USS Alaska (CB-1944)

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The United States Navy took great pains to assure the world that the Alaska class were NOT battlecruisers. The US Navy even created the "CB" designation of "Large Cruiser" just for these ships. I have never been able to figure out what the US Navy had against the Battlecruiser designation, maybe they had promised Congress they would never build any after Jutland. The sight and photos of British Battlecruisers exploding would be enough to put anybody off the type.

So what prompted the US Navy to lay down six units of a class they did not like? Germany still had two of their Panzerschiff's available to go raiding, and rumour had the Japanese building their own version of the Panzerschiff raiders (B64-65). To serve as "cruiser-killers" capable of seeking out and destroying these new heavy cruiser types, the class was given large guns of a new and expensive design, limited armour protection against 12-inch shells, and machinery capable of speeds of about 3133 knots. (Sounds like the description of a battlecruiser to me!)

From what I have read while they were good looking ships, with very accurate main guns, they were a disappointment in service. The same machinery as the Essex class was used for the ships and while that machinery worked well in the Essex, it had problems in the Alaska type. For the same resources that could have been poured into the six of these ships, another four Iowa class could have been built. Cancel this class entirely and the resources to complete the Kentucky and Illinois would have been available.




As large escorts to the aircraft carriers, they were not as good as the Washington and Iowa classes with their 20x5" and huge batteries of 40mm and 20mm AA guns. They were considered too vulnerable to be used in action against the Japanese light forces where they could be exposed to the 24" torpedo.



The photo above shows just how much more massive the Iowa class were when compared to the Alaska.
 

Displacement
  • 29,771 long tons (30,249 t) (standard)
  • 34,253 long tons (34,803 t) (full load)[1]
Length
  • 808 ft 6 in (246.43 m) overall[1]
  • 791 ft 6 in (241.25 m) waterline
Beam 91 ft 9.375 in (28.0 m)[1]
Draft 27 ft 1 in (8.26 m) (mean)[8] 31 ft 9.25 in (9.68 m) (maximum)[1]
Propulsion
  • 4-shaft General Electric steam turbines, double-reduction gearing,[2] 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers[3]
  • 150,000 shp (110,000 kW)[1]
Speed 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)[9][3][10][6]
Range 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)[1]
Complement 1,517[3][6]1,799[7]2,251[8][9][B]
Armament
Armor
  • Main side belt: 9 in (230 mm) gradually thinning to 5 in (130 mm), sloped at 10 degrees[3]
  • Armor deck: 3.84 in (97102 mm)[3]
  • Weather (main) deck: 1.4 in (36 mm)[1][3]
  • Splinter (third) deck: 0.625 in (15.9 mm)[3]
  • Barbettes: 1113 in (280330 mm)[3]
  • Turrets: 12.8 in (330 mm) face, 5 in (130 mm) roof, 5.256 in (133152 mm) side and 5.25 in (133 mm) rear.[3]
  • Conning tower: 10.6 in (270 mm) with 5 in (130 mm) roof[3][6]
Aircraft carried 4  OS2U Kingfisher or SC Seahawk[5][A]
Aviation facilities Enclosed hangar located amidships[3][4]

Stats sourced from Wikipaedia.


 


Only two years after the war the ships were laid up then mothballed till they were broken up in 1960-61. They were round pegs in a square hole navy.



Many different ideas were floated for the use of the third hull launched as USS Hawaii. The main contender was the conversion to a command cruiser (CC-1) as was carried out on the USS Northampton (CLC-1) an ex-heavy cruiser. Convert it to an aircraft carrier, an improved Saipan type. Again as with the Iowa conversion, another large aircraft carrier was not required with so many Essex class entering service. One idea I liked was the conversion of the ship to the first "all automatic" gun cruiser. 12x8" 8x5" 24x3". A floating ammunition barge.



 

List of Alaska-class cruisers
Name Namesake Pennant Builder Ordered Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
Alaska Territory of Alaska CB-1 New York Shipbuilding CorporationCamden 9 September 1940 17 December 1941 15 August 1943 17 June 1944 17 February 1947 Broken up at Newark, 1961
Guam Territory of Guam CB-2 2 February 1942 12 November 1943 17 September 1944 Broken up at Baltimore, 1961
Hawaii Territory of Hawaii CB-3
CBC-1
20 December 1943 3 November 1945 Broken up at Baltimore, 1960
Philippines Commonwealth of the Philippines CB-4 Cancelled June 1943
Puerto Rico Territory of Puerto Rico CB-5
Samoa Territory of American Samoa CB-6


Sort of view the Hawaii may have looked like as a command cruiser. (Above is USS Northampton CLC-1)
 

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