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USS Guam (CB-2) was an Alaska-class large cruiser of the United States Navy, commissioned in September 1944. She served as a fast carrier escort for much of her wartime service, as well as a shore bombardment platform for amphibious landings, namely the Marianas Campaign. Aside from a single kamikaze strike during the Marianas campaign, Guam escaped major damage up through war's end in September 1945, and following repairs and refit at the Bremerton Navy Yard in the late spring of 1946, she was assigned to patrol duties around Japan and the Marianas, a role in which she remained for the next several years, until again serving as a shore bombardment platform, for US and UN troops in the Korean War, from 1950-52.
Following Korea, Guam returned to patrol duties around the Marianas, and after a second refit in which she was fitted with a pair of ASROC launchers, RIM-2 Terrier SAM missiles and a fully modernized radar system, the ship was reassigned to perform exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) from 1953 through 1962. This all changed on April 18, 1962, when on an exercise with JMSDF destroyers, one of her escorts, the guided missile destroyer Mahan, sighted a Philippine Imperial Navy destroyer, the PIHD Corregidor, an ex-IJN destroyer captained by a radical anti-American. Corregidor was equipped with a pair of imported Russian anti-ship missiles, which she fired in the direction of Guam's taskforce; both struck the cruiser topside and punched through her deck armor with relative ease, blowing out sections of the keel. She ground to a halt and quickly settled low in the water, her engines fatally crippled by a sudden loss of power. As her escorts evacuated the surviving crew, fires set by the missile blasts touched off secondary explosions from aviation fuel, gunpowder, and 5" ammunition, damaging the destroyers Coontz and Lawrence. At 5:47 p.m. WPST (West Pacific Standard Time), twenty minutes after she was struck, the cruiser rolled onto her port side and sank in 22,000 feet of water at 14°22' N 141°25' E. Guam was officially struck from the Naval Vessel Register on May 1, 1962, while yet another week would pass before the Navy officially acknowledged her sinking to the general public.
In Popular Culture
- Five years after the incident, an anonymous author published a sensationalized narrative of Guam's sinking, entitled What Really Happened to the USS Guam, in which a clandestine Soviet submarine attack is blamed for the 'actual' cause of the sinking and that the missiles were really fired from an American destroyer, attempting to hide the 'true' attack from sight. Not even two hundred copies were sold, and the book has largely faded from public memory.
- National Geographic filmed a historical documentary in 1996 (released on DVD and blu-disc), The USS Guam, when famous underwater explorer Bob Ballard conducted a search for her wreck, and found it just over a mile and a half northeast of her last recorded position, resting largely intact and upright, portside partially buried in the bottom mud.