USS Montpelier (CL-57)

The USS Montpelier (CL-57) was the third member of the Cleveland class of light cruisers, and won the Navy Unit Commendation and thirteen Battle Stars for her service in the Pacific. She was laid down five months after the Cleveland, launched only three months behind her and commissioned on 9 September 1942.

The Montpelier carried more anti-aircraft guns than the Cleveland or the Columbia, with twenty four 40mm guns (four quadruple mountings and four double mountings) and seventeen 20mm guns in single mountings, up from the eight 40mm and thirteen 20mm guns of the earlier ships.

The Montpelier reached Noumea, in New Caledonia, on 18 January 1943, and was chosen to serve as the flagship of CruDiv 12, part of Rear-Admiral A. S. Merrill's Task Force 68. Her first combat experience came on 29-30 January 1943 during the battle of Rennell Island. This saw the Japanese launch a series of heavy air attacks on the Task Force and the troop convoy they were escorting to Guadalcanal. The Montpelier survived intact, but the heavy cruiser Chicago was lost.

On 21 February the Montpelier helped cover the invasion of the Russell Islands (Operation Cleanslate). On the night of 5-6 March she bombarded the airfield at Vila-Stanmore on Kolombangara, just to the north-west of New Georgia, and took part in the sinking of a Japanese destroyer (action of Kula Gulf). This and the bombardment of Poporang Island (on the night of 29-30 June) were part of the preparations for the invasion of New Geogia (Operation Toenails), which took place on 30 June. The Montpelier remained around New Goergia for the next four months, spending most of her time patrolling around the island, before visiting Sydney for a brief rest.

USS Montpelier (CL-57), December 1942
USS Montpelier (CL-57),
December 1942

The Montpelier then joined Task Force 39 (still under Admiral Merrill), and took part in the invasions of the Treasury Islands and Bougainville (Operations Goodtime and Cherryblossom). On 1 November, while Allied troops were landing in Empress Augusta Bay, on the western shores of Bougainville, the Montpelier was part of a force that attacked Japanese positions at Buka and Bonis at the northern tip of the island. The task force then regrouped in the bay, where early on 2 November it fought off an attack by a slightly superior Japanese fleet (battle of Empress Augusta Bay). This was a clear American victory and saw the Japanese lose the light cruise Sendai and a destroyer without sinking any American ships. In addition to taking part in the sinking of one of the Japanese ships the Montpelier's AA gunners shot down five Japanese aircraft.

The Montpelier was part of the naval force that covered the amphibious landings on the Green Islands, in the gap between Bougainville and New Ireland (15-19 February 1944). In the following month she was part of a force that made an anti-shipping sweep in the area between New Ireland and the Japanese base at Truk, before at the end of the month taking part in the invasion of Emirau, to the north-west of New Ireland. From there she moved on to take part in the bombardment of Saipan (14 June), part of the leapfrogging campaign that left Truk isolated to the end of the war. The Japanese responded to the invasion of the Mariana Islands by launched their last major carrier attack of the war (battle of the Philippine Sea, or the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot). The Montpelier was part of Task Force 58 during this battle, which saw the last Japanese carrier air groups almost completely destroyed, ending any chance of a major Japanese naval victory. After the battle the Montpelier bombarded targets on Saipan, Tinian and Guam, before on 2 August leaving to return to the United States for an overhaul.

She didn't return to the Pacific until 25 November, and thus missed the battle of Leyte Gulf. The Montpelier arrived in the gulf just as the kamikaze campaign was getting under way, and shot down four incoming kamikaze aircraft in the area. She then moved on to support the invasion of Mindoro (12 December), the landings in the Lingayen Gulf (January 1945), at Mariveles Harbor, Corregidor and Palawan (February) and Mindanao (April).

She then moved on to take part in the invasion of Borneo, reaching Brunei on 9 June before taking part in the fighting at Balikpapan (from 17 June-2 July), where the Australians had landed to capture the key oil facilities. The Montpelierprovided direct fire support for the troops as well as protecting minesweepers and divers. Like her older sisters Cleveland and Columbia the Montpelier spend the last two months of the war patrolling in the East China Sea as part of the campaign to completely isolate Japan from all sources of war materials.

At the end of the war the Montpelier was stationed at Wakayama, where she took part in the evacuation of Allied prisoners of war. On 18 October she helped cover the arrival of occupation troops at Matsuyama, before in the next month sailed for home. The Montpelier won 13 battle stars for her service during the Second World War. Unlike her older sisters she had a short post-war career, serving with the Atlantic Fleet from 11 December 1944 to June 1945 and the 16th Fleet from 1 July until 24 January 1947 when she was decommissioned and entered the reserve at Philadelphia. She remained in the reserve fleet until 1959, and was sold to be broken up in the following year. 

Displacement (standard)

11,744t

Displacement (loaded)

14,131t

Top Speed

32.5kts

Range

11,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

3-5in

 - armour deck

2in

 - bulkheads

5in

 - barbettes

6in

 - turrets

6.5in face
3in top
3in side
1.5in rear

 - conning tower

5in
2.25in roof

Length

610ft 1in oa

Armaments

Twelve 6in/47 guns (four triple turrets)
Twelve 5in/38 guns (six double positions)
Twenty four 40mm guns
Seventeen 20mm guns
Four aircraft

Crew complement

1,285

Builder

New York SB

Laid down

2 December 1940

Launched

12 February 1942

Commissioned

9 September 1942

Broken up

1960

US Navy Light Cruisers 1941-45, Mark Stille. Covers the five classes of US Navy light cruisers that saw service during the Second World War, with sections on their design, weaponry, radar, combat experience. Nicely organised, with the wartime service records separated out from the main text, so that the design history of the light cruisers flows nicely. Interesting to see how new roles had to be found for them, after other technology replaced them as reconnaissance aircraft [read full review]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 July 2009), USS Montpelier (CL-57) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Montpelier_CL57.html

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