uss nashville cl43



pre-war   wwii   post-war   reunions





The USS Nashville was a ship of the “Treaty Navy,” meaning it was authorized, built, and commissioned after the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22 and the subsequent London Naval Conferences of 1935-36 and prior to 1938.  This new Brooklyn Class had fifteen of the greatly improved six-inch guns with heavy shells and was capable of an astounding rate of fire for the period.  It had the greatest firepower of any of the treaty cruisers of any country.

The USS Nashville CL43 (Cruiser Light) was built by New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey.   Her keel was laid down January 24, 1935, she was launched October 2, 1937 and commissioned June 6, 1938 under the command of Captain William W. Wilson. 

Nashville, as originally built, was 608 feet, four inches in length, had a beam of sixty-one feet, eight inches, displaced 9,475 tons with a mean draft of nineteen feet, two inches, and could travel at 32.5 knots.  The original crew complement was 816 men and fifty-two officers.  As built, she stood with fifteen six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and eight fifty caliber anti-aircraft guns.  She was originally widely recognized as a beautiful ship, sleek and trim, not yet burdened with the extra AA and camouflage that the war would add, painted battleship gray but with highly polished brass fittings known as “brightwork,” brilliant white lifelines and a stunning teak deck   There was a hint of luxury and glamour about the ship.

Nashville sailed on calm seas for a short trip to Philadelphia for fitting out then departed Philadelphia on July 19, 1938 to load ammunition and stores in Norfolk, Virginia.  On July 29 she officially started her shakedown cruise and training with Caribbean trips to Guantanamo, Cuba, and Gonaives, Haiti.  She followed with a trip to Cherbourg, France, Stockholm and Gothensburg, Sweden, and Weymouth and Portsmouth, England.  While in Portsmouth Nashville secretly loaded $25,000,000 in English Gold for safekeeping in New York. 

In 1939-40 Nashville visited the New York Worlds Fair, Cuba, Panama, Hawaii and Rio de Janeiro where the crew continued to build a reputation for interesting liberty, but always training with gunnery and frequently transporting high ranking officials and key troops (Wake Island).

By 1941 Nashville was well traveled, transferred back to the Atlantic and had an impressive gunnery reputation as well as one for being a glamour ship.  She did convoy duty in the North Atlantic and was in Bermuda on December 7, 1941.

Nashville earned 10 battle stars in WWII, more than any other Brooklyn class cruiser.  On Pearl Harbor Day she quickly went into patrol mode against German subs and convoy duty in the North Atlantic, but her speed and gunnery were needed in the Pacific and she was soon on her first shooting mission of the war.  Nashville was part of the Doolittle Raid in April 1942, one of the most daring naval raids in history.  She sunk two Japanese picket ships and took the second and third Japanese POWs of the war.

After the Doolittle Raid Nashville did extended duty in the frigid waters of the Aleutians where she sought out the larger Japanese fleet and bombarded Japanese shore positions before returning to Hawaii.

Nashville began a war long duty of bombarding Japanese shore positions across the Pacific starting with the Solomon Islands as the Marines and Army battled the Japanese on Guadalcanal.  It was here that she suffered her first casualties.  As the Allies island hopped their way across the Pacific Nashville was in the forefront, often as a task force flagship, bombarding the enemy with her fast and accurate guns, fighting off air attacks and literally dodging torpedoes passing under her.  She received bomb damage but kept her battle station in line and was repaired quickly.  Tokyo Rose reported Nashville sunk multiple times.  She was obviously wrong.

General MacArthur used Nashville as his flagship on several occasions including his famous return to the Philippines where he disembarked and returned to Nashville.  MacArthur was so fond of Nashville that he had plans to use her for the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay.

While in the Philippines on December 13, 1944 Nashville’s luck ran out with a devastating Kamikaze strike on her port side amidships, killing and wounding almost a third of her crew.  She remained at her battle station fighting off an air attack as her crew bravely fought the fire and tended to the wounded.  Many, many brave men did extraordinarily brave acts that day.

Nashville’s damage was so extensive she had to make the long trip to Bremerton, Washington for major repairs and modernization.  After sea trials she was back in the fight in the Pacific where she remained for the duration of the war.

Nashville was in Subic Bay, Philippines when the war ended.  After dealing with a typhoon she  made her way up the Yangtze River of China to Shanghai where she took control of several Japanese naval vessels and prisoners.  She then made several roundtrips to California, transporting American troops home.  On one such trip she rescued a foundering troop transport off the coast of San Francisco and safely took her to harbor.  She then sailed to the  Philadelphia Navy Yard where she was mothballed next to her sister ship USS Brooklyn until she was sold to Chile in January 1951.

She served in the Chilean Navy first as the O’Brian and later as the Admiral Prat, Chile’s most revered naval hero.  Decommissioned by Chile in 1987, she was renamed Chacabuco (although Chileans still referred to her as Prat) and used as an accommodation hulk.  The end came for Nashville in 1983 when she was sold for scrap and towed to Taiwan for dismantling.

Men in war become brothers in ways no one else could possibly do so.  It was not that long after the war that the crew would meet up individually or in small groups.  And from this came larger and more regular group gatherings that led to a formal reunion organization that was headed up by various individuals and couples over the decades. 

For several decades it was “Bulldog” and Audrey Remler of Kansas that ran the reunions.  As a center point in the country the Remler home became a waypoint for Nashvillers traveling across the nation.  Their basement, where the author began research for the Nashville book, was an impressive repository of Nashville memorabilia.

Later, the Remlers passed the baton the Don and Goldie Hill of New Mexico who ran the association for many years.  Don was a decorated Marine and like all the other crew I met, never had a complaint pass his lips. 

The reunions were held in different cities each year and once in Sydney, Australia, the crew’s favorite liberty port by far.  The last official reunion was in St. Louis in 2009 and very well attended.  But it was obvious that age was taking its inevitable toll and there were to be no more official reunions and the association was disbanded.  However,  people were tenacious in not giving up and a smaller group met in Reno in May 2010.  Don and Goldie named this meeting a “Gathering of Humble Heroes” in honor of the book, “Humble Heroes, How The USS Nashville CL43 Fought WWII”.

At this time no further events are planned, but don’t be surprised if that does not change.  The Nashvillers are a strong and tenacious group when it comes to honoring their own.