USS Des Moines (CA-134)

While attending UCLA, I participated in the "Contract NROTC" program. It was different from the "Regular NROTC" in several ways:

But we all had one thing in common -- we were exempt from the draft while we remained in the NROTC in good standing!

Between my junior and senior years at UCLA, I took my midshipman cruise aboard USS Des Moines (CA-134). I reported aboard in Norfolk, VA, in early July 1957, then sailed to Québec, where we enjoyed several days of liberty. Our next port was Boston. Among the other things I did while in Boston, I visited Fenway Park and attended two Red Sox games. Ted Williams was in the midst of his .388 season and collected several hits, including a home run into the right field seats where I was sitting. Leaving Boston, Des Moines returned to Norfolk in August.

At the time I was aboard Des Moines, her commanding officer was CAPT Marshall E. Dornin. During the midshipman cruise, I rotated between the Gunnery, Operations and Engineering departments to learn about the functions of each of those organizations. It was especially exciting manning my battle station in one of the 8-inch gun turrets during General Quarters.

The following brief history of the "Daisy Mae" is from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (1963), Vol. 2, pp.266-267:


Displacement: 17,000 t.
Length: 716'6"
Beam: 76'6"
Draft: 22'
Speed: 33 k.
Complement: 1,799

The second DES MOINES (CA-134) was launched 27 September 1946 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Fore River, Quincy, Mass.; sponsored by Mrs. E. T. Meredith, Jr.; and commissioned 16 November 1948, Captain A. D. Chandler in command.

In a varied operating schedule designed to maintain the readiness of the Navy to meet the constant demands of defense and foreign policy, DES MOINES cruised from her home port at Newport, and after 1950, from Norfolk, on exercises of every type in the Caribbean, along the east coast, in the Mediterranean, and in North Atlantic waters. Annually, between 1949 and 1957, she deployed to the Mediterranean, during the first 7 years serving as flagship for the 6th Task Fleet (known as the 6th Fleet from 1950). In 1952, and each year from 1954 to 1957, she carried midshipmen for summer training cruises, crossing to Northern European ports on the first four cruises. She also sailed to Northern Europe on NATO exercises in 1952, 1953, and 1955. On 18 February 1958, she cleared Norfolk for the Mediterranean once more, this time to remain as flagship for the 6th Fleet until 14 July 1961 when she was placed out of commission in reserve.

Through her Mediterranean services, DES MOINES contributed significantly to the success of the 6th Fleet in representing American power and interests in the countries of Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East. She made this contribution through such activities as her participation in NATO Mediterranean exercises; her call to seldom-visited Rijeka, Yugoslavia, in December 1950 and Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia in May 1960, and to many other ports as a regular feature of her schedule; her cruising in the eastern Atlantic during the wake of the Suez Crisis of 1956; and service on patrol and as control center for American forces in the Lebanon crisis of 1958.

[DES MOINES mounted 9 8"; 12 5"; 24 3" guns. She was stricken from the Naval Register on 9 July 1991. Efforts are now underway to tow DES MOINES to Duluth, Minnesota and turn her into a floating museum and educational center. -- "Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1922-1946," p.123.]
This page was last updated 10 Nov 2010.