Although it wasn’t commissioned until after World War II, the idea behind the USS Salem was developed years before, during the war. For years, engineers debated on whether it should be a 6” or 8” gun cruiser. The previous generations of battle ships were also lacking the best radar technology. The USS Salem and her sister ships were designed to address these issues. She was eventually designed with an 8” rapid fire guns and turrets.
This class of ships is integral to the history of the US Navy. They were able to analyze the performance of the previous generation of ships, and responded with new designs for superior ships.
Only a few models of this ship were commissioned, and today, only one – the USS Salem – remains. The surviving vessel was the third and last of heavy cruisers to be built in the Des Moines class. Had the war not ended when it did, she would have no doubt seen World War II combat.
Instead, the cruiser served a decade-long career as a flagship in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. During these ten years, she served as host to notables such as the Queen of Greece, the Lebanese President, and several others.
Even though she was never used in battle, her presence alone was enough to intimidate potentially hostile enemies during the Cold War. In 1953, the ship was a haven for refugees who lost their homes in earthquake-ridden Greece. She was the first US ship to arrive to the Ionian Islands to provide relief after the earthquake. In 1958, she was used to protect Lebanon from an anticipated coup. This would be her last act of duty before she was decommissioned.
The USS Salem was finally decommissioned in January of 1959 at the Shipyard in Philadelphia. In October 1994, under President Clinton, she was returned to her birthplace at long last – Quincy, Massachusetts. Today, she is part of the Shipbuilding Museum.
Even though she was never used in battle, the ship is still believed by some to be haunted. More than one person has reported seeing an apparition messing with the machinery on the bow. Paranormal investigators have picked up strange voices with their EVP equipment. The USS Salem is available for public viewing at the museum.