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Biloxi

A city in southeastern Mississippi, located on the Gulf of Mexico.

(CL-80: dp. 10,000; l. 610'1"; b. 66'4"; dr. 26'6"; s. 33 k.; cpl. 992; a. 12 6", 12 5"; cl. Cleveland)

Biloxi (CL-80) was laid down on 9 July 1941 at Newport News, Va.; by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; launched on 23 February 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Katharine G. Braun, wife of the Mayor of Biloxi; and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 31 August 1943, Capt. Daniel M. McGurl in command.

The light cruiser fitted out at Norfolk until 17 September when she began shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay. This included plane launch and recovery drills, structural test gun firing, day spotting practice and anti aircraft drills. The crew also conducted an unplanned but successful man overboard drill when S2c Scott was knocked overboard by a training gun mount.

arial photograph of the USS Biloxi Underway during her shakedown cruise October 1943

On 29 September, Biloxi and Sproston (DD 577) departed for Trinidad on the 29th. While enroute, one of Biloxis four Curtiss SO3C Seagull float planes crashed during a landing attempt off the port beam. Both the pilot and passenger, Ensign H. Jolly and ACMM J. Phagan, were rescued and the wreck was destroyed by gunfire as a hazard to navigation.

Personnel inspection on the ship's afterdeck, during her shakedown period, circa October 1943

After arriving at Trinidad on 3 October, Biloxi conducted two weeks of battle drills and other exercises. These included radar calibration tests, night and day battle practice, fueling at sea exercises, and fighter (CAP) director drills. Departing Trinidad on the 18th, the light cruiser entered the Norfolk Navy Yard on 26 October for post-shakedown overhaul. Following these repairs, and a short trip north to Rockland, Maine, for gyro and compass standardization trials, Biloxi sailed south for the Canal Zone on 20 November.

Firing her 6

Passing through the Panama Canal on 24 November, Biloxi arrived in San Francisco on 4 December. There, the crew loaded provisions and, in the words of the war diary, exchanged four SO3C Seagulls and spare parts for two Vought OS2U Kingfishers and no spare parts, before getting underway for Hawaii on the 7th. She arrived at Oahu on the 11 December and conducted her first fire support exercise at Kahoolawe Island in company with Witchita (CA 45) between 15 and 19 December.

The light cruiser sailed back to San Francisco the next day, arriving on the 24th. After moving to San Pedro for blower repairs, she reported for duty with Fifth Fleet. On 1 January 1944, Biloxi joined Maryland (BB 46), Louisville (CA 28), Mobile (CL 63) and two destroyers for shore bombardment and amphibious landing exercises at San Clemente Island. Return to San Pedro, she refueled and provisioned in preparation for Operation Flintlock.

Biloxi put to sea on 13 January and, after joining Task Group (TG) 53.5 in Hawaii, sailed for the Marshall Islands. In company with Louisville, Mobile, Santa Fe (CL 60), and six destroyers, the light cruiser approached Wotje early in the morning on 30 January. After launching her Kingfisher spotting planes, she carried out a neutralizing bombardment of the Japanese air base on Wotje from dawn until noon. Enemy shore batteries fired back intermittently, one of which straddled Biloxi. A later ricochet hit the superstructure above the signal bridge but fortunately did not explode.

Over the next two days, the light cruiser participated in several more shore bombardment missions against Roi Island in support of amphibious landings made by the Northern Attack Force. She then screened three escort carriers for five days before entering Majuro lagoon on the 7th to refuel.

On 12 January, Biloxi joined TG 58.1, built around Enterprise (CV 6), Yorktown (CV 10), Belleau Wood (CVL 24), and sailed west for a carrier raid against the Japanese base at Truk in the central Pacific. Intended to cover the landings on Eniwetok and to distract the Japanese from Allied operations in New Guinea, Operation Hailstone began on 16 February when the carriers struck enemy airfields on Truk. After a second strike during the morning of the 17th, the task group retired east to refuel. Following the departure of Enterprise later that day, the remaining warships were shifted into TG 58.2 and steamed northwest for a strike against Saipan.

On 19 February, a Japanese snooper plane closed the task group and was shot down by antiaircraft fire. During this action, a salvo of antiaircraft shells landed 500 yards off Biloxiís starboard bow. Although the task group hoped they had avoided enemy detection, it was clear by the evening of the 21st the Japanese were tracking the American warships. Starting at 2300 that evening, and continuing until 1000 the following morning, the task group was attacked by three waves of G4M Mitsubishi Betty land-attack bombers. A total of nineteen bombers attacked at night and another five closed the task group in the morning. None penetrated the surface ship screen and eleven were shot down by antiaircraft fire. Following air strikes against Saipan, the task group returned to Majuro on the 26th.

Biloxi rearmed and replenished and got underway on 7 March in company with Enterprise, Belleau Wood, two other light cruisers and eight destroyers. Heading south, the task group crossed the equator, at which time Neptune ceremonies were held and Biloxi made loyal shellbacks out of some 1,139 polywogs and arrived at Espiritu Santo on the 11th. There, the warships loaded supplies and provisions before proceeding to Emirau in the Bismarck Archipelago. The light cruiser then covered Marine landings on the 20th and again on the 25th.

Returning north the next day, the task group was joined by Cowpens (CVL 25), a fourth light cruiser, and nine more destroyers before conducting a raid against Japanese forces in the western Carolines. On 30 March, Biloxi covered the carriers during strikes on Palau. One Betty was shot down as it tried to close the formation that morning. Later that night, gun crews spotted a single Aichi D3A Val carrier bomber flying overhead and fired several 5 inch batteries in a vain attempt to shoot it down. After observing the destruction of three Japanese patrol craft by two destroyers off Woleai the next day, the light cruiser steamed back to Majuro, arriving there on 6 April.

Following a week of upkeep, Biloxi sortied on 13 April with TG 58.1 for the Hollandia operation. On 21 April, she covered the carriers as they launched strikes against enemy aircraft and installations at Sawar, Wakde, and Sarmi in New Guinea. At 1456 that afternoon, the light cruiser launched two Kingfishers to rescue the crew of a ditched Grumman TBF Avenger. Neither float plane found the plane crew, however, and one of the float planes later ran out of gas. Lt. (jg) H. Jolly landed the plane on the water and the crew was rescued by Frazier (DD 607).

That evening, Biloxi, two other light cruisers and five destroyers closed Wakde and Sawar. Fire was opened at 0115 on the 22d against aircraft on Wakde and ceased at 0225 after firing at the airfield and supply dumps on Sawar. Rejoining the carriers later that morning, Biloxi helped screen them until returning to Manus on 28 April.

The task group headed north and struck the Japanese base at Truk on 29 April. Biloxi covered the carriers during these strikes and those launched against Ponape in the Caroline Islands the next day. She also observed battleships bombarding Ponape on 1 May. The warships steamed to the Marshalls, arriving in Kwajalein lagoon on the 4th. The light cruiser then loaded fuel, ammunition and supplies in preparation for Operation Forager, the planned liberation of the Marianas Islands.

Tasked with eliminating Japanese air power in the Marianas, the 15 fleet carriers of TF 58 planned to attack airfields on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. They also prepared for a major fleet battle if the Japanese carriers attempted to interfere with the American transports. Biloxi joined TG 58.2, which was built around the carriers Bunker Hill (CV-17), Wasp, Monterrey, and Cabot (CVL-28) and covered the carriers during air strikes against the Saipan and Tinian on the 12th. Several enemy raids were driven off by CAP or splashed by antiaircraft fire, including one Japanese plane shot down "in brilliant flames" by Conyngham (DD-371).

The light cruiser screened the carriers during the landing operations on Saipan beginning on the 15th. The next day, the task group heard reports that a large Japanese force was closing the Marianas from the Philippines. After rendezvous with the other three carrier groups about noon on 18 June, the warships took up a patrol station some 150 miles west of Saipan. From that position, on the southern flank of the carrier forces, Biloxi participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Although American search aircraft could not find the approaching enemy carriers, the presence of snoopers near the American carriers indicated the Japanese had found them. Late in the morning of 19 June, the first of 14 enemy raids registered on radar and began closing the task force. Most of these raids were destroyed or broken up by American fighters, severely disrupting the ensuing Japanese attacks, but several raids did get through.

Around noon, six D4Y Yokosuka Judy dive bombers evaded the American fighters and closed TG 58.2. Biloxi, along with several other escorts, fired on the two attacking Bunker Hill and both were splashed. At least four more Judys pounced on the task group later that afternoon but all were shot down by antiaircraft fire without inflicting any damage. These were but a small portion of the 300 or so Japanese aircraft lost in the battle dubbed the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."

The next day, the American task force discovered the Japanese carrier force had retired west during the night. Late in the day, a sighting report at 1613 led to a last-ditch 206-plane strike. These planes caught the retreating Japanese at dusk and sank light carrier Hiyo and damaged another. The American planes then flew east for a difficult night landing. Many were later ditched owing to darkness or lack of fuel and Biloxi joined other warships in recovering crews from the water. After a futile stern chase of the Japanese on the 21st, the American warships gave up the pursuit and retired, arriving at Eniwetok on 27 June.

The light cruiser stayed in the Marshalls only briefly, sailing west with TG 58.1 to the Bonin Islands on 30 June. She screened Yorktown, Hornet (CV-12), and Bataan (CVL-29) while they launched fighter sweeps and other strikes against Iwo Jima on 3 July. Biloxi then joined a bombardment group of four light cruisers and seven destroyers and closed Iwo Jima the following day.

Just as firing began at 1445, three Japanese fighters took off from Iwo Jima and closed the American Kingfisher spotting aircraft.

Although Biloxi's Kingfisher safely retreated under the protection of friendly anti-aircraft fire, Santa Fe's spotting plane was heavily damaged by enemy fire and forced to make an emergency landing. The crew was later rescued by Burns (DD-588). After the warships drove off the attacking Japanese fighters, the bombardment resumed and the observation planes reported target areas well covered, with many fires burning when the bombardment group retired.

After refueling at sea, the light cruiser spent the next two weeks screening the carriers during air strikes against Guam and Rota in the Marianas. On 24 July, the task group sailed south for strikes against Palau, Yap, and Ulithi. Japanese air operations during both these operations were limited and no enemy aircraft closed the task group.

On the morning of 27 July, Biloxi catapulted two Kingfishers to rescue a pilot sighted in the water just off the southwest tip of Yap Island. One Kingfisher, flown by Lt(jg). R. Dana, spotted the pilot at 0905 and was able to land just outside the reef line surrounding the island. A Japanese antiaircraft gun began firing at the Kingfisher but was soon silenced by four circling American fighters. The downed flier managed to paddle his raft through the breaking swells and across the reef where he collapsed from exhaustion. Lt(jg). Dana taxied between the raft and the reef and managed to pull the pilot in with a line. He took off at 0940 and successfully returned to the task group later that morning.

Following one more air strike on 28 July, heavy rain squalls and poor weather canceled further strikes and the task group turned for the Mariana Islands. After a quick replenishment stop at Saipan on 2 August, the task group steamed west for a strike against the Bonin and Volcano Islands. During a fighter sweep on 4 August, friendly planes reported a small enemy task group in the area. Late that afternoon, Biloxi, three other cruisers and seven destroyers closed the Bonins for an anti-shipping sweep. After Brown (DD-546) and Izard (DD-589) destroyed a small sampan, the cruisers picked up a Japanese convoy on radar north of Muko Jima. Owing to the danger of enemy torpedo attack, the cruisers kept their distance and fired at long range. Their accurate gunfire quickly damaged and eventually sank escort destroyer Matsu and collier Ryuko Maru.

At 0400 the following morning, while preparing for a bombardment mission against Ani and Chichi Jima, a Japanese Betty closed from the stern and passed over the light cruiser. Shortly thereafter a heavy underwater explosion, probably a torpedo, detonated in Biloxi's wake. The blast severely shook the warship but did no damage. The bombardment mission was carried out as planned later that morning and the cruisers rejoined the carriers that afternoon.

The task group then sailed east and arrived at Eniwetok on 9 August. After Biloxi refueled alongside Tappahanock (AO 43), she moved to a berth in the lagoon to take on stores and provisions. The crew also received three-weeks of rest and recreation.

Assigned to TG 38.4, the light cruiser got underway on 28 August in company with Franklin (CV-18), San Jacinto (CV-30), Enterprise (CV-6), New Orleans (CA-32), and 12 destroyers. Steaming west, the task group closed the Bonins to neutralize Japanese installations there in advance of upcoming operations against Palau and the Philippines.

After Franklin and Enterprise launched a fighter sweep on the 31st, the cruisers closed and bombarded Chichi Jima. During that evolution, the warships were approached by a Japanese Betty but they drove the bomber off with antiaircraft fire. The next day, the warships closed Iwo Jima and fired at targets ashore. During this operation, Biloxi's crew saw friendly planes strafing an enemy patrol craft. Destroyer Helm (DD-388) then closed the target and sank it with gunfire. At 1500 that afternoon, a damaged Army B-24D four-engine Liberator bomber appeared over the task group and eleven crew members bailed out. Ten were rescued in the water and, despite extensive searches, the warships did not find the eleventh man. The task group then sailed east and moored at Saipan anchorage on 4 September.

The warships continued a fast pace of operations by sailing south to Yap the next day. Biloxi conducted an especially good bombardment mission during the morning of 7 September, starting numerous fires in a vehicle depot and an oil storage building. The light cruiser then took up a position to cover the carriers and screened them during air strikes against Palau between 10 and 15 September. During this time, Biloxi also launched Kingfishers to fly close in antisubmarine patrol. Following the amphibious landings on Palau on the 15th, the light cruiser headed to the Admiralty Islands for upkeep.

While enroute, Biloxi crossed the equator on 20 September. According the the war diarist, "King Neptune, Davy Jones, and all the Royal Court were received aboard and dispensed justice with their customary ruthless and bloodthirsty manner. Among the initiates was the XO, Commander E.F. McDaniel, who until today had evaded His Majesty during 21 years of naval service. He was punished accordingly." The warship arrived at Manus the next day.

After taking on supplies and ammunition, Biloxi sailed to Kossol Passage on 24 September and joined TG 38.1. Once joined there by the other fast carriers of TF 38, the force proceeded west to Okinawa on 8 October. Arriving off the Ryukyu Islands two days later, Biloxi screened the carriers as they struck airfields and other installations ashore. That morning, two Kingfishers catapulted off the light cruiser to search for a downed pilot from Franklin. One plane landed and recovered the pilot but, owing to rough seas, the OS2U capsized during takeoff. Rather than risk the second float plane--her last working aircraft--Biloxi allowed the two pilots to be rescued by Sterlet (SS-392).

The carriers then shifted to Formosa on 12 October for two days of heavy attacks against Japanese airfields. Just before sunset on the 13th, seven Betty bombers appeared out of a rain squall and rapidly closed the carriers. Biloxi's forward 6-inch turrets as well as her 5-inch and 40-mm batteries took five of these planes under fire as they passed down her port side. One plane broke into flames and, after Biloxi checked fire to avoid hitting two nearby destroyers, all five were splashed by other warships in the formation.

Between 14 and 19 October, the light cruiser covered the carriers as they struck airfields on Luzon in preparation for the Leyte landings on 20th. Numerous small enemy raids plagued the task group but they inflicted no damage. On the 19th, Biloxi's remaining OS2U, accompanied by a seaplane from New Orleans, successfully picked up the crew of a crashed dive bomber and returned them to Franklin.

After covering Leyte strikes between 20 and 22 October, Biloxi detached and joined TG 38.2 built around Intrepid (CV-11), Bunker Hill, Cabot, and Independence (CV-22). Upon word that three groups of Japanese warships were closing the Philippines, this force concentrated east of Samar. On 24 October, during the second day of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, planes from Intrepid and Cabot took part in attacks that sank the Japanese battleship Musashi south of Luzon. Other air attacks damage two other battleships.

That night, the task group steamed north off Cape Engano to hunt for fleeing enemy carriers, five of which are disposed of by air strikes the following day. Later that evening the American warships turned south in an attempt to catch a second group of retiring Japanese warships. Just after midnight on the 26th, Biloxi and four other cruisers and destroyers picked up a surface contact near San Bernadino Strait. The three cruisers quickly opened fire, destroying the Japanese warship Nowaki in a blinding explosion shortly thereafter.

On 28 October, TG 38.2 returned to launching air strikes against Luzon airfields and Japanese shipping in Manila Bay. Poor weather hampered aircraft recovery on the 29th, and the evening was spent rescuing ditched airmen. Following a withdrawal to refuel and receive replacement aircraft, the task group carried out two more rounds of Luzon strikes in the first weeks of November. These attacks pounded Japanese shipping and port facilities at Manila and central Luzon, sinking half a dozen light warships and over a dozen cargo ships and auxiliaries.

On the 15th, Biloxi departed the Philippines and steamed east to Ulithi. Arriving there two days later, she received much needed repairs and replenishment. Biloxi also recovered pilot Lt.(jg) Dana, who related an exciting cruise in Sterlet during which time the submarine sank at least two enemy cargo ships. While at Ulithi on 20 November, Biloxi's crew experienced the Japanese kaiten attack on the anchorage. All five midget submarines were lost in the attack, though not before the Japanese torpedoes damaged and eventually sank tanker Mississenawa (AO-59).

On 22 November, Biloxi joined TG 38.3 for another set of air strikes against Luzon. While carrier aircraft attacked enemy coastal shipping on the 25th, the light cruiser helped the task group fight off Japanese kamikazes. Numerous raids breached friendly fighter defenses that day and five American carriers were damaged, forcing the task group to retire from the area.

The carriers returned to the Philippines on 13 December and, in addition to air strikes in support of the Mindoro landings, they also launched special night raids against Japanese airfields. These attacks prevented enemy kamikaze dive bombers (called "green hornets") from launching the coordinated attacks that had plagued the American task groups in late November.

On 18 December, Biloxi's task force encountered a typhoon northeast of Samar and suffered heavy damage. In addition to the loss of three destroyers, many other warships were damaged and Biloxi herself lost an OS2U washed overboard. After spending the next few days searching for survivors, the light cruiser steamed to Ulithi on the 24th and remained there for the next week.

Biloxi put to sea with TG 38.3 on 30 December, intending to strike Formosa, Nansei Shoto, and northern Luzon. The task group, built around Essex (CV-9), Ticonderoga (CV-14) and Langley (CVL-27) launched the first strike against Formosa on 3 January 1945. The weather quickly worsened, however, and many of the planned attacks were canceled. The carriers steamed back south and, when the weather cleared on the 6th, blanketed Luzon with aircraft in support of bombardment and amphibious operations in Lingayan Gulf. These attacks did not achieve a lot of success, as enemy planes were carefully hidden and camouflaged, and the task group shifted strikes to airfields on Formosa, in the Ryukyus, and the Pescadores.

During the evening of 9 January, the task group passed through Bashi Channel of Luzon Strait and began a high speed run south. Two days later, carrier aviators struck targets between Cam Rahn Bay and Cape Varella, hitting many ground installations and virtually annihilating a coastal convoy north of Qui Nhon. Nine Japanese ships were sunk in that attack, and another 13 were damaged. After retired to refuel, a task made more difficult owing to typhoon passing through area, the carriers shifted north to attack Hainan and Hong Kong. The following day, S1c Daniel A. Little was swept overboard by a wave and drowned. This was the first loss of life suffered by Biloxi's crew.

After refueling, the task group passed through Balintang Channel and conducted strikes against airfields on Formosa on 21 January. Around midday, Japanese kamikazes began attacking in increasing numbers and, in successive waves, two aircraft crashed Ticonderoga and another damaged Maddox (DD-731). That evening, Biloxi detached to escort the two damaged warships to Ulithi, arriving there on the 26th.

On 10 February, Biloxi joined TG 58.4 and sailed for operations against Iwo Jima. Following carrier-launched fighter sweeps against Japanese airfields in the Tokyo area, the task group closed Iwo Jima to support landing operations. During the morning of 19 February, Biloxi provided naval gunfire support for the troops ashore. She then shifted to harassing fire that evening. This pattern of operations continued until the 21st when 5 inch mount #6 fired into the barrels of gun mount #5, slightly injuring several sailors and destroying the latter mount.

Despite the damage, Biloxi then rejoined TG 58.4 and returned to the Tokyo area to pound aircraft factories and airfields starting on the 25th. Increasing heavy weather limited and then canceled strikes that afternoon and the force retired south. After hitting ground installations, airfields and shipping at Okinawa, the task group split up and Biloxi steamed to Ulithi, arriving there on 1 March. She replenished, loaded ammunition and repaired mount #5.

On 21 March, Biloxi sailed with a fire support group for operations in the Ryukyus. Assigned to TG 54.1, she helped cover mine clearing sweeps, Under Water Demolition Team (UDT operations, and the amphibious landings on Kerama Retto on the 26th. Moving to Okinawa later that morning, she launched seaplanes for spotting and reconnaissance missions and fired on targets west of Zanpa Misaki point.

Just after dawn, a wave of kamikazes broke through friendly fighter cover and closed to attack the task group. Although two Vals were quickly splashed, a third crashed Nevada (BB-36) and a fourth, taken under fire and burning, crashed Biloxi amidships. The light cruiser's luck continued when the planes 500 kg bomb did not explode and she suffered only minor damage to a storeroom.

Biloxi spent the next three weeks conducting shore bombardment missions, including closing to within 3,000 yards of the beach and using 40 mm guns to support UDT operations. Starting on 1 April, she fired on enemy targets north of the main amphibious landings and then continued these bombardment missions in support of advancing troops ashore. During these weeks, the task group was repeatedly attacked by kamikazes, one of whom just missed Biloxi on 3 April. In addition to fending off these aerial attacks, the light cruiser also fired on enemy suicide boat concentrations.

Biloxi departed Okinawa on 20 April and steamed east to Ulithi, where she arrived on the 24th. After receiving battle repairs alongside Vulcan (AR 5), the light cruiser continued east, arriving at San Francisco via Pearl Harbor on 11 May. Moving into Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. the warship received three weeks of long overdue repairs and machinery maintenance. Following completion of this work on 6 July, Biloxi conducted two weeks of post overhaul checks and refresher training out of San Diego and San Clemente. These evolutions were disrupted on 14 July when a water feed line ruptured in the aft fire room, flashed into steam and burned eight men, none seriously.

Returning west on 19 July, Biloxi practiced shore bombardment exercises in Hawaii before departing Pearl Harbor on 2 August. While enroute to Ulithi, the warship conducted a long range shore bombardment of Wake on 8 August, primarily to train her gunners for upcoming operations against Japan. After a stop at Ulithi on 12 August, she refueled and headed for Leyte, arriving in San Pedro Bay on 14th. While anchored there, the crew heard the Japanese surrender announcement at 0815 the following morning.

Departing the Philippines for Okinawa on 20 August, the light cruiser arrived there three days later and spent the next three weeks awaiting orders. Putting to sea on 16 September, Biloxi proceeded to Nagasaki, Japan, to evacuate POWs. Arriving there on the 18th, her crew saw the damage caused by the atomic bomb and took on 11 U.S., 17 British, one Australian, one Canadian, and 187 Dutch "recovered Allied military personnel." These men were delivered to Okinawa on 21 September. Steaming back to Japan, the warship made stops at Nagasaki, Wakayama, and Hiro Wan as the American Occupation Forces consolidated their positions ashore. During October, some officers from ships' company took part in inspections of surviving Japanese shipping at Kure.

Underway 9 November, Biloxi picked up passengers at Okinawa on the 11th, before sailing to Pearl Harbor and then San Francisco, arriving at the latter port on 27 November. The warship moved to Port Angeles, Wash., 15 January 1946 and reported to Commander, 19 Fleet, for inactivation. On 18 May 1946 she was placed in commission in reserve at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and on 29 October 1946 went out of commission in reserve. Her name stricken from the Navy list on 1 December 1961 and she was sold for scrap to Puget Sound Towing & Barge Co. on 29 March 1962.

Biloxi (CL-80) was awarded nine battle stars for her World War II service.