Essex-class aircraft carrier
The ten ships of the Essex-class, with the thirteen closely-related Ticonderoga-class carriers and the Oriskany - a highly modified sister that was the prototype of the SCB-27 modernization program - constituted the industrial age's largest class of heavy warships. Thirty-two ships were ordered, with twenty-four entering service between 1942 and 1950. Two more were cancelled while under construction and six others before their keels had been laid down.
The preceding Yorktown-class carriers formed the basis from which the Essex-class was developed. Intended to carry a larger air group, and unencumbered by the now-obsolete naval limitations treaties, USS Essex was over sixty feet longer, nearly ten feet beamier and more than a third heavier. A longer, wider flight deck and a deck-edge elevator facilitated more efficient aviation operations, enhancing the ships' offensive and defensive air power. Machinery arrangement and armor protection was greatly improved. These features, with the provision of more anti-aircraft guns, gave the ships much-enhanced survivability. In fact, two of them, Franklin and Bunker Hill, came home under their own power after being greviously damaged.
Their construction greatly accelerated, the Essexes and the first few Ticonderogas formed the backbone of the Navy's mobile air striking power during the climactic years of the Pacific War. With their larger contemporaries of the Midway-class, these carriers sustained the Navy's air power through the rest of the 1940s, during the Korean War era and beyond. Even after the arrival of the Forrestal-type "super carriers", the Essex-class and its sisters remained vital elements of naval strength. By the mid-1950s, fourteen of them of them had been modernized along the lines of Oriskany, with all but one of those being further updated under the SCB-125 program to facilitate operation of high-performance fighters and heavy attack aircraft.
Korean War and subsequent Cold War needs ensured that twenty-two of the twenty-four ships had extensive post-World War II service, all initially with attack air groups. As bigger carriers entered the fleet, seven of the Essex-class and eleven Ticonderogas were reassigned to the anti-submarine warfare mission. Unmodernized ships began to leave active service in the late 1950s, but three had about a decade of additional duty as helicopter assault transports for the Marine Corps. The updated units remained active until age and budget shortfalls drove them from the high seas from the late 1960s into the middle 1970s. However, one of the very first of the type, USS Lexington, ran on until 1991 as the Navy's training carrier. She then became a museum, a new role that also employs three of her siblings, Yorktown , Intrepid, and Hornet.
The Essex-class numbered ten ships, all built in three east coast shipyards:
- USS Essex (CV-9). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in April 1941; launched in July 1942; commissioned in December 1942.
- USS Yorktown (CV-10) (name changed from Bon Homme Richard in September 1942). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in December 1941; launched in January 1943; commissioned in April 1943.
- USS Intrepid (CV-11). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in Decenber 1941; launched in April 1943; commissioned in August 1943.
- USS Hornet (CV-12) (name changed from Kearsarge in January 1943) . Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in August 1942; launched in August 1943; commissioned in November 1943.
- USS Franklin (CV-13). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in December 1942; launched in October 1943; commissioned in January 1944.
- USS Lexington (CV-16) (name changed from Cabot in June 1942). Built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in July 1941; launched in September 1942; commissioned in February 1943.
- USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). Built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in September 1941; launched in December 1942; commissioned in May 1943.
- USS Wasp (CV-18) (name changed from Oriskany in November 1942). Built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in March 1942; launched in August 1943; commissioned in November 1943.
- USS Bennington (CV-20). Built by the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York. Keel laid in December 1942; launched in February 1944; commissioned in August 1944.
- USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). Built by the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York. Keel laid in February 1943; launched in April 1944; commissioned in November 1944.
- Displacement: 27,100 tons (standard)
- Dimensions: 872' (length overall); 93' (hull); 147' 6" (over flight deck and projections)
- Powerplant: 150,000 horsepower, steam turbines, four propellers, 33 knot maximum speed
- Aircraft (average operational complement, October 1944): 90 planes, including 38 F6F day fighters, 4 F6F night fighters, 27 SB2C scout-bombers, 18 TBM torpedo planes, 3 F6F photographic planes.
- Gun Armament: Twelve 5"/38 guns in four twin and four single mountings plus a large (and variable) number of 40mm and 20mm machine guns
USS Essex (CV-9)
Essex was commissioned on the last day of 1942, and went to the Pacific in May 1943 following shakedown in the Atlantic area. During the rest of that year, Essex took part in raids on Marcus and Wake islands, the invasion of the Gilberts and attacks on Japanese targets in the Marshalls. In 1944, she participated in the Marshalls, Marianas, Palaus, Leyte and Mindoro invasions, the Battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, and conducted air strikes in the Central and Western Pacific. While operating off the Philippines on 25 November 1944, she was damaged by a kamikaze suicide attack, but was able to remain in the combat zone. Essex continued her war operations in 1945, supporting the landings at Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as raiding enemy targets in Japanese home waters and elsewhere in the Western Pacific. She returned to the United States shortly after Japan's surrender and was placed out of commission in January 1947.
Essex was modernized in the late 1940s and early 1950s, recommissioning in January 1951 with a strengthened flight deck, new island and many other changes. She made two Korean War deployments, in August 1951 - March 1952 and in July 1952 - January 1953, introducing the F2H "Banshee" jet fighter to combat operations. Her designation was changed to CVA-9 in October 1952. Following the Korean armistice, she went to the Western Pacific twice more, in 1953-54 and in 1955, then underwent a second modernization.
Emerging from the shipyard in 1956 with a new angled flight deck and enclosed "hurricane" bow, Essex was now able to safely operate high-performance aircraft. After another western Pacific deployment, she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in mid-1957. She participated in the Lebanon intervention in mid-1958, then steamed through the Suez Canal to the Western Pacific to operate in the Taiwan area. Essex returned to the Atlantic via the Cape of Good Hope.
After further Atlantic and Mediterranean exercises, Essex was converted to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier and redesignated CVS-9 in March 1960. Her pattern of Atlantic and Mediterranean operations continued for nearly another decade, ending with her decommissioning in June 1969. USS Essex was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in June 1973 and sold for scrapping two years later.
USS Yorktown (CV-10)
Yorktown was commissioned in April 1943, and named for a previous carrier lost in the Battle of Midway. After shakedown, she passed throught the Panam Canal in July to join the war against Japan. Yorktown's first combat operation was a strike against Marcus Island at the end of August. During the rest of 1943, she took part in a raid on Wake Island and in the Gilberts operation. From late January into May 1944, Yorktown was one of the carriers that covered landings in the Marshall Islands and western New Guinea and generally battered Japanese forces throughout the central Pacific. In June 1944, her planes attacked Saipan and Guam and hit the carrier Zuikaku during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. For the rest of that month and in July, Yorktown struck other targets in the Marianas, the Bonins and Volcano Islands.
Following a overhaul, Yorktown rejoined the fighting fleet in November 1944, participating in attacks on Japanese positions in the Philippines, Formosa, Indochina and on the China coast from then into January 1945. In February and March, she supported the landings on Iwo Jima and conducted air strikes against the Japanese Home Islands. Though damaged by an enemy bomb on 18 March, she was able to remain in action. From late March until June 1945, Yorktown took part in the Okinawa campaign. On 7 April, her planes helped sink the huge Japanese battleship Yamato and some of her consorts. The remaining months of the Pacific war were mainly spent on raids on the Japanese Home Islands. Following Japan's capitulation in August, Yorktown helped cover occupation efforts and brought servicemen home from the western Pacific. Generally inactive from early 1946, the carrier was decommissioned in January 1947.
Yorktown began a major modernization in 1951. Now capable of operating heavier aircraft and redesignated CVA-10, she reentered active service in February 1953. In August, she departed for the Far East to begin the first of eleven Seventh Fleet cruises. In early 1955, during her second deployment, Yorktown supported the Tachin Islands evacuation. Later in that year, she was further modernized, receiving an angled flight deck and enclosed bow. After two more western Pacific tours as an attack carrier, in 1957-58 she became an antisubmarine warfare support aircraft carrier, with the new designation CVS-10.
The carrier's regular schedule of Far Eastern deployments included periodic exercises with allied navies and, from the mid-1960s, support for Vietnam War activities. In 1968, Yorktown played a major role in the motion picture Tora! Tora! Tora! and was part of the Apollo 8 space flight recovery effort. Transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in early 1969, she visited Europe during the last part of the year. Decommissioned in June 1970, Yorktown became a memorial (in 1975) at Charleston, South Carolina, a mission that continues to the present day.
USS Intrepid (CV-11)
Intrepid was commissioned in August 1943, and after arriving in the Pacific, she operated in support of the Kwajalein invasion in January-February 1944. On 17 February, while taking part in raids on the Japanese central Pacific base at Truk, she was hit by an aerial torpedo. An improvised sail was used to help maintain course while she steamed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. The carrier was back in the combat zone in September 1944. Over the next few months, she participated in strikes on the Palaus, Okinawa, Formosa and the Philippines. Her planes sank or helped to sink several Japanese ships during the 24-25 October Battle of Leyte Gulf. On 25 November, while attacking targets in the Philippines, Intrepid was hit by a suicide plane. She lost over sixty officers and men and had to go to the U.S. for shipyard work.
Intrepid returned to the western Pacific in time for attacks on the Japanese home islands in mid-March 1945, during which she was lightly damaged by a kamikaze. She next participated in the Okinawa operation, beginning in late March. On 16 April, two suicide planes attacked her, one hitting the flight deck and causing enough damage that Intrepid again needed stateside repairs. Japan surrendered while she was en route to rejoin the fight in mid-August, and she spent most of the rest of 1945 supporting occupation efforts. Inactive through much of 1946, Intrepid was decommissioned in March 1947.
Temporarily recommissioned in February 1952, Intrepid went to Newport News, Virginia, for thorough modernization over the next two years. Redesignated CVA-11, and now equipped with a stronger flight deck, new island and powerful steam catapults, she reentered active service in June 1954. The carrier twice deployed to the Mediterranean during 1955-56, then was further updated with an angled flight deck and enclosed "hurricane" bow. She continued her Atlantic and Mediterranean attack carrier operations until late 1961. In March 1962 she was reclassified as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) support aircraft carrier with the new designation CVS-11.
Into the mid-1960s, Intrepid took part in anti-submarine exercises in the Atlantic area, occasionally deployed to European waters and helped with space flight recovery work. Following a major overhaul, the ship was given an air group of light attack planes and the temporary designation of "special attack carrier" for Vietnam war service. She deployed to Southeast Asia three times in 1966-69 before returning to her regular Atlantic Fleet ASW role. Intrepid cruised in the Mediterranean in 1971 and 1973 and visited Northern Europe in 1972. Decommissioned in March 1974, she was a Bicentennial exhibition ship at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976. USS Intrepid was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in February 1982 and transferred to a New York City organization for further service as a museum, a role she plays to the present day.
In late-2006 Intrepid was towed to the Stapleton Naval Dock on nearby Staten Island for 22 months of repair and restoration at a cost of nearly $120,000,000; the removations included interior work to allow formerly-closed spaces access to tourists. Returned to her pier on October 2, 2008, the ship arrived enhanced with new museum exhibits and additional aircraft on her flight deck. 
USS Hornet (CV-12)
Hornet was commissioned in November 1943; she left the Atlantic in February 1944 to join the war against Japan. Her first combat operations were raids against enemy-held islands in the central Pacific, followed in June 1944 by participation in the Marianas invasion and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Hornet's raids continued through the rest of the year, with the attacks moving further west to support the capture of the Palaus and the recovery of the Philippines. Her planes also participated in the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf.
In January 1945, Hornet entered the South China Sea for strikes on and near the Asian coast. Over the next several months, she also hit Formosa and the Japanese Home Islands and covered landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On 6 April 1945 her planes helped sink the huge Japanese battleship Yamato. Hornet continued her operations in the Okinawa and Japan areas until her flight deck was damaged in a typhoon in early June, generating a trip back to the U.S. for repairs and an overhaul. The war was over by the time this work was completed, and the carrier spent the rest of 1945 bringing men home from the Pacific. After almost a year of inactivity, Hornet decommissioned and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet in January 1947.
Briefly recommissioning in March 1951, Hornet went to the New York Naval Shipyard, where she spent two years receiving an SCB-27A modernization. Returning to the active fleet in September 1953 with a stronger flight deck, new island and the new attack carrier designation CVA-12, the ship began a world cruise in May 1954 that included duty in the Mediterranean Sea and with the Seventh Fleet in Asian waters. On 25 July 1954, while Hornet was operating in the South China Sea, her planes shot down two Chinese fighters. After another western Pacific deployment in 1955, the carrier was modernized again, this time receiving an angled flight deck and enclosed bow to facilitate operation of higher-performance aircraft. She had two more Seventh Fleet tours in 1957 and 1958.
In mid-1958, Hornet was converted to an antisubmarine warfare support carrier and redesignated CVS-12. In her new role, she continued to make regular Seventh Fleet deployments through the next decade and lent support to combat operations off Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. She also served as recovery ship for several space flights, including the Apollo 11 and 12 trips to the Moon in 1969. USS Hornet was decommissioned for the last time in June 1970. Following nearly two decades in "mothballs", she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1989 and sold for breaking up in April 1993. However, the old carrier was saved from the scrap heap by the efforts of historically-minded citizens and in 1998 became a memorial and museum ship at Alameda, California.
USS Franklin (CV-13)
Franklin was commissioned at the end of January 1944, and arrived in the Pacific in time to participate in later stages of the Marianas operation. From late June into September, her planes conducted strikes on enemy targets in the Bonins, Marianas, Palaus and Carolines. In October, after supporting the September landings in the Palaus, she took part in the Third Fleet's raids in the Western Pacific and in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She was lightly damaged by a Japanese bomb on 15 October, and was hit by a suicide plane on 30 October. The latter caused serious damage and killed 56 of her crew, necessitating a trip back to the United States for repairs.
Franklin returned to the war zone in mid-March 1945 and joined the Fifth fleet for strikes on the Japanese home islands. On the morning of 19 March, while her flight and hangar decks were crowded with fully armed and fueled planes preparing to take off to attack the enemy, a Japanese plane approached undetected and hit the carrier with two bombs. The resulting inferno badly damaged the ship and resulted in the deaths of 724 of her crew. Heroic work by the survivors, assisted by nearby ships, brought the fires and flooding under control. After a brief period under tow, Franklin's engineers again had her steaming on her own.
The badly damaged carrier crossed the Pacific, transited the Panama Canal and in late April arrived at the New York Navy Yard for repairs. These were completed shortly after the end of the Pacific War, and Franklin saw no further active flight service. She decommissioned in February 1947. Though reclassified CVA-13 in 1952, CVS-13 a year later and AVT-8 in 1959, Franklin remained in the Reserve Fleet until she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in October 1964. She was sold for scrapping in July 1966.
USS Lexington (CV-16)
Lexington, named for the carrier lost at the Battle of the Coral Sea, was commissioned in February 1943 and saw her initial combat operations in the September-October raids on Tarawa and Wake. In November and December 1943, Lexington participated in the campaign to seize bases in the Gilbert Islands and batter down Japanese forces in the Marshalls. During attacks on Kawjalein on 4 December, a night air attack hit her in the stern with a torpedo, necessitating two months of shipyard repairs.
Lexington was back in the war zone by early March 1944 and took part in raids in the central Pacific and New Guinea areas during the next few months. In June, she was part of the powerful carrier force that supported the Marianas invasion and won the Battle of the Philippine Sea. For remainder of 1944, Lexington continued her strikes on enemy targets in the central and western Pacific, including attacks on Japanese ships during the October Battle of Leyte Gulf. She was damaged by a suicide plane on 5 November, but was repaired locally. After her planes helped prepare Luzon for invasion in late 1944 and early 1945, Lexington took part in the February 1945 Iwo Jima operation and in carrier attacks on the Japanese Home Islands.
Following a west coast overhaul, Lexington returned to combat for the last two months of the Pacific War, hitting targets in Japan during July and August 1945. Following Japan's surrender, she remained in the western Pacific to support occupation efforts. The carrier returned to the United States in December 1945 and was decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington, in April 1947.
In "mothballs" for the next six years, Lexington began extensive modernization work that was completed in August 1955, when she recommissioned as an attack aircraft carrier (redesignated CVA-16). Now featuring an angled flight deck, steam catapults and many other improvements to accommodate high-performance aircraft, she made five deployments to the western Pacific between 1956 and 1961. In 1962, she was transferred to the Atlantic to relieve USS Antietam as the Navy's training carrier. For this purpose, she was redesignated CVS-16 in October 1962, but briefly remained in the attack carrier role for a few more months during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
For nearly thirty years, Lexington operated in the Gulf of Mexico, providing a seagoing platform for training student Naval Aviators and maintaining the carrier qualifications of more experienced ones. She was redesignated CVT-16 in July 1969 and AVT-16 nine years later. Decommissioned in November 1991, USS Lexington was transferred to a private organization in 1992 and became a museum ship at Corpus Christi, Texas.
USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)
Bunker Hill was commissioned in May 1943 and saw initial service in the Atlantic, after which she arrived in the Pacific war zone in time to participate in strikes on Rabaul and in the conquest of the Gilberts during November and December 1943. In the first two months of 1944, Bunker Hill took part in the Marshalls operation and raids on Truk and the Marianas. Air attacks on Japanese bases throughout the Central Pacific, and support for landings at Hollandia, New Guinea, followed in March, April and May. In June, Bunker Hill was part of the fast carrier forces that covered the invasion of Saipan and defeated the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In the latter action, she was lightly damaged, suffering two crewmen killed and many injured when a bomb hit nearby.
Bunker Hill helped actively prosecute the war with Japan through most of the remaining months of 1944. Her planes supported the invasions of the Palaus in September, Leyte in October, and raided enemy bases in the Western Pacific. Early in November, following more than a year of combat operations, she steamed to the United States for an overhaul.
Repairs completed by late January 1945, Bunker Hill returned to the Western Pacific in time to participate in the February invasion of Iwo Jima and in raids on targets in Japan during February and March. As flagship of Task Force 58, she was also active in the next big operation, to capture Okinawa, and provided aircraft for the massive effort to sink the Japanese battleship Yamato on 7 April. While off Okinawa on 11 May, Bunker Hill was hit by two enemy "Kamikaze" suicide planes, losing nearly 400 crewmen killed in the resulting explosions and fires. Despite severe damage, the carrier was able to return under her own power to the U.S. for repairs.
Bunker Hill was back in service in September 1945, just after Japan surrendered. She transported servicemen home from the Pacific during the rest of the year, but was inactive from January 1946 until she was placed out of commission a year later. While laid up, she was reclassified three times, becoming CVA-17 in October 1952, CVS-17 in August 1953 and AVT-9 in May 1959, the latter designation indicating that any future commissioned duty would be as an aircraft transport. However, she was one of the two Essex-class carriers that saw no Cold War active service. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in November 1966, Bunker Hill was used as a stationary electronics test platform at San Diego during the 1960s and early 1970s. She was sold for scrapping in May 1973.
USS Wasp (CV-18)
Wasp was commissioned on 24 November 1943, and the following March arrived in the Pacific and conducted her first combat operations in May. During June-August, Wasp participated in the Marianas Campaign, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and in strikes elsewhere in the central Pacific. These were followed by support for the September assault on the Palaus, and, in October, by attacks on Okinawa, Formosa and the Philippines, and in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
For the rest of 1944 and into January 1945, Wasp sent her planes against the Japanese in the Philippines, the South China Sea area and as far north as the Ryukyus. In February and March, she supported the Iwo Jima invasion and took part in raids on the Japanese Home Islands. While off Japan on 19 March 1945, Wasp received a bomb hit that caused heavy casualties among her crew, though she remained in action for several more days before steaming to the U.S. for repairs.
Wasp arrived back in the western Pacific in July 1945, in time to participate in the War's final air attacks on Japan. After the enemy capitulated in mid-August, she supported occupation efforts, despite suffering serious typhoon damage to her forward flight deck on 25 August. The carrier returned to the U.S. in October, then transported service personnel home before decommissioning in February 1947.
In mid-1948, Wasp began modernization to permit safer operation of heavier modern aircraft. After recommissioning in September 1951, she joined the Atlantic Fleet. On 26 April 1952, while en route to Gibraltar, Wasp collided with and sank the destroyer minesweeper Hobson, necessitating a return to the U.S. for repairs to her mangled bow. In mid-year, she deployed to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. The ship was redesignated CVA-18 in October. Transferred to the Pacific in September 1953, Wasp deployed twice to Asian waters in 1953-55, received an angled flight deck and "hurricane" bow modernization, then made another western Pacific cruise in 1956.
In November 1956, Wasp became an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier, with hull number CVS-18, and moved back to the Atlantic in early 1957. For more than a decade and a half, she kept busy on ASW, training and other operations in the Caribbean and Atlantic, visiting Northern Europe and the Mediterranean frequently. During 1965-66, Wasp also served as recovery ship for five manned space flights. The veteran carrier participated in her final exercises in the fall of 1971, then began preparations for inactivation. USS Wasp decommissioned in July 1972 and was sold for scrapping the following May.
USS Bennington (CV-20)
Bennington was commissioned in August 1944, and after her shakedown training, she passed through the Panama Canal in December 1944 and arrived in the western Pacific in early February 1945. Her first combat operation took place in that month, when she participated in Task Force 58's raids on the Japanese home islands. Bennington also supported the invasion of Iwo Jima in February, hit the enemy home islands again in March and pounded the Ryukyus until Okinawa was secured in June. In April, her planes took part in the sinking of the huge Japanese battleship Yamato. The carrier suffered damage to her flight deck while steaming through a typhoon in early June. For the last two months of the Pacific War, Bennington joined in more attacks on Japan. She returned to the United States in October 1945 and, after limited operations in the west coast and Hawaiian areas, went to the U.S. east coast in April 1946 and decommissioned there later in the year.
In October 1950, Bennington was brought out of "mothballs" to receive a SCB-27A modernization. When recommissioned in November 1952, she was much more able to handle modern high-performance aircraft and had been redesignated CVA-20. For the next two years, she operated in the Atlantic and made a Mediterranean deployment in October 1953 - February 1954. She also suffered two major accidents: a boiler room explosion in April 1953 and a terrible hydraulic catapult explosion and fire on 26 May 1954. After the latter tragedy, which cost the lives of 103 officers and men, she entered the shipyard for further modernization, which gave her an angled flight deck and enclosed bow.
Bennington transferred to the Pacific in October 1955, and thereafter frequently operated with the Seventh Fleet in Asiatic waters. In June 1959, she became an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier with the new designation CVS-20. She was in the Far East during the 1960-61 Laotian Crisis, guarding the fleet against the possibility of hostile submarine involvement, and also 1964 as the fighting in Vietnam intensified. After United States' forces became actively involved in the conflict, Bennington had three tours of duty off Southeast Asia, in 1965, 1966-67 and 1968. She decommissioned in January 1970 and entered the Reserve Fleet at Bremerton, Washington. Nearly two decades later, USS Bennington was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. She was sold in September 1993 and subsequently towed across the Pacific Ocean to be scrapped in India.
USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
Bon Homme Richard, named after John Paul Jones' legendary warship as well as Benjamin Franklin's almanac, was commissioned in November 1944, sent to the Pacific in March 1945, and in June joined the fast carriers in the combat zone and took part in the final raids on Japan. With the end of hostilities in mid-August, Bon Homme Richard continued operations off Japan until September, when she returned to the United States. "Magic Carpet" personnel transportation service occupied her into 1946. She was thereafter generally inactive until decommissioning at Seattle, Washington, in January 1947.
The outbreak of the Korean War in late June 1950 called Bon Homme Richard back to active duty. She recommissioned in January 1951 and deployed to the Western Pacific that May, launching her planes against enemy targets in Korea until the deployment ended late in the year. A second combat tour followed in May-December 1952, during which she was redesignated CVA-31. The carrier decommissioned in May 1953 to undergo a major conversion to equip her to operate high-performance jet aircraft.
Bon Homme Richard emerged from the shipyard with an angled and strengthened flight deck, enclosed "hurricane" bow, steam catapults, a new island, wider beam and many other improvements. Recommissioned in September 1955, she began the first of a long series of Seventh Fleet deployments. Additional Western Pacific cruises followed in 1957, 1958-1959, 1959-60, 1961, 1962-63, and 1964, with the last including a voyage into the Indian Ocean.
The Vietnam war escalation in early 1965 brought Bon Homme Richard into a third armed conflict, and she deployed on five Southeast Asia combat tours over the next six years. Her aircraft battled North Vietnamese MiGs on many occasions, downing several, as well as striking transportation and infrastructure targets. Occasional excursions to other Asian areas provided some variety to her operations. Bon Homme Richard was ordered inactivated at the end of her 1970 deployment. She decommissioned in July 1971, becoming part of the Reserve Fleet at Bremerton, Washington. Following two decades in "mothballs" she was sold for scrapping in March 1992.
- USS Intrepid Sea and Air Space Museum, New York City
- USS Hornet Museum, Alameda, California
- Patriot's Point, Charleston, South Carolina (USS Yorktown CV-10)
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