Brooklyn Class Cruisers

The Brooklyn class cruisers were the first 6in cruisers to be built for the US Navy after the London Naval Treaty imposed limits on the number of 8in cruisers that could be built.

USS Brooklyn (CL-40) in the Hudson River, 1939
USS Brooklyn (CL-40)
in the Hudson River, 1939

The inter-war US cruisers were all limited by the series of naval treaties. The first post-war cruisers were limited by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, which allowed for an unlimited number of 10,000 ton cruisers armed with 8in guns. This was followed by the London Naval Treaty of 1930 which allowed the United States to build eighteen 8in cruisers with a total displacement of 147,000 tons and any number of 6.1in cruisers up to a total displacement of 147,000 tons.

Crew of USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938
Crew of USS Savannah (CL-42), 1938

The US Navy preferred the 8in cruisers, but it agreed to these treaty restrictions because it believed it could build a 10,000 ton cruiser armed with twelve 6in guns and with better protection than heavy cruisers. This was true of the Portland class, which were about to be laid down in 1930 and had a belt 5.75in thick over the magazines and 2.25in thick over the machinery, but they were followed by the New Orleans class, which had a 5in armour belt and was generally better protected. The hope was that the faster rate of fire achieved by the quick firing 6in gun would allow the new cruisers to overwhelm slower firing 8in cruisers.

USS Philadelphia (CL-41) in Philadelphia Navy Yard, 7 October 1937
USS Philadelphia (CL-41)
in Philadelphia Navy Yard,
7 October 1937

It took some time to agree on the design for the Brooklyn class cruisers. Work began in the autumn of 1930 and six alternative designs were produced. The winner was a 9,600 ton cruiser armed with four triple 6in turrets and similar levels of armour to the New Orleans class. This design emerged early in 1931, and the Navy wanted to build the first cruisers as part of the 1933 programme.

This design then had to be modified to make space for the new 1.1in quad anti-aircraft guns. One of the changes made at this stage was to move the aircraft from their normal position amidships to a new position on the stern. This would be the standard layout for future US cruisers, as would be the use of a hanger that was sunk into the quarterdeck. As well as clearing space in the middle of the ship, this reduced the danger of an aviation fuel fire by moving it away from the vulnerable parts of the ship.

USS Nashville (CL-43) bombarding Kiska, 8 August 1943
USS Nashville (CL-43) bombarding Kiska, 8 August 1943

USS Saint Louis (CL-49) at Tulagi, 1943
USS Saint Louis (CL-49) at Tulagi, 1943

A second set of designs were produced during 1931 and the early months of 1932. These carried up to sixteen guns in ships of different sizes and shapes. The eventual decision to carry fifteen 6in guns was triggered by a March 1933 attaché report on the new Japanese Mogami class cruisers, which were designed to carry fifteen 6.1in guns on an 8,500 ton displacement. The Mogami class cruisers turned out to be weakly constructed and soon after being built the first two had to be reinforced, bringing them up to 11,200t standard displacement.

The final design for the Brooklyn class cruisers was armed with fifteen rapid firing 6in guns in five triple turrets, two aft and three forward. Turret No.2 was mounted above No.1 and No.3, so only two turrets could fire directly forward.

Anti-aircraft guns on USS Phoenix (CL-46), Mindoro, 1944
Anti-aircraft guns
on USS Phoenix (CL-46),
Mindoro, 1944

They were designed to have an immune zone again 6in shell fire of 8,000-23,000 yards against shells hitting at 60 degrees. They carried a total of 1,798 tons of armour. The included a 5in thick waterline belt built over a steel skin, 2in deck armour, 2-5in bulkheads at the ends of the belt, 6in armour for the barbettes and 6.5in on the turret faces.

They were the first US cruisers to use longitudinal framing in an effort to reduce the hull weight. They were powered by 4-shaft Parsons turbines and eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers. In the first seven ships in the class the boiler rooms were all grouped ahead of the turbines, but in Helena and St Louis this was changed to alternating engine and boiler rooms in order to reduce the changes of a single blow knocking out all power.

Secondary armament was provided by eight 5in guns. The first seven ships carried eight single 5in/25 guns, mounted in a row on each side of the superstructure amidships. The last two carried eight 5in/38 guns in four twin gunhouses. The same guns were later installed on the Savannah during repairs after the battle of Salerno.

Side view of USS Boise (CL-47)
Side view of
USS Boise (CL-47)

USS Helena (CL-50), c.1940
USS Helena (CL-50),
c.1940

After all of the work done to accommodate the 1.1in gun it wasn't ready in time, and the Brooklyn class ships were given 0.50in machine guns for short range anti-aircraft fire instead. This would quickly prove to be inadequate and as with most US warships they would eventually be given many more light AA guns.

The Brooklyn class design was considered to be generally superior to the previous heavy cruisers, and it was used as the basis of the 8in cruiser Wichita and the wartime Baltimore class. However the next light cruisers, the Atlanta class, were restricted by the London Naval Treaty of 1936, which allowed for the construction of 8,000 ton cruisers armed with 6in. Attempts to develop a dual purpose 6in gun was too slow, and they were eventually armed with a dual purpose 5in gun instead, making them the lightest and most lightly armed American cruisers of the Second World War.

The nine ships in the class were ordered in three batches. The first four (CL-40 to CL-42) were part of the 1933 emergency programme. Three (CL-46 to CL-48) were ordered in 1934. The final two (CL-49 and CL-50) were ordered to replace the first two ships of the Omaha class, which were reaching the end of their official lifespan under the Naval Treaties. They had been laid down before the start of 1920, so were 'over-age' sixteen years after being completed, or in 1939 for USS Omaha (C-4) and Milwaukee (C-5). Replacement ships could be laid down three years earlier, and work on St Louis (CL-49) and Helena (CL-50) began in December 1939.
 
The outbreak of the Second World War ended the treaty restrictions, and in the end both the Omaha class ships and their replacements were in service at the same time. 

Ship Histories

Brooklyn (CL-40) served on convoy protection duties in the Atlantic in 1942, then took part in Operation Torch. In 1943 she supported the invasion of Sicily and the Salerno landings. In 1944 she supported the Anzio landings and Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France. After a refit she returned to the Atlantic for the rest of the war. 

Philadelphia (CL-41) took part in the US takeover of Iceland. In 1942 she took part in convoy escorts in the Atlantic, and well as Operation Torch. In 1943 she supported the invasion of Sicily and the Salerno landings. In 1944 she fought at Anzio and during the invasion of the South of France. After a refit she returned to the Atlantic routes.

Savannah (CL-42) also served in the Atlantic and took part in Operation Torch, the invasion of Sicily and the Salerno landings. During this last mission she was hit by a FX-1400 radio controlled bomb and very badly damaged. She was repaired in the United States and then used as a training ship on the East Coast.

Nashville (CL-43) served at Iceland in 1941 and on the Neutrality Patrol. Early in 1942 she moved to the Pacific and took part in the Doolittle raid of April 1942. She fought in the Aleutians, the last battles around Guadalcanal, and off New Georgia. In May 1943 she suffered a magazine explosion and had to return to the US for repairs. She returned to join the Seventh Fleet and took part in the campaigns on New Guinea and the Philippines. At the end of the war she was operating off Borneo.

Phoenix (CL-46) was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack, but was undamaged. She was used to protect convoys between the US and Australia. She operated with ANZAC forces into 1943. She served with the Seventh Fleet during the advance along New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands and during the invasion of the Philippines.

Boise(CL-47) fought in the waters around Guadalcanal until she was damaged by gunfire at the battle of Cape Esperance (October 1942). Repairs took until March 1943 and she them moved east to take part in the landings on Sicily and at Salerno. She then returned to the Pacific and took part in the New Guinea, Philippines and Borneo campaigns.

Colour Picture of USS Honolulu (CL-48), Spring 1944
Colour Picture of USS Honolulu (CL-48), Spring 1944

Honolulu (CL-48) suffered minor damage at Pearl Harbor. She was used as a convoy escort, then fought in the Aleutians. She moved to Guadalcanal, where she fought at the battle of Tasafaronga. She helped sank the destroyer Niisuki at the battle of Kula Gulf and the cruiser Jintsu at the battle of Kolombangara. She was badly damaged in the second battle and needed repairs that kept her out of action to November 1943. After her return she took part in the invasions of Saipan, Guam and Leyte, but she was damaged at the last battle and missed the rest of the war. 

St Louis (CL-49) was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. She fought in the Aleutians, then at Guadalcanal. She supported the landings on New Georgia and fought at the battle of Kula Gulf. She was badly damaged at the battle of Kolombangara and had to return to the US for repairs. She returned in time to take part in the Bougainville campaign. In 1944 she was with the Fifth Fleet for the invasion of Saipan and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She was hit by a kamikaze aircraft at Leyte Gulf on 27 November and this time the repairs lasted until March 1945. She took part in the carrier raids on Japan and the invasion of Okinawa.

Helena (CL-50) was the only member of the class to be lost in action. She was hit by a torpedo at Pearl Harbor but was repaired in time to take part in the Guadalcanal campaign. She helped sink the cruiser Furataka and the destroyer Fubuki at the  battle of Cape Esperance (October 1942). She fought at the Battle of Santa Cruz and the Battle of Savo Island. In March 1943 she joined TF68 off New Georgia. During the battle of Kula Gulf (5/6 July) she was hit by a torpedo and sank.
 

Displacement (standard)

9,767t

Displacement (loaded)

12,207t

Top Speed

32.5kts

Range

10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

5in on 0.625in STS

 - deck

2in

 - barbettes

6in

 - turrets

6.5in face
2in roof
1.25in side and rear

 - conning tower

5in
2.25in roof

Length

608ft 4in

Armaments

Fifteen 6in/47 guns (five triple turrets)
Eight 5in/25 guns (/38 on St Louis, Helena) (eight single positions)
Eight 0.5in guns
Four aircraft

Crew complement

868

Ships in Class

Fate

CL40 USS Brooklyn

To Chile 1951

CL41 USS Philadelphia

To Brazil 1951

CL42 USS Savannah

Broken up 1960

CL43 USS Nashville

To Chile 1951

CL46 USS Phoenix

To Argentina 1951

CL47 USS Boise

To Argentina 1941

CL48 USS Honolulu

Broken up 1960

CL49 USS St Louis

To Brazil 1951

CL50 USS Helena

Sunk 6 July 1943

WWII Home Page | WWII Subject Index | WWII Books | WWII Links | Day by Day

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 January 2015), Brooklyn Class Cruisers , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_brooklyn_class_cruisers.html

Delicious Save this on Delicious

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies