Lest We Forget: Reuben James, USS Minneapolis (CA-36)

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired), and A. D. Baker III
—Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

USS Minneapolis (CA-36)

One of the most decorated U.S. Navy cruisers during World War II in the Pacific, the heavy cruiser Minneapolis (CA-36) was awarded 16 battle stars for actions ranging from the Gilbert and Marshall Islands raid early in 1942 to the assault on Okinawa in April 1945. The most dangerous moment for the ship came on 30 November 1942 during the Solomon Islands campaign at the Battle of Tassafaronga, where she sank one Japanese transport and helped sink another. At 2327, near Savo Island, Japanese surface combatants struck the ship with two torpedoes. One torpedo cost the cruiser nearly 80 feet of her bow and caused fires that were quickly extinguished. The second hit below the armor belt, buckling the hull and damaging the engineering spaces. The extent of the damage took ten pages to list in the ship's official damage report. Not the least of the Minneapolis 's problems had been the loss of six of her eight boilers and most of the auxiliary machinery in the flooded fire rooms.

Damage control allowed the hurt Minneapolis to limp at 3 knots into Sasapi Harbor, Tulagi, where she was moored to palm trees and tree stumps and camouflaged with foliage. On 5 December, the cruiser was further damaged by a forward gas explosion. Urgent repairs permitted her to leave Tulagi on 12 December for further work. The Minneapolis began her voyage home for final repairs on 7 January 1943 but soon experienced problems that delayed her departure until 10 February, when, in the company of other damaged warships, the cruiser began a 9.5-knot voyage to Pearl Harbor. Arriving at Pearl on 2 March, she then continued on to Mare Island Navy Yard, California, where her hull was rebuilt and the contents of three of her four boiler rooms were replaced by late August. The largely rebuilt Minneapolis departed the West Coast early in September, bound again for the combat zone.

The photo shows the unique camouflage applied at Mare Island; designed to make her look less like a target to Japanese submarines, the paint scheme featured large false, rectangular "windows" painted around the pilothouse portholes; out-of-scale life rafts painted on her sides; and dark paintwork to make her forecastle look as though it terminated abreast the bridge. The ship was deactivated in May 1946 after a dozen years of service and was sold for scrap in 1959.
 

—A. D. Baker III
 

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

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