USS New Orleans CA32

Introduction and Pre-War

USS New Orleans (CA-32) was the name ship of the New Orleans class of heavy cruisers and fought at the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf and during the invasions of the Gilbert Islands, the Marshal Islands, Hollandia, the Palau Islands and Okinawa. New Orleans received 16 battle stars for World War II service.

The New Orleans was laid down in March 1931, launched in April 1933 and commissioned in February 1934. Her shakedown cruiser took her to northern Europe, and on her return to the US she escorted USS Houston (CA-30), carrying President Roosevelt, as he cruised through the Panama Canal and witnessed an exercise with the unsuccessful airship Macon (designed to carry her own escort fighters, she was lost on 12 February 1935, although all but two of the crew survived).

In 1935 New Orleans joined Cruiser Division 6 in the eastern Pacific. She spent the second half of 1936 at New York, and then served from California from the end of 1936 until she was sent to Hawaii in October 1939.

Wartime Service  

USS New Orleans (CA-32), 8 March 1945
USS New Orleans (CA-32), 8 March 1945

On 7 December 1941 New Orleans was one of only two heavy cruisers that were docked at Pearl Harbor. Her engines were being repaired, and she was receiving power and light from the dockside. This was knocked out early in the attack leaving her crew to operate their anti-aircraft guns without any power assistance. She wasn't badly damaged during the attack, although did suffer some casualties from a near miss.

New Orleans was used to ferry troops to Palmyra and Johnston Islands, then in mid-January 1942 sailed to San Francisco to have the repairs completed, new anti-aircraft guns installed and search radar added. In February she escorted a troop convoy to Brisbane, and then escorted a convoy heading to Noumea before finally returning to Pearl Harbor, where she joined Task Force 11.

In April FF11 joined the Yorktown, and the combined forces took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7-8 May 1942), the first significant naval defeat for the Japanese. Their attempt to attack Port Moresby by sea was defeated, but the US did lose the carrier Lexington. The New Orleans rescued 580 of the Lexington's survivors.

The New Orleans escorted the carrier Enterprise during the Battle of Midway (June 1942).

 In July 1942 New Orleans joined the fleet supporting the invasion of Guadalcanal, where she was part of the covering forces for the Saratoga. During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons she came under heavy air attack but survived intact. Saratoga was torpedoed on 31 August and the New Orleans escorted her back to Pearl Harbor, a journey that took until 21 September.

The New Orleans was back in action in time to take part in the Battle of Tassafaronga (30 November 1942), where she was part of Task Force 67. During this battle the Minneapolis was hit by two torpedoes. New Orleans turned away to avoid a collision and was hit by a torpedo that caused a magazine explosion that blew her bows off. The bows then scrapped along the port side, adding more damage. New Orleans was very heavily damaged. Her speed was reduced to 2 knots and a severe fire had to be put out, but somehow she survived and managed to reach Tulagi on 1 December. The Japanese were still very active in the air, and so the damaged ship had to be camouflaged. Her crew built a new temporary bow out of coconut logs, and with this wooden bow she managed to reach Sydney, arriving on 24 December.

Initial repairs were carried out in Australia. On 7 March 1943 she set sail for Puget Sound Navy Yard, where she received a new bow and was fully repaired.

Side view of USS New Orleans (CA-32)
Side view of
USS New Orleans (CA-32)

New Orleans returned to Pearl Harbor on 31 August 1943 and returned to action on 5-6 October when she took part in a bombardment of Wake Island. In November she took part in the pre-invasion bombardment of the Gilbert Islands, then in early December helped support a carrier force attacking the eastern Marshalls. In a near-repeat of earlier events the new carrier Lexington was torpedoed, but the carrier survived. New Orleans escorted her back to Pearl Harbor.

In January 1944 the New Orleans supported the invasion of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. In February she took part in a carrier raid on Truk, and alongside the Minneapolis (also repaired since Guadalcanal) she helped sink the former Japanese cruiser Katori and the destroyer Maikaze.

In March she supported a carrier raid on the Caroline Islands. In April she supported the landings at Hollandia on New Guinea where she was hit by a damaged aircraft from the Yorktown. One man was killed and another was injured, but the ship remained in action. On 30 April she took part in a shore bombardment of Truk and Satawan.

Next came the invasion of the Marianas. The New Orleans bombarded Saipan on 15-16 June, then joined the carrier screen during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, helping to shoot down the few Japanese aircraft that got close to the American fleet.  She supported the fighting on Saipan and Tinian into August then took part in a raid on the Bonin Islands and a bombardment of Iwo Jima at the start of September.

In September she supported the invasion of the Palau Islands. She then escorted the carriers as they raided Okinawa, Forosa and Luzon, inflicting very heavy damage on the Japanese air forces near the Philippines. The Japanese responded to the American invasion of Leyte with a massive naval attack, but their last great effort ended in defeat at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The New Orleans spent most of the battle protecting the carriers, but also took part in the sinking of the Japanese carrier Chiyoda and the destroyer Hatsutsuki. After the battle she took part in operations to support the invasion of Mindoro before ending the year with a refit at Mare Island.

The New Orleans returned to the fleet in April 1945 and arrived off Okinawa on 23 April. She was used as a shore bombardment ship using the battle for Okinawa, spending two months performing that role. In June she left for a spell of replenishment and repair in the Philippines and she was still there at the end of the war.

After the end of the fighting New Orleans formed part of a force of cruisers and destroyers that accepted the surrender of Japanese forces around the coasts of Korea and China, including at Tsingtao. In November she left China for the United States, carrying returning veterans. She reached San Francisco with this first batch of troops on 8 December. Her last active mission was a second 'magic carpet' cruise, bringing troops back from Guam (January 1946). She then visited New Orleans before reaching Philadelphia Navy Yard in March 1946.

The New Orleans was decommissioned in February 1947 and struck off the Navy List in March 1959. She was sold for scrap in September 1959.  

Wartime Modification

All members of the New Orleans class received quad 1.1in gun mounts early in 1942, with two on the quarterdeck and two at the same level as the chart house. They also got search radar and had the foremast reduced in height.

All four of the ships that survived 1942 were given more anti-aircraft guns over time, with six quad 40mm mountings replacing the 1.1in guns and 20mm guns in single mountings added in large numbers. They didn’t have much spare weight for these additions and so the conning tower and one of the cranes were removed and the bridge lightened. In 1945 one of the aircraft catapults was also removed. New Orleans ended up with 28 single 20mm guns.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

5in to 3.25in over 0.75in STS

 - over machinery


 - magazines

4in-3in side
2.25in above

 - barbettes


 - turrets

6in face
2.25in roof
1.5in side


588ft oa


Nine 8in/55 guns (three 3-gun turrets)
Eight 5in/25 guns (eight single positions)
Eight 0.5in guns (eight single positions)
Four aircraft

Crew complement


Laid Down

14 March 1931


12 April 1933


15 February 1934


1 March 1959

US Heavy Cruisers 1941-45: Pre War Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'treaty cruisers' built in the US between the wars, limited by treaty to 10,000 tons and 8in guns. Five classes of treaty cruisers were produced and they played a major role in the fighting during the Second World War, despite the limits imposed on them by the treaty restrictions. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 November 2014), USS New Orleans CA32 ,

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