USS Denver (CL-58)

The USS Denver (CL-58) was the fourth member of the Cleveland class of light cruisers, and the third to win a Navy Unit Commendation for its service during the Second World War, for her part in the battle of Empress Augusta Bay. The Denver was launched at Camden, New Jersey, on 4 April 1942, and was commissioned six months later, on 15 October. Like the slightly earlier Montpelier she carried more anti-aircraft guns than the original USS Cleveland, with twenty four 40mm guns (up by twenty) and seventeen 20mm guns (up by seven).

USS Denver (CL-58) from above
USS Denver (CL-58)
firing forward guns

The Denver sailed for the Pacific on 23 January 1943 and reached Efate, in the New Hebrides, on 14 February. Her combat debut came three weeks later, when she was part of a force that bombarded Vila, at the southern end of Kolombangara (close to the Japanese base at Munda on New Georgia). During this operation two Japanese destroyers (Minegumo and Murasame) were sunk (Action of Kula Gulf). She also took part in the bombardment of Ballale Island, part of the Shortland Group (south of Bougainville), as part of operations designed to prevent the Japanese interfering with the American landings on New Georgia (Operation Toenails, late June/ early July 1943).

By October the fighting had moved onto Bougainville, and on 1 November the 3rd Marine Division landed at Empress Augusta Bay, on the western coast of the island. The Japanese sent a fleet under Rear Admiral Sentaro Omori to attack the American invasion fleet. The Denver, by now part of Task Force 39 alongside her sister ships Cleveland, Columbia and Montpelier), took part in the resulting battle of Empress Augusta Bay (1-2 November 1943), which saw the Japanese lose the light cruiser Sendai and a destroyer as well as suffering heavy damage to two heavy cruisers. The Denver was hit by three 8-inch shells during the fighting, but none of them exploded and she avoided taking any serious damage. The Cleveland was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for her part in this battle.

Soon after this the Denver was badly damaged. On the night of 10-11 November she supported the landings on Cape Torokina, at the northern end of Empress Augusta Bay. Two days later, while supporting the fighting on land, she was attacked by Japanese aircraft and hit by a torpedo, which killed 20 men and knocked out all power and communications. The damaged cruiser was towed to Espiritu Santo by the tugs Sioux (AT-75) and Pawnee (AT-74), where she received temporary repairs. She then returned to the United States, reaching Mare Island (California) on 2 January 1944.

This attack kept her out of action for seven months, and the Denver didn't return to the Pacific until 22 June 1944, when she reached Eniwetok, in the Marshal Islands. The naval war had moved into the central Pacific, and the next American targets were the Mariana Islands. On 30 June 1944 the Denver joined a taskforce protecting the carriers while they attacked Japanese bases in the Bonin and Marianas Islands. She carried out this duty until her return to Eniwetok on 5 August, although she did also take part in a bombardment of Iwo Jima on 4 July, nearly six months before the Americans invaded that island.

On 6 September 1944 the Denver put to sea as part of the fleet that to support the invasion of the Palau Islands. From 12-18 September she took part in the bombardment of Angaur Island, to support the landings on 17 September. She then provided cover for a force of minesweepers and underwater engineers operating around Ulithi to prepare for the invasion of 22 September. After this the Denver returned to base to join the fleet heading for the Philippines.

USS Denver (CL-58) from above
USS Denver (CL-58) from above

The Denver took part in the operations around Leyte, starting with bombardments of Suluan Island and Dulag which were designed to destroy Japanese positions that might have threatened the entrance to Leyte Gulf. She then went on to bombard the southern landing beaches. As a result the Denver was part of the fleet of older battleships and cruisers that was left to face the Japanese Southern Force when it attempted to break through the Surigao Strait on 24 October (Battle of Leyte Gulf). The Japanese Southern Force was almost totally wiped out. American motor torpedo boats and destroyers sank a number of ships before the Japanese came within range of the main American force, and heavy American gunfire (including that from the Denver) then sank the battleship Yamashiro. American aircraft sank the cruiser Mogami and only the destroyer Shigure escaped. The Denver then took part in the mopping up operations, taking part in the sinking of the damaged destroyer Asagumo on 25 October.

The Denver remained in Leyte Gulf throughout October and November, coming under repeated aerial attack, from both conventional and kamikaze aircraft. On 28 October she suffered a near miss which caused some damage, while on 27 November the bomb from a kamikaze aircraft that had already been shot down wounded four. She then helped cover the landings on Mindoro, in the western Philippines, on 13-16 December, before returning to base from 24 December to 3 January 1945. On 4 January she supported the landings at Lingayen Gulf, on the western coast of Luzon, and on 29-30 January the landings at Zambales (to the south of the gulf). She also supported the landings on Grande Island, at the entrance to Manila Bay, provided fire support for troops fighting at Nasugbu, on the coast to the south of Manila and supported the landings at Nariveles Bay, at the tip of the Bataan Peninsula on 13-16 February. She also took part in a rescue mission, picking up survivors from the mined destroyer USS La Vallette (DD-448). After that she moved away from Luzon, and spend the period from February to May 1945 supporting the fighting on Palawan Island in the west and Mindanao Island in the south.

Like her older sisters the Denver took part in the invasion of Borneo, starting at Brunei Bay and then moving on to support the Australians who were attacking the key oil refineries at Balikpapan. She remained in the waters around Borneo for most of June, before returning to Letye on 4 July for a short overhaul. She then joined her sisters hunting the last remaining fragments of the Japanese merchant fleet in the East China Sea.

After the Japanese surrender the Denver sailed to Wakayama to cover the evacuation of Allied prisoners of war, then from 25 September-20 October she supported the arriving occupation troops at Wakanoura Wan, close to Osaka. She then sailed for the United States, reaching Norfolk on 21 November 1945. The Denver received eleven battle stars for her service during the Second World War. Like the Cleveland and the Columbia she had a short post-war career. After acting as a training ship for the Naval Reserve she made a good-will visit to Quebec, before in April 1946 being de-commissioned and placed in the reserve fleet at Philadelphia. She remained in the reserve fleet until 29 February 1960, when she was sold to be broken up.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



11,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt


 - armour deck


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - turrets

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

 - conning tower

2.25in roof


610ft 1in oa


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



New York SB

Laid down

26 December 1940


4 April 1942


15 October 1942

Broken up


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 Denver (CL-58) ,

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