To Sea at Last
After commissioning, the NEWPORT NEWS proceeded to the Norfolk Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va. for outfitting and preparation for her shakedown cruise. The ship reported to Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic and US Atlantic Fleet March 24, 1949, and underwent a vigorous shakedown training period in the Caribbean Sea area from April 5 to June 20, 1949, after completion of which she was assigned to Commander Battleships and Cruisers Atlantic Fleet for duty.
From June 20 to August 1, 1949, the ship remained in the Norfolk area, then departed August 1, 1949, on a two-week Reserve Training cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia. During part of this cruise the NEWPORT NEWS was flagship for Admiral W.H.P. Blandy, then Commander-in-Chief, US Atlantic Fleet.
After a successful Reserve Training cruise the ship was assigned to the Norfolk area again under Commander Operational Development Force, scheduled to make a northern cruise. The cruiser flagship crossed the Arctic Circle with the Second Task Fleet (Task Force 89) during November 1949. After this cruise, her first captain, Captain Roland Smoot, was relieved by Captain James S. Laidlaw.
This is not just a story about a ship, nor is it a factual background of its history… rather let us consider it a personal account of the men who have lived, worked, and played on board this mighty man-of-war. Yes, it could easily be said that we have laughed, cried, and prayed with every dip of her majestic bow - and that one without the other is useless - for it is you and your ship which have made this description possible.
Therefore, take pride in the following pages, for they not only record the auto-biography of the USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148), but the ever-heart-warming story attributed to those who have shared her adventures and triumphs.
Some say a ship is born when it transcends the ways and first hits the water, but not those who had for some time conceived the beginning of this vessel.
It all started way back in 1934 when the Vinson-Trammel Act was authorized thus giving the Navy the green light in its plans to increase our fighting fleets.
On April 8, 1944, the Navy awarded a contract to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia, to start production on a new heavy-cruiser. The keel was laid on November 1, 1945, and the busy hum of the eastern port continued on until March 6, 1948, when hull number "456" was launched. Mrs. Homer L. Ferguson, wife of the Chairman of the Boards of Directors of the Shipbuilding Company sponsored the double-N at the launching.
With the clouds of a threatened freedom-loving world hanging in the overcast, plans were speeded up and a group of men were assembled, prior to the commissioning, to tackle the problems of injecting life into these steel veins.
The occasion arrived, and on January 29, 1949, this ship was proudly commissioned as the United States Ship Newport News (CA-148), in honor of it's namesake, the Shipbuilding City of Newport News.
Besides the more than 800 crew members who lined the decks for the momentous ceremonies, there were many guests, among them: Admiral W. P. Blandy, Commander In Chief of the Unites States Atlantic Fleet at that time. Throngs stood by as a beautiful $15,000 Silver Service, commemoration the occasion, was presented to the ship by the proud citizens of Newport News. Rear Admiral R. O. Davis, USN, then, Commandant of the Fifth Naval District accepted the ship for the Navy and in turn Captain Roland N. Smoot, USN, accepted command. Captain Smoot state that accepting command of such a magnificent ship as the Newport News was "A Naval officer's dream come to life." And with the raising of colors and the strains of "The Star Spangled Banner" filling the air, the CA-148 assumed the responsibility of carry out its part as a unit of the world's greatest Navy.
However, this role could not be effected without the training and proper indoctrination of both men and ship; and shortly after commissioning a three-month outfitting period, the Newport News first cut her wake out of Hampton Roads, Va., heading south for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and shakedown training.
Firing the 8's, maneuvering in tactical formation, 'AA' exercises, and sea-drills under the tropical sun followed. Upon completion of this vigorous schedule under the capable leadership of Capt. Smoot, the Newport News, now a "man-of-war" and ready for any assignment, pointed her prow homeward. During the shakedown cruise several Caribbean ports were visited including Haiti, Jamaica and Panama.
Back in Norfolk once again, the ship underwent a post-shakedown yard period and in July, 1949, as Flagship for Admiral Blandy, departed on a "Goodwill" cruise to Halifax, N.S. Our visit to this famous Canadian port was during its "Centennial" celebration.
Next, after operation with Operational Development Force in Norfolk, the Newport News embarked with the U. S. Second Fleet for a cruise to the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. And so it was, on November 12, 1949, with waves breaking over the forecastle, that we crossed the Arctic Circle, thus inauguration all members as "Blue Nosers." The "old salts" on board considered that cold Arctic Cruise the double-N's "maiden voyage," as all 17,000 tons of this "deadly killer' brazenly resisted the mountainous waves and sub-zero weather of the Arctic Ocean.
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