Long Beach (CLGN-160/CGN-160/CGN-9) was a nuclear-powered guided missile
cruiser in the United States Navy. She was the only ship of her class.
Long Beach was the first "all-new" cruiser designed and constructed
after World War II (all others were completions or conversions of cruisers
begun or completed during the war). She was the third Navy ship named after
the city of Long Beach, California, and the last ship built on a traditional
"cruiser hull" in the US Navy; all subsequent cruisers were built
on scaled-up destroyer hulls. This led to the slogan she carried in her later
years: "The Only Real Cruiser."
The ship was designed as an "all-missile" ship from the very
beginning, but was fitted with two 5"/38 caliber gun mounts amidships at
President John F. Kennedy's order. Long Beach was also the last cruiser built
on a traditional long, lean cruiser hull; later new-build cruisers were
actually converted frigates (DLG/CG USS Leahy (DLG-16), USS Bainbridge
(DLGN-25), USS Belknap (DLG-26), USS Truxtun (DLGN-35), and the California
and Virginia classes) or uprated destroyers (the DDG/CG Ticonderoga class was
built on a Spruance class destroyer hull). The Long Beach was first laid out
to be a smaller frigate, but expanded to a cruiser hull due to the ship being
slated for the Regulus nuclear cruise missile or, later, 4 launching tubes
for the Polaris missile, which would occupy the space taken up by the
5"/38 caliber gun mounts and the ASROC system. The open space just aft
of the bridge 'Box' was to be the area for these.
The ship was propelled by two nuclear reactors, one for each propeller shaft,
and was capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots (56 km/h). The high box-like
superstructure contained the SCANFAR system, consisting of the AN/SPS-32 and
AN/SPS-33 phased array radars. One of the reasons Long Beach was a one-ship
class was because it was an experimental platform for these radars, which
were precursors to the AN/SPY-1 phased array systems later installed on Aegis
warships (Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers). At
the time, Long Beach had the highest bridge of any ship smaller than an
The original weapons suite consisted of:
Talos Long Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) with a range in excess of 80
nmi (150 km).
Terrier Medium Range SAMs with a range in excess of 30 miles (48 km).
ASROC system capable of delivering a torpedo or depth charge at a range of
10,000 yd (9.1 km).
Two twin 12.75 inch torpedo launchers that could fire the Mark 46 torpedo.
Two 5"/38 caliber gun, capable of surface and shore bombardment to a
range of 18,000 yd (16 km).
The ship went through several modifications by the time she was
decommissioned. The final weapons suite consisted of:
Two forward launchers for the Standard extended range missiles. These
replaced the Terrier and the Talos.
The rear launcher for the Talos was replaced with 2 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise
missile box launchers. Each launcher held 4 missiles.
Two Phalanx CIWS were added aft of aft mast.
Two RGM-84 Harpoon ship-to-ship missile launchers were added. Each launcher
held 4 Harpoons.
The third Long Beach (CGN‑9)
was originally ordered as CLGN‑160. She was reclassified CGN‑160
in early 1957, but was again reclassified as CGN 9 on 1 July 1957. Laid down
as CGN 9, 2 December 1957 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Fore River Shipyard,
Quincy, Mass.; launched 14 July 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Craig Hosmer, wife of
Congressmen Hosmer of California; and commissioned 9 September 1961, Capt. E.
P. Wilkinson in command.
The first nuclear‑power surface warship in history, Long Beach was
assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and home ported at Norfolk, Va. The guided‑missile
cruiser conducted extensive shakedown testing of her complex weapons and
propulsion systems from 2 October to 16 December 1961; her superlative
performance proved the nuclear cruiser a highly capable and effective
warship. Between 28 December and 6 January 1962 she conducted operational
tests of her missiles off Puerto Rico, then sailed for Bremerhaven, Germany,
arriving 15 January for courtesy calls in north European ports.
Returning to Norfolk 7 February, she trained off the east coast and in the
Caribbean, on 10 April joining in Atlantic Fleet exercises off North Carolina
and Virginia as flagship for Adm. Robert H. Dennison, Commander in Chief,
Atlantic Fleet. She was reviewed by President John F. Kennedy and Vice
President Lyndon B. Johnson during this demonstration of naval power.
After overhaul and installation of new equipment at Philadelphia, Long Beach
trained in the Caribbean and sailed 6 August 1963 to join the 6th Fleet in
its Mediterranean peacekeeping operations. She returned to Norfolk 20 December
for coastal and Caribbean operations through 28 April when she sailed for the
Mediterranean to join attack carrier Enterprise (CVA(N)‑65) and guided‑missile
frigate Bainbridge (DLGN-25) in the formation of the first all nuclear‑powered
task group 13 May. The force operated in the Mediterranean testing its unique
capabilities until 31 July when it sailed. under Rear Adm. Bernard M. Strean
from Gibraltar on an around‑the‑world cruise. This operation,
Sea Orbit, reminiscent of the cruise of the Great White Fleet in 1907‑09,
demonstrated the strategic mobility of U.S. naval nuclear‑powered
surface forces independent of normal fleet logistic support. During 58
steaming days Long Beach steamed over 30,000 miles at an average speed of 25
knots, without being refueled or resupplied. In the course of the voyage,
numerous foreign dignitaries visited the ship during visits off both coasts
of Africa and in‑port calls at Karachi, Pakistan; Melbourne, Australia;
Wellington, New Zealand; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An unqualified success,
the operation proved to people the world over the tremendous increase in
capabilities nuclear power brings the Navy.
Long Beach returned to Norfolk from this triumph 3 October to join in
exercises off the east coast and in the Caribbean. On 4 June she sailed for
the Global Strategy Conference at the Naval War College, Newport, where Vice
Adm. Kleber S. Masterson, Commander 2d Fleet broke his flag in the ship. Back
in Norfolk 23 June, Long Beach resumed training and upkeep prior to her
transfer to the Pacific Fleet. She sailed 28 February 1966 for her new home
port and namesake, Long Beach, Calif., and arrived 15 March.
The summer of 1966 was spent in training and orienting midshipment in the
tactics and operations involved in the modern nuclear Navy. After a period of
leave and upkeep in the fall, Long Beach sailed 7 November from Long Beach
for the Far East. She arrived on PIRAZ station on the 30th and continued on
that vital operation throughout most of her WestPac tour. From 8 to 27 April
1967 the nuclear‑power cruiser made a cruise to Sydney, Australia. On
the return portion of the trip back to Subic Bay, Republic of the
Philippines, the ship made a stop in Ironbottom Sound on 23 April for a
memorial service commemorating the battles fought and lives lost there in
World War II. After the wreath‑laying ceremony, she steamed up The
Slot at 30 knots, back toward a different war.
Long Beach arrived back at the west coast on 4 July where, after a well‑deserved
period of rest, she resumed the exercises and operations which would keep her
well prepared for her return to Vietnam the following year. This next
deployment began when she once again left her home on 15 April 1968. As
before, the cruiser spent most of her time on PIRAZ station, guiding the many
planes which operated over North Vietnam. This tour of duty in West Pac ended
with her arrival again at Long Beach on 16 November, where she remains into
After Vietnam the Long Beach performed routine duties in the Western Pacific
and Indian Ocean, although in 1975 she served escort duties for an ad-hoc US
task force during the Mayagόez incident. In 1980 the vessel rescued 114
Vietnamese boat people off the coast of Vietnam. In 1979, and again from 1980
to 1983, the Long Beach returned to Puget Sound to undergo a mid-life
conversion, during which time she was fitted with BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise
missiles. The Long Beach deployed throughout the 1980s and provided support
during the Gulf War of 1991.
A deactivation ceremony occurred on 2 July 1994 at Norfolk Naval Station. The
Long Beach was decommissioned on 1 May 1995, over 33 years after she had
entered service. Presently, she is waiting in line to be recycled as
prescribed for nuclear powered vessels by Code 350 of Puget Sound Naval
Shipyard, Bremerton, WA.
2 December 1957 Keel laid in Bethlehem Steel Company's Fore River Shipyard,
14 July 1959 launching; Mrs. Craig Hosmer christened the ship as her
5 July 1961 USS Long Beach underway for the first time using her own
9 September 1961 USS Long Beach is commissioned as the first nuclear
powered surface vessel at the Boston Naval Shipyard.
2 October 1961 Change of Home port to Norfolk, Virginia.
1 August 1963 1st deployment to the Mediterranean
28 April 1964 2nd deployment to the Mediterranean for "Nuclear Task
15 March 1966 USS Long Beach and City of Long Beach, California unite for
7 November 1966 1st West Pac deployment.
1 May 1967 Deployed to Gulf of Tonkin.
15 April 1968 2nd West Pac deployment.
11 August 1969 3rd West Pac deployment.
1 July 1970 USS Long Beach begins refueling at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
28 March 1972 4th West Pac deployment.
1 May 1973 5th West Pac deployment.
7 November 1974 6th West Pac deployment.
7 June 1975 Change of homeport to San Diego, California.
15 September 1976 7th West Pac deployment.
4 April 1978 8th West Pac deployment.
7 January 1980 9th West Pac deployment.
1 January 1981 Begins Comprehensive Overhaul Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
13 January 1984 10th West Pac deployment.
9 January 1985 Selected Restricted Availability at Bremerton, Washington.
13 May 1986 11th West Pac deployment.
25 July 1987 12th West Pac deployment.
19 October 1987 Participated in Kuwaiti tanker reflagging and provided
anti-aircraft cover during Operation Nimble Archer.
13 October 1988 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Ship Visit.
18 September 1989 13th West Pac deployment/world cruise.
28 May 1991 14th West Pac deployment in support of Operation Desert Storm.
8 April 1992 Comprehensive overhaul, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
12 May 1993 Underway Counter Narcotics Patrol, Central America.
8 November 1993 Underway Counter Narcotics Patrol, Caribbean.
6 May 1994 Change of homeport to Norfolk, Virginia.
2 July 1994 Deactivation ceremony, Norfolk Naval Station.
9 September 1961 11 September 1962: Captain Eugene P. Wilkinson
11 September 1962 23 August 1966: Captain F. H. Price
23 August 1966 15 June 1968: Captain K. C. Wallace
15 June 1968 25 September 1972: Captain William A. Spencer
25 September 1972 24 October 1975: Captain F. R. Fahland
24 October 1975 18 July 1978: Captain Harry C. Schrader
18 July 1978 February 1982: Captain E. B. Bossard
February 1982 1985: Captain F. Triggs
February 1985 September 1987: Captain M. J. Weniger
September 1987 November 1990: Captain J. C. Pollock, III
November 1990 April 1993: Captain W. R. Burns, Jr.
April 1993 July 1994: Captain K. P. Bersticker