The 9,050-ton light cruiser, USS Northampton, was built at Quincy, Massachusetts. It was the first out of a class of six ships like it, being commissioned in May 1930. She first made her shakedown cruise to the Mediterranean where she participated in the United States’ Fleet’s normal program of exercises and operations. In July 1931 she was reclassified as a heavy cruiser and her hull number was also updated at that time to CA-26. Until 1932, she was mainly working in the Atlantic and Caribbean. After that she mainly served in the Pacific. During Mid-1941 she made her way to Australia.
Action in World War II
She was at sea with the USS Enterprise task force on December 7, 1941. The very next day her crew found themselves seeing first hand all of the damage caused by the surprise attack by Japan. Most of her time at sea during war was spent in Hawaii. In late January 1942, she was sent to the central Pacific where she attacked Wotje of the Marshall Islands on February 1. On February 24 she then participated in an attack on Wake Island. The Japanese then tried attacking the USS Northampton by air but were not successful.
In March she was working with the carrier task force, which had hit Marcus Island, and then the following month she helped in the Doolittle Raid on Japan. She then went with the USS Enterprise into the South Pacific in May of 1942 and was her escort during the Battle of Midway in the beginning of June.
She then returned to the South Pacific in August 1942 to help in the Guadalcanal campaign. She was present when the USS Wasp was sunk by the Japanese on September 15, later joining the USS Hornet on October 26 for the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. She tried to tow her out when the Hornet was disabled but was unable to, abandoning the carrier because of her extensive damage.
In November, she joined a cruiser-destroyer action group. The task force she was on had intercepted some Japanese Destroyers on the night of November 30, 1942. During the battle of Tassafaronga, the Northampton was hit by a torpedo, catching fire and sinking.
After the war
In 1991 and 1992 the wreckage of the Northampton was found and examined. The Hull was found together and upright at Guadalcanal’s “Iron Bottom Sound.” Her guns were still pointed in the direction they were during the battle that sank her.
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.