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NEW ORLEANS / CA-32
Notes: The NEW ORLEANS class link the WICHITA and the wartime American cruisers with their lightly-protected predecessors. By the late 1920's, there was growing apprehension concerning the light protection of the large cruisers under construction. However, the Bureau of Construction and Repair maintained that a 10,000-ton ship of high speed, armed with 8" guns, could not be well protected. Not until the NORTHAMPTON class were completed did it become obvious that the U. S. "treaty cruisers" were about 1,000 tons below the treaty limit. In 1929, the U. S. Navy began a program of 15 additional heavy and light cruisers. This program was interrupted by a combination of the London Treaty of 1930 and the Great Depression of 1929. But in 1929, the General Board approved a design very similar to the NORTHAMPTON class. This was not to be. There was considerable pressure within the Navy for a better-protected cruiser, and eventually the Bureau of Construction and Repair had to admit that by making some modifications, a better-protected ship might be achieved. In fact, it proved possible to replace the lightly-armored gunhouses of the NORTHAMPTON class with a true turret, for a great advance in protection.
Wartime modifications were relatively minor, with the main focus being the augmentation of the anti-aircraft battery (and subsequently, the need to reduce topweight). The bridgework was reduced, the armored conning tower was eliminated, and an open bridge was fitted. One crane was removed, and later, one of the two catapults. By the end of the war, the surviving members of the class had 24 - 40mm AA guns in six quad mounts; NEW ORLEANS also had 28 - 20mm AA guns (in 14 twin mounts).
Upon commissioning, NEW ORLEANS made a shakedown cruise to Europe. Upon her return to the United States in 1935, she accompanied President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (aboard the HOUSTON) for a trip through the Panama Canal, then exercises in the Pacific with the airship MACON. Following these duties, NEW ORLEANS returned to the Atlantic. In 1936, NEW ORLEANS was assigned to Cruiser Division 6, Pacific Fleet, and operated off the California coast. In 1939, she was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. NEW ORLEANS was slightly damaged by splinters from near misses in the Japanese attack there on 7 December 1941. She served as a convoy escort in the South Pacific, and was with Task Force 11 at the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7-8 May 1942, where she was able to rescue 580 of the survivors of the stricken carrier LEXINGTON. NEW ORLEANS was part of the screening force for the carrier ENTERPRISE at the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. She then served through September with the carrier SARATOGA. NEW ORLEANS was present at the Battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942. Second in the American line (behind the MINNEAPOLIS), NEW ORLEANS had to swerve to avoid running into the MINNEAPOLIS when she was struck by two torpedoes, and steered directly into the path of another torpedo. The torpedo blew off NEW ORLEANS' bow, and as it sheared away, it swept down her side, puncturing her hull in several places. With nearly 20% of her bow gone, on fire, and with several breaches in her hull, NEW ORLEANS' crew fought valiantly to keep her afloat, put out the fire, and get temporary repairs made -- which they were successful in doing. Barely able to make two knots, NEW ORLEANS returned to Tulagi Harbor on 1 December 1942. More repairs were made there, and NEW ORLEANS was able to sail first for Sydney, then to Puget Sound Navy Yard for permanent repairs. She returned to active duty in August, 1943, and took part in many bombardments and escort missions. On 22 April 1944, NEW ORLEANS was part of the screening forces for the invasion of Hollandia, New Guinea. While there, one of the new YORKTOWN's aircraft, badly damaged and trying to return to the carrier, struck NEW ORLEANS' mainmast; splinters killed one of NEW ORLEANS' crew members and badly injured another. NEW ORLEANS was present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19-20 June 1944, where her AA gunners claimed several attacking Japanese aircraft. She was also at the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 20 October 1944. During the battle, NEW ORLEANS and the heavy cruiser WICHITA caught and sunk the Japanese light carrier CHIYODA, which had been crippled by air strikes and was unable to return to Japan for repairs. NEW ORLEANS continued to serve as an escort and in bombardment missions throughout the end of the war, earning 17 battle stars for her service. Following several trips in "Operation Magic Carpet" (bringing American troops home after the war), NEW ORLEANS retuned to the Atlantic and the Philadelphia Naval Yard on 12 March 1946. She was decommissioned there on 10 February 1947, and placed in the Reserve. NEW ORLEANS was deleted from the Navy List on 1 March 1959; she was sold for scrapping in September, 1959, and broken up at Baltimore in October, 1959.