HMAS Canberra

This site is dedicated to all Royal Australian Navy and Australian Defence Force personnel who have served in HMAS CANBERRA.


HMAS CANBERRA (1) D 33 from the 9th of July 1928 until she was sunk in action off Savo Island on the 9th of August 1942.


HMAS CANBERRA (2) FFG-02 from the 21st of March 1981 until Decomissioning on the 12th of November 2005.


HMAS Canberra (3) LHD-02 from Commissioning on the 23rd of November 2014.



USS Canberra

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Displacement: 13,600 Tons
Length: 673’5”
Beam: 70’10”
Draft: 20’6”
Speed: 33 Knots
Complement: 1,142
Armament: Nine 8” guns; Twelve 5" guns


USS Canberra (CA-70/CAG-2) was a Baltimore class cruiser and later a Boston class guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy. Originally to be named USS Pittsburgh, the ship was renamed Canberra before launch, for the Royal Australian Navy's County class cruiser, HMAS Canberra, which was sunk during the Battle of Savo Island. USS Canberra is the only USN warship named for a foreign warship or a foreign capital city.

The ship entered service in 1943, and served in the Pacific theater of World War II until she was torpedoed during the Aerial Battle of Taiwan-Okinawa and forced to return to the United States for repairs. Placed in reserve after the war, Canberra was selected for conversion into the second guided-missile carrying warship in the USN fleet.

Following the conversion, she was host to the ceremony for selecting the Unknown Solder representing World War II in 1958, undertook an eight-month round-the-world cruise in 1960, participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis naval blockade in 1962, and was deployed to the Vietnam War on five occasions between 1965 and 1969.

USS Canberra was decommissioned in 1970, struck in 1978, and broken up in 1980. One of her propellers is preserved at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, while the ship's bell was donated to the Australian National Maritime Museum in 2001.


The Baltimore class heavy cruiser was laid down as USS Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Steel Company Fore River Shipyard at Quincy in Massachusetts on 3 September 1941. During construction, in recognition of the valour displayed by the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra during the Battle of Savo Island, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wished to commemorate the Australian ship's loss by naming a US ship in her honour:

Pittsburgh was selected and renamed USS Canberra. The ship was launched on 19 April 1943 by Lady Alice C. Dixon, the wife of Sir Owen Dixon, Australia's ambassador to the United States, and is the only United States warship to be named after a foreign warship or a foreign capital city.

USS Canberra was commissioned into the USN on 14 October 1943, Captain Alex Rieman Early, USN commanding. The Australian Government returned this tribute by naming a new Tribal class destroyer, HMAS Bataan, in honour of the Battle of Bataan.

World War II

USS Canberra reached the Pacific theatre in early 1944. She provided naval bombardment support during the Battle of Eniwetok in February. During March and April, the cruiser formed part of the USS Yorktown carrier task group during raids on Palaus, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai USS Canberra then provided gunfire support to operations in New Guinea, before joining the escort of USS Enterprise for the attacks against Truk and Wake Island.

USS Canberra underway as part of Task Force 38 in 1944In June, the ship participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea[4] as an escort to the Fast Carrier Task Force.On 13 October, while protecting carriers performing air raids on Okinawa and Formosa,

USS Canberra was attacked by Japanese aircraft ] An air-dropped torpedo hit the ship, causing severe damage and killing 23 personnel.[3] The cruiser was towed to Manus by USS Wichita for temporary repairs, which allowed her to sail to Boston Navy Yard for permanent repairs. The repair work took from February to October 1945. Canberra received seven battle stars for her wartime service

Post World War 2

The "mothballed" heavy cruiser Canberra was redesignated CAG-2 in early January 1952. She was subsequently towed from Bremerton, Washington, to Camden, New Jersey, to begin an extensive conversion to a guided missile heavy cruiser. This work, which took some four years, significantly changed the ship's appearance. It included replacing her after eight-inch gun turret and five-inch gun mount with two launchers for "Terrier" anti-aircraft guided missiles, plus installation of an extensive suite of radars and other electronics.

Canberra, now the second ship of 13,300-ton Boston class, was recommissioned in mid-June 1956. She operated in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic for more than a year, during which time she carried President Dwight D. Eisenhower to a conference at Bermuda, participated in the June 1957 International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and made a Midshipmen training cruise to Brazil. In September 1957 she took part in a major North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercise in the northeastern Atlantic, then steamed south to begin her first tour in the Mediterranean Sea. After returning to the U.S. in March 1958, she served as ceremonial flagship for the selection of the Unknown Soldier of World War II and transported Midshipmen on a summer training cruise to Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands.

In March 1960 Canberra began an eight-month cruise around the World, operating with both the Seventh Fleet in Asian waters and with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Canberra made two six-month deployments to the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea leaving Norfolk in February and returning in September of 1962 and another in 1963. She took part in the Cuban Quarantine in the fall of 1962 and, in October 1963, was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. The Vietnam War soon became the focus of her final half-decade. Conducting her first combat deployment since the World War II, she spent the first several months of 1965 off Southeast Asia. A second Vietnam deployment followed in February-June 1966 and a third lasted from October 1966 until April 1967. During these operations her six remaining eight-inch guns were extensively employed for shelling enemy positions in both North and South Vietnam.

Bombardment duty dominated Canberra's next two war tours, in October 1967-April 1968 and from September 1968 to January 1969. This gunnery emphasis, plus the outdated nature of her "Terrier" guided missile system, caused her reclassification back to a heavy cruiser in May 1968, when she regained her original hull number, CA-70. Canberra's missile launchers and guidance radars were removed in 1969, following the end of her last Vietnam cruise. Soon thereafter, in October 1969, she arrived at San Francisco, California, to begin inactivation work. Decommissioned in early February 1970, USS Canberra was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1978 and sold for scrapping in July 1980.

One of the USS Canberra’s propellers was saved and is on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro, CA. The USS Canberra's (CAG-2) ship's bell, a distinctive emblem of her proud career, was presented to the Government and Commonwealth of Australia in Sept of 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty Alliance. It is now on display at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia. 


The USS Canberra (CA-70) was commissioned on October 14, 1943. At the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. cruiser was named to honor the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra, which had been sunk the previous year in the battle of Savo Island, near Guadalcanal.

The battle was one of the first major naval engagements in the Pacific to feature a mixed force of U.S. and Australian vessels fighting side-by-side against the Japanese. The night action was a serious defeat for the Allies, during which the HMAS Canberra was sunk and 85 of her crew lost. The battle nevertheless succeeded in diverting Japanese ships from vulnerable troop transports, ensuring the safe landing of an invasion force. The common sacrifice of the HMAS Canberra and other U.S. and Australian vessels and sailors was emblematic of our two countries' alliance, born in the grim early days of World War II.

The USS Canberra carried on the honorable tradition of its namesake, participating in the remainder of WWII and the Vietnam War, the latter after its conversion to a guided missile cruiser in the 1950's. The USS Canberra remained active with the U.S. Navy until her decommissioning in 1970.

The USS Canberra's ship's bell, a distinctive emblem of her proud career, is presented to the Government and Commonwealth of Australia on this occasion to mark the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty Alliance.


The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
September 10, 2001

President and Australian PM Commemorate 50 Year Military Alliance 
Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Howard of Australia
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C.

9:45 A.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you for those generous comments.  It reconfirms once again the reason I picked you.  (Laughter.) I appreciate your service to the Navy and I appreciate your service to the country.Stories were exchanged and as President Bush presented Australian Prime Minister Howard with the bell from the U.S.S. Canberra at a ceremony commemorating 50 years of military alliance. 'The President had received word of an exceptional action in battle by the Australian Navy, which were steaming alongside American vessels at Guadalcanal. His Majesty's Australian ship Canberra did not survive the battle, disappearing into the depths where she rests today,' explained the President. White House photo by Tina Hager.

     I'm honored today to join with the Navy to receive a distinguished visitor, and to present a symbol of America's esteem.  Prime Minister Howard leads a nation that has been our partner in ANZUS for 50 years, and a friend far longer.

     Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. Howard, it's a real pleasure to have you with us, and also those of you who made the journey with the Prime Minister.  Welcome to America.

     My thanks as well to Admirals Clark and Weaver, and to all the men and women of the United States military who are with us today.  We're sure proud of you.

     Those who defend America have always had a special regard for our Australian allies.  And I know -- I know -- they're really proud to show that regard today.

     Another reason we chose this site, Mr. Prime Minister, is that we have a gift for you.  And it's not that easy to move around.  This bell that you are going to receive has traveled for almost 25 years aboard the only American ship ever commissioned in honor of an ally's fallen vessel, the U.S.S. Canberra.  She no longer sails, but she gave faithful service.  And this bell is a reminder of a faithful partner, in times of crisis and in times of calm.

     U.S.S. Canberra received her name at the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the height of World War II.  The President had received word of an exceptional action in battle by the Australian Navy, which were steaming alongside American vessels at Guadalcanal.  His Majesty's Australian ship Canberra did not survive the battle, disappearing into the depths where she rests today.With their hands over their hearts, President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard perform a military pass and review at the Washington Navy Yard Sept. 10, 2001. Commemorating 50 years of military alliance, the President and Prime Minister spoke to assembled military personnel, shared lunch and spoke privately in the Oval Office. White House photo by Tina Hager.

     It was a great loss of life, and much heroism amongst the Australian sailors and marines on board.  As a sign of gratitude to those men, and to their country, the U.S.S. Canberra was commissioned the very next year, serving my country and honoring yours, Mr. Prime Minister.

     One man who served aboard the original Canberra was Lieutenant Mackenzie Gregory, and we're greatly honored to have him with us today. Where is Mr. Gregory?  Thank you for being here, sir.  We're honored to have you.  (Applause.)  You must have been a young guy.  (Laughter.)

     President Roosevelt knew a trustworthy ally when he saw one.  Every President since then has felt and known the same esteem for Australia.

     Mr. Prime Minister, it was one of your own predecessors, a wartime leader who captured the spirit that has always made us natural allies.  We work for the same kind of free world, observed Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. We govern ourselves in democracy, and we will not tolerate anything less. We cherish liberty and hold it safe, providing hope for the rest of the world.

     In the century just passed, Australians served side by side with Americans in every major military commitment.  In peaceful times like our own, the alliance between our two nations has helped spare the world from other wars and dangers.  Australia is a strong and peaceful presence in East Asia and the Pacific.

     Australia is a generous land, mindful of the struggles of poorer nations, always helping when and where it can.  Your government and your good people are an example of democracy, individual liberty, and the virtues of free trade amongst all nations.

     On this official visit to our country, I know that you will meet with nothing but goodwill.  And in meetings with Congress and my administration, you will find willing partners who understand Australia's importance as a strategic and economic ally.  Though half a world apart, we belong to a very close community of values and aspirations.

     From this visit, Mr. Prime Minister, I hope that you will take away renewed optimism about our shared future.  And I know that you will take with you a parcel weighing approximately 250 pounds.  (Laughter.)  It's a fine bell, with a great history.  And once you get it home, it will always stand as a sign of the unbounded respect of our nation for the Australian people.

     Welcome to America.  May God bless Australia, and may God bless America.  (Applause.)

     PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Vern Clark, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations; Vice Admiral David Shackleton, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy; Rear Admiral Chris Weaver, Washington District Commander; ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen:

     Today's simple but moving ceremony in this historic navy yard here in Washington is a very powerful symbol of the ties that bind our two nations. On behalf of the Australian people, Mr. President, I want to thank you and the American Navy for this very kind and symbolic gesture, a gesture that does underline what we have been through, what we have meant to each other in the past, what we mean to each other now, and I know we will mean to each other in the future.

     As you have done, Mr. President, may I take the opportunity of saying on behalf of the Australian government how highly my government regards the men and women in uniform who serve in different ways to defend Australia, and to work with our allies when required.  Your Navy Secretary mentioned the priority that you had given to budget appropriations for defense in the United States.  Can I likewise say that when my government came to office in March of 1996, and we were faced with the requirement of reducing government expenditures, the one area around which we placed a circle and said no reductions would take place was in the area of defense.  And at the end of last year, we unveiled a white paper that projects in the defense area, over the next decade, a very significant increase in expenditure for all areas of defense.

     And that is a recognition by the Australian government and by the Australian people of the enormous importance of providing proper help and proper recognition to the men and women who look after the defense interests of our nation.  It is also a recognition that although we live in a world no longer influenced by the old bipolar divisions between the Soviet Union and the West, led by the power of the United States, we nonetheless live in a world which is potentially very unstable, particularly in the region in which both our nations operate, and where from time to time the deployment of our forces for peacekeeping operations would be necessary.

     So today's gathering is not only an historic occasion.  It is not only an emotional opportunity for me to say on behalf of the Australian people, and particularly Australian naval personnel -- and can I also acknowledge the presence here of our wonderful survivor from the original Canberra, Mr. Gregory, how wonderful it is that you have been able to make the journey from our homeland to come here for this very special ceremony.  It is not only, therefore, an occasion to recognize the symbolism and the importance placed by that symbolism on the association between our two nations.  But it is also an opportunity for me to reaffirm, on behalf of the Australian government and on behalf of the Australian people, the great strength and continuity of the defense association between Australia and the United States.


It is 50 years ago this month from that day in San Francisco in 1951 when the ANZUS treaty was signed.  And in the half-century that has gone by since then, both the United States and Australia have lived out the covenants of that treaty to the full.  We have fought side by side with the United States in many conflicts.  We have worked together in peacekeeping operations, most recently in East Timor.  And both of us have been forces for the expansion and not the contraction of democracy.

     And one of the great dividends of the ANZUS alliance, and indeed, one of the great dividends of the alliances around the world between free peoples, such as the people of Australia and the United States, has been the way in which we have seen democracy expand rather than contract.  And by living out the covenants of the ANZUS treaty, our two nations and our two societies have demonstrated to the world that values based on freedom and individual liberty in the end win acceptance.  But they only win acceptance if behind the commitment is a determination on the part of nations who believe in those values to defend them, if necessary fight for them, and always be ready to repel those who would seek to take those freedoms away.

     Mr. President, your gesture today and the gesture on behalf of your nation is one that touches the hearts of all Australians here today.  We value our alliance.  More importantly, we value the common things that we believe in.  The greatest strength of the American-Australian alliance is that we believe in the same things.  We believe in freedom.  We believe in democracy.  We believe that open societies are better societies than closed societies.

     Through the years, we have fought to defend those values.  And this token of yours is a warm gesture marking the close World War II relationship between our two countries.  And I know it will be very warmly received in Australia, and seen for what it is: a potent symbol of the great affection that exists between our two great societies.

   Thank you.

   END                9:52 A.M. EDT


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USS Canberra Image Gallery:
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USS Canberra 1943-1970

The USS Canberra (CA-70) was commissioned on October 14, 1943. At the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. cruiser was named to honour the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra, which had been sunk the previous year in the battle of Savo Island, near Guadalcanal


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