Alaska Class Cruiser

Although largely discredited during World War I, the battlecruiser concept continued to beguile naval staffs. Better protected than earlier British examples, later versions merged with the 'fast battleship' idea, best illustrated between the wars by the French Strasbourgs and the German Scharnhorsts. Classes of warship have long been justified as 'replies' to foreign initiatives, some it must be suspected on the grounds of skilfully planted misinformation. Thus the United States, which had never completed a battle cruiser, suspected that the Japanese were constructing them. The threat of a relatively heavily gunned Capital ship that could out-run anything that really threatened her was sufficient for the Americans to consider a class of twelve of what they termed 'large cruisers'. These, the Alaska class, were really stretched Baltimore class heavy cruisers and carried a similar layout of main and secondary battery on a hull 40 metres longer. They were fitted with a General Electric Co. geared turbine outfit similar to that of an Essex-class aircraft carrier and could easily make 33 knots.

They were ordered fifteen months before Pearl Harbor (September 1940) but the desultory rate of laying down suggests that not only were the Americans aware that the Japanese ships were no more than a rumour but also that the Alaskas themselves had no real role with a 12-in armament in an increasingly aircraft-dominated Pacific war. The programme was cut from twelve to six, then to three. In the event only Alaska and Guam were completed in time to see action as anti-aircraft support to the all-important attack carriers.

Fast and fine seaboats, Alaska and Guam served in the Pacific in 1945 as escorts to the USN's fast carrier task forces. Both were placed in reserve in 1947 and were scrapped in 1960-61. Plans to finish Hawaii as a guided missile ship or tactical command ship were abandoned because it was cheaper to build a new ship, and the uncompleted hull was broken up in 1959.

Ships in Class

CB-1 USS Alaska (Laid down: 16 Dec 41; Launched:15 Aug 43; Completed 17 June 44)
CB-2 USS Guam (Laid down: 2 Feb 42; Launched:21 Nov 43; Completed 17 Sept 44)
CB-3 USS Hawaii (Laid down: 20 Dec 43; Launched:3 Nov 45;Not Completed-Work suspended August 1945)
CB-4 USS Philippines (Cancelled 24 June 1943)
CB-5 USS Puerto Rico (Cancelled 24 June 1943)
CB-6 USS Samoa (Cancelled 24 June 1943)

: * Warships of World War II * Janes Fighting Ships of World War II * The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers : full source reference
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