USS Northampton (CA-125)

USS Northampton (CA-125/ CLC-1/ CC-1) was laid down as a Baltimore class heavy cruiser, but was completed as a command and control ship and ended up as a Presidential Command Post to be used in case of a nuclear war.

The Northampton was laid down on 31 August 1944. Work continued on her for nearly a year, but was suspended on 11 August 1945 after the end of the Second World War. Work resumed on 1 July 1948, but by then her role had been changed.

The Northampton was completed as a Command and Control Ship, and had been redesignated as CLC-1 by the time she was launched on 27 January 1951. She had a very different layout to the earlier ships in the Baltimore class. In order to carry out her new role she needed more internal space and much better communications.

USS Northampton (CLC-1) being launched
USS Northampton (CLC-1) being launched

Space was provided in two ways. First, she was given an extra deck, built above the normal main deck. Second, she had a much larger forward superstructure. This has a curved front, with two rows of windows all around the structure and ran back to the foremast, which was enclosed in a flat sided structure. This gave her space for 450 staff officers and a ship's crew of 1,200 (the removal of the 8in guns and most of the 5in guns reduced the crew requirements).

Communication equipment included a 125 foot tall antenna mast that was located in front of the forward gun turret, a parabolic antenna on the foremast and several smaller radio masts on the fore and aft decks. Radar equipment was carried on the mainmast.

The ship was armed with four 5in/54 Mk 16 guns in single mountings. These were offset from the centreline so that they could still fire directly forward and aft without hitting the various radio masts. In 1962 almost all of her guns were removed, leaving her with only a single 5in gun.

The Northampton entered service with the Commander, Operation Development Forces, Atlantic Fleet. After seven months of tests with that unit, which ended in September 1954, she became flagship of the Battleship Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. She was ideally equipped for use as a flagship, and served in that role with the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet from October-November 1954, then as Flagship, 7th Fleet from December 1954-March 1955. This was followed by the first of several spells as flagship of the Commander, Strike Force, Atlantic, which on this occasion only lasted from 1 September to 22 October.

After this posting the Northampton underwent an overhaul, which lasted into February 1956. She then joined CruDiv 6, the first guided missile division for a brief spell, before in April rejoining the sixth fleet. In 1957 she was used for midshipmen training cruises.

USS Northampton (CLC-1) at Sea
USS Northampton (CLC-1) at Sea

In 1961 the Northampton's role was changed to be National Emergency Command Post Afloat (NECPA). In this role she was meant to serve as a Presidential command post in case of a nuclear war. She was redesignated as CC-1 on 15 April 1961. She carried out this role from 1961 until she was decommissioned early in 1970. As a result she didn't leave the western Atlantic, as she needed to be close enough for the President to reach her in an emergency. Although she was never needed in this role, she did host Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from time to time.  She was decommissioned after the US military decided to use aircraft for the emergency command post role.

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

31 August 1944


27 January 1951


7 March 1953


31 December 1977

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 March 2015), USS Northampton (CA-125) ,

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