The Official Home of 'Nasty Asty'  

Lines of Advance
From Pearl Harbor through Midway 1941-42

Harbor tug HOGA YT-14 fights fires aboard USS NEVADA BB-36. The only battleship to get underway during the Pearl Harbor attack, NEVADA ran aground off Hospital Point and took multiple hits. Her commanding officer, CAPT Francis W. Scanland, transferred to USS ASTORIA a week later and assumed command.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

USS ASTORIA returned to her home port on 13 December, 6 days after the attack. Shipmate Ed Taylor wrote in his diary:
Headed into Pearl at high speed to avoid torpedoes. At the entrance end of Ford Island the NEVADA was sunk... I figured this was one of the battleships that the Navy Department had claimed lost. Upon rounding Hospital Point the real damage was revealed. It turned my stomach.

Men aboard PORTLAND CA-33 returning to Pearl Harbor on 13 December 1941. ASTORIA and PORTLAND were among elements of Task Force 12 that returned six days after the attacks.
-Bob Landry photo in LIFE/Getty collection

The hull of capsized OKLAHOMA BB-37 in a photo taken as PORTLAND passes on 13 December. Note the rescue workers standing on the hull as recovery efforts continue for men trapped inside.
-Bob Landry photo in LIFE/Getty collection

The collapsed forward superstructure of ARIZONA BB-39 taken from PORTLAND upon returning to Pearl Harbor after the attack. The blast from her forward magazine and subsequent explosions claimed the lives of 1,177 men, more than 80% of her crew.
-Bob Landry photo in LIFE/Getty collection

In the early months of the war, USS ASTORIA conducted screening duties with Task Force 17 built around the aircraft carrier USS YORKTOWN CV-5, culminating in the landing of American forces at Noumea, New Caledonia in March 1942.

Also in March, the Daryl F. Zanuck film "To the Shores of Tripoli" premiered in theaters. While the film focused on Marine recruits in San Diego, it featured a sequence of color film footage shot aboard USS ASTORIA in late 1941:

In addition to the decks and planes of ASTORIA, the footage captures the other cruisers of CruDiv 6 in late 1941 alongside USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.
-clip created from 20th Century Fox film

USS ASTORIA 5-inch gunners conduct drills at sea in April 1942. Note the flash hoods and early war M1917A1 helmets.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-021946

Bursts of antiaircraft fire from USS ASTORIA during gunnery practice in 1942.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-027007

Excerpted from the account for USS ASTORIA in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:

Battle of the Coral Sea
...Intelligence reports convinced Admiral Chester Nimitz that the enemy sought to take Port Moresby, on the southeastern coast of New Guinea, and he resolved to thwart those designs. He sent Task Force 11 [including ASTORIA], built around a refurbished LEXINGTON to join TF 17 in the Coral Sea. The two carrier task forces met in the eastern Coral Sea early on the morning of 1 May.

Late in the afternoon of 3 May, Rear Admiral Fletcher received word of the Japanese occupation of Tulagi in the Solomons. ASTORIA screened YORKTOWN CV-5 the following day as the carrier launched three raids on the enemy ships off Tulagi.

Next came a two-day lull on 5–6 May, during which TF 17 fueled in preparation for the impending battle. ASTORIA screened YORKTOWN on the 7th as her planes joined those from LEXINGTON in searches and strikes that located and sank the Japanese carrier SHONO. Japanese planes, however, located and sank the oiler NEOSHO AO-23 and her escort, SIMS DD-409.

Fletcher's carriers launched aircraft again early on the morning of 8 May, while ASTORIA and other units of the screen prepared their antiaircraft batteries to meet retaliation expected from Japanese carriers ZUIKAKU and SHOKAKU. Enemy planes found TF 17 just before 1100 that morning and quickly charged to the attack. Almost simultaneously, planes from YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON deployed to attack the enemy task force.

The Japanese aviators concentrated almost exclusively on the American carriers as the two drew apart with their respective screening ships, ultimately putting some 6 to 8 miles of ocean between them by the end of the battle. Torpedo bombers opened the first phase of the attack, while torpedo and dive bombers coordinated attacks in the second phase.

The battle action on 8 May, as ASTORIA's executive officer, CDR Chauncey R. Crutcher, recounted, "was short and was accompanied by intense anti-aircraft fire against a determined enemy...." ASTORIA assisted in putting up a protective barrage over LEXINGTON at the outset, and after the task forces separated, she shifted to the anti-aircraft umbrella over YORKTOWN. Her gunners claimed to have splashed at least four enemy planes in the attack that "seemed to end as suddenly as it had started."

At about 1245, LEXINGTON — heavily damaged though apparently in satisfactory condition afloat and underway — suffered severe internal explosions that rang her death knell. Fires raged out of control and, by 1630, her engines stopped. Ninety minutes later, CAPT Frederick C. Sherman ordered the ship abandoned.

Destroyers tend to the burning and listing LEXINGTON CV-2. Although USS ASTORIA was several miles away screening YORKTOWN, her crew monitored this situation though optics. This photo sequence was taken from a sister ASTORIA-class cruiser, MINNEAPOLIS CA-36.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-007403

As LEXINGTON CV-2, lists to starboard, a number of her crew descend from lines to port into the water.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

Whaleboats from MINNEAPOLIS retrieve LEXINGTON sailors from the sea. Not a single man was lost during the abandon ship.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

Excerpted from the account for USS ASTORIA in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:

Once rescue operations were completed, and LEXINGTON's end was hastened by torpedoes from USS PHELPS DD-360, TF 17 began a slow retirement from the Coral Sea, having suffered heavy losses but also having inflicted a decisive strategic defeat on the Japanese by barring the Port Moresby invasion.

ASTORIA retired to Noumea, New Caledonia, where she took aboard 1300  officers and crew from the sunken "Lady Lex" for transport to Tongatapu. The ship's newspaper published a "LEXINGTON Special" honoring their guests:

We give you our admiration first--and then wish to share with you whatever we have. It was not only your battle, it was ours also and our beloved country's. We deem it a privilege to share some of its burdens.

We are all shipmates now. A shipmate is a fellow for whom you will do all you can because you know he would do as much for you. We can only hope that we can make you feel as happy and as comfortable in the ASTORIA as you would have made us in the "Minuteman Ship" if the tables were reversed.

From Tongatapu USS ASTORIA CA-34 set course for Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 27 May 1942.

USS ASTORIA CA-34 in a photo taken the day she arrived at Pearl Harbor, 27 May 1942.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

Above and below: USS ASTORIA conducts SOC operation shortly after her departure from Pearl Harbor on 30 May 1942.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

-U.S. Navy photo from Naval History and Heritage Command collection NH-97592

Excerpted from the account for USS ASTORIA in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:

Battle of Midway
The heavy cruiser remained in Pearl Harbor only until 30 May. On that day, she returned to sea with the hastily repaired YORKTOWN to prepare to meet yet another major thrust by the Japanese fleet — this one aimed at Midway. Air searches from that island spotted the enemy's Midway Occupation Force — made up of transports, minesweepers, and two seaplane carriers — early on 3 June, but the enemy carrier force eluded detection until early in the morning of the 4th.

ASTORIA screened YORKTOWN as the carrier began launching strike aircraft at about 0840. While the planes droned off to make their contribution to the destruction of the Japanese carrier force, ASTORIA and her colleagues prepared for the inevitable Japanese reply.

The counterstroke, however, did not come until a few minutes before noon as YORKTOWN's victorious aviators began to return to their ship. 18 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers came in to attack the carrier. F4F-4 Wildcat fighters from Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3) accounted for 10 of the intruders, but the remaining eight managed to penetrate the combat air patrol (CAP). ASTORIA teamed up with PORTLAND CA-33 and the screening destroyers to splash another two of the attackers. The remaining six, however, succeeded in attacking YORKTOWN, and three of those scored hits. One of the three hit the carrier's stack, causing fires in her uptakes that literally smoked RADM Fletcher and his staff out of flag plot. At about 1310, he shifted his flag to Astoria.

In a composite image shot from her forward flight deck, smoke pours from the stack of USS YORKTOWN CV-5. USS ASTORIA moves in to assist the stricken carrier.
-U.S. Navy photos from NARA collection 80-G-312018 and 80-G-312019

ASTORIA is now abeam of YORKTOWN as the carrier slows after losing power. One of her SOC floatplanes is visible on the starboard catapult.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-032299

YORKTOWN comes to a stop. ASTORIA slows to take position to receive RADM Fletcher and his staff.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-032300

RADM Frank Jack Fletcher, Commander Task Force 17, and his staff come aboard ASTORIA CA-34 at 1300, 4 June 1942. At upper left is CA-34's Executive Officer CDR Chauncey Crutcher.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-032350

In the final photo of this sequence taken from USS ASTORIA, YORKTOWN lies dead in the water as fires continue to burn. Note that the planes on her deck have been re-spotted aft.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-032301

At 1342, the first of two SBD-3 Dauntless scout bombers ditches in the water near ASTORIA. The planes were from VB-3 assigned to USS YORKTOWN, and both were forced into the water due to the carrier's ongoing battle with fire.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-312004

The second SBD-3 ditches in the water near ASTORIA in a photo taken from the ship's aft superstructure.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-032307

An ASTORIA whaleboat goes to retrieve the second downed pilot, LCDR Maxwell F. Leslie, Commanding Officer of VB-3. The first pilot, LT(j.g.) Paul A. Holmberg, stands soaking wet at lower right.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

Excerpted from the account for USS ASTORIA in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:

At about 1430, the second attack — composed of 10 Nakajima B5N2 Kate torpedo bombers escorted by six Zero fighters — came in and eluded the weak CAP. ASTORIA and the other ships of the screen attempted to discourage attacks from four different directions by bringing every gun to bear, firing them into the sea to throw curtains of water into the path of the attackers. Nevertheless, four Kates made good their attack and released their torpedoes within 500 yards. YORKTOWN dodged two, but the other two scored hits which stopped the ship again.

A plane from the Japanese carrier HIRYU presses the mid-afternoon attack against YORKTOWN.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-312006

USS YORKTOWN is struck by a torpedo during the afternoon attack amidst heavy antiaircraft fire.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

VINCENNES CA-44 steams to the starboard quarter of the listing YORKTOWN as she abandons ship.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA collection 80-G-021664

Excerpted from the account for USS ASTORIA in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships:

By 1500, the order to abandon ship went out. ASTORIA called away lifeboats to assist in the rescue of YORKTOWN's survivors. That night, the heavy cruiser retired east ward with the rest of the task force to await dawn.

The following day broke with YORKTOWN still afloat, and efforts began to salvage the battered warship. Though the Japanese had abandoned the Midway attack and had begun retiring toward Japan, submarine I-168 had been given orders to sink YORKTOWN. After a 24-hour search, the enemy submarine found her quarry on the 6th and attacked with a spread of four torpedoes. One torpedo missed completely, two passed under destroyer HAMMANN DD-412 alongside the carrier and detonated in YORKTOWN's hull, while the fourth broke HAMMANN's back. The destroyer sank in less than four minutes. The carrier remained afloat until early on the morning of the 7th. At about dawn, she finally rolled over and sank.

ASTORIA remained as flagship for TF 17, as it operated north of Midway, until shortly after midday on 8 June when TF 11 arrived on the scene, and Rear Admiral Fletcher transferred his flag to USS SARATOGA CV-3. On 11 June, Admiral Nimitz — satisfied that the major Japanese thrust had been thwarted — ordered his carrier task forces back to Hawaii, and ASTORIA reentered Pearl Harbor with them on 13 June.

One of the last photos of the stubbornly defiant USS YORKTOWN, taken three days later on 7 June 1942, shortly before she rolled to port and finally sank.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

Continue to Offensive Preparations

Jones, Brent. Private photo and document collection.

Jones, Pat (ed.) The USS ASTORIA (CA-34) and the Men Who Sailed Her. USS ASTORIA Reunion Association. Privately printed, 1992.

Mooney, James L., ed. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, 8 Vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1959-91.

National Archives and Records Administration.

Naval History and Heritage Command Photographic Section.

USS ASTORIA CA-34 Blue Book. Privately printed, 1972.

                                                     BACK TO USS ASTORIA HOMEPAGE

Website Builder