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    Pearl Harbor Ship - USS Helena (CL-50), First Ship to win the Navy Commendation Medal. USS Helena (CL-50, commissioned in 1939, was the ninth and final Brooklyn-class light cruiser. She was the second of five ships named for the capital of Montana. At Pearl Harbor, she was mistaken for the USS Pennsylvania and torpedoed.

    The ensign of the Helena is a 36" X 58", 48-star, double applique, sewn stripe flag finished with heading and grommets. The flag is marked on the upper obverse hoist, 'USS HELENA (CL 50)."

    At 7:55, on the morning of December 7, 1941, the USS Helena was moored to Pier 1010, inboard of the minelayer USS Oglala, near the normal berth of the battleship USS Pennsylvania. The attacking torpedo bomber pilot in the first wave mistook Helena for the battleship and launched a torpedo which passed under the Oglala and struck the Helena amidships, flooding the starboard engine room and cutting power to the ship's main and secondary batteries. As the crews went to battle stations, the Helena's diesel generators were started, restoring power to her guns. She began to mount a vigorous anti-aircraft defense which helped to fend off further attacks. In her heavy return fire, she expended 375 shells from her 5" guns, 3,000 rounds from her 1.1" guns, and about 5,000 rounds from her .50 cal. guns, and is credited with shooting down six of the 29 Japanese aircraft destroyed.

    She was refloated, repaired, and sent to the West Coast for overhaul and modernization before rejoining the fleet in mid-summer for the Guadalcanal campaign where she participated in the rescue of the stricken Wasp's crew, saw action at Rennell Island, sunk the cruiser Furutaka and destroyer Fubuki in the Battle of Cape Esperance, and came through the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal with only superficial damage. In January 1943, she bombarded Japanese shore positions on New Georgia and continued to escort and screen ships off Guadalcanal before an overhaul in Australia. Escorting transports, she returned to the fleet for the invasion of New Georgia. After these successful landings, Helena turned to thwart the resupply efforts of the "Tokyo Express" Japanese warships.

    On the night of July 5, 1943 Helena, with two cruisers and three destroyers, was engaged in a ferocious battle with ten Japanese destroyers. Her firing so fierce that the Japanese commanders thought her guns were automatic. Ironically, her rapid fire perfectly illuminated her against the horizon and she was struck in quick succession by three torpedoes. Her fate was sealed. While taking on water her captain ordered abandon ship and her well drilled crew went over the side.

    This is a flag for a collector of Pearl Harbor, WWII, US Naval, War in the Pacific, Guadalcanal, cruiser or Helena artifacts.

    The USS Helena was the first US warship awarded the Navy Commendation medal. For her WWII service the Helena was awarded: Navy Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with seven campaign stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

    Condition: The ensign from the Helena is in fair condition. It is used, very worn, and soiled. There are small holes in the upper hoist and wear in the upper fly, but otherwise complete.

    This flag was formerly in the collection of Dr. Clarence Rungee, and is accompanied by his original museum inventory sheet with identifying information.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2020
    6th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 520

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