If there were superstars in naval warfare, USS Portland (CA-33) would be one of them. A pre-World War 2 cruiser warship, USS Portland headed the two-strong Portland-class which included her more famous sister - the ill-fated USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Portland managed some sixteen Battle Stars for her service in the war and went on to become one of the most decorated vessels in United States Navy history.
Portland was ordered during the pre-war period on February 13th, 1929 and built under the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty enacted after World War 1 (1914-1918) drew to a close. She saw her keel laid down on February 17th, 1930 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation (Fore River Shipyard, Quincy MA) and was launched on May 21st, 1932, officially commissioned for service on February 23rd, 1933. As USS Portland, she was the first USN warship to carry the name of the city of Portland, Maine. Her initial pennant number was "CL-33" but, due to the terms of the London Naval Treaty, she was reclassified as a "Heavy Cruiser" and appropriately redesignated "CA-33".
Cruiser warships of World War 2 were built smaller in size than classic battleships but were dimensionally larger than destroyer types. They held a good combination of armament and armor protection and given useful cruising speeds as well as ocean-going capabilities. Beyond this the vessels could be arranged as part of the main fighting fleet or sent to conduct solo missions when hunting down enemy elements.
She displaced at 10,000 tons under standard loads and ran a length of 610.2 feet with a beam reaching 66 feet and a draught of 24 feet. Installed power became 8 x Yarrow boilers feeding 4 x Parsons geared steam turbines developing 107,000 horsepower and driving 4 x shafts to speeds of 33 knots and ranges out to 12,000 miles (when cruising at 15 knots). Her crew complement numbered 91 officers and 757 enlisted personnel. Armor protection measured up to 127mm at the belt with decks plated in 64mm of armor, the barbettes given 38mm and the conning tower covered up to 32mm.
The primary battery consisted of 9 x 8" (200mm) /55 caliber guns, these set about three triple-gunned turrets, two fitted forward and one aft of midships. The secondary battery was made up of 8 x 5" (127mm) /25 caliber guns used in the Anti-Aircraft (AA) role. 2 x 3-pounder (47mm) guns were used for saluting purposes and 8 x 0.50 caliber Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) made up the close-in defense portion of the ship's armament suite.
Two catapults were fitted at the stern (aft of the third primary gun turret) and serviced up to four floatplane aircraft (recoverable by way of onboard crane). These provided critical over-the-horizon vision as well as artillery corrections and reconnaissance capabilities.
USS Portland's early-going proved no different when compared to warships of the inter-war period - she was sent to far-off places on the globe on friendly tours but it was her wartime career in World War 2 that would clearly set her apart. Her first actions were in the Battle of Coral Sea (May 4th - May 8th, 1942) which saw a combined U.S.-Australian force meet the enemy Japanese. Portland made up one of the nine Allied cruisers partaking in the battle which ended as a tactical Japanese victory but an Allied strategic victory. USS Portland was used to defend the carrier USS Yorktown and claimed survivors from the doomed carrier USS Lexington - the battle marked the first carrier-versus-carrier engagement in naval history.
During the Battle of Midway (June 4th - June 7th, 1942), USS Portland was once again called to defend Yorktown and later moved to escort USS Enterprise during the Guadalcanal Campaign (August 7th, 1942 to February 9th, 1943) before the end of the year. During the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (November 12th - November 15th, 1942), Portland suffered serious damage from an enemy torpedo but not before helping to repel the Japanese force, reinforcing American positions by having 7,000 of her own troops go ashore and using her guns to bombard enemy positions. Her damage took her out of action for the next six months as repairs were had in both Sydney and San Diego.
By the middle of 1943, USS Portland was repaired, refitted and back in action, pressed into combat service across the Aleutian, Gilbert, Marshall, Mariana and New Guinea campaigns. In October of 1944 she participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23rd - October 26th, 1944) which led to a decisive Allied victory (a combined U.S.-Australian force was once again used). Some 24 Allied cruisers took part in one of the biggest naval battles in history. From there she was off to bombard shore positions at Lingayen Gulf and at Corregidor. Before the end of her wartime career, USS Portland had her armament suite revised to include 4 x 40mm Bofors quad-gunned AA emplacements, 4 x 40mm twin-gunned emplacements and 17 x 20mm Oerlikon cannons in single mounts - such was the danger from air attack when facing the Japanese. She retained her primary and secondary batteries as well as her saluting guns in the process. Her final war-time actions were in support of the Allied landings at Okinawa which helped to end the war in the Pacific.
USS Portland was used to accept the Japanese surrender in the Caroline Islands and took veterans of the long, hard-fought war home during "Operation Magic Carpet". After the war, her services were no longer in need so she was formally decommissioned on July 12th, 1946 and sold off for scrap on October 6th, 1959.