CA 70 / CAG 2




Displacement: 13,600 Tons
Length: 673’5”
Beam: 70’10”
Draft: 20’6”
Speed: 33 Knots
Complement: 1,142
Armament: Nine 8” guns; Twelve 5" guns

The USS Canberra was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser laid down by the Bethlehem Steel Company's Fore River Shipyard at Quincy, Massachusetts on 3 September 1941. She was christened at her launching on 19 April 1943 by Lady Alice C. Dixon , the wife of the then Australian Minister in Washington and was commissioned on 14 October 1943 with Captain A. R. Early in command. Initially the cruiser was to be named Pittsburgh, but in 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the 8 inch gun cruiser then building to instead be renamed USS Canberra in honor of the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra which was severely damaged by gunfire and torpedoes from Japanese warships and subsequently sunk by USN warships at the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942. On 12 October 1942 the ship was officially renamed Canberra. The battle of Savo Island was one of the first major naval engagements in the Pacific to feature a mixed force of U.S. and Australian vessels fighting side-by-side against the Japanese. The common sacrifice of the HMAS Canberra and other U.S. and Australian vessels and sailors was emblematic of our two countries' alliance, born in the grim early days of World War II. USS Canberra was the only US Naval vessel ever to be named in honor of an allied foreign warship and with the name of a foreign capital city.

CANBERRA departed Boston 14 January 1944 and sailed via San Diego to embark passengers for Pearl Harbor, arriving 1 February. She rendezvoused with TF 58 on 14 February and took part in the capture of Eniwetok. The cruiser steamed from her base at Majuro to join the YORKTOWN (CV-10) task group for the raids on the Palaus, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai (30 March-l April), then got underway from the same base 13 April for air strikes against Hollandia and Wadke in support of the Army landings on New Guinea. CANBERRA joined with the ENTERPRISE (CV-6) task group for fighter sweeps against Truk, then bombarded Matawan, rejoining the carriers for further strikes on Truk (29 April-1 May).

After a raid against Marcus and Wake Islands in May 1944, CANBERRA sailed from Majuro 6 June to participate in the Mariana's operation, including the far-flung Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the supporting air strikes and bombardment to neutralize bases in the Bonins. Following replenishment at Eniwetok, CANBERRA sailed 29 August for raids on the Palaus and the Philippines, and to back up the Morotai landings (15-16 September).

On 2 October 1944, CANBERRA sailed in company with TF 38 for air strikes on Okinawa and Formosa in anticipation of the forthcoming landings on Leyte. On 13 October, only 90 miles off Formosa, close to the enemy and far from safe harbor, CANBERRA was struck below her armor belt at the engineering spaces by an aerial torpedo which blew a huge, jagged hole in her side and killed 23 of her crew instantly.

Before damage control could isolate the compartments, some 4,500 tons of water rushed in to flood her after fire room and both engine rooms, which brought the cruiser to a stop. Then began one of the most notable achievements of the war in saving wounded ships. CANBERRA was taken in tow by WICHITA (CA-45). The task force reformed to provide escort for her and HOUSTON (CL-81) who had been torpedoed on the morning of the 14th. Retiring toward Ulithi, “Cripple Division 1” fought off an enemy air attack that succeeded in firing another torpedo into HOUSTON. Admiral Halsey (CTF 38) attempted to use the group, now nicknamed “Bait Division 1,” to lure the Japanese fleet into the open, but when the enemy sortied from the Inland Sea, air attacks from the rest of TF 38 roused enemy suspicions of the trap, and the Japanese force withdrew. CANBERRA and her group continued unmolested to Ulithi, arriving 27 October, 2 weeks from the day she was hit. The cruiser was towed to Manus for temporary repairs, thence departed for permanent repairs at Boston Navy Yard (16 February-17 October l945). CANBERRA returned to the west coast late in 1945 and was placed out of commission on 6 July 1946 at Mare Island Naval Ship Yard and into the reserve (Mothball) fleet at Bremerton, WA on 7 March 1947.




The "mothballed" heavy cruiser Canberra was redesignated CAG-2 in early January 1952. She was subsequently towed from Bremerton, Washington, to Camden, New Jersey, to begin an extensive conversion to a guided missile heavy cruiser. This work, which took some four years, significantly changed the ship's appearance. It included replacing her after eight-inch gun turret and five-inch gun mount with two launchers for "Terrier" anti-aircraft guided missiles, plus installation of an extensive suite of radars and other electronics.

Canberra, now the second ship of 13,300-ton Boston class, was recommissioned in mid-June 1956. She operated in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic for more than a year, during which time she carried President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a conference at Bermuda, participated in the June 1957 International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and made a Midshipmen training cruise to Brazil. In September 1957 she took part in a major North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercise in the northeastern Atlantic, then steamed south to begin her first tour in the Mediterranean Sea. After returning to the U.S. in March 1958, she served as ceremonial flagship for the selection of the Unknown Soldier of World War II and transported Midshipmen on a summer training cruise to Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In March 1960 Canberra began an eight-month cruise around the World, operating with both the Seventh Fleet in Asian waters and with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Canberra made two six-month deployments to the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea leaving Norfolk in February and returning in September of 1962 and another in 1963. She took part in the Cuban Quarantine in the fall of 1962 and, in October 1963, was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. The Vietnam War soon became the focus of her final half-decade. Conducting her first combat deployment since the World War II, she spent the first several months of 1965 off Southeast Asia. A second Vietnam deployment followed in February-June 1966 and a third lasted from October 1966 until April 1967. During these operations her six remaining eight-inch guns were extensively employed for shelling enemy positions in both North and South Vietnam.

Bombardment duty dominated Canberra's next two war tours, in October 1967-April 1968 and from September 1968 to January 1969. This gunnery emphasis, plus the outdated nature of her "Terrier" guided missile system, caused her reclassification back to a heavy cruiser in May 1968, when she regained her original hull number, CA-70. Canberra's missile launchers and guidance radars were removed in 1969, following the end of her last Vietnam cruise. Soon thereafter, in October 1969, she arrived at San Francisco, California, to begin inactivation work. Decommissioned in early February 1970, USS Canberra was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1978 and sold for scrapping in July 1980.

One of the USS Canberra’s propellers was saved and is on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro, CA. The USS Canberra's (CAG-2) ship's bell, a distinctive emblem of her proud career, was presented to the Government and Commonwealth of Australia in Sept of 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty Alliance. It is now on display at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia.


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