The heavy cruiser USS Pittsburgh should live in fame as the ship that saved the carrier USS Franklin on March 19, 1945, after a devastating Japanese air strike. The Pittsburgh raced to the Franklin and lashed a tow line to the flaming carrier. The cruiser pulled the Franklin to safety while fighting off Japanese attackers. A brilliant feat of Naval valor. But the USS Pittsburgh is most remembered as the ship that went to war against a typhoon.
Quick thinking and good training saved the ship, which limped back to Guam, while its bow floated in the Pacific. A seagoing tug would retrieve the orphaned 100-foot hunk of metal.
On 4 June 1945, the Pittsburgh was caught in Typhoon Viper which increased to 70-knot (130 km/h) winds and 100-foot (30 m) waves. Her starboard scout plane was lifted off its catapult and dashed onto the deck by the wind, then shortly after her second deck buckled. Her bow was thrust upward, then sheared off, although there were no casualties. Still fighting the storm, and maneuvering to avoid being hit by her drifting bow structure, Pittsburgh was held quarter-on to the seas by her engine power while the forward bulkhead was shored.
After a sevenhour battle, the storm subsided, and Pittsburgh proceeded at 6 knots (11 km/h) to Guam, arriving on 10 June. The typhoon damage also earned her the nickname “Longest Ship in the World” as thousands of miles separated the bow and stern.
Among the sailors on the Pittsburg during that fateful journey was a young man from Atwood . . . this is from a 1945 issue of our paper . . .
Pacific Typhoon Enlivens Birthday For Atwood Sailor
Not a very pleasant way to spend a birthday – with your ship being lashed by 138 milean-hour winds – but Leon Irwin, Seaman 1/C, Atwood, must be used to excitement and the unexpected as his ship has been a part of Halsey’s Third Fleet since early this year.
S 1/C Irwin was 19 years old on June 5 – the day after his ship, the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Pittsburg, lost its tussle with a raging typhoon somewhere in the Pacific. The winds tore the bow off the Pittsburg, but the ship returned to Guam for repairs under her own power.
No one was lost from the Pittsburg, the most heavily damaged of the 21 ships. The cruiser is now being refitted for action.
S 1/C Irwin’s ship is the one which on March 19 steered the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Franklin, from its dead-set course – the shores of Japan – after the carrier had been subject to heavy bombing from a Jap suicide plane 69 miles off the coast of Japan.
The son of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Irwin, S 1/C Irwin served in the Atlantic for three months aboard the Pittsburg before going into the Pacific with the ship in January. He is the brother of Pfc. Milton Irwin who was killed January 19 while serving with the army in Belgium.
S 1/C Irwin went into the Navy in May 1944 and trained at Cam Wallace, Texas before going overseas.
David Irwin, son of Leon, now lives in Midwest City. He informed the Advocate that his father had tied himself between the big gun on the ship and was on deck when a 170 foot rogue wave hit them head on, breaking off 20 feet of deck in front of him.