USS Alaska (CB-1)

USS Alaska (CB-1) was the first member of the Alaska class of large cruisers to enter service, and took part in the final stages of the fighting on Iwo Jima, the invasion of Okinawa, and supported the fast carriers during their raids on the Japanese Home Islands and in the East China Sea. She was awarded three battle stars for her World War II service.

The Alaska was laid down in December 1941, launched in August 1943 and commissioned on 17 June 1944. Her shakedown cruiser took her to Chesapeake Bay and Trinidad and was followed by a period of yard work. She set off for the Pacific in mid-November 1944, and reached the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 13 January 1945. She crossed the Pacific to Ulithi with TG 12.2, and at the start of February 1945 she joined TG 58.5, part of the fast carrier task force.

On 10 February the Alaska sailed as part of TG 58.5 (USS Saratoga CV-3 and USS Enterprise CV-6), as part of the carrier screen. This was the first major carrier strike on the Japanese Home Islands, and was intended to provide cover for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Poor weather prevented the Japanese from attacking the US fleet.

The Alaska was then moved to TG 58.4 to support the invasion of Iwo Jima. Her task force wasn't attacked during the nineteen days the Alaska was based off Iwo Jima.

On 14 March the fleet left Ulithi to conduct another raid on the Japanese home islands, this time with the aim of destroying Japanese aircraft before the invasion of Okinawa. The Alaska was still with TG 58.4, which contained the carriers Yorktown (CV-10), Intrepid (CV-11), Independence (CVL-22) and Langley (CVL-27), and once again was part of their anti-aircraft screen. The carriers hit airfields at Usa, Oita and Saeki on 18 March. The Alaska finally got to fire her guns in anger on this day when Japanese aircraft attacked the fleet. Her first target was a Yokosuka P1Y 'Frances', which was targeting the carrier Intrepid, but that was destroyed by a direct hit from the Alaska. This marked the start of a day of kamikaze attacks, but most were shot down by the carrier's fighter aircraft or heavy AA gunfire. The Alaska claimed a second victory over a 'Judy'.
  
On 19 March the carriers sent their aircraft against Japanese warships in the Inland Sea. Once again the US fleet came under air attack. The carriers Franklin (CV-13) and Wasp (CV-18) were both hit.

The Alaska and her sister ship USS Guam (CB-2) were allocated to a new salvage unit, TU 58.2.9, which was formed to protect the Franklin. The unit contained the two Alaska class ships, the light cruiser Santa Fe (CL-60) and three destroyer divisions. The damaged carrier made for Guam, covered by TU 58.2.9. The other carriers from TG 58.2 provided more distant cover. On the afternoon of 19 March the small fleet was approached by two aircraft. One was identified as a friendly, but the other was a 'Judy', which was able to attack and escape unscathed. The Franklin was also undamaged, but the Alaska suffered her only combat casualty of the war when several men suffered flash burns.

The Alaska escorted the Franklin until 22 March, when she was freed to rejoin TG 58.4. Late that day a Japanese submarine was detected close to the group, and it was rammed and sunk on the following morning. The Alaska returned to her position in the anti-aircraft screen while the carriers bombarded Okinawa.

In late March the Alaska was ordered to bombard the island of Minami Daito Shima, 160 miles east of Okinawa, while on her way to refuel. She fired 45 12in shells and 352 rounds of 5in anti-aircraft shells at the island on the night of 27-28 March, without any response from the island.

TG 58.4 refuelled and then returned to Okinawa to protect the invasion. The Alaskas upported the invasion of 1 April, and also provided anti-aircraft cover. The Japanese navy attempted to send a suicide sortie of heavy ships to Okinawa, but they were repulsed by carrier aircraft on 7 April. Amongst their victims was the giant battleship Yamato.

During April the Alaska covered the fast carriers as they operated against targets on Okinawa and on Kyushu. She claimed one assist and one victory on 11 April and three victories and three assists on 16 April, although on the same day the carrier Intrepid was hit.

The Alaska returned to Ulithi to replenish on 14 May, after two months at sea. The 5th Fleet now became the 3rd Fleet, and the Alaska thus became part of TG 38.4. The group now included the carrier Ticonderoga (CV-14) and the battleship Iowa (BB-61). The fleet sailed in late May, and once again the Alaska formed part of the anti-aircraft screen. She also carried out another shore bombardment, this time hitting Okino Daito Shima, close to Minami Daito Shima, on 9 June, when her targets were Japanese radar bases.

The Alaska spent the period between 13 June and 13 July resting at San Pedro Bay, Leyte. She was then allocated to the new Task Force 95, the first US surface fleet to enter the East China Sea since the attack on Pearl Harbor. The task force, which also included the Guam, encountered very little resistance during three sweeps into the East China Sea, operating from a base at Buckner Bay on Okinawa.

After the Japanese surrender the Alaska formed part of the 7th Fleet's occupation forces. She visited the Yellow Sea and the Gulf of Chihli, before reaching Inchon in Korea on 8 September 1945 to support US troops that were occupying the southern part of Korea. She then moved to Tsingtao a former German possession on the Chinese coast taken by the Japanese early in the First World War. The US Marines occupied the port in October.

The Alaska finally left the Far East in November as the start of a 'Magic Carpet' trip back to the United Stats. She reached Boston on 18 December 1945, where she prepared to be inactivated. She was placed in commission in the reserve on 13 August 1946 and out of commission on 17 February 1947. She was struck off on 1 June 1960 and sold for scrapping later in the year.

Displacement (standard)

29,779t

Displacement (loaded)

34,253t

Top Speed

33kts

Range

12,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

5-9in

 - armour deck

3.8-4in
1.4in weather deck
0.625in splinter deck

 - barbettes

11-13in

 - turrets

12.8in face
5in roof
5.25-6in side
5.25in rear

 - conning tower

10.6in
5in roof

Length

808ft 6in

Armaments

Nine 12in/50 guns (three triple turrets)
Twelve 5in/38 guns (six double positions)
Fifty six 40mm guns (14 four gun positions)
Thirty four 20mm guns

Crew complement

1,517

Laid down

17 December 1941

Launched

15 August 1943

Completed

17 June 1944

Stricken

1 June 1960

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 August 2015), USS Alaska (CB-1) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Alaska_CB1.html

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