MIGHTY NINETY

Chapter 6:  The Mare Island Photographs


21 October 1944
In the morning hours USS ASTORIA CL-90 made preparations to get underway for trials on a second replacement turbine bearing. While the ship prepared to depart Mare Island, a sequence of nine recognition photographs were taken.

These images have been reproduced in a number of publications, and they are most noteworthy for the  remarkable amount of detail they contain. Shot on large format, high-grain film, the images below have been remastered from first-generation prints held in National Archives records group 19-LCM.



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USS ASTORIA CL-90 moored portside to Pier 21 at Mare Island Navy Yard in the morning of 21 October 1944. She has not moved in two weeks as work is performed on her number four low pressure turbine. Note the rail cars filled with scrap in the foreground. At center left is the lighter ENDICOTT YM-12.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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Plan view amidships of ASTORIA looking forward. Note the SK "bedspring" aerial search radar and SG surface search radar atop the foremast.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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Plan view amidships of ASTORIA looking aft. Note the 36" search lamps and trash burner affixed to her after stack.
-U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Larry Cote





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Plan view aft of ASTORIA in the sequence from 21 October 1944. Her camouflage measure has been carried across her teakwood weather deck.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM





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At 1500, USS ASTORIA got underway for a full power run beyond San Francisco Bay to test the turbine bearings. She carried engineering personnel from the navy yard as well as representatives from Cramp Shipbuilding Company and General Electric, manufacturer of the ship's turbines.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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USS ASTORIA CL-90 port bow surface view. Her crew stands at attention, manning the rail by division.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM





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ASTORIA CL-90 port beam surface view. Her disruptive camouflage pattern is Measure 33 design 24d.
-U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Maggie Thompson





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ASTORIA CL-90 port quarter surface view. Her OS2N-1 Kingfisher floatplanes sit atop her twin aircraft catapults astern. Because the Kingfisher did not have folding wings, ASTORIA's floatplanes had to remain on her weather deck at all times.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM





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Stern view of ASTORIA CL-90 in the last of nine Mare Island photographs from 21 October 1944.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM


The images that follow are actually close-up cropped portions of the Mare Island photographs. Close examination reveals a number of fascinating details about this sequence of photos.



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Mare Island Naval Hospital as seen from the plan view forward photograph. In the center foreground a tractor trailer carries sailors and employees through the shipyard.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




Above and below: U.S. Navy lighters moored alongside the Vallejo waterfront in the background of the plan view aft photos.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Larry Cote


-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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The Vallejo-Mare Island ferry pier from the plan view aft photo.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




Two Marines and two officers stand at the ship's gangway. At far right a newspaper deliveryman has parked his bike to unload the morning edition.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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At left a Marine speaks with the deliveryman. On his newspaper vest is written "Examiner," referring to the Hearst newspaper The San Francisco Examiner. The Marine PFC at right has a 2nd Marine Division patch on his left shoulder.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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In the plan view aft photos, sailors line up for chow and sit on the deck reading the Examiner. Although the banner headline isn't legible, the big news of the day is yesterday's landings at Leyte in the Philippines. Had it not been for her engine failures, ASTORIA would have been present for these landings.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




Above: Men in the chow line work a crossword puzzle and read the funnies. Below: A lone sailor finds a quiet spot near the port aft 5"/38 mount. The dark form in front of him is the covered barrel of a 20mm anti-aircraft mount.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM


-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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USS ASTORIA's forecastle 20mm mounts. Note the splinter shields welded flush against the gunwales and the ring track at the base of each mount.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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The forward 6" battery of USS ASTORIA. Note the life ring stowage atop the gun turrets. The ship's camouflage measure has been carried across each surface--the turrets have a split paint scheme on the gun barrels and white ring on the barbette to offset shadowing due to overhang. Two-tone paint is also applied to the deck in the Measure 33 Design 24d pattern.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




The redesigned forward superstructure of a later CLEVELAND-class cruiser is clearly visible in this closeup of ASTORIA. The forward battle lookout and Mk 51 gunfire directors are clearly visible.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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F-Division Fire Controlmen place covers on the Mk 51 directors amidships. Note the General Electric logo at the back of the 36" search lamp at right. The USS ASTORIA ship's bell is visible at center left.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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A "quad forty" Bofors 40mm mount. Waterproof covers drape over the ready ammunition that rings the mount's splinter shield. Helmets are stacked nearby for ready access; note the USN Mk II "talker's helmet" atop the standard M1 helmets. At upper right, several handkerchiefs dry from air blown through a ventilation duct.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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The after battle lookout at the base of the aft main battery director. Three Mk 51 gunfire directors are visible. The firing button is clearly visible on the right grip of the middle director.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




USS ASTORIA mustered divisions at attention along the rail as the ship departs Mare Island on 21 October 1944. Note the "90" pennant number in camouflage paint at center left.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




A wonderful detail from an extreme closeup of the ship's stern photograph. The raised letters of "ASTORIA" are barely visible under the camouflage paint. This is the only known photograph that shows ASTORIA CL-90's stern nameplate from her entire service life, in wartime or peace.
-Close-up crop from U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM




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A mis-marked photograph labeled as CL-90 from 21 October 1944. The ship in the photo is actually heavy cruiser USS BALTIMORE CA-68, which occupied a Mare Island berth at the next pier down from USS ASTORIA.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM





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The third cruiser at Mare Island preparing to get underway in late October. This port beam view of USS MONTPELIER CL-57 was taken on 18 October 1944.
-U.S. Navy photo in National Archives Records Group 19-LCM



If USS ASTORIA had not experienced either of the two failures of bearings on her turbines, she would have joined the fast carriers weeks earlier and been present for combat operations in Leyte Gulf.  Instead, she spent this period enduring repairs stateside.



                            Continue to CHAPTER 7: HERE THERE BE DRAGONS

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Sources:

Cote, Larry.  Private photo collection.

Thompson, Maggie.  Private photo collection.

www.archives.gov National Archives and Records Administration WWII photo archive.

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