Ticonderoga-class aircraft carrier
- 1 History
- 2 Design characteristics
- 3 Modernization programs
- 4 Ships
- 4.1 USS Ticonderoga (CV-14)
- 4.2 USS Randolph (CV-15)
- 4.3 USS Hancock (CV-19)
- 4.4 USS Boxer (CV-21)
- 4.5 USS Leyte (CV-32)
- 4.6 USS Kearsarge (CV-33)
- 4.7 USS Oriskany (CV-34)
- 4.8 USS Antietam (CV-36)
- 4.9 USS Princeton (CV-37)
- 4.10 USS Shangri La (CV-38)
- 4.11 USS Lake Champlain (CV-39)
- 4.12 USS Tarawa (CV-40)
- 4.13 USS Valley Forge (CV-45)
- 4.14 USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)
Throughout the very large program to build Essex-class aircraft carriers, modifications were constantly made. The number of 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft machine guns was greatly increased, new and improved radars were added, the original hangar deck catapult installation was deleted, the ventillation system was massively revised, details of protection were altered and hundreds of other large and small changes were executed. In fact, to the skilled observer, no two ships of the class looked exactly the same.
Beginning in March 1943, one visually very significant change was authorized for ships then in the early stages of construction. This involved reshaping the bow into a rather elegant "clipper" form to provide deck space for two 40mm quadruple gun mountings, thus greatly improving forward air defences. Thirteen ships were completed to this "long-hull", or Ticonderoga, class. Four of these were finished in 1944, in time to join their Essex-class near-sisters in Pacific combat operations. The rest went into commission between early 1945 and late 1946.
Five of the Ticonderoga-class were laid up in 1946-47, along with all of the Essexes. Eight stayed on active duty to form, with the three much larger Midways, the backbone of the post-war Navy's combat strength. Though the Truman Administration's defense economies sent three of the active Ticonderogas into "mothballs" in 1949, these soon came back into commission after the Korean War began. Ultimately, all thirteen had active Cold War service. Five of them were thoroughly rebuilt in the early 1950s under the SCB-27 program, and four of these were further modernized a few years later to the SCB-125 design (see below). Another got a combined SCB-27 and SCB-125 redo, while yet another was given a modest reworking to test the revolutionary "angled deck" landing area.
Of the six unmodernized Ticonderogas, three decommissioned in the late '50s and early '60s and were promptly reclassified as aircraft transports (AVT), reflecting their very limited ability to safely operate modern aircraft. The other three, converted to amphibious assault ships (LPH), were active until about 1970. The two least modernized units went into reserve in the mid-1960s, and the rest passed out of the active fleet between 1969 and 1976. All were scrapped, most in the 1970s, although Shangri La survived until the late 1980s.
The Ticonderoga-class numbered thirteen completed ships. Another (CV-34) was finished after heavy modifications, two more (CVs 35 and 46) were scrapped incomplete and six Fiscal Year 1945 ships were cancelled before being laid down. Construction of all twenty-two was assigned to six east coast shipyards:
- USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) (name changed from Hancock in May 1943). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in February 1943; launched in February 1944; commissioned in May 1944.
- USS Randolph (CV-15). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in May 1943; launched in June 1944; commissioned in October 1944.
- USS Hancock (CV-19) (name changed from Ticonderoga in May 1943). Built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in January 1943; launched in January 1944; commissioned in April 1944.
- USS Boxer (CV-21). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in September 1943; launched in December 1944; commissioned in April 1945.
- USS Leyte (CV-32) (name changed from Crown Point in May 1945). Built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in February 1944; launched in August 1945; commissioned in April 1946.
- USS Kearsarge (CV-33). Built by the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York. Keel laid in March 1944; launched in May 1945; commissioned in March 1946.
- USS Antietam (CV-36). Built by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Keel laid in March 1943; launched in August 1944; commissioned in January 1945.
- USS Princeton (CV-37) (name changed from Valley Forge in November 1944). Built by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Keel laid in September 1943; launched in July 1945; commissioned in November 1945.
- USS Shangri La (CV-38). Built by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Keel laid in January 1943; launched in February 1944; commissioned in September 1944.
- USS Lake Champlain (CV-39). Built by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Keel laid in March 1943; launched in November 1944; commissioned in June 1945.
- USS Tarawa (CV-40). Built by the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Keel laid in March 1944; launched in May 1945; commissioned in December 1945.
- USS Valley Forge (CV-45). Built by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Keel laid in September 1944; launched in November 1945; commissioned in November 1946.
- USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) (name changed from Wright in February 1945). Built by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in August 1944; launched in September 1945; commissioned in May 1946.
In addition to these thirteen carriers, Oriskany (CV-34), built at the New York Navy Yard, was completed in 1950 to the much modified SCB-27A design; Reprisal (CV-35), laid down in July 1944 at the New York Navy Yard and launched in 1945, was scrapped incomplete after tests; and Iwo Jima (CV-46) was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in January 1945 but cancelled in August 1945 and broken up on the shipways. The six Fiscal Year 1945 ships, none of which received names, were assigned to Bethlehem Steel Company (CV-50), New York Navy Yard (CVs 51 & 52), Philadelphia Navy Yard (CV-53) and Norfolk Navy Yard (CVs 54 and 55). Their construction was cancelled in March 1945.
- Displacement: 27,100 tons (standard)
- Dimensions: 888' (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
Between 1947 and 1955, fifteen Essex and Ticonderoga class aircraft carriers were thoroughly modernized. The impending arrival of high-performance jet aircraft and nuclear-armed heavy attack bombers had rendered these still rather new ships almost incapable of executing their most vital missions, while the post-World War II financial climate precluded building replacements. Accordingly, a reconstruction program began in Fiscal Year 1948, with the incomplete Oriskany as the prototype. Two more ships were converted the next year, three in FY 1950 and then, with the Cold War in full bloom, nine more Fiscal Years 1951 to 1953.
Designated SCB-27, the modernization was very extensive, requiring some two years for each carrier. To handle much heavier, faster aircraft, flight deck structure was massively reinforced. Stronger elevators, much more powerful catapults, and new arresting gear was installed. The original four twin 5"/38 gun mounts were removed. The new five-inch gun battery consisted of eight weapons, two on each quarter beside the flight deck. Twin 3"/50 gun mounts replaced the 40mm guns, offering much greater effectiveness through the use of proximity-fuzed ammunition.
A distinctive new feature was a taller, shorter island. To better protect aircrews, ready rooms were moved to below the armored hangar deck, with a large escalator on the starboard side amidships to move airmen up to the flight deck. Internally, aviation gasoline storage was increased by nearly half and its pumping capacity enhanced. Also improved were electrical generating power, fire protection, and weapons stowage and handling facilities. All this added considerable weight: displacement increased by some twenty percent. Blisters were fitted to the hull sides to compensate, widening waterline beam by eight to ten feet. The ships also sat lower in the water, and maximum speed was slightly diminished.
The modernized ships came in two designs, the first nine (SCB-27A) having a pair of H8 hydraulic catapults, the most powerful available in the late '40s. The final six received the SCB-27C update, with much more potent steam catapults, one of two early 1950s British developments that greatly improved aircraft carrier potential. These six were somewhat heavier, and wider, than their sisters. While still in the shipyards, three of the SCB-27Cs were further modified under the SCB-125 project, receiving the second British concept, the angled flight deck, plus an enclosed "hurricane bow" and other improvements. These features were so valuable that they were soon back-fitted to all but one (Lake Champlain) of the other SCB-27 ships. The fourteen fully modernized units were the "journeymen" aviation ships of the late 1950s and 1960s, providing the Navy with much of its attack aircraft carrier (CVA) force and, ultimately, all its anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carriers (CVS).
Between 1954 and 1959, fourteen carriers modernized under SCB-27 were further updated under the SCB-125 program. This work, incorporating new features not known or accepted when the earlier scheme was originated in the later 1940s, greatly enhanced seakeeping and high-performance aircraft operations. Perhaps the most significant new attribute was the British-developed "angled flight deck", in which the carrier's aircraft landing area was slanted several degrees off to port, enabling aircraft to easily "go around" in the event of recovery difficulties. The benefits this brought to carrier aviation operating safety can hardly be overemphasized.
Another notable SCB-125 alteration included moving the after aircraft elevator from the centerline to the starboard deck edge, greatly facilitating aircraft handling. In fact, this change had already been made on the last six of the SCB-27s, the steam-catapult SCB-27C type, the final three of which received both modernization schemes in the same shipyard session. Blending the flight deck's forward end into the upper hull form, creating the so-called "hurricane" bow, constituted the final significant change. This concept, already adopted for the Forrestal class "super carriers" then under construction, improved seakeeping in rough seas. It also provided a covered location for the carriers' secondary conning station, whose portholes, visible across the upper bow plating, were a distinctive feature of the refitted ships.
Though the SCB-125 program significantly changed the ships' appearance, the scope of the work was much less than that of SCB-27 and generally took seven or eight months' shipyard time, rather than the two years or more that was typical of the earlier modernization. The exception was Oriskany, the SCB-27 prototype and the last to get the SCB-125 treatment. Uniquely, she had her hydraulic catapults replaced with more powerful steam types and received many other improvements in a reconstruction that lasted twenty-eight months in 1957-59.
As quickly as new carriers and steam catapult conversions joined the fleet during the later '50s, the seven SCB-125 hydraulic catapult ships were reassigned to the anti-submarine mission, replacing unmodernized carriers. Four of the seven steam catapult carriers also became ASW ships during the 1960s, though some of these operated very little, if at all, in that role. Most of the ASW ships received SQS-23 long-range sonars in 1960-66. Nine ships left active service in 1969-71, as major reductions in fleet strength were implemented. Three more decommissioned in 1972-74.
USS Ticonderoga (CV-14)
Ticonderoga, lead ship of a class, was commissioned in May 1944 and made a West Indies shakedown cruise prior to transiting the Panama Canal to the Pacific in early September. During the next few months, Ticonderoga transported aircraft to Hawaii, took part in underway ordnance replenishment experiments and trained her crew and air group for participation in the war against Japan. After steaming to the western Pacific in October, the carrier launched her first strikes on 5 November 1944, hitting targets ashore and afloat in the northern Philippines area. As part of Task Force 38, she continued her attacks in the vicinity for the next two months, riding out a major typhoon in mid-December.
In January 1945, Ticonderoga took part in raids against Japanese assets in Indochina, China, Luzon and Formosa. Hit by two kamikaze suicide planes on 21 January, she lost over 140 crewmen and had to go to the U.S. for repairs. Ticonderoga returned to the combat area in late May. For the remaining two and a half months of the Pacific War, her planes made regular attacks on the Japanese home islands. From September 1945 into January 1946, she transported veterans home across the Pacific. Inactive after that, Ticonderoga was decommissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in January 1947.
Five years later, Ticonderoga was temporarily reactivated and sent to the New York Naval Shipyard to receive an extensive SCB-27C modernization. Redesignated CVA-14, she recommissioned in September 1954 and served with the Atlantic Fleet for two years, making one Mediterranean deployment in 1955-56. More modifications followed in 1956-57, providing an angled flight deck and enclosed bow to fully suit her to operate high-performance jet aircraft. She then returned to the west coast, her home for the rest of her career.
Ticonderoga deployed ten times to the western Pacific in 1957-69. In August 1964, during her sixth WestPac cruise, her planes participated in air strikes against North Vietnamese targets during the Tonkin Gulf Incident that gradually led to massive U.S. involvement in Southeast Asian combat operations. Vietnam War missions dominated Ticonderoga's next four Seventh Fleet deployments. In October 1969, she was redesignated CVS-14 and converted to an antisubmarine warfare support carrier. The ship made two more cruises to Asian waters in that capacity. In 1972, she took part in space flight recovery efforts for the Apollo 16 and 17 Moon flights. Decommissioned in September 1973, USS Ticonderoga was sold for scrapping a year later.
USS Randolph (CV-15)
Randolph was commissioned in October 1944 and went to the Pacific in December 1944, beginning combat operations in February 1945, when she sent her planes to attack targets in the Japanese home islands and the Bonins in support of the Iwo Jima invasion. On 11 March, Randolph was hit by a suicide plane while she was anchored at Ulithi Atoll. She lost 25 crewmen but was repaired locally and returned to action in early April. From then until late May 1945, the carrier actively participated in the Okinawa campaign, serving as flaghship of Task Force 58 during the latter part of this period. For the rest of the Pacific War, Randolph launched strikes against the enemy home islands.
With peace restored, Randolph recrossed the Pacific in September 1945, transiting the Panama Canal to join the Atlantic Fleet. Over the next few months, she made two round-trips to the Mediterranean to bring home servicemen. The carrier visited European waters twice while serving as a training ship in 1946-47 and was placed out of commission at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in February 1948. After receiving an SCB-27A modernization, Randolph recommissioned in July 1953 as an attack aircraft carrier, with the new classification CVA-15. She deployed to the Mediterranean for Sixth Fleet duty in 1954.
In 1955-56, Randolph was again modernized, this time receiving an angled flight deck and enclosed "hurricane" bow. She made three more Sixth Fleet deployments during 1956-59 and was then converted to an anti-submarine support aircraft carrier and reclassified CVS-15. Over the next decade, she took part in anti-submarine exercises in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and off Northern Europe. She also acted as support ship for early "Mercury" manned space flights and participated in Cuban missile crisis operations. USS Randolph was decommissioned in February 1969 and laid up in the Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in June 1973, she was sold for scrapping in May 1975.
USS Hancock (CV-19)
Hancock was commissioned in April 1944; she arrived in the Pacific the following summer and conducted her first combat operations during raids on the Ryukyus, Formosa and the Philippines in mid-October. Later in the month, Hancock's planes hit Japanese warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. During the remainder of 1944, she continued to attack targets in the Philippines area, despite receiving modest damage from a suicide plane on 25 November and from a typhoon in mid-December.
In January 1945, Hancock helped prepare for landings on Luzon and took part in Task Force 38's raid into the South China sea. A tragic aircraft accident on her flight deck killed 50 of her men and injured many more on 21 January, but did not prevent her from sending planes to attack Okinawa on the following day. The carrier hit targets in the Japanese home islands in February and March, plus lending aerial assistance to the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On 20 March, Hancock was lightly damaged when a kamikaze crashed nearby. She was much more seriously hurt by a suicide plane on 7 April, while supporting the Okinawa operation, suffering the loss of 62 crewmen killed and requiring shipyard repairs in the United States. Returning to the western Pacific in July and attacking Wake Island while en route, Hancock struck targets in Japan during the final weeks of World War II. After Japan's August 1945 capitulation, she supported initial occupation efforts, then went back to the U.S. in October. The rest of 1945 and the first four months of 1946 were mainly spent transportating men and aircraft.
Hancock was inactive from April 1946 until February 1954, when she recommissioned after receiving an SCB-27C modernization that fitted her to operate heavier, higher-performance aircraft. Among her new equipment was a pair of steam catapults, the first installed on a U.S. Navy carrier. Reclassified CVA-19, she deployed to the Far East in 1955-56, then was further modernized with an angled flight deck and enclosed bow. Back in service in late 1956, Hancock began nearly two decades of continuous Pacific Fleet operations, including frequent western Pacific cruises with the Seventh Fleet. From 1965 through 1972, she was a regular Vietnam War participant, making seven combat deployments. In April and May 1975, while on her final WestPac tour, she was one of the ships that conducted the evacuation of South Vietnam when that long-suffering country was overrun by North Vietnamese forces. Redesignated CV-19 in June 1975, Hancock decommissioned in late January 1976. She was sold for scrapping in August of that year.
USS Boxer (CV-21)
Boxer was commissioned in April 1945, too late to yake part in World War II operations, but was actively employed in the Pacific during the post-war years, making ten deployments to the Western Pacific from September 1945 into 1957. Boxer had just returned to the U.S. from her third deployment when the Korean War broke out in late June 1950. She carried badly-needed Air Force and Navy planes and personnel to the war zone in a record Pacific transit during July, then was quickly outfitted for combat service and spent September and October 1950 providing air support for United Nations' forces fighting ashore.
Boxer made three more Korean War cruises, in March–October 1951, March–September 1952 and May–November 1953. Her planes, along with those from other Task Force 77 carriers, hit transportation and infrastructure targets in North Korea and gave close air support to troops fighting on the front lines. On 5 August 1952, while engaged in combat operations, she suffered damage and casualties when a fire broke out in her hangar deck, but was able to return to duty off Korea after two weeks of repairs. Following her last Korean War deployment, which extended into the post-Armistice period, Boxer served as a Seventh Fleet attack carrier (CVA) on two more cruises, in 1954 and in 1955-56. Converted to an anti-submarine warfare aircraft carrier (CVS) in early 1956, she made a final Western Pacific tour in that role during 1956-57.
Later in 1957, Boxer operated briefly as an experimental assault helicopter aircraft carrier, an indication of things to come for her, the Navy and the Marine Corps. In 1958, she was flagship for Operation "Hardtack", a nuclear weapons test program in the Central Pacific. Late in that year, she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet as an "interim amphibious assault ship"and was formally redesignated LPH-4 on 30 January 1959.
For the next decade, Boxer and her "main battery" of Marines and transport helicopters were vital components of the United States' amphibious warfare capabilities. She mainly operated in the Caribbean area, including participation in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1965 Dominican Republic intervention. She deployed to European waters in late 1964 to participate in Operation "Steel Pike". In mid-1965, Boxer served as an aircraft transport, carrying more than two-hundred Army helicopters and airplanes to Vietnam as part of the deployment of the First Cavalry Division (Air Mobile). After serving as a spacecraft recovery vessel in early 1966, she made a second trip to Vietnam, this time carrying Marine Corps aircraft. Boxer decommissioned in December 1969 and was sold for scrapping in February 1971.
USS Leyte (CV-32)
Leyte was commissioned in April 1946. Her initial cruise was made along the South American Pacific coast in the fall of 1946. That was followed by three years of Atlantic Fleet operations, including four deployments to the Mediterranean in 1947, 1949 and 1950. Leyte had just returned from the last of those tours in August 1950 when she was quickly prepared for another, taking her to the other side of the world to augment naval forces during the Korean War. She operated off Korea from October 1950 into January 1951, providing nearly 4000 aircraft sorties to support UN forces ashore. During this cruise, one of her aviators, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., performed an act of heroism for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Leyte returned to the Atlantic in February 1951 and spent the rest of her service career there. She made two more Mediterranean deployments later in 1951 and in 1952-53, receiving the new designation CVA-32 in October 1952. During the last part of 1953, Leyte was converted to an anti-submarine warfare support carrier and was redesignated CVS-32. On 16 October 1953, while in the Boston Naval Shipyard undergoing this conversion, she suffered an explosion and fire that killed 37 men and injured many more. The carrier returned to the active fleet in January 1954 and conducted anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean over the next five years. She also served briefly as an interim amphibious assault ship in 1957, with her normal air group replaced with Marine Corps transport helicopters.
USS Leyte was decommissioned in May 1959, and simultaneously reclassified as an aircraft transport, with the new hull number AVT-10. She remained in the reserve fleet for another decade and was sold for scrapping in September 1970.
USS Kearsarge (CV-33)
Kearsarge was commissioned in March 1946 and spent her first year of service in training operations in the western Atlantic and Caribbean. During the later 1940s, Kearsarge made two trips to Europe, the first a summer 1947 midshipmen training cruise and the second a mid-1948 deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. In early 1950, the carrier was transferred to the west coast, where she decommissioned in June for extensive modernization work.
Recommissioned in February 1952, Kearsarge now had a stronger flight deck, new island and many other changes to her appearance and capabilities. She made a Korean War combat cruise in September 1952 - February 1953, during which time she was reclassified as an attack aircraft carrier and redesignated CVA-33. From mid-1953 to 1958, Kearsarge had regular tours of duty with the Seventh Fleet in the Far East. Her 1955 deployment included supporting the Nationalist Chinese evacuation of the Tachen Islands. The carrier was again modernized in 1956-57, receiving an angled flight deck and enclosed "hurricane" bow to better equip her to operate high-performance aircraft.
Kearsarge was assigned a new role in October 1958, becoming an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) support aircraft carrier, with the new designation CVS-33. In that capacity, she operated ASW fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters to protect the fleet against the threat of hostile underwater attack. Regular Seventh Fleet deployments continued through the late 1950s and the 1960s, including indirect involvement in the Vietnam Conflict. In 1962 and 1963, Kearsarge carried out a new mission, serving as recovery ship for the orbital flights of astronauts Walter Schirra and Gordon Cooper. Made redundant by the general fleet drawdown of the late 1960s and early 1970s, USS Kearsarge was decommissioned in February 1970. Following three years in the Reserve Fleet, she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in May 1973 and sold for scrapping in February 1974.
USS Oriskany (CV-34)
Oriskany was built at the New York Navy Yard, and although launched in October 1945, construction was suspended in August 1947 and she was completed to a revised design that was also used in modernizing several other ships of the Essex and Ticonderoga classes. Commissioned in September 1950, Oriskany deployed to the Mediterranean Sea between May and October 1951 and steamed around Cape Horn to join the Pacific Fleet in May 1952. She made one Korean War combat cruise, from September 1952 to May 1953.
Following the end of the Korean conflict, Oriskany continued her Pacific Fleet service for more than two more decades, deploying regularly to the Western Pacific for tours of duty with the Seventh Fleet. She was out of commission from January 1957 until March 1959, during which time she was modernized with a new angled flight deck, steam catapults, an enclosed "hurricane" bow and many other improvements that permitted safer operation of high-performance aircraft. In 1961, she became the first aircraft carrier to be fitted with the revolutionary Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS).
Oriskany's second war began with her 1965 WestPac cruise, during which her planes hit targets in North and South Vietnam. Several more combat tours followed as the Southeast Asian conflict waxed and waned. Tragedy struck the carrier on 26 October 1966, during her second Vietnam War deployment, when fire ravaged her forward compartments, killing 44 members of her crew and air group. Oriskany was repaired in the U.S., returned to the war zone in mid-1967 and rendered assistance to USS Forrestal when that carrier also suffered a major fire. Following twenty-six years of service, USS Oriskany was decommissioned in September 1976. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1989 and sold for scrapping in 1994. However, after a prolonged effort that exhibited the perilous state of the domestic ship-breaking industry at the end of the Twentieth Century, she was repossessed in 1997 and spent nearly a decade awaiting final disposition. On 17 May 2006, following careful preparations, Oriskany was deliberately sunk off Pensacola, Florida, to serve as an artificial reef and sport diving attraction.
USS Antietam (CV-36)
Antietam was commissioned in January 1945. She transited the Panama Canal to the Pacific in June and was en route to the Western Pacific war zone when Japan capitulated in August 1945. Antietam operated in Far Eastern waters during the first years of the post-war era, returning to the United States in 1949, when she was decommissioned and placed in the Reserve Fleet. Recommissioned in January 1951, in response to Korean War requirements, the carrier made one combat deployment, between September 1951 and March 1952.
In September–December 1952, after joining the Atlantic Fleet, Antietam was modified to receive the U.S. Navy's first angled flight deck. During the next few years, she served as the test platform for this feature, which was to revolutionize carrier flight operations. After being rated as an attack aircraft carrier (CVA-36) from October 1952 to August 1953, she was thereafter classified as an antisubmarine support aircraft carrier, with the hull number CVS-36. In that role, Antietam made Sixth Fleet cruises in the Mediterranean Sea in 1955 and in 1956-57. She was then assigned to carrier flight training duty, generally operating in waters near Pensacola, Florida. Relieved as training carrier in October 1962, she was decommissioned for the last time in May 1963. Following a decade in the Reserve Fleet, USS Antietam was sold for scrapping in February 1974.
USS Princeton (CV-37)
Princeton was commissioned in November 1945, a few months after the end of World War II. She operated in the Atlantic until June 1946, then went to the Pacific, where she spent the rest of her long career. Princeton deployed to the western Pacific twice during the later 1940s, initially in 1946 and again in 1948. The Truman Administration's defense cutbacks brought her decommissioning in June 1949, but she was recalled to active service upon the outbreak of war in Korea a year later.
Princeton recommissioned in August 1950 with a largely Naval Reserve crew and began the first of three Korean War combat tours late in the year. She operated with Task Force 77 in support of United Nations forces in Korea from December 1950 to August 1951, from April to October 1952 and from March 1953 to the end of the conflict that summer. The carrier was redesignated CVA-37 in October 1952.
In January 1954, Princeton was again reclassified from attack aircraft carrier to anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier, with new hull number CVS-37. In this role, she operated in the eastern Pacific and in Asiatic waters, deploying to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf area in 1957-58. Though scheduled for decommissioning after that, Princeton was instead redesignated LPH-5 in March 1959 and converted into an amphibious assault ship.
As an LPH, she carried U.S. Marines and their helicopters in the then-new mission of vertical envelopment of amphibious warfare objectives. Princeton continued her pattern of alternating eastern and western Pacific operations and was heavily envolved in the war in Southeast Asia. She landed Marines at Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, in May 1965 and transported Marine aircraft from the U.S. to the combat zone during the summer of that year. Again deploying to the Vietnam area in February–August 1966, she supported Marine and U.S. Army units in several combat operations. During the rest of the decade, Princeton continued her active participation in the Vietnam War during annual Western Pacific tours. In April 1969 she also served as a space recovery ship for the Apollo 10 lunar mission. After two and a half decades of service, USS Princeton was decommissioned and striken from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1970. She was sold for scrapping in May 1971.
USS Shangri La (CV-38)
Shangri-La, named after the jestful remark by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to queries made in 1942 as to where the Doolittle Raiders came from, was commissioned in September 1944, and went to the Pacific early in 1945 to join the war against Japan. Her combat operations began in late April, with an attack on Okino Daito Jima, followed by strikes on Okinawa and the Japanese home islands over the next four months. During much of that time, she served as flagship of Task Forces 38 and 58. After Japan's surrender, Shangri-La remained in the western Pacific until October 1945. The carrier was active in 1946 and into 1947, participating in the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests and making a cruise to Australia. She was decommissioned in November 1947 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Recommissioned in May 1951, Shangri-La served with the Atlantic Fleet until November 1952, when she decommissioned to receive a combined SCB-27C and SCB-125 modernization. She had been reclassified CVA-38 in October 1952, and, when the upgrade work was completed and she recommissioned in January 1955, the carrier featured a greatly changed appearance, with angled flight deck, enclosed bow, new island, steam catapults and many other improvements. Shangri-La spent the next five years with the Pacific Fleet, making several cruises with the Seventh Fleet in the Far East.
Shangri-La transferred to the Atlantic in March 1960, and began a series of deployments to the Mediterranean Sea early in the next year, alternating with Second Fleet service nearer to the U.S. She was reclassified CVS-38 in June 1969, in preparation a new anti-submarine warfare support role, but continued to carry an attack air group for her final overseas cruise. This voyage, beginning in March 1970, took Shangri-La through the south Atlantic and Indian Ocean to take part in Vietnam combat operations. Upon return to the U.S. east coast in December 1970, she began inactivation preparations, leading to a final decommissioning in July 1971 and lay up at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. USS Shangri-La was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1982 and sold for scrapping in August 1988.
USS Lake Champlain (CV-39)
Lake Champlain was commissioned in June 1945, and she participated in Operation "Magic Carpet" later in the year, helping to transport service members home from Europe. While engaged in that activity in late November 1945, she set a trans-Atlantic speed record. Lake Champlain was decommissioned in February 1947 and remained in reserve until the Korean War and Cold War greatly increased the demand for active aircraft carriers.
Following a modernization that gave her a strengthened flight deck, new island and other improvements, Lake Champlain was recommissioned in September 1952 and was soon thereafter redesignated CVA-39. She transited the Suez Canal in May 1953, eastbound to join Task Force 77 for Korean War service. Arriving in the war zone in mid-June, she had six weeks of active combat duty before the Korean Armistice stopped the fighting. The carrier remained in the Far East until October 1953, when she returned to the U.S. east coast by way of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
During the next four years, Lake Champlain made several Sixth Fleet cruises in the Mediterranean, including a crisis deployment in April–July 1957. In August 1957, she was converted to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier and redesignated CVS-39. In that role, she continued her Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean assignments for another eight years, including participation in the Cuban Quarantine in October and November 1962. In addition to her normal anti-submarine activities, Lake Champlain conducted midshipmen training cruises, acted as recovery ship for manned space flights and assisted in hurricane relief activities.
By the early 1960s, Lake Champlain had become the only "axial" (or straight) flight deck fixed-wing aircraft carrier in a fleet that had long-since embraced the revolutionary angled flight deck. Incapable of safe operation of modern aircraft, and rendered redundant by the construction of new "super-carriers", she was decommissioned in May 1966. USS Lake Champlain was striken from the Naval Vessel Register in December 1969 and sold for scrapping in July 1972.
USS Tarawa (CV-40)
Tarawa was commissioned in December 1945, making her shakedown cruise to the Caribbean in early 1946 and joining the Pacific Fleet in July. From mid-1946 until April 1947, the new carrier operated in the central and western Pacific, then spent more than a year in the vicinity of the U.S. west coast. Tarawa began a voyage to the east coast "the long way round" beginning in late September 1948, calling on ports in China, Singapore, Ceylon, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean before arriving at Norfolk, Virginia, in February 1949. She was placed out of commission at the end of the following June.
Tarawa was recalled to active duty after the outbreak of the Korean War, recommissioning in February 1951. She spent the war years in the Atlantic area and with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, and was redesignated CVA-40 in October 1952. From September 1953 until September 1954, Tarawa cruised around the World eastbound, conducting operations in the Mediterranean and the Far East along the way. Upon her return to the Atlantic coast, she began conversion to an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) support aircraft carrier. Redesignated CVS-40 in January 1955, she was employed for the next five years in ASW and helicopter amphibious exercises in the east coast and Caribbean areas.
Decommissioned again in May 1960, Tarawa entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was reclassified as an aircraft transport in May 1961, with the new hull number AVT-12, but saw no service in that role. In June 1967, USS Tarawa was stricken from the list of Naval vessels. She was sold for scrapping in October 1968.
USS Valley Forge (CV-45)
Valley Forge was built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, paid for by a special war bond drive in that city. Commissioned in November 1946, she transferred to the Pacific Fleet in the following year. Valley Forge made a cruise to Australia and the Far East early in 1948 and then steamed the rest of the way around the World. In May 1950, she again deployed to the Western Pacific. She was the only U.S. aircraft carrier in that region when the Korean War broke out in late June.
For the next three years, Valley Forge was heavily engaged in Korean War operations, making four separate combat tours. During this time, in October 1952, she was redesignated CVA-45. With her flight deck essentially unchanged from its World War II design, Valley Forge was increasingly unable to handle the new high-performance, heavier jet aircraft of the post-Korean War era and, in January 1954, she was reclassified an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) support carrier with the designation CVS-45. Operating in the Atlantic, she served in this role for seven years.
In June 1961, Valley Forge was given a new mission, as an amphibious assault ship, and redesignated LPH-8. Carrying a force of helicopter-born Marines, she was stationed in the Pacific for the rest of her career, making five more Far Eastern deployments. The last three of these, in 1965-69, were largely spent on combat operations off Vietnam. USS Valley Forge decommissioned in January 1970 and was sold for scrapping in October 1971.
USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)
Philippine Sea was commissioned in May 1946, and made an initial cruise to the Caribbean, then took part in Operation "Highjump", the 1947 expedition to the Antarctic led by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. In 1948 and again in 1949, Philippine Sea deployed to the Mediterranean, with a period of Arctic operations intervening in late 1948. Following exercises in the Caribbean and the western Atlantic, in May 1950 the carrier was sent through the Panama Canal to join the Pacific Fleet.
When war erupted in Korea late in June 1950, Philippine Sea was soon ordered to steam westward to support United Nations forces as they attempted to defend the Republic of Korea against Communist aggression. She entered action in early August, and thrust air power into the conflict for ten months as the fighting front retreated, advanced northward, retreated and advanced again, and finally stabilized near where it had started a year earlier. The carrier returned to the U.S. in June 1951, but made two more Korean combat tours, one in January–July 1952 and the last in January–July 1953. During this time, in October 1952, she was redesignated CVA-47.
With the fighting over, Philippine Sea continued her pattern of Far Eastern tours with a deployment in March–November 1954, during which her planes shot down two attacking Chinese fighters off Hainan Island. She returned to the Western Pacific in April–November 1955, and was then converted to an anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carrier and redesignated CVS-47. In that role, Philippine Sea made two more cruises in Asian waters, one in the Spring of 1957 and the last in January–July 1958. She was decommissioned in December 1958. Reclassified as an aircraft transport, with the hull number AVT-11, she spent more than a decade in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. USS Philippine Sea was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in December 1969 and sold for scrapping in March 1971.
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