A Tin Can Sailors Destroyer History
USS NORFOLK DL-1
The Tin Can Sailor, July 2014
The USS NORFOLK (CLK-1) was the first major U.S. warship built after the construction boom of World War II. Authorized in 1947 as the CLK-1, an antisubmarine hunter-killer cruiser, she was laid down on 1 September 1949 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey. The new ship benefitted from the work done on the USS CARPENTER (DDK-825), first of the DDK sub-class of modified GEARING-class destroyers with specialized electronic equipment and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) weaponry. To handle the new features and greater variety of sonar and other detection gear, however, the NORFOLK was designed on a light cruiser hull. The new design also enabled her to operate under all weather conditions, thus overcoming one of a submarine’s advantages over a surface ship. Launched on 29 December 1951, she was redesignated DL-1, or Destroyer Leader 1when she was commissioned on 4 March 1953.
After her Caribbean shakedown cruise in February 1954, the NORFOLK was assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Between 1955 and 1957 she served as the flagship for the commanders of Destroyer Flotillas 2, 4, and 6. During that period, she suffered a casualty in 1955 when her boiler blew up. In 1956 and 1957 she was the flagship for the fleet’s destroyer force commander. Notable in June 1957, the NORFOLK participated in the International Fleet Review as flagship for Admiral Jerauld Wright, Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet and Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic. By 1959 the NORFOLK’s eight 3-inch/50-caliber guns had been replaced by eight 3-inch/70 caliber guns, and her 20-mm. battery had been removed. In 1960 the addition of an ASROC launcher enhanced her antisubmarine capabilities.
On 10 May 1960, an 83-foot Cuban vessel harassed the NORFOLK to no effect as she patrolled the Florida Straits in Cuban waters with THE SULLIVANS. In the Fall of 1961, she took part in UNITAS II as flagship for the commander of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 2. During the operation, she performed ASW training exercises with the navies of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. The NORFOLK repeated that cruise over the next five years during which she served as command flagship for the South Atlantic forces and once for the commander of the fleet’s cruiser-destroyer forces.
She joined LANTFLEX 66 as flagship between 28 November and 16 December 1966 and during that exercise, she shadowed the Russian trawlers REPITER and TEODILIT. During UNITAS VIII in the fall of 1967, she exhibited her antisubmarine capabilities as flagship again for the commander of the South Atlantic forces. From 17 April to 15 October 1968, the NORFOLK served as flagship for the commander of the Middle East force. On that mission, she visited Bahrain, French Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Seychelles, Mauritius, the Malagasy Republic, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Mexico, and the Panama Canal Zone. In late October 1968, she returned to Norfolk where she decommissioned on 15 January 1970 and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. On 1 September 1974, the NORFOLK was stricken from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register and sold for scrap.
It is noteworthy that before the NORFOLK was scrapped, two of her 3-inch/70 caliber anti-aircraft mounts were saved and put on display at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida. When the center was closed, the Boca Raton Community High School’s NJROTC took custody of the mounts, which now stand near the east end zone of the school’s football field. Fittingly, the NORFOLK’s bell has been preserved in Norfolk, Virginia. Since 1975 the bell has been located at the Elizabeth River waterfront end of St. Paul Boulevard; at Town Point Park; and most recently, at Wisconsin Square, just north of the museum ship USS WISCONSIN.