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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Marblehead

 

A port in Massachusetts.

 

III

 

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

 

The third Marblehead (CL‑12) was laid down 4 August 1920 by William Cramp & Son, Philadelphia, Pa.; launched 9 October 1923; sponsored by Mrs. Joseph Evans; and commissioned 8 September 1924, Capt. Chauncey Shackford in command.

 

After commissioning, the scout cruiser Marblehead departed Boston for shakedown in the English Channel and Mediterranean. In 1925 she visited Australia, stopping en route in the Samoan and Society Islands and, on her return, in the Galapagos. A year after her return, Marblehead was underway again on an extended voyage. Early in 1927 she cruised off Bluefields and Bragman’s Bluffs, Nicaragua, her mission there to aid American efforts to bring together and reconcile the various political factions then fighting in that country. With one exception, Sandino, faction leaders agreed to the terms of the Peace of Tipitapa, 4 May 1927, and the United States was requested to supervise elections in 1928.

 

Marblehead next sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she joined Richmond and Trenton and headed for Shanghai, China. Upon arrival there she contributed to the show of force aimed at the protection of American and other foreign nationals of Shanghai’s international settlement during operations against that city through the summer of 1927 in China’s civil war.

 

In addition to her stay at Shanghai, Marblehead spent 2 months up the Yangtze River at Hankow, and visited several Japanese ports before leaving the Far East in March 1928. En route home the cruiser stopped at Corinto, Nicaragua, to assist in the preparations for elections under the Peace of Tipitapa, delaying her return to Boston until August.

 

During the next decade Marblehead operated with both the Atlantic (August 1928 to January 1933) and Pacific (February 1933 to January 1938) Fleets. In January 1938 she was temporarily assigned to the Asiatic Fleet, receiving permanent assignment there 7 months later. Home ported at Cavite, Philippine Islands, she cruised the Sea of Japan and the South and East China seas as tension, political and military, rapidly increased in the Far East.

 

“About 24 November 1941,” her war diary reported, “the Commander‑in‑Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet sensed that the relations between the United States and Japan had reached such a critical state that movement of men‑of‑war...was indicated.” The next day, Marblehead, with TF 5, departed Manila Bay for seemingly “routine weekly operations.” She anchored at Tarakan, Borneo, 29 November and waited for further instructions. On 8 December (7 December in the United States) she received the message “Japan started hostilities; govern yourselves accordingly.”

 

Marblehead and other American warships then joined with those of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Australian Navy to patrol the waters surrounding the Netherlands East Indies and to screen Allied shipping moving south from the Philippines. On the night of 24 January 1942, Marblehead covered the withdrawal of a force of Dutch and American warships after they had attacked, with devastating effect, an enemy convoy off Balikpapan. Six days later, in an attempt to repeat this success, the force departed Surabaja, Java, to intercept an enemy convoy concentration at Kendari. The Japanese convoy, however, sailed soon after, and the Allied force changed course, anchoring in Bunda Roads 2 February. On the 4th, the ships steamed out of Bunda Roads and headed for another Japanese convoy sighted at the southern entrance to the Makassar Straits. At 0949, 36 enemy bombers were sighted closing in on the formation from the east.

 

Marblehead successfully maneuvered through three attacks. After the third an enemy plane spiraled toward the cruiser, but her gunners splashed it. The next minute a fourth wave of seven bombers released bombs at Marblehead. Two were direct hits and a third a near miss close aboard the port bow causing severe underwater damage. Fires swept the ship as she listed to starboard and began to settle by the bow. Her rudder jammed, Marblehead, continuing to steam at full speed, circled to port her gunners kept firing, while damage control crews fought the fires and helped the wounded. By 1100 the fires were under control. Before noon the enemy planes departed, leaving the damaged cruiser with 15 dead or mortally wounded and 84 seriously injured.

 

Marblehead’s engineers soon released the rudder angle to 9° left, and at 1255 she retired to Tjilatjap, steering by working the engines at varying speeds. She made Tjilatjap with a forward draft of 30 feet, aft 22 feet. Unable to be docked there, her worst leaks were repaired and she put to sea again on the 13th, beginning a voyage of more than 9,000 miles in search of complete repairs.

 

Still steering with her engines, she made Trincomalee, Ceylon on the 21st. Repairs could not be made there or anywhere in India for several weeks. So Marblehead departed for South Africa 2 March. After touching at Durban and Port Elizabeth, Marblehead arrived at Simonstown 24 March. There she underwent extensive repairs and on 15 April sailed for New York. Steaming via Recife, Brazil, she arrived New York 4 May and immediately entered drydock at the navy yard.

 

On 15 October 1942; the rebuilt Marblehead again put to sea. Attached to the South Atlantic Force, she operated against the enemy in the South Atlantic from Recife and Bahia, Brazil, until February 1944. Returning to New York 20 February, she operated along the convoy lanes of the North Atlantic for the next 5 months. She then sailed for the Mediterranean. Arriving at Palermo 29 July, she joined the task force then staging for operation “Anvil”, the invasion of southern France. On 15, 16, and 17 August, the crusier bombarded enemy installations in the vicinity of Saint Raphael, where Allied assault troops were landing. On the 18th, she withdrew to Corsica, her mission complete.

 

Marblehead returned to the United States, conducted a summer training cruise for Naval Academy midshipmen and then entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she decommissioned 1 November 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy Register 28 November 1945 and her hulk was scrapped 27 February 1946.

 

Marblehead received two battle stars for World War II service.