U.S. Navy hat band from U.S.S. Marblehead WW2 serviceman.
"About on 24 November 1941," her war diary reported, "the Commander–in–Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet sensed that the relations between the United States and Japan had reached such a critical state that movement of men–of–war...was indicated." The next day, Marblehead, with Task Force 5 (TF 5), departed Manila Bay for seemingly "routine weekly operations." She anchored at Tarakan, Borneo on 29 November and waited for further instructions. On 8 December (7 December in the United States) she received the message "Japan started hostilities; govern yourselves accordingly."
Marblehead and other American warships then joined with those of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Australian Navy to patrol the waters surrounding the Netherlands East Indies and to screen Allied shipping moving south from the Philippines. On the night of 24 January 1942, Marblehead covered the withdrawal of a force of Dutch and American warships after they had attacked, with devastating effect, an enemy convoy off Balikpapan. Six days later, in an attempt to repeat this success, the force departed Surabaja, Java, to intercept an enemy convoy concentration at Kendari. The Japanese convoy, however, sailed soon after, and the Allied force changed course, anchoring in Bunda Roads on 2 February. On the 4th, the ships steamed out of Bunda Roads and headed for another Japanese convoy sighted at the southern entrance to the Makassar Straits. At 0949, 36 enemy bombers were sighted closing in on the formation from the east.
In the ensuing Battle of Makassar Strait, Marblehead successfully maneuvered through three attacks. After the third an enemy plane spiraled toward the cruiser, but her gunners splashed it. The next minute a fourth wave of seven bombers released bombs at Marblehead. Two were direct hits and a third a near miss close aboard the port bow causing severe underwater damage. Fires swept the ship as she listed to starboard and began to settle by the bow. Her rudder jammed, Marblehead, continuing to steam at full speed, circled to port. Her gunners kept firing, while damage control crews fought the fires and helped the wounded. By 1100, the fires were under control. Before noon the enemy planes departed, leaving the damaged cruiser with 15 dead or mortally wounded and 84 seriously injured.
Marblehead 's engineers soon released the rudder angle to 9° left, and at 1255, she retired to Tjilatjap, steering by working the engines at varying speeds. She made Tjilatjap with a forward draft of 30 ft (9 m), aft 22 ft (7 m). Unable to be docked there, her worst leaks were repaired and she put to sea again on the 13th. Some of her wounded crew were taken off the ship to be cared for by Dr Corydon M. Wassell; he received the Navy Cross for protecting them from capture by the invading Japanese. When the ship left Tjilatjap it was on the first leg of a voyage of more than 9,000 mi (14,000 km) in search of complete repairs.
Still steering with her engines, she made Trincomalee, Ceylon on the 21st. Repairs could not be made there or anywhere in India for several weeks. So Marblehead departed for South Africaon 2 March. After touching at Durban and Port Elizabeth, Marblehead arrived at Simonstown on 24 March. There she underwent extensive repairs and on 15 April sailed for New York. Steaming via Recife, Brazil, she finally arrived in New York on 4 May, completing a journey of over 16,000 miles from where she was damaged in action and immediately entered drydock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
On 15 October, the rebuilt Marblehead again put to sea. Attached to the South Atlantic Force, she operated against the enemy in the South Atlantic from Recife and Bahia, Brazil, until February 1944. Returning to New York on 20 February, she operated along the convoy lanes of the North Atlantic for the next five months. She then sailed for the Mediterranean. Arriving at Palermo on 29 July, she joined the task force then staging for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. From 15 to 17 August, the cruiser bombarded enemy installations in the vicinity of Saint Raphael, where Allied assault troops were landing. On the 18th, she withdrew to Corsica, her mission complete.