Return toNaval Historical
Center home page.
Return to Pearl Harbor Atttack
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
USS St. Louis, Reports of Pearl Harbor Attack
USS St. Louis report of 10 December
USS St. Louis Report of 25 December
U.S.S. St. Louis
c/o Fleet Post Office,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 10, 1941.
The Commanding Officer.
The Commander Cruisers, Battle Force.
U.S.S. St. Louis' Operations 7-10 December 1941.
- As soon as the air raid commenced on December 7th the ship
went to General Quarters and opened fire with the 1.1 and .50
calibre machine gun batteries and at the same time commenced
clearing away the interferences in the 5" mounts caused
by yard work then in progress.
- At the same time all preparations for getting underway were
made and steam raised in six boilers. Two boilers were out of
commission due to routine cleaning. These boilers were put back
in commission and were on the line at 0400 on December 8th.
- The 5" battery was soon in operating condition and enemy
planes were taken under fire.
- The ship got underway at 0931 with boiler power for twenty-nine
knots and stood out of the south channel.
- When just inside entrance buoy No. 1 two torpedoes were fired
at this ship from a distance of approximately 2,000 yards on
the starboard beam. The torpedoes, although running shallow,
struck the shoal inside buoy No. 1 and exploded, no damage to
this vessel resulting. An object near the origin of the torpedo
tracks was taken under fire by the 5" battery but no hits
were observed. This object was not positively identified as a
- The vessel cleared the channel at twenty-five knots and zig-zagged
on a southerly course with intention of locating and attacking
the enemy carrier which was reported as being to the south of
- After clearing the harbor entrance buoys the Montgomery
was ordered to act as a screen and later the Phelps also.
- While standing to the southern this vessel formed an attack
group with the destroyers Phelps, Blue, Lamson,
and Montgomery. Shortly after, the Montgomery was
detached a it signaled that it had been ordered to make a sweep
for magnetic mines in the channel. The St. Louis, Phelps,
Blue and Lamson remained in company until they
joined Commander Destroyers, Battle Force at 1321.
- At 1130 when in position latitude 20°-56'-30", longitude
157°-52'-00" a despatch was received stating that the
enemy carrier and four escort vessels was in a position bearing
due west of this vessel, distance thirty miles. Course was accordingly
changed to 270 with the intention of intercepting and speed of
twenty-five knots maintained.
- At 1210 when in latitude 20°-51'-00", longitude
158°-03'-00" a despatch was received from Cincpac to
attack enemy vessel south of Barbers Point.
- Course was changed to the northward for the purpose of intercepting
- At 1252 this vessel was ordered to join the Detroit
which was sighted shortly thereafter bearing about 000.
- At 1321 this vessel and its accompanying destroyers joined
Commander Destroyers, Battle Force in the Detroit and
operated thereafter until entrance in Pearl Harbor as a unit
of Task Force One under his command.
- The following amounts of ammunition were expended:
(c) .50 cal.
- This vessel was hit by machine gun bullets or shell fragments,
but the exact number has not yet been determined. However, no
appreciable damage was sustained. The most serious being a hit
on the port catapult launching cable which severed a few strands.
Temporary repairs have been made to the cable and it will be
replaced at the earliest opportunity.
- At the time of the raid this vessel's four VGS planes were
shore-based at the Naval Air Station, Ford Island and their condition
is not known at this time.
- Upon getting underway the port gangway and both quarter booms
were on the fantail where work was being done on them. As it
was feared that a bomb or shell hit might cause them to jam one
of the after turrets they were jettisoned.
- For the same reason and the added reason that hands were
not available to handle it the starboard gangway was also jettisoned.
- As soon as opportunity offered both anchor chains were unbent
and struck below and the inflammable stores, paint, and etc.,
- The Commanding Officer wishes particularly to commend the
prompt and willing action of the Commanding Officers of the Montgomery,
Phelps, Blue, and Lamson in joining this
vessel to form an attack group.
- The Commanding Officer has nothing but the highest praise
for the performance of duty of all officers and men attached
to this vessel. When General Quarters was sounded during the
raid all hands proceeded promptly and without confusion to their
battle stations and performed to the entire satisfaction of the
- Such officers as could rejoined the ship during the raid
and were able to proceed to sea with it. Lieutenant (Junior grade)
Charles A. Crutze of the Staff of Commander Cruisers, Battle
Force was on board at the time General Quarters was sounded and
proceeded at once to Central Station where he performed the duties
of First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer until the ship's
regularly assigned First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer
arrived on board.
U.S.S. St. Louis
c/o Fleet Post Office,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 25, 1941.
The Commanding Officer.
The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Offensive Measures Taken During Air Raid, December 7, 1941.
(a) Cincpac despatch 102102 of December 1941.
- On December 7, 1941, this vessel was moored outboard of the
U.S.S. Honolulu at Berth B-17, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor,
- At 0756 two of the ship's officers observed a large number
of dark colored planes heading towards Ford Island from the general
direction of AIEA. They dropped bombs and made strafing attacks.
At the same time a dark olive drab colored plane bearing the
aviation insignia of Japan passed close astern and dropped a
torpedo. The air attack continued as is now known.
- The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its
- The Commanding Officer reached the bridge at approximately
0800 and the ship's .50 caliber M.G. and its 1.1" battery
was already manned and in action delivering a full volume of
fire at the attackers.
- Orders were given at once to raise steam in six boilers (two
were undergoing routine cleaning) and to make all preparations
for getting underway at the earliest possible moment. The reassembly
of the two boilers being cleaned was commenced and they were
on the line at 0400 on December 8th.
- Yard work was in progress in all 5" mounts. Immediately
all interferences were cleared away and the 5" battery was
soon in operation taking under fire the high altitude bombers
as primary targets and such other planes as presented themselves
as secondary targets.
- At 0931 the ship got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots,
and stood out to sea via South Channel.
- At 1004 when just inside the channel entrance buoys (Buoys
#1 and 2) two torpedoes were seen approaching the ship from starboard
from a range of between 1,000 to 2,000 yards. Just before striking
the ship, they hit the reef to westward of the dredged channel
and exploded doing no damage to the ship.
- At the source of the torpedo tracks a dark gray object about
18" long was seen projecting above the water about 8".
At the time, it was not positively known that this was part of
a "baby" submarine but the Commanding Officer has since
seen the one on display at the Submarine Base and is positive
that the object sighted was the top of the periscope fairwater
of a "baby" submarine.
- The object was taken under fire by the starboard 5"
battery from 1004 till 1007 but the ship is uncertain as to whether
or not any hits were scored, although it was reported that hits
were made on the first two salvos. The submarine very shortly
(30 seconds approximately) disappeared from view.
- The ship was proceeding at about 20 knots at this time and
experienced difficulty in dodging the submarine, keeping off
the reef, and in avoiding two mine sweepers and their sweep.
However, it managed to clear and stood on out to sea at 25 knots
speed and zig-zagging.
- An enemy carrier was reported to be operating to the south
of Pearl Harbor and this vessel proceeded southward with the
intention of locating and attacking the carrier.
- For this purpose the Commanding Officer ordered the Montgomery,
Phelps, Lawson, and Blue (then in the vicinity)
to join as an attack group to engage the carrier. All vessels
complied promptly and efficiently.
- During this period enemy planes were fired on as follows:
Four high altitude bombers.
Five high altitude bombers.
No planes were seen to be shot down or damaged. The ship was
not observed to be attacked by these planes.
- At about 1100 the Montgomery signalled it had been
ordered to make a magnetic sweep of the channel and therefore,
it was detached and ordered to carry out the orders for the sweep.
- At 1134 a despatch was received stating that an enemy vessel
escorted by four others was south of Barbers Point heading east.
The position given was due west of this vessel. Consequently
course was changed to 270° true in order to intercept.
- At 1210 a despatch was received directing this vessel to
attack an enemy ship reported as being 5 miles south of Barbers
Point. Course was therefore altered to 357° true.
- At 1235 exchanged visual calls with the Minneapolis
accompanied by two destroyers bearing 300° true, range about
20,000 yards, standing to the northeastward.
- At 1252 a despatch was received for this vessel to join the
task force of Comdesbatfor (Detroit) and course was changed
to 340° true, that force being just then sighted bearing
345° true, distant about 25,000 yards.
- During this phase enemy planes were fired on as follows:
Group of four torpedo planes.
Group of dive bombers.
Group of planes (type not determined.)
All of the above firings were at long ranges. It is not believed
that any damage was done. The ship was not attacked by these
- Thereafter the vessel operated as a unit of the force commanded
by Comdesbatfor until its return to Pearl Harbor on December
- Damage sustained some inconsequential machine
gun bullets hits on upper decks and works; the only one of any
importance being a hit that severed some of the strands of the
port catapult cable.
- Casualties to personnel none.
- Damage inflicted It is felt that only in the
rarest cases can any one ship state positively that it destroyed
any specific plane or planes. However, bearing this in mind,
the following planes are believed to have been shot down by this
- At about 0810 a large single engined dark olive
drab colored plane bearing the red ball insignia on each wing
and with retracted landing gear was seen approaching at a low
altitude (about 200 feet) from the direction of Barber's Point
on a bearing of about 315° relative. The plane was immediately
taken under fire by the two .50 caliber and the one 1.1"
machine guns on the port side forward. The plane altered course
to the left until it was about paralleling the face of the dock
and very nearly abreast the face of the dock but still on the
land side of it. The range was then about 300 yards. The fire
was then taken up by the corresponding guns on the starboard
side. The plane climbed slightly and banked to the left, seemed
to flutter a moment, then burst into flames and crashed being
lost to sight behind buildings in the Navy Yard and in the prevailing
- At about 0830 a torpedo plane approaching from the direction
of Merry Point and headed for the battleships was taken under
fire by the after four .50 caliber and the two 1.1" machine
guns. It was flying at an altitude of about 50 to 100 feet. When
just clear of the stern of the ship, the plane's engine was seen
to fall out, the plane seemed to disintegrate and crashed in
about mid channel and 150 feet past the ship. Its torpedo had
not been released.
- At about 0900 a formation of six dive bombers was seen to
be diving on the Honolulu and St. Louis from an
altitude of about 6,000 to 7,000 feet on a relative bearing of
300°. The dive was shallow (40 to 50°) and the diving
speed seemed slow (about 300 m.p.h.). The planes were taken under
fire by the forward .50 caliber and 1.1" machine guns. Four
of the planes sheered off to the left and released their bombs
that landed in the water between 1010 Dock and Ford Island. All
are believed to have exploded. The fifth plane was diving for
this vessel and released its bomb which struck the water and
exploded about 200 feet bearing about 5° relative from the
ship and exploded. The plane banked left caught fire and crashed.
(It is believed that the sixth plane of this group dropped the
bomb that damaged the Honolulu).
- Conduct of Personnel The Commanding Officer
has nothing but the highest praise to give to each officer and
man for their conduct, devotion to duty, willingness and coolness
under fire and during the following days of most exhausting operations.
When General Quarters was sounded all hands proceeded quickly
and without confusion to their stations exactly as though it
were a drill. Throughout the entire action the whole ship performed
to a degree of perfection that exceeded my most optimistic anticipation.
This fine enthusiasm and spirit continues undiminished.
- Officer and men that were ashore promptly repaired to the
Navy Yard and those that could joined before the ship put to
sea. Others joined other units wherever they felt that their
services would be of value.
- Lieutenant Charles A. Curtze, U.S. Navy of the Construction
member of the Staff of Commander Cruisers, Battle Force, being
quartered on board, proceeded at once, when the alarm was given,
to Central Station where he took charge until relieved by the
First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer on his arrival on
board from the city.
- Special mention is made of the following cases:
- Lieutenant Commander J.E. Florence, U.S. Navy, Lieutenant
Commander Paul Jackson, DE-V(G), U.S. Naval Reserve, and Lieutenant
R.N.S. Clark, U.S. Navy, arrived at the Navy Yard to find the
St. Louis underway. They took to ships motor boat and
tried to overhaul the ship. Being unsuccessful, they then boarded
a passing motor torpedo boat. This boat was short handed and
they manned its machine guns but no planes attacked them. Failing
to gain the St. Louis they then boarded the Phoenix,
that was passing at that time, and served at sea on board that
ship until December 10th.
- The splendid response and aggressive spirit displayed by
the Commanding Officers of the Phelps, Lamson,
Blue, and Montgomery in at once joining this vessel
in the organization of an attack group.
.50 Cal. M.G.
- Aviation Detachment The ship's aviation detachment
was shore-based at Ford Island for routine overhaul of planes
on December 7, 1941, and it is assumed that their activities
will be reported on by the proper authorities.
Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC
action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II
the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration,
8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.