USS Salem underway in May 1949
|Ordered:||14 June 1943|
|Builder:||Bethlehem Steel Co.'s Fore River Shipyard|
|Laid down:||4 July 1945|
|Launched:||25 March 1947|
|Commissioned:||14 May 1949|
|Decommissioned:||30 January 1959|
|Struck:||7 December 1991|
|Identification:||Hull symbol: CA-139|
|Status:||Museum ship in Quincy, Massachusetts|
|Class and type:||Des Moines-class heavy cruiser|
|Displacement:||17,000 tons standard, 21,500 tons full load|
|Length:||717 ft (219 m)|
|Beam:||77 ft (23 m)|
|Draft:||26 ft (7.9 m)|
|Propulsion:||4 shaft; General Electric turbines; 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers 615 psi/850 f; 120,000 shp (89,000 kW) at full power.|
|Speed:||33 knots (38 mph; 61 km/h)|
|Range:||10,500 nmi (19,400 km; 12,100 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)|
|Complement:||1,799 officers and enlisted|
|Sensors and |
|SG-6 air search, SPS-8A height finding, SPS-12 air search, Turrets 2 and 3 were originally equipped with dual Mark 27 ranging radars, which were ultimately removed.|
|Aircraft carried:||1 utility helicopter, originally designed for 2 float planes on catapults|
|Aviation facilities:||Designed for two catapults aft (not equipped at completion) with hangar in hold, accessed by elevator|
The third USS Salem (CA-139) is one of three Des Moines-class heavy cruisers completed for the United States Navy shortly after World War II. Commissioned in 1949, she was the world's last heavy cruiser to enter service and the only one still in existence. She was decommissioned in 1959, after serving in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. She is open to the public as a museum ship in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Salem was laid down on 4 July 1945 by the Bethlehem Steel Co.'s Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Mass.; launched on 25 March 1947; sponsored by Miss Mary G. Coffey; and commissioned on 14 May 1949, Captain J. C. Daniel in command. Her main battery held the world's first automatic 8" guns and were the first 8" naval guns to use cased ammunition instead of shell and bag loading.
After a visit to Salem, Mass., on 4 July 1949, Salem underwent three months of shakedown at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, between July and October 1949, followed by post-shakedown repairs at the Boston Navy Yard. She then made two cruises to Guantanamo in November and December 1949, and participated in maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet in early 1950.
Salem departed the east coast on 3 May 1950; and, on 17 May, relieved Newport News (CA-148) as flagship of the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. During this, the first of seven deployments to the Mediterranean as fleet flagship, Salem visited ports in Malta, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Algeria, and participated in training exercises. On 22 September, she was relieved by Newport News and returned to the United States.
After three weeks at Boston, Salem joined the Atlantic Fleet for maneuvers; and, on 3 January 1951, sailed for six weeks of intensive gunnery training at Guantanamo. She completed her training off Bermuda; and, on 20 March, sailed for the Mediterranean to relieve Newport News as 6th Fleet flagship. On 19 September, she was relieved by Des Moines (CA-134) and returned to the United States for four months of overhaul at Boston.
Salem sailed on 1 February 1952 for refresher training at Guantanamo and returned to Boston on 29 March for brief repairs. On 19 April, she sailed for her third Mediterranean deployment, relieving Newport News at Algiers on 28 April. Besides the normal port calls and exercises, Salem participated in Exercise "Beehive II," which involved units of the United States, British, Italian, French, and Greek navies. She was relieved once again by Des Moines on 29 September and arrived at Boston on 9 October.
After four months of local operations, Salem sailed for Guantanamo Bay on 24 January 1953 for training. Returning to Boston on 27 February, she sailed for the Mediterranean on 17 April and again relieved Newport News as flagship. Her fourth deployment was marked by Exercise "Weldfest" and by emergency relief work after the 1953 Ionian earthquake which devastated the Ionian Islands. Salem was the first American ship to arrive on the scene, and provided relief supplies and assistance from 13 August until her own stocks ran low four days later. Relieved by Des Moines as flagship on 9 October, she returned to Boston on 24 October and entered the shipyard for overhaul.
On 6 February 1954, Salem sailed again for Guantanamo Bay and returned on 7 April after refresher training. She left Boston on 30 April; and, on arrival in the Mediterranean on 12 May, again assumed duties as 6th Fleet flagship. Relieved by Des Moines at Lisbon on 22 September, she returned to Boston on 29 September. In October and November 1954, she participated in war games with the Atlantic Fleet.
Between 19 January and 22 February 1955, Salem made her annual cruise to Guantanamo Bay for training. After a two-week reserve training cruise, the cruiser sailed for the Mediterranean on 2 May and relieved Newport News on 19 May. During this, her sixth deployment, she participated in a NATO exercise and a Franco-American naval exercise, with Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas S. Gates embarked as observer. Salem departed Barcelona on 23 September and returned to Boston on 2 October 1955 for a four-month overhaul.
The cruiser left Boston on 16 February 1956 for training at Guantanamo in preparation for a 20-month cruise as "permanent" flagship of the Commander, 6th Fleet with homeport at Villefranche-sur-Mer. She returned to Boston on 5 April and sailed for the Mediterranean on 1 May. While she was at sea, the Suez Crisis broke out; and she was diverted to Rhodes in the Eastern Mediterranean where she joined the fleet on 14 May and assumed her flagship duties. She remained in the eastern Mediterranean until mid-June and returned when fighting broke out on 30 October. In April and August 1957, the 6th Fleet, by its presence in the eastern Mediterranean, twice showed United States support for the government of Jordan threatened by subversion. The cruiser departed the Mediterranean on 26 June 1958 and arrived at Norfolk on 4 July.
Salem was used to portray the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the 1956 film The Battle of the River Plate, although the original German ship had a single triple gun turret placed forward of the superstructure where the Salem has two triple gun turrets forward of its superstructure. The original hull number of the Salem, 139, is also clearly visible in many exterior shots of Salem. These differences between the two ships were explained away in the movie by the historic fact that the ship's carpenters often camouflaged "Graf Spee" to resemble foreign vessels. (In this case, disguising "Graf Spee" as an American heavy cruiser.)
Salem was scheduled for inactivation after her return from the Mediterranean, but the request of Lebanon on 15 August 1958 for aid against an anticipated coup led to a short reprieve for the cruiser. Salem had relieved Northampton on 11 August as flagship of Commander, 2nd Fleet; and, on 2 September, she departed Norfolk, visited Augusta Bay and Barcelona during a ten-day cruise in the Mediterranean, and returned to Norfolk on 30 September. She reported to the Norfolk Navy Yard on 7 October for inactivation, disembarked the Commander of the 2d Fleet on 25 October, and was decommissioned on 30 January 1959. She was stored as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The ship was surveyed in 1981 for possible reactivation as part of the 600 ship navy project, and while the inspection results showed she was in excellent condition, funding to reactivate Salem and her sister Des Moines could not be secured from Congress.
In October 1994, Salem was returned to her birthplace in Quincy, Massachusetts where she is now a museum ship as part of the United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum. Salem also houses the USS Newport News Museum, The US Navy Cruiser Sailors Association Museum, and the US Navy SEALs Exhibit room. The ship is also purported to be haunted and was even featured on Ghost Hunters.
Salem was closed to tourists in September 2013 when the wharf to which she was moored became unstable. The wharf's former owner, the MBTA, forced the closure. Subsequently, the wharf was sold to private interests. Salem opened on weekends in May 2015.
Scheduled since the wharf closure to be moved to a location in East Boston, the United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum signed a deal with the landowner in February 2016 to keep Salem at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy until at least 2021 and is again open for visits on weekends starting April 2016.
Salem was featured in the 2016 feature film The Finest Hours directed by Craig Gillespie. She served as the set of the tanker SS Pendleton which broke in two off of Cape Cod on 15 February 1952 making for the most daring and notable United States Coast Guard search and rescues. Many machinery spaces and passageways were used for filming and can be spotted throughout the movie.
In late 2016, USS Salem partnered with Ghost Ship Harbor to create a haunted attraction on the deck of the ship. The event was a fundraiser for USS Salem and saw thousands of people visit the ship during the month of October to see the haunted houses that were built. In 2017 Fodor's ranked it the scariest haunted house in Massachusetts. This event has since become an annual event on USS Salem.
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