Quincy class (US):
The need for a “heavy” cruiser in the US Navy grew from the growing disparity between armored and protected cruisers in the early 1900’s. By 1907, the latest armored cruisers were armed with 10” guns while protected cruisers mounted 8” weapons. This was partly rectified by the introduction of scout and light cruiser classes armed with 6” guns while armored cruisers were soon abandoned in favor of battlecruisers. The resulting gap was finally filled when the keel for USS Quincy
was laid down in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in early 1919. A complete break from both protected and armored cruiser designs, the new ship was intended to be an 8” gunned version of the light cruisers then in service. Four of these ships were built; Quincy, Baltimore, Portland
, and Grand Rapids
. They were originally designated as armored cruisers (hull numbers ACR-24 to ACR-27) but this was changed to a new heavy cruiser designation “CA” while building, being assigned hull numbers CA-1 to CA-4. They were launched during 1921 and commissioned by the end of 1922.
class was 590 feet long overall, had a 65 foot beam, and a nominal draft of 20 feet. They displaced 12,623 tons normal and 13,388 tons full load. They were armed with eight 8”/50 Mk.9 guns in four twin turrets, eight 5”/50 Mk.7’s in single unshielded mounts and four 3”/50 Mk.8 AA guns. They also carried two twin 21” torpedo tubes in swivel mounts on the main deck. Powered by a 69,020 shp four-shaft geared turbine propulsion system the ships could reach 29 knots. As the new ships were envisioned as undertaking independent patrols they had an impressive range of 9,000 nautical miles. They were well armored with a 6” belt that tapered to 3” at bow and stern, a 3” deck, 8” main turrets, 4’ barbettes, and an 8” conning tower. Crew complement stood at 685.
During the War of the Americas, the new cruisers performed well and only one; Grand Rapids
, was lost – sunk during the Battle of the Caribbean Sea in 1925. Despite this, the design itself was not completely successful, as it was somewhat cramped and the secondary guns had restricted firing arcs. These issues would persist in the next class of heavy cruiser – the San Diego
class. After the war ended in 1927 the three surviving ships continued to serve in the postwar navy and were modernized during 1937-28 where among other improvements, they gained shields for their 5” guns. They served during the Great Pacific War where Baltimore
was sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1943. Postwar, the two remaining members of this class were retired in 1952 and scrapped soon after.
San Diego class (US):
The second class of US heavy cruisers; the San Diego
class, were improvements on the preceding Quincy
class in several respects, but continued the troubling faults the earlier ships displayed. They were more heavily armed, but the inclusion of a fifth 8” turret aft resulted in an awkward arrangement where C turret had a severely restricted firing arc and D turret’s barbette was situated too far below the turret due to stability concerns to be effective. How this flaw managed to get past design review is a mystery to this day but other problems existed. The arrangement of the secondary guns was also awkward and congested as well. This design was ultimately deemed a failure and led to a shakeup at BuC&R during the early 1930’s as a result. Four ships of this class were built; San Diego, Ogden, Butte
, and Yakima
. They were laid down in 1921 and commissioned during 1924. Hull numbers ran from CA-5 to CA-8.
The San Diego
class was 605 feet long overall, had a 70 foot beam, and a nominal draft of 22 feet. They displaced 14,242 tons normal and 15,029 tons full load. They were armed with ten 8”/50 Mk.9 guns in five twin turrets, two superfiring forward, and three aft with D turret superfiring over both C and E turrets which proved to be problematic in combat as mentioned above. Secondary guns were ten 5”/50 Mk.7’s in single unshielded mounts, while six 3”/50 Mk.8 AA guns and two triple 21” torpedo launchers completed the weapons suite.. Four Keller-Morrison geared turbines rated at 82,280 shp gave these ships a top speed of 30 knots. Range remained 9,000 nautical miles. The armor scheme was identical to the Quincy
class. Normal complement was 749.
Commissioned during the War of the Americas, the new cruisers were immediately thrown into combat where their shortcomings became apparent. All but one of these ships was lost during the conflict; San Diego
during the Philippines Campaign and Yakima
at Mobile Bay. After the war, Ogden
continued in service but was relegated to second-line duties during the Great Pacific War. She was converted to a target ship in 1951 and was sunk in a live fire exercise in 1954.
Aspen class (US):
The final class of US heavy cruisers to see action during the War of the Americas were authorized in late 1921, but were not laid down until after the conflict started in 1923. They represented a quantum leap forward and were very successful, popular with their crews and respected by the CSN. They were such an improvement over earlier heavy cruisers in fact, that many of their features found their way into the first postwar class – the New Rochelle
class of 1935. Five ships of this class were built; Aspen, Salem, Bellevue, Akron
, and Medford
. They were launched between 1925 and 1926 and all were in commission by early summer of 1927. Hull numbers ran from CA-9 to CA-13.
class was 622 feet long overall, had a 72 foot beam, and a nominal draft of 22 feet. They displaced 14,779 tons normal and 15,571 tons full load. They were armed with ten 8”/50 Mk.10 guns in two two-gun and two triple turrets. Secondary armament consisted of twelve 5”/50 Mk.7 guns in six twin semi-shielded mounts allowing a much more effective layout of these weapons. Eight 3”/50 Mk.8 AA guns and two triple 21” torpedo launchers completed the weapons suite.. Four geared turbines (Avondale in the first three ships, Kellar-Morrison in the last two) rated at 83,940 shp allowed these ships to retain a 30 knot design speed. Range was again 9,000 nautical miles. The armor scheme was identical to the San Diego
class save the belt armor increased to 7” and the armor as a whole was distributed more efficiently. Normal complement was 770.
, and Bellevue
entered service in 1926 and Akron
the following year, but saw considerable action during the fierce fighting that occurred toward the end of the War of the Americas. Despite this, none of the new ships were lost – a testament to their design. Postwar, the ships were refit during 1939-1940 and again during in 1943-1944 during the Great Pacific War. Two were lost during this conflict; Aspen
in 1945 and Bellevue
in 1947. Afterward, the three surviving ships served in the postwar navy until 1960, when Salem
were decommissioned and scrapped. Akron
, however, was retained as a war memorial and museum ship and was permanently moored in Boston Harbor where she can be visited today.
Next up: US wartime destroyers