USS Baltimore (CA-68)

USS Baltimore (CA-68) was the name ship of the Baltimore class of heavy cruisers, and saw service at Makin, in the Marshall Islands, supported the fast carriers during 1944 and 1945 and took part in the battle of Okinawa. She was briefly recalled to the fleet in the 1950s, but didn't serve in Korea. She was awarded nine battle stars for service in the Second World War.

The Baltimore was laid down in May 1941, launched in July 1942 and commissioned on 15 April 1943. Her shakedown cruiser took her to the Caribbean in July and she was available to join the fleet by September.

The Baltimore reached Pearl Harbor on 29 October and was assigned to Task Force 52. On 10 November TF 52 sortied to take part in the invasion of Makin in the Gilbert Islands. Baltimore opened fire on shore targets at 6.40, firing 1,350 rounds from her guns during the day. After the initial invasion she was used to protect the escort carriers off Makin.

In November she was part of TU 50.1.1, protecting the carriers during raid on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The Baltimore fired 1,200 40mm and 20mm rounds during the resulting air battles in which the Japanese managed to score one torpedo hit on the Lexington (CV-16).

In January-February 1944 she took part in the invasion of the Marshall Islands. She escorted the carriers Saratoga, Princeton and Cowpens as they raided Wotje and Taroa (29-30 January) and Eniwetok (3 February) and Truk (17-18 February).

In March she formed part of TG 36.2 during a raid on the Palau Islands (30 March). The fleet then attacked Yap, Ulithi and Woleai before returning to base. The next target was New Guinea, and on 21 April the carriers attacked targets around Hollandia. On 22 April US forces landing at Humboldt Bay and Tanahmerah Bay. Baltimore remained in the area on 23 April as the carriers supported the invasion.

Truk was the target on 29 April-1 May. Once again the Japanese responded with air attacks on the fleet, and on 29 April Baltimore helped repel four torpedo bombers. On 30 April she took part in a shore bombardment, firing 300 8in and 5in rounds at Satawan, south of Truk. On 1 May she helped the North Carolina (BB-55) after the battleships own spotting aircraft were lost.

Baltimore supported the carriers during raids on Marcus Island (19-20 May 1944), Guam and Rota (11-13 June), Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima (15-20 June), Pagan Island (23 June) and Iwo Jima (24 June).

In July she returned to the United States where she was turned into a Presidential flagship. President Roosevelt embarked on 21 July and she than carried him to Pearl Harbor, where he met with Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur. During this meeting the decision was made to begin the liberation of the Philippines with an invasion of Leyte, bypassing the southern Philippines. After the meeting Baltimore transported the President to Alaska. On 8 August the Presidential party transferred to the destroyer USS Cummings (DD-365) leaving the Baltimore free to return to San Francisco for a brief overhaul.

She returned to action in December 1944 as part of the escort for the fast carriers of TG 38.1. On 14-16 December the carriers attacked Luzon. On 18 December they ran into a major typhoon that sank three destroyers. The Baltimore suffered damage to her observation aircraft and to some of her 20mm and 40mm guns as well as the loss of two motor whaleboats, minor damage compared to some and she was ready for action on 30 December.

In January 1945 she protected the carriers as they attacked Formosa (3-4 January), Luzon (6-9 January), and during a raid into the South China Sea. On 21 January Japanese aircraft attacked the fleet, and Baltimorehelped shoot down 12 of 15 attacking aircraft.

In February she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Lloyd K. Wiltse (CruDiv 10). In this role she supported the carriers as they attacks Tokyo (16-17 February 1945) and Iwo Jima (20 February-5 March). After a brief break she escorted a raid that hit Kyushu (18-21 March), then the Ryukyu Islands and the Japanese Home Islands (27 March-30 April). These raids were carried out in support of the invasion of Okinawa.  

The Baltimore protected the carriers during a raid of Kyushu and Shikoku on 13 May. This was her final mission with the fast carrier force. From 17 May she was allocated to the fleet supporting the invasion of Okinawa, and operated off the island from then until 11 June, when she left to carry out repairs to bow damage suffered in a typhoon on 5 June.

That ended her wartime service. She was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese surrendered. After the end of the fighting she carried out three 'Magic Carpet' missions, travelling between Pearl Harbor and the US west coast with returning servicemen on board. She was then sent to Japan, where she remained from late November to early February 1946.

On 29 April 1947 the Baltimore was decommissioned, but this would prove to be temporary. She was recommissioned in November 1951 as the US Navy responded to the stresses of the Korean War. She didn't actually fight in Korea, but instead was used to free up other ships. She joined the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean from May to October 1952 and again from May to October 1953. During this second stint she visited Britain, where she represented the US Navy during Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Review. A third Mediterranean tour followed in May-September 1954

In 1955 the Baltimore was allocated to the Pacific Fleet. She joined the 7th Fleet in Japan in March 1955 and visited a wide range of Pacific ports before returning to the US in August.

This was her last active role. She was placed in the reserve at the start of 1956 and decommissioned for the second time on 31 May 1956. She wasn't chosen for conversion to a missile cruiser and remained with the reserve fleet until she was finally struck off the Navy List on 15 February 1971.

Displacement (standard)

14,472t

Displacement (loaded)

17,031t

Top Speed

33kts

Range

10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

4-6in

 - armour deck

2.5in

 - barbettes

6.3in

 - turrets

8in face
3in roof
2-3.75in sides
1.5 rear

 - conning tower

6in
3in roof

 - underwater magazines

3in side
2.5in deck

Length

673ft 5in oa

Armaments

Nine 8in guns (three triple turrets)
Twelve 5in/38 guns (six double positions)
Forty eight 40mm guns (11x4, 2x2)
Twenty four 20mm guns
Four aircraft

Crew complement

2039

Laid down

26 May 1941

Launched

28 July 1942

Completed

15 April 1943

Stricken

1971

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 January 2015), USS Baltimore (CA-68) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Baltimore_CA68.html

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