Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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USS Helena (CL-50), 1939-1943

The Saint Louis class light cruiser, USS Helena (CL-50), was commissioned in September 1939 at New York Navy Yard, New York.   Initially assigned to the Atlantic, she transferred to Pearl Harbor and was at the Navy Yard during the Japanese Attack on December 7, 1941.   Damaged by a single torpedo, Helena would be repaired and return to the Pacific by joining the Guadalcanal Campaign in the summer of 1942, where she rescued survivors from USS Wasp (CV-7) and took part in protecting Henderson Field during the Battle of Cape Esperance in October and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November.  After an overhaul, Helena returned to combat in March 1943 providing gunfire support during the landings at New Georgia and Rendova.  In the early morning during the Battle of Kula Gulf on July 6, 1943, she fought Japanese destroyers and was hit by three enemy torpedoes that broke the cruiser in three parts, resulting in the loss of 168 crewmen.  On April 11, 2018, RV Petrel discovered the remains of Helena while on an expedition in the Solomon Islands.   

Image:  NH 95813:   USS Helena (CL-50), retouched photograph from July 1942 while off Mare Island, California.  U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.