USS Cleveland CL-55 Reunion Association

Cruiser Division Twelve

Cleveland, Columbia, Montpelier, Denver

THE FOUR SHIPS of Cruiser Division Twelve, Cleveland, Columbia, Montpelier and Denver, were building at Camden, NJ, when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, and represented the finest cruiser type the Navy had at that time. Especially designed to combat the airplane, they proved their worth by helping to clear the Pacific skies of scores of Jap craft.

The admirable war record of these ships of Cruiser Division Twelve started to unfold in the earliest days of the war, when American sea power first began ridding the oceans of the Japanese Navy. It is a record which runs continuously from January 1943, when the division first formed deep in the South Pacific under Rear Admiral A.S. Merrill, to the closing days of the war when the division, based at Okinawa, was making daring sweeps along the coast of China.

It was during the Solomons campaign that the four vessels encountered the most spectacular action in which the division participated--the now famous battle of Empress Augusta Bay on the second of November 1943. This successful action against superior enemy forces, not only saved our landings on Bouganville, but did much to neutralize Japanese sea power in the entire area.

In the running night battle, the Denver was slightly damaged, but at least one Jap cruiser and a large destroyer were sunk. The division also played a major role in the first battle of Kula Gulf (5 and 6 May, 1943), and the battle of Surigao Strait (25 October 1944). In addition the division participated in the capture of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Ulithi; and the initial landings at Leyte, Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Subic Bay, Corrigedor, Bataan, and others both in the Phillipines and Borneo.

Early in 1945, during the battle of Lingayen Gulf, the Columbia was hit by three successive suicide bombers, which caused heavy damage, putting two of her main battery turrets out of commission. In spite of this she continued her bombardment, and for this display of superior fighting spirit was awarded a Navy unit citation.

As a fitting last chapter of its war history, the division assisted in the occupation of the Japanese homeland--covering landing at Wakayama and Hiro on the island of Hoshu. At Wakayama the officers and men of the Cruiser Division Twelve had the satisfying task of liberating thousands of allied prisoners they had fought so bravely to free.