The cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) was built at the New York Navy Yard and launched on 12 April 1933. She was commissioned on 15 February 1934. On 5 July, she sailed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard. On 7 December 1941, the New Orleans was undergoing engine repair while moored in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Her antiaircraft batteries were in action within ten minutes; she suffered no serious damage.
The New Orleans returned to San Francisco on 13 January 1942 for installation of a new radar and 20-mm. guns. Upon return to Pearl Harbor, she joined Task Force 11. She took part in the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942, playing a major role in rescuing sailors from the sinking USS Lexington (CV-2). The New Orleans also took part in the Battle of Midway.
The New Orleans screened the USS Saratoga (CV-3) during the invasion of the Solomons and supported the Marines who landed on Guadalacanal. When the Saratoga was struck by a torpedo on 31 August 1942, the New Orleans escorted her safely back to Pearl Harbor.