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Displacement 7,050 Tons

Dimensions, 555' 6" (oa) x 55' 4" x 20' (Max)

Armament 12 x 6"/53, 2 x 3"/50AA, 10 x 21" tt.

Armor, 3" Belt, 1 1/2" Deck, 1 1/2 Conning Tower.

Machinery, 90,000 SHP; Geared Turbines, 4 screws.

Speed, 35 Knots.

Crew 458.

Operational and Building Data.Keel laid on 06 DEC 1918 at Todd SB & DD Co, Tacoma, WA.

Launched 14 DEC 1920

Commissioned 24 FEB 1923

Decommissioned 01 MAY 1945.

Stricken 01 NOV 1945.

Fate: Scrapped in FEB 1946 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Task Force (TF) 3, which was at the time commanded by RADM Jonas H. Ingram, had initiated patrol operations out of the ports of Recife and Bahia, Brazil, on 15 June 1941. Omaha, along with three of her sisters, were among the resources that were available for Ingram's Southern Atlantic operations, along with five destroyers. On 30 June, with the propulsion and engineering issues having been resolved, Omaha steamed out of Brooklyn, to begin her Neutrality Patrols between Brazil and Ascension Island, which was part of the British Overseas Territories at the time. Omaha was tasked with enforcing a blockade against Germany by intercepting, boarding, and inspecting vessels that may have been German merchants or agents conducting trade in the region.

In addition, she also tasked with escorting and protecting the convoys using the shipping lanes between South American port and the ports in Western Africa, from AxisU-boats and merchant raiders. She visited Montevideo, Uruguay, in addition to Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and although not at war during this time she still operated under war conditions.

Search for blockade runners

On 4 November 1941, with the report from the British oiler RFA Olwen that a German surface raider had attacked her at 03°04?N 22°42?W / 3.067°N 22.700°WVice Admiral Algernon U. Willis, RN, Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, ordered his heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire, along with the armed merchant cruiserHMS Canton, to search for the raider. The light cruiser HMS Dunedin and the special service vessels HMS Queen Emma and Princess Beatrix were additionally ordered to assist in the search and departed from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Dorsetshire and Canton separated, with Dorsetshire steaming southeast and Canton setting an opposite course. Omaha and the destroyer Somers, TG 3.6, which were positioned far northwest of the stated siting at that time, were tasked with supporting the Royal Navy ships. Memphis and the destroyers Davis and Jouett, who were near to the area reported by Olwen, were able to search the area, but were unable to locate the "German raider", while Omaha and Somerss search for survivors was also unsuccessful. The search continued the next day.

Capture of Odenwald
Omaha CL-4 with German Odenwald 1941, taken from Somers.

Even though the hunt for the "raider" had been unsuccessful it ultimately proved to not be entirely fruitless. On 6 November, as Omaha and Somers, were en route back to Recife, returning from a 3,023 mi (4,865 km) patrol in the equatorial waters of the Atlantic, smoke was spotted, at 05:06, on the horizon. Captain Theodore E. ChandlerOmahas commander, put her on an intercept course with the sighting. As Omahaapproached the ship, which was flying US colors with the name Willmoto, out of Philadelphia, identifying her on her stern, she began taking evasive action. While multiple attempts were made to signal the merchant ship, they either went unanswered or they were given suspicious responses. Omahas lookouts also reported that many of the crew visible on the deck of the ship were "uniquely un-American in appearance."

The ship, which identified herself as Willmoto, did not satisfactorily identify herself to the American warships. After ordering "Willmoto" to heave toOmahas captain dispatched an armed boarding party. At 05:37 Lieutenant George K. Carmichael, along with the boarding party, began to make way for the vessel. Around this time, the merchant hoisted the signal flags "Fox Mike", indicating that the ship was sinking and that they required assistance. Two distinct explosions could be heard within the ship when the boarding party began to climbing the ship's ladder. In an attempt to leave the sinking ship, several of the crew had lowered lifeboats, but Lt. Carmichael ordered them to return to the ship. At 05:58, Carmichael signaled to Omaha that the ship was indeed a German ship and that the crew had attempted to scuttle her. She was identified as Odenwald, a German blockade runner and that her holds were filled with 3,857 t (3,796 long tons; 4,252 short tons) of rubber, along with 103 B. F. Goodrich truck tires and sundry other cargo that totaled 6,223 t (6,125 long tons; 6,860 short tons) total.

Omaha crew members posing on the deck of Odenwald

A diesel engine specialist was brought over from Somerss crew to assisted with the repairs and prevent Odenwalds sinking. Omahas SOC floatplanes and Somersguarded the area while the boarding party made Odenwald sea worthy. With repairs finished the three ships set course for Port of Spain, Trinidad, to avoid possible difficulties with the government of Brazil.

Omaha arrived at Port of Spain, on 17 November 1941, with Odenwald flying the German flag on the mast with the US flag flying over it. It was not until 30 April 1947, that a case was brought by Odenwalds owners in the District Court for Puerto Rico, against the US. Their claim stated that because a state of war between the United States and Germany did not exist at the time of capture the vessel could not be taken as a prize or bounty. The court however, given the fact that Odenwald was rescued from sinking by the US crew, declared that the seizing of the ship was defined as a legal salvage operation. The US was awarded the profits that were made from Odenwald and her cargo. All the men of the original boarding party received $3,000 each, while the rest of the crewmen in Omaha and Somers, at the time, were entitled to two months' pay and allowances. The laws have since been revised, making this the last time that US Navy members received such an award.

World War II

On 7 December 1941, Omaha was steaming with Somers from San Juan to Recife, when she received a communication that informed her captain that the Japanese had attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. She was ordered to "execute WPL (war plan) 46 (Rainbow 5) against Japan." Captain Chandler mustered the crew to read them the message. On 8 December, the US Congress would officially declare war on the Japanwith Germany declaring war on the US three days later, on 11 December 1941.

Merchant sinkings

While Omaha was on patrol with Jouett on 8 May 1942, she came across the Swedish ship AstriOmahas boarding party found Ensign John F. Kelly, USNR, from the US freighter Lammot Du Pont, along with six members of her armed guard detachment and eight crewmen. She had been sunk on 23 April, by U-125(Kapitänleutnnt Ulrich Folkers) 500 mi (800 km) southeast of Bermuda. The men had drifted for two days before being picked up. The Office of Naval Operations (OpNav) had informed Omaha that they suspected the Swedish ship of being a tender for German U-boats. Jouett was left to investigate Astri while Omaha set a course to Recife, with the survivors of Lammot Du Pont. Having been pointed to the area by a patrolling aircraft, the destroyer Tarbell was able to rescue another 23 survivors from Lammot Du Pont on 16 May.

Omaha spotted a light on the horizon at 01:30, on 1 June 1942. The light was from a small lifeboat with eight surviving crewmen aboard from the sunken British merchant Charlbury. She had been heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina, when she had been attacked on 28 May, by the Italian submarine Barbarigo. The first torpedo fired by Barbarigo had missed Charlbury, at which point the submarine surfaced to attack with her 10 cm (3.9 in) deck guns before submerging again. With her second torpedo attack Barbarigo struck Charlbury which caused the merchant to sink by the stern. Omaha went on to pull another 32 survivors of the sinking from the water and transported all of the them to Recife.

On 8 June 1942, only a week later, eight British seamen, from the British merchant Harpagon, where found aboard the Argentinian merchantman Rio Diamante by Omaha. They were the only survivors, 41 had died in the 20 April, attack by U-109 (Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt) near the island of Bermuda. The survivors, being adrift for 35 days, stayed in Rio Diamante, which transported them to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In a two day period, 16-17 August 1942, five Brazilian merchantmen were sunk by U-507 (Korvettenkapitän Harro Schact). More than 500 men had been killed in these attacks on Brazilian shipping which were outside of the territorial waters of Brazil. U-507 then destroyed a sixth vessel on 19 August, that was flying Brazilian colors. On 22 August 1942, while Omaha was waiting for her harbor pilot to take her in at Montevideo, Uruguay, her crew were able to observe the rusting hulk of the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee that had been scuttled almost three years earlier on 18 December 1939, after the Battle of the River Plate. When Omaha had moored, a Brazilian naval officer visited Captain Chandler and informed him Brazil was preparing a for a formal declaration of war against both Germany and Italy. The declaration was promulgated that day.

Hazards of life at sea

Even as the threat from Germany and Italy had diminished by August 1942, there were still many ways for the men of Omaha to be harmed. One day, as she was at anchor in Carenage Bay, Trinidad, one of her sailors had returned from an especially "hard liberty" and found a spot on Omahas direction finder deck to sleep off the effects. When the ship rolled unexpectedly the inebriated sailor rolled from the deck, down an awning, across the quarterdeck and then over the side and into the water. According to Captain Chandler, "probably due to his perfectly relaxed condition", the sailor was uninjured. Other such occurrences did not always end as well.

On 30 October 1942, while in Trinidad, six of Omahas baseball team were injured when one of the sides of the truck carrying them fell off. Just six days later, while Omaha and Marblehead were on escort duty, one of her newly arrived Vought OS2U Kingfishers flipped upon landing, while the aviator was able to make it out safely, the plane sustained serious damage which required it to need overhauling when Omaha put back into port.

Tragedy did strike Marblehead though in November 1942. As her whaleboat was being hoisted back aboard, a sailor from her landing party fell overboard and failed to ever resurface. The sailor had a newly issued style of life vest on that required being inflated by mouth. This incident brought Captain Chandler to order that Omaha's boarding party's return to wearing the older style life jackets that had proven themselves effective even though they were more cumbersome and bulky.

Collision with Milwaukee

USS Omaha (CL-4) off the New York Naval Shipyardon 10 February 1943 (NH 97972)

The year 1943, proved to be a quiet year for Omaha. Escorting the stores ship Pollux regularly out of Recife, and patrolling the southern Atlantic with her sister ships MilwaukeeMemphisCincinnati, and the destroyer Moffett, she did not come in contact with any enemy ships or submarines or the aftermath of their attacks.

The only damage she took that year occurred 30 April 1943, while she was changing stations on formation, Milwaukee struck Omahas starboard bow. The collision destroyed one of her paravanes and rupturing some plating, which caused some flooding. Omahas damage control party shored up one hole with two mattresses and were able to stop the leak. One compartment was completely flooded with another compartment requiring pumping out every two hours. On Milwaukee, the 6-inch guns and torpedo tubes on her port side were unserviceable. Several holes had opened up along her port side that were above the main deck, along with some leaks under the waterline from damage to plates and rivets. Milwaukee also lost her No.3 main circulation pump. The damage was determined not to be serious enough to halt their mission and the two cruisers, after completing their patrol, put into Rio de Janeiro for the needed repairs at the Brazilian Navy Yard.

Sinking of Rio Grande and Burgenland

Omaha's time of relatively ordinary operations came to an end very early in 1944. While patrolling out of Recife, with Jouett on 4 January, one of Omahas aircraft spotted a ship about 55 mi (89 km) northeast of the Brazilian coast. Omaha challenged the vessel at 10:20, with one of her searchlights, that produced no response from the unknown contact. Lookouts were able to spot two guns mounted on the ship's bow though, and soon after a large cloud of heavy smoke was observed coming from the stern of the ship, indicating that her crew were probably in the process of scuttling the ship to avoid capture. As Omahapulled along the unknown ship's port side she began to fire with her starboard battery as Jouett also began firing. The ship's crew were then observed attempting to escape off her stern in lifeboats. Omaha crew tried to force the sailors back aboard with machine gun fire, but it became clear that the vessel was not salvageable. Omaha began firing on the vessel again, which soon sank by her stern. With fears that this surface action may have alerted enemy U-boats in the area, Omaha and Jouett withdrew without picking up any of the survivors. The ship was later identified as a German blockade runner named Rio GrandeMarblehead was able to rescue 72 survivors later on 8 January.

Omaha returned the following day to the vicinity that Rio Grande had been sunk and again encountered an unknown merchant steamer. She once again challenged the unknown contact with her searchlight, and again received no response to her signals. This time Omaha fired two warning shots over the unknown ship's bow, due to the fact that it appeared that she was dead in the water. An explosion was observed, followed by smoke billowing from her. Captain Elwood M. Tillson ordered Omahas 6-inch battery to train on the unknown contact and open fire. Captain Tillson then allowed members of the crew to rotate topside to observe the gunfire since many of the men were unable to view the action against Rio Grande the previous day. The ship, later identified as another German blockade runner, Burgenland, sank by her stern thirty minutes later. Two days later 21 of her survivors were rescued by Davis with Winslow able to retrieve an additional 35 crewmen on 8 January.

Recovery of U-177 survivors

Omaha hosted First LadyEleanor Roosevelt and RADM Oliver M. Read, Commander, Surface Patrol Force (TF 41), 16 March 1944, at Recife, Brazil.

Omaha was out patrolling with Memphis and Jouett on 6 February 1944, when the ships were given orders to be on the lookout for the survivors of a U-boat that had been sunk earlier in the day near their location. A yellow life raft was later spotted by Omahas lookouts. The occupants were German sailors that had survived the sinking of their boat, U-177, that had been sunk by a Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator from Bombing Squadron (VB) 107 that was operating out of Ascension Island. U-177 had been sitting on the surface while some of the crew where sunning and swimming.

According to Leutnant zur See Hans-Otto Brodt, their commanding officer Korvettenkapitän Heinz Bucholz and another 50 men of the crew of 64, went down with the ship. The prisoners were sent to the sick bay for treatment of shock and exposure and supplied with fresh clothing that had been provided by the Red Cross. Until Omaha put in at Bahia, on 15 February, where they debarked and were transported to Recife, the Germans were placed under armed guard.

Transfer to the European Theater

On 4 July 1944, Omaha got underway to the European Theater with destroyer escortsMartsReybold, and troop transport General W. A. Mann. On 13 July, the convoy arrived at Gibraltar, with the addition of MarshHollis, and the destroyer KearnyOmaha set sail for Palermo, Sicily, on 18 July, in company with the battleships Nevadaand Arkansas.

Operation Dragoon
Omaha during the landings in Southern France, August 1944, photographed from Philadelphia. In the distance are (from left to right): a French Navy destroyer, a French light cruiser, and Augusta.

On 7 August 1944, Omaha was guarding the flank of a formation consisting of the US heavy cruisers Quincy and Augusta, the battleship Nevada and the French battleship Lorraine, bombarding Toulon, France. Omaha assisted in the bombardment firing 24 rounds. An enemy shore battery began firing on Omaha at 17:17, Quincy was able to lay a smoke screen out for her while she fired 3.5-inch (89 mm) rockets in an attempt to jam their radar. Again on 20 August, while she was supporting Nevada, she once again drew fire from the enemy as she was departing from the area with the shells splashing 1,000 yd (910 m) off her stern and 3,000 yd (2,700 m) off of her port quarter.

Shortly after, while she was at Porquerolles, France, Omaha responded to the net tender Hackberry, that had come under fire from a German shore battery, by firing 73 6-inch rounds into the enemy position.

Omaha departed the assault area on 27 August 1944, and returned to Palermo, before getting underway to Oran, Algeria, with CincinnatiMarbleheadQuincy, and the destroyer McLanahan. This group then sailed from Oran, on 1 September, after being joined by MacKenzie, for the Atlantic. When the formation exited the Mediterranean, Marblehead detached from the group and proceeded west independently.

After Omaha returned to Bahia, 9 September, she once again resumed her previous duties of patrolling the southern Atlantic and providing escort services. A break in this routine occurred when she returned to the North Atlantic while escorting the transport General M. C. Meigs in company with the Brazilian Marcílio Dias-class destroyers Mariz e Barros and Marcilio Dias to Gibraltar. They reached their destination on 4 December, where Omaha handed her escort duty off to Edison. She then proceeded by herself to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, where she arrived on 14 December, and put in the next day to the New York Navy Yard. Omaha ended 1944 in New York, while undergoing repairs and alterations that would improve the living spaces for her crew.

Search for the Brazilian cruiser Bahia

When the Brazilian cruiser Bahia (C.12) was reported sunk by a submarine, Omaha set out from Recife, on 8 July 1945, on a search and rescue operation. A report came in from the British steamer Balfe that they had picked up 33 survivors from BahiaOmaha set course to intercept Balfe so she could transfer her medical staff and aid in treatment of the remaining survivors. In all, only 44 sailors were rescued, with seven dying from their injuries, and eight bodies recovered, out of a crew of 346. An investigation into the sinking of Bahia later determined that on 4 July 1945, while conducting anti-aircraft training, a gunner that had shot down a trailing target kite continued to fire as he was trailing the target's descent. Because the proper safety stops had not been installed on the gun he was able to inadvertently fire into a rack of live depth charges that were positioned on the fantail of the ship.


Following the sinking of BahiaOmaha continue to serve in the South Atlantic, until 12 August, two days after the Japanese announced their intention of surrendering under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, when she departed Recife, for the last time. She made ports of call at San Juan and Norfolk, before getting underway for the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Soon after arriving in Philadelphia, a Board of Inspection and Survey recommended that Omaha be taken out of commission.

Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, 18 February 1946, scrapping in Dry Dock #4 of MarbleheadCincinnati,
Omaha, and Raleigh.

Omaha was decommissioned on 1 November 1945, and was struck from the Navy Register on 28 November 1945. She was scrapped at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard by February 1946.




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