The last all-gun cruiser in the U.S. Navy’s inventory is finally headed for the scrapyard.
The cruiser Des Moines began the long tow to Texas
on Aug. 21 from a storage facility in Philadelphia, where it had been kept for 45 years. Although the Navy planned to get rid of the ship more than a decade ago, disposal was put off while several preservation groups attempted to preserve the Des Moines as a museum ship. None of those efforts came to fruition, and the Navy decided in May to scrap the ship.
On Aug. 21 — the same day the ship left Philadelphia — a $924,000 contract to dismantle the Des Moines was awarded to ESCO Marine of Brownsville, Texas. Under tow by the Navy salvage
ship Grasp, the Des Moines is expected to arrive in Brownsville around Sept. 6, according to the Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Des Moines, commissioned in 1948, was one of three heavy cruisers designed during World War II and completed in the years afterward. The Des Moines, Salem and Newport News were the largest heavy cruisers ever built and were longer than some contemporary battleships. Measuring 717 feet in length and displacing more than 18,000 tons, they were the only cruisers to mount rapid-fire, automatic 8-inch guns — the feature which caused the Navy to retain the ships far longer than earlier cruisers.
The service considered recommissioning the ships in the early 1980s during the Reagan-era arms buildup, but decided against it as the costs were similar to those needed to return Iowa-class battleships with 16-inch guns to service. All four battleships were recommissioned in the 1980s but returned to mothballs with the end of the Cold War.
The Des Moines — nicknamed “Daisy Mae” — had a service life of barely more than a dozen years, and spent much of its time in the 1950s sharing Sixth Fleet flagship duty in the Mediterranean with its sister ship, the Salem. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1961 and put into preservation at Philadelphia.