Title: Plaque, Builder's, USS Northampton (CL/CA-26)
Accession #: NHHC 2009-132-1
Size: 31 x 12
Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command
One ship builder’s plaque from the USS Northampton (CL-26). The rectangular brass plaque is embossed with lettering reading “U.S.S. Northampton / Built By The / Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation Ltd- Fore River Plant / And Launched September 5, 1929 / Is Named After the City of Northampton, Massachusetts / The Home of Former President Calvin Coolidge / It Is The First Vessel Of The / United States Navy To Have This Name.” The background is textured while the lettering and plain border are smooth. There is a rivet hole in each corner of the plaque. The plaque is bent and distorted with a slight crack in the top.
USS Northampton was launched 5 September 1929 at the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy, MA. She was commissioned as a light cruiser (CL-26) 17 May 1930 and reclassified as a heavy cruiser (CA-26) in 1931. The ship operated primarily in the Pacific starting in 1932, being stationed at San Pedro, CA and later at Pearl Harbor, HI. On 7 December 1941, while Pearl Harbor was under attack by the Japanese, Northampton was escorting USS Enterprise (CV-6) at sea. Enterprise and its escorts were returning to Hawaii after delivering aircraft to Midway Island. Northampton entered Pearl Harbor with the carrier group on 8 December.
In early 1942, Northampton was an escort for USS Hornet (CV-8) during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. She also took part in the Battle of Midway, where the ship screened the carrier Enterprise from Japanese air attacks. In August, Northampton joined in the Guadalcanal Campaign. She screened Hornet during the attack on Bougainville on 5 October. Following the strike on Hornet during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Northampton was ordered to tow Hornet to safety. A subsequent attack on Hornet disabled her, forcing Northampton to discontinue her endeavor.
Northampton was eventually lost at the Battle of Tassafaronga on 1 December 1942, after being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The order to abandon ship was issued approximately three hours after being struck. The orderly and controlled process resulted in a surprisingly light loss of life
Records from the Bureau of Ships indicate that USS Northampton was ordered to undergo a Strip Ship in April 1941. This plaque may have been removed at that time.