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Chapter 2: Plankowners

Recruit Company 560 photo from Naval Training Station Sampson in upstate New York. Holding the "War Bond Champs" banner at far right is future Mighty Ninety plankowner Arthur "Tommy" Whitesell, 4th Division.
-photo courtesy of Teresa Whitesell

During this period America mobilized her young men in unprecedented numbers. The commissioning crew of Astoria came from all corners of the United States. Some men came from the existing Navy, including six sailors who had served aboard "Nasty Asty,"Astoria CA-34. Many others were "learning the ropes" at naval training stations and schools across the nation.

Company 14, Section 1 photo from Radio Materiel School, Treasure Island, CA in 1943. Future Astoria K Division plankowner Clarence "Clancy" Allen is in the second row standing, fourth from left.
-photo courtesy of Clancy Allen

Aerial view of four cruisers at Cramp shipyard in December 1943. At center USS Miami nears completion. At left is Astoria, six months from delivery. The hull of Oklahoma City nears launching in the closer set of ways, while Little Rock is under early construction in the background.
-photo from NARA Records Group 80-G

Spring 1944
The majority of the USS Astoria ship's company mustered at Newport, Rhode Island. Shortly afterward they traveled by train to Philadelphia, PA to report aboard the newly-delivered cruiser at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Seaman First Class Herman Schnipper, future Ship's Photographer of USS Astoria CL-90. This photograph was taken in Philadelphia circa May 1944.
photo courtesy of Herman Schnipper

Broad Street in Philadelphia circa May 1944. This photo was taken by Herman Schnipper using his personal 35mm camera, prior to being issued his Navy photographic equipment.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

Shore Patrol and other sailors on Market Street in downtown Philadelphia in May 1944. The Savoy Theater is showing "The Fighting Seabees" starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

15-17 May 1944
From the Mighty Ninety cruise book:
It all started back in Philadelphia on the 15th of May 1944 when the majority of the crew reported aboard two days before commissioning. We were all pretty green then, didn’t know much about the Navy or the sea, but we had a job to do and we were determined to do it well. We spent the first two days finding our way around the ship and on the 17th of May 1944 we were commissioned.

The Astoria commissioning ceremony took place at Philadelphia Navy Yard. 4th Naval District Commandant Rear Admiral Milo F. Draemel presided. The first watch was set and Astoria became a United States Ship, under command of Captain George C. Dyer and executive officer Commander Erasmus W. Armentrout, Jr.

USS Astoria CL-90 commissioning ceremony and menu programs from 17 May 1944. The drawing portrays a camouflage measure that she would not wear until two years later, after the war was over.
-courtesy of plankowner Jim Peddie

The men who reported aboard USS Astoriaon or before 17 May 1944 were considered "Plankowners," a long-standing U.S. Navy tradition recognizing the commissioning crew of a ship. Following the commissioning ceremony, these men were issued Plankowner's Certificates.

The Plankowner's Certificate of Angelo DeScisciolo, F Division Fire Controlman.
-courtesy of RADM Dominic DeScisciolo, USN ret.

Astoria passes a merchant ship in the Delaware River during her first trial run, 28 May 1944. Schnipper was still using a personal camera while waiting for delivery of his Navy-issue equipment.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

Above and below: OS2U Kingfishers training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in 1944. Astoria CL-90 aviators went through Advanced Scout Training in Pensacola prior to the ship's shakedown cruise.
-U.S. Navy photo from Brent Jones collection

-U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Pieter Bakels

6 June 1944
While the Mighty Ninety went through the final preparations for her shakedown, the eyes of the world focused on the French coastal region of Normandy. Overnight, the Allied Expeditionary Force comprised of Canadian, British, and American forces had launched a combined airborne and seaborne invasion of German-occupied France. The invasion would come to be known worldwide as D-Day.

Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Division soldiers exit an LCVP "Higgins boat" from USS Samuel Chase APA-26 to wade ashore under fire at OMAHA beach, 6 June 1944.
-USCG CPhoM Robert F. Sargent photo from NARA collection

The first known aerial photograph of the commissioned USS Astoria CL-90, 7 June 1944. She is off Brandywine Shoal in final preparation for her shakedown cruise. Her first wartime livery is the light-pattern disruptive measure 33 design 24d. This measure, originally developed for use in the northern Pacific and Aleutian Islands, was intended to disrupt the ship's outline most effectively in hazy, overcast conditions. Astoria is easy to identify in photographs because she was the only cruiser in the Pacific to wear this camouflage measure through March 1945.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA Records Group 80-G-453306

Quartermaster First Class Darwin D. Stilwell at the portside pelorus during trials in early June 1944.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

Bugler 1st Class John T. Thompson during trials in early June 1944.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

One week later an operation even larger than D-Day got underway on the opposite side of the globe, illustrating just how far American force projection had come in less than three years. OPERATION FORAGER kicked off with the invasion of Saipan, 15 June 1944. The combined Marianas landings paved the way for the operations Mighty Ninety would play a role in throughout the year that followed. But for the time being, Astoria continued training an ocean away.

USS Astoria trains on refueling from USS Aucilla AO-56 off Norfolk, Virginia on 18 June 1944. Astoria would again meet up with Aucilla when both ships were attached to Task Force 58 in the Western Pacific in 1945.
-photo taken by and courtesy of Herman Schnipper

USS Astoria CL-90 returns to Norfolk in a photo taken from USS Tripoli, 18 June 1944.
-U.S. Navy photo from NARA Records Group 80-G-364894

                                         Continue to CHAPTER 3:  SHAKEDOWN CRUISE




Allen, Clancy.  Private photo collection.

Bakels, Pieter. Private photo collection.

DeScisciolo, Dominic.  Private document collection.

Friedman, Norman.  U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History.   Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984

Jones, Brent.  Private document collection.

MIGHTY NINETY: USS ASTORIA CL-90 cruise book.  Unk. publisher, 1946.

Peddie, Jim.  Private document collection.

Schnipper, Herman.  Private photo and document collection.

Whitesell, Teresa.  Private photo collection.

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

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