A city in California.
(CL-53: dp. 6,000; l. 541'8"; b. 53'3"; dr. 24'; s. 32 k.; cpl. 796; a. 16 5", 16 1.1", 8 21" tt.; cl. Atlanta)
The second San Diego, an antiaircraft light cruiser, was laid down on 27 March 1940 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass.; sponsored by Mrs. Percy J. Ben-bough ; launched on 26 July 1941; and acquired by the Navy and commissioned on 10 January 1942, Capt. Benjamin F. Perry in command.
After shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay, San Diego sailed via the Panama Canal to the west coast, arriving at her name-sake city on 16 May 1942. Escorting Saratoga (CV-3) at best speed, San Diego barely missed the Battle of Midway. On 15 June, she began escort duty for Hornet (CV-8) in operations in the South Pacific. Early in August, she supported the first American offensive of the war, the invasion of the Solomons at Guadalcanal. With powerful air and naval forces, the Japanese fiercely contested the American thrust and inflicted heavy damage; San Diego was the unwilling witness to the sinking of Wasp (CV-7) on 15 September and of Hornet on 26 October.
San Diego gave antiaircraft protection for Enterprise (CV-6) as part of the decisive three-day Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12 to 15 November 1942. After several months of service in the dangerous waters surrounding the Solomon Islands, San Diego sailed via Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, to Auckland, New Zealand, for replenishment.
At Noumea, New Caledonia, the light cruiser joined Saratoga, the only American carrier available in the South Pacific, and HMS Victorious in support of the invasion of Munda, New Georgia, and of Bougainville. On 5 November and 11 November, she joined Saratoga and Princeton (CVL-23) in highly successful raids against Rabaul. San Diego served as part of Operation “Galvanic,” the capture of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. She escorted Lexington (CV-16), damaged by a torpedo, to Pearl Harbor for repairs on 9 December. San Diego continued on to San Francisco for installation of modern radar equipment, a combat information center and 40 millimeter antiaircraft guns to replace her obsolete 1.1" batteries.
She joined Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force at Pearl Harbor on January 1944 and served as an important part of that mighty force for the remainder of the war. Her rapid-fire guns protected the carriers against aerial attack. San Diego participated in Operation "Flintlock," the capture of Majuro and Kwajalein, and "Catchpole," the invasion of Eniwetok, in the Marshall Islands from 31 January to 4 March. During this period, Task Force 58 delivered a devastating attack against Truk, the Japanese naval base known as the "Gibralter of the Pacific."
San Diego steamed back to San Francisco for more additions to her radar and then rejoined the carrier force at Majuro in time to join in raids against Wake and Marcus Islands in June. She was part of the carrier force covering the invasion of Saipan, participated in strikes against the Bonin Islands, and shared in the victory of the First Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19 and 20 June. After a brief replenishment stop at Eniwetok, San Diego and her carriers supported the invasion of Guam and Tinian, struck at Palau, and conducted the first carrier raids against the Philippines. On 6 and 8 August, she stood by as the carriers gave close air support to Marines landing on Peleliu, Palau Islands.
On 21 September, the Task Force struck at the Manila Bay area. After replenishing at Saipan and Ulithi, she sailed with Task Force 38 in its first strike against Okinawa. From 12 to 15 October, the carriers pounded the airfields of Formosa while San Diego's guns shot down 2 of 9 Japanese attackers in her sector and drove the others away; unfortunately, some enemy planes got through and damaged Houston (CL-81) and Canberra (CA-70). San Diego helped escort the two crippled cruisers out of danger to Ulithi. After rejoining the fast carrier force, she successfully rode out the typhoon of 17 and 18 December, despite heavy rolling of the ship. In January 1945, Task Force 38 entered the South China Sea for attacks against Formosa, Luzon, Indochina, and southern China. The force struck Okinawa before returning to Ulithi for replenishment.
San Diego next participated in carrier operations against the home islands of Japan, the first since the Dolittle/Hornet raid of 1942. The carrier force finished the month of February with strikes against Iwo Jima.
On 1 March, San Diego and other cruisers were detached from the carrier force to bombard Okino Daijo Island in support of the landings on Okinawa. After another visit to Ulithi, she joined in carrier strikes against Kyushu, again shooting down or driving away enemy planes attacking the carriers. On the night of 27 and 28 March, San Diego participated in the shelling of Minami Daito Jima; on 11 April, and again on 16 April, her guns shot down two attackers. She helped furnish antiaircraft protection for ships damaged by suicide attacks and escorted them to safety. After a stop at Ulithi, she continued as part of the carrier force supporting the invasion of Okinawa, until she entered an advanced base drydock at Guian, Samar Island, Philippines, for repairs and maintenance.
She then served once more with the carrier force operating off the coast of Japan from 10 July until hostilities ceased. On 27 August, San Diego was the first major Allied warship to enter Tokyo Bay since the beginning of the war, and she helped in the occupation of the Yokosuka Naval Base and the surrender of the Japanese battleship, Nagato. After having steamed over 300,000 miles in the Pacific, she returned to San Francisco on 14 September 1945. San Diego gave further service as part of operation "Magic Carpet" in bringing American troops home. She was decommissioned and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet on 4 November 1946, berthed at Bremerton, Wash. She was redesignated CLAA-53 on 18 March 1949. Ten years later, she was struck from the Navy list on 1 March 1959.
San Diego received 15 battle stars for service in World War II.
San Diego (CL-53) off San Francisco on 1 January 1944. Her silhouette, with groups of three twin 5-inch dual-purpose gun mounts stepped forward and aft and a conspicuous gap between the two stacks, is characteristic of the “antiaircraft cruisers” of the Atlanta (CL-51) and Oakland (CL-95) classes. The later Juneau (CL-119) class had their five-inch mounts on two levels instead of three for better stability. The Atlantas and Oaklands also mounted four torpedo tubes on each side; they can be seen here, below the after stack. Just abaft the torpedo tubes is another five-inch mount; the Atlanta class had two such mounts in "wing" positions, one to each side of the after superstructure. Forty-millimeter antiaircraft mounts are arranged along the superstructure and on the fantail. They have their own gun directors, while radar-equipped dual-purpose directors on the forward and after superstructures control the five-inch battery. A surface-search radar antenna is at the mainmast head; another is carried on the foremast below an air-search antenna. San Diego's new finish is a flat dark blue, considered to be less visible from the air than other finishes used at this time.