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The USS Des Moines (CA-134), the second ship of that name in the United States Navy, was the lead ship of a class of heavy cruisers. She was the first ship in the United States Navy to feature the auto loading Mark 16 8-inch/55 caliber gun, which was the first of its type in the world.

USS Des Moines (CA-134)
USS Des Moines (CA-134) underway, 15 December 1959
United States
Name: Des Moines
Namesake: Des Moines, Iowa
Ordered: 25 September 1943
Builder: Bethlehem Steel Company
Laid down: 28 May 1945
Launched: 27 September 1946
Commissioned: 16 November 1948
Decommissioned: 6 July 1961
Struck: 9 July 1991
Identification: Hull symbol: CA-134
Fate: Scrapping completed by ESCO Marine, Inc., Brownsville, TX on 16 August 2007.
General characteristics
Class and type: Des Moines-class heavy cruiser
Displacement: 17,000 tons
Length: 716 ft 6 in (218.39 m)
Beam: 76 ft 6 in (23.32 m)
Draft: 22 ft (6.7 m)
Propulsion: 4 shaft; General Electric turbines; 4 boiler; 120,000 shp (89,000 kW)
Speed: 33 knots (38 mph; 61 km/h)
Range: 10,500 nmi (19,450 km) at 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 1,799 officers and enlisted


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

Naval ServiceEdit

Des Moines off Boston in November 1949.

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 18 February 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).


Des Moines being towed to the scrapyard, in October 2006.

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 battleship) 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 systems (Tomahawk cruise missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Phalanx CIWS mounts, radars and communication systems) that the ships would need to operate in a 1980s environment. In addition, the per-ship costs for the reactivation 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.

After an attempt to turn her into a museum ship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin failed, she was sold in 2005, and then towed to Brownsville, Texas, for scrapping. By July 2007, she had been completely broken up. Her status officially changed to "disposed of by scrapping, dismantling" on 16 August 2007. Two of her dual 5-inch/38 gun mounts were donated to the USS Lexington (CV-16) museum in Corpus Christi, Texas, where they can now be seen on display.[2]

Her sister ship Newport News was scrapped in New Orleans in 1993. The third Des Moines-class ship, Salem, is a museum ship in Quincy, Massachusetts.

In popular cultureEdit

The Des Moines is shown in the first 3:20, and briefly while underway at the end, of the 1959 movie John Paul Jones, directed by John Farrow.[citation needed] It is also featured in the game World of Warships as the top US Navy heavy cruiser.[citation needed]

She also makes an appearance in the 2009 John Ringo and Tom Kratman novel “Yellow Eyes,”where the Des Moines is refurbished and upgraded with an artificial intelligence personality, “Daisy Mae,” to defend the Panama Canal against an invasion by the alien Posleen. The novel also features her sister ship Salem and a refurbished battleship, the Texas.


  1. ^ "New Cruiser Packs 8 inch Automatics". Popular Science. May 1949.
  2. ^ Big Guns Return to the Lex

This article includes information collected from the public domain sources Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships and Naval Vessel Register.

External linksEdit