USS St Louis (CL-49)

USS St Louis (CL-49) was a Brooklyn class cruiser that was at Pearl Habor, and fought in the Aleutians, at Gualdalcanal, New Georgia, Bougainville, Saipan, the battle of the Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf, the carrier raids on Japan and the invasion of Okinawa. She earned eleven battle stars during the Second World War.

The St Louis was laid down in December 1936, launched in April 1938 and commissioned on 19 May 1939. Her shakedown cruise and associated works lasted until 6 October 1939, and she then joined the Neutrality Patrol. She spent the next eleven months operating with the Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic, operating between the West Indies and the North Atlantic. This period ended at the start of September 1940, when she was given the task of inspecting possible sites for US Naval Bases as part of the 'destroyers for bases' deal with Great Britain. This took until 27 October.

On 9 November the St Louis departed for the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 12 December. She was based at Pearl Harbor between then and the Japanese attack, leaving for an overhaul at Mare Island in the summer of 1941 and a voyage to Wake, Midway, Guam and Manila in September. After the end of this tour she went into the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard. When the Japanese attacked she was moored in the Southeast Lock.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) bombarding Guam, 21 July 1944
USS Saint Louis (CL-49)
bombarding Guam,
21 July 1944

During the attack on Pearl Harbor the St Louis quickly opened fire with her anti-aircraft guns, but her 6in guns were unpowered at the start of the attack. At about 8.30am she claimed her first victory, against a torpedo bomber. She was underway at 9.31, and her main guns were back online by 9.45. As she approached the South Channel the St Louis was the target of an attack by one of the five midget submarines the Japanese had allocated to the attack. None of the five achieved anything, but the one that targeted the St. Louis got closest with at least one of her torpedoes exploding within 200 yards of the ship. The St Louis escaped out to sea, and took part in the futile attempts to find the retreating Japanese fleet.

After returning to Pearl Harbor on 10 December the St Louis helped escort a convoy to San Francisco carrying some of the wounded from Pearl Harbor. On the return trip she escorted troop ships bringing reinforcements to Hawaii.

In January 1942 she formed part of Task Fore 17, based around the carrier USS Yorktown. This force escorted the Marine Expeditionary Force to Samao, and then carried out a raid into the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.

This was followed by another spell of convoy duty between Hawaii and San Francisco. On one of these trips she escorted the ship carrying the exiled President Quezon of the Philippines to the United States.

In Mid-May she escorted a convoy moving Marine aircraft and reinforcements to Midway Island, but she then moved north to join the defence force in the Aleutian Islands, so missed the battle of Midway.

The St Louis was based in the Aleutians from 31 May, when she reached Kodiak, to 25 October when she departed for an overhaul in California. During that period she spent most of her time on patrols, but she also took part in shore-bombardments of Kiska in August and the US occupation of Adak.

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) at Tulagi, 1943
USS Saint Louis (CL-49) at Tulagi, 1943

After a refit that lasted until 4 December, the St Louis returned to the Pacific, where she operated in the Solomon Islands. Her first combat mission was a bombardment of the Japanese air fields at Munda and Kolombangara. She spent most of the next five months take part in further shore bombardments, as well as patrolling the 'slot' - the long channel between the northern and southern chains of islands. This was being used by the Japanese 'Tokyo Express', a naval force that operated mainly at night, bringing reinforcements and supplies to the otherwise isolated Japanese garrisons of the islands.

At the start of July she took part in the invasion of New Georgia. On the night of 4-5 July she bombarded Vila and Bairoko Harbor, before US troops landed at Rice Anchorage. On 6 July her force intercepted a squadron of ten Japanese destroyers moving to Vila with reinforcements onboard. In the resulting battle of Kula Gulf, 6 July 1943 the Americans sank two Japanese ships, but lost the cruiser USS Helana (CL-50).

Six days later the St Louis was involved in the battle of Kolombangara (12-13 July 1943). During this battle the Japanese lost the light cruiser Jintsu, while the allies lost the destroyer USS Gwin (DD-433). The cruisers Honolulu, St. Louis and HMNZS Leander were all damaged. The St Louis was hit by a torpedo that destroyed the bow below the second deck. She had to undergo basic repairs at Tulagi and Espiritu Santo before returning across the Pacific to Mare Island, California.

The St Louis returned to action in November 1943. From 20-25 November she supported the Marines operating on Bougainville. In December 1943 she returned to Bougainville for more shore bombardments, before in January 1944 attacking Japanese troops on the Shortland Islands. She then returned to Bougainville to support troops landing at Cape Torokina.

On 13 February she supported operations in the Green Islands. On 14 February she was attacked by six Aichi 'Val' dive bombers. Two of the aircraft attacked the St Louis. She suffered one direct hit and two near misses. The direct hit passed through the 44mm clipping room and exploded in the mid-ship accommodation, killing 23 and wounding 20. Her top speed was reduced to 18kts.

This time the damage wasn't too serious and the St Louis was repaired in theatre. She was back with the fleet by March 1944. In June she was part of Task Force 52, the Saipan Assault Force, for the invasion of the Mariana Islands. On 14 June she was off the southern shore of Saipan. On 15 June she bombarded the Charan Kanao area, and supported troops operating in the area. On 16 June she bombarded targets on Guam. She was back at Saipan on the following day, and remained north of the island during the battle of the Philippine Sea, the last major attack by conventional Japanese naval aviation.

In July 1944 she supported the invasion of Guam. At the end of the month she was sent back to California for an overhaul, which lasted to mid-October. She returned to the fleet at Leyte Gulf on 16 November 1944.
On 27 November her cruiser formation was attacked by several waves of Japanese aircraft. At 11.38 she was hit by a Val kamikaze bomber. Her hanger deck was set on fire and the entire crew of 20mm guns seven to ten were wounded or killed. At 11.51 a second kamikaze attack achieved a very near hit on the port side, removing 20 feet of the armour belt. This also caused a list to port. The attacks continued, but the St Louis avoided further damage. The hit and the near miss killed 15 of her crew and 1 was missing, seriously wounded 21 and lightly wounded 22.

Once again the St Louis was forced to return to the US for repairs which lasted from December until March 1945. The St Louisjoined the Fast Carrier Force at Ulithi in mid-March, just in time to take part in carrier attacks on the Japanese home islands. She then moved to Okinawa, where she formed part of TF 54. She protected minesweepers and underwater demolition teams, then supported the landing on Okinawa on 1 April. She continued to support the operations on Okinawa until mid May, then returned again from mid June to late July.

On 28 July, as part of TF 95, she supported air strikes against the Asia mainland. This was followed by a sweep of the East China Sea as part of TF73, before she reached Buckner Bay in early August. She was still there when the Japanese surrendered.

After the end of the war the St Louis remained in the Far East for two and a half months. She joined the Yangtze River Patrol Force (TF 73) in late August. By the end of September she was back at Buckner Bay, and in mid-October she transported Chinese troops to Formosa.

After this the St Louis joined the forces allocated to 'Magic Carpet', the operation to return US troops home. She made three Magic Carpet runs between then and mid-January.

In February 1946 the St Louis moved to Philadelphia to be inactivated. She was decommissioned in the Reserve on 20 June 1946. On 22 January 1951 she was sold to Brazil, where se served as the Tamandare. She remained in Brazilian service until 1975, when she was stricken and sold for scrap. It took five years to arrange her scrapping, but in 1980 she sank while being towed from Rio de Janeiro to the ship-breakers in Taiwan 

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

5in on 0.625in STS

 - deck


 - barbettes


 - turrets

6.5in face
2in roof
1.25in side and rear

 - conning tower

2.25in roof


608ft 4in


Fifteen 6in/47 guns (five triple turrets)
Eight 5in/25 guns (/38 on St Louis, Helena) (eight single positions)
Eight 0.5in guns
Four aircraft

Crew complement


Laid down

10 December 1936


15 April 1938


19 May 1939

Sold to Brazil

22 January 1951

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 (5 June 2015), USS St Louis (CL-49) ,

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