The USS Utah (AG-16), originally commissioned as a battleship designated (BB-31), had long been demilitarized and used as a target ship. Unarmed, she posed no threat, a fact the leaders of the attack on Pearl Harbor were aware of. Unfortunately, two attacking pilots misjudged and fired on the vessel, sinking her and putting in harm’s way other vessels moored off the northwestern coast of Ford Island on the morning of December 7, 1941. One of these was the USS Raleigh (CL-7).
Sitting forward of the Utah and aft of the USS Detroit (CL-8), the USS Raleigh, an Omaha-class light cruiser was moored in berth F-12 when she came under fire during the first attack wave. An initial torpedo missed, but a second struck the cruiser’s port side amidships. Under the impact, the ship began listing, appearing as if she’d capsize due to the force of the strike. To prevent her from tipping further, her crew began frantically jettisoning what they could while others took to her guns and fired on the attacking planes.
Over the course of the two-hour attack, her crew suffered several injuries but no deaths, and her gunners were credited with downing five Japanese planes.
Two weeks after the attack, Raleigh was towed into the Navy Yard for repairs. On February 21, 1942, the newly-repaired cruiser departed Pearl Harbor for overhaul at Mare Island near San Francisco. Five months later, she was ready for service, joining Task Force 15 to escort convoys between San Francisco, Hawaii, Fiji, and Samoa.
USS Raleigh in the Pacific Theater
In November of 1942, Raleigh sailed from Pago Pago for a search and destroy mission against Japanese ships that had been operating between Gilbert and Ellice Islands, but her crew were unable to find any sign of them. After a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, she sailed to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, where she remained for months searching for Japanese ships carrying reinforcements.
On January 10, 1943, she regrouped with Task Group 8.6 to assist the occupation of Amchitka Island. In August of 1943, after brief repairs in Puget Sound Navy Yard, Raleigh took part in the bombardment of Kiska, shelling enemy encampments before returning to San Francisco for an overhaul.
Once again, the USS Raleigh returned to the Aleutians in a support role, providing cover against Japanese vessels near Kiska and Attu. On February 1, 1944, she sailed for Massacre Bay in Attu for further bombardment of enemy installations. Though she had spent much of her wartime service without damage beyond what she received at Pearl Harbor, on June 6, while at Massacre Bay, she lost her number two main engine. Repairs were quick and she was back in operation in the Aleutians until shortly before the war ended.
On September 29, 1945, nearly a month after Japan’s formal surrender, the USS Raleigh sailed into the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was decommissioned on November 2. Within 26 days, Raleigh was struck from the Naval Vessel Register and on February 27, 1946, she was sold for scrap.
For her service, the USS Raleigh earned the American Defense Service Medal (w/ “FLEET” clasp), American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (w/ three battle stars), and the World War II Victory Medal.