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USS St. Louis, Reports of Pearl Harbor Attack


CL49/A16-3/ U.S.S. St. Louis 10-cjg
    c/o Fleet Post Office,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 10, 1941.


From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander Cruisers, Battle Force.
Subject: U.S.S. St. Louis' Operations 7-10 December 1941.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The 5" battery was soon in operating condition and enemy planes were taken under fire.
  4. The ship got underway at 0931 with boiler power for twenty-nine knots and stood out of the south channel.
  5. 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 submarine periscope.
  6. 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 Pearl Harbor.
  7. After clearing the harbor entrance buoys the Montgomery was ordered to act as a screen and later the Phelps also.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Course was changed to the northward for the purpose of intercepting and attacking.
  12. At 1252 this vessel was ordered to join the Detroit which was sighted shortly thereafter bearing about 000.
  13. 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.
  14. The following amounts of ammunition were expended:



    (a) 5"/38 207 rounds
    (b) 1.1 3,950 rounds
    (c) .50 cal. 12,750 rounds


  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. For the same reason and the added reason that hands were not available to handle it the starboard gangway was also jettisoned.
  19. As soon as opportunity offered both anchor chains were unbent and struck below and the inflammable stores, paint, and etc., were jettisoned.
  20. 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.
  21. 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 Commanding Officer.
  22. 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.


Copy to:




CL49/A16-3/ U.S.S. St. Louis 10-cjg
    c/o Fleet Post Office,
Pearl Harbor, T.H.
December 25, 1941.


From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Offensive Measures Taken During Air Raid, December 7, 1941. – Report of.
Reference: (a) Cincpac despatch 102102 of December 1941.
  1. On December 7, 1941, this vessel was moored outboard of the U.S.S. Honolulu at Berth B-17, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, T.H.
  2. 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.
  3. The ship went to general quarters at once and manned its entire battery.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. At 0931 the ship got underway, with boiler power for 29 knots, and stood out to sea via South Channel.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. During this period enemy planes were fired on as follows:


    1016-1018 – Four high altitude bombers.
    1115-1117 – Five high altitude bombers.
    1145-1147 – Three aircraft

    No planes were seen to be shot down or damaged. The ship was not observed to be attacked by these planes.

  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. At 1235 exchanged visual calls with the Minneapolis accompanied by two destroyers bearing 300° true, range about 20,000 yards, standing to the northeastward.
  19. 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.
  20. During this phase enemy planes were fired on as follows:


    1213-1215 – Group of four torpedo planes.
    1218-1222 – Group of dive bombers.
    1233-1234 – 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 planes.

  21. Thereafter the vessel operated as a unit of the force commanded by Comdesbatfor until its return to Pearl Harbor on December 10, 1941.
  22. 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.
  23. Casualties to personnel – none.
  24. 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 ship.
    1. 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 smoke.
    2. 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.
    3. 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).
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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.
  28. Special mention is made of the following cases:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  29. Ammunition Expended  
    5/38" A.A. 207 rounds
    1.1"/75 3,950 rounds
    .50 Cal. M.G. 12,750 rounds
  30. 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.


Copy to:

    Condesron ONE
    Condesdiv NINE
    Comdesdiv ELEVEN
    Comdesdiv SEVEN
    Comindiv TWO

    Source: Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II action reports, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.


Published: Tue Mar 13 15:20:23 EDT 2018