Fleet Aircraft Carriers - CV .
Lexington Class . 1927-28 . 33,000 tons ; 8- 8" guns ; 80 aircraft ; 888 feet ; 34 knots.
Lexington (CV-2) and Saratoga (CV-3) were authorized in 1916 as battle cruisers and laid down in 1920, then converted by treaty to large fast aircraft carriers. The 8" guns were removed early in the war to make room for flight controls. Flight deck 880 x 85 feet. Lexington had a gas line explode and was lost at Coral Sea. Improvements in damage control techniques, including purging gas lines with nitrogen, would have saved Lex later in the war. Sara's battle cruiser hull survived two torpedo attacks. As newer carriers became available, she went to the Indian Ocean for a year to train British crews with American aircraft where her large decks were desired.
Ranger . 1934 . 14,500 tons ; 72 aircraft ; 769 feet ; 29 knots.
Laid down Sept 1931, Ranger (CV-4) was the first U.S. ship designed as a carrier and with the thought to be smaller and more numerous. Served in the Atlantic.
Yorktown Class . 1936, 1938 . 19,900 tons; 83 aircraft ; 809 feet;
Yorktown (CV-5) and Enterprise (CV-6) Two deck catapults and one athwart ship catapult on the hanger deck (late removed). The eight 8" guns in four double turrets were removed in early 1942. Turbo electric power.
Yorktown was damaged by aircraft at Coral Sea and fought while only partially repaired at Midway, where she was damaged again. Yorktown was finally sunk by a submarine the next day before she had recovered.
Enterprise (CV-6) fought the entire war and accumulated the most battle stars (20) for service in the Pacific War.
Wasp (CV-7) 1940 . 14,700 tons, 70 aircraft ; 8- 5" ; 741 feet ; 29 knots.
Designed as another smaller and light weight carrier, with modifications to correct flaws found with Ranger (CV-4). Laid down 1Apr36 and commissioned 25Apr40, operational 11Oct40. She showed that Army P-40 could be launched from a carrier, this would allow such planes to be ferried to distant airbases. May41 participated in Neutrality Patrol and continued qualification of air crews. Ferried AAF P-40s as part of US occupation of Iceland in July. Moved training area to search for German raider, Adm Hipper in Aug41. Continued training and patrol as the undeclared war in the Atlantic became hotter. Went to Europe when war was declared and ferried Spitfires to Malta, twice. After US carrier losses with Saratoga (CV-3) damaged by submarine and Lexington (CV-2) sunk at Coral Sea - Wasp departed for the Pacific in June while the Battle of Midway raged and where another carrier was lost, Yorktown (CV-5), leaving only two active carriers in the Pacific.
Hornet (CV-8) . 1941 . 20,000 tons ; 810 feet ; 8- 5" ; 33 knots;
Commissioned 20 Oct 1941 as an addition to the Yorktown class. [more]
-- Gap in fleet carrier production --
Essex Class . 1943-46 . 27,100 tons ; 82 aircraft ; 888 feet ;
The Essex class of 14 ships was to be an upgrade to the Yorktown class and planned to carry the same number of aircraft, 82. The design grew into a larger ship that regularly carried 90 aircraft. The design was good; no ships were ever out of service for mechanical reasons. Nine additional Essex class were completed after the war.
Essex (CV-9) was ordered in 1940, laid down 28Apr41, seven months before Pearl Harbor, launched 31July42 in 15 months. She was commissioned 31 Dec42, 5 months early and engaged in combat 31Aug43 with the second strike on Marcus where Essex (CV-9), the new Yorktown (CV-10), and Independence (CVL-22) launched a day-long attack on Japanese installations and introduced the first combat use of the Grumman F6F Hellcat.
The first removed from service after the war were the badly battle damaged Franklin and Bunker Hill. The Essex class were able to handle the transition to heavier jet aircraft and fought off of the east coast of Korea essentially unmodified. They were later improved with angled deck, steam catapults, and storm bow. The last decommissioned was Lexington (CV-16) in 1977 after 34 years of service. She is a monument at Corpus Christi, TX.
Light Carriers - CVL
Independence Class . 1943 . 11,000 tons ; 45 aircraft ; 622 feet; 33 knots.
Nine light carriers created from Cleveland class light cruiser hulls. This was an emergency measure to provide carriers in early 1943 because the Essex Class, already laid down, were not expected to be ready before late 1943. Five of the cruiser hulls had already been laid down, the first two omitted the armor belt and were commissioned Jan-Feb43. All were commissioned by year end. Wooden flight deck of 525 feet, 2 catapults, 2 elevators, hanger was center third (215 feet) of the former weather deck. 26- 40 mm. The hanger was small; as aircraft became larger, only 33 were carried.
Independence (CVL-22) laid down as CL-59 with expected commission Nov 42, She was launched 22Aug42 as a carrier, commissioned 15Jan43, combat zone July43, first combat 1 Sep43 in the Second Attack on Marcus Island.
Princeton (CVL-23) laid down as CL-61 with expected commission Dec 42. launched 18Oct42, commissioned 25 Feb43, combat zone 9Aug43, first combat 1 Sept43 in occupation of Baker Island. Princeton was lost at Leyte from bomb damage. Three rescue ships were damaged when her magazines went up with 200 killed on carrier and 85 on the assisting ships.
Three ships went to other countries after the war where their economical size was a factor. Cabot (CVL-28) was the last scrapped, in 2001, because of insufficient funds to make her a memorial.
Large Fleet Carriers - CVB .
Midway Class . 1945 . 137 aircraft ; 45,000 tons ; 968 feet ;
Three ships: Midway (CVB-41), F D Roosevelt (CVB-42), and Coral Sea (CVB-43) laid down in late 1943 and completed after the war.