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SAN FRANCISCO / CA-38
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).
SAN FRANCISCO, the fifth ship of the NEW ORLEANS class, was commissioned in February, 1934, and served with the U. S. Pacific Fleet through early 1939. At that time SAN FRANCISCO became the flagship of Cruiser Division 7, and led the division on a long cruise around South America. Returning to the U. S. east coast via the Panama Canal, SAN FRANCISCO took part in the "neutrality patrols" in the Atlantic when World War II broke out in Europe. In early, 1940, SAN FRANCISCO was re-assigned to the Pacific Fleet. She was at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941 when aircraft from the Japanese fleet attacked. Undamaged in the attack, SAN FRANCISCO was assigned to Task Force 14 (based around the carrier SARATOGA). In August, 1942, SAN FRANCISCO took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. She remained in the Solomons for three months, and served as Rear Admiral Norman Scott's flagship of Task Force 64 during the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11-12 October 1942. During that battle, the Americans lost a destroyer, while the Japanese lost the heavy cruiser FURUTAKA and a destroyer; each side had several other ships damaged. On 30 October 1942, SAN FRANCISCO became Admiral Daniel Callaghan's flagship. SAN FRANCISCO was present at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on 12-13 November 1942. During the day on the 12th, she was attacked by a Japanese torpedo plane; the torpedo missed, but the plane itself crashed into the SAN FRANCISCO's aft control structure. Despite 15 of her crew killed and 29 wounded, SAN FRANCISCO continued on. During a night action which one man described as "a barroom brawl after the lights had been shot out", SAN FRANCISCO had engaged both the Japanese battleships HIEI and KIRISHIMA as well as several destroyers -- and had accidentally fired on the American light cruiser ATLANTA, killing Rear Admiral Scott and most of his bridge crew. During the battle, SAN FRANCISCO had received 45 hits, and 77 of her crew were killed, including Admiral Callaghan and SAN FRANCISCO's commanding officer, Captain Cassin Young -- while another 105 were wounded. Following the battle, SAN FRANCISCO returned to the United States for repairs. Near the end of February, 1943, SAN FRANCISCO returned to active duty. Serving in both escort and bombardment duties, SAN FRANCISCO was present for the re-capture of Attu and Kiska in May and August, 1943, respectively. She was also present for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands in November, 1943, took part in the Marianas campaign in June-July, 1944, the re-capture of the Philippines in October, 1944, and the Battle of Iwo Jima in February, 1945. At the end of World War II, SAN FRANCISCO covered occupation efforts along the Korean and Chinese coasts -- work that lasted into November, 1945. Taking part in "Operation Magic Carpet", bringing American troops home, SAN FRANCISCO arrived back in San Francisco in December, 1945. She then sailed to the Atlantic, arriving in Philadelphia on 19 January 1946. SAN FRANCISCO was decommissioned on 10 February 1946 and placed in the Reserve. On 1 March 1959, SAN FRANCISCO was stricken from the Navy List, was sold for scrapping, and broken up in New York in September, 1959.