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A 4 inch squadron patch of the USS LONG BEACH CGN-9.

USS Long Beach (CLGN-160/CGN-160/CGN-9) was a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser in the United States Navy and the world’s first nuclear-powered surface combatant. She was the third Navy ship named after the city of Long Beach, California.

She was the sole member of the Long Beach-class, and the last cruiser built for the United States Navy to a cruiser design; all subsequent cruiser classes were built on scaled-up destroyer hulls (and originally classified as destroyer leaders) or, in the case of the Albany-class, converted from already existing cruisers.

Long Beach was laid down 2 December 1957, launched 14 July 1959 and commissioned 9 September 1961 under the command of then-Captain Eugene Parks Wilkinson, who previously served as the first commanding officer of the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel, the submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571). She deployed to Vietnam during the Vietnam War and served numerous times in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. By the 1990s, nuclear power was deemed too expensive to use on surface ships smaller than an aircraft carrier in view of defense budget cutbacks after the end of the Cold War. Long Beach was decommissioned on 1 May 1995 instead of receiving her third nuclear refueling and proposed upgrade. After removal of the nuclear fuel, superstructure, and sections of the bow and stern, the hull segment containing the reactor and machinery spaces remains moored at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.


USS Long Beach, and USS Macdonough (far right), under construction at Fore River Shipyard, July 1959.
Long Beach was originally ordered as CLGN-160. She was reclassified CGN-160 in early 1957, but was again reclassified as CGN-9 on 1 July 1957. Her keel was laid down on 2 December 1957 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts. She was launched 14 July 1959, sponsored by Mrs. Marian Swanson-Hosmer, the wife of Rear Admiral Craig Hosmer (USNR, Ret.), a Congressman from California, and commissioned on 9 September 1961. At commissioning, the ship was reported to have cost $320 million ($2.74 billion today), which was over budget from earlier estimates of $250 million.

During construction in January 1960, it was widely reported that Long Beach was sabotaged when anti-mine (degaussing) electrical cables were found to have been intentionally cut in three places. It was the second of three incidents at Fore River Shipyard at that time.

Long Beach was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and home ported at Naval Station Norfolk. The guided‑missile cruiser conducted extensive shakedown testing of her complex weapons and propulsion systems from 2 October to 16 December 1961; her performance proved the nuclear cruiser a capable warship. Between 28 December and 6 January 1962 she conducted operational tests of her missiles off Puerto Rico, then sailed for Bremerhaven, Germany, arriving 15 January for courtesy calls in north European ports.

Returning to Norfolk, Virginia 7 February 1962, Long Beach, trained off the east coast and in the Caribbean. On 10 April, she joined Atlantic Fleet as flagship for Admiral Robert L. Dennison, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, for exercises off the coasts of U.S. states North Carolina and Virginia. She was reviewed by President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson during this time.

Long Beach served in the Atlantic Fleet from her commissioning in 1961 until completing her first refueling in early 1966, when the cruiser was transferred from her home port of Norfolk to Naval Station Long Beach, California.