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United States Heavy Cruiser Development (Part 1: The Treaty Cruisers)

Jracule US Navy United States Heavy Cruisers Cruisers Northampton Class Portland Class Pensacola Class

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Jracule #1 Posted 24 October 2013 - 01:36 AM

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After seeing how well my development history of US Battleships went over, I decided to start work on a series detailing Heavy Cruiser Designs. This will be a three part series broken down into:
  • Treaty Heavy Cruisers (Pensacola, Northampton, and Portland Classes)
  • Interim Heavy Cruisers (New Orleans and Wichita Classes)
  • Post-Treaty Heavy Cruisers (Baltimore, Oregon City, and Des Moines Classes)
   *The Alaska Class will be mentioned, but because it does not fit in with traditional Heavy Cruisers, it will mostly be left out*
United States Heavy Cruiser Development (Part 1: The Treaty Designs)
Interestingly Enough, the United States didn't gradually change from previous cruiser designs to more modern variants like other nations. Rather, the United States saw a massive leap in Cruiser design from the 1905 St. Louis Class to the Pensacola Class in the last 1920s. However, they appeared to hit the nail squarely on the head as the modern Pensacola Class set the base design for all future Cruisers. As a result, the Heavy Cruisers in the US Navy did not change from class to class as much as the cruisers did in other nations.
Pensacola Class
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First entering service in 1929, the two ships of the Pensacola Class served as the prototype for all future heavy cruiser design. Though changes were of course made, the general design of the Pensacola Class could still be seen in the Des Moines class nearly twenty years later.
The trademark feature of the Pensacola Class was its unusual gunnery arrangement. Not all the turrets were the same size or carried the same number of cannons. This makes the Pensacola class cruisers one of the few warship designs to have such a feature. (Other ships include the Nevada Class BB and the King George V Class BB) The reason for placing the guns like this was to improve the lines as well as place the heavier turrets closer to the ship's center. However, the drawback of this arrangement was that the ships were notoriously top heavy. The low freeboard of the ships also caused them to be extremely poor sea boats. Extensive work in the shipyard was required to correct this problem.
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(The Pensacola Class compared to the newer New Orleans class)
Interestingly enough, the Pensacola Class was similar to Japanese cruiser design in a few aspects. Notably an attempt to maximize the amount of Firepower for a given displacement and at the cost of other traits. Hence why the class squeezed in 10 guns as opposed to the standard 9 on all later vessels. Armor was also sacrificed in favor of heavy  firepower. However, due to the similar design philosophies, the Pensacola class has highly unstable just like the Japanese vessels.
The one area that the Pensacola class got right was the power plant. The US design board had long envisioned that cruisers needed to be capable of high speeds, whether of escort, commerce raiding, or chasing down combatants. Not only should the ship be quick, it also needed to be able to steam for long distances. The Pensacola class could both steam at 32.5 knots and cross the vast Pacific easily. These features would be important as the ship served throughout the Second World War.
Overall, the Pensacola Class Cruiser design was promising in regards to forming a basis for future advancement. Compared to other heavy cruisers of the time, it was neither fantastic or particularly poor. However, the US Navy still viewed the design as flawed and began developing the next series of Cruiser even as the Pensacola class was under development.
Northampton Class
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Entering service only a year after the Pensacola class, the Northampton class proved to be an even better design than its predecessors. While no great design departure, the Northampton incorporated several subtle changes over the Pensacola class that went a long way in improving the ship's capabilities.
On the subject of Firepower, the Northampton dropped the four turret design for 3 triple turrets with 2 turrets fore and one aft. This saved a lot of weight compared to the Pensacola design and made the ships less top heavy. The standard triple turrets were also cheaper to produce and easier to service. This in turn made the turrets and the ship more reliable. One less turret ring also had the benefit of enhancing the ship's structural strength, allowing it to take more damage.
Posted Image
Armor was the most notable advancement over previous designs. While the belt of the Pensacola class could be as thin as 2", the Northampton class had 3" armor at its thinnest sections. Deck, turret, and barbette armor was also improved.
Another welcome advancement was the inclusion of a higher forecastle which increased freeboard. The final three ships of the class had the forecastle further extended aft and the feature was also copied into all future designs. The Northampton class also had the distinction of being the first warships to have bunks for crew members instead of the traditional hammocks and a dedicated hanger for aircraft.
Interestingly enough, while US Navy designers considered the Northampton a step in the right direction, they still viewed the design as flawed. Amazingly, despite the large increase in armor, the Northampton class was actually lighter than the Pensacola class at 9,050 tons. The ship was only using 90% of its allowed tonnage and its light weight caused them to roll in heavy seas. Better use of weight was needed. Once again, an improved version was ordered and in less than two years, the Portland Class cruisers entered the scene.  
Portland Class
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Entering the scene in 1932, the Portland class was another subtle advancement in Cruiser design. Basically a modified Northampton class cruiser, the Portland class was designed to be heavier, better armored, and better protected. They were also to include the required facilities to act as flagships, a feature that required larger super structures compared to older designs.
While the Portland Class carried the same triple turret configuration and Mark 9 8"/55 guns as the preceding cruisers, the Portland class used improved ammunition that greatly increased the range of the cannons. The locations of the 5"/25 AA guns was also adjusted to provide better firing arcs. The Portland Class was also the first of the heavy cruisers to remove the torpedo tubes from the initial design as it became evident that gunnery would be the primary weapon for most engagements.
Armor was further improved in the class. Deck armor was increased to 2.5" and the belt was increased to a minimum of 3.5" and 5" over the magazines. Bulkheads were thickened to between 2" and 5.5" depending on the location. Turret armor was improved as was the armoring of the conning tower.
Posted Image
Despite being nearly 900 tons heavier than the Northampton Class and carrying the same amount of horsepower, the Portland class was slightly faster. A longer length and redesigned bow improved speed and range, allowing the ship to reach 32.7 knots or steam for 10,000 nautical miles at 15 knots. The improved forecastle of the later ships of the Northampton class was also carried over, making the Portland class a better sea boat compared to older cruisers.
Posted Image
Overall, the Portland class continued the heavy cruiser trend. Slightly better armored, slightly more firepower, and slightly more agile. However, a major problem still existed due to the Portland class still displacing less weight then intended. Though designed to be over 12,000 tons at full load, the ships never displaced more than 9,950 tons. Because of this, the ships also rolled excessively like older designs.
Because of these design problems, the Navy designers once again opted for a new design. 8 vessels were designed to be modified Northampton class vessels, however because of faults, the ships were then redesigned again. 2 Became the Portland Class vessels, while the remaining 6 were modified into the much improved New Orleans class. It was the New Orleans class that would herald in the next generation of heavy cruiser designs that put the US at the top of cruiser designs worldwide.
Overview of the Treaty Cruisers
From the introduction of the Pensacola cruisers, it became obvious to US naval designers that they had discovered a basic design with enormous potential. Following the Pensacola class, the US navy had settled on a design with a good balance of armor, firepower, and speed. This design was advanced over 8 generations into the most formidable vessels found worldwide. Even with the problems of the earlier designs, the ships still proved to be capable vessels and served throughout the Second World War with distinction.
*Notes* This article is shorter than my typical ones, but among my knowledge of cruisers, I know the least on these vessels. Part 2 and Part 3 will both be a great deal longer. Let me know what you think and as always I hope you enjoyed the article.
FURTHER READINGS
PART 2
PART 3
AA Weapons

tankwarhammer9000 #2 Posted 24 October 2013 - 01:40 AM

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thanks for sharing! very informative :)

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Stonewall72 #3 Posted 24 October 2013 - 02:15 AM

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Nice info - thanks for sharing! +1

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Guardsman322nd #4 Posted 24 October 2013 - 02:25 AM

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For the amount of ground this post covers and its brevity, this is a very good job.

Rebelknight #5 Posted 24 October 2013 - 04:24 PM

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Ok, you should have read more into the Pensacola Class, it was before the treaty and was NEVER designed to be a heavy cruiser. It was more like a CL with a CA punch. Its armor (and weight) was kept low because it was supposed to be a scout cruiser with 8" guns. The only reason it gets grouped with the CAs is because the treaty deemed all cruisers with 8" guns as heavys. Much of the "armor" on the upper decks and bridge was a an aluminum base metal. Ok so someone is going to say, "but it was built after the treaty so your wrong"... well the build part is correct... but unless you know anything about the US and how ships were designed and build in this era, you will not understand how hard it was to cheange a design (or even on this matter get everyone to agree for an example look at the Omaha's) The US navy was in BAD need of modern cruisers, so instead of going back to the drawing board AND the troubles that came with this, they went ahead with the building of these 2 ships class. Wikipedia doesn't go into detail on this, all it says is because of the treaty. The US navy studied the Jutland battle very closely, they relized that BBs are useless unless you know where the enemy is located, (this was before Radar) and the US lacked anything close to what was needed as a scout force. This is why when the Navy decided to build cruisers, it needed scouting cruisers and the Omaha's and the Pensacola's were supposed to fill the role as the 1st modern Cruisers in the US navy after WW1.

PLEASE don't think Im bashing or being negative, im just trying to inform.


Rebelknight #6 Posted 24 October 2013 - 04:31 PM

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Oh, also, let me add this, the reason Im so "strait forward" with that class, is because I got to interview a Vet from the Salt Lake City (Swayback Maru) and he was very adamant about correcting me calling it a "heavy cruiser" he said, "the only thing heavy about us was our guns, the rest of it was just bull." One of the BEST interviews ive ever done :)

Edited by Rebelknight, 24 October 2013 - 04:32 PM.


triptyx #7 Posted 24 October 2013 - 04:48 PM

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View PostRebelknight, on 24 October 2013 - 04:31 PM, said:

Oh, also, let me add this, the reason Im so "strait forward" with that class, is because I got to interview a Vet from the Salt Lake City (Swayback Maru) and he was very adamant about correcting me calling it a "heavy cruiser" he said, "the only thing heavy about us was our guns, the rest of it was just bull." One of the BEST interviews ive ever done :)

Nice.  I've had the opportunity to talk to a number of veterans over the years and the stories they tell are incredibly rich in history.  Speaking to someone who was present for the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese (and captured due to a turncoat Sergeant intentionally sending trucks right into their waiting arms) was especially interesting.

Jracule - I love Heavy Cruisers.  Really looking forward to parts two and three.  Keep up the good work!

Jracule #8 Posted 24 October 2013 - 07:41 PM

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View PostRebelknight, on 24 October 2013 - 04:24 PM, said:

Ok, you should have read more into the Pensacola Class, it was before the treaty and was NEVER designed to be a heavy cruiser. It was more like a CL with a CA punch. Its armor (and weight) was kept low because it was supposed to be a scout cruiser with 8" guns. The only reason it gets grouped with the CAs is because the treaty deemed all cruisers with 8" guns as heavys. Much of the "armor" on the upper decks and bridge was a an aluminum base metal. Ok so someone is going to say, "but it was built after the treaty so your wrong"... well the build part is correct... but unless you know anything about the US and how ships were designed and build in this era, you will not understand how hard it was to cheange a design (or even on this matter get everyone to agree for an example look at the Omaha's) The US navy was in BAD need of modern cruisers, so instead of going back to the drawing board AND the troubles that came with this, they went ahead with the building of these 2 ships class. Wikipedia doesn't go into detail on this, all it says is because of the treaty. The US navy studied the Jutland battle very closely, they relized that BBs are useless unless you know where the enemy is located, (this was before Radar) and the US lacked anything close to what was needed as a scout force. This is why when the Navy decided to build cruisers, it needed scouting cruisers and the Omaha's and the Pensacola's were supposed to fill the role as the 1st modern Cruisers in the US navy after WW1.
PLEASE don't think Im bashing or being negative, im just trying to inform.
Now let me prove my counter-argument.
  • Because I am doing the report from the design perspective, I am obligated to consider it a heavy cruiser without regards to the opinions of the sailors. This is actually a common occurrence that I have experienced before. Sailors on the Iowa class considered them true battleships, but the Naval Design Board actually considered the Iowa Class as true "fast battleships" and a completely separate entity from the actual line of US battleships.
  • The Pensacola class WAS directly influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. During the design process, they were specifically mentioned as "The first series of cruisers directly adhering to the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty"
  • The US Design Board was aware that under the treaty the Pensacola Design would be considered a Heavy Cruiser. This is the result of other nation's determining type of Cruiser based upon gunnery. The United States went further and based their designs on both gunnery and armor. This played a factor why they considered the Iowa Class special warships and not true battleships.
  • Based on armor alone, the US considered the Pensacola class a light design, however based on gunnery they realized that they had indeed a heavy cruiser, forcing them to reclassify the ships less than two years after launch. The Pensacola class was never considered a true light cruiser, but rather a lighter heavy cruiser.
  • Finally, there is also the possibility that the US attempted to classify the cruisers as light in an attempt to skirt the limitations of the Washington Treaty and thus allow them to build additional heavy cruisers. Evidence from this comes from lessons learned from trials. The Naval board was disappointed with the design and realized that they had effectively wasted 20,000 tons of allowed heavy cruiser tonnage. Thus they sought to free up some space. This was a common tactic among many nations struggling to adhere to the Naval Treaty limitations.

Edited by Jracule, 24 October 2013 - 07:41 PM.


Rebelknight #9 Posted 24 October 2013 - 08:28 PM

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Your forgetting something, the designing started BEFORE the treaty... "Although design studies began as early as 1919, the mood of the country was opposed to new armaments and no design was accepted before the naval disarmament treaties created the new category of heavy cruisers, which were limited to 10,000 tons displacement and 8" (203mm) guns. The Navy eventually looked at no less than seven designs ranging in displacement from 5000 to 10,000 tons and armed with 5" (127mm) to 8" (203mm) guns. A design began to emerge in November 1923 and was finalized in March 1925 that would become the Pensacola class." Look at the Omaha's, they went through the same thing, sooo many people kept trying to put inputs into the decision that it slowed things down, so instead of starting over they went ahead with what they had so that they could start building. The navy went 20 years without any new cruisers so we got the Omaha's and the Pensacola's as a stop gap. And if you want to look at a classification, with her LIGHT armor she was more like a hybrid, much like a BC is to a BB. She had light armor, heavy guns and was made for speed.

"the armor belt was thin (varying from 2.5 to 4 inches in thickness). This was inadequate to protect her vitals from enemy 8" shells and was no thicker than the armor on 6" gun cruisers." Even Wiki agrees.

As for the Washington Treaty it said this, "The limit proposed, of a 10,000 ton maximum displacement and 8-inch calibre guns" Did not limit or classify a class, that wasn't done until after the Pensacola's were built at the London Treaty. So the argument that it was done to keep under a limit is crazy because their was no Light or Heavy limits only a tonnage of cruisers.

Im not trying to be a butt, but as to not listening to a "vet sailor" yea, that sounds right, better not listen to the people who were living it. I can understand that you don't agree, but Ive researched this for most of my life, so I too know what I'm talking about. I ve read the notes on the designing, as well as the Omaha's and I can tell you what they were looking to build. I was just trying to be nice and show something that should have been added, they were only heavy cruisers because a Treaty in the mid 20's said well if it has 8" guns its a heavy cruiser. BUT I will give you this, look at the Deutschland class for the Germans, they called it Panzerschiffe ("armored ships"), the british called it a Pocket Battleship, but in reality, it was nothing but a Heavy Cruiser with 11" guns. (this has been stated in many readings) I think the same is true here, the Pensacola's were CLs with 8" guns. To ALSO explain this, look at the Mogami's what do you call them? They were CLs but then the 6" guns were removed and replaced with 8" guns, so what were they? They were built as CA's but could only be called CLs because of the guns... We could have this argument until the end of time.


NGTM_1R #10 Posted 24 October 2013 - 08:48 PM

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View PostRebelknight, on 24 October 2013 - 08:28 PM, said:

Your forgetting something, the designing started BEFORE the treaty...
Not relevant in comparison to their date of completion.
.
Also you seem to have reversed the LNT and WNT. It was at the WNT that ship size limits for cruisers were created, but it was not until the LNT that total tonnage was capped primarily because the British would not agree to capping their cruiser tonnage until then.
.
Similarly you have reduced the argument about the panzerschiffe to its least-intelligent form to try and use it for support. They are considered heavy cruisers with oversized guns based on their speed, armor, displacement, and even their armament in terms of effectiveness, rate of fire, and weight of broadside over time.
But we do not tell our children stories of monsters so that they will know monsters exist. You knew monsters existed before you could speak, before you could walk. You were told stories of monsters because those stories had heroes. You were told stories of monsters so that you would know monsters can be defeated.

Rebelknight #11 Posted 24 October 2013 - 08:53 PM

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London Treaty:
The Treaty also established a distinction between cruisers armed with guns no greater than 6.1 inches (155mm) calibre ("light cruisers" in unofficial parlance), from those with guns up to 8 inches (203 mm) calibre ("heavy cruisers"). The number of heavy cruisers was limited - the US was permitted 18 with a total tonnage of 180,000, the British 15 totalling 147,000 and the Japanese 12 totalling 108,000 tons. For the light cruisers no numbers were specified but tonnage limits were 143,500 tons for the US, 192,200 tons for the British and 100,450 tons for the Japanese
This was signed 1930, The pensacola's were started mid 20's.
ok, I see what I did, I didn't add a part about the WNT "While the Treaty specified 10,000 tons and 8-inch guns as the maximum size of a cruiser, in effect this was also the minimum size cruiser that any navy was willing to build. The Treaty began a building competition of 8-inch, 10,000 ton  which gave further cause for concern. Subsequent Naval Treaties sought to address this, by limiting cruiser, destroyer and submarine tonnage."

Edited by Rebelknight, 24 October 2013 - 08:56 PM.


Rebelknight #12 Posted 24 October 2013 - 09:01 PM

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Less intelligent form? I thought that was what was being done with calling the Pensacola's a true CA? I was just comparing how it could be viewed as similar? Wiki (god forgive me for using Wiki in an argument but I don't have my books here) even calls it a form of Heavy Cruiser. Feel free to weigh in on the whole matter NGTM. How do you see it?

Edited by Rebelknight, 24 October 2013 - 09:03 PM.


Jracule #13 Posted 25 October 2013 - 12:32 AM

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View PostRebelknight, on 24 October 2013 - 08:28 PM, said:

Your forgetting something, the designing started BEFORE the treaty... "Although design studies began as early as 1919, the mood of the country was opposed to new armaments and no design was accepted before the naval disarmament treaties created the new category of heavy cruisers, which were limited to 10,000 tons displacement and 8" (203mm) guns. The Navy eventually looked at no less than seven designs ranging in displacement from 5000 to 10,000 tons and armed with 5" (127mm) to 8" (203mm) guns. A design began to emerge in November 1923 and was finalized in March 1925 that would become the Pensacola class." Look at the Omaha's, they went through the same thing, sooo many people kept trying to put inputs into the decision that it slowed things down, so instead of starting over they went ahead with what they had so that they could start building. The navy went 20 years without any new cruisers so we got the Omaha's and the Pensacola's as a stop gap. And if you want to look at a classification, with her LIGHT armor she was more like a hybrid, much like a BC is to a BB. She had light armor, heavy guns and was made for speed.
"the armor belt was thin (varying from 2.5 to 4 inches in thickness). This was inadequate to protect her vitals from enemy 8" shells and was no thicker than the armor on 6" gun cruisers." Even Wiki agrees.
As for the Washington Treaty it said this, "The limit proposed, of a 10,000 ton maximum displacement and 8-inch calibre guns" Did not limit or classify a class, that wasn't done until after the Pensacola's were built at the London Treaty. So the argument that it was done to keep under a limit is crazy because their was no Light or Heavy limits only a tonnage of cruisers.
Im not trying to be a butt, but as to not listening to a "vet sailor" yea, that sounds right, better not listen to the people who were living it. I can understand that you don't agree, but Ive researched this for most of my life, so I too know what I'm talking about. I ve read the notes on the designing, as well as the Omaha's and I can tell you what they were looking to build. I was just trying to be nice and show something that should have been added, they were only heavy cruisers because a Treaty in the mid 20's said well if it has 8" guns its a heavy cruiser. BUT I will give you this, look at the Deutschland class for the Germans, they called it Panzerschiffe ("armored ships"), the british called it a Pocket Battleship, but in reality, it was nothing but a Heavy Cruiser with 11" guns. (this has been stated in many readings) I think the same is true here, the Pensacola's were CLs with 8" guns. To ALSO explain this, look at the Mogami's what do you call them? They were CLs but then the 6" guns were removed and replaced with 8" guns, so what were they? They were built as CA's but could only be called CLs because of the guns... We could have this argument until the end of time.
The start of the design means nothing. The only date that matters is the moment the ink drys after stamping "Accepted" on the chosen design papers.
The Iowa Class was technically in the design stage before the treaties were thrown out. The design board was already well on their way with designs in the 35,000 ton range. However once the treaty was void, they immediately changed the design. The same applies for the Pensacola class when the treaty went into effect. Design parameters were adjusted accordingly to conform with the treaty.
Just because the ship started before the treaty does not mean that limitations do not imply. If that was the case, we would of had the Lexington Class Battle cruisers instead of carriers.

Jracule #14 Posted 28 October 2013 - 12:26 AM

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Part 2 is now up.

I did a different style of writing for Part 2, if people prefer that let me know and i will rewrite this topic to conform to that of the first.

LINK

tankwarhammer9000 #15 Posted 28 October 2013 - 12:28 AM

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View PostJracule, on 28 October 2013 - 12:26 AM, said:

Part 2 is now up.

I did a different style of writing for Part 2, if people prefer that let me know and i will rewrite this topic to conform to that of the first.

LINK
Get working on part 3! i'm loving them :P

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