History of USS Norfolk
A seaport in southeastern Virginia on Hampton Roads.
USS Norfolk was the first major United States warship built
since World War II, and the second ship to be named for the city
of Norfolk, Virginia. She was authorized in 1947 as an anti-submarine
hunter killer ship that could operate under all weather conditions
and would carry the latest radar, sonar, and other electronic devices.
As a large destroyer leader designed on a light cruiser hull she
could carry a greater variety of detection gear than a regular
The keel of the second Norfolk was laid down 1 September 1949 by
the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden. NJ, and launched 29 December
1951. She was sponsored by Miss Betty King Duckworth; and commissioned
4 March 1953, with Capt. Clarence Matheson Bowley in command.
Norfolk was the largest of the five destroyer leaders. She
displaced 6,360 tons, had an overall length of 540 feet, a beamwidth
of 54 feet and a draft of 26 feet. Her full compliment consisted
of 411 officers and enlisted men. She was capable of making a top
speed of 32 knots.
Her armament consisted of four dual 3-inch gunmounts, sixteen
20 mm antiaircraft guns, an ASROC, and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes.
In late 1954/early 1955, USS Norfolk was stationed at the naval
shipyard at Newport, RI. During this time frame several sea trials
were conducted off the New England coast. On one of these cruises
she experienced a problem in the port shaft. The shaft split and
the screw dropped off. The sudden loss of many tons of the brass
screw caused the high-speed turbines to rev up to such speeds
that the blades began flying all over the port engine room rupturing
steam lines and tearing off the packing on the pipes. Four members
of the engine room crew were burned by hot steam. The engine room
looked like the aftermath of a pillow fight!
The ship steamed back to port on one engine and one screw. She
was put into dry dock at the Charlestown, Mass., shipyard. A huge
section of the port side was removed and the engine removed. Since
she had the only two engines of this kind in existence the manufacturer
would have to build a new one. The side of the ship was welded
An investigation took place which suggested that "metal
caused by the shaft being misaligned had caused the shaft to giveaway.
As a consequence of this finding, all four other DLs were inspected
for the possibility of the same problem.
After the ship was pronounced sea worthy, she left Boston and
steamed around the Caribbean, visiting Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico
and taking part in all the normal fleet activities associated
with Gitmo training exercises. All this was done with one engine
and one screw. Those who stood helm watches can attest to the
fact that getting use to maneuvering with only one engine and
screw was an experience. But once it was mastered, it wasn't bad
In 1955 she went into dry dock in Norfolk, VA. The side was reopened,
the new engine and screw installed and all four gun mounts were
replaced with the new 3" 70 caliber dual mounts. This now
put USS Norfolk back into service with full capabilities of a
warship and she began normal operations.
After her Caribbean shakedown cruise (February 1954), Norfolk was
assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. Then after she was refitted with
the new engine and guns she went on another shakedown and training
cruise to Gitmo. Between 1955 and 1957 she served successively as
flagship for Commander Destroyer Flotillas 2, 4, and 6. During 1956
and 1957 she acted as flagship for Commander Destroyer Force, Atlantic
Fleet. In June 1957, Norfolk participated in the International Fleet
Review as flagship for Admiral Jerauld Wright, Commander-in-Chief
Atlantic Fleet and Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic.
In 1960 the addition of an ASROC launcher enhanced her antisubmarine
capabilities. On 10 May 1960, an 83-foot Cuban vessel harassed
Norfolk while she was patrolling the Florida Straits with The
Sullivans (DD 537) in international waters.
In the fall of 1961 she took part in UNITAS II as flagship for
Commander Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 2. During the operation she
performed ASW training exercises with the navies of Venezuela,
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
Norfolk repeated this cruise over the next five years during which
she served as flagship of Commander South Atlantic Forces except
in 1962 when she was flagship for Commander Cruiser Destroyer Forces
Norfolk joined LANTFLEX 66 as flagship between 28 November and
16 December 1966. During this exercise she was shadowed by the Russian
trawlers Repiter and Teodilit. She proved her antisubmarine capabilities
again as flagship for Commander South Atlantic Forces during UNITAS
VIII in Fall 1967.
Norfolk was assigned to Commander Middle East Forces as flagship
(17 April-15 October 1968). On this mission she visited Bahrain,
French Somaliland, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia. Kenya, the Seychelles,
Mauritius, Malagasy Republic, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand,
Tahiti, Mexico, and Panama Canal Zone.
In October 1968 the USS Norfolk returned to Norfolk, VA, where
she was decommissioned 15 January 1970 and entered the Atlantic
Submitted by Al Marquis, Historian
Posted: 12 June 2004