USS Canberra CA-70 (1943-1980)

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The USS Canberra was a 13,600 ton heavy cruiser of the Baltimore class. She participated in several naval battles in World War II, including the Battle of Eniwetok and the Battle of the Philippine Sea, until she was struck by a torpedo and taken back to the Boston Navy Yard.  Re-designated and remodeled into a guided missile heavy cruiser in 1952, the Canberra received a number of significant upgrades including two launchers for Terrier anti-aircraft guided missiles and a host of radars and high tech electronics.

After the War

Now the second ship of the 13,300 ton Boston class, the Canberra was recommissioned in June of 1956. From there she operated in the western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea for more than a year, performing a number of special duties including the transportation of dignitaries such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a conference at Bermuda. She also took part in a naval training cruise to Brazil and the International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Virginia, in June of 1957. In September of that year she participated in a major NATO exercise, and then ventured south to begin her first tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea. The Canberra would not return to the United States until March of 1958, where she served as the ceremonial flagship for the Unknown Soldier of World War II.

In 1960 the Canberra was sent off on an 8-month cruise around the globe. She participated in a number of operations with various fleets, starting with the Seventh Fleet in Asia and the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. In 1962 she aided in the quarantine of Cuba and performed a number of combat duties for the better part of the decade. From 1960 to 1969, the Canberra was stationed throughout the better part of Southeast Asia, helping the war efforts in Vietnam. She would use her 8-inch guns to shell enemy positions both in the North and South, as well as other bombardment operations during her two Vietnam War tours.

Reassignment and Decommissioning

Due to the emphasis on gunnery and the outdated nature of her guided missile system, the Canberra was sent back for re-classification in May of 1968. She was awarded her original hull number CA-70 and stripped of her guidance radars and missile launchers. In October of 1969, the Canberra docked at San Francisco Bay to begin the process of inactivation. She was decommissioned in February of 1970 and removed from the Naval Vessel Register officially in July of 1978. Two years later, she was sold for scrapping.

Asbestos in Navy Ships

Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.


Naval Historical Center

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