By Pierre Kosmidis
The USS Colorado and the destroyer Norman Scott became preferred targets of a battery of three 6-inch guns emplaced in caves behind Tinian Town.
These enemy weapons had remained silent in their well-camouflaged positions waiting for just such an opportunity as presented itself on 24 July.
Only 3,200 yards off shore lay a giant U. S. battleship, and closer yet a destroyer, both unaware of the blows that were about to strike.
At 0740, as the landing craft began their feint toward the beach, the Japanese battery opened fire–not on the tiny landing craft, but on the larger “sitting ducks.”
The first rounds found their mark; the Colorado trembled under the impact of enemy shells.
Immediately she fired back, being joined in her retaliatory efforts by the light cruiser Cleveland and the destroyers Norman Scott and Remey.
But while the U. S. ships sought their target, the Japanese battery hit the Colorado 22 times within 15 minutes, by which time she had moved out of range. Ship’s officers estimated that about half the rounds fired at the battleship resulted in hits.
As the Colorado attempted to avoid the enemy fire, the Norman Scott, Remey and Cleveland bore in close to protect the larger ship. During this phase the Norman Scott received six hits, presumably from the same battery that fired on the Colorado.
While in its early minutes the duel favored the hidden enemy, the very volume of his fire soon stripped him of his only advantage–concealment.
Once located by U. S. ships, the enemy position received a hammering series of salvos that (investigation later revealed) destroyed all weapons and killed all personnel.
On board the Colorado, meanwhile, a multitude of tasks was being performed: fighting fires, caring for the wounded, firing back at the enemy, directing the counterbattery efforts of other ships, and moving out of enemy range.
At 0812, only 32 minutes after the first rounds had struck the Colorado, the cruiser Indianapolis reported off Tinian Town to relieve the damaged battleship of its fire mission. But the Colorado remained on her station until 1600, when she proceeded to Saipan anchorage for repairs.
The six rounds that struck the Norman Scott caused heavy casualties: 19 men killed (including her skipper, Commander Seymour D. Owens, USN) and 47 wounded. Damage to the ship was also extensive,9 and Admiral Hill ordered her to discontinue fire-support duties and proceed to Saipan for repairs.
The 22 hits on the Colorado, while causing considerable damage,10 “did not seriously affect the material fighting efficiency of the ship.”
But heavy personnel casualties, particularly on the antiaircraft battery, did seriously affect the fighting efficiency.