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USS Columbia (CL-56)

Please see below for item level images and donated collections containing photographs of USS Columbia (CL-56)

USS Columbia (CL-56) was laid down on 19 August 1940 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 17 December 1941; sponsored by Miss Jean Adams Paschal, daughter of Gary Paschal (acting mayor of the ship’s namesake city--Columbia, S.C.); Miss Francis Owens (daughter of the late mayor Lawrence B. Owens—who passed away one week before the ship’s launch) as maid of honor; and commissioned at the Philadelphia [Pa.] Navy Yard, on 29 July 1942, Capt. William A. Heard in command.

USS Columbia (CL-56), dubbed “the Gem of the Ocean” by her crew, finished fitting out and performing general crew drills by 14 September 1942, and steamed out of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, arriving in Hampton Roads, Va., on 16 September. USS Columbia (CL-56) got underway from Hampton Roads at 1029 on 9 November 1942, temporarily anchoring at Lynnhaven Roads, Va.

USS Columbia (CL-56) and TG 66.6 steamed into Nouméa, New Caledonia on 2 December—the task group once again being dissolved upon arrival—USS Columbia (CL-56) moored to repair ship Prometheus (AR-3) at 1615. USS Columbia (CL-56) remained part of TG 67.2 for the balance of the month (17–31 December 1942) in the region west of Espíritu Santo Island.USS Columbia (CL-56) and the rest of TF 68 spent most of 15 March 1943 engaged in gunnery exercises—including firing against aerial targets. USS Columbia (CL-56) briefly shifted her operating base from Port Purvis to Tulagi Harbor on 8 July 1943—leaving Purvis Bay at 1545, and getting to Tulagi Harbor at 1603—anchored again by 1657 and refueling.

USS Columbia (CL-56) assumed a lead role again as she was moved into the flagship position of TG 39.2 on 15 October 1943; however, TG 39.2 remained idle at Espíritu Santo until USS Columbia (CL-56) got underway at 0700 on 20 October—steaming out with her task group for a training cruise. USS Columbia (CL-56) remained anchored at Purvis Bay throughout the rest of November 1943. As 1 December 1943 rolled around, the intense battles around Bougainville left their mark on the reshaped TF 39. USS Columbia (CL-56) was to remain in Port Purvis for maintenance, and installation of a new FH radar system on 1 December 1943. USS Columbia (CL-56) remained idle until 13 July when she got underway at 0700 with destroyers USS Bearss (DD-654) and Buchanan for exercises south of Oahu. USS Columbia (CL-56) commenced further underway exercises on 9 August 1944—underway at 0700 out of Pearl Harbor for the area south of Oahu, and back in her berth at 1704 where she remained for several days. 

USS Columbia (CL-56) spent the remainder of January 1945 undergoing damage inspection, and clearing out more of the debris and ammunition from her damaged spaces. The cruiser remained drydocked for the rest of February, March, and most of April 1945 for repairs, alterations, and to complete the overhaul. On 31 October 1945, for her final voyage home, 16 navy officers, 3 army officers, 3 Marine Corps officers, 502 enlisted troops from the navy and Marine Corps, plus 15 civilians climbed on board USS Columbia (CL-56). At 1649, the cruiser steamed out of Guam en route to Pearl Harbor.

Cmdr. Henry F. Gorski assumed command on 28 June 1946 for the cruiser’s last services, and USS Columbia (CL-56) reported to the Sixteenth Fleet on 1 July 1946. She would be placed in commissioned reserve on 30 October 1946 while remaining in Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. She was decommissioned on 30 November 1946, and placed in the Atlantic Fleet reserve on 7 February 1947. She was sold for scrap on 18 February 1959 to the Boston Metals Company. She was stricken from the Naval Register on 1 March 1959.

For a complete history of USS Columbia (CL-56) please see its DANFS page.