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USS Portland (CA-33)

Cruiser Warship

United States | 1933

"As lead ship of her Portland-class of cruisers, USS Portland CA-33 managed 16 Battle Stars for her service in World War 2."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/01/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one sea-going vessel design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for USS Portland (CA-33).
8 x Yarrow boilers feeding 4 x Parsons geared steam turbines developing 107,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts.
33.0 kts
38.0 mph
Surface Speed
10,428 nm
12,000 miles | 19,312 km
The bow-to-stern, port-to-starboard physical qualities of USS Portland (CA-33).
610.2 ft
185.99 meters
O/A Length
66.0 ft
20.12 meters
17.0 ft
5.18 meters
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of USS Portland (CA-33).
9 x 8" (200mm) /55 cal main guns
8 x 5" (127mm) /25 cal Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns
2 x 3-pounder (47mm) saluting guns
8 x 0.50 cal Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs)

9 x 8" (200mm) /55 cal main guns
8 x 5" (127mm) /25 cal Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns
2 x 3-pounder (47mm) saluting guns
4 x 40mm Bofors AA guns in quad-gunned mounts
4 x 40mm Bofors AA guns in twin-gunned mounts
17 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns in single-gunned mountings
Air Arm
Available supported fixed-wing / rotary-wing aircraft featured in the design of USS Portland (CA-33).
4 x Floatplane aircraft (recoverable)
Ships-in-Class (2)
Notable series variants as part of the USS Portland (CA-33) family line as relating to the Portland-class group.
USS Portland (CA-33); USS Indianapolis (CA-35)
Global operator(s) of the USS Portland (CA-33). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national naval warfare listing.
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
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Image of the USS Portland (CA-33)
Image from the United States National Archives; Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to seaborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
USS Portland (CA-33) Cruiser Warship appears in the following collections:
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