The USS Chicago (CA-136) was a heavy cruiser laid down on 28 July 1943 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, by the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Launched on 20 August 1944 she was sponsored by Mrs. Edward J. Kelly, wife of the Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 10 January 1945, Captain Richard R. Hartung, USN, in command.
In company with Alfred A. Cunningham, the cruiser departed for the Caribbean on 7 May, en route to the Pacific. Designed to operate offensively with strike and amphibious forces, Chicago spent her transit time conducting various anti-air drills, gunnery exercises, and radar tracking training. After refueling at San Juan, Puerto Rico on 11 May the ships spent three days conducting gunnery practice before departing for Colon, Canal Zone, on 15 May. With transit complete the next day the ships arrived at Pearl Harbor on 31 May.
Following another period of gunnery, day battle, anti-aircraft exercises, and shore bombardment exercises off Kahoolawe Island, the cruiser departed for Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, on 28 June. In company with the battleship North Carolina, Chicago arrived at the atoll on 5 July and immediately refueled from oiler SS Pan American. Underway that same day, with the destroyer Stockham, added for anti-submarine screen, the ships joined Rear Admiral Radford's Task Group 38.4 north of the Marianas on 8 July.
Added to the anti-aircraft screen, Chicago guarded the Task Group's carriers as they conducted air strikes against the Tokyo Plains area, Honshū, Japan, on 10 July. After refueling on 12 July the Task Group returned to the Japanese coast and launched air strikes against airfields, shipping, and railways in the northern Honshū and Hokkaidō areas the next day.
On 14 July, in company with fast battleships South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts, the cruiser Quincy acting as the command ship, and nine destroyers of Rear Admiral Shafroth's bombardment unit, Chicago closed northern Honshū to bombard the Kamaishi industrial area. At 12:12 the cruiser joined the battleships in firing on the iron works and warehouses. Although heavy smoke obscured the target from the cruiser's spotting planes, the combination of pre-plotting the target through photo reconnaissance and radar positioning data allowed Chicago's guns to start fires in numerous buildings, several large warehouses, and among nearby oil tanks. At 12:51 the cruiser's secondary battery guns began firing on a Japanese destroyer-escort type vessel. The escort was straddled and hit by 5" shell fire, began smoking, and retired into the harbor. The Task Force retired at 14:26, leaving the port under a pall of black smoke.
The following day Chicago operated as "a temporary seaplane carrier" when the battleship Iowa transferred her SC-1 Seahawk floatplanes to the cruiser. By hanging one plane over the side with the crane the crew was still able to launch an SC-1 from the catapult for spotting services. After replenishment operations on 16 July, the cruiser resumed screening the carriers as they launched air strikes over the Tokyo Plains, northern Honshū and Hokkaidō, and the Kure-Kobe area over the next two weeks.
On 29 July, in company with the British battleship King George V and several American battleships, Chicago participated in a night shore bombardment mission against the port of Hamamatsu. Using radar, and assisted by spotting planes dropping flares and rockets, the ships fired at bridges, factories and the rail yard for about an hour. Rejoining the Task Group five hours later Chicago once again screened the carriers as they launched air strikes against the Tokyo-Nagoya area.
Operations with the carriers, including a diversion to the south to avoid a typhoon, continued until 9 August when Rear Admiral Shafroth's bombardment unit returned to Kamaishi. The battleships, joined by Chicago, three more heavy cruisers and a Royal Navy light cruiser detachment, delivered another two-hour bombardment of the town before returning to the carrier task forces.
For the next six days the cruiser screened the carriers as they launched continuous strikes against the Japanese Home Islands until 15 August and the Japanese armistice. Chicago remained with the carriers until 23 August when she departed for Japan. Anchoring in Sagami Wan on 27 August, and then moving to Tokyo Bay on 3 September, the cruiser supported the unloading of supplies and equipment for Third Fleet occupation forces.
After arrival on 23 November Chicago received an overhaul at the San Pedro Naval Shipyard, before returning to the Far East. Underway on 24 January 1946 the cruiser arrived in Shanghai on 18 February for occupation duty. She remained there until 28 March as flagship of the Yangtze Patrol Force and then sailed to Sasebo, Japan, where she became flagship of Naval Support Force, Japanese Empire Waters. The cruiser visited several other ports in Japan before clearing for the west coast on 14 January 1947. Moved to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard the heavy cruiser was placed out of commission in reserve on 6 June 1947.
Designed to provide long-range air, surface, and sub-surface defense for task forces, Chicago was recommissioned at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard on 2 May 1964 and was assigned to Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Nine, Pacific Fleet. Preliminary acceptance trials were conducted throughout the summer until 2 September when Chicago officially joined the First Fleet as an active unit. Following sonar calibration and deperming in Puget Sound the cruiser arrived at her home port of San Diego to begin weapons systems qualifications. Examination and evaluation of the new missile systems were completed by 2 December, following successful trials at the Pacific Missile Range off southern California.
On 4 January 1965 the cruiser shifted to Long Beach to begin a series of shock tests off San Clemente Island. Equipment tests, as well as damage control exercises, were completed by mid-January. Chicago then departed the area for San Francisco for alterations, receiving upgraded Tartar missile systems and improved electronics. The warship returned to San Diego on 17 April.
For the next two months Chicago continued shakedown training, engineering, navigation, and seamanship drills as well as missile and electronic exercises. In mid-June the cruiser began Talos fire control developmental testing with the Naval Electronics Laboratory. This, and later tests, examined guidance improvements and experimented with missile replenishment at sea.
During fleet exercise "Hot Stove" in August-September, Chicago practiced anti-air and ASW operations, including firing ASROC and tube-launched torpedoes against submerged "enemy" submarines. Following an ECM exercise Chicago participated in a competitive missile firing exercise and won a gold Missilery "E" for her Tartar battery. During the first week of October the warship participated in another anti-air exercise, this time shooting down two high-speed, high-altitude drones with Talos and Tartar missiles.
After a cruise to Hawaii from 19 October to 3 November, during which the cruiser practiced tactical data sharing training with Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) and Mahan (DLG-11), the ship finished out the year conducting tests and exercises in the San Diego area. Local operations continued in the spring, including more missile evaluation tests through February 1966. Returning to San Diego on 4 March the ship underwent operational readiness, technical proficiency, boiler, electronics, and nuclear warfare acceptance inspections. In April, the warship participated in Exercise "Gray Ghost," where the cruiser operated as tactical flagship for the anti-air warfare commander, Rear Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr..
On 15 June Chicago began evaluating the concept of radar surveillance of all U.S. Navy air operations over designated areas of the Gulf and North Vietnam. Known as PIRAZ, for "positive identification and radar advisory zone, the initial duties of tracking friendly aircraft was expanded to include Air Force planes, controlling barrier combat air patrols, advising support aircraft, and coordinating strike information with the Air Force reporting center at Da Nang, South Vietnam. After a port visit to Hong Kong, where the ship had to avoid a typhoon on 17 July, the cruiser returned to Yankee Station on 29 July.
On her second PIRAZ tour, in early August, Chicago assumed the duties of anti-air warfare commander for short periods of time and demonstrated the ability of a CG to track complex air operations. After a practice Talos missile shot off Okinawa on 27 August, and a short visit to Keelung, Taiwan, the ship returned to her station on 7 September. The cruiser, expanding air duties once again, soon became the primary source for MIG warning information, and assumed surveillance responsibility for the North Vietnamese-Chinese border. On her fourth PIRAZ tour, from 25 October to 12 November, the cruiser helped improve these procedures, particularly in the area of joint Air Force-Navy cooperation.
En route to Sasebo, via Subic Bay, the cruiser stopped at the Okinawa Missile Range to fire two more practice missiles on 18 November. Arriving in Japan on 19 November the ship visited Yokosuka before departing for home on 27 November. Sailing in rough seas the ship completed the non-stop voyage on 7 December. The cruiser remained at San Diego for the remainder of the year.
Starting in January 1967, the cruiser settled into the busy routine of training, exercises, and inspections. Underway for such widely divergent responsibilities as providing guest cruises for the Secretary of the Navy, serving as First Fleet flagship, and air warfare exercises with Constellation, the cruiser spent the first five months of the year off California. In both April and May Chicago conducted experimental Talos missile tests against surface targets to demonstrate missile versatility.
Following readiness inspections the cruiser departed 6 June for an Alaskan cruise with Commander First Fleet. Arriving in Juneau on 10 June, the ship paid an official visit to that city before returning to San Diego eleven days later. After another fleet exercise in July, where Chicago's Talos battery scored a direct hit on a drone at a range of 96 miles, the cruiser spent August conducting official visits to Seattle, Vancouver, and Esquimalt, British Columbia. Assigned to tender availability on 1 September, the ship received boiler and other repairs and inspections from Isle Royale before departing for another WestPac deployment on 11 October.
After departing Pearl Harbor on 18 October, the warship assisted in vectoring aircraft to the site of a Navy F-8 Crusader crash site, successfully rescuing the pilot. Arriving on station in the Gulf of Tonkin three weeks later, via Yokosuka, Okinawa, and Subic Bay, the ship relieved Belknap, beginning PIRAZ duties on 12 November. These responsibilities, improved over the past year, included radar surveillance, coordinating barrier CAP and rescue operations, providing MIG and border warnings, and a wide variety of communication and real-time data sharing services.
After a visit to Hong Kong, from 16 December to 21 December, the cruiser moved to Subic Bay for an import availability period. Completed 3 January 1968 Chicago steamed to Singapore, for a short rest period, before returning to the PIRAZ station on 13 January. On 28 January, following the seizure of Pueblo by North Korea, the cruiser steamed to the Sea of Japan to help coordinate air activities for the carriers of Task Group 70.6. On 7 February, as the crisis eased, Chicago departed to resume PIRAZ duties in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Following two more PIRAZ cruises, Chicago departed Subic Bay on 1 May for home. Arriving in San Diego on 15 May, via Guam and Pearl Harbor, the cruiser began preparations for an overdue yard period. After a brief diversion to the Pacific Missile Range, to conduct experimental aircraft tracking and missile firings, the cruiser entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 1 July for a regular repair period. Repainted and rewired, Chicago spent the remainder of the year conducting inspections, and the usual machinery and electronics sea trials.
On 31 January 1969 Chicago concluded her missile systems qualifications tests, including a Talos test firing against a missile drone, before departing for her third cruise to the Western Pacific on 13 February. Arriving at Subic Bay the cruiser underwent ten days of upkeep and type training before assuming duties as PIRAZ ship on 11 March. Twelve days later the ship began additional Search and Rescue (SAR) duty in the Gulf. This involved maintaining two helicopters on patrol station to provide rescue coverage for Naval aircraft reconnaissance missions.
On 17 April Chicago was ordered to proceed to the Sea of Japan, off Korea, for duty with Task Force 71. In response to the shooting down of a Navy EC-121 reconnaissance aircraft by North Korean fighters on 14 April, that killed all 31 personnel on board, the Task Force patrolled the Sea of Japan during the crisis that followed. The cruiser provided PIRAZ and screening duties for the carriers, and their constant air patrols, until 27 April when the ship departed for upkeep at Sasebo, Japan.
Following repairs, Talos and Tartar missile tests at the Okinawa missile range, and picking up a group of midshipmen at Da Nang on 23 May, Chicago conducted another long PIRAZ/SAR tour from 23 May to 1 July. After upkeep at Yokosuka, a visit to Hong Kong, and a typhoon evasion, the cruiser returned to the Gulf of Tonkin on 1 August to continue radar surveillance, electronic countermeasures, and missile screen duties. Departing 25 August, the cruiser returned, via Subic Bay, Guam, and Pearl Harbor, to San Diego on 17 September.
After a leave and upkeep period, followed by a tender availability that installed Zuni chaff dispensers, the cruiser finished out the year conducting local training exercises, operations at the missile test range, and the never-ending inspection routine. Chicago, still serving as flagship for Commander First Fleet, began the new year quietly, with team training at the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare school in San Diego. Several fleet exercises, two missile firing tests, and inspections filled the months until 12 June 1970 when the cruiser underwent a two week repair and alteration period. All four Talos fire control systems were upgraded to include anti-ship targeting and an experimental video target tracker was installed. Communications security, nuclear safety, and operational readiness inspections, as well as final engineering checks, were completed by the end of August. Despite cutbacks that had substantially lowered her crew component, the cruiser sailed for Vietnam on 9 September.
Arriving on station 3 October Chicago conducted PIRAZ and search coordination duties until 7 November when the ship steamed into Yokosuka for upkeep. Following two other line periods, the second ending on 18 February 1971, the ship began the return voyage to San Diego. After stops in Subic Bay and Guam, Chicago responded to a distress call from Knox on 3 March. The destroyer, suffering a loss of power due to a fire in engineering, was taken under tow until a fleet tug arrived at the scene from Pearl Harbor.
Upon arrival in San Diego on 11 March the cruiser began the usual post-deployment leave and upkeep period. Supply replenishment, inspections, and a midshipmen's cruise in June and July, were followed by exercises, inspections, and a dependent-guest cruise into October. After a final readiness test, and embarking five guests of the Secretary of the Navy, Chicago departed for another deployment on 6 November.
After a weekend stop at Pearl Harbor, where the passengers were debarked, the ship stopped at Guam, and Subic Bay, before arriving in the Gulf of Tonkin on 6 December. Assigned to PIRAZ duty, except for a short port visit to Singapore, the cruiser supported Navy and Air Force aircraft missions into the new year. While on station four Talos missile launches were conducted, two each in February and March, but no hits were registered. Radar surveillance and air coordination continued until the end of March when, despite a dramatic rise in North Vietnamese trawler traffic, the cruiser began departure from the Gulf. On 3 April 1972 Chicago was recalled to her station in response to the North Vietnamese Army's invasion of the south.
The scale of U.S. air operations increased dramatically as strike and interdiction missions, designed to restrict the movement of men and supplies, were conducted throughout North Vietnam. The cruiser monitored all aircraft flying over the gulf, directed friendly CAP, and, despite intense electronic jamming, coordinated fighter escorts during the mid-April B-52 raids against the North Vietnamese. By maintaining a complete air picture Chicago vectored damaged bombers around enemy missile sites, set up tanker rendezvous points for planes low on fuel, and directed helicopters on rescue operations.
The cruiser also directed friendly fighters against North Vietnamese aircraft. During April and May Chicago's air intercept controllers directed Navy and Air Force aircraft on CAP missions that were credited with 14 MIG's shot down. Another MIG was credited to Chicago's score when the cruiser's aft Talos battery scored a long-range kill on 9 May. Two days later, while supporting mining operations off Haiphong Harbor, the cruiser came under heavy fire from enemy shore batteries but was able to open the range without suffering any damage. On 21 June the ship, after a month of surveillance and directing air strikes against Haiphong harbor traffic, finally departed for San Diego.
Arriving home on 8 July the ship underwent a local availability before entering Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 25 August for a Complex Overhaul. During this refit Chicago received new digital fire control systems, replacing the old analog computers, installed new missile launchers, and expanded her electronics equipment.
Departing Subic Bay on 25 June the squadron passed through the Straits of Molocca on 2 July and arrived at Karachi, Pakistan, six days later. Underway on 13 July Chicago and her escorts began a month long at sea period, "showing the flag" in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, before arriving at Mombassa, Kenya, on 9 August. A week later, in an effort to influence Russian negotiations for basing rights in the Mauritius Islands, the squadron conducted a diplomatic port visit to Port Louis. Toward this end Chicago, on 21 August, embarked several Mauritian government officials for a two-day cruise to Rodrigues Island. Departing on 23 August the ships returned to Subic Bay, via Singapore, for upkeep on 11 September.
Following a visit to Hong Kong in early October, the cruiser spent the next month conducting training and fleet exercises in the Philippines area until getting underway for Guam on 17 November. After a week at Apra Harbor the ship departed on 29 November for San Diego. Arriving home on 14 December the ship remained in port, for leave, repairs, and upkeep, into March 1975. Technical inspections and equipment modifications, interspersed with a visit by a delegation of French officials, lasted until April when the ship conducted interim refresher training in the southern California operating areas.
Following a series of missile tests in late May, and fleet exercises with Pacific naval units, the cruiser visited Seattle for the fourth of July celebrations. After a visit to Vancouver the following week, Chicago returned to San Diego to begin overhaul preparations. From 9 September to 24 October the cruiser underwent a major restricted availability as repairs were conducted to fuel tanks, boiler casings, and the main propulsion plant. Additional upkeep, tender availability, and type training continued through the new year as the cruiser prepared for another deployment. In February 1976 personnel in the Operations department underwent extensive team training in anti-air, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare in preparation for a fleet exercise in March. That operation, exercise "Valiant Heritage", took place from 2 March to 11 March with forces from Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States.
Following a month in port, and several service inspections, Chicago left San Diego on 13 April to deploy to the Western Pacific. Sailing with an amphibious group the cruiser conducted multi-ship exercises, both before and after Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Yokosuka on 3 May. Task group exercises with Midway, "Multiplex 2-76" from 19 May to 25 May and "Multiplex 3-76" in the South China Sea from 4 June to 7 June, and port visits to Subic Bay and Keelung, occupied Chicago through June. After a midshipmen cruise from Yokosuka to the Philippines in early July, the cruiser began an import period lasting until 2 August.
On 4 August the cruiser participated in "Multiplex 1-7T", followed by a successful missile firing exercise off Poro Point, Luzon, on 7 August. Returning to Subic Bay for two weeks of upkeep, the cruiser sailed for Hong Kong on 22 August. Arriving three days later, after avoiding the third typhoon of the deployment, the ship spent six days in that liberty port. Leaving Hong Kong on 31 August, Chicago joined rendezvous with Enterprise for a war-at-sea exercise lasting until 8 September, before returning to Subic for a lengthy upkeep period. Repainting the exterior, and interior improvements lasted until 27 September when the cruiser got underway for home. Stopping at Guam on 1 October, to refuel, and Pearl Harbor on 9 October, for a dependents cruise, the ship finally returned to San Diego on 16 October.
The cruiser remained in port, receiving boiler repairs and equipment upgrades, until 23 February when the ship began post-repair sea trials and crew training. Following inspections, and ordnance loadout at Seal Beach on 3 March, Chicago began a regular schedule of training operations out of San Diego. These exercises, including helicopter pad training, simulated missile and torpedo attacks, and other similar drills, continued until 6 September when the ship got underway for her eighth WestPac tour.
Chicago arrived in Subic Bay on 30 September, after multi-ship exercises that included four missile shots while underway, to begin a series of operations with Seventh Fleet. Missile shots and convoy exercises off Mindoro, a barrier exercise off Buckner Bay, and visits to Yokosuka, Keelung, and Hong Kong lasted until late November. On 4 December, after rendezvous with Kitty Hawk, the cruiser began operations in the Sea of Japan. Helicopter and underway replenishments were interrupted two days later, when the formation was circled by two Soviet "Badger" reconnaissance planes, but exercises continued until 8 December. Departing the area, Chicago steamed south to Subic Bay, for sonar exercises with Queenfish, arriving at Singapore on 23 December. After the holidays the cruiser moved to Phattaya Bay, Thailand on 30 December.
Departing 4 January 1978 the cruiser visited Subic Bay and Hong Kong before starting a month of exercises in the Philippine Sea. Gunfire exercises, helicopter operations, unreps, and other drills, including a real man overboard rescue on 28 February, lasted until 4 March when Chicago moored at Manila. After repairs and upkeep the ship steamed for Guam on 16 March, arriving five days later to refuel, before arriving in Pearl Harbor on 31 March.
After returning to San Diego on 7 April the ship remained in upkeep status until 24 July 1978 when the cruiser moved to Long Beach to start a regular overhaul. Repairs at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard lasted until 18 October when the cruiser conducted two days of sea trials. Finishing work continued until 25 October when Chicago departed the shipyard. After two days of operations with England and Darter, the cruiser moved back to San Diego to begin a regular schedule of training exercises. These short cruises, concentrating on gunnery and underway training, lasted through February 1979. A number of propulsion and electronic service inspections were also conducted. On 5 March, during exercises off southern California, the cruiser also earned her eleventh consecutive Missile "E".
After a month long pre-deployment period the cruiser departed 30 May for the cruiser's final cruise to the Western Pacific. Chicago escorted Kitty Hawk to Pearl Harbor, conducting exercises with Jouett, Lang, and the oiler Wabash along the way, before steaming on to Subic Bay on 13 June. Fleet exercises off Okinawa, and a port visit to Pusan, South Korea, at the end of July, were followed by refugee surveillance in the South China Sea. There, along with other Seventh Fleet ships, she helped rescue Vietnamese refugees fleeing the mainland, picking up five herself.
Escort duties for Kitty Hawk continued through September when, on 6 October, she sailed for Australia. On 15 October, after memorial services for two cruisers lost in the Solomon Islands battles during World War II, HMAS Canberra and the earlier USS Chicago, the cruiser began two weeks of exercises in the Coral Sea. After the exercise, involving seven U.S. ships and twenty Australian and New Zealand vessels, the ship visited Sydney, Australia, for a week long port visit. Returning to San Diego on 17 December, via Subic Bay and Pearl Harbor, the cruiser began preparations for inactivation.