Farragut class destroyers (1934)

Farragut class Destroyers (1934)

US Navy Fleet Destroyers (1933-47):
USS Farragut, Dewey, Hull, MacDonough, Worden, Dale, Monaghan, Aylwin

Starting anew: The Farragut class

The Farragut class destroyers marked a turning point in ship design for the United States. They were the first design studied since 1917, and first destroyer type since the Washington Treaty signing and application in August 17, 1923, cloturing for good the mass-construction of the famous “four pipers”, emergency destroyer class of WWI.

USS_Farragut_DD-348

The “four pipers” Inheritance

USS Crowninshield (DD-134) in 1939
USS Crowninshield (DD-134) in 1939
At war in April 1917, the USN rapidly expanded its capabilities, to follow new battleships, but mostly to escort merchant traffic contested by German U-Boats in the first battle of the Atlantic.
These “four stackers”, “flush deckers” among other nicknames were the Wickes (111 built) and Clemson class (156 built). Two separated series for a grand total of more than 260 identical vessels, which were the culminating points of previous designs such as the 1916 Caldwell class.
They were designed with much simplifications in mind, inherinting most design aspects of the Caldwell, notably their flush-deck hull.
They were caracterized by the same four 4 in (102 mm)/50 caliber guns in lozenge arrangement (two amidships, one aft, one forward), a single 3 in (76 mm)/23 for AA defence and no less than twelve 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes in two triple banks installed on either side. The Wickes were just larger for more range, faster at 33 versus 32 knots. The Clemsons were essentially a minor redesign with greater fuel capacity for extended range.
The last of these were completed in the summer of 1922, whereas the Naval Washington Treaty was already signed (February).

Washington Treaty Provisions on Destroyers


Importantly in this treaty was expressed, page 73 under “auxiliary crafts” where layed Destroyers and Flotilla Leaders, in c., that “Destroyers and flotilla leaders 12 years of age from date of completion may be replaced by new construction. The keels of such new construction shall not be laid until the tonnage it is intended to replace is 11 years of age from date of completion”. Therefore all the “four pipers” completed in 1918 could be scheduled for replacement already in 1930, but the bulk were scheduled for 1933, setup as the starting point for any new construction.
The treaty introduced no provision in terms of individual tonnage or maximal armament for that matter, otherwise than a global tonnage, which mostly concerned capital ships.

London Treaty Provisions on Destroyers

The London treaty was scheduled to expire in 1936, and thus, after years of practices to go around most of the clauses, a new treaty was worked on to be proposed and signed to the same naval powers, negociated at London, and this time motivated by the recent wall street crash of 1929 and subsequent world’s financial crisis. In part fuelled by a vehemently pacifist public opinion expressed in Geneva, many wanted to harden the treaty several fold, not only prolongate the capital ship ban but making it indefinite, and also impose a ten years moratorium on cruisers, while imposing severe restriction on destroyers. Eventually, signatories only agreed on maintaining the ban deadline to 1936 but agreed to cap heavy cruiser construction (provisional ban on 8-in guns cruisers, with replacement clause), albeit freeing light cruisers from any limit up to 10,000 tonnes as defined in 1922.

In article 15 was specifically expressed for the first time that “Surface vessels of war the standard displacement of which does not exceed 1,850 tons (1,880 metric tons), and with a gun not above 5.1 inch (130 mm) calibre.” This adressed in part notably Japan creating its own over-armed “special type” in 1926 (the Fubuki class -1,750 long tons standard, 4x 5-in guns, three triple TT banks), avoiding a naval race in that category. Still, 1,850 tonnes gave some leeway to all signatories, but this excluded “destroyer leaders” (France for example went on with classes of 2,500 tonnes like the “Le Fantasque” class laid down in 1931, and both Italy, UK and the US looked at similar designs).
The US thus had the intention to built both classes, standard fleet destroyers under this tonnage, and destroyer leaders above. Between the Washington replacement clauses and a global tonnage of 150,000 tons (circa 85 destroyers, less with 2,000+ tonnes leaders), there was some leeway to rapidly ramp up production of several classes, even with the precision in XVI.4 that destroyer category should not reach 16% of the allowed total tonnage in vessels over 1,500 tons”, and that “no other destroyers exceeding 1,500 tons (standard) shall be constructed/acquired this reduction 16% has been effected”. In the next article it was also precised that up to 10% of the ‘cruiser’ category may instead be built as destroyers, leaving the admiralty some though about substituing heavier destroyer leaders.

Design Development


DD-191 class project for a 1918 alternative flotilla leader, 1,525 tonnes, BuC&R design study (unknown exact date). Note the rather modern artillery disposition on superfiring pairs in the axis, reminiscent of British V-W classes. It however had three triple bank, one axial forward, two aft in échelon. Instead DD-191 was ordered as a regular Clemson class, USS Mason. But the design looks quite modern for its time.


A prelimnary study for a 1918 “large destroyer” design. Also modern with four superfiring 5-in guns fore and aft and a fifth amidhships. The same platform houses a 3-in AA gun. Without top view it’s impossible to determine the nature and location of the torpedo tubes banks. Note also the two funnels far apart.

Like for peacetime cruiser or capital ship, the admiralty soon agreed on an incremental development, with six standard fleet destroyers for each on average and four for flotilla leaders.
The Interwar Design Debate started much earlier than 1930 however, over a large flotilla leader type similar to the 1918 British V & W Class.


The 1919 2,200 tonnes destroyer leader design, with a forecastle, superfiring guns, which looked quite modern for its time.
By February 1919 already, a 2,200t design standard with five 4in guns, all centerline, and the same twelve torpedo tubes in wing banks was looked upon. The solution of wing bank answered potential problems perceived with axial torpedoes and allegedly prevented any over excited captain to fire all of these at once.
This 1919 design was not popular, most seeing it more as an offensive weapons like torpedo boats of old rather than a fleet and anti-submarine escort. Captains still expected to surge against enemy battlefleets using the Battle of Jutland as model.

F.S. Craven design (1920)


src: JSTOR “To the Edge of the Possible: U.S. High-Speed Destroyers, 1918-1953: Part 3, Chronological Development”
In 1920 however, Lt. Commander F.S. Craven submitted a design to the General Board encompassing most aspects underlines by destroyer captains, active and retired. It looked a bit dated, with a turtle-back forecastle believed to procure increased speed in smooth seas, and six 5-in guns in three triple mounts, a triple axial torpedo tube bank and two triple tubes on the centre line, aft of the rear funnel/aft deckhouse, plus exra free launch torpedoes on the fantail and a single 5-in AA gun. He saw it as a “disposable tool” to be thrown at an enemy fleet, unloading all torpedoes at once an escaping while firing those in the stern tubes.

Surprisingly, this design gained support, even ended approved by the CNO office in July 1920. The General Board tried to secure funds to built five FY1921, vetoed by the Congress. Between peacetime desarmament mood and the Washington treaty to the point of being launch, this was not the right moment, congressmen seeing the huge fleet of flushdeckers, some just completed, as perfectly sufficient without going into a new costly “adventurous design”.

1927 1400t fleet destroyer

Artist rendition by Walter L. Greene
Artist rendition of the Farragut class by Walter L. Greene.

In 1927, another new design was developed as a “standard”, fleet destroyer based on a 1,400t standard displacement with as specified, twelve torpedoes (two sextuple mounts !) on the centre line, and four 5-in guns, plus high pressure steam boilers. But this design study never got traction. Some aspects were liked by the admiralty, others not and there were in particular doubts avout the sextuple torpedo mounts, between complexity and weight. This never has been done, and at best, the IJN’s Shimakaze class introduced a quintuple bank in 1942, as well as the USN Sumner class in 1943. This was more realistic on a 2,500 tonnes displacement for topweight reasons.

Later in 1927 work began on a new destroyer leader design. This time the design teams produced a rangel of eight designs for ships of wildly different sizes, from a 1,421t destroyer to a 2,900 super-destroyer inspired partly by a new generation of French and Italian large destroyers. In 1928 the General Board designed on an intermediate set of specifications – no more than 1,850t displacement, four 5in/51 single purpose guns, twelve torpedo tubes and an endurance of 6,000 miles at 12 knots. This design didn’t offer much improvement over the Clemson class other than an increase in range and the move from 4in to 5in guns.

Post-London discussions

In April 1930 the London Naval Treaty was signed and did not imposed limits on destroyer in global tonnage, but still fixed an indovidual tonnage limit of 1,850 tons, macimal caliber of 5.1-in (130 mm) in accordance fo French Destroyer caliber. The US Navy was however capped to 150,000 tons of destroyers with 16% only authorized to be over 1,500 tons of light or standard displacement, which conformed the US admiralty in her new destroyer design basic attributes.

Two competing visions soon emerged:
-One faction wanted to built two types of destroyers, between large fleet leaders at 2,400 tons with a much heavied gun battery and capable of 28-30kts, alongside smaller fleet models capped at 1,100 tons standards but capable of 40kts with an emphasis on torpedoes.
-The second faction advocated for a single, versatile fleet type with enough range to travel across the Pacific and deter any Japanese expansion on the Philippines. This view fit a “universal” 1,500t standard type more in accordance to the Treaty and simplifying costs and maintenance. In fact this was also to gain more traction with the Congress, perhaps more reluctant to built costly “super destroyers” on one hand in peacetime, or useless models for the pacific on the other in case of war.

1930-31 designs

This, the Construction & Repair Bureau ((BuC&R) proposed from this three designs:
-Standard destroyer 1,375t
-Standard destroyer 1,500t
-Destroyer leader 1,850t.
They all shared the same battery of 5in/25 gun, more usable that the heavy 5in/50 gun once proposed. Of course they all adopted a raised forecastle and the artillery was axial and in superfiring positions.
-The 1,375t was to carry 16 torpedo tubes in four axial quad mounts, two either side for a full broadside of 8. This took quite some space on the beam.
-The 1,500t design had three axial triple mounts, 9 torpedo broadside.
-The 1,850t leader also had two axial quadruple mounts, and ideally four twin turrets.


Wow’s rendition standard view

Wow’s rendition, 3/4 view

Eventually the 1,500t design received most appraisal for its larger torpedo capacity, and ultimately led to the Farragut class. The 1,850t leader was further developed and ended as the Porter Class Destroyers, so both factions in the end “won”. The first lost its “light destroyer” (partly based on the ground that achieving 40 kts on this tonnage was unrealistic), but still had their leader. The other faction won its 1500 standard fit for Pacific Operations. 

C&R started to produce in January 1931 a new, more refine 1,500t proposition in January 1931 with a standard displacement reevaluated at 1,725t, armed with two single 5in/38 DP guns in a forward superfiring pair, but also twin 5in single mounts on either side of the aft deckhouses, six in total, plus three triple torpedo tube, all axial (centre line) which was rejected outright by the General Board. The latter proposed instead five alternative layouts, advocating for only four, but better protected 5-in DP (dual purpose) guns and still three triple torpedo tubes in axial and side banks to shorten the hull and making it lighter. The Secretary of the Navy wanted a five guns, two quad torpedo tubes design, and like the Board compromised with just the two foward guns actually shielded.

1932 Specifications

Meanwhile, other “little hands” made a remarkable compilation of more grounded specifications. The list of desired improvements went directly from operational experience, with the Wickes and Clemson classes. It spanned over ten years was long and comprehensive. Captains notes were complied into the following general fields of complaints:
1-The pointed sterns deeply dug into the water and increased turning diameter ;
2-Flush deck designs provided a cheap, simple construction with hull strength, but proved wet in high seas ;
3-Cruising range on both the Wickes and Clemson classes was inadequate ;

The first point was adressed with a new transom stern, a brand new design that was testing in basin, and the second with a return to the raised forecastle, already agreed by all and designed in 1919 already. It was however far higher than prewar designs and more in tune with the punishing north atlantic conditions.
For the third point, The Clemsons partly solved the range issue by having wing tanks installed, high mounted and proving a wing point since they were unprotected. The new design was to expand the range and havning protected tanks to reach 5,980 nautical miles verssu 4,900 nautical miles for the Clemsons. Outside of these points, an ibcrease of performance, also noted akthough 32-33 knots was still “comfortable” in 1930, steady improvements in boilers and steam turbines technology since a decade promised more compact machinery tet more output. It allowed a greater speed and just two funnels whihch incidentally cause less drag.

This data effort was praised among others by Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, at the head of BuC&R, when communicating with the General Board of the admiralty: He comparing the new Farragut class in design in 1932 with the Wickes and Clemson classes seeing that the first was:
-3.3 knots faster.
-Double the general metacentric height resulting in greater initial stability.
-25% more armament with 5 axial main guns rather than four in positions only allowing triple broadside.
-35% more firepower due to the new 5 in/38 caliber guns Mark 12 (previously 4 in/50).
-Now all 8 torpedo tubes were on the centerline, for a full broadside either side.
-Guns were now fed by power hoist from the magazines, safer and quicker.
-Hey had a much higher freeboard with much better sea-keeping.
-Radius of action increased by 450 nautical miles (830 km; 520 mi).
-All this was done on a mere 22% rise in displacement, which was worth the past decade of advancements.

Final Design of the class


2-view details plan from the blueprints.com, reconstituted from original plans (cannot be found, possible not digitized yet).

Assuredly, the new DD-348 design was encompassing many design evolutions, starting with the forecastle, without knuckle, prolongated by two walls. The whole bow was raised considerably for a start, ensuring better seakeeping. In addition as suggested in 1930, only the forward main superfiring guns were protected by shields, which also acted against sea spray in heavy seas. All three aft guns were left without protection. It should be noted that a fifth gun was reserved in European navies, traditionally to flotilla leaders. “Standard” fleet destroyers only had four, plus a smaller dual purpose.
The profile was taller overall, and the bridge was no exception. It sat one level higher above the superstructure, above the chart room. It was prismatic but not like previous Wickes/Clemsons, with a flattened section forward, offering good peripheral vision with classic squared windows. The bridge wings were rectangular and went to full beam, but the upper open bridge deck formed the outboard corners of this prism. There were two morse signal lights on both main bridge wings corners. The signals storage bin was located aft of the structure, close to the foremast.
There was also the usual open bridge above with the main coincidence rangefinder and telemeter sitting above. The tall foremast was located at the dying end of this prism, composed of a single pole, in part supporting the derrick on top of which was located the formward projector platform. An old fashion whaler style lookout “bucket” was located almost atop the mast. Radio cables went downards to the mainmast aft.


ONI recognition drawing

The aft superstructure, which continued the forecastle to amidships, supported the only two squarish funnels, the aft one being truncated into a model twice as large as the forward one, rectangular and not round, which was more rational but odd. Four service boats were placed on davits on either side, and inflatable boats were suspended at the same locations, below. Immediately aft of tis structure was located the main N°3, unprotected. Then came the two quadruple torpedo tube banks, without separation between them as customary on European designs, generally were sat the AA gun platform. The quarterdeck structure aft supported a platform with the two torpedo tubes rangefinders, then a derrick with the aft projector, the mainmast, and gun N°4.

Seen from above, the hull had no flat section. The greatest beam was located a bit after N°3 gun amidship, flare was very limited and the forward deck was rather narrow, but broader aft, rounded seen from atop, but it had a knuckle to transition into a transom stern of sorts. That was new compared to previous designs and the result of many calculations to master wake turbulences. Engineers wanted the stern wave sortie to be as reduced as possible, notably to not loss buoyancy and “grip” for the proplellers. Water density was essential for an optimised thrust. The process that led to this shape is well detailed in JSTOR “To the Edge of the Possible: U.S. High-Speed Destroyers, 1918-1953: Part 3”.

Hull and general design



USS Alywin, plans, outboard profile (damaged unfortunately) and deck plans down to the machinery.

The new hull was based on a 1,365 tons standard displacement (so leaving a margin to install new equipments up to 1,500 tonnes) and reached 2,064 tons fully loaded.
It was however still narrow, 341 ft 3 in (104.01 m) long overall for a beam of 34 ft 3 in (10.44 m) -classic 1/10 ratio- but with a very tall forecastle, and a draft of “just” 16 ft 2 in (4.93 m). Still, metacentric height was considered good. But as said compared to European designs, there was very little flare, the forward section was quite narrow. This did not changed much throughout the following design, up to the Fletchers. The same generic hull shape was kept all along.

Powerplant

Propellers, rudders and stern as built
Propellers, rudders and stern as built (via navsource).
The Farragut-class benefited from ten years of advances in machinery design, boilers and turbines improvements: Steam pressure and temperature went from from 300 psi with saturated steam to 400 psi (2,800 kPa) now with superheated steam to 648 °F (342 °C). This new system increased turbines efficiency and improved the range considerably. Indeed, it was the first use of superheaters in a US destroyer. Economizers used boiler exhaust gas to preheat the feedwater, before it entered the boiler, thus also sparing fuel to boil the water.

The turbines were Parsons-type (licence built) reaction turbines, by Bethlehem Steel. They were divided into a high-pressure section, followed by a low-pressure section, but with refined components, sepcially gears and fans to take the most of the superheated steam. The turbine was then mated to a common reduction gear, drive the main two shaft. This was the general arrangement reused on all US Navy vessels. There was still however the single-reduction gearing of the previous class, whereas from the Mahan class onwards (next standards) and following, it was swapped for double-reduction gearing, making turbines more compact.

Armament


Wow’s rendition, Farragut’s 5-in/38 N°3 closeup
For a “standard”, the Farragut class was rather well armed, with five rather than four main guns. The caliber was standard for the time, but the sacrifice of the usual dual-purpose gun meant they were armed like WWI destroyer leaders. For comparison, the British A-B class destroyers only had four 4.7 in (120 mm) guns, but 2-pdr AA guns. Instead, AA was limited to four standard liquid-cooled 12.7 mm browning machine guns. Against 300 kph biplanes in 1933-34 this seemed already barely adequate. This was upgraded as soon as practicable.
At a time also many destroyers had triple torpedo banks. The choice of quadruple ones was also new (compared to the Clemsons), but it was the next obvious tendency in all navies. British A-B destroyers had such banks as the IJN. Fubuki class since 1926 already. And being axial, the full broadside was available on both sides.
As completed, these vessels were also devoid of any ASW weaponry. Anti-submarine means planned were to be a sonar and two DCRs ‘Depth charge Racks), but in wartime an increase of this capability with the installation of additional DCT (Depth charge Thrower) was planned, for what the deck had necessary reinforcements.

Main Artillery: 5x 5-in/38


Mark 21 Mod 1 with the associated shield.
The 5-inches (127 mm)/38 caliber guns were a great classic, which replacd the 4-in/25 caliber of the previous Clemson class. The shells weighted almost double, so firepower had a net increase compared to previous vessels. This was asked to counter IJN destroyers like the Fubuki class, which had six of them in three twin turrets. The 5-in/38 was the first successful true dual-purpose gun in the USN, mid-length compromise between the older 5″/51 low-angle and 5″/25 AA gun. It was developed as the Farragut class were just started in 1931 and in service when they were launched in 1934. It ised a vertical sliding-wedge (Mk12 Gun Assembly) with a 15 in (38 cm) recoil, elevation up to 85° (and depression -15°), average traverse of 328.5 degrees and ideal rate of fire of 15 rpm. Each explosive shell left the barrel at 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s).
Fire control:

Anti-Aircraft Artillery

There was no secondary intermediate AA gun, thanks to the dual purpose capability of the guns. However it appeared later with the increased speed of all-metal monoplane that the AA capability was not longer relevant. At first, the four Browning 0.5-in/90 M1920 machine guns were possibly located on the wings. Their mounts does not appear on reconstructed plans.

In 1941, they were still there. However from may to September 1942, the USN pressed into service its first licence-built 20 mm oerlikon guns and eight 20mm/70 Mk 4 were installed in place of the N°3 main gun amidship, sacrificed. As the war progressed, when practicable, this was modified again with just three single 20mm/70 kept and the ones amidship replaced by two twin 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 Bofors which became the norm. By 1945 the standard was the same two twin Bofors, and five Oerlikon Mk 10. By that time, full displacement reached 2,307-2,335t, almost a thousand tons more than the original standard tonnage.

ASW equipments

As completed, the ship had no apparent depht charge racks. They were added in mid-1941, as the sonar. Each of the racks hold 7 depht charges, so 14 in all. No provision for more is known.
In early to September 1942, they also obtained four extra DCT K-Gun type (Depth Charge Throwers) for 48 depth charges in total, a substantial increase. They had two Mark 1 Mod 1 racks installed aft, these were versions of the original Mark 1 Mod 0, cut down to hold five Mark 6 or three Mark 7 Depth Charges. They became the norm for Farragut and following. The Mark 6 (1938) was a redesigned WWI-era Mark 3, weighting 420 lbs. (191 kg) with a 300 lbs. (136 kg) TNT charge, a sink Rate or Terminal Velocity of 8 fps (2.4 mps) and settings range from 50 or 300 feet (15 – 91 m).

Torpedoes

Mark 14 Torpedo Tube Bank for Mark 15 Torpedoes
Mark 14 Torpedo Tube Bank for Mark 15 Torpedoes.
21″ (53.3 cm) Mark 15: In service from 1935, it replaced the 1938 Mark 13. It became the standard destroyer torpedo, replacing old stocks of Mark 11/12 used on the Wickes/Clemson and remained in service until 1944, with 9,700 mass-produced between 1940 and 1944. The Mark 15 Mod 0 weighted 3,438 lbs. for 22 ft 7 in (6.883 m) in lenght. it was powered by a Wet-Heater steam turbine and guided by the Mark 12 Mod 3 gyro. It carried a 494 lbs. (224 kg) TNT warhead on the base of three settings:
-6,000 yards (5,500 m)/45 knots
-10,000 yards (9.150 m)/33.5 knots
-15,000 yards (13,700 m)/26.5 knots
Fortunately it never suffered the same issues as the controversial Mark 14 used on submarines. It just did not hold the comparison with the infamous Japanese “long lance”.

Fire Control & Radars


SC radar. A classic early warning radar with a range between 48 and 120 km (30–75 mi).
The Fire controls of a Farragut class consisted in a Mark 33 standard Gun Fire Control Systems (GFCS) installed on top of the bridge. The Mark 33 GFCS was power-driven and a less sophisticated version of the Mark 37 on larger ships.
It used the Mark 10 Rangekeeper analog fire-control computer mounted in an open director rather and not in a separate plotting room due to the lack of space. The Mark 33 was inaugurated by the Farragut class and used on the Mahan, Gridley, Bagley and Benham classes.
In 1944, it is possible the surviving ships had been upgraded to the Mark 51 Gun Director, not the larger Mark 58 Rangefinder.
As for radars, the Farragut class was equipped from 1941 by 1942 to 1944 depending on availability, with the common SC and SG as well as the Mk 12.22 radar.
At the end of the war, they were also upgraded with a new sonar, the QCA.

General Assessment


USS Farragut in September 1939
Due to their long service life from 1935-36 to 1946-48 these destroyers generated tons of reports and their advantages soon turned in part into more controversial issues as new classes were introduced. In particular, they were found considered unstable in heavy weather, and while turning. They bled speed while healing at an alarming rate, so much so captains succeeding in command soon had the habit of warning themselves not to manoeuver full hard rudder if practicable.

This issue was caused in part by their hull shape, tall superstructures, and unlike other more acute designs like the Porter class and following, completely rebuilt, war-time modifications made them even more top-heavy, while they stayed in their original state. Two in fact famously sunk in the December 1944 typhoon: USS Hull and Monaghan. It seems to some witnesses they seemed to roll even worse in 1943-44 than in their interwar years, and even in the calmest weather it was borderline dangerous.

The court of inquiry after the Typhoon in 1945 aknowleged that for the destroyer lost, the basic stability of the Farragut-class was “materially less than other destroyers”.
We have to remember here however that these were experimental designs, despite having almost ten years of reflexion. Only the London treaty speed the design up and before a ship could be built on a new hull shape and superstructure, apart probable metacentric height there was no way to figure aout its behaviour in the real world. The overweight issue was common to many other contemporary US designs of the time, notably the Pensacola and even the Northampton class cruisers.

But unlike the destroyer leaders, partly rebuilt, the Farraguts stayed “in their juice” with further additions and little effort to remedy their problems than the usual “handle with care”. It’s true also that none was lost in action: USS Worden was wrecked during an Aleutian operations in 1943, on uncharted rocks at Amchitka island. Hull and Monaghan 18.12.1944 were lost due to the aforementioned Typhoon off Luzon. MacDonough on 10.5.1943 was hit in a collision with USS Sicard and repaired for six months. They served in the Pacific and as for battle records, made nothing much remarkable. All were present at the attack on Pearl Harbor and Monaghan sank a Japanese midget submarine that day, opening the hostilities on the US side by the first IJN naval “kill” outside aircraft shot down.

Appearance – Camouflage Schemes & renditions


Old author’s profile, as commissioned, with a large forward identifier and original light grey livery.

Measure 32, design 3D

Measure 32, design 6D

Measure 32, Design 6D

Measure 31, Design 6D

Measure 32, design 32D

USS Farragut, 29 September 1944
USS Farragut, 29 September 1944

uss farragut 1934
Author’s HD rendition of USS Farragut as completed, off Norfolk during her extended trials and developmental tests in December 1934

USS Mc Donough in December 1943, Measure 21 Ocean blue

USS Dale in measure 31 design 5D, May 1944

⚙ specifications

Displacement 1,365 tons standard, 2,064 tons fully loaded
Dimensions 104.01 x 10.44 x 4.93 m ( 341 ft 3 inx34 ft 3 in x 16 ft 2 in)
Propulsion 2 shafts Parsons turbines, 4 Yarrow boilers, 42,800 shp (31,900 kW)
Speed 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph)
Range 5,980 nautical miles (11,070 km; 6,880 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Armament 5x 5-in/38 DP, 4x 0.5-in Browning AA, 2×4 21-in TTs, see notes
Sensors Mk33 GFCS, SC radar, sonar (1943)
Crew 160 peacetime, 250 wartime

Read More

Books

Clavin, Tom & Bob Drury. Halsey’s Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue; Grove Press
Capsizing of USS Hull in typhoon off Luzon : Narrative by Lt. Commdr. Jame A. Marks, 18 December 1944
“Typhoon Cobra” by Carl M. Berntsen, SoM1/C, USS De Haven (DD-727) Sailors Association website
“Tide to History” by Greil Marcus, The Threepenny Review, Spring 2008
Typhoon Cobra, USS Hull (DD-350) & USS Hull (DD-945) association
Melton Jr., Buckner F. Sea Cobra, Admiral Halsey’s Task Force and the Great Pacific Typhoon Lyons Press
Greil Marcus: a life in writing by Simon Reynolds, The Guardian, 18 February 2012

Links

https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/us-navy-ships/alphabetical-listing/f/uss-farragut–dd-348-0.html
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_farragut_class_destroyers.html
http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/F/a/Farragut_class.htm
http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_5-38_mk12.php
http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WAMUS_ASW.php
http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_Radar_WWII.php
https://destroyerhistory.org/destroyers/introduction/
https://zlibrary.to/pdfs/aboard-the-farragut-class-destroyers-in-world-war-ii-a-history-with-first-person-accounts-of-enlisted-men-pdf
https://naval-encyclopedia.com/docs/Aboard_the_Farragut_Class_Destroyers_First-PersonAccounts.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farragut-class_destroyer_(1934)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Farragut_class_destroyers_(1934)

Model Kits

First off, we have a 1:96 kit signed by The Scale Shipyard, and retooled in 1999. The “hottest” to these days are the Iron Shipwrights and Black Cat Models 1:350 (as well as the Commander Series Models kit), still maintained to this day. For this who want it compact, there is the Niko Model 1:700.
General query on scalemates.
More on the USS Hull 1:350 by Iron Shipwrights

The Farragut class destroyers in service

US Navy ww2 USS Farragut (ex-Smith, DD348)

Underway at sea, 14 September 1936. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Built in Bethlehem, Quincy, laid down in Sept. 1932, launched 15.3.1934, HMS Farragut was commissioned in June 1934, 18th, commanded by Elliott Buckmaster. Her early service was spent into developmental operations, to test the klimits of a brand new, experimental design in the USN. These were vital operations, although already not results could be taken in account for the following Mahan class. She made a first long shakedown cruise from her first homeport, Norfolk in Virginia to the Caribbean and trained further along the east coast. On 26 March 1935 she hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Jacksonville in Florida to meet at sea his private yacht. The president was a former secretary of the Navy ans always had been close to naval questions so he was quite interseted by this brand new design, so important for the future. Then, DD 348 turned into an escort while the Presidential yacht reached the Bahamas. On 7 April the President board her again for the return trip to Jacksonville concluded on 8 April.

USS Farragut was then reassigned to the Pacific fleet, assigned to her new home port, San Diego in California, transiting by Panama and arriving on 19 April 1935 with DesRon 20, naturally as flagship. The rest of the squadron was indeed composed of Clemson class vessels. She joined the annual west coast fleet maneuvers and pushed to Hawaiian waters, and due noth in the summer, training the Naval Reserve off Alaska, a routine that went on until 3 January 1939. After Carribean fleet maneuvers and an overhaul in San Diego the new international context meant on 2 October she was mived permanently to Pearl Harbor, screen fleets carriers going there. From 1 August 1941, she was still in exercises with the carrier task forces.

The “day of infamy” she was berthed in in East Loch with other destroyers. Onboard that day was Ensign James Armen Benham (engineering officer, senior) and managed with little crew available to fire her engines and had her moved down the channel while firing all along. The “improvized skipper” was later awarded the Bronze Star. Until March 1942 she stayed in Hawaiian waters and patrolled from there to San Francisco, escorting convoys.
On 15 April she was assigned to the USS Lexington (CV-2) task force and sent to the Coral Sea, later joining USS Yorktown (CV-5). She therefore took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May. From 6 May she was part of a unified TF 17 trying to make contact with the IJN “Mo” operation force (on Port Moresby) and detached in the searching Support Group. Attacked by aviation she contributed to the five aircraft shot down that day, unscaved.

She arrived in Cid Harbor, Australia on the 11th to resplenish and wait furher orders, before proceeding back to Pearl on 29 June after visiting Brisbane, Nouméa, Suva, Tongatapu, and Auckland while escorting a convoy. She sortied again on 7 July with the USS Saratoga (CV-3) task force for the Solomon Islands. She screened her during the assault on Guadalcanal on 7 August, and was detached to protect sea lanes. She was involved on the 25 in the air Battle over the Eastern Solomons.
After guarding convoys to Guadalana, she also escorted convoys from Australia to Espiritu Santo, Nouméa in new Caledonia Fiji before reaching back Pearl Harbor on 27 January 1943, for an new overhaul, AA and radar additions, and further training.

USS Farragut (DD-348) at sea, December 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Next she was assigned to the Aleutian campaign task force, departing to Adak in April, patrolled Alaskan waters until 11 May and protecting troopship landing on Adak. She repelled an enemy submarine and went on in her patrols until June, then swapping on Kiska, also bombarding IJN objectives on the island and protecting the landings on 15 August. She left in September 1943 for San Francisco, after an intense eight month campaign.
Leaving San Diego on 19 October 1943, she stopped at Pearl and arrived in Espiritu Santo to cover the landings on Tarawa 20 November, returning to Pearl on 8 December. On 13 January 1944 she took part in the Marshall Islands Campaig, covering the carriers against submarines during the landings on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. She went on during the air strikes on Woleai and Wakde. By April 1944, patrolled off New Guinea during the landings at Hollandia and in May, Majuro.

She screened TF 58 off Saipan from 11 June 1944 and the landings, bombarding various objectives on demand at Saipan and Guam and placed as a radar picket during the Battle of the Philippine Sea 19-20 June, resplenishing at Eniwetok until 14 July. Next she was present off Guam for cover fire notably closer to the shore for the underwater demolition teams before the main assault. She was back to Guam on 21 July between patrols and sorties with the covering Fire Support Group. On 25 July this was off Rota, but she needed a solid overhaul and departed for Puget Sound Navy Yard.
Back from the drydock she proceeded to Ulithi, arriving on 21 November 1944, and escorting oilers of the support force for the carrier task force moving against Taiwan and Luzon. She was based in Ulithi and followed the assault on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, on carrier screen duties with her reinforced AA on 25-28 April 1945 and during the Ryukyus strikes. Until 6 August 1945, she escorted convoys between Ulithi and Okinawa, bu also served briefly as radar picket off Okinawa.
Her last mission was off Saipan when the war ended on 5 August. On the 21th she departed for the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be decommissioned on 23 October but only stricken on 28 January 1947, sold on 14 August 1947 for scrap. For her wartime service she earned 14 battle stars, this was far more than most Sumner and Gearing vessels just entering service.

US Navy ww2 USS Dewey (ex-Phelps) (DD349)

USS Dewey (DD-349) underway at sea off San Diego, California on 14 September 1936, during maneuvers staged for Movietone News by Destroyer Squadron Twenty (DesRon 20). Courtesy of Commander Robert L. Ghormley, Jr., USN, 1969. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Dewey, ex-Phelps, ex-Dewey was started at basin 154 in Bath Iron Works by December 1932, launched 28.7.1934 and commissioned in October 1934 with Commander H. W. Hill in command.
She made two training cruises off Cuba including her shakedown cruise, stopping at Port-au-Prince in Haiti and returned to home port Norfolk. By April 1935 she was assigned to the Pacific fleet, sailing to San Diego (14 April), and like her sister Farragut until 1938 was part of carrier screens and local operations, fleet problems and battle practice, also cruising from Alaska to Peru, also making three stays in Pearl Harbor. From 4 January 1939 she took part in the Fleet Problem of the Atlantic Squadron but was soon back in Pearl Harbor on 12 October 1939 taking part in the fleet problems of that year and 1940.

She was making a tender overhaul when the attack on Pearl Harbor commenced, opening fire and in the afternoon, with her full crew aboard, sailed to patrol the Hawaiian waters, hoping to catch any IJN submarine or vessel. On 15 December she was assigned to TF 11 (USS Lexington) sent to relieve Wake Island, operation soon cancelled. In February 1942 still with TF 11 she sailed for planned raid on Rabaul, also canceled, but Dewey helped repelled an air attack of 18 bombers. She followed “lady lex” during the raids on Lae and Salamaua (New Guinea) on 10 March.

On 15 April 1942 she was part of the expedition to the Solomon Islands and on 5 May as the attack on Port Moresby was ongoing, her group was joined to that of USS Yorktown so she could take part in the battle of the Coral Sea. She tried to protect Lexington the best she could but had herself five crewmen wounded by strafing. USS Dewey later took part in the rescue of the cripplied carrier, saving 112. She joined Yorktown’s screen to Nouméa on 12 May and was back to Pearl Harbor on 25 May, this time with USS Enterprise.

Now assigned permanently to USS Enterprise task force she took part in the Battle of Midway on 6 June, back in pearl on the 9th. She was assigned to “Lady Sara”, USS Saratoga, bringing an air squadron to Midway on 22-29 June. By 7 she covered the initial landings on Guadalcanal and returned there for direct support shelling on 7 August. Attacked by Aichi D3A2 “Val” dive bombers, have a crewman wounded. She also helped the crippled USS Jarvis and towed USS George F. Elliott although she was later abandoned, and she took aboard 40 survivors.

USSDeweyDD349

USS Dewey stayed in the Solomons, escorting supply convoys, screening Saratoga at the battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August 1942. She escorted her after she took a torpedo hit on 31 August to Pearl Harbor, herself sent home at San Francisco, Puget Sound, for an overhaul. She was back on 27 December 1942 this time for the Alaskan operations, with her sister Farragut. She tried to pull out (but failed) USS Worden at Amchitka, and later rescued survivors. On 7 April 1943, she sailed for San Pedro and came back for the invasion of Attu on 11 May, followed by Kiska on 15 August, then taking back a group of LSTs to San Francisco (19 September). She spent there the remainder of the year, with a crew’s well deserved leave.

After stopping at San Diego she departed on 13 January 1944 for the new operating base of Kwajalein on 31 January, always as an escort, for the raid on Majuro (11 February) invasion of Eniwetok (18 February) and patrolling between there and Roi to Majuro. She also shelled Mille Atoll on 17–18 March and until 6 June screened TF 58 during the raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai, invasion of Hollandia, the strike on Truk, and then the operations against Tinian and Saipan (11 June), called for shelling on Saipan and Tinian (13-14 June) destroying enemy barges and setting alight an oil dump. She took part in the Marianas landings, and took part in the battle of the Philippine Sea in June, rescuing downed pilots.

She covered transports on 1 July 1944 on their way to land on Guam and assoted this with close fire support for the underwater demolition teams, plus night harassing fire and patrols, until 28 July, followed by an overhaul at Puget Sound. She was back on 30 September 1944 integrating the screen for the logistics group, 3rd Fleet, on 10 October, present during TF 58 refueling operations for the Philippines invasion. However she was hit by the Typhoon on 18 December. Completely battered she eventually lost all power by noon, and powerless, she turned into the wave roll going down to 75° prompting the captain to prepare evacuation. She had a stack torn but no casualties. On 8 February 1945 she was repaired in Ulithi and sailed for Iwo Jima (17 February) assisting the burning USS Patuxent and caled for precision gunnery for the Marines, starting on 19 February. Her main guns repelled a fierce night Japanese counter-attack on the 23th.

She escorted a convoy to Leyte (4-6 March 1945) before returning to the logistics group deployed in support for the Landings on Okinawa (operation Iceberg), screening precious oilers refuelling the fast carrier task force preparing their initial air strikes. This went on with the Kuyshu raids until 15 August. At that time, she had won 13 battle stars. On 21 August, she headed for San Diego and by September she continue on the east coast to Brooklyn Navy Yard (25th) to be inactivated, then decommissioned on 19 October, but sold on 20 December 1946.

US Navy ww2 HMS Hull (DD350)


USS Hull underway in her navy blue livery (measure MS-33a), May 1944.

USS Hull was started in New York Naval Yard, Brooklyn in March 1933, launched 31.1.1934 and commissioned by January. She made her shakedown cruise in the Azores and Portugal, but also up to Britain before sailing back to San Diego via the Panama Canal, on 19 October 1935. Pacific Fleet tactical exercises, training went on and the next year she cruised to Alaska. In 1937 she made a fleet exercize off Hawaii and close to the carriers, acted as plane guard being moved after the start of WW2 in Pearl Harbor from 12 October 1939.

On 7 December 1941 USS Hull was berthed next to the tender USS Dobbin (AD-3) and under repairs, but the personal present managed to have her anti-aircraft batteries back in action. A low priority target she was unscaved, and able to depart on the 8th to join USS Enterprise (CV-6) as she approached to enter Pearl Harbor. She was assigned TF 11 (Admiral Wilson Brown) to screen USS Lexington (CV-2) en route to the Solomon Islands. For 3 months she escorted convoys between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor.

She was sent in the Fiji Islands to prepare for the landings at Guadalcanal, en route on 26 July and arriving on 7 August 1942, acting as antisubmarine screen along the transport’s columns. Her AA was put to good use when repelleing a bomber attack, and she shared several kills. To avoid the transport George F. Elliott, badly hit, to fall in Japanese hands, she finished her off. On 9 August she spotted and destroyed a presumably Japanese schooner off Guadalcanal and sailed for Espiritu Santo. She undertook three convoy escorts to Guadalcanal, and repelled air attacks on 9 and 14 September.

Back to Pearl Harbor on 20 October she was attached to USS Colorado (BB-45) as part of a new task force sent in the New Hebrides, departing on 29 January from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco, and after overhaul, sailed for the Aleutian Islands, starting with Adak on 16 April, training, and sent to Attu in May 1943 and by July-August provided shore bombardments on Kiska and the landings, unopposed.

Back to Pearl Harbor on 26 September 1943 she was prepared for the Wake Island invasion, escorting the escort carriers leading diversionary strikes whereas Gilbert Islands was targeted. She shelled Makin Is. on 20 November, and was back to Pearl on 7 December 1943, then proceed to a training off Oakland in California by 21 December, follopwed by the new year’s leave. In January she was back in the Marshall Islands with TF 53 from San Diego (13 January 1944). She stopped first in Kwajalein to escort transports and went on in screening and patrol also around Majuro. She took part of the shelling of Mille Atoll on 18 March and Wotje on the 22th.

Next she escorted the carriers launching an air raid on Truk (29–30 April) and was back to Majuro in May reassigned to Admiral Lee’s battleships force committed in the Marianas Islands campaign. Sge shelled Saipan on 13 June and protected minesweepers opening the way into the lagoon. On the 17 she joined Admiral Marc Mitscher’s carrier task force soon hit by four large air raids, Hull providing cover for Task Group 58.2. What followed was the “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” on 19 June. Hull’s AA gunners remained in high alert all along.

By July 1944 she operated off Guam and patrolled off the island and the next month was back in Seattle, Washington, for an overhaul until 23 October, returning to Pearl Harbor and missing the Battle of Leyte. Assigned to the 3rd Fleet refueling group in November 1944 she met the fast carrier striking forces in the Philippine Sea under William Halsey Jr. for a great refilling operation, which was badly hit by Typhoon Cobra on 17 December, which was her doom:

Hull was ordered to change course while wind increased the following day, the weather deteriorating so much she was soon unable to steer with the north wind on her port beam, rolling almost beyond recovery and everything on deck washed over. A gust stuck her into the water while at 70% list, and seawater poured in the pilot house and smokestacks. Her crew managed to avoid the worst but despite all their efforts, USS Hull remained stuck on her flank, at 80%. Captain Lt. Cmdr James A. Marks could only give loose instructions at that point, seeing his ship unrecoverable. He nearly escaped mutiny due to opposition by the executive officer (XO) Greil Gerstley (This inspired the novel “The Caine Mutiny” also taking place during Typhoon Cobra).

USS Tabberer and other ships managed to rescue in the storm, in appealing conditions, 7 officers plus the captain and 55 sailors but the ship sank with 11 officers and 191 sailors nevertheless. This loss, with USS Monaghan, led to a commission of enquiry and Halsey was replaced, saved from a sanction by the reports of several officers led by Nimitz claiming the individual responsibility of many captains not to have provided adequate measures to prevent the worst. Admiral Spruance, which took command in turn, nevertheless was also blamed when hit by typhoon Connie, still tremendous damage but no ship loss.

US Navy ww2 USS MacDonough (DD351)


USS MacDonough during the Aleutian campaign in mid-1943. Note the red band on the bridge’s center.

USS McDonough was started in Boston N Yd in Charlestown by May 1933, launched 22.8.1934 and commissioned on 15 March 1935 with Commander Charles S. Alden at the helm.
After a long shakedown cruise to Europe as her sister Hull, she also visited ports in western South America before proceeding via Panama to the Pacific Fleet, San Diego, entering into a routine of yearly training and long cruises from Alaska to Peru. By October 1939 like the other destroyers in her class she was reassigned to Pearl Harbor in Destroyer Squadron 1 (DesRon 1). On 7 December her crew rushed onboard to man the gun and she managed to shoot one Japanese aicraft. Later that day she join the effort to locate the Japanese fleet. The next three months and a half, she patrolled southwest of Oahu and started to escort convoys from the US west coast to Pearl, but she was detached to be deployed for the campaign of New Guinea, covering the Bougainville, Salamaua, and Lae air raids.
She also later took part in the Guadalcanal invasion as part of USS Saratoga screen. She remained in the area in August and ws present during the Battle of Savo Island and went on escorting supply convoys and reinforcements to Guadalcanal, and by late September escorted convoys between New Guinea, Espiritu Santo and Pearl Harbor. By late December she was sent to Mare Island Arsenal for her first major overhaul, ans stayed there until February 1943 and crew’s new year’s rest.

USS Macdonough, like many of her class’s ships took part in the northern Pacific campaign or The Aleutians Campaign. She indeed took part in the Attu Island attack, and patrolled from Adak until the landings on Attu. On 10 May however, in heavy weather she collided with one of the transport under her care, SS Sicard. Badly damaged, she was towed to Mare Island, repaired until 23 September. Next she sailed out ot join the Gilbert Islands Campaign. She covered the invasion of Makin Island on 20 November, being assigned as control ship to supervize landing craft areas and rotations. She entered the lagoon and provided close gunnery support during the Marines progression. On 23 November she returned to Pearl Harbor.

Next, USS Macdonough was assigned to join the Marshall Islands task force by January 1944, Northern Attack Force. She became the main fighter director ship off Kwajalein Atoll. On 29 January she moved to Wotje Atoll, providing shore bombardment and moved to Kwajalein. Next she carried out the support for the occupation of Roi-Namur, acting afterwards as radar picket before proceeding back to Eniwetok. On 21-22 February 1944 she shelled Japanese positions on Parry Island, at the entrance to the large Eniwetok lagoon.
By March 1944, she became the center ship for the whole TF 58 RDV point before proceeding to attack the Palau Islands. Next she was found fighting off Hollandia in New Guinea, shelling positions on 21 April. Next she acted as radar picket south of Truk in May, spotting and guiding USS Monterey (CVL-26) and USS Stephen Potter (DD-538) which chased and sunk the IJN submarien Ro-45, on 30 April 1944.

USS Macdonough (DD-351) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, 17 January 1943
USS Macdonough (DD-351) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, 17 January 1943. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

On 4 May she was sent to Majuro gathering point wating for the Marianas Invasion. From the Marshalls on 6 June she screened the fast carrier force on her first step, the assault on Saipan, screening, picket posting, and shore bombardment (west side). She was present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea and shared kills with othjer ships that day.Next she close covered underwater demolition teams opering on the beaches of Guam before the assault (other Farragut class ships with her). By 21 July she patrolled around Guam for submarines, and steamed to Pearl Harbor on 10 August.

After returning to the Admiralty Islands, Manus (15 September) in escort, she was present off Leyte on 14 October screening the troop transports, participating from afar to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Back to Manus she escorted anither convoy on 3 November and patrolled Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait. By December, she escorted yet another convoy off Ulithi, and was given the care of several fleet oilers vital for at-sea refuelling operation of the fast carrier force. In January 1945, she returned for a 3 month overhaul at Puget Sound before proceeding back to Ulithi and acting as a radar picket there on 5 July, before returning to convoys escort until 15 August, between Ulithi and Okinawa.
She was in Guam when notified to get back home, San Diego (3 September) and New York Navy Yard for inactivation and decommission on 22 October, then to be sold on 20 December 1946, to George H. Nutman of Brooklyn for scrapping. Her battle record counted at the time 13 battle stars, cherished up to this day on a board where veterans met in the postwar years.

US Navy ww2 USS Worden (DD352)


USS Worden leaving Mare Island Arsenal on 21 November 1942, in navy blue livery. Note the Bofors and Oerlikon AA mounts are well visible.
USS Worden was built at Puget Sound Naval Yard in Bremerton, started in December 1932 and launched on 27.10.1934, commissioned in January 1935. She departed Puget Sound on 1 April 1935 for her shakedown cruise via San Diego, and south, via Mexico, Guatemala, and Puntarenas in Costa Rica before corssing the Panama Canal on 6 May for Washington, D.C.. There, she embarked Rear Admiral Joseph K. Taussig the Assistant CNO and congressional party on the Potomac River, down to Mount Vernon. Later in Washington Nyd she had her guns were disassembled for alterations and sailed for Norfolk NyD for fixes, and trials off Rockland (Maine). She started training off New Bedford in Massachusetts and sailed to Guantanamo, Panama Canal, and to Puget Sound on 3 August 1935.

Her post-shakedown refit done she called San Diego as new home port for 4 years of intensive training, cruises and fleet problems. She also performed training for the Fleet Sound School based in San Diego while cruising from Alaska, to Peru. She made three stays in Hawaiian waters and by the autumn of 1937 with her sister Hull (DD-350) she screened USS Ranger (CV-4) to Callao in Peru at the same time as the Inter-American Technical Aviation Conference at Lima.

From 1 September 1939 USS Worden she started Neutrality Patrol and on the 22th September the CNO, admiral Harold Rainsford Stark (Admiral King was only appointed on 18 March 1942), directed the CiC to transfer temporarily, two heavy cruiser divisions and their attached destroyer flotilla flagship light cruiser plus two destroyer squadrons as the “Hawaiian Detachment” under Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews (flagship Indianapolis, CA-35), first step before the Fleet was entirely moved at Pearl Harbor. Until the attack USS Woredn performed fleet exercises cut by short upkeep periods on the west coast. Fleet Problem XXI was her last, in the Spring of 1940 seeing the whole Fleet based in Pearl Harbor.

7 December 1941 saw her berthed alongside the destroyer tender Dobbin (AD-3) in upkeep and being a secondary objective she was left unscaved, but not inactive. Gunner Quartermaster 3d Class Raymond H. Brubaker shot down indeed one “Val” with a Browning fifty cal. and after two houre like other destroyers she was open sea looking for the Japanese. She eventually picked up a submarine contact at 12:40 and dropped seven depth charges before joining the task force led by USS Detroit (CL-8), flagship, RADM Milo Draemel. After scanning southwest of Oahu and refualling at the USS Neosho (AO-23) she met Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch’s TF 11 built (USS Lexington).

After a new refuelling on the 11th she left the TF to escort Neosho to Pearl when USS Dewey (DD-349) spotted a submersible and attacked. Worden was back on 14 December to sail for Wake Island when recalled on 22 December. Patrol and escorts went on locally, and she attacked to suspected enemy submarine off Oahu on 16-18 January 1942. She escorted the seaplane tender Curtiss (AV-4), fleet oiler Platte (AO-24) via Samoa and Fiji to Nouméa, New Caledonia, the new south Pacific operating base for the USN, poiseed to retake the Solomons as a first step. She assisted in late February the merchantman SS Snark, after hitting a mine in Bulari Passage near Nouméa. On 7 March with USS Curtiss she headed for Pearl Harbor and was reassigned to TF 11 on 14 April.
With USS Lexington she was off New Hebrides on 1 May to joined RADM Fletcher’s TF 17 (USS Yorktown, CV-5). She was detached to escort fleet oiler USS Tippecanoe (AO-21) to Nouméa, missing the Battle of the Coral Sea.

USS Worden on the 14th met TF 16 (Halsey, USS Enterprise and Hornet) off Efate, New Hebrides, in time for the Battle of Midway. She left Pearl on the 22th with TF 16 (this time udner RADM Spruance) meeting TF 17 (USS Yorktown) north of Midway Island, “ambush position”. USS Worden screened Enterprise and Hornet on 4-6 June 1942, her AA fired at one occasion but made no kill. Back to Pearl Harbor she was assigned to TF 11 (USS Saratoga) flying reinforcement groups and spent the rest training. On 9 July she sailed for South Pacific but was detached to escort USS Platte to Nouméa and later both were back to USS Saratoga, stopping during a night to pickup 36 survivors of the sunken Army transport Tjinegara torpedoed by I-169 75 miles SW of Nouméa. South of Fiji Islands she escorted the invasion fleet for the Solomon campaign, but she was detached again to escort the fleet oiler Cimarron (AO-22) to Nouméa.
Back with TF 16 on 3 August she screened Saratoga during the Guadalcanal-Tulagi strikes. Soon however she would take part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

Still with Saratoga south of the Solomons, she escorted convoys to Guadalcanal and during the Battle, screened Saratoga and Enterprise which air strikes claimed Ryūjō and damaged Chitose. A week later I-26 torpedoed Saratoga and she escorted her to repairs via Tongatapu (Tonga) and Pearl Harbor, and then San Francisco on 4 October. USS Woredn soon departed to escort USS Gansevoort (DD-608) and USS Idaho to Puget Sound and she was back in San Francisco to join USS Dewey escorting USS Nevada in post-repair trials.

The loss of USS Worden in Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Island
The loss of USS Worden in Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Island

On 27 December 1942, she like her sister, took part in the Aleutian campaign, escorting the convoy for the occupation of Amchitka Island. After stopping at Dutch Harbor in Alaska, on 12 January, she escorted USS Middleton (AP-55) on the shores of Constantine Harbor in Amchitka, but while maneuvering into the difficult, rock-jagged harbor, a strong current swept her onto a pinnacle penetrating her hull beneath the engine room. She was flooded and lost all power. USS Dewey tried to tow her out free, but the cable snapped while heavy seas tossed Worden further on the rocky shore until she broke up, CO, CDR William G. Pogue ordered to abandon ship. But he was swept overboard and later fortunately rescued while unconscious. 14 sailors drowned and the ship was struck from the list on 22 December 1944, with 4 battle stars for her credit.

US Navy ww2 USS Dale (DD353)

USS Dale (DD-353) underway on 28 April 1938. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Started at New York NYd in Brooklyn by February 1934, launched 23.1.1935, USS Dale was completed in June 1935. USS Dale made her southern shakedown cruise (13 February – 6 March 1936 via Galveston in Texas and escorting President F. D. Roosevelt’s cruise in the Bahamas. Based in San Diego, she took part in yearly fleet problems and cruised from Alaska to Callao in Peru, and training gunners for San Diego’s school. On 5 October 1939, she was assigned to the Hawaiian Detachment.
The day of the attack on Pearl Harbor she was moored with DesDiv 2, Berth X-14, sandwiched after USS Aylwin, USS Farragut, herself, and USS Monaghan. Ensign F.M. Radel was onboard that day, spotting the Japanese’s first attack on USS Utah and signalled General Quarters. He ordered to light all boilers and man all guns. At 08:10 the .50-caliber started backing and soon the five-inch guns, with the ready rooms, fortunately not at shore under lockers. The gunners in their position could do little however and at 08:15 she shot down a “Val” attacking USS Raleigh.
At 08:20 she ready to get underway and when clearing her anchorage, saw a torpedo passing under her bow, exploding on Ford Island. At 08:44 she was close to USS Monaghan dropping depth charges on a midget sub closing on USS Curtiss. At 25 knots she left the harbor with Monaghan behind, and was soon framed by dive bombers, strafed, while near the entrance. She had close misses but no damage.

Later another attack saw her gunners claiming the leading plane, the remainder two being driven off. She had to make frequent course changes and high speed bursts to foil air attacks, making her sonar useless to track down Japanese subs. USS Worden was made Commander of DesRon 1 and Dale was the third ship in column, investigating three enemy transports signalled off Barbers Point (bogus report) she screened USS Detroit, USS Phoenix, USS St. Louis, and USS Astoria which sorties to try to catch the Japanese, being assigned station 9 at 25 knots. She however had to turn back, having the pinion bearings on the reduction gear failing, retiring at 10 knots. After repairs she tried to reach the task force, but full repairs were needed and she was assigned offshore patrol in sector 1 until joining TF 8.4.

From 14 December 1941 to 17 March 1942, she screened Lexington and Yorktown during the Salamaua–Lae raids (New Guinea) and by 11 Mays was sent to Mare Island for her first wartime overhaul. She left in June San Francisco for a back up of the forces comitted in the Battle of Midway, assigned convoy escort missioned between Viti Levu, Fiji, Efate, Espiritu Santo, and prepared for the Guadalcanal campaign. In August she covered the landings and escort reinforcements. She was back in Pearl Harbor until 10 November and next was attached to USS Washington and USS South Dakota, then the latter alone going back to San Francisco. There, she was prepared for the Aleutian campaign operations.

On 9 January 1943, she left San Francisco for Aleutian waters, supporting the landings of Amchitka until 19 March, and on the 22th patrolled west of Attu, preying on enemy shipping. They were soon involved to fight off a superior force at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. USS Dale soon duelled with the Japanese cruisers, screening the damaged USS Salt Lake City to safety. Later she screened transports into Attu and covered the attack on 11 May, detached to patrol around the island on 1 August. She took part in the preinvasion bombardment of Kiska the following day, screened more transports for the 13 August landing, joining USS Kane and taking part in the Rat and Buldir Islands attack on 22 August. She left Adak on 5 September 1943 for Pearl Harbor, screening a returnbing oilers convoy and training off Pearl Harbor until 5 November, then escorted LSTs en rout for Makin on 20 November.

Off the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington, 5 October 1944. Her camouflage scheme is Measure 31, Design 6d. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

She was back to San Diego on 13 January 1944 for upkeep and returned with new Essex class carriers assigned the assaults on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. She was in the Marshalls until 22 March and attached to TF 58 for the raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai until 1st April and Hollandia operations (21-24 April), strikes on Truk, Satawan and Ponape until 1st May. On 6 June-30 July she was in the Marianas, making direct shellings of Saipan and Guam and screening carriers, taking part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Like her sisters she covered underwater demolition teams by night. Her second overhaul was done at Bremerton NyD in August-October 1944 and she joined Pearl Harbor and Ulithi with TF 38, missing the battle of Leyte but assisting the Philippines invasion (25 November-8 December) and then screen TF 58 durng the Chinese coast raids (Formosa, Luzon, Okinawa), then the first carrier strikes on Kyushu island. She escorted the logistics group at five occasions (between Ulithi and Okinawa). On 11 June she headed for Leyte and escorted another convoy to Ulithi, patrolling until 29 July and back to Okinawa. On 15 August she was escorting a convoy off Japan. Afterwards she sailed home to San Diego (7 September) and transited to the east coast, New York on 25 September, decommissioned on 16 October 1945, sold on 20 December 1946 with 14 battle stars to her credit.

US Navy ww2 USS Monaghan (DD354)

uss monaghan underway prewar

Built at Boston N Yd from Novemner 1933 and launched on 9.1.1935, USS Monaghan was completed in April 1935. Her early career 1935-39 was the same as other destoryers of her class. She served in the Pacific, San Diego, alternativing between training cruises from Alaska to Peru and yearly fleet problems. In October 1939 she was attached to Pearl Harbor permanently, her new home port, taking part in the last fleet problem in 1940.

On December 7, 1941, she was a “ready duty” destroyer this sunday, ans to 07:51 was ordered to join the other sentry at sea that day, USS Ward, just sinking an unidentified submarine off the entrance, hourse before the attack itself. While she was underway the air attack started and her AA crew was firing furiously. At 08:27 she was underway to spot a signalled midget submarine in the harbor. Captain LCdr. Burford order to ram the submarine when spotted, the latter turning and firing its torpedo at USS Monaghan, but they missed from 50 yards on her starboard. Monaghan did not missed and rammed the midget, and dropped two depth charges for good effect. However the shallow waters bounced the explosion back to her stern, lifted out of the water. Out of control, Monaghan percuted a barge, but had little damage.

The next week after patrolling offshore, she joined USS Lexington for the later cancelled Wake Island operation. With USS Dale and Aylwin she also attacked an enemy submarine, which was reported sunk. After patrols off Pearl Harbor she sailed with USS Lexington and later detached to escort a convoy to the west coast and back; Then she was reassigned to TF 11 (Lexington) and sortied for the south Pacific on April 15, 1942.
On 4 May she was part of the screen later implied in the Battle of the Coral Sea, with Yorktown and Lexington starting launching air strikes on Tulagi and Gavutu. A pyrrhic victory was secured on 8 May, the 7, sinking Shōhō and repelling a convoy, and on the 8th, USS Monaghan detached to transmit important messages and preserving radio silence for the main formation. Later she tried to locate survivors of USS Neosho and Sims. She was back to TF 16 and back to Pearl Harbor on 26 May.

Next, she was en route with TF 11 at the Battle of Midway. She was in the screen of the combined Hornet, Yorktown and Enterprise force north of the island as they manage to sink the four main enemy fleet carriers of the Kido Butai. Monaghan screened USS Enterprise and detached on 5 June to rescue downed pilots, which were many. At 18:30 she assisted the badly damaged USS Yorktown, guard her from possible air attack, but it’s Japanese submarine I-168 which manage to evade the screen and launche a full broadside that claimed Yorktown and Hammann, Monaghan, Gwin, and Hughes however dealt a sever blow to the submarine but failed to sink her. She escaped.

After Midway she was back in Pearl Harbor on 13 June and sailed for the Aleutians Operations. While en route in foul weather, foggy night, she collided with a transport and received temporary repairs at Dutch Harbor, enough to return to Pearl Harbor. She escorted a convoy to the west coast and entered Mare Island at Vallejo for full repairs, and escorted ships back to Fiji when done on 17 November. She sailed for Nouméa and there, hit an unidentified underwater obstruction, bending her propellers, and had to steam back to Pearl Harbor to have her port screw replaced, being out of drydock on 21 February 1943.

This time she returned to the Aleutians, reassigned to TG 16.69, escorting the cruisers USS Richmond and Salt Lake City on the 26 March at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. Between heavy artillery fire and agressive torpedo runs, the outnumbered force managed to repel the Japanese. USS Monaghan spent the est of the month in Patrols and shore bombardment, aletrnated with escorts until the end of the summer. She chased a Japanese submarine I-7 avacuating troops fromp kiska, which ultimately was driven on rocks and abandoned.

She made another escort from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco and then San Pedro, to escort three new escort carriers to the Gilbert Islands, via Espiritu Santo (13 November) taking part in the pre-invasion air strikes of Tarawa.
Back to the west coast in escort she was back to the escort carriers off San Diego, bound for the Marshalls, screening them northwest of Roi; On 7 February 1944 she was in Majuro, screening USS Pennsylvania to Kwajalein and assisting the attack on Eniwetok also bombaring Parry Is. on 21/22 February.

On 22 March she was part on an antisubmarine screen for the fast carrier force striking Palau, Woleai, and Yap. On 13 April-4 May, she covered the Hollandia landings and made a strike at Satawan, Truk, and Ponape. Next she took part in the invasion of Saipan in June. She screened TF 58 at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and patrolled off Saipan. After the usual resupply run at Eniwetok she took part in the invasion of Guam in July, still in the antisubmarine screen. She covered the underwater demolition teams off Agat and provided harassing fire on 18-19 June. On 25 July she was sent to Pearl Harbor and Puget Sound for an overhaul, back to Ulithi in November 1944.

She escorted three fleet oilers meeting on 17 December TF 38, for the pmanned Mindoro invasion. As she planned to refuel she had her ballast reduced to make room for fuel, which only aggravated her natural stability issue. This had fatal consequences when Typhoon Cobra. Of the 790 lives the 3rd Fleet suffered that day, USS Spence, Hull, and Monaghan sank. Only six men survived her sinking rescued by USS Brown. Other sailors signalled she had rolled more and more severely until capsizing to starboard. She was later struck from the register, but earned 12 battle stars.

US Navy ww2 USS Aylwin (DD355)

USS_Aylwin_interwar
USS Aylwin was built in Philadelphia N Yd, started in September 1933 like USS Farragut but launched on 10.7.1934 and commissioned in March 1935. After inistial yard trials, fitting out, she was sent to the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport to load her torpedoes and make more trials until sent to Philadelphia on 8 May for her shakedown cruise. She toured European countries between Portugal and Spain, France, inspected in Cherbour by ambassador Jesse I. Straus. Next she visited Bremen, Gothenburg, Brussels (Visited there by the Belgian royal family, King Leopold III and Queen Astrid), and finishing with Dover, and back to Philadelphia for post-shakedown fixed.

Next, she departed for the Carribean. She crossed the Panama Canal on 7 October and made a plane guard mission off Guatemala, while testing the flying boat XP3Y-1 (PBY Catalina prototype).
Back with USS Hull she arrived in home port San Diego on 19 October. Peacetime routine with the Fleet was the same as her sisters, and like her in October 1939 she was pressed to join Pearl Harbor as part of the “Hawaiian Detachment”. Her still peacetime service saw the 1940 fleet problems and neutrality patrols in Hawaiian waters, plus West Coast upkeep periods.

On 18-19 March however, USS Aylwin out of Pearl Harbor for off-shore patrol and exercises was making a night tactical exercise, ordered with other destroyers to join the fleet’s center. But at 22:51 while in doubt, she opened her fighting lights sighting a ship arriving fast on her port bow. Maintaining her course and speed she tried soon to to avoid contact but at 23:04, she was percuted by USS Farragut’s bow on her port side at a 90-degree angle.

She had her plating and 23 frames destroyed and her bow torned down and almost severed while a fire erupted.
It was extinguished by the intervention of Fire parties from USS Dale, Stack, Philadelphia, and Sterett while a party from USS Indianapolis assessed the damage, making temporary repairs.
USS Detroit tried (but failed) to tow USS Aylwin back to Pearl, then USS Turkey. Drydocked, she was back in normalcy until November. The day of the attack of 7 December 1941 she was moored to buoy X-14.
She only had a single boiler in operation, providing at least for her auxiliary services, and had half her crew present. With them, she returned fire during the attack and soon had two boilers lit up and within 15 minutes she could depart, ordered at 08:29 by the Destroyers Battle Force Commander to be underway asap. She had a Japanese near-miss at 08:50, 75 yards off her starboard bow while she headed for the channel. Still with half her crew under and under command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan (eight months experience) she maintained continuous AA fire, her crews claiming “at least three aircraft”.

She proceeded to patrol the waters in search of Japanese subs, investigating a reported sighting. Abnormal screw propelled vibrations caused by a near-miss however were noted. She went on with her service until the following day, following the Enterprise task force back into Pearl Harbor. The 9th she was back in antisubmarine patrols close to the entrance. After a sound contact on 10 December she dropped five charges without results. She later had her damaged propeller repaired. Ensign Caplan was later recommended for the conduct of the ship despite his young age and inexperience.

USS Aylwin was part of the Lexington task force for the later cancelled Wake Island operation, and covered TF 11 back to Pearl Harbor before Christmas. Shs later covered a convoy od evacuees from Hawaii to the west coast. After repairs and alterations at Mare Island until 10 January (she notably receoved 20 mm Oerlikon guns) she joined USS Perkins, escorting the liners President Coolidge, President Monroe, and Mariposa to San Francisco. Next she escorted USS Neosho, Castor, Pyro, Crescent City back to Oahu. With TF 11 she take on plane-guard duties while underway to New Guinea. During a training she acidentally fired a live torpedo in Hull’s direction on 13 February, but warned her sister in time to avoid it.

She latyer convoy the ANZAC force (USS Chicago, HMNZS Leander, Achilles, HMAS Australia) with USS Lamson and Perkins and later joined TF 11 en route to Bougainville and the Bismarck Archipelago.
She later picked up by radar 17 Mitsubishi G4M bombers from Rabaul at 10:30, repelled by USS lexington’s CAP, inclusing ace Lt. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare’s F4F Wildcat reporting six in this fight.

Meanwhile, Aylwin and other fired their antiaircraft guns on the remainder. Her 20 mm gunners claimed one of these, attempting to crash into USS Bagley. Aylwin later was detached from TF 11 to escort fleet oiler USS Platte to Pago Pago in Samoa and Pearl Harbor. On 10 March she departed to escort 18 ships (convoy 4072) from Honolulu to San Francisco Bay, on 22 March. After upkeep at Mare Island she covered convoy 2054 to Pearl from te 31th. On 15 April she left to join TF 11 for the South Pacific.

Intel report an incoming assault on Port Moresby and TF 11 joined TF 17 on 1 May. At 09:55 of the 7yh, USS Aylwin still screened Lexington during the Coral Sea Battle. She also rescued a pilot from a down SBD-3 Dauntless from VS-5 ditching near her. Later she retired off Tonga Islands. She refuelled from USS New Orleans, assisted Lexington and taking aboard 37 officers and 92 ratings plus USS Yorktown’s famous Lt. (jg.) E. S. McCuskey of VF-2, which decisive actions later at Midway would make him a national hero.

USS Alywin, possibly in late 1942 or 1943
USS Alywin, possibly in late 1942 or 1943

On 15 May USS Aylwin screened Yorktown and brought TF 17 in Nukualofa Harbor (Tongatapu), transferring personal to USS Portland and rfueling from her, patrolling off the entrance before joining USS Astoria escorting USS Harriett for their voyage back home. On 28 May USS Aylwin screened Enterprise and Hornet north of Midway and on 4 June was presetn at the Battle of Midway. On 11 June seh was detached to escort the oiler USS Kaskaskia to the Aleutian Islands and TF 8. With TF 8 she screened USS Louisville and three light cruisers, six destroyers escorting them to Women’s Bay, Kodiak Island and back to Kaskaskia, and then Hawaii. She stayed in the Yard for upkeep, and departed on 2 August to screen the escort carrier USS Long Island bound for Guadalcanal. She assisted the assault on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu.

After the disastrous Battle of Savo Island, Aylwin brought escaping transports back to Suva, Fiji, refuelling and awaiting instructions. Shewas ordered to the New Hebrides, Vila Harbor, Efate on 17 August, then Mele Bay and with USS Dale and Helena she escorted Long Island to Guadalcanal. She was refuelled by USS Cimarron (Same type as the Sangamon class carrier). After offshore patrols at Efate she escorted Long Island to Espiritu Santo, refuelled at Pago Pago in Samoa, moved to Canton Island and escorted transports there. As part of TG 15.4 and with USS Conyngham she headed for Nouméa and Tongatapu, assigned to the damaged USS North Carolina to Pearl Harbor. In November, she escorted a convoy to Espiritu Santo.

Off Santa Cruz Islands, Vanikoro Island she protected the seaplane tender USS Ballard to Vanua Levu and back to Espiritu Santo, but developed steering issues. Fixed, she resumed ASW patrols dollowed by plane guarding USS Nassau until 22 November. From Nouméa she escorted USS South Dakota via Bora Bora, to California, herself fixed at Mare Island and departing on 8 January 1943 for Alaska with USS Bancroft and Dale.

She took part in the invasion of Attu on 11 May 1943 after many escort missions and some shelling on Kiska (8-9 July) she was back in Adak, and from there, San Francisco leaving in 19 October, screening USS Sangamon, USS Chenango, and USS Suwannee of the namesake class to the New Hebrides, Espiritu Santo and until December 1943 she screened carriers Sangamon and Suwannee at the Gilbert Islands, then with USS Bailey escorted back USS Maryland to Pearl Harbor and then escorted Tennessee and Colorado to San Francisco.

After upkeep at Alameda, USS Aylwin escorted a LST convoy from San Diego to Hawaii, Kauai and sailed to the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein. She stayed there apart a supply run to Majuro and back and then Eniwetok with USS Hall, MacDonough, and Monaghan, shelling Parry Island. Next she was assigned to TG 58.2 (USS Bunker Hill, Hornet, Monterey, Cabot, under RADM Alfred E. Montgomery). In April, it was deployed in air strikes through the Carolines. Her AA gunners fired on the 29th and 30th, later rescuing the crew of a downed Curtiss SB2C “Helldiver” from Bunker Hill. Next she operated off New Guinea for the Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay, Humboldt Bay operation and was back for supply on 4 May and short upkeep with USS Prairie.

In June she departed Majuro for the Marianas Islands with TF 58, being part of the Northern Bombardment Unit (TU 58.7.2) on North Saipan and part of the antisubmarine screen for the battleships USS Alabama and South Dakota, then back to the carriers as they refueled. She rescued two aviators from USS Bunker Hill and another lated during the bombardment of Guam. On the 17th, she was in escort mission, missing the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Back to Eniwetok on 28 June she escorted USS Wichita and St. Louis furing on Guam and bombarding installation on the northern shores herself, assigned Asan Beach. She stayed as a distant support during the night beach obstruction demolition work and later relieving USS Dewey on 21 July off Asan Beach, herself by Dale later.

She covered transports northwest of Orote Point and Agana Bay then covered a cruiser bombardment of Rota Island before going back to Eniwetok and in August, steamed back to Bremerton, Washington, for a major overhaul. She sailed back with USS Colorado and Farragut via San Pedro and Hawaii, after some refresher training to the Philippines sector with USS Baltimore, San Juan, and three destroyers. From Ulithi on 21 November she arrived on station by December 1944, missing the battle of Leyte two months prior.
On 10 December she became flagship of Commander TG 30.8 replenishment group. Captain Jasper Acuff conducted her group from Ulithi on behalf of the 3rd Fleet and met TF 38, cprotecting the refueling operations. However Typhoon Cobra soon fell on the area and USS Aylwin was found to roll 70 degrees to port, later having two Machinists swept overboard, then the chief engineer, never to be seen again. She developed a leak in her engine room at 19:30 but survived. She was repaired at Ulithi just before Christmas by USS Markab. She left Ulithi by January 1945 and went on with her replenishment group escort the next month, part of TG 50.8 with USS Crowley, Weaver, Suamico, Shasta, Wrangell. Together she reached Iwo Jima on 21 February. On the 23th she was reassigned to TF 54 fire support group replacing USS Tuscaloosa.

She was assigned the southern sector of Iwo Jima and on 23-24 February took part in the proper Battle of Iwo Jima, before refuelling at Ulithi and be prepared for operations off Okinawa, patrolling between Kerama Retto and Ulithi. She went through her second typhoon on 5 June 1945 assisting USS Pittsburgh, loosing her bow, even searching for the latter. She was back to Guam on 10 June and by 6 July sailed back to the Carolines, Ulithi and escorting Convoy UOK-39 to Okinawa. Back to Ulithi she acted as picket station B-6 on 3 August but was soon detached so search for survivors of USS Indianapolis. She only located three deriving bodies, making a burial at sea.

On 13 August she escorted troopships to the Marianas, entering Apra Harbor just before the surrender. Ordered back to Hawaii with USS MacDonough escorting the CVE USS Rudyerd Bay, she arrived in Pearl, embarked passengers and headed from the 27th to the West coast. She later left San Diego transited Panam on 20 September, and reached New York City on the 25th, decommissioned at the yard on 16 October, struck on 1 November and later sold to George N. Nutman of Brooklyn by December 1946 to be scrapped on 2 September 1948. She received 13 battle stars for her Pacific Campaign.

Iowa class Battleships (1942)

Iowa class battleships (1942)

Battleships (1942-44): USS Iowa (BB-61), New Jersey (BB-62), Missouri (BB 63), Wisconsin (BB 64), Illinois (BB 65), Kentucky (BB 66)

The Iowa class battleships were the last built in the US, and memorable ships at more than one title. They were the culminating point of a standard design worked out since 1934, but built for speed, and the first using the escalator clause to reach a larger tonnage. If their WW2 career was short, they emerged from the reserve to take part in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, putting their main artillery to good use when older fast battleships had long met the scrapyard. If their fate seemed sealed after 1973, they were unexpectedly resurrected and completely modernized during the Reagan administration to counter the Soviet Kirov class battlecruisers. They fired their last rounds in the gulf war of 1991 and are now preserved as the world’s last active battleships. #USN #ww2 #coldwar #iowa #newjersey #missouri #mightymo #wisconsin
A fitting end to this year’s study of WW2 USN Capital Ships.


Note: This post, like the one on the Queen Elisabeth class, is so large in scope, that it will be limited to the construction and WW2 career of the Iowa class. A new post will be dedicated on their cold war career and comprehensive refits in 2023.


The last USN battleships: Iowa class


All four Iowas in formation for the first and last time of their carrer. An historical photo for the pinnacle of conventional warship development.

The Iowa class were originally six fast battleships ordered in two batches, in 1939 and 1940. They were intended at first as very fast ships, almost battlecruisers, to intercept the Japanese Kongō class while still able to take their place in the battleline. The Iowa class were also designed to meet the Second London Naval Treaty‘s “escalator clause” reaching the limit up to 45,000-long-ton (45,700 t) of standard displacement.
Ultimately only the first four were completed, while USS Illinois and Kentucky were laid down, but canceled in 1945 and 1958, and scrapped. Ultimately the new Montana class were preferred, but also cancelled in July 1943 in favor of completing the Essex-class fleet carriers as the last battleship class ever designed for the United States Navy.

This made the four Iowa-class, the last battleships ever commissioned in the US Navy. They had a short but eventful carrier in the Pacific in 1944-45 protecting the Fast Carrier Task Force during the last phases of the Island Hopping Campaign, until the surrender signed on “Mighty Mo”. Decommissioned in 1947 in long term reserve, they were recommissioned for Korea and Vietnam. Completely modernized in the 1980s (a full chapter here) they became missile-carrying battleships (with quite amazing alternative projects) fighting in four major US wars. This post will dive deep into these very long careers, but before that, their development whereabout, design in detail, construction, the fate of their cancelled sister ships, a bit on the Montana class, their modernizations history, until the great 1980s refit.

Summary

  1. Development History Context
    1. Initial motivations and discussions
    2. Vinson and Vinson-Walsh Acts
    3. Plan Orange
  2. Design Work
    1. Two designs by the General Board
    2. C&R fast battleships early study
    3. Battleship Design Advisory Board
    4. Looking for a new 16-in gun
    5. Final design at New York Navy Yard
  3. Detailed Design
    1. Hull Construction
    2. Armor protection scheme
    3. Belt and Citadel
    4. Main Battery Protection
    5. ASW protection
    6. Powerplant
    7. Turbines
    8. Boilers
    9. Performances
    10. Propellers and shafts
    11. Auxiliary Power
    12. Armament
    13. Main Guns: Nine 16-in Mk12
    14. Secondary Guns: Twenty 5-in/38
    15. 40mm Bofors AA
    16. 20mm Oerlikon AA
    17. Electronics
    18. Radars
    19. Fire Control Systems
    20. Electronic Counter Measures
    21. Onboard aviation
    22. Other specifics
    1. Career of BB-61 to 64
    2. USS Iowa BB 61
    3. USS New Jersey BB 62
    4. USS Missouri BB 63
    5. USS Wisconsin BB 64
    1. The unbuilt Iowas, 1940
    2. USS Illinois (BB-65)
    3. USS Kentucky (BB-66)
    1. The Montana class

    Development History Context

    Initial motivations and discussions


    A model of the North Carolina class in 1937

    Very early origins could be traced back to the various discussions and preliminary designs leading to the North Carolina class battleships, so all back to May-June 1935 when the General Board asked for a new battleship design with three design studies submitted and discussed. The first two proposals had 14-in guns, but ”C” (over 36,000 long tons) and with 30.5 knots proposed eight 16-inch/45-caliber in a classic 4×2 configuration. In short a fast version of the West Virginia. The caliber choice was going to stick later, as the Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) announced its new standard being a new “super-heavy” 16-inch shell, leading to the updated proposals “A1”, “B1” and “C1”. The problem was they all went beyond the 35,000 tones standard authorized, to 40,000 long tons.

    Importantly, as dicussions progressed the new “fast battleships” as called that way by the General Board, could have their top speed used as adjustment variable, not to compromise the protection, and the Naval War College suggested 23-knot as a good compromise as shown in their own war games, compatible with older standard super dreadnoughts. Five more proposals were studied until September 1935 with a speed pushed again to 30.5 knots but still discissions about nine 14 inch or 16-inch guns, the latter reaching 41,100 t.

    Eventually Designers reported as how hard it was to deliver a balanced design over a 35,000 tons limit to reach 30 knots a massive output was needed, and so a large hull. Even quadruple turrets (14-in guns) were studied. By October 1935 the board settled on “A”, and if possible four battleships to match the rebuilt Kongō class.
    The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations, president of the Naval War College decided by late October 1935 to work on “K” design, to be further developed. But the game changer in the treaty, was that the US benefited from an exception, the “Escalator Clause” in the case a country adhering previously to the Washington Naval Treaty was out.

    Of course there was no mystery about who, which happened to be Japan. This clause, enable signatories, engaged to limit themselves to 14-in (fixing the main armament of the King Georges V class as we know), could swap to 16 inches, allowed to all three signatories during discussions. This also applied to Italy, that also retired and went for the 15-in Littorio class. The signing date was 1st April 1937 indeed. As time pressed, initial plans for the new US fast battleships were to require a rapid “switch” option from 14 to 16-inch after being laid dow, which proved nightmarish for the engineers. However on 27 March 1937, Japan’s position was made clear to all and the US played the “escalator clause”, and this despite political pressures to tone this down on President Roosevelt by the congress and democrats at large.

    Beyond the escalator clause: Vinson and Vinson-Walsh Acts


    Blueprint, C&R outboard profile of the North Carolina class (still showing portholes) in 1937.

    Eventually the conclusions of the Consequences of the London Naval Treaty (1936) signed by Britain, France, and the United States had conformed the 35,000 tons and 16-inch as max caliber confirmed. The treaty started to apply by January 1937 and from 1934 onwards already, there has been planning of 45,000 tons plus vessels in case the Japanese pull-out from the Washington accord, which they did eventually by refusing the London prolongation. Eventually the last 35 designs studied in 1936 were mrre variations five base designs published on 15 November 1935. All were about 35,000 long tons to fit a possible production FY1937. The problem was, compared to the Kongo, that thet were all around 27 knots-26.5 knots and sizes of 710 to 725 ft but still wild discussions and variants in artillery.
    The second major decision after the Escalator Clause was the second Vinson Act of 1938. It officially authorized the construction of these first fast battleships, and from 35,000 tons/14-inch guns BB-55 were laid down at New York Naval Shipyard, leaving still time to alter the blueprints and swap to the later classic nine 16-inch guns while protection was equal to 14-in shells immunity. The second Vinson Act was to grant an increase of capital ship size of 20% and get rid of the London Treaty limitations.

    On June 30, 1938 what was known as the “sliding scale” clause enable a 16-in armed 45,000 tons for good, raising the bad will showed by the Japanese to British inspection. This led to six new ships, outside the fiorst two “prototypes”, USS North Carolina and Washington. These were important for the next phase buildinf four SOUTH DAKOTA class with revision and then a pair of the IOWA Class, on a modified North Carolina design. Modified indeed: By looking at all three battleship classes side by side seen from above it appeared clearly the North Carolina design was simply shortened or at the contrary stretched up to accomodate more power or protection depending on the case.
    Evbentually, the Vinson-Walsh Act of July 19, 1940 had this first act passing the treshold of “wartime level” which was curcial into authorizing 18 new fleet aircraft carriers of the Essex class and two additional Iowa-class and five larger, better armed montana class, the first “not-limit” wartime design. This went with 33 cruisers, 115 destroyers and 43 submarines.

    “Plan Orange”: The war with Japan scenario

    Initial design scheme for the Montana class (at the time S511-13 Battleships Study scheme 8 BB65 study, 15 March 1940)
    Plan Orange was a written senarion to be played at the naval college, of an attack of Japan on the US. This took place in the Pacific, not the atlantic, and had consequences for ships’s designs, not only to comply with greatr range, but also to what Intel reveals about Japanese capital ships at the time. War planners anticipated a main combat in the Central Pacific, this with an extended line of communication and complicated logistics vulnerable to fast Japanese cruisers.

    The standing force of super dreadnoughts in Hawaii at the time, with their 21-knot were just too slow to face Japanese task forces, while in a scissors/paper.rock fashion, the faster carriers and cruiser escorting them would be easy prey for a composite force of fast battleships (such as the rebuilt Kongō-class) and fast cruisers. The US Navy was a “fast detachment” capable or operating with and outside of the battle line and met these opponents on more equal terms. All knew that because of the previous limitations, neither the North Carolina-class or South Dakota-class can met the ideal speed to fit the task. They were more likely to be deployed with the main battle line or on the Atlantic.

    I short, the USN planned battleships designs capable of 30 knots but also had the idea of contituting a special strike force of fast battleships with carriers and destroyers to act independently as a scouting force. This concept would evolve into the Fast Carrier Task Force, with battleships ending as mere auxiliaries or escorts. In all cases, engineers were now free to work on a larger tonnage design, thanks to the escalator clause being ratified by all signatories in June 1938, and establishing the limit to 45,000 long tons (45,700 short tons).

    Design Work


    The “slow” battledesign scheme was apparently an elongated version of this, sometimes called the “Ohio class”.

    Two designs by the General Board

    The process had its roots in the first studies if early 1938, under the direction of Admiral Thomas C. Hart at the time, the head of the General Board using an additional 10,000 long tons (10,200 t) to give some extra possibilities. The first option was a mer development of the 27-knot (50 km/h; 31 mph) “slow” battleship design, with increased armament and protection, and a “fast” design capable of 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph) and more. The “slow design” ended as the better protected one, based on a shorter hull, the South Dakota-class.
    The board was even enthusiastic about the possibility to mount no less tha nine 18-inch (457 mm)/48 guns, with more protection for 27-knot, enabled by the large tonnage. The “fast” design however was ultimately the one retained (which turned put to be the Iowa class). The “slow” design ended with a twelve 16-inch guns design 60,500-long-ton Montana class, from September 1939 as all limits were not out.
    Priority went to the “fast” design only, clearly aiming at the Japanese Kongō-class battlecruisers, also taking into account the Panama Canal gates width as superior beam limit.

    C&R fast battleships early study

    The “fast” design was worked out by the Design Division section of the Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R). The general concept was that of a “cruiser-killer” that can also engage fast Japanese battleships on equal terms. The study was led from 17 January 1938 by Captain A.J. Chantry. The base design comprised not nine but twelve 16 in guns and twenty 5-inch DP guns on a Panamax beam, and unlimited displacement with 35 knots and 20,000 nm range at 15. This resulted in a massive, 50,940 long tons standard battleship but the catch was a compromised protection just sufficient to stop 8-inch (200 mm) heavy cruisers guns.

    Missing Pictures: Can’t find C&R designs. More on the Iowa class and this.

    Thus, designs “A”, “B”, and “C” followed by late January with better draft and revised armor, and instead of 5-in, a battery of twelve 6-inch (152 mm) guns in eight twin turrets.
    “A”: 59,060 long tons standard, 4×3 16-inch guns, 277,000 shp (207,000 kW) for 32.5 knots.
    “B” was 52,707 long tons standard, 32.5 knots but based on 225,000 shp (168,000 kW) and 3×3 16-in turrets.
    “C” was 55,771 long tons (56,666 t) standard, but had 300,000 shp (220,000 kW) for 35 knots and a 512 feet (156 m) long citadel.
    “B” main belt ran for only 496 feet (151 m).

    The Battleship Design Advisory Board Enters discussions


    Battleship Study, preliminary design, showing on 8 July 1940 the recoignisable silhouette of the BB61 and outlines differences with the BB65 scheme (Montana class).

    In March 1938, the General Board had an influx of recommendation for its branch, the Battleship Design Advisory Board: Naval architect William Francis Gibbs, Ny Ship building CEO William Hovgaard, John Metten, Joseph W. Powell, and Joseph Strauss, former admiral at the head of the ordnance dept. Not satisifed with C&R they asked for a new design study just based on a larger South Dakota-class design (stretched out, the extra space used to add boilers and possibly larger turbines). This would enable to reach 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) on just 37,600 long tons. They estimated that to reach 33 knots they would need 220,000 shp (160,000 kW) on 39,230 long tons standard, well below the “escalator clause”.

    This, compared to the more ambitious C&R studies, led the General Board to think that it was still possible to design a more moderate (and thus cheaper, the Congress still had to ratify this) to have a well balanced 33-knot while keeping even some margin with the “escalator clause”. Politically that would mean to think the US was not going to led a new arms race. Something proper to reassure Roosevelt and feel better when facing its majority or the Congress, but also the admiralty that still had a “wartime reserve” of useful displacement estimated to 5,000 tonnes and more.
    However, further studies by C&R contradicted these enthusiatic design estimations:
    -More speed needed more freeboard fore and amidships (so heavier hull) which also implied more armored freeboard, up to a feet in height.
    -The consequence of above meant more weight to be braced to meet structure requirements.
    -This trigerred in turn a larger power plant to maintain the speed. This resulted in a net increase of 2,400 long tons (2,440 t) even on conservative estimates. This also nullified the 5,000 long tons (5,080 t) of useful reserve (to add extra armour for example) and better AA.
    The draft needed to be increase as well not to lost buoyancy but this enable a narrower beam and a bit required power (since lower beam-to-draft ratio reduces wave-making resistance). This also allowed the ships to be shortened, reduced overall weight. The General Board was dubmbfounded that 6 knots was traduced by an increase of 10,000 long tons, based on the South Dakota design. A harsh recall to reality.

    Looking for a new 16-in gun


    However for this “price”, the new battleship had to show a bit more than extra speed: There were discussions of replacing the 16-inch/45 caliber Mark 6 of the South Dakota class by the new, heavier 16-inch/50 caliber Mark 2 which were an old design inherited from the canceled Lexington-class battlecruisers and first South Dakota class battleships. The projectiles were much heavier and potent than the 16-in/45, but this traduced in an additional 400 tonnes for each triple turret, larger barbette (39 feet 4 inches versus 37 feet) and in the end a global increase of 2,000 long tons for the main battery alone, reaching now 46,551 long tons.

    The Bureau of Ordnance preliminary design however, gave the Board some home, with the guarantee a large turret could still use for loading the 45-caliber gun turret’s barbette. To chase extra weight and save 1,500 tonnes, it was decided to play on lower armor thickness in some places. But the most important move was to use, like for the Essex class carriers, a new construction steel using Special Treatment Steel (STS) in certain areas. It acted as a structural armor. All this enable to lower the displacement down to 44,560 long tons standard. That’s the General Board looked at on 2 June 1938.


    The “stretched South Dakota”. Comparison between the three classes

    Work went on with the Bureau of Ordnance being allocated the turret design with a larger barbette, while C&R worked on the smaller barbette option. However without communication between these entities, a reunion in November 1938 about the contract design shown that the larger barbette would required too much alterations to the North Dakota basic design as a starting base. At the same time the board was adamant not return to the 45-caliber was acceptable.

    Before this new challenge, it’s again the Bureau of Ordnance that broufght up an elegant solution: In between, they had been working on a new 50-caliber gun called Mark 7, lighter and smaller. This enabled the same diameter as for the 45 caliber. This made them small barbette compatible, and thus, both the North Carolinas and South Dakotas could be in the future upgraded to the new 50 caliber gun as well without much trouble.

    The new turret with this lightweight Mark 7 gun saved a total of 850 long tons (864 t) total, enabling again some extra room for future weight increase, while stil treaty bound by 1938. At last the latest contract design stated a 45,155 long tons (45,880 t) standard displacement estimated to reach 56,088 long tons (56,988 t) fully loaded. Based on the second Vinson act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to program and fund the construction in June of the new Iowa class battleship at an estimated US$100 million unitary cost.

    Final design at New York Navy Yard

    Outboard profile
    The contract design was finalized gradually and blueprints generated in the New York Navy Yard which was the lead shipyard. Revisions included:
    -New foremast design (notably stronger to fit future radars)
    -1.1-inch (27.9 mm)/75 AA “Chicago Piano” by 20 mm (0.79 in)/70 caliber Oerlikon plus 40 mm/56 Bofors
    -Moving the combat information center (CiC) further down into the armored hull.
    -Comprehensive redesign of the internal subdivision of the machinery rooms based on tests:
    > Longitudinal subdivision doubled with 50% less flooding risk and less uptakes in the third deck.
    -Beam enlarged by a foot due to this (0.30 m) at 108 feet 2 inches (32.97 m) overall, still panamax, but now reaching 45,000 tonnes again.


    Photo by Norman Friedman via navsource.org of the Iowa model. It had a hull slot fared over when built prewar 12-foot navigational range finders, range clocks, pair of boat cranes never fitted, boat stowage replaced by three quad Bofors.

    It should be recalled that it did not mattered much by the time: Both Britain and France renounced in turn the Second London Naval Treaty as WW2 started, and design displacement could not slip to 45,873 long tons (46,609 t) standard without causing a stir, which was still about 2% overweight. Now compare this to Bismarck and Yamato… The keels of both USS Iowa and New Jersey were laid down in June and September 1940, and as planned, a radical increase in anti-aircraft armament and extra splinter protection, more crew accommodations, heavier and more numerous additional electronics resulted in a new figure by 1944-45 of 47,825 long tons for 57,540 long tons (58,460 t) fully loaded. This would change again during their cold war career.

    Detailed Design

    Hull Construction


    Missouri plans. Note, all original blueprints are kept by the Library of Congress, accessible here.
    Based on the latest design idea, which was to simply stretch out a South Dakota, design was quick to adapt and refine, allowing to spare perhaps six month of new calculations.

    Hull design


    Seen from above, the three battleships, sharing the same panamax beam, the family traits are obvious. All three shared the same hull design, almost rectangular for the amidship sections, with some flare at the bow and rounded stern. Flat sides, internal armour, and flush deck, gradually going up for an entire level, were all common traits.

    Superstructures


    The silhouettes however shared little in terms of superstructures, apart the location of the three turrets. The exhausts were truncated with wildly different funnel designs: Two narrow funnels close apart for the North Carolinas, single large funnel for South Dakotas and two large ones far apart for the Iowas. However the superstructures of the Iowas had much more in common with those of the North Carolinas. Indeed, they were simply copied, notably for the main tower design, stronger, taller and roomier than than of the North Carolinas.
    The space in between the forward bridge tower and aft one was massively stretched out. But the amidship deck design was about the same. Indeed, instead of just five twin turrets at least two more could have been crammed either side. This was not done as for again, design simplification and the extra space allocated to more quad 40 mm Bofors mounts, which took about the same space but were lighter and can be positioned higher up.

    Armour scheme


    The Iowa class went on with the tradition of “all-or-nothing” armor scheme inaugurated on the standard battleships of pre-WWI, and continued on by the South Dakota class, which perhaps had the best protection of any US capital ship to date. This protection was designed for full immunity against plungin fire (16-inch/45-caliber guns) at a particular distance set: Between 18,000 and 30,000 yards (16,000 and 27,000 m; 10 and 17 mi). At the time, the Krupp Cemented armour was the best process available for the time, and a Class A face-hardened K.C. armor as well as Class B homogeneous KC were used throughout, the remainder being protected by the newly developed special treatment steel (STS). This high-tensile structural steel was comparable to Class B and found its way onto the hull plating, creating with inferior thickness, another layer of protection.

    Citadel

    The citadel, ie the unsinkable “raft”, buoyancy reserve at the center of the ship, consisted of magazines and engine rooms, both under STS outer hull plates 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick, and behind the refular Class A armor belt. For the bulkheads, they diverged between the Iowa and New Jersey and the Missouri and Wisconsin. This protection against raking fire ahead was considered almost overkill due to their top speed. The main difference overall with the previous South Dakota, apart the longer citadel, was that armor was installed while in early construction and prior to the launch, since the STS notably was part of the structure. In general, the immunity zone was still good against 16-in/45 shells, but far less against 16-inch/50-caliber, especially with the Mk. 8 armor-piercing shell (“heavy shell”) compbining greater muzzle velocity and better penetration. The General Board just hoped the Japanese were not going to take that path. The Nagato class 41cm (16.1 in)/45 were considered inferior, the Yamato were unknown, and perhaps only the new Sovietsky Soyuz class battleships 406 mm/40 B-37 guns came close.

    -Magazine, Engine rooms: 1.5 in (38 mm) STS plating
    -Main armor belt, citadel: class A 12.1 inches (307 mm) thick + 0.875-inch (22.2 mm) STS back plating
    -Internal sloping main belt 19 degrees, equivalent 17.3 in (439 mm) class B (from 19,000 yards).
    -Lower belt to triple bottom: 1.62 inches (41 mm).
    -Armored citadel transverse bulkheads: 11.3-inch (287 mm) Class A. (batch 2 14.5 in (368 mm))
    -Weather Deck armor: 1.5-inch-thick (38 mm) STS
    -Main armor deck: 6-in (152 mm) Class B + STS
    -Splinter deck: 0.63 in (16 mm) STS.
    -Magazines (third deck): 1-inch (25 mm) STS
    -Wall between the magazine rooms and turret platforms: 2x 1.5-inch STS bulkheads under barbettes

    Main Battery Protection

    iowa class ONI
    ONI recoignition drawing
    The Iowas had larger turrets, and they were as heavily protected:
    Faces: 19.5-inch (495 mm) Class B + STS
    Sides: 9.5-inch (241 mm) Class A
    Rear: 12-inch (305 mm) Class A
    Roof: 7.25-inch (184 mm) Class B.
    -Barbettes: 17.3 inches (439 mm) Class A abeam and 11.6 inches (295 mm) inwards, down to the main armor deck.

    Secondary Battery and others

    The conning tower has been put into question (it was eliminated from cruisers) but was maintained with walls 17.3 inches (439 mm) class B anf topped by a 7.25 inches (184 mm) roof.
    The secondary battery turrets and the handling spaces below received 2.5 inches (64 mm) STS.
    Propulsion shafts, steering gear compartment: 13.5-in (343 mm) Class A sides, 5.6–6.2-in (142–157 mm) above.

    Iowa class ASW protection

    The Iowa class torpedo defense was a repeat of the South Dakota design. A few modifications were made however to adress some issues detected during caisson tests. It was basically an internal “bulge” composed of four longitudinal torpedo bulkheads, behind the outer hull plating. This internal sandwich was 17.9 feet (5.46 m) in depht, spending the energy of any known torpedo warhead.

    Armor belt also went down to the triple bottom reaching 1.62 inches (41 mm), becoming one of the torpedo bulkheads. Its joint was reinforced with buttstraps to compensate of the structural discontinuity. This internal bulge was designed to deform elastically in order to absorb energy: The the two outer areas dividied into many compartments were filled with liquid, either seawater or oil. Pumps and valves would be used for counter-flooding as well.
    The liquid in any case was supposed to “eat” th einitial detonation blast energy and slowdown any splinters before hitting the lower armored belt. The fourth one was an empty compartment behind, destined to absorb remaining energy. Outside the citadel for the lower ones, they were used for extra storage but had all watertight roof apertures only, no side door, which could have weakened the internal wall.

    Further improvements:
    In between, Caisson tests went on in the Navy, and by 1939 the South Dakota’s scheme was found less effective than the North Carolinas’ due to the lower armor belt. It was too rigid and thus, had the explosion displacing the final holding bulkhead inwards. To fix this it was decided that both the third deck and triple bottom structure, behind the lower armor belt, would be reinforced, and brackets placement changed as well.
    Thus, with a bit more time for polishing details, the Iowas’ ASW protection system was improved over the South Dakotas class, between modified transverse bulkheads, thicker lower belt at the bottom joint, and larger internal bulge overall. Built later, USS Illinois and Kentucky even had extra modifications, since it was decided to eliminat knuckles along certain bulkheads, improving the whole system to an estimated 20%. The Montanas would gave gained a relatively similar system, albeit even more refined, as well as the other unbuilt last two Iowa class. All in all, with the wartime freeing extra tonnage, it was decided to simple extened the citadel aft to included the steering gear and power control room, way aft of the ship. That was somthing completely new and ensure a greater level of survivability. This extra space beyond the barbette also included refrigerated compartments, fruits and vegetable storage room as well. This extra protected space also increased the buoyancy of the ship.

    The question of aerial bombing:
    About aerial bombing, notably from high altitude with AP bombs, some still had doubts about their capacity to withstand that kind of damage. It was compounded by the develomment of the Norden bombsight, fearing something comparable of the Japanese side, fortunately, not only this was too late to make any extra armor additions, bu the war proved time and again that high altitude bombing against capital ship was a phantasm, and in the end, largely ineffective against maneuvering warships.

    Powerplant


    Main engine control room on USS New Jersey

    Main turbines

    The Iowas class having more hull space was granted extra room for a far larger powerplant than its predecessors: It consisted of eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers feeding four sets of double reduction cross-compound geared turbines. Each turbine drove its single shaft. For comparison, it was the same on the South Dakota class: Four GE/Westinghouse steam turbines and eight Babcock & Wilcox three-drum express type boilers. But the output differed. For such contract, Iowa and Missouri also were provided their four geared turbines each by General Electric, and Westinghouse for New Jersey and Wisconsin.
    They were protected by flooding in a new way, longitudinally divided into not four (South Dakota class), but eight compartments, alternating boilers and engine rooms. Indeed, this design incorporate larger turbines and the machinery space too more volume, hence reducing the useful beam for the ASW protection. This ensured that at worst a single torpedo could only disable 1/4 of the engine power. HP turbines were rated at 2,000 rpm and the shaft, through reduction gearing, went down to 225 rpm to the propellers but varied with the speed setup.

    Boilers

    Four “fire rooms” well separated by using the outer and inner turbines arrangements each housed two M-Type boilers. Their working pressure was 600 pounds per square inch (4,137 kPa; 42 kgf/cm2) and maximum superheater temperature being set at 850 °F (454 °C). These were of the same type as those on the South Dakotas.
    The steam setup was directed by a mix for each set, of a high-pressure (HP) turbine combined with a low-pressure (LP) turbine in a 2-expansion system. The steam passes through the HP one at 2,100 rpm and whilst depleted, passes through the LP turbine, now at 50 psi (340 kPa). This was the most optimized way to deal with all produced steam. Leaving the low presure turbine, exhaust steam went to a condenser to be reciculated as feed water into the boilers. A closed loop which however imposed some additions from the internal waters tanks. But little was lost oustide leakage. Three evaporators producing some 60,000 US gallons daily or 3 liters per second were used to produced fresh water for the whole ship, also for the crew.

    Performances

    Despite similar configuration, this plant produced some 212,000 shp (158,000 kW) versus 130,000 shp (97,000 kW) on the South Dakota class. This explained the speed difference, also in part due to the better hull ratio. This enable the Iowa class a record 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph) fully loaded, and up to 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph) under normal displacement, not even “light” trials with minimum load (no ammo, food, water, reduced crew, and minimal oil). These kind of fancy speed trials were a peactime thing. We can only guess how these figures could have been outpassed, perhaps even 35 kts. After all, there was no governor.
    To compare, this was about the same as the German Scharnhorst class, considered as “battlecruisers”. They were faster than the Richelieu (32), Litorrio (31), King George V (28), Yamato (28), and Bismarck (30). This was largely sufficient to deal with the Kongo class (30) anyway.
    The range was also adequate for the pacific: They carried 8,841 long tons (8,983 t) of fuel oil. As a rsult, this gave them a calculated range of 15,900 nmi (29,400 km; 18,300 mi), at 17 knots cruise speed. As for agility, in addition to the outer propellers, steering counted on the two semi-balanced rudders. This enable a tactical turning diameter of 814 yards (744 m) at 30 knots, down to 760 yards (695 m) at 20 knots. Of course at 30-33, the Iowa class and their long gull bled more speed in hard turns than the South Dakota or North Carolina class.

    Propellers

    The Iowas had four screw propellers: The outboard pair (4-bladed) were 18.25 ft (5.56 m) in diameter. The inboard pair (5-bladed) were 17 ft (5.18 m) in diameter, and more optimised for cruising. This different propeller design was adopted after comprehensive basin testing to evaluate the effect of propeller cavitation. There was a clear drop over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). The same studies went on improving the PT-Boats as well, as a completely different scale, and later cruisers of the Salem and Worcester class. The two inner shafts housed in skegs to blend into the hull and reduce the flow of water to the propellers. Thus also improved structural strength at the weaker stern.

    Auxiliary Power


    Electrical generators onboard USS New Jersey
    In either of the engine rooms were installed a pair of 1,250 kW Service Turbine Generators (SSTGs). Each provided non-emergency electrical power, rated at 10,000 kW on 450 volts (alternating current). There were an additional, backup two 250 kW emergency diesel generators in case the main engines were all flooded, to at leat produce minimal power to lighting, pumps and save the ship. It was also envisioned a new redundancy in case of battle-damage: Electrical circuits could be more easily repaired or bypassed. The lower decks alsh had a “Casualty Power System” with a new set if three-wire cables and wall outlets usable to reroute power. These were the first time such baskup was setup. Indeed during the second battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, USS South Dakota was left without power, due to battle damage and technical error at the worst critical moment. This elactrical power had room to spare to add extra AA, and did not necessitated much change until 1945.

    Armament

    Main Guns: Nine 16-in Mk12


    Iowa’s 16-in guns and barbette scheme
    The 16-in/50 could claim the coveted claim of best naval gun of WW2 (and perhaps of all times since no battleship has been done since). The closest contender would be the British BL 15-inches Mk I naval gun, which however is older. Although it shared some caracteristics with the 45 caliber used on the previous North Carolina and South Dakota, it was tailored to fire a new shell, the “super heavy” 16-in AP which was though enough to defeat any known armor for a decade, but started completely different, to fire the relatively light 2,240 pound (1,016.0 kg) AP Mark 5 instead when preliminary studies started 1938. But in 1939 it was swapped for the “super-heavy” 2,700 pound (1,224.7 kg) AP Mark 8 before any battleship of the new class was even laid down. By performances, this made them equal or superior to the larger 46 cm (18.1″) Japanese (Yamato class) while being much lighter, a prowess which also saved time and energy to find comprises during the design phase of the new battleships.

    With modern electronics during their cold war career they showed also an amazing accuracy in multiple occasions. The gun was designed and built in record time to equip the Iowa class when completed, in 1943. Each Mark 7 gun was composed of a liner and A tube plus its jacket and three hoops, two locking rings. The tube had its own liner locking ring as well as a yoke ring and screw box liner. The bore was plated over in chromium to extent its life. The breech was classic, using the Smith-Asbury Welin opening downwards.

    The Mark 7 weighted 267,904 lbs. (121 tons including breech) while measuring 816 in (20.7 m) and had a rate of fire of 2 rounds per minute, with a muzzle velocity dependong on the round: AP Mark 8 – 1800 to 2,500 fps (762 mps), the former with reduced charge, and the HC Mark 13 between 2,075 and 2,690 fps (820 mps). Its approximate barrel life was 290 rounds and each gun was provided with 130 rounds. More refinement were made during the cold war and new shells introduced.


    Loading the gun

    Powder bags

    Ammunitions: This gun fired the following:
    -AP Mark 8 Mod 0-8: 2,700 lbs. (1,225 kg)
    -HC Mark 13 Mod 0-6: 1,900 lbs. (862 kg)
    -HC Mark 14 Mod 0: 1,900 lbs. (862 kg)
    -Practice rounds Target Mark 9-16: 2700 or 1,900 lbs. (861.8 kg)
    The AP Mark 8 carried a 40.9 lbs. (18.55 kg) warhead
    HC Mark 13/14 carried the same 153.6 lbs. (69.67 kg) warhead.
    The HE Mark 19 was a special “shotgun” round carrying 400 M43A1 grenades

    More

    Secondary Guns: Twenty 5-in/38


    The standard battery seen on the North Carolina and South Dakota class: Twenty 5 in (127 mm)/38 caliber Mark 12 in twin turrets. They were placed along the superstructure, in two rows and superfiring, alternated position to reach the best possible arc of fire at about 180° either side. This did not changed during WW2, albeit AA artillery did.
    These turrets were of the Mark 28 Mod 2 twin dual-purpose mount type, weighting 56,295 lb (70,894 kg) and capable of −15 degrees to 85 degrees. They fired AA, illumination, white phosphorus shells for night fighting at 15–22 rounds per minute. The shell was quickly manually loaded, each weighting 54 and 55 lb (24–25 kg). They could be associated with full charge, a full flashless charge, and reduced charge. Depending on these, muzzle velocity of ranged from 2,500 to 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s). Each turret was supplied by 450 rounds and life expectancy of the barrels was 4,600 rounds.
    They were all ten directed by four Mark 37 fire control systems through remote power control (RPC).

    AA Guns: Eighty 40mm/70


    The Iowa class came out with fifteen quad 40mm/56 Mk 1/2 for USS Iowa herself, twenty for her sisters, posted, from bow to stern, two on either side of the footbridge on sup. deck, one optional on B turret, two upper in the bridge, six at different levels close to the aft funnel, two at the superstrcture’s end, one on X turret, and two at the bow. However Iow soon obtained four more to reach the same total as her sisters, with little changes over time. In 1946 they swapped for the 40mm/60 Mk 2 model, and kept them in the 1950s, but they dwindled down until 1955. After the great refits of the 1960s-80s, they completed disappeared while secondary 5-in/38 were redyced to three turrets either side. (this will be more detailed on the cold war article).

    AA Guns: Fifty 20mm/70


    USS Iowa was planned and completed with fifteen quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 (60), and the same number of 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikon. On BB 62, 63 New Jersey & Missouri, this was ported twenty quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 (80) and forty-nine 20mm/70. In 1944 the potency of the Bofors on the Oerlikon was recoignised already. BB 64 Wisconsin had an interesing mix of twenty quad 40mm/56 but also two twin 20mm/70 Mk 4 AA guns and the same forty-nine dingle mount Mk 4. By late 1945, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin had their light AA reduced to just 17 single 20mm/70. In 1946, they all retained 20 quad Bofors. This was comparable to the North Carolina (24 at best) or South Dakota class (18 at best), thanks to their largest deck surface.

    Electronics

    Mark 37 gunfire control system, coupled with the Mark 25 radar and to the left, the Mark 38 gunfire director with Mark 13 radar. A QE-8L satellite communications antenna aboard USS IOWA (BB 61). A mix of new and old.

    Radars:

    The earliest search radars on USS Iowa as completed were the SK air-search radar and SG surface-search radars in 1943. The first was on the mainmast’s top and the other on the forward fire-control tower. The first was later replaced by the SK-2 air-search radar and a modified version of the SG surface-search radar. Of course, these models were again upgraded between 1945 and 1952 while a SP height finder was placed on the main mast.
    Typically they carried in 1943-44 the following: One SK, Two SG, One Mk 3, two Mk 8, four Mk 4 FCS radars. BB 63 and 64 were completed with a Mk.27 instead of the Mk.3, and four new Mk 12.22 radars for BB 64 as completed.
    In 1945, modifications were extensive, with the adoption of the SC-2, SK-2, SP, SU, two Mk 13, four Mk 12.22 FCS radars, Mk 27 radars, and the TDY ECM suite for USS Iowa (March). By 1946 the usual set was one SK, two SG, one SR, two Mk 13, one Mk 27, four Mk 12.22 radars and same TDY ECM suite.
    In 1952, AN/SPS-10 surface-search radar and AN/SPS-6 air-search radar replaced the SK and SG radar systems, respectively. Two years later the SP height finder was replaced by the AN/SPS-8 height finder, which was installed on the main mast of the battleships.

    Fire control radars:

    -As commissioned, two Mk 38 gun fire control systems (FCS), with Mark 8 FC radar for the main battery.
    -Four Mk 37 gun FCS with Mark 12 FC radars plus Mark 22 height finding radar (HFR) for the secondary (5-in) battery.
    -Upgrades: Mark 13 instead of the Mark 8 for the main battery, Mark 25 instead of the Mark 12/22 for the secondary battery. Despite their age, they remained active with few electronics improvements for the whole career of theese ships.
    These were perhapos the most advanced FCS of their day, with a range estimation prividing a clear accuracy advantage as shown during the engagement off Truk Atoll (16 February 1944), USS Iowa straddling out IJN Nowaki at 35,700 yards (32.6 km; 17.6 nmi) a record for the time.

    Electronic Countermeasures

    Electronic countermeasures (ECM) was installed indeed at the end of the war for the first time, including SPT-1 and SPT-4 equipment, for passive ESM, with two DBM radar direction finders, three intercept receiving antennas to detect the radar source. The more active TDY-1 jammers were installed on either side of the fire control tower. Postwar they were among the first to receive the Mark III identification, friend or foe (IFF) system, then Mark X in 1955.

    Onboard aviation

    Vought OS-2U Kingfisher, USS Iowa
    Vought OS-2U Kingfisher, USS Iowa 1944

    Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk, VO1b, USS Iowa
    Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk, VO1b, USS Iowa 1948

    When first commissioned the Iowa-class battleships came with two aircraft catapults aft like previous designs, served by an axial crane. Initially plans were to adopt the Curtiss SOC-3 Seagull, but its poor performances meant it was replaced outrugh when commissioned with the Vought OS2U Kingfisher. In 1945 was adopted in replacement the smaller, faster Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk. They were used for artillery spotting but were used in between for search-and-rescue missions, saving the life of numerous aviators, notably when covering TF 38/58 in air raids. They were used despite better fire control systems now assisted by radars.
    The early cold war saw the Seahawk still in use at least until 1947-48, but catapults were removed, freeing space used as a helicopter spot, the real revolution of the Korean War.

    SC-1 Seahawk taxiing up to sea-sled, USS Iowa, July 1947
    SC-1 Seahawk taxiing up to sea-sled, USS Iowa, July 1947

    Crew, Stats, and other specifics

    Port view of the Bridge
    Port view of the Bridge
    Flying brige of the USS Missouri
    Flying bridge of the USS Missouri
    Crew members painting the starboard anchor
    Crew members painting the starboard anchor.
    -The two anchors were of stockless bower type, 30,000 pounds. The chains counted “12 shots” (1,080 feet long) with the outboard swivel shot, 110 pounds for each link.
    -Construction cost for each ship in 1940 was $90,000,000.
    -Tank Capacity: 2.2 million gallons, fuel oil.
    -Aviation gas. cap. 37,000 gallons of aviation fuel.
    -Fresh water: 210,000 gallons with boilers recycled feed.
    -All urinals and all but toilet on the Iowa class was flush with saltwater.
    -Four meals were served, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-rats (midnight)
    -Two free service ice-cream machines
    -834 tons of food stoared aboard for each long terme sortie
    -7 tons daily consumed, fresh food (1.5t), frozen (2t) dry (3.5 tons).
    -119 days at sea possible before resupply for food alone, not fuel or ammo
    -Tailors, cobblers, barbers a board
    -Fully wirking printing shop for the ship’s journal
    -Library and Oratory
    -Medical facilities: Dentist and full hospital
    -Post office on 2nd Deck.

    A signalman looks through Mark 3 binoculars on the bridge of the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB-63).

    Gallery


    Standard camouflage scheme for the Iowa class in 1944.
    Measure 32 Design 7a
    Measure 32 Design 7a

    16-in guns barrel elevated


    Old author’s illustration of the Iowa
    measure 32 1944
    USS Iowa with her unique Measure 32 camouflage, Philippines sea, December 1944
    New profile
    New profile
    New profile (to come soon)

    USS Iowa (1943) specifications

    Displacement 48,110t standard, 57,540t fully loaded
    Dimensions 262,1 wl/270.4 oa x 33 x 11m (887 x 108 x 38 ft)
    Propulsion 4x sets GE geared steam turbines, 8 B&W boilers 212,000 shp (158,000 kW)
    Speed 35.2 knots on trials (65.2 km/h; 40.5 mph), 33 kts as designed
    Range 14,890 nmi (27,580 km; 17,140 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
    Armament 3×3 406mm/50, 10×2 127mm/38, 15-20×4 40mm AA, 60x 20mm AA, 2 catapults, 3 seaplanes
    Armor Belt: 307+22, main deck 178, bulkheads 287, barbettes 439, turrets 495, CT 440mm, see notes
    Crew 2,700 (WWII and Korea)

The Iowa class in service

US Navy ww2 USS Iowa (BB 61)


Built at the New York Naval Yard from 27 June 1940 to launch on 27 August 1942, she was completed and commissioned on 22 February 1943. After sea trials, she started her shakedown cruise and service with the Atlantic Fleet on the 24th, starting with the Chesapeake Bay, along the coast. She stopped in Argentia on 27 August in case the KMS Tirpitz made a sortie in the North Atlantic from Norway to prey on convoys.
On 25 October she was in maintenance at Norfolk NyD for post-cruise fixes. Next, she became the “presidential yacht”, carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Cairo and Tehran Conferences, fitted with a tailored bathtub as the president could not use a shower.

The staff also comprised Secretary of State Cordell Hull, CiC Admiral William D. Leahy and General George C. Marshall, CNO Ernest King, and for the Air Force Henry “Hap” Arnold plus Harry Hopkins. They landed at Mers El Kébir in Algeria on their way to Tehran escorted by the destroyer USS William D. Porter, known for its torpedo drill that turned into near catastrophy when a nactual loaded torpedo was sent into the path of USS Iowa, which was warned at the last minute and turned hard. Sje trained her main guns on William D. Porter in case…
Iowa completed her votage on 16 December back home. Roosevelt addressed the crew by stating it appeared Iowa was to him a ‘happy ship’ and wished the crew good luck.

USS Iowa in late 1943
USS Iowa in late 1943

Pacific Service

USS iowa became flagship of BatDiv 7 (Admiral lee), departing on 2 January 1944 via the Panama Canal to join the Marshall Islands compaign. Until 3 February she escorted TF 58 for their air strikes under RADM Frederick C. Sherman’s TG 58.3 focusing on Kwajalein and Eniwetok. Next, she accompanied carriers assaulting Truk in the Caroline Islands. She was however detached with other battleships on 16 February 1944 to prey on Japanese shipping around Truk, notably on their northern retreat path. With USS New Jersey, she sank the Japanese light cruiser Katori fleeing after Operation Hailstone. One of the rare surface engagements of these battleships.

On 21 February she was now part of TF 38 (renamed TF 58, 5th Fleet) for operations against Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam, in the Marianas. On 18 March 1944, USS Iowa as flagship of Admiral Willis A. Lee, shelled Mili Atoll (Marshall). In return she was hit by two Japanese 4.7 in (120 mm) shell, with little damage. Back in TF 58 on 30 March 1944 she covered new air strikes (Palau-Woleai).
Until 28 April, she escorted the carriers hitting Hollandia, Aitape, Wake in support of landings in Aitape and Tanahmerah, New Guinea. Next this was the second Truk raid on 29-30 April, then Ponape (Carolines) on 1st May.
New strikes followed on Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan Island, on 12 June and she was detached to shell IJN installations on Saipan and Tinian (13–14 June).

Battle of the Philippine Sea, Leyte, and Campaign

USS Iowa in 1944
USS Iowa in 1944
On the 19th June she took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea as part of TF 58 escort, put her AA to good use by repelling four massive air raids, claiming three enemy aircraft alone, many more assisted. She was part of the pursuing fleet claiming a torpedo plane and assisting another. In July, she covered other raids off Marianas, notably landings on Guam. She left Eniwetok with the 3rd Fleet and covered the landings on Peleliu (17 September). Next, she covered more raids in the Central Philippines before the invasion. On 10 October she was off Okinawa for air strikes on the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa (Taiwan). She was back for raids against Luzon (18 October) and until MacArthur’s landing on Leyte two days later.

Then came Operation Shō-Gō 1, a last ditch attack by three fleets which became the Battle of Leyte at large. Iowa escorted TF 38 attacking Japanese Central Force (Admiral Kurita) going through the Sibuyan Sea. The fleet was attacked, and retreated, which left Admiral William “Bull” Halsey to send Iowa and other ships with TF 38 in hot pursuit of the Northern Force retreating from Cape Engaño. On 25 October 1944, as this retrating fleet came into range Iowa’s guns, it was learned the Central Force was just falling on Taffy 3 off Samar. TF 38 was forced to reverse course, but the 7th Fleet resisted fiercely forcing the Japanese to retreat before they could be met by Halsey and his battleships. The great showdown of capital ships was avoided there. Iowa remained afterwards in the Philippines to cover more strikes against Luzon and Formosa.

However on 18 December, TF 38 was hit by Typhoon Cobra while 300 mi (480 km) east of Luzon. The core of the storm came with little warning and the task force was caught pants down with many destroyers ttrying to refuel from larger ships. Hurricane-force winds claimed USS Hull, Monaghan, and Spence, damaging a cruiser, five aircraft carriers, and three more destroyers, 790 officers and men lost as well as 146 planes. Iowa reported no injuries, biut lost her Vought Kingfisher, washed overboard, and had a shaft damaged. This required her bacl to the US after some hasty repairs in a floating drydock. She was back in San Francisco on 15 January 1945. The overhaul Iowa saw her bridge enclosed, addition of AA, new search radars and fire-control.

Last Operations against Japan


USS Iowa in repairs, floating drydock ABSD-2 in Manus, admiralty Islands, 28 December 1944
Iowa was back at sea on 19 March 1945, bound for Okinawa (15 April), relieving sister ship New Jersey as flagship. From 24 April, she supported carrier operations there. She went on with TF 58 for strikes off southern Kyūshū (25 May-13 June) on the Japanese mainland. Next raids on northern Honshū and Hokkaidō and more striked on 14–15 July this time with direct shore shelling: She devastated Muroran Industrial complex in Hokkaidō. Hitachi (Honshū) was next in her scopes, between 17-18 July. She bombarded Kahoolawe on 29-30 July and escorted the last fast carrier strikes in early august until ceasefire orders were received on 15 August.

On the 27th, with USS Missouri (“Mighty Mo”) she entered Sagami Bay for the surrender of the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, then Tokyo Bay assistined, with sailors from Missouri on her board to make room for numerous officials, for the surrender ceremony on USS Missouri. She was Halsey’s flagship for the surrender ceremony on 2 September and covered operations of the occupying force. Next, she took part in Operation Magic Carpet, with GIs and freed POWs aboard brought bacck home, departing Tokyo Bay on 20 September.
He cold war service will be seen in a later post.

US Navy ww2 USS New Jersey (BB 62)

new jersey richelieu
USS New Jersey and Richelieu (bg) on 7 September 1943 off Hampton Road. The two fastest battleships at the time. Richeloeu just joined the allies, being refitted in New York, with New Jersey was brand new, commissioned in May.

Marshall Islands Campaign

USS New Jersey was Launched on 7 December 1942 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, commissioned on 23 May 1943. Her fitting out completed, she trained her initial crew in the Atlantic, making her first shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea. This process went on from May until December 1943. On 7 January 1944 she was assigned to the Pacific fleet, and went through the Panama Canal bound for Funafuti in Ellice Islands, arriving on the 22th. She was assigned to the Fifth Fleet, and met with Task Group 58.2 for the Marshall Islands Campaign. Like her other sisters her main tasks eere to screen aircraft carriers while TG 58.2 flew strikes against Kwajalein and Eniwetok until 2 February before the landings taking place on 31 January.

USS New Jersey became flagship on 4 February, while in Majuro Lagoon, varrying the mark of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, 5th Fleet. She took part in Operation Hailstone, a massive attack on Truk Lagoon, Carolines. It went on at the same time as the assault on Kwajalein with the goal of achieving the conquest of the Marshalls. By 17-18 February, the raid claimed among others two Japanese light cruisers and four destroyers. USS New Jersey destroyed a trawler by gunfire and co-claimed the destroyer IJN Maikaze. She also claimed at least an enemy aircraft before being back in the Marshalls on 19 February.

On 17 March and until 10 April she stayed with USS Lexington(ii), RADM Marc Mitscher’s flagship during the attack on Mille, and joined TG 58.2 for a strike in the Palaus, also bombarding directly Woleai. Admiral Spruance left for USS Indianapolis and she sailed from Majuro on 13 April and until 4 May 1944 in another strike, returning to Majuro. These hit Aitape, Tanahmerah Bay and Humboldt Bay in New Guinea but also Truk again (29–30 April). She claimed two enemy torpedo bombers these days and shelled Ponape on 1 May.

Mariannas Islands Campaign


USS New Jersey shelling Tinian in June 1944
Before being prepared for the invasion of the Marianas, USS New Jersey on 6 June took part on Admiral Mitscher’s Task Force for preinvasion air strikes starting on 12 June, claiming an enemy torpedo bomber, bombarding next Saipan and Tinian to prepare for the landings on 15 June. The Japanese prepared massive counter-attack, their formations shadowed by US submarines into the Philippine Sea. Admiral Spruance and Admiral Mitscher gather their forces and went forward in interception. USS New Jersey opened fire on 19 June 1944 on the remaining Japanese aircraft that went through the massive USN air screen, part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

She played her part in the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”, the fleet learning that the IJN Taihō and Shōkaku had been claimed by USS Albacore and Cavalla, plus USS Hiyō bya aviation from USS Belleau Wood and two more Japanese carriers and a battleship damaged. USS New Jersey AA crews managed to shot down any aproaching aircraft before they could engage.


USS new Jersey’s AA was hard at work during the Battle of the Philippines sea.

Philippines Campaign

USS New Jersey crowned the Marianas campaign by strikes on Guam and Palaus before returning to Pearl Harbor (9 August). She became there flagship of Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. and on the 24th, flagship of the 3rd Fleet. On 30 August, she departed again to join Ulithi, her new advanced base for eight months of the Philippines Campaign. She escorted TF 38, the fast carrier task force on striked in the Philippines but also Okinawa, and Formosa. By September she escorted the force striking the Visayas, southern Philippines, Manila and Cavite, Panay, Negros, Leyte, and Cebu.
By October a sweep was done to hit Okinawa and Formosa while Leyte landings were prepared from 20 October.

This trigger the IJN’s last gamble. This almost succeeded as the northern force drew away Halsey’s force despite her was tasked initially to protect the landings. Center Force entered the gulf through San Bernardino Strait and fell on Taffy 3 protecting the landings. Halsey meanwhile reversed course, having sank by aviation four carriers, a destroyer and cruiser, New Jersey meanwhile rushed south to try to catch Center force, already defeat and retreated. Like Iowa, she was declined her duel with IJN capital ships.


USS New Jersey during a stiff storm in the Western Pacific, 8 November 1944

USS New Jersey was back in close protection of the fast carriers fleet near San Bernardino, on 27 October 1944. Dhe covered new striked on central and southern Luzon. Two days after a fierce Kamikaze attack followed, and USS New Jersey claimed a plane aiming for USS Intrepid. The carrier’s rounds landed by accident on USS New Jerdey, wounding three. On 25 November she claimed three more Japanese planes, one however hitting USS Hancock. Intrepid was jit by another kamikaze hit by New Jersey gunners. She did the same for anothers targeting USS Cabot.

On 18 December 1944, TF 38 was badly hit by Typhoon Cobra. As a fleet flagship, USS New Jersey had a highly experienced weatherman aboard, Commander G. F. Kosco from the MIT and expert on hurricanes in the West Indies, but he completely missed the signs of the sudden typhoon. The battleship was hit on 18 December, but New Jersey remained largely unscathed. She was in Ulithi on Christmas Eve, visited by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.

USS New Jersey from 30 December 1944 to 25 January 1945 accompanied carriers hitting Formosa, Okinawa, and Luzon, the Indo-China coast, Hong Kong, Swatow and Amoy, and again Formosa and Okinawa. Back at Ulithi on 27 January Halsey left New Jersey, replaced on the 29 by RADM Admiral Oscar C. Badger II, BatDiv7.

Iwo Jima and Okinawa

She was present for the attack on Iwo Jima, screeing CVs attacks on 19–21 February, and took part in the first major carrier raid on Tokyo 25 February, being attacked by air. She later was seen in the conquest of Okinawa (14 March-16 April). Her AA gunners did wonders to repel Kamikaze strikes, haing both seaplanes budy rescuing downed pilots. In all she claimed three assisting in many more.

On 24 March 1945 she was committed to heavy bombardment, on the invasion beaches. After this, she was sent home of a major overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. This was over on 4 July as she departed for San Pedro, then to Pearl Harbor and Eniwetok, then to Guam, arriving on 14 August, as flagship of the 5th Fleet (Spruance). She learned the end of the war and went to Manila and Okinawa before heading for Tokyo Bay 17 September as flagship for successive commanders of the occupation forces until replaced on 28 January 1946 by USS Iowa. She took part in Operation Magic Carpet with circa 1,000 troops, landed at San Francisco on 10 February. She would be decommissioned in 1948. She earned 9 battle stars for her WW2 service, but will earn more in the future.

US Navy ww2 USS Missouri (BB 63)

Photographed while on her shakedown cruise, August 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives.

BB 63 was built at Brooklyn Navy Yard, laid down on 6 January 1941 and launched on 29 January 1944, christened by Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman a senators from the namesake state. She was fitted-out work quickly, commissioned four month afterwards on 11 June with Captain William Callaghan in command.

After initial sea trials off New York from 10 July, she made a trip to Chesapeake Bay to starte her shakedown cruise whilst doing initialtraining, in company of the new “large cruiser” USS Alaska, and destroyers in case of U-Boats. Once done, she headed on 11 November via the Panama Canal to San Francisco. Fitting-out work, with post-fix maintenance were carried out at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, notably to serve as fleet flagship.

On 14 December, she sailed from San Francisco to Ulithi, the gathering point for the fleet in the Carolines, meeting it on 13 January 1945. She became HQ for VADM Marc A. Mitscher and was assigned to Task Force 58 on its way on 27 January for a strike on Tokyo, in preparation of Iwo Jima’s future assault. As her sister she was tasked of AA screen duties as part of TG 58.2 (USS Lexington, Hancock, San Jacinto). She also resupplied her escorting destroyers as oilers were left behind.

From 16 February her units started operations off Kyushu before returning to Iwo Jima, which invasion started on 19 February. USS Missouri at her first evening shot down an incoming lone Japanese bomber (likely Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu “Helen”). TF 58 left the area in March to resupply in Ulithi while Missouri was reassigned to the Yorktown task group (TG 58.4) and was underway again from 14 March. On the 18th, the battleship claimed/co-assisted in downing four Japanese aircraft. During a massive Kamikaze counter-attack USS Franklin was badly damaged, Missouri being detached to cover her withdrawal. She was back on the 23-24 reassigned to the preparatory bombardment of Okinawa as part of TF 59 with her sisters USS New Jersey and Wisconsin. They rained steel on the southern coast of Okinawa on 24 March, diverting attention as the main landing was on the western side. She spent 180 rounds that day and returned in protection of TG 58.4.

On 11 April she repelled another kamikaze attack, but one wetn through and hit her side, below the main deck. A gasoline fire on deck rapidly ignited but was suppressed. Damage was light and she stayed on station. On the 17 another attack left two crewmen badly wounded after one Kamikaze exploded on the stern crane and ended on the wake. She returned with TF 58 to Ulithi on 5 May having 5-6 six aicraft kills and six assisted. On 9 May she left Ulithi for Apra Harbor in Guam arriving on the 18th, visited by William F. Halsey Jr. which made the ship his flagship for the whole TF 38.

On 21 May, she sailed back to Okinawa, arriving six days afte, and shelling positions around the island. She soon left for the north, covering more air strikes on Kyūshū (2-3 June). She went through a typhoon (5–6 June) largely unscaved. Operations resumed on 8 June and retired to Leyte Gulf (13 June). The fleet returned to the Japanese Home Island on 1 July, Missouri being integrated into 38.4. Attacks started on 10 July and went to Honshū and Hokkaidō on 13-14 July while on the 15 she left to join the detached TG 38.4.2 sent shelling industrial facilities in Muroran on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. A second mission was done in the night of 17–18 July with HMS King George V. Next they were back as carrier screens. This time for raids on and around Tokyo, later resuming attacks on northern Japan (9 August). The A-Bomb of Nagasaki, then second, and Soviet Invasion resulted in a reddition announced on 15 August.

For the next two weeks preparations commenced for the occupation of Japan and on the 21, Missouri sent 200 officers and men to USS Iowa, to form a large landing party, in Tokyo, at first tasked to find weapons and gathered them. Captain Murray was informed that his ship would host the surrender ceremony setup on 31 August. Crew started frantic preparations, including cleaning the decks and painting everything anew. “Mighty Mo” entered Tokyo Bay on 27 August, escorted by IJN Hatsuzakura. While in Kamakura a courier gave them the flag flew by Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, displayed during the ceremony. On 29 August al ships had dropped anchor, Missouri symbolically close where Perry was 92 years prior. Poor weather had the ceremony pushed back to 2 September.

Admiral Chester Nimitz boarded BB 63 on the morning, with Gral Doug MacArthur as Supreme Commander a bit later, and Japanese representatives led by PM Mamoru Shigemitsu barel ten minites later at 08:56. MacArthur opened the 23-minute surrender ceremon with a well prepared discourse before the signing and by 09:30 Japanese emissaries departed. On 5 September, Halsey made USS South Dakota his new flagship and Missouri departed Tokyo Bay to take part in Operation Magic Carpet landing in Guam, and then Hawaii, on 20 September. Later she was made flagship of Admiral Nimitz on the 28th, for a vivtory reception. Later she would depart Pearl Harbor for the East Coast, New York City (23 October) as flagship Atlantic Fleet (Admiral Jonas Ingram), firing a 21-gun salute for Truman during Navy Day ceremonies. Soon after some cadet training she was sent in reserve. The rest of her career is truly amazing. For her service in WW2 she earned eight battle stars.

Anchored off Piraeus, Greece, April 1946. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives.

Battle Honors painted on her bridge, as preserved today
Battle Honors painted on her bridge, as preserved today.

US Navy ww2 USS Wisconsin (BB 64)

USS Wisconsin at anchor on 30 May 1944, during her Atlantic coast shakedown period. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Wisconsin completed her trials, initial training, both in the Chesapeake Bay before post-fixes and depart Norfolk on 7 July 1944 for the British West Indies. She made her shakedown cruise off Trinidad and returned to the yard for alterations. On 24 September 1944 she sailed for the West Coast via Panama and arrived in the Pacific Fleet on 2 October, hitting Hawaii for local training exercises before proceeding to the Western Caroline Islands, and dropping anchor at Ulithi to joined the 3rd Fleet, on 9 December, preparing for her first wartime mission, months after completion.

Philippines Operations

She was on time for the reconquest of the Philippines and was planned to cover landings on the southwest coast of Mindoro (Luzon) so she was assigned to protect the 3rd Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force or TF 38, launching raids over Manila and surrounding bases. On 18 December TF 38 was hit by Typhoon Cobra while trying to refuel at sea some 300 mi (480 km) east of Luzon. There was considerable damage on several carriers and several destroyers lost, but USS Wisconsin only had to report two injured sailors after the typhoon.
She next covered the occupation of Luzon, troops hitting Lingayen Gulf, while BB 64′ AA batteries watched over TF 37 launching air strikes against Formosa, Luzon, and Nansei Shoto in an attempt to destroyer Japanese air power there on 3–22 January 1945, including a sortie in the South China Sea.

New raids were done on Saigon and Camranh Bay in French Indochina and the raids claimed 41 Japanese ships, wrecking the docks port installations and destroying aircraft facilities around. Formosa was hit by six raids, the last on 21 January. Raids were also performed on Hong Kong, Canton, Hainan Island plus Okinawa. Afterwards, USS Wisconsin was reassigned to the 5th Fleet (Admiral Raymond A. Spruance) was the new commander. She covered TF 58 moving directly for raids on the Tokyo area. On 16 February, they arrived by heavy weather a achived surprise, launching devastating raids. During the air counter attack, USS Wisconsin and other escorts shot down altogether some 322 enemy planes (some claimed by fighters), while Helldivers and Avengers, Corsairs claimed 177 more on the ground. Japanese shipping was also crippled in the whole area and installations.

Iwo Jima and Okinawa

Underway with other warships in the western Pacific, circa December 1944 – August 1945. Photographed by Lt. Barrett Gallagher, USNR. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Wisconsin next moved with TF 58 to Iwo Jima, arriving on 17 February, this time leaving her main battery bark in anger in preparatory bombardment and direct support for the landings from 19 February. She left with TF 58 for more raids on 25 February, to Honshū before retiring for resplenishment to Ulithi on 14 March. Later southern Honshū was hit, Kure and Kobe devastated, leaving dozens of ships dead in the warer. On 18–19 March now just 100 mi (160 km) southwest of Kyūshū, TF 58 repeated air strikes in depth. However a vigorous Kamikaze attack left USS Franklin crippled. Whike USS Wisconsin’s AA barrels were cooling, the fleet retired, while repelling another Japanese attack with 48 Kamikaze.

On 24 March, Wisconsin started her first naval bombardment on the Japanese soil. She trained her 16 in guns on Okinawa. Japanese positions and installations in all marked areas for landings were reduced to rubble. Meanwhile, a last-ditch operation was underway, in which were committed the remnants of the IJN, notably the mighty battleship Yamato. However, none of the battleships ever had to be detached and seek combat with the giant, which was intercepted and dealt with by a deluge of ordnance from all the air groups sent.

Meanwhile though, there was anothr masive Kamikaze attack, for which the Combat air patrol shot down 15, the rest being dealt for close and personal by the massed AA gunfire. Still, one managed to crash on USS Hancock. On 11 April, Wisconsin and other units had to fend of other kamikaze attacks, which grew in numbers and intensity and reached a treshold, leaving the crew shaking. This time again, 17 were claimed by the CAP, 12 by ship’s AA. This was not the last though as another force of 151 Kamikaze hit TF 58, there again dealt for between the CAP and AA, radar helping. They still managed to hit USS Intrepid, Bunker Hill, and Enterprise along this period.

Last raids on Japan

USS_Wisconsin_off_Norfolk_during_1950 By 4 June, TF 58 was hit by a typhoon -again- and again USS Wisconsin rode out the storm unscathed. Operations were resumed on 8 June on Kyūshū. Ny that time, Kamikaze missions were rare in between with all that was flyable to be mustered and thrown into the cauldron: 29 planes were dealt with. Wisconsin’s floatplanes rescued a downed pilot from USS Shangri-La also.
Next, Wisconsin went to Leyte Gulf on 13 June for repairs and replenishment. On 1 July she was back in Japanese home waters for more carrier air strikes, with particular attentio to the Tokyo area. The fleet went even closer to shore since Japanese response was anemic.
On 16 July, USS Wisconsin at last fired her main battery directy at the steel mills and oil refineries at Muroran in Hokkaido. She also flattened industrial facilities in the Hitachi Miro area on Honshū and NW of Tokyo, joined also by British battleships of the BPF. After the aviation devastated Yokosuka and sunk Nagato the fleet was free to ream the coast unempeded, into August, the lat attack taking place on 13 August, and an attomic attack combioned with the Russian invasion of Mandchuria led the Japanese surrender on the 15th.
USS Wisconsin took her guard duties if the occupying force entering Tokyo Bay on 5 September to see her sister USS Missouri on which was signed the surrender earlier. It was time for assessment. Since departing home she had sailed some 105,831 mi (170,318 km) and claimed three enemy planes shot by herself, assited dozens others on four occasions. As usual practice she also her own screening destroyers some 250 times. Wisconsin earned five battle stars for her World War II service.

The unbuilt Iowas, 1940

USS Illinois (BB-65)


USS Illinois in construction, 1944
The Navy initially planned to develop the previous alternative design using the escalator clause, lower but better protected and armed, designated “BB-65” (Montana class). However with industrial mobilization in 1940 the Navy intstead deided to authiroze the next BB-65 and BB-66 ax extra Iowa class design. USS Illinois and her sister sister ship diverged as calling for all-welded construction to saved weight. They were powered by four General Electric steam turbines, same armoured change, and for armament, the same but eighty 40 mm Bofors AA guns and forty-nine 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns.
Since the Missouri the frontal bulkhead armor rose to 14.5 in (368 mm). There were also a better protection for the torpedo defense system increasing its potency for 20% compared to USS Iowa, also from Missouri.

BB-65 was assigned the name USS Illinois by the Preliminary Design Branch at BuC&R. Funding was authorized though the Two-Ocean Navy Act by the U.S. Congress, on 19 July 1940, being the fifth Iowa-class ship. Contract was assigned on 9 September 1940 as BB 66 USS Kentucky and part of the funding came from the auction of “King Neptune”, a Hereford swine which toured Illinois as a fundraiser ($19 million were earned as war bonds).


Construction had been put on hold after the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, leaving time for BuShips to work on an aircraft carrier conversion proposal for both (see later). At the end of calculation it was estimated thay would have carried lass aircraft than the Essex class and the latter needed less time to be built than the full conversion. So they were soon reverted as battleships and construction resume, albeit at the lowest priority.
Eventually, BB 65 was laid down at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 6 December 1943 with an expected completion at around 1 May 1945, but it was not so by 11 August 1945 when cancelled, 22% complete Stricken on 12 August 1945 her hulk was to be half-completed in roder to test nuclear weapons on her. The $30 million to complete her was too much for the admiralty and it was decided to instead to BU her on slipway. But for this she had to wait in the dockyard until September 1958 before proceeding.
Her bell is now a treasured item of the Memorial Stadium, at the University of Illinois, loaned by the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington NyD to the Naval Reserve Officers (NROTC) at the university, rung for football team scores.

USS Kentucky (BB-66)


USS Kentucky’s hull in 1950, floated out of drydock to allow USS Missouri to be repaired after runing aground

USS Kentucky (BB-66) had the same construction as her sistr BB 65 (Illinois). Construction was suspended to decide if a conversion as aicraft carrier was worthy or not, and when proved the second case, she was laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, earlier than her sister, on 7 March 1942. Construction was given low priority, and she was still not launched when suspended in August 1945. This was resumed for launch on 20 January 1950, just to be broken up in Baltimore in 1959.

Carrier conversion project


The first suspension arrived after her keel was laid down, in June 1942, just after Midway. Her bottom structure was launched, feeing the place for LST construction, on 10 June. After CV conversion idea was abandoned by BuShips her completion as battleship was resume, but at very low priority. Work resumed on 6 December 1944 when her keel structure was moved to Dry Dock 8. By now her completion was estomated by late 1946. In December 1945n the war has ended and some proposed she would be completed as a dedicated anti-aircraft battleship, as the French Jean Bart, and construction was suspended again in August 1946 for BuShip to study the question. No decision was made ultimately, and construction resumed again on 17 August 1948, going on until 20 January 1950, but that this point the admiralty expected much in missiles and estimated her days has passed. She was floated out of her drydock to repair Missouri in her place.

Project SCB 19 (1948)

Project SCB 19 concerned her as a prototype for a missile-carrier conversion that would also be ported on the the incomplete USS Hawaii. The idea was to combined her heavy artillery and guided missiles, now refined. Kentucky was chosen for this conversion, the first “guided missile battleship”. It would have consisted only in the installation of two twin arm launchers RIM-2 Terrier SAM on the aft deckhouse, and associated AN/APG-55 pulse doppler interception radar, AN/SPS-2B air search radar. At that stage, Kinetucky was about 73% complete, basically up to the second deck so that the installation of the missile system, reloads, storage spaces and exlectronics would have only be additions to that point. Some alwo wanted to explore the addition of eight SSM-N-9 Regulus II or SSM-N-2 Triton nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to justiyfy her large hull.

Project SBC 19 was eventually authorized in 1954, USS Kentucky becomin BBG-1, with a conversion complete as estimated in 1956. But it was cancelled based on maintenance cost. It was estimated that it wouyld make more sense on a heavy cruiser instead, which became the Boston-class. And it proved wise as rapid advances in missiles and electronics soon rendered them obsolete and costly to operate. In between a smaller “fleet escort” type could carry a more balanced missile array for the same task as a fraction of the cost. Heavy guns however were still in demand.

Second missile conversion project (1956)


So that led to the last twist in this story: By 1956 she would had carried two Polaris nuclear ballistic missile launchers (sixteen reloads), four RIM-8 Talos SAM launchers (2x 80 in storage) and 12x RIM-24 Tartar SAM (504 missiles), which were all new systemsn while keeping her lain artillery and protection. But by July 1956 an estimation for completion placed it to July 1961, and it was cancelled under the Kennedy administration based on cost concerns. (Again, there were still four battleships in reseve for the artillery role, and she was costly in maintenance as a missile platform, even large).

Therefore after all this time, her keel being laid down in 1942, USS Kentucky was never completed and became a hulk in the mothball fleet; Philadelphia NyD, until 1958. There was another surprising twist: Hurricane Hazel hit the reserve and on 15 October 1954 her moorings ceded, and she broke free, to run aground in the Delaware River. In 1956 she was removed and partly dismantled to serve as parts reserve, to repair USS Wisconsin damaged in a collision with USS Eaton, on 6 May 1956. At last she was stricken on 9 June 1958 and sold for scrap at Boston Metals in Baltimore, on 31 October, towed there to be BU on February 1959.
Her boilers and turbine sets were recycled into the new Sacramento-class fast combat support ships (Sacramento and Camden in 1961-64). Sailors of these ships passed o their precious experience to those aboard New Jersey during the Vietnam War and toured all remaining Iowa class vessels as they were modernized in the 1980s.

The never built Montanas, 1942


USS Montana (BB-67) was planned to be the lead ship of this second class, divering by having a second aft turret (so eight in all) for 80,000 tons displacement, and a much better protection an AA, while keeping the same speed. She was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard as BB-67 but her keel, like the others, was never laid down and she was canceled. Montana was the only US state never to have a battleship named after her.
USS Ohio (BB-68) was to be the second of the class, ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. USS Maine (BB-69) was the third, assigned to the New York Navy Yard. USS New Hampshire (BB-70) was the fourth Montana-class, assigned to the New York Navy Yard, and USS Louisiana (BB-71) was the fifth and final of the class, assigned to Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia and last ever BB (Battleship) ever authorized for construction. We will return there on a comprehensive study in a standalone post.

Fate

During the Korean War, the battleships provided naval gunfire support (NGFS) for United Nations forces, and in 1968, New Jersey shelled Viet Cong and Vietnam People’s Army forces in the Vietnam War. All four were reactivated and modernized at the direction of the United States Congress in 1981, and armed with missiles during the 1980s, as part of the 600-ship Navy initiative. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Missouri and Wisconsin fired missiles and 16-inch (406 mm) guns at Iraqi targets.

Costly to maintain, the battleships were decommissioned during the post-Cold War draw down in the early 1990s. All four were initially removed from the Naval Vessel Register, but the United States Congress compelled the Navy to reinstate two of them on the grounds that existing NGFS would be inadequate for amphibious operations. This resulted in a lengthy debate over whether battleships should have a role in the modern navy. Ultimately, all four ships were stricken from the Naval Vessel Register and released for donation to non-profit organizations. With the transfer of Iowa in 2012, all four are part of non-profit maritime museums across the US.

Src


USS Iowa prior to launch. This bow design was unique to this class.

Books

Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger, eds. (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Conway
Garzke, William H.; Dulin, Robert O., Jr. (1995). Battleships: United States Battleships 1935–1992. NIP
Lyon, Hugh; Moore, J. E. (1978). The Encyclopedia of the World’s Warships. Salamander Books.
Johnston, Ian; McAuley, Rob (2002). The Battleships. London: Channel 4 Books
Scarpaci, Wayne (2008). Iowa Class Battleships and Alaska Class Large Cruisers Conversion Projects 1942–1964 Nimble Books
Sumrall, Robert (1988). Iowa Class Battleships: Their Design, Weapons & Equipment. NIP
Whitley, M.J. (1998). Battleships of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Arms and Armour.
Bishop, Chris (1988). The Encyclopedia of World Sea Power. New York: Crescent Books.
Boslaugh, David L. (2003). When Computers Went to Sea: The Digitization of the United States Navy. Los Alamitos, NM: IEEE Computer Society.
Bridgeman, Leonard (1946). Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. 0.
Burr, Lawrence (2010). US Fast Battleships 1938-91: The Iowa Class. Cumnor Hill: Osprey Publishing.
Camp, Dick (2009). Operation Phantom Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Zenith Press.
DeVolpi, Alexander; Minkov, Vladimir E.; Simonenko, Vadim A.; Stanford, George S. (2005). Legacies and Challenges. Nuclear Shadowboxing: Contemporary Threats from Cold War Weaponry. Vol. 2. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Fidlar Doubleday.
DiGiulian, Tony. “NavWeaps: Naval Weapons, Naval Technology, and Naval Reunions”. NavWeaps.com. Retrieved 19 November 2022.
Dulin, Robert O. Jr.; Garzke, William H. (1976). Battleships: United States Battleships in World War II. NIP
Fischer, Brad D.; Jurens, W. J. (2006). “Fast Battleship Gunnery during World War II: A Gunnery Revolution, Part II”. Warship International. Vol. XLIII, no. 1. Toledo, Ohio: International Naval Research Organization.
Friedman, Norman (1986). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. NIP
Garzke, William H.; Dulin, Robert O. Jr. (1995). Battleships: United States Battleships 1935–1992 (Rev. and updated ed.). NIP
Gardiner, Robert (1980). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. Great Britain: Conway Maritime Press.
Helvig, Tom (4 November 2002). “RADM Joseph Edward Snyder Jr, USN (ret)” (PDF). The Jerseyman. No. 25. p. 2.
Naval Historical Foundation (2004) [2000]. Holland, W. J. (ed.). The Navy. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
Hore, Peter (2005). The World Encyclopedia of Battleships. London: Hermes House.
Hough, Richard (1964). Dreadnought: A History of the Modern Battleship. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Johnston, Ian C.; McAuley, Rob (2002). The Battleships. London: Channel 4.
Jurens, W. J.; Morss, Strafford (2016). “The Washington Naval Treaty and the Armor and Protective Plating of USS Massachusetts”. Warship International. Vol. 53, no. 4. Toledo, Ohio: International Naval Research Organization.
Lightbody, Andy; Poyer, Joe (1990). The Complete Book of U.S. Fighting Power. New York: Beekman House.
Lyon, Hugh; Moore, J. E. (1978). The Encyclopedia of the World’s Warships: A technical directory of major fighting ships from 1900 to the present day. Salamander Books.
Miller, David; Miller, Chris (1986). Modern Naval Combat. London: Salamander Books.
Muir, Malcolm (1989). The Iowa Class Battleships. Avon, UK: The Bath Press.
Nelson, Robin (1982). “The Born Again Battlewagon”. Popular Mechanics. Vol. 157, no. 6. The Hearst Corporation. pp. 73–74, 141–43.
Neubeck, Ken (2002). F-105 Thunderchief in Action. Aircraft in Action. Vol. Aircraft Number 185. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publishing.
Newhart, Max R. (2007). American Battleships: A Pictorial History of BB-1 to BB-71 with Prototypes Maine and Texas. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company.
Norris, Robert S.; Arkin, William N. (1989). “Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons at Sea, 1989”. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Johns Hopkins University Press. 45 (7): 48.
Polmar, Norman (2001). The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (17th ed.).
Preston, Antony (1989). Janes Fighting Ships of World War II. London: Bracken Books.
Pugh, Michael C. (1989). The ANZUS crisis, nuclear visiting and deterrence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 194. ISBN 0521343550.
Rogers, J. David (n.d.). “Development of the World’s Fastest Battleships” (PDF). Retrieved 17 November 2020.
Sharpe, Richard (1991). Jane’s Fighting Ships 1991–92. London: Bulter & Tanner.
Stillwell, Paul (1996). Battleship Missouri: An Illustrated History. NIP
Sumrall, Robert F. (1988). Iowa Class Battleships. NIP
Terzibaschitsch, Stefan (1977). Battleships of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Bonanza Books.
Whitley, M. J. (1998). Battleships of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Arms and Armour.
Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) (April 1987). “Back on the battle line”. All Hands. Washington, DC: United States Navy. 841
Hoskins, Lawrence E., LT USNR (September 1983). “Comment and Discussion”. Proceedings. United States Naval Institute.
Moss, Strafford (2010). “A Comparison of Machinery Installations of North Carolina, South Dakota, Iowa and Montana Class Battleships”. Warship International. XLVII
Poyer, Joe (1991) [1984]. Lightbody, Andy; Taylor, Blaine (eds.). Battleships at War: America’s Century Long Romance with the Big Guns of the Fleet. Canoga Park, California: Challenge Publications.
Reilly, John C. Jr. (1989). Operational Experience of Fast Battleships: World War II, Korea, Vietnam. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center

Links

combinedfleet.com/ baddest battleships
On ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/
On navweaps.com 16in/50 mk7 firing procedure
On maritime.org
On navypedia.org/ (archive retreived 2022)
warshipprojects.com on montanas
on history.navy.mil/
https://www.nvr.navy.mil/SHIPDETAILS/SHIPSDETAIL_BB_66.HTML
https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=-ggeAAAAIBAJ&pg=5409,3303885&dq=battleship+kentucky+million&hl=en
https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Q-BOAAAAIBAJ&pg=6903,1211405&dq=battleship+kentucky&hl=en
DEVLOPMENT OF THE WORLD’S FASTEST BATTLESHIPS J. David Rogers
On navysite.de/
On navsource.org/ BB66
navsource.org BB 61
On navalgazing.net

Full History


cartographic ship-plans
catalog.archives.gov/
On hnsa.org/ bb62.pdf
On hnsa.org/ bb64.pdf
On hnsa.org/ booklets-of-general-plans-online
shipscribe.com/styles/S-584/albums/s584-bb.htm
shipscribe.com/styles/S-511/albums/s511-bb.htm
web.archive.org highbeam.com

Videos


Designing the Iowa Class Battleships – Battleship New Jersey. Generally one of the largest resource on all topics related to the class, by Ryan Szimanski.

BB New Jersey channel: What the Navy doesn’t like about the Iowas

The American Dreadnaught (1968): The USS New Jersey Is De-Mothballed And Recommissioned To Join The Fleet For Service In Vietnam. Written By Battleship Historian Richard Hough, Narrated By Martin Gabel, Musical Score By Thom George.

Model kits


The subject has been well covered. Given the importance of the ships, some individuals went up to create 1/72 scratchbuilt models, and some manufacturers provided difficult parts for them, such as Takom with its USS Missouri Battleship Mk.7 16″/50 Gun Turret No. 1. Next scales are more reasonable: Strike Models made these in 1:144 (many parts also exist in 3D printing), Sterling Models ventured into a 1:192 apparently never released and a collector now but made another with new tooling. GPM made recently a 1:200 and another with laser cut frames as well as Trumpeter. Then came the awaited 1:350 with Blue Ridge Models, HobbyBoss, JoyYard, Life-Like, Monogram, Otaki, Pyro, Revell, Tamiya, Trumpeter, VeryFire, and then 1:400 by Academy, Hapdong Tech, JSC. 1:450 by FROG, Hasegawa. 1:535 with Advent and Atlantis, Revell and Revell-Monogram, the rare Monogram 1:545, Monogram 1:566. 1:600 by ARII and Aurora, CC LEE and Kangnam, Micro Ace. 1:665 by Otaki, Kellogg’s, Monogram, Pyro. Then the unmistakable 1:700 by Academy, Fujimi, Pit-road, Tamiya, Trumpeter, VEE Hobby, Very Fire. Then 1:720 by Revell. Also the super-rare 1:888 Missouri by Ideal Model Aeroplanes and Supplies; and more conventional 1:900 Academy, Kitech, Lindbergh, Metal earth and Mini Hobby, Nichimo (part of a package of ships), Zhengdefu and a cohort of smaller ones, 1:1014, 1:1200, 1:1250, 1:2000, 1:1550, and countless parts and photo-etch.

A review of 1:600 class kits

Gallery

Crew members man the rail as the battleship USS MISSOURI (BB 63) arrives in port prior to a cruise to Australia and around the world.


Model of the Missouri

PT Boats (1942-45)

PT-Boats (1942)

US Navy ww2 USA – Circa 500 built (1942-45)

WW2 USN PT Boats: Overrated Success ?

The “wooden marvels” were known by many names during WW2, but the official and generic “PT-Boat”, meaning “Patrol, Torpedo (Boat)”. They were an unknown type for the USN in WW1, as there was no need for such “naval dust” when a large battlefleet was available mostly to project power. Therefore, it’s the only the conditions of war that urged the need for these small vessels, although the acquisition process started already back in 1938. Three standards emerged from a three years long competition, Elco, Higgins and Huckins. Wooden-built not to tax strategic materials, they were deployed in all theater of operations, not only the Pacific but Mediterranean, and even the Channel. Small, but well armed and fast, they proved able to perform a large variety of missions, but they also paid a heavy price for their dangerous close quarters missions. PT-Boats certainly played their contribution to the allied victory in WW2, but nothing comparable to the rest of the fleet, submarines included.

Modest and relatively inexpensive, PT-Boats’s inflated fame was largely earned in the Pacific, especially in the Solomons and Philippines. They proved able to distrupt traffic within the confines of innumerable islands, lagoons and archipelagos of the Southeast Pacific in close collaboration with US Marines. They were the supreme “jacks of all trades”, from ASW patrol to skirmishing, ground support, spec ops, troop transport, supply, AA cover, and raiding deeply into enemy lines. The “barge busters” also rarely engaged destroyers or even cruisers, but their inflated successes in early 1942 needs to be toned down.

The shining moment of the 800+ PT Boats ever built was “only” the sinking of IJN Terutsuki off Guadalcanal. This was meagre for thousands of sorties, but overall axis losses amounted to hundreds of units sunk and a thousand more or less seriously damaged, most being light vessels. They were also significantly larger than other equivalents of the allies, the small Thornycroft MTBs, MAS from Baglietto or G5s from Tupolev, in fact closer to the British Fairmiles, Italian MSs or Russian D3s.

These generous dimensions and flexibility meant it was possible to install almost “a la carte” armaments and equipments depending of the unit commander’s tasks at hand. They proved modular enough for these quick reconfigurations, and by 1943, all had radars to operate by night. Their flexibility meant they could operate from a great number of bases scattered over the theater of operations, sometimes close to known IJA garrisons or bases. They also earned dedicated ships (converted Barnegat class ships) for maintenance, supply and repairs, ranging from five to 40 PT-Boats depending of the squadrons present. Overall, although not impressive compared to larger ships or submarines, manned by courageous, resourceful crews, they played their part into sometimes seriously disrupting enemy operations, wherever they went, and thus securing their place in the USN while not taxing traditional military yards or using strategic materials.

WWI US Navy MTBs

WWI Hickam’s PT Boat

Hickmans-Sea_sled_broadside_view_San_Diego_California
Hickmans’s Sea-sled broadside view in San Diego, California

When the war broke out in August 1914, the US want nothing of an involvement but prospect for possible exports for the belligerents, also covering the USN own needs. William Albert Hickman, a Canadian designersettled in California, wrote for his own initiative procedures and tactics for a fast and agile (and seaworthy!) torpedo motorboat using his system, to be used against battleships and cruisers. This proposal went to Rear Admiral David W. Taylor at the time directing the USN Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R, later BuShips) and the next month Hickman received a greenlight to draft plans of a 50-footer (15 m) “Sea Sled” torpedo boat, with an inverted vee planing hull (an early form of catamaran, using partly wing-in-ground effects), which he designed, as he was also a small boat builder. He submitted this design to the Navy, hoping of some contract, and in a return letter by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, the latter explained he had to reject it, based on the fact the US was not at war, not on technical grounds.

Hickman, undeterred, sent his proposal to the British Admiralty in October, which was interested but expressed doubts that such as small boat, even pushed to 60 feet, would be enough to cope with the north sea. Hickman, still willing to obtain a contract, built on private funding a demonstrator, which was a ’41-footer’ (12 m) carrying a single 18-inch Whitehead Mark 5 torpedo, common at the time. In February 1915, he demonstrated it in a show run at 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph), in winter so in rough sea condition off Boston. It was attended by both US and foreign representatives. No contract followed. The British Admiralty representative there however, Lt. G.C.E. Hampden, reunited back home in summer of 1915 the Lieutenants Bremner, and Anson to discuss the possibility of developing such boat at home. They approached John I. Thornycroft for an equivalent, a process that ultimately led to the CMB line or “Coastal Motor Boat” of which a serie entered service from April 1916.



British 1916 CMB, plan and in action

In August 1915 though, the US General Board approved the test of a single experimental small torpedo boat which could carried by rail or a regular steamer on deck. Thie boat, redignated C-250 was awarded not to Hickman but Greenport Basin and Construction Company in New York. Construction took time and it was delivered for official testings by the summer of 1917, but failed to reachs its specs. A second boat designated C-378, based on Hickam’s sea sled design was ordered, from him this time between late 1917 and early 1918 depending on the sources. Hickam just went with his own prototype built in September 1914 crossed with the C-250 designed (when he failed the competition).


C-378 training with a floatplane in 1918, showing it was almost as fast.

This new prototype was C-378 was tested just before the Armistice, which resulted in a cancellation of the whole program (and compehensible frustration of Hickman).
Nevertheless, the Hickman C-378 which weighted 56,000 lb (25,000 kg) reached 37 knots (69 km/h; 43 mph) during trials. This tim, Hockman went for a 1,400 horsepower (1,000 kW) aviation engine, amd long runs maintaining 34.5 kn (63.9 km/h; 39.7 mph), while tossed in winter, braving a northeaster storm, going up through 14 ft waves. For the time, and even to this day, it’s nothing but an achievement for such type of vessel. Despite this there was no utility for it but endless testings. The “Sea Sled” was not forgotten and came back in 1939, being used by the Army and Navy as a rescue boat or a seaplane tender during the interwar.

Interwar Tests

Already in 1922, the US Navy agreed that they needed torky combustion engines for their propulsion, but wanted to test the two CMB types in service in the RoyalNavy at the time: A 45-footer (14 m), and the 55-footer (17 m). They were tested extensively, the larger of the two being put to numerous and various trials until 1930. Nothing followed.

In 1938, as boots noises were heard throughout Europe and in Asia, the rejection of treaties and nationalism at an all-time high, the US Navy looked upon procuring theor own MTBs, at least for testing and defensive purposes. The admiralty sponsored a design competition to small boat builders. The goal was to obtain a highly mobile attack boat, in part inspired by WWI actions, like those of Italian MAS, or British models against the Bolsheviks in 1919. Prizes would be awarded for the winning design, and in 1940, about 12 manufacturers answered with at least a prototype. Canada and Great Britain however would supply the initial needs of the US Navy from December 1941. There was also a perceive need from probable belligerents of an incoming war, which became reality in September 1939.

In 1938 so, the USN restarted an investigation, this time based on the numerous boat builders that flourished before the 1929 crisis and which were still there. They excluded Hickman’s Sea Sled in defining two different classes. They wanted to create a 54-footer (16 m) boat and a 70-footer (21 m) which were more appropriate to be seaworthy. This was strickly restricted to a small cadre of respected naval architects, and the Navy, Hickman nont being among them. More on the topic of the Hickman’s PT

Design development

Original Competition

The competition was published on 11 July 1938, with this time four types defined (two more were added, destined to the same boat builders):
-A 165-foot subchaser (Future PC type)
-A 110-foot subchaser (Future SC type)
-A 70-foot motor torpedo boat
-A 54-foot motor torpedo boat.
The prize for each was set to $15000, including an extra $1500 for those reaching the final competition ring. All designs were to be submitted on 30 March 1939.
-The “70 footer” was restricted to the whole size range until 80 feet. It was able to carry not one but two standard Naval 21-inch torpedoes and four depth charges, with two .50-cal HMG for close protection, and sustain a speed of 40 knots in all sea conditions, and this over 275 miles, or 550 miles at cruising speed, around 30+ knots. These were quite stringent conditions.
-The “54 footer” was restricted to 20 tons for easy transport, 40 knots but 120 miles/240 miles, and armament of two torpedoes plus depth charges and single .50-cal machine-guns, plus a smokescreen generator.

September 1938 arrived (concluding a busy summer!), 24 designs being received for the 54 footer, 13 for the 70 footer.
George Crouch (one of the particpants), which new full well about the merits of Hickman’s Sea Sled design wrote that he esteemed his design far superior to BuShips, until it was specifically excluded from the competition. Three designers for the first, five for the other were retained for the second round of the competition. They were asked to submit detailed plans for their respective boats with a deadline set on 7 November. On March 21, 1939, the final round was concluded. The USN announced that Sparkman and Stephens won the grand prize for the 70-footer category, Professor George Crouch with Henry B. Nevins, Inc. winning for the 54-footer category.

Contracts thus followed, placed to two yards to produce these, in May 25. Sparkman and Stephens (the 70 footer) was asked to scale up their design to 81 feet overall, while Higgins Industries contacted by the Navy on the behalf of Henry B. Nevins, Inc. since they had the capability to deliver the new prototypes PT5 and PT6. On June 8, it’s Fogal Boat Yard that was contracted to built the PT-1 and PT-2 and Fisher Boat Works to built the PT-3 and PT-4 all four for the 54-footer (Crouch design) and Philadelphia Navy Yard (PT-7, PT-8) for two new 81-footer this time in-house designed by BuShips, mainly in aluminum and with no less than four engines.

Later Higgins built a second PT-6 “Prime” of its own initiative. It was completely redesigned by Andrew Higgins using his own methods but incorporating in part (the aft hull section), Hickman’s inverted V design, notably for its landing crafts. They built later the PT-70 incorporating further improvements over PT-6 Prime.
Meanwhile, the Navy went on testing the new boats just delivered. They were gruelling tests, in realistic conditions, and fully armed. This revealed limitations and many issues that had to be solved before even meeting requirements and specifications. The Navy continueed to push for continual improvements until they reach an agreement over the satisfactory working design, one which could be used as standard.

Huckins 77 footer prototype PT-9 in June 1940
Huckins 77 footer prototype PT-9 in June 1940

At Electric Launch Company (Elco) meanwhile, saw chief engineer Henry R. Sutphen of his team, Irwin Chase, Bill Fleming, and Glenville Tremaine, went to the United Kingdom for ideas in February 1939, at the Navy’s request. They were to be shown British Thornycroft motor torpedo boat designs, proepcting to acquire one which could serve as a backup and to compare US designs. They visited the British Power Boat Company and acquired a 70-footer (21 meter) built as a private venture and called PV70. In British service it became PT-9. It was based on the Hubert Scott-Paine’s racer. This became the prototype for the early Elco PT boats, later to be the main supplier of PT Boats. By late 1939 the Navy contracted Elco, not part of the early competition, to start production of eleven replicas of the PT-9, to be delivered to the navy and tested as a full strenght squadron for naval exercize evaluations.

A third protagonist came about in the second competition (the plywood derby, see later) and this was Huckins Yacht Corp., Jacksonville in Florida. This was a very respected designer and builder of high-end, high performance and luxury boats, among the most reputed any in the jet set and Hollywood could dream to acquire. On 11 October 1940, an agreement between this company and the Navy was drafted and signed, in which the Navy would provide its one military-grade engines, while Huckins was to provide the PT boat for these, and that this one should be offered to the Navy for an undisclosed amount. This was a 72-footer (22 m) internally called MT-72 and after bein acquired, became PT-69, the company only earning $28.60 for it all.

‘The Plywood Derby’

The final chapter of this nearly four year process was a final competition pitting the new competitors between them.
In March 1941 an heavy weather run from Key West to New York by the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2 using Elco 70-footers had to cope wuth up to 10-foot waves even, at moderate speeds, which washed their bow all along, the crew reporting “extreme discomfort” and fatigue, compunded by structural failure with the forward chine guards goned and broken bottom framing as well side planking cracking among others. MTBRON 1 however was very satisfied with the 81-footer Higgins (PT-6), with beter seakeeping. The USN therefore cancelled further Scott-Paine boats purchases while the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships (BuShips) purchased more Packard engines to equip both Huckins and Higgins boats, building their own prototypes.

There was in May a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) attended by BuShips, BuOrd, MTBRONs, and Interior Control Board Conference about future PT characteristics. The 77 ft Elcos proved not enough for the task, and it was estimated it would be the same for the 70 ft (21 m) Elco. Comparative tests for evaluation asked for five new design but no more Elco 77-footer.
The Board of Inspection and Survey (Rear Admiral John W. Wilcox, Jr.) conducted these service tests off New London from 21 to 24 July 1941 with the PT-6, PT-8, PT-20, PT-26, PT-69, PT-70 and a British MRB-8 (Motor Rescue Boat) (specs in the detailed review of MTBs).
Each member of the Board conducted an independent inspection between structural sufficiency, habitability, access, arrangement for attack control and communication facilities, in order to keep an objective eye.

They were all tested with weapons loaded, fully equipped (with all torpedoes and depth charges) and fuel for 500 nm/20 knots. Tactical parameters were obtained by an airship taking photos all along. The goal was to study their seakeeping qualities, hull strength at max speed, in the open ocean. Each boat had an accelerometer installed in the pilot house. The first open water test started on 24 July 1941 over 190 nmi at full throttle, which became the reasons for the famous nickname “Plywood Derby”. It was conducted from the mouth of New London Harbor to Sarah Ledge and around the eastern end of Block Island, off Fire Island Lightship with the end line at Montauk Point Whistling Buoy.

Both Elco 77-footers were actually fully armament loaded, but the others instead had same weight copper ingots topside. The “race” shown a transverse failure for PT-70, the choice of copper being disastrous as they often fell into the hull. Of the nine that raced, six completed it, three withdrawing (PT-33 -structural damage; PT-70 -loosing copper ingots; MRB -engine issues from the start).
PT-20 and a single Elco 77-footer came first at 39.72 kn on average. PT-31 made 37.01 kn, PT-69 (Huckins boat) 33.83 kn and PT-6 (Higgins 81-footer) 31.4 kn, PT-8 Philadelphia NyD boat ended at 30.75 kn and the PT-30, PT 23, PT-31 being around 37 kts. Accelerometers ranked the Philly NyD PT-8, whch took the least pounding, and the Huckins PT-69, followed by the Higgins boat and Elco last.

The was soon a second open-ocean trial:
The ingot loading proved not very practical, but they were conducted this time over 185 nmi, still fully fitted out on 12 August 1941, and only PT-8, PT-70, and MRB ended the race. Elco sent PT-21 and PT-29, and like the others, fending off 16 ft (4.9 m) waves. The Huckins boat (PT-69) withdrew (bilge stringer failure), the Higgins 76-footer had numerous structural failures, PT-21 had minor cracks in the deck. PT-29 was used as a pace boat with PT-8. Average speeds recorded crowned Elco PT-21 at 27.5 kn, Higgins PT-70 at 27.2 kn, Higgins MRB and Philly NyD PT-8 at 24.8 kn, but accelerometers data were incomplete due to the heavy pounding. The air observation (aisrhsip) was abandoned due to the heavy weather. Elco boats were found the least structurally sound overall.

Board of Inspection and Survey’s findings were that any of these boats on average could reach 30 knots or even 40 knots with light ordnance load. Maneuverability was generally satisfactory with a 336 yards (307 m) turning circle, that there was enough space to accomodate the planned torpeod tubes and depht charges, but that structural weaknesses fractured bilge stringers quite often. It was agreed that the Packard power plant was to become a standard. It was also made standard an armament of two torpedo tubes, depth charges and light AA.
Overall, the Huckins 78-foot (PT-69) should be considered for immediate construction, the Higgins 80-foot (PT-6) design should be scaled down a bit and was ecceptable for immediate construction, while the Elco 77-foot design was acceptable under condition of strenghtening the hull according to the Bureau of Ships recommandations. The “in-house” Philadelphia 81-foot was to be lightened and given three Packard engines for new tests.

It appeared overall that the main issue was structural. Runs were made wothout issues on open sea with moderate seas, but the Higgins PT-70 and 77 footers. In between tests however, both companies worked to cure the causes of these structural failures. The second (punishing) endurance run still shown weaknesses on the PT-70, 69 and PT-21, but more localized and easier to modify on recommandations. Overall the “Plywood Derby” was a first naval, realistic, detailed and rigourous assessement, rarely done with any other warhip to far, in any country. It was a benchmark to be followed in the cold war and an essential part of the PT boat development in the US. Some design challenges needed decades to fix (in fact hull and propellers shapes determined by computerized calculations) but they defined a standard for propduction that could be easily implemented and arrived perfectly on time.

Not only the Packard plant received demands to step-up production radically, but the Huckins 72-foot and “redux” Higgins 81-footer were scheduled already for production. In October 1941 BuShips held a new conference, setting new requirements this time for production boats, notably the ability to carry the four 21 in (53 cm) torpedoes (no tubes), length restriction to 82 foot and confirmation of Higgins and Huckins orders.
Elco, which became the largest provider, was under scrutiny to cure its boats’s structural weaknesses, under BuShips recommendation. Even after these changes were done, Elco competed for the PT-71 – PT-102 order but failed based on a higher cost. They created a new facility to lower the unit cost, and received the third batch in the end.

Initial specifications

The USN looked for smaller vessels than their steel-hulled patrol boats, but higher speeds and cryying at first four 21-in (533mm) torpedoes. Primary role was ship hunting, and at first they were indeed classified as “motorized torpedo boats” (MTB), something widely shared and generalized in Navy parlance as MTB until replaced by missiles Fast Attack Craft or FACs. The USN evaluation resulted in some model chosen, but the companies behind lacked the industrial capability for mass production later degraded to simpler forms. This became the famous “Plywood Derby” ending with the choice of ELCO, Higgins and Huckins. All three soon received orders.

Conclusion of trials

It’s Elco Motor Yachts from Bayonne, New Jersey, but also Higgins in New Orleans in Louisiana (already seen for the LCVPs) which were retained for mass production, along with Huckins since the two soon had bottlenecks for production. Ultimately it’s Elco that produced the most numerous of them. The design and construction were thus standardized between the 80-foot Elco boat, the 78 ft Higgins, and a the 78 ft Huckins Boat. Near 400 Elco PTs were built, while Higgins turned between 199 and 205 and just 18 for Huckins.

Elco answered after simply purchasing a British the new Scott-Paine MTB, sent to Electric Boat in Groton, which Elco was a subsidiary. No need to present Electric Boat, they were the great pioneers of US submersibles. This Elco prototype was called PT-9 becoming the very first US PT boat, after many modifications. But still needed time To prove the concept on sea trials, alone and against other PTs. For two years, PT-9 won all the plywood derbies. Confident it its wooden wonder, Elco enlarged its plant, tripled its capacity and it the peak in 1944, employed some 3,000 men and women working three shifts per day, six days a week, with one new PT boat solling our of the line every 60 hours.

General conception & construction

PT Boats These PT-Boats were built en masse by four main firms: Elco, Higgins, Vosper and Huckins. Although the first two remain in the majority, the Vosper were of British origin, built and transferred in “resverse lend-lease” as it is true that the British expertise in the matter was recognized worldwide. 768 units will be built in total. The traditional doctrine of the US Navy, inherited from Mahan and ignoring the “naval dust”, however used launches in large numbers during prohibition, patrolling against the traffic of Rum on the great lakes from Canada. . Thornycroft launches had been purchased on a trial basis at the end of the Great War, and in 1939, when hostilities broke out, several prototypes were ordered, including one built in Britain, from Hall-Scott, which became retrospectively the 9th of these prototypes (PT9) and the direct ancestor of the PT-Boats.

Quickly the PT10 to 19, of the “70 foot” model and armed with two torpedoes, were delivered by Elco (Electric Boat Company, founded by the father of modern American submarines, John Holland), then lengthened to 77 feet to place four torpedoes. 12 ASM models (PTC1-12), built in parallel, were sent to the Royal Navy on lease. The firm Elco then produced the series PT20 to 68, of 80 feet, which would become its standard. The PT109 was part of the third series, PT103 to 196, and there were 6 others, the PT314 to 367 and 372-383, and up to 790, or 400 copies in total until 1945. They were built in wood, in order to combine lightness with ease of construction and to contribute to the preservation of strategic materials.

Hull


ONI, know your boat, upper deck showing differences between Elco and Higgins boats, July 1945
Nicknamed by the press “plywood wonders”, the PT Boats were in reality constructed of two diagonal layered 1 in (25 mm) thick mahogany planks, with a glue-impregnated layer of canvas in between. Holding all this together were thousands of bronze screws and copper rivets to avoid rust. This had the advantage of easy damage repair in the field, patching, ect. And to include local base force personnel. They proved also capable to be disassembled relatively easy, as five Elco Boats arrived as knock-down kit to Long Beach Boatworks for assembly (West Coast) just to see if that was possible. And the five were assembled and operational in a short notice indeed, without much issue. This offered further strategic mobility, as now they could even by, at least in theory transported by smaller vessels and/or in larger quantities rather than all-mounted on top of decks.
The construction of the Elco boats reused some recipes from Huckins boats, and their structure was made of mahogany, in 2×2 thick planking, while Higgins boats had recipe of its own, but used about the same techniques.
Aluminum parts were expected to be painted and cleaned in suitable pickling solution, or washed with clear water, dried and painted afterwards with zinc chromate primer before its regular painting.
All stainless corrosion-resisting steel prior to painting were to sand blasted or cleaned before painting.
Galvanizing using the hot process was to be done with zinc at least 98% pure, ater treatment of zinc spray and not hot dipping. It was even stated that the increase in weight due to galvanizing could be between 0.8 and 1.6 pound per square foot. For all external parts to be galvanized it was expected to use a heavy coat of red lead.

See also: DETAIL SPECIFICATIONS FOR BUILDING MOTOR TORPEDO BOATS PT 565-624 (80-Foot) – By BuShips 31 March 1944.


The Officer’s quarter on board Elco PT109

The internals were spartan to say the least, but functional. The interior, while full speed, was so noisy no sailor could ever dream to try to sleep inside. They all waited until the boast was stantionary at a safe place. Thus it was not rare to see them, unlike larger ships using quarters, operating on 24-hours shifts. Accordinf to the lit of equipments, the boats were granted enough mattresses and sleeping berth for all men onboard. As shown on this cutaway or this one by Donn Thorson, living quarters, understandably, were located forward, as far as the engines possible. However in rough weather this was a very noisy and leaky compartment to live in.

Safety: Elco boats carried a Rubber life raft and a 9-foot Dinghy. Each of the 14-17 sailors and officers had both regulatory WWII US Navy Kapok Life Jacket (or assimilated), and when in action station, a standard M1 helmet, Navy version. It was not the US Navy Mk II talker helmet. The dimensions of the boats were such that oral communication and signs still worked.


The bridge on board Elco PT109

Powerplant


The mainstay of all designs was the Packard V12 4M-2500 (and following), a marine petrol engine which had nothing to do with the British Rolls Royce Merlin engine as sometimes stated, but a model developed for boat racing in the 1930s, notably deceloped by Garr Wood for his world record speed boats. Here what is said about it by him (src)

“Despite the commonplace assumption, the new-generation Packard marine engine, initially tagged the 4M-2500, was anything but a re-popped Liberty. Instead, Vincent, Packards lead engineer, started with a clean sheet and designed a four-stroke, 60-degree V-12 with an aluminum block with a bore of 6.04 inches and a 6.50-inch stroke, which brought it to 2,490 cubic inches. Weighing 2,900 pounds, the 4M-2500 had four valves per cylinder, a 6.4:1 compression ratio, and a centrifugal supercharger, later models were also fitted with an intercooler. A Holley 1685F aircraft carburetor supplied the fuel, 100-octane gasoline, fired by two spark plugs per cylinder. The first engines developed 1,200hp, but improved versions with higher boost levels nominally made 1,500hp. Packard built 14,000 marine engines during the war, three of which went into each of the Navy’s 768 PT boats, two astern and one amidships for better service access.”


Packard 4M-2500 (pinterest)

Packard built already thousands before the second world war notably “Liberty” aircraft engines and sued General Electric superchargers patents to create the serial marine engine for U.S. Elco, Huckins and Higgins PT Boats as well as British Vosper MTB’s. Given all boats carried three of them, that’s at least 1,500 provided for completion, but since they were worn out after years of service, the same number of replacement engines and parts would grow to above 3,000 for PT Boats alone.
The initial Packard 4M 2500 provided 1200 bhp, then 1,350 BHP and by 1945, 1,500 BHP, meaning a total output “under the foot” of 4,500 bhp, but they were also known gas-guzzlers 5000 gallons of 100 octane aviation fuel consumed ina single night sortie. Cruising speed was 2400 rpm with a theoretical 3000 rpm for 41+ knots bursts.
Some in the field changed the gear ratio’s on the supercharger for extra power also, but this practice shortened their life span. Packaerd designed specially for the PT-Boat a terminal electrical device to synchronise them. The centre engine was surrounded by a port and starboard wing engines, not direct but but through Veedrive gearbox. Cavitation issues at low speed and a tendency to veer left was known (see also the handling).


The engine room on board Elco PT109

Handling

PT boats were designed -as stated in the handling book- to answer the following question:

“Is it possible to build a small ship, extremely fast and still seaworthy, which can deliver a real knockout punch to a capital ship?”

So having the seaworthiness of a round-bottom sailing ship and huge speed was only relevant as so far the sea stays calm, or be at east in the worst weather didcated compromised. The PT boat was designed thus to outrun anything that floats and carrying also weapons to sink all kind of targets, while being capable of a reasonably high speed in bad weather.
Its flat-bottom required special handling in a seaway and don’t needed to be capped in speed on a 4-foot sea still. But at double, thanks to maximum speed down wind or across. It was discourage to try to head directly into the wind and heavy weather, while it woukld be impossible to man stations properly, with the addition of much spray reducing further visibility.

It was advised to steer a zigzag course, and taking the wind and seas quartering over the bows instead to optimize speed, maintain visibility. Condition of loading of 30°-45° and down to 20° were sufficient. In a 20 feet sea and greater, it was estimated a PT Boat still steer down wind or across it and steer into it with a turn or two of the wheel, obove crests and calculating the next wave at a favorable angle. Steering left and right would allow to keep a almost straight course, dead aweather at good speed.

The PT boat having three right-hand propellers, and two or three rudders, each directly aft of each propeller in the slip-stream had effects on the handling, obviously. This made for a triple torque, tendency to veer to the left full speed ahead and rudder amidships. It was due to the top propeller blade working at pressure than the bottom blade, giving the latter a stronger thrust against the water sideways pushing the stern starboard at 1,000 r.p.m., on all three shafts. 3° to 4° right rudder were needed to compensate. It was cancelled above 1,500 rpm and at high speed.
Another characteristic was its great agility: A PT boat would turn on her own length at slow speed, one engine ahead, one astern, rudder hard over. This was handy in the confined in some areas, or just to manoeuver with other vessels nearby. PT Boats were often “packed” in squadrons near their motherships, when not berthed.
To have a better idea of the Huckins 78ft internals: ptboatforum.com

Equipments

Here is an extract of the BuShips march 1944 handbook for 80 footer PT Boats construction:
Two Pioneer compasses, One Rubber life raft, One 9-foot rigid standard dinghy (stored aft of the mast).
For the crew, accomodation anf furnitures:
CREW’S QUARTERS: Four Transom berth cushions, pantasote covered, One Mess seat cushion, same and two Mess seat cushion backs, same, One Door curtain, lavatory, One Table, mess.
OFFICERS’ STATEROOM: One “Root”-type berth, One Transom and cushion, Two Thin mattresses, One Chair, with cushion.
PETTY OFFICERS’ STATEROOM One “Root”-type berth, One Transom and cushion, Two Thin mattresses.
CHART ROOM: One Seat cushion, pantasote covered, One Back cushion, pantasote covered.
OFFICER’S MESS: One Seat cushion, pantasote covered, One Seat cushion, back.
CREW’S DAY ROOM: Two Crews lockers (portable), Two “Root”-type settees, Two Mattresses.
ENGINE ROOM: One Observer’s seat cushion.
MISC:
-One M. S. A. explosimeter Model 2.
-A Regular steel shipping cradle per boat, complete with chocks and boat-locating arms. In addition, there shall be supplied one out of every four cradles equipped with rubber-tired wheels and steering linkage.
-Two 75-pound Danforth anchors, with 5/8″ shackle and 3/4″ pin.
-Two 50 Fathoms 4 1/2″ sisal anchor rope complete with thimble and shackle. Rig one for service.
This is just a part of all equipments aboard.

The SO Radars

In standard from 1943, all PT Boats received a SO type radar, placed on top of their twin leg mast, aft of the bridge. The small array was protected from sea spray by a plastic dome.
This was a family of small, short range Air/Surface Search radars mostly intended for night operations. The “family” comprised the SO-1, SO-2, SO-7, SO-8, SO-9, SO-11 and SO-13, all 10 cm sets with slightly different powers and ranges. SO-3, SO-4 and SO-12 (CXBX) operated at 3 cm only.

Production was 525 SO (all types) and 587 SO-13 (which became standard between February and November 1944), but also 2047 SO-1, 1700 SO-8, 535 SO-2, 110 SO-9, 350 SO-4 and 235 SO-3, all with the basic same wavelength of 10 cm and power Output of 75-200 KW. Crucially the detection range was 16 nm on average at the surface and 35 nm in the air. Pulse Width was 0.37 or 1 microsecond with a Frequency of 650 Hz (on 65 kW), scan rate 12 rpm, and at max range unclutterred it could detect all surface targets up to 20 nautical miles (37 km), down to 5 nautical miles (9 km) for submarines.
The 420 lbs or 190 kg units were found on PT-Boats but also on many light vessels and “boats” of the USN, such as sub-chasers or LCCs.

Armament

Their initial armament included 4 torpedo tubes, later phased out, as lighter 21-in Mk.13 torpedoes (shortened Mk.14) with gyroscope launching, from the side cradles were the main armament. It was coupled in all cases by four heavy machine guns 50 cal. (12.7 mm) Browning in twi turrets after of the bridge. Things became quirky for the heavyer AA armament, with mix 40 mm Bofors, 37 mm and 20mm Oerlikon AA guns.
For infantry support, some were given two rocket launchers, 12 tubes, 114 mm (4 in), and 127 mm (5 in) in 1944, going as far as four sets an a 60 mm mortar (2.3 in). With a wooden deck it was easy to bolt on many equipments in various locations. Still, there were guidelines on stability to be followed. They also had ASW launchers at the stern with the provision of ten ASW grenades and sometimes two depht charge launchers without reloads, or coupled with two reload racks using pushers.
Typically the Huckins was armed with a 40mm Bofors aft (like the others), a 37mm standard, also centerline on the bow deck and a 20mm Oerlikon also aft, centerline with a simple locker separating it from the stern Bofors. The bridge was indeed further forward than the others and the two twin cal.50 were at the same level abaft the bridge, unlike the Elco boats which had these two in échelon, as were its largest guns, the Bofors and 37mm, also in échelon aft. The Oerlikon was placed forward.
One feature that became commonplace were two sets of 8-cell Mark 50 Rocket Launchers installed on a swivel mount that can allowed the launched to be folded inwards, and outwards when in use.

For an Elco boat of 1944, the BuShips preconised list included:
-Four Torpedo launching racks, Mark 1.
-Two Mk. 17, Mod. 1 mounts for twin .50 cal. machine guns.
-One Mk. 14 22 mm. A. A. mount.
-One 40 mm. Army type A. A. gun (stern) with tools and equipment.
-One .50 cal. machine gun spare (packed in box).
-Two .50 cal. machine gun Instruction Manuals.
-Two sets .50 cal. machine gun sights.
-One box spare parts for .50 cal. machine gun mounts and cradles.
-Eight ammunition boxes .50 cal., 250 rounds each.
-Eight ammunition boxes .50 cal., 250 rounds each, spares.
-One Oerlikon 20 mm. A. A. machine gun, 1 box of spare parts and tools, and 1 instruction manual, and 12 magazines.
-One Oerlikon spare barrel.
-One Smoke screen generator Mk. 6 for mounting on stern.

Torpedoes


A Sailor readies a torpedo for launch from PT boat off Florida c1944
The standard model imposed was the Mark 13 Bliss-Leavitt. This was an aerial torpedo, but of 21-inch rather than 18-inch. It was not a reduced copy of the standard (and very controversial) Mark 14 per se and shared many components, fortunately not all its defects.
It originated in a 1925 design study but development dragged on along Navy specs changes. By late 1944, the design was refined enough to allowe reliable drops from 2,400 ft (730 m) at 410 knots (760 km/h) instead as exposing the carriers, very low and very slow. This of course was no problem for the PT-Boats. The 1944 Mark 13 weighted 2,216 lb (1,005 kg) and still carried a potent 600 lb (270 kg) of HE Torpex.


Although classed as a “21-in” it was in reality as 22.5 inches (570 mm) tprpedo measuring 13 feet 5 inches (4.09 m), squat dimensions compatible with the bomb bay notably of the Grumman Avenger. It was not supermely fast, only reaching 33.5 knots (62.0 km/h; 38.6 mph) over 6,300 yards (5,800 m) which was 12.8 knots slower than the Mark 14, and it had a lesser negative buoyancy. Nevertheless it lacked magnetic influence system used in the same Mark IV exploder and thus, had at first a better detonating chance. Total production reached 17,000 in WWII.

Mk.13 Torpedo
Mk.13 Torpedo launched from its cradle, at full speed.
It should be noted that early models, such as the PT-109, used a Mark 14 torpedo (Elco PT boats) and some were even given the older Mk8 torpedo depoending on available stocks. This was prior to the fitting of the much lighter Roll Off Racks for the 22.5″ Mk13 which became standard issue in 1943. The use of the Mark 14 explains the lack of successes in 1942.

Anti-aircraft

In 1944, a prototype with greater firepower was built, the “Thunderbolt” equipped with a 20 mm Oerlikon quad AA mount M??? at the back, similar to that which equipped Half-Tracks. Nothing came out of it, since these mounts were already in short supply for the European theater.
But the usual lot was of four types:
-One 40 mm Bofors Mark VII see more
-One 37mm autocannon Mark 4, a 1924 patented Browning design, in service from 1942 (ROF 150 rpm mv 2,000 ft/s, using 30-round magazine)
-One 20mm Oerlikon Mark VII? See more
-Four 50 Cal (12.7mm -1/2″) Browning Machine Guns mounted in manually operated rotating turrets, with the ammo bands circling inside.

Depth Charges

Appearance

camouflaged-PT-Boat

One of the mediterranean camouflaged tested the spectacular “zebra pattern” in black and white or shades of grey, which was very distruptive but complex to make and thus, rarely applied. The only larger ship that displayed this supreme “razzle dazzle” scheme was the French cruiser Gloire.

BuShips recommended that all completed boats were painted and varnished throughout, with sufficient coats to preserve the surface on the long run. All fastening holes and sensitive outside equipments shall be carefully puttied when they were not plugged (bolted) with sanding before and between coats. Of course for all external metal the fampous standard “red primer” was indispensable. The standard marine paint by default was the Navy formula 5-11 special haze gray (Navy Dept. Spec. 52C45). Fastening holes used smoothing cement, Navy formula 62. The finish was a coat of haze gray (Navy formula 5-H) and a third finish coat was left to the latest camouflage schemes, to be applied in the field.

The Bottom was primed with copper bottom enamel, with all fastening holes cemented with putty, finished with two coats of the same as before. The interior was only painted with one coat of primer, glazed and with two coats of fire retardant white paint (Navy Dept. Spec. 52P22). An extra coat was required in busy passageways or confined spaces, which were many. The superstructure was finished with no less than three coats of formula 511 special haze gray, and final camouflage. Decks were primed with fastening holes filled with smoothing cement and two coats nonskid deck paint, plus camouflage if required. Thus, not only the hull, but superstructures and decks could be painted.

Huckins 78-foot
Huckins 78-foot (24 m) PT-259 underway near Midway c.1944
As for this external field painting, many of these units were camouflaged to match the densely vegetated environment. Still on the “decorative” chapter, their crews liked to paint “shark mouths” on the stern, others were more inspired by pin-ups and cartoon characters taken from the habits of bomber crews. But these aesthetic escapades were often in contradiction with the official directives whose respect was ensured by more or less tolerant unit commanders…
There were however official camoufmage schemes provided, followed with more or less zeal. For examples, see the individual profiles at the end of the article.

Trials by Fire: Tactics & Operations

MTB in Combat drawing
USS PT-167 is holed by an enemy torpedo that failed to detonate, 5 November 1943. Painting by Gerard Richardson

“PT boats filled an important need in World War II in shallow waters, complementing the achievements of greater ships in greater seas. This need for small, fast, versatile, strongly armed vessels does not wane.”
— JOHN F. KENNEDY

PT (Patrol, Torpedo) boats were deemed quite useful for short range oceanic scouting with with torpedoes and light, fast armament. It was at forst thought of them to attack enemy supply lines and harassment of warships. All, in all some Forty-three PT squadrons were created in time, each sporting no less 12 of them. PT boat duty was not thought after but by those who want something very dangerous, requiring string caracters and initiative. Despite some results, these squadrons suffered an extremely high loss rate in WWII, being overall more easy prey for larger ships than hunters themselves. Their most useful role in the Pacific notably was to assist submarines in destroying Japanese supply lines. However with only a limited radius of 500 nm at 20 kts, bases needed to be kept “close to action” which was only permissible in some areas, like the Solomons, Marshall and Philippines or around New Guinea. The first Higgins boats fought at the Battle for the Aleutian Islands in 1943. Later they were preferrablly shipped to the Mediterranean theater, Elco models being used almost exclusively in the Pacific.

Originally antiship vessels, they were publicly and erroneously by the press credited with sinking Japanese warships soon after Pearl Harbor but their earl test was in the long Solomons campaign an most often by night. They mostly targeted Japanese barge traffic in the highly contested “Slot.” But squadrons were deployed in the southern, western, and northern Pacific. A few even saw action in the English Channel, seeing action in Normandy.

During World War II Elco Naval Division of Electric Boat Co., Bayonne, N.J., built nearly 400 PT-boats for the U.S. Navy. Most (326) were of the standard “80-footer” using the trademark double-planked mahogany construction, gaining fame in daring night raids on movies but rarely succeeded in those attacks. They carried indeed four torpedoes, but they were of low power, similar in capabilities to airbone models, with a direct contact, surface run at relatively low speed, short range compared to standard Naval Torpedoes.

Their primary mission was to attack enemy shipping, everything that presented itself. Ideally warships, and by default, landing vessels, auxiliaries and merchant ships. For antiship missions, they could lay and destroy mines when equipped with paravanes or special gear. They were used also for ASW patrols, being given a few depht charges, and an hydrophone, by default of a sonar. They were also used to sneak out at night behind enemy lines and carry out rescues or harass enemy coastal supply lines earning the nickname “barge busters.” PT boats were also sufficienty well armed to provide fire support for troop landings, being able to beach themselves before extraction. They would be used also to lay smoke screens and rescue downed aviators, or to carry out intelligence, and doing deep raids which gave them the same aura in the public as their land african equivalent, the “Long Range Desert Range”. Almost all surviving Elco PTs were soon scrapped or sold.

For these “specops” operations the boats’s initially open air exhausts at the back were covered by mufflers. They were used for silent running by feeding the exhaust out under the water at low speeds. Each had butterfly flap valves fitted in the main exhaust pipes, after the muffler take off, operated by a lever system. Thus system was proven relatively effective and made the chances of a PT Boat arriving on target at low speed by night in surprise way greater.

80-foot (24 m) Elco PT boat
A 80-foot (24 m) Elco PT boat with original Mark 18 torpedo tubes on patrol off the coast of New Guinea, 1943
General Mac Arthur praised the PPT Boat concept he saw very well fitted for the defence of the Philippines, he became a strong advocate of PT boats, but none was present when the Japanese attacked in January 1942.

“A relatively small fleet of such vessels, manned by crews thoroughly familiar with every foot of the coast line and surrounding waters, and carrying, in the torpedo, a definite threat against large ships, will have distinct effect in compelling any hostile force to approach cautiously and by small detachments.”
— General Douglas MacArthur

Seen from Washington, DC however, the few PT-Boats done were all to be sent to Britain in lend-lease. MacArthur instead tried to appraoch Britain to procure a serie but all models were kept for British service in wartime. He could not test PT boats to defend the Philippine Islands when they were really needed, but a few arrived before the fall of the Philippines, evacuating personnel including MacArthur himself and his family. PT-41 (Lt. John D. Bulkeley) MTB Ron 3 evacuated them from Corregidor, after he famously said “i shall return”. The mission was done by night through the Mindoro Strait via Cuyo Islands (west of Panay) and a close encounter with a Japanese cruiser west of Negros.

PT-41 arrived in Cagayan (Mindanao), MacArthur promising recommendations for the crews. Bulkeley earned a Medal of Honor for his dangerous run. It’s after this start that PT-Boats, sometimes called “MacArthur’s secret weapons” often were reported in the medias with bogus sinking of important Japanese ships. Most of the time they proved false, but in some case, damaging was assimilated to sinking. In any case, these were a moral booster after the loss of the Pearl Harbor battlefleet and series of defeats. But they were forgotten when media attention was diverted to the Doolittle raid.

During the Solomon Islands Campaign the press was quick to raise to the public’s attention back at home the “Green Dragons” and “Devil Boats”, as nicknamed by the Japanese. They were deployed to hunt warships in the early doctrine, but results were so mediocre (due notably of faulty torpedoes) that they were soon withdrawn from these operations. Modern “speical type” IJN destroyers were more hunters than preys for these and they paid aheavy price, with the greatest loss rate in 1942 and until early 1943. Modern destroyers indeed used projectors and could fire fast and fiercely enough to destroy these “mosquitoes”. PT Boats plays more of a deterrence which indirectly caused extra caution when Japanese knew PT boat presence, disrupting indeed their supply runs, notably to Guadalcanal. The Japanese recovered several Mk.13 torpedoes and soon came to the conclusion these PT boats were a mild threat overall, but this modified their plans and this caused ultimately their defeat and evacuation of the island and in fine, the fall of the Solomons.

Commander Bulkeley, which evacuated McArthur declared that these PT boats were made:

“to roar in, let fly a Sunday punch, and then get the hell out, zigging to dodge the shells.”

This was partly true but over romanticized during WW2 by the medias, fuelling a popular belief that they could engage enemy capital ships and still escape. But in reality they were just too noisy and still too slow not to be dealt with, with deadly accuracy by any IJB secondary and even AA guns. Attacks of this kind were quite rare, not to say suicidal. The wooden hulls could not even hold water with a near-miss, let along direct hits.


PT 59 after her conversion into a gunboat.

The tactics were rapidly changed, and smaller forces (not full squadrons) were detached during the night for such attacks, engines running low, with all kinds of measures to try to mitigate their noise. They approached that way until torpedo range (which was short), launched and indeed escaped at full speed. By night the torpedo wakes were indeed sometimes detected. If the torpedoes hit and exploded, flames would illuminate the whole area and uncover their position as a giant flare would. When trying an “all stealthy” approach, the commander also tried to escape at low speed until the torpedoes hit, or if the first round missed and still undetected, officers which could stomach it would try a second attempt. Nerve-racking to say the least.

The real specialty came about naturally, in this quick darwining evolution. PT boats found more success against Japanese barge cnvoys, often weakly defended, rather than warships. As soon as this was discovered and now “cold” about the use of their faulty torpedoes, all squadrons commander wanted thier boats to be reconverted as gunboats essentially, with more machine guns and light cannons added. Some wanted the standard 3-in/50, but the weight was just too great for the wooden hulls and rate of fire still unsufficient for this kind of raids. Instead, the most efficient weapon, outsid the 20mm Oerlikons, were the often always stern Bofors. Its position imposed tactics in formation, whith loops, starting with a forward charge, broadside and retreat all guns blazing.
US air superiority in daylight condemned the tradtional Japanese convoys with large ships to night missions with barges instead, “coating” in shallow waters.

Know Your Boat, distributed to the newly trained crews
“Know Your Boat” distributed to newly trained crews, as often using humor to let the message pass better. U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 1945, Maritime Park Association

PT boat crews fed a reputation of recklesness fed by their own profile, with small crews authorizing far greater familiarity between officers and men, and lax discipline. Initiative was not only on the line of duty but also in the art of scavengening whatever could bolster their capabilities or supply them in the scarcity of the early war conditions. This lax attitude was reflected also on land during rest periods, with the military police kept more busy with this lot. PT Boat crews were also known for lax outfit to say the least, fighting bare chested and not always wearing trousers, or having non-regulatory attire. A situation not unlike some submarine crews. One thing the navy obtained at least was to avoid painting personal symbols or pinups on their boats, unlike the air corps. They were often locally camouflaged, in sometimes surprising fashion, although the Navy obtained some discipline there in patterns and colors, which was regulated (see apparearance). They tolerated though, the occasional shark teeth on the bow.

Nevertheless, while all this took place, the naval staff official doctrine was still to seach and attack surface vessels, and recoignising the danger of exposure, they were supposed also to lay mines and use smoke screens. More missions added to the lot, which impacted their loss rate. All in all it seems, depending of the source, that 531 PT boats were built. The overall picture was 69 lost mostly to enemy fire, followed by storms and accidents or friendly fire. Early boats of 1941 were simply worn out by 1943-44. The loss ratio was still very acceptable as these were considered “expendable”. But the Navy wanted to have nothing to do with these boats, which were mostly gathered at PT Base 17, Samar, Philippine, to be broken up to salvage everything of value and leave the wood to rot. Nine PT boat hulls survived, some restored (see below).

58 footers Prototypes

PT9
PT-9 off Washington DC (1940)

PT-1:

This very first 58ft Experimental MTB, laid down 12 July 1939 by Fogal Boat Yard in Miami, Florida to answer the USN called. She was launched launched on 16 August 1939 and completed 20 November 1941, tested by the navay but rejected, and nicknamed “Wet Dream”. She was reclassified as a Small Boat pennant C-6083 on 24 December 1941, ending as a service launch at Newport. 30 t, 30 knots, armed (as planned) with two Mk IV-4 torpedoes, two .50 cal. M2HB. She was powered by two 1,2000 hp Vimalert gasoline engines after after initial trials, on Navy demand, by Packard 4M-2500 engines on two shafts.

PT-2:

A second 58 feet Experimental Motor Torpedo Boat (laid down 19 August 1939 at Fogal Boat Yard in Miami, Launched 30 September 1939, Completed 20 November 1941
(later reclass. as “Small Boat, C-6084” in December 1941, kept for training. She displaced 30 t, with two shafts 1,200hp Vimalert gasoline engines for 30 kts.

PT-3/4:


Ads by Packard, on the PT-3
A third 58 footer prototype, laid down 1 August 1939 at Fisher Boat Works in Detroit, completed on 20 June 1940 and placed to the MTB Sq1 for trials on 24 July 1940. MTBRon 1 was commanded by Lt. Earl S. Caldwell. After a serie of trials she was transferred on 19 April 1942 to the Royal Navy as MTB-273 but canceled and went instead to the Royal Canadian Air Force as Bras D’Or, M 413 (first of the name, the other would be a cold war hydropter) used as a High Speed Rescue Launch for downed pilots.
She was returned to the U.S. in April 1945, retransferred to the Shipping Administration in May 1946 and undergoing today a restoration.
First with two 1,350hp Packard gasoline engines for 25t (beam 18 ft) she combined two standard torpedoes, two .50 cal., two DCR. Speed unknown.
PT-4 was Laid down at the same time as PT-4 at Fisher Boat Works and completed by 20 June 1940, trialled at MTBRon 1 she was nicknamed “Get In Step” and later “Old Faithful”, scheduled to be the RN MTB-274 but RCAN instead (B-120), back to the US in June 1945, civilian service from October 1946. Same specs as above but armed with only two twin HMGs.

80 footers Prototypes

PT-5:


First Higgins 81 footer prototype. She was laid down on 1 August 1939, launched 4 November 1940, comp. 1 March 1941 and received by the US on 17 March 1941 to MTBRon 1, making gruelling trips at high speeds. After this, like MTB-3/4 her transfer to the RN was cancelled and she ended in the RCAN as Abadik (M 407), with Eastern Air Command, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, later B-117, back to the US in 1945, then Shipping Administration in 1946 and from 1948 used by Nock Sicari of Flushing in New York as the yacht Gloria. She displaced 34 t for 15.4′ beam and 8.5′ draft, but these are the 1948 measurements. The crew was 6, and she operated during tests with two 21-in torpedoes, two .50 cal. HMGs, powered by three 1,200 bhp Vimalert gasoline engines, the first with this configuration.

PT-6:

There were two of them initialy, both by Higgins as 81 footers. The first was contracted to Finland as rescue boats, but sold to the RN in June 1940, MGB-68 in January 1941, training duties at HMS St. Christopher (Coastal Forces training base), Fort William, Scotland. Paid off in July 43, sold 1944 civilian service, then to father Euan O’Brien’s (1968) in Scotland, houseboat in Bowling Basin until 1977, then to Bowling 1980s and in Clyde, destroyed by fire in 1988. 34 tons, three Packard 3M-2500.
The second one was identical (Launched 29 October 1940) and assigned for tests at MTBRon 1, RN transfer cancelled in July 1941, instead RCAF Nictak (M 447), returned June 1945, Small Boat, Fate unknown. She had better Packard 4M-2500 gasoline engines.

PT-7:

PT-7 was another 81 footer, a “BuShip boat” built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, launched 31 October 1940, with her transfer cancelled after some tests to the RN, and instead became RCAF Banoskik (M 408) in Nova Scotia, later B-118, returned to the US in 1945 and sunk as a target soon after.
She was quite larger and heavier at 51 t for dimensions 81 x 17 x 3 feet, 41 kts. Armed with four 21″ torpedoes, one Bofors mount and four Hall-Scott gasoline engines mated on two shafts.

PT-8:

Second admiralty boat, with an Aluminum-hull built by Philadelphia Nyd. Launched, 29 October 1940, started tests with MTBron 1 from 25 February 1941 then MTBron 2, 13 August 1941 and later reclassified as the District Patrol Craft YP-110, 14 October 1941
Assigned to Inshore Patrol, Fourth Naval District, 1942, stricken 10 January 1943, but not scrapped, hull retained for tests, sold postwar, seen on sale 2008, extant in Franklin, LA, 2010.

PT-9:


The sole British MTB in US service, for trials. She was a 70 footer Scott Paine MTB, laid down by the British Power Boat Co., Ltd., in Hythe, Hampshire and acquired by the Navy on 24 July 1940 for comparative tests at MTBRon 1, then transferred on 8 November 1940 to MTBRon 2. Tested in Florida and Caribbean waters, winter 1940-1941, to be retransferred to the RN but instead went to Canada as
V-264, Halifax-Gaspe harbor defense force, then S-09 and from March 1943 patrolling from Quebec (blackout patrols) on the Saint Lawrence River, mostly searching for U-Boats. Safety vessel in Toronto, 1944, returned February 1945, sold for BU September 1946, tr. Shipping Administration 1946, fate unknown.
Specs: 55 t. 70 x 20 x 5 ft, three 1,500shp Packard V12 M2500 gasoline engines for 41 kts. In Canadian service she had two MGs, 8 Depth charges, powered by two 550hp Kermath V-12 gasoline engines.

WW2 small series & prototypes

Elco PT-10 to PT-19:

PT-19
70 footers launched from August 1940 at Elco, Bayonne, New Jersey. They all served with MTBRon 2. (Displacement 40 t. 70 x 11 x 6 ft, Three 1,500shp Packard V12 M2500 for 41 kts, crew 14, armed with two twin .50 cal. M2 (Dewandre turrets), four 18″ torpedoes or two 21″ torpedoes) plus alternative Lewis MGs and 20 mm Oerlikon, all. Most were transferred to the RN Transferred to the Royal Navy from 11 April 1941.

Higgins 70′ “Hellcat” PT-564


Laid down in 1942, Comp. 30 June 1943, comm. August 1943. She was a high speed (46 kts), low silhouette new prototype. A Board of Inspection and Survey showed trials in September in which she reached 47.825 knots on full-throttle mile run. By November it was decided however not not put her on production as she was less maneuverable, costier and more complicated to build.
In service from 2 September 1943 and assigned to MTBRon 4 by November 1944 (Lt. Comdr. Jack E. Gibson) in the training squadron based at Melville, RI. It was 28 boats strong, for Higgins boats crews. Squadron 4 later was sent to the Solomons in the Operational Development Force (advanced training), stricken in February-March 1946. After 1948 she was sold to the IDF Navy as MB-200 and reequipped with a single 20mm/70 Mk 10, still the two twin 12.7mm/90, four 572 TR, and SO-13 radar. See the interior arrangement.
Specifications: 40 t, 70 x 20 x 4-ft 6-in, 3 props 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 46 kts, armed with 4x Mk XIII 21″ torps, 2×2 .50 cal. 1x 20mm mount

Canadian Powerboat 70 Footer:

The serie comprised the PT-368 to PT-371. They were Scott-Paine designed boats built in 1942 by the Canadian Power Boat Co., Montreal, Quebec, and acquired by the Navy 21 November 1942, Comp. 19 April 1943. Originally planned for the Dutch KNIL, then Caribbean, acquired under reverse lend-lease from the Dutch Government but converted to Elco standard at Fyfe’s Shipyard in Long Island and reassigned with Elco’s 80 footer PT 362-367 made in Harbor Boat Building Co. in California.
They were in service with MTBRon 18 (Lt. Comdr. Henry M. S. Swift, USNR) assigned to the Southwest Pacific. They saw combat in Dreger Harbor, Aitape, Hollandia, Wakde, and Mios Woendi and Kana Kopa (New Guinea), Manus (Admiralties) and at Morotai (Halmaheras). They ended in San Pedro Bay, Philippines.
Specifications: 33 t, 70 x 19 x 5 ft, 3x 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 for 41 kts. Crew 12, 2x 21-in TTs, 1x 37mm, 1x 20mm, 2×2 .50 cal. MGs.

Special Hull Prototypes:

-98 footer Aluminum PT-809:
-89 footer Aluminum PT-810:
-94 footer PT-811:
-105 footer PT-812:

Main Types (The three sisters)

US Navy ww2 Huckins 78 footers (1943)


Huckins PT95 during sea trials

The Very Best and Finest PT boats
During the “plywood derby”, Huckins presented a prototype which cost the company $100,000 in 1940. It was trialled, selected, and refined as the 78-footer. The pre-serie prototype was attibuted the pennant PT-69 and was noted for its quadraconic hull design unique to the company, as well as its robust construction method. It was evaluated in July 1941. It looked very promising and even managed to stand out before its other competitors Elco and Higgins. Huckins was selected for production, but since Elco and Higgins showed they could rapidly ramp up production, the much more modest capacities of Huckins only earned them an order for 18 boats. Few in number and costier than the rest, they were regarded however as the very best PT-Boats of the time. The lucky crews that got attached to them praises their qualities. The finish quality was also of another level, true to their luxury yachting origin.

The Huckins Yacht Corporation under wartime industrial procurements had to share their Quadraconic Hull construction, to be licenced to Elco and Higgins as their robust laminated hull as well. Huckins was indeed renowned for its fine yacht designs and that’s whyt it is seen here first. Elco and Higgin’s performances are largely attributed to this technical expertise from Huckins.

Huckins boats weighted 40 tons (unladen) and used Packard marine gasoline engines (3M-2500, 4M-2500 and 5M-2500 in 1945) rated for 1,350 horsepower each and more. These derived from the 1925 “Liberty” aircraft engine. Although standard speed was 39 knots, they proved able to reach 42 knots on trials, and to maintain this even in rough waters.
Their design was peculiar with a bridge amidships, long bow deck, torpedo tubes in inline pairs angled on the sides, typically two twin Browning 0.5 cal. in standard turret amidships, stern light 40mm Bofors cannon and one to three 20 mm Oerlikon forward, plus two stacks of four depth charge throwers aft. The crew ranged between 11 (minimal) and 17 (1945) manned by two officers, to the Lieutenant grade.

Despite their qualities, the small quantities meant the USN, which regarded standardization as paramounts, wanted them not on the frontline, but rather assigned to specific defensive patrolling of sensible areas and crew training. PT-95-97, the first production boats (PT-69 was the prototype) went straight for training, based at Melville (Rhode Island). The remainder (PT-98 – PT-104) were assigned to defend the Panama Canal Zone and PT-255 – PT-264 Hawaiian waters. The Royal Navy also received ten of them from 1942. The 18 boats delivered were assigned to two squadrons fully filled by early 1943 as ships arrived peace meal.

Huckins PT-69/70

Two similar boats completed and delivered on 30 June 1941, reclassified District Patrol Craft YP-106 by September 1941, Third Naval District stricken in 1945, sold 1947.
The first becam the yacht Atlantis II, British flag in 1961, fate unknown. The second was District Patrol Craft YP-107 same date, discarded
Specs: Displacement 40 tons 72 x 16′ 6″ x 4′ 6″, four Packard V12 M2500 gasoline engines, 630shp on 2 props, for 41.5 knots FL and 43.81 knots (tests). Crew 15, two twin .50 cal. Browning M2, four 18″ torpedoes.

Specs Huckins 78′ PT-95 – PT-102 and Continued (PT-265 – PT-313)

Displacement: 52-56 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 23.93 x 6.12 x 1.60 m (78 x 19.5 x 5 ft)
Machines: 3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500 gasoline engines, 1,050 hp.
Maximum speed: 39-41 knots
Armament: 4x 18in (457 mm)* Ts, 1x 40mm Bofors, 1-3 20 mm AA or 1x 37mm, 2 DCR, 2×12 127 mm RL
Crew: 17
*Initially two 21-in TTs

⚙ Higgins Boats 1st Continued series (USSR)

Displacement 52-56 t. Full Load
Dimensions 23.93 m long, 6.12 m wide, 1.60 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
Propulsion 3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500
Speed 41 knots
Armament 1x 40mm, 4x 21″ Tr, 2×2 .50 cal., 1x 20mm mount
Crew 17

US Navy ww2 Elco 80 footers (1942)

Elco 80 footers
PT-196 “Elcopuss” with her impressive livery More
The 80 ft (24 m) production of Elco Naval Division boats became the largest and heaviest (longest, not beamiest) of the three PT boats standards in WWII and more were built (326) than other types. A paradox given the initial structural weaknesses of the prototypes compared to the other two. In the end, the best (Huckins) was only given a token order in comparison. These 20 ft 8 in (6.30 m) beam were classified as “boats”. The fact that they could be carried (just for transport anyway) on the deck larger freighters forbade them the title of “ship”, in the traditional sense. Still these “boast” could carry smaller ones, at least inflatables.

Other sources production wise gave 385 built, with prototypes rounded to 400. It seems the differencial were boats built in 1945, cancelled on V-Day but completed anyway. 326 could be those effectively seeing WWII.
They were not only the longest of the three, but also the largest, as 80 x 20 ft 8 in (so a ratio of 1/4) for 56 ton displacement. They were given Packard marine gasoline engines, rated at 1,200 bhp each for a total of 3,600. But as war progressed, these engines were upgraded, followed and compensated for the addition of equipments and armament.

They carried three officers, 14 ratings but wcould be operated to as few as 12, compared to 17 for the Huckins boats. Armament was standardized at first to a “light” combnination of a single 20-mm Oerlikon cannon aft, and two twin M2 turreted (0.5 in Browning HMG) or due to shortages, 0.8 in (7.6 mm) Lewis equivalents, four 21-inch torpedo tubes with the “short” Mark 8 torpedo. Later this was expended and augmented, and a larger variety of equipments carried, like smoke dischargers, rocket launchers, radar, etc. Many were “augmented” in the field, such as President Kennedy’s PT-109 which had a 37-mm anti-tank gun fitted on her fore deck.

PT593
PT-593
PT-Boat-Elco80ft-navsrc
Tehnical overview of a 80ft ELCO PT-Boat, Side elevation and deck plans from “Allied Coastal Forces of World War II: Vol. II” by John Lambert and Al Ross, via Robert Hurst on navsrource.

Specs

Displacement: 40 tons, Full load.
Dimensions: 24.38 m long, 6.30 m wide, 1.60 m draft.
Machinery: 3 shafts gasoline engines 1050 hp. Top speed 39 knots.
Armament: 4 torpedoes 18-in (457 mm), 1 x 40mm, 1 x 37mm, 1 x 20m AA, 2×2 HMG 50 cal. (12.7 mm), 2 depth charges, 2×12 5-in 127 mm rocket launcher.
Crew: 17.

⚙ Higgins Boats 1st Continued series (USSR)

Displacement 52-56 t. Full Load
Dimensions 23.93 m long, 6.12 m wide, 1.60 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
Propulsion 3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500
Speed 41 knots
Armament 1x 40mm, 4x 21″ Tr, 2×2 .50 cal., 1x 20mm mount
Crew 17

US Navy ww2 Higgins 78 footers (1942)

Huckins_PT-96
The PTs produced by Higgins, in New Orleans, were 215 units, from PT71 to PT808, but with many cancellations. These were shorter but also wide models. Also 1.60 m deep, their hull was more roomy than the rest and deeper, although narrower than the Elco boats. They could travel 500 nautical miles at 20 knots. In 1944, Higgins also produced the prototype “Hellcat” (PT564) lightened, aluminum, but it could not receive heavy armament and was not followed.
Service wise, Higgins boats joined the frontline later than the ELCO in US service, as the first production batches were sent to Russia and Britain via lend-lease in 1941 (before pearl harbor).
In fact approximately half of the Higgins boats served in the Mediterranean and English Channel, the other half in the Pacific and Aleutians.

The series comprised the following orders:

  • Higgins 78′ PT-71 to PT-94
  • Higgins 78′ Continued PT-197 to PT-254
  • Higgins 78′ Continued PT-265 to PT-313
  • Higgins 78′ Continued PT-450 to PT-485
  • Higgins 78′ Continued PT-625 to PT-660
  • Last serie: Higgins 78′ Continued (PT-791 – PT-808)

⚙ Higgins Boats 1st Continued series (USSR)

Displacement 52-56 t. Full Load
Dimensions 23.93 m long, 6.12 m wide, 1.60 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
Propulsion 3 shafts 1,500shp Packard W-14 M2500
Speed 41 knots
Armament 1x 40mm, 4x 21″ Tr, 2×2 .50 cal., 1x 20mm mount
Crew 17

⚙ Higgins Boats 5th Continued series*

Displacement 48 t. Full Load
Dimensions 78 x 20′ 8″ x 4′
Propulsion Same
Speed Same
Armament Same plus 1x 37mm, 8x Mk 6-300lb. DCs, 2x20mm
Crew 11

*Note: from the last batch, PT-797 to PT-801 were canceled on 7 September 1945 and PT-802 to PT-808 on 27 August 1945.

Specials:

US Navy ww2RN boats British Elco BTP

BPT-1 to BPT-68

They were known as the British Motor Torpedo Boats (BPT), BPT-1 to BPT-68. Built by Elco for Lend-Lease Transfers. PT-49 became BPT-1, Laid down 12 June 1941 and reclassified BPT-1 in July 1941,
Launched 26 August 1941, Comp. 20 January 1942, transferred 4 February 1942, commissioned as MTB-307. They had diverse assignations, moslty the Mediterranean. In the case of BPT-1 she was paid off 10 March 1945 at Palermo in Sicily, transferred to Italy in February 1947 as GIS-0019.

⚙ Elco BPT series

Displacement 40 t. Full Load
Dimensions (77′ x 19′ 11″ x 4′ 6″)
Propulsion 3 shafts Packard V12 M2500
Speed 41 knots
Armament 2×2 Dewandre turrets 0.5 Vickers, 2×2 twin .303 Lewis, four 21-in Torps.
Crew 15

RN boats Vosper 72 footers (1945)

The PTs produced by Vosper in Great Britain, in 1944-45, were 137 planned, smaller, slower but with more autonomy on patrol (570 nautical miles at 20 knots). They had two torpedo tubes in order to revert more to an anti-ship role. These were the PT-368-371, 384-449, 661-730. They had four Depht Charges in chutes but some experimented with powered quadruple chutes.
It should be noted that on the reverse, the US via lend lease procured the RN some 80 PT-Boats:
-Elco MBT-359-268, 307-236, MGB82-93, with 11 MTBs and 2 MGBs lost.
-Higgins MTB-419-423, MGB67-73, 100-106, 177-192, no loss
-Other USN types, MTB269-271 and 273, 274, no loss.

⚙ Vosper series

Displacement 45 t. Full Load
Dimensions 22.10 m long, 5.87 m wide, 1.68 m draft (78 x 20′ 8″ x 5′ 3″)
Propulsion 3 shafts 3,375shp
Speed 38.75 knots
Armament 2×533 mm TTs, 1x20mm, 2×0.5 in Vickers AA, 4 ASW DCT
Crew 10-12

US Navy ww2 PTC Boats (1943)

Motorboat Submarine Chaser Conversions

Concerned the PTC-1 to PTC-66. Built by Elco. Interestingly enough, after completion from February 1941 they served from 6 March 1941, going to Motor Boat Submarine Chaser Squadron ONE (PTCRon 1) under command of LT. John D. Bulkeley. But the unit was soon abandoned because unsatisfactory sound gear to locate submarines. At least they had a SO-13 (or assimilated) radar. A dedicated article will follow on this type.

⚙ PTC conversion

Displacement 27 t. Full Load
Dimensions (70′ x 15’3″ x 3’10”)
Propulsion 2 shafts 1,500shp Hall-Scott Defender gasoline engines
Speed 30 knots
Armament 2×2 .50 cal. Browning M2, 24 depth charges
Crew 11

Preserved examples


PT 658 off Portland, still operational.
PT-658 was a Higgins boat originally intended for Squadron 45, Pacific Fleet, but with the war closing, never sent there. In 1958 it was sold to an individual in Oakland, renamed Porpoise and later repurchased by an association, PT Boats, Inc. by veterans which restored her between 1995 and 2005. It is one of the two fully functional afloat example, now on the north bank of the Willamette River in a custom-built boathouse (Portland, Oregon) “PT-658 Heritage Museum”, the Swan Island Industrial Park.

PT-305 was another Higgins 78 footer restored by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, originally assigned to MTB Squadron 22 (Captain LCDR Richard J. Dressling) which saw action on the coast of Italy, France and sunk a German Flak lighter, F-lighter, and MAS boat, which was more tricky. Restoration was complet in 2016 and she made her sea trials with the US Coast Guard on Lake Pontchartrain.

A few originals survived, not least PT 617 at Battleship Cove in Fall River (Mass.):
PT-617: The end of the war saw most PT-Boats stripped, beached and burned, or scrapped (their wooden structure was not treated to resist much years) but the PT-617, a 80-foot Elco type which survives up to this day, but in static form.

PT-796: On of the very last Higgins boats, she never saw action. Post-war duty with MTB Squadron 1 in the Caribbean and East Coast was followed by towing experiments. In 1961 she was maskeraded as PT-109 for John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, and was decommissioned in 1970. PT Boats, Inc. bought and restored her in 1975 and she is displayed with PT-617 at Battleship Cove. Hr nickname of “Tail Ender” came from her being od the very last batch built.

Famous examples

PT-137

PT-137 was such exceptions, and at the Battle of Surigao Strait, on Oct. 25, 1944. She succeeded in crippling the light cruiser Abukuma, later caught and sunk by B-24 bombers. (see a cutaway). She served with MTBRon 7 (LT Rollin E. Westholm, USN), she served in the Southwest Pacific, seeing action in New Guinea (Tufi, Morobe, Kiriwina, Dreger Harbor, Aitape) and in the Philippine (San Pedro Bay, Ormoc). Transferred to PTBRon33 in 1945, still in the Philippines. She was nicknamed “Snafu”, “Arbie Barbie” and “The Duchess” successively. A full review will be done when tackling the class individually.

PT-109

JF Kennedy's PT 109 crew
JF Kennedy’s PT 109 crew
PT-109 skippered by John F. Kennedy while in ambushed was surprised in the night of Aug. 2-3, 1943, by IJN Amagiri in a strait off the Solomon Islands. Rammed, the poor PT boat broke in two, killing two crewmen and injuring Kennedy. Perhaps the best known PT operating in the Solomon Islands, South Pacific with 14 other PT boats sent for a nighttime ambush of four enemy destroyers of the Tokyo express. Most fired their torpedoes and retired by three remained behind to druvey the results, including PT 109. In the confusion, Kennedy mistook a fellow PT for an approaching destroyer and could not manoeuvr fast enough to fire a torpedo. Kennedy and survivors swam 3 miles to a small island, surviving with the help of locals and ultimately being rescued by PT-157.

Mediterranean PT Boats


PT-333 underway off New York, August 1943

PT-333 underway off New York, August 1943
In the Mediterranean Sea PT-Boats were also used for coastal operations, especially well suited for the confines of the Adriatic and of the Aegean Islands. They generally targeted heavily armed German supply barges (F-lighters) sometimes also sinking their escorts, German E-boats. Encounters with Italian ships were rarer, since presence of the USN really started in 1943 (from November 1942 onwards). However when operating around Sicily as soon as they had a port, they tried to at least disrupt the evacuation of the island following the success of Operation Husky. The Italians laid down in particular, dense minefield to interdict the allies to approach. PT boats were thus used to removed some, and penetrate the area. A good career example, PT-6 or PTron15: Casablanca, Bizerte, Pantelleria, Op. Husky, Palermo, Salerno and Invasion of Italy, Maddalena and Bastia, Anzio, Elba, Southern France and Op. Anvil, Leghorn. The three PT squadrons of the Mediterranean were there for 2 years, loosing 4 boats (mines) with 5 officers and 19 men Kia, 7 officers, 28 men wounded. They fired 354 torpedoes, claimed 38 vessels sunk for 23,700 tons, damaging 49 (22,600 tons) and with British boats co-claimed 15 more vessels (13,000 tons), damaging 17 (5,650 tons). “At close quarters” by Bulkley.

Channel and DD-Day PT-Boats

As part of Operation Neptune (D-Day), the allies deployed a number of patrol boats, which had to secure streamline navigation in the English Channel between Great Britain and the Normandy coast. On June 6, 1944, these were the PT-484, PT-552, PT-564, PT-565, PT-567, PT-568, PT-617, PT-618, PT-619, PT-1176, PT-1225, PT-1232, PT-1233, PT-1252, PT-1261, PT-1262, PT-1263. The danger came from U-Boats and E-Boats. The latter sorties indeed: Off Le Havre, four German E-Boots emerged from the screen smoke and went face-to-face with the allied fleet and Force S (Sword) convoy, and a fierce fighting ensued. The escorting Svenner, was hit and sunk. All four E-Boats disappeared bacl into the smoke. None of the PT-Boats met any German ship the first day. They stayed on patrol anyway until more reinforcements arrived the following days and weeks.

PT Boat Supply and Maintenance


Lead vessel of the Oyster Bay class motor torpedo boat tenders (AGP-6/AVP-28), is there anchored in the Leyte Gulf by December 1944 servicing a full squadron. She still had a destroyer armament and could fend off attacks while delivering shore bombardment, acting as much as a base and supply/maintenance vessel. Note by that time, all PT-Boats had a radar and were camouflaged.
Originally Oyster Bay was the Barnegat-class small aircraft tender AVP-28, reconverted later in 1943. Four ships laid down as seaplane tenders were reconverted as PT tenders at Lake Washington Shipyards (Houghton, Wash.). Fine and sleek ships with destroyer lines were faster tha LSTs for this role, far better armed, but had limited space and could not house a PT boat dry for maintenance, which required a floating drydock. She was transferred to Italy in 1957 as Pietro Cavezzale (A-5301), and was only decommissioned in 1993. This sub-class will be covered in detail alongside the Barnegat class.

Were PT Boats really effective ?

Simple answer, no. JFK joined this corps, falling like the rets of the public for the dash and heroism involved, as highlighted in the press of that time. But is the feeble results they obtained for their numbers and missiones hours accumulated on all seas was not enough, there were clear issues from the start:

-Their Mk.13 torpedoes were faulty at first. Like the Mk.14. The design was essentally the same, but shortened, and kept the despicable “family traits” common to the type, runing too deep and failing to explode when hitting target, way too often for comfort. This left little devices against a more powerful ship, but their mines (indirectly).
-Lack of hitting power. Their best guns were 40mm Bofors, not bad against planes, but very weak against well protected steel ships. AA guns only could harm personal and do little else.
-Limited radar. This was only a basic navigational radar which could detect targets to the immediate vicinity, they were not powerful enough to go further than 20km, and were blocked by the relief around in confined waters.

The real strenght of PT Boats were their crews, a “special breed” of men which valiantly fought, aganst oll odds in the early Pacific war phases. They were only useful to interrupt Guadalcanal’s supply efforts from the Japanese. Their nickname of “barge buster” was acquired then and there. They rarely sunk ships by themselves, less on large warships. Their supporting role for troops ashore or evacuation was also quite useful, and they made many of such missiones, including VIPs like MacArthur. All this in spite of the massive “propaganda” at home, in movies and series. Studios could acquire them and they fit inside these, looking great. After his service, JFK really continued to inflate this reputation, which also helped his career, but the overall sense from this was that they really punched in the general perception way above their real weight.

There is another fact to reinforce this: PTs were all scrapped after the war, not kept but for tests in small quantities. They found no use in Korea, a few modern ones were used for spec ops in Vietnam but they saw no conflict since at least in the USN. In Vietnam gunboats, patrol bboats (the PBR) were used as well as small monitors or converted landing crafts, no MTBs. There is also the opinion they were the “deadliest boats of WWII”, here the article. But overall, the cold statistical post-war report of the USN stated the PT Boats “were not cost-effective”. They were largely seen as a wartime expedient.

PTs in the cold war

ARA_Alakush
The Argentinian ARA Alakush in 1962
The US fleet of PT-Boats was disposed of in 1945 or 1946, given to the Maritime Board to be resold to the civilian market, or scrapped. Mny were used for many more years in various roles, and some sold to allied navies.
But in the US they had a legacy: Under the new classification of “fast attack craft” (FAC), a new class, PT-812, of just four boats was built to embody wartime lessons, with welded and/or riveted aluminium hulls, a luxury that did not existed in WW2. These were rather large, at 67.9 tons light, 92.5 tons FL, 30.5/32 x 5.6 x 1.2m (105 x 18.4 x 3.11 ft) with evolved versions of the same four Packard gasoline engines and 10,000 bhp, enabling a top speed of 38.2 kts. They had the same four torpedoes, two Bofors and two twin Oerlikon AA. They tested also DCs and rocket launchers and various configurations. They were used for many tests, being built in 1950 by Elco, Bath Iron Works, Trumpy in Annpolis and Philadelphia NyD, knowing they were out of any official requirement. They had various fates, the first two being striken in 1965.

The next step was in 1962-68. These FACS were 12 Norwegian designed boats built by Bastervice in Mandal, Norway for the first batch, and Trumpy in Annapolis USA for the second, used by the USN and known as the “Nasty class“. PTF-3 to PTF-22 were used for “unconventional operations”, with the Navy Seals in Vietnam. They were alrady far from the traditional PT-Boats, having no torpedoes but a mortar instead, as well as a Bofors and two Oerlikon guns. These were 80 tons, 24.5 x 7.5 x 1.2m (804 x 24.7 x 3.10 ft) boats equipped with two Napier-Deltic diesels for 38 kts. Discarded in the 1980s.
In 1967-68, four Osprey class boats (PTF-23-26) were built in Sewart Seacraft of Berwick in Louisiana. Improved Nasty with aluminum hulls and same engines, relatively similar hulls and performances, armament. They were discarded in 1990. But in between larger patrol crafts were developed as well as hydropters, a new promising way to exceed speeds, but that’s a story for another day.

nasty class
Drawing of Nasty class PTF Boat (Patrol (boat), Torpedo, Fast) in 1964

Src/Read More

Books

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922–1946
Bulkley, Robert J., Jr. At Close Quarters: PT Boats in the United States Navy. Washington: Naval Historical Division, 1962.
Chun, Victor. American PT Boats in World War II: A Pictorial History. Atglen PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1997.
Fahey, James C. The Ships and Aircraft of the U. S. Fleet. Victory Edition. New York: Ships and Aircraft, 1945.
Friedman, Norman. U. S. Small Combatants, Including PT Boats, Subchasers, and the Brown Water Navy
Hoagland, Edward D. The Sea Hawks: With the PT Boats at War. Navato, CA: Presidio Press, 1999.
Johnson, Frank D. United States PT Boats of World War II in Action. Poole, UK: Blandford Press, 1980.
Nelson, Curtis L. Hunters in the Shallows: A History of the PT Boat. Washington: Brassey’s, 1998.
Polmar, Norman and Samuel Loring Morison. PT Boats at War: World War II to Vietnam. MBI Publishing Co., 1999

Links

pt-boat.com
On navsource.org, main PT Boats portal and individual careers
PT-Manual
On ibiblio.org/hyperwar PT-Boat close quarter
Cutway of an ELCO 80ft by Thorston, via Joe Radigan on navsrource

List on navypedia
On ww2db.com
On nps.gov/
historynet.com/the-truth-about-devil-boats/
quora.com/What-is-a-PT-boat
Patrol_torpedo_boat_PT-59
battleshipcove.org pt-617-and-pt-796
Ptboats.org classification
On navsource
USN PT Boats on history.navy.mil
On ww2db.com
ptboatred.wordpress.com
On weaponsandwarfare.com
Elco 8ft on historynet.com
ptboatworld.com
pwencycl.kgbudge.com/R/a/Radar.htm
pwencycl.kgbudge.com/S/o/SO_surface_search_radar.htm
Color schemes on ptboatworld.com
Colors of PT-Boats and camouflages discussion
Color palette of PT-Boats
wiki
open source photos database
savetheptboatinc.com.pdf
On ptboatforum.com/

Model Kits

Videos

ELCO-nav-div-PTBoat-promo-Bayonne.mp4

Surviving PT Boats

PT Boats in action

PT Squadron 3 by Drachinifel

Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel (1942)

Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel (1942)

US Navy ww2 USA – circa 23,492 (1942-45)

The Landing Darling (06/06/2022)

Few crafts in WW2 were underrated but these “Higgins Boats”. The LCVP has been absolutely crucial to the Allied victory From the shores of Africa to the European Western Front. It became as instrumental as the Jeep or GMC truck on land, not a proper military asset but still a vital part of the industrial effort, ensuring troops arrived where they were needed in the way that mattered the most.

Technically however, this was not an intimidating sight. A wooden bucket, not very seaworthy, slow, very lightly protected and light armed, hardly anyone would have predicted it a war-winning solution. But the LCVP for “Landing Craft, Vehicles & Personel” became the Navy equivalent of the acronym “Jeep”, the only way to transition from an assault ship to the beach. And it filled its role perfectly, sometimes compared in importance to the equally successful DUKW, an amphibious GMC truck.

“Andrew Higgins … is the man who won the war for us. … If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different”
“The Jeep, the Dakota, and the Landing Craft were the three tools that won the war.”

Supreme allied commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The Higgins boats broke the gridlock on the ship-to-shore movement. It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave U.S. amphibious commanders in World War II.”

Colonel Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret)

“(…The LCVPs) did more to win the war in the Pacific than any other single piece of equipment.”

General “Howling Mad” Smith, USMC (Ret)

They were designed out of necessity, but did not came out from the blue, and were entrusted not to take any strategic materials on a southern (Florida) specialist of small, fast, flat wooden boats. They will enter history both as a type, and the most produced in history at the same time: The LCVP was part of all amphibious operations from late 1942, meaning Torch, Husky (Sicily), Baytown (Italy), Overlord and Anvil Dragoon in France, could not have been done without these landing crafts, as well as many operations involving the army in addition to the Marines in the Pacific ibn 1943-44, even some river crossing, but the one on the Rhine. Not bad for a tiny wooden flat boat.

This “D-Day special” post is complementary to two other massive sections:

Genesis of the design

LCVP PZA-159-18 Okinawa

The road to this kind of landing craft was not a straight one: At first, Andrew Higgins, a businessman of New Orleans, manufacturing small, fast flat boats used by trappers, oil-drillers even smuggler during the prohibition, was hit hard by the 1929 crisis until approached by the USMC which looked for a particular boat. Specifications led to the shallpow-draft “Eureka boat”, both tested by the USMC and marketed with some success.

The 1926 Eureka boat, it’s best seller, had a draft such that it could swim on just 18 inches of water while running through dense vegetation and over logs and debris, its propeller safe in a tunnel. It could beach anywhere and extract itself with ease. The Eureka boat was tested by the Marines on Lake Ponchartrain seawall and it’s ruggedness was in part due to its very strong bow piece, the “headlog” or “spoonbill bow”, deep vee hull forward and reverse-curve section amidships with flat sections aft, semi-tunnel for the propeller shaft. It could easily back away and protect it’s vitals thanks to this very unusual recessed propeller cavity and unusual concave shape forward reversing into a convex shape aft, it’s drademark keep for all its boats.

But the USMC is not the US Navy. The administration seemingly wanted to advance its own tailored in-house designs. Time and again, these Navy Boats were tested and rejected by the USMC: Their draft was often too deep and thus, could not getting close to the beach, leaving the Marines almost head-deep to fend off the waves by foot for long distances, or their draft at the contrary way too shallow so they were tossed about in the surf. Both their propellers or rudders were also damaged in the proces, not even speaking of the damage caused by rocks. There was ot satisifying way of exiting the boat also. Like the landing parties of old, performed with standard dinghies and yawls, troops just climbed over the side, under potential enemy fire. They were also not agile.

Higgins obtained in fact this list of grievance and perfectly knew he had the answer. He could convinced some USMC officers but it was another story for the USN at large. But he tried, showing his boat time and again, making them run in shallow water at relatively high speed, turning almost within their own length, doing hard beachings and back down with ease, loaded or unloaded. Undeterred, Higgins showcased time and agin his boat With only minor modifications, from the original Marine Corps exercises in early 1939 where it gain very favorable reviews to the LCP(L), at first a “USMC affair” which already saw extensive service, but mostly with with British forces. No doubt admiralty top commander Admiral Ernest J. King had other preoccupations than these little wooden boats. The LCP(L), once adopted, secured Higging place among Navy providers.

The LCP series

ONI depiction and dataset
ONI depiction and dataset of the LCP(L)

Indeed until then, the Navy has been constantly frustrated at the solutions given by the Bureau of Construction and Repair. Proposals were off-the-mark contraptions, heavy and ungainly, unpractical and costly. This eventually pushed for a foray in the private sector and specialists such as Higgins were soon contracted. His Eureka boat proved the best contender, but also the company would be qually praised for it’s MTBs sent in the Pacific. It soon gave birth to the LCP(L) for Landing Craft, Personnel (Large) in which 25 fully equipped troops (or 8,100 Ibs of cargo) bench-seated, which had to jump overboard when beached. The British version had a cabin at the front, US versions had two machine-gun positions instead. Propulsion was by diesel, installed almost in the center.

ONI depiction and dataset
ONI depiction and dataset of the LCP(R)

The LCP(L) was followed by the LCP(R). The first one was criticized as the Marines had to jump overboard, exposing themselves to enemy fire. The next iteration was naturally to procure them some minimal protection in the shape of a small ramp foward, hence the “R” for “ramp”. Like the previous boat, it was wooden, with the engine in the middle-rear, ususllay a 225 hp Gray Diesel (69 nm endurance). The ramp was not initially intended for protection but rather for faster disembarkation. At least the troops did not have to fell waist-deep alongside the boat.

For it’s roots, US Intel produced the Navy photos of the earlier Japanese Daihatsu-class already used in the second Sino-Japanese War. The Navy and Marine Corps also had observers and saw them in action in 1937 at the Battle of Shanghai. Victor H. Krulak was one of these officers, which came to Andrew Higgins with a picture of one of these, back in April 1941 during a meeting in Quantico. Thus Higgins was briefed and started studies long before the Navy came out with any specification.

LCPR_class__schematic This was the origin of the ramped version of the LCP(L) which just entered production. Higgins briefed his designers and from his bureau came out with three crafts as a private venture, classed at first as a 36ft LCP(L) to be tested internally, from 21 May on Lake Pontchartrain. The Navy was next to be shown the definitive model, and enthusiastically asked for the production of the LCP(R) as soon as possible. Given Higgin’s confifence in its new design, retooling and a new facility already started in prevision.

Like the previous LCP(L) they were armed with two forward gunner’s positions alongside the forward hull section, framing the ramp and bringing close support. The LCPs of both types had the same dimensions and the new converted or buuilt assault ships were designed to carry as much as possible. They were stored in davits, empty, lowered at sea and the troops came on board by the use of rope nets. This was a hazardous procedure, which was not modified until the end of the war and introduction in small numbers of the LSD or floating drydocks we are familiar today.

We need a vehicle in it ! Here comes the LCVP

First draft of the LCP(R)
First draft of the LCP(R)

Higgins also was well received by the Coast Guard but still banged heads with the Navy, noy part of its exclusive and comfortable circle of regular shipyards and shipbuilders. The Navy farvored at the time still another in-house landing boat design but eventually some wetn overhead to apply pressure and pierce the bureaucratic immobilism. They played the strengths of Higgins’ design to the full, and with the right support, it eventually won out a contract for a full-width bow ramp demonstration boat.

The LCP indeed had its advantages, but it’s ramp had major issues though, and the Marines wanted to improve on the design if possible. At first glance, the small cargo space compared to the engine compartment, and small ramp aft, were a siginificant loss in internal space. With a larger ramp, more troops could be carried and cargo could be easier to unload as well. More so, if the deck was reinforced, it could accomodate a small vehicle, such as the Jeep. And if possible, offering a better protection. The concept of the LCVP was born.

The semi-armoured LCVP this time came from a Navy request, not a private venture. To carry 36 fully-equipped infantrymen and the same payload, Higgin’s design team had to take a more radical approach. To have a larger ramp and forward section, thus more space forward, both machine-gunners were moved to the back, while the engine was moved more to the rear, now at about 1/3 keel lenght.

The new boat still used the same shape recipe under the hull, but with the larger, reinforced ramp, using metal this time, bith to support the vehicle, heavy payloads, and protect at the same time the troops onboard. It was even compounded by taller sides, elimination of bunks, so that the troops would go standing, meaning more could be carried, reaching the desired number. It drew only 3 feet of water aft, 2 feet forward and run up onto the beach and then easily reverse back into deeper water as intended. The large steel ramp dropped quickly to unload men, allowing a full beach rotation in the matter of a few minutes. For his model, Higgins was awarded the US Patent Nos. 2,144,111; and 2,341,866. For all his models (including PT Boats) he would have 18 Patents.

Design

Early patent filed on Dec. 8, 1941
Early patent filed on Dec. 8, 1941, about the ramp system. The optimistic depiction shows a small US Truck well at the back. In reality the final boat could only carry a Jeep or Dodge heavier vehicle, but the system could depict a LCM.

The basic shape was kept, with a “Vee” under the belly and another, inverted, to house the propeller, protected by a keel wth a single rudder. The concave part of the belly housed the shaft and propeller which went above directly to the engine in a short, very angled way in order to keep the aft section compact. Thus despite a generous payload area, the boat was still light and compact. A precious requirement as it had to be carried by rail and also bee lowered from standard USN assault ships davits (see later).

Hull

lcvp01 The LCVP was constructed from wood, with an agglomerate mix of oak, pine and mahogany. On the forward open section for the troops, 0.2 in (5 mm) of Special Treatment Steel armour plating was added, three plates either side rovered to the wooden structure. For the forward protection, a tall, steel bow ramp was also installed, which acted as frontal armour. The ramp was lowever and lifted by the way of two pulley chains logded in the ramp gasket with a ramp latch and towing pad, like a medieval drawbridge.

Inside the main troop compartment there were no bunks but a simple track at the floor and some hooks to have a Jeep or even a Dodge WC-51. The troops standed but could hold to a cable guard placed next to the equalizing sheave. Also for unloading fixed stowage there was a ramp winh installed next to the engine, on the right.

Behind the driver’s open section, the hull contained two gunners positions, each with it’s own “foxhole” and pintle to man a .30 caliber Machine gun.

Powerplant

Most LCVPs were powered by the same 225hp Gray Marine 64HN9 diesel engine as the earlier versions, bt there were varants, notably due to other manufacturers also producing the LCVP. The 6 cylinders, Gray Marine 64HN9/64HN5 diesel engine delivered was perfect for the task, reasonably compact and tall but narrow. A 6-cylinder 2 cycle 4-1/4 inches bore, 5 inches stroke rated for 225 hp, at 2100 rpm. It was salt-water cooled with a filter, electrically-started and with a right-hand rotation. Its weight was 2950 Ibs. Gear ratio was 1.5-1. They were manufactured at Corpus Christi and San Diego in California. After the war they were sold as surplus at 2500$ apiece, 2775$ for a 64HN9.

It was simple to maintain and protected in its own “stowage bin” easily accessible aft, under a two-folded hatch, hunged in the middle. There was a cranckshaft to the left connected to a small gearbox activated by foot pedals and a simple wheel for direction. So the driver standed next to the engine and could se forward through the opening of the ramp. The drive also had it’s own small and simple instrument panel with basic informations, speed, rpm, oil level, heat and some switches plus the starter. Also close to him into the wall and at the feet was installed the bilge pump, also activated like the wing by the diesel. The fuel tanks were located on either sides of the compartment behind him, close to the MG-gunners.

In alternative, a 250 hp, 6 cyl. Hall Scott gasoline unit. The maximum speed was 10 knots when fully loaded, the range was 110 nm which was twice that of the previous LCP. This enable for example the assault ships to remain further away, to operate “waiting patterns” running circles until every boat was loaded and ready for the final coordinated push, or the make several waves without being refuelled, and carry back the wounded or supplies when possible. It depended of local conditions and notably the tide. On the long, flat, tidy beaches of D-Day for example, many LCVPs simply were left stranded. At Anvil Dragoon or Salerno this was more a rocky, gravel shore, and the boats could disengage more easily.

Armament

The standard was two 0.3 inches M1919 machine guns mounted on the aft deck, on standard pintles also found on many vehicles of the US Army. These pintle mount M40 type Small Naval pintle, were a very rare equipment, Manufactured from 1942 to 1943 for exclusive LCVP use. They were designed for use with a COLT .30 caliber oak ammo box. They had a limited elevation for AA cover.

They authorized direct ground support with a range of 2,500 yards and more if needed, but only 1,000-1,500 effective, with tracers helping guide the weapon. Both gunners had to spend their 250 rounds ammo before reloading; a process that can take 10-15 sec. for a trained operator. I have bo idea how much ammo boxes could be stored at the feet of the MG operators, but there was ample room inside the LCVP for fifty of so ammo boxes and possibly a few spare barrels, ensuring constant fire for two hours or more.

The Machine Gun, Caliber .30, Browning, M1919A4 had the following characteristics:

  • Mass 31 lb (14 kg)
  • Lenght 37.94 in (964 mm)
  • Barrel lenght 24 in (610 mm)
  • Cartridge .30-06 Springfield
  • Action: Recoil-operated/short-recoil operation, bolt closed.
  • Rate of fire: 400–600 round/min (1200–1500 for AN/M2 variant)
  • Muzzle velocity 2,800 ft/s (853 m/s)
  • Effective firing range: 1,500 yd (1,400 m)
  • 250-round belt

As for heavy armament, the pintle was not large enough to house another type of armament. Indeed, fitting a cal.50 was envisioned, or even a 20 mm Oerlikon, but these boats were just too cramped for this. This would have required redesigning the whole rear section. The manhole of the MG gunner was too cramped for the size and recoil of the Browning M1920 anyway.

Protection

Three armored plates were bolted along the sides, riveted, while the wood itself, a glued composite of Pine and Mahogany was both resistant anf flexible, offering a further protection layer. The plates themselves were only 0.2 in thick, about 5 mm. Overhad protection was inexistant in case of shrapnel and mortar fire of any kind, soldiers and crew only had their helmets. The rea and side of the bopat were unprotected, but they were never suppose to turn over but disengage while backing by propeller, staying always forward until out of range. For this, and the final approach, the whole ramp, far larger than the former LCP(R) was made in metal, with the same 5 mm sheating forward, added to a sloped primastic structure, bot for rigidity, anchoring in the sand, and artificially increasing thickness. This ramp had “windows”, empty section at the lower level for the driver and MG-gunners.

Payload

Detailed blueprint
Detailed blueprint, cutout and elevation by BuShips “36 FT Landing Craft, LCVP, inboard profile, construction plan with engine details.”, seemingly dated from July, 16, 1952?. The plans shows notably the filler blocks alongside the hull for buoyancy.

The cargo well measured 17ft 3in long, 7ft 10in at its maximum width and 5ft high. At the bottom there were two “tracks” with fixing bars and strapping hooks in order to solidly immobilize a Jeep, the main designed vehicle load. The Willy Jeep indeed had a front axle track of 47 inches (1,19m). It could carry on paper any vehicle not heavier than three tons. The Dodge C-51/52 was 2 ton 520 (5,550 Ibs) fully loaded, and thus, was compatible, but its track was wider at 62 in (1,56 cm) at the rear. The ramp width was around 96 inches, so it had room to spare. There were the most common types. A small truck such as the G506 already was 8,215 lb (3,726 kg) (empty), so way above.

As for the lenght, it was sufficient on paper to carry also a trailer behind a jeep, but unattached, with it’s hooking leg above the rear compartment to gain space. In theory, the LCVP could also load any artillery piece not heavier than three tonnes; giving it some leeway: It could acommodate the 2,495 lb (1,130 kg) 105 mm Howitzer M3, the 4,980 lb (2,260 kg) M101 105 mm Howitzer, the 653 kg (1,439 lbs) M8 mountain Pack howitzer for example, or a Bofors AA. Nevertheless, they were rarely used for fire support on the beach, but as a second wave payload. There were in 1944 plenty of support conversions of landing crafts, from artillery, rocket, AA support and command.

The usual practice was to sent infantry first, fully equipped for at least 48h of fighting unsupported, to recoignise the terrain an pass on info the naval artillery, use mortars and bangalores to blast its way through the beach and secure a beachhead enough for a second wave to come, either infantry reinforcement, or indeed artillery and ammo supplies, aso repatriating wounded if a beach sector was safe enough.

Production

About Higgin’s dogged confidence and production

After some testing, the new landing craft was accepted for production as the Land Craft Vehicle, Personnel, soon abbreviated like previous small boats as the LCVP. Higgins main facility was considerably enlarged to meet the demand, making also massive paking spaces in the swampy area of “Vachon bay”.

Eventually he would employ more than 30,000 integrated workforce in New Orleans, including blacks and women, still uncommon practice in 1940. He received in 1942 as numbers piled up, the help of other American factories, to eventually reach the amazing figure of 23,398 LCVPs in 1945, the largest boat production ever seen in history. His construction methods were so efficient in 1945 he could turn out an entire boat in a week, and dozens were produced in finely tuned streamlined areas, each responsible for a construction stage. Being much simpler and quicky to built than PT-Boats, they had a much faster process.

Production would go on from then, with a grand total between 23,358 and 22,492 depending of the sources. In fact by 1944, the LCVP accounted for 92% of the entire US Navy inventory of ships and boats. It should be noticed that Andrew A. Higgins, described as “a fire-tempered Irishman who drank whiskey like a fish” was already a colorful figure in Louisiana, and positive there would be a need among for the U.S. Navy small boats, also was sure steel would soon be in short supply and he could play his card.

Higgins in fact even bought the entire 1939 crop of mahogany coming from the Philippines, storing it on his own accord in prevision. His expectations proved right, and he even applied in Naval design to reach a more official position and secured his bids. Confonted with the USN bureaucracy he complained time and again that the Navy “doesn’t know one damn thing about small boats”. It took the whole year of 1940 and 1941 for Higgins to the administration of the need for small wooden boats until with the confidence built with the USMC’s LCPs, obtained the well-awaited signing for the LCVP.

The American Auto Industry in Detroit also worked with Higgins Industries in New Orleans as they built the engines for the PT boats (Packard 4M2500 marine engines) or the Detroit Diesel Division for General Motors 6-71 diesel engines modified by Gray Marine Motor Company in Detroit. When they were not available, gasoline powered engines built were used. Other manfacturers of the LCVP included Chamberlain (unknown records), Chris-Craft (8,602), Dodge Boat and Plane (74), Matthews Company (496), Owens Yacht Company (2,150) and Richardson Boat (604) But this included others than the LCVP alone; Also the LCP(L), LCP(R), and LCV for which 1200 were mostly prodced by Chris and Owen.

Production peaked in 1943 with 8027 (only 215 LCVPs delivered by fall 1942) and 1944 with 9290, but fell logically to 5,826 in 1945 for the LCVP alone. However 510 Higgins LCVPs were built monthly for a period of 10.5 months resulting in 5,355 LCVPs built amounting to 12,355, so close to the total 12,500 from most sources and 53% of all of all LCVPs built during the war. It should be added than Higgins also perodced also some hundred 170 and 180-foot Steel FS Coastal Freighters, 335 J Boats, 13036-ft landing crafts for the US Army, as well as 316 barges, 10 tuges, 18 other small boats in addition to the aforementioned vessels.

On 23 July 1944, Higgins employees and U.S Navy personnel boarded an LCVP on Lake Ponchatrain during the celebration for completion of the U.S. Navy’s 10,000th Higgins Boat, through “File No. 631C-13. Subject: Navy’s 10,000th Higgins Boat. Date: Jul 23, 1944.” in New Orleans, Louisiana. Src. Below, stockpiled LCVPs in Vachon and on railcars.



Specifications 1942

Dimensions 36 ft 3 in (11.05 m) x Beam 10 ft 10 in (3.30 m) x Draft 2 ft fwd, 3 ft (0.91 m) aft
Displacement 18,000 lb (8,200 kg) light
Crew 3-4: Coxswain, engineer, bowman, sternman
Propulsion Gray Marine 6-71 Diesel Engine, 225 hp (168 kW) or Hall-Scott gasoline engine, 250 hp (186 kW)
Speed 12 knots (14 mph; 22 km/h)
Range Range 110 nm (203 km)
Armament 2× .30 cal. (7.62 mm) Browning machine guns
Payload 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) vehicle, 8,100 lb (3,700 kg) cargo, 36 troops

Variants of the LCVP


“Mad Jack” Churchill leaving a landing British LCP(L).

In WW2, there was no known conversion of the LCVP at least on the US side. The British forces received a thje LCP(L) and declined their own version, and later the LCP(R) which they derived their own LCA, but they would receive a total of 413 LCP(R) transferred under Lend-Lease and later only around 700 LCVPs in 1943. Most were used in Operation Overlord. The LCA, very close to the LCVP was declined into the support vessel LCS(M) Mk.I. See also British landing Crafts; The British RN retained the name of LCVP for a new wave of landing crafts in trhe 1960s, the Mk.2, 4 and 5 which participated in the Falklands war. The last were still operational in 2012.


Geheese pulling an LCVP on a beach in 1957

Halobates experimental hydrofoil circa 1958
Halobates experimental hydrofoil circa 1958

LCVP(K) hydrokeel landing craft tested c1961
LCVP(K) hydrokeel landing craft tested c1961

LCVP(H) with hydrofoils during 1962 tests
LCVP(H) with hydrofoils during 1962 tests

One of the path of improvement for the huge postwar fleet of LCVPs notably the approach speed. Tests were performed in the late 1950s and 1960s with variopus hovercraft contraptions, including jettosonable versions and powerful engines to reach the desired 40 kts plus speed. The “high lander” had interesting addon foils on the sides which could be lowered at high speeds and a long reshaped ramp bow. It was powered by a twin 275 hp Chrysler powerplant. Instead of wood, the new LCVP(H) had a double skin platic hull, was 40 ft long, 29 wide, 28,000 Ibs. First tests were performed on the 23-ft High Pockets boats in 1952, but the 1959 High Lander was tested until 1962 but not adopted.

As for the experimental LCVP(K) hydrokeel landing craft, it was tested on the Potomac River (USA) in 1961 but could exceed 30 knots. The hydrokeel used the principle of air cushio, trapping air under the keel, and blewing it to pressure using a compressor. Also not adopted as wing in ground experiments. At the time, the USMC started to be interested by more promising Hovercrafts, which gained traction until the first petrol crisis of 1973.

Src/Read More

Books

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922–1946
The Boat that Won the War – An Illustrated History of the Higgins LCVP, Charles C. Roberts, Jr.

Links

LCVP-ONI-plan

ww2db.com on Andrew Higgins
Higgins on usautoindustryworldwartwo.com
Higgins Industries on nationalww2museum.org
Hydrofoil tests
Hydrofoil tests
Hydrokeel tests
Hydrofoil tests
ww2db.com
On cs.stanford.edu
On globalsecurity.org
cc pics
On historyofwar.org
invent.org
netmarine.net
history.navy.mil
dday-overlord.com
wiki
challengelcvp.com
About D-Day
Higgins on www.nww2m.com

Model kits

Italeri 510006524-1:35 LCVP
LCVP Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel w/Figures 1/72 Heller
Armageddon models: LCVP 1/72
British Model on gaso-line.eu

Videos

Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) (documentary)
LCVP HIGGINS BOAT 1944 U.S. NAVY LANDING CRAFT TRAINING FILM 29784
The Boats That Built Britain – WWII Landing Craft – Part 1
Builders, Heroes & The Boats that Won the War for Us | 2000 (book)
Heller kit review on onthewaymodels.com

Combat records & Legacy

In these profiles the standard livery was the Ocean Gray 5-0 FS35164. The British ones were sometimes camouflaged, as well as some USMC vessels which had some leeway due to their threater of operation.


LCP(R)


Early LCVP from USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14), USMC at Bougainville, Solomons 1st Nov. 1943

https://www.naval-encyclopedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/LCVP-web.jpgTypical mid-production LCVP in Normandy, USS J.T Dickman (APA 13) 6 June 1944 (3 view).


LCVP with a navy blue livery, Philippines October 1944


LCVP camouflaged used at Iwo Jima, 1945 (photo)


LCVP in British Service 1944

Tactical Use

Troops climbing back a rope net onto their boat
Troops climbing back a rope net onto their boat. Note their heavy equipment and cold climate jacket. Landing at Attu and Kiska, 1943. Often, the nets were loaded with ballasts and reinforced by transverse wooden beams for stability along the ship’s flank and maintained by soldiered already onboard.

As Operation Torch took place in November 1942, the LCVP was brand new and just getting recenty produced. By that time, below 200 has been shipped by production record, and it’s not even sure how many assault ships carried these. On that path, for deployment, Higgins Boats were typically loaded on Attack Transport Ships (APAs) – see the button link above – which carried troops and/or equipment, plus numerous small boats that acted as shuttles with the beach. The troops were carried all along the journey from the home port to the shores, staying out of range of coastal batteries, so around 30 km for safety but it depends of intel. Some beaches were almost not fortified or only had a few 8-in guns batteries and below.

Thus, when, the standing area was chosen, ships were positioned and anchored in carefully planned locations to ensure proper deployment of large flotillas of landing crafts, with enough room for tem to circle in wating patterns and not interfere with other flotillas; Next, the landing craft would be prepared, with all troops and their supplies on deck since an hour, checking and rechecking equipment and gear. When all was in order and the greenlight given to commence operations, all the landing crafts were put into the water, lowered from davits or from boom cranes, strapped and empty but for the diesel tanks.

Once lowered on the water they were kept as close as the waterline as possible and large nets were thrown along the sides of the vessels in order for the troops to climb into them. This was by far the most preilous and complicated process. Given the state of the sea, the land crafts could have a hard time stying close. That climbin net was rarely deposed inside them, but in most case just layed alongside the hull in order not to encountering harsh moves. If a sailor fell, there were chances he would either drawn due to his heavy equipment carried, or be crushed between the 12 tonnes LCVP and the 9,000 tons APA hull.


Bantam Jeep being lowered into an LCVP at New River, NC August 1941.

There were actually losses of that kind at any and each of the transboarding phases, but statistics aside they were considered always acceptable, that is until the concept of LSD rushed in by 1944. But that’s another story. The latter were rare and so until Okinaway, 90% of the troops landed used that system. The British devised heavy duty davits allowing to lower fully loaded landing crafts and the US followed suite on their 1944 APDs.

When all troops were aboard, rarely reaching the nominal 36, the landing crafts would then leave the mothership and gather to the circling pattern formation that allowed all the small boats to join in before order was given by a general coordinator (each LCVP has a driver/commander with a helmet and radio contact), to rush forward to the beach as cruise speed at first, and when entering the dangerous area, a few miles of the beach, to full power.

Wave waiting circle pattern before rush hour
Wave waiting circle pattern before rush hour.

Then started the “mad mile” in which all of these landing crafts were targeted sucessively by all calibers, until entering mortar and machin-gun range, basically 500 m from beaching, depending on the beach configureation, tide and other parameters. For all that distance, the LCVPs ensured a good all-around protection to it’s occupants, at least for MG fire as its ramp was immune to small arms fire as the side plating. For mortar shrapnel that was another affair. Soldiers generally seated themselves inside when fire was too intense, reducing their vulnerable height and counting on their helmets.

And then the first wave crashed onto the beach. By coming together this alleviated the risk of being picked peacemeale by enemy fire. Having a lot of troops on shore together also multiplied targets and improved the chances of the ensemble to survive during their own foot “mad dash” until finding protection somewhere.


A well-coordinated wave approaching from the beach of Lingayen Gulf, October 1944

When beaching, the MG gunners would generally generously pepper all the fire sources they could spot on the enemy line, but the drivers generally tried to disengage at that point, to avvoiud needlessly exposing themselves and rush back to the assault transports to carry reinforcements and supplies, a process that could take more than an hour. Responsability fell onto the shoulders of the men on the beach to somewhat secure a first foothold, by default of a beachhead which was reached when all frontline defences were silenced.

Ideally alongside the LCVPs other “small boats” rushed forward with support: Some were direct artillery support vessels, others were larger LCMs and carried tanks. Despite the losses, LCVPs would make three or even four rotations during the day, bringing supplies and repatriating injured men in the first day until the beach head was fully secured. The next hours and days, they went on making the same, mostly bringing supplies on shore from the cavernous assault ships’s holds.

LCVPs on deck of an assault ship off Pavuvu Island
LCVPs on deck of an assault ship off Pavuvu Island and “resting place”, August 1944.


Wounded carried inside an LCVP. This top view also showed the interior, driver’s post and engine. Unknown location, but the LCVP next to it (top) seems to shows a camouflage and the one on the first plans looks also as it was camouflaged (lower right corner).

WW2 Operational History


The landing of Attu and Kiska, LCVPs carried on deck pulled over side with cranes. They were often those of the second wave, as it took more time. The davits boats were quicker to put at sea.

23,000 LCVPs were built and the Higgins Boat participated in nearly every significant amphibious landing made by US forces throughout the war. In the European Theater, LCVPs were integral parts of the landing strategies in North Africa (Operation Torch), Sicily (Husky), Salerno and Anzio (the Italian Campaign), Normandy (Operation Overlord), southern France (Operation Dragoon) whereas in the Pacific, they saw action in the Solomons from late 1942, at Tarawa, Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Riverine operations included some in the Netherlands and of course, the Crossing of the Rhine in the winter of 1945. In the Pacific, they were used for the Guadalcanal Campaign, Battle of Tarawa, Battle for Iwo Jima, and the Okinawa Campaign.


LCVPs in the background. After the landings in Leyte, speech of General Mc Arthur (center) to the troops.

1,100 LCVPs have been used in all for Overlord on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, the greatest concentration before Okinawa. 1,089 were available just for Utah and Omaha, meaning Britush use was farily limited. 26 were lost at Utah, 55 at Omaha, high by naval standards but sustainable. Soldiers in most case a LCVP was hit by a shell or mortar grenade were able to escape from a sinking LCVP, but all payload and vehicles were lost. The high tides in Normmandy meant most could not disengaged when beached and stayed on the beach, providing some shelter points for medical unit in some cases.


French Foreign Legion making an exercize landing in North Africa, march 1944, in preparation for Italian Operations, the landing on Corsica and Anvil Dragoon.

LVCPs in Korea


LCVP bucks in the well of USS Catamount (LSD-17) during a mine-clearance operations of Chinnampo, North Korea, November 1950


LCVPs Carrying scaling ladders by US Marines to the seawall at Inchon, 1950

USS_White_Marsh_LSD-8_lowers_LCVP_in_1955
USS White Marsh (LSD-8) lowers an LCVP in 1955

LCVP_off_Chinnampo
LCVP off Chinnampo 1955

The LCVP saw service also in Korea. Their greatest operation was the the United Nations landings at Inchon (Operation Chromite), South Korea in September 1950. There, some LCVPs carried ladder to climb the port’s defensive wall. The same assault transports were used as in WW2. No major landing required its use later in this war but some operations in the shores of North Korea. Later they also assisted in the Evacuation of Chinese from Tachen Island off China in 1955. They also took part in Operation Blue Bat, a combined US Army/USMC landing in Lebanon during the July 1958 crisis.

French LCVPs in Indochina

Two French LCVPs rearmed as gunboats
Paired French LCVPs rearmed as gunboats on an unidentified Mekong tributary, 1954.

After the US, France used the LCVP extensively, not only during operations such as Anvil-Dragoon in August 1944, but also in Indochina from 1945 and until 1956. They were particularly used on the mekong river, and modified for the occasion as armoured gunboats, the “dinassault”: Considerably transformed, hull plating doubled with extra armor plates, armored shelter built around the helmsman’s position, armored roof above the tank, plus a shielded 20 mm/70 Mk.II Oerlikon gun installed behind the bow. The ramp was cut down, its height reduced to fire above. From a rustic landing craft, the French made quite a formidable patrol craft.

This customized versions was not without flaws: Her single engine was not always reliable and LCVPs always operated in sections of two, the payload was severely reduced, the draft exceeded one meter in full order, and there were problem with the engine ventilation and exhaust, making it very noisy, and precluded infiltrations.

As it is, this “LCVP Blindé” formed Flotillas in the South, the first operational on March 15, 1946, having up to 30 vessels in 1947, and one in the North, and by the fall of 1950, operating 78 armored LCVPs plus 13 regular ones, for a grand total combined in 1952 of 150 LCVP, of which 120 were armored. Any of these were under orders of a midship or young ensign, active or reserve. Riverine operations were a success, despite the lack of boats to really pêrform a constant presence. These lessons were applied during the US Operations of the 1960s.

LVCPs and sub-versions in Vietnam


LCVP, LCU and LCM of the US Navy Brown Water Navy, on the Cua Viet river, 1967


Vietnamese LCVP on the Mekong, 1973


USS Askari (ARL-30) with converted LCVPs in Vietnam, May 1967.

In all, sixteen LCVPs were transferred from 1961 in Vietnam, alonsgide the same numbers of LCMs. Far more reconditioned from mothballs were sent there until 1965, used for early landings or with the Mobile Riverine Force alonsgide LSMs, PGMs, LSSLs. RPCs were conversions derived from LCVPs, but criticized as being slow, prone to mines blast with their welded-steel hulls and poorly armed. According to various sources 27 or 34 (Conways) were built in 1964. Monitors were rather converted from the larger LCM(6). LCVP were rare at this stage and sidelined to auxiliary roles after 1965. After more than 20 years, their wooden frame was generally in poor condition. The bulk of riverine operations was made by nimble plastic-built PBRs in the later phase of the war, until 1973.

Surviving examples

A veteran od D-Day revisiting a static example at Utah Beach in the 1990s
A veteran od D-Day revisiting a static example at Utah Beach in the 1990s.

Only a few Higgins boats survived, and many were modified with a quite substantial was in the cold war. A replica Higgins Boat was in fact even built in the 1990s using original specifications from Higgins, now displayed at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. A second original LCVP is restorated at the same place.

One original boat was rediscovered at Vierville-sur-Mer in Normandy, and now professionally restored by the North Carolina Maritime Museum, First Division Museum, Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illinois. Overlord Research, LLC (West Virginia) founded in 2002. Its role has been to collect and restore this WW2 memorablia and artifacts, returning them back to the United States. It was purchased from its French owners, transported to Hughes Marine Service in Chidham, England for initial evaluation and restoration, then acquired and shipped to the First Division Museum via Beaufort, Illinois.

Another one was also located by Overlord Research, LLC on the Isle of Wight, also under restoration at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama for the United States Army Center of Military History, intnded to be displayed at the National Museum of the United States Army, constructed at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. Another was recuperated in a farmyard, in Isigny sur Mer in 2008 and endeed on the car park at the German Headquarters,Grandcamp-Maisy battery 1.5 miles from Omaha Beach. Another is on display at the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, England.

LCVP used for flood emergency at Clastskania, Oregon june 2, 1948
LCVP used for flood emergency evecuations and relief at Clastskania, Oregon june 2, 1948

Another is restored in France, constructed in 1942 and used in North Africa and Italy by Free French troops. It is restored to full operation in order to participate in some future big events. Another one located in Port St. Lucie, Florida is also awaiting restoration. There is a LCP(L) at the Military Museum Of Texas in Houston, fully restored. Another from USS Cambria survived seven Pacific Theatre invasions ans is now showcased at the Motts Military Museum in Groveport, Columbus, Ohio, with its Coxswain, Sam Belfiore, awarded the Silver Star. Another was located in poor condition layong at King Edward Point, South Georgia in an Antarctic environment. Their wooden structure had a hard ttime surviving 80 years while being exposed to the elements.

Gallery


USS_Weber_APD-75_in_reserve_circa_in_the_1950s


LCVPs-ItalySalernoInvasion1943


Deliver_for_D_Day 1944 propaganda poster (NARA)


Attu_landing_craft_on_beach_1943


Landing_barges_loaded_with_troops_sweep_toward_the_beaches_of_Leyte_Island


Coast_Guard_manned_LCVPs_Empress_Augusta


Australian_troops_storm_ashore_in_first_assault_Balikpapan_Borneo


LCVP close to Leyte Beach, October 1944


US Coast Guard personal driving an LCVP from USS Joseph Dickman, Utah Beach, 6 June 1944


LCVPs landing in Guadalcanal, Solomons


St Tropez area Wounded soldiers evacuated LCVPs transfer onto hospital ship 15 August 1944


LCVPs on Cavalaire invasion beach (Anvil Dragoon) 15 August 1944


Wounded men in an an LCVP on a beach of France, with a Coast Guard coxswain to a Coast Guard manned assault transport


Evacuation of wounded men into Higgins boats, 7th Army, 3rd Division, 15 August 1944


US LCVPs at Gela beach, Sicily, in July 1943


USS-Audubon_Lowering-an-LCVP-from-port-davit_Feb-1945


Attu_Invasion


LCVP_landing_craft_put_troops_ashore_on_Omaha_Beach


LCVP_crossing_the_Rhine


FrenchFL-exercise-Nafrica-amphibious_exercise_P-39_close_air_support-19March44


LCVP-Leaving-bikini


LCVP-Unloading_at_Gela_during_the_Sicily_Invasion


Rhine_Crossing-_equipment_to_be_ferried_across_the_Rhine_River_is_loaded_on_US_Navy_LCVPs


Seabees_used_Marston_Matting_approaches_for_loading_LCVP_craft_at_loading_points_to_take_Pattons_army_across_the_Rhine


Rhine_Crossing_3rd_Army_flatbed_truck_carrying_a_Navy_LCVP


Rhine_Crossing_U.S_Third_Army_LCVP


Into_the_Jaws_of_Death_LCVP-6June44


Troops_wade_ashore_at_Omaha_Beach_from_a_LCVP_landing_craft


Troops_and_crew_of_LCVP_off_the_Normandy_beaches_6_June_1944


LCVP-Approaching_Omaha


LCVP-1944_NormandyLST_clean


LCVPs-TanapagHarborSaipan3August1944_US_National_Archives_Photo


Lopez_scaling_seawall-LCV


LCVP_and_vehicles_on_Omaha_Beach_6_June_1944


3d_Division_Marines_fan_out


LCVPs_shoving_off_with_liberty_parties_at_the_Pearl_Harbor_Naval_Shipyard_Hawaii_July_1945



Tractor_pulls_SBD_Dautless_on_Espiritu_Santo_LCVPs-c1942


LCVP-Supplies_piled_up_on_the_beach_at_Guadalcanal_1942


USS_Mindanao_ARG-3_damaged_by_explosion_of_USS_Mount_Hood__Seeadler_Harbor_10_November_1944


163rdInfRegt_hit_beach_from_Higgins_boat_invason_Wadke_Island_DutchNewGuinea_May18-1944


LCVPs-IowJima


French_Foreign_Legion_troops_landing_on_a_North_African_beach_exercises_march_1944


American_troops_leap_forward_to_storm_a_North_African_beach

South dakota class battleships (1941)

South Dakota class battleships (1939)

Battleships (1938-42):
USS South Dakota (BB-57), Indiana (BB-58), Massachusetts (BB 59), Alabama (BB 60)

The shortened fast battleships

The South Dakota class was a class of four fast battleships, the lead vessel being the second named after the 40th state, taking the name of a super-dreanought class canceled under terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The class comprised also USS Indiana, Massachusetts, and Alabama, all designed under the peacetime standard displacement limit of 35,000 long tons, like the preceding North Carolina class. Design-wise, they were basically a “repeat on budget” keeping the same main battery of nine 16″/45 caliber Mark 6 guns in three-gun turrets but, smaller, more compact, freeing weight and surface for a better protection.

They had notably a single funnel and a less favourable hull shape ratio for top speed, but miraculously just lost one knot. Construction started shortly into the war, procured as per FY 1939 for the first pair instead of FY1938 as initially planned. They were commissioned from the the summer of 1942 and served both in the Atlantic and the Pacific’s carrier groups. Their career was short as they spent most of their postwar time in reserve, until the 1960s for South Dakota and Indiana while USS Massachusetts and Alabama ended as museum ships.

Design development


Preliminary sketch in 1939

The preceding two North Carolina-class battleships were assigned to the FY1937 building program but in 1936 already the General Board wanted two more battleships allocated to FY1938. The discussion split into those these to be simple repeats of the North Carolinas, but Admiral William H. Standley (Chief of Naval Operations), wanted an improved design. He was immediately opposed by those who argued that would require a redesign and complete new calculations, making it very uinlikely they would be ready for a keel laying in 1938. Thus, after going back and forth, Standley won that they would be assigned to FY1939 instead.


BB 57 under construction, 1st April 1940
Design work started in March 1937. The draft was formally approved by the Secretary of the Navy on 23 June after several proposal, but only detailed variants of baslcally a reduced version of the North Carolina, on a smaller displacement. This choice was also to appease some on the Congress, that saw tonnage and cost linked together and wanted to save taxpayer’s money. The specific characteristics were eventually discussed anf ixed eventually, finally approved on 4 January 1938. The formal order followed after the blueprints were ironed out, on 4 April 1938. From there starts a phase of precising all detailing blueprints for construction and call for yards.

On 25 june 1938, the deteriorating international situation both in Europe and Asia had the Congress authorizing a further two, and soon the “Escalator Clause” (passed by the Second London Naval Treaty) was activated, i be benefit of the U.S. Navy to deign working on the new (future) Iowa-class battleships. Meanwhile Congress maintained a 35,000-ton battleship tonnage for the next pair approved FY1940.


16 inches barrel

Engineers working on the BB-57 design worked out the deficiencies in the preceding North Carolinas. It was judged they had been given insufficient underwater protection. Their turbine engines also were already oudated in regards to the latest advancements. Other points seen, their accomodations to act as fleet flagships which were seen as unsufficient. Hence, the the lead ship had to be provided with an extra deck on the conning tower. Soon for stability, it was decided to sacrifice two twin 5-inch dual-purpose (DP) gun turrets.

The process was not straithforward. Treaty-wise, they were to not go further than 35,000 tons which was the frame for all claculations and constraints. In these tight margins, the above points needed to be adresses. This led to a number of proposals:

Finalized Design


Bridges_and_House_Tops_and_Inboard_Profile


Bridges_and_House_Tops_and_Inboard_Profile


Bridges_and_House_Tops_and_Inboard_Profile


deck-plan


Main_1st_and_2nd_Super_Decks


profile-plan


south-dakota-Splinter_Second_Half_Decks_NARA


General_Information_Data_Outboard_Profile_NARA

All agreed on a base of nine 16-inch (406 mm) guns in three triple turrets (like the previous North Carolinas) and a 5.9-inch-thick (150 mm) deck armor in order to resist plunging hit, out to 30,000 yards (27,000 m). Top speed was at least 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). Belt armor was to be well above 13.5 inches (340 mm) to be proof even at at 25,000 yd (23,000 m) against 16-in shells, a practice called “balanced armor”.

Innovation: The internal armored belt

The new belt however would have ended at 15.5 in (390 mm), making the design weight way above the treaty limits. It was decided to go around this problem by featuring a sloped armor, something already adopted in the British Navy (see the N3 design), however of course it could not be external, compromising stability. Therefore just like British designs, an internal armor belt was design, behind unarmored hull plates. This was a great novelty which had serious drawbacks though, as it complicated construction and when hit, the external plating was to be cut away before repairing the main belt. But at least this first layer added some extra protection.

The solution was to slope this belt outward from the keel, and back in towards the armored deck: Shells in almost straight fire would hit the upper portion at an angle, maximizing armor protection over a thinner armour (they had more steel to cross). This upper portion effectiveness was degraded as the range increase, pluging fire encountering less and less steel. It however reduced the area to be covered by the armored deck and saved additional weight.

The final upper belt was therefire thicker, its extension answering plunging fire. Since it was internal, it was extended to the inner portion of the double bottom and thus overlapping underwater protection, fixing the issue on the North Carolinas. This double incline belt armor however was unique to this class. Later it was superseded by the single slanted belt design, which provided the sae protection while saving up to 300 tons of steel.

The question of size and speed


Propellers of USS Indiana completed by March 1942 in drydock

The size of the hull, if the same as the North Carolinas, would procured by its favourable ratio the same high top speed, but required more surface to protect. With a heavier armour it was out of question. Thus the need to have a shorter hull. A solution was to fit a higher-performance machinery, another criticism of the North Carolinas. The final hull reached 680 ft (207.3 m) versus 729 ft (222.2 m) – thus the internal space available for a larger machinery was just an impossible task.

The initial design was to have top speed of at least 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph), only to outrun surfaced submarines and stay relevant with the rest of the older dreadnoughts in battle line. But in 1936 already, US cryptanalysts deciphered radio traffic from the Japanese navy, revealing about the upgraded, reboilered Nagato class being able to reach 26 knots (48 km/h) and more.

Now engineers had to reach 25.8–26.2 kn (47.8–48.5 km/h; 29.7–30.2 mph), which would have been possible only if they managed to have the North Carolina’s machinery reduced enough to fit in the new South Dakota. Solutions were found, like repositioning boilers rooms directly above the turbines. They just recuperated the same arrangement planned in 1916 for the Lexington-class battlecruisers. They were however rearranged several times and utimately were staggered with the turbines, alongside them instea dof above. Evaporators and distilling equipment were placed in the machinery rooms also, degrading redundancy but saving space behind the armored belt. In fact this even enabled to add a second plotting room for battle direction.

The final hull design ended with a 666 ft long (203 m) between perpendiculars. The single internal sloped armor belt was a consensus and it’s deigned fixed. Fearing a rejection by General Board due to its risky choices, the engineering team proposed alternatives which were longer and faster ships, but with 14-inch guns (always in triple turrets) and also slower variants, also with 14-inch guns, but in quadruple turrets, or simply improved North Carolinas capable of 27 knots (50 km/h) and same armament of nine 16-in guns.

Speed during these dicussions proved the main issue. The fleet C-in-C (CINCUS) refused to go lower than 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) and wanted for the new battle force, comprising the two North Carolinas, to reach at least 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph). President of the War College agreed, but wanted also compatibility with the “old fleet”, only capable of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph) as they were likely to serve at least until the 1950s. It was recoignised much later that speed was indispensable later to escort fast carrier task forces…

The best treaty battleships ever

The “666 feet design” ended the winner, meeting (as expected by the design team) all the specified requirements for speed, protection, and armament. It was a near-miraculous squaring of the circle on a 35,000 tonnes design, which compared favourably with any other foreign designs at the time. In fact, according to naval historians William Garzke and Robert Dulin, they were the best “treaty battleship” ever built, later succeeded by the wartime Iowa class were wartime design free from all limitations and thus emphasized speed and protection.

By late 1937 at last, this proposed design was agreed on and a process of tweaking some detailed and adding small modifications, to save even more weight or increasing the fields of fire were made. Enginers even managed to aded berths for the crew, staterooms for senior officers, smaller but better organized mess halls, and removed ventilation ports. Apart in the superstructure, the hull was port-holes free. Artificial air circulation had its design improved to cope with these changes, and internal electrical power increased. All these were also reused for the Iowa design, by then tonnage-free, allowing further improvements. As naval analyst Norman Friedman stated:

For half a century prior to laying the Iowa class down, the U.S. Navy had consistently advocated armor and firepower at the expense of speed. Even in adopting fast battleships of the North Carolina class, it had preferred the slower of two alternative designs. Great and expensive improvements in machinery design had been used to minimize the increased power on the designs rather than make extraordinary powerful machinery (hence much higher speed) practical. Yet the four largest battleships the U.S. Navy produced were not much more than 33-knot versions of the 27-knot, 35,000 tonners that had preceded them. The Iowas showed no advance at all in protection over the South Dakotas. The principal armament improvement was a more powerful 16-inch gun, 5 calibers longer. Ten thousand tons was a very great deal to pay for 6 knots.

Hull design

Bridge cut showing the cramped and tall superstructure
Bridge cut showing the cramped and tall superstructure, 17 storey tall from the telemeter to the hull triple bottom.

The South Dakota-class’s final hull adopted was 666 ft (203 m) long (waterline) but 680 ft (207.3 m) overall. Compared to the North Carolinas, it was very lightly less broad 108 ft 2 in (32.97 m) in beam compared to 108 ft 3.875 in (33.017 m). The hull was also draftier to compansate at 36 ft 2 in (11 m) versus 35 ft 6 in (10.820 m).

Tonnage, standard, was calculated to 35,412 long tons (35,980 t) when completed, approximately 1.2% overweight compared to the treaty tonnage. So close to a possible war it made little difference. It was in fact much lighter than the North Carolinas at 36,600 long tons standard. When commissioned however in 1942 revisions with extra anti-air armament increased it to 37,682 long tons (38,287 t) based on Indiana on 12 April 1942. Full load it was 44,519 long tons (45,233 t) also wehen commissioned. The initial mean draft increased based upon 42,545 long tons (43,228 t) to 33 ft 9.813 in (10.3 m), metacentric height being now at 7.18 ft (2.2 m).

During the war, even more AA guns were added to the design and the full load displacement reached in 1945 for USS South Dakota at 46,200 long tons (46,900 t) and even 47,006 long tons (47,760 t) for Massachussets, but on emergency load (meaning extra oil in all free voids, extra ammunitions, ect. for long trips).

Like the previous North Carolinas, their hull featured a bulbous bow, an innovation since the reconstruction of the USS Lexintgton, and something also passed on to the Iowa class, still a common feature today. Unlike the North Carolinas or Iowas, the South Dakotas had theur outboard propulsion shafts in skegs, not inboard. In a general way their shorter hull improved maneuverability while the vibration problems were, if not cured entirely, much reduced compared to the North Carolinas.

Armor protection


Comparison of armour sections

Vertical(sloped) armour

Like the previous vessels, they had a triple bottom under the armored citadel. The design was now able to resist 16-in fire, quite an improvement over the North Carolinas. The protection zone (citadel) ws calculated against the 16-inch/45 cal’s 2,240 lb shells fire by the Colorado class, calculated on a parabolic profile between 17,700 and 30,900 yd (16.2 to 28.3 km). The belt armor was just slightly thicker than the previous design, but sloped and rearranged with a brand new internal belt arrangement immune at 19,000 yards (9.4 nmi; 17 km). Special Treatment Steel (STS) was used in many parts, like for the external hull in front of the main belt. The lower belt arrangement had a decreasing thickness (but all in KC – Krupp cemented- type B armour) down to the triple bottom, a feature defeating heavy-caliber gun shells managing to hit just below the waterline. As the tonnage increased during wartime, this was made more unlikely.

Horizontal armour

Horizontal protection was sandwiched over several decks, comprising three layers: First, a 1.5-inch (38 mm) in STS for the weather deck above, called the “bomb deck” and a combined sandwich of 5.75–6.05-inch (146–154 mm) of Class B KC armour and STS for the second deck. Lastly there was a 0.625-inch (16 mm) STS “splinter deck” protecting the machinery spaces while magazines had instead a one inch (25 mm) STS third deck plating. However it was later established with the introduction of the US 2,700 lbs Mark 8 Super Heavy shell that the immune zone was now dow to 20,500-26,400 yd (18.7-24.1 km).

Underwater protection

The main principle was an internal “bulge” consisting of four longitudinal torpedo bulkheads, creating a multi-layered, blast-absorbing system. They were calculated to withstand an underwater explosion close to 700 pounds of TNT (1.3 GJ). The torpedo bulkheads were calculated to deform and absorb energy notably using several liquid-loaded compartments, either fuel oil and water. Fragments were to be stopped as well. In total between the torpedo bulkhead and compartimentation behind, it reached 17.9 feet (5.46 m), all internally.

The main feature of this system was to having the armor belt itself extended down to the triple bottom, tapered down to just one inche, as a third torpedo bulkhead (after the main tube, and compartments behind). The lower belt, lower edge was indeed welded directly to the triple bottom structure. The joint was itself reinforced with buttstraps to compensate for the knuckle.

ONI depcition of the class
ONI depiction of the class

This seemed quite an imprvement compared to the North Carolina-class, however, caisson tests made in 1939 showed it ended less effective due to precisely this rigid lower armor belt: The detonation displaced as the result, the final holding bulkhead inward. More subscale caisson tests revealed the liquid loading scheme was also not optimal, as on the North Carolinas their 3rd and 4th outboard compartments were loded while the South Dakota’s had the two outer filled with fuel oil, the inner remaining less efficient simple void spaces, but retained to mitigate flooding by counter-flooding. Both systems were compared and improved on the Iowa class, which retained the essentally same general scheme.

Here are the resumed details:

  • Outer hull plating: 1.25-inch (32 mm) STS
  • Internal armor belt: 12.2-inch (310 mm)/19° (=17.3 in/440 mm) Krupp cemented
  • Backup STS plate 0.875-inch (22 mm)
  • Lower belt to triple bottom in KC class B 12.2 inches (310 mm)-1 inch (25 mm)
  • Traverse bulkheads 11.3-inch (287 mm)
  • Horizontal deck protection: 1.5 and 5.75-6.05 in
  • Machinery space 0.625-inch (16 mm) STS
  • Ammo magazines 1 inch (25 mm) STS
  • Main battery turret, Faces: 18-inch (457 mm) Class B
  • Main battery turret, sides: 9.5-inch (241 mm) Class A
  • Main battery turret, Back: 12-inch (305 mm) Class A
  • Main battery turret, roof: 7.25-inch (184 mm) Class B.
  • Main Barbettes, upper section: 11.3 in-17.3 in (287 mm-439 mm)
  • Ammunition wells & handling spaces: 2 inches (51 mm) STS
  • 5-in DP barbettes and ammo wells: 2 inches (51 mm) STS
  • Conning tower: 16-inch (406 mm) walls
  • 4 layered torpedo bulkhead 17.9 feet (5.46 m) in width
  • ASW lower belt portion: 1 in (25 mm)

Powerplant


Torpedo room


A fireman fixing an USS Alabama boiler in 1943

The South Dakota class battleships were all given the same powerplant:
-Four large 4-bladed propeller shaft* (diameter unknown, probably same as the North Carolinas), with outboard shafts mounted in skegs.
-Four General Electric geared steam turbines (Westinghouse for Indiana and Alabama)
-Eight Babcock & Wilcox three-drum express type boilers (steam pressure of 600 psi/4,100 kPa, temperature 850 °F /454 °C.
For redundancy and protection against flooding, this machinery was divided into four spaces, each having two boilers and a single set of turbines in it. That way, each of these space was capable of at least power a single shaft if the other three were flooded. However they had no longitudinal bulkheads to save space, but also as asymmetric flooding was feared.

-The Battleships were steered by two semi-balanced rudders, mounted behind the inboard screws.

The propellers montage, when completed, proved problematic as vibration tests were mostly negative. Just like the North Carolina’s they had having different propeller blade arrangements tested throughout the war:
Massachusetts and Alabama tested five bladed-ones outboard, four blades inboard. USS Indiana three bladed inboard.

Performances-wise, this powerplant was rated for 130,000 shp (97,000 kW) by design. Overheating allowed to achieve up to 135,000 shp (101,000 kW) and the 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph) designed were reached. However during the war, displacement rose while larger fuel oil storage were made (in fact the maximum) to allow refuelling smaller escorts. In 1945, USS Alabama only reached 27.08 knots (50.2 km/h; 31.2 mph) based on 42,740 tons and over 133,070 shp. With 6,600 long tons (6,700 t) of fuel oil, range was 15,000 nmi (28,000 km; 17,000 mi) at 15 knots cruising speed.

In addition, they carried each a generous electrical output, with no less than seven 1,000 kW ship service turbogenerators (SSTG) and two 200 kW emergency diesel generators and a grand total of 7,000 kW working at 450 volts alternating current.

Armament

us_bb_59-top-profile
BB 59 side top profile 1945

Main: 3×3 16-in/45 Mk.6

These were the same guns, mounts and turrets already developed for the North Carolina class. In short, while the gun type was developed from 1936 (see navweaps for more), they were essentially improved versions of the Colorado-class battleship’s main guns. This Mark 6 was developed at the end of the interwar, tailored to fire the new 2,700-pound (1,200-kilogram) AP shell from the Bureau of Ordnance in accordance to admiralty board. It could fire the AP Mark 8 (2,700 lbs/1,225 kg with a 40.9 lbs. (18.55 kg) bursting charge, the HC Mark 13 (1,900 lbs/862 kg and 153.6 lbs/69.67 kg BC) and the HC Mark 14 (1,900 lbs/862 kg).
In short:

  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,300 ft/s (700 m/s) AP.
  • Barrel life: 395 shells
  • Traverse: 4°/second, 150° either side.
  • Elevation: Max 45°, depression −2°
  • Rate of fire: Two rounds a minute.
  • Barrel size: 736 in (18,700 mm) oa, bore 720-in (18,000 mm), 616.9-inch (15,670 mm) rifling.
  • Load mechanism: Welin breech block opening downwards
  • Max range: AP 45°: 36,900 yd (33,700 m)

Secondary: 8×2 5-in/38 Mk 12 DP

Standard dual twin turret, with the standard 5-in/38. The sixteen consisted in eight turrets in all for USS North Carolina due to her large and modified conning tower/bridge ensemble. The rest of the class had twenty barrels in all, so five twin turrets on either side, three on the main weather deck, two superfiring in intervals to procure the best possible arc of fire without interruption. Combined with Mk.4 and later Mk.12 FCS radars, and VT fused shells, this combination proved very efficient, and claimed dozens of enemy planes in several occasions (see career). They had also setting for surface targets shelling, something used in several occasions during the island hopping campaign.

  • Guns Weight 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) without breech.
  • Mount weight 156,295 pounds (70,894 kg).
  • 223.8 in (5,680 mm) long overall
  • Bore length 190 in (4,800 mm)
  • Rifling length 157.2 in (3,990 mm).
  • Muzzle velocity 2,500–2,600 ft/s (760–790 m/s)
  • Barrel life 4,600 rounds
  • Depression/Elevation −15 and 85° at 15° per second.
  • Traverse 150-150° on either side for battery guns (with interruptor gear)
  • Traverse 80-80 degrees for deck turrets, both at 25°/sec.
  • Rate of fire as designed 15 rpm
  • Vertical sliding-wedge with 15 in (38 cm) recoil
  • 127×680mmR 53-55 lb (24-25 kg) shell

AA armament: 40 and 20 mm


Secondary Battery Control and light AA guns aboard_the South Dakota in the Atlantic 1943

At the end of their career, these ships had no less than seventy-six 40 mm/70 (1.6 in) *1943 AA guns in nineteen quad mounts, mostly placed around the main superstructure, and benifiting from an excellent arc of fire due to the compacity of this central ensemble bridge/FCS-funnel-rear FCS. So good this arrangement was taken for the rebuilding of the Pearl Harbor damaged battleships. These were standard Bofors types. See on navweaps.

Sixty-seven single 20 mm (0.8 in)/70 Oerlikon AA guns were also provided. They were arranged in twin, but mostly single mounts, under shields, and can be operated if needed by a single man, when fitted with a drum magazine. In combat, dedicated loaders ran from one to another gun to provide extra drums (stored in normal conditions around the internal face of these mounts) …and buckets of freshwater to pour on the red hot barrels. By their repective range, this steel curtain deleted any threat that went through the formidable 5-in/38 bursts.

At the start of her career, BB-57 however was planned with seven quad 28mm/75 Mk 1 – so 28 in all- (“Chicago Piano”) light AA guns and sixteen single 20mm/70 Mk 4, completed by eight single cal.05 Browning M1920 12.7mm/90 AA heavy machine guns. Needless to say, this armament was change at the first refit. BB 58 at the start had six quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, and sixteen 20mm/70 Mk 4, about the same as on the North Carolina class. This standard armament was repeated for BB 59 and BB 60.

It grew overtime: USS South Dakota for exampe was reamed only February 1943, with still five quad 28mm/75, but one 20mm/70 was added and thirteen quad 40mm/56 Mk 1.2. USS Massachusets at the same time received two quadruple 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, and thirteen 20mm/70 Mk 4. In 1946, BB60 (Alabama) had 5-in/38 Mk 28, twelve quad 40mm/60 Mk 2, and fifty-six 20mm/70 Mk 10.

Fire control and Radars


USS Alabama, bridge view

The South Dakota class battleships had the best radar technology available when completed. They comprised all SC air-search radars and on completion, replaced by the SK and SK-2 air-search radar. Main battery directors were assisted by Mark 3 fire-control radars, later Mark 8 from late 1942 (when their active life really started). They out-spotted the Imperial Japanese Navy by a fair margin. The latter still mostly relied on binoculars. Mark 37 directors were provided for the secondary battery, and assisted by the Mark 4 radar, later replaced by the Mark 12/22. In 1946, USS Alabama had a SG, SK-2, SR, SU,radars, two Mk 13, four Mk 12.22 and Mk 27 FCS radars, and the TDY ECM suite.

TDY Jammer in 1944
TDY Jammer in 1944

Onboard seaplanes


Kingfisher onboard USS South Dakota circa 1944, one in repair, the other ready for launch behind.

According to navypedia, these battleships operated the Vought OS2U Kingfisher, the Curtiss SOC Seagull, and Curtiss SO3C Seamew. Likely the order followed was the following: SO3C Seamew as the ship were completed in 1942, then Curtiss SOC Seagull as they were removed as to be so mediocre, and replacement likely in 1944 by the reliable Vought Kingfisher. As for other battleships, they were used both for reconnaissance and artillery spotting.

SO3C-3 Seamwew
SO3C-3 Seamew (impossible to find anyone from the BB-57-60)

Two floatplanes were carried aft, made ready for launch, mounted on the two side hydraulic catapults, and one parked in between them when not in use. There was a single crane at the poop to place the seaplanes on the catapults and recover them at sea.

Construction

BB-57 (South Dakota) was laid on 5 July 1939 at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation (Camden, New Jersey), launched on 7 June 1941, commissioned on 20 March 1942.
BB-58 was laid on 20 September 1939 (Newport News, Virginia), launched on 21 November 1941, commissioned on 30 April 1942
BB-59 (USS Massachusetts) third of the class, was laid down on 20 July 1939 (Fore River Shipyard, Bethlehem Steel, Quincy, Massachusetts), launched on 23 September 1941, commissioned on 12 May 1942.
BB-60 was laid down on 1 February 1940 in Norfolk Navy Yard, launched on 16 February 1942, commissioned on 16 August.



USS Alabama in construction 1941 and launch.

Wartime Modifications


USS South Dakota DPLA (modifications details, ONI, February 1943, Ny NYD)

USS South Dakota received a series of modifications through her wartime career, mostly modifications and additions for her anti-aircraft battery, and modernization/addition of her electronics suite (radar sets). First came the fitting of the SC air search radar ordered in 1941, on her fore mast, later replaced by the SK type while the SG surface search radar was installed, on the forward superstructure. A second SG set was latter added to her main mast, after the Guadalcanal campaign experience. This was all done between late 1942 and early 1943.

Also by late 1942, a Mark 3 fire control radar was mounted on her conning tower to direct her main battery. Mark 4 radars were also installed for her secondary battery. The Mark 3 were replaced by Mark 8 FC radars while additional Mark 4 radars were added too until all replaced by Mark 12/22 sets. Late into the war, she also received a TDY jammer. The latter was basically a radar jamming system composed of an AKJ antenna working at 90-175mc, later upgraded to AKM-AJY types for working at 275 to 800 mc, and a larger bedframe AKL antenna working at 146-275 Mc.

In 1945 she had her spotting scopes replaced with Mark 27 microwave radar sets, in addtion to the new SR air search radar combined with its SK-2 caracteristic air search dish. Meanwhile her AA, still “stock” in November 1942, was modernized with 40 mm quadruple mounts and extra 20 mm ones, notably by February 1943, but 1945, some 20mm were removed. No specific upgrades were made postwar, at least after 1946.

Cold war carrer and proposed Conversions (1943)

Superb colorization of USS South Dakota in August 1943 by Irootoko Jr.
Superb colorization of USS South Dakota in August 1943 by Irootoko Jr.

TF 38’s air groups were already in the air on the morning of 15 August, when Halsey learnt of Japan’s unconditional surrender. All aircraft were recalled, USS South Dakota receiving order to cease offensive operations at 06:58 while on the Japanes side, orders had a hard time to be commiunicated, so air attack went on later that day, all shot down by CAP aircraft, which also tried to signal the end of hostility how they could. USS South Dakota did not had the occasion so fire in anger that or the following days, and after refueling and replenishing she was in Sagami Wan on 27 August to cover the initial occupation of Japan.

Afterwards she moved to Tokyo Bay with Halsey and Nimitz onboard to great the crew, Nimitz remaining a bit longer, leaving for the battleship Missouri to prepare the formal surrender ceremony for the 2 September. He would returned later on BB 57 for a trip to Guam on 3 September with South Dakota sailing alongside Missouri, transferingr Halsey and his staff back on boardn becoming his flagship for the duration of the occupation until 20 September, then transferred to Pearl Harbor.


Mount Fujiyama as seen from the SOUTH DAKOTA, Tokyo Bay

USS South Dakota made it back to the United States with other ships, after stopping in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, picking up some 600 sailors, soldiers, and marines for the trip home, dispersed to different ports. She was in San Francisco on 27 October, again visited by Halsey for Navy Day celebrations and Governor Earl Warren. Next she headed for San Pedro, California and expected provisional deactivation.

On 3 January 1946 however she was reactivated and steamed for the Atlantic via the Panama Canal, heading for Philadelphia Navy Yard (20 January) for an overhaul and final preparation for full, long terme reserve and deactivation. On 21 February, RADM Thomas R. Cooley had her as hios flagship, Fourth Fleet (reserve). He was replaced by Vice Admiral Charles H. McMorris, transferred on USS Oregon City while the Fourth Fleet was dissolved on 1 January 1947. She was eventually fully decommissioned on 31 January, laid up, Atlantic Reserve Fleet.

On 26 July 1954, a conversion proposal was ordered by the Chairman of the Ship Characteristics Board. To followe the new task forces, speed was considered paramount and to be on par with the Iowa class, 31 knots was desired. The design staff came out with a radical proposal: Remove entirely the aft turret and installed in its place a set of improved steam turbines/gas turbines. On paper, the rating was to be 256,000 shaft horsepower (190 MW), which gave 31 knots after calculations. In March 1954 already she was to have her secondary batteries modernized, with ten twin 3-inch (76 mm) proposed, but it was dropped.

Though, the hull form was criticized, especially on the aft section, too bulky with the aft turret, now absent, so authorizing a radical thinning down there. Larger propellers were also required to cope with the new shape, four shafts being been completely rebuilt. In the end, for the US taxpayer this was satly: $40,000,000 were estimated as basic conversion cost per ship, not even including the total reactivation of the ship and upgrades in both electrical and combat systems. Needless to say, the Congress had the entire program halted.

Later the USN came with another, even more outlandish plan to convert her as guided missile battleship around 1956–1957. There again, conversions expected cost were deemed too prohibitive: Her main battery turrets removed, one twin RIM-8 Talos missile launcher installed forward, two RIM-24 Tartar launchers installed aft and brand new anti-submarine suite, new electronics, hangar and helicopters for $120 million.

BB 57 was listed for another fifteen years and then stricken on 1 June 1962. Sold for BU to the Lipsett Division, Luria Brothers and Co.scheduled on 25 October she was towed from Philadelphia in November to Kearny in New Jersey but some parts were saved and retained by the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce,installed in a memorial there on 7 September 1969. Other items were saved and place din other locations, notably in Willard Park.

On her side, USS Indiana (BB 58) departed for home on 15 September from Tokyo Bay, and upon arrival in San Francisco on the 29th, she entered the drydock at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, fore repairs and maintenance lasting until 31 October. From there she headed for Puget Sound, and her ammunition plus other flammable material were unloaded. She entered the drydock on 15 November for deactivation. From 29 March 1946, with Postwar Plan N°2, she was transferred to the Pacific Reserve Fleet with her sister USS Alabama.

Modernization plans, like her sisters, went to nil. She stayed at Bremerton, Washington until 27 June 1961 Admiral Arleigh Burke (Chief of Naval Operations) designated her as eligible for disposal, so she was stricken by recommendation on 1 May 1962, by Fred Korth, the Secretary of the Navy, effective on 1 June. She sold for scrap on 6 September 1963, BU. Several parts were saved, between the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Heslar Naval Armory in Indianapolis,Shortridge High School, Memorial Stadium, Indiana University as other parts. A dedication ceremony was held with the last veterans on September 2013.

After the Japanese surrender on 15 August, USS Massachusetts (BB 59) departed on 1 September for Puget Sound, being overhauled there until 28 January 1946, and she was berthed south of San Francisco, California, before sailing to Hampton Roads, Virginia, being there on 22 April. She was decommissioned on 27 March 1947 at Norfolk, Virginia, assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Placed in reserve to modernization, there were planed made for future active service that went to nil. She was stricken on 1 June 1962, 5,000 tons of equipment removed for other vessels, which included her explosive-driven catapults, relocated on coastal naval stations. She was not BU however, but became a museum ships (see later).

BB 60 on her side was still in Tokyo Bay on 5 September, she embarked crew-members ashore and departed on 20 September for Okinawa, embarking 700 men (most being Seabees) as part of “Magic Carpet” arriving in San Francisco on 15 October. She remained there for Navy Day celebrations on 27 October, visited by some 9,000. Next she was in San Pedro, California until 27 February 1946 and departed for an overhaul at Puget Sound and deactivation. After several modernization plans went nowhere, decommissioned from 9 January 1947 at NAS Seattle, Pacific Reserve Fleet (Bremerton, Washington), she was scheduled to be sold for BU after being stricken on 1st June 1962. Instead, she was repurchased by former veterans like her sister ship (see below).

USS Massachusetts Museum at Battleship Cove

USS_Massachusetts-memorial

The Massachusetts Memorial Committee was a creation by veterans, which successfully raised enough money to repurchase her from the Navy: On 8 June 1965, the Navy transferred ownership to the state of Massachusetts.On 14 August, she was anchored in Fall River (now Battleship Cove) permanently, together with the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., Gato class submarine USS Lionfish, and much later the East German corvette Hiddensee, two PT boats and other vessels for a one-day long visit. Some parts were repurchased and a new paint coasting was made for long term preservation.

In the early 1980s however, the USN reactivated the four Iowa clas and needed parts urgently. Many were taken from the preserved BB 59 and BB 60 to restore them. Engine room components mostly. USS Massachusetts became nevertheless a National Historic Landmark, and added to the National Register of Historic Places on 14 January 1986. Externally she however remained in her wartime configuration, to the delights on visitors.

Main guns
Main guns

From November 1998, she was closed to the public to be shipped to Boston and her overhaul. The 300-mile (480 km) trip under tow by tugs up to Boston were she arrived on 7 November, in Drydock Number 3. After inspection it was decided to add steel plating along her hull for sea water corrosion, deal with leaking rivets and repair her propellers. 225,000 pounds (102,000 kg) of steel were added to her hull with Red Hand Epoxy to encase and protect her hull and she was underway again on March 1999, towed back to Battleship Cove, on 13 March were a ceremony was held. The museum is open from 10-3 every Wednesday-Sunday, tickets can be purchased online.


Twin 20mm gun mount aboard USS Massachusetts today

As a Museum ship at Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

This time, the offensive to have her preserved was led by the state of Alabama first. The “USS Alabama Battleship Commission” was established with the help of many vets, by Governor George Wallace, which signed a law on 12 September 1963 creating the organization to raised funds, and $800,000 were obtained, mostly from children in the state and bugger funds from corporate donations. On 16 June 1964 she was recalled, under conditions the Navy would repurchase her for a recomm. in the event of an emergency.

Handed over on 7 July to the state, in Seattle, she towed to Mobile to be restored as a museum, making her last Panama Canal crossing. She was escorted there by USS Lexington through the Gulf of Mexico. Arrived on 14 September after a record 5,600 nautical miles (10,400 km; 6,400 mi) under tow, she had permanent berth not yet been completed, waiting until the end of the month. Preparations for visitors including sandblasting painted surfaces, applying a primer, re-painting the entire ship, then providing a clear display trip inside with panels and displays; She reopened on 9 January 1965.

Like her sister she was cannibalized in the early 1980s to restore the Iowas, became a National Historic Landmark in 1986 and was used as a set for several movies lik “Under Siege” (1992) and “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” in 2016. In 2002 it was agreed to finance the removal of 2.7 million gallons of seawater contaminated with fuel oil, which required erecting a cofferdam, pumping it dry to allowed workers doing their job, instead as having the vessl carried to a drydock. USS Drum (aslo part of the musem) was was moved on land display for the same reason. The battleship was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 and repairs were done by Volkert, Inc.


Author’s illustration of USS Alabama at Guadalcanal in December 1942 (More HD to come)

South Dakota class specifications

Dimensions 203 x 33 x 11m (666 ft x 108 ft 2 in x 36 ft 2 in)
Displacement 35,000 long tons standard, 44,519 tons FL
Crew 1,693 in 1942, 2,634 in 1945
Propulsion 2 shafts GS turbines, 8 WT boilers, 130,000 ihp
Speed 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph, as designed)
Range 15,000 nmi (28,000 km; 17,000 mi) at 15 knots
Armament 3×3 16-in, 8×2/10×2 5-in/38, 76x 40mm, 67x 20mm AA, 3 seaplanes
Armor Belt 12.2 in, Bulkheads 11.3 in, Barbettes 17.3 in, Turrets 18 in, CT 16 in, Decks 1.5 in

Read More/Src

Books

Gardiner, Robert. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905
Friedman, Norman (1986). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.
Garzke, William H.; Dulin, Robert O. Jr. (1995). Battleships: United States Battleships 1935–1992 (Rev. and updated ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press.
Morss, Strafford (2006a). “The Washington Naval Treaty and the Armor and Protective Plating of the USS Massachusetts: Part I-II”. Warship International.
Miller, David (2004). The Illustrated Directory of Warships from 1860 to the present day. London: Salamander Books.
Morss, Strafford (December 2010). “Excellence Under Stress: A Comparison of Machinery Installations of North Carolina, South Dakota, Iowa, and Montana Class Battleships: Part I-II”. Warship International.
Morss, Strafford (2004). “The Machinery Arrangements of USS Massachusetts (BB-59)”. Warship International.
Frank, Richard B. (1990). Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle. Marmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Friedman, Norman (2014). Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History.
Hornfischer, James D. (2011). Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal.Bantam Books
Mooney, James L., ed. (1976). Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: Historical Sketches—Letters R through S. Vol. VI. Washington DC
Morison, Samuel Eliot (1956). The Atlantic Battle Won. May 1943 – May 1945. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. X (2001 reprint ed.)
Rajtar, Steve & Franks, Frances Elizabeth (2010). War Monuments, Museums and Library Collections of 20th Century Conflicts: A Directory of United States Sites.
Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two. Naval Institute Press
Terzibaschitsch, Stefan (1977). Battleships of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Munich: J.F. Lehmanns Verlag.
Wilmott, H. P. (2015). The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action. Bloomington
Tomblin, Barbara (2004). With Utmost Spirit: Allied Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, 1942–1945. University Press of Kentucky
Wilmott, H. P. (2015). The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Morss, Strafford (1988). “Re: The Battleship Massachusetts WI No. 4, 1986”. Warship International. XXV (4)
O’Hara, Vincent P. (2021). Battleship Massachusetts. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Whitaker, Kent (2013). USS Alabama. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing.
Battleship USS Alabama: BB-60 Golden Anniversary History. Paducah: Turner Publishing Company. 1993.

Links


Construction of South Dakota’s bridge during completion in Camden, January 1942.

JSTOR: The Machinery Arrangements of USS “Massachusetts” (BB-59) by Strafford Morss

JSTOR: Excellence Under Stress: A Comparison of Machinery Installations of “North Carolina, South Dakota, Iowa” and “Montana” Class Battleships: Part I, by S. Moss

JSTOR: Part II of the above.

South Dakota On navsource.org

Indian On navsource.org

South Dakota on history.navy.mil

Battleships : United States battleships, 1935-1992 by Garzke, William H; Dulin, Robert O.

Guadalcanal : the definitive account of the landmark battle by Frank, Richard B

War Service Fuel Consumption of U.S. Naval Surface Vessels – FTP 218, Commander in Chief HQ 1945

U.S.S. SOUTH DAKOTA(BB 57) WAR DAMAGE REPORT Puget Sound NyD 19 JUNE 1944

Massachsetts on history.navy.mil

South Dakota on hnsa.org
Alabama on hazegray.org
Alabama on navsource.org
Alabama on hnsa.org

Damage report on hyperwar ibiblio.org
Video: Battleship X

USS South Dakota’s stern floatplanes

Model kits

A lot of choices, at all scales. Here Trumpeter 1:700

Massachusetts hull-the Scale Shipyard 1:96, Alabama Oriol (Oriel) 1:200, USS Massachusetts BB-59 (1945) Blue Water Navy 1:350, USS Alabama/Massa Trumpeter 1:350, SDakota Yankee Modelworks 1:350, USS Indiana Tamiya 1:500, USS South Dakota “Super Detail” Limited Edition Hasegawa 1:700, Alabama and others Hasegawa 1:400, the class on Pit-Road 1:700, Trumpeter 1:700, VEE HOBBY 1:700, Revell 1:720, Hansa/Xp forge/Bandai 1:1200, Navis 1:1250, Fujumi 1:3000.

South Dakota general query scalemates
Revell 1:720 full doc pdf
Indiana 1:1250 On Steel Navy

Gallery

Maritime journal extract about 1942 battleships typesUss_massachusetts_bbUSS_Saugatuck_AO-75_refueling_Massachusetts_1945USS_Massachusetts_refuels_Fletcher_class_destroyers_1945

USS_Massachusetts_1942_Boston_HarborUSS Massachusetts off Casablanca 1942USS_Massachusetts_BB-59USS_Saratoga_underway_with_escorts_circa_1942-1943USS Knapp (DD-653) escorts USS Alabama (BB-60) in April 1944USS_Alabama_underway_in_the_Pacific_c1944USS_Alabama_recognition_photoAlabama-underway-overhead-sternBSD6-submerged-repaired-USS-South-DakotaUSS_Indiana_resupply-at-sea

The South Dakota class in service

USS South Dakota (BB 57)

When completed, Captain Thomas Leigh Gatch took command of USS South Dakota. On 16-17 May she did machinery tests in the Delaware river. Fitting out work lasted until 3 June and on the 6th she started her shakedown cruise escorted by four destroyers due to the presence of German U-boats off the east coast. She trained until 17 July and departed for Hampton Roads in Virginia, and was back north to meet USS Washington off Maine, Casco Bay (21 July) for firing practice. She was back in Philadelphia and prepared for active duty, being ready on 26 July.

Unlike some of her sister ships, she was sent directly to the Pacific where she spent all her career. Admiral Ernest King as the battle of the Solomons develped called USS South Dakota, Washington and Juneau escorted by six destroyers to the south Pacific. Here, she became BatDiv 6 (Rear Admiral Willis Lee, from 14 August, hoisting his flag aboard South Dakota. She had an engine breakdown while en route and went through the Caribbean, Panama and reached Guadalcanal later in August, metting USS Juneau to proceed to Nukuʻalofa in Tongatapu attoll (4 September 1942). On the 6th while en route after refuelling she struck an uncharted reef in the Lahai Passage. Divers from Vestal discovered a 150-foot (46 m) mushed plating, which was patched so she can proceed to Pearl Harbor on 12 September for permanent repairs.

There, she met USS Saratoga, also in repairs since a submarine attack south of Guadalcanal. On 28 September she was underway again wth some AA modifications and additions. After provisioning and some training she departed Pearl on 12 October, making anti-aircraft training until 14 October and heading with Task Force 16 (USS Enterprise, 9 destroyers), ordered by Vice Admiral William F. Halse to make a sweep off Santa Cruz Islands before heading for the Solomons, joined her by TF 17 (USS Hornet), combined into TF 61 (RADM Thomas C. Kinkaid) and supported by Lee’s TF 64 (USS South Dakota, Washington, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, 6 destroyers). This was her first battle.

Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands


USS_South_Dakota_BB-57_underway_at_high_speed_during_the_Battle_of_the_Santa_Cruz_Islands_26_October_1942

On 25 October, reconnaissance planes spotted each other’s fleets and USS South Dakota’s prepared for night surface action that never happened, however they were spotted by the Japanese east of Rennell Island and thus, the IJN was drawn to them and away from TF 61. Air strikes followed, USS Hornet was seriously damaged and withdrawn while USS South Dakota and Enterprise had no damage, until the second strike aimed at CV-5 after 10:00. USS South Dakota provided heavy AA fire and claimed 7 aircraft (assisted).


She managed to beat also the third wave, when at 11:48, several Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers targeted South Dakota, forcing her quick evading manoeuvers, in which she dodged all torpedoes, shoot down one “Kate”. The fourth strike saw her attack by a group of Aichi D3A dive bombers, forcin her again to manoeuvr hard over, but they all missed but one, hitting her forward main battery turret roof. Fortunately, the armor stood the schock. There was concussion inside though, damaging some parts and knowcking the crew on the floor. Captain Gatch, was wounded by a bomb splinter, and thrown into the wall by the concussion. Two were killed, fifty wounded by Splinters which had the left gun of “B” turret damaged.


B5N2 flies near USS South Dakota Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands 26 October 1942

Miscommunication while transferring steering control to the station caused her to haul out of formation briefly, heading dangerously at USS Enterprise before it was corrected. As night fell the battle was mostly over. USS South Dakota’s gunners claimed in all 26 Japanese aircraft, a remarkable tally that was later corrected to 13, and for the entire TF 16 combined. Some of her wounded sailors were casualties from A6M Zero fighter‘s strafing attacks. South Dakota’s AA fire was nonetheless exaggerated by the press. But at this point, her unassisted 5-inch guns, her inadequate 1.1-inch “Chicago Piano” had a hard time in low clouds. Apparently 20 mm guns made 2/3 of these claims in the action report.

While en route to Nouméa, New caledonia, for resplenishing, USS South Dakota avoid a submarine attack and collided with USS Mahan on 30 October. Mahan’s bow struck her to port, damaging an area close to Frame 14. Vestal repaired later South Dakota’s hull and battle damage from Santa Cruz. On 6 November she was at sea again and since only USS Enterprise was left operational in the Pacific, Halsey scrambled USS Washington, to join USS South Dakota to escort her as TF 16, reibforced with USS Northampton, and 9 destroyers back from 11 November to Guadalcanal. USS Pensacola plus her own two escorting destroyers on the 12th. The following day, warned of an incoming attack, Halsey detached South Dakota, Washington, and 4 destroyers (TG 16.3) under Lee’s command to defend the area, moroeover now that USS Enterprise had her forward elevator damaged and kept south in backup. A Battle soon developed:

Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal


USS South Dakota two destroyers alongside USS Prometheus (AR-3) November 1942

Lee’s just renamed TF 64 tried to find Admiral Nobutake Kondō’s Kirishima, Takao and Atago, screen by destroyers on 14 November, rounded south of Guadalcanal the western end to block his expected path, when spotted by an aircraft, but was improperly reported as a much larger force, confusing Kurita. He was in turn spotted off Savo Island. The battle started at 23:00 with a destroyers brawl, those under Shintarō Hashimoto ahead of Kondō spotting Lee’s shiops, reporting and moved to attack. Conversely they were spotted by USS Washington’s search radar (a rare early case where the “eyeball Mk.I” defeated USN radar). Hashimoto’s cruisers prepared for attack, and Lee ordered Washington and South Dajot to engage when ready.

USS Washington fired first at 23:17 from 18,000 yd (16,000 m) and next South Dakota, with her six forward guns due to her still faulty aft turret from Santa Cruz. Radars and optical directors were used for this night fight with efficicacy and South Dakota first targeted IJN Shikinami but missed, which turned away, before firing on Ayanami and Uranami, claiming hits on both which was untrue. USS Washington finished off Uranami quickly with her secondaries.

At 23:30, an error in the electrical switchboard room had USS South Dakota left without power, a catastrophy given the circumstances ! Her radar systems were off, but not her artillery, although she was now blind. Hashimoto’s successes on the US destroyers gave him leeway to approach while to keeping clear of the burning destroyers wrecks, the unlucky battleship was backlited, highlighted to Japanese spotters, which opened fore at 23:40 while South Dakota tried to engage them with her rear turret, accidentally setting a Kingfisher on fire, the rest being destroyed for good by her second salvo. Power was at last restored after frantic efforts, so she can accurately direct her fire for five salvoes atf 5,800 yd (5,300 m).

Something not anticipated is that the blast was enough to cnock other electrical parts so that her gunnery and search abilities were again shut for five minutes. Her search radar still picked up many targets ahead, while the latter turned to launch a massive “long lance” volley at South Dakota, but missed. While at 5,000 yd (4,600 m) she was in a midst oh hell, firing all her guns, inclusing the secondaries and even AA while illuminated by Japanese destroyers and having Kondo’s full concentrated fire on her. [insert metal concert here] She received 27 hits, with 14-inch shell from Kirishima. Her rear turret was hit but resisted, having its training gear jammed however.

Most hits were medium-caliber from cruisers (still 8-in inches) and destroyers imed at her largely unprotected superstructure. The radar sets were knock out of action, her radio systems were destroyed as many other systems, plus losses of lives and shattered bridges. She was left as her captain put it later, “deaf, dumb, blind, and impotent.” USS Washington in the meantime, left unengaged, came back with a vengeance on Kirishima while South Dakota still fired two or three salvos at a cruiser before targeting Kirishima, with five salvos until her main gun directing systems were destroyed.


Guadalcanal Damage report, USS South Dakota

Her secondary battery all the time barked furiously while Washington’s accurate main battery fire started to badly maul Kirishima, so shortly after midnight, Kondō turned his remaining ships in a second attempted torpedo attack. Kirishima was now out of control and 00:05, fire ceased wheras South Dakota at 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph) was in hot pursuit, ceasing fire herself at 00:08. Gatch all this time could not communicate with Lee and by default, turned south to disengage.

This was time for damage assessment: -Hit below the waterline (minor flooding, list 0.75 degrees) quickly corrected. Fires in the superstrcuture, mastered at 01:55. Radio repaired at 02:00, contact restored with USS Washington. Captain Gatch informed Lee also of his condition and the latter ordered him to withdraw at high speed. The crew suffered the most, with 40 killed, 180 wounded including a 12-year-old booy named Calvin Graham who lied about his age to enlist and became the youngest American in combat. The battleship received her first Navy Unit Commendation and at 09:00 AM on the following say she was reunited with USS Washington, Benham and Gwin.

Back to Nouméa on 17 November she was repaired by USS Prometheus until 25 November and new spotter floatplanes. On 25 November she was underway to Nukuʻalofa with two destroyers, refuelked on the 27th, then proceeded to the Panama Canal, arrived there on 11 December, refueled on the Pacific side and headed for New York, through the Carribean, with another two destroyers escorting for U-Boats. From 18 December dry-dock repairs started at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, followed by a refit. The press came to laud the battleship (called “Battleship X” for satefy) for her epic fight, so much so she was credited with the victory of Guadalcanal instead of USS Washington.

Arctic service


USS South Dakota at Scapa Flow 1943


Anchored in Iceland, 24 June 1943

Captain Lynde D. McCormick took command and replaced Gatch on 1 February 1943. The battleship was back at sea on 25 February 1943, for a round of sea trials, post-refit fixes and intense training with new recruits in March, in the north Atlantic and with USS Ranger. She was assigned to reinforce the Home Fleet for the planned Allied invasion of Sicily, but she protected an Arctic supply convoy due to a strong German squadron there, with Tirpitz and Scharnhorst in Norway. She escorted TF 61 with her sister Alabama and five destroyers, departing Scapa flow on 19 May with HMS Anson and Duke of York, operating with them for three months.

Another protected convoy was done un June, and in July 1943, they were detached to make a demonstration, hopefully distracting German attention while Operation Husky took place. By late July, USS South Dakota was recalled to Norfolk escorted by five destroyers and became there RADM Edward Hanson’s BatDiv 9 flagship. This was the end of her wartime Atlantic service.

Marshall/Gilberts campaign


In Ulithi

Departing Norfolk on 21 August, she reached Efate on 14 September, Fiji on 7 November, and the rest of BatDiv 9 in support of TG 50.1 (‘Carrier Interceptor Group’). She was committed in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, with Operation Galvanic, Tarawa in November 1943. On the 19th she covered the CVs raids on Tarawa in advance. In December she fell under command of Lee’s TG 50.4 (Alabama, Washington, North Carolina) in protection of two CVs. The attack of Nauru was preceded by a reinfocement on 6 December by the two other sister ships, USS Indiana and Massachusetts, making TG 50.8. Nauru was pummeled for two days. Back to Efate preparations started and South Dakota was supplied by the William Ward Burrows on 5 January before sailing out with Indiana and for gunnery training on the 16th.

OS2U recovery in rough sea
OS2U recovery in rough sea

Operation Flintlock was next (The invasion of the Marshalls), with TG 37.2, Third Fleet: She operated with her three sisters and USS Washington plus six destroyers, reaching Funafuti through Heavy seas (4 men injured, one washed overboard) and took theior protection duty of USS Bunker Hill and Monterey on the way, now renamed TF 58.8, Fifth Fleet (fast carrier task force). On 25 January, South Dakota, North Carolina, and Alabama were detached as TG 58.2.2 and reached Roi-Namur (29 January) for carriers strikes and the followuing day, USS South Dakota approached to shell the islands for the landing a day later.

After a supply run to Majuro on 4-12 February she was assiged to Operation Hailstone (Truk Raid). This wa on their way to the Mariana Islands, on 20 February. Her 5-inch gunners claimed their longest range kill on 21 February and others on 22 February. While raids on Saipan, Guam, and Tinian took place, the battleship put up a staunch AA denfence duing numerous air attack, starting on 23 February, notably by Mitsubishi G4Ms. USS South Dakota claimed two certain, one probable, when they took her as target.


Battleship “X” – The press praising USS South Dakota for “saving Guadalcanal”.

Still with USS Alabama, she made a sweep detached as TG 58.2 and were back to Majuro on 26 February, departing on 22 March for Operation Desecrate One, in the western Carolines: The carriers attacked Palau, Yap, Woleai, and Ulithi, the seaward flank to ensure landings at Hollandia, New Guinea. South Dakota joined TG 58.9, screening the main carrier task force against a possible incursion of Japanese Combined Fleet. On 27 March, three carriers from TG 36.1 joined TG 58.2, which became the 58.3 (“Mighty 58”).

BB 57’s air search radar spotted an unrecoignisable formation in the darkness, left unengaged by doubt. These were Japanese and it happened they too, failed to engage that night. On 30 March-1 April raids took place, and during an air attack, USS South Dakota engaged two waves without scoring a hit. Bad weather prevented further air operations and on 6 April, the fleet was back to Majuro, participating later to Operation Desecrate Two along the coast of New Guinea combined with a landing at Aitape.

On 19 April, USS South Dakota radar-picked up a Japanese aircraf shadowing the fleet, promtly eliminated by a CAP Hellcat. Carriers strikes were devastating on the 21st, destroying 130 aircraft and numerous ships plus installations. After another supply run at Majuro, Truk was struck again on 29-30 April and on 1 May, Lee wanted his fast battleships (with South Dakota) for a detached group called TG 58.7 to rain steel on Pohnpei. South Dakota, Indiana, and North Carolina flattened the island, briefly disengaging aftr a submarine was reported. They were back to Majuro on 4 May while South Dakota made extra shooting practice on 15–16 May.

Marianas campaign

USS South Dakota out of Puget Sound
USS South Dakota out of Puget Sound

TF 58 made a new sortie on 6 June for Operation Forager, (invasion of the Mariana Islands) and South Dakota was in TG 58.7 (RADM Lee) with six other battleships, four heavy cruisers, 13 destroyers, escorting the fast carrier strike force. The operation started on 11 June and Lee’s ships had to create an AA barrage in order to counter several Japanese counter-attacks, helped by the BBs air search radars used to vector fighters from the CAP (notably night fighters versions of the Hellcat).

USS South Dakota’s 5-inch guns the first night claimed two attackers and on 13 June, she shelled Saipan and Tinian before Adm. Oldenburg’s old battleships of the bombardment group arrived the following day. Japanese artillery was powerless to counter them and was destroyed. South Dakota concentrated around Tanapag Harbor, pouring fire for six hours straight and hitting two transports. Accuracy remained poor however due to lack of experienced with shore bombardment. In fact most defenses remained largely untouched.

On 14 June, USS South Dakota refueled her escorting destroyers, her Kingfishers away to rescue downed pilots. As Marine landed, Japanese counterattacks started, notably on 15 June, and South Dakota claimed one Kamikaze. She left the area on 17 June to meet the 1st Mobile Fleet spotted through the Philippine Sea. On 18 June, Lee and Mitscher discussed strategies and it was decided to deploy the battleships in screening mode rather than pursue the Japanese fleet in a night action.

Battle of the Philippine Sea


B6N attacking TG 38.3 during the Formosa Air Battle, October_1944

BB 57 was deployed in a 6 nautical miles (11 km; 6.9 mi) diameter circle covering a large area as they met the first IJN scouts on 19 June. South Dakota tracked these by radars until picking up the first wave incoming. This was her that warned the fleet. CAP fighters engaged the bulk of them at 10:43, and those that broke through were dealt with AA fire. A single aYokosuka D4Y dive-bomber, managed to hit South Dakota with its 500-pound (230 kg) bomb; at 10:49. It opened a 8-by-10-foot (2.4 by 3.0 m) deck gash, disabling a 40 mm mount, killing 24, wounding 27.

At 11:50, the second wave saw twenty aircraft evading the CAP and coosing targets: Two Nakajima B6N torpedo bombers attempted a launch at South Dakota, but they soon broke off. At 11:55, she was attacked again, but fierce AA fire had her unscathed. The Third and fourth waves never targeted South Dakota. The evening saw a burial at sea, after emergency repairs. On 20 June, South Dakota saw no action and she spent next days sending her floaplanes looking for downed pilots.

On 22 June she sailed east with TG 58.7, before being transferred to TG 58.2, arriving to Eniwetok on 27 June for supplying arriving there. She headed for Puget Sound via Pearl Harbor, picking up there wounded men back home. She arrived on 10 July and was dry-docked for repairs and refit, until 6 August. After loading ammunition and supplies she started post-refit Sea trials and was assigned to Task Unit 12.5.1 with two destroyers heading to Pearl Harbor on 30 August.

After gunnery exercises off Hawaii until 8 September, and replenishment she departed on the 11 for more maneuvers, developing engines issues. Divers found the blades on three propellers bent or chipped and she had to be dry docked in Pearl Harbor again until 16 September. After new training operations she joined TU 12.5.1 on 18 September in Manus Island (New Guinea), then Ulithi, the new advance base, reporting to Third Fleet

Okinawa and Formosa raids

On 3 October, the 3rd fleet narrowly escaped a typhoon in Ulithi, and BB 57 was hit by the store ship Aldebaran, drifting on her, on her port side. Damage was light and on 5 October she became once again flagship of BatDiv 9 (RADM Hanson). TF 38 sortied under Mitscher’s command to launch striked on Okinawa Islands from 10 October. The 11 had USS Iowa picking up a radar contact, confirmed by South Dakota: Fighters mived in interception and spotted a single Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber, shadowing the task force.

After a feint toward the Philippines, the fleet veered toward Formosa (Taiwan) fo the first of several massive air raids, starting on 12 October. A G4M dropped chaff in order to interfere with the fleet’s search radars, mildly effective. CAP fighters intercepted three waves, many of which went through and hit the fleet: USS South Dakota started fire at 19:03 but was silent during the second wave. At 22:31, she claimed one bomber, and continue her defence until midnight.

Back to a safer position on 13 October, they still saw several waves of G4M bombers attacking. Armed with two torpedoes, they managed to hit USS Canberra. USS South Dakota also had to maneuver hard over to dodge several attacks. The carriers launched more strikes meanwhiles and protected Canberra to safety. Lookouts on South Dakota spotted seven B6Ns approaching the fleet on the 14th and claimed one.

Philippines campaign: Battle of Leyte Gulf


USS South Dakota in the ABSD6 floating drydock

The landing on Leyte on 17 October saw Operation Shō-Gō 1 launch, a complicated and clever massive gamble of a counter-attack. USS South Dakota on her part had Commodore Arleigh Burke, Mitscher’s Chief of Staff, suggesting she was detached alonh her sister Massachusetts and two light cruisers plus destroyers to foray ahead of the carriers, expecting a night action with the Japanese Northern Force. RADM Forrest Sherman commanded the detached force but Halsey intervened and overruled Mitscher. Mitscher created TF 34, with South Dakota and five fast battleships, 7 cruisers, and 18 destroyers, under Vice Admiral Lee in hot pursuit. TF 34 was depliyed ahead of the carriers as main screen.

On 25 October, morning, Mitscher spotted and attacked Northern Force (Battle off Cape Engaño) and all four carriers were sunk, as well as the hybrid carriers Ise and Hyuga badly damaged. Later took place the Battle off Samar, and time passed before Hasley agreed to detach TF 34, which progress south was further hampered by the refuelling of escorting DDs at sea. Fortunately, Taffy managed to repel Kurita well before South Dakota could arrive. Iowa and New Jersey were detached as TG 34.5 in hot pursuit, being much faster than Kurita, through the San Bernardino Strait but arrived too late.

South Dakota refueled at sea on 26 October but also refueled four destroyers the following days, disrupted on 30 October when a lone G4M appeared. On 1 November, she was reassigned to BatDiv 6, and stayed as flagship until replaced by USS Wisconsin later. She stayed in Ulithi and prepared for next operations.

China sea Operations

Underway at sea on 2 November with TG 38.1, she had to support ground forces on Leyte and was tranferred to TG 38.3 to escort four carriers attacking Luzon. She had errant AA rounds making a casualty, wounded seven during the action. South Dakota refuelled destroyers while respnelishing herself and escorted carriers launching another series of raids on 13-14 November before being back to Ulithi on the 17th. Lee being promoted as the Battleships, Pacific Fleet overall commande hoisted his mark onboard South Dakota and TG 38.3 sortied on 22 November with two fleet and two light carriers and the North Carolina-class battleships plus three cruisers, and two desron. They conducted gunnery training dung carrier strikes in the Philippines. They were back in Ulithi on 2 December.

On 11 December, TG 38.3 departed to join TF 38 attacking Mindoro. On 17 December the fleet was hit by Typhoon Cobra. South Dakota remained unscathed and she was back in Ulithi on 24 December. She accompanied a raid on Formosa on 3–4 January 1945, and later strikes on Lingayen on 6-7 January and back to the South China Sea on 10 January, attacking Formosa on 21 January, the Ryukus on the 22th.

Iwo Jima and Okinawa

By early February, the 5th Fleet and fast carrier task force was prepared for the next round of operations at Iwo Jima and Chich Jima. South Dakota was in TG 58.3 with USS New Jersey, USS Alaska and other cruisers. First, a serie of air strikes on Japan and Tokyo area (17 February) was marred byt bad weather while TG 58.3 reinforced the invasion fleet at Iwo Jima (19-22 February) and were recalled for more raids on Japan (25 February), and back to Ulithi. After another raid on Japan, Kyushu (18 March) sawe the battleships in AA escort all along. After Kure, and another refuelling, air strikes started over Okinawa. Massive kamikaze attacks started and battleships AA crew were more than ever on egde. TF 58 groups rotated between Okinawa and replenishment area but South Dakota remained again relatively unscathed.

On 19 April, South Dakota took part in a shore bombardment group to support on southern Okinawa the XXIV Army Corps. She was detached to follwon a raid on the Sakishima Islands, and was later in Leyte replenishing, before coming back for more bombadment missions on Okinawa. On 6 May while replenishing ammunition from USS Wrangell a main battery propellant tank exploded, causing chain explosions and fire. The magazine in number 2 turret was flooded promplty to avoid catastrophy by the crew. 3 were killed, 8 seriously burnt, later died, 24 were less-seriously.

After repairs at Ulithi on 13 May, BB 57 joined back TG 58.4 on the 14th, but was inspected in drydock ABSD-3 showiong that her propellers, shafts, and strut bearings were in pretty bad shape, requiring more repairs until 27 May when she rejoined the 3rd Fleet but started anti-submarine training with two destroyers, main battery and AA practice, night combat for a wee, in the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf. Reassigned to TG 38.1 (16 June) as flagship, RADM John F. Shafroth Jr. she did more AA training until 24 June.

Bombardments of Japan


Bombardment of Kamaishi, Japan 14 July 1945

In preparations for Operation Olympic, landing on Kyushu, TF 38 started a campaign of strikes on the mainland in july-August. While en route, USS South Dakota refuelled her destroyers until arriving on 10 July. While air raids took place, South Dakota was assigned to TU 38.8.1, a bombardment group also comprising USS Indiana and Massachusetts plus two heavy cruisers, sent to shell Kamaishi and its Steel Works. The mountainous terrain there however made targeting difficult. But this was the first time US capital ships directly bombarded the mainland. After six passes, it was estmmated 2.5 month interruption in coke production and pig iron was realized.

TF 38 covered them at their returned during air strikes on Honshu and Hokkaido (15 July). Later they started to operate with the British Pacific Fleet, aliging several battleships of the King Georges V and the French Richelieu, although the latter mostly operated closer to Burma-Malaya. All combined hit Tokyo on 17 July and on 20-22 July USS South Dakota replenished an rejoined the carriers on 24-28 July, then TU 38.8.1 was re-formed (29 July) to shell Hamamatsu (South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts and the British TU 37.1.2 (King George V) and air cover by USS Bon Homme Richard. The shelling started in the night of 29 July until the 30th.

They withdrew with South Dakota in the lead, the TF was dissolved and she was back to TG 38.1 to cover air strikes on Tokyo-Nagoya. They all escaped a typhoon on 31 July-1 August also. After refuelling on 3 August she accompanied the carriers for more strikes, and South Dakota was in TU 34.8.1 for a third bombardment (9 August) with six Allied cruisers and destroyers on Kamaishi. Back to TG 38.1 she supported carriers on the 10th but Shafroth transferred his flag to Alabama on 12 August, South Dakota being reassigned to TG 38.3 for a fourth bombardment when new arrived on 15 August of the cessations of hostilities (see above for the rest of her records). For her service, she won 13 battle stars, the most decorated battleship of WW2.

USS Indiana (BB 58)


USS Indiana 1942

After sea trials in the Chesapeake Bay from 26 to 29 May 1942 and fitting out she departed for Hampton Roads, made last trials on 1st June escorted by DDs USS Charles F. Hughes, Hilary P. Jones, Ingraham, and Woolsey. This was followed by gunnery training and exercises until September before departure for Casco Bay, Maine and more gunnery training. On 9 November she departed for the Panama Canal that day learning the US was at war.

On 14 November, USS Indiana became flagship of Task Group (TG) 2.6, (also USS Columbia, DDs USS Haven, Saufley), proceeding to Tonga on 28 November and transferred to TG 66.6, then heading south to Nouméa (2 December). After combined exercises with TF 64 she replaced USS South Dakota, badly damaged at Guadalcanal, and providing gunfire support there.

By January 1943, she was joined by USS North Carolina and Washington as TF 64 (RADM Willis Lee), covering reinforcement convoys. At some point they covered seven transports with the 25th Infantry Division to Guadalcanal ladnded on 4 January. Being too south for another escort, she missed the Battle of Rennell Island. But she ws detached to taked part to the invasion of New Georgia with Indiana, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, flanking the fleet.

The Marshalls


USS Indiana in a South Pacific harbor

She covered a raid on Marcus Island on on 1 September and was sent to particopate to the invasion of Tarawa on 20–23 November as part of the AA screen of TG 50.2 off Makin Atoll (USS Enterprise, Belleau Wood, Monterey) and her crews claimed their first kill. On 8 December with four other BBs she shelled Nauru: 810 16-inch shells being landed on various Japanese installations. On 1st January 1944, USS Indiana joined TG 37.2, and after gunnery practice with USS South Dakota, later joined by North Carolina, Washington 18 January she sailed to take part in the Marshall Islands campaign.

There, she joined USS Bunker Hill and Monterey at Funafuti on 20 January (TG 58.1) and later joined by USS Enterprise, Yorktown, Belleau Wood, and several more cruisers and destroyers. Further training took place from 25 to 28 January, including more AA practice and she served as target for simulated air attacks, coming from air groups, and flagship of Battleship Division 8 (Rear Admiral Glenn B. Davis). By late January, she prepared for the invasion of Kwajalein, Marshalls.

On 29 January she shelled Maloelap Atoll with USS Washington, coordinated with the Enterprise and Yorktown, and Kwajalein the followung days with Massachusetts and four destroyers, Indiana opening fire at 09:56 on the 31. They sank a submarine chaser and five guard ships and silenced artillery batteries. Unline other vessels, Indiana was not hit by them initially. The bombardment stopped at 14:48 and they departed to join the carriers, having spent 306 main shells, 2,385 secondaries.

She stayed as escort overnight but on 1 February, collided with Washington, being blacked out to prevent Japanese potting. Indiana turned in front of Washington while moving, and spotted the later too late in this moonless, covered night. Indiana was badly damaged, loosing her starboard propeller shaft, her belt armor and torpedo bulkhead mushed and penetrated by Washington. 200 ft (61 m) of armor plating needed repalcement, while Washington had a 20 ft (6.1 m) bow section ripped away, kept in Indiana’s side. 3 were killed, 6 injured aboard Indian. The inquiry later put the blame on Indiana as the captain failed to indicate other vessel her course change.

RADM Davis transferred his flag elsewhere while Indiana departed the folloing day for Majuro. Patched, she sailed to Pearl Harbor on 7 February with UDD Remey and Burden R. Hastings. They arrived on 13 February and she was dry-docked until 7 April. After sea trials, main battery tests for two weeks she was returning for next operations in the central Pacific: The Marianas.

Marianas campaign


USS Indiana at Pearl Harbor on 13 February 1944 after her collision with USS Washington

Indiana arrived in Seeadler Harbor (Manus Island) on 26 April, Davis coming back to make her his flagship, and she was underway with Massachusetts and four destroyers, assigned to TF 58 for Operation Hailstone, on Truk Atoll. On 1st May, she bombarded Pohnpei (Senyavin Islands) for an hour and on the 4th, she resupplied in Majuro, being at sea after peparations and training on 6 June, set for the invasion of Saipan. She sailed with Washington and four destroyers (TU 58.7.3) for the Western Bombardment Unit and on 13 June she fired 584 shells over two days from her main battery.

On 15 June, she repelled a Japanese air strike, doing evasive maneuvers to avoid both torpedo and dive bombers, one torpedo hitting her around 19:10, but failed to detonate. Her AA crew claimed two and controbuted others. She remained on station until warning came that the 1st Mobile Fleet was enroute, which led to the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19-20 June 1944, in which USS Indiana and South Dakota, which reported the initial wave, started at 10:48 while starting evasive maneuvers at 11:50 due to torpedo bomber attacks. One torpedo exploded in her wake.

Her crew claimed a Zero at 12:13, but a burning Nakajima B5N2 eventally crashed into her starboard side. Not damaged she remained on station while fires were extinguished. In total she spent 416 shells from her 5-in guns and 4,832 40 mm plus 9,000 20 mm guns rounds, suffered five dead and a dozen injured, many by shell fragments from other ships AA guns, a “blue on blue fall”.


USS Indiana underway in 1944

On 4 July 1944, her Kingfishers started as SAR mission, picking up stranded pilots at sea, like those from USS Lexington. In early August she was detached to Eniwetok, replenishing and went back on 30 August to join TF 34 as part of TG 38 on 3 September for the Palau Islands campaign. But soon she developed turbines problems and instead went to Seeadler Harbor for repairs, until 4 October. Davis chosed USS Massachusetts as flagship meanwhile. USS Indiana joined USS Idaho, the cruisers USS Indianapolis and Cleveland while going to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 14 October, and then Puget Sound Navy Yard for her major wartime overhaul completed on 30 November 1944. After sea trials, she departed on 6 December for Pearl Harbor, and after training exercises she proceeded on January 1945 to the Pacific for her last campaigns.

Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa

Under orders of RADM Oscar C. Badger II at the head of TU 12.5.2, she was flagship again from 8 January 1945. She departed Pearl with USS Borie and Gwin to Eniwetok, refuelling, and from there to Saipan, joining her unit on 20 January. They set sail for Iwo Jima on 22 January and there BB 58 joined three heavy cruisers, seven destroyers, while her sailor USS Gwin shelled the island a firest time. At 13:17, a lone Nakajima B6N attacked them but was driven off by AA. During the bombardment, the battleship spent 200 main shells, but soon stopped due to poor visibility and she left the area for Ulithi (26 January) while RADM Badger transferred his mark to USS New Jersey. Meanwhile, Indiana spent the rest of January in anti-aircraft training.

She was back on 10 February reassigned to TG 58.1 for a raid on Tokyo, ecorting carriers for their attack on 16 February, including the Bonin Islands and Iwo Jima, or the Tokyo area. Indiana as always sent her Kingfishers for SAR missions all day long. They were back to Ulithi on 3 March and underway back on 14 March. Indiana operated with South Dakota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington as TU 58.1.3. Three days later there were new carrier strikes and her AA gunners claimed an aircraft on 19 March. Kyushu was targeted, Kure. But firced attacks got Wasp and Franklin and the unit withdrawn.


Caught in a typhoon off Okinawa, 5 June 1945

On 23 March, Indiana shelled Okinawa (180 main shells) and resumed her air defense role during air raids on the island. She spent most of April 1945 in TG 58.1 splitting between gunnery support and AA escort. On 7 April, they saw a large-scale kamikaze strike plus Operation Ten-Go (Yamato however was sunk by aviation, the days of surface combat were over to that point). On 12 April two A6M Zero and a single Ki-43 attempted to crash into Indiana but were shot before, spreading fragments which killed a marine aboard. Two days later three more Ki-43s were claimed but also accidentally fired on two F6F Hellcats on 15 April. She made an at-sea replenishment with oilers.

BatDiv 8 left Okinawa to Ulithi and stayed there until 9 May 1945. Indiana next met escort aircraft carriers engaged on strikes on Kyushu from 12 May. She shot down an A6M kamikaze and on 27 May her unit was renamed TG 38.1. By June, she was struck by a massive cyclone, moving north toward Okinawa, her crew recording 80 knots gusts sending one Kingfisher into the sea. Winds blew seawater into ventilation intakes, short-circuiting her main engine room control switchboard, disabling her steering controls. The damage was repaired in 40 minutes.

She was back in her routine operations on 7 June and on 9 June with Alabama, and Massachusetts she shell Japanese facilities on Minami Daito Jima for two days. After a new replenishment in San Pedro Bay, Philippines (11-early July) she was back with TF 38 to supported carrier strikes on Tokyo from 10 July. She also was part of the first bombardment of the home islands, on 14 July, as part of TU 34.8.1 (Massachusetts and South Dakota, Chicago and Quincy,) on Kamaishi. Later she resumed her AA support duties before another bombardment on 29 July with British TF 37 on Hamamatsu, firing 270 shells.

Bombarding Kamaishi, 14 July 1945
Bombarding Kamaishi, 14 July 1945

On 1 August, BatDiv 8 was reformed as the support unit 38.1.2 and more coastal cities bombing with TF 37. She lost a Kingfishers, which accidentally crashed on 7 August. BatDiv 8 raided again Kamaishi on 9 August, Indiana spending 270 but poor visibility gave little results. On 15 August she learned about the capitulation while underway escorting another carrier strike. Food and medical supplies were loaded into her three Kingfishers, dropping them on located POW camps in th achipelago. She also sent a landing aprty ashore on 30 August and was in Tokyo Bay on 5th of September (see her postwar/cold war career above).

USS Massachusetts (BB 59)

USS_Massachusetts_1942_Boston_Harbor
USS Mass. in Boston 1942

USS Massachusetts was fitted-out and commissioned on 12 May 1942, followed by a shakedown cruise northwards to Casco Bay, Maine. Here she was assigned Western Naval Task Force in support Operation Torch, her one and only foray into the Mediterranean was the invasion of French North Africa. Departing on 24 October she met other vessels at sea after four days becoming flagship upon arrival (Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt) of Task Group 34.1 with the cruiser USS Wichita and Tuscaloosa, plus four destroyers. They met with the invasion fleet 28 October, 450 nmi southeast of Cape Race beore crossing the Atlantic.

USS Massachusetts participated in the Naval Battle of Casablanca on the morning of 8 November during artillery preparations. They were to neutrale French main coastal batteries al El Hank, but soon were also spoted a direct threat to the fleet, added to their targets: Several submarines were laying in the harbor, prepared to sail away, while the incomplete battleship Jean Bart was also berthed in the harbor. There since her escape in June 1940, she was to be completed, but worked progressed very slowly and at that point she only had a single main turret ready.

USS Massachusetts started firing at 07:04 from 22,000 m (72,000 ft) on batteries first, when after a few minutes, she was surrounded by water plumes. Soon aicaraft spotters reported them coming from Jean Bart. And thus started the one an donly fight between a US and a French Battleship (Vichy-held). She returned fire at 07:40 while USS Wichita and Tuscaloosa were tasked to concentrate and silence French batteries on El Hank, or French submarine pens, leaving BB 59 duelling with Jean Bart. The 45,000 tonnes fast battleship was armed with two quadruple 38 cm (16 in) gun as main battery. Her fire control was not fully operational, but she found her mark.


Jean Bart in Casablanca

Meanwhile a small French squadron led by the light cruiser Primauguet, sortied with destroyers while some submarine also scrambled, immediately taken under fire. USS Massachusetts like the American cruisers immediately shifted fire on closing French destroyers, attempting a torpedo launch. After being put out of action, BB 59 came back to Jean Bart and scored five hits, notably and disabling her main battery (and only operational) turret. They also wrecked the aft deck.


Jean Bart inspected by GIs after the city capture, showing the damage extent.

Massachusetts shifted fire again on El Hank batteries, silencing them and also blewing up an ammunition dump. Afterwards, they shelled merchant ships in the harbor. One 16-inch shell sunk the floating dry-dock holding the submarine Le Conquérant, but still there was a crew aboard, it simply floated and its crew was able to run the diesels for an emergency escape. However while underway she was spotted and sunk by a PBY Catalina out at sea. Cease-fire was agreed on 11 November so that TG 34.1 was sent for next operations while Massachusetts steamed back to the US on 12 November, prepared for the Pacific Theater.

Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign

USS Massachusetts arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, on 4 March 1943. She spent several months escorting convoys to the Solomon Islands for the ongoing campaign and by 30 June, provided cover for the landing at New Georgia – Operation Cartwheel. She was assigned to TF 36.3 (also Indiana and North Carolina) and departed on 19 November for the Gilberts-Marshalls campaign, escorting TG 50.2 while air raids took place on Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama (Gilbert Islands).

Soon, they would have to provide bombardment for the landings at Tarawa and Makin and on 8 December at Nauru as part of TG 50.8 (Rear Admiral Willis Lee) with USS South Dakota and Washington in complement. This went on in January 1944, with a landing at Kwajalein. Back to TG 58.1, 5th Fleet she served with the TF 58 fast carrier task force screening and covering them ny AA fire, during their numerous raids on various targets in the Marshalls, isolating Kwajalein. She also bombarded the island on 30 January.

Operation Hailstone, the Truk raid, started on 17 Februar, and she was part of TG 58.3. Next were attacks on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, Massachusetts providing heavy anti-aircraft defence sduting the numerous Japanese counter attacks. Next, TF 58 sailed to the Caroline Islands and on 22 April shofted to the landing at Hollandia (western New Guinea) and while back, raided Truk again. On 1 May, USS Massachusetts as part of TG 58.7 bombarded Pohnpei (Senyavin Is.) and sailed to Eniwetok’s new resplenishment area in the Marshalls.


She sailed afterwards home, for a well-deserved overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, via Pearl Harbor. Thre, she notably had her guns re-lined, addition of AA and more modern radar suite. She missed the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign but this was completed in July 1944, followed by sea trials and training, and she departed for Pearl Harbo, arriving in early August. From there, after more training, she sailed for the Marshall Islands.
The 5th became the 3rd fleet by then, so she was now in TF 38 and her unit became TG 38.3.

She covered strikes of late August-early September at Morotai and Peleli and on 9-10 September on Mindanao, Philippines. On 12-14 September, the Visayas were hit. USS Massachusetts escorted carriers attacking Luzon and the airfield-rich area of Manila, before going back to the Visayas on 21-22 September.

Philippines campaign

USS_Massachusetts_underway_c1944
USS_Massachusetts_underway_c1944

On 6 October, preparations started for the invasion of the Philippines and she covered a strike on Okinawa on 10 October. On 12-14 October, they raided Formosa and then Leyte, the final target. All this time, BB 59 detected heavy air attacks, but she never was engaged, as only 38.1 and 38.4. were hit. On 16 October Massachusetts and the TG 38.3/38.2 were in hot pursuit of Japanese surface ships in the north, failing to locate them before they reached the safety of Amami Ōshima.

On the 17th, TF 38 was back striking Luzon, while the Sixth Army landed ashore at Leyte. Operation Shō-Gō 1 started, and soon Admiral William F. Halsey at the hed of the 3rd fleet rushed northwards in hot pursuit of the “bait fleet” (1st Mobile Fleet with several fleet CVs but few planes and inexperienced pilots) just detected. Commodore Arleigh Burke suggested that Mitscher detached Massachusetts and South Dakota ahead of the carriers fleet expecting a night action and Mitscher agreed.

By 17:12 Rear Admiral Forrest Sherman gave the order but was counter-manded by Halsey, overruling Mitscher and ordering them closer to the main fleet. Massachusetts was therefore still steaming north anyway and in the meantime Halsey organized TF 34, with Massachusetts and five other fast battleships inder VADM Lee for a closer screen ahead of the carriers. On 25 October, Mitscher located the Northern Force, and started the Battle off Cape Engaño with six air strikes. Meanwhile Kurita snearked his way through the San Bernardino Strait in the evening on 24 October and fell to Taffy 3, starting the Battle off Samar. Soon halsey was recalled, and BB 59 with TF 38 as well.

A mess of miscommunication and waiting added two hours to Halsey’s reaction and orderinf the battleships south, further delayed by an at-sea refuelling of the destroyers meaning they arrived far too late and swifted to a vain pursuit of Kurita through the San Bernardino Strait while Lee veered his ships southwest, also for nothing. The fleet was back to Ulithi, preparing for their new campaign, a serie of raids on Japanese targets on Luzon, while the next landing took place at Mindoro, western Philippines.

USS Massachusetts as par tof TG 38.1 escorted the carriers stricking Manila on 14 December. While underway to Ulithi 17 December, they were struck by Typhoon Cobra, a complete disaster, bending flight decks, destroying planes and damaging superstrutures on pratically all ships, snking three destroyers but leaving Massachusetts relatively unscathed. She reported just one injury and lost her two Kingfishers, washed overboard. On 30 December-23 January 1945, she went on escorting TF 38 raiding Formosa and Okinawa and bombarded positions at Lingayen Gulf for a landing in the northern Philippines, completing the campaign, followed by more attacks on Formosa.

Operations off Japan


USS Wrangell (AE-12) replenishing USS Massachusetts, 1945

In February 1945, all went under the hat of the 5th Fleet due to the change of command. Massachusetts went back to TG 58.1 and her usual AA escort for the fleet carriers. They started striked on Honshu in support to the invasion of Iwo Jima, on 16 February. On 18 February, there was a refuelling at sea since the are of operation was too far away from Ulithi. Iwo Jima was hit and TG 58.1 soon arrived to commance three days of bombardments, notably trying to disable hidden artillery in mount Suribachi from 20 February. TF 58 withdrew to refuel/rearm on the 24th February before swapping on escorting the carrier group raiding the Tokyo (25-26 February) followed by a raid on Okinawa on 1 March and back to Ulithi on the 4th.

TF 58 sortied the 14th for a raid on Japan and refueled at sea on the 16th, raids starting the 18th on Kyushu, soon counter attacked by 48 kamikazes, mostly on TG 58.4. Again, USS Massachusetts was only lightly engaged. There was another raid on Kure area while USS Wasp (TG 58.1) wa sbadly damaged, but Massachusetts had no damage. Mitscher withdrawned for a reorganization but Massachusetts remained in TG 58.1. On the 23th, TF 58 started aids on Okinawa to prepare for the landings.

TG 58.1 a day later loacted and destroyed a Japanese convoy of eight troop transports from Kyushu. USS Massachusetts with Indiana, New Jersey, and Wisconsin (TF 59) later was detached to bombard several objectives on Okinawa. The island by the way was narrow enough that gunney range could reach all points inside the island, whatever the coast they were. They operated there for the rest of April, also fending off air attacks. Massachusetts, probably the luckiest of all South Dakota class battleships, was again, never targeted or hit.

By late May, she was now in TG 38.1 and on 5 June, weathered a typhoon, leaving her only lightly damaged. She took part in a bombardment of facilities at Minami Daito Jima withdrew to Leyte Gulf for a longer resplsnishement and rest, spending Xmas here.

On 1 July TF 38 was at sea again to strike Honshu, and Tokyo area. On 14 July, USS Massachusetts was in the detached TG 34.8.1 (Indiana, South Dakota, two heavy cruisers, 9 destroyers) to bombard Kamaishi. Two weeks later, this was Hamamatsu with in addition HMS King George V of the British Pacific Fleet. Another one followed on 9 August, with in addition USS Alabama. 15 August her captain announced to the crew the Japanese unconditionnal surrender on the 15th, and Massachusetts departed the area on 1 September for Puget Sound, and her last major overhaul lasting until 28 January 1946, her crew on prolongated and well deserved leave, back to family and friends. BB 59 eventually left San Francisco for Hampton Roads, Virginia on 22 April to be decommissioned on 27 March 1947 at Norfolk. See the cold war section for more.

USS Alabama (BB 60)


USS Alabama in Casco Bay, Maine, 1942

Fitting-out was completed on 11 November 1942 and USS Alabama started her shakedown cruise in the Chesapeake Bay. Next training for wartime service off Casco Bay, Maine followed until 11 January 1943, when she returned to Chesapeake Bay for further training and back Norfolk for wartime full preparations. Assigned to Task Group (TG) 22.2 she returned in Casco Bay on 13 February for a last session of advanced tactical training, before being deployed in April 1943.

She received a temporary assignment to the British Home Fleet, Arctic convoys. The British were short of BBs, most sent to the Mediterranean for the invasion of Sicily. But Tirpitz was still in Norway.


USS Alabama firing c1943

Alabama operated there with South Dakota as part of TF 22 with an escort of five destroyers, arriving in the Orkney Islands via Little Placentia Sound and NAS Argentia in Newfoundland. hey were in Scapa Flow on 19 May, reintegrated in TF 61, Home Fleet, and trained for joint ops. under command of Rear Admiral Olaf M. Hustvedt for three months with HMS Anson and Duke of York.

They covered an operation to reinforce Spitzbergenin June, Operation Governor -a distraction- and tried to lure out Tirpitz. In August, she was detached for home, Norfolk, on 9 August, followed by an overhaul in

Upon arrival, USS Alabama started an extensive training program to operate with the fast carrier task force, and ended in Fiji on 7 November 1943, and moved to take part in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign, started with Tarawa on 20 November. She supported the landing on Betio ad a landing at Makin, engaging Japanese aircraft on the 25-26 November.

With five other fast battleships, she shelled Nauru on 8 December, a source of phosphate. USS Boyd being hit by Japanese artillery she had three wounded men transferred on her larger medical facilities. She escorted the carriers USS Bunker Hill and USS Monterey back to Efate, which they reached on 12 December. Alabama got underway on 5 January 1944 for Pearl Harbor, arriving on 12 January for maintenance that included replacing one of her propellers. She was in Funafuti, Ellice Islands on 21 January.

As part of Task Group 58.2 she sortied on 25 January for Operation Flintlock, the invasion of Kwajalein, with North Carolina, shelling Roi-Namur on 29-30 January, and afterwards patrolled to the north of Kwajalein for a possible Japanese counterattack. For two months, TG 58.2’s battleships were constantly at sea and on 12 February BB 60 took part in Operation Hailstone on Truk. On 16–17 February she shelled Japanese forces and infrastructures.

Next she operated against Saipan, Tinian, and Guam and on 21 February, one of her No. 9 5-inch turret accidentally fired into No.5 mount, resulting in 5 Kia, 11 wounded. She patolled southeast of Saipan looking for Japanese vessels believed still in the area. At Majuro’s replenishment area, she became flagship of Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher on 3-8 March. On her way on 22 March she covered the TF during the attacks on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai (Caroline Islands).

She was reasigned to TG 58.3, protecting USS Yorktown (CV 10). While en route she repelled on the 28-29 March night an air attack, Alabama shoot one, assisting with another. Alabama repelled another attack the following day. After a resplenishement to Majuro she was bacl again on 13 April, this time to escort USS Enterprise for strikes along western New Guinea’s coast. Back to the Carolines, Pohnpei was atacked and Alabama shelled it with five other BBs on 1st May. The new replenishment area became Eniwetok, where the fleet was prepared for the Marianas’s campaign.

Alabama sortied with TF 58 by early June 1944, assigned to TG 58.7 (Four BBs in escort) on her way to Saipan, arriving on 13 June for a preparatory bombardment. Next, minesweepers cleared the path to the landing beach. Alabama’s gunners lacked training in these bombardments, which were noted as inaccurate. She was sent to screen the carriers instead. The landing on 15 June had the Japanese sending the 1st Mobile Fleet in retaliation, which became the Battle of the Philippine Sea.


USS Monterey escorted by USS Alabama during the Gilberts Operation

USS Alabama was the first to pick up incoming aircraft by radar 141 nautical miles (261 km; 162 mi) away. It was 10:06 AM. USS Iowa corroborated the spotting, which alarmed the fleet and had all AA gunners ready. 40 minutes later seven waves were beaten back firce AA from the BBs and cruisers present. Three of these struck TG 58.7. Alabama short down two attackers, driving later two torpedo bombers aiming at her sister USS South Dakota. She was near-missed by a single dive bomber. Later Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, commended Alabama’s radar operators for their early warning.

She stayed in station during the raids on Saipan, Guam, Tinian, and Rota, and was detached for Eniwetok, Marshalls, for maintenance, becoming there flagship, Rear Admiral Edward Hanso for BatDiv 9. She left on 14 July escorting USS Bunker Hill to the invasion of Guam from 21 July, lasting three weeks. On 11 August, she was back to Eniwetok, and returned on 30 August for Operation Stalemate II, preparing landings on Pelelieu, Ulithi, and Yap, as part of the renamed TG 38.3 (3rd fleet).


USS Alabama recognition overhead photo c1943

Next, this was the Philippines campaign, from 12-14 September. She escorted carriers during strikes on Cebu, Leyte, Bohol, and Negros and later around Manila on 21-22 September and central Philippines on the 24th. The new resplenishment area was now Saipan (28 September) and Ulithi, new major staging, on 1 October. She escorted a raid on island of Formosa ad went on escorting TG 38.3. On 14 October raids on Luzon saw the battleships repelling air attacks, claiming three Japanese aircraft, damaging another.

USS Alabama was supporting the landing at Leyte on 15 October and covered air strikes throughout the Philippines from 21 October as part of TG 38.4 when the Japanese launched Operation Shō-Gō 1, which started the long and epic Battle of Leyte. As the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea took place, USS Alabama steamed north with the carriers in hort pursuit, Halsey establishing TF 34 (Alabama and five other fast battleships, 7 cruisers, 18 destroyers under Vice Admiral Lee), ahead, screening the carriers. On 25 October, the Battle off Cape Engaño took place and soon the Battle off Samar developed by Halsey’s carriers were far away, even more for Alabama and TF 34.

After being summoned for help by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, TF 34 was detached while still steaming north, and thus stayed on course for two hours before turning south, stopping even en route to refuel destroyers. Taffy 3 herocis however repelled Kurita’s fleet, on the run well before TF 34 arrived. Iowa and New Jersey formed TG 34.5 and were set off in hot pursuit of Kurita through the San Bernardino Strait, Alabamar staying with Lee, heading southwest to cut off Kurita’s escape but it was far too late. H. P. Wilmott argued tat if the fleet would have left the destroyers behind, they could have catch Kurita, using on arrival, radar-assisted long range gunnery.

Alabama and TF 34 were back screening the carriers and were replenished at Ulithi on 30 October, departing on 3 November for strikes on Luzon and landings on Mindoro. Alabama escorted the carriers during raids on Luzon and the Visayas before another supply run to Ulithi (24 November). By December Alabama was in maintenance and training, the fleet becoming TG 38.1. 14-16 December saw attacks on Luzon and retired for resplenishment on 17 December while struck by Typhoon Cobra. Alabama recorded 83 knots wind gusts and enormous waves, up to 60 feets, caused a 30° roll. Only her superstructure and Kingfishers were damaged. She was soon detached for home, Puget Sound’s overhaul.

This lasted from 18 January 1945 to 25 February, and then 17 March. After sea trials and training off California she departed on 4 April and from 10 April in pearl Harbor, spent a week of training before heading for Ulithi (28 April). She joined what was now the Fifth Fleet. On 9 May 1945 she was underway and on 1st June, took part in the Battle of Okinawa, facing increasingly strong kamikaze strikes. On 14 May southeast of Kyushu, she shot down two, assisted for two.

On 4–5 June, she face another typhoon, causing only superficial damage and was back at Okinawa on 7 June, covering strikes on Kyushu. With their sisters USS Indiana and Massachusetts escorted by five destroyers she took part on 9-10 June on a bombardment mission on Minami Daito Jima. After returning to Leyte Gulf she was prepared to cover the final air strikes on the Home Islands. These concentrated this summer around Tokyo. On 17–18 July USS Alabama, four other BBs and HMS King George V, two cruisers, sheled six industrial facilities northeast of Tokyo. On 9 August she shelled Kamaishi and transferred a medical party to USS Ault for USS Borie, badly hit by a kamikaz. On 15 August (reddition day), USS Alabama was off Japan and sent sailors and marines for the initial occupation force.

Midway class aircraft carriers (1945)

Midway class (1945) – Fleet Armoured Aicraft Carriers

US Navy ww2 USA – Fleet Aircraft Carriers (1945-92):
USS Midway, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Coral Sea

The first USN armoured aircraft carriers

The Midway class aircraft carriers were the penultimate evolution of interwar and WW2 US aircraft carrier design: They were designed at the same time as the future Essex class fleet carriers in 1940, but proceeded from a parallel design branch based on the proposal of a fully armoured carrier: USS Midway was the lead ship of a class of six laid down in 1943 (CV-41, 42) and 1944 (CV-43) while the rest were cancelled before being ordered.

USS Midway was commissioned 10 September 1945, as the war was already over since 15 August, with Japan surrendering in 1st September onboard USS Missouri. So no, they did not see action in WW2. Yet, they are seen in the WW2 due to their design started at the very start of it, and went all along.

Fortunately, all three were large enough to operate the new generation of jets of the 1950s, and proved to be the bedrock of the US Navy during the Korean war. Modernized extensively several times, they served also in Vietnam and even took part in the 1991 Gulf War, being the oldest active aircraft carriers of the USN at the time.

Design Development of the CVB-41-class

Essentially, the yet unnamed design started as an alternative to the Essex class design itself, the major wartime fleet CV class. Debates about how much armor was to be placed on the deck and hangar led to a divide between those who wanted something more in the line of previous Yorktown class, just larger and better protected overall, and thos who wanted something in the like of the Illustrious class.


Design Study, scheme C, December 1940, alternative study of the Essex class with extensive armor, not retained for the final design. She had 3 in 1/2 of STS steel on the main armor deck/hangar floor and for her flight deck 1-1/2 in, but 4 in over avgas tanks, steering gear, ammo magazines, 2-1/2 inches roof, 4 inches bulkheads.

The Midway class proceeded from the alternative armored version of the Essex class emergency fleet carriers, not retained. The final Essex design approved in September 1941, with raduced armor starting at the hangar floor, and with a citadel below, but limited thickness. More than thirty were ordered, of which some were completed after the war.


Design Study “CV-D Aircraft Carrier”, 12 July 1941, an alternative design with a fully armored hangar. It was not adopted.

This 1941 proposal was clearly inspired by the British Illustrious class, with a central “citadel” reduced to 1/2 of the total lenght, compartimentalized into three sub-sections and with three external lifts. Light armour overall with just 1-1/2 inches STS (flight deck), 1 inches (bulkheads & subdivisions), then 2-1/2 in for the hangar floor, 1-1/2 inches for citadel roof (armoured deck below), but 4 inches bulkheads). The hangar was mostly protected, but not entirely, leaving some extra parked planes exposed.

It was not retained for the Essex class as at the time, the full strenght of an air group, the famous “sunday punch” was estimated more important. The armoured hangar limited it a great deal. However some thought rightfully that by just making their aircraft carrier larger, the hangar itself would be larger, and thus, able to house the necessary air group.

The CVB-41-class, unnamed when studied, were an alternative design study provided with an armored flight deck on the size of an Essex class. Calculations showed the air group would have been down to 64 compared to 90 or even 100, so 1/3 of the Essex capacity. However it progressed through 1942, and became more heavily influenced by British wartime experience with their armored carriers.

As stated in the Bureau of Ships Navy Dept CV13 Damage Report:

As a result of study of damage sustained by various British carriers prior to our entry into the war, two important departures from traditional U.S. Navy carrier design were incorporated in the CVB Class, then still under development. HMS Illustrious in an action off Malta on 1 January 1941 was hit by several bombs, three of which detonated in the hangar space. Large fires swept fore and aft among parked planes thereby demonstrating the desirability of attempting to confine the limits of such explosions and fires by structural sectionalization of the hangar space. On the CVB Class the hangar was therefore divided into five compartments separated by 40 and 50-pound Special Treatment Steel (STS) division bulkheads extending from the hangar deck to the flight deck, each fitted with a large door suitable for handling aircraft.

It is hoped that this sectionalization, in conjunction with sprinkler and fog foam systems, will effectively prevent fires from spreading throughout the hangar spaces, as occurred on USS Franklin on 30 October and 19 March. The damage experiences of several British carriers, which unlike our own were fitted with armored flight decks, demonstrated the effectiveness of such armor in shielding hangar spaces from GP bombs and vital spaces below the hangar deck from semi-armor-piercing (SAP) bombs. Accordingly, the CVB Class was designed with an armored flight deck consisting of 3-1/2-inch STS from frames 46 to 175 with a hangar deck consisting of two courses of 40-pound STS between frames 36 and 192. Although none of the CVB Class carriers were completed in time to take part in war operations, the effectiveness of armored flight decks against Kamikaze attacks was demonstrated by various carriers attached to the British Pacific Fleet.

The concept’s logic evolution was for a larger carrier to support a larger deck armor AND the required air group. Weight-savings to armor the flight deck were engineer’s nightmare though, due to metacentric hight (and thus, stability) concerns. It was achieved by removing the initially 8-inch (203 mm) battery around the island, and then having 5-inch single mounted in sponsons along, but under the flight deck. In US practice, the armored deck was not part of the ship structure and instead, engineers stuck to the “strength deck”, at hangar deck level while the armored flight deck was part of the superstructure. This design was unique and never followed. The following Forrestal-class supercarriers indeed needed a deeper hulled design to carry the strength deck at flight deck level, and this made for a both stronger, yet lighter hull.

Final Design

final blueprint

The Midway-class as designed were very large, already compared to the Essex class, and they displaced twice as much as a prewar Yorktown class. It could accommodate more planes despite its armoured fight deck, far more than any USN carrier, about 30% more so about 130 aircraft. Such air group reached the very limit of effective command and control, just for one ship. This enormous size however proved to be a blessing in the upcoming years, as the number of aircraft was drastically reduced whereas they could more easily accommodate larger and faster aircraft of the jet age, something the Essex class struggled to do during the post-WW2 service.

While having an excellent protection and massive airwing they still were criticized for some shortcomings:

-They were cramped internally and crowded.

-Their Freeboard was unusually low and in heavy seas, they were easily flooded

-The latter problem was solved by fitting them with a fully enclosed hurricane bow (SCB-110/110A upgrades)

-Also in easy weather, they “corkscrewed” so much it precluded any landing operations.

Lessons were learned to rework the following-up Forrestal-class which had a deeper hull, with more freeboard and better seakeeping, and the required enclosed bow as well.

-Their beam was beyond the Panama Canal’s gates max size, hampering their operational life for rapid redeployments.

Naming Policy


Launch of USS Midway November 1952

Like many aircraft carriers of WW2 they were to be named after famous battles. “Midway” and “Coral Sea” were obvious choices for the first two, with CV-43 possibly named “Santa Cruz”, but as the second was being completed, president Franklin D. Roosevelt passed out. CV-42 Coral Sea was renamed in his honour an the third inherited her former name. Thus, it introduced a precedent in naming carriers after presidents, something which became prevalent from the much later Nimitz class. For the last ones, “USS Leyte Gulf”, “USS Phillipines Sea”, “Samar”, “Surigao strait”, “Cape Esperance” and many others are everyone’s guess.


USS Midway (CVB-41), prepared for christening ceremony.

Construction

USS Midway (CV-41, later ​CVB-41 and ​CVA-41) was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dockyard Co. on 27 October 1943, launched 20 March 1945 and race-completed on 10 September 1945. She was the only one preserved.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was the former USS Coral Sea (CV-42, later CVB-42 and eventually ​CVA-42), laid down at New York Naval Shipyard, New York City on 1 December 1943, launched 29 April 1945 and completed on 27 October 1945. She was the first to go, not modernized fully and decommissioned on 30 September 1977, roken up at Kearny, 1978.

USS Coral Sea was at first unnamed, and earned in turn the previous name for CV-42.

She was CV-43 and ​CVB-43 and then ​CVA-43. Laid down on 10 July 1944 at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dockyard Co. like USS Midway, but launched much later on 2 April 1946 and completed 1 October 1947 so in 19 months, versus seven months for USS Midway. The long delay was due to all wartime emergency setups being dropped and construction standard falling under the standard peacetime contigencies. A few modifications were made also as the result of wartime lessons. “CVB” meant “Large carrier”, a new denomination to distinguish them from the standard “CV” fleet carriers.

Hull

SBC-110-plan-aft

For construction, more extensive use of electric arc-welding was used throughout, help saving 10% compared to riveted assembly. Compared to the previous Essex, they measured 901 ft or 274.3m long at the waterline and or 968 feets 295 m overall. This was quite an increase over the Essex, even for the late “long bow” type (888 ft or 270.7 m oa). Their waterline beam was quite larger, at 121 feet (37 m) versus 93 ft (28.3 m) wl, making them unable to cross the Panama canal. Sme for their draft at 33 ft (10 m) fully loaded, versus 23 ft (7.0 m) standard and 27.5 ft (8.4 m) fully loaded on the Essex. From her keel to the top of her mast she measured 222′ 3″ (68 meters).

The total height from the waterline to the deck was no greater however, which came back as a criticism later. Midway was completed with a classic bow, with a separation from the flight deck, shorter, and tippied by a quad Bofors 40 mm. But the design was revised to included a “storm bow”, for the next FDR and Coral Sea, fully enclosed. This was the result of wartime experience and a successful feature adopted by rebuilt carriers and new ones alike.

Powerplant & Performances

USS Midway (CV-41) propellers

The installation of these latest carriers was to be of course scaled up to take in account the same fleet speed requirements indexed to a much larger displacements, dimensions and armour. For this, one of the most extensive unit even installed on a carrier was chosen: It consisted in four shafts, with larger propellers than the Essex’s, approx. 18 feets (5.4 meters) in diameter and 44,000 pounds (22 tons). They were mated on four corresponding Westinghouse Steam turbines, which, like the previous ships were divided between cruise, inner low-pressure ones, and top speed, outer, high-pressure ones.

The major difference was that the Midway class turbines were fed by steam coming from not eight, but twelve Babcock & Wilcox boilers working at 565 psi and 850°F (450°C). This was 1/3 increase, resulting logically in a total output reaching 212,000 shp (158,000 kW) versus 150,000 shp, on the Essex-class. In fact, the output increase, thanks to improvements in the turbines and boilers, out-reached the steam increase by some margin, showin the progresses made there. According to this, the Midway class were able to reach still their designed fleet speed of 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph).

This top speed however was only reached by USS Midway in 1945. In reality, her sister ships FDR and Coral Sea were modified in between, heavier and as a consequence a bit slower. With the SBC-110/110A upgrade, it fell to 30.6 kts, but after the SCB-101.66 modernization and some optimisations, it reached 31.6 knots again. For comparison, the next Forrestal class, heavier, went for an even larger powerplant, with no less than 8 Steam turbines and new sets of boilers, for 280,000 shp (210,000 kW) and 34 knots, almost unchanged on the 32 kts Kitty Hawks.

Range was conditioned by their fuel capacity, which varied from 6,003 tons in peacetime and 10,032 tons in wartime “filling every void onboard”. This enabled a total reach of 15,000 (15) nautical miles, to compared with the Essex’s 15,440 and around 12,000 for the next classes. After the SBC modernizations, this range fell to 12,500 at 20 kts for CVA41 and 42, and 9,500 at the same speed for CVA43. Like the previous Essex, and even more so, they bleed speed when hard to port or starboard, loosing more than 60% speed due to their larger hull and draft. They also had a larger turning radius despite their pair of larger rudders. However they were stable, good seaboat and good take-off platforms.

Armour & Overall Protection

USS_Midway_under_construction_Newport_News_Shipbuilding_Va_20_March_1945

The experiences of several British carriers, which unlike our own were fitted with armored flight decks, demonstrated the effectiveness of such armor in shielding hangar spaces from GP bombs and vital spaces below the hangar deck from SAP bombs.
*USS Franklin War Damage Report

Probably the most important part of the design, protection was essentially driven from the alternative, rejected Essex class fully armored version. In 1940, bomb manufacturer promised new 1,750lb models able to defeat 7in of deck armour. For engineers however, it was out of question to put an armored deck 8-in thick for obvious stability reasons, not even for the hangar deck, but a compromise was found, with a 3-layered defence, the strongest yet for any US aircraft carrier. The belt was asymetric, and the hangar was enclosed in thick bulkheads. It was designed to face marauding Japanese 8in cruisers. It should be added thee were more transverse bulkheads (26 in all) and much more subdivided compartments than any other carrier class. Yet, these figures were the best of any allied CV during WW2, greater than the 4.5 in (114 mm) at best for the Illustrous.

  • Flight Deck between the two lifts: 3.5 in armour plate (88 mm)
  • Hangar Deck was of 2 in STS (51 mm)
  • Third Deck (hangar floor) 2 in STS
  • Port side armoured belt 7.6 in (193 mm)
  • Starboard side belt 7 in (178 mm)*
  • Bulkheads 6.2 in (160 mm)

*The difference in thickness was to counterbalance the weight of the island.

The Midway class had a well subdivided arrangement of the machinery spaces underwater, a simple copy-paste of the Montana-class battleship system, more evolved than the Iowa class. Instead of eight main engineering compartments, the Midway-class had 26 in total, with no less than twelve boiler rooms off the centerline, four widely separated engine rooms. This ensure the least risk of a critical flooding, even if hit by several torpedoes. However the downside of these subdivisions meant the class a reputation of being uncomfortable for their crews.

Interestingly enough, USS Midway was the only one completed with an armoured pilot house the bridge. However in 1945, the good old Conning Tower was seen as an hinderance and removed from the latest designs. USS Coral Sea none, sparing weight and stability enough to add the forward 5in Mk37 Fire Control System director relocated on top of the island. It was in front of the bridge for CVB-41 and this cleared further deck space.

It should be also noted that the heavy, armored flight deck needed to be strenghtened in order to prevent the ship from “racking”, deforming due to the stresses of her movements. The high metacentric height also produced excessive heel in hard rudder turns. One of the consequences of engineers trying to reduce top weight was the hull was relatively slim and low, causing pitch and roll heavy seas, and plunging in even moderate seas. In serious weather, it was more diffisult to operate aviation. Although efforts has been put for stability of the CVBs the low freeboard had them reputed “wet” for their entire careers.

Armament

It was quite different than the previous Essex class. The debate over the CVB’s gun armament was indeed intense in 1941 as some argued that perhaps dual-purpose mounts were insufficient, and assessed the need ito answer the threat of powerful, 8-in Japanese cruisers, still justifying a return to heavier artillery, still on blueprints at that stage. Eventually, in 1942, it was decided to free deck space and cound on the Task Force buffer, radars and air patrols to spot and deal with any cruiser. In 1943, AA defence was back as the main priority.

Instead of repeating the four dual standard 5-in/38 on deck either side of the island, as they constituted an obstacle to aricraft operation on deck, and a further wind trap, it was decided to move the entire armament on sponsons under the flight deck, but to move on a new type, the newly tested 5in DP gun (5”/54). The rest was a classic combination of the usual quad 40 mm Bofors which due to the larger hull, topped at 21 mounts, and the usual 20 mm Oerlikons, down to 28 as it was understood at the latter stages of the war nothing beats the Bofors for close AA defense.

CVB43 actually had “only” fourteen single 127mm/54 Mk 39 and nineteen quad 40mm/60 Mk 2 and no 20 mm at all. The armament was considerably revised during the SBC-110 upgrades and their following iterations.

Main artillery

This was constituted by a brand new battery of single eighteen turreted 5 in (127 mm)/54 caliber guns. They were positioned on either sponsons, three forward, six aft or nine on either side. They rested on semi-automated loading casemates. However, they were less popular as the previous Mark 12, due to the larger and heavier projectiles and cartridge cases, to be manned by the crew.

Designed in 1940 these were the designated successors of the standard 5-in/38 Mark 12 ubiquitous in the USN and planned for the Montana class BBs. The idea was improve their performances wholesale, between range and velocity (with a longer barrel, 54 versus 38), and higher rate of fire with more automation, including self-aiming assisted by radar.

However the development was long, and it only entered service in 1945, ready for the Midway class but also adopted by the rebuilt gunnery training ship USS Mississippi AG-128 (ex BB-41). More on navweaps

  • Shell HC Mark 41 69.33 lbs (31.448 kgs), 26.0 in (66 cm)
  • Mk 6 Cartridge 127 x 836 mm, 13.04 lbs. (5.91 kg)
  • Muzzle Velocity 2,650 fps (808 mps)
  • 500 rounds per gun
  • AA ceiling 51,600 feet (15,728 m)

Anti-aircraft Battery

The 21 x 4 (quad mount) 40mm/56 Mk 1.2 battery was entirely made of quad mounts as it was judged a more effective concentration compared to twin mounts, which consumed more space. As shown by the overhead view, there were two at the bow and stern each, six aft, seven port and three starboard forward (84 barrels). All were crewed by 11 men, and came with their own radar fire control.

For the 20 mm guns, some sources states as many as 68 guns, but it’s probably at the 1943 or 1944 design stage. In 1945, Kamikaze attacks reports clearly stated that only the 40 mm was really efficient. To spare space and crew, it was probably decidded to curtail it down to just 28, the figure retained by most sources. They were posted where space could be found: Two small twin posts aft, port and starboard, a full gallery of eight at the landing deck lip, and two forward, port and starboard. Apart the island, the only “obstruction” on the flight deck starboard was a lone quad 40 mm mount, with a Mk37 Fire Control System director behind, making the CVBs, the cleanest fleet carriers so far. It seems however that after 1945, 10 twin 20mm mounts were fitted to Midway. Both the 40 mm and 20 mm were removed in the late 1950s and SBC-110 reconstructions.

Fire Control and Radars


An F7U-3 on CVB-43 in November 1952. Behind it, an SK-2 is visible, as well as Mk37 gun director and its Mk25 radar

CVB41 and 43 (Midway and Coral Sea) had the SK-2 Air-search radar, SR-2 surface radar, SX radar and two SG navigational/surface search radar antennae, four Mk 25 fire control radars plus a TDY ECM suite. CVB42 (USS FD Roosevelt) had both the SR-2 and SR-3 radars SX, the rest was identical.

-The 3500 kW SK2 radar developed in 1945 was manufactured by General Electric. It worked in VHF band with a beamwidth of 10°, a pulsewidth of 5 μs, and range of 160.9 km (86.9 nmi), azimuth ± 3 °, at a precision of ± 100 yd. Externally, it was caracterized by a large, round parabolic antenna, with wide open work metal grating.

-The SR radar was small sized but longish antenna shaped as an inverted V, installed in older battleships, some arrangements with two antennas were known.

-The SX radar… (no info yet)

-The SG radar was a 1941 surface seach radar, with a wavelength of 10 cm, power output of 70 KW and range of 15.7 nm. Obsolete in 1945, it was small sized and used as navigational antenna as well.

-Mk 25 radar: Coupled with the standard Mk37 gun director.

-TDY ECM suite: No info


USS Midway’s tower.

Aviation facilities


CH-53 helicopters on USS Midway, April 1975

Catapults

Although the 4.02 acres flight deck was straight, with a small overhang for the starboard island, there was plenty of room for the heaviest piston-powered planes in the US inventory which included even bi-motor models (see air group). It was still shorter than the total hull lenght, and she was originally designed with an axial flight deck, with an axial lift forward bringing attack planes to the two hydraulic powered catapults H4-1s catapults, longer than the previous models (just one on the Essex, while the hangar catapult was not repeated). They were tasked to propel a 28,000 lb (14 tons) aircraft for 0 to 90 mph (145 kph).

Flight deck arrestor cables and barricades


USS Coral Sea in 1960

The long landing deck aft allowed the heaviest models plenty of room to catch one of the seven main arrestor cables: Five aft the the second aft axial lift, one after it, and one last just before the flight deck catapult area. They were all fitted with each two winches, so fourteen Mk 5 Mod 0 engines. In case of a miss, there were six barricades across the centre of the flight deck.

Lifts

The forward flight deck was designed for launching 13-ton aircraft, the aft flight deck was designed for landing 11-ton aircraft, assuming in-flight expenditure of fuel and ordnance. The “clean” forward part of the island was also perfect to deal with variable wind-over-deck conditions.

The third lift was a smaller overhanging model located immediately opposite to the island, port. The main purpose of the flight deck in initial air operations was of course to launch it’s own “sunday punch” (see the Essex part about it). About 100 tightly parked aircraft were to be launched, bombers and TB bombers first and fighter last, due to their respective fuel consumption and range, although there were variations in this. This was the best way until 1945 to guarantee the rapid departure of a full air strike. In the case of USS Midway, the park reached 130, and they could all “on paper” fit on the flight deck. For command & control though, it was not that easy.

Another issue with the lifts was that speed was paramount, and due to this, elevator speed was a primary requirement, and they were made in aluminum, and therefore sensible to splinter damage and bomb hits.

After launching the strike, catapults were used to bring on deck and catapults the extra reserve fighters in the hangar used for the CAP (Combat Air Patrol). Thus, the landing deck was kept free to accept the rapid return of a plane with any technical problem, and later the return of the first wave, while the aft and centre-side lift were not used. To deal with floatplanes, a large flight-deck crane was used to haul them up to the flight deck.

Hangar and safety

Hunters_Point_NS_with_three_carriers_-coral-sea-1971

The hangar was not taller than on the Essexes due to the armour weight, and internal decks her their heights were reduced to 8ft. While “Open”, this hangar however still had to deal with structural pilars and reinforcements for the heavy flight deck, deep frames, access ladders, hatches, winches, bollards and other equipments, plus ammunition lifts and avgas stations. For safety, structural sectionalization of the hangar spacewas found desirable and made into five “compartments”. There was debate with BuAer though during the design phase, as the latter were adamant carriers needed to have open sided hangars, in order to allow aircraft to warm up, and allow rapid multiple strikes.

The fuel lines were protected by a system of vacuum and replacement by seawater, avgas tanks buried deep into the hull like the previous Essexes, so to ensure their safety. Although the flight deck was fully enclosed (no opening aside the port lift), ventilation was paramount to ensure any gasoline fuel emanations. The circuit could be however shut down in case of attack, depriving of oxygen a possible fire.

There were several fire-fighting posts along the open hangar, divided into four sections and accessed via three fire doors. Therse were also fire-proof curtains which could be deployed on these five “sub-compartments” to separate the hangar in case of a localized fire. Sprinklers were also installed as well as fog foam dispenser systems. The core dedicated fire fighting and damage control team could also train extra crewmen to deal with any emergency. Fortunately, untlike the Essex class, Midway never had to seal with such event.

On board aviation


USS Midway’s air group, 1945

1945 Air Group

SB2C-5-HVA5B-USSCoralSea-ca47
Curtiss SB2C-5 HVA5B USS Coral Sea, circa 1947.

F6F-5P-VF-5B
Grumman F6F-5P, VF-5B USS Coral Sea, Jan-Feb 1948.

Vought F4U-4
Vought F4U-4 of VF61, Air Group 6, USS Midway, 1949

Bearcat F8F-2, VF-82, USS Midway, August 1952
Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat, VF-82, USS Midway, August 1952

Douglas-AD-1 Skyraider VA-3B, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt
Douglas-AD-1 Skyraider VA-3B, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1948

As defined for 132 planes in 1945, USS Midway air group was to comprised 132 aircraft, including 64x F4U-4 Corsairs, 64x SB2C-5 Helldivers and 4x F6F5P (photo reconnaissance) Hellcats. Corsairs were supposed to provide fighter capabilities in place of the Hellcat, as well as strafing/rocket attacks. The Helldivers were pure bombers. No consideration was given to the TBM Avenger, in order to simplify the air group, and as IJN assets had been almost all eliminated in 1945, no torpedo plane was needed; Operations when the ship was completed, likely were limited to air strikes on the home islands.

The “sunday punch” was in any case, due to the still limited flight deck size, not manageable with the while 130 planes aboard: It was calculated that with a 20 second launch and a 40-30 second landing intervals, it would need six hours to cycle the entire air group, always in the wind. This was the time required to launch six deck-load strikes. Comand & Control of such enormous air group, the largest of any aircraft carrier, anytime, anywhere, forever, was also problematic.

SB2C-4E loads a torpedo (VT-74) onboard CVB-41, 1946
SB2C-4E loads a torpedo (VT-74) onboard CVB-41, 1946

P2V Neptune takes off from USS Midway April 1949
P2V Neptune takes off from USS Midway April 1949

Korean war Air Group (1950-59)

F7U-3 launched from CVB-43 in November 1952
F7U-3 launched from CVB-43 in November 1952

All three operated, with little variations, the F2H Banshee, F9F Panther, F3D Skyknight, F9F Cougar, FJ Fury, F7U Cutlass. As for helicopters, HUK Husky, HUP, HO4S/HRS Chickasaw, HO5S, HSS Seabat/HUS Seahorse. In 1952 for example, USS Midway operated 84 planes, some 42 F9F Panther fighter and 42 AD-3 Skywarrior general purpose piston-planes.

Vietnam War Air Group (1965-75)

USS_Midway_launches_Vought_F-8_Crusaders_in_1963
USS Midway launches Vought F-8 Crusaders in 1963

In Vietnam, the air group comprised between 60 and 80 planes and helicopters with a large variety of models since the war lasted for more than ten years:

In early period, F3H Demon, F4D Skyray, F11F Tiger, F8U Crusader fighters but also later the AD Skyraider, AJ Savage, A4D Skyhawk attackers, F2H-P Banshee, F9F-P Panther, AJ-P Banshee, F9F-P Cougar, F7U-P Cutlass, F3H Demon, F8U-P Crusader reconnaissance planes, AD-W Skyraider EW planes, and later the AD-Q Skyraider ECM planes, S2F Tracker ASW planes, F-4 Phantom II, A-5 Vigilante, A-6 Intruder, A-7 Corsair II, O-1 Bird Dog, RF-8 Crusader, RF-4 Phantom II, RA-5 Vigilante, OV-10 Bronco, EA-1 Skyraider, E-1 Tracer. Pretty much the USN operated at that time.


A-1H Skyraider of VA-25 with “toilet bomb”, USS Midway, October 1965


A-4C of VA-172, USS FDR off Vietnam, 1966



F-4J, VF-84 launched from USS FDR, 1972

In 1973, USS Coral Sea operated 24 F-4B, 24 A-7B, 10 A-6A, 4 KA-6D 4 RF-8G, 4 E-2B, 4 EKA-3B, 4 SH-3G, 4 HH-3A helicopters. As for helicopters, the SH-34 Seabat, UH-34 Seahorse, CH-34 Choctaw, UH-13, HH-13, SH-3 Sea King, CH-3 Sea King, UH-2 Sea Sprite, HH-52 Seaguard, CH-46 Sea Knight, UH-46 Sea Knight, AH-1 Huey Cobra, AH-1 Sea Cobra, HH-1 Huey, UH-1 Huey, CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters) were operated.

Reagan-era air Group (1980s)

photo

In 1986 USS Coral Sea operated 48 F/A-18, 12 A-6E/KA-6D, 4 EA-6B, 4 EA-3B, 4 E-2C and 4 SH-3H. Also E-2 Hawkeye EW planes, the EA-1 Skyraider, EF-10 Skyknight, EA-3 Skywarrior, EKA-3 Skywarrior, EA-6 Intruder/Prowler ECM planes, S-2 Tracker ASW planes, KA-3 Skywarrior, KA-6 Intruder tankers, C-1 Trader, C-2 Greyhound cargo planes were used.

Gulf War Air Group (1990s)

F-A 18A Hornet from VFA-195
F-A 18A Hornet from VFA-195 in the 1991 Gulf War, Feb. 13 1991 (Iraqi Super-Frelon Strike).

in 1991, USS Midway operated 67 aircraft and helicopters: 36 F/A-18, 12 A-6E/KA-6D 8 EA-6B, 4 E-2C, 3 C-2A and 4 SH-3H helicopters.

Various equipments & trivia

List of extra percs:

  • Crew:
  • Total crew: 4,500+ including the air group pilots and mechanics
  • As Designed: 3,583
  • As Completed: 4,120
  • Ship’s Company: 2,828 after mod.
  • Air Wing: 1,860 //
  • Marine Detachment: 72
  • Monthly payroll: $1,200,00
  • Monthly business in ship’s stores: $1,000,000

  • Tech & Energy
  • Number of telephones: 1,500+
  • Total compartments: over 2,000
  • Miles of piping: 200
  • Total electric motors & components: 2,000+
  • Miles of copper conductor: 3,000
  • Miles of fire hose: 4.5
  • Population electrical power could serve: 1 million
  • Number of locomotives power equivalent to: 140
  • Homes fuel supply could heat in one year: 3,000

  • Daily food requirements
  • Meat: 4,500 lbs.
  • Dry provisions: 20,000 lbs.
  • Potatoes: 3,000 lbs.
  • Vegetables: 5,000 lbs.
  • Bread: 1,000 loaves

  • Ship’s capacity for consumable goods:
  • Meals served daily: 13,000
  • Number of ship’s stores: 6
  • Dry provisions: 1,500,300 lbs.
  • Vegetables: 205,000 lbs.
  • Meat: 240,000 lbs.
  • Dairy: 66,300 lbs.
  • Gallons of fresh water produced daily: 240,000


Engine control room


Main Combat Control Room


Medical Room


Captain’s Quarters


Command Bridge



Author’s profile, CV-41 in 1945

Specifications 1945

Dimensions 295 m long, 41.25 m wide, 10.51 m draft
Displacement 47,387 t. standard -59 900 t. Fully Loaded
Crew 4,104
Propulsion 4 shafts Westinghouse turbines, 12 Babcok & Wilcox boilers, 212,000 hp
Speed 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)
Range 20,000 nmi () at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Armament 18 x 5 in (127mm), 84 x 40 mm (21×4), 68 x 20 mm AA, 137 aircraft
Armor 155 mm (6.2 in), see notes

Cold War modernization: SCB-110 upgrade


USS Midway’s successfive modernizations, 1957 and 1970


Deck plan after SCB-110 modernization, circa 1957

Cold War modernization programmes

SCB-110 1954-56 modernization

This started by USS FDR which was the prototype. The following modifications were done:

-Fitting of a “hurricane bow” to replace her separate bow and flight deck, something done already on the Essex class.

-Single extra C-11-2 steam catapult and two longer, heavier C-11-1 steam catapults forward

-Strengthened arresting gear

-Enlarged bridge, reinforced to support new radars:

-SPS-8 height finding radar

-SPS-12 air search radar on a new tubular mast.

-Mirror landing system

-482-foot (147 m) angled flight deck.

-Aft elevator relocated to the starboard deck edge

-Forward elevator enlarged and reinforced

-All elevators now able to lift 75,000 lb (34,000 kg)

-Aviation fuel bunkerage rose from 350,000 to 450,000 gallons (1,320,000 to 1,700,000 L).

-Standard displacement now 51,000 tons

-Deeply loaded displacement 63,400 tons.

-Eight 5-inch (127 mm) Mark 16 removed (10 left)

-3,200-ton armor belt removed.

-Hull blisters added for stability.

The controversial SBC-110.68 modernization (1969)

midway poop

USS Midway was the prototype for this, but soon the sum of all modifications ended in a massive cost overrun

USS Roosevelt instead had an austere modernization, starting in July 1968 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard and lasting for 11-month:

-Forward centerline elevator relocated to the starboard deck edge

-Port waist catapult removed

-Crew spaces refurbished

-Two more 5-inch (127 mm) removed (2 left).

-Deck edge spray system with the seawater compatible fire-fighting “Light Water”.

-Various hangar and lifts, catapults modifications to operate the A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II.

The SBC-110.85 modernization


USS Midway (CV-41) poop, propellers and rudders in 1985 while under refit

Src/Read More


USS Midway post-SBC-100 (center), framed by Kitty Hawk and Nimitz, 1980s, Photo by a TARPS F-14A

Books

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922–1946 & 1947-95

Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the present; by Roger Chesneau

Combat Fleets of the World 1990-1991; by The U.S. Naval Institute

San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum

U.S. Aircraft Carriers, An illustrated Design History; by Norman Friedman

Links

navypedia.org/

midwaysailor.com

combinedfleet.com/

armouredcarriers.com

The Midway class on man.fas.org

WNUS_Radar_WWII on warships.com.cn

Declassified radar info on history.navy.mil

USS Midway Museum

Videos

Drachinfels on the Midway class

Full specs

Midway and Operation Frostbite footage

Pathe archives, USS Midway 1947

“aboard the flattop Midway”, USNI archives

Model Kits

General query on scalemates

Available in quircky scales like the old Revell US FDR 1948 by Heller/Revell at 1:547, the more common 1:700- loose cannon (1946 v), Orange Hobby (1980), 1:700 ARII, Kangnam, Micro Ace, and the tabletop games 1:1250 by Neptun, plus a generous 3D print parts stock.

USS Midway CV-41


Shakedown in the Carribean Sea, early 1946


USS Midway’s Operation Frostbite, March 1946

USS Midway’s launching was sponsoored on 20 March 1945, by Mrs. Bradford William Ripley, Jr. but she was commissioned on 10 September 1945, just eight days after the Surrender of Japan. The next fifty years would have her committed in many actions. Her first captain was Joseph F. Bolger. Contrary to some sources on the internet, she was not sent in Tokyo Bay, nor used for air operations over Japan and its Occupation.


After commission

She made her shakedown in the Caribbean, and joined the U.S. Atlantic Fleet for its first postwar training planning, from Norfolk naval base. From 20 February 1946, as flagship, Carrier Division 1. In March 1946, she participated in Operation Frostbite: This was a test of the Ryan FR Fireball, and helicopter rescue techniques, for cold-weather operations: This happened in the Labrador Sea. In September 1947, this was Operation Sandy, testing a captured German V-2 rocket from her flight deck, also the world’s first launch on such moving platform. The rocket lifted off but soon tilted and broke up at around 15,000 feet (4,600 m), exploding. More tests were done from converted US Submarines, this time with the V1.


USS Midway in 1947


USS Midway off Sicily 1949

On 29 October 1947, USS Midway made at last her first annual deployment, with the 6th Fleet, Mediterranean. She also received a few alterations notably to her flight deck, lifts, and hangar in order to accommodate heavier aircraft planned to be deployed on board in the upcoming years. In June 1951, USS Midway was in the Atlantic, off the Virginia Capes testing the F9F-5 Panther. On 23 June however, Cdr. George Chamberlain Duncan while landed was blow off-course by a downdraft and crashed, but he survived. The footage is quite famous.


CVB-41_steaming_off_the_Firth_of_Clyde_in_September_1952

In 1952, Midway took part in Operation Mainbrace in the North Sea as a centerpiece of a NATO Task Force, one of many. In May that same year she had her angled runway painted for experimental touch-and-go landings after such tests were proven on HMS Triumph. Adoption of angled flight deck for fture CV construction or conversions made little doubts after that. On 1 October 1952, Midway CVA-41 (For “Attack”).

After a quiet 1953, 1954 and some minor modifications and maintenance, USS Midway left Norfolk 27 December 1954 for a world cruise via the Cape of Good Hope, and to Taiwan, being the first large carrier of 7th Fleet in Western Pacific Waters, until 28 June 1955. USS Midway pilots helped evacuating the Tachen Islands during the Quemoy-Matsu crisis: 15,000 Chinese nationalist troops, 20,000 Chinese civilians and livestock moved to Taiwan. it was also called the “First Taiwan Strait Crisis”. This episode in Which China, undear the US nuclear deterrence threat felt humiliated, vowed to create its own nuclear program.

Another episode was a segregation scandal of part of the crew while in Cape Town, under Apartheid. But the Navy denied such intention or effective measure. On 28 June 1955, Midway was in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, for her first extensive modernization program SCB-110. It drew largely from the earlier SCB-125 applied to the Essex-class carriers. In addition to her new enclosed hurricane bow, aft deck-edge elevator, angled flight deck, demodelled flight deck, new steam catapults, reinforced decks and hangars (and many other modifications) she was back into service on 30 September 1957.

Post Modernization depoyments and Vietnam


USS Midway’s storm bow after modernization, oct. 1965

Based in Alameda, California, USS Midway started her annual deployments with a brand new jet-powered air group (McDonnell F3H Demons, North American FJ-4 Furys, Vought F-8 Crusaders, Douglas A-1 Skyraiders, Douglas A-3 Skywarriors). She was assigned to the 7th Fleet in 1958 but was depliyed in the South China Sea during the Laotian Crisis (spring 1961). In 1962, a “hot” year with the Cuban missile crisis, USS Midway recorded her 100,000th arrested landing.

She tested Japanese self defence forces air warning defense systems, but also operated off Korea, Okinawa and the Philippines, or Taiwan, under a watchful eye of the PRC. She made another deployment in the Far East on 6 March 1965: As Viet-Conh started enginging southern forces in 1959, the situation escalated, with US advisors and material backing at first. From mid-April 1964, Midway launched a serie of strikes against military and logistics installations, both in North Vietnam and againsyt Viet-Congh positions in the south. In between in August 1964 the “Tonkin Incident” saw a state of war with North Vietnam confirmed and Johson ordering more troops and assets to be deployed among other ships of the USN deployed in Vietnam.


CVA-41 operating in the South China Sea in October 1965, post SBC-110

This era saw the first combat use of the AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-surface missile. Also on 17 June 1965, two VF-21 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs from Midway were credited with the first MiG kills in Vietnam with their (woefully innacurate at first) AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. Three days later, four A-1 Skyraiders using the WW2 “Thach Weave” tactic to down a MiG-17. A F-4 Phantom and two A-4 Skyhawks were lost on 23 November to S-75 Dvina SAMs also.

On 11 February 1966 she was back to San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard, for her SCB-101.66 modernization, later controversial. Flight deck enlarged, angle increased, elevators enlarged and moved, massively strenghtened, new steam catapults and arresting gear, centralized air conditioning. The controversy arise fdue to cost overruns, from $88 million to a whooping US$202 million. Therefore it was cancelled for Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was in addition only recommissioned on 31 January 1970, four years afterwards. At sea, her seakeeping capabilities/air operations in rough seas were severely degraded, urging modifications.


US Midway, Pacific 30_November 1974

When complete she was sent to Vietnam for her second tour of duty there, with a brand new air group on 18 May 1971. She relieved USS Hancock at Yankee Station, leaving on 5 June, than patrolling until 31 October 1971 and back home on 6 November 1971. With Air Wing 5 (CVW 5) she left Alameda on 10 April 1972. On 11 May, together with the air groups of USS Coral Sea, Kitty Hawk, and Constellation, she started lying naval mines off North Vietnamese ports: Thanh Hóa, Đồng Hới, Vinh, Hon Gai, Quang Khe, and Cam Pha or Haiphong, but the latter port was warned 72 hours in advance to avoid unnessesary collateral damage.

USS Midway was still there when Operation Linebacker started in the the summer of 1972. On 7 August 1972, one of her HC-7 Det 110 helicopter aided by Saratoga’s air group searched and rescued an A-7 Corsair II pilot, which plane was sot down by a SAM 20 mi (32 km) inland, northwest of Vinh. This helicopter made the deepest penetration even seen into North Vietnam since 1968. In total, Midway Helicopters would save 48 pilots. Her planes also made the last air-to-air victory of the Vietnam war (12 January 1973).

USS Midway underway in the Pacific Ocean, 19 April 1971
USS Midway underway in the Pacific Ocean, 19 April 1971

USS Midway overhead view in April 1972
USS Midway overhead view in April 1972

Major Buang lands his Cessna O-1 on USS Midway
Major Buang lands his Cessna O-1 on USS Midway

On 5 October 1973, she was in Yokosuka, Japan, after the agreement of 31 August 1972 with the Japanese navy. Thus, there were three carriers based in East Asia permanently, and CVW 5 was based at the Naval Air Facility Atsugi. For her service until 9 February 1973, USS Midway and CVW 5 received the Presidential Unit Citation from Richard Nixon. Operation Frequent Wind started on 19 April 1975, with the invasion by North Vietnam. USS Midway, Coral Sea, Hancock, Enterprise and Okinaw supported South Vietnam with many strike missions on demand. The 7th Fleet next were committed in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon mostly by eight U.S. Air Force CH-53 from 21st Special Operations Squadron, two HH-53 helicopters(40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron). Her standard her group has been left in Manila. These helicopters transported hundreds of U.S. personnel and Vietnamese people to safety. On 29 April 1975, RVNAF Major Buang-Ly made a last-ditch landing with his two place O-1 aircraft with his family on board, landing in the worst possible conditions, a feat of airmanship.

Late Career: The Middle East (1976-85)


USS Midway in Yokosuka, 1984

After ferrying people to other ships, USS Midway was based in Thailand to disembark Air Force helicopters at U-Tapao (Royal Thai Navy). Over 50 RVNAF aircraft were air-lifted on Midway and when departing, she had about 100 helicopters and aircraft aboard, disembarked to Guam for the most. She headed newt to the Philippines, picking her original air wing and was re-routed to act in support of special operation forces rescuing SS Mayagüez. Again, she recuperated her air group at NAS Cubi Point (Philippines) and at last on 21 August 1976, before making for home, she became the center of a task force off the coast of Korea, in reaction to the aggresson of North Korean soldiers on 18 August on US Officer (Operation Paul Bunyan), mostly a demonstration.

USS Midway next relieved USS Constellation in the Indian Ocean, on 16 April 1979. As USS Ranger collided with the tanker Liberian Fortune near the Straits of Malacca, Midway took her place and with her escorts maintained a strong US presence between the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf, amidst raising tensions. On 18 November 1976, she headed for North Arabian Sea, ready for operations planned after the Theran Embassy hostage crisis. On 21 November however, USS Kitty Hawk, later joined by USS Nimitz were deployed for operations on 22 January 1980, USS Midway being relieved by her sister-ship USS Coral Sea on 5 February.


Damage after collision with the freighter Cactus

After maintenance in Yokosuka, USS Midway relieved USS Coral Sea in turn on 30 May 1980, operating south of Jeju-Do Island (Sea of Japan) while unrest rose in the Republic of Korea. While transiting in the Philippines and off Northern Borneo on 29 July she collided with the Panamanian merchant ship Cactus, stricking near Midway’s liquid oxygen plant, but overall there was light damage. On 17 August, she relieved USS Constellation in the Indian Ocean with USS Dwight D. Eisenhower task group deployed in the Arabian Sea, staying 118 days there.

Soviet II-38 passes over USS Midway
Soviet II-38 passes over USS Midway.

On 16 March 1981, her helicopters rescued the previous spotted, downed civilian helicopter in the South China Sea. On 25 March 1986, she made her final F-4S Phantom II launches in the East China Sea, pending replacement by the F/A-18A Hornet. Next she served into the western Pacific throughout for most of the 1980s. She received hull blisters in 1986 to help soliving her seakeeping issues but this refit (EISRA or “Extended Incremental Selected Repair Availability”) was counterproductive. Her instability increased in rough seas, her flight deck being swept clean at each roll. A planned $138 million refit was approved but eventually decommission was also proposed for the the “Rock’n Roll carrier” experiencing a 26-degree roll during a typhoon in the Sea of Japan on 8 October 1988.

Battle Group Alpha
Battle Group Alpha, USS Midway and USS Iowa underway, 1987

On 30 October 1989 a single F/A-18 Hornet from USS Midway dropped a 500 pounds (227 kilograms) bomb on the deck of USS Reeves during a training in the Indian Ocean while she was 32 miles (51 km) south of Diego Garcia. Also on 20 June 1990 during flight operations, 125 nautical miles (232 km; 144 mi) northeast of Japan, two onboard explosions rocked the ship and sparked a fierce fire, raging for ten hour before mastery. The ship also had two kills, nine wounded amongst the fire-fighting team (“Flying Squad”).

USS Midway was repaired in Yokosuka, an event which was widely mediatized by the international press. Many in the Government and Navy thought about her immediate retirement, but events caught her for a very last mission, even as her sister ships were being decommissioned.

Desert Storm


US Navy, Battle Force Zulu carriers overhead view in 1991

Four US Navy carriers were mustered to create “Battle Force Zulu” in 1991 and this included USS Midway, Ranger, Theodore Roosevelt (Nimitz class) and USS America. On 1 November 1990 USS Midway was deployed in the North Arabian Sea, the fourth carriers of “TFZ” beiong escorted by an international fleet. She relieved USS Independence and on 15 November took part in Operation Imminent Thunder, 90 days of combined amphibious landing exercise, northeastern Saudi Arabia.

After Operation Desert Storm began, on January 17, USS Midway launched some of her CVW-5 planes for the first carrier strikes, using an A-6E TRAM Intruder (VA-185 Nighthawks) led the raid, by 17 other aircraft. Four A-6E TRAM Intruders (VA-118 and VA-115 Eagles) attacked Shaibah Air Base and three A-6E TRAM Intruders (VA-115) attacked Ahmad Al-Jaber Air Base. AAA fire was fierce in both, and low-level attacks were dropped until the end of the war; In all 228 sorties the first day, from Midway and Ranger, John F. Kennedy and Saratoga (Red Sea), no loss was recorded and objectives were hit hard. Destruction was compounded by more than 100 Tomahawk missiles.

USS Midway also was the first carrier to have a Walleye deployed by an F/A-18 squadron (VFA-195) in operations, destroying the Umm Qasr Naval Base HQ. Another destroyed an Iraqi Super Frelon helicopter armed with Exocet missiles on the ground. The danger of Exocets had USS Ranger and Theodore Roosevelt moved up closer to Kuwait. Operations ended on 27 February, USS Midway departing the Persian Gulf in March for Yokosuka.

Late career and conversion as a museum ship

CV-41 leaving Yokosuka
CV-41 leaving Yokosuka, spelling “Sayonara” in 1991

In June 1991, USS Midway made her final deployment to Philippines (Operation Fiery Vigil), evacuating 20,000 military members and their families from Clark Air Base (Luzon) after Mount Pinatubo erupted. She was accompanied by some twenty other U.S. naval ships. Refugees were landed in Cebu, and taken off by helicopter. She was back to Yokosuka for maintenance, but decommission was now inevitable, and probably, scrapping.

In August 1991, she left alast time her port base of Yokohama, with the crewmen’s families, and headed for Pearl Harbor. USS Independence replaceed her in Yokosuka and Rear Admiral Joseph Prueher (Carrier Group ONE) raised his flag on USS Midway for the last time, stopping to Seattle and disembarking guests of crew members before proceeding to San Diego.

USSMidway-museum-air-overview

Decommissioned at Naval Air Station, North Island, on 11 April 1992, USS Midway had the honors of a special ceremony headed by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The crew was filmes for the documentary movie “At Sea”, at the Navy Museum in Washington, D.C. Stricken on 17 March 1997, she was mothballed there, waiting for her fate, which was likely to be converted as a carrier due to her age. Preparations went on until on 30 September 2003, she was sent to the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Bremerton (Washington) and San Diego (California) to be converted as as a museum ship and memorial. She was docked by October 2003 at the Charles P. Howard Terminal, Oakland, Cal. and Broadway Pier, San Diego. On 10 January 2004, she opened to the public on 7 June 2004, receiving a massive attendance. She is still there to be visited by all, at Navy pier, San Diego.

USS F.D.Roosevelt CV-42

Commissioning of USS Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 27 October 1945
Commissioning of USS Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on 27 October 1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt was commissioned on Navy Day, 27 October 1945, drawiong medias and a crowd at the New York Naval Shipyard. Capt. Apollo Soucek became her first CO, bringing her to a shakedown cruise down to Rio de Janeiro (February 1946), representing the United States in honor of president Eurico Gaspar Dutra being elected, and hosted him aboard, for a short cruise. In April-May, she was assigned to the 8th Fleet, for maneuvers off the East Coast, a large set of exercises.

On 21 July 1946, her CO and staff worked out her very first all-jet air group, under controlled conditions. Lieutenant Commander James Davidson flew the McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom successfully off Cape Henry in Virginia, and in November, Lt. Col. Marion E. Carl was catapulted and made landings with a Lockheed P-80A, eventally not adopted for carrier service.


FDR island at Navy pier, Seattle 1954

Fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean was followed by her first cross-atlantic journey to serve in the Mediterranean, arriving in August, and up to October 1946 as flagship, Rear Admiral John H. Cassady (Carrier Division 1) leading the Piraeus Task Force operational from 5 September 1946. This visit and strenght gave comfort to the pro-Western government of Greece caught in a bitter communist-led civil war. She hosted thousands of visitors while touring Mediterranean ports as the largest warship to ever sail the Mediterranean initiating the American aircraft carrier later transformed into the permanent Sixth Fleet.

In late 1946 and 1947 she operated on the East Coast, back in the US, and in July was hit by a storm that damaged her bow notably, forcing repairs in Norfolk Naval Shipyard, prolongated by an extensive overhaul with her 40 mm Bofors removed and the latest 3-inch (76 mm) Mark 22 guns installed, in ten Mark 33 twin mountings. From September 1948, until to January 1949 she returned in the Mediterranean.

In 1950, she had nuclear weapons onboard when participating in Operation Mainbrace (September-October 1952) in the North Atlantic. She sailed with USS Midway, USS Wasp, and HMS Eagle, escorted by the BBs USS Wisconsin and HMS Vanguard.

FDR underway in 1958
FDR underway in 1958

Reclassified CVA-42 from 1 October 1952 her home water routine home proceeded in 1953, until a major reconstruction in 1954 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, but the added blister prvente her to cross the Panama Canal, so she had to round Cape Horn in order to get there on 5 March 1954, inaugurating the SCB 110 reconstruction. Its cost at the time was about $48 million and she was recommissioned on 6 April 1956.

After post-refit trials, she was based on Mayport, Florida. On February 1957, she started cold weather tests, which included the recently fitted Regulus guided missile. This happened in the Gulf of Maine. In July 1957, she departed for the Mediterranean and 6th fleet, the first of three deployments. This was combined with a routine of NATO exercises and major fleet operations. She had a 1958 mid-year overhaul, in which the remaining 5-in guns were removed for good;

On 24 October 1958, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was assisting USS Kleinsmith evacuating merican citizens from Nicara in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution. In 1960, her first production Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (FLOLS) was installed onboard, manufactured by the Control Instrument Company. She celebrated her 100,000th aircraft landing in March 1961. She was overhauled in 1963 and lost all her remaining artillery, her last six 5-inch guns, now obsolete.

While in the Eastern Mediterranean, late 1964, she lost a propeller blade and was prvisionally fixed in Naples, enough to sail back to New York with her N°1 shaft locked. It was replaced in Bayonne, New Jersey and she departed again to conclude her Mediterranean deployment. From August 1966 to January 1967, she was called in Southeast Asia, like most of the USN, making there a 95 days frontline tour of duty. Carrier Air Wing One (F-4 Phantom IIs and A-4 Skyhawks) brough a significant support to air operations, enoigh for the aircraft carrier to Roosevelt earn one battle star for this unique Vietnam War deployment.

FD Roosevelt 1969
USS FD Roosevelt after refit 1969

In January 1968, the CV hosted actress Virna Lisi during her 22nd birthday celebrations. This was to be followed by the same extensive reconstruction (SCB 101.68) applied to USS Midway in 1966-1970. But due to its massive cost overruns, Roosevelt had an austere $46 million refit called SCB 103.68 instead. It was limited to enabler her to operate the Grumman A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II. This was over and she was recommissioned on 26 May 1969.

From 1st August she embarked Carrier Air Wing Six, which served as the ship’s air wing for the next seven cruises. In January 1970, Roosevelt returned to the Mediterranean for another Sixth Fleet deployment. She made her 21st 6th Fleet deployment as a witness of October 1973 Yom Kippur War, used as a “landing field” for aircraft delivered to Israel. As part of Task Force 60.2 evacuation contingencies plans were drafted in case.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Mediterranean, 1971 after austere refit
USS_Franklin_D_Roosevelt_Mediterranean_1971_after_austere-refit

In 1973-1975, her new air group VAW-121 was the last to operate the Grumman E-1 Tracer. As CV-42 from 30 June 1975, she was left witout ASW capability. In June 1976, she carried instead VMA-231, equipped with fourteen 14 AV-8A Harrier instead for testings and Carrier Air Wing 19 for her final deployment from October 1976 to April 1977.

VMA-231 demonstrated VTOL capabilities alongside fixed wing air operations, and measured were taken not for their hot exhaust burn painted non-skid surfaces, also blowing detached pieces of the coating. They were removed, but this was taken in account for the operating assault ship’s own decks. On 12 January 1977, USS F.D. Roosevelt collided with the Liberian grain freighter “Oceanus” in the Strait of Messina but damage was light. Shen left the Mediterranean and called home.

USS Franklin D. Roosevelt at anchor in 1976
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt at anchor in 1976

Since her last refit, it was established the ship was in generally poor material condition and due to hher auster modernization, proved the least capable of the class. General Electric turbines, she was alone to operate (the others had Westinghouse units) were problematic as well. In the end decision was made to have her decommissioned and replace her by the second Nimitz-class carrier, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

She was decommissioned on 30 September 1977, stricken the same day but funds lacked to have her preserved in New York City. She was not even sent to the reserve fleet, and to counter the Carter Administration’s cost-saving measure, potentially targeted as the costly Nimitz-class carriers, she was sold on 1 April 1978, to the River Terminal Development Company, for $2.1 million, towed to Kearny (3 May 1978) for scrapping.

USS Coral Sea CV-43

USS Coral Sea underway at sea 11 February 1948

USS Coral Sea at sea in February 1948.

Early Career 1948-57

As soon as she was commissioned, USS Coral Sea saw on 27 April 1948 saw a test with two P2V-2 Neptunes making assisted takeoffs (JATO) commanded by Cdr Thomas D. Davies and Lt. Cdr John P. Wheatley off Norfolk. This was the first carrier launchings of that magnitude. On 7 June 1948 she made a midshipmen cruise to the Mediterranean and when back to the Caribbean before returning to home port Norfolk, Virginia, on 11 August. After an overhaul she was seen training off the Virginia Capes.

On 7 March 1949 she made a P2V-3C Neptune (John T. Hayward, VC-5) launching, this time carrying a 10,000-lb dummy bombs payload, dropped on the West Coast, returning nonstop to NAS Patuxent in Maryland to test the concept of carrier-borne atomic bomb attacks. At the same time, the USS United States was designed for this purpose and laid down (and cancelled) in April. After her seasonal Caribbean training, departed on 3 May 1949 for her first long Mediterranean tour with the 6th Fleet until 28 September.

On 21 April 1950, the first AJ-1 Savage heavy attack bomber (Captain John T. Hayward, VC-5) made a first takeoff from her deck. Carrier qualifications with these were complete on 31 August, and she made a second TOD (Tour of Duty) in the Mediterranean (9 September 1950-1 February 1951). After a new periodic overhaul she resumed local operations and trained with Air Group 17 for 3rd TOD in the Mediterranean on 20 March 1951. She became flagship, CarDiv 6, for NATO’s “Beehive I”. Back in Norfolk on 6 October for Caribbean training and 4th Med TOD on 19 April 1952.

She stopped in Yugoslavia by September, hosting Marshal Josip Broz Tito on a one-day cruise while reclassified as “Attack Aircraft Carrier” (CVA-43) on 1 October 1952 she was back to Norfolk on 12 October for her periodic maintenance. After air group training off of the Virginia Capes and NAS Mayport by April 1953 she carried the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives for a 3-days cruise and on 26 April, made her 5th Med TOD, visiting Spain, and taking part in NATO “Black Wave” with Deputy Secretary of Defense R. M. Kyes on board. After her return to Norfolk on 21 October, she performed tests for the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) and the Naval Reserve, pushing to Guantánamo Bay.

Her 7th Med TOD (7 July-20 December 1954) accomplished (she hosted Generalissimo Francisco Franco while in Valencia), the rest of the year ws uneventful, between winter’s training in the Carribean and east coat exercises. Her 8th Med TOD lasted from 23 March to 29 September 1955, calling Istanbul and making another NATO exercise. On 23 July 1956 she departed for Mayport in Florida to embark Carrier Air Group 10 and making her 9th Med TOD with the 6th fleet and NATO exercise, this time hosting King Paul of Greece and his wife Friederike Luise Thyra of Hanover. The Suez Crisis saw her evacuating American citizens from Egypt until November 1955.

Major Reconstruction and Pacific Service

EA-1F from VAW-13 taking off in the 1960s, Vietnam

EA-1F from VAW-13 taking off in the 1960s, Vietnam

Back to Norfolk for maintenance on 11 February 1957, she departed on 26 February for Santos in Brazil and Valparaíso in Chile, also visiting and Balboa and the Canal Zone and calling for Bremerton (Washington) on 15 April, after rounding the cape. Like her sisters, she was too wide to cross the Panama canal. She made it to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, on 24 May 1957 for her SCB 110A reconstruction. She became tje first carrier to mount an elevator on the port quarter, inspired by the Kitty Hawk-class design. Recommissioned on 25 January 1960 she trained with her new air group along the West Coast and made her first PAC TOD or “WestPac” (Western Pacific cruise) with the 7th Fleet, Far East.By october she celebrated her 100,000th arrested landing.

On 14 December 1961 she was the first USN carried fitted wth the Pilot Landing Aid Television (PLAT) system, greatly helping landings as it provided a videotape for briefings and instructional purposes, analysis of accidents. It was widespread by 1963. The Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964 saw USS Coral Sea for her second WestPac on 7 December 1964 and on 7 February 1965, with USS Ranger and Hancock, she launched her air groups for Operation Flaming Dart targeting military barracks and staging areas close to Đồng Hới, North Vietnam.


USS Coral Sea refuelling at sea in 1960

These raids in retaliation for a Viet Cong attack on installations around Pleiku were followed from 26 March by the start of Operation Rolling Thunder over North Vietnam. USS Coral Sea air group focused on island and coastal radar stations off Vinh and on 3 April, the carrier’s CAP took off to intercep MiG-17s with USS Hancock, first to see aerial combat. One of her RF-8 also took the first shots of NVA SAM batteries two days later, and she stayed on station until 1 November 1965. Her second deployment went from 29 July 1966 to 23 February 1967.

This summer she became “San Francisco’s Own.”, the carrier enjoying a formal and official relationship. In July 1968 she also saw the first trials of the F-111B. More WestPac deployments followed until the end of the war, notably between 26 July 1967 and 6 April 1968, 7 September 1968-15 April 1969, 23 September 1969-1 July 1970, 12 November 1971-17 July 1972, 9 March 1973-8 November 73 and 5 December 1974-2 July 1975 with a peak of activity in April 1972, always with USS Hancock on Yankee Station, later joined by USS Kitty Hawk and Constellation, bringing close support durng the Tet Offensive. On 16 April 1972 alone, she flew 57 sorties in the Haiphong area, mostly aescorting B-52 Stratofortress strikes on Freedom Porch.


Leaving Pearl Harbor in 1963

Back home she made her refresher training (REFTRA) in 1971 in San Diego and while underway to Alameda she caught fire as the communications department erupted, spreading so fast that Captain William H. Harris had her ship stationed offshore to potentially abandon ship. Due to their heroic savings, several crewmbers were later awarded. The fire was mastered ahs was repaired during her yearly overhaul. When back in Vietnam she took part in Operation Pocket Money, mining North Vietnamese ports from 9 May 1972, later marred by Poor weather.

USS Coral Sea launched three A-6A Intruders and six A-7E Corsair II to lay naval mines, with a EKA-3B Skywarrior in support, off Haiphong Harbor. In all, circa 11,000 MK36 type and 108 special Mk 52-2 mines were layed over eight months. That some says contributed to give more weight to the US during peace arrangement. However widespread dissatisfaction with the War saw about 1000 crew members creating the assoc. Stop Our Ship (SOS), petitioning against the war, and on 6 November 1971, over 300 marched in the San Francisco anti-war demonstration, as well on 12 November 1971 off NAS Alameda, tryong to discourage sailors to go with the ship. This partly succeeded as 35 men deserted when the crew was accounted for.


Off San Francisco Bay 1971

Just as onboard USS Constellation she was part of these ‘flattop revolts’ expanded in 1972 to Kitty Hawk, Oriskany, Ticonderoga, America, and Enterprise. This went even up to Sabotage on USS Ranger and Forrestal, aviators also voicing their concerns about the bombing campaign more openly. The Paris Peace Accords were evetually signed next year, on 23 January 1973, after four years of talks. By the spring 1975 NVA offensive however concerned the Navy, still present and USS Coral Sea, Midway, Hancock, Enterprise, and Okinawa were there on 19 April 1975, in South Vietnamese waters ready to evacuate remaining US personel and refugees On 29–30 April 1975 she participated in Operation Frequent Wind, evacuating Saigon while being anchored off Vũng Tàu.

Post-vietnam occupations


Stern view, approaching Pearl Harbor 1981

On 12-14 May 1975 USS Coral Sea was present in the Mayaguez incident, when U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez was forcibly seized on 12 May by Khmer Rouge gunboats. She launched striked on the Cambodian mainland and covered 288 Marines launched from U Tapao in Thailand to Koh Tang Island, rescuring the crew. USS Coral Sea earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation on 6 July 1976 now redesignated “Multi-Purpose Aircraft Carrier” or CV-43, on 30 June 1975.

1975-79 were relatively uneventful but on 4 November 1979, following the siege of the US Embassy in Tehran (hostage crisis), USS Coral Sea replaced her sister ship USS Midway in the Arabian Sea on 5 February 1980 (“Gonzo Station”) and along USS Nimitz and TF ships, she took part in Operation Evening Light, the failed rescue attempt of 24 April, as support. The crew later was awardered the Navy Expeditionary Medal. She was seen later in Subic Bay, Philippines on 9 May 1980, now under command of Captain Richard Dunleavy lated caught by the Tailhook scandal.

On 10 June 1980, she was back in Alameda, marked by a theft and court matial of two court members. She made her final WestPac on 20 August 1981, via Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay in the South China Sea. She stayed in Singapore and roamed the Indian Ocean, relieving USS America at “Gonzo Station”, also operating with the Royal Navy (Exercize GonzoEx 2-81 in November). Her own battle group was under command of Rear Admiral Tom Brown, which planned a set of complex interoparbility exercizes with RN Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward (flagship HMS Glamorgan ). The latter “sunk” Coral Sea with Exocet missiles. This weighted later in the decision to sunk the ARA Belgrano in the Falklands war.


USS Coral Sea in the Mediterranean, 1983

Exercise Bright Star 82, in the defense of Egypt and the Suez Canal in early December 1981 followed ans the carrier was relieved by USS Constellation at Gonzo station, to sail to Pattaya, in Thailand, the Subic Bay, Hong Kong and Sasebo in Japan. She later made her return home via Pearl Harbor, to Alameda, arriving on 23 March 1982. It was followed by maintenance, upkeep, and exercizes off California, also “starring” in July 1982 as movie prop for “The Right Stuff”.

On 25 March 1983, she returned to the Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk. From there, she started a 6-month world cruise and was succeeded on the west coast by USS Carl Vinson. On 1 March 1984, she had a new air group, callled Carrier Air Wing 13, making three deployments until 30 September 1989. On 11 April 1985 while off Guantánamo Bay she collided with the Ecuadorian tanker ship Napo. Repairs at Norfolk took two months, and the skipper plus four officers were sacked and relieved of duty.

Mediterranean Operations: Libyan crisis

USS Coral sea 1986
USS Coral Sea in 1986

On 13 October 1985 she was back for her “Med TOD” with the 6th under command of Captain Robert H. Ferguson, air group CVW-13, equipped with the new F/A-18 Hornet of VFA-131, VFA-132, VMFA-314 and VMFA-323. On 2 January 1986, she acquired EA-6B Prowlers (VAQ-135) for Electronic Countermeasures/Jamming Support. With this group, on 24 March 1986 she was atacked by Libyan Armed Forces missiles in the Gulf of Sidra, one being a SA-5 from Sirte was defeated by her “Blue Darter” tactic, proving the new defensive concept. Combat air patrols off the Libyan coal followed, Hornets frequently called for interceptions of incoming Libyan MiG-23s, MiG-25s, Su-22s, and Mirages.

On 5 April 1986, the carrier lost one seveiceman, several injured in the Lybian retaliatory terorist attack of a nightclub in West Berlin. On 15 April 1986, her air group combined to Coral Sea and America’s plus USAF F-111Fs from RAF Lakenheath (UK) took part in “Operation El Dorado Canyon.” against many Libyan targets, Hornets having their first combat missions. Hornets from Coral Sea destroyed the main SA-5 missile site at Sirte with AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile. Other SAM sites were destroyed in bad weather, without any US loss.


USS Coral sea making a 30 knots goodbye run before retirement, 1st March 1989

USS Coral Sea alternated between the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean for the remainder of the 1980s and in 1987 was adopted the “Coral Sea configuration” combining two attack squadrons with a shared maintenance program. On 19 April 1989 while in the Caribbean, she assisted the crippled battleship Iowa suffering a dramatic gun turret explosion. A specialized team from Coral Sea removed volatile powder charges after being transferred aboard and assisted the crew along with her surgical team, supplies, Medevac, logistical support, taxiing with Sikorsky SH-3H helicopters from HS-17. She went back to Norfolk on 30 September 1989.

By that time when the Berlin wall fell, she had 43 years of continuous service, same duration assumed for the entire cold war. After her modernization programs she was decidedly too old in her general design and decommissioned on 26 April 1990, stricken on the 28th, mothballed, and on 7 May 1993, sold for scrap. All her usable equipment was purchased and reconditioned by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS). The scrapping was marred by financial, legal, and environmental issues in which the Baltimore Sun played a major part. The scrapping was over only on 8 September 2000.

Sangamon class escort aircraft carriers (1939)

Sangamon class Escort Aircraft Carriers

US Navy 4 ships (Converted, Commissionned Aug. – Sept. 1942):
USS Sangamon, Suwanee, Chenango, Santee

From civilian oilers to aircraft carriers

The former Cimarron-class oilers launched in 1939 for civilian use, were requisitioned for the supply needs of the fleet, recommissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1940–1941 as AO28, 29, 31 and 33. Later in early 1942, it was decided to convert them as escort aircraft carriers, a choice constrained at the time by the shortage of MARAD type C3 cargo ships for extra conversions.

The USN desperately needed new escort carriers, so was decided to attempt the Long Island type conversion to these four oilers, a work started in February-March and which took around six months, until the ships were recommissioned in August 24 (Santee), 25 (Sangamon), and then Chenango (19 September) and Suwanee (24 September).

Due to their larger size, these were the largest escort carrier conversions to date. They still managed to be faster than C3 conversion with 18 knots, roomier, and thus carrying 31 aicraft in normal condition, more than the C-3 based Bogue (28) for example. The larger hull also authorized more armament to be installed, twice as many 40 mm and two more 20 mm as completed.

Slightly larger they were designed as carriers from keel up. Since they were at the core designed as T3 tanker oilers, their machinery space was aft so the smokestacks were relocated on both sides aft also, at the flight deck level. Excellent first examples of Oiler conversions, they were found roomy, tough, and with a larger flight deck enabling larger aicraft, plus good stability on high seas. The Sangamons could also operate dive bombers, unlike other CVEs mostly carrying smaller F4Fs on board.

As fleet oilers

The Sangamon were named after rivers, a practice for oilers taken into naval service. USS SANGAMON (AO-28) was one of twelve tankers built on a joint Navy-Maritime Commission, design later duplicated by the T3-S2-A1 type laid down as ESSO TRENTON (MC hull 7) on 13 March 1939. She was originally built at the Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. as a special wartime standard. Launched on 4 November 1939 (sponsored by Mrs. Clara Esselborn), she was operated by the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), acquired by the USN on 22 October 1940, Renamed SANGAMON as the fleet oiler AO-28 and recommissioned the following day with Comdr. J. R. Duncan in command.

After service off the west coast and in Hawaiian waters, USS SANGAMON started a round of service with the Atlantic Fleet in the spring of 1941, operating together with the Neutrality Patrol by carrying fuel from the gulf coast oil ports to bases on the east coast including as north as Canada and Iceland. On 7 December 1941 she was at Argentia, offloading, before departing south to load another cargo, but this time on a tighter time frame.

After arrival in January 1942, she was designated for conversion to an auxiliary aircraft carrier and on 11 February sailed to Hampton Roads to be reclassified AVG-26 and on 25 February, decommissioned and converted at the Norfolk Navy Yard. During the spring and summer the USN expressed the need of a large fleet of auxiliary/escort carriers increased and outside Sangamon, three other CIMARRON class oilers were concerned as well as twenty C-3 merchant hulls (the future Bogue class), sped up. In August 1942, so seven months after start, USS SANGAMON was ready. On the 20th, she was redesignated ACV-26; and recommissioned on the 25th under command of Captain C. W. Wieber (see career).

For more about the ships themselves, they were the T3, an improved, larger versions of the T2 Tankers were saw recently. Designed in 1940 under the supervision of the United States Maritime Commission, they were part of the T3-S2-A1 Cimarron-class oilers (35 ships, AO-22-33, AO-51-64, AO-97-100). “AO” stands for “” . They were the USN underway replenishment class of oil tankers designed in 1939.

They had a full load displacement of about 24,830 tons, 553 ft (169 m) x 75 ft (23 m) x 32 ft 4 in (9.86 m), propelled by Geared turbines, twin shafts for 13,500 shp (10,067 kW) and 18 knots (21 mph; 33 km/h), a range of 12,100 nmi (22,400 km; 13,900 mi) and Capacity of 146,000 barrels (23,200 m3). Complement was 304. They were USN oilers and thus, well armed for the Pacific, with four 5-inch/38 caliber guns, four twin 40 mm gun mounts, four twin 20 mm gun mounts.

Conversion Design

20 knots Flight Deck Oiler conversion design
BuShips’s S-511-53 20 knots Flight Deck Oiler conversion design, prelim. study dated 21 March 1942.

The conversion consisting in deleting her superstructure, masts and all related oil-management pumps and tanks, adding a flight deck 502 feet long, 81 feet wide, with two elevators, a full size hangar, a catapult forward port, a sonar gear, aircraft ordnance magazines and work shops, stowage space for aviation spares under and in the hangar (suspended undere the roof as usual practice). Accommodations were also enlarged and rationalized to house her the aviation complement of mechanics, pilots and officers.

Hull and general specifications

The had a small island superstructure starboard, three decks high, with open bridge fo C&C, and a lattic mast supporting various radars. Unlike the C3 conversion, the basic hull was longer, roomier, and characterized by openings under her hangar for the storage room.

Powerplant

USS Sangamon in sea trials, Aug. 1942
USS Sangamon in sea trials, Aug. 1942

Based on the T3 Tanker machinery they were designed to reach 18 knots, thanks to a pair of steam turbines driving two shafts propellers. These sets of General Electric geared steam turbines were fed by four Marine-grade Babcock & Wilcox boilers for a global ouptut of 13,500 shp. For endurance, they kept some of her former holds, carrying a generous 4,780 tons of oil, enough not only for a very generous range of 23,900 natiical miles at 15 kts, but also allowing them to carry refuelling at sea of other ships like their own, always fuel-hungry escort destroyers, which happened in several occasions.

Armament

Final armament:

-Two 5 inch guns in sponsons aft, below the deck level, with a limited arc of fire. Standard Mark 15 127 mm/51: They could elevate −15° to +85°, had a rate of fire of 15 rpm ideally (manual loading), with a muzzle velocity of 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s), Optical telescope sights.

-8 x 40 mm/70 Bofors Mk.1.2: In twin and single mounts (22 in 1945)

-20 x 20 mm/70 Mk.4 Oerlikon AA guns: located around the flight deck in individual positions.

During the war, they received additional AA: In 1945, two quad 40mm/60 Mk 2, ten twin 40mm/60 Mk 1, 21 single 20mm/70 Mk 10 AA.

Radars

For communications she used an intercom, and a backup pipe system running from the open bridge on top. There were two large mast for antennae located on the port side. They supported a set of 12 radio wires. The bridge’s main derrick located at its supported at first a single SC radar, later in 1944 complemented by a SC radar. By 1946 they were upgraded to a SC-2 and an SG radar. They still carried it when decommuissioned but in the 1950s all carried an SLR-2 ECM suite.

The first platform supported light projectors. In front of the derrick on the open bridge’s deck was mounted a telemeter for gunnery operations. During her 1943 refits they obtained a centralized combat system, installed deep within. Fur service boats were suspended below the flight deck’s side overhangs fore and aft, but inflatables were carried all along the side, folded.

Aviation Facilities

SBDs on USS Sangamon, Operation Torch, Nov. 1942
SBDs on USS Sangamon, Operation Torch, Nov. 1942.

Their flight deck was of the same simple, stright design of the early C3 conversions, with a single H2 catapult fitted on the starboard side, oblique to follow the forward flight deck narrowing. This allowed also a second place to be parked alongside, wings unfolded. They had two lifts of standard size, located centerline, one forward, at the same hight of the island, and the other aft at the same height of the second triple 20 mm mounts mounts;

To stop planes, the Sangamon class had nine arrestor cables running all the way past mid-ship. They were followed by three extra cables (unweighted) and a crash barriers at the hight of the island.

Operations were made from the open bridge, but there was an operating room in the bridge with a model to carefully plan aircraft parking and launch/recovery operations more in detail. The hangar ran for most of the flight deck’s lenght, and was tall enough to accomodate all USN models in the inventory. The enclosed hangar could be ventilated through eight shutters along the sides. Inside, there was a sprinkler system for extinguishing fires and a single fire fighting OM. Details of the location of avgas tanks and safety of the pump/piping system are not known as conversion blueprints are unavailable.

Aviation Group

In absolute terms, the air group of 31 aircraft total (max capacity inside the main hangar) could in reality be boosted to 50+ with parked aircraft in taxiing mode (freeing the forward part for taking off) or “full monty” if the planed are disembarked by cranes on arrival. The deck space could accomodate well over 70 planes, wings folded.

According to Navypedia, USS Sangamon entered service with 12 F4F-4 Wildcats, 9 SBD-3 Dauntless and 9 TBF-1 Avenger (total 30). It was the same for Santee as commissioned, but with 13 TBFs, making for a total of 34.

USS Sangamon apparently had more modern F6F-3 Hellcats and same for the rest; Chenango however in October 1944 had 24 Hellcats and not TBF, but nine TBM-1 (the late GM Avenger). In April 1945 USS Santer had 18 F6F-5 Hellcats, equipped as fighter bombers, and 12 TBM-1 used only as bombers. Both AVC 26 and 27 carried also a Curtiss SOC Seagull, and one of several F4F-P Wildcat reconnaissance planes.

F4F-4 Wildcat, USS Santee, Atlantic, Nov. 1943.

F6F-3 Hellcat, USS Suwanee, 1945.

Grumman TBM-3 Avenger, USS Sangamon, circa 1945.

profile

USS Sangamon in 1944, in measure 5-O ocean blue – old author’s illustration: More modern and HD awaited.


blueprint

Sangamon class (1942) specifications

Dimensions 168.55 x 22.8/32 x 9.32m (553 x 105 x 30 ft)
Displacement 10,494 long tons standard, 23,875 tons FL
Crew 1080 in 1945
Propulsion 2 shafts GE turbines, 4 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Speed 13,500 shp, 18 kts
Range Oil tons =
Armament 2x 5-in/51 DP guns, 4×2 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, 12x 20mm/70 Mk 4, 31 aircraft
Armor None

Legacy: The “Bay” class

Commencement Bay

The experience was judged satisfying enough the admiralty ordered a new class, from the keel-up, to be mass-produced at Todd-Pacific Tacoma from the fall of 1943 to the end of the war: The Commencement Bay, or just “Bay”. The latter were about the same size, but their dedicated design was improved in a massive way, they were one knot faster, were roomier and could carry 33 aircraft (versus 27 on the Casablancas) plus a heavier armament. Their hull design however, machinery and underwater accomodation were mostly based on the T3 oilers. In all, 23 were planned (CVE-105 to 127), named after various land-sea battle, as they were intended to bring amphibious air cover, like the Casablanca class (the role given to modern Amphibious Assault Ships).

On the total, planned FY1944 and all laid down at Todd-Pacific Tacoma between September 1943 and March 1945, the war ended before most could see action in the Pacific. The last four were cancelled. Only USS Commencement Bay (CVE-105) comp. 27 November 1944, USS Block Island (CVE-106), comp. 30 December 1944 and USS Gilbert Islands (CVE-107) Comp. 5 February 1945 saw significant actions. Most of the others were completed in April to July 1945, and by the time their crews were ready for action, the war was practically at its end. Placed in reserve, many would be reactivated for the war in Korea.

A note about the CVHE conversion

USS Thetis Bay, CVHE-1 1955
USS Thetis Bay, CVHE-1, lead ship of the helicopter carrier conversion.

In the early cold war (1955) they were reclassed as helicopter carriers for ASW escort, but the conversion was cancelled. The concept of CVHE (H standing of course for “helicopter”) was a logical answer to the “Whiskey fear” of the 1950s when the Soviet Union could muster hundreds of Project 613 submarines, basically copies of the WW2 Type XXI, roaming the Atlantic. A plan was quickly setup to convert back many of the “mothball fleet” CVEs of WW2 into useful escort vessels again. Although the new generation of sea patrol planes, piston-propelled such as the Douglas Skyraider could be used for ASW missions, helicopter were thought as the best answer. The limited size of thickness of the decks allowed to carry about thirty or more helicopters onboard the Sangamon-class CVEs.

In the end the conversion was planned, but cancelled after a few years. In their place the larger and more modern “Bay” (but also Casablanca) class vessels were chosen for such conversions, not the venerable and battered Sangamon class. CVHEs were also later used as CVHA, for assault, their 21 helicopters used to carry and land USMC troops, later redesignated LPH.

Gallery


USS Santee at anchor, late 1942

Japanese A6M kamikaze
Japanese A6M kamikaze hitting USS Suwannee, Battle of Leyte 25 October 1944

Grumman TBF Avenger
Grumman TBF Avenger of VT-60 in flight over USS Suwannee, circa 1944

Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat
Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat from VF-60 launched from USS_Suwannee, circa_1944

USS Suwannee underway to Puget Sound
USS Suwannee underway to Puget Sound, 31 January 1945

USS_Santee
USS Santee, date unknown

Aircraft warming up before launch close to the island
Aircraft warming up before launch close to the island

FM-2 on CVE-89, October 1944
FM-2 on CVE-89, October 1944

F4F Wildcats on USS Santee, late 1942
F4F Wildcats on USS Santee, late 1942

F4F-4 Wildcats of VGF-29, USS Santee November 1942
F4F-4 Wildcats of VGF-29, USS Santee November 1942

SBDs on USS Santee, 1942-43
SBDs on USS Santee, 1942-43

Douglas SBD-3s, VGS-29 USS Santee, 27 December 1942
Douglas SBD-3s, VGS-29 USS Santee, 27 December 1942

Flight deck of USS Santee, SBDs in November 1942
Flight deck of USS Santee, SBDs in November 1942

TBF being hoisted aboard USS Santee
TBF being hoisted aboard USS Santee, coast port

USS Hambleton (DD-455) and USS Sangamon underway in 1942
USS Hambleton (DD-455) and USS Sangamon underway in 1942;

USS_Sangamon_in_harbour_c1943
USS Sangamon in the Solomons, 1943.


Operation Torch, USS Chenango taxiing P40 Warhawks in Nov. 1942

USS Chenango in Noumea, Jan 1943
USS Chenango in Noumea, Jan 1943

USS Chenango underway in 1944
USS Chenango underway in 1944

Air group
Air group 35 planes and crew posing on her flight deck

The Sangamon class in action:

After a short service in the Atlantic and Mediterranean (Operation Torch), all four CVEs spent almost all their active career in the Pacific, following the supply fleets for the USMC and taking part in the Guadalcanal and Somomons Campaign, The Marshall, Carolines, Philippines Campaign, participating also in the Battle of the Philippines in June 1944 and of Leyte in October 1944, being heavily targeted by Kamikaze but surviving.

In general, they were really appreciated as a conversion due to their very large fuel capacity, enabling them to refuel their own escort destroyers, but also large medical facilities, helping them to save many lives, and of couse a larger air group than C3 hull conversions CVEs, giving them a greater deal of flexibility in operations, between a defensive CAP, ASWP, and simultaneous air strikes. They collectively earned 41 battle stars and several presidential citations for their service.

USS Sangamon (CVE-26)


USS Sangamon underway in the South Pacific, 1943

Originally Esso Trenton (T3 tanker oiler) built by the Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, she was operated by Standard Oil, New Jersey making regular trips from gulf coast ports to the east coast. Requisitioned by the US Navy she re-entered service as a fleet tanker, USS Sangamon. She was then converted into an aircraft carrier. After conversion, USS Sangamon was recommissioned as ACv 26 and recommissioned on 25 August 1942, she made her Shakedown in Chesapeake Bay and off Bermuda followed by a stop to the yard for post-trials fixes andd improvements, notably to her ventilation system. On 25 October, even though everything was not fixed, she was ordered to join Task Force 34 mobilized for Operation Torch.

Operation Torch and Mediterranean Campaign

USS Sangamon underway to North Africa in November 1942
USS Sangamon underway to North Africa in November 1942

Her first action was to be part of the invasion fleet, under command of Capt. C. W. Wieber. During the invasion of North Africa she was assigned to the Northern Support Force, arriving off Port Lyautey on 8 November 1942. She barely had time to train with her rookie air group, the Composite Squadron 26 (VC-26) which composed her Wildcats combat air patrol (CAP), and an anti-submarine patrol (ASP) with nine, factory fresh first generation Grumman TBF Avengers, plus her ground support group composed of SBD Dauntlesses. She allegedly deployed a SOC Seagull fo reconnaissance. After support ing troops duing the few days of initial operations, at mid-November, she returned to Norfolk for a small refit, and she sailed for Panama and the Pacific.

A Sangamon class in 1942
A Sangamon class in 1942

The Pacific theater

By mid-January 1943, SANGAMON had arrived at Efate, New Hebrides and entered the Carrier Division 22 (CarDiv 22) operating from New Caledonia, to the New Hebrides and Solomons area for eight months. She was soon reunited with USS SUWANEE and CHENANGO her sister ships (90 plane between them) to provided cover for for the vital resupply convoys en route to Guadalcanal and assault forces that were inbound on the Russells. She became CVE-26 on 15 July 1943 and Efate, then Espiritu Santo became her new operating base in August 1943, followed by a voyage back to the US in September, for an overhaul at Mare Island.

The Marshall Campaign

USS_Sangamon_in_the_Solomons_1943

There, she received a modernized AA battery, radars and equipment for her flight deck as well as a fully functional, standardized combat information center. This was completed and she departed on 19 October San Diego with the air group VC-37, heading for Espiritu Santo. She arrived on 13 November, refuelled and rendezvoused with Task Force 53, proceeding next on the 20th to the Gilberts, on where she stays as support, for the assault on Tarawa. In the first two days her attack planes strafed and bombs enemy positions on Tawara and until 6 December, her fighters daily patrolled as part of the CAP, also making ASP missions to protect the escort carrier group.

Once complete, she was back to San Francisco and in early January 1944 trained off southern California, in the West, and back to Pearl Harbor, she was assigned to the fleet assaulting Kwajalein (Marshalls). At 16:51 on the 25th, her luck ran out: Despite a routine flight operations, one of her returning F6F Hellcat fighter failed to hook a wire on landing, and went through the barriers to crash into the forward flight deck jam-packed of parked planes, wings folded. Her belly tank detached and skidded forward, spewing flaming fuel quick inflamed, engulfing the parked group, and then spreading between these, causing further fiery explosions and ammunition detonations. Flames eventualy leaked the bridge, so her control became extremely difficult, but at least the captain ordered she was turned out of the wind to combat fire, and by 16:59, it was under control, but she deplored 7 kills, 7 seriously burned or injured, and from the 15 who jumped over the side, 13 were picked up.

The Marianas Campaign

After temporary repairs at sea, she spent up to mid-February resuming cover of the occupation of Kwajalein before proceeding to Eniwetok, covering the landing forces (17th-24th). She departed later the Marshalls back to Pearl Harbor and full repairs. On 15 March, the CVE got underway again. Departing soon, she joined Task Group (TG) 50.15 fast carrier force on 26 March, and up to April, she escorted TG 50.15, north of the Admiralties, refuelling and

resupplying after strikes on the Palaus. After returning to Espiritu Santo she headed for New Guinea, attached to the 7th Fleet, to cover the assault at Aitape (22-24) and retired to Manus, for rest and resupply two days, and back at Aitape for patrolling the area until early 5 May.

After a run to Espiritu Santo, she departed on 19 May to take part in Rehearsals for the Marianas campaign. On 2 June, she sailed for the Marshalls and joined TF 53, stopping at Kwajalein, then to the Marianas. On 17-20 May, she patrolled east of Saipan as part of the backup force for TF 52, and covered the assault on Saipan proper. Soon, the Battle of the Philippine Sea took place and she was detached to join TF 52 and by July, supported the occupation of the Island, before retiring to Eniwetok. On 13 July-1st August she covered prelimanry attack for Guam. On 4 August, she was in Eniwetok to resupply, then Manus for a prolongated rest until September.

On 9 September 1944, USS SANGAMON departed Seeadler Harbor, Manus, for Morotai and on the 15-27th covered Allied assault, bombing and strafing missions, on map and on demand on all Japanese positions and airfields at Halmahera. She was back at Seeadler Harbor (1-13 October) and was reassigned to TG 77.4, escorting the carrier group of the Leyte invasion force.

Sangamon at Leyte


Battle of Samar, USS Sangamon is hit;

This force comprised no less than 18 CVEs, and for easier management, was split into Task Units 77.4.1, 77.4.2, 77.4.3 (“Taffy”). At first she was assigned to Taffy 1 (east of Leyte Gulf, northern Mindanao). Meanwhile “Taffy 2” was posted at the entrance to Leyte Gulf and famous “Taffy 3” off Samar.

Before D-Day (20 October) regular missions were flown in support of advanced units, performing strikes against Leyte and Visayan airfields. The day of the landings, she covered the transport areas, but also came under enemy air attack. She was struck by an A6M Zeke Kamikaze, by a bomb at the main deck level. The detonation cut out a 2×6 feet section of plating, but the aicraft crashed at sea 300 yards away. The bomb did not penetrated and she could resume operations against Enemy airfields afterwards.

On 24 October her CAP was busy fending off more waves of Kamikaze over the landing area. On the 25th, she sent part of her air group out to the Mindanao Sea to search and destroy Japanese survivors of the Battle of Surigao Strait, while her other was a CAP toward Leyte. Soon, news were received that “Taffy 3,” 120 miles northwards, was under attack, to what was later known as the Japanese Center Force sneaking by night through the San Bernardino Strait. In 50 min. her CAP was sent to Samar to assist.

At about 07:40, Taffy 1’s planes were recovered, rearmed, and launched again when hit by a first massive strike of Kamikazes. Son CAPs and AA gunners were overwhelmed, and USS SANTEE took a direct hit, the ordnance going straight through her flight deck, exploding on the hangar. Others targeted Sangamon and during her fierce defense, a single 5-inch shell from USS Suwanee blasted on Kamikaze only 50 yards from SANGAMON in the “scratch my back” way. By 07:55 I-56 arrived on sight and took part in the fray, torpedoing the unfortunate SANTEE just has her heroic damage party was having fires under control. The ship soon listed, and if that was not enough, a few minutes later, an A6M “Zeke” crashed on her deck, forward of the after elevator.

Meanwhile, USS SANGAMON’s crew, in particular the exposed AA personel and deck crews were strafed, one being killed, several injured in the process. After the first wave exitnguished, her captain decided to sent her own medical

personnel to assist on USS Santee in particular. The most in need of care were brought aboard for treatment. Even if she was not hit directly, many near-misses took their toll and USS Sangamon had her steering gear malfunctioning as well as her generators and catapult. Repairs were completed just for her scheduled afternoon strikes, which gave chase to the retreating Japanese Center Force.

On the 26th, she recovered all her scattered planes, soon gathering a new CAP, with tired pilots, just as at 12:15, radars spotted enemy planes incoming from the north. Despite a staunch CAP defense, severam of these second wave Kamikaze went through and dove on Taffy 1. USS SUWANEE suffered another kamikaze hit, but Sangamon fended off attacks and went unscaved again. Like her crippled sisters, she retired on the 29th, to Seeadler Harbor. By early November, she headed back to the US for her main overhaul at Bremerton, until 24 January 1945. There, she had rocket stowage racks installed for her late F6F Wildcats and Avengers, a welcomed second catapult, modernized radar gear and extra new 40 mm AA mounyts, plus a decicated bomb elevator, additional fire fighting equipment.

Okinawa

In mid February, USS Sangamon was in Hawaii, training her crew and her new air group, notably VC-33 including F6F night fighters. On 5 March 1945 she proceeded to Ulithi, temporarily detached for TU 52.1.1, committed to the initial assault phase for Operation “Iceberg” (Ryukyus Campaign). On 21 February, she departed Ulithi as part of the Kerama Retto assault force. She also operated south of Okinawa, launching a CAP and and strikes on Kerama Retto until secured. On 1 April, she was reassigned to TU 52.1.3, and reunited with her own CarDiv 22, and sister ships for more missioned over and around Okinawa.

She was posted on the 9th, about 70 miles east of Sakishima Gunto, attacking airfields on Miyako and Ishigaki, later alternating with strikes on Okinawa and landing at Ie Shima. She made Dawn and dusk strikes plus heckler flights on airfields at night. On the 22d, her strike group founded a 25-30 aircraft just warming up on Nobara Field in central Miyako and despite Seven Ki-43 “Oscars” took off in time for interception, her attack was devastating. Bombers went back after delivering their payload but Hellcats stayed being to finish off remaining Oscars, claiming five. Her night fighters arrived later and intercepted more Japanese planes, downing four “Oscars” that night.

On 4 May, Kerama Retto became her new resupply base for upcoming operations. At 18:30, her radars spotted Japanese aicraft incoming 29 miles off soon intercepted by land-based fighters, claiming 9, but one Kamikaze went thriugh and soon took a position ideal to find a spot and attack Sangamon at 19:00, circling towards her port quarter. Her captain ordered a hard left turn while opening fire, assisted by her escorts. They eventually splashed down the plane just 25 feet off her starboard beam.


Kamikaze damage, 4 May 1945

At 19:25, another also came though her CAP and managed to avoid AA fire, and at 19:33, dropped a bomb that crashed dead center on her flight deck, the plane itself also crashing, both partly penetrating into the hangar, hurling flames and shrapnel, and fires erupted which were hard to contain. Communications from the bridge were severed, and she became out of control. Unfortunately, she turned into the wind, which spread flames and smoke. At 20:15, steering control was back in operation, so her captain ordered a course helping fire-fighting, despite water pressure was low. In addition, firemain and risers ruptured, forcing the damage party to use Carbon Dioxide bottles while other ships came alongside to assist. At 22:30 at last, after four hours of a raging inferno, everything was under control, including Communications. it was reported to the captain at 23:20, 11 dead, 25 missing, and 21 seriously wounded. All her aicraft but one were lost. She headed for previsional repairs at Kerama Retto.

Back home and decommission

After transiting to Pearl Harbor she went bacl to the United States and on 12 June, Norfolk for full repairs, suspended with the cessation of hostilities by mid-August 1945. In September, she was inactivated. She was decommissioned on 24 October 1945, struck from the Navy list (1 November), put on the disposal list and sold to Hillcone Steamship Co., San Francisco on 11 February 1948 for BU. She earned 8 battle stars for her campaign, from the sands of North Africa to the Kyushus and her three air groups each won a Presidential Unit Citation.

USS Chenango (CVE-27)

The second USS Chenango was the requisitioned fleet T3 Tanker oiler AO-31, redesignated ACV-28. She was acquired on 31 May 1941, commissioned on 20 June 1941 as AO-31 (Capt. W. H. Mays). As a fleet oiler she served in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific (Hawaii). Off Aruba on 16 February 1942 she spotted a German submarine shelling a refinery, but could do little. Decommissioned at Brooklyn NyD on 16 March, she was convetrted as an escort carrier.

Her conversion complete and recommissioned on 19 September 1942 her first job was to taxiing 77 P-40 Warhawks (33rd Fighter Group USAAF) to North Africa. She sailed on 23 October with the Torch assault force, arriving at launching point on 10 November, off Port Lyautey in French Morocco. Next she was anchored in Casablanca from 13 November, refuelling 21 destroyers, before returning to Norfolk on 30 November, weathering a hurricane en route. This caused enough damage to have her repaired.

Next she was sent to the Pacific, being underway in mid-December, escorted by USS Taylor (Task Force 13). She dropped anchor in Nouméa on 18 January 1943 and joined TF 13 for air cover, supply convoys in supporting of the Solomon Islands Campaign. She flew her air groups to Henderson Field, in close support of the USMC ashore. She stayed there as a permanent sentry and her air cover allowed to save USS St. Louis and Honolulu after the Battle of Kolombangara on 13 July.

Redesignated CVE-28 on 15 July USS Chenango was overhauled in Mare Island from 18 August. Afterwareds, she was kept in home waters as a training carrier for new air groups (her old ones were fighting hard at Guadalcanal), until 19 October. When declared ready she left San Diego for the Gilbert Islands invasion force gathering at Espiritu Santo, arriving there on 5 November. She took part in the invasion of Tarawa (20 November-8 December 1943) her air group multiplying sorties to cover the advance of the attack force, another part protecting the off-shore convoys. On 29 November 1943, 21:57, Avenger TBFs of her own Air Group 35 spotted and sank the IJN I-21. She was later back to San Diego for training

Away at sea again from 13 January 1944, USS Chenango supported took part in the invation of Roi, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok, part of the Marshalls Campaign. She covered the refueling fleet units engaged in the Palau strikes an was back to resupply herself at Espiritu Santo (7 April). Next she covered the raids on Aitape and Hollandia from 16 April to 12 May and served with TG 53.7 sent in the invasion of the Marianas. Her planes targeted airfields, enemy shipping, harbor facilities, notably at Pagan Island. Her photo Recconaissance F6Fs also provided vital intel on Guam. From 8 July 1944 she covered the assault on Guam and was back to resupply in Manus (13 August).


USS Chenango off Mare Island Navy Yard 22 Sep 1943

On 10-29 September 1944, she neutralized enemy airfields in the Halmaheras, supporting the invasion of Morotai in the Philippines. From 12 October she made strikes on Leyte from 20 October with her sister ship USS Sangamon, bith repelled an attack of three Japanese planes, all splashed down, managing to capture a pilots. Their new advanced base was now Morotai, where they loaded new aircraft. USS Chenango missed the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but was back on 28 October, assisting her victorious sister escort carriers there. She wetn back home for an overhaul at Seattle, until 9 February 1945.

Based in Tulagi, Solomons on 4 March, USS Chenango trained and sortied from on 27 March, taking part in the Okinawa. Air cover was provided for the initial feint landings south, and her air group raided kamikaze bases in nearby Sakashima Gunto. On 9 April she suffered a crash-landing fighter. Fire broke out cause mahyem in the parked planes on deck. The crew however prevented serious damage. She was back in Okinawa until 11 June 1945. Later she escorted a tanker convoy to San Pedro Bay in the Philippines and from 26 July, joined the logistics force, 3rd Fleet, for the final offensive.

Receiving news of the ceasefire on 15 August, USS Chenango supported the occupation forces. She also supplied POWs and made “magic carpet” runs, starting with 1,900 Allied POW and 1,500 civilians, clearing Tokyo Bay on 25 October 1945. She had a brief overhaul in San Diego before returning to bring home veterans from Okinawa and Pearl Harbor. Back in San Pedro on 5 February she departed for Boston, to be placed there out of commission, reserve fleet, on 14 August 1946. Reclassified CVHE-28 as she was supposed to carry helicopters (which never happened) from 12 June 1955, she was eventually struck on 1 March 1959 and sold for BU on 12 February 1960.

USS Suwanee (CVE-28)


Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat from VGF-27 onboard USS Suwanee, late 1942

After six months as fleet oiler, Atlantic Fleet (AO-27), USS Suwannee became AVG-27 on 14 February 1942, decommissioned at Newport News, converted, renamed ACV-27 on 20 August and recommissioned on 24 September 1942 under command of Captain Joseph J. Clark.

Less than a month after commissioning, Suwannee was underway from Hampton Roads for the invasion of North Africa. She joined Ranger as the other carrier attached to the Center Attack Group whose specific objective was Casablanca itself, via Fedhala just to the north. Early in the morning of 8 November, she arrived off the coast of Morocco and, for the next few days, her Grumman F4F Wildcats maintained combat and anti-submarine air patrols, while her Grumman TBF Avengers joined Ranger’s in bombing missions. During the Naval Battle of Casablanca from 8–11 November, Suwannee sent up 255 air sorties and lost only five planes, three in combat and two to operational problems.

From 11 November she was stationed off Fedhala Roads in North Africa for anti-submarine patrols, spotting and sinking allegedly a German U-boat, but later reported as one of the three Vichy French submarines which sortied from Casablanca on Operation Torch D-Day. She remained in North African waters until mid-November 1942 before going back to Norfolk, Hampton Roads, 24 November, training there on 5 December and then reassigned for the South Pacific.

Crossing the Panama Canal on 11–12 December she arrived in New Caledonia on 4 January 1943 and for seven months, provided air cover for escort/transports/supply convoys for the marines on Guadalcanal, taking part to the Solomons campaign, stopping notably in Efate and Espiritu Santo. By October 1943 she was back in San Diego for a refit and was on 5 November back at Espiritu Santo. By mid-November she took part in the Gilbert Islands assault, and later she was reassigned to the Southern Attack Force, Tarawa. She made another trip back home via Pearl Harbor to San Diego on 21 December, spendng Christmas there.

USS Brooklyn and USS Suwannee underway in the Atlantic Ocean, early November 1942
USS Brooklyn and USS Suwannee underway in the Atlantic Ocean, early November 1942

The new year saw her training on the west coast for two weeks, before heading for Lahaina Roads, Hawaii, then en route again on 22 January 1944 for the Marshalls. She was assigned to the Northern Attack Force, her air force striking Roi and Namur, north of Kwajalein in addition to ASW patrols, until 15 February, before moving to Eniwetok. On 2 March she was back in Pearl Harbor.

On the 30th she took part in the assault of the Palau Islands, 5th Fleet. She resupplied at Espiritu Santo and sailed to Purvis Bay, Solomons, Seeadler Harbor, Manus, and New Guinea, supporting the Hollandia landings, notably by sending replacement aircraft to the fleet carriers there. She made two more supply runs to Tulagi and Kwajalein, and then participated in the Marianas Campaign, with the attack on Saipan in mid-June, followed by Guam. On 19 June, she took part in the Battle of the Philippine, with her air attacking and sank I-184 at the start of the battle. Suwanee’s planes was not sent to participâte in the “Turkey Shoot” and stayed in close protection of the invasion force between the CAP and ASW patrol (ASWP).

On 4 August she left for Eniwetok, Seeadler Harbor but was back on 10 September, for the assault of Morotai, being back to Eniwetok and prepare for the next invasion of the Philippines. On 12 October, she proceeded to Manus, with Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague’s Escort Carrier Group, reaching the Philippines, her aviation operating in the Visayas until 25 October 1944. Next she spread her air group between striked on Japanese installations ashore, CAP and ASWP.


USS Suwannee at anchor Kwajalein atoll, 7 February 1944

On 24–25 October 1944, she took part in the epic battle of Leyte Gulf. Suwannee was present with the other 15 escort carriers and 22 destroyers when Takeo Kurita’s 1st Striking Force passed through San Bernardino Strait into the Philippine Sea attacking TAFFY 3. Their force was first spotted by USS Kadashan Bay’s planes. USS Suwannee whe it happened was farther south with Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague’s “Taffy 1” and could not do much in the subsequent Battle off Samar. But At 07:40, 25th October “Taffy 1” was attacked by many planes from Davao. This was the first large kamikaze attack of the war.

The first one crashed into USS Santee, USS Suwannee splashed a kamikaze, narrowly missing USS Petrof Bay. Her gunners claimed another, engaged a third circling at 8,000 ft (2,400 m). Hit, the Kamikaze roled over and dove, to end crashing on USS Suwannee’s deck at 08:04, 40 ft (12 m) forward of the after elevator. It blasted with the impact a 10 ft (3.0 m) hole, its bomb exploded between the flight and hangar decks, making a bigger gash, 25 ft (7.6 m) with many casualties in the process. But satefy teams did wonders and in two hours the CVE was operational again.

She repelled indeed two more air attacks before 13:00 before being ordered to join Taffy 3 close enough to launch searches for Kurita’s force, in full retreat after being beaten back in the miraculous, beyond duty staunch USN defense. On 26 October more kamikazes attacked Taffy 1, another Zero crashing into USS Suwanee’s flight deck at 12:40. It crashed onto an Avenger torpedo bomber just recovered, busting into flames, soon spread to nine other parled planes. The fire burned for several hours but damage control was done eventually. For this two days USS Suwanee had 107 dead and 160 wounded. This was her most harrowing test of her career. With other escort carriers put she went into Kossol Roads, Palaus on 28 October, before moving to Manus for upkeep.

Later she headed for west coast for major repairs via Pearl Harbor (19–20 November), entering Puget Sound on 26 November, and be fuly repaired on 31 January 1945. She stopped in Hunter’s Point and Alameda, returned to Pearl Harbor in 16–23 February, then stopped at Tulagi (4–14 March) Ulithi (21–27 March), reaching finally Okinawa on 1 April 1945. She was ordered to provide close air support for invasion troops before be sent hitting kamikaze airfields at Sakishima Gunto. For 77 days, her air group daily sorties for the same missions with Periodical supply runs to Kerama Retto.

On 16 June 1945 she was sent for resplenishing and crew’s rest at San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf. Next she was assigned to the Netherlands East Indies, Makassar Strait, to cover landings at Balikpapan in Borneo. From 6 July she was back in Leyte and spent the next month until 3 August, bacj for Okinawa, Buckner Bay and strill being there when the war ended on 15 August. On 7 September she headed for Japan, to cover occupation duty, anchored southwest of Nagasaki. Her air group helped located mines blocking the harbor, and entering on 15 September.

She took onboard New Zealand POWs , ferried to the hospital ship USS Haven, but also assisting due to their own generous medical facilities and doctors. USS Chenango was prepared to leave Nagasaki on 15 September with POWs bound for home, but was weathering a typhoon on 17 September. Anchored after being warned, some cables snapped, but she avoided running onto the cast thanks to the hawser helding. On 21 September, she departed at last Nagasaki, headed for Kobe due to a minefield, then Wakayama. Captain Charles C. McDonald hosted Rear Admiral William Sample (COMCARDIV 22) taking from a Martin PBM Mariner to maintain flight qualifications, but disappearing soon. The wreck was discovered on 19 November 1948.


Suwanee in San Diego Naval Base, 1945

Transferred to the 9th Fleet, then 5th Fleet Suwanee remained at Wakayama in October, weathering another typhoon. Later she was in the port of Kure and back to Wakayama for another “typhoon anchorage”, and proceeded to Tokyo, (18 October) before being order a first run for “Operation Magic Carpet”. She was sent to Saipan on 28 October, loading there 400 troops, then moved to Guam (29 October) to load 35 planes before moving to Pearl Harbor. Next she headed for Long Beach, being dry-docked here before making her second run on 4 December to Okinawa and back to Seattle with up 1500 troops, and Los Angeles, San Francisco. She ended in Bremerton on 28 October, placed in reserve and decommissioned on 8 January 1947.

After 12 years she was re-designated CVHE-27 on 12 June 1955, but was stricken on 1 March 1959, sold to Isbrantsen Steamship Company of New York City (30 November 1959) for conversion to merchant service, but this was canceled after examining her, and by May 1961, she was resold for BU to J.C. Berkwit Company, being sent to Bilbao in Spain, by June 1962. She won 13 battle stars for her WW2 service.

USS Santee (CVE-29)

USS_Santee_at_anchor_October_1942_color

USS SANTEE was launched oriignally on 4 March 1939 as ESSO SEAKAY, Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 3), built by Sun Shipbuilding and DryDock Co., at Chester, Pa.; and sponsored by Mrs. Charles Kurz. She was acquired by the Navy on 18 October 1940, commissioned on 30 October 1940 as AO-29, with Commander. William G. B. Hatch in command after some service with the Standard Oil of New Jersey, west coast, setting several records for fast oil hauling.

After conversion and commissioning USS SANTEE (AO-29) served in the Atlantic and from 7 December 1941, she was carrying oil for a secret airdrome at Argentia in Newfoundland. By the spring of 1942, her conversion started at the Norfolk Navy Yard and was complete, recommissioned on 24 August 1942, with Commander. William D. Sample at the helm. She was in fact fitted with such haste, that some Norfolk’s workmen were still on board during her shakedown training, while her decks were piled high with stores, still not inside. Her nominal completion was dated 8 September and she reported for duty to Task Force 22. Next was training with her air group, and and the first plane which ever landed on her flight deck was from the 24th.

Mediterranean and South Atlantic service

USS Santee departed Bermuda on 25 October 1942, heading for the coast of Africa. On the 30th, an SBD-3 scout bomber launched from a catapult dropped a 325-pound depth bomb onto the flight deck while doing so. The ordnance rolled off the deck and detonated close to the port bow. The entire ship shook badly, enough for the main range finder and searchlight base to be displaced, and radar antennas to be damaged. It was not consider enough to deter her from service and she went on with Task Group 34.2. On 7 November she was escorted by the destroyers USS RODMAN (DD-456) and EMMONS (DD-457) plus the minelayer USS MONADNOCK (CMc-4) detached to take position off Safi, French Morocco.

USS_Santee_October_1942

As Operation Torch began, USS Santee launched her air group for their first mission, also fuelling ships until Friday on 13 November, before joining TG 34.2 to Bermuda. They departed the 22d for Hampton Roads after two days and after repairs and drydock, she departed again escorted by USS EBERLE (DD-430) on 26 December 1942. On January 1943 she was based in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Next, she operated off the coast of Brazil, disembarking passengers at Recife before be reassigned to Task Unit 23.1.6, her air group deployed to hunt enemy merchant shipping in the south Atlantic.

Until 15 February 1943 her air group was mostly deployed in antisubmarine patrols. Her operating base was in Recife. On 10 March at last, she saw some action: Escorted by the light cruiser USS SAVANNAH (CL-42) and the destroyer USS EBERLE they were sent to investigate a suspicious cargo liner previous identified as the Dutch KARIN, but which turned out to be the German blockade runner KOTA NOPAN. EBERLE’s boarding party cae onboard just when her scuttling charges exploded, killing eight. On 15 March, USS SANTEE was sent to Norfolk for a refit, via Hampton Roads and back in action on 13 June

She was escorted by the old Gleaves class “four-stackers” USS BAINBRIDGE, OVERTON, MacLEISH. She headed for Casablanca on 3 July and departed later with a convoy home-bound. Her submarine patrols spotted none en route, however one Avenger had a technical issue and made a forced landing in Spain its crew interned. USS SANTEE was detached from the convoy on 12 July to operate independently against U-Boat wolfpacks detected south of the Azores. ASW patrols resumed on 25 July, after attacking seven surfaced U-boats, but loosing two SBD Dauntless in the process due to AA fire.

She joined another west-bound convoy to Virginia and on the 26 August after refulling, and escorted by BAINBRIDGE and GREER she was bacl patrolling the Atlantic, based in Bermuda. She escorted another convoy run from Bermuda to

Casablanca and was back to Hampton Roads on 13 October. On the 25th, she departed for Casablanca, refitted at Basin Delpit on 13 November 1943. On the 17th she met USS IOWA (BB-61) with President Roosevelt aboard, tasked to provide air cover for several days, until ordered to the Bay of Biscay, back to antisubmarine patrols intil fall November.

With TG 21.11, escorted by three four-stackers DDs, she went on patrolling the North Atlantic from 1 to 9 December. The group was dissolved at Norfolk Navy Yard on the 10th, and Santee disembarked her air group and headed for New York escorting USS TEXAS (BB-35). Until 28 December P-38 fighter planes were parked onboard at Staten Island and she steamed the following day across the North Atlantic to Glasgow, arriving on 9 January 1944. After disembarking her planes, she departed to join a home-bound convoy on 13 January, arriving to Norfolk and back at sea on 13 February with the destroyer escort USS TATUM (DE-789), crossing the Panama Canal bound for San Diego, reached on the 28th.

Santee’s Pacific Campaign

John_Thomas_Blackburn_transferred_from_USS_Monadnock_to_USS_Santeee__11_Nov_1942

There, she embarked 300 Navy and Marine Corps personnel plus a new air group of 31 aircraft to be delivered to Pearl Harbor as well as 24 Wildcat fighters and Avengers for her own air group, parked inside her hangar. She unloaded on the 9th and she was reunited with her sister ships SANGAMON , SUWANEE and CHENANGO at Pearl Harbor, prepare to depart with a destroyer escort on 15 March, for the southwest. Carrier Division (CarDiv) 22 joined the fast carriers of the 5th Fleet on 27 March 1944, reaching the the Palaus. From there, Santee’s career is the same as her sister ships.

She operated in the closing phase of the New Guinea campaign, in the Solomons in April, her air group assiting in destroying 100 enemy aircraft. On 12 May-1 June, she carried 66 Corsairs and 15 Hellcats and personnel for the Marine Air Group 21. She took part in the assault cover on the Kwajalein Atoll, Marshalls and in August was in Guam. Air Group 21 (81) aircraft were landed on the reconquered Guam. She operated with TF77 near Mapia Island, and attacked Morotai in the Moluccas, having Manus as operating base.

On 12 October, she attacked several targets in Philippine waters and on 25 October, as the battle of Leyte developed, she received her first war damage: At 0740, a lone Kamikaze dive on SANTEE with a 63 kg bomb, crashing through her flight deck and splashing on her hangar deck. At 07:56, she was struck by an airbone torpedo flooding several compartments, and she took a 6° list, but repairs were complete at 09:35. Until 27 October, hr air group claimed 31 enemy planes. They also sank an IJN 5,000 ton ammunition ship, and rampaged any objectives during 377 sorties. On 31 October, she received more repairs at Seeadler Harbor, Manus Is.

On 9 November, she sailed back to Pearl Harbor for more repairs, embarking 98 marines back to the states, reaching Los Angeles on 5 December. She had a general overhaul, making post repair trials at San Diego and being back to Hawaii on on 8 February. On 7 March 1945, she headed for the Western Carolines, and reached Leyte Gulf. On 27 March she covered the southern transport groups Dog and Easy towards Okinawa Gunto in the frame of the Okinawa campaign.

On 1 April 1945, she provided direct support until 8 April, then operated on Sakishima Gunto, her air group also rampaging the East China Sea, alternating with Okinawa itself and on 16 June, started to attack Kyushu in Japan proper. On 5th-14th June she covered minesweeping operations. On 7 July, she had a plane missing its mark as its tail hook broke when landing clearing all barriers and crashing among parked planes, with four fighters and two torpedo bombers being destroyed by flames and jettisoned, six torpedo bombers being total constructive loses, and one pilot killed.

On 15 July she was detached to Guam, Apra Harbor, and after deck repairs and upkeep she was sent on 5 August for Saipan. She was underway for the Philippines on 13 August, receiving two days later news of the cessation of hostilities and deopped anchor at San Pedro Bay in Leyte. On 4 September, while en route to Korea in order to cover occupation forces she was diverted to northern Formosa to evacuate ex-POWs, 155 officers and men of the British and Indian Armies captured by in Malaya in 1942. She picked up additional men from destroyer escorts FINCH (DE-328) and BRISTER (322 total) including men from Bataan and Corregidor, from the Dutch Army and Merchant Marine captured in Java. They were disembarked at Manila Bay, after which she headed for Okinawa, Buckner Bay, then Wakanoura Wan, Honshu, and until 26 September, she steamed along the coast for on-demand air coverage, notably in destination to Wakayama.

She departed Wakanoura Wan on 3 October 1945 leaving her air group, searching for a missing PBM aircraft carrying Rear Admiral William D. Sample, her former first commanding officer. On 20 October, she was back to Okinawa, and headed for Pearl Harbor, disembarking 375 passengers and taking part in Operation “Magic Carpet” with 18 marines for the west coast. She was in San Diego on 11 November to the 26th, then headed for Guam for another run. On 27 February 1946, she departed San Diego for Boston Harbor, being placed in reserve on 21 October 1946. On 12 June 1955 she was reclassified as an escort helicopter aircraft carrier (CVHE-29), but never modified not used in that role and struck from the Navy list on 1 March 1959. On 5 December 1959, she was sold for BU to Master Metals Co. In all, she received nine battle stars for her wartime service.

Read More/Src

Books

Smith, Peter C (2014). Kamikaze To Die For The Emperor. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books

“All Hands Naval Bulletin – Dec 1945 | PDF | Pacific War | United States Navy”.

Friedman, Norman (1983). U.S. Aircraft Carriers. Naval Institute Press.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

Paul H. Silverstone: US Warships of World War II. Ian Allan, London 1965, reprint 1982

Terzibaschitsch, Stefan (1979). Flugzeugtraeger der U.S. Navy. Munich: Bernard & Graefe

John Gardiner Conway’s all the World’s fighting ships 1921-47.

Smith, Peter C (2014). Kamikaze To Die for the Emperor. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books

Craven, Wesley Frank; Cate, James Lea (1983). Europe, Torch to Pointblank, August 1942 to December 1943.

Howe, George F. (1993). The Mediterranean Theater of Operations — Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West.

Links

worldnavalships.com

navsource.org

history.navy.mil

About their extensive medical facilities (pdf)

navypedia.org

On navsource.org

Logs on hazegray.org
Oral Histories – Battle of Leyte Gulf, 23-25 October 1945
usssuwannee.org
Chenango II on history.navy.mil
Chenango on navsource.org
Santee on navsource.org

Videos

footage of the gun crew of uss sangamon
The class on navyreviewer

Model Kits

1:350 iron shipwrights
1:350 CVE-26 Trumpeter
1:700 ACV-26 Aki Products

Essex class aircraft carriers (1942)

Essex class Fleet Aircraft Carriers

US Navy Fleet Aircraft Carriers (1942-50): USS Essex, Yorktown, Intrepid, Hornet, Lexington, Bunker Hill, Wasp, Franklin, Ticonderoga, Randolph, Hancock, Bennington, Shangri-la, Bonhomme Richard, Antietam, Boxer, Lake Champlain, Princeton, Tarawa, Kearsage, Leyte, Philippine Sea, Valley Forge, Oriskany

The world’s largest capital ship program

USS Essex

In March 1941, the first of the most prolific series of heavy aircraft carriers in history started with the laying USS Essex’s keel in Newport News. The genesis of these exceptional ships started in June 1939, in the decision to support the three Yorktowns of the Pacific fleet, of which the third, USS Hornet, was still nearing completion (launched December 1940).

For the most part, they resumed the qualities of the previous ships, but this time without worrying about treaty limits. They were defined as a wartime emergency fleet aircraft carrier class, including a number of event-induced upgrades.

For 32 ships programmed, 8 cancelled, 24 were laid down, 17 were completed early enough to see the Second World War and 14 actually seeing combat. USS Essex was completed much earlier than anticipated, on December 31, 1942. But only operational from May 1943, soon joined by not only 13 other sister ships, but the fast ones of the Independence class ☍ (CVL) which were created at the origin as an interim, until the Essex came.

Eventually they will complete the latter well, despite initial reticences of the admiralty. The Essex from mid-1943 to Septemer 1945 played a central role and despite furious reprisals by Kamikaze attacks and heavy damage, none was lost (like USS Franklin).

After Japan’s departure of naval treaties in 1936, the U.S. realized it needed to bolster its naval strength and the Naval Expansion Act of Congress was passed on 17 May 1938, enabling a new 40,000 tons limit for aircraft carriers, the “escalator clause” aslo applied to battleships. This extra tonnage allowed to built the Hornet as a copy-paste of the Yorktowns, as well as the new USS Essex as lead ship of a new class.

They were awaited like the Messiah, with many other programs slowed sown or suspended (notably battleships) to compensate for the loss of Lexington, Yorktown, Hornet, and later Wasp(in the Atlantic) leaving only USS Enterprise (badly damaged several times by the way) and Saratoga (too) to hold the line for months.

Suffice to say that the Essex class would bring a well expected breath of fresh air to the beleaguered US Navy.

But the Essex also formed the backbone of the USN in the Cold War. Until their gradual replacement from frontline duties by the supercarriers of the 1960s, they played their role in Korea but also in Vietnam for many. Gradually modernized and rebuilt to operate jets and helicopters they were still relevant in 1970. One also became also the Apollo program main recovery ship. There were two sub-classes: Ticonderoga, the “long hull” design, and USS Oriskany, which was entirely rebuilt for modern jets and was used as a standard for conversion (Completed September 1950) called SCB-27. As of today, four were preserved: USS Yorktown (Patriot’s Point, Mount Pleasant), USS Intrepid, in New York City, USS Hornet, in Alameda, and USS Lexington at Corpus Christi.

Genesis of the Essex class

Design work on a new (unnamed) carrier design started already in 1939, under the leadership of Commander Leslie Kniskern, appointed as chief design officer, Bureau of Ships. Kniskern coordinated a large amount of data from naval architects, aviation facilities, catapults or arresting gear specialist companies, aviation service, plus a small, but dedicated aviator board. Also the Carrier Desk Officer of the Bureau of Aeronautics under Commander James Russell put its weight in the balance. Russell knew well all pre-war aircraft carriers, landing and taking off from all of these, and just completed at this point a two years tour aboard USS Yorktown, following her initial fitting out. He was both an aviator and naval officer, and almost became Kniskern’s main advisor during the initial process.

Since earlier carrier classes were all the product of international naval treaties restrictions, endlessly playing with nerve-ratching limits, with the Washington Treaty ending in 1936 it became possible to increase carrier tonnage authorized by Congress in 1938. Bureau of Ships just restarted its top design priorities, making a requirement now only limited by the locks at the Panama Canal, the deciding factor for an upper limit in size.

Next in line, came the definitions (with aviators) of the “sunday punch”, composition of the air group onboard that would be responsible for all the tactical operations. The larger size brought hopes to bring up the total number onboard of just 100 aircraft, plus spares. Next came in hierarchical order its composition, the balance within this projection of force between fighters (both for strike escort and as local defence – CAP), bombers and torpedo-bombers.

Eventually, by tweaking with other aspects of the design and making some compromises, it was found best to reduce this initial requirement to a compliment of 90 aircraft, notably due to the fact they all needed to be spotted on the flight deck at the same time, for a fully armed deck-load launch, single strike which was precisely called the “Sunday Punch”. The concept was developed during academy war games years, and allowed the greatest tactical efficiency in operations. In practice though, it was never applied exactly like the theory, at least at Midway, when emergency dictated a launch in “penny packets”, but at least in the less strainous conditions from 1943 when Essex-class ships carried out their first strikes, it was applied.

Another fact entering the equation was the growing size and weight of naval aircraft. In 1939, the USN park still comprised several biplanes, notably the F3F, F2F, FF, Curtiss SBC Helldiver, etc. but the Douglas TBD Devastator that was just entering service was massive compared to these, up to 10,194 lb (4,623 tons.) fully loaded, with a wingspan of 50 feet. This would require more square footage, more free deck forward for take-off. Catapults were also part of the design but stayed as an option, as slowing down the ship’s “full strike” delivery. At the time, simply pointing the ship towards favourable ocean winds across the deck was enough, with full throttle, wheels blocked starts.

Requirement to spot 90 planes on the deck ready for launch still was a daunty challenge for all designers, using scaled-up version of the Hornet as a starting point. Extra space was soon found by eliminating the two starboard gun sponsons (compensated later by the island’s twin turrets), extending the flight deck. The island itself was made sufficiently off-board and narrow to free deck space, and since USS Wasp experimented with an external aircraft elevator now met widespread approval. This deck edge elevator still, could fold up for the Panama canal crossing. All the tricks in and out of the book were proposed and adopted to maximize flight deck space (see later about the “sunday punch”).


Preliminary design, proposed Scheme CV9E, 6 december 1939. Note the position of the lifts, all centerline, and same size, the combination of island turrets and single mount 5-in/38 in sponsons, and large funnel.


Same, dated 4 January 1940, the lifts are now heavenly spaced on the 860 fts flight deck, and there are towo islands fire positions for quad 1-inch MGs. The fire director tripod is reminiscent from the Yorktown class as well.


Preliminary design, aircraft carrier study “B”, signed 10 Dec. 1940. The armoured “self protection” alternative project. It Introduces many changes, notably with an all 6-inches/47 guns (sixteen, in four twin turrets and eight pivots, masked singles on sponsons). The funnel is smaller and with rearranged truncated exhausts, an simpler tripod mast. The most striking aspect is about the armour, 3 inches 1/2 of STS steel on the main armor deck/hangar floor, 1-1/2 inch on the flight deck, 4 inches over sensible parts like avgas tanks, steering gear, ammo magazines, creating a citadel starying at waterline level, with a 2-1/2 inches roof and 4 inches bulkheads. The closest the USN went for a semi-armoured aircraft carrier.

The question of whether or not to armoring the flight deck was at the heart of vigorous dicussions. Naval architecture requires to balance metacentric height, that an armoured deck would inevitably compromise. Possible solution was to compensate on the lower hull, using ballasts and bulges, but again, Panama Canal limit prevented additions. The massive armored flight deck and its structural supports needed would also reduce the useable hangar deck space inside.

Despite the US knew about the British bold step with the Illustrious class and its fully armoured hangar (the price of a much smaller air group) decision was made early on NOT to protect the flight dekc but concentrate rather on the lower hangar deck, and fourth deck (above the machinery, tanks and stores) which made better sense, and not sacrificing any of the air group’s full strenght.


Preliminary BuShip design “CV-D Aircraft Carrier” July, 12 1941. A return to the 4-in/38 armed carrier, but taking in a revised version of the previous armour, this time creating a “armoured hangar” like the Illustrious class, but reduced to 1/2 of the total lenght of the ship, and compartimentalized into three sub-sections. Also there are now three external lifts. Armour is lighter, 1-1/2 inches STS for the flight deck, 1 inches for the bulkheads and subdivisions, 2-1/2 inches for the hangar floor, 1-1/2 inches for the roof of the citadel below (still with 4 inches bulkheads).

In conversations about maximizing the flight deck size, Commander Russell pushed hard for the an all rectangular shape, to the bow. This was part to reach more space for spotting aircraft and giving pilots a full width for take-off, especially when at very end of it. Naval architects of course resisted the idea due to the placement of structural support on the corners, as the hull needed to be at its narrowest.

But it evolved once it was assured the flight deck would not be armored, and Commander Russell pushed architects to come wih a solution. The latter argued a single middle support would fail structurally in heavy seas but the “aeronautic board” convinced them that an occasional buckled deck was worth a safer, larger take-off platform. The rectangular flight deck was eventually approved as well, and the bluckling up in heavy weather was realized through typhoons southeast of Japan in 1945, six carriers suffering that damage as predicted.


CV-E design scheme, 22 September 1941


Final, more detailed preliminary design, “C9-19 aircraft carrier”, 23 September 1941. Further work has been made for the hangar armour scheme. It is extended to guarantee a large air group to be protected, into three sub-sectoions, and similar bulkheads as before but a heavier flight deck, 2 inches thick, a,d 3-1/2 inches for the hangar floor/upper armored deck. The citadel below had sloped bulkheads at 6.3° to 20° and ASW bulkhead tubes, still 5-inches over the magazine and steering gear. For the first time future radar positions are shown. It is mentioned the 5-in/54 in twin mounts replace the 5-in/38 encased in 1.25 inches STS armor. Also two internal, one external lift.


Final plan approved for CV-9, September 1941. Very close to the previous scheme, but apparently back to 5-in/38 turrets.

Construction programme

CV-9 was to the prototype for a 27,000-ton of standard displacement aircraft carrier class. It was obviously larger than Yorktown class, yet still smaller than the converted Saratogas, but with a fully dedicated design, authorizing a much larger air rgoup to be carried. This went into two waves of authorizations, when the US were still at peace: CV-9, CV-10 and CV-11 were ordered from Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company on 3 July 1940. Under the terms the new Two-Ocean Navy Act or Vinson-Walsh Act to establish the composition of the Navy and authorize more constructions (June 1940), ten more of the Essex class were programmed, eight ordered on 9 September, CV-12-15 from Newport News, CV-16−19 from Bethlehem Steel’s Fore River Shipyard, then CV-20, CV-21 just eight days after Pearl Harbor, from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Newport News.

As the US were at war, the Congress appropriated funds for no les than nineteen additional Essex-class carriers, ten in August 1942: CV-31, 33-35 (Brooklyn NyD), CV-32 (Newport News) CV-36 & CV-37 (Philadelphia Navy Yard), CV-38-40 (Norfolk Navy Yard). In June 1943, an extra three was authorized: CV-45 (Philadelphia NyD), CV-46 (Newport News NyD) CV-47 (Fore River Shipyard). In 1944, six more were authorized, CV-50 to CV-55, all cancelled as it was now clear the Pacific war was turning favourably and they were now surplus. Of all those above, only two were completed and trained to be active in WW2, the rest only had a cold war career.

Naming Trivia

The Essex-class carriers confirmed the tendency of naming CVs after historic battles, started with the Lexington class. The first eight however were assigned names from older historic ships (Essex, Bon Homme Richard, Intrepid, Kearsarge, Franklin, Hancock, Randolph, Cabot) and others renamed during construction after losses: USS Lexington (CV-2) at Coral Sea, Yorktown (CV-5) at Midway originally (former Bon Homme Richard) Wasp and Hornet later. Lexington and Yorktown were both historic ships and historic battles.

USS Wasp(ii) was the former Oriskany but replace CV-7 sunk near Guadalcanal, Hornet(ii) the former Kearsarge after CV-8 lost at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. Valley Forge was renamed Princeton after the loss of USS Princeton (CVL-23) at Leyte Gulf (October 1944). Ticonderoga and Hancock’s name were swapped under construction due to the John Hancock life insurance company’s massive bond at the condition the ship was under construction in the company’s home state (Massachusetts). USS Shangri-La was another curiosity: Obviously not a historical battle, it came from a facetious remark by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suggesting that men from the Doolittle Raid flew from the the namesake ficticious Himalayan kingdom based on the bestseller 1933 novel “Lost Horizon” at the time. She was also the last scrapped, in 1988.

The ships never laid down CV-50-55 being canceled, this left nine hull still unfinished in August 1945. Of these, six were completed and two, USS Reprisal and Iwo Jima were scrapped. Oriskany was a bit different as she was the very last laid down and in such an early stage of construction it was decided to take her in hand for radical modifications, making her into a brand new and improved design. So she was completed in 1950 and acted as a prototype to convert the others. With 32 fleet aircraft carriers (considered as capital ships), 26 laid down, 24 commissioned, this still made the USN hhaving arguably the largest of such programs in history.

Detailed design

These ships remained very fast, with a large straight wooden flight deck and side lifts, carrying twice as much aviation fuel and ammunition, and an equally larger aviation group of 100 aircrafts. Their main island was pushed, overhanging to the side. The hangar was hardly larger however with a full capacity of 91 aircraft and maximum capacity of 108, including typically 36 fighters, 37 dive bombers dive and 18 torpedo bombers.

Their high pressure boilers turbines developed 150,000 hp for 32.7 knots, better than the Yorktowns but also 10,000 tonnes more in displacement. They were roomy if not comfy for the crews, and had a better protected hangar with two armored decks as well as additional armor over the machinery, tanks and ammunition holds. Finally and above all else, the larger Essex had room for a better AA from the start with a battery of four twin 5-in/38 standard turrets, plus eight quad 40 mm quadruple mounts and around forty six 20 mm Oerlikons “by default”. It was further reinforced for those out in 1944-45, with 18-31 and quadruple 40 mm mounts (up to 124 guns !) and from 61 to 70 of 20 mm, even in twin mounts plus twelve quad Browning .5 cal. (USS Lexington ii.)

Armor design development

On the armour side, debates raged and still went on today among experts and historians about the effect of the strength deck location. British designers looked at the Essex class design and saw the peculiarities of the hangar deck armor inefficient, whereas historians such as D.K. Brown saw the American arrangement superior in many ways. In the late 1930s, the location of the strength deck at hangar deck level reduced topweight and resulted in smaller supporting structures, thus more internal aircraft capacity, for the same displacement.

And so, the first, larger supercarriers necessitated a deeper hull. This shifted the center of gravity and stability lower enough so that the strength deck could be lifted up to the flight deck. This freed US naval architects to move the whole armor scheme higher while still sticking to severe stability specifications, and keeping seaworthiness intact.

“Design 9G” among the developments leading to the final Essex design included an armored flight deck with reduced aircraft capacity at 27,200 tons. It was 1,200 tons more than “Design 9F”, the final one while “9G” was furher developed and became in wartime the development basis for the first true USN armoured carriers, the 45,000-ton Midway class.

Specifications called for the use of Special Treatment Steel (STS) all around, whenever possible also. Armor plating evolved a great deal since the 1860s, and metallurgy science also in the XXth century, notably alloys driven by the need of new aviation materials. This was a new nickel-chromium steel alloy, giving the same protective qualities as “Class B” armor. It was more resistant to splintering and allowed to be used as a full structural plate rather than and add-on for protection (therefore a deadweight). STS became a de facto structural material like no USN ship before, wherever it was desirable, so on hangar deck, fourth deck, pilot house, bulkheads, steering works, magazines and avgas tanks.

Hangar space design & arrangements

As compared to battleship design, the hangar deck became the ship’s main deck, and having a lighter flight deck meant it could be raised a bit higher, allowing to suspend below the roof all needed spare parts and of course having gantry cranes, enough clearing space above folded wings, and enough work space for the crews. Designers included however a kind of half-deck also, Gallery or Mezzanine Deck suspended from beneath the flight deck which were used as aviation squadron ready rooms, plus Combat Information Center (later moved below the armour deck in the “long hull” versions).

The flight deck surface was wooden, as custom practice, notably to avoid excessive metal heat in tropical climates and south pacific waters in general. It was made of teak beams, laid athwartships or crossways, in steel channels. On each twelfth cross-channel, steel tie-down slots were installed to lash down aircraft, crating a spot. These had also the advantage of easy replacement using few tools, having the deck ready for flight operations quicky, something that was praised in 1943-45 after Kamikaze attacks. An armored deck however, would have require shipyard repairs, so keeping the ship longer out of operations.

In the preliminary designs attention was paid at the size of the flight and hangar decks for balanced operations while preserving the maximal air group onboard. Aircraft design went through an incremental storm, more than doubling in weight for far better performances but also much higher landing speeds. Flight decks needed more takeoff space and the fleet carriers to come were all provided even pre-war had flush deck catapults although little actual catapulting drills were don eoutside experimentation.

With the war breaking out, the darwinian imperative of the sky’s mastery saw weight increasing massively, especialy on US planes, with increased armor and armament and larger aircrews. The Grumman TBF behemoth was a spendid example of this upgrade. Compared to the Devastator it replaced, at 5.6 tons empty versus seven tons. By 1945, catapult launches were far more common, some reporting up to 40% launches by that means, notably to allow the fighters, F6F and F4U to act as fighter-bombers, carrying heavy loads.

The hangar area design led to endless discussions and conferences between the naval bureaus, noyably pondering about the size, place and weight of the supporting structures to carry the increased aircraft weight when landing, taxiing or parked, and on the inside, the stringht to support spare fuselages and parts for all planes aboard “under the roof”. The whole was still to provide enough room for all types stored, wings folded, with enough clearance under the tails and wings tips, and a clean working space.

The question of elevators

One particular innovation propoer to USS Essex were a portside deck-edge elevator, in addition to two inboard elevators. This deck-edge elevator proved successful on USS Wasp and soon incorpprated in several preliminary designs. Experiments were made with hauling aircraft by crane also, to a ramp between the hangar and flight decks, but this was way too slow for a realistic deployment. BuShips and the Chief Engineer of A.B.C. Elevator Co. combined their skills to design a better engine for this port side elevator, since it was only supported from one side, taking a massive strain an all bearing and components. Otherwise it was standard in dimensions with 60 by 34 ft (18 by 10 m) in surface.

The two other inboard elevator also traveled vertically with four column bearings, and smaller motor. Engineers made sure to place the elevators as to not creat a large hole in the flight deck when the elevator was in the “down” position. It was a reflection of past uses and a critical factor to stay operable during combat operations. Relocated to the side, it could add its weight to deck operations this time, whateer the aicraft parking and towing on the deck. This side elevator also increased the effective deck space in “up” position, creating an extra parking place out of the flight deck. Its machinery was less complex, with 20% less workload.

Internal accomodations

Compared to the CV-4 class, improvements were made, notably for the ventilation system but also lighting, or trash burner design. They had also better facilities for handling ammunition. Several measures made them safer to manage. The additions of ASW compartiments made for a greater fueling capacity. There was also a much more effective damage control equipment, which benefitted always well trained teams. This was proven at least on two occasions, when ships of the class were seemeingly doomed bt survived thanks to their crew’s damage management, and better equipments.

Despite all these extras raising the tonnage, engineers works out ways to limit weight when possible as well as greatly simplified and streamlined construction for mass production. There was an extensive use of flat and straight metal pieces, as well as intensive use of Special Treatment Steel (STS) (nickel-chrome steel alloy, equal to Class B armor plating), fully structural to save weight.

The initial complement of 215 officers and 2,171 enlisted men without the air group pilots and teams, was well absorbed by the roomy interiors, however, like most USN vessels in 1945 with all additions, this total crew was closer to 4,000. Boat stowage was limited as the ship relied on inflatables stored everytwhere possible. But the few boats were carried on the starboard aft section. The aviation repair workshop was located after the hangar, on the port side.

Aircraft facilities


F6F in the Hangar of USS Yorktown, with bombs being installed by the crew, 1943

Since preliminary design for USS Essex, attention was paid on the size of the flight and hangar decks, taking in account takeoff space, heavier aircraft and the current doctrine of “deck-load strike” (launching as rapidly as possible as many aircraft that can be spotted on the flight deck). Interwar first-line carriers were given flush deck catapults, yet still it was rare. By 1945, catapult launches were far more common as doctrine evolved into the way of using these in coordination with spotted planes behind.

Also the hangar area design and its greater strenght were a prerequisite both to support heavier models’s landing, but also internally to carry 50% of each operational plane spare parts aboard, so 33% of the total carried aircraft, all under the flight deck. And there was to be also a sufficient working space below.


F6F Hangar-catapulted onboard USS Hornet

The portside deck-edge elevator was probably the standardized, greatest innovation of the design, combined to two inboard elevators. Already tested on USS Wasp, it was adopted, located on the port side and offering many advantages as well as being less costly in maintenance than regular inboard elevators, as well as not offering a “gate” inside the hagae to burning fuel, debris, or a bomb.

The external lift, located opposite to the island on the port side, measured 60 by 34 ft (18 by 10 m) in platform surface, with a 18,000 Ibs. capacity. The two inboard elevators were squared (but with rounded corners), both 48′ 3″ x 44′ 3″ with a capacity 28,000lbs due to their sturdier four bearings. One was located forward, offset to the centerline to starboard, close to the catapult. It was basically the “hangar-to-launch” elevator supposing for the lifted plane to be lifted up facing aft, then a 90°turn. The second was located was further aft, also offset to centerline starboard, close to the island’s aft twin 5-in/38 turrets.

There were sixteen Mark 4 hook arrestors for both long and short landings, the idea being to spot as many landed planes as possible in stacked at the front, then middle and aft, and offering more possibilities for a landing plane missing the first cables. In all, the USS Essex was provided circa 30 of these, some alternated with heavy-duty models with twin rollers. There were more than on the Yorktowns, but the novelty was a set of arrestor cables across the bow with a performance specification to conduct flight operations while steaming in reverse, which proved handy after typhoons when ships with bukled-up decks had to recuperate their aircraft.

Two catapults were installed, one H4B starboard forward, close to the elevator and one H4A in the hangar. USS Essex was delivered with none. The quicky transverse catapult inside the hangar was located behind the forward elevator. This was a controversial addition, but coherent with previous ships, concerning the Yorktown, Intrepid, Hornet, Bunker Hill, and Wasp. It was launching on the port side. Still in development in 1941 it was omitted on CV-9 but added to the next batch. Use was limited and they were eventually dismounted ath the first occasion. In 1944, all ships had two H4B catapults forward, one Port and one starboard. The ships also carrier 231,650 Gallons in four separated and well below the hull tanks as well as 625.5 Tons or naval ordnance in well protected stores: 0.5 and 0.3 cal. ammunition, bombs, torpedoes and rockets.


USS Essex refitted to standards in 1944

Protection


Closup of the preliminary design study

The long discussion leading to the final design secured a compromised protection scheme compared to some of the proposals, notably making them as the first “armoured carriers” of the USN. But as a large air group was the deciding factor, the armour scheme was kept “lighter”, yet still better studied than on the Yorktown class. The large use of STS armor notably as strenght or add-on protection was new.

  • Armor Belt: 2.5 to 4 inches (64–102 mm) backed by .75 in (19mm) STS
  • Main armor deck: 2.5 in (64 mm) +STS for the hangar deck
  • 1.5 in (38 mm) for the STS 4th deck
  • 2.5 in STS above the steering gear and aft ammunition magazine.
  • ASW compartimentation, longitudinal bulkheads


Preliminary design cut section armour figures

The final September 1941 design showed an “open hangar” without bulkheads, but strenghtened elevator pits, hangar floor, and then a two-level “citadel”, the upper one below the hangar deck comprised four decks with armour, larger at the 4th deck, at waterline level, then a second citadel below with proper bulkheads. The avgaz tanks were located deep down, just behind the aft bulkhead. Another pair of avgaz tanks were situated behind the forward bulkhead. The forward inboard elevator had no armoured pit, as it was situated beyond the hangar armoured deck. Officers quarters and mess were situated alongside and forward.

ASW protection received special attention. There was the usual alternated, compartimented powerplant with all boilers and turbines in their own space, but all the spaces below the waterline had a long-studied, intricated internal design integrating the hull’s outer armor plate. The underwater armor extended 17 feet deep below the waterline, with as specified the capability to resist 500 pounds (230 kg) of TNT. At the time this was not enough for the latest Japanese torpedoes, but at least it was designed to moderate the blast and confine the flooding. There were two outer fuel oil tanks sandwiched with two inner void spaces and the frames staggered to avoid transmitting the blast wave too deeply inside. There was an embryo of concept such as the “raft” created in the 1970s to cancel noise in submarines. Of course, a mandatory triple bottom used against magnetic mines ran for almost all the lenght of the ship.


The thin main flight deck armor prevented widespread damage inthe hangar, but not always. Matters were made complicated by the trajectories of shattered planes destroyed in flight by AA.

On the topic of protection, there was a mix of passive (STS armor) and active measures also concerning the aviation ammunition storage and avgas tanks protection, which also reuired a lot of attention: Contraty to navy “heavy” fuel oil, aviation gasoline or “avgas” was highly volatile. Several features were incorporated to safely handling the 240,000 gallons onboard:

The fuel was spread between three tanks, one centerline, saddle-shaped and on both sides, plus another saddle-shaped alongside both of the other two. This allowed to empty these from the outside toward the middle for stability, as they were gradually filled with seawater for ballast but also acting as protection buffers with the center tank.

-The fuel was not pumped directly to the fight deck or hangar deck. Instea, seawater was pumped into the fuel tanks. As the level rose at the bottom the fuel was floating on top, forced up before delivery. This allowed avgas volatile compound vapors lingering in the hangar, at risk of a single spark, with the adantage of seawater to keep the tank pressure always the same, allowing also to drain the risers and empty the fuel supply system on the hangar deck with less risk in case of a fire.

The need of ventilation, also to avoid these gasoline vapors building up in the hangar was recoignised early enough and adressed in part by not armoring the flight deck, allowing for large openings along the edges of hangar deck that could be closed off when needed with rolling shutters. This feature became life-saving on several occasions during the Kamikaze onslaught in 1944-45.

Powerplant


Sailors of an Essex-class carrier cleaning up the propeller at Puget Sound.

While much more powerful than the Yorktown class, the Essex class powerplant was about the same, but upgraded. Indeed, several design innovations were incorporated, with new Steam turbines (chosen over turbo-electric designs) with new gears, placed in four boiler rooms, two engine rooms on the center-line. Each boiler room contained two Babcock and Wilcox boilers.

The four shafts (same four-blade, bronze casted, approx. 12 feets (3.65 meters) in diameter, 27,000 pounds (12,247 kg) propellers*) were driven by four Westinghouse geared turbines, with each paired low-pressure and high-pressure turbines connected to double-reduction gears. They were fed by steam coming from eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers working at 565 psi and 850°F (450°C). The low-pressure turbines were used for cruising, at lower power and shaft revolutions, but bypassed with the steam fed directly to the high-pressure turbine when higher power ws required. This was sufficient for an output, as designed, or 150,000 shp, so far making them the most powerful aircraft carriers until the Midways in 1945.

This compared well to the Yorktown’s 120,000 shp by using Parsons steam turbines coupled with nine B&W boilers. The Essex class boilers were larger and far more efficient, and like in the North Carolina class, the gearing system was brand new and innovative.

Out of it, engineers expected the ships ro reach their design speed of 33 knots (37 mph 60.6 km/h), more than the 32.5 knots of their predecessors. Their large hull was also able to accomodate more oil, enough to reach a Range of 20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h) thanks to a total capacity of 4758 tons, up to 6330 tons. This was an impressive autonomy, almost twice as large as for the Yorktown class, allowing them practically to cross half the globe in one go, transiting for example from Pearl Harbor to UK via Panama. They were perfectly fitted for Pacific operations.

However in service it was rather 15,440 Nautical Miles as reported. They were also slower than expected, USS Essex making 32.93kts on Trials, with 154,054 hp measured on a shaft, also on Trials. They were relatively good seaboats, reacting well at the helm due to the size of their sole large rudder, but still, they heeled and lost speed on hard turns, and needed 765 Yards (700 m) at 30 knots to make a full turn, not that bad given their 250 m long hull.

For electrical lighting onboard, they relied on four 1,250kW Ships Service Turbine Generators, and two emergency 250 kW Diesel Generators to avoid being totally “dead in the water”. In theory there were backups for pumps to keep the ship afloat. However between explosions and fires some ships like USS Franklin practically lost all power.

* One of these is on display (U.S.S. Intrepid) at the Hudson River and W. 46th Street.

Armament


40mm quad watching over parked F6F and TBFs.

The original design planed no less than twelve 5 in/38 caliber gun mounts, four in enclosed twin mounts turrets fore and aft of the island, starboard side, and four single open mounts on the port and starboard corners aft and forward, in sponsons, later reduced to four on the port side only. Both the 40 mm and 20 mm were adopted in the final 1941 design. There was little need of additions in 1944, but the “long hull” at least gave a better arc of fire to the forward quad AA mount.

5-inch/38


Detailed ONI cutout of the 5-in/38 turret

The ubiquitous 5 inches/38 caliber (127 mm) used by the US Navy. They will be detailed in a dedicated post. These guns had a maximum range of seven miles and a rate of fire of fifteen rounds per minute. The 5-inch guns could fire VT shells, known as proximity fuzed-shells, that would detonate when they came close to an enemy aircraft. The 5-inch guns could also aim into the water, creating waterspouts which could bring down low flying aircraft such as torpedo planes.

Gene Slover’s, US Navy Pages, Naval Ordnance and Gunnery Vol 1 ordnance on the 5-in/38


Several photos and tech views (ONI) of the 5-1/38 in turret and pivot mount.

40 mm/60 mark 1.2 Bofors AA


40 mm Bofors with Mk.12 mount quad in action, USS Hornet.

No less than seventeen quadruple Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns were planned, although designs from 1940 integrated the 1.1 in/75 or 28 mm “chicago piano” quad mount instead. There wre three on eiher side of the island starboard (two aft, one forward), superfiring over the 5-in turrets, another one at the bow, another at the stern, both in the axis with a restrictive arc of fire, two in sponsons aft starboard, and two starboard. The 1.1 were never installed, 40 mm were ready instead, and were a significant improvement over the Lexington and Yorktown classe’s AA armament, which also included 0.5 cal. Browning HMGs. The latter were also planned, even integrated into the tripod platform, but never installed.


Mk10 radar, 40mm Bofors ONI

20mm/70 Oerlikon Mark 1.2

No less than 65 single Oerlikon 20 mm cannon completed this firepower. They were installed in sponsons alongside the flight deck, the island, fore and aft generally in multiple rows. The largest of these was the starboard aft sponson, behind the N°4 5-in turret and counting ten of these AA guns.

Radars


ONI Essex refit close view of the island’s specifics

It is not quite easy to really assess precisely, per ship and date, the electronics suite onboard. Only refits details gave clues. What is certain however, is that all Essex class ships were provided with the latest radars and electonics suite.

USS Essex(CV-9): Had the common SK surveillance radar flatbed antenna, the SC-2, SG radar and two Mk 4 fire control system radars installed atop Mk34 directors fore and aft on the island’s superstructure.

SC-2 Radar

A smaller additional radar (15′ x 4’6″ (4.6m by 1.4m)) to the main model, introduced in 1942 and mostly used by destroyers due to its smaller weight. It was so good that it was seen in use until 1963. Same basic set as the SK but smaller antenna composed of 6×2 dipoles. It was lost in altitude resolution but sill had a PPI display and integral IFF. The 1944-45 models had also antijamming features. Its wavelenght was 1.5 m, pulse width 4 microsecond and Pulse Repetition Frequency 60 Hz, its scan rate 5 rpm, and power 20 kW.

Max Range was 80 nautical miles (150 km) to detect a medium bomber, 40 nm (70 km) for a fighter; On sea, it could detect a battleship at 20 nm (40 km) which was close to useless to react due to the gunnery range.

Accuracy was 100 yards/3° (90m) and resolution 1500 feet/10°(460m), altitude accuracy 2000 feet (600m) for a total weight of 3000 lbs (1360 kg). First batch (Mark 2) was completed in December 1943, second in December 1944 (Mark 4). On the Essex-clas it was generally installed on the mainmast while the SK was installed on a side platform overhanging to starboard.

SK Radar


USS Bunker Hill radar suite

The SK radar was a large bedframe style air search radar introduced in 1943 and used on large ships. Essentially an SC-2 radar set, but with a larger antenna fitted with 6×6 dipoles. it could detect a target like a medium bomber at 10,000 feet ceiling and 100 nautical miles distance. Elevation could be estimated from positions of maximum and minimum signal strength, difference of signals between antenna rows. Used an A-scope with 15/75/375 miles range scale, PPI-scope with 20/75/200 range and even IFF Mk.IV, provided by the vertically polarized antenna, atop the main antenna. It was replaced in 1945 by the SK-2, recoignisable to its large parabolic antenna fed by a dipole. The SK was specific to carriers, destroyers and escorts, replacing the 1941 CXAM-1 radar set.

SG Radar


SK Radar and other Essex class island details

A small surface search radar (later SG-1) usually installed on destroyers and CVs as well. Located on the mainmast, it had an A-scope and PPI-scope displays and was able to pick up submarine periscopes at 10,000 yards. 64 km overall range, working at 3000 Mhz, working at 1.3 to 2 µs pulse width. It was introduced in 1942 and produced until late 1943 but served for two decades.

SM Radar

Introduced in late 1943 it was complementary to the SG, a small pole radar combining a flatbed array and parabolic antenna for surface search or a full parabolic model. It was used as a main control radar, and often two were installed to manage the main guns.

SK-2 Radar

Replacement for the SC, it was a lighter but still very large parabolic antenna, main surveillance air and surface radar of the USN, standard in 1944. They were Long Wave Search Sets in the same familiy of the SC and SC-1.

SC-2 Radar

Replacement for the SG in 1944, it had a smaller, lighter and more rectangular bedframe antenna. Also used on destroyers, but present on the axial mainmast onf Essex-class ships commissioned in 1944-45.

CV10, 12, 16, 18 were presuably given the same SK and SC-2, but also the new SG and SM radars as well as two new Mk.12.22 fire control radars.

CV13, 14 and 15, CV19, 20, 31 and 38 were given the 1945 eletronics suite: SK-2 radar (the parabolic one), SC-2, two SG radars, the SM radar, and two Mk 12.22 FCS radars.

CV21, 32, 33, 36, 37, 39, 40, 45, 47 were equipped with the SK-2, the new SR radar, the SG, but also the new SG-6, and a variable number of SP, SX control radars as well as two Mk 12.22, but also two Mk 29, six Mk 39, nine Mk 28 radars and TDY ECM suite all post-war. They were seen in action in Korea and Vietnam.

Accomodations & features


USS Lexington’s Chart Room


USS Lexington’s Helm


CV-16 Combat Information Center in action

Air Group of the Essex class: The “Sunday Punch”

The carriers’ main advantage (informally known as the “Sunday Punch” due to components proportions) was their all-time offensive power comprising 36 fighters, 36 dive bombers, and 18 torpedo bombers as planned, and acted. Only the initial models carried changed: The F4F Wildcat, SBD Dauntless and TBD Devastator initially planned all discarded for the new generation when the ships entered service. On USS Essex, completed in December 1942 (a fiction as we saw already) were supposed to carry two squadrons of F4F Wildcat, two of SB2U Vindicator (even older!) and/or as complement to SBD Dauntless, and SOC Seagull. The old Vindicator was retired in late 1942 and there is no photo or document proof it was used from her flight deck. It is never mentioned for the other carriers of the class.

The case of the Curtiss SOC seagull is more nunanced. This reconnaissance biplane floatplane was recalled after the fail of its designated successor, the Seamew, due to its abysmal performances. It was generally at this point in 1943 often replaced by the kingfisher when available. And it existed with floats or wheeltrain, so perfectly able to operate from the deck as well. It was related to the use of hangar catapults on the Yorktown class, not repeated in the CV-9 design (This transverse hangar-deck catapult was found however in CV-10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and later removed). But again, the complete lack of photo evidence supposed otherwise. Its already more likely for the Kingfisher although, again, there is no photo or data showing this. The transverse catapults were rarely used in practice as it disturbed mooth hangar operations, a main reason for their removal a the first occasion.


F6F-3, USS Yorktown, 31 August 1943.

-The case of the F4F-3 Wildcat is more interesting. Its designated successor, the F6F was indeed in December 1942 was still not in service, introduced in 1943 an constantly upgraded until November when appeared the F6F-3N night fighter variant. On USS Essex, the first production F6F-3 (R-2800-10engine) which flew on 3 October 1942 reached operational readiness with VF-9 in February 1943. So during her initial post-commission time USS Essex, which was given former USS Ranger’s air group reequipped with the F4F-3 Wildcat in April 1942, but the group was redeployed on USS Essex and only in April 1943 CVG-9 was deployed to the Pacific Fleet, with the F6F and all pilot qualifications made. So, if any indeed operated from USS Essex (again, no photo to back this up) in this transitional phase, it would have been only to test the flight deck and facilities, not in an operational way as the F6F was chosen instead.


Commander David Mac Cambpbell, F6F ace in 1944, showing its 21 victories (src navsource)

Regular air group


Avengers and Hellcats of Carrier Air Group 5 warming up on the flight deck of USS_Yorktown (CV-10) circa late 1943. The Essex class carriers inaugurated the F6F in combat, since USS Essex having them practically at shakedown stage. A marriage made in heaven for the remainder of the war as the plane started to be used massively as fighter-bomber towards the end.

The Grumman F6F Hellcat would be the standard fighter, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver (at least from early 1944) the standard scout/dive bomber, and the Grumman TBF Avenger its torpedo bomber since the start, also used in other attack roles.


SBD-5, VB-5, CV-10 (USS Yorktown, October 1943). The case of the Douglas SBD Dauntless was another interesting one. This one however is well documented. The Dauntless soldiered on the early Essex class carriers since the Helldiver’s protracted and complicated development dragged on. Dauntless were kept aboard until replaced by the helldiver during replenishment phases or prolongated drydock maintenance/modernization in the US, apparently from early May1944, after the second offensive against Truk. USS Lexington (CV-16) and Yorktown CV-10 used aparently only four SBDs for reconnaissance. The Grumman TBF was used for strikes up to that point. So on some carriers the SBD soldiered for almost one a half year, seeing notably the end of the Solomons campaign and several island-hopping campaigns.

SBD catching wire when landing on USS Essex in 1943
SBD catching wire when landing on USS Essex in 1943.


Grumman F6F Hellcat, VF9, USS Essex 1944. On 30 AUGUST 1943, Task Force 15 (Rear Adm. Charles A.

Pownall in command) with USS Essex (CV 9), Yorktown(CV 10), and Independence (CVL 22), launched nine strike groups in a day-long attack on Japanese installations on Marcus Island in the prototype fast carrier strike. TBF-1

Avengers from Independence sank three small Japanese vessels. This second raid against Marcus marked the first attack by Essex- and Independence-class carriers and the combat debut of the F6F-3 Hellcat. (src).


Grumman TBF Avenger, GGG USS Essex 1944


Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, VB-83, USS Essex April 1945

From USS Bunker Hill onwards, the Vought F4U Corsair was introduced into fighter-bomber squadrons (VBFs) as Japanese moslty lost air power at that point. These were the precursors to modern fighter-attack squadrons or VFAs, pioneering doctrine and tactics, and put to good use in Korea. In 1945, all of carrier-based combat aircraft gradually acted as ground attack aircraft, and almost systematicaly mounted underings 5-inch High Velocity Aircraft Rockets (HVARs). They rampaged everything with these, compensating the lack of accuracy by sheer instant firepower on any objective. In the summer of 1945, entire air groups rampaged through industrial areas and ports, but also all remaining shipping over the Japanese home islands.

SNJ AT6-Texan, before first landing on USS Bunker Hill 1943

SNJ AT6-Texan, before first landing on USS Bunker Hill 1943. Upon commissioning, flight decks were tested first by North American AT-6 Texan, the standard advanced trainer of the time.


USS Boxer, launch in 1944

Essex class (1942) specifications

Dimensions 265.8 x 28.3/45 x 8.38m (872 ft oa x 147.5 ft oa x 27.4 ft)
Displacement 27,208 long tons standard, 34,881 tons FL
Crew 2862
Propulsion 4 sets Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Speed 150,000 shp, 32.7 kts
Range Oil 4758-6330 tons = 15,440 nm/15 kts
Armament 4×2+4×1 5-in/38 Mk 12, 8×4 40mm/56 Mk 1.2, 46x 20mm/70 Mk 4, 91 aircraft
Armor Belt: 64-102mm (4 in), hangar deck: 64 mm (2.5), main deck: 38 mm (1.5)

The Ticonderoga “long hull” improvements

uss Bunker hill

USS Bunker Hill, 1945

Basically, from CV-14 onwards, which inaugurated this new standard, all Essex-class would be fitted with a longer clipper bow, with increased rake and flare, projecting largely forward of the flight deck edge. The main idea was to procure a better arc of fire for the forward quad 40 mm AA but also improve seakeeping, notably for the flight deck.

But this was not limited to this. Addition of AA was considerable, with plans to almost double the initial 1942 design. They notably gained new sponson 40 mm quad mounts, three starboard close to the island, two aft, lower on the hull side, and as much on the port side. They also were given new, more modern electronics suite, notably with the distinctive SK-2 radar. The USN made no distinction, only Historians and specialists. However this became a new standard and some of these changes were incrementally ported on earlier “short-bow” Essex-class ships nearing completion or back in the yard for an overhaul.

To sum it all up:

  • Longer bow, about 10 m increase in overall lenght
  • Safer ventilation
  • Safer aviation-fuel systems
  • Combat information center moved below the armored deck
  • Addition of a second flight-deck catapult
  • Removal of the hangar deck catapult
  • 3rd Mk 37 fire-control director
  • New radars suite, notably the SK-2 main surveillance radar
  • Increased AA, both 40 mm and 20 mm

Simplifications in design were also an ongoing process, as well as building itself: USS Essex for example needed 15 months to be built, versus USS Hornet (ii), just 12 months, but about 20 months to completion, versus 38 for prewar standards. For comparison a modern CV like USS G.Ford needs 48 months from the keel laying to launch. This was still a far cry compared to Vancouver Kaiser’s yards delivering Jeep Carriers at breakneck pace (3 months to launch for the last one, 5 to completion). The Essex class were infinitely more complex in all areas.

Ticonderoga sub-class (1944) specifications

Dimensions 270.7m oa (888 feet), same.
Crew 3000+

The Oriskany’s complete redesign

USS Oriskany

On this chapter, the USS Oriskany appeared as a game changer: The name was assigned to CV-18, renamed Wasp so the when CV-34 keel was laid in 1942, the latter unherited it. “Mighty O” was close to cancellation, as she was laid down on 1 May 1944 in New York and launched on 13 October 1945. So at this point the war was over, and she was already surplus. However she was too advanced for simple cancellation and to be scrapped, so as construction was suspended on 22 August 1946, 85% complete, the admiralty wanted to try digested war lessons, and considerably improve upon the design, dating back to late 1940 essentially.

Therefore, USS Oriskany was redesigned, basically as a prototype for further conversions, named as the SCB-27 modernization program (see later). This was started on 8 August 1947, and engineers still needed to tore down the ship down to a 60% completion stage to have more freedom. A lot of her structure was removed, as to make her able to operate the new generation of carrier aircraft, notably jets.

Engineers were acutely aware these new jets and late-gen piston-powered planes needed a longer, roomier and overall much stronger flight deck, as the structure behind. Both was massively reinforced. Also stronger elevators were fitted, as well as new and much more powerful hydraulic catapults. The arresting gear also followed that trend and was heavy-duty.

Also, the island structure was completely rebuilt, taking in account a lot of observations and reports made abour carrier operations management on board.

The island also supported a new generation of radars, for air and surface surveillance, first warning, tracking, and fire control.


USS Essex SBC-27 electronics suite, ONI

The deck anti-aircraft 5-in/38 turrets were removed. It came as no surprise. Basically they were a prewar request due to limited confidence in fighter’s ability to create an efficient defense bubble around a carrier (and not anticipating the heavy support brought by the surrounding ships). Better weaponry was studied which arrived to maturation in between, the last before the missile age. So it reflected a compromise: The ship still retained eight 5-in/38 guns in sponsons, and forteen 20-mm Oerlikon as a “last-ditch reassaurance” in very close quarters, but it was all completed by the latestn radar-assisted twin mount 28 3-inch (7.6 cm) 50 caliber guns that were to replace the Bofors. The deletion of not only these turrets and Bofors mount allowed to keep the deck “clean” with more space alongside the smaller, more compact island.

Blisters were added to the hull (bulges) not to improve ASW defence, but just raise the cross-sectional in order to boost buoyancy and stability (incidentally also making there for a larger fuel aviation bunker volume). On USS Orikany they were required for the simple reason of the addition of much topside weight, due to a completely revamped and wider, heavier flight deck.


3-in/50 twin guns on USS Oriskany – ONI

After all this, USS Oriskany was commissioned in the New York Naval Shipyard, on 25 September 1950. She would not only validates the SBC reconstruction standard soon applied on nearly all Essex-class vessels, but she would also take part in the war in Korea, Vietnam (7 battle stars), decommissioned in 1976 but only stricken in 1989. But instead, she was repossessed by the Navy and eventually ended after a long mothball in the Beaumont Reserve, sunk as an artificial reef on May 17, 2006, the largest ship ever for this purpose.


USS Oriskany in 1990

USS Oriskany (1950) specifications

Dimensions: Flight deck, long overall 911 feet (277.7 meters)
Dimensions: Flight deck, width overall 195 feet (59.5 meters)
Dimensions: Hull’s largest beam 106.6 feet (32.5 meters)
Dimensions: Draft 30.8 feet (9.4 meters)
Displacement 44,700 tons full load
Crew Circa 4360
Propulsion No change
Speed 33 knots
Armament 8x 5-inch (12.7 cm)/38 in sponsons, 14×2 3-inch (7.6 cm)/50, 14x 20mm AA guns
Armor Waterline belt 2.5–4 in (64–102 mm), Deck: 1.5 in (38 mm), Hangar deck: 2.5 in (64 mm), Bulkheads: 4 in (102 mm)

The Essex class in operations: Organisation, Tactics, Supply/repair

Essex class airstrikes tactics


F4U corsair, back in 1945 on Essex-class carriers for fighter-bomber tasks.

Tactical employment changed as the war progressed. In 1942, the doctrine implied a single CV, or a pair launching an combined air strike. This allowed to keep together a sizeable CAP for close defence. But this was the theory. The pair worked well in that under attack it multiplied the AA protective screen and split the enemy efforts by dispersing the targets. Combat experience however in 1943 hurt this theory enough that noew doctrine were to be tested.

Discussions went on and as the new Essex class were soon available, tactics adapted towards more combined strength. The combined AA fire of the entire task group and their combined screen created a protective umbrella against marauding enemy aircraft. The carriers thus were rarely separated, especially from 1944. The size of the escort grew considerably also, with the delivery of more cruisers and destroyers.

Two or more of task groups supported each other, making by their sum a fast carrier task force. Lessons learned with the operation of a single group of six CV, or split into two groups of three, or three groups of two, helped to test many new tactics which all eventually were codified in task force operation manuals in 1945.

The evolution of the fast carrier task force, combined with preparatory strikes, peripheric strikes to isolate the island targeted, then on-groung close support, combined with a protective CAP, and the cruisers and battleships reconnaissance planes to search beyond radar range, do search and rescue missions, or ASW patrols, were all defined in 1944-45.

The use of radar also considerably shortened the response time to an incoming threat, CAPs being projected in an “inner” and “outer bubble”, one launched far in advance for a long-range interception, the other kept for closer defence, and the combined task force AA being the ultimate “steel wall” at closer range. It should be noted that from late 1943, the Essex-class had a smaller night-fighter CAP with specially trained and equipped F6F Hellcats. It well complemented the first radar warning which worked at all time, day and night.

The fast carrier force organization


“Murderers row”, TF 38 at Ulithi Atoll, 3rd fleet carriers at anchor, 8 December 1944.

By far, of course, TF 38/58 (the name only reflecting a change in leadership), also called the “fast carrier task force” was the pivot of all USN counter-offensives in the Pacific from August 1943, concentrating all Essex-class carriers, which really were its bedrock. At that stage the only aircraft carriers left from the interwar were USS Saratoga and Enterprise, including in this same unit. At its peak in December 1944, it concentrated more combined firepower than any other task force in history, with 17 carriers, 6 battleships, 13 cruisers, 58 destroyers, and a total of 1,100 aircraft, increased for the Battle of Iwo Jima in early 1945. But it was born in August 1943, built around USS Saratoga under the command of Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman.

Task Force 38 and Task Force 58

TF 38 was really the barinchild of Admiral Mitscher. However the overall command alternated between two Raymond Spruance and William “Bull” Halsey, two very different personalities. Spruance, calculating and cautious, and “Bull” Halsey, far more aggressive and gambling his assets. These were dividing personalities. Officers in general preferred to serve under Spruance while most common sailors preferred Halsey, certainly more accessible. TF 38/58 fell under overall command of Admiral Chester Nimitz.

The name reflected its belongings: With Spruance’s Fifth Fleet, under Mitscher, this was Task Force 58 (6 January 1944). And under Halsey, Third Fleet (Vice Admiral John S. McCain Sr) it became Task Force 38. Planning for upcoming operations was completed when each admiral and staff rotated out of active command, allowing a higher operational tempo and misleading the Japanese into believing naval assets were much greater than in reality. That demoralization however did not bear fruits as much as expected.


Vice Admiral Marc A Mitscher aboard USS Lexington CV-16 June 1944

The Task Force was often split between Task Groups (TG) to simultaneously attack different objectives related to the main one (in general assaulting an island). Their role, before the amphibious fleet was there, was to interdict the sky to the enemy in the while area and destroy all visible installations on the island itself. This traduced into distant sweeps aiming at destroying all surrounding Japanese airfields, notably to ensure no attack will come over the Amphibious fleet when assaulting the beaches.

It was especially vital with the rise of Kamikaze attacks from mid-1944 to mid-1945. The logical conclusion was that when closing with Japan itself, notably for the assault of Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima were taken care of by separate TGs. The latter operated still close enough to mutually cover themselves in case of a massive air attack on one or the other TG. This ensure the Task Force to always keep maximum protection and maximum striking power at all times. The main objective of the fast carrier task force was to enable operations for the much larger 3rd or 5th Amphibious Force tasked to provide support to the Marines, and maintained operational at sea by Service Squadrons to resplenish it (see below).


Task Force 38 off the coast of Japan 1945

The first “textbook” operation by TF 38 was Operation Hailstone, a massive combined air strike combined with surface vessels attacks on Truk Lagoon on 17–18 February 1944. This was a crippling defeat for the latter, with the main airfield obliterated, all installations visible in the harbor and around it, and all shipping as well, including many military vessels. With TF 58, the fast carrier force comprised nine CVs and eight CVLs, the latter operating in support, dedicated to the CAPs, leaving the fleet carriers to lead the air strike.

Detailed organization on 1st May 1945

The FIRST CARRIER TASK FORCE, PACIFIC (Com1stCarTaskForPac) was under command of Vice Admiral M. A. Mitscher (30)

The SECOND CARRIER TASK FORCE, PACIFIC (Com2ndCarTaskForPac) was commanded by Vice Admiral J. S. McCain (21).

CardDiv 1 R. Adm. F. C. Sherman CV 9 ESSEX
CV 15 RANDOLPH
CVL 22 USS INDEPENDENCE
CVL 25 COWPENS
CardDiv 2 R. Adm. C. A. F. Sprague CV 13 FRANKLIN
CV 19 HANCOCK
CV 38 SHANGRI-LA
CVL 30 SAN JACINTO
CardDiv 3 R. Adm. T. L. Sprague CV 10 YORKTOWN
CV 16 LEXINGTON
CV 36 ANTIETAM
CVL 24 BELLEAU WOOD
CardDiv 4 R. Adm. G. F. Bogan CV 17 BUNKER HILL
CV 11 INTREPID
CV 39 LAKE CHAMPLAIN
CVL 28 CABOT
CardDiv 5 R. Adm. J. J. Clark CV 12 HORNET
CV 18 WASP
CV 21 BOXER
CVL 26 MONTEREY
CardDiv 6 R. Adm. A. W. Radford CV 14 TICONDEROGA
CV 20 BENNINGTON
CVL 27 LANGLEY
CVL 29 BATAAN
CardDiv 7 R. Adm. D. B. Duncan CV 6 ENTERPRISE
CV 31 BON HOMME RICHARD

CarDiv 11 (based around Saratoga) and CarDiv 12 (around USS Ranger) were both part of the Commander Carrier Training Squadron, Pacific, under R. Adm. R. E. Jennings. USS Enteprise ws the sole interwar aicraft carrier still in active, frontline duty (Carrier Division 7) until 1945.

Supply and repairs- Service Squadron Ten:


USS Essex refuelled at sea underway by USS Tallulah off Luzon, late 1944 (navsource)

Service Squadron 10 comprised hundreds of support vessels which resupplied and maintained TF 38/58.

Alongside the numerous changes of advanced bases for replenishing the ships of TF 38/58, there was a whole organization for the supply chain across the Pacific and back to Pearl Harbor and the homeland, as much as an impressive feat in itself as the rest. It concerned supplies of food, fuel, ammunition and all possible naval and air ordnance, aviation gasoline, navy oil, a galaxy of spare parts, and all in between. Due to the frequency of “supply runs” made by the fast carrier force, this organization comprised all the ships needed to maintain a fleet fully operational far from any base. In 1944 for example, to keep a steady operational pace under halsey, refuelling at sea was pioneered and perfected.

The years of the interwar Navy Bureaus and shipyards believed that a repair ship or tender could provide everything needed beyond minor repairs. but in actual combat, crew’s ingenuity proved time and again, the ships could be maintained at sea and repaired whenever they were, with all the skills necessary to not to sail back home for drydocking. By December 1942 was created the predecessor to Service Squadron Ten, comprising all the ships needed for relatively extensive repairs: They fitted for example USS New Orleans (CA 32) with a temporary bow (made of coconut logs!) after the Battle of Tassafaronga, so she could sail to Australia.

Occurence of ships having their bows blown off, sterns blasted away, massive hull gashes and such a structural mess and internal chaos that all previous expectation fell of battle damage fell short. With a closer, more extensive help, Essx-class ships could remain at sea as long as possible, before completing if needed the task in Pearl Harbor, and then Home for the most serious devastation. It was only a matter of local capabilities. The effort of the crews of all these specialized ships is as heroic in their efforts as any servicemen. Service Squadron Ten notably, attached to T38/58 enabled the it to keep “ressurecting ships” the Japanese believed and announced sunk, time and again.


USS Randolph under repair, Ulithi 1945

Squadron Ten comprised a fleet of floating drydocks, repair ships, tenders, crane barges and auxiliaries, allowing them to perform all major repairs needed to battle damaged Essex-class aircraft carriers. Floating drydocks in particular, large enough to accomodate a battleship, proven absolutely critical in restoring these to seaworthy and operative conditions. By February 1945, for example a superb demonsratin of the collective skill and knowhow of this was performed when repairing for example 60 feet of flight deck on USS Randolph (in 18 days !), creating a new bow, replacing guns, electrical equipment burned by fire, even structural beaming. In February 1945 alone, some 52 USN vessels were repaired in floating drydocks. Randolph repairs at sea would remain at the pinnacle of the genre in US history, allowing the ship to sray on duty insetead of departing for a long trip and much longer repairs at home which would have retired her from operations until the end of the war.

SBC-27/125 cold war reconstructions


USS Philippine Sea July 1955

Note: This post is split in two, the cold war SBC-27 and career will be seen separately in 2022. The following career focus here on WW2 and the years preceding their reconstruction.

The term “SCB” refers to “Ship Characteristics Board (Program)”.

Foreworld

The range of modernizations of the class in the post-war era, exemplified by their flying deck

The construction of the Essex-class aicraft carrier, as well as other mass-built ships for the USN during the war led in 1947 to an assessment of what was to be mothballed and kept in reserve afterwards. The need of the USN gradually decreased in the peace time context, and gradually all carriers, after some service notably for veteran repatriations in 1946 were placed in decommission and reserved in the Atlantic and Pacific. In June 1950 however, the Korean war started and in addition to all Essex-class vessels still in operation, it was chosen to reactivate many of those in mothballed. Since aviation and radar technology made headway in between, it was assessed what ships would be taken in hands to be converted. Most were, the only exception would be the most battered carriers in 1945 like Randolph and Franklin.


USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) moored at San Diego, 1970.

It was soon assessed that the spacious hangars could accommodate jets, but still various modifications were necessary to significantly improve the capability of the ships to handle these heavier, faster jets. Among the modifications detailed for the Oriskany, only SBC-27 carrier, the improvements included for the first time jet-blast deflectors (JBDs), a optical landing system (a British wartime innovation) but also greater aviation fuel capacity thanks to the additional hull bulges and the new angled flight deck really separating and better managing landing and launching aircraft operations. This was the only way to make due with a fundamentally limited flight deck, both in lenght and width. It really became the bedrock of cold war carrier operations at large as the system is always the same as of today, the flight deck only getting wider in proportion (double), with side lifts.

The navy could work with 15 ships, extra ones being deleted due to exetensive wartime damage. These mostly ten short-hulls, along with five long-hulls. The last nine completed stayed as they were in complement to the three Midways. Together they really became the backbone of the post-war US Navy’s combat strength, so they was no rush before laying down the keel of a new generation of “supercarriers” completely tailored to operate jets long-term: The 1954 Forrestal class.

The Truman administration poswar economies sent three active and umodified Essex class into mothballs in 1949, but most were recommissioned after the Korean War start and the ten short-hulls and thirteen long-hulls saw active Cold War service, as eight SBC-27A, and six SBC-27C plus USS Oriskany (total 15). The last six received a second modernization wave called SBC-125/125A and other went into this upgrade later as well, in all, all but one in fact, the last recommissioned in 1958 (see later for further details).


USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) through Sunds Strait, 24 April 1971.

USS Oriskany was really the prototype for all these changes, and a first batch of eight earlier ships were rebuilt to the Oriskany design standard (SCB-27A program) in the early 1950s, then six more to the 27C design, differing by their catapults mostly. The USS Antietam, “in her juice” still when rebuilt in 1952, received an experimental 10.5-degree angled deck, which really was groundbreaking at the time. She also was fitted with and enclosed “hurricane bow” (no longer separated bow and flight deck lip), both distinctive features of the new SCB-125 program, undertaken at first concurrently with the last three 27C conversions. It was applied to the 27A /27C but USS Lake Champlain. USS Shangri-La also became the first operational angled deck aircraft carrier in operations in 1955, Oriskany ironically was the last angled-deck conversion, leading to a rather unique SCB-125A refit, consiting in bringing her to the both the 27C standard and 125 standard, with an aluminum flight deck to keep the weight down.

The Korean War saw the deployment of mostly unconverted carriers, notably “expending” the battered Bunker Hill and Franklin. From 1955 seven unconverted Essex class vessels were converted as a cost-saving measure to anti-submarine warfare carrier (CVS). Also when the Forrestal-class entered service, eight SBC-27A converted shios were redesignated CVS in turn, taking the rol of the unconverted ships, soon mothballed. Also, two 27C conversions became CVS also in 1962, and two again in 1969.

SCB-144 program: The kast upgrade they received was a bow-mounted SQS-23 sonar. The admiralty waited until there were a sufficient number of serviceable supercarriers to have them decommissioned, from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. The very last active ship was USS Lexington, still in 1991 a training ship. Four were ultiately preserved as museums (see below). The “prototype” USS Oriskany was studied for a possible conversion and the Reagan administation contemplated another wave of modernization that woul be applied to all the remaining vessels still not broken up. But that plan was eventually scrapped. Their design, more than 40 years old, was now showing.

SBC conversions in detail


USS Essex mothballed at Puget Sound Shipyard, 1948

Popularly known in the navy as the “Two Seven-Alpha” or “Two Seven-Charlie” it really saved the whole Essex class from the scrapyard, also ensuring the best use of taxpayers money in a peace time context where the cold war was getting “hotter” several times. All in all, this endeavour, still costly, but less than building new carriers from scratch, allowed the fleet to keep a disposable stock of aircraft-carrying multipurpose platforms. They had well-understood limits, notably they only could operate first-gen jets, but not the heavier next ones for which the “super-carrier” fleet was created.

SBC-27:

The sum of modifications made on USS Oriskany, namely:

1-Flight deck structure significantly reinforced to handle 52,000 pounds (23,587 kg) planes(*)

2-Stronger, larger elevators

3-Standard, but improved hydraulic catapults)

4-Mk 5 arresting gear

5-Removal of 5-in/38 turret, all 40 mm, most 20 mm guns.

6-Eight Twin 3-inch/50 gun mounts installed with prox. fuses

7-Same new clipper bow for all ships

8-New bridge island taller, but more compact

9-Brand new electronics and radar suite

10-Ready rooms (gallery deck) moved to below the armored hangar deck

11-Large escalator starboard side amidships for flight crews up

12-Aviation fuel capacity increased to 300,000 US gallons

13-Pumping cap. to 50 US gallons (189.3 L)/minute

14-Two emergency fire and splinter bulkheads

15-Fog/foam firefighting system

16-Improved water curtains + cupronickel fire main

17-Improved electrical generating power

18-Improved weapons stowage and handling facilities

19-Removal of the armor belt

20-Fitting of blisters, 8-10 feet (2.4-3.0 m) width increase

*The twin-prop North American AJ Savage as given as an example, and this allowed to carry also later the Tracker, but also the Skywarrior and F-8 crusader fighter, while they even operated in the 1970s the modern A7 Corsair II.

SBC-27A

1-All SBC-27 modifications (two years conversion)

2-New H 8 slotted-tube hydraulic catapults

SBC-27C

USS_Intrepid_CVA-11_off_Guantanamo_9_February_1955_SBC-27C

1-New C 11 steam catapults

2-Wider bulging abeam (103 feet)

3-Jet blast deflectors

4-Deck cooling

5-Fuel blending facilities

6-Emergency recovery barrier

7-Storage and handling for nuclear weapons

8-No.3 elevator to the starboard deck edge

SBC-125

USS_Bon_Homme_Richard_CVA-31_sea_trials_15_September_1955-SBC-125

1-New Angled deck (later ported to SBC-27C ships)

2-Enclosed hurricane bow

3-More powerful C 11-1 steam catapults

4-Addition of aluminum flight-deck cladding

5-Mk 7-1 arresting gear

6-Mirror landing system

7-Primary Flight Control moved to aft end of island

8-Air conditioning

9-No.1 elevator lengthened (for SCB-27C)

10-No.3 (aft) elevator moved starboard deck edge (SCB-27A)


Later Air Groups:


CVW-19 ticonderoga air group, 1970

These will be seen much in detail in the future SBC-conversion/Cold war Essex-class page. The Essex class after the war operated virtually nearly all planes and jets types of the 1950s-60s but the heaviest, which became the norm in the mid-1960s and confined to super-carriers. Instead, they continually operated models such as the piston-planes Skyraider and A4 Skyhawk in Vietnam, all and types of helicopters. In between, they operated the F7F Tigercat, FR Fireball and F8F Bearcat from 1945, F2H Banshee, F9F Panther, F6U Pirate, F3D Skyknight during the Korean war, the TBM-3S Avenger, AF Guardian, D-W Skyraider, F9F-P Cougar, TBM-3R Avenger, HUK Huskee, HUP, HO4S/5S/HRS Chickasaw helicopters after it, and in the early 1960s, the F3D Skyknight, F9F Cougar, FJ Fury, F7U Cutlass fighters, AU Corsair, AD Skyraider, AJ Savage attackers, HUK Huskee, HSS Seabat/HUS Seahorse helicopters (also in the SCB-125/SCB-125A) which saw action in Vietnam. The very last LPH conversions of the late 1960s-early 1970s carried typically 30 to 40 helicopters (HUP, HO4S/HRS Chickasaw, HO5S, HUS Seahorse, HR2S Mojave).

The Essex clas now: Four Museum ships

Four Essex-class ships were preserved, reconsitioned and opened to the public as museums ships at New York City, in texas, California, and South Carolina, so covering three cardinal points on the east coast (2) gulf of Mexico (1) and west coast (1), later joined by USS Midway at San Diego.

USS Lexington (Corpus Christi, California)

USS Lexington at Corpus Christi, CA.

USS Intrepid, New York.

USS Intrepid museum (panoramic), NYC.

A well-known and appreciated rendez-vous point for history buffs and tourists in NyC. It present on the flight deck all types of aircraft in the USN and many more.

USS Yorktown (Patriot’s Point, South Carolina)

USS Yorktown could be visited today at Patriot’s Point, Mount Pleasant, in South Carolina.

USS Hornet, Alameda

USS Hornet amchored in Alameda, California

⚠ Note.

Overall, the seventeen Essex class commissioned before V-Day and fourteen deployed in combat operations played a very large part in the victory in the Pacific, redefining the capital ship concept for the decades to come (and it’s still central today). Collectively, the Essex-class ships amassed 88 battle stars despite their entry somewhat “late” in operations. The absolute record-holder would ever be USS Enteprise and its unsurpassed 20 battle stars.

The following career list excludes aircraft carriers commissioned after the end of WW2: USS Princeton (CV-37, commissioned 18 November 1945), USS Tarawa (CV-40, 8 December 1945), USS Kearsage (CV-33) (March 1946), USS Leyte (CV-32, 11 April),USS Philippine Sea (CV-47, 11 May 1946), USS Valley Forge (CV-45, 21 November, USS Oriskany (CV-34, 25 September 1950) rebuilt and modernized before commission.


US Navy ww2 USS Essex (CV-9)

USS Essex CV-9 leaving San Francisco on 15 April 1944

USS Essex was the first aircraft carrier of the famous class to be completed, on 31 December 1942, symbolic date that was pushed up artificially as she had been launched in July, so barely six months had passed since. For such complex ship, especially the lead vessel of a new and important, large and very complex class, that was unrealistic on a technical standpoint, only symbolic. Indeed, she made quick yard trials, which showed she needed many fixes, masking the fact she was bearly fit for service. Under her new captain, the crew trained in February-March, she made her shakedown cruise and although officially commissioned much earlier it was around April that she was ready for service and ordered to the pacific in May 1943.

After a stop at Pearl Harbor, she started her career with Task Force 16 against Marcus Island. On 31 August 1943, she became flagship of TF 14, striking also Wake Island (5 and 6 October). This was also called TG 59.18, and assembled also her sister ships USS Lexington (ii), Yorktown (ii), the fast carriers USS Cowpens, Independence, Belleau Wood, escorted by the heavy cruisers USS New Orleans, San Francisco and cleveland class USS Birmingham, Nashville, Santa Fe, Mobile, DesRon48 USS Hull, Hazelwood, Bancroft, Caldwell, Coghlan, Braine, Halford, DesDiv96 USS Kidd, Bullard, Chauncey, DesDiv49 (John Rodgers/SF,DF, Harrison, Murray) and DesDiv50 (Ringgold, Sigsbee, Schroeder, Dashiell), DesDiv91 (Conner, Burns), DesDiv92 (Boyd, Bradford) src. The operation was a preparatory strike before retaking the island, but aside the damage made to the installations, airfield and ships around, it also indirectly caused the execution of all 98 POWs from December 1941. 3/4 of the garrison were however left to starve to death when the island was completely isolated, left to “rot” until officially surrendering in September 1945.

On 11 November, USS Essex took part in carrier operations against Rabaul, a large strike with USS Bunker Hill and USS Independence. She was later assigned with Task Group 50.3 (TG 50.3) for a raid against the Gilbert Islands and took part in covering the amphibious assault of the Battle of Tarawa. She refuelled at sea and was sent with TG 50.3, this time as flagship, for the attack Kwajalein, 4 December 1943. Her After covering this second amphibious assault she mived to her next target, the Marshall Islands on 29 January-2 February 1944.

As TG 50.3 fusioned with TG 58.1 and TG 58.2 to create Task Force 58 or famous “Fast Carrier Task Force”, she participated in the largest air strike yet on Truk (17-18 February 1944). Eight Japanese warships were sunk and many frighters, oilers and other utility vessels, plus installations and airfields ravaged. While underway to the Mariana Islands in order to savage Japanese supply lines, TF 58 was spotted and attacked later by a massive bomber wave, followed by another. Launching all available fighters and using a vigoruous AA barrage, both were repelled successfully. TF 58 arrived and launched a coordinated first strike on Saipan, Tinian and Guam, all on 23 February 1944.

USS Essex hit by a Kamikaze, 25 November 1944

USS Essex hit by a Kamikaze, 25 November 1944

By that point, USS Essex needed an overhaul after nearly one year of service and proceeded to San Francisco for her single major overhaul in which she was also updated to the new standard set by USS Ticonderoga. Assigned Air Group 15 (“Fabled Fifteen”, David McCampbell, top scorer and ace for the USN) she trained and joined USS Wasp(ii) and San Jacinto, as part of TG 12.1. They were sent to anothr attack on Marcus Island, on 19-20 May 1944, followed by Wake, on 23 May 1944.

Joining TF 58 she was present during the gradual occupation of the Marianas, 12 June-10 August. Detached with TG 38.3 she made a strike on Palau Islands (6-8 September), and Mindanao (9-10 September) sinking enemy shipping as planned, disrupting supply in the whole area. She remained to cover landings on Peleliu. On 2 October 1944, she was struck by a typhoon and later was reassigned to Task Force 38 for the Ryukyus operations.

Until the end of the year, she was in continuous frontline action: Strikes against Okinawa (1 October), against Formosa (1-14 October), Leyte landings, Battle of Leyte Gulf (24-25 October) search for remaining escaping vessels until 30 October and back to resplenish at Ulithi. When she was back in November 1944, she started airstrikes on Manila and the northern Philippine. On 25 November, she was hit by a kamikaze which went through the CAP and AA barrage, hitting her flight deck’s port edge. By that time, parked planes were fuelled, causing extensive incendiary damage, with 15 killed, 44 wounded.

After quick repairs at sea with a USN mobile workshop she returned with TF 38 operating off Leyte. She covered the landing on Mindoro (14-16 December 1944), weathered the famous and deadly Typhoon Cobra, sendin planes in search of survivors afterwards. Detached with TG 38.3, she participated in the Lingayen Gulf campaign: Formosa, Sakishima, Okinawa, Luzon. She also searched for enemy targets in the South China Sea, and destroyed shipping wholesale, while conducting more strikes on Formosa and along the China coast as well as Hainan and Hong Kong. She weathered a third typhoon without much damage and on 20-21 January 1945 was made ready to launch another raid on Formosa, then Miyako-jima and ultimately Okinawa on 27 January.


ONI photo showing USS Essex’s refits details for the island

She stayed with TF 58 for the next months, between strikes on Okinawa and nearby idlans and rampaging the Tokyo area and Japanese coast on 16-17 February. On the 25th she made strikes against airfield to negate any air support, before covering the landings at Iwo Jima, and in between resplenishing and striking the Japanese coast she stayed in support against Iwo Jima close islands. From 23 March (until 28 May) her next and last campaign was against Okinawa. In July-August as Okinawa was aslmost entirely mastered, USS Essex took part in the large raids on Japanese home islands, starting on 10 July, and concluding with the ceasefire on 15 August 1945. For her service, USS Essex won 13 battle stars, added to the Navy Expeditionary Medal (3) and National Defense Service Medal (2). However her service was only starting. She was to return every cent of the taxpayer money during her long and active life, helped by her light damage taken during her Pacific campaign.

After remaining for defensive combat air patrols until 3 September 1945 she was ordered to Bremerton (Washington) to be deactivated, carrting persobal with her, but not participating in “Magic Carpet”. On 15 September her general state was assessed and preservation measures were taken. On 9 January 1947 then officially decommissioned and placed in reserve. In 1950 she has been selected for modernization, and “unpacked”, then drydocked to proceed with a SBC-27 type Modernization, earning notably a new flight deck, new streamlined island superstructures, masts radars and air group and the fully recommissioned on 16 January 1951 (Captain A. W. Wheelock). She would take part in the Korea war, served afterwards in the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets, then participated to the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis, was involved in the nautilus incident in 1966, the Tupolev Tu-16 incident in 1968, participated in the Apollo program as recovery carrier, until eventually decommissioned on 30 June 1969 at Boston.

US Navy ww2 USS Yorktown (CV-10)

Commissioning of USS Yorktown (CV-10) on 15 April 1943

Commissioning of USS Yorktown (CV-10) on 15 April 1943

She was previously called USS Bonhomme Richard on 1 December 1941 in Newport News but renamed on 26 September 1942 to commemorate the original USS Yorktown (CV-5) lost at Midway in last June. Launched on 21 January 1943, and sponsored by the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, she was commissioned on 15 April 1943 under command of Captain Joseph J. Clark. She trained at Naval Station Norfolk until 21 May, then departed for a shakedown cruuiser off Trinidad. Back to Norfolk on 17 June for fixes until 1 July, then prepared for air operations off Norfolk until 6 July. She left with her air group Chesapeake Bay and headed for the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 24 July for exercises. On 22 August, she was judged ready for her first combat mission, assigned to TF 15. She sailed to 128 miles (206 km) from Marcus Island on 31 August, making airstrikes, and back to Hawaii.

On 9 September, she was sent for the US West Coast, San Francisco to load aircraft and supplies to Pearl Harbor. USS Yorktown was back to combat on 29 September and on 5 October started a round of air strikes on Wake Island, then on 6 October until retiring to Pearl in the evening.

On 10 November, USS Yorktown met with famous Task Force 38 to participate in the invasion of the the Gilbert Islands. On 19 November she was posted off Jaluit, Mili Atoll to launch airstrikes. She also supported the amphibious assaults on Tarawa, Abemama, and Makin.

On 22 November, she concentrated upon installations and the airfield at Mili before making it back to Pearl Harbor and en route, strafing Japanese instalaltion at Wotje and Kwajalein (4 December). She spent christmas in traing and crew leave in Hawaiian waters.

Marshall campaign (Jan-Feb 1944)

On 16 January 1944, she participated in Operation Flintlock against the Marshall Islands, attached with the Fifth Fleet as TF 58, more precisely Task Group 58.1 for her own unit. On 29 January she was ready for the first airstrikes with USS Lexington(ii) and Cowpens, starting at 05:20 on Taroa airfield, Maloelap. On 30 January she was launching airstrikes against Kwajalein with the landing taking place on 31 January, followed by close support missions. In February the routine was the same, until the 4th retiring for replsnishment in Majuro Atoll.

For four months, she participated in operations in the Marianas, striking Truk Atoll (16–17 February) Saipan (22 February) and Majuro area. She operated from Espiritu Santo (New Hebrides) in March, hiting notably the Palau Islands and on 1 April, Woleai before being back to Majuro.

Technicolor USN documentary “the fighting lady” 1944

New guinea campaign (March-April 1944)

On 13 April, she headed for New Guinea and attacked Hollandia and the Wakde-Sarmi area (northern New Guinea). On 22–23 April, this was close support for assault troops. Afterwards, another strike on Truk lagoon (29-30 April) and back to Majuro on 4 May, then Oahu (11 May) for maintenance and training. On 29 May she was back to Majuro and prepared for Marianas operations, starting on 6 June with TF 58. Her launch point was to prepare the invasion of Saipan. But she also attacked airfields of Guam until 13 June. This was followed by attacks on the Bonin Islands. She then took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea back with TF 58.

Yorktown in the battle of the Phillipines (June 1944)

On 18 June she was back with TF 58, she started intense airstrikes on Guam on 19 June. Throughout the battle, Yorktown’s air group continued to strike Guam airfields to deny any interference; She also foiled Japanese carrier raids, her pilots claiming 37 enemy planes, dropping 21 tons of bombs on Guam. On 20 June, she chased the fleeing enemy task force and contact was made at 15:40, Yorktown launching 40-plane at 16:23-16:43, later finding Ozawa’s force at around 18:40. The 20-minute attack saw her crippling IJN Zuikaku but she failed to sink her. Other ships were tarhested, hits made, but no ship sunk per se. On 21 June, the chase was out and she stopped air searches.

USS_Yorktown_CV-10_underway_during_the_Marianas_operation_June_1944

USS Yorktown CV-10 underway during the Marianas operation June 1944

Mariannas/Bonins campaign (Summer 1944)

Back to the Marianas area and resumed air strikes on Pagan Island on 22–23 June. On 24 June, she launched for the first time airstrikes on Iwo Jima. On 25 June, she headed for Eniwetok and on 30 June, ws back to complete operations in the Marianas and Bonins. On 3–4 July she made another series of striked on Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima. On 6 July, she was back for cupport operations in the Marianas until 23 July, followed by striked on Yap, Ulithi, and the Palaus on 25 July. On 31 July, she left the Mariana Islands, stopped in Eniwetok and sailed to Pearl Harbor before hading back to the United States, Puget Sound Navy Yard for an overhault srating on 17 August, lasting two-month. She was back on 6 October, departin and stopping at the Alameda NAS (11-13 October) to load her ne air group and supplies. Stopping at Pearl Harbor 18-24 October she arrived in Eniwetok on 31 October (meanwhile missing the second battle of the Philippines). She departed on 1 November for Ulithi and being assigned to TG 38.4 as flasghip.

Phillipines campaign (Fall 1944)

TG 38.1 launched air strikes in the Philippines in support of the Leyte invasion. Detached on 23 November she was in Ulithi until 10 December and back to TF 38, tready for more striked on 13 December, notably on Luzon in preparation for the main invasion planned for January. On 17 December, during her retirement she was hit by a typhoon which also sank three destroyers, so she participated in rescue operations znd was back to Ulithi on for Chritsmas, and crew’s leave, preparing for 1945 operations.

China sea operation (Jan 1945)

Back with TF 38 she launched air strikes on Formosa (now Taiwan) and the Philippines, notably around Lingayen’s airfields (3 January) and Formosa again, the other targets for the next week. On 10 January, she attacked new objectives in the South China Sea, entering via Bashi Channel. On 12 January, her air group attacked Saigon and Tourane in Japanese-occupied French Indochina. No major ship of the IJN was spotted here. TF 38 aviators neverthless gained a record tally sinking 44 enemy ships, comprising 15 warships. On 15 January, they attacked Formosa and Canton, and next, Hong Kong. On 20 January, she left the south China sea via Balintang Channel and led another raid on Formosa on 21 January, then Okinawa on 22 January, before reslpenishing in Ulithi.

Iwo Jima & Okinawa (Feb-May 1945)

USS Yorktown sortied on 10 February with TF 58 attached to the 3rd Fleet, and later becming the 5th Fleet (Raymond A. Spruance) and launching a series of raids on Iwo Jima in preparation ti the assault. On 16 February, she was detached for strikes on the Tokyo area and Honshū. On 17 February, these were the Bonins, Chichi Jima (18 February) and afterwards close support on Iwo Jima until 23 February, followed by new detached strikes on Japan. On 26 February she raided installations on Kyūshū followed by a supply stop in Ulithi (1 March).

On 14 March she resumed strikes on Japan and preliminary support work for Okinawa. On 18 March, her air groups were again rampaging over Kyūshū, Honshū and Shikoku when at circa 08:00, a single twin-engine bomber, likely a Yokosuka P1Y “Frances” pierced the defences and appeared in position to launch on her port side. Her AA damaged it and it splashed in the water on her starboard side, followed by another “Frances” also destroyed. This was the closest the aircraft carrier was to danger up to that point in the war… Three Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” dive-bombers however later appeared over her and launched an attack, with two misses and a third that his her signal bridge, going through the first deck, exploding near her hull, punching two large holes and killing five, wounding 26. Although not “a scratch” she remained fully operational. She resumed air striked until 20 March.

On 21 March, she took position off Okinawa, for softening-up strikes alla along the island on 23-28 March, before being detached for more striked in Japanese waters. On 29 March, she also made two photographic raids over Kyūshū but the same afternoon at 14:10, a single “Judy” Kamaikaze made a dive on USS Yorktown, hit by AA and splashing approx. 60 ft (18 m) from port. On 30 March, she was back to attack Okinawa and surrounding islets. On 1 April, she covered tje first assault ashore and went on for six weeks, retiring every three days for refueling but on 7 April when a Japanese task force centered round IJN Yamato was spotted steaming south.

USS Yorktown launched all her planes available, starting the onslaught on the pride of the Japanese Navy. 9 of her pilots claimed torpedo hits and at least three that their 500 lb (230 kg) bombs hit also IJN Yahagi. Strafing runs also savaged destroyers, claiming one left ablaze and probably sinking. Back to Okinawa, there was another Japanese air attack on 11 April, a single-engine plane was splahed by her AA. On 11 May she sailed to attack the Ryūkyūs, claiming another plane underway. On 11 May, TG 58.4 was sent to Ulithi for upkeep and a well-deserved crew’s rest.

Late Operation (Summer-winter 1945)

Yorktown bas back in Ulithi but departed on 24 May with TG 58.4 rejoin forces off Okinawa. On 28 May, Halsey relieved Spruance (now 3rd Fleet) but the routine went on over Okinawa alternatied with strikes on the Japanese homeland. On 4 June, she went through a typhoon and on 6–7 June, resumed Okinawa support, followed by raids on Minami Daito Shima and a sweep off Leyte, San Pedro Bay (13 June) for replenishment, upkeep and rest and back with the fast carriers force against the home islands.

From 10 July she was operated off the coast of Japan, Tokyo area and Honshū and Hokkaidō, until 15 July, then refueling retirement, heavy weather until 18 July, and a raid over Yokosuka. Until 22 July another replenishment and a raid on Kure, the Tokyo area, northern Honshū, southern Hokkaido and from 10 August back to Tokyo. On 13 August her air group attacked Tokyo for the last time and she retired to refuelling earning the end of the war a day afterwards.

Waiting for instructions, she was ordered eats of Honshū to provide cover for occupation forces landing. After mid-September and formal surrender she started to air-drop supplies to Allied POW stil not liberated and entered Tokyo Bay on the 16th, and headed for Okinawa in October, Buckner Bay to load passengers and back home.

She was in San Francisco Bay on 20 October, Alameda NAS until 31 October, then Hunters Point Navy Yard and in November reporting to take part in “Magic Carpet”, return servicemen home. She made another trip in December, stopping at Manila and back to San Francisco in January 1946. Sent later in Bremerton for deactivation and long term preservation, formally decommissioned on 9 January 1947 in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

She left the reserve to be rebuilt to SBC-27A standards, recommssioned 2 January 1953, in Korea, then reclassified CVS-10, 1 September 1957, used in Vietnam, Decommissioned 27 June 1970, stricken June 1973. She earned 12 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for her WW2 service.

US Navy ww2 USS Intrepid (CV-11)

CV-11 at Hunters point, 1944

CV-11 at Hunters point, 1944

CV-11 was commissioned on 16 August 1943, undrer command of Captain Thomas L. Sprague. After sea trials and post-fixes she headed for the Caribbean for her shakedown cruiser combined with intense training. Back to Nortfolk she ws prepare for operations and departed on 3 December for San Francisco, proceeding on to Pearl Harbor (10th) and trained in Hawaiian waters before joined the active Pacific Fleet.

Central Pacific operations

She was assigned to Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 58) engaged in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. On 16 January 1944, she teamed with USS Essex and the CVL USS Cabot, departing Pearl Harbor for theior strikes on Kwajalein Atoll (29 January-2 February), destroying in common some 83 Japanese aircraft on/over Roi-Namur before the sky and ground, and supported the Marines ashore on other islands (31 January) before the proper Battle of Kwajalein. USS Intrepid was tasked to wipe out spotted defenses on Ennuebing Island ten minutes before the first wave.

it was over by 3 February and USS Intrepid prepared to launch Operation Hailstone on Truk Lagoon. It took place on 17-19 February. On the night of 17–18 February, a lone Japanese torpedo bomber escaping vigilance (“Raid Easy”) was missed by AA and dropped its torpedo, scoring a hit on her stern, 15 ft (5 m) below the waterline.

The blast jammed her port rudder, also flooding several compartments. Captain Sprague ran the port side propeller at high speed while idling the starboard screw, until high winds appeared. This compelled, after the second propeller was stopped, the crew to improvize a jury rigged sail out of scrap canvas and hatch covers (…) to allow her to sail (literraly!) back to Pearl Harbor (24 February). Temporary repairs there allowed her to move to Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (San Francisco) for permanent ones, starting on 16 March and completed by 9 June.

Western Carolines

USS Intrepid recuperated a partly rookie crew and needed intensive training for two more months before departing Pearl Harbor. When she was back in action early September 1944, USS Intrepid was reaffected to TF 38 over the western Caroline Islands; The Fast Carrier Task Force under Admiral William Halsey Jr. starting air strikes on 6-7 September on Peleliu, in preparation for the invasion propoer, and on 9-10 September Mindanao in the Philippines, and later the Visayan Sea Islands on 12-14 September. On 17 September, she was back to Pelelieu to provide air support.

USS Intrepid’s Philippines campaign

Crashed SB2C-3 Helldiver from VB-7, USS Intrepid, 30 October 1944.

Crashed SB2C-3 Helldiver from VB-7, USS Intrepid, 30 October 1944.

USS Intrepid was attacking various objectives in the Philippines in preparation for the landings on Leyte, as part of Task Group 38.2. She was also detached to strike the islands of Formosa and Okinawa. On 20 October (Battle of Leyte), USS Intrepid air striked the island proper in close support of the troops teaming with the CVLs Cabot and Independence under Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan (flagship Intrepid). Like often seen in TF 38/TF 58, The ten CVLs assisted Essex class fleet carriers, generally two per Essex-class, providing CAP fighters, freeing the powerful Essex air group for strike operations only.

On 23-26 October, the Battle of Leyte Gulf developed and during the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea USS Intreprid sent eight Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bombers and the same number of Avengers torpedo bombers to sink IJN Musashi, arriving on her at 10:27. One 500-pound (230 kg) bomb struck Turret No. 1, but failed to penetrate (speaking volumes about her protection !). But Musashi was struck starboard amidships by one TBF Avenger torpedo from Intrepid, while two Avengers were lost to AA. CV 11 launched another eight Helldivers around noon, scoring two more hits, but two never returned, and a second batch of nine Avengers attacked this time from both sides as the Japanese battleship in conformity with tactics manoeuvered hard rudder to dodge them. They scored three torpedo hits, port. Essex and Lexington completed the job with many more bomb and torpedo hits, still at 13:30. At 15:25 there was a third wave from USS Intrepid, 37 aircraft in all assisted by some from USS Franklin and the CVL Cabot. In all they hit Musashi with 13 bombs and 11 torpedoes, loosing three Avengers and three Helldivers. Crippled, the Batleship eventually capsized and sank. Kurita’s however still had Yamato, Nagato and Haruna, the heavy cruiser Myōkō, all damaged and having to break off the operation.

As TF 38 was steaming north to intercept Ozawa’s Japanese decoy Northern Force, read admiral Bogan believed it was a feint, as others, all overruled by Halsey. On 25 October USS Intrepid and the rest of TF 38 launched an air strike on the fleeing Japanese carriers, USS Intrepid claiming almost almost alone IJN Zuihō and badly damaged Zuikaku and other ships in wha became the Battle off Cape Engaño. Meawnhile the desperate battle of San Bernardino Strait developed, without help fromp Intrepid, too far away.

From 27 October TG 38.2 was back on routine operations off Luzon, followed by a raid on Manila on 29 October 1944, and firced kamikaze attacks. One hit CV-11 on her port 5-in turret but damage was minimal (10 killed, 6 wounded however). On 25 November another saw two kamikazes crashing into USS Intrepid, killing 66 and setting her deck ablaze. Remaining on station the safety teams were able to stem the fires and she was sent for repairs to San Francisco, on 20 December.

Final Operations over Okinawa and Japan

USS Intrepid CV-11 during Battle of Leyte Gulf 1944 color

By February 1945, after an overhaul and crew’s rest, USS Intrepid departed for Ulithi, arriving on 13 March. She followed the fast carrier force for strikes directly on Japan from 14 March 1945 notably Kyūshū. A sole G4M “Betty” that day was downed by AA and exploded just 50 ft (15 m) off her forward boat crane while flaming gasoline and aircraft parts flew inside the hangar deck. As always, efficient damage control teams put them out and CV-11 was able to launch a massive airstrike on Kure, the last refuge for a largely immobile IJN. They damaged 18 warhips, notably Yamato and Amagi.

New was a serie of strikes on Okinawa and on 26-27 March followed by air attacks on the Ryūkyūs at large. Next was close support for the invasion on 1 April. On 16 April, another lone Japanese aircraft evaded both her CAP and AA, and albeit hit and destroyed by the latter, the engine and part of her fuselage ended their deadly course on the ship, killing 8, wounding 21. It took on hour tomaster the flaming, but two more for the carrier to be operational again.

On 17 April 1945 she retired for Ulithi, Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for repairs and an overhaul from 19 May to 29 June 1945. When back she launched a first strike on 6 August on Wake Island. She was resplenishing at Eniwetok when learning on 15 August the surrender. On 21 August she assisted the occupation of Japan and left on 2 December Yokosuka for San Pedro in California (15 December).

Post-war Operations

From 4 February 1946, USS Intrepid ceased operations and was ordered to San Francisco Bay, to be reduced as “commission in reserve” from 15 August. She was properly decommissioned on 22 March 1947, Pacific Reserve Fleet. On 9 February 1952, she was recommissioned, chosen for modrnization at Norfolk, to the SCB-27C standard. She had a long and eventful carrier and was eventually decommissioned on 15 March 1974, and later preserved as a museum ship in her last modernized appearance (Vietnam).

US Navy ww2 USS Hornet (CV-12)

USS Hornet CV-12 off Norfolk 1943

USS Hornet CV-12 off Norfolk 1943

HMS Hornet, ex-Kearsage, renamed to honor CV-8 lost at Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942, was commissioned on 29 November 1943 with Captain Miles R. Browning in command. She was one of the three Essex class ordered in anticipation of Congress two-ocean act on 10 May 1940. She made her shakedown cruiser in Bermuda before departing Norfolk in 14 February 1944 for the Pacific via Panama and Pearl Harbor in Majuro Atoll to join Task Force 58 already engaged in the Marshall Islands.

She arrived there on 20 March and condcted her first strike on the Palau Islands, Kossol Roads to threase any threat to New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands. Air groups from Hornet, Lexington and Bunker Hill made a aerial minelaying mission, and to avoid detection, the US ships went far south of Truk. Spotted on the 28th, Admiral Mineichi Koga at the head of the Combined Fleet since Yamamoto, ordered a general withdrawal to Tawi-Tawi (Philippines) while the merchant shipping was dispersed.

TF 58 approached on 30 March and launched a fighter sweep claiming 30 A6M Zero already airborne followed by an attack of the shipping by 39 Grumman TBF Avenger, carrying each two magnetic mines bottling up as intended in the lagoo the ships present in Kossol Roads. This operation was the first and last of its kind during the Pacific campaign, and very successful. Soon, air groups sank 24 merchant and auxiliary ships (130,000 GRT) and two escot destroyers, four subchasers, two repair ships until 31 March, plus 63 airbone, 100 ground aircraft. The whole operation cost 25 only aircraft on the US side. On their way back to Majuro, they attacked underway the island of Woleai on 1 April.

Departing on 13 April, Rear Admiral Joseph J. Clark claimed USS Hornet his flagship for Task Group 58.1, completed with the three CVLs Cowpens, Belleau Wood and Bataan. Their targets were Sarmi, Sawar, and Wakde Airfields, Western New Guinea while in alternance, covering amphibious landings at Hollandia. Opposition was lights and two Mitsubishi “Betty”were claimed by the CAP. Back to Seeadler Harbor, Manus Island (25 April) for replenishment, TF 58 was prpared to attack shore facilities at Truk Lagoon.

They were spotted the night of 28/29 April, and the air attack was wiped out by the 84 Grumman F6F Hellcats in the air on the morning, shooting down most of 60 Zeros. Bad weather delayed air superiority but Truk’s infrastructure were indeed pounded for two days. 9 aircraft wer lost in accidents, 27 in combat due to AA fire modtly, while claiming 59+34 air/ground. Back to Majuro, TG 58.1 cover bombardments of Satawan and Ponape, one aircraft being shot down by AA. TF 58 from 4 May resplenished and prepared for the Mariana-Palau campaign. Captain Browning was relieved on 29 May by Captain William Sample.

Mariana and Palau Islands campaign

In June, USS Hornet’s air group CVG-2 had 40 Hellcat and included for the first time four night-fighter versions. The rest were 33 Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bombers and 20 Avengers, an enormous 93 planes, unrivally by any navy at the time. Task Group 58.1 was reinforced by USS Yorktown, making two pairs of fleet and light carriers. TF 58 departed on 6 June and attacked on the 12th, three days before the assault on Saipan.

Hornet’s night fighters patrolled for IJN reconnaissance aircraft on 10/11 June while Mitscher decided to advance the planned air strike to achieve surprise. The CAP dealt with 30 Zeros over Guam, all down for Hornet’s 16 Hellcats lost. Destroyers were used as pickets to intercept incoming threats by radars. Hornet’s scout aircraft later spotted a seven-ship convoy east of Guam and Clark decided to wait until they were just 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) to attack with 20 bomb-armed Hellcats, but they modtly made near-misses, not having the training for this.

Combined Fleet’s Admiral Soemu Toyoda ordered the 1st Mobile Fleet to head for the Guimaras Island, preparing any eventuality as hs was unsure of TF 58 objectives. The goal was to start training their rookie pilots out of harm, and prepared the fleet for Operation A-Go started on 19 June 1944, when learning of the US bombardment. Meanwhile TG 58.1 struck Iwo Jima, Hahajima and Chichi Jima, Clark sending his nightfighters over Iwo Jima to shot down any reconnaissance mission or air strike. After destroying 81 aircraft, the fleet departed and was soon embrouiled in a major battle.

Hornet at Battle of the Philippine Sea

Mitscher ordered fighters from Task Group 58.1 to patrol over Orote Field and Hellcats from USS Belleau Wood were the first to engage Japanese aircraft at 07:00, reinforced by thosr from Hornet and Yorktown. At 09:30 all three claimed 45 Zeros down, for two Hellcats lost. This was the start of the infamous “mariana turkey shoot” which forged the legend of the F6F Hellcat. USS Hornet launched 17 Helldivers and 7 Avengers, 12 Hellcats on Orote. At 09:50 radar spotted an incoming Japanese air strike answered by the launch of 140 fighters over Guam, but they were recall to bolster the Combat Air Patrol over Task Force 58 and missed the main aerial engagement.

The CAP claimed 40 of the 57 Zeros. One battleship was lighlty damaged. USS Hornet’s Hellcats claimed 9 Zeros and 3 “Jill” torpedo bombers. The second wave spotted at 11:07 was repelled while Hornet’s air group was refuelled and rearmed and missed completely the third wave which was given erroneous locations and found northing, 120 nmi off to the northwest, at 12:40.

Twelve however found Task Group 58.1 at 12:56 and were engaged, USS Hornet’s Hellcats claiming 9, for a damaged Hellcat. The fourth wave also missed their locations and continued to Guam in order to land, arriving at 15:00. They were already waited by 41 Hellcats from Hornet, Essex, Cowpens and Enterprise. 40 out of 49 went in flame, five by Hornet as they attempted to land, probabky panicked rookies pilots (most were at this point in the war, explaining also the stunning kill ratio).

295 Hellcats and five Avengers, Dauntlesses, engaged the Japanese claiming a total of 208 out of the 373 carrier-borne aircraft, traded for seven Hellcats lost at sea, nine over Guam by AA, six by accidents and seven bombers lost to AA over Guam, two crashing. The final count with Guam made an exact 10:1 ratio for the USN. The fleeing Japanese were spotted again later, Mitscher ordering 54 Avengers and 51 Helldivers plus 85 Hellcats to catch and finish them off. Hornet’s badly damaged Zuikaku and co-sank Hiyō, damaging and sinking other ships, but they had to land at night, and many were lost in the process: 6 Hellcats, 35 Helldivers and 28 Avengers in all, many splashing after running out of gas.

More actions in the Marshalls

After refuelling on 22 June, the Task Force 58 headed for the Marshall Islands, Clark keeping his task group north in order to stike the Bonins Islands and prevent reinforcements. His force was spotted by a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft that day. The Japanese soon scrambled 60 Zeros and some Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” dive bombers. They soon clashed into the forward wave of 51 Hellcats and claiming six for the loss on their side of 24 Zeros and 5 Judys. The remainder was in sight of the task group but the first airstrike was wiped out by the CAP and AA barrage, while the second gruoup never found the task group and were later cught by the Helcats, claiming 10 Zeros and 7 Jills.

Task Group 58.1 was back in Eniwetok on 27 June and departed soon after for the Bonins reinforced by TG 58.2. The 3–4 July failed to sunk any ship, only causes damage, while shooting down many Japanese aircraft. Both TG 58.1 and 2 relieved TG 58.4 deplyed in close support at Saipan. After a week they made a supply run to Eniwetok and by late July, TG 58.1 attacked Yap and the Bonins again (4–5 August).

Captain Sample was relieved by Captain Austin Doyle, while Clark, unwilling to serve under Vice Admiral William Halsey was relieved by Vice Admiral John McCain, on 18 August. Her however remained aboard Hornet as an assistant to McCain and kept as a reserve carrier-experienced admiral.

USS Hornet’s Philippines campaign

Based on a agreed date to liberate the Philippines on 20 December 1944 between the navy staff, the president and MacArthur, a strategy of preliminary operations was setup, which included a first early step by “cleaning” the western Caroline Islands, and approaches to the Philippines with Yap and the Palaus. Three task groups were committed in the action, notably Hornet’s TG 38.1, scheduled to start on the Palaus on 6–8 September and Mindanao on 9–10 September. Mitscher meanwhile ws tasked of attacking the central Philippine islands with Leyte and the Visayans. On the 12–13, some 173 aircraft were shot down, 305 destroyed on the ground, 59 ships sunk. All these claims were in reality far lower based on postwar analysis of Japanese accounts.

One of Hornet’s pilots shot down was rescued by Filipino fishermen and contacted by the Filipino Resistance passing on the information was no Japanese garrison on Leyte, the intel trigerring Halsey to skip preliminary attacks and directly start with the invasion ahead of schedule, on 20 October. Nimitz however still wanted to secure the bases in the Palaus and Western Carolines.

On the 15th, TG 38.1 was sent to support the invasion of Morotai but Halsey changed his mind and redirected them to TF 38 to support his attack on Manila on 21 September. Hornet’s air group were in the second wave. Avengers sank the destroyer IJN Satsuki.
In all 110 aircraft were claimed in the air, 95 (two dozen lost in reality). Nine oil tankers were also sunk or wrecked. Halsey decided to attack Coron Ba (Calamian Islands) due to bad weather, with 38.1 and 38.3. Hornet’s air group led the airstrike. Avengers and Helldivers claimed two oilers, six freighters, several escorts and the seaplane tender Akitsushima. TG 38.1 replenished, and exchanged Air Group 2 for Air Group 11 while Clark departed on 1 October 1944.

The four carrier groups of sailed west of the Marianas on 7 October after a typhoon and Hornet’s AG 11 in its final form comprised 39 Hellcats, 25 Helldivers and 18 Avengers. American radio traffic alerted the Japanese and and air strike was conducted on the Ryukyus on 10 October (100 aircraft claimed, 21 lost to all causes), leading the Japanese to activate Sho-1 and Sho-2 variants of the grand plan for the defense of the Philippines. Carrier-based aircraft were transferred on land bases and the empty carriers would be used as a bait force. On 11 October, TG 38.1 and 38.4 launched an airstrike on Aparri, northern coast of Luzon.

Soon the Battle of Formosa took place: On 12 October at dawn, the combined TGs of TF 38 launched a fighter sweep of 199 Hellcats (48 lost to all causes) while shooting down 42 Japanese aircraft; Airstrikes followed on 13 October, buy the US lost 12 more aircraft to all causes. Durng the nigh counterattack, USS Hornet successfuly dodge a torpedo which ended its course into the hull of USS Canberra. Halsey next decided to attack the airfields westwards over Formosa. Another night atack on TG 38.1 succeeded in crippling USS Houston, but both her and Canberra under escort reached Ulithi. It was estimated the Japanese lost 492 aircraft in all, including many from the army air force.

On 18 October TG 38.1 fusioned with TG 38.4 off the eastern coast of Luzon for more operations and USS Hornet’s air grpup struck Clark Air Base and San Bernardino Strait, losing seven aircraft for 30 airbone, 29 on the ground. fter the same attack the following day, TG 38.1 retreated south to support the amphibious landings on Leyte (20 October). Halsey in between, on 19 October, decided he wanted to change the air group composition for all Essex-class carriers, including Hornet: 54 fighters, 24 Helldivers and 18 Avengers. The change took some days to take place and was acted on the 29 October.

Northern Mindanao was struck on the 20th, with little opposition but few kills. The defensive lines protecting the landing beaches were soon also attacked, but difficult due to the dense foliage, and heavy smoke in the air. There were also communications problems. On the 22th, Halsey ordered TG 38.1 to Ulithi, replenish and prepare for newt oprations from 11 November but soon the order was counter-manded as the japanese executed their plan on 23/24 October. The battle of Leyte Gulf, Sibuyan and Samar developed but due to the ruish north with Halsey, the carriers were too far away to help the beleagued escort carriers at the Battle off Samar.

On 25 October McCain’s carriers closed the distance enough to launch two long-range airstrikes with few results, loosing 14 aircraft to all causes. On the 26th, TG 38.1 and 38.2 launched 257 aircraft agains on Kurita but Avengers from Hornet and Cowpens only achieved two hits on the cruiser IJN Noshiro which later sank. TG 38.1 resumed her voyage to Ulithi on the 27th. McCain relieved Mitscher at the head of TF 38, Rear Admiral Alfred Montgomery now heading TG 38.1, still from his flagship USS Hornet. TG 38.1 to 3 returned to the Philippines in early November. They concentrated on Luzon claiming 439 aircraft ùainly on the ground, for 36 losses, the heavy cruiser Nachi, an oiler and cargo ship.

On 11 November, a troop convoy was spotted and decimated, loosing five troopships, four escorting destroyers. TF 38 attacked Manila and sank IJN Kiso four destroyers, seven merchant vessels, damaged 43 other ships, claimed 84 aircraft for the loss of 25.

A new attack was led on 19 November, and TGs 38.1-38.2 concentrated on other targets on Luzon on the 25th. They nearly sank IJN Kumano and smaller ships then retired to Ulithi. Clark hoisted his flag on Hornet, but more as a personal gesture as he was not in command. Halsey after fierce Kamikaze opposition canged the air group composition again, now of 73 fighters, 15 dive and 15 torpedo bombers. Months were necessary to implement this, and each carriers had two fighter squadrons by January 1945 instead of one previously.

Next, USS Hornet would take part in the Battle of Mindoro on 5 December, but postponed until 11 December and her air group cimprised at the time 51 Hellcats, 15 Helldivers and 18 Avengers. Air supremacy over Luzon was one of these objectives, gained from the 14th (269 aircraft claimed, merchant ships infrastructure) for 27 losses in combat, 38 to accidents. Halsey sailed unwittingly his beloved TF 38 right into Typhoon Cobra path, and many ships low on fuel rolled badly, three destroyers capsized. Many aircraft were tossed away like toys in the hangard, fire destroyed many, and the rest parked on the decks, washed away. Losses were crippling. The Third Fleet saw all operations cancelled and TF 38 returning to Ulithi.

USS Hornet’s 1945 operations

Still in TG 38.1, USS Hornet sailed for the next great raid, the south China Sea raid, underway on the 30 December. The objectives were Formosa again, French Indo-China, Luzon, the China coast, Ryukyus and Pescadores Islands, all in support of Lingayen Gulf’s landings in Luzon, 9 January 1945. The other objective was to cutoff all maritime traffic with the Japanese home islands and Southeast Asia for good. Formosa (3–4 January) as followed by Luzon (6th-7th) and back to Formosa (9th). In the South China Sea onf 9–10 January Halsey searched for the two Ise-class battleships mistakenly reported at Cam Ranh Bay. 1,500 sorties were made over French Indochina and off the coast with little result. After Formosa and Hong Kong area (15–16 January) on the 21, TF 38 left the South China Sea. In addition to reconnaissance over Okinawa, the air groups claimed 300,000 GRT of shipping, 615 aircraft for 201 losses.

Next came the Volcano and Ryukyu Islands campaign, with Spruance relieving Halsey and Clark promoted at the head of TG 58.1 again. TF 58 departed Ulithi on 10 February to strike the Tokyo area (16–17 February) and isolate Iwo Jima. 341 aircraft airborne, 190 on the ground were claimed, industrial sites were mostly unscaved however and little shipping sunk to the exception of the IJN Yamashio Maru, all traded for 88 losses.

On 19 February TG 58.1 refuelled the same day of the landings on Iwo Jima and was on site on the 20th, the sent north on the 23th to strike the Home Islands again, hampered by dad weather. Refuelled the 27th attack concentrated afterwards on Okinawa, from 1 March.

Air Group 17 suceeded AG 11 aboard USS Hornet whhc retruend off Okinawa but few planes were shot down most bein dispersed and hidden by the Japanese. Airfields in Kyushu were struck by Hornet’s FV 17, which claimed over Kanoya Air Field 25 planes. Three carriers wree damaged by Kamikaze attacks, but none under Clark’s command. Until then, luck had been remarkable for USS Hornet. Would it last ?

Kure and Kobe were the next targets for TGs 58.1, 58.3 and 58.4. During a Japanese air attack, a kamikaze crashed a thousand yards (910 meters) astern of Hornet, two other destroyed by nearby USS Bennington, but later USS Franklin was less ucky. 20 of Hornet’s Hellcats (VF 17) met their most serve resistance so far in the war: 40 fighters from the IJAAF’s elite 434rd Kokutai. The 25 minutes dogfight left six American and four Japanese fighters down, a casualty rate inverting the usual curve for the first time. The raid of Kure was not very severe and Hornet lost 13 aircraft of all causes. Attacks were renewed on 20-21 March.

Next were a wave of attacks of Okinawa, starting on 23 March. TG 581.1’s reconnaissance aircraft meanwhile spotted a Japanese convoy with two troop transports, an ammunition ship and five escorts off Amami Ōshima and bound for Okinawa. They were wiped out by a 112-aircraft airstrike. 3,095 sorties were made in the last days of March bu Kamaikaee attacks multiplied on 26-31 March also, damaging 10 ships. Between the massive CAPs and AA fire, 1,100 aircraft were destroyed.

On 1 April, Hornet’s air group provided direct support for the landing and invasion operations on Okinawa. On 6 April there was the largest air attack so far on TF 38, 700 planes, including 355 were kamikazes. Mitscher ordered his flight decks cleaned of torpedo-bombers, freed for fighters. TG 3.8.1 alone claimed 249 aircraft. But the Japanese claimed three destroyers, two ammunition ships, one LST, nine destroyers damaged. On the 7th, another massive attack damaged USS Hancock, one battleship, a destroyer.

This was followed by the IJN last offensive of the war, Operation Ten-Go. IJN Yamato led the charge with nine other Japanese surface vessels, but the fleet was spotted underway by American submarines on 6 April. TG 58.1 scrambled her air strike the followinf day. Hornet’s Avengers claimed one torpedo hit on Yamato, damaged the light cruiser Yahagi and four destroyers.

On 8 April, TF 58 was attacked by kamikaze again, with some loss, but the Japanese could no longer muster large air forces at that point. Mitscher ordered a fighter sweep over Kyushu, claiming 29 aircraft, 51 on the ground. Despite of this on 17 April, USS Intrepid was badly damaged. Back to Okinawa, nothing happened until 11 May while TG 58.1 resupplied in Ulithi from the 27th of April, back on 12 May, to attack airfields in Kyushu and Shikoku. The 14th saw USS Enterprise abadly damaged in turn, but Hornet was still unscaved.

Halsey retook the head on 27–28 May of what became again TF 38. Bad weather precluded operations until early June. Clark tried to avoid a developing typhoon but Halsey, ordered him to steer northwestwards for the planned airstrikes on Kyushu and despite multiple requests to alter course, TG.38.1 entered the typhoon eyewall. A massive wave crashed down Hornet’s bow, collapsing 25 feet (8 meters) downwards and the same happened to USS Bennington which lost her bow, as USS Pittsburgh. 76 airplanes were destroyed or lost overboard, 70 damaged, crippling both air groups.

Unable to launch both carriers were ordered by Clark to launch remaining aircraft over the stern on 7 June, providing the awaited CAP over the task group. Bennington was sent for repairs on the 8th, but Hornet participated in the Kanoya Air Field strike. On 9 April, they aslo used for the first time napalm bombs on the coastal defenses of Okidaitōjima. On 13 June, Clark left the task group, reliquishing command as USS Hornet was ordered home. She arrived in San Francisco on 7 July 1945, and the war was over during her repairs and overhaul. USS Hornet earned seven battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation.

From 13 September 1945 CV 12 was assigned to Operation Magic Carpet and was back home to San Francisco on 9 February 1946. Decommissioned on 15 January 1947, Pacific Reserve Fleet, she was later exhumed and modernized, starting her even longer cold war carrer…

US Navy ww2 USS Franklin (CV-13)

USS Franklin escorted out of yard, 1944

USS Franklin escorted out of yard, 1944

USS Franklin (laid down 7 December 1942, one year exactly after Pearl Harbor) in Shipway 11, Newport News Shipbuilding Company and launched on 14 October 1943, CV-13 was of course named after inventor and diplomat Benjamin Franklin, and commissioned on 31 January 1944. In command was Captain James M. Shoemaker. She sailed to Trinidad for a shakedown cruises, fixes, followed by training and preparations in San Diego, she was assigned to Task Group 27.7 before sailing again via Pamana to join Pearl Harbor in June 1944, so after nine month of intensive drills. Her first stop was Eniwetok Island and TG 58.2 where she became flagship (Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison).

Franklin’s Bonins and Mariana Campaign

In late June 1944, she launched her air group in attack of the Bonin Islands in support of Marianas future conquest. On 4 July she launched new striked on Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, and Haha Jima and also sinking her first large cargo vessel in the harbor. Two days after and until 21 July she attacked Guam and Rota in preparation of the invasion forces sent on Guam, then direct support on the Island. After a replenishment run at Saipan she joined Task Force 58, sending her photographic fighters in reconnaissance and air strikes on the Palau Islands group, notably on 25-26 July. USS Franklin left the area on 28 July for Saipan, and reassigned after resplenishment to TG 58.1.

She soon steamed for another Bonins strike, notably the 4 August Chichi Jima attack with fighters equipped with bombs and rockets while her strike aircrafts spotted and rampaged a convoy north of Ototo Jima. After a new supply and rest time in 9–28 August at Eniwetok she sailed with TF 16 (USS Enterprise, Belleau Wood, San Jacinto) back to the Bonins. 31 August to 2 September saw her sinking two more cargo ships, destroying enemy planes and resume her photographic surveys.

Peleliu & Leyte

F6F Hellcats, VF-80, USS Ticonderoga June 1944

On 4 September 1944, after resupplying at Saipan, she joined TG 38.1 in an air strike on Yap Island (3–6 September) and air supremacy over Peleliu to prepare the invasion, starting on the 15th. The new supply zrea was now at Manus Island, where she sailed and stopped on 21-25 September. As Flagship of TG 38.4, she sent more strikes in the Palau area making both daily and night patrols with her trained and equipped Wildcats.

On 14 September she launched a F6F sweep against Aparri in Luzon. After this, she steamed up east of the island, to rampage Japanese installations prior to the landings but the following day she ws attacked by three enemy planes, one scoring a bomb hit on the after outboard corner of the deck edge elevator. 3 ere killed, 22 injured, but the damage could be eventually repaired and there was still another lift for deck operations so this did not hampered much her activity.

She then headed northwest to take part in the intense Formosa (Taiwan) Air Battle of 12-16 October with the objective of destroying Japanese air bases supporting the defense of the Philippines, up to Okinawa and Kyushu. On 13 October, a lone, low-flying Japanese “Betty” was spotted and dealt by AA but her pilot became kamikaze and eventually hot Franklin, hitting the corner of starboard flight deck with little damage. Next, USS Franklin was mobilized for the long awaited invasion of the Philippines. Her air group took part in the attack on Manila Bay (19 October) sinking many ships and boats and a floating drydock.

The landings took place on 20 October and her air group spotted and destroyed airstrips, then sending patrols to located an incoming enemy attack force. On 24 October that became the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, her fighters repelling waves from Takeo Kurita’s First Raiding Force and her Avengers and Helldivers helped sinking Musashi as well as damaging Fusō, Yamashiro, and Wakaba. Wit the committed air groups of TGs 38.4, 38.3, and 38.2 she was sent by Hasley in hot purduit of the distant decoy carrier force and could not help Taffy 3 engaged further south at Samar. On 25 October however her air group participated in the Battle off Cape Engaño, damaging Chiyoda and sinking Zuihō.

Action resumed after a quick resupply at sea, on 27 October, savaging a heavy cruiser and two destroyers south of Mindoro. While she was underway circa 100 miles off Samar on 30 October, Kamikaze bombers arrived in waves, six breaking through the CAP. Despite the four carriers’s AA barrier was made of about twenty escorting cruisers and destroyers, three kamikazes still plunged into their respective carriers. The one intended for USS Franklin was dislocated in flights and percuted the flight deck, crashing through to the gallery deck. The explosion killed 56, with 60 injured. Another from a second wave get through and narrowly missed Franklin, dropping two bombs and crashing into the stern of USS Belleau Wood.

Damage control teams onboard CV-13 did wonders, patched the flight deck so she could at first recuperate her flying planes, and she was declared fully operational just 76 minutes after the kamikaze hit. She however leaft the area with Belleau Woods to Ulithi Atoll, being temporary repaired here before proceeding to Puget Sound Navy Yard. She arrived there on 28 November 1944, and was also drydocked for a maintenance. During that time of long crew’s leave, on 7 November, Captain Captain Leslie E. Gehres took command. A strict disciplinarian, the crew disliked his petty attitude, in stark contrast to hid laid back predecessor, Captain Shoemaker.

March 1945 Operations

USS Franklin was ready to depart from Bremerton on 2 February 1945. With a partial rookie crew, she spent time in training exercises, also with a new air group, so proceeded to pilot qualification operations. She sailed for Pearl Harbor on 3 March 1945 and was back with her former unit, renamed TG 58.2. That phase was of strikes the Japanese homeland, in preparation for the Okinawa landings, since Iwo Jima was already invaded. She also carried Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison and Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan as the head of Carrier Division 4 while also carrying Captain Arnold J. Isbell due to take command of USS Yorktown(ii). On 15 March 1945, she arrived with TF 58 and her air group soon was over Kagoshima and Izumi (South Kyūshū).

USS Franklin’s martyrdom

On 19 March 1945, Franklin she took a position 50 miles (80 km) of Japan, being the closest USN aircraft carrier ever since the start of the war. Her fighter sweep over Honshū was followed by a massive strike against shipping in Kure, a complete surprise which was successful. She was maintained in battle stations all that time, AA gunners staying at the post for 48h straight. Unbeknowst to her captain, USS Franklin has been spotted by a lone aircraft, which reported her position and when she was about to launch a second air strike, Japanese bomber dove on her from a thick cloud cover, making AA gunners unable to respond in time.

Two semi-armor-piercing bombs among many nrea-misses, hit her deck. Damage analysis later revealed they were 550 pounds models, one piercing in the centerline, and exploding in the hangar deck. The second and third decks also erupted in flames, the combat Information Center was disabled, preventing any air operation. The second bomb fell on the aft deck, piecing the hangar and exploding two decks below, flaming gasoline spread among 31 armed and fueled aircraft, while about 16 tons of high explosives as well as air-to-surface rockets prepared for Vought F4U Corsairs.

The hangar deck explosion ignited fuel tanks on all aircraft present, which added to the cooking of ammunitions and rockets in a serie of deflagrations which completely devastated the deck. Even places spared in the hangar until then were blasted by self-launched “Tiny Tim” rockets with 500 lb (230 kg) warheads. From all the personal present, only two crewmen survived the inferno. others will soon die also of smoke inhalation soon filling the engineering spaces, evacuated. Event the machinery was stopped, the electrical power was off, al cables cut, and USS Franklin was now dead in the water, without power of communications, radar, all AA guns frozen.

Captain Gehres measured the damage and ordered Franklin’s magazines to be flooded as fires were far from being mastered.

But since no pumps not valves could be activated, this was never done, and there was the risk of moe devastating explosions ahead.

The ships nearby were not long to intervene: USS Pittsburgh (Baltimore class) and USS Santa Fe (Atlanta class) went, with the destroyers USS Miller, Hickox, Hunt and Marshall, assisting Franklin. Rear adm. Bogan and Davison transferred their flag to USS Miller, suggesting abandoning ship, but Captain Gehres refused to scuttle is ship, despite the desperate situation. Indeed her believed there was till many men trapped alive below deck, below the fire. A race against the clock started, pending more attacks so close to the Japanese coast, or submarines drawn by the fire, visible for dozens of miles away.

Closely framed by destroyers which came to rescue the crew blown overboard or jumping off to avoid the fire, thei captains managed to gently place their bows on her side to take off more men trapped inside. Still, hundreds of officers and ratings voluntarily remained on board and tried to save the ship. The captain was later reported 924 men killed in action, the worst loss suffered by any surviving USN vessel in WW2, close to the battleship USS Arizona.

Among those who stayed on board there were many Medal of Honor recipients, some making heroic deeds saving hundreds. USS Santa Fe rescued more men from the sea and then rescued numerous burned or wounded men and all personal non essential to save the ship, notably Air Group 5 personal. At the time, USS Franklin lost 32 Vought F4U Corsair, 15 Grumman TBM Avenger, 7 Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, 5 Grumman F6F Hellcat. But the captain and his rescue team managed, after herculean efforts to indeed extinguish all fires after 6h, restore partial power after 12h, and after perhaps 24h of intense around the clock action, what was previously a burning hulk left for a total loss was sailing again to safety, although not under her own power. Amazingly not further attacks from the Japanese came, the latter promptly announcing her sinking, rightly assumed this time.

Official Navy casualties for the 19 March 1945 as reported was 724 killed and 265 wounded although Joseph A. Springer rose it to 807 killed, 487 wounded. USS Franklin nevertheless became the most damaged (and surviving) USN carrier of this war. Many Navy Cross, some posthumously were also presented for the numerous actions that day including a gold star for CDR (later rear admiral) Joseph F. “Joe” Taylor, ship’s executive officerand several Silver Stars.

USS Franklin did not saved herself alone, all her defending ships participated in a gigantic effort which resulted in the unexpected outcome: USS Santa Fe for example came alongside USS Franklin despite her crippling damage and fires threatening to detonate more ordnance, dousing water from her fire hoses while receiving stretcher cases and ambulatory wounded on stop as the destroyers. All the water poured into her eventually severaly compromised her stability, as she was already listing badly to 15° to port, compromising her stability, as she had been mad eoverweight after many wartime additions.

As soon as pumps were in working order, ballast were filled on the other side to correct the list. USS Pittsburgh eventually towed Franklin, at 5 knots until dark fell, with all ships around in high alert. Eventually, engineers managed to have her powerplant partially operational again, and she was able to steam at 25 knots on two propellers. Her planes still in the air at the time landed on other carriers in the task group. Admiral Davison also sent five destroyers to search for any survivor stranded at sea. Eventually, the crippled aircraft carrier entered Ulithi Atoll at 14 knots for emergency repairs before proceeding to Pearl Harbor for more, then headed for Panama and Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, on 28 April 1945.

Controversy however soon arose from many in the crew which did not liked the command style of Captain Gehres, accused of desertion after having indeed jumped overboard, but to escape fire. All charges of premature “desrtions” by the crew and against Captain Gehres were dropped. Her retired as a rear admiral, but stayed at office, never seen the deck of a ship again. Repairs would take a while, and she was operational again in 1946, earning four battle stars for her service. She became a celebrity at Navy Day celebrations but was decommissioned on 17 February 1947 at Bayonne in New Jersey.

Mothballed at Bayonne and redesignated CVA-13 on 1 October 1952, then in 1953 an antisubmarine warfare support carrier (CVS-13), aircraft transport (AVT-8) in 1959, reflecting the Navy’s doubts about her operational again, she was eventually stricken on 1 October 1964, one of the only two Essex-class to be so (with USS Bunker Hill) due to severe damage, despite being successfully repaired. The Navy studied an “ultimate reconfiguration” which never took place in the post-Korea context. Their repairs in some way were taxpayer’s money waste, in hindsight. Bureau of Ships reclaimed her four turbo generators but she sold for scrap at the Portsmouth Salvage Company of Chesapeake in July 1966.

US Navy ww2 USS Ticonderoga (CV-14)

USS Ticonderoga at Ulithi, 8 December 1944

USS Ticonderoga at Ulithi, 8 December 1944

USS Ticonderoga was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 8 May 1944 and her first captain was Captain Dixie Kiefer. The aircraft carrier stayed in Norfolk for almost two months for outfitting while Air Group 80 arrived on biard. On 26 June 1944, she sailed for the British West Indies and her shakedown cruise with air operations and drills underway to Trinidad. Until mid-July USS Ticonderoga continued training intensively and sailed back to Norfolk (22 July) for post-shakedown fixes and and modifications. On 30 August she was declared ready for operations and headed for Panama, transiting on 4 September, steaming to San Diego to be prepared for her first leg of the voyage to Pearl Harbor, loading an additional 77 USMC aircraft and Marine Corps aviation and assocoated personal. She departed on 19 September andsteamed for Hawaii, where she arrived on the 24th.

USS Ticonderoga remained in Pearl Harbor for a month and carried out experiments in aviation bombs tranfer with the cargo ship USS Carina while her air crew also drilled intensively. Air operations consisted in day and night landings, AA defense drills, safety drills, before she was declared ready to be assigned to TF 38, proceeding on 18 October to Eniwetok, then Ulithi (Western Carolines) on the 29th. Rear Admiral Arthur W. Radford soon joined her deck as Commander, Carrier Division 6 (CarDiv 6), to be placed under orders of Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman (TG 38.3)

Ticonderoga’s Philippine campaign (Nov-Dec. 1944))

By that point, both the Philippines June and leyte gulf epic battles in October were over. When she started her first war sortie on 2 November 1944, her air group took off for air cover for ground forces invading Leyte, starting on 5 November. After two days of enemy shipping search and destroy operations off Luzon and destroying airfields at Zablan, Mandaluyong, and Pasig and assiting in the sinking of the heavy cruiser IJN Nachi, her CAP also claimed six Japanese aircraft, 23 damaged, mostly ion the ground.

Around 16:00 on 5 November however, she saw her first kamikaze attack: Two of these penetrated the CAP and AA barrage, targeting Lexington. But both were splashed at the last minute and USS Ticonderoga renained unscathed. On 6 November, striked resumed on Luzon airfields and enemy shipping. In all, she claimed 35 Japanese aircraft, six enemy ships, in Manila Bay. She then departed to resupply on 7 November and was back to launch other strikes from 11 November. This time she preyed on a Japanese reinforcement convoy entering Ormoc Bay, Camotes Sea. All enemy transports, four escorting destroyers were sunk, in collaboration with other air groups. On 12–13 November there was a new round of strikes at Luzon airfields and shipping, which claimed the light cruiser IJN Kiso, four destroyers and seven cargos. TF 38 made another refueling run in Ulithi.

From 22 November, CV-14 was back and resumed operations over central Luzon and over the area. IJN Kumano, a rescapee of the Battle off Samar was finished off followed by an enemy convoy spotted 15 miles (24 km) southwest of her, in Dasol Bay. The ex-Chinese cruiser IJN Yasoshima, a cargo and three Landing ships were sunk and the day concluded with an aerial battle and more planes destroyed on the ground.

After noon, a lone torpedo plane targeted, but missed the CVL USS Langley, and all Ticonderoga’s AA gunners were placed in high alert and battle stations. USS Essex was soon badly damaged by a kamikaze but Ticonderoga’s AA gunners shooting another down. She would later recovered Essex and Intrepid’s returning aircrew and planes before returing to the east with the rest if TF 38. A pause in Ulithi on 11 December was faollowed by other operations in the Philippines starting on 13 December, still against Japanese airbases on Luzon and various objectives in the central Philippines, for three days until 16 December.

But instead of the rest she craved for, TF 38 steamed directly into its most violent typhoon to date, the infamous “cobra” which cost Admiral William Halsey’s much. But USS Ticonderoga weathered it without damage and after light repairs, she was back at sea from 30 December 1944. Next objectives were Formosa and Luzon, hempared by severe weather. After refuelling at sea on 5 January strikes on Luzon were resumed, augmenting the aircraft carrier’s pilots tally to 32 enemy aircraft. After another refuelling run on 8 January, CV-14 participated in strikes on the Ryūkyūs (Lingayen assault) but TG 38.3 soon joined TG 38.2 in to attack Formosa.

South China Sea raid (January 1945)

During the night of 9–10 January, TF 38 went through the Luzon Strait before proceeding southwest to the South China Sea. USS Ticonderoga’s CAP claimed on 11 January splashing four enemy aircraft, and the formation reached a point 150-200 mi off the coast of Indochina to launch a massive air strike on 12 January of 850 aircraft. Shipping was also targeted, with 44 ships sank (300,000 tonnes). The group then proceeded further northeast and after refuelling on 13–14th, Japanese airfields on the Chinese coast were targeted, and Hong Kong’s area and shipping. Bad Weather paused them until 17 January and worsened to the point even replenishment operations were delayed until 19 January. The force then retreated through Luzon Strait via Balintang Channel.

Japanese Home islands raids (Feb-August 1945)

USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) listing after battle damage on 21 Jan 1945

After raids on Formosa and Sakishima Gunto, USS Ticonderoga caeme under heavy kamikaze attacks on 21 January 1945: After noon, USS Langley was hit while another plungedtoward Ticonderoga and crashed on her flight deck, abreast her second 5-in AA turret, just above the hangar deck. Parked aircraft nearby were destroyed by flames, and Captain Kiefer changed course to keep the wind from fanning the blaze, ordering magazines flooded and use water ballast to correct a 10° starboard list while breiefing damage control parties about other port side to douse the flames while firefighters and aircraft handlers jettisoned burning aircraft and started to clean the mess.

But it was only a brief respite as another three kamikaze were shot down by AA and crashed into the sea, while a fourth went through and hit CV-114’s starboard side, near the island. It blew up and engulfed in flames other parled aircraft, while her flight deck was devastated, and making about 100 killed or wounded. Captain Kiefer was also wounded in the process, but remained in command and everything was again under control after 14:00. But heavy damaged imposed repairs, the captain asked for. She stopped in Ulithi on 24 January to transfer wounded personal to the hospital ship USS Samaritan, and her remaining air group to USS Hancock, then embarking passengers bound for home and stopped briefly again at Pearl Harbor until reaching Puget Sound on 15 February. Captain William Sinton by then assumed command in February 1945.

On 20 April 1945 repairs has been completed, and USS Ticonderoga left for the Alameda Naval Air Station to embark aircraft, pilots and support personal of her new air group, then trained intensively up to Hawaii, and after 1 May Air Group 87 came on board in turn, completing her global air group. The trained for a week and then departed for Ulithi. On 17 May while en route, she trained her air group by sending them striking Taroa in the Marshalls. On 22 May, she arrived, assigned to the Fast Carrier Task Force in Rear Admiral Radford’s TG 58.4.

Japanese Home islands raids (May-August 1945)

Kamikaze crashed on USS Ticonderoga in 1944

At sea with TF 58 northwards, CV-13 was to spend of week of operations in home waters, starting on 2–3 June, with raids on Kyūshū in order to isolate Okinawa. After weathering her second typhoon unscathed, and providing CAPs during the refuelling of 6 June (claiming more kamikazes) she made a fighter sweep to strike airfields on southern Kyūshū two days later, then raided Minami Daito and Kita Daito. On the 13th she was back in Leyte for rest and replenisheùent followed by another sweep northwards for more raids on Japan. When she was underway, a badly damaged turbine reduction gear obliged Captain Stinson do detach and sail for Apra Harbor in Guam, to receive emergency repairs. She departed on the 19th and on the 24th, joined striked in the Inland Sea, Nagoya, Osaka, and Miko.

Her aircraft parcipated in finishing off IJN Ise, Hyūga, and Haruna, Kaiyō and two heavy cruisers. This was followed by anoher raid on 28 July on the Kure Naval Base. Next came the industrial area of central Honshū (30 July), northern Honshū and Hokkaidō (9–10 August), and the Tokyo area on 13–14 August. She only learned of the capitulation after launching another raid on the morning on the 16th. She went on patrolling the mainland, and lieke other carriers, launched searches of POW camps, dropping med and food packages along the way. On 6 September she entered Tokyo Bay.

She went back to Bremerton Navy Yard, Puget Sound and took part in Operation Magic Carpet voyages to Okinawa and back to Alameda Navy Yard (Oakland) by December 1945, then another run in Samar back to Puget Sound withiut four thousand servicemen, followed by her last run to be deactivated in Bremerton Navy Yard, mothballed provisionally the permanently from 9 January 1947 (Pacific Reserve Fleet). She was reactivated in 1952 to be converted under SBC-27C standard, served in the Mediterranean, Pacific, Vietnam, until deactivation in 1973. For her WW2 servce, she won five battle stars, but more in Vietnam.

US Navy ww2 USS Randolph (CV-15)

USS Randolph at anchor, western Pacific, June 1945

USS Randolph at anchor, western Pacific, June 1945

USS Randolph was commissioned on 9 October 1944 with Captain Felix Locke Baker in command, sailing out after trials and post-trial fixes, for her first shakedown cruise off Trinidad. Adter post-trials modifucations and preparation for upcoming operations, she was sent to the Pacific via Panama. On 31 December she entered San Francisco to receive sent on shore Air Group 87, exchanged for Air Group 12, for four months training.

After a maintenance and crew leave for the new year, she was prepared for the war, and departed on 20 January 1945 for Ulithi Atoll. She sortied on 10 February with TF 58 to make her first air strikes from 16–17 February against Tokyo airfields as well as the Tachikawa engine plant. She attacked afterwards Chichi Jima and on 20 February, supported ground forces on Iwo Jima and Haha Jima, plus usual combat air patrols above the fleet. Next she launched three major sweeps against airfields in the Tokyo area, Hachijo Jima, before sailing ut for a resupply run on 25 February to Ulithi.

While at anchor on 11 March, she was attacked by a lone Yokosuka P1Y1 “Frances” kamikaze, which managed to hit her on the starboard side, aft below the flight deck. The massive impact killed 27, wounding 105. The captain made a first initial damage assessment, later confirmed by Raymond Spruance. It was esteemed beyond the capabilities of Pearl Harbor, so she would have to sail to the west coast, making her absent from operations for five months. She completely missing the invasion of Okinawa. However Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Humphrey, at the time Randolph’s catapult officer, convinced Baker and Spruance that repairs could be completed at sea using the repair ship USS Jason (AR-8) instead, which was close.

USS Randolph from there would have the provilege to be the most extensive repair at sea ever performed by the US Navy. Humphrey’s took charge of it, moving the forward arresting-gear catapult engine aft, amazingly to replace the destroyed first engine. This bold and unconventional idea allowed the aircraft carrier to be operational again in a mere few weeks. There was limited damage on the flight deck, and little in the hangar so she still was able to launch and retrieve aircraft. Still, a lotof hard work was performed round the clock at her badly damaged stern, the torn down covering being removed and even structural steel components changed.

Many elements in the hangar deck, elevator and flight deck supports had been warped by the intense fires and engineers used 29 tons of structural steel, even I-beams from a Japanese sugar mill of Saipan to complete the work, even using 7,500 board feet of lumber on her flight deck. Charles Minter praised this decision, as this allowed the air group to remain in the forward area and even being able to launch and retrieve aircraft during repairs. Randolph’s repairs were completed, amazingly by 1 April 1945, just at the launch date of the invasion of Okinawa.

So USS Randolph could sail with TF 58 on 7 April; launch her Combat air patrol and start strikes against Okinawa, Ie Shima, and Kakeroma Islands. This was followed by a sweep in southern Kyūshū and in May, Ryukyu Islands, southern Japan, Kikai Naval Base in Amami Islands, numerous airfields installation and she even had the honor of becoming the flagship of TF 58 from 15 May, supporting the occupation of Okinawa and retired via Guam to the Philippines.

Bakk in the 3rd Fleet, USS Randolph raided like the rest of the fleet, the Japanese home islands. Air Group 16 replacing Air Group 12 and took part in eight raids from 10 July, especially over the Tokyo area, but also sinking shipping in the Tsugaru Strait area. The Honshū-Hokkaidō train ferries were also sunk and damaged, cutting off any personal moves in the area. On 18 July her air group pummeled IJN Nagato, heavily camouflaged alongside a pier at Yokosuka Naval Base, then rempaged the coast of Shikoku (24 July), destroying all spotted shipping in the Inland Sea and also bombing IJN Hyūga as well as many other objectives on Kyūshū, Honshū, and Shikoku. On 15 August, her pilots argued on 10-25 July alone they sank 25-30 ships, damaged 35-40 others. Kisarazu Airfield was her last target, on the morning.

Post-war

CV-15 headed home via the Panama Canal (late September), not giving the chance to enter Tokyo bay or support occupation operations. She entered the Naval Station at Norfolk on 15 October, inspected again and prepared for “Magic Carpet” runs, making two trips in the Mediterranean area. In 1946, she became reservists & midshipmen training ship making a Mediterranean cruise that year and another in the Caribbean in 1947, followed by a cruise to northern Europe. Decommissioned on 25 February 1948 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, she waited her fate.

US Navy ww2 USS Lexington (CV-16)

uss lexington underway 12 November 1943

uss lexington underway 12 November 1943

USS Lexington was commissioned on 17 February 1943, and after a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean she saile via the Panama Canal to the Pacific fleet. Her first pilot lost was 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick when conducting training off her deck, splashing after a serious oil leak and never recovered. USS was in Pearl Harbor on 9 August 1943. She participated first in the Tarawa raid on late September, and then Wake Island in October, then back to Pearl Harbor. Next she was deployed in the Gilbert Islands operations covering landings, as well as raids in the Marshalls on 19-24 November, claiming 29 enemy aircraft on 23-24 November.

Damage at Kwajalein (4-5 Dec. 1943)

She also participated in the raid on Kwajalein, 4 December, her aviators claming SS Kembu Maru, two cruisers damaged, 30 enemy aircraft destroyed. AA gunners also claimed two torpedo planes, later ordered during the night not to fire… as Admiral Charles Pownall believed it would betray their position (he was sacked). At 23:22, parachute flares silhouetted the carrier attacked by a torpedo plane, and hit on the starboard side. USS Lexington had her steering gear out of action. She had nine killed, including two later of the repair party, settling 5 feet by the stern and circling to port. Fortunately in a sense, she was hidden by smoke pouring from ruptured tanks aft. Damage control crews sealed the damaged compartments, welded shut and using extra heavy steel plates. Also engineers devised an hand-operated steering unitso she can sail to Pearl Harbor for emergency repairs. She sailed afterwards to Bremerton on 22 December, repairs being over on 20 February 1944. Opening fire at night was from then learnt the hard way in the Navy, and no superior officer never ever would have asked to refrain on this. The Japanese nevertheless reported her sunk.

Battle of the Philippine Sea

USS Lexington was back to Majuro in the newly formed Task Force 58, on 8 March 1944. Mitscher carrie dhis mark onboard USS Lexington, which became his flagship. The air group stoke Mille Island, and the Fast Carrier Task Force next supported landings at Hollandia on 13 April, raided Truk on 28 April. USS Lexington between her CAP and AA splashed 17 enemy fighters during several attacks, while the Japanese propaganda continued to pretend she had been sunk. Operations went on in May. The surprise strike on Saipan (11 June) dealt with air opposition and on 16 June, USS Lexington fended off another torpedo bombers attack from Guam, and again, “sunk” a third time by Japanese propaganda. The Battle of the Philippine (19–20 June) saw USS Lexington shine, not only as flagship of TF 58 as she directed the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” but the indicual results of her air group and AA gunners.

From Eniwetok USS Lexington operated against Guam and the Palaus, the Bonins all this summer and until late August. In the Carolinas on 7 September she operated against Yap and Ulithi, then Mindanao in the Philippines, the Visaya islands and the Manila area, the west coast of Luzon. Next she raided Okinawa on 10 October, Formosa on the 12th, opening the Philippines campaign and fending off more attacks, escaping any damage during the counter-attack after the Formosa assault.

Battle of Leyte Gulf

Deployed in cover of the Leyte landings, USS Lexington took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Under constant enemy attack her air group was co-credited the destruction of IJN Musashi and the three escorting cruisers on 24 October. Combined with USS Essex aor group the following day she sank IJN Chitose, and claimed alone IJN Zuikaku, then cos-sinking IJN Zuihō. Her air group als savaged and sank the cruiser Nachi with four torpedo, on 5 November off Luzon during the search and destroy operation that followed.

The same day, a kamikaze, hut by AA crashed near her island, debris destroying most of the island structure, spraying fire which was under control in 20 minutes. She was fully operatonal afterwards and claimed another kamikaze which targeted her sister ship USS Ticonderoga. On 9 November, she was back to Ulithi to resplenish and repairs. Meawnhile… Tokyo announced her sunk, a fourth time. Casualties were light and the crew was given some rest.

1945 Operations

Next, she returned as flagship for Task Group 58.2 this time, on 11 December. First operations were against airfields of Luzon and Formosa in January 1945. She entered the South China Sea , looking for enemy shipping and airfields. Strikes followed on Saipan, then Camranh Bay (Indochina), Hong Kong, the Pescadores, and Formosa. Four merchant ships and their four escorts (the entire convoy) was registered in her tally. She also savaged another one later, destroying nearly 12 ship off Camranh Bay (12 January). She set sail on 20 January to strike Formosa the next day, then Okinawa.

After replenishing at Ulithi, on 10 February she started a long serie of striked near Tokyo, notably on 16-17 February, in order to isolate Iwo Jima for landings, starting on 19 February. Next she flew close support missions for the assaulting troops 19-22 February, alternating with the home islands in a well known pattern also repeated later at Okinawa, with in-between resuepply runs at Uilithi. She also attacked Nansei Shoto until detached to sail to Puget Sound for a well-deserved overhaul.

USS Lexington was back in the Pacific on 22 May via Alameda, Pearl Harbor, arriving in San Pedro Bay (Leyte), assigned to Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague’s task force. Operations focuse on the home islands, in July and up to 15 August. That day, pilots received en route orders to jettison their bombs at sea and return to the carrier at once: Japanese surrender was now official. Her air groups wrecked Honshū and Hokkaidō airfields, Yokosuka and Kure naval bases. At Kure, her F4U-1D Corsairs (VBF94) bombed and strafed IJN Ise until she sank, despite heavy enemy fire. Squadron commander Lester Wall Jr. distinguishe himself by his marksmanship, dropping his 1000lb bomb stright into her stack. This made her boilers epxploding and broke her keel, the resulting detonation matching the destruction of the Arizona, as an avenging feat. He and several men were later awarded the Navy Cross. For her service in WW2, “The Blue Ghost” won 11 battle stars and a unit presidential citation.

In September, her air group still patrolled the shore and overland. Lt.Cmdr. Wall notably located POWs on Honshū, abandoned and returned to drop them food rations, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. In December, USS Lexington ferried troops home as part of Operation Magic Carpet, at San Francisco. She was decommissioned at Bremerton (Washington), 23 April 1947, National Defense Reserve Fleet. Redesignated CVA-16 on 1 October 1952 she was chosen for modernization, which started in September 1953 in Puget Sound. She received the SCB-27C and SCB-125 conversion and was recommissioned on 15 August 1955 for a very long career, seeing the whole cold war in addition of WW2 as she was decommissioned on 8 November 1991. Not bad for an aircraft carrier supposed to have been sunk… four times, well deserving her “ghost” nickname, to the delight of the crew that served on her.

US Navy ww2 USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)

USS Bunker Hill CV-17 underway at sea in 1943

USS Bunker Hill CV-17 underway at sea in 1943

Commissioned 25 May 1943, USS Bunker Hill after her sea trials started wotking with her air group, notably VF-17, the fighter squadron equipped with the new F4U Corsair. Due to recent development issues and complaints from pilots about difficulties to see the flight deck due to the long nose, the Navy considered replacing it with the proven Grumman F6F Hellcat. The squadron nevertheless sticked to its Corsairs, deemed superior in the end by the flight commander and pilots alike. USS Bunker Hill sailed with VF-17 from San Diego bound to Pearl Harbor, learning underway that the Navy eventually decided to rule out the Corsair aboard carriers for standardization issues, oligating to took parts and supplies for two fighters and a still gailing approval.

They would operated on land bases only, or go on the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm’s carriers, as the latter developed new landing technique suited for it in early 1944 with a curving approach with the landing signal officer in view during the approach. It was also adopted by the USN by late 1944. VF-17 however was detached and sent to the Southwest Pacific and replaced on board by Hellcats from VF-18, ferried aboard underway to Pearl Harbor.

She sailed on 19 October for the Southwest Pacific, participating in the Rabaul raid with USS Essex and Independence (11 November 1943). VF-18 in fact worked together with CV-17 based nearby at Ondonga Airfield (Solomon Islands). Tailhooks were reinstalled on the squadron’s Corsairs to land and refuel on USS Bunker Hill, allowing them to creat a CAP in cover of the the task force and escort bombers to Rabaul. On 14 November she was redirected to Gilbert Islands, covering the invasion of Tarawa.

Air raids on Kavieng in the Bismarck Archipelago were made on 25 December 1943, and on 1st and 4th January 1944. It was followed by air raids in the Marshall (29 January – 8 February), another raid on Truk Atoll (17–18 February), raids on the Marianas Islands (Guam, Saipan, and Tinian) on 23-25 February before a trip back to Pearl Harbor and an overhaul in drydock on 4 March 1944and until 9 March. CAG-17 embarked meanshile on CVG-8 with four night fighting Hellcats (VF(N)-76). From 20 March USS Bunker Hill was in Majuro in Marshall her air group now comprising 41 F6F-3 Hellcat (VF-8), 32 SB2C-1Cs (VB-8), 22 TBF-1Cs (VT-8) plus a command (flag) F6F-3 and the four F6F-3Ns.

USS Bunker Hill next was occupied with raids on Palau, Yap, Ulithi, and Woleai (30 March to 1 April), in support of landings around Hollandia on 21–28 April, a new raid on Truk and in Satawan, Ponape, all in the Carolines from 29 April to 1 May, and patrols in the Marianas during the invasion of Saipan and Guam on 12 June – 10 August 1944. She also took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. On 19 June she was damaged during an attack, a Japanese bomb scattering shrapnel across her decks and side. Two killed, about 80 wounded but the damage was only superficial. Fires were quickly mastered and she remained fully operational. Her AA gunners claimed several IJN warplanes, and it was only the start of their tally.

From September 1944, USS Bunker Hill helped raiding the Western Caroline Islands befopre sweeping north, and attacking Luzon, Formosa, and Okinawa up to November. On 6 November she was redirected eastward home, to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard and her major overhaul. She also received weaponry and eletronics upgrades. The crew had a long leave for christmas. It was over 24 January 1945 and CV-17 was back in combat operations in the Western Pacific, with Air Group 84 onboard, still “green”, with VF-84, fortunately trained well by the nucleus of veterans from VF-17.

USS Bunker Hill, near-missed by a Japanese bomb Battle of the Philippine Sea, 19 June 1944

USS Bunker Hill, near-missed by a Japanese bomb Battle of the Philippine Sea, 19 June 1944

USS Bunker Hill became flagship for Task Force 58, (Vice-Admiral Marc A. Mitscher) a famous core capital ships unit that would lead the final charge against Japan. Onboard was Commodore Arleigh Burke, Mitscher skilled chief of staff. Her first assignation for 1945 was for the invasion of Iwo Jima with the 5th Fleet. She carried raids on Honshū and Nansei Shoto from 15 February to 4 March plus brough support for ground operations. On 7 April 1945, she was detached for a sweep in the East China Sea and her aircraft located the IJN Yamato, sent in a one-ticket run (Operation Ten-Go) with one light cruiser and eight destroyers. Their goal was to steam to Okinawa and beached to be use as a fixed fortress for ground support. Of course all available air groups took off and she was prioritized. USS Bunker Hill’s own Helldivers and Avengers took their share in her sinking as well as the cruiser and four destroyers.


USS Bunker Hill at sea in 1945

On 11 May 1945 USS Bunker Hill was deployed in support of Operations on Okinawa, when a major (one of many) Japanese air attack succeeded in piercing the curtain of fighters and AA. Two Kamikaze dropped their bombs, severely damaging the aircraft carrier: These were a Mitsubishi A6M Zero (Lieutenant Junior Grade Seizō Yasunori) using low cloud cover for his approach. His 550-pound (250 kilogram) bomb penetrated her flight deck, exiting from the side at gallery deck level and exploding in the ocean, fortunately, but the Zero itself crashed onto her flight deck, setting ablaze all her parked warplanes, gorged with fuel and ammunition.

The second Kamikaze hit 30 seconds later (Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa), dropping a 550-pound bomb which impacted close to her island, as pilots were trained for. The bomb also penetrated the flight deck underneath and exploded in the pilot’s ready room. 22 VF-84 pilots were kille dinstantly, many others were badly burned.

In all, USS Bunker Hill was crippled, loosing 393 sailors and airmen that day, plus 41 missing, 264 wounded. Three officers and nine men from Mitscher’s staff were among the deads. This was a tremendous hit to the fleet as its flagship could no longer operate. The admiral relinquished command and with his staff, was transferred to the destroyer USS English and ferried from there to the old USS Enterprise.

Bunker Hill was in such state she was no longer operational, but her safety teams mastered the fires and her machinery was intact. So she steamed at 20 knots to Ulithi, rejoined underway by VMF-221, aloft at the time and in between, diverted to other carriers. Fro Ulithi, she departed for Pearl Harbor for more permanet repairs and Bremerton Naval Shipyard. The war ended while repairs proceeded. On 27 September 1945, just repaired and upgraded, USS Bunker Hill sailed for a first run of Operation Magic Carpet, with TG 16.12. She made four return trips, from pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam and Saipan. Oopened for visitors on Navy Day, 27 October 1945 in Seattle, WA. she spent the rest of the year there and by January 1946 was ordered to Bremerton, to be deactivted as per peace practice. She was decommissioned, in reserve on 9 January 1947. CVA-17 in October 1951 and CVS-17 in August 1953, then AVT-9 in May 1959, or “Auxiliary Aircraft Transport Carrier”, she was considered surplus (also badly damaged, like USS Franklin), so not chosen for conversion or modernization. Stricken in November 1966, she was used as a stationary electronics test platform (North Island NAS, San Diego) up to the early 1970s, and sold on 2 July 1973. Some tried to preserve her as a museum ship. For her wartime service she earned a Presidential Unit Citation for her 18 months (11 November 1943-11 May 1945), and 11 battle stars.

US Navy ww2 USS Wasp (CV-18)

USS Wasp CV-18, Western Pacific 6 August 1945

USS Wasp CV-18, Western Pacific 6 August 1945

Following her shakedown cruise until the end of 1943 (she was commissioned on 24 November 1943, leaving little time for extra training) she had in Boston a brief postcruise fixes before being considered fully operational. On 10 January 1944 she departed for Hampton Roads in Virginia and some training, the was based in Trinidad until 22 February, the back to Boston and prepared to depart for the Pacific in early March, transiting via Panama and arriving at San Diego on 21 March, reached Pearl Harbor on 4 April.

Mariana Campaign March-June 1944

Following training off Pearl Harbor USS Wasp was assigned to the force attacking the Marshall Islands and her new home base in Majuro, under orders from Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery and in TG 58.6 (Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher) including the famous Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 58). On 14 May 1944 with Essex and San Jacinto she raided Marcus and Wake Islands for the sake of combat experience. It was notaby the occasion to have a new system battle-proven: Assigning before takeoff each pilot a specific target. The idea was also to have these islands playing no further part in the forthcoming Marianas Campaign. USS Wasp and Essex launched strikes on 19 and 20 May on the installations on Marcus Island, encountered heavy AA fire. In all the island was devastated enough to play no part in the subsequent Saipan attack.

In May after cancellation due to heavy weather the two carriers were reunited with USS San Jacinto and steamed to Wake, attacke don 24 May but also showing the system of selecting targets for each plane was wrong. Tactical air commanders from then on were delegated this responsibility, directly on site from their own planes. After Wake, and resupply to Majuro, USS Wasp returned to the Marianas and on 6 June was reassigned to TG 58.2 (Rear Admiral Montgomery) deployed in the invasion of Saipan starting on 11 June. Saipan but also Tinian were attacked but challenged by around 30 land-based fighters and intense AA fire as well.

For three days, installations on Saipan and Japanese defenses were destroyed before the assault on 15 June. 58.2 and TG 58.3 later provided close air support for the Marines. The fast carriers then departed and were replaced by escort carriers, tasked both for local air support and defence, the usual procedure of island-hopping tactics. Refueled, USS Wasp steamed to meet with TGs 58.1 and 58.4, returning from Chichi and Iwo Jima.

Battle of the Philippine Sea, 18 June 1944

Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa’s First Mobile Fleet meanwhile was mobilized to retake Saipan, and steamed from the Sulu Islands to the Marianas. Facing him was Admiral Raymond A. Spruance’s 5th Fleet. Spotted by a submarine off Tawi Tawi on 13 June, alter was given, then confirmed by other picket submarines pre-positioned kept Spruance posted on their progress. They soon arrived in the islands of the Philippines, approaching by San Bernardino Strait, when he attacked, kickstarting the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

On 18 June 1944, scout planes were deployed to precise the location of the Japanese, but the Japanese were first due to their greater range, while Ozawa escaped the Americans. On 19 June, Mitscher’s carriers were en rout to Guam and destroyed land-based planes while Ozawa launched four carrier-borne raids, all intercepted and destroyed almost completely. A single single bomb hit on South Dakota leaving little damage was the only result. American submarines spotted and sunk two enemy carriers, IJN Taihō and Shōkaku.

Three of Mitscher’s carriers headed west in search of Ozawa, while TG 58.4 was left tp cover Saipan. Its only the afternoon, 20th that Ozawa’s force was spotted almost 300 mi from the American carriers and Mitscher scrambled a massive air strike, which materilized into firced attacks two hours later. Two oilers were badly damaged and beached/scuttled, the aircraft carrier IJN Hiyō sunk and Ryuho, Junyō, Zuikaku, and their escorts were all damaged at sunset.

The long distance back and night however resulted in many planes lost, including those of USS Wasp, which lokout spotted the first returning plane at 20:30, Rear Admiral J. J. Clark famously ordering all lights turned to guide the pilots, despite the risk of posssible Japanese subs in the area. To facilitae recovery, Mitscher also gave pilots permission to land on any carrier available. Despite of all this, many ditched into the water and the frantic search for downed pilots would take weeks.

Mitscher then resume the stern chase of Ozawa’s crippled fleet, hoping to end for all the First Mobile Fleet before it reach home islands. On 21 June, Spruance detached Wasp and Bunker Hill to cover Admiral Lee’s battleships in Ozawa’s wake, leading to a two-day hunt for nothing. Thus force was sent to Eniwetok for replenishment and rest.

Philippine campaign, July-October 1944

USS Wasp CV-18 underway off Trinidad 22 February 1944

USS Wasp CV-18 underway off Trinidad 22 February 1944

On 30 June, Wasp TG 58.2 and TG 58.1 were at sea again to strike Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima again. The raid took place on 3–4 July and, claming 75 enemy aircraft, mostly airborne the rest on the ground. Iwo Jima was later pounded by cruisers, and on 5 July, this combined force was back to the Marianas, attacking Guam and Rota in preparation for the future landings. Close air support was provided then for the marines on 21 July. The 22th saw USS Wasp with TG 58.2 heading for the the Western Carolines, to raid the Palaus (25th).

Next the Bonin and Volcano Islands were attacked and USS Wasp (TG 58.2) sailed to be resenished at Eniwetok on 2 August. The Fast Carrier Task Force, redesignated TF 38 as in the 3rd fleet now, made another strike on the Palaus. On 6 September USS Wasp became flagship for Vice Admiral John S. McCain, TG 38.1 for these Palaus Operations. On 9 September, USS Wasp headed for the southern Philippines to allow assaults on Morotai, Peleliu, and Ulithi.

Wasp planes strucks Mindanao airfields on 9-10 September, followed by the Visayan Islands on 12-13 September, with almost impunity. This weak resistance conducted to a cancellation of the invasion of Mindanao (planne 16 November) and instead planners wanted to go straight to Leyte.

On 15 September USS Wasp and TG 38.1 were 50 mi (80 km) off Morotai, launching attacks, followed by Mindanao and the Visayas, before resupplying in the Admiralties on 29 September (Manus island). USS wasp was at sea on 4 October, advancing to the Philippine Sea and joining TF 38 on the the evening of 7 October 375 mi (604 km) west of the Marianas. As always, destroying airbases within operational air distance was parmamount to secure the landings on Leyte planned for 20 October. The carriers were refuelled by nine oilers on 8 October, and sailed for the Ryūkyūs on 10 October, launching strikes on arrival on Okinawa, Amami, and Miyaki. This foray was the closest approach to the Japanese home islands since Doolittle.

From 12 October, Formosa (now Taiwan) was attacked by TF 38, one of many times. The Japanese Navy mustered all what’s left to protect the latter, including her remaining carriers, stripped of aircraft. The three-day air battle over Formosa saw the destruction of more than 500 planes and 20 freighters, may other badly damaged as instalaltion al over the island. TF 38 paid this by loosing 79 planes and 64 pilots & crewmen, USS Canberra, Houston the aircraft carrier USS Franklin badly damaged by Kamikaze.

TF 38 was back in the Philippines, east of Luzon, launching new strikes on 18-19 October, notably Manila for the first time. On 20 October, troops landed as planned on Leyte, while Wasp was moved south to launch close air support missions, but enabling them to attack as well airfields on Mindanao, Cebu, Negros, Panay, and Leyte. TG 38.1 refueled on the 21 and a day later steamed to Ulithi to rearm, take provision and allowing crew’s rest, well earned.

Battle of Leyte, 24 October 1944

But the respite was short: As soon as McCain’s carriers were underway, Admiral Soemu Toyoda activated plan Sho-Go-1, leading to the epic and final Battle of Leyte Gulf. Ozawa’s carriers were to act as a decoy, to lure TF 38 north of Luzon, allowing two surface force dto arrive south through Surigao Strait and from the north, through San Bernardino Strait. On 24 October, Halsey’s carrier task groups attacked Kurita’s Force “A” (Center Force), the battle of the Sibuyan Sea until darkness, leaving IJN Musashi sunk, other ships sunk and crippled as well. They were reported Kurita’s force position and took the bait, in hot pursuit. Admiral Nishimura’s Force “C” (Southern Force) was stopped en route by Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s battleline and crippled. On 24 October Kurita’s Center Force retreated and Halsey’s scout planes located Ozawa’s carriers 200 mi (320 km) north of TF 38, promting his Fast Carrier Task Force, including USS Wasp away north in hot pursuit. Kurita’s Center Force meanwhile changed course, transited by night the San Bernardino Strait, arrived at the east coast of Samar and fell on the landing’s three 7th Fleet escort carrier groups present (“Taffy 1-3”) deployed along Samar’s east coast, leading to a deperate -but heroic battle, succeeding in repelling Kurita.

Admiral Halsey meanwhile was recalled to help Taffy 3 and raced toward Samar, then launching all available planes on Kurita’s ships, still 330 miles away. This played a part in Kurita’s decision to retire from Leyte and end the battle. McCain’s fast carrier force (and USS Wasp) meanwhile recuperated his planes, and prepared them for a dawn attack on Kurita’s retiring force, on 26 October. USS Wasp – TG 38.1, plus TG 38.2 (Rear Admiral Bogan) launched strikes as planned, which sank IJN Noshiro and and nearly sank Kumano. A third strike gave no results.

After the Battle, TG 38.1 stayed in the Philippines before sailing to resplenish Ulithi on 28 October. Rear Admiral Montgomery took command as McCain relieved Mitscher at the hed of TF 38, but Wasp ws soon at sea again as Leyte’s beachhead were attacked by Japanese planes on 1 November. Wasp raised Luzon air bases on 5-6 October (in total claiming with other carriers some 400 Japanese aircraft moslty on the ground. USS Wasp later was in Guam exchanging air groups with the crippled USS Lexington. She was back in the Philippines and operated until 26 October, the Army Air Force assuming responsibility for the rest of the campaign. TF 38 resplenished in Ulithi, receving new fighter planes, and until December, conducted training to optimize their response to kamikaze attacks.

Operations against Okinawa and home islands, 1945

TF 38 departed on 11 December and sailed to the east of Luzon for strikes against air bases until 16 December, notably those threating the coast of Mindoro. After refuelling at sea east of the Philippines, TF 38 weathered the typhoon cobra, battering USS Wasp and sinking three American destroyers. After repairing storm damage the force was back to Ulithi, allowing the crew to rest on Christmas Eve. More aistrikes followed on airfields in the Philippines but also Sakishima Gunto and Okinawa. They prepared the invasion of Luzon via the Lingayen Gulf. On 8-9 January 1945, Halsey took TF 38 into the South China Sea for their week’s strikes before returning to Luzon Strait (16 January 1945) and 21 January 1945 raiding Formosa, the Pescadores and Sakishima Islands, and the Ryūkyūs, before their supply run at Ulithi on 26 January.

USS Wasp next assisted in the attacks on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, required as an emergency landing point for crippled B-29 underway to bomb Japan. TF 58’s carriers launched before dawn on 16 February, Wasp loosing several fighters durng that mission. Bombing missions on Tokyo followed, hampered by bad weather, before swapping to the Volcano Islands and preparing an assault in Iwo Jima on19 February.

This proceeded, with in between supplt runs, more raids on Tokyo. USS Wasp from 17 to 23 March was hard at work defendng aagainst Kamikaze, deploying her CAP and having her AA gunners on high alert daily. On 19 March 1945 however, USS Wasp’s luck ran out: She was hit with a single 500 Ib AP bomb which penetrated her flight deck via the armored hangar deck, exploding in the crew’s galley were many shipmates had breakfast after being at general quarters (102 killed). The number-four fire room was also badly damaged. USS Wasp was still able to continue operations, just 27 minutes after the impact.

On 13 April 1945, she was discharged and headed for Puget Sound in Bremerton, Washington to be repaired. She steamed afterwards to Pearl Harbor and was back to report for duty on 12 July 1945. She made a strike at Wake Island and later rejoined via Eniwetok, the Fast Carrier Task Force. Strikes on the home islands went unopposed at this point. Wasp’s air group bombed and strafed Yokosuka Naval Base, airfields, hidden manufacturing centers. On 9 August USS Wasp near-avoided a catastrophy: As single gunner, cleaning his gun at this point, spotted an incoming kamikaze at low altitude to escape radars, shooting and killing the pilot, while the plane had a wing destroyed, veering off into the sea. Apart the water plume that inundated the deck, there was no other hazard. On 15 August, two Japanese planes attacked USS Wasp but CAP pilots intercepted them. These Japanese pilots were not aware (ot not willing to respect) the recently announced ceasefire and capitulation. They were probably the last Kamikaze shot down in history.

Post war and cold war career

On 25 August 1945, USS Wasp was caught by a severe typhoon, loosing approx. 30 ft (9 m) of her bow. She still continued to launch missions of mercy or patrol also dropping medicine and luxuries to POWs across Japan. Notably at Narumi, near Nagoya. She was back to Boston for Navy Day, open to public on 27 October 1945. On 30 October, she ws transforced in the yard to perform repatriations runs (Magic Carpet), until 15 November to carry 5,500 enlisted passengers and 400 officers. She was one of the rare Essex-class carriers modified to so so. She notably also brought Italian POWs back to Italy but on 17 February 1946, ran aground off the coast of New Jersey. On 17 February 1947, she was decommissioned, Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She would received in 1948-51 an SBC-27 modenrization to operate jets and served a CVS-18 from November 1956, until July 1972. She earned 8 battle stars for her service.

US Navy ww2 USS Hancock (CV-19)

USS Hancock CV-19 Philippines, December 1944
USS Hancock CV-19 Philippines, December 1944

After fitting out in Boston Navy Yard, USS Hancock made her shake-down cruise off Trinidad and Venezuela. Back to Boston for pos-shakedown fixes and alterations on 9 July 1944 (she was commissioned much earlier on 15 April 1944), she sailed on the 31th for war. Via panama and Pearl Harbor she was assigned from 5 October 1944 after much training in Hawaiian waters to Admiral W. F. Halsey’s 3rd Fleet, based in at Ulithi. She was then versed more precisely to Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan’s Carrier Task Group 38.2.

USS Hancock sailed to a point 375 nmi (690 km) west of the Marianas where Vice Admiral Mitscher’s TF 38 were assembling. They planned the first large scale raid in the Ryūkyūs but also Formosa and the Philippines, expecting opposition. Japanese air power here was crippled and paralyzed essentially to free General MacArthur’s push on Leyte. On 10 October 1944, Hancock’s air group took off for their first combat mission of the war, and targeted Okinawan airfields and shipping. Her pilots also claimed seven planes on the ground, and asssist destruction of a Japanese submarine tender as well as 12 torpedo boats and 2 midget submarines, but also four cargo ships and many sampans. She laso later attacked Formosa, striking all air bases on 12 October, shooting down six planes, with nine more on the ground and a cargo ship, three probable, 4-5 damaged.

Her CAP also repelled an enemy air raid and her gunners splashed their first ones, driving off many more during a continuous seven hours attack, wave after wave. The 13th, her air gropup completed the destruction by hitting all inslallation spotted. There was a second night of attack by the Japanese off Formosa, and AA fire dealt with it, but one aircraft crashed just 500 yd (460 m) off her flight deck. The 14th, the same routine started, but there was no wait for an evening attack as the fleet departed for he southeast. Underway they were attacked, and on bomb fell close to USS Hancock’s port bow. Another penetrated a gun platform but existed and exploded in the water. This was her first war damage, with no casuality.

On 18 October, her air group was scambled to hit Laoag, Aparri, and Camiguin Island (Northern Luzon) before rampaging Cebu, Panay, Negros, and Masbate, notably destrying airfields and shipping in the area. She retired the next day to Ulithi with TG 38.1 (Vice Admiral John S. McCain). On 23 October however she was recalle dunderway to Samar, in hope of assisting in the search for Japanese fleet ships reportedly closing on Leyte. However USS Hancock missed the battle and only heard about the “Taffy 3” fight off Samar.

Her planes took off in chase of the fleeing Japanese Center Force via the San Bernardino Strait. Back with TG 38.2, she struck airfields and shipping off Manila on 29 October and until 19 November, brought direct support for ground operations as well as hunting down Japanese shipping over 350 mi (560 km). She eventually had the honor of becoming flagship of the Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 38), on 17 November 1944, Admiral McCain and his staff moving on board.

Due to bad weather she had to wait until 25 November to resume operations when that day a lone kamikaze emerged out of the sun, nut she was exploded by AA some 300 ft (90 m) above her, debris falling on her deck, bursting into flames. Teamwork mastered the blaze, prevented any more damage but some burnt deck.

After a stop to Ulithi on 27 November she returned in the Philippines, in search of airfields on Luzon, preparing the assault on Mindoro. This started on 14 December with striked on the former US airfields of Clark and Angeles City and taking on many other enemy ground targets, on Salvador Island. Her air group also hit Masinloc, San Fernando, Cabanatuan, an then shipping in Manila Bay. Like the rest of TF 38, USS Hancock was battered by typhoon Cobra on 17 December. Giant waves broke over her flight deck, destrying parked planes, and doing some damage along her hull. She returned to Ulithi on 24 December and was back to attack airfields and shipping around the South China Sea, Luzon airfields (7–8 January 1945) before returning to hit Formosa (9 January) notably setting ablaze the Toko Seaplane Station.

She also savaged a convoy off Camranh Bay in Indochina (two sunk, 11 damaged), then striking airfields at Saigon, and shipping in the northeast. Operations went on on 16 January 1945 between Hainan Island (Gulf of Tonkin) and the Pescadores Islands, as well as shipping in and out of Hong Kong, then Formosa. However when back of such sortie, on 21 January, one of her planed landed and taxied abreast of the island when it exploded, killing 50 men and injuring 75 others. Fires were quickly under control but the cause remains unclear. Next, USS Jancock was mobilized to launch strikes against Okinawa, and made a stop at the end of January to Ulithi, Admiral McCain leaving her.

She resumed operations on 10 February for strikes in the area of Tokyo (16 February) and claiming 71 enemy planes in the process, 12 more a day after. She also struck Chichi Jima and Haha Jima (19th) in order to isolate Iwo Jima, and she took her station for tactical support. Like the other essex-class she also left the area to hit northern Honshū, and the Nansei-shoto islands (1 March) before a supply run to Ulithi.

Next she attacked the Kyūshū airfields, southwestern Honshū and patroling for any ship in the Inland Sea of Japan (12-18 March). She refuelled her escort, the destroyer Halsey Powell on 20 March as kamikazes just attacked in force. One was shot down and disintegrated about 700 ft (210 m) overhead, with fragments again falling on the deck, whereas with its engine and bomb landed on the the fantail of the destroyer. Another was shot down close to drop its bomb.

Her captain learned CV-19 was now reassigned to TG 58.3 for the Nansei-shoto raid on 23-27 March, Minami Daito, then Kyūshū until April.

She provided the usual close suport during the invasion of Okinawa. On 7 April a kamikaze was hit and cartwheeled across her flight deck, crashing into a group of parked planes, refuelled and reloaded, the bomb gliding up to the port catapult and eventually exploding. This caused 62 killed and 71 wounded. This time was quite serious as the fire was close to spread in the hangar as well, but it was mastered aventually after an hour. The ship reported ready for duty and resumed operations.

SB2C-3 from USS Hancock off Iwo Jima
SB2C-3 from USS Hancock off Iwo Jima

USS Hancock was detached on 9 April for Pearl Harbor to be repaired and being given some limited upgrades, also allowing longer crew leave in Hawaii. She was back on 13 June 1945 for the attack of Wake Island (20 June) underway to the Philippines. There, like the rest of the fleet she was based on San Pedro Bay and departed on 1 July to attacked Tokyo airfields again, on the 10th. Operations went on along the coast, rempaging ports, installations and any opporunity or planned targets until Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945.

That day, all the Japanese units were not aware (or not willing to comply) and as it happened in multiple occasions, the Hancock small photo group (modified Hellcats) was intercepted by seven aircraft over Sagami Wan. Three were shot down, a fourth escaped, damaged. Later the same afternoon the CAP shot down probably their last incoming Japanese torpedo plane, which targeted the nearby British task force. Like other CVs her planes were now searching for POW camps, dropping supplies and medicine until 25 August. Commodore R. W. Simpson brought doctors and supplies to these based, on USS Hancock intel and many lives were saved.

Hancock’s planes flew overhead the signing of the official surrender onboard USS Missouri and she also entered Tokyo Bay on 10 September 1945, embarking later 1,500 passengers at Okinawa to land them in California (San Predo) on 21 October. She was fitted out for Operation Magic Carpet making runs to and from Manus in the Admiralty Islands in November (with 4,000 passengers) and 3,773 passengers from Manila to Alameda (California). It was on 20 January 1946. She embarked Air Group 7 at San Diego (18 February) for air operations traning off California and on 11 March embarked two air groups at Pearl Harbor to Saipan (1 April) carrying another cargo of aircraft at Guam via Pearl Harbor. After Alameda (23 April) she headed to Seattle on 29 April for inactivation. Decommissioned, reserve fleet at Bremerton she was preserved for long term reserve. After the war, in 1951 she was selected for a SBC-27C modenization, completed in 1954, becmoming CVA-19 in October 1952, recommissioned on 15 February 1954 as the first US carrier with steam catapults for jets. Her career would last until decommissioned on 30 January 1976, with a long service with the Pacific 7th fleet and a tour of duty in Vietnam. For her WW2 service she won four battle stars.

US Navy ww2 USS Bennington (CV-20)

USS Bennington (CV-20) underway at sea 20 October 1944
USS Bennington (CV-20) underway at sea 20 October 1944

USS Bennington was commissioned on 6 August 1944, with Captain James B. Sykes in command, completed her trials, her shakedown training, and post-shakedown fixes, so sha was resy for service by 14 December, departing New York and and transiting via the Panama Canal on 21 December to reach San Diego on 29 December. On New Year’s Day 1945, she departed for Hawaii, arriving on 7 January. Tranining followed until early February in Hawaiian waters, and she headed towards the Philippines with USS Belleau Wood, Bunker Hill, Randolph, Saratoga ecorted by the large cruiser USS Alaska, rn route to join Task Force 58 based in Ulithi Atoll.Bennington in her original configuration, 1944.

In Ulithi lagoon on 8 February, she was affected to Task Group (TG) 58.1. and departing on the 10th for her first roun of attacks on the Japanese home islands in support of the battle of Iwo Jima. First she operated in the vicinity of the Marianas for rehearsals over Tinian and launching her air group on 12 February, refueling at sea and again on the 14th, then reachine her deployment point 200 km southeast of Tokyo. On the 16th, TF 58 launched her largest combine strike on Japan.

USS Bennington struck Tokyo and Yokosuka, the major Japanese naval base. The carrier’s Combat Air Patrol (CAP) shot down three IJN incoming planes, but she lost one to AA. She retired on 18 February, refueled and steamed toward Iwo