USS Newport News (CA-148)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Newport News.
USS Newport News CA-148
USS Newport News
Career (US)
Name: Newport News
Namesake: Newport News, Virginia
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company
Laid down: 1 November 1945
Launched: 6 March 1948
Sponsored by: Mrs. Homer L. Ferguson
Commissioned: 29 January 1949
Decommissioned: 27 June 1975
Struck: 31 July 1978
Identification: Hull symbol: CA-148
Fate: Sold for scrap to Southern Scrap Material Co., Ltd, New Orleans 25 FEB 1993
General characteristics
Class & type: Des Moines-class heavy cruiser
Displacement: 20,980 tons
Length: 717 ft 6 in (218.69 m)
Beam: 76 ft 6 in (23.32 m)
Draft: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion: 4 shaft; General Electric turbines; 4 boiler; 120,000 shp
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
Complement: 1,667 officers and enlisted
Armament: 9 × 8"/55 caliber guns
12 × 5"/38 caliber guns
12 × 3"/50 caliber guns

The second USS Newport News (CA–148) was a Des Moines-class heavy cruiser in the United States Navy. Newport News was laid down 1 November 1945; launched on 6 March 1948 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. The vessel was sponsored by Mrs. Homer L. Ferguson upon commissioning on 29 January 1949, Captain Roland N. Smoot commanding. She was the first fully air-conditioned surface ship in the United States Navy,[1] and the last all-gun heavy cruiser in commission in naval history.

1950–1962[edit]

In addition to annual deployments to the Mediterranean from 1950 to 1961 for duty with the Sixth Fleet, she participated in major fleet exercises and midshipman training cruises in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic.

On 4 January 1956 the ship steamed for a tour of duty in the Mediterranean as flagship of Vice Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie, Commander Sixth Fleet.[2] Vice Admiral Ofstie was relieved on board by Vice Admiral Harry Donald Felt on 12 April in Barcelona, Spain. Commander Sixth Fleet transferred his flag to the USS Salem on 21 May at Gibraltar. The ship returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 29 May 1956. The ship visited the city of Newport News over the Fourth of July holiday leaving Norfolk 2 July and returning 5 July. During the trip from Norfolk to Newport News 250 dependents took part in the first dependents' cruise in the history of the ship. From 16 July to 24 August, she participated in Midshipman Cruise Charlie as flagship of Commander Cruiser Division TWO. Visits were made at New Orleans, Louisiana, Balboa, Canal Zone, and Guantanamo Bay. While transitting the Panama Canal, Rear Admiral Ira H. Nunn relieved Rear Admiral E.R. McLean, Jr. as Commander Cruiser Division TWO. On 19 September she entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul, remaining at Norfolk through December 1956. Commander Cruiser Division TWO transferred to the USS Des Moines on 20 September and his staff returned aboard on 1 November 1956.

Newport News transiting the Kiel Canal in September 1962.

In early September 1957, Newport News was on station in the Eastern Mediterranean in preparation for any contingency during the Syrian crisis. In March 1960, while steaming 75 miles northeast of Sicily, Newport News was ordered to proceed to Agadir, Morocco, to render assistance to the survivors of that earthquake-shattered city. She steamed 1,225 miles in 40.5 hours at an average speed of 31 knots, arriving on 3 March to provide medical and material aid. With the assassination of General Trujillo and the resulting instability in Santo Domingo, Newport News was underway on short notice on 4 June 1961, and proceeded to a station in international waters off the Dominican Republic to await further orders. When the crisis terminated, the ship returned to Norfolk after conducting training exercises off Puerto Rico.

Newport News’ berthing and communications facilities were modified in the winter of 1962 to accommodate Commander Second Fleet and his staff. In August 1962, she participated in NATO Exercise RIPTIDE III, and upon the end of the exercise, made a month long tour of Northern European ports as flagship of ComStrikFltLant, the NATO role of Commander Second Fleet.

Within a month after return to Norfolk, Newport News was underway on 22 October as the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet for the Cuban missile crisis, with the USS Leary (DDR-879) as her destroyer escort. The two ships stopped the Soviet vessel Labinsk and ordered her away from Cuban waters. For the next month, acting as flagship for ComSecondFlt, CA–148 was on station northeast of Cuba. When the Soviet MRBM’s were dismantled and removed from Cuba, Newport News assisted in the missile count.[3] Upon cancellation of the quarantine, she returned to her homeport of Norfolk the day before Thanksgiving.

1963–1974[edit]

USS Newport News firing a broadside in 1972 Vietnam.

Operations from 1963 through 1967 consisted primarily of NATO exercises in the North Atlantic, gunnery and amphibious exercises off the Eastern seaboard and Caribbean, and midshipman cruises. When the Dominican Republic crisis of 1965 developed, Newport News sortied from Norfolk on 29 April for Santo Domingo, where she was flagship for Commander Joint Task Force 122. Newport News remained on station off Santo Domingo until 7 May 1965 when JTF 122 was dissolved, and command was shifted to the Army ashore in the Dominican Republic. She returned to Norfolk, where in June alterations were made to increase her combat capabilities. On 28 June 1965, Newport News entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia for a five-month period of refitting and overhaul. Shakedown was in Guantanamo, Cuba, over Christmas and New Year of 1965. Upon her return from Gitmo, Newport News once again became Flagship for Second Fleet, Vice Admiral Masterson taking command.

1 September 1967, Commander Second Fleet shifted his flag to USS ''Springfield, and Newport News departed Norfolk 5 September for a six-month deployment to Southeast Asia. Arriving Da Nang, South Vietnam, on the morning of 9 October, she became the flagship of ComCruDesFlot 3. That night, at 2300, she fired her eight-inch rifles for the first time in anger against shore targets in North Vietnam as part of Operation Sea Dragon.

Newport News spent some 50 days patrolling the coast of North Vietnam as part of Operation Sea Dragon – the Navy's effort to destroy waterborne logistics craft as well as military supply routes ashore in North Vietnam. During this period, the ship conducted 156 strikes against enemy targets and, in the execution of these strikes, 325 North Vietnamese coastal defense sites were taken under fire. According to spotters’ reports, Newport News sank 17 waterborne logistics craft, damaged another 14 and destroyed several enemy bunker and radar sites, bridges, barges, trucks and roads. The ship was subjected to hostile fire on several occasions, but each time countered effectively and silenced the enemy batteries. On 19 December 1967, Newport News exchanged fire with 20–28 separate shore batteries, simultaneously, off the coast of North Vietnam. During the short period of this engagement, over 300 enemy rounds bracketed the cruiser's position, but suffered no direct hits. This encounter led American forward observers to nickname Newport News "The Gray Ghost from the East Coast," a moniker she retained throughout her three Vietnam deployments.[4]

Subsequent to the end of Operation Sea Dragon and for the remaining several months of this deployment, Newport News participated in Naval Gunfire Support operations near the DMZ. In support of Third Marine Division forces on the beach, the ship fired around the clock for periods sometimes lasting several weeks in succession.

During the total period of this deployment, Newport News expended a record 59,241 rounds of high-explosive ammunition, while conducting a total of 239 observed and 602 unobserved missions against the enemy. She came under fire of enemy coastal defense batteries on seventeen separate occasions, was frequently straffed with shrapnel, but never suffered a direct hit.

The cruiser departed Subic Bay on 21 April and arrived at her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, on 13 May 1968, via the Panama Canal.

Following an extensive yard overhaul period to prepare her for further combat operations, on 21 November 1968 Newport News once again departed Norfolk to commence her second deployment to Vietnam. Combat operations during this second tour commenced on 25 December 1968, focused primarily on providing naval gunfire support to the 7th and 9th ARVN in Vĩnh Bình province and the DMZ. Newport News departed Da Nang on 3 June 1969, via San Francisco and the Panama Canal, to arrive at her homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, in early July of that year.

In May 1972, Newport News returned for her third combat tour. During the summer of 1972 the ship, along with the guided missile cruisers USS Oklahoma City, and USS Providence, as well as several screening destroyers, took part in a high speed night bombardment of Haiphong harbor. Known as the Three Cruiser Raid, it was the last time in naval history a major shore bombardment would be undertaken by multiple cruisers.[citation needed]

On 1 October 1972, while in action off the Demilitarized Zone, Newport News sustained an in-bore explosion in her center 8-inch gun of number two turret. A defective auxiliary detonating fuse caused the projectile to detonate almost immediately upon firing. Nineteen men were killed and ten injured.[5] The barrel proper was blown forward from the gun. The damaged gun was removed and its port plated over. The explosion had caused extensive damage to the center gun mount. It was proposed to replace the damaged mount with one from Des Moines (CA-134) or Salem (CA-139), both of which had been decommissioned, but this was rejected as being too expensive. As a result, the damage was not repaired and the turret was simply closed off, for the remainder of the ship's career.

Operations near Vietnam continued until December 1972 when the ship was recalled to Norfolk. During 1973 and 1974 the ship undertook training cruises and visited many ports around the world before being recalled for decommissioning, after a survey to determine further service indicated the ship was beyond refitting.

Modifications[edit]

During her career Newport News underwent several refits which changed her appearance somewhat, and increased her capabilities. During the mid-1950s her forward bridge was enclosed on both levels with roofs and glass windows creating a navigation bridge above, and a flag bridge below. Later in the 1950s new and more capable radars for navigation and gunnery were fitted. The biggest change for her came in 1962 when a large deck-house was added midships which gave her enhanced flagship accommodation and office spaces. This would result in her becoming the Second Fleet flagship for most of the rest of her career, save for her gunfire support stints during the Vietnam War.

Decommissioning[edit]

Newport News was decommissioned on 27 June 1975 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 July 1978. She spent her twilight years as a member of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard's "Mothball Fleet" and was sold for scrap in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 25 February 1993. A museum dedicated to Newport News and her crew is maintained in USS Salem in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Awards[edit]

  • On 4 July weekend 1968, Newport News was awarded its first Navy Unit Commendation, presented to Captain Snyder by Rear Admiral John Wadleigh on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy "for Exceptionally meritorious service from 2OCT67 to 26APR68 while engaged in operations against enemy aggressor forces in the waters contiguous to the hostile coastline of both North and South Vietnam."
  • The ship was awarded the "Top Gun" award for support of the allied forces during the 1969 deployment.
  • In 1969, Newport News was awarded the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation for performance during operations against hostile enemy forces during the ship's second deployment to Vietnam during 1968 and 1969.
  • Newport News received the Battle Efficiency "E" for CIC/Operations for Fiscal Year 1972. The occasion marked the 24th commissioning anniversary of Newport News. COMSECONDFLT VADM Finneran was guest speaker at the ceremony. (Twenty-nine January is the official anniversary of Newport News.)
  • On 13 July 1973 Newport News was awarded its second Navy Unit Commendation, presented to Capt Kelly by VADM Finneran on behalf of Secretary of the Navy John W. Warner at a ceremony which was also attended by Capt Zartman, who had been Commanding Officer for the 1972 Vietnam deployment, during which the award was earned.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • USS Newport News Home Page, website dedicated to the USS Newport News (CA-148)
  • My Love of Thunder Home Page, website dedicated to the USS Newport News (CA-148) – created by Navy Master Chief Dexter Goad (Retired) – includes significant historical content relating to the ship.