USS Salt Lake City (CA-25)

USS Salt Lake City (CA-25) was a Pensacola class heavy cruiser that escorted the Doolittle raid, and fought at the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, the battle of the Komandorski Islands, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, the second battle of the Philippine Sea and the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, winning eleven battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for her service during the Second World War.

Salt Lake City (CL-25) was laid down on 9 June 1927, launched on 23 January 1929 and commissioned on 11 December 1929. At first she was classified as a light cruiser, CL-25. After the London Naval Treaty of 1930 the US Navy reclassified its 8in cruisers as heavy cruisers, and on 1 July the Salt Lake Citybecame CA-25.

Her shakedown cruise took her to Maine, then in February-March 1930 she made a longer cruise to Cuba, the Virgin Islands and Brazil. On 31 March 1930 she joined Cruiser Division 2 of the Scouting Force (then based in the Atlantic), before on 12 September she was moved to CruDiv 5. Both divisions served off the US East Coast.

Control Room on USS Salt Lake City (CA-25), 1937
Control Room on
USS Salt Lake City (CA-25)

At the start of 1932 Salt Lake City, Chicago and Louisville moved to the west coast for fleet exercises, before being allocated to the Pacific Fleet. In September 1933 she joined CruDiv 3, and she was based on the US West Coast for the rest of the 1930s.

Between 12 October 1939 and 25 June 1940 the Salt Lake City cruised in the western Pacific, ranging between Pearl Harbor, Wake and Guam. In August 1941 she visited Brisbane, and at the start of December she was escorting the carrier Enterprise on her way back to Pearl Harbor from Wake Island. The small task force was 200 miles to the west of Pearl harbour on 7 December. It attempted to find the Japanese fleet, but failed, and reached Hawaii on 8 December.  

On 9 December Enterpris eand Salt Lake City began an anti-submarine patrol north of Hawaii. On 10 December aircraft from the Enterprise sank the I-70, while on 11 December the Salt Lake City fired her guns at a second submarine, this time without success. She then formed part of Task Force 8, which was meant to lift the siege of Wake Island. Wake fell before the task force could intervene, and instead it was used to help move reinforcements to Midway and Samoa.

In February 1942 the Salt Lake City supported the Enterprise during attacks on seaplane bases on Wotje, Maloelap and Kwajalein in the eastern Marshalls. In March she supported an attack on Marcus Island and in April she was part of the escort for the carriers Hornet and Enterprise during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

In May her task force was ordered to reinforce the Yorktown and Lexington in the Coral Sea, but they arrived too late to take part in the battle of the Coral Sea.  The Salt Lake City was present at the Battle of Midway, but was part of the force providing protection for Midway Island itself.

Radar on USS Salt Lake City (CA-25), 10 May 1943
Radar on USS Salt Lake City (CA-25), 10 May 1943

The Salt Lake City took part in the fighting at Guadalcanal. She formed part of the screen for the Wasp before the invasion, then covered the American landing. She was escorting the Wasp when that carrier was sunk on 15 September and helped rescue the survivors. She was part of Task Force 64 during the battle of Cape Esperance (11-12 October 1942). This was one of the more successful night battles for the Americans, although the Salt Lake City was hit by three larger shells and spent the next four months at Pearl Harbor where she combined repairs and replenishment.

She returned to the front line in March 1943 when she sailed for the Aleutians. On 26 March 1943 she took par tin the battle of the Komandorski Islands, where Task Force 8 attempted to block a Japanese fore heading to Attu and Kiska. The Salt Lake City was the main target of Japanese gun fire. Her rudder controls were damaged, she suffered flooding forward, her boiler fires went out after salt water got into the fuel oil pipes and she was left dead in the water. Only heavy smoke protected her from further damage. The Japanese retreated without getting reinforcements to their bases. Salt Lake Citywas used to cover the invasions of Attu and Kiska, then returned to Pearl Harbor in mid October 1943.  She was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for her part in the Aleutian campaign.

The Salt Lake City was part of Task Group 50.3, the Southern Carrier Group, during Operation Galvanic - the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. She joined the task group on 13 November. On 19 November she bombarded Betio (Tarawa) and also helped fight off Japanese air attacks.

She was part of the Neutralization Group, TG 50.15, during the invasion of the Marshall Islands. From 29 January to 17 February 1944 she bombarded Wotje and Taroa. On 30 March and 1 April she raided Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai in the Caroline Islands and then she returned to Pearl Harbor. From there she went to California, and then in July she returned to the Aleutians. This time the weather prevented any meaningful operations and she was back at Pearl Harbor by 13 August.

On 3 September she was part of the force that bombarded Wake Island (along with the Pensacola and the carrier Monterey CVL-26). On 9 September the two cruisers bombarded Marcus Island to distract Japanese attention away from the Philippines and a raid on Formosa.

During the second battle of the Philippine Sea (October 1944) the Salt Lake City screened the carrier strike force. Between 8 November 1944 and 25 January 1945 she was part of CruDiv 5, TF 54, which carried out a series of attacks on Japanese bases on the Volcano Islands. These were being used to launch attacks against the B-29 bases on Saipan.

In February 1945 the Salt Lake City was part of TF 54, the Gunfire and Covering Force, during the last stages of the invasion of Iwo Jima. She was active at Iwo Jima until 13 March then moved to Okinawa, where she remained until 29 May. She then went to Leyte for repairs. During July she was operating in the East China Sea, before on 8 August she was ordered back to the Aleutians. She was still on her way when Japan surrendered, and on 31 August she was ordered to move to Ominato on northern Honshu to help occupy the Japanese naval base.

After the end of the war Salt Lake City was used on 'Magic Carpet' trips, taking US troops back home from the Pacific. She then became part of the test fleet during the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. She survived both the aerial burst test on 1 July and the underwater test of 25 July. She was decommissioned on 29 August 1946, and finally sunk as a target on 25 May 1948 off the coast of California. Rather oddly she wasn't struck off the Navy list until 18 June, three weeks later.  

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – deck


 - over machinery


 - side of magazines


 - over magazines


 - barbettes


 - gun houses face


 - gun houses top


 - gun houses other



586ft 8in oa


Ten 8in/55 guns (two 3-gun and two 2-gun turrets)
Four 5in/25 guns (four single positions)
6 21in torpedo tubes
4 aircraft

Crew complement


Laid down

9 June 1927


23 January 1929


11 December 1929


25 May 1948

US Heavy Cruisers 1941-45: Pre War Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'treaty cruisers' built in the US between the wars, limited by treaty to 10,000 tons and 8in guns. Five classes of treaty cruisers were produced and they played a major role in the fighting during the Second World War, despite the limits imposed on them by the treaty restrictions. [read full review]
cover cover cover


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (31 January 2014), USS Salt Lake City (CA-25),

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