The Portland's History
The first PORTLAND (CA-33), a heavy cruiser, was authorized 13 February 1929; laid down by Bethlehem Steel Co., Shipbuilding Div., Quincy, Mass. 17 February 1930; launched 21 May 1932, under the sponsorship of 12 year old Mary Brooks (now Mrs. Mary Doughty, Cumberland Center, ME), daughter of Mr. Ralph D. Brooks, Chairman of the Portland City Council. The heavy cruiser was commissioned in the Boston Navy Yard, 23 February 1933, Captain H. F. Leary, USN in command.
Departing Boston 1 April 1933, the cruiser arrived Gravesend Bay, N.Y., the evening of 3 April. The next night, she received word that dirigible AKRON was down at sea. Thirty-six minutes after receipt of the message the ship was underway. Racing seaward, PORTLAND was the first naval vessel at the scene of the disaster, and the task of search and rescue coordination was thus hers. Seventy-three lives were lost in the disaster including that of Admiral William Moffett, Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics.
PORTLAND steamed from San Diego, Calif. 2 October 1935 astern HOUSTON (CA-30) which carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The following days the President and his party fished. After calling at Panama and several other ports, the two ships steamed to Charleston, S.C. where the President disembarked.
During Pacific Fleet maneuvers, PORTLAND crossed the equator for the first time 20 May 1936. From thence until the outbreak of war, she was engaged in peacetime training and goodwill missions as a unit of Cruiser Division 5, Scouting Force.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, PORTLAND was two days out, enroute Midway with a carrier group. Through the remainder of December and until 1 May 1942, she operated between the west coast, Hawaii, and Fiji.
PORTLAND served in Rear Admiral T. C. Kinkaid's Attack Group 4-8 May when a Japanese invasion force was turned back from Port Moresby, New Guinea during the two-day battle of the Coral Sea. When LEXINGTON (CV-2) was lost, the cruiser took on 722 survivors. Some were later transferred to the destroyer ANDERSON and the remainder were landed at Tongatabu, Tonga Island where PORTLAND arrived on 14 May.
She was in Rear Admiral F. J. Fletcher's TF 17 carrier screen during the Battle of Midway (2-6 June) when the Japanese lost four of their carriers. PORTLAND received several hundred survivors from the YORKTOWN (CV-5) and on 6 June 1942 transferred them to the FULTON.
PORTLAND provided cover and support for the Marine landings at Tulagi and Guadalcanal, the Solomons, 7 through 9 August. She then remained in the area to support the Guadalcanal operations and to protect Allied communications lines. The cruiser participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 23-25 August, when Allied forces prevented reinforcement of Japanese units in the Solomons by a large naval armada under Admiral Yamamoto. Returned to Pearl Harbor on 30 August 1942.
PORTLAND departed Pearl Harbor on 9 October 1942 on a lone raid mission as T.U. 16.9.1 to Tarawa, Maiana and Apemama. Arrived off Tarawa, Gilbert Island, 15 October 1942 and opened fire on an enemy group of one CL or DD and two AK's. Ceased fire and withdrew at 1451. She then steamed south to take part in the Battle of Santa Cruz, 26-27 October, as one of the escorts for ENTERPRISE (CV-6). During this engagement, PORTLAND was struck simultaneously by three Japanese torpedoes which failed to explode
Two weeks later, she participated in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (12-15 November) which resulted in heavy damage to both forces but broke up the determined Japanese effort to disrupt the landing of 6,000 American troops on Guadalcanal, to bombard Henderson Field, and to land reinforcements.
During this action, 13 November 1942, PORTLAND took a torpedo hit at 0158 on the starboard quarter, which blew off both inboard propellers, jammed the rudder five degrees right, and jammed number three turret in train and elevation. A four degree list was quickly corrected by shifting ballast, but the steering casualty could not be overcome and the ship was forced to steam in circles to starboard.
At the end of the first circle, a Japanese battleship, illuminated by nearby burning ships and flares, was taken under fire by PORTLAND's forward turrets. The enemy returned the fire, but all salvos passed over the cruiser. In the four six-gun salvos returned by PORTLAND, she succeeded in starting fires in the Japanese heavy. Then again at 0630, still circling, PORTLAND opened fire on the enemy destroyer YUDACHI at a range of six miles. On the sixth salvo the destroyer exploded, rolled over, and sank within five minutes.
In his endorsement of the PORTLAND'S action report, Admiral Halsey commented in part as follows: "...the PORTLAND'S performance was most commendable, especially as regards to ship and damage control. The sinking of an enemy destroyer by PORTLAND three hours and 45 minutes after the night action, and steaming in circles, was one of the highlights of this action."
With the assistance of Higgins boats, a YP, and a tug, PORTLAND anchored at Tulagi 14 November. After making temporary repairs, PORTLAND departed Tulagi 22 November 1942 and arrived in Sydney, Australia 30 November. After emergency repairs she sailed 13 February for Samoa, thence to the Mare Island Navy Yard arriving 1 March 1943. Her repairs were completed by 21 May.
After operational training in southern Californian waters, PORTLAND steamed for the Aleutians late in May, arriving 11 June and bombarding Kiska 26 July. After covering a reconnaissance landing on Little Kiska 17 August, she called at Pearl Harbor 23 September, thence to San Francisco in early October, then back to Pearl Harbor in mid-October.
From November 1943 through February 1944, PORTLAND participated in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaigns. She next screened carriers during air strikes against Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai, 30 March-1 April.
The ship then steamed with a carrier force assigned to cover the landing in the Hollandia-Tanahmerah area of New Guinea, 21-24 April. Cruising northward again the force struck at Truk and, in company with five other cruisers and destroyers, PORTLAND bombarded Satawan in the Nomei Group.
Following this series of operations, PORTLAND steamed for Mare Island for overhaul, completed in time for her return to the western Pacific for pre-landing bombardments of Peleliu, 12-14 September. The cruiser supported the landing on Peleliu 15 September, and, for the four following days, her guns blasted enemy positions that threatened the advance of allied forces. She provided gunfire support at Peleliu through 29 September and then steamed for Seeadler Harbor, Manus, the Admiralties.
PORTLAND next joined a powerful force in the first heavy surface strike on the central Philippines. She arrived off Leyte 17 October, entering the Gulf the next day--two days before A-Day. For those two days her guns softened up enemy held positions in preparation for the landing.
The night of 24 October, a strong Japanese force consisting of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and four destroyers headed for Surigao Strait with the apparent intent of raiding shipping in Leyte Gulf. The Japanese force advanced in rough column up the narrow strait during darkness, while PORTLAND and her sisters steamed across the top of the strait, crossing the enemy's T. The Japanese were first met by PT boats, then in succession by three coordinated destroyer torpedo attacks, and finally by devastating gunfire from American battleships and cruisers disposed across the northern end of the strait. The Japanese force was utterly defeated, losing two battleships and three destroyers. The PORTLAND became the only cruiser to survive two separate night engagements against enemy battleships. The first was at Guadalcanal.
From 3 January through 1 March 1945, PORTLAND participated in the operations at Lingayen Gulf and Corregidor. Arriving off Lingayen Gulf 5 January and bombarding the vicinity of Cape Bolinao, she entered the Gulf the same day and commenced bombardment of the eastern shore but discontinued immediately when a heavy suicide air attack came in.
PORTLAND entered Manila Bay 15 February and bombarded the south shore of Corregidor in preparation for landings there. She returned to Leyte Gulf 1 March for her first availability for repairs, and replenishment of general stores in five months.
From 26 March through 20 April, while conducting operations in support of the Okinawa campaign, PORTLAND underwent twenty-four air raids, shot down four enemy aircraft and assisted in downing two others. From 8 May until 17 June, she participated in the bombardment and capture of Okinawa, departing 17 June for upkeep at Leyte. At Buckner Bay, 6 August, she commenced upkeep and training.
With the termination of hostilities, PORTLAND played a significant role in the Japanese surrender ending World War II Though overshadowed by the ceremonies aboard battleship MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay, documents were signed at the same hour on the decks of the PORTLAND in Truk Lagoon, Caroline Islands. There, Vice Admiral George D. Murray received Lt. General Shinzaburo Magikura, commander of the 31st Japanese Army; Vice Admiral Chuichi Hara, Commander of the Japanese 4th Fleet and Mr. Alhara, Japanese civilian south-seas government representative, aboard Murray's flagship the USS PORTLAND. There they signed documents surrendering all territories under their control.
PORTLAND called at Pearl Harbor 21-24 September there embarking 600 troops for transportation to the United States. Transiting the Panama Canal 8 October, she continued to the United States, calling at Portland, Maine for Navy Day celebration 27 October 1945.
After returning to New York City, PORTLAND was designated a part of "Operation Magic Carpet", the massive effort to transport American troops home from Europe. On her second voyage, two days out of Le Havre, France, she encountered a violent hurricane with seas up to 100 feet and winds that wrecked her anemometer. One gigantic wave warped her bow and stove in her starboard hangar which had been converted into living space for returning soldiers. Two were killed, two swept over the side and more than fifty were severely injured. On the New York Times building on 18 December 1945, the moving news headlines reported "USS Portland Lost at Sea." Fortunately this was an error.
With superb ship handling of her skipper, coupled with the heroic efforts of her damage control parties, PORTLAND was able to limp into the Azores where the most seriously injured were off loaded and fresh water obtained. Then on to New York city.
In New York, a naval survey team inspected the ship and declared her unseaworthy. Sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, she was decommissioned on 12 July 1946. On 1 March 1959, her name was struck from Navy records and PORTLAND was sold for scrap to Union Minerals and Alloys Corporation, an ignominious end for such a gallant ship.
PORTLAND received sixteen battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for World War II service.
[Source: Office of Chief Naval Operations Division of Naval History (OP-09B9) Ships' Histories Section plus press release written by Joe Stables]