Brooklyn class light cruiser, USS Savannah (CL-42) (1944) - The most modernized Brooklyn

Brooklyn class light cruiser, USS Savannah (CL-42) (1944) - The most modernized Brooklyn

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USS Savannah was the third ship of the Brooklyn class light cruisers built in the 1930’s as a response to the Japanese Mogami class “light cruisers”. Like her sister’s USS Savannah in service would prove to be quite durable as they tended to be quite durable for light cruisers.

At the same time compared to her sisters Savannah had a far more mediocre career and in fact has the least battle stars of the entire class with the ship with the second least amount of battle stars in the class being Brooklyn. At the same time as all this Savannah would still have an active career (like Brooklyn again) however would not be deployed to the Pacific theater against Japan but instead in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, but more interestingly would undergo the most significant modernization compared to other ships of the class, since while the ship would receive new radars and a new modified superstructure the ship would have her entire secondary armament replaced.

In terms of the modernization to Savannah, this saw her entire secondary armament replaced with 5 inch/38 guns in twin mounts similar to the St Louis sub class but with newer turrets, as well as having a completely new superstructure which had also been implemented on other ships of the class. In terms of armament Savannah has the typical 15 6 inch/47 caliber Mark 16 guns in triple mounts, a secondary armament of 8 5 inch/38 caliber Mark 12 guns in Mark 32 twin mounts, and an AA armament of 28 40mm Bofors in 4 quad mounts and 6 twin mounts, and 12 to 14 20mm Oerlikon mounts (not 100% sure if they were twins or singles, however I have chosen to list it down and twin mounts). In terms of sensors the ship had various radar including a SK radar, 2 SG radars (based on photos seems like 2, at the very least the ship has 1), 2 Mark 13 radars, and 2 Mark 12 radars with Mark 22 height finders. As for the aviation complement the ship could carry up to 3 (maybe 4) float planes with the ship having either Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk’s or SOC-3 Seagull’s.



Despite being the third ship of the class, Savannah would be the first ship of the Brooklyn class to be laid down at the end of May 1934 however work on the ship would be slow to say the least as it took 3 years before the ship had been launched in early May of 1937, and would enter service in March of 1938.

After entering service Savannah would undergo a shakedown cruise ending up in the Caribbean as the ship visited Cuba and Haiti before returning to Philadelphia to undergo alterations which followed by her final set of sea trails. For much of 1938 would Savannah remain on the US east coast outside of a visit to Europe as war was looming before returning home after the Munich agreement. After taking part in Fleet problem XX with tensions rising the Savannah would be deployed to the Pacific along with other ships, yet despite all that the ship would later be redeployed back to the US east coast as the ship became the flagship of cruiser division 8 and would take part in multiple training exercise and neutrality patrols.

When war broke out with Japan in December 1941, Savannah was still on the US east coast undergoing repairs following the voyages the ship had undertaken. With war breaking out Savannah would remain in the western hemisphere as the ship was assigned to TG 2.7 to monitor Vichy French forces in the Caribbean which would persist for some time until the ship returned for another overhaul and was reassigned to take part in preparations for operation Torch. During operation Torch Savannah would be assigned to the northern force and provide fire support for the landings and had taken on an extra floatplane during the operation. A very interesting highlight of the operation on the part of the floatplanes was that they were used to attack enemy columns and positions, by means of dropping depth charges on them which were modified to go off on impact.

Once operation Torch concluded by the end of the year Savannah returned back to the US and was reassigned to the South Atlantic to help in hunting German blockade runners, during which operations Savannah along with the destroyer Eberle would successfully come across a former Dutch merchant vessel that was taken by the crew of the German Hilfskreuzer Komet, with said merchant ship being renamed to Karin. Despite the Karin still flying a Dutch flag the Americans were still suspicious of the ship due to her specially painted mast. After Savannah fired warning shots at the Karin the German crew quickly began abandon ship as they prepared to scuttle the ship and set a fire in the engineering space, however not knowing this the Eberle attempted to send a boarding party and retrieve any intelligence however due to the poor timing was caught up in the blast when 3 out of the 4 scuttling charges on the Karin went off.

Following another overhaul the Savannah would be assigned to troop convoys heading to Algeria as preparations were underway for operation husky which she would take part in with more shore bombardment. During these operations the Luftwaffe would repeatedly attempt to engage the landing forces however would be hampered repeatedly by the fighter cover that was being provided. On September 11th the Germans would manage get within range to engage the landing forces, in this particular case a Do-217E-5 was able to drop a Fritz X guided bomb on the Savannah as the ships fighter cover was unable to intercept the bomber in time and the crew of the Savannah were unable to take the bomber down.

The bomb itself landed atop turret III penetrating the armor and ending up in the handling room of turret III where it exploded with the explosion itself being vented out of the turret. The damage itself was quite severe as the blast knocked out all power to the ship with only the after-diesel generators remaining, and all of the ship’s telephone communications on the primary circuit went out. The explosion itself was also powerful enough that multiple bulkheads failed which made the flooding worse as water got into all three turrets on the front of the ship, and among other important sections of the ship being damaged the ship also lost its damage control center as everyone within it was wiped out in the blast. Despite the serious damage taken the crew were able to quickly spring into action and begin damage control despite the loss of the damage control center and its personnel whose actions in the damage report were given high praise for their actions.

(Due to the length of the damage report and in an effort to not make this even longer, I have decided to include the link here to the full damage report which I was able to find in case anyone wants to actually read the entire thing, otherwise I suggest checking out the page on her on Naval History and Heritage Command. 1943 Damage report )

With the level of damage that the ship had taken it became necessary to have Savannah return back to the United States to undergo the necessary repairs. Due to the extent of the damage and the recommendation of Savannah’s commanding officer it was decided to not only make all the necessary repairs but also have the ship undergo a modernization and alterations, as the changes that were recommended would not add much more time for the ship given the extent of the damage. This in particular saw the ship’s superstructure heavily modified like other ships of the class which reduced its size, as well as having new radars and fire control systems installed, plus having two of the main turrets replaced by ones that came from her sister ship Boise. The biggest parts of these modifications however were the deletion of the entire secondary battery and in its place the ship received 8 5 inch/38 guns in twin mounts in the same manner as with the St Louis subclass but using newer turrets, and the other big change was the addition of new blisters on the sides of the ship to improve the ships stability and protection in the event of a torpedo attack, this last change in particular was not the result of what happened to Savannah but was an implementation based on the lessons following the sinking of the light cruiser Helena.

The work on the ship would last until 1944 with the final work completed on September 4th. The ship itself received a new crew meaning the ship would undertake various drills and undergo a shakedown cruise. Following this the ship would be one of the ships assigned to Preside Roosevelts voyage to the Soviet Union in 1945 as the ship was assigned to TG 21.5, and likewise would also be part of the Presidents return voyage. Due to the state of the war following her return to the US she would be utilized heavily for training until the end of the war. With the end of the Second World War and the US navy beginning to downsize due to the wartime production of newer ships, Savannah like the rest of the Brooklyn class would be placed in Philadelphia for inactivation overhaul, before being changed to commission in reserve in 1946, and finally was fully decommissioned in 1947, due to the lack on need for a cruiser like Savannah with the large numbers of newer cruisers available. In the end the Savannah would be one of the few Brooklyn class cruisers which instead of being sold off to some South American navy was instead stricken from the naval register and listed for disposal in 1959, with the ship being sold for scrap the following year in 1960.


Notes -

  • Due to the fact that not all of the information on the ship post modernization was found in the making of this suggestion, not all values listed may be accurate to the ship post modernization. As such some of the information may pertain to the ship as built all the way up to 1943 prior to the major damage the ship took.
  • The floatplane complement varied following her post 1944 modernization, however up until September 11th the ship had at least 2 SOC-3 floatplanes, however after this typically was said to have just 2 SC-1 floatplanes. At the same time as this source mention that the ship sometimes took onboard a SOC-3 still, that being said while none of them indicate the reduction in capacity for floatplanes on the ship from what sources I have looked at have pointed towards the ship post modernization at the very least never had more than 3 floatplanes. Also, I should add that by 1945 the ship had a complement of 3 SC-1’s.
  • The amount of 20mm mounts may not be accurate, as what is listed is based off my own conclusions based on observations of photos of the ship. At the very least the ship has 12 mounts however I am not 100% certain if the ship was using twin or single mounts post modernization, however at least by 1945 I believe the ship was using twin mounts however it may not reflect this configuration.

9,475 tons standard

600 ft (180 m) wl
608 ft 4 in (185.42 m) oa

69 ft 6.6 in (21.2 m)

23 ft 1.6 in (7.0 m)

8 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers
100,000 shp (75,000 kW)

4 x Westinghouse geared steam turbines
4 x shafts

32.5 knots (37.4 mph; 60.2 km/h)

Crew complement
867 total

Sensors and systems
1 x SK air search radar
2 x SG surface search radars
2 x Mark 12 fire control radars with Mark 22 height finders
2 x Mark 13 fire control radars

Main armament
15 x 6 inch/47 caliber Mark 16 guns (5 x 3)
Secondary armament
8 x 5 inch/38 caliber Mark 12 guns (4 x 2 Mark 32 mounts)
AA armament
28 x 40mm/56.3 Bofors guns (4 x 4 and 6 x 2)
28 x 20mm/70 Oerlikon guns (14 x 2)

belt: 127 - 83
magazines belts: 51 (fore) - 120 (aft)
bulkheads: 127 - 51
deck: 51
barbettes: 152
turrets: 165 - 32
secondary turrets: 32 - 25
CT: 127 sides and 57 roof

Aviation facilities
2 x catapults

Aviation complement
2 x SOC-3 seagull floatplanes (Prior to September 11th, 1944)


(Based on what I have seen, it’s likely it should be able to take 3 but no sources post modernization mentions the ship having more than 1 SOC-3, however photos predating September 11th, 1944, show the ship with at least 2 SOC-3’s.)

2 x SC-1 Seahawks floatplanes & (optionally) 1 x SOC-3 seagull floatplane (After September 11th, 1944)



Savannah IV (CL-42)

Cruiser Photo Index CL-42 USS SAVANNAH - Navsource - Photographic History of the U.S. Navy,%20BOMB%20DAMAGE%20-%20Gulf%20of%20Salerno,%20Italy,%20September%2011,%201943.pdf

Brooklyn-class cruiser - Wikipedia

USS Savannah (CL-42) - Wikipedia

Image sources


Cruiser Photo Index CL-42 USS SAVANNAH - Navsource - Photographic History of the U.S. Navy

NH 108687 USS SAVANNAH (CL-42) 1938 (

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