle of the Philippine Sea, Palaus, Battle of the Eastern Philippines, Mindanao, Luzon, Formosa, the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

                       The strike at Okinawa was her second venture into the Japanese homeland proper, having been with the first fast carrier task force striking at targets in Nansei Shoto six months before.

                       At least forty percent of her first crew, which was under the command of Captain John Wilkes, now Rear Admiral Wilkes, were veterans of other ships in the African invasion and the remainder were heading for their first action when the BIRMINGHAM moved in on Sicily in July 1943.

                       Despite the comparatively green crew the BIRMINGHAM rendered yeoman service in support of the landing craft in the Licata area during the first two days of the campaign.

                       Operating in the proximity of a mine field off Porto Empedocle and under fire from that port for a time, the ship was likewise within 25 miles of an enemy fighter field and without specific air coverage for the first seven days of fire support. Night air attacks were repeatedly beaten off while defenses at Agrigento were shelled and knocked out.

                       After a minor overhaul at Norfolk Navy Yard, the BIRMINGHAM was ordered into the Pacific theatre under the command of Captain Thomas B. Inglis, USN. Attached to a carrier task force, the ship's first assignment against the Japanese included counter battery fire at Wake and air strikes on Tarawa during September 1943.

                       No damage was received from enemy action and the following month the BIRMINGHAM was detached and proceeded to Empress Augusta Bay where she operated with a task unit in support of the Marine landings on Bougainville.

                       The first serious damage to the cruiser came on the night of November 8 when two bombs, or a bomb and a torpedo, struck aft. Another torpedo hit the waterline forward. Damage was extensive

                       The ship was hit during one of the nine air attacks which BIRMINGHAM gunners beat off. In one of the raids ten low and fast flying planes were taken under fire, one being downed. During this operation the ship was credited with four Jap planes and assists on 11 others.

                       In company with a carrier bearing damaged planes and two destroyers which also had been shot up, the BIRMINGHAM limped 5,000 miles to Pearl Harbor and then to the west coast for repairs. The return, however, was not without incident for rough seas constantly imperiled her shattered bow and from a huge hole in for forecastle a geyser of water, dubbed "Old Faithful" by the crew, shot almost 80 feet into the air to spray the deck over a wide area.

                       The following May however, she was in the bombardment group shelling Jap instalations on Shortland island and preparing for bigger things to come.

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                       From June 14 to June 17, 1944, the BIRMINGHAM participated in the amphibious assault on Saipan in the Marianas Islands.

                       The day before the actual invasion she lay off but 2,000 yards, in point blank range of the shore batteries, to cover the demolition teams which were continually harassed by raking fire from the beach. Minesweeper's also operated under cover of her guns.

                       Chief targets for the BIRMINGHAM were on Afetna Point and although straddled by intense fire she escaped with only minor damage. To prevent waterborne traffic between Tinian and Saipan the BIRMINGHAM carried out patrol tours in the vicinity.

                       On the day of the landings the ship lay in close to protect the landing craft and to serve as a guide for the main landing between the two beaches.

                       The shore fire control parties gave the accolade to BIRMINGHAM gunners on the third day of the assault, June 16, with the brief message "Damn good shooting, right on the nose."

                       The BIRMINGHAM was assigned to Task Force 58 on June 20 after reports had been received that a large Japanese battle unit of carriers and other heavy ships was headed for the Marianas. To prevent their attack on our transports Task Force 58 steamed out to intercespt with good results. Destruction of the Jap unit presaged the scope of the BIRMINGHAM'S future role with T.F.58 in Pacific actions.

                       Bombardment of Tinian Island and covering the landing parties for the strikes on Tinian and Guam followed in order for the BIRMINGHAM, engaging her without respite until August 7.

                       After rearming in September at Eniwetok the BIRMINGHAM moved out again with Task Force 58 for pre-invasion strikes on the Palaus and Eastern Philippines. Mindanao was attacked late in the month and at Hinatuan Bay the BIRMINGHAM, it was estimated, destroyed 3,000 tons of enemy shipping and assisted in the destruction of 3,000 more when a convoy was intercepted.

                       During the operation the ship concluded her longest steaming period since commissioning, 29 days, during which she traveled 12,272 miles.

                       On October 9 she aided in the major smash via air at Nansei Shoto by Task Foree 38. The raids, the first on the Jap homeland proper, included an attack on Okinawa Island. Damage to enemy shipping, installations and aircraft was extensive.

                       Three days later the BIRMINGHAM was with the Third Fleet as it proceeded to Eastern Formosa to deliver air strikes at that island and vicinity.

                       During this operation the fleet was hammered continually by heavy air attacks and two cruisers, the USS HOUSTON and USS CANBERRA, were hit by torpedo planes and badly damaged. The crippled ships ware taken in tow about 60 miles east of Fomosa at a speed of 4.5 knots and subject to continuous air attacks for nearly four days.

                       The BIRMINGHAM kept circling the ships, slowly and when the HOUSTON took another torpedo, stood by to pick up survivors. Battered as it was the little group became a lure to bait a large Jap fores to within range of the Third Fleet lying in readiness 100 miles away, but the enemy following precedent, turned tail when the Third Fleet was sighted.

                       After days of facing continuous air attacks both the HOUSTON and CANBERRA were returned to repair points at Ulithi.

                       By October 24 the BIRMINGHAM was with the force off the eastern coast of Luzon in the North Central Philippines. Early in the day a large Jap force was sighted off Mindoro Island and two enemy air groups sent to intercept the fleet were practically destroyed.

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                       But one enemy dive bomber got through and scored a direct hit on the flight deck of the USS PRINCETON. That hit, which spelled the doom of the light carrier, also was indirectly responsible some hours later for hundreds of casualties aboard the BIRMINGHAM.

                       After a series of explosions had shaken the badly smoking ship the BIRMINGHAM was ordered to fall back and aid the carrier. As the BIRMINGHAM joined the cruiser RENO and destroyers IRWIN, MORRISON, CASSIN YOUNG and GATLING in circling the PRINCETON, fighter planes and AA fire from the ships broke up a fierce enemy air strike.

                       The BIRMINGHAM proceeded to go alongside the carrier to battle the raging fires and a bowline was made fast. Shortly before, the stricken carrier abandoned ship and nearby destroyers began picking up survivors. Heavy swells handicapped rescue and fire fighting efforts and the bumping of the ships resulted in damage to the BIRMINGHAM'S starboard gun mounts and structures.

                       A party of 35 volunteers made considerable progress in fighting the flames aft and it was felt that the fires could be controlled within a short time. At one time 14 streams were pouring into the PRINCETON from the BIRMINGHAM. Shortly after noon the BIRMINGHAM cast off because of plane and submarine alerts but drew alongside an hour later.

                       The ships than lay in the trough of the sea separated about 50 feet at the closest point when a terrific blast from exploding bombs and torpedoes in the after portion of the PRINCETON rained death upon the decks of the BIRMINGHAM. Much of the carrier's stern was torn away by the blast.

                       Shrapnel and other flying debris caused severs material damage, while dead, dying and wounded were sprawled across the decks and superstructure. But there was no confusion and scenes of heroism became commonplace in a few moments.

                       The ship becama a veritable hospital with corpsmen, officers and men alike working desperately throughout the afternoon and night to succor the wounded. The blast cost the BIRMIMGHAM 237 killed, four missing, 211 wounded seriously and 215 with minor to severe wounds. Most of the crew was topside at the time of the explosions.

                       Commander Winston Folk, then executive officer of the ship in speaking of the conduct of the crew during the disaster, had this to say: "I really have no words at my command that can adequately describe the veritable splendor of the conduct of all hands, wounded and unwounded. Not only was there not the slightest tendency toward panic, there was not a single case that came to my attention directly or reportedly where anything but praise could be given."

                       Commander Abbott Peterson, Jr., ship's chaplain who labored untiringly in the officer's wardroom where many of the wounded were brought, described the selflessness of the man in this manner: "For sheer courage, bravery and in many cases outright heroism that first hour in the wardroom following the explosion surpasses anything I could ever have imagined or believed possible."

                       And the 1,400 survivors of the ill-fated carrier who owe their lives to the magnificent work of the men aboard the rescue ships thought the same way. A valued remembrance, a plaque enscribed simply "In Appreciation" hangs on the quarterdeck of the BIRMINGHAM. Besides it hangs another, made from a pierced piece of steel from the bulkhsad of the captain's cabin. It points out that "Greater Love Hath No Man."

                       From November 1944 until January 1945 the BIRMINGHAM lay in drydock at Mare Island, her home yard, for repair and refitting. The wounded Captain Inglis, who was transferred to a naval hospital, was succeeded in command by Captain Harry D. Power, USN, and in February the ship steamed toward Iwo Jima which had been partially secured before her arrival.

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                       Attached to the joint expeditionary force for temporary duty at Iwo the BIRMINGHAM, from February 28 to March 5, furnished destructive, harassing and illuminating fire as called for by Shore Fire Control parties. Air spotters credited the ship with the destruction of two '5 shore batteries, a concrete blockhouse, rocket launcher and probable damage to other installations.

                       For a week preceding the invasion of the Island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945. the BIRMINGHAM was with the bombardment group of the Fifth Fleet which softened up the strategic base 660 miles from Tokyo. An amphibious operation, even such as Okinawa assault, largest in the Pacific up to that time, was an old story by then to BIRMINGHAM personnel. As usual she had one of the choice supporting assignments for the major landing. Both army and marine troops, past and present, can remember lining their assault boats on her.

                       The ship gave fire support to minesweepers and demolition teams and with other ships of the unit, wrecked targets on the island. Night air attacks were stopped before they could develop into genuine threats and in one of the early morning raids an enemy dive bomber was blasted to bits by antiaircraft fire from the ship, and during the many suicide attacks the BIRMINGHAM blasted her share of Jap dive bombers from the air.

                       During the forty two days of consecutive action, there were thirty nine days that the BIRMINGHAM repelled air attacks. On some days the number of raids reached the staggering total of twenty six. It was evitable that on 5 May 1945 a lucky kamikaze with bomb managed to land forward of the pilot house. With quiet efficiency, her crew, again battled the flames and helped the wounded.

                       From May 28 until August 1 the BIRMINGHAM underwent damage repair at Pearl Harbor. She was on her way to the forward area when word was received that the Japanese had requested peace. A change of routing quickly placed her at Okinawa where she was assigned duty with the Fifth Fleet. Just off Sasebo and Nagasaki, where she was with a covering unit for the minesweepers, she received orders to proceed to Brisbane, Australia. It was with disappointment that her crew learned that they would not cover the landing of the Occupation Force and help with the removal of Allied prisoners of war.

                       With the BIRMINGHAM'S arrival at Brisbane, she has covered over 139,000 miles in less than two years of war-time operation. She is looking forward to her first peace-time assignment.

                       Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, of Newport News, Virginia, the BIRMINGHAM was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The ship has an over-all length of 608 feet, four inches, with a displacement of 13,857 tons. The maximum cruising speed is 32.2 knots. The ship's complement includes 71 officers, 1,153 enlisted men and 41 marines.

* * * * *

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National Archives & Records Administration, San Bruno Branch
Record Group 181, Mare Island Naval Shipyard Ship Files

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

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