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CA-134 Des Moines - Program

The Des Moines class represented the culmination of wartime United States cruiser design. Des Moines class cruisers incorporated all the design knowledge gained from repeated actions fought against the Japanese during the war. Des Moines class cruisers were fast ships mounting rapid firing 8" guns that were ideally suited for the war against Japan. USS Des Moines, is the class leader for this new generation of cruisers USS Des Moines also represented the last generation of big gun warship designed by the United States prior to the advent of the guided missile for shipborne operations.

Six Des Moines (CA-134) class heavy cruisers were authorized in FY1942, two in FY1943, and four in FY1945 for a total of twelve. The four units authorized in FY1945 (CA-150 to 153) were cancelled on 28 March 1945. CA-149 was cancelled on 12 August 1945, and CA-140 to 143 were cancelled in June-July 1946. Only Des Moines (CA-134), Salem (CA-139), and Newport News (CA-148) were completed, each laid down in 1945 and commissioned 1948-49.

USS Des Moines (CA-134) was the first of four Des Moines class heavy cruisers laid down by the United States late in World War II. CA 134 Des Moines had been planned as a Baltimore class ship. She was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Her keel was laid on May 28, 1945, and she was launched on September 27, 1946. USS Des Moines was commissioned on November 17, 1948. Decommissioned 14 July 1961, stricken 9 July 1991, hulk remains at Philadelphia. CA 139 Salem Built by Bethlehem Quincy, laid down 4 July 1945, launched 25 March 1947, commissioned 14 May 1949. Decommissioned 30 Jan 1959, Des Moines (CA-134) went to reserve in 1961. She was stricken 12 July 1991, and donated as a museum 13 October 1994.

USS Des Moines represented American cruisers that fought against Japan in World War II. Although USS Des Moines was not commissioned until after the end of World War II she was designed during the war to meet the requirements of fleet operations against the Japanese in the Pacific. Her equipment and design philosophy date from the war and as such she represented the many classes of American cruisers that fought in the Pacific. No American cruiser that fought in World War II survived unaltered. USS Chicago, a Baltimore class cruiser, and USS Oklahoma City, a Cleveland class cruiser, were launched late in the war and still survive, but had been completely altered into guided missile cruisers and no longer retain their World War II integrity.

USS Des Moines was in good condition and retained her World War II design integrity. USS Des Moines was placed out of commission in 1961 and was in reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. USS Des Moines was in the best condition of the three extant Des Moines class cruisers now in the Philadelphia Naval Yard. The ex-DES MOINES was removed from donation hold status on May 23, 2006 by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) and authorized for disposal. The ship had been available for donation for 14 years. Ex-DES MOINES was towed from Philadelphia on August 21, 2006 and was scrapped, dismantled and recycled in Brownsville, Texas. USNS Grasp towed the ex-USS Des Moines to a shipyard in Brownsville, Texas.

Prior to her removal from Philadelphia, representatives of several existing ship museums removed numerous items from the ship to support the outfitting of their existing ship museums. This is a normal process for the disposal of ships, where such materials are donated to existing ship museums that are U.S. non-profit organizations. Portions of the ex-DES MOINES wood deck planking were removed by the USS SALEM (CA 134) Museum of Quincy, MA. The ship's bell was removed by the Naval Historical Center in 2004 and is stored at the Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard. The Naval Historical Center worked with the City of Des Moines, Iowa for loan of the ship's bell for public display.

Salem (CA-139) went to reserve in 1959. The scrapping of Des Moines left the museum ship USS Salem as the only remaining example of the Des Moines-Class heavy cruisers, which were the largest of that type ever commissioned. Salem made a final short visit to the Mediterranean Sea in September 1958. She was decommissioned in January 1959 and placed in the Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Salem remained in "mothballs" there for over three decades. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1991, in October 1994 she began a new career as a museum ship at Quincy, Massachusetts.

CA 148 Newport News was built by Newport News. Laid down 1 Oct 1945, launched 6 March 1948, commissioned 29 Jan 1949. Partial flagship conversion 1962, superstructure added amidships, 2 3/50 removed. The other 3/50 mounts were gradually reduced, until the last two were removed in 1973. Shell in center gun of #2 turret exploded 1 Oct 1972, gun was blown out and the turret was permanently disabled. Extensive service off Vietnam 1960's through 1974. Newport News (CA-148) continued in service until 1975 and for a time was the last all-gun cruiser in commission in the US Navy. Decommissioned 27 June 1975, stricken 31 July 1978, hulk retained at Philadelphia for parts until sold 25 Feb 1993, scrapped at New Orleans 1993-1994.

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