Posts Tagged ‘N.Y.’

THE SHARIAH THREAT TO AMERICA

July 16, 2011

THE SHARIAH THREAT
by Kathy Jessup

A judge refuses a protection order for a woman raped by her Muslim husband, ruling the man’s abuse is allowed under Shariah law.

A cartoonist is in hiding after a tongue-in-cheek “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” promotion earned her a fatwa death order for violating a Shariah edict banning drawing the Muslim prophet’s image.

A Shariah-compliant investment fund is camouflaged as a charity and funnels more than $12 million to finance Hamas suicide bombers.

Not exactly shocking in some Muslim countries where strict adherence to centuries-old rules, based on Islamic teachings, shines a spotlight on stonings and beheadings.

But these occurred recently in the United States.

Now “honor killings,” publicly funded accommodations for Islamic prayer and billions in Wall Street investments linked to potentially dangerous terror activities are raising political and constitutional questions in America.

Can or should Shariah law co-exist with the Judeo-Christian foundations of U.S. jurisprudence and the Constitution? Will imposition of Islamic-based edicts, enabled by so-called religious tolerance and political correctness, open the door to radical forms of the religion in Western democracies?

A growing number of states are drafting constitutional amendments to prohibit state judges from applying Islamic or international law in deciding cases. But even the 70 percent of voters who passed Oklahoma’s measure in November hasn’t settled the issue for Sooners.

When the director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) challenged the amendment in court, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction, ruling the amendment could be interpreted to single out Shariah law and discredit Islam, violating the First Amendment.

WHAT IS SHARIAH LAW?

Shariah (meaning “path” in Arabic) codifies the words, practices and teaching of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, serving as a guide/law for everything from Muslims’ family and religious practices to financial transactions.

Several hundred years after the death of Mohammed, the prophet’s model living practices were assembled into the hadith, initially melding Islam and local customs. Various hadiths eventually developed into four schools of Sunni thought and one that guides Shiites. Each differs in the degree they draw from the Koran, Islamic thought and community practices.

Shariah identifies five hadd offenses, serious charges resolved by an Islamic judge. They are unlawful sexual intercourse (adultery or sex outside marriage), falsely accusing unlawful sexual intercourse, consuming wine (sometimes all alcohol), theft and highway robbery.

Punishments ordered for hadd crimes by conservative Shariah schools — stonings, executions, amputations and beatings — shock Western sensibilities. However, Ali Mazrui, of the Institute for Global Cultural Studies, says less severe penalties are more typically imposed.

Still, Islam has not uniformly banned so-called “honor killings,” genital mutilation, pre-teen marriages, polygamy, and divorce and inheritance rules that undercut the standing of women. Testimony from non-Muslims and even Muslim women is given less weight than that of Muslim men.

The size of a country’s Islamic population and its level of religious orthodoxy typically influence the degree to which Shariah law is inculcated in national legal codes.

Conservative Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and Iran declare Islam the official religion and Shariah the source of law. In more secular Muslim countries where Islamists are the minority, Shariah has gradually gained legal legitimacy through local customs. Other countries, including Turkey and Azerbaijan, enforce separation of state and religion, sometimes resulting in political clashes.

Some countries operate a dual system where Shariah is applied to family law, while secular statutes govern criminal cases. For example, Britain introduced Shariah tribunals in 2008 that apply Islamic law to inheritance, marriage and divorce disputes where the parties all agree to the jurisdiction.

SHARIAH AND THE UNITED STATES

In 2009, Dalia Mogahed, an Obama administration adviser on Muslim affairs, told a British television audience that the West misunderstands Shariah law, calling its perceptions of Islamic tenants “oversimplified.”

But deaths, abuse and threats involving Muslim women in the United States and Canada have put a Western face on facets of Shariah that had been cloaked in long-standing Middle East practices.

Pakistani-born Muzzammil Hassan was convicted in February for beheading his wife inside the Buffalo, N.Y., television studio the couple had created to promote Islamic cultural understanding. Jurors didn’t buy Hassan’s story that he suffered spousal abuse and killed his wife in self-defense. Hassan had been served with divorce papers the week before, and his children testified he had been the abuser in the couple’s relationship.

In 2008, a New Jersey judge ruled Shariah permitted a Moroccan man to rape his Muslim wife, despite state law making it a crime. The New Jersey Appeals Court overturned that decision and remanded the case, finally allowing the woman to get a restraining order against her husband while she sought a divorce. The appeals court decision said neither Shariah law, giving a husband physical authority over his wife, nor Muslim beliefs on the role of women provided the man an exemption from criminal intent under U.S. statutes.

“[T]he [trial] judge determined to except defendant from the operation of the State’s statutes as a result of his religious beliefs,” the appeals judges wrote. “In doing so, the judge was mistaken.”
Irfan Aleem went to a Pakistani embassy and performed talaq in 2007, exercising Shariah provisions that he said allowed him to divorce his wife Farah by proclaiming his intention three times. Although married several decades earlier in Pakistan, the couple had lived in Maryland for 20 years. Irfan said Shariah allowed Farah no claim on a lucrative pension he would receive from his job with the World Bank.

Maryland judges didn’t agree, ruling the Shariah practices were “contrary to public policy of this state.” The decision set aside the divorce Irfan had quickly proclaimed and afforded Farah a right to claim marital property in a Maryland divorce.

The deaths of at least 10 women in the United States and Canada have been linked to so-called Islamic “honor killings” in the last seven years.

In 2004, a 14-year-old girl who had been raped in Newfoundland was strangled by her father and brother to “restore the family honor.” A 20-year-old daughter of Afghan parents was shot dead in 2006, allegedly because she had moved in with her fiancé before their wedding. The killer was her brother.

In Ontario, a 16-year-old was stabbed to death in 2007 by her father while her mother held her down. The teenager had reportedly fought with her parents over wearing a hijib, a Muslim head covering. In another Canadian case, three teenage girls were drowned in their father’s car in 2009. Also found dead was their father’s first wife, who relatives say he never divorced. The father, his current wife and the girls’ 18-year-old brother were all charged with first-degree murder. Relatives told the media the killings were precipitated by one daughter’s dating decisions.

A Muslim father in Texas shot his two teenage daughters, Amina and Sarah Said, to death in January 2008. The murders allegedly were prompted by the girls having “unsanctioned boyfriends.” Later that year, a Pakistani man beat his 25-year-old daughter to death in Atlanta, reportedly because she opposed her arranged marriage.

Rifqa Bary, an Ohio teenager, made headlines in 2009 when she fled to Florida and foster care, saying she feared she would be the victim of a Muslim “honor killing” for her decision to convert to Christianity. She continued her religious choice a year later when she turned 18.

In a situation much like the 2008 Muslim assassination order against Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris went into hiding at the FBI’s recommendation last spring after her “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” hit Facebook. A Seattle newspaper said Norris is “essentially wiping away her identity” in reaction to a fatwa urging her killing issued by Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Muslim cleric connected to the Fort Hood killings, the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing over Detroit and the failed Times Square bombing.

And in February, radical Muslims announced plans to take their demand for American Shariah to the White House, calling for thousands of Islamists to rally on Pennsylvania Avenue March 3. But just hours before the rally was scheduled to begin, its organizer, British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, called it off, alleging the cause had been “distorted by the media.”

Choudary said the demonstration was merely “postponed until we gather even more Muslims;” no new rally date was announced.

In an online video statement, Choudary said Muslims are obligated to implement Shariah law “immediately, wherever we are in the world,” and he said America can reverse “poverty, child abuse, rape, robberies, theft, crime and anarchy-type scenarios” only after the United States embraces the Islamic code for living. In the meantime, Choudary predicted “the dollar will soon lose its status.”

“We believe the whole of the world must be under Shariah,” Choudary said. “America is not blessed by God. The American dream has become a nightmare.”

Other elements of America’s Shariah debate are more nuanced. Some, like CBSNews.com’s political reporter Brian Montopoli, believe Shariah fears are “overblown at best,” and Jeffry Goldberg, The Atlantic’s national correspondent, said, “A Martian takeover of New Jersey is more likely than the imposition of a caliphate, or of Muslim law, on America.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR, says the enjoined Oklahoma amendment is “an indication of growing anti-Muslim sentiment.” Hooper said CAIR has “not found any conflict between what a Muslim needs to do to practice their faith and the Constitution or any other American laws. We are, in fact, relying on the Constitution as our last line of defense.”

But conservative Jewish blogger Pamela Geller delivers an aggressive “creeping Shariah” warning: “It’s a drip, drip, drip, drip, drip. [In] the mosqueing of the workplace where you’re imposing prayer times on union contracts, non-Muslim workers have to lengthen their day. It’s wrong.”

Consider the political reaction Americans would have seen if these Muslim accommodations had instead been made for Christians:

* The Christian Science Monitor reported a California elementary school made accommodations when it absorbed Muslim students from a shuttered charter school, including revising its instructional schedule to add a 15-minute “recess” after lunch to allow Muslim students to pray in a separate room. The school district’s attorney defended it, saying “the Muslim faith requires specificity of prayer obligations … that most other religions do not,” a claim questioned by even some Muslims. Pork also was removed from school-lunch menus, according to media reports.

* In Massachusetts, where a firehouse was ordered to take down a “Merry Christmas” greeting, public middle school students took a “cultural diversity” field trip to a local mosque, where the boys participated in Islamic prayers while girls were excluded.

These public school incidents are not isolated instances.

Try getting Christian prayer in any school and have the ACLU all over you….but nothing is said re; Muslim special privilege.

* Starting about two years ago, school attorneys have been asking more and more questions about accommodations for Muslim students,” said Lisa Soronen, senior staff attorney for the National School Boards Association.

* Four Christian evangelists attending a July Muslim cultural festival in Dearborn, Mich., were arrested for “disorderly conduct to ensure they did not provoke violence from others attending,” according to a Detroit media report. The four said they were attempting to engage in a dialogue about faith. Shariah law prohibits Christians from engaging Muslims about Christianity.

* The University of Michigan-Dearborn, where about 10 percent of students are Muslim, spent $25,000 to install two foot-washing stations on campus to accommodate ablutions before Islamic daily prayers. The university said it is one of about 18 U.S. higher education institutions providing the unusual facilities, calling its decision “a reflection of our values of respect, tolerance, and safe accommodation of student needs.”

The Michigan Civil Liberties Union mounted no challenge, saying the foot baths have “no [religious] symbolic value.”

“They’re in a regular restroom and could be just as useful to a janitor filling up buckets, or someone coming off the basketball court as to Muslim students,” said Kary Moss, MCLU director.

* Thomas More Law Center, a conservative, public-interest law firm headquartered in Michigan, is challenging the constitutionality of federal bailout money to investment firm AIG, claiming AIG’s involvement in Shariah-compliant financing violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. A federal district judge in Michigan ruled that despite the fact the bailout gave the federal government an 80 percent ownership in AIG, there was no evidence the government’s money had funded “religious indoctrination.” And if there were evidence, the court said the $153 million of federal bailout money used to support Shariah compliance was an insignificant portion of the total $47.5 billion the government provided AIG.

That ruling is being appealed.

THE POWER OF MONEY

Conservative author Dick Morris says airplanes may have taken down the Twin Towers, but he predicts Shariah-compliant investing of billions in Western financial markets has the potential to “hijack our institutions, our social policies and ultimately our values in the name of Islamic rule.”

Huge oil profits and unease with their own Middle Eastern financial institutions brought Islamic investors to Wall Street in the 1990s in search of special funds that would meet Shariah restrictions. But it was complicated turf for bankers who knew investing but not Shariah.

Enter Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, a former Pakistani Shariah Appellate Court justice, hired by Dow Jones in 1999 to help establish a process that could attract trillions of investment dollars, generating handsome commissions and agency earnings.

In just a decade, most major U.S. and European investment firms have retained Shariah advisors and paid them millions. Those advisors assure Muslim investors their gains are not connected to interest charges, pork farming, alcohol, pornography or Western defense industries — all activities prohibited by Shariah.

But are those adviser fees — paid to highly placed Muslims — or the billions of dollars in “donations” financial institutions must contribute to specified Islamic “charities” in exchange for an investment’s Shariah stamp of approval actually bankrolling deadly extremist activities? Morris followed the money in his 2009 book “Catastrophe,” reporting that the U.S. government shut down at least three of the largest charities for financing terrorism.

In a 2008 article titled “Jihad Comes to Wall Street,” Alex Alexiev, vice president for research at the Center for Security Policy, called Shariah-compliant investing “an essential part of radical Islam’s efforts to insinuate itself into Western societies in order to destroy them from within.”

It’s also been a bumpy road for some of those hired consultants. Dow Jones severed ties with Usmani after the Center for Security Policy detailed some of Usmani’s writings, including one that urged Muslims living in the West to “conduct violent Jihad against the infidels at every opportunity.”

The CSP identified another paid Shariah investment advisor, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Morris, Shariah-compliant funds must donate a small percentage of annual earnings to Islamic charities designated by the advisory boards. Those amounts are not inconsequential. For example, a typical 2.5 percent contribution can amount to billions of dollars.

And if a Shariah-compliant fund is found to have earnings from an outlawed investment activity, the advisors can “purify” those gains by donating more to the approved charities. Morris calls some of the charities “thinly veiled fronts for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”

Is the lure of trillions of dollars from Muslim portfolios strong enough to open civil law to expanding Shariah influences?

Consider Great Britain where, just a few years ago, then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wanted London to become the world’s Islamic-finance capital. Britain’s most senior judge subsequently proclaimed the country’s Muslims can use “Islamic legal principles” as long as the punishments and divorce rulings comply with English law.

According to Morris, that’s already made U.K. Muslims eligible for extra benefits if they have more than one wife, even though polygamy — allowed under Shariah law — is illegal in Britain.

TOLERANCE: AN ASSET OR A WEDGE?

Janet Levy, a prolific writer on Islam and national security, asks why Islam “is sacred, supreme and beyond reproach” in the United States, while other religions are “freely criticized, lampooned in cartoons and denigrated in artwork?” She concludes America is already embracing de facto Shariah law.

“Our uniquely American virtues of tolerance and freedom have worked against us to produce intolerance and oppression,” Levy says. “This has led to the stealthy introduction of Shariah law and a climate in which criticisms of Mohammed and Islam are no longer possible without serious repercussions.”

Are political correctness and moves to cool the osmosis of the American melting pot fundamentally changing us? Is the arena of ideas — where Americans have historically tested competing beliefs — being shut down so as not to offend?

Recall 1960 when Americans considered it fair game to question Democrat John F. Kennedy about whether he would look first to his Catholicism or to the Constitution in making presidential decisions. Former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has come under scrutiny during his political campaigns, sans shouts of profiling.

European nations that have led the West’s embrace of Shariah law have recently begun to retreat from their policies of “multiculturalism,” suggesting failure to maintain a single national identity has actually cultivated Islamic extremism in countries like Britain.

In a February speech at the Munich Security Conference, British Prime Minister David Cameron argued European “multiculturalism has been a failure” that’s fostered Islamic extremism, adding that the West has been “cautious, frankly even fearful” of standing up to it.

“We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values,” Cameron said. “This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. … What we see — and what we see in so many European countries — is a process of radicalization.”

Something also gets jumbled in the translation when East/West cultures talk about democracy and its relationship with religion.

In 2008 polling conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, 82 percent of Egyptians said a democratic political system should govern their nation. At the same time, 73 percent said they supported stronger application of Islamic law in Egypt.

Of those, 68 percent said Egypt’s government should apply Shariah law to regulate moral behavior; 64 percent supported using traditional punishments like stoning for adulterers; 62 percent want the government to police women’s dress; and 59 percent said Shariah rules should be used to provide for Egypt’s poor.

So what does this all mean for Shariah in America?

The U.S. Constitution does not assign superiority to a particular religion. However, the idea that liberty is man’s God-given — not government-granted — right is a Judeo-Christian principle. America is exceptional because the people — regardless of how or whether they embrace God — allow government limited power.

America does not vest all authority in a theocratic government, where law and even daily life is dictated by a single religious code. But that does not mean the United States is Islamophobic, says New Jersey blogger George Berkin.

“[S]upporting the [Oklahoma amendment] does not make one anti-Islamic. But not being anti-Islamic does not mean that we should not insist that American legal principles — not foreign ones — apply here.”

Kathy Jessup is an award-winning, veteran journalist in Michigan whose writing career has focused on government, politics and criminal justice.

This article appeared March 24th, 2011 in Townhall Magazine,
http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/news/?p=6533

USS SAN DIEGO: The Unbeatable Ship That Nobody Ever Heard Of

December 4, 2010

by Fred Whitmore

USS speed trials.jpg (34167 bytes)Few knew of her during World War II, and few know of her even today: a ship named for the city of San Diego. The light antiaircraft cruiser USS SAN DIEGO (CL 53) received the honor of being the first victorious American warship to enter Tokyo Bay. A former crewman, Bill Butcher, gunners mate second class, wonders about the SAN DIEGO and her place in history books. He recently wrote, “…Nothing ever happened to us that was ‘headline news’ until we were the first major Allied warship to enter Tokyo Bay. We were straddled by bombs, dodged torpedoes and (were) attacked by suicide planes that missed. We never lost a man in combat, never surrendered to the enemy, and earned eighteen battle stars while steaming 300,000 miles without a major overhaul.” (Butcher now lives in Massachusetts and is petitioning Congress and the Postal Service to put the SAN DIEGO on a commemorative postage stamp.)

John Supino, seaman first class, was assigned to a specialized damage control party whose duties were to make repairs when the ship got hit. Supino maintains that since the ship never got hit, the damage control people virtually had a pleasure cruise. (Supino. who entered the Navy from Everett, Massachusetts, still lives at the same address.)

World War II went out with two stupendous, thundering booms in August, 1945. The atomic bombs brought the Japanese to the peace table. On August 15 Japan gave up, and everything changed. Only a few months earlier, everyone believed that to end the war, Japan would have to be invaded at a cost of a million lives or more.

Now the ship’s crew suddenly realized the end of the war was at hand, and got to wondering about going to Tokyo. It turned out that a little delay going home via Tokyo was quite acceptable, especially when they were being honored to act as flagship as well as the first ship to dock in Japan. That would fulfill a promise made back in Boston in January 1942, “that she wouldn’t stop until she dropped her hook in Tokyo Bay.”

On August 12, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, colorful commander of the huge United States Third Fleet, sent a message to a light cruiser, the USS SAN DIEGO (CL 53), as follows: “SAN DIEGO designated as flagship for Commander Task Force 31, and thus in the center of all activity. Seeing an imminent end of combat, Halsey handpicked the SAN DIEGO to be the first major warship to enter Tokyo Bay once the enemy surrendered unconditionally. That event happened two days later, on August 14, signaling the end to the long and vicious fighting that started with the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

The crew of the SAN DIEGO felt that they had rightfully earned the honor with a remarkable wartime record. She’d won 18 battle stars. She took part in 34 major battle actions; steamed an incredible 300,000 miles at sea with only short stops at such out-of-the-way places as Majuro, Eniwetok and Ulithi atolls; and never took a direct hit or lost a man in combat from the day she was commissioned in January’ 1942. Bob Alderson, yeoman third class, attributed the success of the SAN DIEGO to his shipmates. He said, “I think it was the accuracy of our aim. The more our ship was in battle, the greater our chances of survival because we knew what we were doing. We had complete confidence and good skippers.”

Then there was the design of SAN DIEGO, which made life a nightmare for the enemy aviators. As one officer observed, “When seven turrets with fourteen five-inch guns were all firing at the enemy, it looked like the ship itself was on fire.”

A rather crusty Rear Admiral Oscar Badger had been selected by Admiral Halsey to be Commander Task Force 31 on the SAN DIEGO. The accompanying minesweepers, destroyers, seaplane tenders, and high-speed transport making up Task Force 31 had also compiled exceptional combat records. The task force headed into the narrow but heavily fortified entrance to Tokyo Bay after taking some Japanese navigational pilots aboard. Heeding Admiral Halsey’s warning “to be vigilant in light of the enemy’s reputation for treachery,” all ships stayed at General Quarters, manning; their battle stations while en route to their anchorage in the Bay just outside the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard.

USS appraoching Tokyo Bay.jpg (17349 bytes)The previous day, Rear Admiral Badger had given Lieutenant Junior Grade Will Templeton, the SAN DIEGO Officer-of-the-Deck (OOD), a sample of his personality. A Japanese tug with thirteen military personnel waiting to board the ship was standing off some distance away. When Templeton asked the admiral what signal he should send the tug, the Admiral barked that when he was ready, he would say what he wanted to do. “Yes sir!” said Templeton, who now lives in Oceanside, CA. Rear Admiral Badger had a mean look and a nasty disposition when encountering those Japanese.

USS in Yoko.jpg (56530 bytes)Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney was scheduled to take command of Yokosuka Naval Shipyard the next morning after the SAN DIEGO had moved from her anchorage to a dock in the Shipyard at 1000 (10 a.m.). By then a coxswain and sideboys piped aboard and saluted Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Admiral Halsey and a bevy of V.I.P. admirals, generals and civilians, plus about 20 press and radio people. The radio group set up on the bridge for a direct broadcast to the USA.

Gun captain and coxswain Earl Burton said, “It was the damnedest day I ever spent on this ship, with more gold and silver aboard than any ship has ever had at one time. During all this, I had the Bos’n Side Boy watch and piped nearly all the big boys either aboard or over the side. I was glad when the sun set. Almost everybody aboard has all sorts of souvenirs.” Burton now lives in Endwell, N.Y.

Soon after Admiral Halsey came aboard, he decided he needed a haircut. With little ceremony, the Admiral was escorted down to the ship’s barber, Harry Mcllvaine, a young seaman first class, who easily clipped the Admiral. When Admiral Halsey was finished, he wanted to tip the barber, who said,” No thanks, but I sure would like one of your cigars.” The admiral gladly gave him one, the start of one more true sea story.

After the SAN DIEGO completed her historic mooring to mainland Japan, Admiral Badger decided he needed seven staff cars, so he summoned a Marine orderly. He bellowed to the Marine to go get seven staff cars. The bewildered orderly departed the ship with seven Marines following. They disappeared over a small hill nearby. Soon seven Japanese cars paraded up the dock. The Admiral smiled. The Marines had found a busy street right over the hill and simply went out and stopped traffic, commandeering seven decent cars.” (Yeoman third class Bob Alderson, who was the Captain’s yeoman, was witness to the show. He is retired in San Diego.) This and other incredible events capped the exceptional career of an exceptional ship and her crew.

The saga of the SAN DIEGO dates back to 1938 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a large appropriations bill to build new warships. The President believed what few did then, that Adolph Hitler was building a powerful armed force preparing to go to war against the Atlantic alliance, a conflict we could not avoid.

A strong contingent of energetic San Diegans went to Washington to support rebuilding the Navy, and to persuade the President to name a new cruiser after the city of San Diego. They were successful.

The keel was laid in March, 1940, for the new cruiser USS SAN DIEGO (CL 53) at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. She was the third of eight of a new design that came to be known as the Atlanta Class, essentially constructed to produce heavy anti-aircraft fire from eight twin five inch 38 caliber gun mounts, along with many secondary machine guns. She had a three and a half-inch armor belt, with two inches of deck armor. The three tiered mounts forward and aft gave her a beautiful silhouette.

In July, 1941, the San Diego sponsoring group went to Quincy to take part in the christening and launching festivities. Mrs. Grace Benbough, wife of Mayor Percy Benbough, splashed the champagne for the launching. San Diego Chamber of Commerce members and other dignitaries attended.

The ship fitted out at the Boston Navy Yard, and about a month after Pearl Harbor the SAN DIEGO was commissioned on January 10, 1942. It was snowing, and the weather was cold and miserable, perhaps a portent of the tough year ahead. A nucleus crew of officers and senior crewmen had been assigned months prior to the completion of the ship. The full complement of 650 men arrived on commissioning day, consisting largely of graduate recruits from boot camp and reserve officers, to supplement the experienced regular Navy petty officers and Naval Academy-trained officers.

The ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Benjamin Franklin Perry, commendably was a man of few but measured words. In the subzero temperature and eight inches of snow, Captain Perry said, “This ship will be an honor to the city of San Diego. The time for talk is over; let’s get going.” The executive officer was Commander Timothy O’Brien, who later made admiral.

The new light cruiser was 541 feet in length with a beam of 53 ft. Her full load displacement was 7,500 tons. She was destined to build a formidable record and set a high example for her seven sister ships.

SAN DIEGO went through a condensed shakedown and training period in the Portland, Maine, area. She then headed for the Panama Canal, en route to her namesake city for special training before heading, out to the Pacific combat zone.

From day one of the War, a cloak of secrecy surrounded all ship and personnel movements. Nearly everyone in the city of San Diego was unaware that her namesake had arrived in port on May 17, 1942. While the training exercises continued until the end of May, the crew took every opportunity for liberty when in port. One anonymous young fireman from the engineering department went on a royal “toot”. At length, he encountered a local policeman who noticed his instability. As the hour was late the policeman asked, “Where are you from, sailor?” The sailor: “SAN DIEGO.” Policeman: “What part of San Diego?” Sailor: “The forward boiler room.” The policeman led the sailor off to the drying-out tank, having never heard of a ship with that name.

The ship’s disbursing officer (paymaster), Ensign Len Shea, had handled millions of dollars with great integrity throughout his regular Navy career. But finding himself a bit shy on funds while ashore on liberty, he sauntered into a bank to cash a check. His uniform said he was in the Navy but when the cautious teller asked what ship he was on Ensign Shea stalled a bit before finally revealing the name “SAN DIEGO.” The teller rather sourly said, “Get outa here! There’s no ship named SAN DIEGO.” (The former paymaster retired as captain, and lives in Coronado.)

Two weeks later, on June 1, 1942, the ship departed San Diego. (It would be 41 months before the city and the USS SAN DIEGO would get together again, and that for a huge postwar victory jamboree.)

The ship escorted the SARATOGA, a large carrier, to Pearl Harbor. Further training, exercises over four weeks brought the feeling of war closer, until in mid-August the SAN DIEGO got underway as part of Task Force 17 escorting carriers and tankers to the battle area in the southwest Pacific. She arrived a week after the tragic Battle of Savo Island.

For 41 days the ship was at sea supporting the Marines’ invasion of Guadalcanal. Fierce fighting called for periodic reinforcements for both the Marines and the Japanese. While on patrol off Guadalcanal, the ship’s crew saw the carrier WASP sunk by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine, which also damaged the destroyer O’BRIEN and the battleship NORTH CAROLINA.

Toward the end of September, Task Force 17, headed up by Rear Admiral George D. Murray, sailed into Noumea, New Caledonia. After provisioning in four days, they set out to sea for what proved to be the first action of the War for the SAN DIEGO. A raid on enemy islands Buin and Faisi earned the ship her first battle star.

At the end of October came the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, considered by the crew as the first major action of their careers. American naval forces were beginning to threaten Japan’s control of the sea and the air around Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. The enemy mounted a large force of carriers and heavy ships to wipe out the threat. The SAN DIEGO was stationed to protect the port side of the valiant USS HORNET which had been bombed and torpedoed on the starboard side. The carrier could not be saved, but the SAN DIEGO took off 200 survivors. Her five-inch guns were credited with bringing down three planes. Gunner’s mate Tom Kane, manning a 20 millimeter machine gun on the aft end of the ship, shot down a torpedo plane directly astern. The gunnery officer, Lieutenant Commander Brooke Schunim, witnessed and confirmed the kill. (For 30 years after the war, Kane was a writer for actor John Wayne.)

The enemy, failing to unload a large contingent of infantry reinforcements, suffered three damaged cruisers, a wounded battleship and 123 planes knocked down, and then withdrew from the fray as did the enemy troop ships. The SAN DIEGO survived without casualties or real damage, and won its second battle star. Santa Cruz was decisive because the expansion of Japan’s power was stopped cold by a US force whose warships were outnumbered 46 enemy ships to 33 of ours.

Nearly everyone on board the SAN DIEGO remembers well the days their task force spent near Guadalcanal at night. An enemy twin-engined plane, nicknamed “Washing Machine Charley,” flew over nearly every night. His engines were out of synchronization, and made a loud, annoying noise, enough to keep everyone awake. He’d drop a few bombs but never hit anyone.

Many of the crew recalled tying up alongside anchored sister ship SAN JUAN, in one of several atolls. In the evening, while awaiting movies on the fantail, a potato fight would break out between ships, amid hearty insults flying back and forth. That would bring some officers roaring back to the fantail to halt “the disrespectful treatment of Navy food.”  Entertainment was difficult to come by.

November 1942 found the enemy making a last desperate attempt to reinforce their beleaguered troops and regain control of the Island and Henderson Field. At the conclusion of the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, all 11 Japanese troop ships involved were destroyed – either sunk or beached – with an estimated 24,000 personnel losses. This time the SAN DIEGO was with the carrier ENTERPRISE, whose planes helped demolish the reinforcement effort. The action earned the light cruiser another battle star.

Early in February 1943, the Japanese frantically sent 20 destroyers at high speed “down the Slot” to Guadalcanal. It appeared to be still another reinforcement action, but was, in fact, a clever evacuation of 11,000 enemy troops, which Admiral Nimitz praised. That ended the Guadalcanal stalemate. From then on, the American forces took the offensive that led to Tokyo, as a relentless flow of new ships and planes established superiority over a weakening enemy. The SAN DIEGO survived the darkest days, fighting in nearly every battle to finally turn the tide.

Over the next six months or so, the SAN DIEGO operated in and around Espiritu Santo and Noumea, either on patrol or on exercises, with one large interlude. On March 14, the ship got underway bright and early. At 0600, Captain Perry announced over the public address system that “this ship is underway for Auckland, New Zealand, for about a 12-day stay. We will steam at 26 knots.” It was an electrifying message. New Zealand was a dream place for liberty, dining and friendliness.

Auckland was magnificent, as were such treats as fresh milk, fresh vegetables and excellent waitress service. (Americans tipped handsomely, contrary to Kiwi practices). The crew favored the nightlife at the Peter Pan Ballroom, especially the New Zealand girls from 15 to 50 who mobbed the place. During their stay, a special national holiday festival was held to honor the Maori natives. Prime Minister Peter Fraser and the King and Queen of the Maori tribe attended. Seventy-five sailors from the ship were invited. Some hostesses were present, but most of the sailors arranged their own dates. What a highlight!

On March 19, Captain Perry was relieved of command by Captain J. L. Hudson. Under the firm leadership of Captain Perry, SAN DIEGO had established a solid reputation for being dependable and always ready to go. He’d fashioned a fine ship while earning the first four of eighteen battle stars.

Except for 30 days from the end of June, when the SAN DIEGO joined Task Force 14 to provide support for the successful invasion of Munda, a British protectorate in the Solomon Islands, the ship sailed mostly in and around New Hebrides and New Caledonia. Bill Butcher, a gunner’s mate second class, recalled that before arriving in New Hebrides someone removed some water from a flask on a life raft and replaced it with some raisins. With the normal motions of the ship at sea, the flask got quite a shaking, so much so that when the ship entered port in New Hebrides, it blew up. Since there were many mines in those waters, some sailors celebrated, thinking the ship had taken a hit, and would be heading home.

Starting in November, SAN DIEGO and her “playmates” were assigned to the Central Pacific theater, joining the Third Fleet, which became the Fifth Fleet by a flick of the numbers. Many new ships were steadily arriving and the task forces were burgeoning into powerful groups.

In November, the SAN DIEGO participated in two raids on the Japanese strong -hold base of Rabaul (another battle star) followed by the invasion and capture of the Gilbert Islands (still another battle star).

With her sister ship SAN JUAN, SAN DIEGO was dispatched to Mare Island in December for more extensive yard work. The weather en route was pretty rough. Cliff Rayl, seaman first class, (now retired in California) was assigned a bunk directly below five inch twin gun mount number eight. While the ship tossed about in the rough seas, he and four shipmates were enjoying a friendly poker game. For a card table they were using the closed hatch to the ammunition magazine below; the hatch to the gun mount above was open for ventilation. On one bad roll, a five-inch shell broke loose, and fell down the hatch. It landed on their “card table” with a live nose fuse. An alert sailor picked up the shell, rushed it topside and threw it overboard. That wasn’t the end to their troubles.

Two new four-bladed propellers that had been welded and chained to the deck for transit to the States started to come loose in heavy seas. In the dark of night, deck hands were summoned topside to secure them. The decks were awash. Coxswain George Horton was hit by a wave coming over the port side that carried him through the lifelines. Just as it looked like he was a “goner” he was able to grab the middle guard line, when another wave washed him back on board.

In November came the gigantic typhoon that was the most violent anyone had encountered. The wind speed rose rapidly to over 100 mph. SAN DIEGO took rolls of 37 degrees then 45 degrees, then 50 degrees. A huge wave came over her amidships, tore the #1 motor whaleboat off the davits and sent it reeling into the superstructure, smashing it in two. Three men were injured when five-inch ammunition came loose and bashed them. Over 120 planes on board the carriers were wrecked by the fierce storm. Three destroyers capsized, they had been light on fuel and hadn’t sufficient ballast. A dozen other ships were damaged. It took four days for this worst of typhoons to fade, and was the most frightening, vicious storm in memory.

About mid-December Lieutenant Commander Joe Eliot, the gunnery officer, put out a special notice about a threat worse than typhoons – kamikaze attacks.”‘ More and more, the Japanese kamikaze tactic was seen as the last possible hope for Japan’s badly decimated air arm. These suicide missions caused tremendous damage to over one-hundred ships. The gunnery officer set about training gun crews to fire the guns manually, in case all electrical power was lost. It wasn’t much fun. But it paid off.

The Third Fleet became the Fifth Fleet in the first part of February, 1945 as the same ships in the same groups took off to support the invasion of Iwo Jima. As March came in, the SAN DIEGO joined Rear Admiral F. E. M. Whiting with VINCENNES (CA 44), MIAMI (CL 89) and Destroyer Squadron 61 for a shore bombardment of Okino Daito (or Borodino) Island, 195 miles east of Okinawa. The force made three firing runs on a reported enemy radar station there.

In mid-March, and for the next two months, life for the SAN DIEGO crew was an endless schedule of sorties to support invasion landings in the Okinawa area. The one important diversion involved towing and escorting the USS HAGGARD (DD 555), a destroyer that was terribly damaged by a kamikaze. The SAN DIEGO took off 31 of the badly wounded while en route to Kerama Retto, a protected island repair base off Okinawa. The crew turned from fighting to tending the sick, giving up their bunks to the seriously wounded. They provided food, candy, ice cream; new uniforms and comfort. A few days later, the survivors were transferred to a hospital ship, and the SAN DIEGO rejoined its formation.

At the end of May, another switch in fleet numbers put everyone back in the Third Fleet, in support of the Okinawa campaign. Admiral Halsey commanded the Third Fleet, Admiral Spruance the Fifth.

For two days at the end of June, the ship was dry docked in the Philippines for minor repairs, a routine inspection of her bottom, and rest for the crew. In mid-July, SAN DIEGO skipper Captain William Mullan passed word to the crew that the ship would be going back to the States for a yard availability, or maintenance period, in mid-August. The crew exploded with joy. At the end of three years in the combat zone without a full overhaul, the ship and crew deserved a little relief. However, it was not to be: such are the Navy’s ways. The U.S. forces began massive and incessant B-29 bombing attacks and shore bombardment of the Japanese seacoasts by powerful naval forces -aggressive preparations for the invasion of Japan. SAN DIEGO was ordered back to operate with the Third Fleet through July into early August, when Admiral Halsey sent all fleet units to rendezvous 200 miles east of Tokyo. But two atomic bomb blasts virtually ended the War, and the Japanese finally surrendered unconditionally in mid-August.

The climax of SAN DIEGO‘s war career was her selection to be flagship of Task Force 31. With her dramatic entry into Tokyo Bay, the United States accepted the surrender of the giant Yokosuka Naval Shipyard. The ship had been winning battle stars right up until September 2, when, weary of the great long battle, she headed for home, having thereby earned the Japanese Occupation Medal as well.

On the last of the three days they were docked in the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard, all of the SAN DIEGO‘s crew were allowed to set foot in Japan. One clever sailor put it, “It was like thirty seconds over Yokosuka,” but everyone was proud to be number one.

On September 1, they pulled away from the dock to anchor a short distance offshore, where they took aboard 250 officers and men as passengers. They were fully qualified for discharge and were eligible to go home. The following, morning, SAN DIEGO pulled her hook out of the Tokyo Bay mud and steamed out at 27 knots on a direct course for home – San Francisco. That same day, the formal surrender by Japan took place aboard the USS MISSOURI, as 258 allied ships filled the bay to celebrate their victory.

From the SAN DIEGO‘s cruise book: “Anchoring in Tokyo Bay will be remembered for two things. We saw a real setting sun over Fujiyama, and we had movies on the fantail. If we needed any last assurance that the war was over that was it.”

USS returning to San Diego.jpg (27313 bytes)San Francisco gave a giant welcome to the decorated ship passing under the Golden Gate upon arrival in the USA. The city of San Diego then invited the USS SAN DIEGO to a much larger celebration on Navy Day, October 27th, the most extravagant bash the city ever hosted.

Chief electrician’s mate Mike Lawless, of the Navy Veterans Association, composed this tribute; “Of all the ships and all the crews I served with the U.S.S. San Diego, CL-53 and crew has a special place in my heart. It always has and always will be my favorite ship and crew. The day I left the San Diego CL-53, I walked from the gangway to the bow with my seabag slung over my shoulder, and I said to myself, I am just going to keep walking and not look back. When I was parallel to the bow, I stopped, took a look back at that beautiful ship and said, ‘You carried me all through that war safely and brought me back,’ then I proceeded to cry like a baby.”

USS SAN DIEGO was decommissioned and placed in the Bremerton, Washington reserve fleet on November 4, 1946. She was redesignated CLAA-53 (light antiaircraft cruiser) in March 1949, On March 1, 1959, the Navy struck her from the lists and she was scrapped.

The SAN DIEGO’S log shows that she has taken part in the following engagements during the war: Engagement Date
*GUADALCANAL CAPTURE AUG. 31, 1942 To FEB. 8,1943
*Buin-Faisi-TONOLAI RAID OCT. 5, 1942
*SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS OCT. 26, 1942
*GUADALCANAL (Third Salvo) Nov. 12-15, 1942
*RENNEL ISLAND JAN. 29-30, 1943
*NEW GEORGIA-RENDOVA-VAUGUNU JUNE 27-JULY 23, 1943
*BUKA-BONINS STRIKE
RABAUL STRIKE
RABAUL STRIKE
Nov. 1-2, 1943
Nov. 5, 1943
Nov. 11, 1943
*GILBERT ISLANDS OCCUPATION Nov. 24-29, 1943
*KWAJELEIN-WOTJE
KWAJELEIN AND MAJURO OCCUPATION
JALUIT ATOLL ATTACK
DEC. 4, 1943
JAN 29 To FEB. 4, 1943
FEB. 20, 1944
*TRUK ATTACK FEB. 16-17, 1944
*SAIPAN-PAGAN ATTACKS
BONINS RAID
IWO JIMA ATTACKS
SAIPAN OCCUPATION
GUAM OCCUPATION
TINIAN OCCUPATION
PHILIPPINE SEA BATTLE
JUNE 11-13, 1944
JUNE 15-16, 1944
JUNE 16, 1944
JUNE 19 To AUG. 10, 1944
JUNE 19 To AUG. 10, 1944
JUNE 19 To AUG. 10, 1944
JUNE 19-20, 1944
*SOUTHERN PALAU ISLANDS
PHILIPPINE ISLANDS ASSAULTS
SEPT. 6 TO OCT. 14, 1944
SEPT. 9-24, 1944
*OKINAWA ATTACK
NORTHERN LUZON, FORMOSA ATTACKS
LUZON ATTACKS
VISAYAS ATTACKS
LUZON ATTACKS
OCT. 10, 1944
OCT. 11-14, 1944
OCT. 17-19, 1944
OCT. 20-21 AND Nov. 11, 1944
Nov. 20 AND DEC. 14-16, 1944
*FORMOSA ATTACKS
LUZON ATTACKS
*CHINA COAST ATTACKS
NANSEI SHOTO ATTACKS
JAN. 3-4, 1945
JAN. 7, 1945
JAN. 12, 16, 1945
JAN. 22, 1945
*IWO JIMA FEB. I5 TO MARCH 16, 1945
*OKINAWA ASSAULT AND OCCUPATION MARCH 17 TO JUNE 11, 1945
(Note: Add Tokyo strikes and Tokyo occupation as they are announced or awarded as stars.)
*-Indicates engagements for which stars have been awarded. (Also Philippine liberation, 2 stars)

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