Reno II (CL-96)
The second Reno (CL-96) was named for the city in the state of Nevada. The first Reno (DD-303) honored the late Lt. Cmdr. Walter E. Reno (1881-1917) (see Reno I (DD-303) for complete biography).
(CL-96: displacement 8,600 (full load); length 541'0"; beam 53'2"; draft 26'6"; speed 31 knots; complement 688; armament 12 5-inch, 16 40 millimeter, 16 20 millimeter, 8 21-inch torpedo tubes, 2 depth charge tracks; class Atlanta)
The second Reno (CL-96) was laid down on 1 August 1941 at San Francisco, Calif., by Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 3 December 1942; sponsored by Mrs. August C. Frohlich; and commissioned on 28 December 1943, Capt. Ralph C. Alexander in command.
Following her shakedown off San Diego, Calif., Reno departed San Francisco on 14 April 1944 to join the Fifth Fleet. As an active unit in Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher’s Task Force (TF) 58, she first came in contact with the enemy by supporting air strikes against Marcus Island on 19-20 May. Three days later, she also supported strikes on Wake Island.
During the months of June and July 1944, Reno joined the fast carriers in surprise attacks against Saipan (11 June), Pagan Island (12-13 June), and against the Volcano and Bonin Islands (Iwo Jima, Haha Jima, and Chichi Jima) (15-16 June). Three days later, she assisted in repelling a large-scale Japanese carrier force attempt to defeat the Allied invasion of Saipan in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
From 20 June to 8 July 1944, Reno joined in the operations covering the capture of Saipan, then covered landings on Guam from 17-24 July and two days later, took part in the strikes against the Palau Islands from the 26th to the 29th. Swinging north again, a final strike was made on the Bonin Islands 4-5 August and on 7 September the task group returned to the Palaus.
Continuing west, Reno participated in raids against Mindanao and adjacent Philippine Islands 9-13 September 1944, then supported the Palau invasion 15-20 September, and on the 21st and 22d, supported strikes against Manila and vicinity. Striking Nansei Shoto on 8 October, Reno, with TF 38, came nearer to the home islands of Japan than any other major unit of the U.S. Fleet had been.
During the three-day strike on Formosa (12-14 October 1944), Reno shot down six enemy planes. At the height of the battle, one torpedo plane crashed and exploded on the Reno’s main deck aft. Though Mt. 56 was partially incapacitated by the explosion, the turret captain succeeded in maintaining his fire against the attacking planes and ships.
On 24 October 1944, four days after the initial Leyte invasion, while supporting air strikes against Luzon, TF 38 came under a large-scale air attack by Japanese planes from Clark Field, although the vigorous efforts of the force’s combat air patrol and the effective use of rain squalls as cover limited what damage the enemy inflicted. A Yokosuka D4Y1 carrier bomber [Judy], however, bombed the small carrier Princeton (CVL-23), forcing her to withdraw from the task group. Light cruiser Birmingham (CL-62), and destroyers Morrison (DD-560), Gatling (DD-671) and Irwin (DD-794) all suffered damage when they attempted to come alongside to aid the stricken carrier, with Birmingham particularly taking very heavy damage when a cataclysmic explosion, touched off by uncontrollable fires, occurred as she lay alongside.
Reno came alongside five times but could not remain because of the intense heat and smoke. While Reno evacuated wounded men and tried to bring the fires under control, the listing flight deck of Princeton crushed one of Reno’s 40 millimeter mounts. Efforts to save the carrier continued; but, after Princeton’s torpedo warhead stowage area had exploded, Reno was ordered to scuttle her. Joined in the task by Irwin, Reno then sank the irreparably damaged carrier. On 25 October, having rejoined the task force, Reno proceeded north to engage the northern Japanese task force closing for the Battle of Cape Engano, the last engagement in the Battle for Leyte Gulf.
On the night of 3 November 1944, off San Bernardino Strait, the Japanese submarine I-41 (Lt. Cmdr. Kondo Fumitake) attacked the task group (TG 38.3) in which Reno was operating, loosing a spread of four Type 95 torpedoes, two of which struck Reno on her port side. One did not explode. The incident proved noteworthy, for not since 1942 had a Japanese submarine attacked a ship operating with a fast carrier task force. Heavy seas and high winds from a typhoon in proximity complicated the task of saving Reno, which quickly listed to 16 degrees, dead in the water, but an observer noted that “skillful seamanship, courage, and the unremitting effort of those remaining on board” [all hands not necessary for the intensive damage control efforts having been taken off] carried the day, allowing the ship to proceed, towed 1,500 miles to Ulithi by the fleet tug Zuni (ATF-95) for temporary repairs, arriving on 11 November. Lt. Cmdr. Kondo, meanwhile, claimed sinking an Essex (CV-9)-class carrier, receiving a special citation from Emperor Hirohito himself. Ironically, I-41 was last heard from on 12 November, the day after her victim arrived safely in the western Carolines.
Reno then steamed under her own power to Charleston, S.C., where she entered the Navy Yard on 22 March 1945 for repairs. Emerging seven months later, with hostilities over, she steamed to Texas, then back to Charleston for the addition of bunk spaces. She reported for Magic Carpet duty and made two runs to Le Havre, France, and back with returning Army troops.
In early 1946, Reno steamed for Port Angeles, Wash., where she was decommissioned on 4 November 1946 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet, berthed at Bremerton, Washington. Reclassified as CLAA-96 on 18 March 1949, she remained at Bremerton until her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 1 March 1959 and her hulk was sold on 22 March 1962, to Coal Export Co., New York, N.Y., to be broken up for scrap.
Reno earned three battle stars for her World War II service.
Updated, Robert J. Cressman
3 June 2020