USS Topeka (CL-67)

USS Topeka (CL-67) was built as a Cleveland class light cruiser (CL-67) and in that guise fought at Okinawa and took part in the attacks on the Japanese Home Islands during 1945. She was later rebuilt as a guided-missile cruiser (CLG-8) and had another ten years of active service in that role during the 1960s. During this period she was awarded three battle stars for combat in Vietnam to add to the two she had been awarded during the Second World War.

The Topeka was laid down in April 1943, launched in August 1944 and commissioned on 23 December 1944. A shakedown cruise and training followed, before she set sail from Boston on 10 April 1945 to join the Pacific Fleet.

USS Topeka (CL-67) in Manila Bay, July 1946
USS Topeka (CL-67) in
Manila Bay, July 1946

The Topeka reached the fleet at Ulithi Atoll on 1 June 1945, as the flagship of CruDiv 18. Three days later she left Ulithi as part of a small group of ships to join the fast carriers of Task Force 38. Her first combat cruise came in June 1945. The carriers attacked Kanoya on Kyushi on 8 June, the Ryukyu Islands on 9 June and Minami Daito on 10 June. During this third attack the cruisers were able carry out their own shore bombardment, so the Topeka got to fire her main guns in anger almost as soon as she joined the fleet.  This was towards the end of the Okinawa campaign.

The Topeka's second and final Second World War combat cruise began on 1 July when Task Force 38 began a six-week long attack on the Japanese Home Islands. The Topeka formed part of the cruiser screen and for most of the period her role was to protect the carriers while their aircraft swept across the Japanese Home Islands. She did have one chance for independent action on the night of 18 July when she joined the Atlanta (CL-104), Duluth (CL-87), Oklahoma City and DesRon 62 in an anti-shipping sweep in the approaches to Tokyo Bay. During this raid the Topeka opened fire on Japanese installations at Nojima Zaki, at the entrance to Sagami Bay (the area of sea outside Tokyo Bay).

This series of attacks ended on 15 August when news reached the fleet that Japan had surrendered. The Topeka remained at sea for another month, before entering Tokyo Bay in mid September. She didn't stay for long, and on 1 October departed for the US, travelling via Okinawa where she picked up 529 veterans being shipped home. She reached Portland, Oregon, on 19 October and then went for a refit.

The Topeka spent most of 1946 on duty in the western Pacific. She returned to the area again in October 1947 and operated off the north China coast until March 1948. After a spell spent serving off the US West Coast she was decommissioned in June 1949 and became part of the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

After eight years in the reserve the Topeka was chosen for conversion to a guided missile cruiser, as CLG-8. This took three years and she was re-commissioned on 26 March 1960. During this process she lost most of her aft guns, which were replaced with twin Terrier surface-to-air guided missile launchers.

USS Topeka (CL-67) Commissioning at Boston Navy Yard, 23 December 1944
USS Topeka (CL-67) Commissioning at Boston Navy Yard, 23 December 1944

The next three years were spent on peace-time duties, including two periods of duty in the western Pacific. Her third tour in the western Pacific also began peacefully, but it was interrupted by the Gulf of Tonkin incident when North Vietnamese torpedo-boats attacked two US destroyers in August 1964. The Topekaspent part of the rest of this tour patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin, before returning to the US late in the year.

On 29 November 1965 the Topeka left for her fourth post-war tour in the Far East, but this time she was going as flagship of the Cruiser-Destroyer Group in the 7th Fleet, to provide support for American and South Vietnamese troops fighting in Vietnam. She performed a mix of shore bombardment and search and rescue missions to support the carrier forces. This tour lasted for six months, before she returned to the US in May 1966.

After five months on the west coast the Topeka underwent another upgrade, which lasted until June 1967. In August 1967 she joined the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, her first visit to that sea. She served as the flagship of TG 60.2 for five months, before she was relieved in January 1968 and returned to the US. After a brief spell in home waters she moved back to the Mediterranean in June-July 1968 to rejoin the Sixth Fleet. This final operational tour was a peaceful affair and she set sail for the US on 9 December after a relaxed tour of the full length of the Mediterranean.

On 5 June 1969 the Topeka was de-commissioned. She joined the reserve fleet, but on 1 December 1973 she was removed from the Navy List and in 1975 she was sold for scrap.  

Displacement (standard)

11,744t

Displacement (loaded)

14,131t

Top Speed

32.5kts

Range

11,000nm at 15kts

Armour – belt

3-5in

 - armour deck

2in

 - bulkheads

5in

 - barbettes

6in

 - turrets

6.5in face
3in top
3in side
1.5in rear

 - conning tower

5in
2.25in roof

Length

610ft 1in oa

Armaments

Twelve 6in/47 guns (four triple turrets)
Twelve 5in/38 guns (six double positions)
Twenty eight 40mm guns (4x4, 6x2)
Ten 20mm guns
Four aircraft

Crew complement

1,285

Builder

Bethlehem, Quincy

Laid down

21 April 1943

Launched

19 August 1944

Commissioned

23 December 1944

Stricken

1 December 1973

US Navy Light Cruisers 1941-45, Mark Stille. Covers the five classes of US Navy light cruisers that saw service during the Second World War, with sections on their design, weaponry, radar, combat experience. Nicely organised, with the wartime service records separated out from the main text, so that the design history of the light cruisers flows nicely. Interesting to see how new roles had to be found for them, after other technology replaced them as reconnaissance aircraft [read full review]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 November 2013), USS Topeka (CL-67) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Topeka_CL67.html

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