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USS Des Moines (CA-134)

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The USS Des Moines (CA-134) was the lead ship of the Des Moines-class heavy cruisers in the United States Navy.

History[edit]

Construction and Commissioning[edit]

Des Moines was launched September 27th 1946 by Bethlehem Steel Company, Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts; sponsored by Mrs. E. T. Meredith, Jr.; and commissioned November 16th 1948, Captain A. D. Chandler in command. She became the first of her class to mount the semi-automatic 8"/55-caliber Mk.16 naval guns and carry the new Sikorsky HO3S-1 utility helicopters in place of seaplanes. It was named after the capital of the state of Iowa.

Active Service[edit]

In a varied operating schedule designed to maintain the readiness of the Navy to meet the constant demands of defense and foreign policy, Des Moines cruised from her home port at Newport, Rhode Island and after 1950, from Norfolk, Virginia on exercises of every type in the Caribbean, along the East Coast, in the Mediterranean Sea, and in North Atlantic waters. Annually between 1949 and 1957 she deployed to the Mediterranean, during the first seven years serving as flagship for the 6th Task Fleet (known as the 6th Fleet from 1950). In 1952, and each year from 1954 to 1957, she carried midshipmen for summer training cruises, crossing to Northern European ports on the first four cruises. She also sailed to Northern Europe on NATO exercises in 1952, 1953, and 1955. On February 18th 1958, she cleared Norfolk for the Mediterranean once more, this time to remain as flagship for the 6th Fleet until July 1961 when was placed out of commission in reserve.

Through her Mediterranean services Des Moines contributed significantly to the success of the 6th Fleet in representing American power and interests in the countries of Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East. She made this contribution through such activities as her participation in NATO Mediterranean exercises; her call to seldom-visited Rijeka, Yugoslavia, in December 1950 and Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, in May 1960, and to many other ports as a regular feature of her schedule; her cruising in the eastern Atlantic during the wake of the Suez Crisis of 1956; and service on patrol and as control center for American forces in the Lebanon crisis of 1958. Film footage of her cruising with other ships of the United States 6th Fleet was used in the introduction and conclusion of the movie: "John Paul Jones" starring Robert Stack (Warner Brothers-1959).

Decommissioning[edit]

After decommissioning in 1961 she was mothballed in the South Boston Naval Annex and eventually laid up in the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Philadelphia in maintained reserve. In 1981 the United States Congress directed that the Navy conduct a survey to determine if she and sister ship Salem could be reactivated (in lieu of two Iowa-class battleships) to support the 600-ship Navy proposed by the Reagan Administration. The study concluded that while both ships would be useful in the active fleet, there was not enough deck space to add the modern weapons fit (Tomahawk cruise missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Phalanx CIWS mounts, radars and communication systems) that the ships would need to operate in a 1980's environment. In addition, the per-ship costs for the reactivations and updates (that were determined feasible) would be close to the costs for an Iowa, for a much less capable ship. Therefore, both ships remained in maintained reserve until they were struck off the reserve list in August 1993.

In 2004, the Canadian government offered to refurbish the USS Des Moines with the intent of turning it into a museum ship. The contract to refurbish Des Moines went to Ontario Marine in Whitby, Ontario. The work on Des Moines was finished on September 18th, 2006 when she was towed to Hampton Roads, Virginia as her new home.

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