Helena (St. Louis-class)
|Ship Class||St. Louis-class Light Cruiser|
|Builder||New York Navy Yard|
|Laid Down||9 Dec 1936|
|Launched||27 Aug 1939|
|Commissioned||18 Sep 1939|
|Sunk||6 Jul 1943|
|Displacement||10,000 tons standard; 13,541 tons full|
|Machinery||Four 618psi boilers, four gear turbines, four screws|
|Power Output||100,000 shaft horsepower|
|Armament||5x3x150mm Mark 16 guns, 4x2x130mm/38cal dual purpose guns, 8x12.7mm AA machine guns|
|Armor||3-5in belt, 2in deck, 1.25-6.5in turrets, 6in barbettes, 2.25-5in conning tower|
|Aircraft||4 Curtiss SOC-2 Seagull seaplanes|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseUSS Helena was constructed at New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, United States in the 1930s and she was commissioned into service in Sep 1939. In late 1939 and early 1940, she made a cruise to South American, visiting Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. She was later assigned to the Pacific Fleet and was present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. Moored at the berth normally assigned to battleship USS Pennsylvania, her position was particularly targeted by the Japanese, suffering a torpedo hit on the starboard side merely three minutes after the attack began. 34 were killed and 69 were wounded during this attack that brought the United States into WW2. She was moved to dry dock on the following day, and then received permanent repairs and anti-aircraft weaponry upgrades at Mare Island Navy Yard in California, United States until Jun 1942. Upon completion, she escorted ships to the South Pacific. In this capacity, on 15 Sep 1942, she was in convoy with USS Wasp when the carrier was hit by torpedoes from Japanese submarine I-19 in the Solomon Islands; Helena rescued nearly 400 survivors from Wasp and brought them to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. On 11 Oct 1942, Helena was the part of the US task force that ambushed an incoming Japanese fleet in the darkness of night just before midnight at the end of the day; the subsequent Battle of Cape Esperance was greatly confusing for both sides, but the Americans would achieve a small victory after sinking heavy cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki. A junior officer on Helena later wrote, "Cape Esperance was a three-sided battle in which chance was the major winner." During the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in Nov 1942, she was first to detect the presence of Japanese warships in the darkness with her radar, but Rear Daniel Callaghan and the task force failed to take proper action based on this information, and the battle was not joined until both sides sighted each other. In yet another confused pre-dawn battle, Helena assisted in the sinking of destroyer Akatsuki and serious damaged destroyer Amatsukaze. Captain Gilbert Hoover, commanding officer of USS Helena and the senior surviving US officer, gave the order for all Americans to disengage from battle after 40 minutes of fighting since only Helena and destroyer USS Fletcher were still in full fighting condition. Hoover would lead the task force to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides as the acting commanding officer; en route, USS Juneau was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, and Hoover would be relieved of duty for his decision to provide minimum rescue efforts to help Juneau's survivors. Captain Charles Cecil would be named the next commanding officer. In Jan 1943 and then again in Jul 1943, she bombarded Japanese positions on New Georgia. During the Battle of Kula Gulf in the early hours of 6 Jul 1943, she ambushed "Tokyo Express" Japanese destroyer transports, but the many gun flashes in turn made her an attractive target for Japanese gunners. She was struck by a Japanese Type 93 torpedo on the port side below No. 1 Turret at 0203 hours, breaking off the bow. At 0205 hours, she received two more torpedo hits, again on the port side. The main part of the ship sank at 0225 hours, and the bow would sink on the following day. Some of the survivors were picked up by destroyers USS Nicholas and USS Radford, some made it to nearby islands, but some others, many wounded by the torpedo detonations, would die before reaching safety. In all, of the crew of 888, 168 died in the sinking. Captain Cecil survived the sinking.
ww2dbaseIn Jun 2006, remains of a US Navy serviceman were found on Ranongga Island in the Solomon Islands, west of New Georgia island. In Sep, it was determined to be the remains of Seaman 1st Class General Preston Douglas of USS Helena. His remains were buried at Gollihon Cemetery in Sneedville, Hancock County, Tennessee on 26 Jan 2008.
Last Major Revision: Jan 2015
Light Cruiser Helena (St. Louis-class) (CL-50) Interactive Map
Helena (St. Louis-class) Operational Timeline
|9 Dec 1936||The keel of Helena was laid down at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, United States.|
|27 Aug 1939||Helena was launched at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, United States, sponsored by Ms. Elinor Carlyle Gudger, granddaughter of Senator Thomas J. Walsh of Montana, United States.|
|18 Sep 1939||Captain Max Burke DeMott was named the commanding officer of USS Helena, relieving Lieutenant Commander Donald Hendry Johnston.|
|18 Sep 1939||USS Helena was commissioned into service with Captain Max B. Demott in command.|
|14 Oct 1939||USS Helena departed New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, United States for her sea trials and shakedown cruise.|
|22 Dec 1939||USS Helena arrived at Annapolis, Maryland, United States.|
|27 Dec 1939||USS Helena departed Annapolis, Maryland, United States for South America; she arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, United States later on the same day.|
|3 Jan 1940||USS Helena departed Norfolk, Virginia, United States.|
|6 Jan 1940||USS Helena arrived at GuantĂˇnamo Bay, Cuba.|
|7 Jan 1940||USS Helena departed GuantĂˇnamo Bay, Cuba.|
|13 Jan 1940||USS Helena crossed the Equator for the first time.|
|22 Jan 1940||USS Helena arrived at Buenos Aires, Argentina.|
|28 Jan 1940||USS Helena departed Buenos Aires, Argentina.|
|29 Jan 1940||USS Helena arrived at Montevideo, Uruguay.|
|3 Feb 1940||USS Helena departed Montevideo, Uruguay.|
|5 Feb 1940||USS Helena arrived at Santos, Brazil.|
|10 Feb 1940||USS Helena departed Santos, Brazil.|
|12 Feb 1940||USS Helena arrived at GuantĂˇnamo Bay, Cuba.|
|24 Feb 1940||USS Helena departed GuantĂˇnamo Bay, Cuba.|
|27 Feb 1940||USS Helena arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, United States.|
|1 Mar 1940||USS Helena departed Norfolk, Virginia, United States.|
|2 Mar 1940||USS Helena arrived at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, United States.|
|14 Jul 1941||Captain Robert Henry English, Jr. was named the commanding officer of USS Helena, relieving Captain Max Burke DeMott.|
|7 Dec 1941||During the raid on Pearl Harbor in the US Territory of Hawaii, USS Helena was damaged when an aerial torpedo passed underneath the ship and exploded against the hull of USS Oglala moored alongside.|
|8 Dec 1941||USS Helena entered Dry Dock #2 at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, US Territory of Hawaii to repair damage sustained in the Japanese attack the day before. Dry Dock #2 was still under construction but almost completed by the time of the Japanese attack and Helena was the first ship to enter it.|
|6 Mar 1942||Commander Gerald D. Linke was named the commanding officer of USS Helena, relieving Captain Robert Henry English, Jr.|
|29 Mar 1942||Commander Oliver Middleton Read was named the commanding officer of USS Helena, relieving Commander Gerald D. Linke.|
|15 Sep 1942||USS Helena rescued nearly 400 survivors of sunken USS Wasp in the Solomon Islands.|
|25 Sep 1942||Captain Gilbert Corwin Hoover was named the commanding officer of USS Helena, relieving Commander Oliver Middleton.|
|11 Oct 1942||USS Helena assumed position west of Savo Island, Solomon Islands in darkness, awaiting an incoming Japanese task force.|
|12 Oct 1942||USS Helena assisted in the sinking of Japanese heavy cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki.|
|20 Oct 1942||USS Helena observed incoming Japanese torpedoes while on patrol between Espiritu Santo of New Hebrides and San Cristobal island in the Solomon Islands; all torpedoes missed.|
|11 Nov 1942||USS Helena made rendezvous with a convoy of transports off San Cristobal, Solomon Islands and escorted the convoy to Guadalcanal.|
|12 Nov 1942||Cruiser USS Helena (St. Louis-class) and destroyers USS Shaw and Barton arrived off Guadalcanal and began a shore bombardment near the mouth of the Kokumbona River. The US ships then were subjected to an aerial attack from about 21 Japanese airplanes. Shaw claimed to have shot down two of them.|
|12 Nov 1942||USS Helena fired on attacking Japanese aircraft at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.|
|13 Nov 1942||USS Helena detected Japanese warships with her radar off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands at 0124 hours, but poor communications and general confusion caused a lack of proper action from the task force. The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was joined after the two sides sighted each other. USS Helena assisted in the sinking of destroyer Akatsuki and seriously damaged destroyer Amatsukaze. Captain Gilbert Hoover, commanding officer of USS Helena and the senior surviving US officer, gave the order for all Americans to disengage from battle after 40 minutes of fighting.|
|23 Nov 1942||Captain Charles Purcell Cecil was named the commanding officer of USS Helena, relieving Captain Gilbert Corwin Hoover.|
|5 Jan 1943||Lieutenant "Red" Cochrane and his crew of the aft 5-inch battery of USS Helena shot down a Japanese D3A dive bomber off Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. This was the first use of proximity-fuzed shells in combat.|
|4 Jul 1943||USS Helena escorted invasion transports to Kula Gulf west of New Georgia.|
|5 Jul 1943||Before dawn, USS Helena commenced pre-invasion bombardment of New Georgia from Kula Gulf. In the afternoon, she received the order to intercept a Japanese troop convoy would arrive some time after dark.|
|6 Jul 1943||During Battle of Kula Gulf northwest of New Georgia, USS Helena ambushed an incoming Japanese convoy at 0157 hours, but the many gun flashes in turn made her an attractive target for Japanese gunners. She was struck by a Japanese Type 93 torpedo launched by Japanese destroyers Suzukaze and Tanikaze at 0203 hours, followed by two more at 0205 hours. She would sink at 0225 hours. In Vella Gulf, destroyer USS Strong was also struck and sunk by a Type 93 torpedo launched from Japanese destroyer Niizuki.|
|7 Jul 1943||The broken-off bow of USS Helena sank in Kula Gulf northwest of New Georgia. A US Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator aircraft dropped lifejackets and four rubber lifeboats to survivors in the area of the bow.|
|26 Jan 2008||The remains of Seaman 1st Class General Preston Douglas of USS Helena, which were discovered on Ranongga Island in the Solomon Islands in Jun 2006, were buried at Gollihon Cemetery in Sneedville, Hancock County, Tennessee on 26 Jan 2008.|
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Visitor Submitted Comments
5 Apr 2009 10:45:49 AM
MY dad, Jhn Theophile Hoffman served on the Helena before I even came along. I am very curious about the part he played in the war. Any information would be helpful, He died in 1988. Thank you for your help. Oh, he ws from New Orleans,La..
20 Jun 2015 05:56:32 PM
I lost many documents of my father from the USS HELENA CL 50. HIS NAME IS WALTER J COURTAULT. He was from NewOrleans La. We lost his picture of his crew on the Helena. A b d tge picture of the Helena. If possible ca some one help me with his picture of his crew.
9 Nov 2015 10:25:15 PM
My Dad served on the USS Helena and was on it when it sank. He passed in May 2001. Any info about Herbert Harrison?
27 May 2018 08:55:03 PM
My father Philip Shuh was a radioman on the Helena when it was sunk.
12 Aug 2018 10:08:56 AM
My father was one of the survivors on July 6th and lived a good life. He loved the Helena and gave me many stories. Would love to talk to others about their stories
8 Sep 2018 02:43:47 PM
My Dad served on the Helena during WW II. His name was Weldon Weigel. He was also called curly. Anyone know of where I can find a crew list?
4 Dec 2018 01:21:02 PM
My uncle, Seaman First Class Leonard Franklin Tomlinson, served on USS Helena CL-50 from July 1940 until he died in the Battle of Kula Gulf. He was an artist and created many portraits and greeting cards for shipmates. I'd love to locate any survivors or their family members who may have a greeting card or portrait that Uncle Frank created or whose relative may have known him. Thank you for any clues you can provide.
5 Dec 2018 06:02:52 PM
This is a link to the Helena's last muster list in case it is helpful to relatives seeking information on their family member or friends: http://www.usshelena.org/cl50muster1july1943index.html .
4 Feb 2019 01:40:38 PM
My uncle was on the Helena when she was sunk.
Wm./Bill Sundermyer MN>
27 May 2019 12:14:29 PM
I am looking for any information about my great great uncle Ora Marshall. He died in the Kalua Gulf when the USS HELENA sank.
27 May 2019 06:33:24 PM
Traci Smith (above):
Seaman Ora Alanda Marshall appears in the Helena Muster Rolls a few times. His service number was 632 21 24 and he was received aboard 19 Jun 1942 when Helena was at Mare Island. I canâ€™t find a final Muster Roll compiled after the sinking accounting for all the crewmen but such things were customary; there may be one on file at the National Archives. If you want to research this further, I recommend getting a copy of his service record; see: https://ww2db.com/faq/#3.
30 Aug 2019 06:51:07 PM
My father James Walter Gore was supposedly on the USS Helena the night itâ€™s sank Iâ€™m trying to find out if he was on the crew list.
15 Sep 2019 11:26:27 AM
I would like to get any information about my brother, Earnest F Cox who was on the Helena. Thanks
15 Sep 2019 06:52:00 PM
Jack Cox (above):
Helena Muster Rolls list that Ernest Francis Cox, who enlisted 16 Dec 1941 at Birmingham, Alabama and had service number 272 79 91, reported aboard 20 Jan 1942 at San Diego. I cannot find a final Muster List following Helenaâ€™s sinking but the last Muster Roll filed 6 days before that (30 Jun 1943) still listed Ernest Cox. I could not find any Muster Roll from any ship that listed Ernest Cox after Helena sank. As always, my best advice for the best information on your brotherâ€™s service is to request a copy of his service record. See https://ww2db.com/faq/#3 for more info.
15 Sep 2019 07:03:33 PM
Judy Savoy (#13 above):
See my comment #12 above about the unavailability of Helenaâ€™s final muster list. The best I can do for you is the same as for Ernest Cox (above) that James Walter Gore, service number 382 28 90, was listed on the 30 Jun 1943 Muster Roll, 6 days before the sinking.
28 Feb 2020 08:36:41 PM
Any info on my uncle Theodore Blahnik (ted) served on Helena during Pearl Harbor.
24 Jun 2021 01:56:48 PM
The USS Helena had a quite illustrious career, enough so that the ship is still mentioned in television documentaries with some regularity. While this is not a problem on a website like this, it bothers me that the narrators for these TV shows mis-pronounce the name so badly. Like all US cruisers of the period, Helena was named for a prominent American city, in this case, the capital of Montana. As such, it is pronounced the same as the city name, which is â€śHEL-en-aâ€ť and not â€śhe-LEEN-aâ€ť as if it were a womanâ€™s name. This OGG sound file is linked to the Wiki page for the City of Helena offering the preferred pronunciation: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/Helena_%28spoken_word%29.ogg
28 Jun 2021 07:06:48 AM
Joseph Griffin died on the Helena. Is there any list with his name on it. Thank you.
10 Feb 2022 10:57:06 AM
my uncle Francis Warren was on the Helena at Pearl and at Kula Gulf. Looking for any additional info
10 Feb 2022 11:13:57 AM
looking for information on uncle Francis Warren, gunner's mate on USS Helena
1 May 2022 06:58:22 PM
Looking for any information or pictures I might get of my grandfather Delmar Wayne payne.
23 Sep 2022 11:45:32 AM
Looking for info on my grandfather- Private Jack F Cook , USMC, captains orderly for Capt Hoover
All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal
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24 Jan 2007 01:07:20 PM
My father served on the Helena as a radioman. Herbert Shaffer