USS Milwaukee (CL-5)

USS Milwaukee (CL-5) was an Omaha class light cruiser that spent most of the Second World War serving in the South Atlantic, before being transferred to the Soviet Union early in 1944. She spent the rest of the war escorting convoys between the US and the Soviet Union, before being returned to American control and scrapped in 1949.

The Milwaukee was laid down on 13 December 1918. She was launched on 24 March 1921, over two years later, and not commissioned until 20 June 1923. 

The Milwaukee was equipped with high quality sonic depth finding equipment, which it used during its shakedown cruiser to Australia to map part of the Pacific floor. This cruise took the ship to the Pan-Pacific Scientific Congress at Sydney, which began on 23 August 1923.

USS Milwaukee (CL-5) in early 1930s
USS Milwaukee (CL-5)
in early 1930s

The Milwaukee was also responsible for the discovery of the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean. On 14 February 1939, just to the north of Puerto Rico, she recorded a depth of 28,860ft. This spot is known as the 'Milwaukee Depth', and is at least 27,493ft deep.

The Milwaukee's first memorable role was in disaster relief in the Caribbean. In October 1926 a hurricane devastated the Isle of Pines (Isle of Youth since 1978). The Milwaukee and the Goff arrived on 24 October and took part in the relief operation, running a medical centre and providing food supplies.

In 1928 the Milwaukee moved to the Pacific, where she joined CruDiv 2 in the Asiatic Fleet. From 1933 to 1940 she served with CruDiv 3, part of the Battle Fleet. This force had bases on the US west coast and at Pearl Harbor. This was a peacetime posting, although the Milwaukee did take part in a cruiser to Far Eastern waters in 1938 in response to the Japanese attack on the US gunboat Panay in the Yangtze River. 
In 1940 the Milwaukee moved back to CruDiv 2, which was mow part of the Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic. In December 1941 she was in the middle of an overhaul in the New York Navy Yard, but in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor she was quickly back at sea, sailing on 31 December 1941. Her first task was to escort a convoy to the Caribbean. In February she made a brief return to the Pacific, escorting a troop convoy to the Society Islands. She passed back through the Panama Canal on 7 March, and then joined TF31, part of the South Atlantic Patrol Force, based at Recife, Brazil.  

For the next two years the Milwaukee was based in the South Atlantic, patrolling an area that stretched from French Guiana down to Rio de Janeiro, and almost across to the African coast. During this period the two main incidents were the saving of the merchant ship Commandante Lyra and the destruction of the German blockade runner Annaliese Essenberger.

The Commandante Lyra was torpedoed by a U-boat in mid May 1942 between Ascension Island and Brazil. The Milwaukee responded to her distress signals. She rescued 25 survivors (another 16 were picked up by the destroyer Moffett (DD-362).  Her sister ship Omaha also arrived on the scene, and began to bring the fires under control. Eventually a small American flotilla saved the ship, which was towed to Fortaleza, Brazil.

USS Milwaukee (CL-5), Tacoma, Washington, 1923
USS Milwaukee (CL-5), Tacoma, Washington, 1923

On 21 November 1942 the Milwaukee, Cincinnati (CL-6) and Somers (DD-381) encountered a merchant ship that claimed to be the Norwegian freighter Sjhflbred. The ship failed to respond to the secret identification signal, so the cruisers covered the Somers which she attempted to intercept her. The ship was actually the German blockade runner Annaliese Essenberger. As the Somers approached the blockade runner's crew abandoned ship and set off scuttling charges. The ship quickly sank. Milwaukee rescued 62 of the crew.

After the surrender of the Italian fleet the Allies agreed to split up the newly captured ships, but it proved difficult to provide all of the ships promised to the Soviet Union. It was decided to loan her the Milwaukee in place of one of the promised Italian ships.

On 8 February 1944 the Milwaukee left Bahia, Brazil and sailed to New York. From there she escorted a convoy which reached Belfast on 8 March. She then escorted Convoy JW58 to Murmansk, setting sail on 29 March 1944. This convoy was shadowed by German aircraft and persistently attacked by U-boats, but the convoy screen held out. No merchant ships were lost and three U-boats were sunk during the convoy battle. The Milwaukee was handed over to the Soviet Navy on 20 April 1944 at Kola Inlet. In Soviet service she was named the Murmansk and was used on to escort convoys travelling between the United States and the Soviet Union.

A total of fifteen American warships were eventually returned by the Soviets. The Milwaukee was the first of these, and was handed back on 16 March 1949. By this date she was obsolete, and on 10 December 1949 she was sold for scrap.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 10kts (design)
8,460nm at 10kts (actual)

Armour – deck


 - belt



555ft 6in


55ft 5in

Armaments (as built)

Twelve 6in/53 guns
Two 3in/50 AA guns
Ten 21in torpedo tubes (two triple and two double mountings)

Crew complement


Laid down

13 December 1918


24 March 1921


20 June 1923



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 (2 January 2013), USS Milwaukee CL-5 ,

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