1934 and 1935 saw the Tuscaloosa take her shakedown cruise to South America and then undergo post-shakedown repairs in the New York Navy Yard.
During 1935-1938, Tuscaloosa participated in numerous fleet exercises.
SOUTH AMERICAN GOODWILL CRUISE
During early to mid 1939, Tuscaloosa was part of a goodwill tour of South America ports accompanied by her sister ships, SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38) and QUINCY (CA-39). Ports of call included Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires on the east coast. Rounding the Strait of Magellan, the tour included Valparaiso, Chile; and Callao, Peru, before transiting the Panama Canal and returning to Norfolk.
FDR ABOARD - CAMPOBELLO
In August 1939, Tuscaloosa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the first time. En route, the President witnessed salvage operations in progress on the sunken SQUALUS (SS-192) which had stayed down after a test dive on 24 May 1939. Tuscaloosa visited Campobello Island, New Brunswick, and several ports in Newfoundland. The President disembarked at Sandy Hook, N.J. on 24 August 1939.
NEUTRALITY PATROL - NORTH ATLANTIC
The balance of 1939 saw the Tuscaloosa engaged in neutrality patrol and exercises. During one patrol, Tuscaloosa was trailing a German steamship. The liner COLUMBUS had been in the West Indies on a tourist cruise at the outbreak of war in Europe. After an order from the British destroyer HMS HYPERION to heave to and two warning shots, Columbus' captain scuttled the ship. Tuscaloosa transported 577 crew and passengers of Columbus to New York.
On 15 February 1940, President Roosevelt embarked Tuscaloosa for the second time. Tuscaloosa cruised for Panama and the west coast of Central America, accompanied by the destroyers JOUETT (DD-396) and LANG (DD-399). FDR discussed defense issues with Latin American leaders, inspected defenses and held military conferences.
After an overhaul, Tuscaloosa returned to the neutrality patrol and conducted monotonous but intensive patrols in the Caribbean and Bermuda areas through the summer and fall months of 1940.
FDR ABOARD FOR THIRD TIME - INSPECTION OF THE NEW CARIBBEAN BASES
On 3 December 1940 at Miami, President Roosevelt embarked Tuscaloosa for the third time for a cruise to inspect Caribbean base sites obtained from Great Britain in the recently negotiated "destroyers-for-bases" deal. Roosevelt's guests onboard included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During this cruise, Roosevelt developed the idea of the "lend-lease" program to aid the embattled British. On 16 December, Roosevelt left the ship at Charleston, S.C., to head for Washington to implement his "lend-lease" idea.
TRANSPORT OF US AMBASSADOR TO VICHY FRANCE
On 22 December, at Norfolk, Tuscaloosa embarked Admiral William D. Leahy, the newly designated Ambassador to Vichy France, and his wife. Escorted by UPSHUR (DD-144) and MADISON (DD-425), Tuscaloosa delivered them to Lisbon, Portugal.
Much of 1941 involved the tedium of neutrality patrolling in the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. In August, Tuscaloosa traveled to Newfoundland, escorting the cruiser AUGUSTA (CA-31) which was carrying President Roosevelt. Together with three destroyers, the ships joined the British battleship HMS PRINCE OF WALES carrying Prime Minister Churchill. This meeting resulted in the "Atlantic Charter."
PATROL OF THE DENMARK STRAIT
Later that year, Tuscaloosa soon received new orders which assigned her to a task group built around battleships IDAHO (BB-42), MISSISSIPPI (BB-41), and NEW MEXICO (BB-40). Together with WICHITA (CA-45) and two divisions of destroyers, the group performed patrols of the Denmark Strait based from out of Hvalfjordur, Iceland. Tuscaloosa was at Hvalfjordur at the time of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on 7 December.
After a brief refit in Boston for a navy yard overhaul from 8 to 20 February 1942, Tuscaloosa soon headed for Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands - the British Home Fleet's base. She arrived there on 4 April and immediately took on board a British signals and liaison team. She was initially employed with the British Home Fleet on training duties and later took part in delivering supplies and covering runs for convoys to North Russia. One of the convoys was the ill-fated PQ-17.
OPERATION TORCH - NORTH AFRICA
After being detached from the British Home Fleet and an overhaul in the United States, Tuscaloosa went to North Africa. On 8 November 1942, Operation "Torch" - the code name of the Anglo-American effort to wrest North Africa from the hands of the Vichy French - got underway. Off Casablanca, French Morocco, steamed Tuscaloosa and her old companion, heavy cruiser Wichita, joined by new MASSACHUSETTS (BB-59) as part of the covering force. Tuscaloosa provided fire support. During the operation, Tuscaloosa was narrowly missed by torpedoes from a Vichy submarine and shells from the soon-to-be-sunk French Battleship JEAN BART.
Following repairs in the United States, Tuscaloosa rejoined in covering convoys bound for the North African front, as American forces and their British and Free French allies sought to push the Germans and Italians out of Tunisia. Next, from March through May 1943, Tuscaloosa operated in a task force on training exercises off the east coast of the United States. In late May, she escorted RMS QUEEN MARY, which bore British Prime Minister Churchill to New York City. After rejoining the task force for a brief time, Tuscaloosa joined AUGUSTA at the Boston Navy Yard for a 10-day work period. After leaving Boston, she escorted RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH to Halifax, Nova Scotia, before rendezvousing with the carrier RANGER (CV-4) and proceeding to Scapa Flow to resume operations with the British Home Fleet.
OPERATION LEADER - NORWAY
On 2 October 1943, Tuscaloosa formed part of the covering force for RANGER while the carrier launched air strikes against port installations and German shipping at Bodo, Norway, in Operation "Leader." These first American carrier strikes against European targets lasted from 2 to 6 October and devastated the area. German shore based aircraft attacked the striking force only to be summarily shot down by covering American fighters. Tuscaloosa later proceeded to New York where she began major overhaul on 3 December 1943.
OPERATION OVERLORD - D-DAY - NORMANDY, FRANCE
On 3 June, Tuscaloosa steamed in company with the task force bound for the Normandy beaches, and D-Day operations. She opened fire at 0550, 6 June 1944. During the operation, she fired at numerous targets including those sent by her spotter planes and by Army fire control parties. Replenishing her ammunition on 9 June, she continued fire-support until 21 June. Tuscaloosa then returned to England. Five days later, on 26 June, Tuscaloosa provided firepower to aid the Army's 7th Corps' landward assault against Cherbourg.
OPERATION ANVIL/DRAGOON - SOUTHERN FRANCE
In July, with the beachhead secured in Normandy and Allied forces pushing into occupied France, Tuscaloosa steamed from Belfast to the Mediterranean to join British, French, and American forces assembling for Operation "Anvil/Dragoon," the invasion of southern France. She commenced fire on 13 August. For the next 11 days, the cruiser delivered fire support for the right flank of the Army's advance to the Italian frontier.
In September, following a refit at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Tuscaloosa was assigned to the Pacific Fleet. With stops at San Diego and Pearl Harbor, she traveled to Ulithi to join Commander, 3d Fleet in January 1945.
From 16 February to 14 March 1945, Tuscaloosa bombarded Iwo Jima in support of the Marine invasion of the island. She then returned to Ulithi for replenishment, hurriedly performed in four days, in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. Her bombardment of Okinawa commenced on 25 March and continued through 28 June with only a single break of six days to replenish.
TIME IN FAR EAST; TROOP TRANSPORT
On 30 June, Tuscaloosa arrived in Leyte Gulf, the Philippine Islands for continued operations. After the Japanese surrender, Tuscaloosa spent time in waters off the Philippines, Korea and China. During the balance of the year, she proceeded to various ports for transporting armed forces personnel and for repairs.
Tuscaloosa received seven battle stars for her World War II service.