The USS Northampton was constructed in Quincy, Massachusetts. Construction on the ship started on August 31, 1944 and was completed on July 1, 1948. However, a delay in the construction due to a change in the building plans saw the vessel emerge as a light cruiser with an extra deck. Captain William D. Irvin was in command of the USS Northampton when she was commissioned on March 7, 1953.
Service in the Atlantic
After shakedown, the USS Northampton was dispatched to the Atlantic Fleet for duty with the Commander Operational Development Forces. In September 1954, she finished thorough testing of her new equipment, returning to the Commander Battleship Cruiser Force’s operational control. She then showed her prowess, serving as a flagship for the strategic Command Ship for the Commander Amphibious Force from October to November 1954 then for the Commander 6th Fleet from December 1954 to March 1955. She then served as the flagship for the Commander Strike Force in the Atlantic, which was a position she held frequently for the next decade and a half.
The USS Northampton underwent her first overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, emerging ready for service on February 24, 1956. She was then sent for refresher training off the Cuban coast. She then played a role in the Navy’s first guided missile unit for the first launch of the Terrier missile. In April of 1956, the Northampton sailed east with the Sixth Fleet for six months.
In the summer months of 1957, she continued midshipmen training maneuvers, returning to Europe on an infrequent basis from 1957 to 1961. Being sent on NATO and Fleet missions, the light cruiser hosted visits by government officials and dignitaries of European nations, including the Belgian King and the King of Norway.
The USS Northampton was redesignated from the CLC-1 to the CC-1 on April 15, 1961. She traveled from the Canadian shores to Panamanian coasts as she tested and assessed new equipment and hosted more national and international dignitaries, including President Kennedy and President Johnson. She stayed on the western Atlantic until February 1970 when she was decommissioned.
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.