Thanks to the genrosity of Colosseum, I have the pleasure to present the first installment in a new series which I poignantly has named "Happy Days! - Eisenhower's Navy",
which will feature USN ships, mostly cruisers as they appeared during the 1950s when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was US President (1953-61). Most ships that continued to serve had their AA-armament greatly reduced and modified in that the number of sizes were simplified.
Also virtually all battleships were gone from active service by the end of the Korean War, so this left a big headache for the naval administrators: what could replace these ships in the flagship role? The carriers were not yet fit to serve as fleet flagships; besides they were required to lead their own Task Forces or Task Groups. The obvious answer was to use the enormous supply of cruisers that the US had left from WW2.
The light cruisers were tricky options: the Brooklyns
were considered too old. (besides, many of them were about to enter foreign navies service anyway!) The Clevelands
suffered from too small stability margin to really be utilized in the role of fleet flagships. (Later six of them were to be rebuilt as rocket cruisers; three of them being extensively rebuilt into proper fleet flagship, but still suffering from their inherent weight criticality).
This left the heavy cruisers of which there were plenty. The Oregon City
s were immediately ruled out since they were a compact design variation of the Baltimores
. The Des Moines class was considered too expensive and their sophisticated 8"-gun armament was badly needed for potential shore bombardment tasks. This left the Baltimore
-class as the sole viable option. With no fewer than fourteen units built there were plenty of ships to select from.
Three ships, St Paul (CA-73), Helena (CA-75)
and Los Angeles (CA-135)
were extensively rebuilt as fleet flagship in the mid-1950s to suit the changed requirements for such vessels. Four more were rebuilt as missile cruiser, together with one Oregon City
The USS St Paul (CA-73)
is here depicted as she appeared at the end of her career, as flagship of the First Fleet, with regular deployments to the West Pacific including Vietnam. She has lost many of her 3" guns due to weight considerations, in addition to her forward 5" mount, which base and magazine/handling rooms have been converted to additional staff areas. She was decommisioned in 1971, but stricken only in 1980, and scrapped in 1991.
The fleet flagship USS Helena (CA-75)
as she appeared during her service as flagship for either the US Seventh Fleet or the First Fleet, 1957-63. In this drawing she is carrying the Regulus-I rocket, which fairly early on was abandoned, in addition to eighteen 3"-AA guns. These were later reduced to 14 and then to twelve.
Finally, the USS Los Angeles (CA-135), here shown around the time of her second decommissioning, in 1963, served as a divisional flagship in the First Fleet, and carried the Regulus I cruise missile. By 1962 this weapon had been removed, and only the launcher pad remained on a port extension. The Angelinos were deeply attached to "their" beautiful ship.