USS Northampton (CLC-1) became one of a planned ten vessels making up the Oregon City-class heavy cruiser group of the United States Navy (USN) during World War 2 (1939-1945). Six of the lot were ultimately cancelled with the end of the war in August 1945 and Northampton herself had her construction suspended as authorities reevaluated post-war needs. Ultimately reclassified as a Tactical Command Ship, USS Northampton emerged as in 1953 with her revised role.
USS Northampton was built by Bethlehem Steel Corporation of Quincy, Massachusetts and saw her keel laid down on August 31st, 1944 but work was stopped in August of 1945. Construction was resumed in 1948 and she was launched quite some time later on January 27th, 1951. USS Northampton (CLC-1) was officially commissioned for service in the USN on March 7th, 1953.
Because her battlefield role was rewritten while she was still under construction, USS Northampton was not completed with traditional heavy cruiser armament. Instead she carried a modest load out led by 4 x 5" /54 caliber Mark 42 main guns set in four single-gunned turrets. The only other weaponry was 8 x 3" /70 caliber secondary guns arranged in four twin-gunned turrets.
Her profile massed most of the superstructure at midships including specialized antenna, communications and various arrays. Overall length was 675 feet with a beam of 70.9 feet and draught of 26.3 feet. The onboard crew complement numbered 2,000. Power was from four boilers feeding steam turbines generating 120,000 horsepower and driving 4 x shafts under stern. Over the rear of the warship was a helipad capable of launching and retrieving a single helicopter. The ship's displacement reached 14,000 tons. Armor protection ranged from 6" at the belt to 2.5" at the deck.
Her initial assignment took her to Atlantic waters where the new global threat was the Soviet Union. She and her crew evaluated her various systems for months into 1954. She was then granted flagship status for Commander Amphibious Force then Commander 6th Fleet and, finally, Commander Strike Force.
In the mid-1950s, the warship underwent a needed overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and then moved on to Caribbean waters to train new crews. From there she managed a career that took her across the Atlantic and to European waters filled with friendly port stops at allied countries and training maneuvers with NATO forces in preparation for war with the Soviets. Indeed it was only later revealed that the warship was to be used as a central "base-of-operations" for the White House authorities and related personnel should the worst befall the American mainland due to a Soviet nuclear attack. This afforded the warship special attention and she was appropriately outfitted with equally-special equipment due to this status.
In April of 1961, USS Northampton was reclassified as "CC-1" and maintained station in Atlantic waters for the remainder of her career. The vessel was ultimately decommissioned on April 8th, 1970 and her name was struck from the Naval Register on December 1st, 1977. That same month her stripped hulk was sold for scrapping and this was completed in March of 1980, bringing about a formal end to her sailing days.
For her time at sea, USS Northampton was awarded two National Defense Service Medals.