Thursday, July 18, 2013

Repairs to USS Columbia

On today's date in 1943, Dad's ship, Vestal, began a 3-day repair job to 2 of the 4 boilers on the light cruiser, USS Columbia.

After commissioning in July 1942, Columbia, namesake of the South Carolinian capital, went to the South Pacific in time to participate in the final phases of the Guadalcanal Campaign begun in August of that year. In late January 1943, she was one of the US ships present during the Battle of Rennell Island, the last major naval engagement with the Japanese. During the next several months, Columbia conducted patrol and bombardment missions in the Solomon Islands as the Allies began the campaign to seize bases up the island chain from Guadalcanal. At the beginning of November 1943, Columbia shelled enemy targets  at Munda on the island of New Georgia, after which she was repaired by Vestal at Espiritu Santo. She then supported landings on Bougainville, and on the night of November 2nd, took part in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. She remained in the area to support further landings in the Green Islands during February and Emirau Island in March 1944.

USS Columbia during WWII
Source: NavSource Online
Following overhaul in the States, Columbia returned to the Pacific war zone to cover amphibious assaults on Peleliu in September and Leyte in October 1944. On the night of October  24-25, she participated in the Battle of Surigao Strait, the final major gun and torpedo action of the Pacific War. Her operations in the Philippines continued in December, with the landings at Mindoro, and January 1945, with the Lingayen Gulf invasion. On January 6 and 9, in the Lingayen Gulf operation  she was hit by 2 Japanese suicide planes, which caused serious damage and heavy casualties among her crew.

The cruiser underwent repairs until June 1945, after which she participated in final operations against the Japanese. For 2 months, she took part in the Borneo landings and sweeps against Japanese shipping in the East China Sea. After Japan's surrender in August, Columbia supported occupation in the Central Pacific and transported war veterans back to the States.

In the year after the war, she served on training duty, but was decommissioned in 1946. She then joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1959, when she was sold for scrap.

USS Columbia earned the Navy Unit Commendation and 10 Battle Stars for her WWII service.

Sources: USS Vestal War Diary, July 1943; South Carolina Confederate Relic Museum & Military Museum

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