Warship Wednesday April 20, 2016: The Slugger of the Nevada Test Site

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday April 20, 2016: The Slugger of the Nevada Test Site

NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-466457

NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-466457

Here we see the Northampton-class heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CL/CA-28) at the Naval Fleet Review in New York Harbor on 31 May 1934. If you will, please note USS Lexington (CV-2) in the background. The sparkly new “Treaty cruiser” found herself in the thick of a very unsportsmanlike naval war just seven years after this peaceful scene.

When the U.S. wrapped up World War I, they stopped making large cruisers for over a decade, coasting on the legacy vessels commissioned during and prior to that Great War. Then in 1928 came the top-heavy but very modern two-ship 11,500-ton (full load) Pensacola (CA-24) class cruisers with their armament of 10 decent 8″/55 (20.3 cm) Mark 9 guns (the same pieces carried on Lexington shown above).

Mark 9 turrets and guns intended for USS Louisville CA-28 under construction at the Washington Navy Yard via navweaps

Mark 9 turrets and guns intended for USS Louisville CA-28 under construction at the Washington Navy Yard via navweaps

However, with the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty, the need was seen to trim back on the P-Cola design and the next six resulting 9,200-ton Northampton‘s, with just 9 of the 8″/55s and a trimmed back armor scheme were ordered after.

The subject of our study, CA-28, was laid down at Puget Sound Naval Yard, Bremerton, Washington on Independence Day 1928, just a little over a year before the Stock Market Crash brought the Roaring 20s to a sudden halt. As such, she was the third ship on the Naval List to carry the name, with the first being a City-class ironclad during the Civil War and the second a WWI troopship.

USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28) Gift of Admiral H.G. Bowen, 6/68 Catalog #: NH 65629

USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28) Gift of Admiral H.G. Bowen, 6/68 Catalog #: NH 65629

Louisville‘s armor was so thin, in fact, that she was originally classified as a light cruiser when commissioned 15 January 1931 (CL-28) but due to the nature of her armament was reclassified as a heavy a few months later.

She had a happy peacetime life, conducting training cruises for mids, visiting foreign ports throughout the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific.

Louisville 1934

Louisville 1934

USS Louisville saluting during Memorial Day ceremonies at New York City, May 1934

USS Louisville saluting during Memorial Day ceremonies at New York City, May 1934

Photographed during the early 1930s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51903

Photographed during the early 1930s. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51903

USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28) Caption: Photograph autographed June 1967 by Admiral Thomas C. Hart, USN (Ret). He used the LOUISVILLE as his flagship from 18 July 1934 to 1 April 1935 while serving as Commander, Cruiser Division 6 Scouting Force. Description: Catalog #: NH 51432

USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28) Caption: Photograph autographed June 1967 by Admiral Thomas C. Hart, USN (Ret). He used the LOUISVILLE as his flagship from 18 July 1934 to 1 April 1935 while serving as Commander, Cruiser Division 6 Scouting Force. Description: Catalog #: NH 51432

Northampton-class sister USS Chicago (CA-29) leads CruDiv5 into the Caribbean, Canal Zone, on 4 May 1934, fleet problem 15. Following are USS Louisville (CA-28), USS Portland (CA-33), and USS Indianapolis (CA-35)

Northampton-class sister USS Chicago (CA-29) leads CruDiv5 into the Caribbean, Canal Zone, on 4 May 1934, fleet problem 15. Following are USS Louisville (CA-28), USS Portland (CA-33), and USS Indianapolis (CA-35)

At Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1940. Note ship has 3-inch/50 caliber antiaircraft guns. Description: Courtesy of Donald Robertson Catalog #: NH 92256.

At Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1940. Note ship has 3-inch/50 caliber antiaircraft guns. Description: Courtesy of Donald Robertson Catalog #: NH 92256.

Her world started getting rough when the next World War broke out in 1939 and she started picking up new armament and getting ready for service in the Navy of the world’s largest armed neutral. This included running to South Africa and picking up a load of His Majesty’s gold to bring to the states. She arrived at 22 Jan 1941 at New York with $148,342.212.55 in British gold brought from Simonstown to be deposited in American banks.

When Pearl Harbor changed that whole neutrality thing, she was in waters off Borneo but luckily missed bumping into the Japanese fleet and joined TF 119 for a few pinprick carrier raids before sailing to the West Coast to have her armament changed wholesale.

View taken 10 November 1942, at Mare Island, California. Circles indicate alterations. Boat davits for a 26" motor whaleboat; bridge alterations; 20mm guns added to no. 2 turret. Note style of bow "28." Description: Catalog #: 19-N-36771

View taken 10 November 1942, at Mare Island, California. Circles indicate alterations. Boat davits for a 26″ motor whaleboat; bridge alterations; 20mm guns added to no. 2 turret. Note style of bow “28.” Description: Catalog #: 19-N-36771

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, 11 November 1942. Description: Catalog #: 19-N-36765

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, 11 November 1942. Description: Catalog #: 19-N-36765

Once made ready for the new war without treaty obligations, she sailed north for the Arctic region, where she took the fight to the Japanese occupation forces in the Aleutian Islands. She plastered both Attu and Kiska with her big 8-inchers and safeguarded convoys in the Northern Pac.

Steams out of Kulak Bay, Adak, Aleutian Islands, bound for operations against Attu, 25 April 1943. The photograph looks toward Sweepers Cove. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-72060

Steams out of Kulak Bay, Adak, Aleutian Islands, bound for operations against Attu, 25 April 1943. The photograph looks toward Sweepers Cove. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-72060

View of bombardment in a fog, Aleutians. Probably taken during Attu Operation, May 1943. Description: Catalog #: NH 92379

View of bombardment in a fog, Aleutians. Probably taken during Attu Operation, May 1943. Description: Catalog #: NH 92379

USS Louisville (CA 28) operating in the Bering Sea during May 1943. She is followed by USS San Francisco (CA 38).

USS Louisville (CA 28) operating in the Bering Sea during May 1943. She is followed by USS San Francisco (CA 38).

Shells Attu, 11 May 1943. View of forward 8" guns in action. Description: Catalog #: NH 92382

Shells Attu, 11 May 1943. View of forward 8″ guns in action. Description: Catalog #: NH 92382

Next came service as the flag of Rear Admiral J. B. Oldendorf and a string of naval gunfire support in the Marshal Islands

Kwajalein invasion, January-February 1944 Caption: Namur Island under heavy bombardment, just prior to the initial landings, 1 February 1944. Blockhouse in lower center has just received a direct hit from an 8" gun of USS LOUISVILLE, one of whose planes took this photo. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-218802

Kwajalein invasion, January-February 1944 Caption: Namur Island under heavy bombardment, just prior to the initial landings, 1 February 1944. Blockhouse in lower center has just received a direct hit from an 8″ gun of USS LOUISVILLE, one of whose planes took this photo. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-218802

Then came the Marianas, the Palaus and on to the Philippines, where things got out of hand. As part of the Battle of Surigao Strait, Louisville helped to sink the Japanese battleship Fusō and, along with USS Denver (CL-58) and USS Portland (CA-33) rain fire on the Japanese “Treaty cruiser” Mogami.

Moving on to support operations off Luzon, Louisville was hit by two Yokosuka D4Y Suisei kamikazes in the Lingayen Gulf, 6 January 1945.

USS Louisville (CA 28) is hit by a Kamikaze in Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands, 6 January 1945. Photographed from USS Salamaua (CVE 96)

USS Louisville (CA 28) is hit by a Kamikaze in Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands, 6 January 1945. Photographed from USS Salamaua (CVE 96)

While she was able to remain operable, the damage inflicted by the twin hits killed a Marine and 42 Sailors including RADM. Theodore E. Chandler. She shipped for Mare Island for repairs.

View of wrecked 40mm quad mount and other kamikaze damage by the bridge received January 1945 in Lingayen Gulf. Taken at Mare Island, 7 February 1945. Description: Catalog #: NH 92367

View of wrecked 40mm quad mount and other kamikaze damage by the bridge received January 1945 in Lingayen Gulf. Taken at Mare Island, 7 February 1945. Description: Catalog #: NH 92367

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, 7 April 1945. Note: anchors; NEPANET (YTB-189) at left. Description: Catalog #: 19-N-83899

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, 7 April 1945. Note: anchors; NEPANET (YTB-189) at left. Description: Catalog #: 19-N-83899

Rushing back to the fleet, she joined TF 54 off Okinawa and was soon in the gunline pumping shells into the Emperor’s positions.

USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28) off the Southern coast of Okinawa, 30 May 1945. She was hit by a kamikaze a few days later. LCI-1090 is alongside. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-K-5827

USS LOUISVILLE (CA-28) off the Southern coast of Okinawa, 30 May 1945. She was hit by a kamikaze a few days later. LCI-1090 is alongside. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-K-5827

Another kamikaze hit on 5 June did less damage than the ones just five months before but she left for Mare Island again a week later for more repairs. Repairs complete, she sailed for Japan again in August but saw no more action before the end of the conflict. Finishing some post-war occupation and repatriation duties, Louisville was decommissioned on 17 June 1946 in Philadelphia.

She earned 13 battlestars for her service.

After floating in the mothballs fleet for 13 years, she was sold on 14 September 1959 to the Marlene Blouse Corporation of New York for her value in scrap.

In a way, she was much luckier than several of her sisters were. Class leader Northampton was sunk in the Battle of Tassafaronga, 30 November 1942 just a few months after Houston (CA-30) went down in the trap that was the Sunda Strait.

Battle of Sunda Strait, 28 February – 1 March 1942. Painting by John Hamilton depicting USS Houston (CA 30) in her final action with Japanese forces

Battle of Sunda Strait, 28 February – 1 March 1942. Painting by John Hamilton depicting Louisville’s sister, USS Houston (CA 30), in her final action with Japanese forces

Likewise, sister Chicago (CA-29) was lost in Battle of Rennell Island in 1943.

Of the two survivors besides our hero, USS Augusta (CA-31) spent her war in the Atlantic and Med, being sold for scrap just weeks before Louisville while USS Chester (CA-27) had already been disposed of in the summer of 1959– leaving Lucky Louie as the last of her class on the Naval List

Her bell is preserved at the Naval Support Center in Louisville while her name endures with USS Louisville (SSN-724), a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine commissioned in 1986 and homeported at Pearl Harbor.

Ship's bell, currently located in Louisville, KY via navsource

However, there is another piece of the old cruiser that is quietly sitting in the high desert, having continued its military service well into the 1950s.

You see one of her Mark 9 turrets, sans guns, was sent to the Nevada Test Site and used there for several years.

5705d7b706304.image

From local media:

The turret’s purpose, in the days when nuclear tests were conducted on towers aboveground, was to cut costs by eliminating multiple stations for measuring the gamma ray output of nuclear explosions detonated at different sites.

The late Bill McMaster of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory saw a way to create a single station that could turn and point its detectors at many sites. He had a surplus Navy gun turret shipped in from Mare Island Shipyard in the Bay Area.

The turret was installed as if aboard ship and fitted with a lead-lined barrel that could be aimed precisely at the top of a 500-foot tower a thousand or more yards away where the burst of gamma rays from a nuclear detonation would indicate its explosive yield.

The turret was used to diagnose three tests in 1957, all part of Operation Plumbbob. Soon after that, the turret was retired, as the U.S. and Soviet Union entered into agreements that led to an end to testing in the atmosphere.

There are no plans to move the old turret, which will likely remain as a quiet reminder of the old cruiser for decades to come.

Specs:

uss-ca-28-louisville-1945-cruiser
Displacement: 9,050 long tons (9,200 t) (standard)
Length: 600 ft. 3 in (182.96 m) oa
569 ft (173 m) pp
Beam: 66 ft. 1 in (20.14 m)
Draft: 16 ft. 4 in (4.98 m) (mean)
23 ft. (7.0 m) (max)
Installed power:
8 × White-Forster boilers
107,000 shp (80,000 kW)
Propulsion:
4 × Parsons reduction steam turbines, Curtis cruising gears
4 × screws
Speed: 32.7 kn (37.6 mph; 60.6 km/h)
Range: 10,000 nmi (12,000 mi; 19,000 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Capacity: 1,500 short tons (1,400 t) fuel oil
Complement: 90 officers 601 enlisted
Armament: (As built)
9 × 8 in (203 mm)/55 caliber guns (3×3)
4 × 5 in (127 mm)/25 caliber anti-aircraft guns
2 × 3-pounder 47 mm (1.9 in) saluting guns
6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(1945)
9 × 8 in (203 mm)/55 caliber guns (3×3)
8 × 5 in (127 mm)/25 caliber anti-aircraft guns
2 × 3-pounder 47 mm (1.9 in) saluting guns
6 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
7 × quad 40 mm (1.6 in) Bofors guns
28 × 20 mm (0.79 in) Oerlikon cannons
Armor:
Belt: 3–3 3⁄4 in (76–95 mm)
Deck: 1–2 in (25–51 mm)
Barbettes: 1 1⁄2 in (38 mm)
Turrets: 3⁄4–2 1⁄2 in (19–64 mm)
Conning Tower: 1 1⁄4 in (32 mm)
Aircraft carried: 4 × floatplanes
Aviation facilities: 2 × Amidship catapults
If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has it place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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