USS Chicago (CA-136)

USS Chicago (CA-136/ CG-11) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that entered service just in time to take part in the final bombardment of Japan during the Second World War, and that was later converted into a guided-missile cruiser.

The Chicago was laid down on 28 July 1943, launched on 20 August 1944 and commissioned on 10 January 1945. Her shakedown cruiser took her to the Caribbean and she was ready to leave for the Pacific by early May. She reached the fleet at Eniwetok on 5 July, arriving alongside the battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55). She joined Task Group 38.4 (Rear Admiral Radford) and joined the carrier screen for an attack on the Tokyo area on 10 July. Honshu and Hokkaido was the target on 13 July.

On 14 July Chicago was part of a bombardment force that included the battleships South Dakota (BB-57), Indiana (BB-58) and Massachusetts (BB-59), the cruiser Quincy (CA-71) and nine destroyers. She opened fire against industrial targets at Kamaishi at 12.12. A small Japanese destroyer attempted to come out of the harbour, and Chicago opened fire on the new target at 12.51. The Japanese ship retreated. The bombardment ended at 2.26pm.

During the second half of July the Chicago formed part of the carrier screen during a series of raids on Tokyo, Honshy and Hokkaido. On 28 July she formed part of a shore bombardment force again, this time alongside HMS King George V and a number of American battleships. This time the target was the port of Hamamatsu.

USS Chicago (CA-136), Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1945
USS Chicago (CA-136), Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1945

Most of August was taken up with carrier escort duty, but the Chicago took part in a two-hour bombardment of Kamaishi on 9 August. This was her last major action before the Japanese surrendered.

On 23 August the Chicago left the carriers and on 27 August she docked in Sagami Wan, close to Tokyo Bay. She entered Tokyo Bay itself on 3 September, where she helped prepare for the arrival of occupation forces. She left Tokyo on 23 October to visit the Izu Islands, where she helped destroy Japanese fortifications. On 7 November she departed to the US.

In January 1946 she left the US and returned to the Far East. She served as the flagship of the Yangtze Patrol Force from 18 February-28 March, then became the flagship of the Naval Support Force, Japanese Empire Waters. This period lasted until 14 January 1947 when she departed for the US. On 6 June 1947 she was decommissioned and placed into the reserve.

Guided Missile Cruiser

In 1958 the Navy began work on converting the Chicago into a guided missile cruiser. She was reclassified as CG-11 on 1 November 1958 and towed to San Francisco for the conversion work. The conversion began on 1 July 1959.

USS Chicago (CA-136) being converted into guided missile cruiser
USS Chicago (CA-136) being converted into guided missile cruiser

The Navy had already converted two Baltimore class cruisers into missile cruisers. Work on the Boston (CA-59) began in 1951, and she became CAG-1. Canberra (CA-70) was next, becoming CAG-2. These ships had their rear 8in turret and rear 5in turrets removed and replaced with Terrier missile launchers.

Albany, Chicago and Columbus were all given rather more extensive modifications to turn them into missile cruisers. The entire superstructure was removed and a new aluminium structure built. This featured 'Macks', combined masts and stacks, replacing both the existing masts and the two funnels. A large rectangular superstructure was built in front of the forward 'Mack', topped with the new bridge. Radar antennas were installed on top of the 'Macks'.

All of the 8in guns were replaced and the ships were armed with four missile launches. Two twin Talos surface to air missile launches were carried, one fore and one aft, both on the centre line. The RIM-8 Talos had a range of 60 miles and could launch a missile with a 465lb warhead or a 5 kiloton nuclear bomb.

The Chicago was also armed with triple torpedo tubes that could fire UUM-44 nuclear tipped anti-submarine torpedoes and could carry two anti-submarine helicopters. She also retained two 5in/ 38 guns.

The Chicago was recommissioned in her new role on 2 May 1964 and was assigned to Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Nine, Pacific Fleet. In September she joined the First Fleet instead and was used to test out the new missile systems. In January 1965 she carried out shock tests and damage control exercises. In June she was used for development tests on the Talos fire control system. She continued to be used as a test ship into 1966.

On 12 May 1966 the Chicago departed to the Pacific for her first combat tour. She reached Task Force 77, in the Tonkin Gulf off Vietnam on 13 June. Her first task was to use her advanced radar equipment to see if it was possible to conduct radar surveillance of all US naval aircraft operating over North Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin. This idea was quickly adopted, and she spent the rest of 1966 carrying out that role. She also watched out for enemy aircraft.

The first three quarters of 1967 was spent on the US west coast. In October she began a second deployment to Vietnam, arriving in November. She continued to carry out her air traffic control duties. In February 1968 she briefly moved to the Sea of Japan during a naval crisis caused by the North Koreans. This second tour of Vietnam ended in May 1968.

Her third tour of Vietnam began on 11 March 1969. This time she combined the air traffic control duties with Search and Rescue duties. Once again she had to move to the Sea of Japan, this time after North Korea shot down an EC-121 reconnaissance aircraft. She was back off Vietnam from 23 May to 1 July, and again from 1-25 August, this time adding electronic countermeasures to her normal duties.

A fourth tour of Vietnam began in October 1970. This tour lasted until February 1971 and involved similar duties to the earlier tours.

A fifth tour began in December 1971. During this tour she fired her Talos missions in anger, conducting two launches in February 1972 and two in March 1972, both aimed at North Vietnamese radar installations. She was about to finish this tour in early April when she was recalled after the North Vietnamese Army invaded the south. The United States supported the South Vietnamese with heavy air attacks on the North Vietnamese. The Chicago continued to carry out her air traffic control role during this period, monitoring all aircraft over the Gulf of Tonkin, and helping control fighter and bomber aircraft. On 9 May she shot down a MiG with her aft Talos missile battery. She came under heavy fire at Haiphong on 11 May, but wasn’t damaged. This tour ended on 21 June 1972.

In May 1974 the Chicago set off for another tour of the West Pacific. This time she didn't go to Vietnam, but instead carried out a long 'showing the flag' cruise in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden, in an attempt to counter the increasing Soviet presence in the area. The tour ended with a period of training in the Philippines before she left for the United States in November 1974.

The Chicagoreturned to the West Pacific in 1976. This tour involved a series of training exercises, and lasted until October 1976.

In September 1977 the Chicago began her eighth tour of the West Pacific. This lasted until April 1978 and once again was dominated by training exercises.

The Chicago's ninth and last tour of the West Pacific lasted from June to December 1979. On her return to the United States she was decommissioned (1 March 1980). She remained in the reserve until 8 February 1989 when she was removed from the Navy List. She was sold for scrap in 1991.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt


 - armour deck


 - barbettes


 - turrets

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

 - conning tower

3in roof

 - underwater magazines

3in side
2.5in deck


673ft 5in oa


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


Laid down

29 July 1943


20 August 1944


10 January 1945


1 January 1974

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 April 2015), USS Chicago (CA-136) ,

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