USS Baltimore CA-68 Heavy Cruiser 

USS Baltimore
Anchored in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
22 September 1954
The Baltimore Story
 
Now at wars' end the story of the, Heavy Cruiser USS Baltimore CA-68
can be told!
 
Like other battle seasoned and scared heavy cruisers, the USS Baltimore has lived a full war life, sampled its first battle with a bombardment of Markin Island, stormed through the Gilbert, Marshall, and Marianas campaigns, leveled the synchronized fury of it’s nine protruding eight inch rifles on Satawan Island in the Caroline group; but unlike many less fortunate cruisers, the Baltimore has run the gamut unscratched.

Some of her actions and deeds, like carrying the late President Roosevelt to his historic triumvirate at Pearl Harbor with five star Admiral Nimtz and, General MacArthur - were tagged as "top secret", thus had to remain untold until wars' end. But probably the main reason for her silent satirically and smothered blackout was that in doing a thorough workmanlike job for over two years, the Baltimore’s two skippers (Captains Calhoun and Fink), officers, and crew had clearly defied, coldly thwarted, and precisely outmanuevered every, Nip attempt to register a single hit on its six hundred and seventy. feet of armored deck and superstructure. NOT ONCE DID SHE WEAR A HURT, MARTYRED LOOK, OR LIMP INTO THE NEWS AS A BATTLE CASUALTY. NOT A MAN DID SHE LOOSE THROUGH ENEMY ACTION. BUT THE BALTIMORE WAS ALWAYS THERE, AS HER CREW SO LOUDLY AND PROUDLY ECHOES: "They don't wear service stars for nothing"

The names of the now historic sea battles and engagements – Luzon and Mindoro in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Guam, Rota, Tinian, Saipan, Truk, Okinawa, Formosa, strikes at the China Coast and Japan Proper, are like a vast orchestration of pages from the Baltimore's war diary, or just the passing life of this great ship and its fighting crew.

But what most of her 1,500 man crew likes, and are proud: The Baltimore is big enough to feel self - respecting about her part in the war, yet always has remained small enough to be intimate. Full dress inspections have never bee conspicuous in her routine, for the Big "B" was born of this war and grew of age under battle conditions.

Her war record is a curiously, interesting document. The Baltimore came into being as a part of the nation's answer for a two ocean Navy. That fateful December day in ’41, when the Japs struck at Pearl Harbors found her a little more than fast growing shell on the ways at the Bethlehem Steel Yards at Quincy', Mass., and it was not until a very chilly spring day in April of '43 that she received her war time commission in the South Boston Navy yard and Captain Walter C. Calhoun was handed its command, Commander Frank Monroe was, named its executive officer. Aboard her new, shining, stainless hull came a crew of officers and men, most of whom had never been to sea - some that had never seen the ocean. To them the shake down cruise in the West Indies was the business of learning to be sailors the hard way. In those sub infested waters, the officers and men of the Baltimore learned the hot, exhausting, and monotonous meaning of morning and evening general quarters, day anti-aircraft practices, night spotting practices, launching and recovering aircraft, fueling at sea and everything that goes to make a crew seasoned, though, hardened, and inured to the discomforts of wars and the ships, a fighting unit of the fleet.

After the usual short shake-down and training period allowed a new, ship in time of war, the Baltimore started its screws churning down the Eastern Atlantic seaboard, swooshed through the Panama. Canal, swung crisply around to the West Coast and the Pacific war. It was there that she was finally readied to taste battle and her course charged for her first major engagement. Operating directly under Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, the Baltimore took part in the bombardment on November 20, 1943, that rocked little Makin Island from bow to stern, paving the way for the famed 27th infantry division to dash ashore and seize that important island.

After this first show of strength, The Baltimore was teamed up with a carrier task group, 50.1, and on December 4, 1943, helped shepherd our carriers into striking distance of the Marshall Islands, where their planes rained death and destruction on Jap air fields and shore installations on Kwajalein. Two months later, she was back again with carrier task force 58.4, as carrier planes pounded Wotje, Malcelap, and Eniewetok, and the Baltimore added its fire power to cover the first landings on Kwajalein.

Operating Day And Night on a devil-take hindmost policy, the Baltimore with its heavy siege guns cocked for action, supported a carrier strike at TRUK on February 16, and 17, 1944. For this action Captain Calhoun was awarded the commendation ribbon "for gallantry and high professional excellence during the operation" The ships scout pilot,, Lt. Baxter, Was awarded the distinguished flying cross and his crew-man R. F. Hickman, ACRM, the air medal, for their heroic rescue of a downed fighter pilot (Lt. G. Mt, Blair off the ESSEX) from under the Jap guns of nearby Dablen Island in the Truk Atoll.

Ranging further West and into the inner circle of the Japanese defenses, the Big "B" steamed along side as planes from carrier task groups 5802 and 58.3 sent their first bombs spiraling down on Saipan, Tinian, Palau, and Yap. During the Palau engagement a surface battle appeared to be in the making, but heavy units of the Nip fleet fled to the West instead of risking a battle with the onrushing might of the task force. As General MacArthur's leap-frog tactics branched out along the New Guinea Coast, the Baltimore stood by as part of the strong supporting carrier task group 58.2, as United States and Australian troops hopped ashore at Hollandia. From there she steamed north and westward again covering the strikes; on Saipan and Guam, until the long horded remnants of the desperate Jap fleet finally struck back in its bitter, frustrating fight . The First Battle of the Philippines. There the Big "B"s' anti-aircraft guns spoke death, and her total of Jap planes mounted towards its final score of twelve, as Hellcats, and Corsairs swarmed from accompanying carriers to destroy nearly 600 Nip planes in the air and on the ground.

The Baltimore was just feeling its oats in its buccaneering careers, when top secret orders from Washington were radioed to Captain Calhoun to leave Task Force 58, and turn the Baltimore full-speed toward San Diego for a special assignment with the late President Roosevelt. On July 22, 1944, the presidential party was piped aboard, and with the late President stuffing a cigarette in his ivory holder and leaning back in his big dock chair, the Baltimore cast off its lines to get under way. As the Baltimore steamed toward Pearl Harbor, with her bow plowing a statesman-like furrow through the Pacific waters, the ships crew toyfully, and thoughtfully edged each other with scuttlebutt and questions speculating the reason for the trip. To the crew, the trip with generals aid admirals aboard in profusion, seemed to have a dash of everything, intrigue, glamour, mystery, fabulous planning, and the irritable atmosphere of important people doing important things. This was the Presidents conference with Admiral Nimtz and General MacArthur to plan and pave the way for the invasion of the Philippines

After this historic trip, Captain Calhoun turned the reins of the Baltimore over to Captain C. K. Fink., and Comdr. R. V. Hull came aboard as the next executive officer, as the hulking form of the Baltimore turned again to the Pacific war. Back in the midst of the battle again, the Baltimore ranged up and down the China Coast, as the might of Task Force 38, raked ports and Jap shipping with annihilating gunfire in French Indo-China, Camranh Bay, Hong Kong, Formosa and then Okinawa. The Big "B" was off Japan with Task group 38.1 that pinned the Jap ships to their home ports while MacArthurt's soldiers were returning to Lingayen gulf. Then came the surprising carrier raids on Tokyo, and the death-stenches invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. These were the sandbag blows in which the Baltimore was just one of the many symbols of American sea powers now masters over the 35,000,000 square miles of the Pacific. Until the end of the war, the mighty 14,500 ton cruiser swung hard in its many Pacific engagements, but still remained untouched by enemy actions, a great tribute to its Captains and crew.

Not even the mounting fury of two tropical hurricanes could dent the hulking hull of the mighty Baltimore, although it did claim the ships only casualty when a seaman was washed over-board. She was standing by when three destroyers turned turtle and sank, and when the Pittsburg sprung open at its forward seams to loose its bow under the savage pressure of the pounding waves.

The Baltimore's present skipper is Captain C. E. Olsen, USN, a broad-shoulder, medium-sized man, who took over his new, command on August 11. Captain Olsen’s. thought-lined face reveals and hints of his former duties as senior member of the Naval Mission to Moscow; but to his officers and men he is best known for his good-nature, and his chatty, informal way of meeting them. To them, his handling of the Baltimore is as reassuring as Thanksgiving, as shrewd as a small town banker.

Now, tonight as the sun sinks off our starboard bow, and a few of its crew gaze pensively to sea, the Baltimore churns through the calm Pacific waters toward Pearl Harbor. At the moment her job is shuttling troops on the “Hawaii to San Francisco Run", emancipating the "slaves of war" who have so well earned their, discharges.

In a parting way, the Baltimore is like a horse whose race was run and won. The Big "B" is now galloping in the home pastures, awaiting word from the nation, that she helped save, as to what her postwar role will be. For this role, whatever it may be, training has already begun. Of her war time crew some .400 have the necessary points for discharge. Half are already tasting the sweetness of home life after 29 months of strenuous war at sea. The others will' soon follow, while the less seasoned ones stay to carry on. That's the Baltimore's story
Retyped word for word (correcting misspellings).
U.S.S. Baltimore CA68 Heavy Cruiser

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Aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore
Aulco Bay Juneau, Alaska
9 August 1944


The President of the United States address to Officers and crew of the U.S.S. Baltimore.


Captain Calhoun, Officers and man of U.S.S. BALTIMORE, shipmates.

I wanted to come up here this afternoon to say goodby to you, but before I do that, I want to thank you for the wonderful cruise that we have had together. Before I came on board, I had followed the
record of the Baltimore. You are a happy crew, well disciplined, and have a record that the U.S. Navy will be proud of. There are very few ships of the fleet that have had an opportunity that this ship has had for combat against the enemy.


Yes I’m still making trips and every opportunity I have to get away from Washington, I do so. One of the reasons I enjoy making these trips, is that I always learn something new. In the past I have made my trips on the 10,000 ton type cruiser. This is my first trip on a post treaty cruiser, and I can say that a lot or improvement have been made.

I an going back to Washington for work, and you, from what I gather are going back to play. You are going back for leave which you justly desrve. I trust you. will be back on time.

We are, joined together to win this war - the greatest at all wars and when it is over and you return to your families, you can say that the President of the United States said he was proud at you. I wish you all good health, happiness, and long life. I say now, good luck, good bye.


                                Franklin Deleno Roosevelt.

Retyped word for word (including misspellings) from the letter to the crew of the U.S.S. Baltimore CA68 Heavy Cruiser
dated 09 August 1944

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Photo taken on board USS Baltimore CA-68 Heavy Cruiser dated 09 August 1944
Front row: left to right: Captain Walter C. Calhoun and President Roosevelt
Back row left to right: General MacArthur and Admiral Nimtz

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General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army (left);
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (center); and
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN (right)


On board USS Baltimore (CA-68), at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 26 July 1944.
Admiral William D. Leahy, the President's Chief of Staff, is standing in the left background.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.


OS2U-3 is recovered by USS Baltimore after rescuing LTJg G.M. Blair. 18 February 1944


Carrier Raids on Truk, 17-18 February 1944

Vought OS2U-3 "Kingfisher" is recovered USS Baltimore (CA-68) after she had rescued Lieutenant (Junior Grade) George M. Blair from Truk Lagoon, 18 February 1944.

Plane's pilot is Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Denver F. Baxter. His radioman, ARMC Reuben F. Hickman, is on the wing, preparing to attach the plane so it can be hoisted on board.

Blair's F6F "Hellcat", of Fighting Squadron Nine from USS Essex (CV-9), had been shot down during the dawn fighter sweep over Truk.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

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Started on: 06 June 2008
Last revised: 29 June, 2008 by ThistleGroup