The USS Northampton was a cruiser used primarily as a testing platform. She was the first and only cruiser of her type. She was the third ship in the history of the U.S. Navy to have the name Northampton.
The keel of the Northampton, then known as the CA-125, was laid down on Aug. 31, 1944, at Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River Yard at Quincy, Mass. With the capitulation of the Japanese in August 1945, work on the ship was suspended. Work was resumed nearly three years later, on July 1, 1948. She was launched on Jan. 27, 1951 and, now known as CLC-1, was commissioned on March 7, 1953 with Capt. William D. Irvin in command.
After her shakedown cruise, the Northampton joined the Atlantic Fleet. She joined the fleet’s Battleship Cruiser Force in September 1954. During her earlier years of service, she served as the flagship for the Atlantic Fleet’s Amphibious Force, the 6th Fleet and Strike Force Atlantic.
After an overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard that was completed in February 1956, the Northampton joined Cruiser Division 6 for the first public demonstration of the Terrier anti-aircraft missile. In April 1956, she was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for six months as part of the 6th Fleet. Her trips outside of the Western Atlantic were to be highly infrequent, though she would play host to an impressive list of VIPs. The Northampton would hosted Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, King Baudouin I of Belgium and King Olav V of Norway.
In 1961 and 1962, the Northampton would receive expeditionary medals for operating off the coast of Cuba. She would not, however, take part in the U.S. blockade of the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.
For the remainder of her career, the Northampton would serve as a test platform and evaluator of new communications equipment before it was put into widespread use on other Navy vessels. She also had another, secret mission: she was part of the U.S. Government’s plan for continuity of government and was to serve as a “floating White House” in the event of a nuclear attack. She was designated as part of the National Emergency Command Post Afloat, or NECPA. As part of her classified mission, the Northampton was fitted with an extra deck, multi-link communications gear and the tallest communications mast fitted to any ship in the Navy inventory.
The Northampton was decommissioned on April 8, 1970, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in December 1977. She was later scrapped.
Characteristics of the USS Northampton
Displacement: 13,700 long tons (13,920 t)
Length: 674 ft 11 in (205.7 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 120,000 shp (89 MW), 4 boilers, 4 shafts
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)
Armament: • 9 × 8 in (200 mm) guns
• 12 × 5″/38 caliber guns
• 48 × Bofors 40 mm guns
• 24 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons
Armor: Belt: 6 in (150 mm)
Turrets: 8 in (200 mm)
Deck: 2.5 in (64 mm)
Conning Tower: 6 in (150 mm) Aircraft carried: 4 aircraft
Name: USS Northampton
Builder: Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Quincy, Massachusetts
Laid down: 31 August 1944
Launched: 27 January 1951
Commissioned: 7 March 1953
Decommissioned: 8 April 1970
Struck: 1 December 1977
August 1944: USS Northampton’s keel laid down
August 1945: Work on USS Northampton halted
July 1948: Work on USS Northampton resumes
January 1951: USS Northampton launched
March 1953: USS Northampton commissioned
April1970: USS Northampton decomissioned
Crewmembers of the USS Northampton:
An unofficial list of crew members that served on the USS Northampton can be found on the unofficial navy website at: http://navysite.de. This list is compiled by former crewmembers that voluntarily register. Some quoted comments from former crewmembers are listed below; many more are available on the source website at the following Web address:
Berry McNelly (served 1962—64): “I first met up with the Northampton in Cuba. I was one of a couple sailors who painted the forward mast. Top to bottom. The back side with no later. Worked for a great crew. Did a lot lot the leather work and fancy work on the quarterdeck.”
Sam Guerriero (served January 1962—March 1963): “Passing in review at sea when President Kennedy was aboard. The Northampton sailed in the opposite direction between two lines of ships from carriers to tugboats.. what a sight!!”
Tadd Rosa (served August 1962—April 1964):”It was a great ship! Am looking forward to contacting others in OI Division.”