Denver II (CL-58)
The capital city of Colorado.
(CL-58: displacement 10,000; length 610'1"; beam 66'6"; draft 20'; speed 33 knots; complement 992; armament 12 6-inch, 12 5-inch; 24 40-millimeter; 17 20-millimeter; aircraft 4; class Cleveland)
The second Denver (CL-58) was laid down on 26 December 1940 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 4 April 1942; sponsored by Miss Lois J. Stapleton, daughter of the two-time Mayor of Denver, Colo., Benjamin F. Stapleton; and commissioned at the Philadelphia [Pa.] Navy Yard on 15 October 1942, Capt. Robert B. Carney in command.
The new cruiser fitted out by 24 November 1942 and then steamed out for testing and trials in Delaware Bay. She returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 28 November and entered dry dock on 29 November to examine problems with her number three main scoop injection valve until 30 November 1942. Once the valve was fixed, Denver got underway from dry dock at 2118, briefly accompanied by destroyer Buck (DD-420)—rendezvousing at 0745 on 1 December—en route for a shakedown cruise at Hampton Roads, Va. Denver had a number of problems crop up during this cruise. On 1 December, her bridge lost steering control at 1534 after a power loss from her distribution board. She had to steer from her engine room temporarily until power was shifted to a forward distribution board and control was routed back to the bridge. She made it to Hampton Roads by 1553. Buck parted ways on 1 December at 1720. Denver attempted paravane (a towed underwater cable with a device to cut the moorings of submerged mines) deployment tests, but these were aborted due to failure of the sliding shoe to deploy when the cruiser exceeded 15 knots. She completed further structural firing tests and dropped anchor at 1832.
She got underway at 1347 on 5 December 1942 for training exercises in Chesapeake Bay—anchored in the bay at 1718. The drills commenced on 6 December, and for the next several days the ship ran intermittent testing including some of the paravane runs again, battle problems, firings of her 40-millimeter Bofors mounts, her 20-millimeter Oerlikon mounts, and more underway firing drills with her main 5-inch/38-caliber and 6-inch/47-caliber batteries. This did not go entirely without incident. During the exercises on 11 December, at 1053, Denver’s Turret III developed a problem with the firing circuit and could not complete the run. The remainder of the gunnery tests for the day were completed—the cruiser returning to anchor by 1552.
Denver’s training cruise woes continued. She got underway on 12 December 1942 at 0827 for more scheduled tests. At 1257, she once again experienced steering control loss from her bridge and was forced to steer from engineering. She restored control by 1322 and was able to continue with her gunnery drills—back at anchor in the Chesapeake by 1804. She steamed for Hampton Roads on 17 December, underway at 0503, and moored at 1001. Denver remained in the area, putting in at Norfolk’s Naval Operating Base through 17 December, and moving to Portsmouth’s moorings on 19 December. After replenishment, she returned to Chesapeake Bay, and anchored on 21 December at 1812 in advance of another round of testing and crew drills with the ship’s equipment. Additional training ran from 22 December and included more focus on flight operations with her initial complement of two Curtiss SO3C-1 Seagulls. The SO3C-1 models were originally named Seamew, but the U.S. Navy used the Seagull name from the other Curtiss SOC models while the British retained the Seamew name for this particular variant. The 22 December training run further tested deployment of paravanes, and running of the main engines—taking the ship up the Chesapeake as far as Annapolis, Md. Once anchored at Annapolis Roads at 2025 on 23 December, she remained at Annapolis until 29 December when she steamed briefly back down the Chesapeake to anchor at her earlier testing range at 1724 that day.
Alas, if the problems with her on board equipment were not enough, on 30 December 1942 a drill with her now four Seagulls resulted in the crash of one at 1152. The pilot, and passenger were recovered. After considerable maneuvering, the capsized Seagull was recovered at 1447 and other exercises commenced for the rest of the day. Denver rounded out the month with more aerial, and gunnery drills—anchored back in the Chesapeake by 1806 on 31 December 1942.
She remained running drills, and tests in the Chesapeake for the first few days of January 1943—including shore bombardment practice in conjunction with her Seagull on 2 January. All went well until 1622 when one of the Seagulls returning from practice fouled the recovery sled and damaged its pontoon in the process. Denver still managed to hoist the plane on board at 1647. After a few more rounds of drilling, she steamed back for Hampton Roads—at anchor at 1110 on 4 January.
The following day was a busy one of trials for Denver. At 1030, a floating crane at the cruiser’s port fantail took away the wrecked Seagull. At 1131, Denver got underway again for the Chesapeake (moored by 1337) for a day of special tests for the Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd)—the tests commencing at 1400 while Denver was moored in the bay. She engaged in catapult launch drills, and at 1653, got underway for the return trip to Hampton Roads—anchored at 1832. She trained intermittently out of her anchorage in the days after this through 7 January. Denver sailed back to Philadelphia on 8 January 1943, underway at 0200, to tend to issues that cropped up during testing—at her moorings by 1312.
Adding to Denver’s existing problems, on 14 January 1943, a yard crane struck the ship’s foremast at 2235 with enough force to sever the connection of several lights, break signal halyards, crack the insulator of her starboard gyro, and compromise her radio antenna and radar assemblies. The next day, fire quarters sounded at 1548 on 15 January in the forward engine room. The fire on Denver was out by 1553, but an investigation revealed the fire originated in an electrical panel box. She was moved into dry dock at 1046 on 17 January to repair the more extensive damage.
She remained in dry dock until 20 January 1943, shifted back to standard moorings by 1434 on 20 January. By the end of 22 January, Denver’s post-trial and shakedown availability technically ended, but her difficulties were not quite over. She got underway at 0729 on 23 January steaming for the Delaware River channel and for more testing. Bureau of Ships (BuShips) officers and staff conducted observations on the cruiser’s propellers, and shafts. The BuShips staffs left by 1354, and the cruiser continued drilling for most of the afternoon. Denver at 1600, now accompanied by destroyer Aulick (DD-569), steamed with orders from Vice Adm. Royal E. Ingersoll (Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet) to head for Panama.
Denver ran drills and exercised with Aulick while steaming for the Panama Canal over the next few days. On 24 January 1943, problems already seemed to be plaguing the cruiser as yet another one of her Seagulls crashed at 1010 while attempting to land after an exercise. Denver recovered the passenger at 1020, but failed to recover the pilot—Lt. Edgar M. Post, Jr. Aulick sank the plane. The situation only got worse as, at 1209, another Seagull capsized while being hooked upon recovery and had to be carried away by the ship’s recovery sled. Both the pilot and observer were recovered. At 1235, Denver sank the derelict plane. For the rest of the day, the cruiser shifted steering from aft, central, and bridge stations without incident. For at least the next day, her testing continued problem-free. As Denver steamed onward into 26 January, escorted by Aulick, she resumed exercises in the morning—including gunnery, battle simulations, and steering control tests. The bridge steering system experienced one more failure at 1646, but continued shunting of control between aft, central, and bridge stations occurred without further incident. Denver would suffer these steering failures intermittently for much of her life despite overhauls, and various repairs.
The cruiser made it to the canal on 27 January 1943, Aulick remaining as escort, passing through Breakwater [Colòn], Panama at 1008. Denver had entered the Miraflores locks at 1525, then had an investigation into the earlier of the two plane crashes led by Cmdr. Neill D. Brantly at 1530—adjourning the investigation at 1600. By 1646, the cruiser was moored at her berth in Balboa, C.Z.—replenishment commenced soon after. Orders from Adm. Chester W. Nimitz (Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet) placed the cruiser officially in the South Pacific Fleet for duty as of 27 January, and she was directed to steam out the next day.
Denver got underway as she was bid, steaming out of her berth in Balboa at 1231. The cruiser, once again paired with Aulick, exercised with her escort en route to their next stop in the south Pacific. The cruiser and escort crossed the equator at 0849 on 31 January 1943. The two ships continued as such until reaching their first stop at Tubai Island, Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Denver moored by 1035 on 6 February and commenced refueling—Aulick moored alongside.
Once the cruiser arrived at Bora Bora, she received orders from Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr. (Commander, South Pacific Force), to update her arrival time at Halsey’s south Pacific headquarters at Nouméa, New Caledonia—now expecting an arrival around 1100 on 12 February 1943.
With Halsey lighting a figurative fire under Denver and Aulick, Carney may have wanted to get underway sooner; however, at 0707 on 7 February 1943 lighting actual fires proved slightly less productive than expected as both Denver’s number one and number four engines lost vacuum pressure in their cylinders. She anchored until vacuum pressure was restored, and got underway at 0729.
Denver, escorted by Aulick, steamed and exercised over the next several days while en route for Nouméa. Denver, after hauling at 27 knots for much of the time, made the approach to Nouméa at 0748 on 12 February 1943 and was refueling at her moorings by 1055. During the day, at 1505 and 1515, Denver hoisted off two Seagulls for detached duty at Nouméa—bringing them back by 1930. The cruiser was also now officially assigned under Halsey’s South Pacific Force command. Halsey ordered Denver to report to Havannah Harbor, Efate [Port Havannah, Vanuatu] to join Cruiser Division Twelve (CruDiv 12) under the command of Rear Adm. Aaron S. Merrill.
On 13 February 1943, at 1327, the cruiser got underway from Nouméa bound for Havannah Harbor and the base codenamed Acid. She exercised briefly en route and arrived at Havannah Harbor at 1029 on 14 February—anchored by 1149. Carney left Denver briefly to call on Task Force (TF) 18’s commanding officer Rear Adm. Robert C. Giffen on board cruiser Wichita (CA-45) from 1335 to 1550. At 1609, Carney visited Merrill until 1715. By 1822, the rest of Denver’s sister ships from CruDiv 12 were in their anchorage berths nearby—Cleveland (CL-55), Columbia (CL-56), and at 1824 Montpelier (CL-57).
Denver remained at Havannah Harbor for several days, but as the occupation of the Russell Islands loomed, Merrill’s cruisers were to have a supporting role for the associated Operation Cleanslate. Denver got underway at 1104 on 19 February 1943—joining a formation with the rest of CruDiv 12 and destroyers under Merrill’s command in TF 68.
Merrill’s TF 68 at this point had three subgroups. TG 68.1 contained Montpelier and Columbia. TG 68.2 ran with Cleveland and Denver. TG 68.3 operated with the destroyers Fletcher (DD-445), O’Bannon (DD-450), Radford (DD-446), and Nicholas (DD-449).
Denver and the rest of TF 68 exercised while en route through 20 February 1943. She made her first stop in Port Purvis, Florida Island [Nggela Island] on 21 February—anchored at 1159. The extra support for the initial occupation of the Russell Islands proved unnecessary as the marines and army (3rd Marine Raider Battalion and 10th Defense Battalion Detachment respectively) supported by Task Unit (TU) 62.7.2 under Capt. Ingolf N. Kiland took the objective on 21 February without opposition.
However, the stay at Port Purvis proved a tense one for TF 68. The conformation of the harbor made radar tracking of an incoming air attack difficult and giving advanced warning troublesome. At 2010, TF 68 had orders to get underway and Denver was steaming out by 2031 also having gone to general quarters. TF 68 was suddenly ordered to clear the harbor as an air raid alert was sounded at Guadalcanal. The group steamed on evasive courses out of the harbor overnight, and into the early morning of 22 February 1943. At 0237, Denver observed gun fire on Guadalcanal. Denver finally secured from general quarters at 0620. She steamed along with the group back for Purvis Bay, anchored by 1037. Denver and her sister cruisers refueled from the oiler Tallulah (AO-50) during the afternoon and were due to head out that evening—Denver underway by 1750.
For the time being, Denver and TF 68 were still in support of Operation Cleanslate but were shifting their operational area from close-in stretches around Guadalcanal and Florida Island to the region southeast of the Solomon Islands. Denver and TF 68 steamed to their operational station throughout the morning of 23 February 1943. While not a particularly eventful morning, it was not event-free either. A brief air raid alert came and went from 0250 to 0341 out of Guadalcanal. Denver had yet another distribution system power failure that cost her gyro and bridge steering control for five minutes at 0440.
The group remained in the area the next day, Denver exercising while available for support. This continued through 25 February 1943, though she observed Columbia and Nicholas detach at 1945 to follow other orders. Denver and TF 68 with Montpelier, Cleveland, Fletcher, O’Bannon, and Radford remained in the support area into 26 February. The group exercised most of the day. That evening, TF 68 sighted elements of Giffen’s TF 18 at 1730 and formed up with cruiser Wichita, cruiser Louisville (CA-28), as well as destroyers Cony (DD-508), Conway (DD-507), and Waller (DD-466) at 1755. The combined group was re-designated as TF 68 under Giffen’s overall command, but the mission to support Operation Cleanslate continued.
The combined TF 68 steamed through 27 February 1943 in the support area for the Russell Islands landings, the day mostly spent refueling. Denver and TF 68’s support role lasted through early March 1943—though there was little for the group to do but exercise while steaming on station.
TF 68 rendezvoused with oiler Neosho (AO-48) and her escort at 0705 on 3 March 1943. At this point Giffen took Wichita, Louisville, Frazier (DD-607), and Edwards (DD-619) out of formation—leaving Merrill once more in charge of TF 68, which left the support area, bound for Espíritu Santo, New Hebrides [Vanuatu] and the base codenamed Button. Denver reached her anchorage in Pekoa Channel at Espíritu Santo by 0644 on 4 March 1943.
TF 68 soon had a new mission in support of the overall push through the Bismarck Islands [Papua New Guinea]. Japanese air bases at Munda and Vila in the Solomons needed bombardment, and Halsey tasked Merrill’s cruisers with the job. This was part of Halsey’s strategy to keep hitting the enemy between Merrill’s cruisers and Rear Adm. Walden L. Ainsworth’s cruiser group while plans for a summer offensive with battleships and escort carriers were still brewing.
Denver got underway on 4 March 1943 at 1409 from Espíritu Santo. CruDiv 12 was still minus Columbia—so Denver and her sister cruisers plus seven destroyers (Fletcher, O’Bannon, Radford, Nicholas, Waller, Cony, and Conway) in a screen formed up on course. By 5 March, Denver and company were steaming into the operational area for Vila.
As Merrill’s group steamed into Kula Gulf at 2000, four of TF 68 destroyers detached for the bombardment of Munda airfield—Fletcher, O’Bannon, Radford, and Nicholas. CruDiv 12’s Montpelier, Cleveland, and Denver along with the remaining destroyers Waller, Cony, and Conway bore down on Vila.
That evening, submarines Grayback (SS-208) and Grampus (SS-207) attempted to catch any Japanese ships escaping Kula Gulf along known Japanese retirement courses—the latter submarine never being heard from again. However, at 2230, Guadalcanal sent word that it had intercepted dispatches regarding two Japanese surface ships—unclear if they were light cruisers or destroyers at the time—leaving the Shortland Islands at 1910 to the southeast. One of the night-flying Consolidated PBY Catalinas or Black Cats found the enemy vessels (three PBYs were assigned to TF 68 as spotters). These were the Japanese destroyers Minegumo, and Murasame. The enemy destroyers were not after Merrill’s group, but merely on a resupply run to Vila—in fact they apparently were not aware Merrill was even there. At 2330, the Japanese destroyers had completed their cargo transfer at Vila and took a short cut through Kula Gulf instead of their usual return route through Blackett Strait—right into the guns of TF 68.
Denver and TF 68 entered “the slot” (New Georgia Sound) on a relatively calm and moonless night—intending to hit Vila on Kolombangara Island. The destroyers in the Vila group deployed in their screening positions as midnight gave way to 6 March 1943, and the cruisers rounded Visuvisu Point at 0015. At 0027, radar started picking up “curious interference effects” and all stations were on alert status thanks to information via TBS by 0030. At 0058, the two strange pips on radar were bearing 239° at range 14,000 yards. The first unidentified surface contact was reported at 0100 by Montpelier.
A minute later, Montpelier opened fire to her starboard on one of the hapless destroyers—Murasame. Cleveland and Denver followed suit with their main batteries—all three cruisers firing on the same target. Denver fired salvos of her 6-inch batteries at 10,600 yards. Her first blasts straddled the destroyer, and she restrained her rate of fire to gain better accuracy for each shot as range closed to 9,900 yards. At 0104, Denver cut in her 5-inch battery on a continuous volley on Murasame. One of the spotters reported Denver’s fire to be more effective this time—the blaze briefly erupting on the destroyer by 0107 reinforced this notion. Denver then received orders from Merrill to check her fire as Murasame was effectively stopped by 0105—pummeled in the end by six of the cruiser barrages and one of five torpedoes fired by Waller. Denver and the others were to locate Minegumo, desperately escaping northward, for the main batteries to target. Once her 6-inch and 5-inch directors found their target it was soon Minegumo’s turn to receive a withering fire.
There was to be a possible interruption from shore batteries out of Sulimuni Point on Kolombangara. Denver’s 5-inch battery control officer spotted the shore battery firing, but Merrill had not seen this from Montpelier—the latter preoccupied with Minegumo. The shore batteries proved inconsequential, as at 0109, Denver’s radar picked up Minegumo. At 0110, Denver’s main batteries opened fire on the destroyer bearing 307° at a distance of 9,100 yards. Her shells hit almost simultaneously with Montpelier’s and set Minegumo on fire—the doomed enemy destroyer vainly trying to fire back sighting CruDiv 12’s muzzle flashes. Minegumo was stopped dead in the water, and Merrill had his cruisers hold their fire—the Japanese destroyer sank at 0130.
For observing Catalina pilots, like Lt. Ned L. Broyles, the surface action was “highly devastating.” For Halsey and Merrill, it was “open season” on enemy shipping.
Targeting of the enemy destroyers had already ended effectively by 0113 for Denver, and at that time she lost steering control again at her conning tower temporarily—moving control to her aft station. While Denver suffered no hits, S2c James W. Thompson was injured from a blast of the after turret guns during the surface engagement at her number seventeen 20-millimeter mount—he died of his wounds at 0125.
Once the enemy destroyers were dealt with, Denver and TF 68 adjusted course for the bombardment run and opened fire on Vila at 0127 until 0136. Her first salvos struck installations along the west stretches of Vila River, Stanmore Plantation, and aircraft emplacements. Any fires that started were quickly put out—a sign of frustrations to come for planners with silencing Munda and Vila for good. Shore battery fire was ineffective, and counter-battery fire withheld. Possible enemy air contacts were coming from Munda, but nothing developed from them—a high likelihood of their being enemy reconnaissance flights.
Denver turned to the retirement course at 0139, and finally restored steering to her conning tower by 0151. The group steamed to Port Purvis for refueling with Denver dropping anchor at 0914 that morning on 6 March 1943. She got back underway at 1204 on 6 March, heading for Havannah Harbor—Denver moored in her berth by 1710 on 9 March as she took on fuel. Carney was awarded the Legion of Merit with "V" (Combat Distinguishing Device) for the 5–6 March 1943 actions supporting the occupations of the Russell Islands.
The cruiser remained at port until 15 March 1943. That day saw CruDiv 12, Denver included, reassigned to TF 19 and attached to the Third Fleet under Halsey. The group steamed out of Havannah Harbor, Denver underway at 1402, for exercises among her sister ships. TF 19’s destroyers joined the exercises including Waller, Eaton (DD-510), Philip (DD-498), and Renshaw (DD-499). On 16 March, TF 19 (with destroyer Conway having rejoined the formation) rendezvoused at 0717 with Rear Adm. DeWitt C. Ramsey’s TF 14 led by aircraft carrier Saratoga (CV-3) for what would be a series of joint exercises. These exercises included an emphasis on supporting carrier operations.
The joint exercises lasted until TF 19 detached for independent operation at 1000 on 17 March 1943 and steamed for Espíritu Santo. By 18 March, the group was back at Espíritu Santo, with Denver at anchor in the Pekoa Channel at 1102 after refueling.
Most significant resistance in the Solomons had withered away by mid-February 1943, even before the early March raids Halsey had Merrill and Ainsworth inflict on Kolombangara. Though Munda and Vila were still being pounded periodically by air strikes, TF 19 had little to do for the time being other than train. After a few days of replenishment at Espíritu Santo, TF 19 steamed out on 20 March 1943 for dedicated exercises en route to Havannah Harbor—Denver underway by 0609.
The group’s exercises continued without incident for the most part. There was an interruption on 22 March 1943 at 0012 when sister ship Columbia suffered an engine breakdown and was escorted out of formation by Conway for repairs—both back by 0335. The exercises resumed that day. The bevy of drills ran daily until TF 19 steamed into Havannah Harbor on 30 March, and Denver was at her moorings at 1443 for refueling.
Denver remained in port at Havannah Harbor for much of early April 1943, performing only maintenance and routine readiness exercises at anchor—including with her Seagulls. The cruiser got underway at 1600 on 7 April for a day of exercises with TF 19. This day also saw Rear Adm. Merrill relieve Rear Adm. Giffen of command of TF 19 as Giffen departed on Wichita. TF 19’s destroyer complement was also augmented by now to include Saufley (DD-465) in addition to the five others still attached to Merrill’s unit from earlier—Conway, Philips, Renshaw, Waller, and Eaton.
As Merrill’s TF 19 steamed out for exercises, Eaton and Saufley were temporarily dispatched elsewhere on detached duties on 7 April 1943. TF 19 meanwhile received a change in orders from Halsey and steamed towards a rendezvous at 15°00'S, 165°00'E with TF 15 led by aircraft carrier Enterprise (CV-6) at 2000. TF 19 did not actually make the rendezvous with TF 15 and Enterprise until early the next day—sighting the group at 0640 on 8 April bearing at 083° at a distance of 18,200 yards. Also with TF 15 were cruiser San Diego (CL-53), New Zealand cruiser Leander (75), plus destroyers Ellet (DD-398), McCalla (DD-488), and Buchanan (DD-484). Eaton had also rejoined the formation.
Guadalcanal had been hit on 7 April 1943 by a wave of Japanese Aichi D3A Type 99 carrier bombers (Val) escorted by Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 carrier fighters Zekes. Nearby Tulagi was hit as well. These strikes were a part of Japan’s last significant air attack on the Solomons known as Operation I.
Denver and the combined group steamed toward “the slot” to intercede, and as Halsey hoped, deter further incursions from the “Tokyo Express”—the Japanese supply line in the Solomons. Denver and company began supporting the air operations from Enterprise in approach of “the slot” that evening—steaming on station by the evening of 8 April 1943. This supporting role continued into 10 April. No attack materialized around the combined task force during the support operation, and the group commenced joint exercising for the remainder of their time together—Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 12 destroyers Farenholt (DD-491) and Woodworth (DD-460) joining the formation at 1320.
The joint exercising lasted until the late afternoon when TF 19 detached from TF 15 at 1625 on 10 April 1943. Denver and her TF 19 companions exercised while en route back to Havannah Harbor. TF 19 steamed into port by 13 April with Denver at anchor by 1844 after refueling.
Denver and TF 19 would spend much of the next few weeks either idling at Havannah Harbor or running combined exercises and patrols nearby. The first of these excursions did not occur until 21 April 1943 when TF 19 sortied from the harbor—Denver underway at 0800. The first round of exercises lasted until the group steamed back into Havannah Harbor the afternoon of 22 April, and Denver was back at her berth at 1743 after her turn refueling.
Denver enters Havannah Harbor, Efate, New Hebrides as seen from sister ship Columbia (CL-56). There is a Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplane in the right foreground, and Denver’s hull paintwork is worn on her forward sections, and amidships. She has fresh paint further aft, 22 April 1943. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-384393, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
The cruiser and TF 19 rounded out the month of April 1943 and early May 1943 at port in Havannah Harbor with maintenance duties, and exercises at anchor. As of 1 May, TF 19 had been reconstituted as two groups, including a paired down destroyer unit. Task Group (TG) 19.1 retained the light cruisers of CruDiv 12—Denver with her sister ships Montpelier, Cleveland, and Columbia. TG 19.3 was drawn out of Destroyer Division 43 (DesDiv 43)’s Waller, Renshaw, Philip, and Saufley.
Denver and the reorganized group had an opportunity to exercise together on 6 May 1943, the cruiser underway at 0817 from Havannah Harbor. The group performed an extensive battery of firing, maneuvering, tracking, and aerial drills. By afternoon, these training runs developed into larger battle simulations. TF 19’s drilling continued into the next day, bringing Denver back into her Havannah Harbor berth by 1643 after refueling. The cruiser ran additional exercises with TF 19 on 10—11 May, 18—19 May, 21 May, 26—27 May (TF 19 exercised with TF 11), at anchor in her Havannah Harbor berth when not on the exercising runs during these dates.
The ship remained anchored at Havannah Harbor as May 1943 rolled into June. The quiet would be broken up by TF 19’s resumption of exercises on 2 June—Denver underway at 0730. TF 19 had undergone a minor reconfiguration with respect to her destroyer complement. TG 19.3 was recast with DesRon 22’s destroyers Pringle (DD-477), Saufley, Philip, Renshaw, and Waller. The group returned to port after several rounds of firing, and flight drills—Denver back in her berth at 1754 that evening. The next few days were spent uneventfully at anchor. At 1335 on 7 June, Denver followed orders from Merrill (who was following orders from Halsey) and took on James Rembert—a war correspondent from the Associated Press.
On 8 June 1943, Denver began a brief overhaul period—expected to last eight days—to tend to her troublesome number one steering unit. She moored to repair ship Medusa (AR-1) at 0817 while still in Havannah Harbor. The repairs were completed as scheduled, and Denver left Medusa to resume normal status with a twelve-hour sailing notice at midnight on 16 June. The ship participated in a series of single day exercises with TF 19 from 17—18 June—round trips based out of Havannah Harbor and returning to the port each time. The exercises were full of gunnery drills, torpedo evasion drills, aerial missions, communication tests, and tracking tests. Denver remained at port until the group went out for training again on 25 June and came back that day—Denver in her berth at 1518 after refueling.
On 27 June 1943, Denver and her sister ships in CruDiv 12 were transferred to TG 36.2 under Adm. Merrill—still part of the Third Fleet. The new task group was divided into two subunits. TU 36.2.1 was designated a covering, and bombardment unit including Denver and her sister ships Cleveland, Montpelier, and Columbia in CruDiv 12 plus DesDiv 43’s Waller, Renshaw, Philip, and Saufley. TU 36.2.2 was a mining group led by destroyer Pringle bringing along light minelayers Preble (DM-20), Gamble (DM-15), and Breese (DM-18).
This transfer was in preparation for the task group’s overall mission—in support of the invasion of New Georgia Island known as Operation Toenails. Halsey was going to have Merrill’s group mine the area between Alu and Munia Islands while simultaneously attacking Poporong, Faisi, Ballale, and Shortland Islands with bombardment from CruDiv 12.
Denver got underway on 27 June 1943 at 1058 with the new TG 36.2 bound first for Port Purvis. The cruiser and TU 36.2.1 pulled into Port Purvis by 29 June with the ship at anchor by 1013 as the group took on fuel. Once replenishment was complete, Denver was back underway at 1323 in company of TU 36.2.1. The group rendezvoused with the mining unit TU 36.2.2 led by Pringle at 1500 and steamed for the operational station. At 1821, Renshaw and Waller left the group for a bombardment run against Vila. By 2119, Denver could observe the Vila bombardment occurring and return fire by Japanese shore batteries at 2123. All firing at Vila ceased by 2128 and at 2350 both Renshaw and Waller rejoined the formation.
TG 36.2 steamed overnight, and by the early morning on 30 June, were well on course for the primary mining and bombardment courses. CruDiv 12 formed with Merrill commanding on Montpelier in the lead followed by Cleveland, Columbia, and Denver bringing up the rear of the cruiser column. Destroyers Philip and Saufley were screening 2,000 yards ahead of the cruisers, while Renshaw and Waller screened 2,000 yards astern. TU 36.2.2, the mine laying destroyers Pringle, Preble, Breese, and Gamble, were 6,000 yards ahead of the bombardment formation. Denver was making 26 knots along with the group to stay on schedule for the bombardment. At 0041, she reduced speed to 14 knots as they approached the mining and bombardment course coordinates. At 0045, Denver could only observe on radar as the mine laying destroyers made 18 knots and opened distance from the bombardment group—as planned. The weather began to deteriorate into a heavy rain within the next hour, and Denver observed on radar as TU 36.2.2 turned north onto the mine-laying course by 0125. At 0154, Denver loaded her 6-inch batteries for the bombardment phase—waiting for Montpelier’s lead. Montpelier began firing at 0155, and Denver commenced fire as she and the other cruisers adjusted course due to poor visibility. The first targets in her sights were on Ballale Island bearing 316° at a range of 16,400 yards.
At 0200, Denver began a series of further course adjustments though ceased fire by 0210. She resumed varying course and speed starting at 0216 to reach the retirement course with the group. The cruiser remained at general quarters on alert for retaliatory air attacks throughout the morning while steaming out of the bombardment station, and into friendly fighter cover by 0645. The group spent much of 30 June 1943 on alert for enemy air raids—Denver and her sister ships all running flight operations into the mid-afternoon.
Denver and TG 36.2 steamed through 1 July 1943 to remain on station for patrolling duties. Most of the morning was uneventful as the group attended to refueling. However, at 1049, one of Denver’s Seagulls was making a return approach and its depth charge accidentally disengaged and detonated. The explosion damaged one of the plane’s floats, causing the plane to capsize upon touching down. Conway recovered the pilot and passenger unharmed at 1132, and sunk the plane.
The group stayed together on station until the mid-afternoon on 1 July 1943. At 1534, Halsey and Merrill ordered Denver, Cleveland, Saufley, and Renshaw to break off from TG 36.2 and rendezvous with battleship North Carolina (BB-55) for further operations on station.
Denver and the detached group steamed into 2 July for their meeting with North Carolina, exercising en route. At 1300, TU 36.3.9 joined with Denver’s group with Denver as lead. TU 36.3.9 consisted of North Carolina plus destroyers Stanly (DD-478), Dyson (DD-572), and Claxton (DD-571).
The new combined group steamed into supporting operational areas around the Solomons overnight into 3 July 1943. Denver and the group drilled while en route and on station. The patrol continued into 4 July. The next day was a little more interesting.
On 5 July 1943, Denver and the modified task unit were still on patrol supporting Solomon Island operations. By mid-afternoon, at 1530, Denver’s sister ships and the destroyers from TG 36.2 were spotted on approach—Montpelier, Columbia, Waller, Pringle, and Philip coming into formation. Following orders, Denver had already been detached from North Carolina’s group at 1528. At 1540, TG 36.2 was ordered to steam to an operational area 30 miles west of Rendova Island and attempt to intercept an enemy Japanese fleet—part of the “Tokyo Express.” Merrill, however, responded that there was no way for TG 36.2 to reach Rendova until early on the morning of 6 July. Halsey redirected TG 36.2, at 2200, to steam for Guadalcanal and refuel at Koli Point.
On 6 July 1943, Denver and TG 36.2 were en route to the refueling stop at Guadalcanal. At 1403, the cruiser was moored to attack transport American Legion (APA-17) for fueling, but also to repair problems with Denver’s number three engine at 1530. Denver’s care attended to, she got underway at 1727 in company of her group—soon harried by foul weather in the late evening. Nevertheless, Halsey wanted Merrill’s TG 36.2 to steam north of Point Visuvisu on New Georgia Island to intercept enemy shipping.
TG 36.2, Denver included, steamed in earnest on 7 July 1943 from Koli Point up “the slot” to Kula Gulf to pursue enemy shipping running the “Tokyo Express.” However, the cruiser was on the way for refueling again at Koli Point—mooring at 0951 until 1530. Denver was back underway at 1534, this time in company with Cleveland, Renshaw, and Philip en route to Tulagi to rendezvous with the rest of TG 36.2 which had been running patrols earlier. By 1715, Denver’s group rejoined TG 36.2 and she formed up with her sister cruisers Montpelier and Columbia with Montpelier and Denver taking a leading section in the formation. In the evening, the destroyers split into a screening formation with three ahead and two astern. At 2117, a TBS signal was received to go to general quarters due to enemy planes being detected. The group began evasive maneuvers, trying to avoid detection by what was likely a Mitsubishi F1M Pete (sometimes referred to as a Type-0) Japanese reconnaissance aircraft or snooper plane.
These evasive maneuvers and techniques continued into the early morning of 8 July 1943. At 0123, the group slowed to 15 knots to try and reduce wake—though the dynamic course changes continued. By 0135, Denver and TG 36.2 resumed high speed maneuvers. By 0143, TG 36.2 had arrived at Kula Gulf and realized the enemy reconnaissance plane was circling them. Two minutes later the enemy plane dropped four flares on the formation (two red, two green) at 1,000 feet in altitude at 1,000 yards off Denver’s port quarter. Columbia fired on the plane, but the enemy aircraft escaped.
The group continued evasive course maneuvers throughout the morning of 8 July, but could not relax quite yet. At 0514, as the group was on the return course from Kula Gulf, Merrill sent Saufley to run down a surfaced target bearing 036° at 9 miles distance. The group went to alert on the surface contact at 0535, and Denver observed Saufley firing on the contact. Merrill had Saufley stand by the contact location, and five minutes later Saufley reported in that it had fired on an enemy submarine. The group resumed course out of Kula Gulf, and were able to secure from general quarters by 0701. TG 36.2 steamed on to Tulagi, and Denver made her anchorage in Port Purvis by 0959—taking on replenishment.
After spending some time at anchor, TG 36.2 got another run at Kula Gulf and the “Tokyo Express” on 10 July 1943. Denver got underway at 1708 for the same area north of Point Visuvisu. No encounter was had, so the group returned to Port Purvis by the morning of 11 July—Denver back at anchor at 0943.
This ended the round trips up “the slot” just to hunt for enemy shipping for now. Merrill’s group would be reorganized as of 11 July 1943 (on orders from the previous day) as TG 36.9 under his command for a bombardment operation against targets in Munda—to assist landing operations tasked with its subjugation.
TG 36.9 was formed initially with four subunits. Denver and her sister ships Cleveland, Columbia, and Montpelier in CruDiv 12 composed TU 36.9.1 also designated Fire Support Section One. TU 36.9.2 (Fire Support Section Two) included destroyers Farenholt, and Buchanan. The task group included two destroyer screening section units. TU 36.9.3 (Screening Section One) was comprised of Gwin (DD-433), Ralph Talbot (DD-390), and McCalla. TU 36.9.4 (Screening Section Two) was taken from the destroyers that had already been accompanying Merrill’s group--Waller, Philip, Renshaw, Saufley, and Pringle.
Denver got underway at 1422 on 11 July 1943 from Port Purvis in company of TG 36.9. The group reached their bombardment course on Munda in short order on 12 July.
The operation was Rear Adm. Richmond K. Turner’s idea. Turner wanted to send Merrill’s group to clear the jungles of Munda and help the marine and army units trying to secure the beachheads and interior. A limiting factor was the Army’s 43rd division (172nd infantry) so mistrusted naval gunfire support (NGF) that they requested Merrill’s task group aim the bombardment so the estimated impacts were a mile beyond friendly unit front lines. They also asked that the NGF be aligned parallel to the friendly units’ lines instead of perpendicular so there would be no risk of shots over friendly units.
The Army’s complications obliged two of Merrill’s destroyer units, TU 36.9.2 and TU 36.9.3, to both be sent to make soundings and radar sweeps of Blanche Channel (as the only viable launch point for the engagement) ahead of the attacking force.
Once on the bombardment course on the morning of 12 July 1943, Montpelier took the lead in TU 36.9.1 followed in column formation by Denver, Columbia, and Cleveland. At 0234, TU 36.9.4’s Waller, Saufley, and Pringle screened ahead of the cruisers by 5,000 yards, with Renshaw and Philip trailing astern by 2,000 yards.
At 0255, the formation was on the bombardment run and Montpelier opened fire first at 0257 to her starboard. Denver followed suit at 0300 with her main battery to starboard, and cut in her 5-inch battery for different objectives. By 0306, she could observe explosions on a targeted ammunition dump. At 0315, Denver observed a white object that was either an enemy plane or flare off her port bow. More fires on the Munda Point area could be seen at 0327, but by 0330 all bombardment had ceased. Denver followed Montpelier out to the retirement course at 0340 along with the rest of the formation. No enemy counterattack was observed other than the possible hearing of projectiles overhead.
TG 36.9 was dissolved after the operation on 12 July 1943, and Denver steamed with TG 36.2—Montpelier, Columbia, Cleveland, Waller, Renshaw, Saufley, Philip, and Pringle. All others from the bombardment operation were detached. Merrill was to take his group for another run against enemy shipping—this time southwest of Rendova Island—before heading for a replenishment stop at Tulagi.
On the evening of 13 July 1943, Denver and company had made no contacts during the interception run other than friendlies, and the formation proceeded to Purvis Bay as planned on 14 July—Denver at anchor by 1053 and refueling after shifting berths. She had another leg to steam, this time to Espíritu Santo for a more complete replenishment. She got underway at 1555 from Purvis Bay on 15 July with TU 36.2.2 in the company of Cleveland, Philip, and Renshaw. While she was still exercising en route to Espíritu Santo on 16 July, Halsey ordered Denver’s TU 36.2.2 to divert instead for Havannah Harbor for the logistical resupply layover. On 17 July, TU 36.2.2 pulled into Havannah Harbor and Denver was moored to her berth at 0926 after fueling. She received a resupply of ammunition on 17 July as well and got underway at 0555 on 19 July to complete last stretch to Espíritu Santo and rejoin the rest of TG 36.2. She made it to Espíritu Santo later that afternoon, and nearly ran into district patrol vessel YP-515 as the latter crossed the cruiser’s bow at 1441 and ignored three horn blasts without altering course. Denver put all engines back full at 1442 to avoid a collision—missing the patrol ship by a scant 25 yards. The close call averted, Denver reached her anchorage at 1445 in Pekoa Channel.
Denver along with TG 36.2 would spend a fair amount of time over the next two months either idling at anchor or doing support patrol runs around the Solomons. She spent only a brief time at anchor after the replenishment stop, and after taking on supplies including more ammunition on 20 July 1943, she was back underway from Espíritu Santo at 1630 that afternoon. The first run included steaming towards the Tulagi area. Renshaw, while the group was en route to Tulagi’s waters, chased down a possible enemy submarine contact to the point of releasing depth charges at 2026. Otherwise, the group merely exercised mostly without incident through 21 July. During the daily drills, one of Denver’s Curtiss SOC-3 Seagulls that had been launched at 1144 did not return as scheduled. The plane’s last contact with Denver was at 1345, but no reason for the loss was found--estimates placing blame on the aircraft landing elsewhere or straying off course. Montpelier and Columbia sent out search planes at 1700 to try and find the wayward plane before sunset. Lost on board the missing Seagull were pilot Lt. (j.g.) William R. Andrews and observer ARM3c William J. Haeling. By 1800, the aircraft and crew were recovered.
On 22 July 1943, TG 36.2 was slightly reorganized so that the cruisers and destroyers were shifted among the two subunits instead of keeping CruDiv 12 together. TU 36.2.1 under Merrill now included the cruisers Montpelier, Cleveland, and destroyers Waller, Pringle, and Philip. TU 36.2.2 now included Denver, Columbia and destroyers Saufley, and Renshaw. However, the end of 22 July saw a change of orders come down from Halsey that broke off Denver, Columbia, Renshaw, and Saufley (TU 36.2.2) and had them steam for Espíritu Santo as of 2313 on 22 July. The diverted group was back at Espíritu Santo by mid-afternoon on 23 July—Denver anchored in Pekoa Channel at 1630.
Denver, while still at anchor at Espíritu Santo on 24 July 1943, experienced her first change of command. Capt. Robert P. Briscoe assumed command of Denver upon relieving Capt. Robert B. Carney at 1610. Carney was to be decorated one last time as Denver’s captain. He earned the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for the enemy opposed operations against Kolombangara, Shortland, and Bougainville Islands, in the Solomons area, the night of 29—30 June 1943.
The cruiser remained at her station with her new Capt. Briscoe until a patrol and exercise cruise on 28 July was scheduled for TG 36.2.2. She got underway at 0800 with TU 36.2.2, which by now added the destroyer Eaton (DD-510), to relieve TU 36.2.1 on patrolling station. Denver’s group exercised en route. On morning of 29 July, she had sighted TU 36.2.1 at 0645, and the formations joined at 0715. TU 36.2.2 remained on station alone and exercised while on patrol in the area through 30 July until receiving orders at 1107 that morning to head back for Espíritu Santo.
TU 36.2.2 steamed for Espíritu Santo, but Denver had more troubles with her planes. At 1014 on 31 July 1943, a Seagull with Andrews and Haeling on board reported problems at 1022. Apparently, the plane’s ailerons locked, and at 1034 the Seagull made an emergency landing at St. Phillip’s Bay. Denver broke formation at 1038 with destroyers Saufley and Eaton to recover the plane. In the end, Denver could not do so and was ordered back into formation—leaving the plane anchored in the bay at 1119. Denver’s group was back at Espíritu Santo on 31 July, and the cruiser was at anchor at 1810 after refueling.
TG 36.2’s formation was simplified on 1 August 1943. The subunits were eliminated, and Merrill’s command was now composed of CruDiv 12’s light cruisers Denver, Montpelier (flagship), Cleveland, and Columbia plus DesRon 23 destroyers Pringle, Waller, Saufley, Renshaw, and Philip. The reduced task group was out for another patrol and exercises on 2 August. Denver was underway at noon. TG 36.2 spent 2 August exercising alone. By 0800 on 3 August, Denver’s group was passing 15°54.9'S, 161°54.8'E. Exercises from 3—4 August saw TG 36.2 join with Saratoga’s TF 38, TF 37 and TF 39—with special emphasis on aerial attack simulations. Morning drills concluded at 1203. TF 38, and TF 39 detached during the afternoon of 4 August for other assignments. Denver, after dealing with a power failure in her aft gyro from 1330 to 1336, concluded the last of the day’s tactical training by 1616. TU 36.2, minus Columbia, was diverted back to Espíritu Santo on orders from Halsey. Denver and company made it back to Espíritu Santo by late morning on 5 August, Columbia having rejoined the group by 0951, and Denver back at her berth in Pekoa Channel at 1127.
At 1800 on 4 August 1943, Merrill’s group technically assumed the TF 39 designation after the previous TF 39 had dispersed—though the order did not take effect until the existing TG 36.2 completed the cruise back to Espíritu Santo. The new TF 39 organization, at first, did not change materially from the previous scheme—still being made up of the same sister cruisers in CruDiv 12 and five destroyers re-designated DesRon 22. On 5 August, with Denver and the group back at anchor, the TF 39 designation was official.
The cruiser remained moored at Espíritu Santo for several days. The organization of TF 39 underwent significant changes on 13 August 1943. Merrill’s command was to oversee CruDiv 12, and two destroyer divisions controlled by DesRon 23. CruDiv 12 retained the same four sister cruisers including Denver with Montpelier as flagship, Cleveland and Columbia. DesRon 23’s first group was made up of DesDiv 45’s Charles Ausburne (DD-570), Stanly (DD-478), Aulick, Claxton, and Dyson. DesDiv 46 was the other part of DesRon 23 with Foote (DD-511), Converse (DD-509), Spence (DD-512), and Thatcher (DD-514).
After the re-organization, Denver stayed in port for several more days until an opportunity to train with the reshaped TF 39 came up on 18 August 1943. Merrill ordered part of the group out of Espíritu Santo in the morning, and Denver got underway at 0815. The scheduled exercises lasted into 19 August when Denver returned to Espíritu Santo and her Pekoa Channel berth moorings by 1247—taking on fuel soon thereafter. She moved to moor alongside repair ship Vestal (AR-4) at 1325 by 1338 for a minor overhaul. The cruiser remained under repair until 22 August.
The suspected root of the steering problems that had been plaguing Denver since commissioning were reported from extensive tests of her steering motors during the overhaul. The tests resulted in observation of both units’ servo pumps’ discharge pressure failing to reach normal operating levels. Both steering units were secured, and upon further investigation, found to have dirt and sediment between the seat and valve of the servo pump relief valves. The dirt caused the valves to stay in an open position, dropping the operation pressure, and make the steering gear operate unreliably. The relief valves in both steering units were cleaned, reassembled, and normal operating pressure was restored. Both steering units were restarted, tested, and commissioned back into operation.
After repairs she got underway to shift berths at Espíritu Santo at 0750 on 22 August 1943, but her number one steering engine was out of commission with oil pressure gauges reading too low. She took an additional thirty minutes to get underway while exploring the reason for the low pressure. At 0850, her number one steering engine was operational, and she got underway at 0855 from Vestal. Denver steamed out for radar and smoke screen tests, and sent up a Seagull at 0918 to observe.
Denver and a small group exercised on 22 August 1943. The drills passed mostly without incident, though Denver briefly secured her number two steering unit to check its oil pressure lines and pump at 0955. Exercises complete, she returned to her Pekoa Channel berth by 1255.
The cruiser remained moored at Espíritu Santo for much of the rest of August 1943. On 30 August 1943, Denver ran another test of her main engines to satisfaction at 1015 ahead of joint task force exercises.
For patrol sweeps and exercises, Merrill’s TF 39 on 30 August 1943 had additionally been reconfigured. CruDiv 12 remained unchanged with Montpelier as flagship, Cleveland, Columbia, and Denver present. TF 39’s destroyers associated with DesDiv 46 attached Foote, Converse, Radford, and Jenkins (DD-447). The joint exercising was to include TF 37, and TF 38—with Rear Adm. Forrest P. Sherman and Saratoga leading the combined group.
Denver was underway by 1029 on 30 August 1943 from Espíritu Santo. Alas, she still lost steering control at 1031 from her navigation bridge after all the repairs earlier—forced to steer from aft stations. The steering units were running properly upon investigation, but she was unable to restore steering to her conning tower until 1130. While underway to the patrol and exercise operational area she shifted steering to her pilot house at 1258. At 1310, an investigation of her latest steering problem found a faulty transfer switch in the central station. The switch was fouled by an errant piece in contact with it. The piece was removed, and the steering controls were tested to satisfaction.
The more comprehensive exercises around the Solomons lasted through 1 September 1943. For the most part, the gunnery, tracking, flight, and battle drills proceeded without incident. Denver nearly collided with a couple of battleships, Washington (BB-56) at 1336 and Colorado (BB-45) at 1443, but changed course in time to avoid both.
By 1745 on 1 September 1943, TF 37 had broken off to operate elsewhere. TF 39 and TF 38 continued exercising together for another couple of days. The exercises largely wrapped up on 3 September, and the two task forces jointly steamed back for Espíritu Santo by 4 September—Denver moored to her Pekoa Channel berth by 2158 after refueling.
Denver spent quite some time through early September 1943 at port performing maintenance, and anchor exercises. There was an alert on 6 September as a fire broke out on board tanker Stanvac Capetown requiring the dispatch of fire and rescue parties from various ships including Denver at 2200. The emergency crews returned by 2353 having successfully put out the blaze. Denver and TF 39 (minus Columbia being overhauled at Sydney, Australia) fit in a short training run with other on-hand destroyers on 10 September around the island. Denver got underway at 0723 but was back at her berth in Pekoa Channel at 1820.
The cruiser remained at anchor for several days longer in mid-September 1943; however, Halsey had Denver and TF 39 put on two-hours sailing notice as of 1900 on 13 September—adjusted to six hour notice as of 2100 on 15 September. Notices aside, TF 39 ran out from Espíritu Santo for another training cruise on 16 September. Denver got underway at 0756—this time the only other CruDiv 12 member with her was Montpelier—the sister cruisers accompanied by Eaton, Waller, and Renshaw. The group exercised into 17 September and returned to Espíritu Santo that afternoon—Denver moored in her Segond Channel berth at 1253.
The ship stayed at Espíritu Santo for a few more days before Halsey ordered Merrill to take TF 39 out to support operations ongoing in the Solomons and patrol for enemy shipping. This included aiding in cutting off the island of Kolombangara from the “Tokyo Express,” and covering the amphibious forces securing Vella Lavella under overall command of Rear Adm. Theodore S. Wilkinson.
Denver got underway at 0541 on 20 September 1943 from Espíritu Santo. For now, the cruiser steamed in company with sister ship Montpelier, and destroyers Waller, Eaton, Cony, and Renshaw as part of TF 39. It seemed, however, as though Denver’s steering woes were not over. At 0613, she lost steering control on her bridge with her aft station taking up the duty until pilot house control was restored at 0648. The group then commenced exercises while en route to their operational station.
As the group steamed onward through to 22 September 1943, Denver’s steering problems still lingered through the morning of 22 September, but she steamed independently for Port Purvis and made her anchorage at noon for a refueling stop along with the group destroyers. Denver was back underway at 1605 and in company with the destroyers along with Montpelier. Halsey ordered Merrill’s group to steam initially for a point 15 miles south of East Island in the Solomons.
Merrill’s partial TF 39 was designated TG 39.1 as they continued steaming to the support area through the evening of 23 September 1943. The morning of 24 September was a bit more eventful. Denver’s group still steaming on deployment encountered an unidentified aircraft at 0018 on bearing 260° at 20 miles distance. The group began course changes at 0141, but at 0243 picked up an enemy barge dead ahead at 6.5 miles distance. Denver and company spent a few minutes on dynamic course changes, but she opened fire with her 5-inch batteries on what were identified as several Japanese barges from 0254 to 0255. She continued dynamic course maneuvering afterwards as the group encountered a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft at 0327—firing on it from 0339 to 0345 with her 5-inch mounts until the enemy plane was driven off. The cruiser and group steamed back to Tulagi for replenishment later that morning—Denver at her moorings by 1235. She ran a test of her steering engines at 1543 to satisfaction, and finished refueling by 1545.
Denver was back underway out of Tulagi by 1620 on 24 September 1943 along with TG 39.1 to continue with Halsey’s order to steam up “the slot” bound for patrol and support duties for Wilkinson’s landings on Vella Lavella Island. By 2300 she had sighted Kula Gulf abeam to port. The morning of 25 September saw another round of enemy reconnaissance flight encounters for the cruiser and TG 39.1. At 0144, an enemy snooper was fired on by Denver with her 5-inch batteries on bearing 330° until 0145. The ship continued dynamic course changes as the enemy plane dropped a white float light at 0153 followed by green and red flares along the group’s direction of movement. Denver and company persisted in evasive course maneuvers, but the snooper dropped additional white and green flares on the group’s course path. TG 39.1 maintained these course changes throughout the morning but had no further incidents as they steamed back for Tulagi and the cruiser made for Port Purvis in the afternoon. By 1512, Denver was in her Port Purvis anchorage awaiting a quick turnaround.
The support runs continued as Denver got underway on 25 September 1943 at 1643 with TG 39.1 for another pass sweep of “the slot” and Kula Gulf—steaming by the latter at 2345 abeam to port bearing 208° by 5 miles.
As TG 39.1 steamed through the morning of 26 September 1943, the rest of Merrill’s task force elements from TG 39.2 rejoined the formation at 0627—sister cruisers Columbia, Cleveland, plus escorting destroyers Charles Ausburne, Spence, Claxton, Chevalier (DD-451), and Dyson. The run to “the slot” was uneventful other than the reuniting of TF 39, and the group returned to Port Purvis later that morning—Denver at her moorings by 1149 to refuel before anchoring at 1514.
Denver was in for another quick turnaround, but this time she was bound back for Espíritu Santo along with TG 39.1 per Halsey’s orders—underway from Port Purvis at 1600 on 26 September 1943. The group steamed without incident, arriving at Espíritu Santo by 28 September—Denver at her berth in Segond Channel by 1002.
The cruiser stayed at anchor other than maintenance and at-anchor exercises for a couple of days, but prepared for another run to clear enemy traffic up “the slot” on 30 September 1943. Denver tested her steering gear at 0600, and main engines at 0632—both tests were completed to satisfaction. By 0652 Denver was underway, and TG 39.1 steamed for the operational area.
The group exercised en route through the evening of 30 September 1943. TG 39.1, still led by Montpelier (with Merrill on board), along with Denver, Waller, Eaton, Cony, and Renshaw continued their combined patrol and exercise run into 1 October until they reached Tulagi—pulling into Port Purvis. Denver made her anchorage at 1254. Denver gave her steering engines another test at 1414 to satisfaction. She also hosted war correspondent James Rembert once again—the journalist coming on board at 1422.
Denver got underway from Port Purvis at 1423 on 1 October 1943 to resume the run up “the slot” and clear enemy contacts from the area between Kolombangara and Choiseul with a now slightly more robust TG 39.1—joined by additional destroyers. Montpelier still led the group, and Waller, Eaton, Cony, and Renshaw were still alongside. Now Spence, Claxton, Dyson, Selfridge (DD-357), and Charles Ausburne also bolstered the force.
TG 39.1 had a busy evening on 1 October 1943. At 2055, Denver’s radar picked up an unidentified plane on bearing 330° at 6 miles distance—likely an enemy reconnaissance aircraft. The group engaged in dynamic course maneuvering, but at 2138 began sighting white and green flares bearing 270° at a distance of 10 miles. Shortly thereafter, at 2143, green and red flares illuminated the formation on bearing 010° only 4 miles distant followed quickly at 2200 by red and white flares bearing 310° also at 4 miles distance. Denver and TG 39.1 continued rapid course changes. At 2225, the group destroyers opened fire on Japanese barges on bearing 260°.
After the sweep, TG 39.1 steamed back for Port Purvis on the morning of 2 October with Denver making her anchorage at 0709. The ship refueled at 1320, and at 1325 ran another successful test of her steering engines. This success was short-lived. Denver was underway at 1348 to shift berths, but at 1411 that afternoon her pilot house lost steering control and her aft station had to take over. She regained her anchorage at 1413 and managed to restore pilot house steering by 1417. This time, the steering failure was caused by misalignment with the central station’s transfer switch.
Denver remained at Port Purvis until 4 October 1943 when she received orders along with TG 39.1 to steam for Espíritu Santo. The cruiser got underway at 1554 with TG 39.1 now also consisting of Montpelier, Waller, Cony, and Eaton. The group exercised en route to Espíritu Santo, and Denver reached her anchorage in Segond Channel at 0714 on 6 October—engaging in replenishment soon after.
The ship stood in port for a day but prepared to leave on 7 October 1943 for series of multi-task force exercises with TF 37, TF 38, and TF 39. Denver ran her steering engines and controls through more tests on 7 October at 1300—the systems passed. She got underway at 1322 in company of the three task groups led in overall command by Adm. Sherman on board Saratoga and TF 38.
The exercises starting on 7 October 1943 involved a substantial fleet, and several configurations of task forces, and task groups. TF 37 commanded by Rear Adm. Willis A. Lee, was operating with battleships Washington, Massachusetts (BB-59), South Dakota (BB-57), Alabama (BB-60), and DesRon 45 minus Halford (DD-480) or Braine (DD-630). Depending on how the exercise was organized, TF 37 was broken up into two subgroups. TG 37.1—commanded by Rear Adm. Glenn B. Davis--with Massachusetts, Washington, cruisers San Diego, Columbia, escort carrier Breton (CVE-23), two destroyers from TF 38, and DesRon 45 (again without Halford or Braine). TG 37.2—commanded by Rear Adm. Edward W. Hanson--had South Dakota, Alabama, cruisers Montpelier, Denver, San Juan (CL-54), carrier Saratoga, and DesRon 23 (without Aulick).
TF 38—commanded by Sherman--was operating with Saratoga, Breton, San Diego, San Juan, Wilson (DD-408), Stack (DD-406), Lardner (DD-487), and DesDiv 23. TF 39, when operating independently, maintained CruDiv 12 (without Cleveland), and DesRon 23 (without Aulick).
At 1508 on 7 October 1943, TF 39 and TF 38 formed up at the western entrance of Bougainville Strait to start the exercises. Denver continued the portions of the exercise as part of a group with Montpelier, Dyson, Claxton, Charles Ausburne, and Stanly during the morning of 8 October, then took station with TF 38 at 1213 for her part in the next series. The next set of exercises wrapped up at 1636 for Denver’s portion. Denver’s next round that evening for exercises was for a night attack simulation at 2047 with TF 38 and TF 39 jointly. The following maneuvers on 9 October included battle simulations of combined task forces attacking each other—TF 38 and TF 39 attacked TF 37 at 0717 on 9 October in one exercise. The subgroups played a role on 9 October as TG 37.1 and 37.2 (including Denver) formed out of the other task forces for the next set of maneuvers at 1058. The three task forces reformed into their distinct groups for another larger battle simulation—TF 38 attacking TF 37 and TF 39 at 0600 on 10 October. TF 33 was also brought in on 10 October to provide additional simulated air attacks against TF 38 and TF 39 starting at 0730. The entirety of the fleet exercise concluded at 1309 on 10 October. The three task forces steamed apart from one another at 1336. Denver (back in TF 39 proper, with Montpelier as Merrill’s task force flagship) turned back to Espíritu Santo—moored in her Segond Channel berth at 1608 and shortly thereafter taking on replenishment.
Denver moored at Espíritu Santo for several days through mid-October 1943. She had an opportunity for a training run on 20 October 1943 once attached to TG 39.2. The cruiser tested her steering engines successfully at 0620, and her main engines at 0630 to satisfaction. Denver was underway by 0705 from Espíritu Santo with Foote, Claxton, Dyson, and sister ship Columbia leading the small exercise group. The group returned to Espíritu Santo after the drills with Denver at her moorings in Segond Channel by 1804.
The ship spent several more days dealing with maintenance and at-anchor exercises. Denver’s in port until 24 October 1943 when orders came from Halsey for elements of TF 39 to steam ahead for Port Purvis.
This was preparation for an assault on Japanese airfields that could strike Bougainville while Adm. Wilkinson’s amphibious forces were invading it during what became known as Operation Cherryblossom. Halsey, consulting with Wilkinson earlier on 12 October 1943, had set 1 November 1943 as the date for the invasion. Halsey’s plan for Merrill was for the admiral to take all of TF 39’s cruisers and shell Buka Island [Papua New Guinea] in advance of the assault, off Bougainville’s northwestern tip, to confuse the concentration of Japanese troops there and divert attention from the marines landing at Empress Augusta Bay. The plan also called for DesRon 23, under the command of Capt. Arleigh A. Burke, to accompany TF 39’s cruisers—circumstances that would lead to Burke’s nickname of “31-knot Burke.”
Capt. Arleigh A. Burke, Commander Destroyer Squadron 23, seen in profile, left center reading on the starboard bridge wing of Charles Ausburne (DD-570)—his flagship during operations in the Solomon Islands in 1943–1944. The “Little Beaver” insignia is painted on the ship's bridge wing. A “scoreboard” is painted on the side of the ship’s gun director. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 59854)
The main Japanese fleet elements in October 1943 were concentrating on defending Rabaul, part of the Imperial Headquarters Operation RO. In any case, the Japanese navy was not expecting a major action at Empress Augusta Bay.
Denver ran more tests on her main engine and steering engine successfully at 0415 on the morning of 24 October 1943. She got underway at 0449 with part of the group steaming ahead of the rest of the task force. TG 39.3 was being led by Cleveland under Capt. Andrew G. Shepard. Denver steamed out with the group along with some of Burke’s destroyers nicknamed the “Little Beavers” The DesRon 23 elements steaming out with Denver for now were Dyson, Claxton, Spence, Foote, and Charles Ausburne (Burke’s flagship).
On the morning of 25 October 1943, at 0800, Denver lost power to her aft gyro due to low voltage—restoring the component to functionality by 0803. The short trip to Tulagi was eventful in other ways. Claxton, at 0854, reported sonar contact with a submarine and pursued it to improve the reading as well as drop depth charges. Denver started emergency turns at 0855, and 0856 Claxton began dropping depth charges. Shepard ordered Claxton to pursue the submarine contact until 1100, but at 0900 the destroyer signaled that she was having trouble maneuvering and that the remaining group should steer clear. At 0903, the formation steered evasively, but returned to base course by 0931. At 1028, it was Dyson’s turn for engine trouble and the destroyer slowed to 15 knots. Hampered though the trip was, Denver and company made it to Port Purvis by late morning. At 1202, Denver pulled into her berth at Port Purvis and later took on fuel—Capt. Briscoe in temporary command of TG 39.3 while Capt. Shepard was absent at 1330. The cruiser stood by on one-hour sailing notice.
The morning of 26 October 1943 saw Halsey have TG 39.3 including the DesRon 23 elements steaming out of Port Purvis bound for Treasury Island to cover the smaller invasion there first—Operation Goodtime—by intercepting and destroying any enemy forces interfering with the landings. Denver ran her main and steering engine tests successfully at 0950, and got underway at 1025. The operational area was to be at 08°00'S, 156°00'E. For now, TG 39.3 remained under Shepard’s command on board Cleveland.
The group’s sail to the operational area was nearly routine. The group steamed unmolested through 26 October 1943 but was interrupted by encounters with more Japanese reconnaissance planes on the morning of 27 October. At 0333 and 0346, enemy planes dropped flares. Denver and the group kept up course changes, but at 0350 another snooper dropped a flashing white float light on bearing 016° at a distance of 5 miles. At 0353, a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft dropped a flashing white float light on bearing 180° at a distance of 4 miles. Denver opened fire on a snooper from 0359 to 0400 with her 5-inch mounts but failed to hit it. The enemy reconnaissance harassment continued for another hour. Japanese aircraft dropped flares and float lights on TG 39.3 while the group maneuvered dynamically. Foote opened fire on enemy planes at 0407, and 0429 unsuccessfully. This marked a drop-off in the enemy reconnaissance flights for the time-being, and the group assumed their standard course plan by 0708.
Denver and TG 39.3 were in the support operation area for the Treasury Island landings by late morning on 27 October 1943. She remained on station into the afternoon. TG 39.3 steamed back for Tulagi and made Port Purvis by evening—Denver at anchor by 1819 on a two-hour sailing notice.
She refueled while shifting berths at Port Purvis on 28 October 1943 and awaited the rest of Merrill’s group assembling for the support of Operation Cherryblossom at Bougainville. Denver waited at port until 31 October when Merrill’s group was ordered to steam out to the support station. At 0158, the cruiser tested her main engines successfully and got underway at 0221.
Denver steamed out with the full complement of TF 39 under Merrill’s command in Montpelier and CruDiv 12 plus DesRon 23 under Burke minus Aulick. The group steamed for the bombardment area of Buka and the Shortland Islands through the evening of 31 October 1943.
At 2235 on 31 October 1943, Denver and company made radar contact with Buka Island on bearing 065° at a distance of 14 miles. The group turned onto the firing course at 0007 on 1 November 1943 and Denver began her bombardment at 0022. The cruiser’s Seagull spotters helped Denver adjust her fire. At 0029, Denver’s radar picked up two small targets on bearing 048° at 3,000 yards and directed her 5-inch batteries onto them. Her air observers reported three enemy transports and a barge on fire—all being abandoned by the Japanese at the north end of Madehas Island. Also observed was a fire in the bombardment target area at 0030 that lasted for two hours. By 0035, the bombardment ceased.
Also at 0035, small targets astern and on the port and starboard quarter were picked up on radar. Stanly fired at the most distant. At 0041 on 1 November 1943, Denver pulled onto the retirement course. Shortly thereafter, at 0103, Denver picked up several enemy aircraft on bearing 300° at 4 miles distance. Stanly picked up a surface target astern and fired on it again.
Denver detected enemy contacts bearing 102° at a distance of 6,800 yards and opened fire on them, enduring more harassment by enemy aerial reconnaissance planes overhead at 0133 and dropping float lights across the group’s course at 0151.
At 0507 on 1 November 1943, the group was approaching the Shortlands for the next round of bombardments. At 0613, Denver sighted two small surface contacts off her port beam near the west coast of Shortland Island. At 0620, enemy shore batteries from the Shortlands opened fire on TF 39. Denver returned fire against the shore batteries with her 5-inch mounts at 0623. At 0629, she turned her guns to Kulitanai on Shortland Island for bombardment—firing until 0643. By 0645, Denver had struck two of the enemy shore batteries with her 5-inch guns. From 0650 to 0655 she fired her scheduled bombardment against Korovou on Shortland Island, and then turned onto the retirement course at 0705. A few shots still rang out from enemy shore batteries at Poporang Island at 0713.
Briscoe, of the cruisers’ bombardment capacity, remarked:
These new cruisers can pump out five and six inch shells so fast they’re almost like a water hose, … With the fire control equipment installed on our ships now, the metal is not only well distributed over the target, but hits are in very high proportion to shells fired. It requires a large force of planes to equal the records established by ship bombardments completed in the South Pacific. The increasing number of aircraft carriers now in the Pacific area means that planes and ships can now work as a team. That combination can’t be beaten because the destructive ability of each type of attack in such bombardment compliments the other…
Following the bombardment, Merrill’s orders were to take TF 39 to the Treasury Island area to retire and then steam west of Empress Augusta Bay to intercept enemy forces that could disrupt the landings there. Overnight, friendly reconnaissance reports alerted Merrill that enemy surface forces were heading south from Rabaul. Information at the time reported that the enemy force was composed of four cruisers, and eight destroyers.
By 1000 on 1 November 1943, the group was back in sight of Treasury Island bearing 290° at 40 miles distance. Denver continued steaming with TF 39 in the support role of TG 31.5’s landing operations overnight.
At 0055 on 2 November 1943, Merrill had all TF 39 go to general quarters. The cruisers pulled into a column formation with Denver fourth in line with her sister cruisers while DesDiv 45 screened ahead, and DesDiv 46 screened astern. At 0230 an enemy surface fleet hove into view, bearing 305° at 16 miles distance heading for Empress Augusta Bay.
The Battle of Empress Augusta Bay commenced on the morning of 2 November 1943, approximately 40 miles west of Cape Torokina, Bougainville Island, with Merrill ordering Burke’s destroyers to fire torpedo spreads at the oncoming Japanese fleet at 0230. The enemy fleet’s main threat was comprised of two heavy cruisers under overall command of Vice Adm. Omari Sentaro—Myoko, and Haguro. Also facing Merrill were Rear Adm. Ijuin Matsuji’s light cruiser Sendai with destroyers Shigure, Samidare, and Shiratsuyu. Rear Adm. Osugi Morikazu brought light cruiser Agano, and destroyers Naganami, Wakatsuki, Hatsukaze, plus destroyer-transports Amagiri, Yunagi, Uzuki, and Yuzuki.
At 0233 the TF 39 destroyers under Burke’s command began their torpedo run against the enemy formation—firing at 0247 shortly before Denver commenced firing on one of the cruisers closing on the group at 0251. Denver maneuvered to avoid a collision with one of the group’s trailing destroyers and took up formation east of her normal position in formation. Columbia opened fire at 0300 on another target in the enemy fleet’s main column of cruisers on her bearing 278° at a distance of 20,100 yards. At 0301, Denver engaged one of the heavy cruisers at a range of 21,400 yards on bearing 351°—the enemy cruiser trying to evade violently. At 0305, Foote took an enemy torpedo hit in her aft engine compartment area—the destroyer apparently suffering damage to her shaft and running out of control. At 0310, Denver redirected her fire to one of the other heavy cruisers still at 21,400 yards, but one of the enemy ships began returning fire far more effectively.
Between 0320 and 0325, Denver suffered several hits from enemy 8-inch shells. At 0320, the ship was illuminated by 8-inch star shells. This made Denver an easy target as she was now not only illuminated but leading the cruiser column temporarily due to all of the formation’s evasive course changes. The enemy cruisers concentrated on her with shots straddling the cruiser repeatedly. One shot then clipped her number one stack, a shell then smashed into Denver’s forward section at 0322 and flooded a compartment immediately. Another shell struck at nearly the same time as the cruiser veered deftly on evasive courses—trying hard to make a 90° turn out of the way, but only making it to 45° when the last shot struck her forecastle. Mercifully, none of the enemy shells detonated which mitigated the damage sustained. Denver maneuvered sharply again to avoid successive enemy salvos. At 0325, her 5-inch battery returned fire on bearing 285° at a range of 17,200 yards, but she checked her fire as the range increased. At 0326, as enemy range closed again to 17,400 yards, Denver and her sister ships increased rate of return fire.
The enemy fleet began to retire at 0331, and TF 39 pursued them until 0500. Burke’s destroyers engaged remaining targets at 0406. At 0437, Denver was ordered by Merrill to track a target on bearing 314° at 10 miles distance. Initially, Denver was tasked to sink it, but after it was identified as a badly damaged enemy ship it was fired on by Montpelier instead. By 0515 all enemy units had retired to the northwest and left TF 39 to reform and steam back for their station to cover the landings at Empress Augusta Bay. Upon reuniting, Burke reported his destroyers had sunk the targets they had pursued. At 0555, TF 39 was steaming in formation on the retirement course.
However, TF 39’s return course was not going to be an easy passage on 2 November 1943. TF 39 fended off intermittent enemy air contacts throughout the morning of 2 November. At 0630, Thatcher (which had a collision with Spence during the prior day’s engagement) took Foote (also damaged in the battle) in tow with Dyson and Claxton for escort. The task force continued frequent course changes and braced for an incoming air attack at 0742 as they sounded general quarters.
At 0742 as Denver was passing 6°40.7'S, 154°23.9'E, a report came in of numerous enemy aircraft on bearing 315° at a distance of 50 miles—confirmed by radar on board. At 0745, a second flight of enemy planes was picked up on radar on bearing 340° at a range of 43 miles. At 0802, Denver and TF 39 began evasive maneuvers to avoid the incoming enemy air attack—a squadron of approximately 70 Val carrier bombers now being sighted—possibly some Mitsubishi G4M Betty land attack planes also mixed in. At 0803, Denver opened fire with her 5-inch mounts—forced to hold fire briefly due to complaints by friendly fighter aircraft. The cruiser resumed fire at 0805 with her 5-inch guns, 40-millimeter mounts, and 20-millimeter mounts. By 0812 all of the Vals were retiring. In total, the group shot down 17 Vals—Denver responsible for splashing two, and probably a third.
The 8-inch shell hits to Denver resulted in three forward compartments being flooded. Denver was forced to occasionally reduce speed to control flooding, and ease stress on the bulkheads in the affected areas. Damage control measures were effective in reducing flooded compartments to two. Her only casualties from the enemy action were a single man wounded. Her 6-inch gun occasionally was fouled by fragile projectiles—not an enemy induced problem.
The resulting damage to the Japanese fleet included Charles Ausburne, Spence, Dyson, Claxton, and Stanly combining efforts in sinking the enemy destroyer Hatsukaze. TF 39 also combined gunfire to sink the enemy light cruiser Sendai, and damage both enemy heavy cruisers Myoko and Haguro—causing the two cruisers to collide. Japanese destroyers Shiratsuyu and Samidare also suffered damage, though at least some if it was due to collisions with each other.
Through 2–3 November 1943, TF 39 steamed back towards Port Purvis as they covered TG 31.5’s withdrawal from Empress Augusta Bay in the early morning. TF 39 pulled into Port Purvis on 3 November with Denver dropping anchor by 1824. The cruiser remained at Port Purvis for minor hull repairs for a few days as the enemy shots had not even penetrated any of her main armor—the healthier elements of TF 39 steamed out for further support missions over the next few days.
TF 39 was continuing covering operations on 9 November 1943—Denver underway at 2157 with TF 39 minus Cleveland, Thatcher, Foote, and Dyson. Denver’s group was to support TG 31.7’s landings at Empress Augusta Bay. With Denver and the formation on station, most of 10 November proved uneventful until 1515 when Spence reported four Japanese sailors in a life raft ahead of the destroyer. Spence attempted to pick up the enemy sailors, but all four shot themselves—Spence rejoined the formation at 1600. The evening had its own interesting moments as the group went to general quarters at 1830. The formation observed the destroyers from TU 31.1.3 firing on an enemy aerial reconnaissance contact from 2033 to 2034. A few course changes from TF 39 later, CruDiv 12 spotted a white flare bearing 160° at 2250. Again, TU 31.1.3’s ships opened fire on a Japanese reconnaissance plane from 2325 until 2330. Covering operations continued with sporadic enemy contacts on 11 November—Montpelier opening fire on an enemy plane at 0010 on her bearing 355° at 9,000 yards—though all other enemy aerial contacts apparently had withdrawn. The group secured from general quarters at 0633. At 1130, TF 39’s destroyers rescued four men who parachuted from a flight of Consolidated B-24 Liberators. TF 39 also received Eaton as an augment to her force strength that afternoon—the destroyer joining the formation at 1525.
Enemy aerial harassment was still a problem throughout the evening of 11 November 1943. Squadrons of Bettys that had been engaging other task forces around Bougainville looking for Rear Adm. Alfred E. Montgomery’s carrier task force instead found Merrill’s cruisers and destroyers. At 1835, TF 39 was back at general quarters as the formation was entering the shroud of a thunderstorm. At 1918, Spence opened fire on an enemy bomber. At 1930, Montpelier and Denver took shots on a Betty bearing 270° at four miles distance that dropped two red flares on the task force. The enemy aerial squadron, approximately a dozen in strength, made successive runs at the squadron which was illuminated by the thunderstorm’s lightning. Columbia was observed firing on a Betty on her bearing 280° at 7,000 yards from 1945 to 1946. Converse radioed in a torpedo from one of three attacking enemy bombers was heading for Montpelier at 1954, but it was evaded. The task force continued evasive course maneuvers, and Columbia fired at another enemy bomber bearing 150° at 2031. The Bettys remained in the area until 2050, withdrawing northwest. The task force’s maneuvers continued for a couple of hours beyond this, and after some time with no contact Spence left TF 39 to join TG 31.7 for duty at 2237.
Denver and TF 39 were still on station for TG 31.7’s withdrawal operation at Empress Augusta Bay through the morning of 12 November 1943. The only aircraft approaching during the morning turned out to be friendly, and the formation secured from general quarters at 1246. The evening would be far more dangerous for Denver. At 1600, she sighted TU 31.5.5 bearing between 110° and 120° at 16 miles distance, but the group sounded general quarters at 1835 with the approach of more enemy snooper planes. Conditions were calm, with unlimited visibility apart from scattered clouds, and a full moon.
The enemy snoopers seemed to be the faster Type-0 models, and did a better job staying out of the group’s typical firing range. At 2124, radar picked up an aerial contact bearing 330° at 35 miles distance. The cruiser’s formation began radical course changes, and Montpelier opened fire on a Betty at 2250 for a minute on her bearing 345°. No other enemy contacts were made overnight, but the snoopers hovered at the edge of radar range. As TF 39 steamed on station into 13 November 1943, the early morning suddenly became a lot more dangerous as radar picked up ten Bettys on radar at 0304 and TF 39 braced for another round of repelling air attacks.
At 0420, a friendly Lockheed PV-1N Ventura night fighter guided by Columbia splashed an enemy snooper off Columbia’s port beam on her bearing 263° at 8 miles distance. Columbia and Montpelier both commenced anti-aircraft firing at 0433 on the same Betty until 0434 as the enemy closed to within 6,000 yards. As the course changes continued, Montpelier called out multiple Bettys bearing 140° at a distance of 40 miles. At 0444, enemy planes were detected on bearing 075° at 17 miles with independent enemy planes to the southeast and southwest. As the group made emergency turns, three Bettys were picked up on bearing 110° at a range of 9 miles. The group evaded again, picking up planes on bearing 245° at range 6.5 miles and flying at low altitude. At 0452, Denver opened fire on the low flying planes bearing down on her starboard quarter with her 5-inch guns. All three were observed to launch torpedoes at an altitude of 55 feet. Denver’s shots disintegrated one of the Bettys, but it still let go of its torpedo. The other two enemy planes turned east, and came under anti-aircraft fire from Denver and Stanly.
Converse followed up with a Betty contact report at 0453 bearing 080° only 4 miles distant—Denver and the rest of TF 39 began by firing on the closer contact. Stanly, at the same time, reported at least two torpedoes crossing her bow heading to TF 39’s formation. TF 39 ramped up speed to 28 knots and kept up emergency course changes which put the torpedo wakes to Denver’s stern—running parallel to her course. Another Betty came in low and dropped a torpedo 700 yards away from Denver. Denver had nowhere to turn—still boxed in by the other two torpedoes streaming by as the cruiser passed 6°45.3'S, 154°15'E. At 0455 Denver took the torpedo hit in her starboard side into her aft engine room while the offending enemy plane was cut to pieces by Denver’s 20-millimetter mounts as it attempted to escape towards her bow. The cruiser contributed to splashing four, and a probable fifth plane in the engagement.
The hit to Denver was in at the level of her bilge keel at frame 101, and brought the cruiser suddenly to a halt due to a loss of engine power, loss of steering control, and loss of gyro compass function. Flooding in the aft compartments did not deter repair parties from snapping into action, but the wounded cruiser took a 7° list to starboard, worsening up to 15°—she lost 20 men, with another 14 wounded. Six men were trapped in the engine room when the torpedo tore open the compartment to the sea—their means of escape a mystery even to them. Her number four engine shaft was still working enough to help provide minimal steering, but her communication system was knocked out except for the general announcing systems on board. Forward power was still operational from both steam and diesel generators, but power for the ship’s batteries aft of the forward engine room was out. The foremost gyro was disabled only temporarily. Her after fireroom was unable to control flooding with the extensive power failures, and had to be abandoned. Her number three, and number four boilers were both secured without sustaining damage.
The explosions of the torpedo that struck her plus the ones that passed her in parallel caused minor buckling in her forwards decks, and her shell plating at frame 18.
The group could not relax as yet. At 0455, Montpelier reported more Bettys bearing down on the formation’s starboard quarter. The group kept up evasive course changes though Eaton and Claxton—later swapping with Stanly—stayed with Denver. No further air attacks occurred that morning. In all, 17 enemy aircraft were shot down by the time TF 39 regained friendly fighter cover at 0602.
By 0545 on 13 November 1943, Denver was limping along at least at 4.5 knots thanks to her engineers’ repairs. Her starboard list had been a problem, but within two hours of the attack the damage control parties led by Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Goebel, E-V(G) brought Denver back to even keel with determined pumping out of her flooded fuel tanks and other compromised spaces. The corrected list, and limited power restoration to her batteries meant the cruiser was capable of continuing the fight in a crippled capacity if necessary by 0630. Briscoe was to be awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the Northern Solomons Campaign.
TF 39 continued rapid course changes, and by 0730 made contact with tug Sioux (AT-75) which took Denver in tow at 0804—getting 4.5 knots out of the cruiser with Eaton and Stanly escorting alongside as they sailed back to Purvis Bay. It was a difficult tow as Denver’s rudder was stuck left at 8°, and forced the cruiser to ride on Sioux’s port quarter. This awkward towing position lasted until steering emergency power was restored at 2100. The torpedo had also taken out the cruiser’s mess facilities, and hot food implements. So the crew was reduced to eating sandwiches, fruit and the entire ship’s supply of candy for the trip back to port. TF 39 steamed on ahead.
Sioux managed to tow Denver at a slightly more gainful speed of 7 knots en route back to Purvis Bay, and brought the ship in by 1045 on 15 November 1943. Denver was ordered to report to a dry dock on Espíritu Santo for temporary repairs before returning to the U.S. West Coast and more extensive repairs at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Calif.
She got underway at 1427 on 21 November 1943 from Port Purvis thanks to an improvised cofferdam in the aft mess hall to contain flooding, and tug Pawnee (AT-74) pulling the ailing ship to Espíritu Santo—submarine rescue vessel Ortolan (ASR-5), destroyer Balch (DD-363), and minesweeper Tumult (AM-127) as escorts. The group reached the Segond Channel on 24 November and helped Denver into her berth by 0812—she went into Floating Dry Dock 21 afterwards.
Through December 1943, Denver was still in dry dock at Segond Channel in Espíritu Channel as ordered to effect repairs sufficient to make the voyage to U.S. and Mare Island. Denver would spend nearly three weeks at Espíritu Channel’s dry dock to patch closed the gaping hole rent open by the torpedo and restore operation to her number three engine.
Denver was able to leave her Espíritu Channel dry dock on 19 December 1943 at 0838 and commence engine testing at 0930. Once her number three engine was satisfactorily operating, she moored in the Segond Channel as normal at 0946. Halsey wasted little time ordering Denver back east to get on with her journey for full repair. On 20 December, she was assigned to TU 34.5.1 which merely included the cruiser, and destroyer Boyd (DD-544) for escort.
The cruiser got underway at 1132 bound first for Fiji for an intended refueling stop before steaming for Pearl Harbor, T. H. She had to deal with a minor fire en route at 1308 in her aft engine room, but it was put out by 1314 without any collateral damage—caused by smoldering canvas touching a steam line. Otherwise, she held a few underway exercises. The duo was directed to the Samoan Islands and arrived on 22 December 1943 with Denver pulling into her moorings at Pago Pago Harbor at 1646. The stop at Pago Pago was not only for refueling, but also for the transfer of several Japanese prisoners to Denver for transportation to Pearl Harbor.
Denver and Boyd stayed overnight, but the cruiser was underway by 0606 on 23 December 1943 for Pearl Harbor along with the destroyer. The two ships steamed without incident for days, and sighted Oahu by 0500 on 28 December 1943. Denver pulled into her Pearl Harbor berth at 0951 and began offloading her transferred Japanese prisoners later that afternoon at 1320. The two ships were on their way again on the morning of 29 December, Denver underway at 0907 as they steamed for the U.S. west coast.
The cruiser made it to Mare Island’s ammunition depot on 2 January 1944, and spent the following day unloading her ammunition before entering dry dock. On 4 January 1944, she steamed for pier number 22 at the Mare Island Navy Yard and remained there for nearly a week preparing for entry into a dry dock. At 1055, on 11 January, Denver entered dry dock number three at Mare Island Navy Yard to begin the full repair work on her damage from the engagement the prior November.
The repairs would last well beyond February 1944 and extend past the next change in command for the cruiser. On 22 February 1944, Capt. Albert M. Bledsoe relieved Capt. Briscoe as commanding officer of Denver. Denver’s repairs were continuing in Mare Island, but she left dry dock on 17 March 1944 for pier number 22 South within the Mare Island Navy Yard. Additionally, Denver had never lost its overarching attachment to CruDiv 12 and TF 39.
On 26 March 1944, Rear Adm. Robert W. Hayler relieved Rear Adm. Aaron S. Merrill of command for both TF 39 and CruDiv 12. CruDiv 12 retained the same configuration; however, with Montpelier as flagship and sister ships Denver, Cleveland, and Columbia assigned to the unit. Replacing the destroyers from Burke’s now detached (as of 23 March 1944) DesRon 23 were the split divisions under Capt. Ira H. Nunn commanding DesRon 47. DesRon 47 contained DesDiv 93 and DesDiv 94. DesDiv 93 steamed with McCord (DD-534), Trathen (DD-530), Hazelwood (DD-531), Heermann (DD-532), and Hoel (DD-533). DesDiv 94 steamed with Haggard (DD-555), Franks (DD-554), Hailey (DD-556), and Johnston (DD-557).
Unit reconfigurations notwithstanding, Denver was in for a long period of ongoing repairs even if she was no longer in dry dock as March 1944 came to a close. Her status did not appreciably change through most of April, but the end of the month saw the start of the slow process to get her operational again. On 23—24 April 1944 she began fueling from support vessels and managed to completely restock her ammunition from 25—26 April—in half the time it normally would take. She shifted berths on 26 April to pier number thirteen and held dock trials on 28 April to satisfaction. Denver also took on a complement of two Vought OS2U Kingfisher observational aircraft.
Denver remained at Mare Island at the start of May 1944, but on 3 May 1944 she got underway at 0556 for Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, Calif. She moored briefly at the point at 0922 but was underway again at 1456 for pier number 31 in San Francisco to begin deperming (electrically scrubbing a ship’s hull of the permanent magnetic signature) procedures at 1630 until 2245. The following day, on 4 May, she got underway at 0942 for the degaussing (electrically scrubbing a ship’s hull of induced magnetic signatures) calibration range. She anchored in San Francisco Bay at 1006 and got underway for the actual degaussing cable calibration at 1215—making her runs at 1315 until 1516. By 1612, Denver was back in her San Francisco Bay berth.
The cruiser’s tests continued the following morning. At 0547 on 5 May 1944, she got underway for a full power test run—called off at 0621 due to poor visibility on account of fog. This hampered two later attempts at the same that day, so she ended up back at a Mare Island berth at 1950 that evening without having completed the full power test.
Denver held out at Mare Island until 9 May 1944, but then got underway at 0905 for San Diego, Calif. to attempt the full power test at another location. At 1233, she built up speed for the test and successfully completed it at 1545—reaching 32.2 knots sustained. While en route to San Diego, she began firing test runs at 0951 on 10 May with her 20-millimeter and 40-millimeter mounts. By 1538, she was moored at North Island in San Diego.
More structural firing tests awaited the ship on 11 May 1944 as she got underway at 0654 for the training area near San Diego. The tests ran from 0940 to 1045, but at 1235 she ran regular anti-aircraft battery exercises until 1515. She held additional gunnery exercises on 12 May from 0912 to 1527 which included her main 6-inch and 5-inch batteries besides the anti-aircraft machine guns. She moored to the Naval Fuel Dock at La Playa, Calif. by 1806, but steamed out at 0604 on 13 May back to San Diego.
The post-repair shakedown activities continued well into mid-May 1944, though they were marred by the loss of two land-based aircraft that collided with each other on 18 May 1944 at 1325 during a simulated air attack exercise at 32°27'30"N, 117°58'W. No survivors were recovered. Denver continued gunnery, aerial, tracking, night fighting, bombardment, and tactical exercises with various companion ships while based out of San Diego through late May 1944. She rounded out May 1944 with additional tests of her radio direction finder, gun batteries, and aircraft evasion simulations—moored in San Diego by 1706 on 29 May 1944.
The end of May ended Denver’s west coast post-repair trials. On 1 June 1944, she got underway at 0727 from San Diego with orders to rendezvous with TG 19.7—led by Capt. James M. Shoemaker. The group consisted of Shoemaker’s flagship aircraft carrier Franklin (CV-13), and destroyers Cushing (DD-797), Richard P. Leary (DD-684), and Twiggs (DD-591). Denver joined Franklin and TG 19.7 at 1151.
Denver and TG 19.7 exercised en route to Pearl Harbor—conducting tracking, firing, aerial, and tactical exercises even as Mt. Halekala on Maui, T. H. came into sight on bearing 187° at 70 miles distance on 6 June 1944 at 1020. The group exercised until 1600 that afternoon then Denver broke off independently at 1614 to make port at her Pearl Harbor berth—completing refueling by 2125.
The cruiser remained moored for a couple of days and got underway at 0630 on 9 June 1944 for another series of exercises around Hawaii with the elements of TG 19.7. Most of the day was spent with a variety of exercises alone, but the afternoon saw Cushing and Richard P. Leary screen for Denver while night practice commenced. The practice continued for the next couple of days with both destroyers assisting Denver until the cruiser completed the drills at 1407 on 11 June and made it to her moorings at her Pearl Harbor berth at 1647 that afternoon.
The ship remained moored through 12 June 1944. Rear Adm. James L. Kaufman (Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet) paid the cruiser an observational visit at 2155 that evening.
Denver got underway on 13 June 1944 at 0625 with Kaufman still on board. She steamed out for another run of training and shore bombardment exercises—Cushing and Richard P. Leary accompanying her. She steamed out to the waters around Kahoolawe Island, T. H. for the shore bombardment exercise. At 1143, she went to general quarters and began firing at 1207 with her main 6-inch battery until 1250. She closed range, and opened fire with her 5-inch battery until 1419. The cruiser closed again at 1430 to 2,000 yards from the beach and opened fire with her 40-millimeter guns against simulated enemy gun emplacements and fox holes. Shore based fire control parties, and plane spotters spotted for her 5-inch and 6-inch guns. She ended the early afternoon exercise at 1436, but ran another from 1601 to 1700 and another at night at 2010.
The shore bombardment drills continued into the following day on 14 June 1944, but Denver transferred Adm. Kaufman to Richard P. Leary at 0857. Regular gunnery exercises were the order of the day after noon until all exercises ceased at 1630. The cruiser pulled back into her Pearl Harbor moorings at 1838.
After days of drilling Denver’s repair work apparently was not quite as complete as hoped. On 15 June 1944, she got underway at 1230 for dry dock—moored to Thomas Dry Dock number four at Pearl Harbor at 1302. Work ensued on Denver’s rudder, but she continued to be replenished with ammunition and was reassigned to TG 12.1 attached to the Fifth Fleet under Rear Adm. Raymond A. Spruance.
Repairs on Denver did not take long. After finishing ammunition replenishment at 0335, on 16 June 1944, she left dry dock at 0805. Denver immediately got underway with Capt. Shoemaker’s TG 12.1 consisting of Franklin, Cushing, Richard P. Leary, destroyer Rowe (DD-564), and Twiggs. Denver and TG 12.1 left Pearl Harbor en route for Eniwetok Island in the Marshall Islands.
The group exercised and refueled en route. On 22 June 1944, at 1458, Denver sighted Eniwetok Atoll on bearing 295° at 10 miles distance. She guided the formation into Eniwetok lagoon at 1535, and the cruiser was moored in her berth at 1712—refueling from 1753 until 2200. Denver stayed at anchor for several days, but on 27 June she was ordered by Spruance to report to TG 58.1 under command of Rear Adm. Joseph J. Clark on board aircraft carrier Hornet (CV-12).
Denver refueled on 28 June 1944 due to the brief steaming after shifting berths a few days earlier on 24 June. She stayed at anchor until she finished ammunition replenishment on 30 June from 0806 to 1156 when she got underway from Eniwetok with TG 58.1. She exercised with the group while en route, including with CruDiv 13 minus Birmingham (CL-62)—the latter serving elsewhere in the Marianas with CruDiv 12. The task group was ordered to steam to the area of the Bonin and Volcano Islands to attack Japanese aircraft, shipping, and shore installations at Haha Jima, Iwo Jima, and Chichi Jima on 4 July.
Adm. Clark’s TG 58.1 included Hornet, aircraft carriers Yorktown (CV-10), Bataan (CVL-29), and cruisers Oakland (CL-95), and San Juan. The task group included Rear Adm. Laurance T. Du Bose commanding CruDiv 13’s Santa Fe (CL-60), Biloxi (CL-80), and Mobile (CL-63), and the temporarily attached Denver from CruDiv 12. DesRon 46, and DesDiv 11 also were steaming with TG 58.1 at this time. TG 58.1 was a part of Vice Adm. Marc Mitscher’s TF 58.
By 2000 on 30 June 1944, Denver was steaming past 11°16.8'N, 161°49.8'E. The group exercised and refueled underway through 1 and 2 July respectively. The following morning, at 0630 on 3 July, Denver and her group rendezvoused with TG 58.2 and continued refuel. Early enemy contact also was made as Bataan’s anti-submarine patrol aircraft encountered and splashed a Kawanishi H8K Emily four-engine flying boat at 1300 on 3 July. The carriers of the combined group then began their air strikes of Iwo Jima.
The following morning brought Haha Jima into sight at 0435 on 4 July 1944 on bearing 350° at 20 miles distance. More air strikes from the task group carriers were on their way starting at 0450 against the Bonin and Volcano Islands as planned. Denver steamed for the bombardment run against Iwo Jima with a newly combined TG 58.2 to hit targets on the Tobiishi Bana [Diamond Head] part of the island along with other targets of opportunity that afternoon.
The bombardment group now designated TU 58.2.4 was split into two divisions initially approaching Iwo Jima together until they were 20,000 yards northeast of Iwo Jima. Denver was part of Bombardment Group Two composed of CruDiv 13 minus Birmingham, and DesRon 46’s Bell (DD-587), Burns (DD-588), Charrette (DD-581), Conner (DD-582), Izard (DD-589), Boyd, Bradford (DD-545), minus Cowell (DD-547), and Brown (DD-546). As Denver’s group approached Iwo Jima from the northeast, Bombardment Group One was to approach from the northwest and attack from the western side. The other division under command of Rear Adm. Hewlett Thebaud was composed of CruDiv 10’s cruisers Boston (CA-69), and Canberra (CA-70), and destroyers The Sullivans (DD-537), Miller (DD-535), Cowell, and Brown.
Denver’s group went to general quarters at 1345 on 4 July 1944 with the cruiser as fighter director for the combat air patrol (CAP) composed of four Grumman F6F Hellcats. At 1415, Denver launched one of her observational Kingfishers—one to accompany another Kingfisher from Santa Fe. At 1452, Denver’s Kingfisher reported a small enemy ship nearby. A few minutes later, at 1455, Santa Fe opened fire on the ship target. No sooner had this started then three enemy planes, Vals or Zekes, managed to take off at 1456.
The enemy aircraft pursued the group’s Vought OS2U Kingfishers launched from Santa Fe and Denver, but the CAP was sent to intercept them at 1459. At 1500, both U.S. planes were reporting they were under fire. Santa Fe’s aircraft splashed an attacking Zeke with its free gun, but three Zekes managed to hit Santa Fe’s no.2 plane and the damage proved too severe by 1504, forcing it to land on the far side of the formation—Burns rescued Lt. (j.g.) R. W. Hendershott and ARM2c A. E. Hickman, then sank the irreparably damaged OS2U. Denver’s plane avoided taking any hits. The CAP pursued the remaining enemy planes back to the enemy airfield. The Japanese planes landed—just in time to be annihilated by Denver’s group bombardment of the airfields.
At 1509, Denver began firing on the enemy ship spotted earlier—identified as a mine-laying destroyer that appeared beached from an earlier air strike. At 1512, Denver brought in her main batteries against the beached enemy ship--blowing off part of its bow (confirmed by aircraft) as she lay in 6-inch and 5-inch battery fire. Denver and the group stopped firing on the ship at 1518 once it was on fire, and she brought her guns to bear on a much more tempting target.
For Denver and Bombardment Group Two, clearing the southeast point of Iwo Jima brought the air fields and a plateau with parked planes into view. The stationary planes were an ideal target on a ridge silhouetted against the sky—an assortment of Bettys, Zekes, Vals, and Mitsubishi A6M3 Type 0 Hamps. At 1521, she opened fire with her 5-inch guns on these parked planes and cut in her 6-inch main batteries at 1530. Denver’s Kingfisher reported direct hits obliterating the planes on the ground at 1534 along with fires on the planes and runways from the bombardments from 1523 to 1545.
At 1545, Denver brought her 6-inch and 5-inch mounts to bear on surrounding buildings. This bombardment lasted until 1600, and she secured from general quarters at 1605—recovering the Kingfisher at 1654. Once the bombardment of the airfield commenced, and was completed, the entirety of the airfield and surrounding buildings were on fire. Heavy oil fires, and bright explosions (possibly from ammunition dumps) were also visible after the bombardment.
By 2110 on 4 July 1944, Denver’s bombardment group had rendezvoused with TG 58.1. The morning of 5 July saw Denver and the rest of her group continue with screening operations for the carrier strike groups as they pounded the Bonins, around the Marianas, and Iwo Jima for the next several days. By evening the on 6 July, after completing refueling at 1553, Denver and her screening group adjusted their evening position as the focus of the air strikes turned to Guam.
While the group steamed towards the operational area for strikes on Guam, there was a slight increase in enemy aerial encounters. On 7 July 1944, Denver’s screening group shifted formation after multiple enemy air contacts were detected between 1857 and 1947. Denver observed Yorktown had sent up night fighter aircraft to intercept the enemy raids. At 2026, Yorktown’s night fighters splashed one of the enemy planes in visual range of the group. Another enemy plane was pursued by Yorktown’s night fighters into landing on Guam. By 2249, the group stood down from alert status as the enemy air raids ceased and contacts no longer appeared on radar—resuming a normal cruise configuration at 2342.
The following morning, some additional results from the previous evening’s air attacks included destroy Helm (DD-388) picking up five Japanese occupants of one of the downed planes at 0730 on 8 July 1944.
On 9 July 1944, Denver remained with TG 58.1 performing screening duties as the group’s aircraft carriers began daily air strikes against Guam. Denver’s assistance continued on station the next day as she sent up two Kingfishers at 1430 to support the carrier aircraft in a rescue and recovery role if necessary while the strike force attacked Rota Island. The cruiser’s planes returned at 1700. Enemy contacts were not a serious problem for the screening force during this particular operation, though 11 July 1944 saw the formation go to general quarters because of an enemy plane spotted at 0325. The enemy aircraft was reported on bearing 310° at a distance of 15 miles, but Yorktown’s night fighter aircraft intercepted and splashed the enemy plane. Denver secured from general quarters at 0347.
Operations for the next couple of days went smoothly, though a change in the ships on station were in order on 12 July 1944 as Bataan and Cowell left the group at 0717 bound for Pearl Harbor. On 13 July, Denver sent up her Kingfishers once again at 0630 to support the carrier strike forces attacking Guam—recovering her planes at 0915. At 1530, aircraft carrier Cabot (CVL-28) joined the group a few hours before Denver and her consorts sighted Guam at 2334 on bearing 234° at a distance of 32 miles.
Screening and support duties continued for Denver and TG 58.1 for several more days as the carriers attacked Guam. The air assaults on Guam wrapped up by 21 July 1944 as the group completed a fueling exercise, and several of the carriers left for replenishment the next day. On 22 July, at 0615, Yorktown and Hornet left the group bound for Saipan Harbor to resupply with bombs. Adm. Du Bose took command of the group temporarily on board Santa Fe until the two carriers rejoined the group at 1740 and Adm. Clark on Hornet assumed command again.
On 23 July 1944, Denver and her group were steaming for the islands of Yap and Ulithi in the Caroline Islands [Micronesia] for more air strikes. She spent this particular morning engaging in refueling from 0905 to 1030. By morning on 24 July, Denver with TG 58.1 was making a scheduled rendezvous with the remaining elements of Adm. Mitscher’s TF 58. The meeting of the full task force took place at 0600—placing Mitscher in overall command of the group on board aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16).
As the combined formation approached Yap and Ulithi on 25 July 1944, Denver put in a bit of gunnery practice that morning at 1045 until 1108. At 1150, the anti-aircraft call was anything but a drill as two enemy aircraft were closing to within 25 miles of the formation. At 1153, the group’s fighter aircraft splashed one of the enemy planes on bearing 078° at a distance of 10 miles. By 1207, the cruiser was able to stand down from the alert and leave formation along with the rest of TG 58.1 under Adm. Clark’s command on board Hornet for the impending operation against Yap.
Most of 26 July 1944 saw Denver in a support and screen role for the carriers bombing Yap Island. At 1515, she observed two of Mobile’s Kingfishers launch and rescue crew of a downed Yorktown plane near the targeted island. The operation continued into 27 July, though the air strikes were now targeting Yap and Ulithi during the day. On 28 July, with Denver launched two Kingfishers in the afternoon to rescue the pilot of a Hellcat that had landed in the water five-to-ten miles from Yap after being clipped by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.
More shuffling of the group roster was in store on 29 July 1944. The morning began with Bell transferring off several passengers (enlisted, and officers) from Denver at 0820 due for further transfer to Yorktown. There were a few moments of tension in the afternoon as Izard thought it had picked up an enemy sonar contact at 1538 and dropped nearly a dozen depth charges—the contact proving negative. At 1658, Yorktown left TG 58.1 escorted by destroyers McCall (DD-400), Boyd, and Charrette to join TG 58.2. At 1931, Franklin was escorted into TG 58.1 by the same three destroyers.
The cruiser steamed with TG 58.1 for the next couple of days, refueling on 31 July 1944 from 1017 to 1253. She only remained with TG 58.1 for a couple days more into August as the formation steamed for Saipan. By 0646, on 2 August, the cruiser was entering Saipan Harbor and anchored. No sooner was she detached from TG 58.1 then she was underway that evening at 1710 attached to TU 51.18.10 under Adm. Hayler’s command as CruDiv 12’s commanding officer. Denver steamed out of Saipan in the company of escort carrier White Plains (CVE-66), destroyers Bryant (DD-665), Newcomb (DD-586), and Bennion (DD-662) en route to Eniwetok.
Denver exercised her 5-inch batteries briefly en route on 4 August 1944 and pulled into Eniwetok harbor on 5 August at 1505 where she moored to begin refueling—finishing by 1743, and shifting to her anchorage at 1853.
On 6 August 1944, while still at Eniwetok, Denver shifted out of her anchorage once again at 0626 to moor alongside sister ship Montpelier at 0656. Denver took on ammunition, but also Hayler’s command staff and supplies as flagship for CruDiv 12. As of 1630, Hayler transferred his flag from Montpelier to Denver. More ammunition was transferred to Denver via barge from 1420 to 1820 before the cruiser detached from Montpelier at 1830 and anchored once more at her berth at 1848.
Denver stayed at anchor for several days, though was officially reattached to Halsey’s Third Fleet command as of 9 August 1944. On 10 August, at 0550, she was loaded with even more ammunition and received instructions for the upcoming support she would be lending to the amphibious landings in the Palau Islands including Angaur Island.
Still at anchor through 15 August 1944, she transferred off her two Kingfishers to the air base at Eniwetok and replaced them with two Curtiss SOC Seagulls for the upcoming operations. Denver stayed at Eniwetok until late August 1944 when she got underway the morning of 18 August with sister ship Cleveland in company of TU 57.5.5 under Adm. Ainsworth’s command bound for Port Purvis.
The cruiser exercised with the group while steaming en route and pulled into Port Purvis at 1400 on 22 August 1944—anchored by 1652 after refueling. Denver replenished her ammunition again on 23 August, and 26 August.
On 29 August 1944, Denver steamed with TG 32.12 out of Port Purvis for the start of rehearsals ahead of the support operation for the landings at Angaur in the Palau Islands. Angaur, sitting six miles southwest of Pelelieu, would be the stage for one part of Operation Stalemate II.
TG 32.12 was set up as Fire Support Group 1, under the command of Rear Adm. Howard F. Kingman, and was to have two subunits. TU 32.12.1 (Fire Support Unit 1) under Kingman’s direct command operated with battleship Tennessee (BB-43), cruisers Minneapolis (CA-36) and Cleveland, plus destroyers Guest (DD-472) and Halford. TU 32.12.2 (Fire Support Unit 2) under Hayler’s command steamed with battleship California (BB-44), cruisers Denver and Columbia, plus destroyers Fullam (DD-474) and Hudson (DD-175).
The afternoon of 29 August 1944, at 1500, Denver got underway with TG 32.12 minus the battleships. The group steamed southeast of Guadalcanal to prepare for the rehearsal which was to be held on Cape Esperance by TG 32.2. At 2230, the task group split and Denver veered off with TU 32.12.2 as designated. Denver’s unit spent the morning of 30 August performing a rehearsal bombardment of Cape Esperance starting at 0742. The day’s exercise was over by 1445, and the cruiser was back at anchor in Port Purvis at 1645.
Another round of rehearsals was in order for 31 August into 1 September 1944 when the next round of rehearsal bombardment ran from 0750 to 0830. At 1518, Denver and her sister ships in CruDiv 12 joined Ainsworth’s TF 35. The combined group exercised into the next day. As the combined group steamed and exercised through 3 September, they ran a rehearsal bombardment off Rua Sura Island from 1258 to 1456 before turning back towards Florida Island. Denver was back anchored at Port Purvis by 1909 that evening.
Denver got underway at 0927 on 6 September 1944 in overall company of Rear Adm. Jesse B. Oldendorf’s TG 32.5 for the Palau operation.
The formation exercised while en route with drills to avoid enemy air attacks among the training runs. By 10 September 1944, the group was still exercising en route though was refueling during the morning and early afternoon—Denver completing fueling by 1206.
As the group neared the operational area on 11 September 1944, Tennessee had joined the formation by 1631 with Kingman on board. At 2330, TG 32.12 detached from TG 32.5 and steamed independently. Three other ships had joined TG 32.12 at this point—destroyer Bennett (DD-473), and high speed transports Rathburne (APD-25), and George E. Badger (APD-33).
The morning of 12 September 1944 saw Hayler’s TU 32.12.2 leave the main formation at 0330. Denver, Columbia, Hudson, and Fullam steamed to Angaur Island for the first pre-landing assault bombardment run to prepare for the TG 32.2 landings on the islands of Angaur (81st Infantry Division), Peleliu (1st Marine Division), and Ngesebus (5th Marine Regiment)—the landings scheduled for 15 September (17 September for Angaur). At 0552, Denver got into position for the run, and began firing at 0603.
Denver’s bombardment on 12 September 1944 came in from the north and west sides of Angaur—helped in accuracy by spotting from her Seagulls. No return shore bombardment was observed. There were follow up bombardments from 13—16 September 1944, plus a preparatory bombardment for the invasion of Angaur on the morning of 17 September. Each day the scheduled bombardments for the entire group occurred in predetermined time slots from 0600 to 0730, 0730 to 1000, 1000 to 1230, 1230 to 1500, and 1500 to 1745. The day began with TG 32.12 splitting into the predesignated units—Denver in TU 32.12.2. Denver’s group would mainly fire area bombardments during the third (1000 to 1230) and fifth (1500 to 1745) time slots described. This was to permit time for maintenance, care for the crew, and rest. The time slots also reduced the chances of friendly fire among bombardment groups firing on opposite sides of the island; however, Denver did fire on targets of opportunity on the island during the other time slots. The task group rejoined and retired each night with one destroyer left on station to maintain a harassing fire and stop enemy movements to or from the island.
During the bombardment period, on 14 September 1944, Denver along with the other ships on the bombardment runs took time to provide close fire support for the underwater demolition teams (UDTs) on Angaur’s beaches designated Blue and Green, and did so for the UDTs at Red beach on 15 September.
Red and Blue beaches were both neutralized in-depth as were the areas around them thanks to accurate fire control, and aerial spotting. Numerous pillboxes, blockhouses, railroad junctions, buildings, gun emplacements, dugouts, and one lighthouse were hit among other structures—though none seemed occupied.
The pre-landing bombardment on the day of the Angaur landing, 17 September 1944, also occurred without incident as battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38) had joined TG 32.12.2 the previous evening and added her firepower to the run—though the battleship would leave the formation by 2300. The landing proceeded without incident with the first of TG 32.2’s 81st Infantry transports under Rear Adm. William H. P. Blandy unloading their forces at 0834 on Red Beach with no significant opposition—though some inland opposition would develop later.
Denver broke off from the bombardment station on 18 September 1944—though she managed to contribute to eliminating an abandoned locomotive and its cars before pulling out in the afternoon. She steamed off to replenish ammunition 1506 from ammunition ship Sangay (AE-10). At 1834, Denver joined TG 32.12 for the usual retirement for the night. On 19 September, she steamed independently to Peleliu at 0518 and Sangay for additional ammunition replenishment. Denver loaded ammunition from 0609 to 1340, then moored alongside battleship Mississippi (BB-41) for refueling at 1420. She fueled from the battleship starting at 1430, and additionally received gasoline from destroyer seaplane tender Ballard (AVD-10) at 1710. Mississippi steamed away at 1749, and Ballard got underway at 1813. Denver steamed and lay-to in the transport area near Peleliu overnight.
The morning of 20 September 1944 saw Denver maneuver out of the Peleliu transport area for more refueling at 0715 from battleship Maryland (BB-46) until 0852. At 1026, she got underway from Angaur in company with TU 33.19.10. The cruiser was to be re-tasked with for yet another operation against Ulithi.
TU 33.19.10 (Ulithi Fire Support Group) was led by Hayler on board Denver in the company of destroyers Bryant, and Ross (DD-563). The group steaming out of the Angaur area on 20 September 1944 for Ulithi operational area reached Ulithi on the morning of 21 September 1944. Denver began a bombardment run of Asor Island ahead of minesweeping operations and UDTs dispatched from Rathburne (TU 33.19.11) performing reconnaissance on the beach designated Blue. No enemy resistance was encountered on the island during the bombardment, nor later by the UDT completing its work by 1630 on Asor and Falalop Islands. Nevertheless, Denver and TU 33.19.10 had to wait for minesweeping operations by TU 33.13.1 in the nearby lagoon to complete in the area before proceeding with their next orders.
On 22 September 1944, at 0600, Denver entered the lagoon screened by light minelayer Montgomery (DM-17). The cruiser, following a plan codenamed White, brought four Ulithi natives on board by officers of the UDT reconnaissance unit to confer with the TU 33.19.10 commander via interpreters. The natives conveyed that the enemy had evacuated three weeks earlier. Orders were issued for all ships to cease fire, and only open fire again if resistance were encountered—none developed. The remaining reconnaissance parties, including from TU 33.19.9’s high speed transport Sands (APD-13), landed without incident at various points around the atoll--confirming the natives’ report.
As transport, and carrier groups arrived at Ulithi on the morning of 23 September 1944, the assault plan was carried out. The fire support ships, including Denver in company of Bryant and Rathburne, remained on station as of 0648. The ships held their fire but were in the area just in case any resistance developed. With no resistance appearing, and not particularly expected, the landings proceeded rapidly. Denver was able to send crew ashore for recreational activities such as swimming that afternoon and held movie viewings on deck while anchored in Ulithi Lagoon (as of 1606) that night.
Still at anchor on 24 September 1944, Denver took on USMC Maj. Gen. Julian C. Smith and his staff as passengers at 0855 for transportation to the Palau Islands. At 1032, she got underway in the company of Bryant and Ross from TU 33.19.10 to steam out from Ulithi Lagoon bound for Kossol Passage [Kossol Roads, Palau].
Denver and TU 33.19.10 steamed through 25 September 1944 when she reached Kossol Passage at 0651, and moored to tanker Caliente (AO-53) for refueling. At 0845, Maj. Gen. Smith and his fellow passengers disembarked. At 0905, Denver left Caliente to moor with ammunition ship Lassen (AE-3) for ammunition replenishment.
After the cruiser’s servicing, she got underway at 1429 on 25 September 1944 in company of TU 32.19.9 under Oldendorf’s command. The group was bound for the wretchedly hot, and dusty conditions of Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands [Papua New Guinea].
TU 32.19.9 initially was composed of Oldendorf’s aging battleships Maryland, Pennsylvania, Idaho (BB-42), Tennessee, Mississippi, and the cruisers Louisville (the unit flagship for the time being), Minneapolis, Denver, and Columbia. There was also an accompanying destroyer screen made up of Halford, Hudson, Guest, Bennett, Leutze (DD-481), and Bryant.
On 26 September 1944, with the group still en route to Manus, Louisville and Leutze left the formation at 1525 which put Adm. Kingman on board Tennessee in command for the next leg of the voyage. Denver and the group steamed without incident into 28 September, and the cruiser sailed independently (TU 32.19.9 was dissolved) into Seeadler Harbor that afternoon at 1524—moored to commercial tanker Mobilube for refueling at 1613, and taking on fuel from 1631 until she was underway for her berth at 1724. Denver anchored at 1756 and remaining in her berth through the end of September and early October 1944.
Denver refueled once more on 11 October 1944 from 1142 to 1213 from tanker Abarenda (IX-131), and returned to her berth at 1350. By now she was prepared for the impending operation against Leyte, Philippine Islands
The cruiser got underway at 0658 on 12 October 1944 with its newly assigned TG 77.2 en route to Leyte Gulf with the objective to destroy enemy troop concentrations, installations, and facilities on the operational area’s entry islands.
TG 77.2 was part of Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet, but the immediate group was under Adm. Oldendorf’s command on board cruiser Louisville. Additionally, it included the older battleships Mississippi, California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia (BB-48), and Tennessee. Also steaming in company with the group was Denver’s CruDiv 12 sister ship Columbia, plus the cruisers Honolulu (CL-48), Minneapolis, and Portland (CA-33). Oldendorf’s group also contained DesRon 56’s small seaplane tender San Carlos (AVP-51), plus destroyers Claxton, Thorn (DD-647), and Welles (DD-628).
Denver and TG 77.2 spent most of the morning of 12 October 1944 engaging in underway exercises until making a rendezvous with TG 77.4 at 1217 as the group steamed past 01°21.6'S, 146°36.8'E at noon. The two groups steamed together uneventfully through 15 October, passing 07°06.3'N, 131°34.6'E at 2000 that evening.
As the groups closed on the operating station on 16 October 1944, Denver pulled along oiler Saranac (AO-74) at 0733 for refueling until 0905. At 1250, she and sister ship Columbia formed up with DesDiv 112 into TU 78.4.3. Denver and TU 78.4.3 then broke off from the other groups in the area at 1312 and steamed for Suluan Island in the Philippines. Denver’s task unit was a close covering group under Hayler’s command that would cover an attack on Dinagat while Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble had overall command of TG 78.4’s attack group on board destroyer Hughes (DD-410).
TU 78.4.3 was already on approach to the first of its bombardment runs against Suluan Island by the morning of 17 October. Denver’s secondary battery was brought to bear at 0801 on the island’s enemy installations—buildings, pillboxes, beach installations, targets in towns, and other targets of opportunity. Among the targets she claimed that day were her second lighthouse during the barrage from 0802 to 0812. She kept up intermittent fire until 0900 from her 5-inch guns. A typhoon interfered with navigation slightly, but by 1914 TU 78.4.3 was able to reunite with TG 77.2.
The following morning, at 0932 on 18 October 1944, Denver resumed her fire support station for a scheduled bombardment of Leyte Island. She targeted the areas between Catmon Hill and Abuyog. Another round of bombardment was delivered from 1414 to 1737. This time she mixed in fire from both her 5-inch and 6-inch batteries. Denver spent some time standing by for on-call fire duty but was not summoned to do so before she retired for the night with TG 77.2 at 1949. For now, this followed the pattern of previous bombardments where one or more ships were left overnight on station to maintain a harassing fire and intercept enemy movements. For 19 October the bombardments were much the same lasting from 0826 until 1050, and from 1322 to 1553. The bombardments went on schedule and unanswered through 20 October.
On 20 October 1944, the day of the major landings at Leyte, Denver was on station at 0556 for the scheduled pre-landing bombardment of Leyte. At 0623, an attack variant Mitsubishi Ki-46 Dinah made a low altitude (2,500-ft.) bomb run on Denver. The cruiser responded with anti-aircraft fire as the plane bore on her from 030° at 4,000 yards, but the Dinah descended to 1,500 feet and managed to drop two bombs in the sea approximately 200 yards off the ship’s starboard bow before escaping north. At 0626, Denver resumed independent maneuvers and commenced the bombardment until 1300, and again from 1524 to 1717. More air attacks were in store for the group, and Denver began laying down smoke screens from 1815 to 1907 while engaging in evasive maneuvering. The cruiser put in another round of bombardments against Leyte that evening at 1915 and was forced to repel yet another enemy airplane at 1922. She laid down another smoke screen from 1930 to 2000—finishing the bombardment round by 2048. The cruiser lay down another smoke screen from 2143 to 2225 and remained on station for on-call fire overnight from 2125 until 0540.
Denver lay-to off Leyte with TG 77.2 while still on fire support duty for most of 21 October 1944. She had to deal with another enemy air contact this evening. A Val was spotted on bearing 270° at a range of approximately 7,000 yards and altitude of 4,500 feet when Denver opened fire and drove it off. However, at 2210, Denver and sister ship Columbia steamed to join TU 77.2.2—making the rendezvous at 2357 with Oldendorf’s unit composed of Louisville, Portland, Minneapolis, and DesRon 56.
Denver put in another round of bombardment on 22 October 1944 from 0745 to 1550. At 1840 another Val was picked up on radar on bearing 160° at 6,000 yards and only an altitude of 400 feet when Denver commenced fire as it closed to 3,000 yards—striking the plane which caught on fire and crashed onto land. The cruiser was on station for bombardment on 23 October from 0701 to 0730 and 1225 to 1300.
The next two days were going to be well beyond routine. The morning of 24 October 1944, at 0822, Denver was approached by a Val at 7,200 yards at an altitude of 450 feet when opening fire on her bearing 006°. The plane never approached closer. She got in one last round of bombardment of Leyte on 24 October from 1320 to 1500, but another Val was spotted at 1708 on bearing 270° at a range of 6,000 yards at an altitude of 300 feet when Denver opened fire. The Val closed to within 5,400 yards but was driven off.
Once Denver rejoined TG 77.2, instead of merely retiring for the night, the group steamed in earnest for Surigao Strait to intercept a Japanese surface fleet. Originally, the intelligence Denver had on hand for what would become the Battle of Surigao Strait informed Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet that the enemy had two battleships, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and ten destroyers under Vice Adm. Shoji Nishimura’s “southern force.” Kinkaid’s intelligence informed Oldendorf that Nishimura would try to pass through Leyte Gulf via Surigao Strait to interfere with the landings. Kinkaid ordered Oldendorf’s group to patrol the north entrance, and this included assigning Hayler’s cruisers Denver and Columbia as part of the group’s overall left flank. Initial point for the attack was at 10°34'N, 125°19'E.
Oldendorf’s TG 77.2 steamed into the Surigao Strait as ordered on the evening of 24 October 1944 at 2330 following sightings from submarines and aircraft the prior day showing the enemy concentrations in the Mindoro, Philippine Islands area. From 0025 to 0042, on 25 October, motor torpedo boat PT-127 sent in reports that she made contact with the enemy at the southern entrance of the strait between Camiguan and Bohol Islands earlier—at 2310. This was followed at 0050 by destroyer McGowan (DD-678) reporting another surface contact on bearing 188° at 7 miles distance.
Two columns of enemy ships approximately four miles ahead of the other steamed north through Surigao. At 0139, infantry landing craft (gunboat) LCI(G)-70 reported a surface contact 18 miles from Taancan Point (on the southern end of Leyte). While Denver and her formation were maneuvering, at 0200, motor torpedo boat PT-134) reported an additional enemy surface contact steaming north in the strait abeam of the south tip of Panoan Island. At 0205, PT-134 reported that she had fired torpedoes at the target without a result.
Three of the group destroyers steamed down the channel on bearing 180°, positioned 16,000 yards away at 0237. McGowan reported in again at 0240—this time that it had picked up at least three of the enemy contacts in column formation on bearing 184° at a distance of 18 miles. The destroyer revised this five minutes later to 180° and 15 miles. At 0247, Denver’s own radar picked three enemy surface contacts up on the 180° bearing just at extreme range—55,000 yards. Two spotters reported gun flashes, star shells, flares, and searchlights on the same line.
At 0300, Denver’s radar continued to track the targets via her combat information center (CIC) in column formation. Hayler’s left flank cruisers were maneuvering again at 0301, and at 0303, got into firing position with the rest of Oldendorf’s group. The enemy targets were evasively maneuvering as well, but at 0311, friendly destroyers began engaging the enemy closer with gunfire. Denver’s plotting room reported an explosion underwater at 0317 along with a ship on fire off to the west farther away. At 0331, the entire battle line was ordered to fire at a range of 26,000 yards. By 0347, it was apparent this enemy target was one of the battleships—Yamashiro. With Yamashiro closing to 15,500 yards, more ships were brought to bear fire on it including Denver at 0350 when firing actually began. The enemy ship was seen to observably slow, and suffer an explosion by 0352. At 0358, a target was observed from astern of the earlier target. With the earlier target dead in the water at 0400 and on fire, Denver’s main battery shifted targets at 0404 to the next enemy ship bearing 165° at range 8,000 yards.
At 0408, Denver’s main battery ceased fire per orders on TBS, and word came in that one of the group’s destroyers was taking fire. At 0418, the first target fired upon was off the radar screen and even the spotters could no longer see it. They could still see two fires east and west of the second target. At 0425, the cruiser received orders to resume fire when she had a firing solution on enemy targets. By 0427, destroyer Albert W. Grant (DD-649) reported that she was dead in the water.
Denver was still tracking three enemy targets on bearing 190° at a distance of 12 miles at 0433. Two other enemy targets were just on the edge of and heading out of range until 0500. She formed up behind Louisville at 0440, following the rest of the left flank to a new target on bearing 177° at 17 miles distance at 0447. By 0454 it was apparent the new target was already on fire with more enemy ships burning to its west, and a third enemy ship with no damage to its east.
At 0506, another enemy was detected on bearing 280° at 35 miles distance—the formation maneuvering in column formation once more. At 0531, Denver brought her main battery to bear on the target bearing 190° at a range of 20,000 yards and opened fire. This was probably one of the heavy cruisers—Mogami. Radar range was too great for good spotting, but other ships were converging fire on the same target. An enemy light cruiser or enemy destroyer bearing 5° to the left was also under concentrated fire—entirely ablaze by 0534. The damaged Mogami escaped south, but was sunk later by friendly aircraft. Meanwhile, at 0533 spotters reported a closing contact at 13,000 yards as Denver’s main batteries ceased fire at 0538.
The cruisers changed formation from column to circular at 0554, and the destroyers formed a circular screen farther out. At 0640 Oldendorf ordered Denver, and Columbia to finish off crippled enemy ships while screened by destroyers Robinson (DD-562), Bryant, and Halford.
Denver and the rest of the left flank of ships steamed down the channel to finish off crippled enemy ships as ordered—delivering some of the final sinking blows to enemy destroyer Asagumo at 0750 at 10°04'N, 125°21'E. Asagumo had previously lost her bow to a torpedo from destroyer McDermut (DD-677). Denver’s entire unit fired at the hapless enemy destroyer at the same time when she was sunk at 0718 and the cruiser ceased fire.
At 0733, Denver broke off the local engagement when she received word the escort carrier unit of the group was engaged to the east of Leyte Gulf by a large enemy task force. She steamed north to assist; however, the cruiser was running low on ammunition by the end of the engagement—as were many others including sister ship Columbia.
Capt. Bledsoe, in his after action report on Surigao Strait, remarked:
Light cruisers, especially the 6" turrets, are notoriously “ammunition hungry.” Loading a ship for a joint bombardment and surface action might be compared to harnessing a horse for a plowing job with the expectation that at any second he would be expected to stop plowing and with the same trappings enter the Kentucky Derby.
Bledsoe received the Navy Cross for his performance during the Battle of Surigao Strait. Cmdr. Joseph A. Copple, Cmdr. Peter K. Wells, Cmdr. Earl S. Patterson, Lt. Stanley D. Cornish, Jr., Lt. Harry M. Brinser, received letters of commendation.
On board Denver, beyond minor trouble with her turrets after so many firings, there was no appreciable damage and she suffered no casualties. Denver and Columbia were detached from TG 77.2 on the late morning of 25 October 1944 so they could steam for a replenishment run at a logistics depot. Denver steamed with her sister ship at 1115, and the air was still buzzing with enemy aircraft. Denver pulled alongside U.S. freighter Durham Victory at 1424 for ammunition replenishment. She got underway at 1627 en route to rejoin TG 77.2, on station by 1734 and in formation by 2025.
Through 26 October 1944, enemy aircraft harassment was a problem. Denver, steaming with TG 77.2, was in an anti-aircraft formation as of 0539. At 0742, Denver and Columbia once more left formation jointly. The sister ships rendezvoused with oiler Saranac—Denver refueling from the tanker at 1126 until underway again at 1306 to rejoin TG 77.2 That evening, the cruiser observed enemy aircraft being splashed at 1840 and 1859. Oldendorf ordered the group back into the anti-aircraft formation at 1922—composed of Louisville, Denver, Columbia, Portland, Minneapolis, and the screening destroyers. At 1956, Denver took shots at an enemy plane at 9,000 yards at 9,400 feet on bearing 056° with her 5-inch gun.
On 27 October 1944, Denver resumed the cruiser anti-aircraft screen as before. At 0655, Columbia detached for independent duty as did Louisville at 0818. Columbia rejoined the formation at 1410. At 1820, Denver observed battleship California splash an enemy plane. For the evening, at 1845, Denver and the cruisers for an anti-aircraft group following Rear Adm. George R. Weyler’s command on board battleship Mississippi.
The next day was a difficult one for the group including Denver. At 0620 on 28 October 1944, while Denver was still steaming with TG 77.2 at 10°57'N, 125°02'E, a single Val pushed over into a suicide dive at Denver, which opened fire with her 5-inch, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter guns while it was at 11,000 yards off at 12,200 feet bearing 40°. Denver’s fire struck the plane, causing it to catch fire, but it persisted in maneuvering. The Val barely missed the cruiser’s superstructure with a 30° dive and hit the water 50 yards to the starboard of turret number IV. However, the Val had still managed to release a bomb at 0622 at 200 feet before it hit the water and the exploding ordnance damaged the ship—only jarring the cruiser a little, but sending up a cloud of black smoke.
Denver took on a list to starboard increasing from 1.5° to 3° until damage control parties contained flooding between frames 106 and 113. They righted the ship by 0725. Electrical connections to the flooded areas were secured, and fire hoses were prepared just in case. There were no casualties among the crew. At 0810, Denver steamed out of formation for Durham Victory—moored at 0840. Evaluation of her hull damage was made while she engaged in ammunition replenishment. At 1144 Denver got back underway and rejoined TG 77.2 at 1748—now under command of Rear Adm. Theodore D. Ruddock on board Maryland.
The following morning, at 0709, Oldendorf and Louisville rejoined the formation with Oldendorf assuming command of TG 77.2 again. Denver was given orders to maneuver at her discretion at 0813 so divers could repair the damage to her hull while underway. Repairs were completed at 1130, and at 1510 she rejoined the formation. TG 77.2 steamed out of Leyte Gulf bound for Manus Island, joined en route by TG 77.4 at 1025 on 30 October 1944.
On 31 October 1944, Louisville left the formation at 1140 along with several of the other cruisers, screening destroyers, and battleships. Ruddock assumed command of the remaining group ships while Denver followed them to Manus.
The cruiser continued steaming with what was left of TG 77.2 for Manus as 1 November 1944 dawned. Ruddock, commanding the group from West Virginia, led Maryland, Denver, Columbia, Aulick, Cony, destroyers Sigourney (DD-643), and Macdonough (DD-351) back to Seeadler Harbor along with the escort carrier element of TG 77.2, and TG 77.4. At 0425 on 3 November, TG 77.4 left the formation for independent steaming. At 0808, the group entered Seeadler Harbor with Denver at anchor in her berth by 0846.
Denver remained at Manus while she stocked up on ammunition over the next several days. She shifted berths on 6 November 1944 at 0635 to pull alongside repair ship Medusa at 0658. Medusa’s adept engineers intentionally listed the cruiser 14° to port to fix the starboard side damage. Any other lingering issues from her near miss with the Val bomb from the end of October were sorted out, and she received ammunition transfers from cruiser Honolulu via landing craft. Honolulu finished the work by 8 November, and then ammunition ship Mount Hood (AE-11) sent more ammunition to Denver also via landing craft on 8 November.
Fortunately for Denver, she was not in the vicinity of the ill-fated Mount Hood when the latter accidentally exploded with her 3,000 tons of explosives on board two days later in a massive blast on 10 November 1944 that devastated at least 36 other ships nearby—along with killing her entire on board crew plus dozens of others. The blast was responsible for 45 deaths, 327 missing, and 371 injured. The impact of Mount Hood’s explosion left a trough in Seeadler Harbor’s floor longer than a football field, 50 feet wide, and at least 30 feet deep. Fragments from the ship landed more than 2,000 yards from where the main wreck of Mount Hood came to rest, but no fragment of the ship found was larger than 16 feet by 10 feet.
As for the “ammunition hungry” Denver, she spent 9 to 10 November 1944 filling her ammunition stores from the Naval Ammunition Depot at Manus via landing craft. On 11 November, she replenished her oil from fuel oil barge YO-77 at 1050 until 1210. She left Medusa at 0625 on 12 November and moored to oiler Cacapon (AO-52) in another berth at 0710 for refueling. Denver was still receiving more ammunition replenishment from the Manus Naval Ammunition Depot via landing craft at this time. At 1003, all the cruiser’s replenishment was finished, and she got underway from Cacapon before joining TU 77.2.1 later that afternoon at 1605.
She steamed out of Seeadler Harbor at 1605 on 12 November 1944 with the new task unit on Kinkaid’s orders—in the company of Cony, and Sigourney (replacing Aulick). The group was bound for Leyte to help screen additional landings.
Denver’s small group squeezed in night exercises while steaming in the evening. The cruiser and her escorts continued to drill as they sailed to their station and sighted more of the reunited TG 77.2 at 0820 on 15 November 1944—the TU 77.2.1 elements joining formation by 1517 that afternoon. Once TG 77.2 was reformed, Rear Adm. Ruddock on Maryland led them onward to Leyte Gulf.
At this point, TG 77.2 included Ruddock’s battleship Maryland along with three cruisers—St. Louis (CL-49), Denver, and Columbia. The group also had several screening destroyers to include Cony, Sigourney, McCord, Taylor (DD-468), Macdonough, Lang (DD-399), Nicholas, Hazelwood, and Trathen.
Denver and TG 77.2 steamed into Leyte Gulf by 0921 on 16 November 1944, and relieved TG 77.1 of their duty station upon sighting them at 1040. TG 77.2 transferred mail, and passengers to TG 77.1 prior to their departure out of Leyte Gulf. At 1741, Denver took her screening station in formation with TG 77.2. By that evening, battleships Pennsylvania and California had joined the formation. Destroyers Newcomb, Heywood L. Edwards (DD-663), Leutze, and Jenkins also were on station.
TG 77.2 including Denver spent 16 and 17 November 1944 steaming within Leyte Gulf on screening duties—joined by cruiser Minneapolis at 1630 on 17 November. Denver’s screening duties stretched into 19 November before she refueled on 20 November.
On 20 November 1944, Denver took fuel at 1353 from tanker Caribou (IX-114) until 1546—once more underway. Battleship Colorado joined the formation shortly thereafter to relieve California—the group later passing 10°40.4'N, 125°27.3'E by 2000. The following day saw several other changes to TG 77.2’s destroyer screen. Renshaw, Mugford (DD-389), Saufley, and Australian destroyer Warramunga (I.44) had come on station.
The rearranged TG 77.2 maintained their station and screening in Leyte Gulf through 23 November 1944 without incident, but the next several days were to see an increase in enemy aerial harassment. The start of 24 November saw Denver engaged in a fueling exercise that had started in the morning at 0825 and lasted until 1600 as she circled Caribou clockwise while the rest of the formation refueled. At 1923, she opened fire with her 5-inch mount against a single enemy plane, possibly a Nakajima B5N Kate carrier attack plane. Denver fired as the pane reached 10,500 yards at an altitude of 200 feet on bearing 240°. Ultimately, the enemy aircraft turned about and never approached again.
The following two days were relatively uneventful in regards to screening action in Leyte Gulf. On 25 November 1944, at 0855, Pennsylvania, Heywood L. Edwards, and Warramunga left the formation. At 0945, destroyer Carmick (DD-493) joined the group. By 1230, TG 77.2 was meeting several other ships for relief. Among the ships joining the screening group were battleship New Mexico (BB-40), Denver’s sister ship Montpelier, and several destroyers—Waller, Pringle, Reid (DD-369), and Conway. Ruddock retained command for the moment on board Maryland; however, Hayler assumed temporary tactical command on board Denver on 26 November at 0801 while the group remained on station. Ruddock resumed tactical command of TG 77.2 on board Maryland at 0705 on 27 November.
Unfortunately, 27 November 1944 was going to be a far more intense day for Denver than dealing with administrative changes. At 0845, the cruiser began another circling pattern around Caribou while the group was refueling. At 1125, a surprise attack by a Japanese aircraft allowed for it to drop a bomb 200 yards off Denver’s starboard quarter. Though it was not a direct hit, the exploding bomb fragments wounded four crewmen—not seriously. This close call precipitated a nerve-wracking hour of kamikaze (“divine wind”) suicide attacks by Japanese aircraft from 1136 until 1247.
The attacking enemy aircraft appeared to be a count of at least 20 mixed group of Zekes, Kates, Nakajima B6N Tenzan [Jill], Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien [Tony], and possibly Yokosuka D4Y Judys. One enemy bomber crashed into the middle of the formation after being shot down by friendly air cover. The formation had already started dynamic course changes at 1127, and opened fire at 1136 on a Judy dive bomber attacking St. Louis. One Judy crashed on the aft main deck of St. Louis, and another crashed in the sea off her port side.
CruDiv 12 did not have to wait long for its turn to steam through a gauntlet of suicidal plane attacks. At 1136, Denver’s sister ship Columbia was forced to maneuver to avoid being hit, and return fire on the planes. At 1140, three Judys making attack runs on Columbia’s port side were splashed by the cruiser’s anti-aircraft fire. At 1142, a Judy crashed into battleship Colorado high amidships with a second dive bomber attempting to crash but missing into the sea. At 1144, a Judy on an attack run against Montpelier was shot down by her—one of four to make an attempt on the cruiser. One of the planes splashed by Montpelier had part of her wreckage tumble into her aft number four twin 5-inch mount—spewing parts over the deck, and injuring crewmen. Montpelier’s gun was still functional. Denver began firing at 1150 with her 5-inch, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter guns when the first planes reached 3,000 yards at around 4,000 feet in altitude on bearing 220°—assisting in splashing at least one.
At 1220, Minneapolis shot down a Kate after its torpedo had launched. All firing ceased for the moment as the formation ships steered to avoid the torpedo. All firing ceased for Denver by 1247. At 1341, the fueling exercise that had started in the morning was resumed without Denver taking her turn.
TG 77.2 got a reprieve from attacks on 28 November during the screening operations for the day. At 0951, Denver took on a wounded man from the escort patrol vessel PCE-851. At 1510, Hayler assumed command of the group once more. However, 29 November was another day of torment by suicidal enemy aircraft.
As TG 77.2 steamed in Leyte Gulf on screening duties on 29 November, Hayler remained in command of the group on board Denver. At 0925, Denver ran a defensive clockwise pattern this time around Colorado and St. Louis in the middle of transferring supplies and ammunition to destroyers preparing to steam out of Leyte Gulf. At 0953, cruiser Portland joined the group. The day seemed to be going routinely until the mid-afternoon.
At 1620, Denver opened fire with her 5-inch, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter guns on a Judy when it closed to 8,500 yards at 8,500 feet in altitude on bearing 310°. The Judy was splashed. Colorado, St. Louis, Mustin (DD-413), Taylor, Sigourney, and Eaton left the group for Manus at 1727. At 1813, another enemy aircraft overflew the group. The formation opened fire on the enemy plane, but it managed to suicide dive into battleship Maryland. The battleship was hit in her bow in between her number one and number two turrets—causing a fire on her forecastle.
At 1925, DesRon 22 including Waller, Renshaw, Conner (DD-582), and Cony left the group. DesRon 60 made up of Moale (DD-693), Cooper (DD-695), O’Brien (DD-725), Laffey (DD-724), Walke (DD-723), and Barton (DD-722) joined the group shortly afterwards—Denver and the group passing 10°54.0'N, 125°20.0'E by 2000.
The following day proved quieter apart from ships moving in and out of formation. TG 77.2 was still on station engaged in screening operations during 30 November 1944. At 1005, Denver maneuvered to Caribou and moored alongside at 1033 while cruiser Phoenix (CL-46) joined the formation and steamed clockwise around. Rear Adm. Ruddock assumed command of the group at 1632 on board West Virginia. At 1745, Colorado, Eaton, and Sigourney rejoined the formation.
Early December 1944 saw continued screening duties in Leyte Gulf for TG 77.2. Ruddock remained in command of the group on board West Virginia, and destroyer Bennion had also joined the screen. For CruDiv 12, on 1 December 1944, a more significant change was afoot as Rear Adm. Ralph S. Riggs came on board Denver at 1415 to relieve Hayler as commander of CruDiv 12. This was followed by TBS reports of sonar contacts at 1732, so the group moved to steam out of Leyte Gulf—doing so by 2130.
The next day, on 2 December 1944, cruisers Nashville and Boise (CL-47) arrived at 0329 to augment the strength of TG 77.2. Destroyers Bryant, Bush (DD-529), Robinson (DD-562), Newcomb, and Halford also came on station shortly before the group reentered Leyte Gulf at 0553. Hayler, now relieved of his duties as CruDiv 12’s commander, was transferred to Maryland at 0900 with intentions to travel to the U.S. Maryland left the formation escorted by a couple of destroyers. At 1073, Pringle rejoined the group. After a few more hours on station, at 1732, TG 77.2 elements began maneuvers to leave station. West Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Minneapolis, Denver, Montpelier, Columbia, and DesRon 22 steamed out of Leyte Gulf at 1915 bound for Kossol Passage on Kinkaid’s orders.
TG 77.2, still steaming for Kossol Passage on 3 December 1944, had Riggs placed in command of the overall group while on board Denver. Still en route on 4 December, an odd incident in the early morning involved group destroyer Sigourney reporting an unidentified tug spotted dead in the water at 0317 with no signs of life on board. The destroyer fired a few shots across the tug’s bow, boarded her on Riggs’ orders, and found nothing. By 1517, TG 77.2 entered Kossol Passage with Denver making her anchorage at 1721 after refueling.
The cruiser waited in the Kossol Passage for several days but prepared for another major covering operation in the Philippines—this time supporting the landings at Mindoro. She got underway at 1205 on 10 December 1944 as part of TG 77.12.
TG 77.12, the heavy covering group for the Mindoro operation, was ostensibly to be led by Ruddock on board West Virginia. However, Rear Adm. Felix Stump leading Carrier Division Twenty-Four (CarDiv 24) on board escort carrier Natoma Bay (CVE-62) was to assume command when major flight operations were underway.
The remainder of TG 77.12 included Denver’s CruDiv 12’s sister ships Columbia, and Montpelier. Cruiser Minneapolis was also in the group. Battleships Colorado, and New Mexico were retained from the Leyte Gulf operation. In addition to Stump’s carrier, escort carriers Manila Bay (CVE-61), Marcus Island (CVE-77), Kadashan Bay (CVE-76), and Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) were to carry out flight operations. The destroyer screen initially was composed of Waller, Renshaw, Conway, Cony, Eaton, Conner, Sigourney, Bennion, Remey (DD-688), Mertz (DD-691), McDermut, Haraden (DD-585), Patterson (DD-392), Twiggs, Stembel (DD-644), Ralph Talbot, Braine (DD-630), and Robinson.
The group steamed without incident for the most part while heading for the operational station. On 12 December 1944, Denver had steamed through the morning quietly before experiencing an all too familiar loss of steering control at 1313—apparently a shunt coil had burned out. Her aft station took up steering control until 1328 when normal steering was restored.
TG 77.12 steamed on through 13 December 1944 when Minneapolis left the formation at 0005. Throughout 13 December, Denver and TG 77.12 defended against a concentrated kamikaze attack from a squadron of Bettys, Vals, and Mitsubishi Ki-21 Sallys. By 1717, the enemy planes harassment had dogged the group all day but this time one Val struck Nashville as she was protecting a Mindoro attack convoy—hitting the cruiser port side aft of Adm. Struble’s cabin. The impact also set off both of the Val’s bombs—crippling the cruiser with fires, blowing sailors overboard, and damaging multiple compartments. Stanly steamed up to the badly out of control cruiser to assist. Sister ship Columbia opened fire on a cluster of Sallys spotted off her starboard bow at 1718 that were diving on the group—splashing one. West Virginia splashed another enemy plane. While friendly fighters circled overhead, one kamikaze plane broke from the enemy group and roared in at low altitude for destroyer Haraden which was screening 1,000 yards ahead of Columbia—striking the tin can just aft of her bridge and obscuring her from view briefly in a cloud of smoke and flame. The terrifying attack was over by 1720. Haraden was now missing her forward stack, and her starboard whaleboat was on fire while dangling over the side. The pilots from the escort carriers reported another ten enemy planes splashed, with another seven probable downed.
Denver and company were closing in on the Sulu Sea by 14 December 1944 mostly without incident but put up with a couple of general quarters alerts in preparation to repel air attacks. Both attacks—at 1028, and 1736—were intercepted by the group’s CAP and repelled before ever reaching the formation. The only other incident during the day was at 1257 when one of the escort carrier fighter planes crashed near Denver’s starboard quarter—the pilot was rescued by Conway.
On 15 December 1944, Denver and TG 77.12 were steaming in the Sulu Sea. At 0535, she observed enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft fire off her port beam—going to general quarters. It was going to be another rough morning of kamikaze attacks for the formation. Denver first opened fire on enemy aircraft at 0724 for what was going to be three hours of radical maneuvering and avoiding enemy planes attempting deadly plunges into the group. The cruiser saw multiple crashes fail at 0947. She opened fire again from 0944 to 0948 until the last of the attacking aircraft were observed to be down.
The invasion by army troops at San José on Mindoro’s southern tip was done without significant opposition on 15 December 1944—a postponement of 10 days due to delays in air cover development on Leyte. The army units, designated the Western Visayan Task Force, were combinations of the 24th Infantry Division and 503rd Parachute Regiment under command of Brig. Gen. William C. Dunckel. In part, the objective was for the base achieved here to provide air cover 90 miles from Manila, Philippine Islands. The air was filled with attacks from Judys and Bettys.
Denver and her formation combined to shoot down one enemy aircraft at 0812. Two kamikazes made runs on escort carrier Marcus Island, and were shot at by sister ship Columbia and missed their intended target—crashing into the sea. More enemy air squadrons closed in at 0907, and the CAP did not intercept them all. The escort carriers sent up more fighters to augment the CAP, but at 0943 five more enemy bombers pounced on TG 77.12. One of the new enemy contacts flew towards the starboard side of the group, and Columbia perforated the Japanese plane from tail to cockpit. The enemy plane caught on fire, and exploded. Columbia steamed to port, and opened fire on another enemy bomber looming off her port quarter—splashing it too. By 1045, word came in that the landings on Mindoro were successful—releasing TG 77.12 to steam on a retirement course out of the area per Kinkaid’s orders. The group counted 15 enemy planes splashed for the day. Denver and her cohort returned to the Sulu Sea operational area for the night to resume support operations for the landings on Mindoro.
TG 77.12 was given some relief from their support duties beginning on 16 December 1944 per Kinkaid’s orders at 1800 for the group to steam for Kossol Passage. Denver and company left Leyte Gulf at 1617 on 17 December, stopped for fuel at 0815 on 18 December, and pulled into Kossol Passage at 1135 on 19 December. She finished fueling, and anchored in her berth at 1803.
The respite was brief, and TG 77.12 was ordered to steam back out on 20 December 1944—Denver underway at 1207 bound for Seeadler Harbor. The cruiser and her group steamed without incident for Manus, and she even got in some underway gunnery exercising on 22 December. The group entered Seeadler Harbor on the morning of 23 December, and Denver was anchored in her berth by 0830. She moored to tanker Abarenda at 0941 until 1129 for refueling before anchoring again.
Denver spent several days idling at anchor, but from 27—28 December 1944 she was replenishing ammunition from the Naval Ammunition Depot at Manus. She remained berthed until 30 December when she was ordered by Kinkaid to join TG 77.3. The cruiser got underway at 0640 bound for Leyte Gulf to help cover the landing operations for Lingayen Gulf. She steamed out of Manus in company with sister ship Montpelier, plus destroyers Claxton, and Smith (DD-378). Riggs assumed command of the group on board Denver while they sortied out of Manus at 0700 and began underway exercises.
The ship and her group continued to exercise en route to Leyte Gulf on 31 December 1944. With the New Year upon TG 77.3, Denver continued en route to Leyte Gulf through 3 January 1945. She moored to Caribou for fuel within San Pedro Bay at 1010 until 1307, and then anchored in the bay at 1346.
The following afternoon, Denver got underway at 1618 on 4 January 1945 with TG 77.3 under Rear Adm. Russell S. Berkey. The group steamed into Surigao Strait by 2000 that evening. Denver and company were entering the Mindanao Sea at 2300.
The morning of 5 January 1945 saw TG 77.3 on alert as usual. The afternoon was a bit more tense for Denver at 1513 as another cruiser in the task group, Phoenix, sighted a pair of torpedoes passing ahead of her from an enemy midget submarine—one of two. The enemy submarine breached after firing, and both torpedoes missed. Destroyer Taylor pursued the submarine with gunfire, depth charges, and reported ramming the enemy submarine—sinking it, but the other submarine escaped. TG 77.3 entered the Sulu Sea at 1700 without further incident, and crossed 08°55'N, 122°36'E by 2000.
The next few days saw an increase in enemy aerial activity. On 6 January 1945, enemy aircraft swung in and out of range all day. At 0035 enemy aerial contacts closed in from the northeast, but no attack was mounted, and they never approached closer to the formation than 13 miles. At 0436, more enemy aerial contacts closed from the northwest on bearing 320° at a distance of 17 miles, but no closer. The next day was a bit rougher.
On 7 January 1945, at 0642, Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick dropped two bombs approximately 1,000 yards off Denver’s starboard beam—the plane evading radar and visual spotting before anti-aircraft fire could be brought to bear on it. The enemy aircraft escaped towards Luzon. Several other enemy aircraft were spotted until 0720, but no attacks occurred. Denver and the formation steamed into the South China Sea at 1300. The evening brought more enemy aerial contacts into range. At 1744, enemy air contacts appeared on radar to the formation’s northwest. Denver opened fire on a Nakajima Ki-44 Shōki [Tojo] at a range of 10,000 yards on bearing 060° at an altitude of 3,400 feet at 1815. The Tojo attempted a suicide dive on Phoenix, but the group’s combined fire splashed the kamikaze at 1817. Enemy air contacts remained in the area until 1955, but no additional attacks occurred that evening.
The next day saw TG 77.3 in the middle of several frenetic aerial assaults as it was harassed by more aerial threats the entire day of 8 January 1945. Denver spotted a group of enemy aircraft on radar at 0240 off to the northwest spread between 15 and 20 miles in range. At 0258, the enemy planes started closing on bearing 325° from range 11 miles. By 0300 the enemy aircraft had closed to 6,000 yards and Denver opened fire as they shifted to bearing 320° and 900 feet altitude. Denver’s salvos lasted until 0302 for this first group. More enemy aircraft closed on the group at 0324 on Denver’s bearing from 300° at a range of 12 miles. The cruiser opened fire at 0325 until 0327 as the next group closed to within 6,700 yards on bearing 290° at an altitude of 3,600 feet.
At 0805, an enemy twin-engine Yokosuka P1Y [Ginga] Frances began an attack run on the group from the west at low altitude. Denver blasted away at the Frances at 0807 with her 5-inch, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter guns as it closed to 11,000 yards on bearing 228° at an altitude of 2,800 feet. The bomber began fish-tailing on approach and seemed intent on making a suicide run on Denver. The cruiser pounded the threatening kamikaze with anti-aircraft fire until the Frances finally went down at 0810.
The nightmarish day was far from over. By evening, yet another squadron of enemy aircraft were in the vicinity of TG 77.3. From 1810 to 1817, the group’s CAP splashed four Vals near the location of TG 78 at 10 miles distant on bearing 100°. More enemy aircraft were spotted to the south and southwest of TG 77.3 between 1828 and 1855. At 1856, a Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa [Oscar] was making a kamikaze run on escort carrier Kitkun Bay (CVE-71). Denver opened fire on the plunging enemy plane when it reached a range of 14,400 yards on the cruiser’s bearing 025° at an altitude of 1,000 feet. She was forced to hold fire to avoid hitting friendly ships at 1858, and the kamikaze hit the carrier at 1859.
The Oscar crashed through the carrier’s port side at the waterline amidships. An explosion, and fire flared up simultaneously around the Oscar’s impact point with a hit by a 5-inch round from a friendly ship which burst near the carrier’s bow below a gun mount, killing and wounding several men—the attack killed 16 men, and wounded 37. The Oscar tore a hole in the ship’s side approximately 20 feet long and nine feet high between frames 113 and 121, extending three feet below the waterline.
Enemy planes continued hounding the group from 1900 to 2000 with Denver observing the group’s anti-aircraft fire splashing one at 1904. At 2100, Marcus Island, Kadashan Bay, Richard M. Rowell (DE-403), and Bull (DE-693) closed formation with Denver’s group.
The frayed nerves of TG 77.3 did not have much time to relax as 9 January 1945 dawned. At 0145, escort carrier Shamrock Bay (CVE-84) closed formation. Denver and the group went on alert at 0438 as enemy aircraft were spotted to the southwest. These appeared to be enemy reconnaissance aircraft, and no attacks immediately developed from them. The calm lasted into the evening as Shamrock Bay left the formation escorted by Howard F. Clark (DE-533) and Edmonds (DE-406) at 1945.
The following day did not pass without the enemy’s remark. The morning of 10 January 1945 came and went easily enough. At 0935 TG 77.4.5 joined TG 77.3 in a combined group. That evening an enemy aerial attack materialized from south of the combined group at 1834. Denver opened fire on a Tojo at 1835 when it closed to 11,000 yards on bearing 180° at an altitude of 15,000 feet. The Tojo dropped a pair of bombs that hit the water astern of escort carrier Saginaw Bay (CVE-82)—the plane escaping westward with violent evasive maneuvering. Denver ceased fire at 1840, but enemy aerial contacts were still on radar to the east and southeast—none approaching closer than 10 miles to the group.
Direct aerial attacks seemed to abate for the next few days, but the task group was quick to get to alert status for any perceived threat. On 11 January 1945, Denver and the group went on alert at 0813 with enemy aircraft in the area, but Denver only sighted one enemy twin engine plane at 30,000 feet on bearing 110° at 20,000 yards. The enemy reconnaissance plane eventually retired southeast. The next day was much the same. On 12 January, Denver had another twin-engine enemy plane spotted on bearing 165°—though the plane did not trip the ship’s radar detectors when visually picked up at 1423. The plane did not attack, and left in a southeasterly direction. The evening saw many more enemy aerial contacts on radar to the group’s east, prompting Denver and her group to go to alert status at 1830, but none of the contacts closed for an attack.
The next several days for Denver and her group were free of enemy contacts as the ships continued their on-station support through 18 January. At 1910, some elements in TU 77.31 left the formation bound for Mindoro.
Denver stayed on station for another full day, then joined TU 77.3.2 in separating from TG 77.4.2 in steaming for a replenishment stop in Mangarin Bay at Mindoro at 0153 on 20 January 1945. She made it to Mindoro and moored to tanker Pecos (AO-65) in Mangarin Bay for fueling until 1118. Denver shifted berths to moor to U.S. freighter Bluefield Victory for ammunition replenishment from 1312 until 1540.
After completing her logistical run, the cruiser steamed through the evening of 20 January 1945 back en route to rejoin her group. Denver reformed with TG 77.3 at 0651 on 21 January still in company with TG 77.4.
The ship and the combined group continued on-station support roles for the next several days largely without incident. On 24 January 1945, Denver detected an enemy aircraft on bearing 275° at 28 miles distance that did not approach the formation but left south until it was 13 miles distant at bearing 140° before it vanished. Only friendly air contacts were made during the rest of the morning.
Denver and the combined group had no other significant encounters for the rest of the time on station around Lingayen through 28 January 1945. At 1300, she broke off the combined group along with TU 77.3.1 with Riggs in the unit’s command on board Denver. TU 77.3.1 was to rendezvous with TG 78.3 to help cover the landings at Zambales Province on Luzon, Philippine Islands.
TU 77.3.1, when it initially left with Denver, also included destroyers Fletcher, and Radford. Denver and her escorts, during the afternoon of 28 January 1945, joined Rear Adm. Struble’s TG 78.3 and steamed 5,000 yards astern of the main group’s screen.
The following day had little for the cruiser to do. She pulled onto her support station on the morning of 29 January 1945 for the 38th Infantry landings in the San Felipe, San Narciso, and San Antonio areas of Zambales Province. Denver steamed approximately 1,000 yards seaward of the transport area on Red Beach—remaining there for on-call fire support at 0630. At 0711, she steamed by Capones Island with it bearing 160° at 15,800 yards distant. By 0728, Denver received word that the landing beaches were under friendly control and NGF was not to be employed unless ordered later. The cruiser was ordered, at 1022, with the rest of 77.3.1 to depart for the Subic Bay area around Luzon for support of minesweeping operations.
At 1242 on 29 January 1945, Denver sent up one of her Seagulls for spotting, and another at 1255 for anti-submarine patrol. She steamed onto her support station for the minesweepers by 1300, and by 1333 the first Seagull reported “’American flag flying, no signs of enemy on GRANDE ISLAND’” followed by reporting a sign on a pier reading “’U.S.P.I.F. [United States Philippine Island Forces] Zambàles Guerillas.’” . Denver recovered both planes at 1500, and the minesweeping operation was completed by 1700—allowing the cruiser to steam onto the retirement course west.
The following day was largely uneventful as Denver launched her planes and resumed her fire support station. At 0742, on 30 January, she sent up one Seagull for anti-submarine patrol. She launched a spotting Seagull at 1029, and reached her fire support station point at 1030 for the assault on Grande Island scheduled originally for 1130—delayed to 1150. The troops of the 34th Regimental Combat Team from the 24th Infantry Division landed at 1150 with no resistance. Denver recovered her first Seagull at 1153 and recovered her spotting Seagull at 1258.
The cruiser steamed out of the Subic Bay area at 1535 on 30 January 1945 with TU 77.3.1 to join TG 78.2. TU 77.3.1 still consisted of Denver, Fletcher, and Radford at this point. The rendezvous with TG 78.2 was towards supporting the operation at Nasugbu in Batangas Province on Luzon.
Denver, on the morning of 31 January 1945, took her support station with the group for the assault on Nasugbu. At 0830, the cruiser was designated for on-call fire if deep support was necessary. She sent up a Seagull for spotting at 0835, and another for anti-submarine patrol at 0838. Echoing the events of Grande Island, Denver’s spotter Seagull reported back at 0925 that the target area sported one sign reading “3rd Batangas Cadre-Palice” with a group of local Filipinos displaying a giant white “V” on the ground. Denver, not being called on for fire support, left the operational area with TU 77.3.1 at 1521 to rejoin TG 77.3.
By 1 February 1945, Denver had rejoined TG 77.3—steaming bound for Mangarin Bay. Denver, sister ship Montpelier, Phoenix, Boise, plus destroyers Fletcher, Radford, Hopewell (DD-681), La Vallette (DD-448), and Abbott (DD-629) steamed for Mindoro and replenishment. TG 77.3 made it to Mangarin Bay by the morning, and Denver pulled alongside Pecos for fuel at 0808 until 0915—anchoring at 0924.
The ship, still anchored in Mangarin Bay on 2 February 1945, replenished ammunition from Bluefield Victory. She remained anchored in her berth through 7 February 1945. Denver got underway on 8 February at 1833 bound for the Subic Bay area with TU 77.3.2. Initially the new group was composed of Denver with Riggs in group command plus Montpelier, Boise, Fletcher, Radford, Claxton, Saufley, Conyngham (DD-371), Taylor, Abbott, and La Vallette.
Denver’s group, minus Saufley, Claxton, and Conyngham, were to report to TG 77.3 led by Adm. Berkey on board flagship Phoenix already waiting at Subic Bay for a support operation in connection with the landings at Mariveles Bay on Bataan, Philippine Islands. Denver and sister ship Cleveland, at 2149, also joined the group along with destroyers O’Bannon and Jenkins. The bolstered TG 77.3.2 entered Subic Bay on the morning of 9 February 1945, and Denver anchored at 0937.
She spent most of the next several days uneventfully at anchor in Subic Bay other than refueling from tanker Winooski (AO-38) from 1650 to 1803 on 11 February 1945—returning to anchor afterwards.
The cruiser got underway at 0651 on 13 February 1945 and sortied out of Subic Bay with TG 77.3 to support Struble’s TF 78.3 operation against Mariveles Bay. TG 77.3 was composed of Phoenix as flagship plus Boise, Denver, Montpelier, Cleveland, Abbot, Jenkins, Taylor, Fletcher, Nicholas, La Vallette, Hopewell, Radford, and O’Bannon. At 0910, TU 77.3.2 peeled off from the group once more with Denver, Montpelier, and DesDiv 42 steaming to an assigned stand-by area for the operation while the remaining ships (TU 77.3.1) performed bombardment operations.
Denver continued on station through the morning, but at 1300 the units swapped positions under Riggs’ orders. At 1339 Denver began a bombardment off her port side with her main 6-inch battery. Her bombardment added in her 5-inch batteries at 1424 and included targets on Corregidor besides the ones in the Mariveles area. All bombardment ceased at 1636, and TU 77.3.2 steamed for retirement to Subic Bay by 2000.
The next morning, TG 77.3 steamed for Manila Bay to continue the fire support mission on 14 February 1945—Denver underway at 0552. As before, TU 77.3.2 split off at 0800 for independent operation. Denver steamed to a point between Corregidor and the entrance to Mariveles Bay. She began a bombardment of Corregidor at 1014 until 1100 with her 6-inch main batteries and delivered another bombardment at 1214—adding in her 5-inch guns at 1315.
This operation encountered some opposition. Fletcher reported taking a hit on her forecastle via a return shot from Corregidor. Motor minesweeper YMS-48 was observed on fire at 1359 also seemingly having been hit by shore fire from Corregidor. Fletcher got the damage from the 6-inch shell under control (mostly in her forward sections, and a brief fire) enough to enable her to rescue YMS-48’s survivors and scuttle the minesweeper with gunfire. Hopewell then took several hits and caught fire by 1410—forcing her to eventually retire for repairs at Seeadler Harbor. The destroyer lost seven killed, and 12 wounded. At 1518, Denver observed a Douglas A-20 Havoc crash into the sea—though this appeared to be from an internal problem, and Taylor rescued the survivors. At 1759, La Vallette struck a mine and began flooding. Radford, steaming to assist La Vallette, struck a mine as well. Support landing craft LCS(L)-27 pulled up to Denver at 1837 to transfer wounded patients from Radford to Denver—casting off at 1843. From 1925 to 2035 Denver took on survivors transferred from La Vallette with her whale boats.
Cleveland and Boise plus their screening destroyers left the operational area, and retired to Subic Bay for the night. The rest of the group including Denver followed at 2034. Berkey on board Phoenix was detached at 2214, and Riggs assumed group command on board Denver—the latter anchored in Subic Bay by 2331.
TG 77.3 had only a brief rest in Subic Bay before steaming back out in the early morning of 15 February 1945 for another round of bombardment on the Bataan Peninsula. Denver got underway at 0429 with Adm. Berkey on board Phoenix back with the group and in overall group command (as of 0115 that morning). Denver reached her bombardment station at 0740. While the cruiser stood by as on-call fire support she observed the 151st Infantry RCT and 3rd Battalion, 34th RCT units conducting their landing operations in the Mariveles area at 0845. At 1038, LSM 165 (LSM-165) reported that it had struck a mine. Denver, at this time, began bombardment of both the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor intermittently until 1855 with her main 6-inch batteries and 5-inch guns. She made some use of her 40-millimeter guns on a floating mine, and against Corregidor in addition to her other batteries from 1722 to 1800. TG 77.3 reunited at 1945.
The morning of 16 February 1945, with TG 77.3 still steaming on station, had TU 77.3.2 break off at 0629 to sail for fire support stations for the landings on Corregidor. The landings were scheduled for 0830—starting with paratroopers from the 503rd Parachute Infantry. The paratroopers zoned in onto the main plateau while landing craft transported the 3rd Battalion, 24th RCT to the island. At 1026, Denver opened fire with her 5-inch batteries—laying into Corregidor with intermittent fire until 1040. At 1100, mechanized landing craft LCM-473 pulled up to the cruiser with casualties from infantry landing craft LCI(L)-338. At 1138, mechanized landing craft LCM-472 transferred additional casualties. A couple of other landing craft transferred casualties to Denver at 1245. TU 77.3.2 continued independent operations into the mid-afternoon and steamed on a retirement course for Subic Bay at 1625. The group pulled in at 1809, and Denver pulled alongside Winooski for refueling until 1946—anchoring at 2008.
Denver shifted berths briefly on 17 February 1945 at 0657 for ammunition replenishment from Bluefield Victory until 1301 before returning to her anchorage. The cruiser remained at anchor until 24 February when she was reassigned to TG 74.2 and a support mission for the U.S. Army (186th RCT, Reinforced, 41st Division under command of Brig. Gen. Harold H. Haney) landings at Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island, Philippine Islands—Operation Victor III. TG 74.2 was to include CruDiv 12 sister ships Denver, Montpelier, and Cleveland [minus Columbia down for repairs in the U.S. after enduring multiple kamikaze hits on 6, and 9 January 1945]. The group also included a destroyer complement consisting of Jenkins, Abbott, Fletcher, and O’Bannon. Riggs was in command of TG 74.2 while Rear Adm. William M. Fechteler commanded the attack force under TG 78.2 from U.S. Coast Guard cutter Spencer (WPG-36).
The ship steamed out of Subic Bay at 1730 on 24 February 1945 in company of TG 74.2 en route first to Mangarin Bay to rendezvous with Fechteler’s TG 78.2. The group sailed into Mangarin Bay at 0700 on 25 February, and Denver steamed alongside tanker Salamonie (AO-26) for refueling from 0737 until 0832—anchoring in her berth afterwards at 0851.
Denver and TG 74.2 remained anchored at Mangarin Bay on 26 February, but Fechteler’s TG 78.2 steamed out at 1715 that evening bound for Palawan Island. Riggs’ TG 74.2 sortied the next day with Denver underway at 0655 on 27 February 1945.
TG 74.2 made visual contact with Palawan Island by the morning of 28 February 1945 at 0415. At 0645, the group ships steamed independently to their fire support stations. Denver reached her support station at 0711 and began her bombardment at 0712—both her 6-inch main batteries and 5-inch secondary batteries firing for the next 1.5 hours. The cruiser launched two Seagulls—one to observe for Fechteler’s attack force, the other to spot for Denver’s own gunnery—both planes’ assistance coming much to Fechteler’s reported satisfaction.
Denver’s bombardment concluded at 0845. TG 74.2 remained standing by on station until 1800 including Denver prepared for on-call fire duty if necessary. With little to no opposition encountered TG 74.2 steamed off station at 1755 for Subic Bay. O’Bannon ran down a sonar contact at 2204, but no other encounter was made as the rest of the group sailed onward.
TG 74.2 steamed from Palawan to Subic Bay without incident. Denver ran a 5-inch gun test from 1305 to 1327 also without incident. She entered Subic Bay at 1823 and was at anchor by 1846. The cruiser ran a couple of replenishment procedures on 2 March 1945 while shifting berths. She pulled alongside cargo ship Bootes (AK-99) at 0649 for ammunition replenishment from 0713 until 1104 when she pulled up to Winooski for refueling from 1135 until 1230—returning to her anchorage at 1246.
Denver remained at anchor through 8 March 1945, though this time was not entirely without interruption. On 5 March, Subic Bay went on alert for a possible air raid at 0242. Denver was at general quarters at 0256 and prepared to steam out, but the attack never materialized. By 0353, the threat had passed, and the ship secured from general quarters. Perhaps it was just as well with the cruiser having to transfer a significant load of defective ammunition from her Bofors mounts back to Bootes that same day. On 6 March, she sent yet another load of her 40-millimeter rounds back to Bootes, which, on 8 March, restocked the cruiser with 40-millimeter ammunition.
With the cruiser’s ammunition situation sorted out, TG 74.2 under Riggs was assigned standby duty to assist the landings at Zamboanga on southern Mindanao—TG 74.3 was performing the close covering support duties. The landings were scheduled under TG 78.1 commanded by Rear Adm. Forrest B. Royal overseeing the Army’s 41st Infantry under Maj. Gen. Jens Doe.
Denver got underway at 1843 in company of TG 74.2 bound for Mindoro. TG 74.2 this time included CruDiv 12 (still minus Columbia), plus destroyers Stevens (DD-479), Braine, Conway, Eaton, Frazier, and Young (DD-580).
TG 74.2 made it to Mangarin Bay on 10 March 1945 at 0700, and Denver anchored at 0734. The next day, the Zamboanga operation ran smoothly enough to not require the assistance of Riggs’ group. So, on 11 March, TG 74.2 was redirected to Lingayen Gulf to stand by to assist the Operation Victor I seizures of Panay, and Western Negros Islands, Philippine Islands. The landings were designated to be carried out under Rear Adm. Struble’s TG 78.3 attack force and 40th Division under Maj. Gen. Rapp Brush.
Denver and her re-tasked TG 74.2 got underway at 0742 for Lingayen Gulf, entering at 0830 on the morning of 12 March 1945. She steamed up to tanker Chepachet (AO-78) for fuel until 1029—making it to her anchorage at 1106.
The cruiser and the group stayed at anchor in Lingayen Gulf through 14 March 1945. On 15 March, operational demands seemed to only require one of CruDiv 12’s cruisers for support—in this case Cleveland. TG 74.2 including Denver was to return to Mangarin Bay on standby while Cleveland, Conway, Eaton, and Stevens carried out the support mission. Denver got underway at 0750 and ran some radar and gunnery exercises in the afternoon. She continued drills with TG 74.2 as they were returning with her to Mindoro and pulled into Mangarin Bay at 0953 on 16 March—the cruiser anchoring by 1024. Cleveland and the assigned destroyer elements for the support mission left for the support mission at 1855 on 17 March.
The next few days at anchor were relatively unremarkable for Denver. She again replenished ammunition from Bootes on 18 March 1945 and observed Cleveland and her destroyer consorts return from the support mission at 0700 on 21 March. The reunited TG 74.2 was then underway as a whole at 1922 that evening en route for Subic Bay.
Denver and TG 74.2 exercised underway into the morning of 22 March 1945 as they arrived at Subic Bay at 0922—the cruiser moored to Winooski for fueling at 1009 until 1121. Denver anchored at 1155 and remained in her Subic Bay berth to round out the end of March 1945.
Early April 1945 saw little action for Denver and her group. Riggs, as CruDiv 12’s commander, was still commanding TG 74.2 under TF 74 which was in turn under Rear Adm. Berkey’s control. Berkey’s task force was operating out of Subic Bay, including Riggs’ cruisers, while the operations to secure the Philippines continued.
On 1 April 1945, Denver was still at anchor for maintenance and training purposes in Subic Bay. She got underway at 0527 on 2 April with some of the TG 74.2 elements including Montpelier, Conway, Eaton, and Cony bound for Manila Bay. The trip was merely for a recreational tour, and Denver was anchored in Manila Bay at 0859 that morning.
The group made the return trip the next day with Denver underway at 1600 on 3 April 1945 from Manila Bay with the same cohort as the previous day, and back in her berth in Subic Bay at 1911.
Early April 1945 also saw changes administratively for Denver. Riggs shifted his flag to Montpelier from Denver. Denver remaining anchored for several more days, had Capt. Thomas F. Darden, Jr. relieve Capt. Bledsoe as commanding officer of the ship at 1500 on 6 April 1945.
She spent the next day at anchor, but sortied on 8 April—underway at 0259—in company of some elements from TF 74 to intercept a Japanese surface force composed of a cruiser and two destroyers reportedly steaming south along the western coast of Luzon. Sent out were CruDiv 12 sister ships Denver, Montpelier, Cleveland, plus Phoenix, Australian light cruiser Hobart (D.63), Nicholas, Taylor, Cony, Conway, Eaton, Jenkins, Fletcher, and Warramunga. Denver followed her group, led by Berkey on board Phoenix, northward out of Subic Bay at high speed. The formation continued on the interception course until 0900, but no amplifying data regarding the enemy ships was received. The formation reversed course and steamed south back for Subic Bay with Denver returning to anchor at 1623.
The cruiser shifted berths on 9 April 1945 at 1205 to refuel from Salamonie from 1240 to 1344—back at anchor at 1401. The next morning, TG 74.2 was ordered to move to support the actions seizing the areas of Malabang, Parang, and Cotabato in Western Mindanao under Operation Victor V. The landings were under the control of Rear Adm. Albert G. Noble and TG 78.2. Noble was to deliver the 24th Infantry under Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff, and X Corps under Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Silbert to Malabang on 17 April, and the 31st Infantry under Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin to Parang and Illana Bay five days later.
Denver got underway at 0743 on 10 April 1945 with TG 74.2. The group this time was composed of her CruDiv 12 sister ships Montpelier (still Riggs’ flagship), and Cleveland, plus Cony, Conway, Eaton, Sigourney, Stevens and Young. As the group steamed towards Mindoro, they exercised in the morning until making a rendezvous with TG 74.3 at noon. TG 74.3, upon the meeting, was composed of Phoenix, Hobart, Taylor, Warramunga, Fletcher, O’Bannon, Nicholas, and Jenkins. Berkey assumed overall command for the time being while the two groups performed joint exercises until midnight. TG 74.2, including Denver, was then released to steam onward for the next leg of its operational assignment.
Riggs, back commanding just TG 74.2, took the group into Mangarin Bay by the morning of 11 April 1945—Denver anchored by 0754. The cruiser shifted berths at 0817 to moor to Caribou and refuel from 1056 until anchoring again at 1134. She shifted berths again on 12 April at 1104 to engage in ammunition replenishment with ammunition ship Pyro (AE-1) from 1137 to 1420—anchored back in her berth by 1445.
TG 74.2 sortied for the Operation Victor V support mission on 14 April 1945 with Denver underway at 1114 from Mangarin Bay. TG 74.2 steamed out with TG 78.2 and followed Noble on board amphibious force flagship Wasatch (AGC-9) to the operational area.
The combined groups steamed through 15 April 1945 without incident, and likewise into the morning of 16 April. At 1034, on 16 April, as the two groups passed through Basilan Strait near Zamboanga, some of TG 78.2’s amphibious units detached and while other amphibious units steaming from Leyte jointed TG 78.2. TG 78.2’s initial landing was now directed to Parang instead of Malabang.
The day of the landings saw TG 74.2 and TG 78.2 still steaming together briefly on the morning of 17 April 1945. At 0040, TG 74.2 broke up in preparation for the bombardments on Parang and Cotabato. TU 74.2.1 was formed with Montpelier, Cony, and Conway as they took fire support stations. Riggs broke the group up into two other units. TU 74.2.3 was composed of Cleveland, Sigourney, and Young. TU 74.2.2 was led by Denver, and included Eaton, and Stevens. TU 74.2.2 and TU 74.2.3 followed the first group onto fire support stations at 0342. Denver’s group, on station since that point, opened fire at 0632 with her main 6-inch batteries guided further by her Seagull. At 0640, she added her 5-inch secondary battery for to the bombardment until all firing ceased at 0800. The cruiser lay-to for on-call fire support until 1800. Afterwards, TG 74.2 reunited all its units while steaming for retirement to Polloc Harbor in Mindanao.
Denver and TG 74.2 initially steamed together for more fire support duties on 18 April 1945, but at 0011 she reversed course and returned to Polloc Harbor. TU 74.2.3 at 0615 to take up the fire support station with TU 74.2.2 including Denver following later at 0624. She stayed on station for on-call fire support most of the day until retiring at 1800 with the recombined TG 74.2.
The following morning followed a similar pattern with Denver steaming out with TG 74.2 but reversing course at 0033 for Polloc Harbor. At 0624, the entire group was ordered to steam independently. Denver picked up the fire support station duty and stayed for on-call fire support until retirement with TG 74.2 at 1700. TU 74.2.3 was detached at 1955; however and steamed for Subic Bay.
On 20 April 1945, the cruiser steamed out with TG 74.2 still without TU 74.2.3 At 0028 she reversed course into Polloc Harbor, but at 0636 she moored to Winooski for fuel replenishment from 0758 to 0915—returning to anchor at 0932. That afternoon, at 1525, Denver and what remained of TG 74.2 steamed south to rendezvous and escort a resupply echelon composing TU 78.2.16 as it made its way into Polloc Harbor.
TG 74.2 and Denver made their meeting with TU 78.2.16 at 0506 on 21 April 1945, the cruiser’s group taking the lead position ahead of the convoy on the escort cruise back to Polloc Harbor. The escort mission was uneventful, and the convoy stood into Polloc Harbor on 22 April at 0737 with Denver back at anchor by 0842—the cruiser shifting berths, and anchored again at 1020.
Denver and TG 74.2 got underway at 1800 on 23 April 1945 from Polloc Harbor, still missing the ships of TU 74.2.3, en route for Subic Bay. She ran gunnery tests while steaming through 24 April, and further exercises with TG 74.2 on 25 April as the group entered Subic Bay at 1541. Denver pulled alongside Salamonie for refueling and made it to her berth at 1705. She remained at anchor until 28 April.
The next morning TU 74.2.2 including Denver, Cony, Sigourney, and Stevens were initially ordered to provide fire support and close cover for Rear Adm. Noble’s amphibious landings around Davao Gulf on Southern Mindanao with TG 78.2. The plan was for Denver’s group to sortie from Polloc Harbor, and receive follow-up orders from Noble for the objective area. However, the army units had secured the beach well ahead of schedule to the point that no preliminary NGF was necessary. TU 74.2.2 instead steamed out of Subic Bay, underway at 1748 on 29 April.
Darden led TU 74.2.2 through the Basilan strait as 30 April turned into 1 May 1945 and Denver reported to Noble. At 0337, she steamed out of Basilan Strait into the Moro Gulf, and by 1010 made it into Polloc Harbor. The cruiser was anchored in Polloc Harbor by 1054. At 1400, TG 78.2 under Noble left Polloc Harbor ahead of Denver’s group—the cruiser getting underway with TU 74.2.2 at 1830.
The morning of 2 May 1945 saw Denver’s unit rendezvous with TG 78.2 at 0700 and steam to a position 10 miles ahead of the amphibious formation. She spent 0800 to 1000 on mail related duties, but the mailgram included TU 74.2.2’s general plan for deployment. Denver and company were to bombard Balut Island, Sarangani, Philippine Islands in support of Woodruff’s 24th Infantry landings at Davao Gulf. Denver commenced her bombardment of Balut at 1315 until 1332 with her 5-inch batteries, able to take out a Japanese observation post—guided by her Seagull. She steamed onward into Davao Gulf that evening.
Denver’s TU 74.2.2 remained on station through most of 3 May 1945 to support minesweeping operations, and TG 78.2’s administrative landings on Santa Cruz Beach. She provided fire support with her main 6-inch batteries against enemy emplacements on the hills behind the city. By 1500, TU 74.2.2’s was released from its support duties by Noble and steamed out of Davao Gulf at 1700 bound for Subic Bay.
The cruiser and her group put in a bit of gunnery practice while underway on 4 May 1945 and passed through the Sulu Sea by evening. The morning of 5 May, Sigourney was detached from the group at 0009 with orders to steam for Leyte and then Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, TU 74.2.2 continued underway exercises as Denver and company steamed into the South China Sea by 2313. Additional exercises were conducted on 6 May among Denver and her group’s ships during the morning. At 0943, the cruiser steamed into Subic Bay and alongside commercial tanker Albert E. Watts for fuel until 1248—anchored by 1317.
Denver remained at anchor in Subic Bay awaiting new orders through mid-May 1945. She only shifted berths on 14 May for another refueling session this time from commercial tanker E. J. Henry at 1039—back at her anchorage by 1223. She also spent another day engaging in ammunition replenishment from Bootes on 15 May. After another day in port, she got underway at 0600 with TG 74.2 bound for Manila on a recreational excursion. Riggs was still commanding the group from Montpelier with Cleveland, Cony, Conway, Young, Stevens, Eaton, Metcalf (DD-595), and Hart (DD-594) also in the formation. By 0958, Denver arrived at her Manila Bay anchorage.
The cruiser and TG 74.2 stayed in Manila Bay through 20 May 1945. She got underway at 0600 on 21 May with the group for the return trip to Subic Bay, arriving there by 1250. She pulled alongside Salamonie for fuel at 1357 until 1541, and re-anchored.
The ship spent most of late May 1945 anchored at Subic Bay. On 30 May, Riggs and officers from Montpelier held military inspection drills on board Denver. Denver got underway at 0927 along with Hart and Metcalf out of Subic Bay for an underway battle problem under Darden’s lead as part of the inspection proceedings. Denver completed the exercises, led the destroyers back to Subic Bay, and disembarked the inspection party officers. At 1233, the cruiser got underway again with Hart and Stevens from Subic Bay for more gunnery exercises. Denver was back at her Subic Bay anchorage afterwards at 1631.
Denver rounded out May 1945 with another day of exercises on 31 May, but with a larger group led by Riggs. She got underway from Subic Bay at 0710 with Montpelier, Cleveland, Cony, Eaton, Metcalf, and Conway focusing especially on an anti-aircraft exercise. Denver was back at her berth in Subic Bay that morning by 1141.
Riggs and the elements of CruDiv 12 plus supporting ships in TG 74.2 continued training in early June 1945 for an upcoming series of operations in support of the seizure of Borneo [Indonesia]—Operations Oboe VI, and Oboe II—each just a small part in Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s regional Operation Montclair. Denver mostly stayed anchored and completed maintenance for the first few days of June. On 4 June, she got underway at 0729 from Subic Bay with TG 74.2 including with Montpelier, Cleveland, Stevens, Conway, and Eaton. Weather was poor, and would not allow for air operations so Riggs had the group steam back to Subic Bay—Denver anchored at 1046. She moved to tanker Andrew Doria (IX-132) for fuel replenishment until 1523, and anchored afterwards.
The cruiser waited out the order to sortie for the next couple of days at Subic Bay. On 7 June 1945, Denver got underway at 0825 with TG 74.2 with orders to steam to Brunei Bay northwest of Borneo to provide distant cover for overall amphibious operations, support the preliminary minesweeping operations, and the amphibious landing to follow. Rear Adm. Royal was leading the first operation under TG 78.1 with the 9th Australian Division commanded by Maj. Gen. George F. Wootten, and the second was to be conducted by Noble’s TG 78.2 with troops from the 7th Division, I Australian corps under Maj. Gen. Edward J. Milford. Denver steamed out in company of Montpelier with Riggs leading the group on board, Cleveland, Conway, Hart, Metcalf, Eaton, Stevens, and Cony.
Denver and TG 74.2 exercised en route, focusing once again on anti-aircraft drills. The next morning, 8 June 1945, she sighted Palawan Island at 0805. The group resumed exercising in the late morning, and sighted Kina Balu, Borneo at 1751.
By the morning of 9 June 1945, Denver and her group were steaming in the operational area for covering the Brunei operation Oboe VI. Covering operations were uneventful until 10 June. At 0857, a Nick was sighted at 22,000 feet but did not attack the formation as it flew off.
The next day, 11 June 1945, Denver was still steaming with TG 74.2 in the distant cover operational area for Brunei. At 0757, Cleveland, Hart, and Metcalf were detached and steamed to join the close covering group for the next phase of the Brunei Bay operation. Denver and the remaining ships of TG 74.2 moved off for Tawi-Tawi, P.I. for a replenishment run prior to the next operation. Denver steamed into the Sulu Sea by 1913. Denver, Montpelier, Cony, Conway, Eaton, and Stevens were led by Riggs to Tawi-Tawi on 12 June—Denver at her anchorage by 1044. The cruiser was refueled at 1935 by Chepachet after she had pulled up alongside and remained overnight until 0730 on 13 June. Denver, once Chepachet cast-off, got underway at 1430 with TG 74.2 bound for Balikpapan, Borneo for coverage operations of the minesweepers (TU 78.2.9, TU 78.2.92) in the area and the pre-landing bombardment afterwards. By 1630, she entered the Celebes Sea.
Denver, steaming on course on 14 June 1945 for the next operation in company with TG 74.2, picked up high speed transport Cofer (APD-62) on radar at 0410, and rendezvoused with TU 78.2.11’s motor torpedo boats at 0610.
As the cruiser sailed into the operational area for Balikpapan and Oboe II on 15 June 1945, Denver and TG 74.2 broke up into their smaller fire support task units. At 0755, TU 74.2.2 made up of Denver, Eaton, and Stevens pulled in astern of the minesweepers they were covering en route to the objective area. The day’s operation was mostly uninterrupted other than some scares from what turned out to be friendly aircraft. At 1645, the task group reunited for retirement to the east.
TG 74.2’s duties on station for 16 June 1945 were also largely uneventful. Denver, at 0345, steamed to her support station and remained there all day to assist the minesweepers until the scheduled retirement at 1909.
Denver’s covering duties the next day were not as quiet. On 17 June 1945, she was at her assigned station by 0909. She lent support fire on targets on the beach with her main 6-inch battery at 1312 with intermittent fire support until 1528. At 1852, the cruiser was steaming into formation for night retirement as usual. At 1945, an unidentified enemy aircraft formation of three enemy aircraft was reported closing on the group from 22,000 feet in altitude on bearing 215° at a range of 32 miles. Denver’s formation began evasive maneuvering, and at 2009 until 2010 her 5-inch battery opened fire on enemy aircraft as they came to bearing 245° at a range of 13,600 yards at an altitude of 24,000 feet. She observed bomb splashes at 800 yards off her starboard quarter, 450 yards off her port bow, and 600 yards off her port quarter. A stick of small bombs landed 500 yards south of Denver at 2010. No ship in the formation suffered damage. At 2020, another enemy air raid was closing on the formation on bearing 270°. Denver opened fire as the enemy air contacts came to bearing 347° at a range of 9,000 yards at an altitude of 20,000 feet. More bombs hit the water 300 yards north of the cruiser—also with no damage to any ships in the group. By 2045 all enemy aircraft appeared to be flying out of range. Denver and the group steamed the rest of the retirement course without incident.
The following day was particularly tough for one minesweeper and had Denver deal with a close call of a different sort. The morning of 18 June 1945 saw Denver send up a Seagull to observe at 0850, and take her fire support station in Balikpapan Roads at 0933. She began her regular bombardment from 0937 to 1150. The cruiser had launched one Seagull for anti-submarine patrols at 0958, and recovered the observational Seagull at 1204—launching another observational plane at 1302. At 1300, motor minesweeper YMS-50 reported being hit by a shore battery after it had already struck a mine. Denver observed the shore battery fire at 1324, and Riggs had the group commence counter-battery fire for a minute until the enemy battery was silenced. The cruiser also recovered her anti-submarine patrol Seagull at 1325. Denver resumed her neutralization bombardment at 1342, but this was interrupted again with counter-battery fire at 1449.
There were also signs of aerial activity from the enemy. At 1449, a Dinah seemingly on a reconnaissance flight closed on the group on bearing 240° at 30 miles distance. The Dinah was at 24,000 feet, and at the time did not approach any closer before retiring to the southwest at 1510.
YMS-50 was still treading water near the beach, but once her survivors were rescued, Riggs had Denver scuttle the damaged minesweeper at 1525 upon reaching 01°18'S, 116°49'E—the latter sinking at 1603. Denver meanwhile recovered her observational Seagull at 1615 and launched another Seagull for anti-submarine patrols at 1651. The group steamed for the retirement course at 1750; however, the evening was going to be a bit more interesting than anticipated.
At 1844, a Pete began closing on the group on bearing 310° at a range of 16 miles. By 1847 the Pete was circling the task group at a range of 10 miles from the north to the northeast, and then back from north to west before retiring to the southwest at 1912. One night fighter from the CAP, a Northrop P-61 Black Widow, was vectored out to intercept the enemy reconnaissance plane—losing it after a couple of passes.
The presence of the enemy plane resulted in a delayed recovery of Denver’s Seagull on anti-submarine patrol. At 1922, Denver was steaming independently to recover her Seagull once the enemy aerial threat was gone; however, after the plane landed it slipped from the recovery sled and got caught in the cruiser’s wake. The ship stopped her engines, and the pilot and radioman (Ens. Leo W. Wyss, and ARM3c Alphonse Mendez, Jr. respectively) were both thrown off the plane when the Seagull’s port wing dipped in the water. Denver set her rudder amidships and hauled the heavily damaged Seagull on board. Cony picked up the pilot and passenger unharmed from the sea at 1927. The entire formation had gone on stand-by with word of Denver’s incident, but all ships including the cruiser resumed steaming on the retirement course.
The day did see one life claimed. Rear Adm. Forrest B. Royal, the commander of the amphibious group (Amphibious Group 6) died on board amphibious force flagship Rocky Mount (AGC-3) of coronary thrombosis while en route to Leyte. Capt. Homer B. Hudson had been left in charge of immediate operations the previous day.
The bombardment for 19 June 1945 involved another day of sporadic enemy fire. Denver got underway independently at 0820 and launched her Seagull at 0900 before arriving on station by 0920. At 0924, Cony returned the two men thrown out of the unruly Seagull the previous evening. She fired intermittent bombardments from her 6-inch and 5-inch batteries during the day starting at 0937; however, this was interrupted at 1100 when Denver’s Seagull reported being fired upon. The cruiser came to her plane’s defense with counter-battery fire at 1102 and targeted the shore battery’s flashes. The counter-battery fire lasted until 1137, and Denver recovered the Seagull at 1236. At 1250 the cruiser spotted and commenced firing on enemy shore battery flashes that were targeting the minesweepers. She observed her shots straddle a gun emplacement, and the enemy battery was silenced. At 1625, Dutch light cruiser Tromp joined TG 74.2. Denver joined the task group for the night retirement at 1810—Tromp in a column of cruisers astern.
Denver was set mostly for refueling duties on 20 June 1945 as she steamed with TG 74.2 and was underway by 0720. She maneuvered independently at 0725 for her station and was in position by 0755. Denver launched her observational Seagull at 0823 and anchored at 0857 at her fire support station. At 0920, Eaton came alongside for refueling until 1109. Denver shifted position at 1110 and dropped anchor again at 1121 shortly before recovering her Seagull at 1126. Stevens was alongside at 1210 for refueling but was forced to break off at 1301 along with Denver getting underway with a possible enemy aircraft reported in the area—though the contact turned out to be a friendly observational aircraft. Denver launched another observation Seagull at 1330, and anchored in her bombardment station at 1344. She began her afternoon bombardment duties from 1348 to 1410 as she fired her main 6-inch batteries at assigned targets. Also at 1410, Stevens returned to complete the refueling that had been interrupted earlier until 1543. Once Stevens cast off, Denver commenced another round of bombardment from 1546 until 1704. Denver’s Seagull was recovered by 1721. The cruiser rejoined TG 74.2 for night retirement at 1836, but once again the nightly journey was being watched by enemy aircraft. At 1846, two enemy aerial contacts were detected on bearing 250° at 49 miles distance. Ultimately these bogies were lost over land as they shifted to bearing 258° and a range of 46 miles. No further contacts were made that night.
The action for 21 June 1945 saw enemy resistance unabated in terms of shore batteries. The morning began with Cony leaving formation at 0530 for other orders. Denver got underway at 0720 with Eaton screening her as they steamed for the fire support station. The cruiser sent up a Seagull for observation at 0802. She was anchored on-station at 0847. Denver, prior to the start of her bombardment, observed shore batteries firing on motor minesweeper YMS-392 at 1038. The cruiser immediately began counter-battery fire with her main 6-inch guns until the enemy guns were silenced at 1043. Denver brought her Seagull back on board at 1109, and got underway to shift plane launching positions 1208. At 1211 the ship spotted the minesweepers under fire again from enemy shore batteries. A brief counter-battery barrage from Denver at 1212 ended the threat from the enemy guns this time, and she launched a Seagull at 1214. The cruiser came to the minesweepers’ rescue again in the mid-afternoon. At 1451, enemy shore batteries opened fire on the minesweepers only to earn counter-battery fire at 1452—the shore batteries were silenced. The Seagull was recovered at 1555 with another sent up at 1617. All bombardment for the evening ended at 1801, and with the Seagull back on board by 1815 the cruiser steamed for night retirement at 1818. At 1950, Eaton left the formation to take up night harassment duties in the operational area—Tromp replacing Eaton in the screen.
The following day’s bombardment on 22 June 1945 remained routine with Cony on detached duty at 0641, and Denver underway at 0738 to her firing station—dropping anchor at 0802. She fired on her bombardment targets at 0840 and shifted firing stations from 1233 to 1241—not called on to fire again prior to steaming for night retirement at 1825.
Limited resistance out of the enemy shore batteries was still a problem for the vulnerable minesweepers despite the continual bombardments. On 23 June 1945, prior to Denver steaming onto station, Chepachet and escort vessel Leland E. Thomas (DE-420) took station 4,000 yards astern of TG 74.2. Denver got underway for her firing station at 0654 and anchored at 0751. She began an intermittent bombardment of Balikpapan at 0835 and sent up a Seagull for observation at 0850 until 1047 when it was recovered. In the midst of the bombardment the minesweepers were taking enemy fire from the beach, and the cruisers—Denver included—began a heavy counter-battery fire bombardment. The counter-battery fire was not halted even while Chepachet was alongside Denver for refueling from 1125 to 1343. This day also marked the return of sister ship Columbia after her extensive repairs following the Lingayen Gulf engagement in early January 1945—her return to TG 74.2 coming at 1432. All bombardment ceased at 1500, and Denver steamed onto the night retirement course at 1926 with Columbia between her and Tromp.
The morning of 24 June 1945 was ordinary enough for the bombardment schedule. At 0435, Cony left the formation for her independent duty as did Stevens at 0621. Denver steamed independently for her firing station at 0739, launched her Seagull at 0757, and was anchored at her bombardment station by 0805. She commenced her morning bombardment rom 0825 with both 6-inch and 5-inch batteries until 1144 but had to steam for landing ship tank LST-67 for ammunition replenishment. Denver was moored to LST 67 from 1216 to 1755. During this period, at 1340, a friendly Liberator inadvertently dropped a bomb 400 yards off Denver’s starboard bow while en route to an air strike on the beach—no damage was sustained. After Denver got underway from LST-67, she remained on station until forming up with TG 74.2 as usual for night retirement.
The next day had Denver, Conway, and Cony assigned to support UDTs off Manggar and Manggar-Ketjil beaches on Balikpapan. The three ships detached from TG 74.2 and got underway at 0401 on 25 June 1945. At 0532, Cony and Conway were released to their stations while Denver reached hers at 0715. The cruiser, with the spotting aid of her Seagull launched at 0655, commenced her support bombardment at 0730 with both main 6-inch and secondary 5-inch batteries. Denver’s bombardment ended at 0940 with the UDT operations also complete—recovering her Seagull at 0953. The three ships steamed independently to minesweeping support stations in the Klandasan beach area—Denver anchored at 1122 in Balikpapan Roads. The cruiser actually began the next bombardment at 1101 and fired until 1210 with another round from 1255 until 1722—recovering her Seagull in between at 1518. She remained on station until steaming together with TG 74.2 at 1902 for night retirement. Cony broke off for night harassment duty so remained on station; however, the evening was not going to be quiet one for the rest of the group. At 2025, Riggs had the group change formation in anticipation of an enemy air attack from the southwest. A group of Bettys were approaching on bearing 240° at a range of 40 miles. At 2031, TG 74.2 began evasive maneuvering while five enemy planes approached the group. Denver opened fire at 2032 on the Betty, and struck one with a shot from her 5-inch gun—though it appeared to have been finished off by 40-millimeter fire from the other group ships as it crashed into the sea at 2033. By 2109 the enemy air attack was over, and the task group resumed steaming on the retirement course.
Denver, Conway, and Cony were assigned similar duties on 26 June 1945. At 0505, the cruiser and Conway left TG 74.2 to meet Cony upon arrival on station and assist UDTs off the mouth of the Manggar River. Denver anchored at her support station at 0720 and began her bombardment at 0730 until 0958. The cruiser had a brief on-call fire support duty from 1045 to 1100 to eliminate a coastal defense gun emplacement. She got underway at 1116 to resume the support station for the minesweeper operation off Klandasan beach and anchored at 1337 for a bombardment that lasted intermittently starting at 1400. The minesweepers were under threat all afternoon. At 1423, motor minesweeper YMS-365 struck a mine on bearing 000° at 5.5 miles distance—forced to be scuttled by gunfire from her fellow minesweepers at 01°18'S, 116°50'E. At 1545, motor minesweeper YMS-39 hit another mine, and sank straight away at 01°19'S, 116°49'E—1,000 yards west of where YMS-365 had hit a mine. All firing that day ceased by 1810, and Denver then steamed for the retirement course with Cony remaining behind for night harassment duties.
UDTs working off Klandasan beach were to get support from all of TG 74.2 on 27 June 1945. Denver got underway for her support station at 0513 and anchored in place at 0648. She began the morning bombardment at 0715 until 1030. TG 74.1 reported in for fire support duty, also under Riggs’ command, at 1030. TG 74.1 included Australian heavy cruiser Shropshire (73), Australian destroyer Arunta (I.30), Hobart, Metcalf, Hart, escort vessel Edwin A. Howard (DE-346), and motor torpedo boat tender Mobjack (AGP-7), and eight PT boats. Some of the early afternoon was spent with Denver performing ammunition replenishment. From 1225 to 1329 she moored to support landing craft LCS(L)-8 to dispense ammunition for their 40-millimeter mounts. She did the same with support landing craft LCS(L)-28 from 1404 to 1431. She shifted support stations from 1445 to 1455 and performed more ammunition replenishment from support landing craft LCS(L)- 41 from 1505 to 1530—along with replenishment of her fresh water supplies. The cruiser’s afternoon bombardment ended at 1628. Metcalf brought mail when she moored alongside from 1645 to 1658, and this preceded a brief evening bombardment from 1702 to 1732. By 1854 the cruiser was steaming for night retirement with TG 74.2 and TG 74.1 in separate columns of cruisers, and the destroyers screening ahead. Eaton remained on station for night harassment.
The UDT support missions were continued into 28 June 1945 for both TG 74.2 and TG 74.1 with Riggs in overall command on board Montpelier. Tromp, Cony, and Conway left the group at 0443 for independent steaming to their assigned stations. Denver was underway by 0457 and anchored on station by 0633. She started her area bombardment of Klandasan beach with 6-inch and 5-inch battery fire from 0657 and sent up her Seagull to observe at 0719. The bombardment proceeded uneventfully as the UDTs finished their work at 1117, and she maintained a harassing fire in support of the minesweepers. Midday was a reminder that the situation was hardly safe. Denver brought her Seagull back on board at 1125, and at 1152 an enemy aircraft was spotted on bearing 240° at 40 miles. By 1225 the enemy plane vanished over land and had not closed with the ship or formation. At 1415, motor minesweeper YMS-47 struck and suffered damage from a mine on bearing 49° at a distance of 6 miles (01°19'S, 116°55'E). All bombardment ceased at 1830, and Denver was able to steam for retirement at 1912 with Stevens staying behind on night harassment duty.
Bombardment operations in support of the minesweepers on 29 June 1945 had little interruption. TG 74.2 and TG 74.1 began the day steaming together, but TG 74.1 was detached at 0500 for independent steaming. Cony, and Eaton detached as well at 0625 for steaming to independent positions. Denver got underway for her bombardment station at 0625 and was anchored on location by 0714. The cruiser started her day on station with another round of 40-millimeter ammunition dispensation at 0810 to support landing craft LCS(L)-44. The cruiser began her bombardment at 0905 while the ammunition transfers were underway. LCS(L)-44 cast off at 0915, and support landing craft LCS 43 came alongside at 0935 to stock up on 40-millimeter ammunition as well until 1008. Denver shifted support stations at 1011, until she dropped anchor again at 1017. At 1324, she sent up one of her Seagulls to help search for survivors of a North American B-25 Mitchell that had crashed earlier. The Seagull was recovered at 1445. Cony pulled alongside Denver at 1535 for refueling until casting off at 1705. Denver had ceased firing in the middle of Cony’s refueling, at 1556, but resumed bombardment at 1710 until 1856. The cruiser later steamed for night retirement at 1914 with Stevens left behind to continue night harassment duties on station.
Denver was back to supporting UDTs on 30 June 1945. She got underway for her support station at 0534 and anchored at Balikpapan Roads at 0632. She sent up a Seagull at 0656 to observe and commenced her morning bombardment at 0832. The UDTs finished their operation by 1010, and the cruiser’s primary bombardment ended at 1010. She inflicted a harassing fire starting at 1010 and recovered her Seagull at 1045—ending her additional firing at 1055. The cruiser then got underway at 1059 to pull up to Chepachet for refueling from 1146 until underway again at 1307 when she returned to her fire support station anchorage at 1345. Her afternoon bombardment consisted of harassing fire lasting from 1350 to 1600. Army ammunition ship FS-164 pulled alongside Denver at 1603 to provide ammunition replenishment for the cruiser’s main 6-inch battery until 1739. She stayed on station for night harassment duty while being screened by Hart, and Metcalf.
The nearly two weeks of bombardments around Balikpapan had built up to the landings on 1 July 1945. Denver was still on station from the overnight harassment duty while being screened by Hart, and Metcalf until the latter two were detached at 0545 to steam for the pre-landing bombardment fire stations. TG 74.1, and TG 74.2 entered the bombardment area with the group ships all independently steaming to their firing locations. Denver steamed to her pre-landing bombardment location at 0607 and anchored on station at 0621. She sent up a Seagull for observation at 0658, and she commenced bombardment at 0700. She checked her fire briefly at 0745 while an air strike was delivered but resumed fire at 0800. The landings began at 0900 on schedule, and the first round of bombardments ceased at 0910 as planned. Denver was still on station for on-call fire support which was requested early on. At 0925, she fired on enemy batteries as their flashes became visible. Her first Seagull was recovered at 0948, and at 1030 she sent up her second Seagull of the day to continue observation. Shore based fire control parties requested additional fire support, and she obliged at 1102. Hart steamed alongside to deliver mail from 1220 to 1235 even as fire support from Denver continued, but overall fire support bombardment ceased by 1300. Shropshire came on station to relieve Denver of her fire support duties at 1300, and after Denver recovered her Seagull at 1445 she got underway at 1525 to pull alongside cargo ship Poinsett (AK-205) for ammunition replenishment from 1629 until 1936—anchored on station at 2017.
Denver’s final day of supporting the Balikpapan operation on 2 July 1945 began with an odd search. At 0204, Noble ordered TG 74.2 to get underway to chase down four unidentified surface contacts reported by a submarine. The contacts seemed to be approaching the operational area from the south. Riggs on board Montpelier along with Columbia, Denver, Cony, Conway, Albert W. Grant, and Eaton got underway at 0225 from Balikpapan Roads to pursue the possible targets. Albert W. Grant and Cony both were sent to patrol farther ahead of the formation. By 0500 TG 74.2 had nothing to show for hours of searching, and the submarine was reporting it had lost contact with the targets. Riggs had the TG 74.2 elements abandoned the search, and ordered his ships including Denver to steam back north with Denver dropping anchor in Balikpapan Roads by 1025 near Phoenix. Denver then got new orders to transport Vice Adm. Daniel E. Barbey (commander of TF 78, and the Seventh Amphibious Force) to Leyte. Barbey left Phoenix and came on board Denver at 1145—hoisting his flag. Denver, escorted by Cony, were designated TU 74.2.6 with Capt. Darden as unit commander for the independent steaming to Leyte. The cruiser and her consorts got underway at 1211 from Balikpapan and reached the Celebes Sea by 2125.
Denver and Cony steamed through the Sulu and Mindanao Seas by the evening of 3 July 1945. A 0315 on 4 July, Denver entered Leyte Gulf and dropped anchor in San Pedro Bay at 0700. Barbey and his staff disembarked at 0720. Denver pulled alongside Abarenda to refuel from 0915 to 1055, and then steamed to her berth—dropping anchor at 1127. Denver was granted availability status originally until 0700 on 11 July. On 4 July, she began taking ammunition replenishment from U.S. freighter Twin Falls Victory at 1748, and tank landing craft LCT-1133 also at 2230. Denver took ammunition replenishment from both of these two support ships into the early morning of 5 July until LCT-1133 cast off at 0458, and Twin Falls Victory cast off at 0625. A variety of tank landing craft brought additional ammunition replenishment to and from the cruiser courtesy of ammunition ship Rainier (AE-5).
Though Denver was spending early July 1945 moored in San Pedro Bay, she was going to have her availability time cut short by a day. On 7 July, all of Riggs’ CruDiv 12—flagship Montpelier, Cleveland, Columbia, and Denver—were detached from the Seventh Fleet, and ordered by Halsey in the Third Fleet to join Rear Adm. Francis S. Low (commanding CruDiv 16). Denver and her sister ships had their availability terminated on 10 July.
Denver got underway independently at 0645 on 10 July 1945 from San Pedro Bay. She ran an anti-aircraft training exercise upon leaving the bay’s confines at 0724. She tested her 5-inch, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter mounts from 0915 until 1205, and was back in San Pedro Bay dropping anchor at 1410.
On 11 July 1945, while Denver remained in San Pedro Bay, Low organized TF 33 out of CruDiv 12, CruDiv 16, and DesRon 24—with CruDiv 12’s cruisers temporarily designated TG 33.2. This only lasted a day, as on 12 July, Fleet Adm. Nimitz had TF 33 re-designated as TF 95. At 0715 on 13 July, Denver got underway from San Pedro Bay with TF 95 in its entirety bound for Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands [Japan].
TF 95’s primary mission was going to be sweeping the East China Sea for Japanese shipping. The task force was broken up into three subgroups for this objective. TG 95.1 (Battle Line) under Rear Adm. Francis S. Low on board large cruiser Guam (CB-2) and CruDiv 16’s other large cruiser Alaska (CB-1), TG 95.2 (Light Forces) with Riggs commanding CruDiv 12 including Denver, and TG 95.3 which was to be the destroyer screen. TG 95.2 was set up to split CruDiv 12 so Riggs had two flanking forces—TU 95.2.1 under his command with Montpelier plus TU 95.2.2 with the unit under Columbia’s Capt. Maurice E. Curts’ command. TG 95.3 was carved out of DesRon 24. TU 95.3.1 and TU 95.3.2 were comprised two sets of flanking destroyers (DesDiv 47 and DesDiv 48 respectively). DesDiv 47 was composed of Anthony (DD-515), Beale (DD-471), Daly (DD-519), Wadsworth (DD-516), and Massey (DD-778). DesDiv 48 included Van Valkenburgh (DD-656), Ammen (DD-527), James C. Owens (DD-776), and Willard Keith (DD-775). TU 95.3.3 was to be a destroyer scouting line with destroyers rotating in and out as designated.
Denver spent most of 13 July 1945 engaged in anti-aircraft exercises as TF 95 made the journey from Leyte to Okinawa. This drill developed into a full group simulation to repel an air attack from Denver’s Seagulls on 14 July from 1315 to 1409. The following day, 15 July, was marked only by Ammen pulling alongside at 0920 to refuel Denver until 1059 as the group steamed onward for Okinawa. By the morning of 16 July, the group was entering Buckner Bay at Okinawa Island at 0739. Denver then steamed alongside oiler Suamico (AO-49) for fuel from 1053 until 1220 before steaming for her berth and dropping anchor.
The evening of 16 July 1945 saw Denver and TF 95 steam out for the first anti-shipping sweep of the Chinese coast. The cruiser got underway at 1900 in company of TF 95 from Buckner Bay with a target area between 26°30'N and 28°30'N. The next few days saw the sweeping operation severely hampered by a typhoon in the area. The morning of 17 July, at 0657, Ammen left formation for independent duty per Low’s orders. Per Nimitz’s orders, at 1114, TF 95 steamed back out of the operational area for Okinawa because of the approaching storm. Ammen was back in the group by 1536. TF 95 steamed southeast of Okinawa as they awaited the typhoon’s passing or dissipation. Massey was refueled from Denver, in the meantime, from 0659 to 0756—the destroyer later sighting and destroying a mine via gunfire at 1719. The typhoon was still a looming threat on 19 July with TF 95 southeast of Okinawa. Daly was refueled from Denver in the morning from 0719 to 0801, and Massey refueled from the cruiser from 0814 to 0851. Two mines were sighted during the day with one sunk by Massey via gunfire from 1421 to 1430 and the other sunk by James C. Owens via gunfire at 1845.
The typhoon threat seemed to have passed to the northeast of Okinawa by 20 July 1945 with TF 95 still steaming to the island’s southeast. Denver refueled Willard Keith that morning from 0742 to 0814, and at 1622 steamed for Kume Shima [Kumejima] on Okinawa to resume the anti-sweeping operation. In the early hours of 21 July, at 0210, Denver made radar contact with Kume Shima. Ammen left the group at 1125 to investigate a mine, and Van Valkenburgh did the same at 1155—the latter destroyer destroying the mine with gunfire. Both destroyers rejoined the formation at 1201. At 1900, the anti-sweep operation originally planned for two days earlier was now started. Columbia, Anthony, Beale, Daly, and Wadsworth left the formation at 1915 to steam ahead and form a scouting line. Columbia’s orders were to make contact with the coast and then alter course north. Denver spotted an enemy float plane at 2145 on bearing 108° at 21 miles distance. Denver opened fire with her 5-inch guns at 2153 when it closed to 8,300 yards at an altitude of 150 feet, but the float plane reversed course and escaped out of the area as Denver ceased fire at 2154.
Denver made radar contact with the Chinese coast at 0240 on 22 July 1945. By 0420, Columbia and her destroyer consorts had rejoined the formation. Denver along with the rest of TF 95 turned northeast at 0500, and at 0517 the first surface contact uncounted by the group was met by Wadsworth—the destroyer opening fire on it. These surface vessels were sampans—Chinese flat-bottomed boats capable of rigging sail. From the morning until the early afternoon these sampans were fired upon unless they could be positively identified as non-threatening. Low issued new orders upon realizing all the sampan occupants were Chinese citizens who declared there were no Japanese combatants in the vicinity. TF 95’s protocol when encountering the sampans changed so an investigation of the boat’s occupancy was carried out before opening fire. Even then the sampans were to be largely left alone unless raising suspicion. Denver and her group, at 0557, changed course northeast for the remainder of the morning. With nothing else to find they steamed on a retirement course at 1204 bound for Okinawa.
TF 95 steamed for Okinawa into the morning of 24 July 1945, pulling into Buckner Bay at 0517. Denver steamed independently at 0635 and pulled up to tanker Celtic (IX-137) for fuel from 0821 to 1307—dropping anchor in her berth afterwards. On the morning of 25 July, Vice Adm. Oldendorf was in Buckner Bay to assume command of TF 95 at 1100. TF 95 was transformed into a substantially larger group including Oldendorf’s BatRon 1 of aging battleships led by Tennessee, additional cruisers, escort carriers, and destroyers. Oldendorf’s group was designated as TG 95.3. Rear Adm. Low’s group of CruDiv 16, Riggs’ CruDiv 12 including Denver, and DesRon 24 were entirely subsumed as TG 95.2. For organizational purposes, CruDiv 12 was also put into subunit TU 95.2.2. Meanwhile, Denver replenished ammunition from cargo ship Mayfield Victory (AK-232), U.S. freighter Monroe Victory, and tank landing ship LST-555 from 1130 to 1345.
Denver and TG 95.2 got underway at 1535 on 26 July 1945 from Buckner Bay for another series of sweeps off the Chinese coast. The operational area for these sweeps was more around the Yellow Sea approaches to Shanghai, China—approaching as far north as 32°20'N. The cruiser and her group steamed northeast that evening. As TG 95.2 continued steaming north on 27 July 1945, the north leg of the sweep was largely uneventful. At 1430, Anthony destroyed a mine with gunfire. Otherwise, Denver and company steamed without incident. The following day’s sweep was almost quieter, but from 0100 to 0400 on 28 July, three unidentified aircraft were detected on radar to the formation’s west. The contacts never approached closer than 28 miles and did not warrant pursuit as Denver and TG 95.2 covered the southern portion of the Yellow Sea sweep at 0350. At 0840, the cruiser along with her consorts steamed onto the retirement course for Okinawa. TG 95.2 entered Buckner Bay by 1023 on 29 July. Denver moored to Celtic to refuel from 1125 to 1312, and then dropped anchor in her berth at 1340.
The end of July 1945 saw an enemy air raid alert set all of Buckner Bay on edge on 30 July while Denver was still at anchor, but no attack manifested. The cruiser sortied with TG 95.2 on 1 August at 0947 for another anti-shipping sweep off Shanghai—TG 95.3 had steamed out earlier as a covering force at 0630. The sweep, though delayed again by typhoon activity in the area, continued uneventfully through 3 August as Denver refueled Daly when she pulled alongside from 0835 to 0931. At 2300, Riggs’ was ordered to take CruDiv 12 and DesDiv 47 on detached duty for a westerly sweep and then reverse to join a group sweeping north and east by 0300.
The day after, once TG 95.2 reformed at 0313, was also mostly occupied with refueling operations, but interrupted by unidentified or friendly aircraft. At 0437 on 4 August 1945 an initially unidentified aircraft was detected on bearing 250° at 72 miles distance. The aircraft dropped window or chaff (small, thin metallic pieces to confuse radar) after passing 12 miles to Denver’s northwest—nearly over Massey and Daly. Both destroyers opened fire, but the plane’s countermeasures caused radar tracking to be confused temporarily. When the aircraft reappeared, it was on bearing 055° at 34 miles and then lost. The rest of the morning was mostly logistical as Daly was coming up alongside Denver for refueling at 0824 until 0950. Wadsworth pulled alongside for refueling at 1011 until 1213. The cruiser spent the afternoon on anti-aircraft drills as friendly aircraft continued to dart in and out of radar range. The evening western sweep was handled by DesDiv 47 as it detached at 2210.
As the sweep took Denver into 5 August 1945, DesDiv 47 rejoining the group at 0028, Daly gunned down a mine at 0615 and rejoined the group at 0630. Denver passed a larger mine to port without incident. The aerial situation then became a little less friendly. The cruiser had started anti-aircraft drills at 1300; however, at 1436 an enemy aircraft was detected on bearing 020° at a range of 36 miles. The CAP pursued the bogies until they retired to the southeast and reported splashing one by 1452. The CAP was going to have a busy afternoon. At 1506 another enemy aircraft was detected on bearing 040° at a range of 64 miles. The CAP vectored to intercept the contact and splashed the target. At 1711, another bogie was tracked on bearing 155° at a range of 28 miles. The CAP moved to cut off the bogie as it took a northeasterly approach to the formation. The CAP chased the enemy aircraft to a bearing of 190° still at a range of 28 miles, and reported it splashed by 1740. At 2222, DesDiv 47 detached to sweep the area to the west.
The sweep of 6 August 1945 also drew more attention to the air after DesDiv 47 rejoined the group at 0027. At 0320, three enemy aircraft on bearing 109° at a range of 20 miles brought the ship to alert status. They closed to 10 miles, but only dropped window or radar decoys before retiring to the northeast. At least a couple of enemy twin engine bombers approached the formation at 1101 on bearing 220° at altitudes between 28,000 and 32,000 feet. Denver observed friendly fighters in the area, but not any interception being made as one of the bombers shifted to bearing 070° at a range of 16 miles at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The CAP eventually splashed one of these aircraft, and one escaped. At 1355, Riggs assumed TG 95.2’s command while on Montpelier. Denver conducted additional firing drills from 1412 to 1427.
This series of sweeps came to a close as Denver and company returned to Buckner Bay on the morning of 7 August 1945 and steamed in at 0659. By 0812 the cruiser was moored to tanker Chotauk (IX-188) to refuel until 1346, and then steamed to her berth and dropped anchor. Rear Adm. Low assumed command of TG 95.2 once again at 1600. Denver picked up ammunition replenishment for her 40-millimeter and 20-millimeter guns from tank landing craft LCT-568 while at anchor on 8 August.
The next few days were more trying. Denver was anchored in Buckner Bay through 12 August 1945; however, the area repeatedly had endured alerts even as peace negotiations with Japan seemed imminent. At 2100 on 12 August 1945, a Japanese torpedo bomber penetrated the bay’s defenses and struck battleship Pennsylvania with a torpedo. The blast caused significant casualties and damage to Pennsylvania and brought the ships at anchor to a belated alert in their anti-aircraft batteries. Low ordered combat ships to retire from the harbor when darkness fell as of 13 August. Denver got underway at 1722 in company of TG 95.2 to steam east of Okinawa for the night. The next morning, at 0625 on 14 August, Denver reentered Buckner Bay and dropped anchor at 0726. This nightly steam east would be repeated that evening. On 15 August, upon Denver’s return to Buckner Bay at 0636, she pulled alongside tanker Kangaroo (IX-121) for refueling from 0810 to 1012—dropping anchor in her berth afterwards. Easterly retirement for the night was in order once again. This routine lasted through 16 August despite the Japanese surrender two days earlier. At 0619 on 17 August, Denver pulled into Buckner Bay and dropped anchor without steaming out again for night retirement.
The cruiser remained at anchor for the next several days in mid-August 1945. On 19 August, she shifted berths at 0756 to pull alongside Celtic for refueling until 1144—returning to her anchorage afterwards. She did not get underway again until 0625 on 22 August with TG 95.2 plus Suwanee for exercises. The drills lasted until 1716, and Denver returned to Buckner Bay to drop anchor at 2010. She shifted berths on 23 August at 0752 to refuel from Chotauk until 1010, and dropping anchor back in her berth.
Denver remained anchored at Buckner Bay through 28 August 1945 while TG 95.2 underwent a significant reorganization as it was temporarily attached to the Ninth Fleet under Vice Adm. Frank J. Fletcher—though operationally still under Spruance’s Fifth Fleet. The task group was reconstituted with Riggs’ CruDiv 12 and now CruDiv 13 with Rear Adm. Morton L. Deyo in overall command of the group on board Santa Fe, along with Birmingham, Mobile, and Biloxi. The group retained destroyers Ammen, Van Valkenburgh, Anthony, Beale, Daly, and Wadsworth. Denver got underway at 0727 on 29 August with the reformed TG 95.2 for exercises. Escort carrier Chenango (CVE-28) also steamed along with the group as they drilled. Exercises lasted until 1530, and Denver dropped anchor upon return to Buckner Bay at 1745. The cruiser waited for a day, and then got underway again at 0725 on 31 August with TG 95.2 plus escort carrier Cape Gloucester (CVE-109) for another day of exercising. The training ended by 1559 followed by Denver’s return to port at Buckner Bay, and dropping anchor at 1714.
As September 1945 began, TG 95.2’s exercises began focus on training and maintenance ahead of the occupational landings on Japan after the formal signing of surrender documents on 2 September 1945. Denver stayed at anchor to start the month but got underway at 0718 on 4 September with TG 95.2 plus Chenango for exercises. Riggs led the unit on board Montpelier most of the day, but Chenango became flagship during air operations. These drills lasted into the early afternoon until Denver entered Buckner Bay at 1643 and dropped anchor in her berth at 1721. This was only followed by refueling on 5 September as the cruiser shifted berths at 0818 to refuel from Chotauk until 1055 when dropping anchor again.
Denver remained at anchor for another day, but on 7 September 1945 a new group in the Fifth Fleet was formed with the objective to evacuate freed prisoners of war from Wakayama, Japan on southern Honshu. The new TG 56.5 (Wakayama Evacuation Group) was initially broken up into three subunits. TU 56.5.1 (Covering Unit) was composed of escort carrier Makin Island (CVE-93), Cleveland, Columbia, Denver, destroyer Compton (DD-705), destroyer Gainard (DD-706), destroyer Rowan (DD-782), and attack transport Pierce (APA-50). TU 56.6.2 (Evacuation Unit) was composed of Montpelier (Riggs commanding the unit), escort carrier Lunga Point (CVE-94), hospital ships Consolation (AH-15) and Sanctuary (AH-17), destroyer escort Hopping (DE-155), escort vessel Tatum (DE-789), Cofer, and several other escorts. TU 56.6.3 was a unit of tank landing ships plus their escorts. Overall command of the group rested with Rear Adm. Calvin T. Durgin on board Makin Island.
Denver got underway with TU 56.5.1 at 0600 on 9 September 1945, but her sortie instructions were delayed due to a conference held on board Spruance’s Fifth Fleet flagship battleship New Jersey (BB-62). Denver briefly returned to her berth but got underway again at 1218 minus Columbia as her sister ship was assigned to report to Vice Adm. George D. Murray (Commander Marianas) for independent duty in the Mariana Islands. TU 56.5.2 steamed out later in the afternoon and took station five miles ahead of TU 56.5.1. TU 56.5.3 was scheduled to rendezvous in the operating area at a later date.
On 10 September 1945 TU 56.5.1 including Denver were still steaming en route to Wakayama. At 1222, Pierce broke formation to destroy a mine—rejoining the group at 1430. At 2120 Denver made radar contact with Shikoku Island, Japan. The morning of 11 September had Denver and TU 56.5.1 steaming off Kii-Suidō (Kii channel) on approach to Wakayama. This marked the beginning of covering operations as TU 56.5.2 began evacuations. The day’s operation went without incident including Denver refueling Pierce from 0834 to 0936, and Compton from 1059 to 1156.
Denver and TU 56.5.1 remained on station into 12 September 1945 with the day marked only by anti-aircraft exercises held with Makin Island. The operations continued into 13 September uneventfully. Operations on 14 September were nearly routine with the cruiser refueling Gainard from 1010 to 1107. Compton left the group at 1138 to run down and destroy a mine with gunfire, and rejoin the group at 1158. Pierce and Gainard both fired on and destroyed mines that early afternoon as well.
On 15 September 1945, Riggs declared the harbor at Wakanoura Wan [Wakaura Bay], Japan off Kii-Suidō to be safe for navigation. Durgin led TU 56.5.1 into Wakanoura Wan to make port that morning. Denver passed through Kii-Suidō at 0735 and dropped anchor in Wakanoura Wan at 1053. While the harbor may have been safe from manmade enemies, natural ones were another matter. Denver repeatedly shifted berths from 16—17 September in anticipation of a typhoon and heavy seas approaching the area from the south. At 1905, she was prepared to get underway if riding out the storm at sea was necessary. At 2300, she spun up her engines to prevent dragging by the storm. On 18 September, Denver maintained her position at anchor at Wakanoura Wan with skillful rudder and engine control as she was buffeted by the storm’s high winds and heavy seas. The typhoon passed 75 miles to the north, but the effects still dragged Denver 1,000 yards towards a neighboring berth. By 1125 she was able to secure her steering and main engines as the ship returned to normal watch conditions.
Denver got underway at 0555 on 19 September 1945 out of Wakanoura Wan to pump out her ballast at sea ahead of refueling. She roamed the entrance of Kii-Suidō during this operation until 1400, and then steamed back into Kii-Suidō as the ballast dump continued until the cruiser dropped anchor at her berth in Wakanoura Wan by 1700. On 20 September, she pulled up to Suamico for refueling at 1006 until 1237, and then steamed to another berth to drop anchor.
On 22 September 1945, Denver along with CruDiv 12 (minus Columbia) was assigned to TG 51.3 with the task group placed under Rear Adm. Durgin’s command on board Makin Island. TG 51.3’s objective was to cover landings being made at Wakayama scheduled for 25 September led by elements of Gen. Walter Krueger’s Sixth Army (123rd, 130th, 136th Inf., 33rd Div.,). Denver was ordered to remain at anchor but stand by for fire support if necessary. The cruiser remained at anchor through 24 September, and upon the date of the Wakayama landings on 25 September at 0830, no fire support was called upon from the covering force nor furnished. Denver remained anchored in Wakanoura Wan through the end of September 1945.
Denver anchored in Wakanoura Wan to start October 1945, not getting underway until 4 October at 1730 to shift berths in anticipation of typhoon conditions. She moved to a berth in Kii-Suidō for the heavy weather until 5 October, then shifted back to her berth in Wakanoura Wan at 1554 and dropped anchor after the weather had improved. On 6 October, the cruiser got underway at 1230 to pull alongside oiler Saugatuck (AO-75) for refueling until 1444—returning to her berth afterwards. The cruiser also received orders on this day detaching her from the Fifth Fleet with orders as of 20 October to steam for Pearl Harbor, the Canal Zone, and to report to Adm. Jonas H. Ingram (Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet) for duty.
The cruiser was still at port in Wakanoura Wan through mid-October 1945, but forced to get underway to deal with another bout of foul weather. On 9 October, she got underway at 1249 to steam to her designated typhoon anchorage in Kii-Suidō yet again—arriving at 1344. She shifted berths slightly once more at 1357 to afford more sea room. Denver weathered the typhoon conditions on 10 October from her Kii-Suidō berth. At 1520 she used her main engines to prevent dragging from violent wind-swept sea. At 1717, she was forced to get underway to shift berths and put more distance between her and neighboring ships also being dragged around by the storm—combining her main and steering engines to turn her bow into the wind. The next day saw the typhoon pass to the west, and Denver got underway at 1500 from Kii-Suidō to return to her berth at Wakanoura Wan—remaining anchored there through 19 October.
Denver, at 0530 on 20 October, began her final cruise for home—steaming independently en route for Pearl Harbor. Her morning steaming out of Kii-Suidō was not entirely without note. After she set her easterly course upon leaving Kii-Suidō at 0930, she sank two enemy mines by gunfire during the day—at 1140, and 1637. Her journey to Pearl Harbor was uneventful other than regular exercises on 22, and 28 October. At 1520 on 28 October she entered Pearl Harbor and dropped anchor. The cruiser remained anchored at Pearl Harbor for a couple of days, and then got underway at 0830 on 30 October bound for San Pedro, Calif. before transiting the Panama Canal on 14 November onward to Norfolk [Va.] Naval Shipyard.
Denver arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 21 November 1945. After one of several minor post-war overhauls, she reported to Newport, R.I. in January 1946 per Adm. Ingram’s orders of 1 January 1946 for duty training men of the Naval Reserve. Ingram had constructed CruDiv 14 out of CruDiv 12 and attached the sister cruisers to the Fourth Fleet Reserve with reduced officer and crew complements. Riggs still ran the overall unit. The first training sessions lasted on Denver until she returned briefly to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 10 March 1946, but then command of Denver was turned over to Darden’s executive officer Cmdr. James D. Ferguson. Another training session based out of Newport, R. I. for new ensigns lasted from March until May that included a stop at Bermuda [United Kingdom] in April before returning to Newport.
The cruiser then steamed for New York [N.Y.] Naval Shipyard for another brief overhaul through June 1946 upon being assigned to the Sixteenth Fleet. Riggs was relieved of command of CruDiv 14 by Vice Adm. Edmund W. Burrough to start the month before Denver was to be moving onto a goodwill tour in company of sister ships Columbia, Cleveland, and Montpelier with short stops at Portland, Maine, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and Quebec, Canada through most of June 1946. On 28 June, Denver returned to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for a final pre-inactivation overhaul and disembarking of most of her remaining officers, and crew by 29 June. On 1 July she reported to the Sixteenth Fleet while remaining in Philadelphia Naval Shipyard along with the rest of CruDiv 14. Cmdr. Bennett C. Oelheim oversaw the cruiser’s last duties as she was placed in commissioned reserve on 16 October. On 7 February 1947, Denver was decommissioned, and placed into the Atlantic Fleet reserve.
She earned nicknames from her crew such as “razor” because of her gunnery efficiency, and “lighthouse buster” because of her penchant for leveling lighthouse installations during shore bombardments she carried out against Palau and Suluan over the course of her World War II career.
The cruiser was stricken from the Naval Register on 1 March 1959. Denver was sold on 29 February 1960 to Union Minerals & Alloy Corp. in New York City for $260,689.89. She underwent final demilitarization, and break-up at Kearny, N.J. from September through November 1960.
Of the 27 Cleveland class light cruisers completed between 1942 and 1946, few were retained long beyond World War II. Denver, as with most of this class, did not receive significant post-war modification such as advanced electronic or missile modernizations by the time she was scrapped.
Denver received several awards. She—along with her sister ships from CruDiv 12—received the Navy Unit Commendation, signed in December 1944 by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, for the 2 November 1943 Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. The cruiser received the Navy Occupation Service Medal for the duties she performed from 2 September to 20 October 1945 off Wakayama, Japan. Denver also earned 11 battle stars for her World War II service.
Date Assumed Command
Capt. Robert B. Carney
15 October 1942
Capt. Robert P. Briscoe
24 July 1943
Capt. Albert M. Bledsoe
22 February 1944
Capt. Thomas F. Darden, Jr.
6 April 1945
Cmdr. James D. Ferguson
10 March 1946
Cmdr. Bennet C. Oelheim
9 October 1946
Gregory N. Stern
24 April 2020