"Just as flagship Minneapolis triggered her ninth salvo, two powerful warheads hurled themselves against her hull, releasing vast explosive energy. One torpedo exploded in the bow compartment forward of No. 1 turret, the other dealt death and destruction to N. 2 fireroom. Two gigantic mushrooms of sea water erupted on the port side, pausing momentarily at masthead height. Pinnacles of jagged flame on the forecastle, fed by burning aviation gasoline, reached up to the heavens; while amidships, fuel oil burned no less dangerously. The heavy body of the cruiser shook, rolled and thrashed like a harpooned whale Moby Dick." (The Struggle for Guadacanal, Volume V of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at pages 303-304)
President Herbert Hoover was indirectly responsible for the production of the best class of USN heavy cruisers built under the terms of the Washington and London Treaties, with the exception of the USS Wichita. He did this by freezing the construction of three cruisers to be built in Navy Yards from the 1929 program. If he had not done this there would have been five ships in the Portland Class, instead of two, and USN cruiser design may have gone down a different path. However, as a result of the delay a new, more heavily armored design was developed, which became the New Orleans Class heavy cruisers. The last of the five cruisers of the 1929 program was USS Minneapolis CA36.
The first attempt by the USN to build a ship to the new treaty limitations was only partially successful. In a display of excess caution to avoid exceeding the 10,000-ton limit, the Pensacola CA-24 and Salt Lake City CA-25 came in 900 tons under the limit. Although well armed, their light design made them bad rollers with a consequent degradation of gunnery accuracy. The armor belt was a paltry 2.5 inches and that was only over machinery spaces. The next design, the Northampton Class, was somewhat better but still decidedly under-armored. The six ships of the class CA-26 through CA-31 were 1,000-tons under limit but did marginally increase the armor to a belt of 3-inches over machinery spaces. However, one salient feature of the six Northamptons was that they were all laid down within six months of each other in 1928.
Under the Washington Treaty of 1922 there was no subdivision between light and heavy cruisers. The only limitations were on maximum displacement at 10,000-tons standard and maximum gun size at 8-inches. There was no limitation on quantity of cruisers that could be built. As every major navy built heavy cruisers armed with 8-inch guns and close to the 10,000-ton limit or exceeding it in the case of Japan and Italy, the Royal Navy had trouble "Keeping up with the Joneses". In London, their Lordships of the Admiralty started to see unlimited cruiser construction running amuck. Britain could not keep up with this tempo. Britain didn’t want to build the large, expensive County Class heavy cruisers. The RN wanted smaller, lighter cruisers in large quantities for trade route protection. However, they felt compelled to sink their limited naval budget into the big Counties. Politically, it would have been probable suicide to build smaller, less capable cruisers, when everybody else was building to the limit. Undoubtedly, some paper on Fleet Street would have alleged that the government was selling out the safety of the Empire by building inferior designs.
"On February 5, 1929, the Senate passed by a large majority, the Bill authorizing the construction of a further fifteen 10,000-ton cruisers. They refused to comply with the wish of the President that the rate of construction should be left to the discretion, and retained in the Bill a clause decreeing that the cruisers are to be laid down at the rate of five a year for the next three years." (Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1930, 1930, Edited by Commander Charles Robinson RN and H.M. Ross) The first batch of this new huge cruiser program was for FY29 and were allocated in July 1929 with three of the five allocated to US Navy Yards and the other two allocated to private yards.
In Britain Ramsay MacDonald, leader of the Labour Party, had just become Prime Minister and looked with alarm at the huge increase in US cruiser construction. There was no way the Royal Navy could afford five new 10,000-ton cruisers each year for the next three years. Twenty years earlier in the dreadnought building race between Britain and Imperial Germany, the Royal Navy simply outspent and out built the German fleet. The British Empire was at the height of her power, prestige and wealth then. In one year in that period the Royal Navy had laid down eight battleships. World War One had been a human and financial catastrophe for Britain, even though she was among the victors. She no longer could afford to simply out build a competitor. "It is impossible in the face of this experience that to deny that competitive building is a serious bar to the maintenance of good relations between nations, nor can it be denied that independent building may very easily assume an aspect of competition. It was so in the case of Germany and England from 1900 to 1914; it was so in the case of the United States in 1919; it was so in 1926 when the United States woke up to the fact that they had only two 10,000-ton 8-inch-gun cruisers against the British eleven, and announced the discovery in an explosion of feeling which was only too readily exploited by ‘propagandists of hate." .""( Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1931, 1930, Edited by Commander Charles Robinson RN and H.M. Ross," The London Naval Treaty, by Captain Alfred C. Dewar RN at pages 69,70)
Whether or not he played upon the Congressional snub of Herbert Hoover’s wish to control the pace of cruiser construction, Mac Donald quickly contacted Hoover about the arms race in cruisers that Britain could not afford to enter. MacDonald pressed for more arms reductions. MacDonald suspended activity on two cruisers ordered in May but not yet laid down, the Northumberland and Surrey. In response Hoover deferred laying down the three cruisers allocated to the Navy Yards but the USN was already contractually obligated to proceed with the two of the five allocated to private yards. Those two ships were Portland CA-33 and Indianapolis CA-35 and their construction started while the three Navy Yard cruisers were still on hold. Both ships were laid down in spring 1930 while the London Conference was meeting over further armament limitations. This time, instead of coming in at 9,000-tons, the designers used the 10,000-ton limit to add extra armor protection. Although the belt remained 3-inches, the armored deck jumped from 1-inch to 2.5-inches and magazine armor jumped from 3.25-inches to 5.75-inches. So this pair in terms of deck and magazine protection were much more robust that the earlier eight cruisers. However, the belt armor had not changed and the navy wanted their cruisers to have better side protection. If President Hoover had not responded to MacDonald by suspending work on the three Navy Yard cruisers of the 1929 program, New Orleans, Astoria and Minneapolis would have been built as members of the Portland Class.
If you look at the numbering sequence of the cruiser construction of the USN, you’ll notice a discrepancy. Cruisers of a newer design New Orleans CA-32 and Astoria CA-34 have earlier numbers than the older design of Portland and Indianapolis. This was the result of the hold that Hoover placed on the three Navy Yard cruisers of the 1929 program, which were New Orleans, Astoria and Minneapolis CA-36. The two cruisers in private yards progressed as planned but the three Navy Yard ships, which were on hold, were subsequently given a newer design. The upshot of the postponement of new cruiser construction was the London Treaty of 1930. The same signatories to the Washington Treaty agreed to further restrictions. Cruisers were now subdivided into two types; heavy cruisers with guns over 6.1-inch and no greater than 8-inch and light cruisers with guns up to 6.1-inch. The terms, heavy and light, did not refer to displacement but just gun size. The maximum displacement per ship was left at 10,000-tons but now the parties agreed to maximum total tonnage of cruisers by the light and heavy categories.
By 1930 it was well recognized that heavy cruiser designs were vulnerable. The 10,000-ton limit just did not allow an adequate armor scheme with the designs that had already appeared. "The great weakness of the type is the insufficiency of the protection that can be afforded, particularly on the sides and above water decks amidships, where the deck immediately over the machinery spaces is usually at a height slightly above the waterline owing to the comparatively shallow draught of the vessels; all the while such high speeds and great endurances are held to be essential the ship must be of such size that she cannot be adequately protected against a ship with gun power equal to her own; as at present built a well placed salvo of 8-inch shells would place the ship receiving it out of action, and it would have required at least an additional thousand tons of displacement beyond the Treaty limit if full protection against 8-inch guns had been incorporated in the design of existing ships. It is possible that experience will show that some reduction in the designed speed and in the radius of action is acceptable; the reduction of space required for machinery and fuel would permit of reduced dimensions for the ship, there would be a saving of weight in hull, and a reduction in the areas requiring protection.""( Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1931, 1930, Edited by Commander Charles Robinson RN and H.M. Ross,"Capital Ships and Cruisers, by William J. Berry at pages 110-111) Of course the Italian and Japanese navies had already solved this dilemma by adding the extra armor to their designs and then lying about the true displacement of their cruisers. The USN had taken a step in the right direction with the increased deck and magazine protection of Portland and Indianapolis but that was still not enough armor.
"It was cruisers that the Washington Conference unfortunately omitted, and it is cruisers which now form the substance and essence of the London Treaty enveloped in a variety of clauses not too easy to unravel….The vexed question of United States cruisers has at last been settled." .""( Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1931, 1930, Edited by Commander Charles Robinson RN and H.M. Ross," The London Naval Treaty, by Captain Alfred C. Dewar RN at pages 72,75) Under the terms of the new London Treaty the USN was allowed a total tonnage of 180,000-tons of heavy cruisers (i.e. eighteen 10,000-ton cruisers) and 143,500-tons in light cruisers. The RN received 146,800-tons in heavies and 192,200-tons in lights, while Japan received 108,400-tons in heavies and 100,450-tons in lights. The Royal Navy received what it wanted. It stopped the huge new US cruiser program dead in its tracks. With the two Pensacolas, six Northamptons and two Portlands, the USN could build eight more heavy cruisers and even here there were additional restrictions imposed on the US. Three of the eight were already accounted for. In his article on the results of the London Treaty in Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1931, Captain Dewar also listed the three navy yard ships put on hold by Hoover in 1929 as Indianapolis type ships, but in fact, they had already gone down a different path. When the London Treaty was signed in April 1930, the plans for the two private yard ships of 1929 were locked. Portland was laid down on February 17, 1930 and Indianapolis on March 31, 1930. However, the three 1929 ships allocated to navy yards, New Orleans, Astoria and Minneapolis, contrary to Captain Dewar’s beliefs, were not locked into the same design. In fact a completely new design was developed for them that would greatly increase the armor scheme of the cruisers from previous designs.
To allow a thicker armor belt, the New Orleans design had to be shortened so that that the armor belt would not have to cover as much distance. The New Orleans Class was shortened by 14 feet at the waterline, with a further beam reduction of 4 feet, from the Portlands. This was achieved through a sacrifice in the machinery layout. Although the USN had been the first major power to adopt the "unit layout" for machinery, they went back to the older "inline layout" in order to shorten the ship. The "unit layout" separated boilers and engines far more than the "inline system". Ships with the "unit layout" were far less susceptible to loose all power through one lucky hit. The disadvantage was that a unit layout required more machinery space than an inline layout, hence a longer ship. With the New Orleans Class the USN took the chance of a more compact machinery space under the theory that the protection afforded by a thicker armor belt would compensate for the risk. The size of the fuel bunkers weight of fuel tonnage was also reduced to save weight with a reduction of range. With the weight saved in this manner, the New Orleans Class of heavy cruiser was far more comprehensively armored than all of the previous designs. The armor belt jumped from 3-inches to a maximum of 5.75-inches. Although there was a slight decrease in deck and magazine armor, the turrets were finally armored with 5-inch barbettes, 6-inch face, 2.5-inch roof and 1.5-inch side armor, which was a marked improvement from the 2.5-inch face and 2-inch roof armor of the gunhouses of the earlier designs.
USS Minneapolis CA36was not the first cruiser to the modern USN steel navy to bare that name. There was a USS Minneapolis cruiser laid down in 1895, that mounted eight-inch guns but only two of these guns were mounted. This cruiser and half-sister USS Columbia were designed to be commerce raiders. The new USN was still a parvenu on the naval stage and adopted a type, the commerce raider, normally associated with a weaker naval power. They were larger in size than the contemporary armored cruisers and were very fast for the time. However, they were very under gunned for their size. Neither played any significant role in the Spanish-American War. The new Minneapolis was fated to play a very significant role in the Second World War.
On June 27, 1931 the new Minneapolis was laid down at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. She was launched on September 6, 1933 and completed May 19, 1934. That year saw five of the new class join the fleet as the first five ships, New Orleans, Astoria, Minneapolis, Tuscaloosa and San Francisco were completed between February and August 1934. There were some differences among the ships. New Orleans had a more open superstructure, without the lower bridge level. Astoria and Minneapolis were close to being twins. Tuscaloosa and San Francisco were the same as each other but varied from the first three in having lighter eight-inch guns with a more compact turret design. The last two ships of the class came much later and featured a significant change. The first turret was moved seven feet closer to B turret to further concentrate the armor scheme and this resulted in the removal of the 01 level of the superstructure in front of B barbette. The bridgework changed again as well. Quincy was completed in 1936 and Vincennes in 1937.
Upon commissioning Minneapolis made a break-in cruise to Europe, after which she joined CruDiv 7, Cruiser Division 7 in April 1935, as part of the Pacific Fleet. Of the class only Tuscaloosa remained in the Atlantic, which may help explain her charmed career. Tuscaloosa did not appear in the Pacific until February 1945. Although based at Pearl Harbor, the Minneapolis was out of the harbor at gunnery practice when the Japanese attack arrived. Minnie linked up with ships that had escaped Pearl, including cruisers Detroit, St. Louis and Phoenix, which in turn joined the Enterprise when she arrived on the evening of the attack. For the first couple of months after the Pearl Harbor attack, there were fears of renewed attacks and landings in the Hawaiian Islands so Minneapolis was involved in patrolling Hawaiian waters until February 1942. In the next months she was assigned a number of different missions. She was part of the escort for USS Lexington, was convoy escort for a troop convoy from the Panama Canal to the southwest Pacific and briefly operated with the ANZAC force in the Coral Sea and New Hebrides. In March she was escort to a carrier raid that attacked the Japanese in Papua New Guinea, the huge island north of Australia.
Since there were no battleships available in the first half of 1942, heavy cruisers were the premium gun-power ships available to the USN and were in constant demand as carrier escorts. As part of TF16 Minneapolis was a carrier escort during the Battle of Coral Sea in May, escorting the Lexington again. Admiral Kinkaid, who flew his flag from the Minneapolis, took over the rescue operations of the crew of the stricken carrier and Admiral Fitch, force commander, then transferred his flag to the Minnie.
USS Minneapolis at Pearl Harbor Shortly Before Steaming to Mare Island for Major Refit
USS Minneapolis Vital Statistics
Dimensions: Displacement – 10,136-tons standard, 12,493-tons full load, 13,719-tons in 1944: Length – 588 feet (179.22m) overall, 578 feet (176.18m) waterline: Beam – 61 feet 9 inches (18.82m): Draught – 22 feet 9 inches (6.93m) mean: Armament after Refit – Nine 8-inch/55 3x3, Eight 5-inch/25 8x1, Twenty-four 40mm Bofors 6x4, Twenty-Eight Oerlikon 20mm 28x1.
Armor: Belt – 5.75 to 4 inches, Deck – 2.25
inches, Magazines – 4 to 3 inches, Barbettes – 5
inches, Turrets – Front – 6 inches, Crown – 2.25
inches, Sides – 1.5 inches:
At the Battle of Midway in June 1942 Minneapolis was in the main body with Enterprise and Hornet until they split apart into task groups. Then Minneapolis, New Orleans and Atlanta went with Hornet. A week after the battle the USN forces were reorganized and Minneapolis, New Orleans and Astoria were assigned as escorts to Saratoga with Admiral Fitch. In August she received a new assignment, to support the landings and capture of Guadacanal and the lower Solomons. When Saratoga was torpedoed, Admiral Fitch remembered the sterling service that Minnie had rendered for his old flagship Lexington and ordered Minneapolis to tow the Sara to safety. The Guadacanal campaign was to be the meat grinder for not only the USN as a whole but the New Orleans Class heavy cruisers in particular. Right after the marine landings on Guadacanal 40% of the entire class was lost on August 9, 1942, as Astoria, Quincy and Vincennes were all sunk at the Battle of Savo Island. On the night of November 12/13 San Francisco with her admiral and captain both killed at the Naval Battle of Guadacanal. With three of the class sunk, Tuscaloosa in the Atlantic and San Francisco out of action, limping home for repairs, that left only New Orleans and Minneapolis to carry on the fight.
It may have seemed that the table was turned in the naval operations around Guadacanal as a result of the savage battles in November 1942. Although the Imperial Japanese Navy had suffered severe losses, including two Kongo Class battleships, they still had plenty of spirit and fight. Furthermore, at this point in time, they still excelled at night combat. The USN already had the answer through the better technology of radar but still had not effectively used the edge that it gave them. The Battle Tassafaronga on November 30, 1942 as a USN cruiser/destroyer force sought to intercept a Japanese destroyer force running in supplies to Guadacanal. It proved to be another Night of the Long Lance.
Rear Admiral Thomas Kinkaid was the commander of the cruiser forces organized at Espiritu Santo on November 24, 1942 and drew up plans to counteract Japanese reinforcement operations. However, he was ordered to Washington and Rear AdmiralCarleton Wright took over the command with his flag aboard Minneapolis. Admiral Wright adopted the existing plan that had incorporated lessons learned from the earlier engagements in November. On the 29th Wright received orders to intercept a Japanese force of destroyers and transports expected to arrive off Guadacanal on the night of the 30th. Final orders came in at 2300 and the US force was 580 miles southeast of Guadacanal. The five cruisers and six destroyers of TF67 averaged 28 knots as they sped towards Guadacanal. In a series of supplemental messages, further possibilities were received: the Japanese might substitute warships for transports; they might have destroyers only; they might arrive sooner than the earlier forecast 2300 on the 30th. In an effort to cover all of the bases, the intell boys ill served TF67. The information was so indefinite and nebulous as to be worthless. Both New Orleans and Minneapolis, along with Northampton, Honolulu and Pensacola, were present with the Minnie serving as flag for TF67.
Indeed there was another Tokyo Express coming down the slot on the 30th. The force was composed of eight excellent destroyers, unencumbered by lumbering transports and was commanded by Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka. When Wright reached the Lengo Channnel on the evening of the 30th, two more destroyers joined his force. Now he had an equal number of destroyers as Tanaka, plus his five cruisers. At 2306 the radar operator on the Minneapolis picked up the first pip of Cape Esperance at 23,000 yards. Within minutes the one pip had blossomed into many as the Americans had pinpointed Tanaka’s ships. Tanaka was cruising at 12 knots two miles from the shore, preparing to drop supply drums into the sea. He had no radar and was unaware for Wright’s force. The tactical situation was perfect for the Americans but then things started to go wrong.
As the force had steamed northward on the 30th, the cruiser floatplanes and been sent ahead to Tulagi. This was to do two things. One was to reduce the fire hazard to the cruisers and the other was to have them refueled and close to the battle area to drop flares over the Japanese force. That way they could maximize their loiter time over the battle area. Unfortunately, there was no wind and the seas were dead calm. The totally fueled SOCs were too heavy to lift off from the glassy surface of the Tulagi lagoon with no headwind. When Wright needed the flares dropped over the unsuspecting Japanese force, his SOC’s were still stuck on the surface of the lagoon like bugs on flypaper. At 2316 Fletcher was down to 7,000 yards of the Japanese and requested permission to fire torpedoes. However, Wright did not cut loose his destroyers and still held them with the cruisers. At 2320 he authorized launch but in the intervening four minutes the tactical status had drastically changed. When Fletcher had first requested permission to fire, the Japanese were in an optimum position to be attacked. They were approaching forward abeam of the US force. Torpedoes launched then would have the least deflection and shortest distance to travel as the combined closing speeds of the torpedoes and targets gave for quick runs. With the delay the Japanese force came abeam and then were aft abeam when permission to fire torpedoes was given. This position required the widest deflection because of the much greater distance to travel, as the torpedoes would have to overtake the Japanese ships from the rear. A total of twenty torpedoes from three destroyers went into the water and with the last of them Wright opened fire with his cruisers.
Minneapoliswas 9,200 yards from her target when her first 8-inch shells left the muzzles. Tanaka’s first notice of the American presence was two torpedo tracks swooshing in front of the bow of his flagship Naganami. It was then that his squadron went into action. Discipline, training and practice had created an instantaneous and effective battle drill and rhythm for Tanaka’s destroyers. Standing orders were simple, attack with torpedoes, don’t hold anything back, and do not use guns. American gun flashes revealed their American targets. The Takanami was a picket ship to the port of the main Japanese column, hence she was closest to the Americans. She immediately began to be hit by American shells and in self defense opened up with her five-inchers after she had fired her torpedoes. This only made her a more attractive target and as she began to burn from hits, even more American shells poured in. Japanese torpedo launches for the ships carrying supplies were greatly hindered by the deck cargo. Cargo was hurriedly sent over the side to clear the destroyers for action, however, within moments of the initial gunfire from the American force, twenty Long Lance 24-inch torpedoes were in the water and speeding towards Wright’s force.
The blazing Takanami finally blew up and aboard Minneapolis it was thought that they had sunk a transport. It was now 2327 and Minneapolis and sister New Orleans had each fired nine full salvoes in four minutes with no answer from the Japanese. That answer was seconds away. As the ninth salvo cleared the barrels, Minneapolis was hit twice by torpedoes. One blew off the bow all the way to the front of A turret. The other flooded fire room 2. Fires were immediately started forward and amidships but as the towering geysers of water thrown up by the explosions descended, they also quenched the fires. The flow was so great that two crewmen on the Minnie were sucked over the side. "On the bridge Captain Rosendahl, sloshing in a foot of swirling water, noticed with relief that the forecastle fire was out and took stock of his ship’s condition. Steering control was lost but only momentarily, speed fell off rapidly, a 4-degree port list canted the deck, some 60 feet of the bow dangled downward like an immense scoop, the forecastle deck was awash to the foundations of No. 1 turret. Then to the Captain’s astonishment and gratification, his 8-inch guns resumed firing, actually discharging three full salvos until power was lost in the two forward turrets." (The Struggle for Guadacanal, Volume V of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 304)
Minneapolishad been the first of the USN cruisers to take a Long Lance. As her destroyed bow acted as a gigantic sea anchor, the second cruiser in line New Orleans quickly closed the gap separating the two sisters and veered to the port to avoid collision. This in turn put her in line for her own punishment. A Long Lance struck her port bow and ignited a forward magazine. Her bow was completely blown off as far as B turret. "Like a soldier seeing his leg blown off, horrified men watched the forward part of their ship, with turret guns pointing skyward, pass swiftly along their port side, gouging holes and tangling briefly with the propellers. So sudden was the catastrophe that one telephone talker near the ship’s stern called a forward station to report that New Orleans had just passed over the ‘sinking Minneapolis." (The Struggle for Guadacanal, Volume V of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 304)
It was now that the tardy cruiser SOC’s arrived, having finally gotten off the glass of the Tulagi lagoon. They saw the complete spectacle below. They could see each Japanese ship and thought that the three pyres of fire, Takanami, Minneapolis and New Orleans, were burning Japanese transports. Since the crippled flagship never contacted them to drop flares, they just cruised overhead without dropping that which would have been crucial minutes earlier. Next in line was Pensacola and like New Orleans before her she steered to the port. As she did so one of the final salvos from Minneapolis flew over her, mast high, and she in turn took a torpedo in the stern next to the mainmast. Fuel oil went everywhere, soaking the mainmast, which then turned into a huge torch. Her after engine room flooded, power was lost by three of her four turrets and she quickly developed a 13 degree list. Lucky Honolulu, the "Blue Goose" was fourth in line. She wisely veered to starboard and avoided being a target in the gallery of victims. She was never scratched in the action. The last cruiser in line was Northampton. She followed Honolulu to the starboard but after clearing the trio of burning USN cruisers, changed course to port. She became the target of Oyashio, which had not expended her torpedoes in the first Japanese salvo. Her ordeal was a much more magnified and fatal reenactment of what had befallen Pensacola. Two of the eight torpedoes aimed at her tore into her stern and this time fuel oil from ruptured tanks soaked the entire aft part of the ship. This immediately caught fire in a huge bonfire running from amidships to the stern. She quickly went dead in the water as damage control parties futilely tried to save the ship.
Admiral Wright relinquished command to Rear Admiral Tisdale aboard Honolulu ,the sole cruiser still operational and ordered him to find and engage the Japanese. A floatplane pilot spoke up and directed the Blue Goose to a Japanese transport landing troops. When Honolulu instructed the plane for a drop of flares, the bright light showed that the transport was a beached derelict sunk two weeks earlier. Honolulu spent another hour prowling the waters, thirsting for vengeance for the beating inflicted upon the other four cruisers in the formation but Tanaka and all of his destroyers, except Takanami, had long left the scene.
On board Minneapolis it was thought that they may be the sole surviving cruiser. No on else was identified. Superb damage control improved the ship’s condition and brought her back from the brink. At 0200 Rosendahl learned that Honolulu and some destroyers were still around. More importantly, Minnie regained the ability to steam but only at three knots. She made for Tulagi, which was 18 miles away. "At 0445 motor torpedo boats and tug Bobolink met and escorted her in, the old ‘bird’ boat steaming alongside with her salvage pumps rigged into the flooded cruiser compartments. The same birth which had sheltered damaged Portland was now occupied by damaged Minneapolis, and sailors at once turned to with foliage and nets to camouflage their ship from enemy observation. Minneapolis was safe but not yet out of trouble." (The Struggle for Guadacanal, Volume V of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page 309)
New Orleans, minus 120-feet of her bow, and with every man from B turret forward killed in the explosion or sinking of the bow, made it to Tulagi at 0610. Pensacola also made it to Tulagi but it took 12 hours before her fire was extinguished. Northampton never joined the trio of damaged cruisers at Tulagi. Because of her huge fire engulfing the aft half of the ship, damage control could not stop the flooding. Her list went to 23 degrees by 0115 when everyone except the captain and damage control parties was ordered to abandon ship. At 0150 Fletcher and Drayton showed up to rescue the cruiser’s men but damage control continued their fight to save the ships. By 0240 the list was at 35 degrees and it was clear that their efforts had no chance. Then they too went over the side. The cruiser hung on for another 24 minutes before sliding stern first into the slot for her journey to join so many others on Ironbottom Sound. In spite of a good battle plan, the battle was yet another disaster for the USN. Bad luck and a degree of flawed tactics, coupled with the superb training of Tanaka’s destroyer crews, spelled another American disaster.
After Minneapolis limped to Tulagi, coconut logs were used as a field expedient to form a front-end bow/bulkhead to enable her to continue her voyage to safety and repair. With her coconut log bow she made it to Espirto Santo, where the coconut logs were replaced by a vaguely V-shaped steel bow. In January she made for Pearl Harbor, which she reached on March 2, 1942. At Pearl she was given a new bow but a lot of her AA and equipment was removed. It had been decided to give Minneapolis a major refit. She left Pearl Harbor for San Francisco sporting the common overall dark blue 5-N Measure 21 camouflage scheme and started her refit at Mare Island in April. When she immerged, she was almost a new ship in appearance and in color.
The refit was almost a rebuild. At least certainly it was for the forward superstructure. The former bridge was completely replaced by a new structure. Gone were the old levels with large areas of glass windows and in their place was one solid tower of steel rising to a prominently overhanging bridge. The tall lattice searchlight tower between the funnels was replaced by a solid structure of less height. Although Minnie retained both catapults, the starboard crane was removed to clear space and reduce top weight. Any Treaty Cruiser, even a good design like the New Orleans Class, was designed very close to the treaty limits and their stability was optimized around the 10,000-ton limit. As war-time realities intruded upon the artificial peace time restrictions, every warship needed new equipment, radar, and especially augmented AA fits plus the additional ammunition and crew required. Top weight skyrocketed and some less essential items had to be removed to maintain a safe level of stability. When Minneapolis reappeared in August 1943 she also sported a new paint job. This was a one-off variation of Measure 8. She was painted to resemble a Benson Class destroyer with a false deck break, false windows, huge false carley floats and counter-shading to reduce the apparent thickness of the superstructure and bridge.
In October 1943 Minneapolis was back in action after an absence of almost a year. As part of TF14 she escorted carriers for an attack on Wake Island as well as bombarding the island with her guns. From there on out Minnie participated in almost all of the significant campaigns. She was at the seizure of Makin Island at the end of 1943 and then went into action in the Mariana and Caroline Islands in early 1944. In June she bombarded Saipan and also was present with TF58 for the Battle of the Philippine Sea, also known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.
In October she supported landings at Leyte and participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Minneapolis was involved from the start. The USN did not have up to date information on beach, surf and hydrographic information in certain areas. On October 18, 1944, two days before the landing the battleship USS Pennsylvania, along with Minneapolis, the light cruiser Denver and some destroyers bombarded the beaches in the southern landing area. The cruiser stayed with Admiral Oldendorf and the old battleships of his force that were raised and repaired from the Pearl Harbor attack almost three years earlier. She emphatically participated in the Battle of Surigao Strait. Minneapolis was with Denver, Columbia and Portland on the left flank of the allied formation. Denver opened fire first at 0351 but in less than a minute Minneapolis and the other two joined in. The target was the battleship Yamashiro. The four cruisers were firing at a tremendous rate firing a total of 3,100 rounds in 18 minutes. "In return, these cruisers received most of such attention as the enemy was in a position to give. Denver, Columbia and Minneapolis were straddled by 8-inch or larger splashes." (Leyte June 1944-January 1945, Volume XII of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison, at page227) On November 17, 1944 Minneapolis was still in the Leyte Gulf area that was composed of Maryland, West Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico; cruisers Minneapolis, Denver, Columbia, Montpelier, St. Louis and 16 destroyers. On November 27 this group was the target of on of the first mass kamikaze attacks. Around 1125 25 to 30 Japanese planes came in for suicide attacks. There was no CAP, as that had been grounded because the weather was "closing in". Minneapolis was not damaged but Colorado, St. Louis and Montpelier were hit. As fighting moved north Minneapolis supported ground forces in the fighting on the island of Luzon by shelling Japanese positions on Bataan and Corregidor in the early months of 1945. Along with the bulk of the fleet, she sailed on to the Okinawa Campaign.
By April 1945 her gun barrels were worn out and Minneapolis was ordered home for another refit. During this second refit her port catapult was landed but she kept the catapult pillar/post. She also lost her SOC reconnaissance planes for the new SC-1 Seahawks. She was back to the Philippines at the time of the Japanese surrender and was dispatched to Korea, again as Admiral Kinkaid’s flagship, to accept the surrender at that location. After a brief stint returning troops back home, the Minnie returned to the US in 1946 and was decommissioned on February 10, 1947 at Philadelphia. She never did steam again as she remained mothballed for the next 12 years. On March 1, 1959 she was placed for disposal and sold for scrap on August 14 to Union Metals and Alloys Corporation. In July 1960 she arrived at Chester, Pennsylvania for breaking, just miles down the Delaware River from the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was started 29 years, 1 month and a World War earlier. (History from Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1930, 1930, Edited by Commander Charles Robinson RN and H.M. Ross; Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual 1931, 1931, Edited by Commander Charles Robinson RN and H.M. Ross; Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, Volume IV of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison; Cruisers of World War Two, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1995, by M.J. Whitley; Leyte June 1944-January 1945, Volume XII of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison; The Struggle for Guadacanal, Volume V of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, 1948, by Samuel Eliot Morison; Warship Pictorial 2 USS Minneapolis CA-36, 1997, edited by Steve Wiper)
Minnie's One Off Camouflage Scheme
One point the modeler will have to face is painting the Measure 8 "False Destroyer" camouflage scheme. The object was to give the impression that the ship was a Benson Class destroyer. This was done by painting the ship overall in Light Gray 5-L, painting on a false deck break & bridge windows in Dull Black BK and then using Ocean Gray 5-O for counter-shading to optically reduce the width of the superstructure and funnels. The camouflage was polished off by painting two huge carley rafts on each side. Minneapolis was painted in this scheme from her first refit in August 1943 until her second refit in spring 1945. As the Combrig Minneapolis portrays the ship after the first refit, its time to start considering the required paint scheme. I was curious to try it out so I hand painted a 1:1200 scale Minneapolis from Superior (after refit) in the Ms. 8 pattern. The larger size of the Combrig Minneapolis will make it easier to paint the 1:700 kit.
For the modeler probably the best reference that you can find for the USS Minneapolis is Warship Pictorial 2 USS Minneapolis CA-36 published in 1997 by Classic Warships Publishing. This monograph is 56 pages in length. The majority of the text is in the form of photograph descriptions, although there is a two page operations summary and one page of statistics. The bulk of the value consists of many excellent quality large photographs throughout the career of the Minnie. The other very attractive inclusions are a series of plans and profiles. Three of these are in 1:350 scale showing Minneapolis in August 1942, October 1942 (profile & cross sections) two pages plus two pages of deck plans, October 1943 in the Measure 8 Camouflage after her 1st Refit and June 1945 after her 2nd Refit. This volume may be difficult to find as it is out of print. Two other volumes in the series also deal with the New Orleans Class cruisers. Volume 5 is on the San Francisco and Volume 7 covers all seven ships in the class.
The Combrig Minnie
In contrast with many other ships there just were not that many fittings for the deck. The deck comes with nicely done wood planking and some very crisp and clean fittings. If you look at photographs of the steel foc’sle you’ll see what I mean by crisp and clean fittings. Look at something as simple and overlooked as a set of bollards. In most kits they are shown as straight posts which is fine with me. However, it is not fine with Combrig as they have their 1:700 bollards in the true shape with wider heads than posts. This dedication continues over to the other deck fittings, which are mostly associated with anchor gear. If you look at photographs that greatly magnify deck hatches, you can even see hatch opening wheels. Combrig has provided the plates for the anchor chain but the chain itself is part of the photo-etch. The hull sides are clean with a single row of portholes as found on the Minneapolis in 1943. As built they had a lower line of portholes that were plated over in 1942.
The most interesting part of the hull casting is found amidships, where several features jump out. The design features a break in the deck aft of the machinery spaces and in front of the catapults. Combrig has executed a very nice undercut of the main deck at the break. Another feature found here is a curious opening in the straight solid bulkhead. On each side from the break of the deck to just aft of the catapult pillars there is a low solid bulkhead pierced by one opening, apparently for deck drainage. This has been perfectly captured by Combrig. Also found amidships are the 2nd and 4th 5-inch/25 positions, whose platforms extended over the sides of the hull. If you look, you’ll notice that Combrig has captured these features in an excellent fashion as well. The model has very fine outlines on the deck indicating the attachment of superstructure, or in the case of the 3rd 5-inch gun on each side, splinter shielding. This is of real help to the modeler since it is simple to line up the superstructure parts with the provided outlines. There were no defects in the hull casting and only a small amount of clean-up sanding is necessary along the waterline, as mentioned above.
Smaller Resin Parts
This upper hangar deck also reflects the change that occurred from the 1942 fit to the fit that Minnie had after her rebuild. Gone is the starboard crane and the symmetrical arrangement of the hangar roof. In place of this on the top hangar deck is an asymmetrical arrangement with one crane to port and two 40mm Bofor tubs. The large hangar which was a characteristic of the class is cast in two parts with an open interior, with the separate upper hangar deck on top of the two hangar halves. The hangar door is also separate. Again the design of the Combrig kit presents additional opportunities for the modeler, as it will be fairly easy to portray one of the SOC Seagull biplanes inside an open hangar. Other superstructure parts also show some very nice touches. The forward stack has the forward cap very nicely rendered and both stacks are hollow to a good depth. The remaining crane has an open mechanism.
Armament and Ship’s Fittings
As with the Astoria the Combrig Minneapolis introduces another piece of USN ordnance that was in common with a number of ship classes, the 5-inch/25 HA gun. The Combrig representation has each gun being assembled from five parts. There are separate resin parts for the barrel, mount and base and two brass photo-etch safety rails. Again, if you look at the photographs, you’ll clearly see the exceptional detail given to these pieces by Combrig. There are even details on the fuse positions at the left side of each mount. The main gun directors are very well done as well. Each eight-inch main turret has six parts, the turret, two range finder hoods or ears, and the three barrels. The barrel muzzles are not drilled out and in fact very thin resin pour channels that will need to be removed from the muzzles.
Although not technically part of the armament the Combrig Minneapolis comes with two Curtiss SOC Seagull floatplanes. Combrig has done a really fine job with these as each SOC is made up of twelve parts. Seven are resin (fuselage, center float, upper wing, lower wing, two tail pieces and separate canopy) and five are photo-etch pieces (two wing floats, two wing supports and propeller) Almost every small fitting on this kit exhibits above standard detail and unparalleled cleanness in casting. Just look at this list and cycle through the photographs and you’ll find that the ship’s boats and carley rafts have excellent detail. Carley rafts come in two shapes and sizes. Searchlights, signal lamps, anchors separate enclosed cleats, and ventilators are all exceptionally well cast.
Two Brass Photo-Etched Frets
For the second fret you’ll find all sorts of parts that make the 1943 Minneapolis distinctive and different from the 1942 kit. There are far fewer parts on this fret but they are nice. One of the big changes in the rebuild was the removal of the conning tower and the addition of the new tower bridge. In place of the lower bridge with the 1942 Astoria fit, the 1943 Minneapolis specific fret add a great number of Oerlikon guns and gun-shields. Likewise the gun shields have a base for mounting the gun piece and gun wheel which are bent to the proper location. Obviously in addition to the greatly expanded quantity of 20mm guns, the rebuilt Minneapolis features an expanded radar fit which is also covered in the fret. There are also a couple of teardrop shaped platforms for the mast heads. Also not found is the lattice searchlight tower found in the Astoria specific fret as the 1943 Minneapolis replaced this with a solid, shorter structure.
The reverse shows a photograph of the components and assembly drawings. There is one large isometric drawing flanked with eight smaller subassembly insets, which clarify some of the finer points. You really need to use both the drawings and the front side plan and profile for assembly. The assembly drawing shows where the part goes but the plan and profile allows you to focus on exactly where it goes and how it aligns with other structural features when properly attached. The ten subassembly drawings are of the radar; 5-inch/25 mount; aft stack platform; SOC Seagulls; crane arm; catapult; Oerlikon 20mm; accommodation ladder; radar, directors and Bofor mounts.