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USS Des Moines (CA-134) Heavy Cruiser (1948)

Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Updated: 5/9/2013

The Des Moines-class was the United States Navy's last all-gun heavy cruiser.

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The Navy's last all gun heavy cruiser was the Des Moines class built by Bethlehem Steel Company Fore River, Quincy, Massachusetts. The United States Navy used the Baltimore class of heavy cruisers as the blue print making Des Moines larger and upgraded with a newly developed a semiautomatic 8" gun. It was obvious that naval planners expected a longer war with twelve cruisers planned. However only three ships of the class were completed, the nine remaining ships were cancelled at the end of World War II. The three were Des Moines CA-134, Salem CA-139, and Newport News CA-148. Designation "CA" stands for heavy cruiser and "CL" stands for light cruiser.

The ship was home to 1500 officers and men who had some of the conveniences of the larger battleships. A crew's lounge, library, retail store, dental and medical spaces, post office, barber shop, soda fountain and laundry. The Des Moines also published its own bi-monthly newspaper, and as on all ships movies were shown nightly. The ship was named "Daisy Mae" from a crew contest to name the onboard ships paper. The name was picked from the popular cartoon strip in the 1950's, "Li'l Abner". The busty blonde bomb shell won the contest and the name stuck as Des Moines nick name.

Daisy Mae had a varied operating schedule designed to maintain the readiness of the Navy to meet the "24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year" demands of defense. Her job was to remain ready for the next conflict to come, cruising from her home port at Newport, and after 1950, from Norfolk, she was part of all types of exercises in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, and in the East coast waters serving as flagship for the 6th Fleet.

On 18 February 1958, she left Norfolk for the Mediterranean once more, this time to remain as flagship for the 6th Fleet until July 1961 when she was placed out of commission in reserve. In her day she served as a lady of diplomacy hosting many dignitaries including, President Dwight Eisenhower, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England, King Paul and Queen Fredrika of Greece, Ali Kahn, Prince Albert of Belgium, and many more.

Her class was completed too late for service in World War II, but they were employed extensively as fleet flagships during their active careers. The Des Moines was completed with two stern catapults and had capacity for 4 floatplanes; the catapults were not completed. Instead she operated utility helicopters on the stern with a hanger plus an elevator. Her weapons were massive her main 8 inch/55 caliber guns in three triple turrets had a muzzle velocity of 2,800 ft per second with a range of 30,100 yards. Each shell weighted 260 lbs with armor piercing being 335 lbs. Each 451 ton turret had a crew of 45 men and the guns had the rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute. The ammo resembled the 5 inch having the projectile incased in a brass cartridge. Not having the silk power bag as the propellant increased the rate of fire and the safety for the crew.

After decommissioning in 1961 she was mothballed in the South Boston Naval Annex and eventually at Philadelphia, where she remained until 2006. After an attempt failed to turn her into a museum ship she was towed to Brownsville, Texas, for scrapping, and by July 2007, Daisy Mae was razor blades.

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Specifications for the
USS Des Moines (CA-134)
Heavy Cruiser


Country of Origin: United States
Initial Year of Service: 1948
Operators: United States


Crew: 1,500


Length: 716.6 ft (218.42 m)
Beam: 76.6 ft (23.35 m)
Draught: 22 ft (6.71 m)
Displacement: 17,000 tons


Machinery: 4 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers with General Electric turbines developing 120,000shp to 4 x shafts.

Surface Speed: 33 kts (38 mph)
Range: 12,083 miles (19,446 km)


Armament:
9 x 8" (203mm)/55 caliber guns
12 x 5" (127mm)/38 caliber guns
24 x 3"(76mm)/50 caliber anti-aircraft guns
12 x 20mm anti-aircraft cannons


Air Arm: INTENDED:
4 x SC-1 Seahawk floatplanes (catapult-launched)

ACTUAL:
1 x HU-2 helicopter


Ship Class: Des Moines-class
Number-in-Class: 3
Ships-in-Class: USS Des Moines (CA-134); USS Salem (CA-139); USS Newport News (CA-148)