USS Columbus (CA-74)

USS Columbus (CA-74/ CG-12) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that was later converted into a guided missile cruiser and served in that role with the Atlantic Fleet into the 1970s.

USS Columbus (CG-12), 1974
USS Columbus (CG-12),

The Columbus was launched on 30 November 1944 and commissioned on 8 June 1945. She was ready to join the fleet by December, and reached China in mid-January 1946. She became the flagship of Cruiser Division One and operated in Chinese and Japanese waters. She took part in Operation 'Road's End' of 1 April 1946 in which twenty-four surviving Japanese submarines were sunk. Her first tour ended on the following day and she returned to the US. A second Pacific tour followed (15 January-12 June 1947).

In April 1948 the Columbus joined the Atlantic Fleet. She had two spells as the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Naval Forces Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (13 September 1948 to 15 December 1949 and 12 June 1950 to 5 October 1951 and one as the flagship of the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (25 August-29 September 1952). After that she served in the Mediterranean (October 1952-January 1953), with a spell as flagship of the 6th Fleet. Next came a spell as flagship of Cruiser Division 6 in the Mediterranean (September 1954-January 1955).

Her final tours in her original configuration were with the Pacific Fleet and occupied January to July 1956, and spells in 1957 and 1958. During the third tour she was part of the fleet that defended the Taiwan Straits to make sure that the Communist Chinese didn't invade Taiwan.

Guided Missile Cruiser

In 1959 the Navy began work on converting the Columbus into a guided missile cruiser. She was reclassified as CG-12 on 1 November 1958 and towed to San Francisco for the conversion work. The conversion began on 1 July 1959.

USS Columbus (CA-74),

The Navy had already converted two Baltimore class cruisers into missile cruisers. Work on the Boston (CA-69) began in 1941, 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 Columbus 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 Columbus was recommissioned on 1 December 1962. While her sister ship Chicago served in Vietnam, the Columbus joined the Atlantic Fleet. She remained with the Atlantic Fleet until she was decommissioned on 31 January 1975. She was struck off the Navy List on 9 August 1976 and sold for scrap in 1977.

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

28 June 1943


30 November 1944


8 June 1945


9 August 1976

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 February 2015), USS Columbus (CA-74) ,

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