Planned Liner Conversions .
Four 34,000 ton passenger liners were designated to be converted to large fleet carriers. These were the largest ships in the American merchant fleet. Numbers AVG-2 to AVG-5 were reserved for them. It was decided that better use was as troopships and they became AP-22 to AP-25. The Japanese did make large ship conversions to fleet carrier: Taiyo, Unyo and Chuyo were converted from passenger liners.
Tanker conversions .
Sangamon Class . 1942 . 12,000 tons ; 556 feet ; 34 aircraft ; 2- 5", 22- 40 mm ; 18 knots.
Four (4) ships: Sangamon (ACV-26), Suwanee (ACV-27), Chenango (ACV-28), and Santee (ACV-29) were among 12 tankers acquired by the Navy in Oct 1941 (AO-28, 29, 31, 33) to transport fuel to new bases such as Newfoundland, Iceland, and Pearl Harbor. In the Spring of 1942 these four were sent for conversion to auxiliary aircraft transports, AVG. They were fitted with a 502' by 81' flight deck raised above a hanger, elevators, a catapult, sonar, and enlarged crew and stores facilities. The were recommissioned June thru Sept'42 as auxiliary aircraft carriers, ACV, and departed to support Operation Torch, the North African invasion. With the beginning of 1943, three were assigned to the Pacific . All auxiliary carriers were reclassified as combat ships, escort aircraft carriers, CVE, as of 15July43.
Merchant conversions .
Bogue Class . 1942-43 . 7,800 tons ; 494 feet ; 18 aircraft ; 1 or 2- 5" , 16- 40 mm ; 16 knots.
Twenty (20) ships: ACV-9 to ACV-25. An even split, half went to lend lease. Converted from type C-3 merchant hulls based on Long Island. Flight deck 436 x 79 feet. Equipped with derricks for retrieving seaplanes. Normally carried twelve fighters and nine torpedo bombers.
Prince William Class . 1943-44 . 8,300 tons ; 492 feet ; 21 aircraft ;
2- 5", 20- 40mm ; 18 knots.
Twenty-four (24) ships. Merchant hulls with flight deck of an improved Bogue class. All but one went to lend-lease. The first ship, Prince William (ACV-31) launched 18 May 1942 in Tacoma, commissioned 9 April 1943 and after shakedown, served as an airplane transport in the South Pacific from Jun43 to Jun44, then served as a flight trainer on the East Coast for US and Allied air crews.
The execution of the "Germany first" policy is shown in the distribution of auxiliary carriers in 1942 and 1943 wherein only 15% of productive capacity went to hold in the Pacific and the major effort was to keep Europe supplied through the U-boat blockade and to harass the Nazi in the Mediterranean. Of 54 merchant ship conversions made in American yards, 16 stayed with the US to cover both the Atlantic and the Pacific and 34 went to UK and the Atlantic. The Britains were so short of crews that it took an unacceptable 24 to 30 weeks to make a delivered ship operational, so that US crews were assigned.
Escort Carriers .
Casablanca Class . 1943-44 . 6,730 tons ; 28 aircraft ; 512 feet ; 18 knots.
Fifty (50) ships: CVE-55 to CVE-104. The demand for escort carriers was extensive. The Casablanca Class were built by Kaiser using mass production techniques to a fast transport (P-1), design for speed of construction, but were intended as escort carriers from the ground up. All went to USN, almost all to the Pacific. Twin screws; two lifts; one catapult ; 500 x 108 foot flight deck.
Commencement Bay Class .1944 -1946 . 12,000 tons ; 34 aircraft ; 2- 5" , 36- 40mm ;
553 feet ; 20 knots.
Nineteen (19) ships: CVE-105 to CVE-123. Eight were completed after the war and 3 canceled. This class is lengthened from the Casablanca Class, more nearly Sangamon Class hulls, with other improvements based on experience.
Armed Ships .
CAM - Catapult Armed Merchantmen . 1941.
Thirty-five (35) 5,100 to 9,500 ton, UK merchant ships were armed with a catapult to launch a fighter plane to shoot down Nazi observations planes. The pilots hoped to land at an airfield, but the more likely scenario was to ditch near the CAM to rescue the pilot. Fifty used Hurricanes were allocated. Ten CAM ships were torpedoed and sunk in 1941-42, one was sunk by bombs.
FCS - Fighter Catapult Ships . 1941.
Five Royal Navy ships were equipped with a catapult and two Navy aircraft. Although better armed than CAM ships, one was sunk by aircraft and one was torpedoed in 1941. Two were released in 1942 and the last in 1944. The need for real escort carriers was proven.