Brooklyn-class cruiser

The Brooklyn-class cruisers were nine light cruisers of the United States Navy that served during World War II. Armed with five (three forward, two aft) triple turrets mounting 6-inch (152mm) guns, they mounted more heavy-caliber guns than any other US cruisers. The Brooklyns were all commissioned between 1937 and 1939, in the time between the start of the war in Asia and before the outbreak of war in Europe. They served extensively in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters during World War II. Though some were heavily damaged, all but Helena survived the war. All of the survivors were decommissioned shortly after the end of the war, and five were transferred in 1951, to South American navies, where they served for many more years. One of these, ARA General Belgrano, formerly USS Phoenix (CL-46), was sunk during the Falklands War in 1982.[4]

USS Brooklyn (CL-40)
Class overview
Name: Brooklyn-class cruiser
Preceded by: Omaha class
Succeeded by: Atlanta class[1]
Built: 1935–1938
In service: 1938–1992
In commission: 1937–1982[2]
Planned: 9
Completed: 9
Lost: 2
Retired: 7
General characteristics ([3])
Type: Light cruiser
  • 9,767 long tons (9,924 t) (standard)
  • 12,207 long tons (12,403 t) (full load)
Length: 606 ft (185 m) oa
Beam: 62 ft (19 m)
Draft: 23 ft (7.0 m)
Installed power:
  • 4 × Parsons geared turbines
  • 4 × shafts
Speed: 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph)
Range: 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 868
Aircraft carried: 4 × floatplanes
Aviation facilities: 2 × catapults

The Brooklyn-class ships were a strong influence on US cruiser design. Nearly all subsequent US cruisers, heavy and light, were directly or indirectly based on them.[4] Notable among these are the Cleveland-class light cruiser and Baltimore-class heavy cruiser of World War II.


The Brooklyn-class design was a further refinement of the New Orleans-class heavy cruiser that preceded it.[5] The desire for the Brooklyns arose from the London Naval Treaty of 1930, which limited the construction of heavy cruisers, i.e., ships carrying guns with calibers between 6.1 and 8 inches (155 and 203 mm). Great Britain needed trade control cruisers and hoped that the treaty would limit nations to smaller cruisers with a 6,000-to-8,000-long-ton (6,096 to 8,128 t) range that she could afford. Agreement to the London Treaty and the proceeding with the American light cruiser design can be focused to Admiral William V. Pratt, who overrode the vehement objections of the General Board.[6] Under the treaty the US was allowed 180,000 long tons (182,888 t) for 18 heavy cruisers and 143,500 long tons (145,803 t), with no limit on the number of ships, for light cruisers.[7] The United States needed large cruisers to deal with the extreme ranges that operations in the Pacific Ocean required. Cruisers with 6-inch (150 mm) guns and 10,000 long tons (10,160 t) were therefore desired.[8] The US Navy's experience with the Omaha class was not all that could be hoped for. The light hull design caused a stressed hull and was very overweight. Design started in 1930, with the first four of the class ordered in 1933, and an additional three ships in 1934. Basic criteria had been that speed and range should match heavy cruisers, and when the Japanese Mogami class carrying fifteen 6-inch main guns appeared, the new US ships would match their weaponry. Various combinations of armor and power plants were tried in the efforts to stay below the Treaty 10,000 ton limit.[9] Aviation facilities were moved to the stern of the ship from the amidships position of the New Orleans-class cruisers.[10]

The last two ships of the class, St. Louis and Helena, were slightly modified versions of the design with new higher pressure boilers and a unit system of machinery that alternated boiler and engine rooms to prevent a ship from being immobilized by a single unlucky hit. Additionally, AA armament was improved. They were the first US cruisers to be armed with twin five-inch (127 mm) 38-caliber guns. They could be distinguished visually from the other Brooklyns by the placement of the after deckhouse, immediately abaft the second funnel, and by the twin 5-inch mounts.

From 1942, the bridge structure was lowered and radar was fitted.


The Brooklyn class was equipped with 15 6-in/47 caliber Mark 16 naval guns, developed from the 6-in/53 caliber Mark 8 used on the Omaha-class cruiser. The decision was reached as the gun could achieve up to ten rounds per minute rate of fire. This gave the class the ability to send up to 150 rounds a minute at its intended target. This allowed the cruiser to smother an enemy ship with fire. The turret arrangement was five turrets, each mounting three guns on a single sleeve, which did not allow the guns in a turret to move independently. The 6-inch guns were of a new design, the Mark 16, which could fire a 130-pound (59-kilogram) armor-piercing shell (AP) up to 26,100 yards (23,866 m) with twice the penetrative power of the old gun. The ammunition was of the semi-fixed type.[11] The impact of the shell changed the General Board's view on the usefulness of light cruisers in service.[12]

As designed, the anti-aircraft weaponry specified eight 5-inch (130 mm)/25 caliber guns and eight .50 inches (12.7 mm) caliber M2 Browning machine guns. The intention to mount 1.1-inch (27.9 mm)/75 caliber anti-aircraft guns were frustrated and the requirement was not fully met until 1943. The weapon as deployed was less than satisfactory frequent jamming and weight were serious issues.[13] Some of the class had 5-in/38 caliber guns installed versus the 5-in/25 guns.[14] There were varied mixes of 20-millimeter (0.79 in) Oerlikon cannons and 40-millimeter (1.6 in) Bofors gun mountings actually installed during World War II, 28 40 mm (4 × 4, 6 × 2) and twenty 20 mm (10 × 2) being the most common.[9]

Fire control

The Brooklyn class was deployed with the Mark 34 director and later the Mark 3 radar. This would be upgraded to the Mark 8 and again to the Mark 13 radar. The secondary battery was controlled by the Mark 28 and upgraded to the Mark 33 fire control systems. The associated radars were the Mark 4 fire control radar and upgraded again to the Mark 12. Two anti-aircraft fire directors were fitted to each ship. A late World War II refit saw the Mk 51 director installed for the Bofors guns. Night engagements were improved when in 1945, the Mark 57 and 63 directors in installed.[15]


The vast majority of cruisers built by the United States during World War II derive from the Brooklyn design.[4] Modifications of Brooklyn-class hull were the predecessors to the two main lines of wartime cruisers, respectively the Cleveland-class light cruiser armed with 6-inch guns and Baltimore-class heavy cruiser armed with 8-inch guns.[16]

This class would lead onto the Cleveland-class light cruiser (less a fifth triple 6-inch turret), of which two were upgraded as the Fargo-class cruiser. The other predecessor was USS Wichita, built on a modified Brooklyn-class hull, with a heavy cruiser armament featuring three rather than five triple turrets, but each turret containing larger 8-inch guns, and increased armor. Wichita was succeeded by the Baltimore class, including the Oregon City-class cruiser subclass, and the upgraded Des Moines-class cruiser. As the Baltimore class began building about a year after the Cleveland class, later developments and improvements were transferred to the Baltimore-class hull.

Finally, both Cleveland and Baltimore hulls were converted to light aircraft carriers. The Independence class of light aircraft carriers, were converted from Cleveland-class cruisers,[17] and the Saipan-class light carriers used the basic form of the Baltimore-class cruiser design.[18]

Brooklyn-class ships

Ship name Hull No. Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate Reference
Brooklyn CL-40 Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York City 12 March 1935 30 November 1936 30 September 1937 3 January 1947 Transferred to Chilean Navy as O'Higgins, 9 January 1951 [4]
Philadelphia CL-41 Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia 28 May 1935 17 November 1936 23 September 1937 3 February 1947 Transferred to Brazilian Navy as Barroso, 9 January 1951 [4]
Savannah CL-42 New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden 31 May 1934 8 May 1937 10 March 1938 3 February 1947 Sold for scrap, 25 January 1966 [4]
Nashville CL-43 24 January 1935 2 October 1937 6 June 1938 24 June 1946 Transferred to Chilean Navy as Capitán Prat, 9 January 1951 [4]
Phoenix CL-46 25 April 1935 19 March 1938 3 October 1938 3 July 1946 Transferred to Argentine Navy as Diecisiete de Octubre, 9 April 1951, renamed ARA General Belgrano 1956

Sunk, 2 May 1982, Falklands War

Boise CL-47 Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News 1 April 1935 3 December 1936 12 August 1938 1 July 1946 Transferred to Argentine Navy as Nueve de Julio, 11 January 1951 [4]
Honolulu CL-48 Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York City 9 December 1935 26 August 1937 15 June 1938 3 February 1947 Sold for scrap, 17 November 1959 [4]
St. Louis CL-49 Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company 10 December 1936 15 April 1938 19 May 1939 20 June 1946 Transferred to Brazilian Navy as Tamandare, 29 January 1951
Helena CL-50 Brooklyn Navy Yard 9 December 1936 27 August 1938 18 September 1939 N/A Torpedoed and sunk, 6 July 1943

Service history

War service

Several Brooklyns were seriously damaged during World War II, all but one of the cruisers survived. Boise was severely damaged by a shell that hit her in the forward turret magazine during the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 October 1942, suffering many casualties but the magazine (being partially flooded as a result of shell hits in her hull) did not explode. Nashville was hit by a kamikaze attack on 13 December 1944, off Mindoro, which killed or wounded 310 crewmen. Honolulu was torpedoed at the Battle of Kolombangara on 12–13 July 1943, as was her near-sister St. Louis. After being repaired in the United States, Honolulu returned to service only to be torpedoed by a Japanese aircraft on 20 October 1944, during the invasion of Leyte.[19] On 11 September 1943, Savannah was hit by a German Fritz X radio guided bomb which penetrated her #3 turret and blew out the bottom of the ship. Skillful damage control by her crew saved her from sinking. While under repair in the United States, Savannah and Honolulu were rebuilt with a bulged hull that increased their beam by nearly 8 feet (2.4 m) and their 5-inch guns were reinstalled as four twins, though the repairs to Honolulu were completed too late for her to see action again.[20]

Helena was sunk in 1943 during the Battle of Kula Gulf. The remains of the ship were discovered below the surface of New Georgia Sound by Paul Allen's research ship Petrel in April 2018. St. Louis was seriously damaged twice, but survived the war.


All ships of the class were deactivated by early 1947. Except for Honolulu and Savannah, which had been modernized with bulges, 5-in/38 secondaries, and Mk 37 directors and were retained for potential reactivation until sold for scrap in 1959 and 1966, respectively, the rest were sold to South American countries in the early 1950s, and served for many more years: Brooklyn and Nashville to Chile, St. Louis and Philadelphia to Brazil, and Boise and Phoenix to Argentina. ARA General Belgrano (ex-Phoenix) was torpedoed and sunk by HMS Conqueror during the Falklands War,[21] while O'Higgins (ex-Brooklyn) remained in service with the Chilean Navy until 1992. She sank under tow, on her way to the scrappers, in the mid Pacific in 1994.

See also


  1. Toppan, Andrew (22 January 2000). "US Cruisers List: Light/Heavy/Antiaircraft Cruisers, Part 1". Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  2. Rickard, J (18 May 2015). "USS Phoenix (CL-46)". Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  3. Whitley p. 248
  4. Ewing p. 76
  5. Friedman, Norman. US Cruisers: An illustrated design history, pp. 155–156
  6. Friedman, Norman. US Cruisers: An illustrated design history, pp. 164–165
  7. Friedman, Norman. US Cruisers: An illustrated design history, p. 187
  8. US Navy Light Cruisers location 77
  9. Whitley pp. 248–249
  10. Friedman, Norman. US Cruisers: An illustrated design history, p. 183
  11. Friedman, Norman. US Cruisers: An illustrated design history, p. 194
  12. Schreier, Konrad F. (1994). "The Chicago Piano". Naval History. United States Naval Institute. 8 (4): 44–46.
  13. US Navy Light Cruisers 1941–45 location 100 ISBN 1472811402
  14. US Navy Light Cruisers 1941–45 location 130 ISBN 1472811402
  15. Friedman, Norman. US Cruisers: An illustrated design history, p. 183
  16. Silverstone p. 48
  17. Fahey p. 9
  18. Ewing pp. 81–88
  19. Whitley p. 249
  20. Ewing pp. 77–88


  • Ewing, Steve (1984). American Cruisers of World War II. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. ISBN 0-933126-51-4.
  • Fahey, James C. (1945). The Ships and Aircraft of the United States Fleet. New York: Ships and Aircraft.
  • Preston, Anthony (1980). Cruisers. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 013-194902-0.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
  • Whitley, M J (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 1-85409-225-1.
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