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  • Evolution of Aircraft Carriers

    THE EARLY ATTACK CARRIERSWe have hit the Japanese very hard in the Solomon Islands. We have probably broken the backbone of the power of

    their Fleet. They have still too many aircraft carriers to suit me, but soon we may well sink some more of them. . . . We are going to press our advantages in the Southwest pacific and I am sure that we are destroying far more Japanese air. planes and sinking far more of their ships than they can build.Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of United States, 1942.

    AT THE OUTBREAK of World War II,the United States had in com-mission seven aircraft carriers and oneescort carrier. USS Langley, the ex-perimental ship officially classed asCV-1, had been assigned to duty as aseaplane tender on September 15, 1936.

    After the abrogation by Japan fromdisarmament treaties, the U.S. took arealistic look at its naval strength. ByAct of Congress on May 17, 1938, anincrease of 40,000 tons in aircraftcarriers was authorized. This per-mitted the building of USS H o r n e t(CV-8) and USS Essex (CV-9). OnJune 14, 1940, another increase intonnage was authorized. Among theships built under this program werethe Intrepid and the new Yorktown.On July 19, an additional 200,000tons for carriers was authorized.

    Adm. H. R. Stark, then Chief ofNaval Operations, reported to theSecretary of the Navy: In June 1940,the Congress granted the Navy an11% increase in combat strength and,in July, a further increase of approxi-mately 70%. When these ships andaircraft are completed, the U.S. Navyin underage and overage ships will in-clude 32 battleships, 18 aircraft car-riers, 91 cruisers, 325 destroyers, 185submarines, and 15,000 airplanes. . . .

    B y S c o t M a c D o n a l d

    From 1921 to 1933, the UnitedStates tried the experiment of dis-armament in fact and by example.This experiment failed. It cost usdearly in relative naval strengthbutthe greatest loss is TIME . Dollars can-not buy yesterday. Our present Fleetis strong, but it is not strong enough.

    Additional tonnage was authorizedDecember 23, 1941 and July 9, 1942.

    USS ESSEX (CV-9) was f irst o f a ser ies o fearly attack aircraft carriers of World War II.

    CV-9 was to be the prototype of anespecialy designed 27,000-ton (stand-ard displacement) aircraft carrier,considerably larger than the Enterpiseand smaller than the Saratoga. Thesewere to become known as the Essexclass carrier, although this classifi-cation was dropped in the '50s.

    On September 9, 1940, eight moreof these carriers were ordered andwere to become the Hornet, Franklin,Ticonderoga, Randolph, Lexington,Bunker Hill, Wasp and H a n c o c k ,CV-12 through -19, respectively. Re-use of the Lexington , Wasp a n dHornet names was in line with theNavys intent to carry on the tradi-tions of the fighting predecessors:Lcxington (CV-2) was lost in theBattle of the Coral Sea in May 1942;Wasp (CV-7) was sunk Septemberthat year in the South Pacific whileescorting a troop convoy to Guadal-canal; Hornet (CV-8) was lost thefollowing month in the Battle ofSanta Cruz Islands.

    It is appropriate to comment herethat the ships names at commission-ing date did not all bear the same nameat the date of their programming.Names were changed during construc-tion. Hornet (CV-12) was originallyKearsarge, Ticonderoga (CV-14) was

    F IGHTER A IRCRAFT of Air Group 9 are parked aboard the aircraft During WW II, U.S. sbipyards built and Navy commissioned 16 sistercarrier Essex during her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean in 1943. ships. Including post-war production 24 Essex class were commissioned.


  • USS RANDOLPH (CV-15) was the 13th Essex class carrier to be commis- ing to the builder for post-shakedown work. She participated in the Iwosioned. She was the first of these carriers to enter combat without return- Jima, Okinawa, and Third Fleet operations against Japan in 1945.

    the Hancock , Lex ington ( C V - 1 6 )w a s C a b o t , W a s p ( C V - 1 8 ) w a sOriskany, and Hancock (CV-19) wasoriginally Ticonderoga.

    Last two of the 13 originally pro-grammed CV-9 class aircraft carriers,Bennington (CV-20) and Boxer (CV-21), were ordered on Dec. 15, 1941.

    In drawing up the preliminary de-sign for USS Essex, particular atten-tion was directed at the size of bothher flight and hangar decks. Aircraftdesign had come a long way from thecomparatively light planes used incarriers during the Thirties. Flightdecks now required more takeoff spacefor the heavier fighters and bombersbeing developed. Most of the first-linecarriers of the pre-war years wereequipped with flush deck catapults,but owing to the speed and size ofthese ships very little catapulting wasdoneexcept for experimental pur-poses. With the advent of war, air-plane weights began to go up as armorand armament got heavier; crewsize aboard the planes also increased.It was inevitable, noted the Bureau ofAeronautics toward the wars end in1945, that catapult launchings wouldbecome more common under thesecircumstances. Some carrier com-manding officers reported that asmuch as 40 per cent of launchings

    NOVEMBER 1962

    were effected by the ships catapults.The hangar area design came in for

    many conferences between Bureausand much more official correspondence.Not only were the supporting struc-tures to the flight deck to carry theincreased weight of the landing andparked aircraft, but they were to havesufficient strength to support the tric-ing up of spare fuselages and parts(50 per cent of each plane typeaboard) under the flight deck and stillprovide adequate working space forthe men using the area below.

    At present, noted the Bureau ofConstruction and Repair in Apri l1940, it appears that a few of thesmaller fuselages can be triced upoverhead in locations where encroach-ment on head-room is acceptable, andthat the larger fuselages will have tobe stowed on deck in the after end ofthe hangar. The number to be stowedwill depend upon the amount of reduc-tion in operating space in the hangarwhich can be accepted.

    Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, then As-sistant Chief BUAE R, answered: Thequestion of spare airplanes is nowunder reconsideration in correspond-ence with the Fleet and the resultsdecided upon will have a bearing inthe case of CV-9.

    A startling innovation in CV-9 was

    a port side deck edge elevator in addi-tion to two inboard elevators. Earlier,B U A ER experimented with a ramparrangement between the hangar andflight decks, up which aircraft werehauled by crane. This proved tooslow. BUSHIPS and the Chief Engineerof A.B.C. Elevator Co., designed theengine for the side elevator. Essen-tially, it was a standard elevator, 60feet by 34 in platform surface, whichtravelled vertically on the port side ofthe ship. Capt. Donald B. Duncan,Essexs first commanding officer, wasenthusiastic. After the f i rst fourmonths of operation after commission-ing, he wrote to BUA E R:

    The elevator has functioned mostsatisfactorily in all respects and it isdesired to point out some of the oper-ational advantages realized with thistype of elevator.

    Since there is no large hole in theflight deck when the elevator is in thedown position, it is easier to continuenormal operations on deck, irrespec-tive of the position of the elevator.The elevator increases the effectivedeck space when it is in the up posi-tion by providing additional parkingroom outside the normal contours ofthe flight deck, and increases the effec-tive area on the hangar deck by theabsence of elevator pits.


  • The elevator performed well, itsmachinery less complex than the twoinboard elevators, requiring about 20per cent fewer man-hours of mainte-nance. Capt. Duncan recommendedthat consideration be given using twodeck edge elevators, one on each side.B U A E R, in forwarding the recom-mendation to BUSHIPS, offered anotheradvantage for consideration: a con-ventional elevator suffering a casualtywhile in the down position wouldleave a large hole in the flight deckwhile the deck edge type would causeonly minor and non-critical loss offlight deck area.

    BUSHIPS, obviously pleased with theoperational performance of the newelevatorthe first of its kindre-luctantly turned down the recom-mendation, however. The Bureaunoted that the addition of a star-board deck-edge elevator would notpermit an Essex class aircraft carrierto transit the Panama Canal. Anyother location for a second such ele-vator would involve structural andarrangement changes too extensive tobe considered.

    On April 28, 1941, keel for the USSEssex was laid at Newport News Ship-b u i l d i n g a n d D r y D o c k C o . O nOctober 2, the following year, herprospective commanding officer filedhis first weekly progress- and readinessreport to the Chief of Naval Oper-ations. He noted that there wasmarked speed-up of work on the shipduring the preceding month and esti-mated that the ship would probablybe delivered on February 1, 1942.

    There are certain items that havebeen authorized for installation on theCV-9-19 class carrier, he said, butwill not be accomplished on this vessel

    USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) was third Essex com-missioned, sponsored by Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt.

    prior to delivery. The ship waslaunched July 31, 1942.

    RAdm. Walter S. Anderson, presi-dent of the dock trials and inspectionteam of CV-9 on December 23, 1942,noted a few of these discrepancies inhis report:

    Due to late authorization of anumber of changes arising out ofrecent war experiences, the volume ofuncompleted hull work was greaterthan normal. . . . The Board regretsthat the catapults for this vessel werenot delivered in time for installation,as military value of the vessel wouldbe much improved thereby. . . . Onlythe starboard flight deck track wasinstalled . . . . This class of c