USS Northampton (CA-26)

USS Northampton (CA-26)

USS "Northampton" (CL/CA-26) was the lead ship of her class of heavy cruisers. She was laid down 12 April 1928 by Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Mass.; launched 5 September 1929; sponsored by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge; and commissioned 17 May 1930, Captain Walter N. Vernou in command.

Pre-war service

Joining the Atlantic Fleet, "Northampton" made a shakedown cruise to the Mediterranean during the summer of 1930, then participated in the fleet training schedule which took her to the Caribbean, the Panama Canal Zone, and, occasionally, into the Pacific for exercises with other cruisers and ships of all types. Redesignated CA-26 in 1931, she operated primarily in the Pacific from 1932, homeported at San Pedro, and later at Pearl Harbor. "Northampton" was one of six ships to receive the new RCA CXAM RADAR in 1940.cite journal|author=Macintyre, Donald, CAPT RN |title=Shipborne Radar |publisher=United States Naval Institute Proceedings |date=September 1967]

World War II

"Northampton" was at sea with Admiral William Halsey, Jr. in the aircraft carrier "Enterprise" (CV-6) during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941, returning to port the next day. On 9 December the force sortied to search northeast of Oahu, then swept south to Johnston Island, then north again to hunt the enemy west of Lisianski Island and Midway Atoll. On 11 December, USS|Craven|DD-382|3 was damaged when it collided with "Northampton" during underway refueling.cite book | url =| title = The official chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II | chapter = Chapter III: 1941 | chapterurl = | first = Robert | last = Cressman | location = Annapolis, Maryland | publisher = Naval Institute Press | year = 2000 | isbn = 9781557501493 | oclc = 41977179 | accessdate = 2007-12-15 ]

Through January 1942 "Northampton" joined in such searches until detached with "Salt Lake City" (CA-25) to bombard Wotje 1 February. The bombardment not only demolished buildings and fuel dumps on the island, but also sank two Japanese ships. A similar assault was fired against Wake Island 24 February when, despite serious enemy counterfire, the guns of "Northampton" and her force started large fires on the island and sank a dredge in the lagoon. As "Northampton" retired from the island, enemy seaplanes, landbased planes, and patrol craft attacked, but all were destroyed or repulsed.

On 4 March, the force launched aircraft for a strike on Marcus Island, then turned east for Pearl Harbor. Early in April the "Enterprise" force, including "Northampton", sortied once again, and joined "Hornet" (CV-8) force for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo 18 April. Once again the ships replenished at Pearl Harbor, then sailed for the Southwest Pacific, arriving just after the battle of the Coral Sea. Returning to Pearl Harbor, "Northampton" prepared for the action soon to come at the battle of Midway, when she screened "Enterprise". On 4 June and 5 June the American carriers launched their planes to win a great victory, turning the Japanese back in mid-Pacific, and dealing them a tremendous blow by sinking four carriers. Throughout the battle of Midway, "Northampton" protected her carrier and with her returned undamaged to Pearl Harbor 13 June.

In mid-August, "Northampton" sailed for the Southwest Pacific to join in the Guadalcanal operation. She patrolled southeast of San Cristobal where on 15 September her force was attacked by submarines which damaged "Wasp" (CV-7) and "North Carolina" (BB-55) and struck "O’Brien" (DD-415) only 800 yards off "Northampton"'s port beam. Now sailing with "Hornet", "Northampton" screened the carrier during attacks on Bougainville 5 October.

During the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October, which took place without surface contact with the enemy, "Northampton" went to the aid of "Hornet", mortally wounded by enemy aircraft, and provided antiaircraft cover while attempting to take the stricken carrier in tow. Obviously doomed, the carrier was later sunk by destroyer torpedo and gunfire, and the American force retired to the southwest.

Loss at the Battle of Tassafaronga

"Northampton" next operated with a cruiser-destroyer force, to prevent the Japanese from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal. The Battle of Tassafaronga began 40 minutes before midnight, 30 November, when three American destroyers made a surprise torpedo attack on the Japanese. All American ships then opened fire, which the startled enemy did not return for 7 minutes. Two of the American cruisers took torpedo hits within the space of a minute, and 10 minutes later, another was hit, all being forced to retire from the action. "Northampton" and "Honolulu" (CL-48), with 6 destroyers, continued the fierce action. Close to the end of the engagement, "Northampton" was struck by two torpedoes, which tore a huge hole in her port side, ripping away decks and bulkheads. Flaming oil sprayed over the ship; she took on water rapidly and began to list. Three hours later, as she began to sink stern-first, she had to be abandoned. So orderly and controlled was the process that loss of life was surprisingly light, and the survivors were all picked up within an hour by destroyers. While a tactical defeat, as three cruisers had been severely damaged and "Northampton" lost in exchange for the loss of only one Japanese destroyer, the Japanese had been denied a major reinforcement, turning the action into an American strategic victory.

The senior officer killed on the Northampton during the battle of Tassafarona was Chief Engineer, Commander (select) Hilan Ebert of Alliance, Ohio. In honor of Commander Ebert the USS Ebert DE-768 was launched 11 May 1944 by Tampa Shipbuilding Co., Inc., Tampa, Florida; sponsored the widow of Commander Ebert; Mrs. Hilan Ebert. At the time of Commander Ebert’s untimely death he was survived by his wife; his mother; and two his sons, Scott and David.


"Northampton" received 6 battle stars for World War II service.

In fiction

"Northampton" plays a prominent role in Herman Wouk's novel "War and Remembrance" as Victor Henry's seagoing command. The ship's operations in the book are identical to those in its real life. The novel includes a discussion of the design compromises imposed on the "Northampton" class by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1920.

"Northampton" was also used as a reference in the 1937 film "Navy Blue and Gold", in which Jimmy Stewart played a seaman who was stationed on the "Northampton" before being awarded an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Stewart's character mentioned that he played football for the "Northampton", and that it was the fleet football champion.

See also

* See USS "Northampton" for other ships of the same name.
* See List of U.S. Navy losses in World War II for other Navy ships lost in WWII.
* See Jason Robards, crewman aboard USS "Northhampton" during its loss.



External links

* [ USS "Northampton"]

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