USS Reno (CL-96) was a WWII battleship. She spent her entire service life in the Pacific War, and its immediate aftermath, during 1944 though 1946. The battleship’s bell lays rest in the first floor lobby at Reno City Hall (One East First Street, Reno, Nevada). This is her story.
Reno.gov U.S.S. Reno by Judge Chuck Weller The keel of the 541-foot light cruiser U.S.S. Reno (CL96) was laid in San Francisco on August 13, 1941. Congressman James G. Scrugham, a native of Reno, used an air hammer to set the first rivet. Reno mayor August Frohlich set the second. Harry Frost, President of Reno’s Chamber of Commerce which had recommended the name for the ship, set the third. t a B On Friday, November 6, 1942 a full page advertisement appeared in the Reno Evening Gazette inviting men between the ages of 17 and 50 to join the Navy to serve on the U.S.S. Reno. Later, Nevada’s Governor Carville asked the Navy to assign officers and enlisted men from Nevada to the ship. The Navy responded that such assignments were prohibited because of “the undesirability of the possibility of heavy casualties falling in a restricted area of the country.” The ship was launched at 10:50 a.m. on December 23, 1942 by Mrs. Frohlich, the mayor’s wife, with a bottle of champagne smashed against the ship’s prow. On December 28, 1943 the Reno was commissioned as a ship in the United States Navy. The ship was fast, capable of proceeding at 33 knots, and heavily armed with 12 five-inch guns, 16 40mm antiaircraft batteries, 16 20mm anti-aircraft batteries, eight torpedo tubes and 688 men. Two sailors from Reno served on the U.S.S. Reno throughout the war. They were Lieutenant (J.G.) Henry L. Clayton of 711 Arlington Avenue and Yoman Second Class Glen A. Spoon. Before the ship left American waters for battle, the people of Reno donated money to the captain of the ship as a present. The Captain wrote a letter of thanks to the City in which he said, “the generosity of the good citizens of Reno is deeply appreciated by me and all of us who have the privilege and honor of serving on board this fine vessel that bears the name of your grand city. This fund will not be expended for inconsequential nonessential or non-permanent items, but will b e l t t be spent upon equipment that will bring the greatest amount of pleasure and enjoyment to the ship’s company. At this time under present day conditions, I do not feel that the expenditure of funds for the purchase of traditional silver service is justified, as all such service must be stored ashore until the end of the war. Please express to the responsible citizens our deep and sincere appreciation for the generous gift upon the part of the citizens of Reno and of the City of Reno itself.” The City’s gift was used to buy instruments for the ship’s band including two pianos, one for the enlisted mens’ mess and one for the officers’ wardroom. The Reno was in combat almost continuously after she sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific Ocean on April 14, 1944. Always part of a naval task force, during May and June she supported carriers sending air attacks against enemy forces on Marcus Island and Wake Island. In June she provided protection to the fleet against aerial attack at Iwo Jima. At Iwo Jima the men of the Reno were credited with shooting down five enemy airplanes and assisted in the downing of at least two more. During the battle an enemy torpedo bomber crashed into her stern. A day later, she moved to Saipan where she used her guns to bombard the island in advance of a July 9th invasion by American Marines. She remained on station interrupting Japanese efforts to reinforce and resupply the island and providing the support of her big guns to the troops ashore. During July she sailed to Guam where she provided pre-invasion bombardment for two weeks. In August and September, the Reno and her task force roamed the Pacific attacking enemy bases and shipping. n r o b On October 24 the Reno was part of the battle fleet at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. She was about 2,000 yards away when the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Princeton blew up. At great risk she came alongside the burning warship five times and fought fires and shot down two enemy planes while survivors from the aircraft carrier scrambled onto her deck. The Reno was at sea under a full moon off the Philippine coast on November 3, 1944. Without warning, at 11:25 p.m. a Japanese torpedo exploded 12 feet below the water line on her port side. The explosion killed forty-five men and tore a 20 by 60 foot hole in the side of the ship. A ten ton 40-millimeter gun mount was torn from the deck and thrown 35 feet. The ship lost power to her engines and lights and started to list. Her crew tended to the wounded and did everything they could to keep the ship afloat. She was towed for eight days, 701 miles through a typhoon to Ulithi Lagoon for emergency repair. Admiral “Bull” Halsey awarded the Legion of Merit to the Reno’s captain and 75 decorations to members of the crew (The next year the war bond buyers of Reno returned the compliment with the gift of a saddle to Admiral Halsey) After temporary repairs in the Pacific she traveled under her own power through the Panama Canal to the Charleston, South Carolina Navy yard for more permanent repair. The war ended with the Reno on the east coast. The ship joined the “Magic Carpet Fleet,” and made two trips to La Havre, France to bring home as many American soldiers as possible before Christmas. The Reno received three battle stars for her World War II service. On June 1, 1946 the ship was inactivated and mothballed as a part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Bremerton, Washington. On Navy Day, October 27, 1946, the flag from the ship was donated to the City of Reno at a ceremony held in Powning Park. Its present location is unknown. The proud fighting ship was struck from the Navy list in 1959 and scrapped in 1962. [A bibliography and historical reference can be found at Reno.gov/USSReno] At Iwo Jima, the men of the U.S.S. Reno were credited with shooting down five enemy airplanes and assisted in the downing of at least two more. During the battle an enemy torpedo bomber crashed into her stern. A crewman, Robert S. Cole Rm2C, wrote a poem describing the action. “Eight Minutes of Hell” by Robert S. Cole Bogy to the west, bogy to the east Crew afraid not in the least They’re closing in fast and now they’re in sight The Reno pours forth all her five inch might Two have fallen before her flack But more are forming for a torpedo attack Three of them she got and maybe two more Her guns are firing as never before A lone one is left and making his run Suffered a hit from a five inch gun But he launches his fish with a deadly aim Seeking to make us a ship of ill fame Hard left rudder emergency turn It missed us by inches we later did learn Now this Nipponese pilot who is about to splash Figures he can main us with a suicide crash Many a man has risked his neck But never before has one ricocheted off our deck A blinding explosion a sheet of flame The Reno received a scar but also a name. U.S.S. Reno Warship Bell is on display at City Hall, located at One East First Street, Reno, Nevada Reno.gov