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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Milwaukee

 

A city and port in southeast Wisconsin.

 

III

 

(CL‑5: dp. 7,050; l. 555'6"; b. 55'4"; dr. 13'6"; a. 34 k.; cpl. 458; a. 12 6"; 4 3"; 10 21" tt.; cl. Omaha)

 

The third Milwaukee (CL‑5) was laid down 13 December 1918 by Seattle Construction & Dry Dock Co., Seattle, Wash., launched by Todd Dry Dock & Construction Co., Seattle, Wash., 24 March 1921; sponsored by Mrs. Rudolph Pfeil; and commissioned 20 June 1923, Capt. William C. Asserson in command.

 

Shakedown took the new cruiser to Australia via Hawaii, Somoa, Fiji Islands, and New Caledonia, for the Pan‑Pacific Scientific Congress which opened in Sydney 23 August 1923. Fitted with the finest sonic depth‑finding equipment, Milwaukee gathered knowledge of the Pacific on route.

 

Although she served primarily in the Pacific during the decades between the world wars, the highlights of her peacetime service came in the Caribbean. On 24 October 1926, Milwaukee and Goff arrived at the Isle of Pines from Guantanamo Bay to assist victims of a fierce hurricane which had devastated the island 4 days before. The American ships established a medical center at the city hall in Nueva Gerone, furnished the stricken area over 50 tons of food, replaced telephone lines which had been swept away, and maintained wireless communication with the outside world. The efficient and tireless labors of the crews won the respect and gratitude of everyone in the area.

 

Over a decade later while steaming north of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico 14 February 1939, Milwaukee recorded the greatest depth yet discovered in the Atlantic, 5,041 fathoms, or 30,246 feet. The spot has thenceforth been designated “Milwaukee Depth.”

 

Totalitarianism was then threatening to shatter world peace and to snuff out freedom. Over a year before, Japanese military hotheads had bombed U.S. gunboat Panay in the Yangtze River near Hankow, China, 12 December 1937, testing American determination to remain in the Orient Milwaukee, as part of the U.S. Navy’s response to the challenge, got underway from San Diego 3 January 1938 on a cruise to the Far Fast, which took her to Hawaii, Samoa, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Guam. As tension abated she returned home 27 April.

 

The new breed of dictators needed a more forceful lesson. Late in the summer of 1939, Hitler invaded Poland plunging Europe into war. Somewhat over 2 years later Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into the conflict.

 

Milwaukee, Capt. Forest B. Royal, was in New York Navy Yard for overhaul when Japan struck. Departing New York 31 December 1941, Milwaukee escorted a convoy to the Caribbean and arrived Balboa 31 January 1942, transited the Panama Canal, and escorted eight troop transports to the Society Islands. Returning to the Atlantic through the canal 7 March, she stopped at Trinidad en route to Recife, Brazil, where she joined the South Atlantic Patrol Force.

 

For the next 2 years Milwaukee made repeated patrols from ports of Brazil, steaming from the border of French Guiana, down to Rio do Janeiro, and across the Atlantic Narrows almost to the African coast. On 19 May 1942 while steaming from Ascension Island toward Brazil, she received SOS signals from SS Commandante Lyra, and sped to the assistance of the Brazilian merchantman, torpedoed by a German U‑boat off the coast of Brazil. On reaching the scene that morning, Milwaukee found Commandante Lyra abandoned, burning forward and aft, and listing to port.

 

Destroyer Moffett (DD‑362) picked up 16 survivors and Milwaukee rescued 25 others, including the ship’s master. Cruiser Omaha (CL‑4) and destroyer McDougal (DD‑358) were soon on the rescue scene. While Milwaukee refueled at Recife, Omaha’s salvage, party jettisoned deck cargo and ready ammunition for deck guns from the burning Brazilian merchantman. Milwaukee immediately returned to the scene. Her salvage party jettisoned cargo, to lighten the Brazilian. The fires were brought under control as Commandante Lyra was towed towards Fortaleza, Brazil, arriving 24 May.

 

Milwaukee put out of Recife 8 November 1942 in company with cruiser Cincinnati (CL‑6) and destroyer Somers (DD‑381) seeking German blockade runners. On 21 November 1942 the task force encountered a strange ship which turned out to be the German blockade runner Annaliese Essenberger. Milwaukee challenged the unidentified ship who replied with the call letters L‑J‑P‑Y, the international call of Norwegian freighter Sjhflbred. The Allied secret identification signal brought no reply. The two American cruisers maneuvered to cover destroyer Somers chasing the enemy into a small rain squall. At 0651, when Somers had closed to 4 miles, smoke and flames poured from the enemy who lowered boats. Minutes later the first of three tremendous explosions hurled wreckage hundreds of feet in the air and the freighter settled by the stern. Then the Norwegian flag was hauled down and the German merchant swastika flag was raised at the main. The German motorship heeled over to port and sank by the stern. Milwaukee took aboard 62 prisoners from four liferafts.

 

On the morning of 2 May 1943 while Milwaukee was under repairs at Recife, her crew showed great initiative and skill fighting a fire on tanker SS Livingston Roe which threatened the harbor.

 

Milwaukee continued her South Atlantic patrols until 8 February 1944 when she departed Bahia, Brazil, for the New York Navy Yard. She stood out from New York 27 February as a unit of the ocean escort for a convoy which reached Belfast, Northern Ireland, 8 March 1944. On 29 March 1944 Milwaukee put to sea, en route to Murmansk, Russia, with British Convoy JW58. A German submarine was sunk during the night. The following day enemy planes shadowing the convoy were shot down by fighter planes launched from HMS Activity. A wolfpack of German submarines tried to penetrate the convoy screen during the night of 31 March 1944 but was driven off. The following night seven German submarines shadowed the convoy but they, too, were driven off with the possible loss of one enemy submarine. That morning carrier‑based planes reported sinking a German submarine 10 miles astern.

 

On 4 April four escorts of the Russian Navy joined the convoy now headed for Archangel. A few hours later Milwaukee left the convoy and headed for Kola Inlet. There on 20 April 1944 the ship was transferred on loan to the Soviet Union under lend‑lease. She commissioned in the Russian Navy as Murmansk and performed convoy and patrol duty along the Atlantic sealanes throughout the remainder of the war. Transferred back to the United States 16 March 1949, Milwaukee, the first of 15 American warships returned by Russia, entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 18 March 1949, and was sold for scrapping 10 December 1949 to the American Shipbreakers, Inc., Wilmington, Del.