The storied history of the USS Detroit at Pearl Harbor

Here’s a little history lesson for you: Of the six U.S. Navy war ships named after the city of Detroit, the USS Detroit LCS-7 was the only one actually commissioned in Detroit.

One of the others, the USS Detroit CL-8, was actually stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack in 1941.

The fourth vessel named after Detroit, Michigan to be commissioned into the United States Navy was the Omaha-class cruiser USS Detroit (CL-8).  Detroit was designed throughout World War One, when American naval strategists found the concept of a "scout cruiser" to be an enticing proposition. 

A "scout cruiser" was a vessel designed to determine the position of opposing warships and rely that knowledge to fleet commanders, who would be operating large surface fleets composed of battleships and armored cruisers.  Fast and lightly armored, Detroit was believed to be capable of long range intelligence work on the high seas.

Laid down on December 6, 1918 and commissioned on February 24, 1923, Detroit entered service immediately after the conclusion of World War One.  She mounted twelve 6-inch and two 3-inch guns, along with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. 

Detroit's steam turbines produced 90,000 horsepower, enough to carry the 7,050 ton warship to a top speed of 35 knots.  Detroit measured 556 feet long, with a beam of 55 feet and a draft of 17 feet.

In September 1928 the Detroit joined the Scouting Fleet. She was the flagship for the Commander, Light Cruiser Divisions, from July 1929 until September 1930. In 1931 she moved to the Battle Force in the Pacific and in March 1931 she became the flagship for the, Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Force. Her home base was San Diego.

The Detroit moved to Pearl Harbor in 1941. She was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack, and was moored next to the Raleigh (CL-7). Her sister ship was hit by a torpedo but the Detroit was undamaged, and was able to get underway.

She was sent to guard the west coast of Oahu against any possible Japanese invasion, then took part in the unsuccessful attempt to catch the retiring Japanese fleet. She was back at Pearl Harbor by 10 December.

Detroit would serve throughout World War Two in destroyer squadrons.  She operated in Alaskan waters from 1942-1944, where she supported American landings on Amchitka and Attu in the Aleutian Islands. 

Detroit then sailed to patrol the west coast of South America in late 1944 and served as flagship of the American 5th Fleet’s replenishing group. 

She would remain deployed to Japan until her decommissioning in Philadelphia on January 11, 1946.  For her service in World War Two as part of the Pacific Fleet, USS Detroit earned six battle stars.

Sources:, Rickard, J (6 January 2014), USS Detroit (CL-8) ,

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.