USS Helena (CA-75) (originally Des Moines)

USS Helena (CA-75) was a Baltimore class heavy cruiser that saw combat during the Korean War. She was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation of the Republic of Korea and the Korean Service Medal with four stars.

The Helena was originally laid down as the Des Moines (CA-75). After the Brooklyn class light cruiser Helena (CL-50) was sunk in 1943 the new Cleveland class light cruiser CL-113 was named in her honour, but this ship was cancelled in 1944. In order to keep the name alive CA-75 was renamed as USS Helena. The name Des Moines ended up being used on the name ship of a post-war class of cruisers that carried automatic 8in guns.

USS Helena (CA-75) fires Regulus Missile, 1957
USS Helena (CA-75)
fires Regulus Missile, 1957

The Helena was launched on 28 April 1945 and commissioned on 4 September 1945, too late to take part in the Second World War. She was present for the Navy Day celebrations at New York on 27 October 1945 and then carried out her shakedown cruise.

The Helena's first operational deployment to European waters, where she became the flagship of Admiral H. Kent Hewiit, commander of Naval Forces, Europe and 12th Fleet. She spent three months operating in northern European waters, especially around Britain.

On 1 May she was replaced as flagship and began what became a round-the-world cruise. She passed through the Suez Canal, visited Indian Ocean ports and joined the Far Eastern fleet at Tsingtao. She left Shanghai in March 1947 and returned to US waters after a year-long voyage.

From April-December 1948 she was deployed to the Far East. In the spring of 1949 she received a new crew. In May she conducted a Naval Reservist cruise. She was then converted to carry helicopters. Another training cruise followed in July-August.  The year ended with a training exercise off Hawaii. 

During the first half of 1950 she was the flagship of the 7th Fleet in the Far East. She departed to the US on 21 May 1950, where she prepared for a major overhaul, but the outbreak of the Korean War changed that. Instead she was ordered back to the Pacific.

The Helena fired her first shots in anger on 7 August 1950, hitting railway marshalling yards near Tanchon. She became the flagship of the Bombardment Task Force and was used for shore bombardment duties along the east coast of Korea. This first combat tour ended in November 1950.

After undergoing a refit the Helena returned to Korea in April 1951, and joined the fast carrier group (Task Force 77). She had a mix of roles, providing anti-aircraft support for the carrier and also conducting shore bombardment missions. Some of these took her very close inshore. In late July she was hit by shore fire while operating within a harbour. This tour lasted until late in the year and she didn't return to the US until December 1951. By this point she had fired so many 8in salvoes that her guns needed to be replaced.

USS Helena (CA-75) bombarding Chongjin, 12-13 October 1950
USS Helena (CA-75) bombarding Chongjin, 12-13 October 1950

The Helena's third combat tour began in June 1952. She joined Task Force 77 and once again was used for shore bombardment duties. In late November she was called away for transport duties. Her passengers included Admiral Arthur W. Radford, C-in-C of the Pacific Fleet and President-Elect Eisenhower. She carried them to Pearl Harbor, arriving in mid-December, and then continued on to Long Beach, arriving on 16 December.

By the time the Helena returned to the Far East the Korean War was over. Her first post-war tour began in August 1953, her second in October 1954,  her third in January 1956, her fourth in April 1957 (this time as flagship), her fifth in August 1958 and her sixth and final in January 1960.

In January 1961 the Helena became the flagship of the 1st Fleet. This involved a mix of duties on the US West Coast and in the Far East, some ceremonial and some training.

The Helena was decommissioned on 29 June 1963 and struck off the Navy List on 1 January 1974. She was sold for scrap in October 1974.    

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

9 September 1943


28 April 1945


4 September 1945


1 January 1974

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 February 2015), USS Helena (CA-75) (originally Des Moines) ,

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