USS Des Moines (CA-134) is the first of four Des Moines class heavy cruisers laid down by the United States late in World War II. She was built by the Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. Her keel was laid on May 28, 1945, and she was launched on September 27, 1946. USS Des Moines was commissioned on November 17, 1948.
The design of the Des Moines class was influenced by the need to build a heavy cruiser with rapid firing 8" guns that could engage and successfully sink Japanese cruisers. In repeated actions, during the early part of the war, American cruisers had found it almost impossible to hit fast Japanese ships in night actions. The navy designed USS Des Moines to solve this problem by providing her with rapid firing 8" guns that would easily outrange Japanese cruisers that mounted 6" rapid fire guns. The Des Moines class was also provided with extensive batteries of antiaircraft guns to provide protection for Essex class aircraft carriers then roaming the Pacific. Des Moines class cruisers were the last class of heavy cruisers designed by the United States during World War II and represent the culmination of wartime cruiser design.
USS Des Moines is in good condition and retains her World War II design integrity. USS Des Moines was placed out of commission in 1961 and is now in reserve at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
Role of the Cruiser in World War II
During World War II American cruisers were designed for two general purposes: fleet support in combination with destroyers, both for defense against hostile destroyers and for torpedo attack on an enemy battle line; and in a combination of independent operations including cruising in hostile waters, raiding, and protecting the long lines of communications across the Pacific. 
By early 1942 American cruisers screened the first fast carrier raids against Japanese held islands in the Pacific. The cruisers Houston, Marblehead, and Boise fought with the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) command under Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman in a vain attempt to stop the victorious Japanese advance into the Java Sea in February 1942. In the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942 three American cruisers Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes as well as the Australian cruiser Canberra were lost in a Japanese night attack.
By 1942 the cruiser had become the principal surface combat ship in the Pacific. In addition to screening the fast carrier attack forces, cruisers carried out gunnery raids on enemy held shores, provided fire support for amphibious operations, and were given many assignments in support of general fleet operations. From her original role as a scout and surface raider, the cruiser became an essential component of task force operations in the Pacific.  During the war the United States completed large numbers of cruisers to meet the demands of fleet operations in the Pacific. These ships continued to bear the brunt of the action in the Pacific until the end of the war. The last major combat ship lost by the United States in World War II was the cruiser USS Indianapolis, sunk by a Japanese submarine on July 29, 1945.
USS Des Moines represents American. cruisers that fought against Japan in World War II for the following reasons:
Chesnau, Roger ed. Conway's All the Worlds Fighting Ships 1922-1946. New York: Mayflower Books, 1980.
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Vol. IV. Washington, DC: Naval History Division, 1969.
McMahon, William E. Dreadnought Battleships and Battle Cruisers. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1978.
Preston, Anthony. Cruisers--An Illustrated History 1880-1980. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1980.
(click on the above photographs for a more detailed view)