Category Archives: World War II

Wreck of the USS Helena found 75 years later

The light cruiser USS Helena, named after Montana’s capital city, was sunk during the Battle of Kula Gulf in the Solomon Islands during the night of July 6, 1943 as it fired on several Japanese ships. The Helena, illuminated by the constant muzzle flashes of its’ guns, was an easy target, and was soon struck by three Japanese torpedoes, which  broke the back of the ship. It sank in 860 meters of water. On March 23, 2018, nearly 75 years after the USS Helena was sunk, Microsoft founder Paul Allen announced that his R/V Petrel team had located the wreckage.

The wreck of the USS Helena with the bow number 50 clearly visible.
USS Helena CL-50
USS Helena – CL-50
• Commissioned – Sept. 18, 1939
• Propulsion – 8 steam turbines, 4 screws
• Speed – 32 knots
• Displacement – 13,000 tons (loaded)
• Length – 608 feet
• Complement – 888 men in peacetime, 1,200 wartime
• Aircraft – 4 Curtiss SOC-2 Seagulls
• Sensors – radar
• Armament
– 15 – 6-inch/47 guns (5 – triple mounts)
– 8 – 5-inch/38 guns (4 – twin-mounts)
– 8 – .50 caliber antiaircraft guns

The Helena was badly damaged during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was towed to Mare Island California, where it underwent extensive repairs, including installation of a state-of-the-art radar. While it underwent repairs, the ship’s crew honed their gunnery skills. After the invasion of Guadalcanal, the Helena  was sent to the Solomon Islands, where it participated in two major sea battles, the Battle of Cape Esperance and the Battle of Guadalcanal during the fall of 1942. The new radar and the gunnery skills of the crew made the Helena a fearsome adversary, and the Japanese Navy was fooled into believing that the Americans had developed fully automatic naval guns.

Read more about the USS Helena here.

USS Helena survivors
USS Helena survivors after being rescued in the aftermath of the Battle of Kula Gulf.

 

USS Helena memorial
The USS Helena monument in Helena, Montana

Read more about the USS Helena here.

Montana's Home Front During World War II
Montana’s Home Front During WW II

Montana’s Home Front During World War II

 

 

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Montana eagle insignia: Mystery item of the week

I was recently contacted by a Dutch tourist whose son found this item on Omaha Beach in Normandy. If anyone has seen something similar or can positively identify this, please add a comment. I told the person who sent it to me that I would let them know if anyone can identify what it is.

Montana Eagle
This item was found on Omaha Beach by a Dutch tourist in 2017
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March 1945 in Montana

March 1 – All taverns, nightclubs, and places of entertainment were ordered to close at midnight to save energy.

March 5 – Temperatures in Lewistown fell to minus 34 degrees, the coldest place in the nation.

March 10 – The 163rd Infantry Regiment (formed from the Montana National Guard) landed on the Zamboanga peninsula of Mindanao, Philippines.

March 18 – Memorial services were held at Browning for five Blackfeet tribal members killed in the war.

March 22 – The Pacific Car and Foundry Co. in Billings was honored with an “E” award celebration for war production.

March 26 – A “war-weary” veteran pilot from the Great Falls Army Air Base was arrested after repeatedly buzzing Great Falls at 2 a.m.

February 1945 in Montana

April 1945 in Montana (coming soon)

Montana History Calendar 1942

Montana History Calendar 1941

Montana History Calendar 1930s

Read more about March 1945 in Montana and the history of the state during World War II.

Montana's Home Front During World War II
Montana’s Home Front During World War II

 

What others think of Montana’s Home Front During World War II

 “a wealth of new information
and many never-before-seen photographs of
Montana during the 1940s. The result is a very
comprehensive, fascinating account of how the
state’s population coped with the tragedy of a worldwide military conflict.” – Judith Shafter – State of the Arts

“you’ve got to see it for yourself but any history or travel enthusiast will be very pleased with the wealth of information in this book.” – Greg Wortman, Billings Examiner

“excellent for the wealth of Montana history contained within. A fascinating snapshot of civilian life during the war” – ebay member burnafterreading

 

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