Tag Archives: USS Newport News (CA-148)

42,000 ton ‘o cruisers

Here we see the USS Des Moines (CA-134) and her sister ship USS Newport News (CA-148), laid up as part of the Bicentennial Exhibit at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, August 1976.

National Archives Photo K-117046

The two retired bruisers, the largest and most capable heavy heavy cruisers ever fielded by the U.S. Navy (with the exception of the Alaska-class “large cruisers”) Newport News had put in lots of heavy work on the gun line off Vietnam and was only decommissioned 27 June 1975, some 14 months prior to the above image. Des Moines, on the other hand, had been on red lead row since 6 July 1961.

The third, and unpictured, ship of the class, USS Salem (CA-139), had preceded her two sisters to early retirement and had been decommissioned on 30 January 1959 after less than a decade of service. Notably, she portrayed the German pocket battleship KMS Admiral Graf Spee (which she actually outweighed by 5,000 tons!) in the 1956 film The Battle of the River Plate.

How about a chubby German BM on Salem’s quarter deck?

Ironically, the low-mileage Salem would go on to become a museum ship in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1994 while both Des Moines and Newport News were disposed of and slowly scrapped, with CA-159 only fully dismantled in 2007.

The Gray Ghost arrives on Yankee Station

Official Caption: “The biggest and fastest guns operating in the Tonkin Gulf belong to the USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148). Her 8-inch/55 caliber rapid-fire guns rake North Vietnamese targets daily during Operation Sea Dragon. The NEWPORT NEWS arrived on Yankee Station in October 1967 to enter combat for the first time in her 19 years, 11 October 1967.”

Photographer, Journalist First Class Willard B. Bass, Jr. USN, Wed, Oct 11, 1967, 1127808 National Archives

Commissioned 29 January 1949, “The Gray Ghost from the East Coast,” was a 21,000-ton Des Moines-class heavy cruiser. The pinnacle of U.S. big-gun cruisers, only eclipsed by the ill-fated Alaska-class battlecruisers, Newport News and her sisters Des Moines and Salem (CA-139) carried nine 8″/55 cal Mk 16 RF guns in three 450-ton triple turrets that used automatic shell handling and loading to produce a rate of fire three times greater than that of previous 8″ (20.3 cm) guns.

They could zip out an impressive 10 rounds per minute, per gun, or 90 x 260lb shells in 60 seconds.


Forward 8-inch main guns of the heavy cruiser USS Newport News and spent cases after a mission off Vietnam.

Newport News would fire more than 50,000 shells on her 1967 deployment including one incident on 19 December when she exchanged fire with as many as 28 separate North Vietnamese shore batteries, simultaneously, being bracketed by 300 enemy shells without taking a hit.

Newport News would return to Yankee Station two more times before she was decommissioned in 1975, the last all-gun heavy cruiser in US service. She was scrapped in 1993.

This week, however, a model of the Gray Ghost was moved into the gallery of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum by a contingent of sailors from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG-64). The model is incorporated into a larger exhibit, “The Ten Thousand-Day War at Sea: The US Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975.”

The new exhibit opened on Wednesday.