USS Augusta (CA-31)

USS Augusta (CA-31) was a Northampton class heavy cruiser that took part in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, served with the British Home Fleet, took part in the D-Day invasion and the invasion of the South of France. She was awarded three battle stars for her service during the Second World War.

The Augusta was laid down on 2 July 1928, launched on 1 February 1930 and commissioned on 30 January 1931. Her first shakedown cruise was ended by a turbine failure, but a second cruise took her to Panama. She then joined the Scouting Force, where she was flagship for Vice Admiral Arthur L. Willard. She was based on the US east coast until the spring of 1932 when the cruisers were retained on the West Coast. The Augusta remained on the west coast until October 1933 when she was sent to China to become Flagship of the Asiatic Station, replacing the Houston at Shanghai. She reached Shanghai on 9 November and became the flagship of Admiral Frank B. Upham.

During her time in the Far East the Augusta visited Japan, Australia and the Philippines, but spent most of her time off the Chinese coast. This was a largely peaceful posting until fighting broke out between the Japanese and Chinese at the Marco Polo Bridge near Peking in July 1937. By August the Augusta was at Shanghai, where fighting had also broken out. She remained in a prominent mooring at Shanghai until January 1938. She then went to the Philippines for her yearly overhaul, returning to Shanghai on 9 April 1938. This was a brief stay and she soon cruised north along the coast. During the rest of 1938 and most of 1939 she operated along the Chinese coast. In 1940 she ranged further afield, and on 22 November 1940 she left Manila on her way back to the United States.

After her return to the United States the Augusta underwent a major overhaul. She received four extra 5in antiaircraft guns, carried on top of the aircraft hanger. A temporary battery of 3in anti-aircraft guns was installed to make up for a shortage of 1.1in guns, and new Mark XIX directors were installed. Many of these changes had been installed on the rest of the class in previous years, but the Augusta had been on the Asiatic station for several years and had fallen behind.

In April 1941 the modernised Augusta set sail for the Atlantic, joining the Atlantic Fleet on 17 April. She served as the flagship of Admiral Ernest J. King, then Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet (he became C-in-C of the United States Fleet in December 1941. King was at Washington for much of the time, but the Augusta served as his administrative flagship.

In June 1941 the Augusta was chosen to take President Roosevelt to the Argentia Bay meeting with Winston Churchill in August. She underwent significant modifications to create the Presidential accommodation, work that would make her the obvious choice for several other high profile journeys, including carrying President Truman to Europe at the end of the war.

The Prime Minister visited the President on the Augusta and many of the key meetings that led to the creation of the Atlantic Charter were held onboard. After this meeting the Augusta remained the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war the Augusta operated off the US east coast and in the Caribbean. She became the flagship of TF 22 (Rear Admiral Alexander Sharp).

On 23 October she became the flagship of Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, Commander, Task Force 34, part of the fleet allocated to Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. She also carried General George S. Patton and Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr, across the Atlantic. She set sail on 23 October, and reached the coast of French Morocco on 7 November.

The landings on 8 November met with serious French resistance. The Augusta launched her spotter planes at 6.30 and opened fire with her 8in guns at 7.10 am. She soon had to leave to intercept a French naval force of two cruisers and four destroyers, forcing it to withdraw. During the day French ships based at Casablanca made several attempts to attack the American fleet. During the day the Augusta sank the destroyer Le Boulonnais and damaged the Le Brestois. Later in the day the cruiser Primauguet attempted to leave port, but Augusta hit one of her turrets and she withdrew. French attempts to leave the port failed. On 10 November she forced off another French destroyer then came under fire from the main guns of the damaged battleship Jean Bart. American aircraft had to silence the French battleship. On 11 November a cease-fire came into force in Morocco and on 20 November the Augusta departed for the US.

Between 9 December 1942 and February 1943 the Augusta underwent a refit in which her anti-aircraft firepower was upgraded. After that she spent some time in training. In July she escorted Convoy AT 54A across the Atlantic to Greenock, Scotland

In August 1943 the Augusta joined TF 22, which was to replace the battleships South Dakota and Alabama with the British Home Fleet, watching the German battleship Tirpitz. She moored at Scapa Flow on 19 August, and the task force came under British operational control as TG 112.1. She spent most of her time with the Home Fleet operating between Scotland and Iceland, before returning to the US for a refit in November-December 1943.

In April she returned to British water, this time as the flagship of Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commander of Task Force 122. On 25 May she had another distinguished visitor when King George VI came on board for lunch.

Her new role was as the flagship of the Western Task Force during the D-Day landings. She sailed from Plymouth on 5 June with General Omar Bradley and his staff onboard. On D-Day she fired 51 8in shells at German targets on Omaha Beach. Bradley left on 10 June to move ashore. On 3.57 on 11 June a rare German bombing raid got over the fleet, but the nearest bomb to Augusta was 800 yards off her port beam. On 12 June she fired her 5in guns at a German aircraft and on 13 June she shot down a German aircraft. On 15 June she carried out another shore bombardment, and on 18 June provided anti-aircraft cover. On 1 July Admiral Kirk moved his flag to the destroyer Thompson (DD-637) and the Augusta returned to Plymouth. 

The Augusta's next task was to support Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France. With TG 120.6 she sailed to Algeria in early July, then moved on to Italy for training. In August she became the flagship of TF 86 and then joined the 'Sitka' Assault group. On 15 August 1944 she fired at targets on Port Cros Island at the start of the Operation Dragoon. A fort on the island was her main target on 16-17 August (alongside the cruiser Omaha (CL-4). On the 17th the fort surrendered. On 19 August she took part in a reconnaissance in force of St. Mandrier Island, off Toulon.

By the end of August Toulon and Marsailles had surrendered. The marines from Augusta and Philadelphia took the surrender of German forces on the islands of Ratonneau and Chateau d'If in Marseille Harbour. On 30 August she moved to San Tropez, where Admiral Davidson shifted his flag to the Philadelphia (CL-41). On 1 September the Augusta left the task force and returned to Italy. She then sailed back to the United States where she began a major overhaul.

In the first part of 1945 the Augusta operated off the US east coast. In February she formed part of the escort for President Roosevelt as he returned from the Yalta Conference. Two months later the President died, and the Augusta flew her colours at half mast for a month.

After the end of the war in Europe the Augusta transported President Truman to Europe for the Potsdam Conference. In November and December 1945 she was used to ferry US troops back across the Atlantic. She was placed out of commission on 16 July 1946 and entered the reserve. She was struck off the naval list on 1 March 1949 and sold for scrap on 9 November 1959.

Displacement (standard)

9,006t

Displacement (loaded)

11,420t

Top Speed

32.5kts

Range

10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

3in over machinery
1in deck

 - magazines

3.75in side
2in deck

 - barbettes

1.5in

 - gunhouses

2.5in face
2in roof
0.75in side and rear

Length

600ft 3in oa

Armaments

Nine 8in guns (three 3-gun turrets)
Four 5in guns (four single positions)
Six 21in torpedo tubes
Four aircraft

Crew complement

617? (734-48 for USS Chicago and USS Houston)

Laid down

2 July 1928

Launched

1 February 1930

Completed

30 January 1931

Stricken

1959

US Heavy Cruisers 1941-45: Pre War Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'treaty cruisers' built in the US between the wars, limited by treaty to 10,000 tons and 8in guns. Five classes of treaty cruisers were produced and they played a major role in the fighting during the Second World War, despite the limits imposed on them by the treaty restrictions. [read full review]
cover cover cover

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 April 2014), USS Augusta (CA-31) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Augusta_CA31.html

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