The design of this class began after the Pensacola class had been finalised, in February 1926. The initial design changes proposed included a reduction in the main armament to eight guns, on the grounds that this was the standard for foreign ships, improved damage survival capability, and better aircraft stowage.
Two alternative sketch designs shipped nine 8in guns in three triple turrets, and the other eight guns in twin turrets. Both designs featured a raised forecastle, a lengthened hull and increased freeboard. Internally, the fire rooms were divided into four spaces, rather than two. The eight-gun ship was considered too cramped, and the nine-gun design was therefore favoured. As design work progressed it became obvious that there was some weight to spare, totalling some 200 tons over and above the original preliminary weight margin of 221 tons. This, it was suggested, could be used to improve protection, and several modifications to the design were drawn up, some of which appeared to offer defence against 8in shells. However the requirement for the ships to be fitted as flagships took away some of this margin, but various schemes for redistribution and improvement of the protection continued to be considered. In some of these the magazines were concentrated, with their side protection increased to 7in at the expense of the gunhouse armour to give immunity to 8in gunfire, while others sought to protect the magazines against 8in shells but the machinery and gunhouses only against 5in or 6in shells. In the end it was decided that the goal of immunity against 8in gunfire was impossible, and part of the weight available was used to improve splinter protection to the ammunition supply systems and the remainder was added to the reserve, it being recognised that any new designs naturally grew and needed adequate reserves. Despite all of these measures, the ships still came out nearly 1,000 tons under the Treaty limit.
Six ships were authorised in FY29, the first three fitted as Divisional Flagships and the last three as Fleet Flag ships, with forecastle plating extended to the catapult towers for additional accommodation. The total weight allocated to protection was 1,057 tons.
The machinery installation, main and secondary armament was the same as the Pensacola class. The weakest point of the armament was the AA defence, since the 37mm gun under development by Colt and intended for these ships never appeared. A torpedo outfit of six tubes in two triple mountings was retained.
Finally, the rearrangement of the aircraft fittings featured in the early design discussions led to the fitting of a blast-proof hangar around the after funnel, which allowed servicing of the aircraft out the elements and protected the frail machines from damage by the ship's own gunfire. Four aeroplanes could be stowed in the hangars, plus two on the catapults, but normally only four were embarked.
Alterations made before the war were mainly concerned with improving the AA defence.
Northampton Class War Records
joined the fleet in May 1930, and, like Pensacola and Salt Lake City, was initially classified as a light cruiser; CL26 as the heavy cruiser designation had not then been established. However, in the following year the CA designation was applied. During the years up to the summer of 1940 she served with CruDiv 4, mainly as flagship, with the Scouting Force in the Pacific. Thereafter she served in a similar capacity with CruDiv 5 until her loss in 1942. On the outbreak of the Pacific war she was with TF8, escorting the carrier Enterprise and searching for the Japanese fleet, then took part in operations intended to relieve the US garrison on Wake Island. Early in 1942 she carried out bombardments of Wotje during the carrier mid on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, followed by a raid on Wake Island, then in March participated in a raid on the Marcus Islands. In April the ship was a part of the force making the Doolittle B-25 raid on Tokyo, but missed participation in the Battle of the Coral Sea as a result. However, she was present at the Battle of Midway with TF16 at the beginning of June. After this operation she joined TF17, and by September was involved in operations around Guadalcanal. In October she was at the Battle of Santa Cruz, and the following month, as part of TF16, took part in the Battle of Taassafaronga, when she was hit by torpedoes from the destroyer Oyashio south of Savo Island just before midnight on 30 November. She was abandoned in the early hours of the next day and foundered shortly afterwards.
Northampton arriving at Brisbane, August 1941. Note the false bow wave. NH94596
Northampton enters Pearl Harbor on the evening of 8th December 1941. 80G35248
also joined CruDiv 4 on commissioning, but by 1936 had been transferred to CruDiv 5, with which formation she was to remain for the remainder of her career, except for a brief period at the end of 1940 when she served with CruDiv 7 as part of the Patrol Force. At the start of the war in the Pacific she was with Northampton initially off Wake Island, then in January 1942 supported the landings on Samoa. During an attack on Taroa with TG8.3 on 1 February, however, she was hit by bombs and damaged, requiring repairs at Pearl Harbor. In May she was present at the Battle of the Coral Sea with TF17, rescuing the survivors of Lexington. The following month the ship returned to the USA for refit on the west coast, but returned to the South Pacific by the end of September to join TF62 at Noumea. On 20 October 1942, while operating in the Solomon Islands, she was hit in the machinery spaces by a torpedo from I 176 and was lucky to survive, having lost all propulsion and power supplies. After provisional repairs at Espiritu Santo she withdrew to the USA for full repairs and refit, which were not completed until the summer of 1943. After her return to service she participated in the landings in the Gilbert Islands as part of TG50.3 in November, and in attacks on the Marshall Islands as part of TG50.15 in January/February 1944. Following a short refit in April, the cruiser was transferred to the North Pacific because her slow-firing 8in guns were not best suited to the fastmoving, mainly night actions in the South Pacific islands. With TF94 she bombarded enemy positions in the Kurile islands in June, but had returned to Pearl Harbor by mid-August. In the following months she bombarded Wake island and Marcus Island, escorted carriers and participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Between November 1944 and February 1945 she was at Iwo Jima and the Bonin Islands, then returned to the USA for a refit which lasted until mid-June 1945. On return to the war zone she operated off Okinawa and then with a task force in the South China Sea before another deployment to the Aleutians in August. She took part in the occupation of Japan, and then brought home troops before paying off on 10 June 1946. A decision to scrap the ship immediately after the war was reversed, and she remained in reserve for the remainder of her life until stricken on 1 March 1959, being sold for scrapping on 11 August that year.
joined CruDiv 5 with the Scouting Force on completion. In 1934 she was reassigned to CruDiv 6, returning to CruDiv 5 in 1937 until the autumn of 1940, when, like Northampton, she had a spell with CruDiv 7. Thereafter she joined CruDiv 4 for the remainder of the war. In 1940 she carried gold from the UK to the USA, but then returned to the Pacific. When the USA entered the war she ferried troops to Samoa, and in March 1942 operated in the Solomon Islands. At the end of May she sailed for the Aleutians to join TF8, and took part in the bombardment of Kiska. In November Louisville returned to the Pacific, and participated in the Battle off Rennell Island with TF67 in January 1943. However, by April she was back in the Aleutians, where she undertook bombardment and convoy escort duties until sailing for Mare Island in December for refit. In January 1944 the ship returned to the South Pacific, seeing action at Eniwetok, the Palau Islands, Truk, Saipan, Tinlan and Leyte Gulf - the Battle of the Surigao Strait - after which she joined TF77 off Luzon. Here, while en route on 5-6 January 1945, she was hit by two kamikaze aircraft and badly damaged, sustaining heavy casualties, including Rear Admiral Chandler. She returned to the USA for repairs, which were completed in April. Back in the South Pacific, the cruiser was hit yet again by kamikazes, this time off Okinawa on 5 June. When her repairs were completed she was deployed to China and participated in the operations to land US troops there during August-October. Louisville returned to the USA and paid off on 17 June 1946. It was originally intended to dispose of the ship after the war, but the decision was rescinded and she remained in reserve unti stricken on 1 March 1959, to be sold for breaking up on 14 September the same year to the Marlene Blouse Corp. of New York.
served as Flagship CruDiv 5 with the Scouting Force and, from June 1939, also as Flagship Cruisers, Scouting Force, until the autumn of 1940, when she was reassigned to CruDiv 4, still as Flagship Cruisers. On the outbreak of war in 1941 she was with TF12 at Pearl Harbor (although she was at sea at the time of the attack), but at the beginning of February 1942 was reassigned to the ANZAC squadron at Suva in the Fiji Islands. After the Allies had been driven out of the Dutch East Indies she returned to Pearl Harbor, participating in operations in the Coral Sea. Oi 31 May the ship was in Sydney, Australia, fo repair and refit when the Japanese launched the midget submarine attack on the port. Their torpedoes missed, however. In August Chicago supported the landings on Guadalcanal as part of TG62.2. On 9 August 1942 she was badly damaged by a torpedo from Japanese destroyers at the Batile of Savo Island, her bows being severely damaged. She withdrew to Noumea and then to Sydney for temporary repair, and then to the US west coast for full repair, arriving at San Francisco on 13 October. After repairs had been finished the ship returned to Noumea and Guadalcanal. Or 29 January she was part of TF18, operating off Rennell Island, when she was hit on the starboard side by two torpedoes from IJN naval aircraft, two fire rooms and the after engine room being flooded. Although taken in tow by Louisville, she was hit again the following afternoon by four more torpedoes on the same side, and sank in about twenty minutes.
Torpedo damage to the bow of Chicago after Savo Island, August 1942. 80G34685
was deployed to the Far East on entering service, assuming the role of Flagship, Asiatic Station, from February 1931. She remained out east until relieved by Augusta, sailing for San Francisco on 17 November 1933. She was assigned to CruDiv 6, with the Scouting Force, in 1934, and CruDiv 5 the following year as Flagship. By 1937 she had been reassigned to CruDiv 4, and the next year was Flagship, US Fleet. In October 1940 she sailed for the Philippines, and on 19 November assumed the role of Flagship, Asiatic Fleet, once more. On the outbreak of war in December 1941 she sailed for Australia with a convoy and three old destroyers (TF5) and joined the Australian-British-Dutch-American (ABDA) Command. She operated in the Dutch East Indies, and on 4 February, while part of a strike force sailed to intercept Japanese landings reported at Balikpapan, she was hit by a bomb which disabled her after turret, thus losing all after gunpower. Marblehead was disabled at the same time. Despite the damage, the cruiser then escorted a convoy to reinforce Timor, but this was recalled. The ship was then ordered to Tjilatjap to join Rear-Admiral Doorman, RNethN, thus missing the Japanese air raid on Darwin. When the Japanese invaded Java at the end of February 1942, Houston participated in strikes against them, and on 27 February took part in the Battle of the Java Sea, managing to withdraw to Batavia with the Australian Perth after the debacle. However, on attempting to pass through the Sunda Strait the two Allied cruisers ran into a large force of Japanese cruisers and destroyers, and in the ensuing action both were sunk by gunfire and torpedoes from Mogami and Mikuma.
Houston on completion. NH53586
an evocative pic; Hong Kong 1931-1933, with the Royal Navy Dockyard at left. Houston centre; USS Isabel right centre; Medway, beyond the bow of Houston; Hermes, right; and three Kent class cruisers NH 94179
Houston, San Diego, October 1935 with President Roosevelt on board. NH53582
USS Houston, Flagship of the US Asiatic Fleet
unlike her sisters, served with the Atlantic Fleet after commissioning and was not transferred to the Pacific until March 1932. On 9 March 1933 she was assigned to the Far East as Flagship, Asiatic Station, where she relieved Houston at Shanghai. In August 1940 she was with CruDiv 4, attached to the Scouting Force, but in the autumn joined the Patrol Force in the Atlantic, assuming the role of flagship from May 1941. In August 1941 she carried President Roosevelt to Argentia Bay for his meeting with Churchill. From January 1942 she was assigned to CruDiv 7, while still retaining the task of Flagship, Atlantic. For the landings in North Africa in November 1942 she formed part of TG34.9, the Center Attack Group, and during a counterattack by a French force which included the light cruiser Primaguet and destroyers, Augusta and Brooklyn damaged the French cruiser and one of the destroyers so badly that they had to be beached. Following the landings, the ship returned to the USA for refit at New York Navy Yard. In August 1943 Augusta was transferred to the British Home Fleet after the departure of the battleships South Dakota and Alabama as a result of the threat posed by Tirpitz, and was based at Scapa Flow. She operated in northern waters until ordered back to the USA at the end of November 1943 for dockyard refit. In April 1944 the cruiser returned to British waters for the invasion of Normandy, when she was Flagship, Western Task Force, during the landings. After this operation she was transferred to the Mediterranean for the landings in the south of France, Operation Dragoon, where she remained until the end of September 1944. A further refit at Philadelphia Navy Yard followed, lasting until February 1945. At the end of the war in Europe Augusta carried President Truman to Antwerp for the Potsdam Conference, and then ferried troops back home from Europe. She was eventually paid off on 16 July 1946, for disposal as with Louisville, but then languished in reserve until stricken on 1 March 1959. She was finally sold to Robert Benjamin of Panama City for breaking up on 9 November 1959.
Augusta, off Oahu January 1933. 80G466398
Augusta followed by the aircraft carrier Midway with an airship overhead, probably the fleet review on the Hudson river, October 1945