The first three Augustas were named for the city in Georgia while the fourth was named for the capital of Maine.
(CL-31: displacement 9,050; length 600'3"; beam 66'1"; draft 16'4"; speed 32.7 knots; complement 735; armament 9 8-inch, 9 5-inch, 8 .30-caliber machine guns, 6 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Northampton)
The fourth Augusta (CL-31) was laid down on 2 July 1928 at Newport News, Va., by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.; launched on 1 February 1930; sponsored by Miss Evelyn McDaniel of Augusta, Ga.; and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., on 30 January 1931, Capt. James O. Richardson in command.
Damage to one of her turbines curtailed the ship's original shakedown cruise, but Augusta conducted abbreviated initial training during a cruise to Colon, Panama, and back, before she was assigned duty as flagship for Commander, Scouting Force, Vice Admiral Arthur L. Willard, on 21 May 1931. During the summer of 1931, she operated with the other warships of Scouting Force carrying out tactical exercises off the New England coast. In August 1931, she was reclassified a heavy cruiser, CA-31. In September, Augusta moved south to Chesapeake Bay, where she joined her colleagues in their normal fall gunnery drills. That employment lasted until mid-November when the cruisers disbanded and retired to their respective home yards. Augusta entered the Norfolk Navy Yard at that time.
At the beginning of 1932, she and the other cruisers of the Scouting Force reassembled in Hampton Roads, whence they departed on 8 January on their way to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Augusta conducted training evolutions with the Scouting Force in the vicinity of Guantanamo Bay until 18 February, when the force headed for the Panama Canal on its way to the eastern Pacific to participate in Fleet Problem XIII. She arrived in San Pedro, Calif., on 7 March but returned to sea three days later to execute the fleet problem. During the maneuvers, Augusta and her colleagues in Scouting Force squared off against Battle Force in defense of three simulated "atolls" located at widely separated points on the west coast. The exercises afforded the Fleet training in strategic scouting and an opportunity to practice defending and attacking a convoy.
Though the fleet problem ended on 18 March, Augusta and the rest of Scouting Force did not return to the Atlantic at its conclusion as was normal. In a gesture that presaged Roosevelt's retention of the Fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1940 after Fleet Problem XXI, the Hoover Administration kept the Fleet concentrated on the west coast throughout 1932 in the forlorn hope that it might restrain Japanese aggression in China. In fact, Scouting Force was still on the west coast almost a year later when the time came for Fleet Problem XIV in February 1933, and the Roosevelt Administration, which took office in March, proceeded to keep it there indefinitely. Consequently, Augusta continued to operate in the eastern Pacific until relieved of duty as Scouting Force's flagship late in October 1933. The heavy cruiser sailed for China on 20 October.
Steaming via the "Great Circle" route (the Northern Pacific) from Seattle to Shanghai, Augusta moored in the Whangpoo River, at Shanghai, on the morning of 9 November 1933. That afternoon, Admiral Frank B. Upham, Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet (CinCAF), broke his flag on board the newly arrived heavy cruiser, and his old flagship, Houston (CA-30), sailed for the United States, trailing a long homeward-bound pennant in her wake.
Soon after she broke Admiral Upham's flag and Houston sailed for home, Augusta proceeded south from Shanghai in December 1933, and, over the next few months, operated in the Philippines, interspersing training with her yearly overhaul at Cavite and Olongapo.
That spring, Augusta returned to China waters, "showing the flag", and then steamed to Yokohama, Japan, arriving there on 4 June. At 0730 the following morning, Admiral Upham left the ship to attend the state funeral ceremonies for the late Fleet Admiral Togo Heihachiro; Augusta commenced firing 19 one-minute guns in honor of the Japanese naval hero at 0830. Departing Yokohama with Admiral Upham embarked on 11 June, the heavy cruiser then visited Kobe (12 to 15 June) before she proceeded to Tsingtao, arriving there on 17 June.
Augusta remained in Chinese waters until 5 October 1934, when the heavy cruiser departed Shanghai for Guam, arriving there on the 10th. Sailing the next day, she proceeded to Australian waters for the first time, reaching Sydney on the 20th. She remained there a week, while Admiral Upham visited the capital of Australia, Canberra, on 25 and 26 October. With CinCAF back on board on the 26th, Augusta cleared Sydney the following day for Melbourne, arriving there on 29 October. She remained in that port, observing the centenary ceremonies for that Australian port city, until 13 November, when she sailed for Fremantle and Perth. Winding up her visit to Australia on 20 November, the heavy cruiser sailed for the Dutch East Indies.
Augusta reached Batavia on 25 November and remained there until 3 December, on which date she sailed for the fabled isle of Bali, arriving at the port of Lauban Amok on 5 December. Underway again on the 8th, Augusta touched at Sandakan (14 to 16 December), Zamboanga (17 to 19 December), and Iloilo (20 to 21 December), before reaching Manila on the 22d.
The heavy cruiser remained in the Philippine Islands, receiving her usual yearly overhaul at Cavite and drydocking at Olongapo, in the drydock Dewey, before she reembarked Admiral Upham and sailed for Hong Kong on 15 March 1935. Arriving on the 16th, Augusta remained there until the 25th, whileCinCAF was embarked in the yacht Isabel (PY-10) for a trip to Canton (17 to 20 March 1935). The cruiser's draft did not permit her to make the passage up the Pearl River to Canton. She got underway again on the 25th for Amoy and stayed there from 26 to 29 March, before she proceeded thence to Shanghai, arriving at that port city on the last day of March.
Augusta remained at Shanghai until 30 April, at which point she sailed for her second visit to Japan, reaching Yokohama on 3 May 1935. The ship remained there for two weeks, Admiral Upham disembarking on the day she arrived (3 May) and travelled by automobile to Tokyo, where he remained until the 9th, when he returned to his flagship. Steaming thence to Kobe, and arriving there on 18 May for a week's sojourn, Augusta sailed for China on 25 May, and reached Nanking, the Chinese capital, on the 29th.
The flagship remained at Nanking until 4 June, at which point she sailed for Shanghai, arriving the following day. "Augie Maru," as her crew had affectionately nicknamed her, lingered at Shanghai until 27 June, when she sailed for North China, reaching Tsingtao on the 29th. She remained at that port city, operating thence on exercises and gunnery practice, for the rest of the summer.
Augusta departed Tsingtao on 30 September for Shanghai, and arrived at her destination on 1 October, where, four days later, Admiral Orin G. Murfin relieved Admiral Upham as CinCAF. On 8 October, with the new CinCAF embarked, Augusta departed Shanghai for points south. Admiral Murfin transferred to Isabel to visit Bangkok (15 to 22 October), while he returned to the heavy cruiser to visit Singapore (24 to 30 October). Subsequently touching at Pontianak and Jesselton, North Borneo, (31 October to 1 November and from 3 to 5 November repectively) "Augie Maru" visited the southern Philippine ports of zamboanga (6 to 8 November) and Iloilo (9 to 10 November), before she returned to Manila on 11 November 1935.
While Augusta underwent her annual overhaul at Cavite and Olongapo, Admiral Murfin flew his flag in Isabel from 14 December 1935 to 27 February 1936. Soon thereafter, the heavy cruiser, again having CinCAF on board, sailed for the a succession of Philippine ports and places: Catbalogan, Cebu, Tacloban, Davao, Dumanquilas, Zamboanga, Tutu Bay, Jolo, and Tawi Tawi, before the ship returned to Manila on 29 March.
Underway on the last day of March for Chinese waters, Augusta cleared Manila on that day and arrived at Hong Kong on 2 April, remaining there until the 11th. During this time, Admiral Murfin embarked in Isabel for the trip up the Pearl River to Canton (6 to 8 April), returning on the latter date to reembark in his flagship to resume his voyage up the China coast. Visiting Amoy on 12 and 13 April, Augusta then paused briefly at Woosung on 16 April before proceeding up the Yangtze, reaching Nanking on the following day. While Augusta dropped back down the Yangtze to the Wnangpoo River, and Shanghai, Admiral Murfin continued up the Yangtze to Hankow in Isabel, thence to Ichang by commercial airliner, thence in the river gunboat Panay (PR-5) to Crossing 22, and finally back to Hankow and Shanghai in Isabel, where he rejoined Augusta on 4 May.
Augusta sailed for Japan on 21 May, for her third visit to that country, arriving at Yokohama on the 25th. The Asiatic Fleet flagship remained at that port until 5 June, on which day she sailed for Kobe, arriving there the following day. She remained in Japanese waters until 13 June, when she got underway for Tsingtao, arriving on the 16th.
Augusta remained at Tsingtao, operating thence on exercises and training, for two months, before she sailed for another North China port, Chefoo, on 17 August. Arriving later the same day, the ship departed Chefoo on the 21st, and returned to Tsingtao, remaining there into mid-September.
Underway for Chinwangtao, the port at the foot of the fabled Great Wall of China, on 14 September, Augusta reached her destination on the 15th, where Admiral Murfin disembarked to visit the old imperial city of Peiping (Peking). Following his inspection of the Marine Corps legation guard at that city, CinCAF returned to Chinwangtao by train and reembarked in his flagship on 25 September. Underway from Chinwangtao on the 28th, Augusta visited Chefoo (28 September) before returning to Tsingtao on the following day, 29 September 1936.
Augusta stood out of Tsingtao on the same day she arrived, however, and reached Shanghai on 1 October. At the end of that month, on 30 October, Admiral Murfin was relieved as CinCAF by his Naval Academy classmate, Admiral Harry E. Yarnell.Shortly thereafter, with her new CinCAF embarked, Augusta stood down the Whangpoo River on 3 November 1936 on her annual southern cruise.
Augusta again visited a succession of ports: Hong Kong (5 to 12 November), Singapore (16 to 23 November), Batavia (25 November to 1 December), Bali (4 to 7 December), Makassar (8 to 12 December), Tawi Tawi and Tutu Bay (14 December), Dumanquilas Bay (15 December), Zamboanga (15 to 16 December), and Cebu (17 December), before she returned to Manila on 19 December. Admiral Yarnell transferred his flag to Isabel on 2 January 1937, when Augusta entered Cavite Navy Yard for repairs and alterations that included the fitting of splinter protection around the machine gun positions at the foretop and atop the mainmast. The CinCAF used Isabel as his flagship through March, rejoining Augusta at Manila on 29 March 1937.
Augusta remained in Philippine waters for the next several days, at Manila (29 March to 2 April) and Malampaya (on 3 and 4 April) before she returned to Manila on the 5th. Touching briefly at Port San Pio Quinto on 7 and 8 April, the Asiatic Fleet flagship sailed for Hong Kong on the 8th, arriving at the British Crown Colony the following day. Shifting his flag to Isabel for the trip to Canton, Admiral Yarnell returned to Augusta on 13 April, and the heavy cruiser sailed for Swatow on the 18th. The ship visited that South China port on the 19th, and Amoy the following day, before the CinCAF shifted his flag again to Isabel for a brief trip to Pagoda Anchorage (21 to 22 April), rejoining the heavy cruiser on the 23d.
Augusta stood up the Whangpoo River on 24 April and arrived at Shanghai that day, mooring just upstream from the city proper. She remained at Shanghai until 5 May, when she sailed for Nanking. The flagship remained at that Yangtze port from 6 to 9 May before she got underway on the latter day for Kiukiang, further up the Yangtze. Shifting his flag to Isabel, Admiral Yarnell then visited Hankow and Ichang in that ship, transferring thence on 22 May to Panay at Ichang for the voyage up the Yangtze through the gorges and rapids that lay above that port. After visiting Chungking, the CinCAF returned to Ichang in Guam (PR-3), where he rejoined Isabel for the trip to Hankow and Nanking. Admiral Yarnell eventually rejoined Augusta at Shanghai on 2 June 1937.
Clearing Shanghai on 7 June, Augusta sailed for North China, and reached Chinwangtao on the 9th, where Admiral Yarnell disembarked with members of his staff to journey to Peking by rail, where the admiral would conduct the yearly CinCAF inspection of the legation guard. The admiral rejoined the cruiser at Chinwangtao on 22 June, and the ship sailed soon thereafter for Chefoo (visiting that port on 24 and 25 June) and Tsingtao, arriving there on 26 June for the summer.
Augusta was conducting her usual training from that North China port when events elsewhere in that region took a turn for the worse. Political relations between China and Japan had been strained for some time. The Chinese attitude toward the steady and unrelenting Japanese encroachment into North China in the wake of the 1931 seizure of Manchuria was stiffening. Chiang Kai-shek, China's leader, asserted that China had been pushed top far, and launched feverish efforts to improve his nation's military posture. The Japanese eyed their giant neighbor warily.
On the night of 7 July 1937, in the outskirts of Peking, Japanese and Chinese units exchanged gunfire near the ornate Marco Polo Bridge. The incident quickly escalated into a state of hostilities in North China, with the Japanese taking Peking against little resistance by the end of July. Against this backdrop of ominous developments, Admiral Yarnell considered cancelling a goodwill visit to the Soviet port of Vladivostok, but was ordered to proceed.
Keeping a wary eye on developments in China, Admiral Yarnell sailed for Vladivostok in Augusta on 24 July, his flagship accompanied by four destroyers. After passing through the edge of a typhoon en route, Augusta and her consorts reached that Soviet port on the 28th, and remained there until 1 August, the first United States naval vessels to visit that port since the closing of the naval radio station there in 1922. As Yarnell later wrote, "The visit of this force evidently has meant a great deal to these people," as both officers and men were lavishly entertained.
Departing Vladivostok on 1 August, Augusta and the four destroyers sailed for Chinese waters, the latter returning to their base at Chefoo and Augusta returning to Tsingtao, where Admiral Yarnell continued to receive intelligence on the situation in North China and, as events developed around Shanghai, where increasing Chinese pressure on the comparatively small Japanese Special Naval Landing Force led to a build-up of Japanese naval units in the Whangpoo River leading to that port. The death of a Japanese lieutenant and his driver near a Chinese airfield on 9 August proved to be the spark that set the tinder box alight, as hostilities commenced within days. With considerable American interests in the International Settlement of Shanghai, Admiral Yarnell deemed it best to sail to that port to make it his base of operations. Accordingly, Augusta sailed for Shanghai on the morning of 13 August 1937.
Her passage slowed by a typhoon which caused the ship to reduce her speed to five knots and which produced rolls of as great as 30 degrees, in addition to wiping away the port 26-foot motor whaleboat and its davits, Augusta reached her destination the following day, and stood up the Whangpoo. En route to her moorings, she passed many Japanese warships, principally light cruisers and destroyers, who duly rendered the prescribed passing honors to Augusta's embarked admiral.
Meanwhile, at Shanghai proper, Chinese Air Force planes, Northrop 2-E light attack bombers, had endeavored to drop bombs on Japanese positions in their portion of the International Settlement. They fell short and caused extensive damage and heavy loss of life in the neutral portion of the settlement. One plane, having retained its bombs, proceeded down the Whangpoo and dropped two bombs near Augusta, the missiles exploding in the water off the flagship's starboard bow. Soon thereafter, painters ascended atop Augusta's three main battery gunhouses and painted large American flags to identify more clearly the ship's nationality, and, thus, her neutral character.
On 18 August, Augusta unmoored and shifted further upstream and moored off the Shanghai Bund, assisted in the evolution of turning 180 degrees in the stream by tugs. She would remain in that mooring, in a prominent position off the famous "Bund" into January 1938, observing the Sino-Japanese hostilities at close range.
Initially, there was the problem of evacuating Americans from the war zone. American merchantmen called at Shanghai to do so, passengers travelling downstream to waiting steamships on the Dollar Line tender guarded by Sailors from Augusta's landing force. The flagship's Marine detachment, meanwhile, went ashore to aid the 4th Marines in establishing defensive positions to keep hostilities out of the neutral enclaves. On 20 August 1937, while the flagship's crew gathered amidships on the well deck for the evening movies, a Chinese antiaircraft shell landed amongst the sailors, killing one and wounding several. Ten days later, Chinese planes bombed the American Dollar Line SS President Hoover off the mouth of the Whangpoo, with one death and several wounded. American ships ceased calling at Shanghai as a result, and Admiral Yarnell's attempts to get a division of heavy cruisers to carry out the evacuation met resistance from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
At Shanghai, Augusta's officers and men found themselves with grandstand seats at an Asian war. Her moorings proved a splendid vantage point from which Americans could size up the Japanese Navy, and how well its ships and planes operated, an opportunity not lost on Admiral Yarnell, who sent insightful intelligence reports back to Washington, striving to alert the United States Navy to the character and capabilities of the navy many regarded as the future enemy.
On 12 December 1937, Japanese naval planes sank the gunboat Panay and three Standard Oil tankers north of Nanking, in the Yangtze River. Soon thereafter, the ship's survivors arrived at Shanghai in Panay's sister ship, Oahu (PR-6), which moored alongside Augusta on the 19th. They spent Christmas with Augusta's crew.
On 6 January 1938, Augusta departed Shanghai for the Philippines, for her yearly overhaul period. Admiral Yarnell, however, his presence in China deemed necessary to uphold American prestige in the Orient, remained in Shanghai with a token staff on board Isabel. He ultimately rejoined Augusta when she returned to Shanghai on 9 April 1938, after her yearly overhaul.
Proceeding north along the China coast, Augusta visited Tsingtao (12 to 13 May) and Chefoo (14 May) before she arrived at Chinwangtao on 15 May. There, Admiral Yarnell disembarked and entrained for Tientsin and Peking, inspecting the Marine detachments in both places before ultimately returning to Chinwangtao to reembark in his flagship on 29 May. Proceeding thence via Chefoo, Augusta reached Shanghai on 6 June; the CinCAF transferred his flag to Isabel on 23 June, and sailed for Nanking and Wuhu, returning to Shanghai and Augusta on 27 June.
Returning to Tsingtao on 3 July 1938, Augusta operated in North China waters, between Tsingtao and Chinwangtao, for the remainder of the summer and through early October. Sailing for Shanghai on 10 October, the cruiser arrived at her destination two days later, and remained there through Christmas. She sailed again for the Philippines on 27 December 1938; once again, Admiral Yarnell remained in Shanghai with his flag in Isabel.
Following her yearly navy yard overhaul, and training in Philippine waters, Augusta visited Siam, French Indo-China, and Singapore en route back to Shanghai, making port at her ultimate destination on 30 April 1939. The heavy cruiser, again wearing Admiral Yarnell's flag, lay at Shanghai until 8 June, when she got underway for Chinwangtao. Arriving there on 10 June, the heavy cruiser subsequently touched at Chefoo (24 to 25 June) and Tsingtao (26 June to 16 July) before she sailed down to Shanghai, arriving on the 18th.
On 25 July 1939, Admiral Thomas C. Hart relieved Admiral Yarnell as CinCAF. The heavy cruiser then sailed for Tsingtao, on 2 August. She remained based at that North China port, she lay moored there on the day war broke out in Europe with the German invasion of Poland, through late September 1939. During this period, the ship twice visited Shanghai (5 to 7 September and 15 to 19 September), and also visited Chinwangtao, Chefoo, and Peitaiho. Late in September, Admiral Hart disembarked at Chinwangtao and inspected the Marine detachments at Peking and Tientsin.
Returning to Shanghai on 12 October, Augusta remained there through mid-November; during this time Admiral Hart shifted his flag to Isabel and proceeded up the Yangtze to Nanking on an inspection trip (3 to 7 November 1939). Sailing for the Philippines on 21 November, the heavy cruiser visited Amoy en route (22 to 23 November 1939), and ultimately reached Manila on 25 November. The ship remained there through early March 1940.
Augusta operated in the Philippines through early April, visiting Jolo and Tawi Tawi. Admiral Hart wore his flag in Isabel during March, for cruises to Cebu, Iligan, Parang, Zamboanga, and Jolo, rejoining Augusta at Jolo on 19 March. Transferring his flag back to Isabel at Tawi Tawi two days later, Admiral Hart cruised to Malampaya Sound, ultimately rejoining his flagship on 26 March at Manila. Augusta then sailed for Shanghai while Admiarl Hart, who had again transferred his flag to Isabel on 13 April, visited Swatow and Amoy, ultimately rejoining Augusta and breaking his flag on board the cruiser on 22 April.
Following a month at Shanghai, "Augie Maru" sailed for North China, visiting Chinwangtao (12 June) before beginning her cycle of training operations from Tsingtao soon thereafter. Augusta operated out of Tsingtao into late September. Circumstances requiring Admiral Hart on several occasions to visit Shanghai, he travelled once to Shanghai in Isabel and back in Augusta; to Shanghai in Porpoise (SS-172) and back to Tsingtao in Isabel; and one round trip to Shanghai and back in Marblehead (CL-12). Augusta departed Tsingtao for the last time on 23 September, arriving at Shanghai on the 25th.
Moving on to Manila, arriving there on 21 October, Augusta remained there into late November, to be relieved by her recently modernized sister ship Houston as Admiral Hart's flagship on 22 November 1940. Augusta sailed for the United States, clearing Manila Bay that same day.
On 24 November 1940, she was ordered to search the waters north of the Hawaiian chain, to investigate reports of the activity of Orange" (Japanese) tankers in the vicinity. At this point on her way back from the Asiatic station, the cruiser encountered bad weather, heavy swells and fresh-to-strong cross winds, that rendered searching by her aircraft "impracticable." As she neared the focal point of her search (35 degrees north latitude, 165 degrees west longitude), Augusta darkened ship and set condition III. As she passed between the two designated points on her search, she posted special lookouts from dawn to dark. Although the visibility varied between 8 to 15 miles, Augusta's Capt. John H. Magruder, Jr., estimated that his ship had swept a belt approximately 25 miles wide, maintaining radio silence until well clear of the area searched. "Weather conditions were such that fueling at sea in the area would not have been practicable." Capt. Magruder reported later, alluding to the reason why his ship had been dispatched to those waters, "and submarine operations at periscope depth would have been difficult due to the danger of broaching."
Ultimately reaching Long Beach on 10 December 1940, Augusta entered the Mare Island Navy Yard for a major refit soon thereafter. While Augusta had been serving as the Asiatic Fleet flagship, alterations of the type accomplished in her sister ships had been deferred until her return to the United States.
During this overhaul, the ship received significant changes in her antiaircraft battery. Four additional 5-inch guns were mounted atop the aircraft hanger; splinter protection was fitted for the 5-inch guns on the hangar and on the boat deck; interim 3-inch antiaircraft guns were installed (ultimate armament fit called for a one-to-one replacement of these mounts with 1.1-inch guns); and Mark XIX directors were installed for the 5-inch guns. The placement of directors and rangefinders altered her silhouette, and a pedestal was fitted atop the foremast to receive a CXAM radar antenna when it became available.
Departing Mare Island on 11 April 1941, Augusta, her configuration altered and wearing a new paint job, sailed for San Pedro, remaining there over 12 and 13 April. She transited the Panama Canal four days later, reporting for duty with the Atlantic Fleet on 17 April. Departing the Canal Zone on the 19th, the heavy cruiser arrived at Newport, R.I., on 23 April. Admiral Ernest J. King, now Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, returned from Washington, D.C., on 2 May and broke his flag in Augusta. The cruiser remained at Newport, serving as the administrative CINCLANT flagship (although Admiral King journeyed to Washington again during this time), through most of May, until she sailed for Bermuda on the 24th of that month. Reaching her destination on the 26th, she remained there only until the 28th, at which time she sailed for Newport once more.
Augusta remained anchored at Narragansett Bay from 30 May to 23 June, when she sailed for the New York Navy Yard. She had been chosen for special duty, the inception of which had come in the developing personal relationship between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The two leaders had sought a face-to-face meeting for some time, and Harry Hopkins (President Roosevelt's personal representative) had visited Churchill and sounded him out on the proposal as early as February 1941. The President had also discussed the idea with Admiral King earlier that spring. Original intentions had been to hold such a conference in June, but British disasters in Greece and Crete had forced a postponement until later in the summer.
Augusta had been chosen to serve as the President's flagship as early as mid-June, shorly after Admiral King had visited Roosevelt in connection with the drafting of Western Hemisphere Defense Plan No. Four. On 16 June, the New York Navy Yard commandant was informed that Augusta would soon require an availability for the installation of her CXAM radar and 1.1-inch antiaircraft guns, "incident to possible future Presidential use and other urgent work." Details of the availability assignment, however, touched off a "little war" between the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) and CINCLANT. Since BuShips had no word concerning the President's plans, they issued orders to hold Augusta at New York Navy Yard for extended repairs. On 22 June, Admiral King informed BuShips, however, that alterations to the heavy cruiser "for possible use by the President were initiated by the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, after conversations with the President" and that the alteration should be limited to accomplish only "essential" items. Augusta remained in the yard at New York from 23 June to 2 July, after which time she resumed operations along the eastern seaboard, in waters off Hilton Head and Charleston, S.C. (4 to 5 July), Hampton Roads (6 to 7 July) before she returned to Newport on 8 July. She remained there into August.
During that time, details for the meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill were worked out and plans set in motion to bring it to pass. While Churchill was making the Atlantic crossing in the modern battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the President was on his way; he departed Washington, D.C. at 1100 on 3 August, his ultimate destination the Submarine Base at New London, Conn., where he embarked with his party on board the Presidential yacht Potomac (AG-25), which, in company with her escort, Calypso (AG-35), soon sailed for Appogansett Bay. There the President did some fishing and entertained guests (the Crown Princess of Norway, Martha, among others). Ultimately, at 2223 on 4 August, Potomac anchored in Menemsha Bight, Vineyard Sound, Mass., joining Augusta, which had already arrived. Tuscaloosa (CA-37) and five destroyers lay nearby.
At 0530 on 5 August, Potomac came alongside Augusta and moored, the President and his party embarking in the heavy cruiser at 0617. For security purposes, the President's flag, however, remained in Potomac while she, accompanied by Calypso, transited the Cape Cod Canal to New England waters. A Secret Service agent, approximating the President in size and affecting the Chief Executive's mannerisms when visible from a distance, played a starring role in the drama. Press releases issued daily from Potomac led all who read them to believe that "FDR" was really embarked in his yacht on a pleasure cruise.
Meanwhile, Augusta, accompanied by Tuscaloosa and their screening destroyers, stood out of Vineyard Sound at 0640, at 20 knots, passing the Nantucket Shoals lightship at 1125. Increasing speed slightly during the night, the ships steamed on, darkened. Outside of a brief two-hour period the following day, 6 August, when the formation encountered heavy fog which forced them to slow to 14 knots, the ships maintained a 20-21 knot pace for the rest of the voyage to Newfoundland. Ultimately, on the morning of 7 August 1941, Augusta and her consorts stood into Ship Harbor, Placentia Bay, and anchored to await the arrival of Prime Minister Churchill.
During the forenoon, the Chief Executive indulged in one of his favorite leisure activities, fishing, from Augusta's forecastle. Roosevelt "caught a large and ugly fish which could not be identified by name and which he directed be preserved and delivered to the Smithsonian Institute upon return to Washington." At 1335 the President left the ship in a whaleboat to fish in the nearby waters, taking with him members of his party and his son, Ens. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., USNR, an officer in the destroyer Mayrant (DD-403) on temporary duty as his father's aide. Later, after a somewhat less than successful fishing expedition, the President inspected the waterfront and the base development at Argentia.
On 9 August, Prime Minister Churchill arrived at Argentia in Prince of Wales, the arrival of the battleship viewed by the President and his party; Churchill visited the President at 1100 that day, and lunched with him in his cabin. Admiral King entertained members of the respective staffs at a luncheon in his cabin. The heavy cruiser also embarked Harry Hopkins, who had come across from England on board Prince of Wales. The Prime Minister later dined with the President, and ultimately left Augusta at 2345.
The following day, McDougal (DD-358) came alongside and embarked the President and his party, transporting them to Prince of Wales for divine services, an inspection of the battleship's topsides, and a luncheon. President Roosevelt again entertained the Prime Minister on board Augusta that evening. On 11 and 12 August, Prime Minister Churchill and members of his staff came on board the heavy cruiser for conferences with the President and his aides; from these discussions emerged the famed "Atlantic Charter." On the latter day, the final draft of the "Eight Points" of the charter was completed. With the meeting having been completed, President Roosevelt and his staff assembled on Augusta's quarterdeck at 1450 on 12 August to bid Prime Minister Churchill and his staff farewell. With the ship's guard and band paraded, the parting ended with the playing of "God Save the King." A little over two hours later, Prince of Wales passed close aboard and rendered passing honors, after which the band stuck up "Auld Lang Syne." Soon thereafter, Augusta got underway in company with Tuscaloosa and their screening destroyers, en route to Blue Hill Bay, Maine, to rendezvous with Potomac and Calypso.
The following day, a dense fog prompted the ships to reduce speed, and the President and the members of his staff rested, preparing for the transfer to Potomac. The following morning, 14 August, off Cape Sable, President Roosevelt went on deck to witness the operations of the first aircraft escort vessel (later CVE) Long Island (AVG-1), the prototype of a ship type that the Chief Executive had avidly pushed toward development. Long Island launched three Brewster F2A-2s by the catapult method and six Curtiss SOCs by conventional carrier takeoff. That afternoon on board Augusta, Admiral King hosted a farewell luncheon for the President.
Augusta anchored at Blue Hill Bay at 1228 on 14 August, and shortly thereafter, Potomac moored alongside to commence the transfer of baggage and other gear, ultimately casting off at 1418 for passage to Rockland, Maine.
Augusta returned to Narragansett Bay on 15 August, and remained there for ten days, putting into the New York Navy Yard soon thereafter. She returned to Newport on 29 August. Admiral King retained Augusta as his flagship through the autumn, while she operated between Newport and Bermuda. During this time, she also briefly embarked Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.
The day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, found Augusta moored at buoy 7, Newport. From that day until the 11th, she operated out of Newport; she remained in port until 11 January 1942. During this time, on 5 January 1942. Rear Admiral Royal E. Ingerspll (one of Augusta's former commanding officers) relieved Admiral King as Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet.
Augusta stood out of Newport on 12 January, en route to Casco Bay, Maine, via the Cape Cod Canal. She arrived the next day, and after conducting training exercises, returned to Newport on 17 January, Rear Admiral Ingersoll shifted his flag from Augusta to Constellation.
On 19 January, Augusta got underway for Bermuda, arriving two days later and joining Task Group (TG) 2.7. She operated with this unit when it proceeded to Martinique to conduct a "show of force" between 22 February and 4 March, and returned to Shelley Bay, Bermuda, on 5 March.
As part of TG 22.7, consisting of Ranger (CV-4), Savannah (CL-42), Wainwright (DD-419), Lang (DD-399), and Wilson (DD-408), she stood out on 13 March to patrol the waters of the Caribbean. The destroyers Hambleton (DD-455) and Emmons (DD-457) joined the formation on 15 March, and the following day, Augusta was detached and, with Hambleton and Emmons, steamed to New York. While on passage, Augusta sent Hambleton to investigate a dim flashing light abaft her starboard beam during a heavy storm on 18 March. The destroyer rescued six survivors of the stricken Honduran steamer Ciepa, and rejoined Emmons and Augusta after nightfall.
Augusta made landfall at New York on 19 March, and the heavy cruiser underwent repairs and alterations until 7 April, when, along with Wilkes (DD-441) as escort, she sailed for Newport. The next morning, Wilkes was rammed by the steamer Davilla and was forced to proceed on one engine to Boston. Augusta steamed on alone to Casco Bay, arriving on 8 April. On 14 April, in company with destroyers Corry (DD-463) and Aaron Ward (DD-483) as escorts, she conducted experimental firings of turret guns against a drone simulating a torpedo plane approach, and returned to Casco Bay that night.
Two days later, escorted by Macomb (DD-458), she transited the Cape Cod Canal and touched at Newport. Joining Task Force (TF) 36 there, of which Ranger was flagship, the cruiser departed on 22 April for Trinidad. A minor collision between Hambleton and Ellyson (DD-454), and frequent submarine scares, accented the voyage. Oiler Merrimack (AO-37) joined the task force on 28 April and fueled almost all of the ships, with Augusta's scout planes maintaining an air patrol during the dangerous fueling evolution. Ranger launched 68 Army P-40 fighters on 10 May, the planes bound for Accra, on Africa's Gold Coast, where all landed safely.
The formation arrived at Trinidad on 21 May, where Augusta fueled before putting to sea with the task force the next day bound for Newport. On 26 May, Augusta and Corry were detached and proceeded together to Hampton Roads, anchoring there on 28 May. Two days later, Rear Admiral Alexander Sharp hoisted his flag on board Augusta and assumed command of TF 22. With Corry and Forrest (DD-461) as escorts, the heavy cruiser sailed on 31 May for Newport, arriving on 1 June and leaving the next day with Corry for calibration of radio direction finders in waters west of Brenton Reef Lightship. Ranger joined the two ships the same day and all proceeded to Argentia, Newfoundland, arriving there on 5 June. With Ellyson and Corry, she formed an antisubmarine screen off Argentia on 17 and 18 June, and two days later joined TF 22 steaming through heavy fogs to Newport, mooring on 22 June.
Augusta sailed south to New York for overhaul, arriving on 24 June. Completing repairs by 29 June, Augusta moved to Newport the following day, and on 1 July sortied with TF 22 for the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad, and arrived on 6 July. The formation departed two days later, Ranger completing her second ferry mission with Army aircraft, launching 72 Army planes off the coast of West Africa. Another reinforcement successfully accomplished, the task force reached Trinidad on 30 July.
The heavy cruiser then proceeded to Norfolk and moored there on 5 August for limited availability. On 18 August, she conducted short range battle practice and night spotting exercises in Chesapeake Bay, and training continued until Augusta sortied with Ranger, Corry, Hobson (DD-464) and Fitch (DD-462) on 23 August, arriving at Newport two days later and returning to Norfolk with Corry on the last day of August. The task group also carried out gunnery training, shore bombardment, and antiaircraft defense exercises off the Virginia capes from 7 to 11 September, and further training between 28 September and 1 October in Chesapeake Bay.
On 23 October 1942 Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt came on board Augusta and broke his flag as Commander, TF 34. Major General George S. Patton and Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr. also came on board the same day for passage to North Africa. Augusta stood out on 24 October with TF 34, steaming for French Morocco and her participation Operation "Torch."
Arriving off Fedhala, French Morocco, on 7 November, Augusta went into general quarters at 2200. During the predawn hours of 8 November, the initial landings met with stiff opposition. At 0630, Augusta catapulted two Curtiss SOC scouting planes aloft, and at 0710 opened fire with her 8-inch guns at shore batteries. The nearby light cruiser Brooklyn (CL-40) supported Augusta's, barrage, dodging near misses from enemy guns. A brief lull at 0730 permitted Augusta to launch her remaining two SOCs, but 10 minutes later the enemy guns opened up again; several near misses fell within 50 to 100 yards of Augusta, the whistle of oncoming shells plainly audible to those on her bridge.
Augusta shortly left at flank speed to intercept an enemy force of two light cruisers and four destroyers north of Casablanca. Closing the range at 0915, Augusta opened fire with her 8-inch battery on one enemy cruiser, barring the Vichy ship's passage and turning it back into Casablanca harbor by 0950. Augusta returned to her station to assist Brooklyn, firing on shore batteries. In the sortie of French ships from Casablanca harbor, the large destroyers Le Brestois and Le Boulonnais attempted a torpedo attack on Augusta and Brooklyn. Augusta's main battery gunfire sank the latter, and forced the other away in a damaged condition; she sank later that day. Other Vichy ships attempting to escape were forced back into the harbor by 1122, and firing ceased for a time. Around noon, Augusta, turned back the light cruiser Primaguet's attempt to sortie, scoring an 8-inch hit on the French ship's turret 3. Vichy ships tried to sortie at 1305, only to be blocked and forced to retreat by 1350.
Augusta spent the following day, 9 November, patrolling south and southwest of the transport area off Casablanca, and continued that patrol through 10 November. At 1135 on that day, she opened fire with her 8-inch guns on an enemy destroyer, straddling her and forcing her to retreat. Ten minutes later, Augusta was unexpectedly taken under fire by the French battleship Jean Bart, reportedly "gutted by fire" and harmless. Geysers of water from near-misses erupted about Augusta and drenched the cruiser with yellow-dyed spray, but American carrier planes bombed Jean Bart later in the day and silenced her for the remainder of the campaign.
A cease-fire agreement was signed by Allied forces with the French on 11 November, bringing the operation to an end, and opening Morocco to the Allies. Augusta departed on 20 November with TF 34, her part in the operation over. She touched at Bermuda on 26 November enroute to Norfolk, arriving at the latter port four days later. There, Rear Admiral H. K. Hewitt left the ship, and TF 34 was dissolved. Augusta stood out of Norfolk on 9 December for extended overhaul at New York, during which time her antiaircraft battery was significantly improved. That period of yard work completed, Augusta proceeded to Newport, anchoring there on 15 February 1943.
Refresher training took Augusta to Casco Bay two days later. She conducted air operations with her four scouting planes off the coast of Maine, and on 24 March conducted experimental fragmentation test shots, operating with Ranger on 26 to 28 March. She concluded that part of her training with night illumination exercises on 30 March and night battle practice the next day.
Augusta stood out on 2 April with TF 22, the flagship Ranger joining the formation on 4 April, and arrived at Little Placentia Harbor, Argentia, on 5 April. From 13 to 18 April, the heavy cruiser operated with Ranger, carried out antiaircraft practice on 22 April, and conducted flight operations with her own planes from 30 April to 1 May.
In company with TG 21.7, Augusta sailed on 6 May, under orders to escort RMS Queen Mary to New York. Augusta rendezvoused with the huge liner on 9 May, and after seeing her safely into the swept channel, moored at New York on 11 May. Her mission accomplished, the heavy cruiser returned to Argentia with her task group, arriving on 17 May, and engaged in further local operations through June.
Augusta closed TF 68 on 20 July and began escorting Convoy AT 54A across the submarine-infested Atlantic to the Clyde. After an uneventful passage, the convoy arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on 26 July, and Augusta continued as escort on the return voyage, relinquishing command as the convoy neared American waters, and proceeding with Hilary P. Jones (DD-428) to Argentia, arriving on 8 August. She left the next day with Hilary P. Jones for Halifax, Nova Scotia, to rejoin TF 22, reported for duty on 10 August, and departed on 11 August for Scapa Flow, in the Orkneys. The British Admiralty assumed operational control of the task force, renaming it TG 112.1, as the ships neared Scotland. Augusta moored at Scapa Flow on 19 August, reporting to the British Home Fleet the same day.
Augusta operated with units of the Home Fleet on 23 August and departed with HMS London for Hvalfjordur, Iceland, arriving the next day. She acted as covering force for training exercises with HMS London and HMS Impulsive off Iceland from 2 to 10 October, and conducted gunnery training off Eyjafjord, Iceland on 19 October.
While returning to Scapa Flow, Augusta fired on a passing German Junkers 88 bomber at 1139 on 27 October, firing 14 rounds from her 5-inch battery until the plane passed out ofrange. She moored at Scapa Flow on 31 October, proceeding to Greenock two days later, and returned to Scapa Flow on 7 November.
On 22 November she got underway with Ranger and other ships of the task force for Hvalfjordur, arriving two days later. Operational control passed to the United States Navy on 26 November when TF 68 stood out for Boston, Augusta mooring there on 3 December 1943. She remained there, undergoing repairs and alterations through the end of the year.
Repairs completed, Augusta departed Boston on 29 January 1944 and steamed to Casco Bay for post-overhaul training exercises. She participated in bombardment, radar, illumination, and tactical exercises with TF 22 off Maine, until steaming to Boston on 7 April for limited availability.
She left President Roads, Boston, and rendezvoused with convoy UT 11 the next day. However, she was soon detached from the convoy and escorted by Earle (DD-635) across the Atlantic to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Arriving on 15 April, she steamed thence to Plymouth, England, on 17 April. There, Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk, Commander, TF 122, came on board on 25 April and broke his flag. At 1300 on 25 May, King George VI of England came on board to lunch with Admiral Kirk, and departed the same day.
In June, Augusta took part in the Normandy invasion, standing out of Plymouth on 5 June with Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, USA, and his staff, embarked. Closing the shore on 6 June, the heavy cruiser commenced firing at 0618, hurling 51 rounds from her main battery at shore installations. On 10 June General Bradley and his staff left the heavy cruiser to establish headquarters ashore. Augusta was bombed at 0357 on 11 June, but escaped damage as the bomb exploded 800 yards off her port beam. The following day, anchored as before off Omaha Beach, she fired eight 5-inch rounds at an enemy plane at 2343, driving it off. On 13 June at 0352 she sent 21 rounds of 5-inch at a German plane, and shot it down. Augusta drove off other aircraft and bombarded the shore with her heavy guns on 15 June, and provided antiaircraft defense to the forces off Normandy on 18 June. The next day, while underway to shift berths, she lost a man overboard when he was plucked from the ship by heavy seas.
Rear Admiral Kirk shifted his flag to the destroyer Thompson (DD-637) on 1 July, and Augusta got underway the same day for Plymouth, mooring there on 2 July. Four days later, in company with TG 120.6, she departed for Mers el Kebir, Algeria, arriving there on 10 July, only to leave two days later with Hambleton for Palermo, Sicily. She moored at that port on 14 July and reported to TF 86 for duty. Rear Admiral L. A. Davidson came on board and broke his flag the same day, and Augusta stood out with Macomb and Hambleton for Naples, arriving the next day. She carried out shore bombardment exercises on 23 July.
She returned to Palermo on 27 July and steamed to Naples the following day. She continued her training until 12 August, when as flagship for TF 86, she carried Brigadier General B. W. Chidlaw, USA, to Propriano, Corsica, arriving the following day.
On 14 August, the heavy cruiser departed the Golfe de Valinco at 1030 for lie du Levant, southern France and the beginning of Operation "Dragoon". Augusta arrived at 2155 at the staging area, joining the "Sitka" Assault Group. On the morning of 15 August, Augusta trained her main battery against targets on Port Cros Island, and fired nine rounds. At 1125 she sent six Island, under fire at 1512 and hurled 92 rounds against it. Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal came on board at 2023 for an official visit with Admiral Davidson.
The next day, Augusta patrolled the "Sitka" Assault Area and Secretary Forrestal left her at 0850. The heavy cruiser fired 63 more rounds at the fort on Port Cros Island to soften it up. On 17 August, she patrolled with Omaha (CL-4) and poured 138 rounds from her 8-inch battery into the island fort, which surrendered that day. The following day, General Chidlaw left the ship to establish his headquarters on shore, and Augusta turned her fire on the remaining coastal defense batteries. She departed on 19 August for a reconnaissance-in-force of St. Mandrier Island off Toulon, France, where the battery known as "Big Willie" was located, bombarding shore installations, and returning to the "Sitka" Assault Area the same day. The Golfe Hotel, Hyeres, France, was nearly leveled by 114 rounds from Augusta on 20 August. Toulon and Marseilles surrendered eight days later. On 29 August, a landing party drawn from the Marine detachments from Augusta and Philadelphia went ashore on the islands of Ratonneau and Chateau d'lf in the harbor of Marseilles and accepted the surrender of German forces on those islands, taking 730 prisoners.
In support of "Dragoon," Augusta had fired over 700 rounds of 8-inch projectiles, and had materially aided invading Allied forces. She steamed to the Gulf of San Tropez, France, on 30 August, where Admiral Davidson shifted his flag to Philadelphia (CL-41) and Augusta was detached from TF 86.
On 1 September, the heavy cruiser sailed via Propriano to Naples, where she joined Cruiser Division (CruDiy) 7. After calling at Oran, Algeria, on 6 September, Augusta, in company with Tuscaloosa, Fitch (DD-462), and Murphy (DD-603) stood out, bound for Philadelphia and an extensive overhaul.
While undergoing these repairs and alterations, Augusta suffered an explosion of unknown origin on 20 November in her ice machine room, which killed three yard workers and injured four crew members. Her overhaul completed, Augusta departed Boston on 26 January 1945 with Rhind (DD-404) and Bainbridge (DD-246), bound for Trinidad, tested her guns en route, and arrived on 31 January. In the first week of February, she conducted refresher training in the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad, polishing up on gunnery, night battle, radar, and antiaircraft techniques. She steamed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, calling there on 9 February. Sailing for the United States on 21 February, Augusta, along with the destroyers Tillman (DD-641), Herndon (DD-638), and Satterlee (DD-626), rendezvoused with the heavy cruiser Quincy (CA-71) and her screen on 24 February as that cruiser steamed back to the United States with President Roosevelt embarked, following the Yalta Conference.
After Augusta and her screen had covered the approach of the President to Hampton Roads, she underwent minor emergency repairs, remaining at Norfolk until 7 March when she steamed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arriving there three days later. She trained off Trinidad and Curasao until 7 April, where Chicago (CA-136) joined her.
Augusta returned to Norfolk on 10 April, and on 14 April, in accordance with orders from the Secretary of the Navy, half-masted her colors for a period of one month in honor of the late President Roosevelt. After a brief call at Annapolis, Maryland, she sailed north to Newport on 22 April to train 11 officers and 300 men from Columbus (CA-74) on a cruise. The ship conducted antiaircraft defense and other exercises in Long Island Sound until 27 April when she returned to Newport and disembarked the trainees.
Three days later, Augusta sailed for New York, and arrived there on 1 May. On 7 May, in company with Decatur (DD-341), she headed for Casco Bay, where the end of the war in Europe found her, and returned to New York on 2 June. On the 13th, Augusta got underway to proceed back to Norfolk. She then conducted further training exercises in Chesapeake Bay until 7 July, when President Harry S. Truman, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy boarded her, and she stood out for Antwerp, Belgium, to carry her distinguished passengers on the first leg of their voyage to the Potsdam Conference. Met by a British escort, Augusta arrived on 14 July, and received dignitaries, including General Eisenhower. Her guests departed the same day, and Augusta got underway to proceed to Plymouth, arriving there on 28 July.
On 2 August she embarked her distinguished passengers again, and received another visit from King George VI. The ship then sailed for the United States, arriving at Newport on 7 August to disembark the President. A week later she moored in Casco bay. After carrying out training at Baltimore, Maryland, she arrived at Norfolk on 11 September, and conducted exercises off the Virginia capes until steaming to Casco Bay again on 5 October for temporary duty under the direction of Commander, Operational Training Command, Atlantic, Commander TF 69. She then proceeded to New York, and participated in Navy Day observances on 27 October at New York City, where President Truman reviewed the fleet. Open to the public from 25 to 30 October, Augusta hosted 23,362 visitors.
On 31 October, Augusta moored at the New York Naval Shipyard, to be modified for "Magic Carpet" operations, bringing home American servicemen from Europe. She performed this duty through the end of the year 1945. Ultimately placed out of commission, in reserve, in a deferred disposal status at Philadelphia, on 16 July 1946, Augusta remained in the Philadelphia group of the Reserve Fleet until she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 March 1959.
Sold for scrap on 9 November 1959 to Robert Benjamin of Panama City, Fla., ex-Augusta was removed from naval custody on 2 March 1960.
Augusta (CA-31) was awarded three battle stars for her World War II service.
Robert J. Cressman