USS Northampton CA-26

USS Northampton (CA-26) was the nameship of the Northampton class of heavy cruisers. She fought in the Pacific early in the Second World War but was sunk at the battle of Tassafaronga on 30 November 1942. She won six battle stars before she was lost.

The Northampton was laid down on 12 April 1928, launched on 5 September 1929 and commissioned as CL-26 on 17 May 1930. She became CA-26 during 1931 when the US Navy decided to divide its cruisers by gun size, with the 8in cruisers become heavy cruisers and the 6in and smaller cruisers becoming light cruisers.

USS Northampton (CA-26), early 1930s
USS Northampton (CA-26),
early 1930s

After a shakedown cruise in the Mediterranean the Northampton briefly served in the Atlantic, before moving to the Pacific in 1932. For most of the 1930s her home port was San Diego. She served as the flagship of CruDiv 4, then in the summer of 1940 became part of CruDiv 5. By 1941 her home base was Pearl Harbor.

On 7 December 1941 the Northampton was part of the escort for the carrier Enterprise as she returned from Wake Island. This force returned to Pearl Harbor on 8 December before sailing on 9 December to search for the Japanese. On 1 February 1942 she and the Salt Lake City (CA-25) bombarded Wotje, destroying fuel dumps and sinking two Japanese ships. She also bombarded Wake on 24 February, while on 4 March she supported a carrier attack on Marcus Island.

In April 1942 the Northampton was part of the force that launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. She just missed the Battle of the Coral Sea, but was present at Midway in June 1942. She was part of the carrier screen for the Enterpriseduring these battles.

USS Northampton (CA-26) bombarding Wotje or Maloelap, 1 February 1942
USS Northampton (CA-26) bombarding Wotje or Maloelap, 1 February 1942

In August 1942 the Northampton joined the fleet that was supporting the invasion of Guadalcanal. She was present when the carrier Wasp was torpedoed on 15 September, then screened the Hornet during an attack on Bougainville. She was present at the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (26 October 1942), a carrier battle, where she took part in attempts to save the carrier Hornet.

After this battle the Northampton joined the mixed cruiser and destroyer fleet that attempted to prevent the Japanese from reinforcing their troops on Guadalcanal. She was involved in the last major naval battle of the campaign, the battle of Tassafaronga (30 November 1942).

Although the Americans had the stronger fleet at this battle they came off much the worse in the fighting. Early on the cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans were hit by torpedoes and forced to withdraw. Soon afterwards the Pensacolawas also hit and badly damaged. This just left the Honolulu, which avoided major damage and the Northampton. The Northampton was hit by two torpedoes on the port side. A large hole was blown in the port side of the ship, and she began to take on water. She took on a heavy list but stayed afloat for several hours. After three hours the order was given to abandon ship. The survivors were rescued by destroyers while the Northampton sank soon after she was abandoned.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

3in over machinery
1in deck

 - magazines

3.75in side
2in deck

 - barbettes


 - gunhouses

2.5in face
2in roof
0.75in side and rear


600ft 3in oa


Nine 8in guns (three 3-gun turrets)
Four 5in guns (four single positions)
Six 21in torpedo tubes
Four aircraft

Crew complement

617? (734-48 for USS Chicago and USS Houston)

Laid down

12 April 1928


5 September 1929


17 May 1930


1 December 1942

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]
cover cover cover


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 March 2014), USS Northampton CA-26 ,

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