Release from the Public Information Office, Fifth Naval District, Norfolk, VA. - Sunday, Jan. 23, 1949
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., January, 1949 - The people of NEWPORT NEWS who have built Navy warships for three wars are about to realize a life-long ambition.
During its 63 year history of building "good ships" the NEWPORT NEWS Shipbuilding and Drydock Company has constructed more than 100 combatant vessels for the US Navy. They were given names like the "YORKTOWN", "HORNET", "FRANKLIN", "ENTERPRISE", "RANGER", "MIDWAY", and "CORAL SEA", all aircraft carriers. Then there were the battleships, "INDIANA", "KENTUCKY", and "MISSISSIPPI". And the cruisers, "MOBILE", "BIRMINGHAM", "BOLOXI", and "ST. LOUIS". Many of these names were to become renowned for their participation in famous war actions.
All during these years the NEWPORT NEWS citizens have fervently hoped that some day they might be able to build a namesake for their city.
And so, next Saturday, January 29, at the plant of her builders, the Navy's 17,000 ton heavy cruiser, "NEWPORT NEWS", will be placed in commission as an active fighting unit of the United States Fleet. It will be an event not to be soon forgotten by the people of this shipbuilding city. The day will be a memorable milestone in the annals of the city and the shipyard. The day prior to the commissioning marks the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Company, later to be given its present name.
The people of NEWPORT NEWS are as "proud as peacocks" of their ship and will tell you so. Yard employees from the officials right on down to the laborers have taken a particular interest and pride in her construction. They have taken special pains to see that every detail received the Navy's "4.0" rating.
As a material contribution to the ship the citizens of the community have generously donated funds with which to purchase a 459 piece Silver Service at a retail cost of $15,000. Envelopes were distributed throughout the city and in the high schools and were returned containing nickels, dimes, quarters, and larger amounts to defray the cost of the Silver Service. The City Council decided that each citizen should have some part in the purchase of the silver. Even the jeweler through whom the service was purchased agreed to furnish it at cost and the manufacturer consented to forego his customary profit.
Sponsor of the "NEWPORT NEWS" is Mrs. Homer L. Ferguson, wife of Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NEWPORT NEWS shipyard. It was also a striking coincidence that Mr. Ferguson, who guided the destinies of the shipbuilding concern for 31 years as its president, witnessed the christening of the vessel by his wife on his 74th birthday, March 6, 1947.
Not only will the cruiser NEWPORT NEWS be distinguished by the name it bears, but also it will be the largest and most powerful cruiser built by NEWPORT NEWS yard. This is particularly significant when it is considered that the NEWPORT NEWS is the 17th in a long line of cruisers constructed for the Navy. The lineage had its beginning back in 1905 with the old "WEST VIRGINIA" and includes such memorable ones as the "HOUSTON", "AUGUSTA" and "BOISE", as well as several of the "CLEVELAND" class cruisers.
The NEWPORT NEWS will be the second Naval vessel to bear the name a Virginia City. The other is the cruiser "PORTSMOUTH" named after the twin-cities of Portsmouth, Va. and New Hampshire. Another cruiser, the "ROANOKE", is scheduled to be placed in commission this spring at the New York Shipbuilding Company Camden, N.J.
Actually the first Navy ship to be called NEWPORT NEWS had very little connection with the city other than the name. It was the former Hamburg-American Line collier "Odenwald" which was built in 1903 in Flensburg, Germany. She was made a prize during World War I and acquired by the US Shipping Board in 1917. Later she was taken over by the Navy and used as a cargo vessel in the Navy Overseas Transport Service until she was stricken from the Navy list in 1924.
The colorful commissioning ceremonies will start at 2:30 p.m. and Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, USN, Commander-in Chief Atlantic and US Atlantic Fleet will be the principal speaker. High ranking Navy and Army Officers and civilian dignitaries will be on hand when J.B. Woodward, Jr., President of the NEWPORT NEWS Shipyard, officially turns the ship over to Rear Admiral Ralph O. Davis, USN, Commandant, Fifth Naval District, who will accept the vessel for the Navy.
Following an acceptance speech by Admiral Davis, he will direct Captain Roland N. Smoot, USN to place the ship in commission and take command. Admiral Blandy's address will be followed by a speech to the crew and guests by Captain Smoot.
Mayor R. Cowles Taylor of NEWPORT NEWS will then present the Silver Service to the ship on behalf of the citizens of the city.
To take command of the NEWPORT NEWS , the Navy has chosen one of its most distinguished young officers. Captain Smoot, a native of Provo City, Utah, achieved outstanding recognition for his combat service during World War II. He was awarded the Navy's highest honor, the coveted Navy Cross for action against the Japanese fleet during the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Philippine Islands as Commander of a Destroyer Squadron. For action as a destroyer squadron commander during the Okinawa campaign, Captain Smoot received a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Navy Cross. The prospective skipper of the NEWPORT NEWS also was awarded the Legion of Merit with a Gold Star, the Bronze Star Medal with two Gold Stars and the Commendation Ribbon with bronze star and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon.
Improved construction features learned from lessons in the recent war are embodied in the NEWPORT NEWS . The result is a larger and faster ship with greater fire power, longer cruising range, and more protection from air attack than any previous heavy cruiser.
Main armament of the ship consists of eight-inch guns mounted in triple turrets that are rapid-firing and fully automatic from ammunition handling rooms to the gun muzzles. They are a radical innovation over previous ordnance gear and even include the automatic ejection of the cartridge cases from the mounts. These guns have an estimated firepower four-times greater than previous eight-inch weapons. Even the use of powder bags has been discontinued in favor of cases in order to achieve the desired quick firing rate. Representing a drastic changeover from the rifled guns in the main batteries of other Naval ships, the NEWPORT NEWS will require no ammunition handlers in the turrets of her eight-inch batteries. The modern design of new type weapons represents ammunition handling features that were developed independently in a number of mounts both United States and foreign.
The new rapid rate of fire is made possible by extensive mechanization requiring a much greater use of electric and hydraulic control and power systems than has heretofore been used in ordnance. Pilot models have been tested through 100,000 cycles, testing exceeding that which all previous gear was subjected, to insure satisfactory performance of the large amount of special equipment. Each gun mount features a control and indicator panel which shows immediately the position of the ammunition in the entire loading system from magazine to breech and the exact location of any type of electrical failure in the system. Advantages of this type of trouble shooting are obvious.
Her secondary battery consists of 12 dual-purpose twin-mount, five-inch guns, and an antiaircraft battery of .20 dual-purpose twin-mount three-inch guns, plus a dozen 20mm automatic machine guns.
The NEWPORT NEWS will be the first vessel in the fleet to have air-conditioning in virtually all living and working compartments except the machinery spaces. The installation of the air-conditioning equipment was designed to improve the fighting efficiency of the fleet. Admittedly the ship will be more comfortable in tropical areas but the primary consideration is to improve battle effectiveness. Long periods of abnormal heat produce fatigue and exhaustion to personnel thus exposed and reduces the fighting efficiency of the crew. The air-cooling system is experimental and should it prove successful, it is likely that such equipment will be installed on all fleet units.
Extensive experiments were conducted by the Navy's Bureau of Ships and Bureau of Medicine to determine the need for air-conditioning and the technical requirements for best results. The experiments were conducted with two groups both of which worked in hot environments. One group rested in typical hot quarters while the other slept in an air-cooled compartment. It was concluded that the principle factor underlying the differences shown by the two groups was the amount of restful sleep obtained. The men in cool quarters slept better, while almost without exception the men in the "hot" group developed heat rash which disturbed their sleep and resulted in reduced efficiency.
The NEWPORT NEWS is the second of a class of "heaviest" of heavy cruisers in the world known as the Salem class. The "Des Moines", first of the class was commissioned in November of last year and the "Salem", is scheduled to be completed in early spring.
Propulsion is by geared turbines driving four screws and steam will be supplied by four oil-burning water tube boilers. The NEWPORT NEWS speed is rated in excess of 30 knots. She is 716 feet long and has a beam of 76 feet. Her complement will consist of 105 officers and 1745 enlisted men although her peacetime allowance will be somewhat less. Contract for the construction of the cruise was awarded April, 1944 and the keel was laid October 1, 1945.
Following her commissioning, the NEWPORT NEWS will hold Open House on Sunday with general visiting by the public permitted. She will leave the following day for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth for a fitting out period of about six weeks. Then will come an intensive training period, preliminary to the shakedown cruise in the Caribbean area. Upon completion of the shakedown, she will join the Fleet for duty. But wherever she goes and whatever she goes the people of NEWPORT NEWS will keep a watchful eye on "their" cruiser.