The USS ESSEX CV9 And Essex Class Carriers of World War II
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese, under the leadership of Admiral Yamamoto, lead a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. The attack was devastating and severely crippled the US Pacific fleet. However on the day of the attack, the three U.S. Aircraft carriers in the Pacific, the USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, and the USS Saratoga, were not at Pearl Harbor and escaped destruction. By not destroying the carriers, Yamamoto, had unwittingly changed naval warfare forever. No longer would naval battles be fought battle ship against battle ship, airplanes; would now be the primary weapon attacking ships of the opposing force making the aircraft carrier the key in naval engagements. The USS Essex CV9 was America’s newest, fastest and largest class of aircraft carrier, the aircraft carrier that would serve as a benchmark for all other World War two aircraft carriers. The following is a brief account of the USS Essex CV9 and its roll in the Pacific theater during World War II. By the spring of 1941, a new faster and more powerful class of aircraft carrier was being built, the Essex Class carrier. This new class of aircraft carrier was so impressive that on August 8th, 1945, the commander of the USS English, a destroyer that operated with the Essex sent this dispatch: “What do they mean ‘Essex-class?’ She is in a class by herself.” (1945 Newport News Shipyard Bulletin. Pg. 12 Para 2). The USS Essex CV9 would be the fourth ship in U.S. navy history to carry the name Essex and the first of the large class carriers of WWII. The USS Essex’s keel was laid on April 28th, 1941, in Newport News, Virginia. The New Carrier was launched on July 31st, 1942, and was commissioned December 31. Captain D.B. Duncan would be the Essex’s first skipper and in a speech he gave at the commissioning said “It is my intention and expectation that between us we shall make the name of the ESSEX carry fear and destruction to our enemies, win the praise of our friends, and be a everlasting credit to our country and our flag” (1945. USS Essex Buccaneer. Pg.1 Para 2) Those words had become the ships creed throughout her subsequent missions of war. With the launching of this great ship other Essex class carriers soon followed among them the Yorktown CV10, Intrepid CV11, Hornet CV12, Franklin CV13, Ticonderoga CV14, Randolph CV15, Lexington CV16, Bunker hill CV17, Wasp CV18, Hancock CV19, Bennington CV20 and the Boxer CV21.The huge carrier had a speed of 33 knots, was armament with 12 five inch guns and carried a crew of 3,448 sailors. The Essex’s flight deck was 870 feet in length and 109 in width and displaces approximately 30,000 tons. Though small by today’s standards in 1942 this new carrier was enormous. Following her shakedown cruise the Essex passed through the Panama Canal into the Pacific and reported for combat duty on May 18th, 1943 and quickly earned the title as the “Fightingest Ship in the Navy.” The USS Essex won 13 Battlestars, the most of any ship in her class, and fought in sixty-eight combat operations against the Japanese, starting with the Marcus and Wake Island assault in August and October 1943, straight through to the final victory over Japan on August 15, 1946.
my father Howard Johnson (sitting) and his buddy’s aboard the USS ESSEX 1944
On November 25th, 1944, the Essex was at a position east of Luzon so she could launch air strikes on the remaining Japanese force in the northern Philippines. At about 1300 hours or 1:00, A Japanese kamikaze airplane identified as a Yokosuka D4Y Suisei dive bomber, otherwise known as a “Judy” attacked from the starboard side and crashed into the portside edge of the flight deck just forward of the number two elevator and destroyed a 20 millimeter antiaircraft gun emplacement section killing 15 members of a all black gun crew and wounding 44 other sailors. My father was at his battle station on the flight deck fighting fires at the time of the attack and was, though not seriously, one of the injured. The Essex was launching planes at the time of the attack and the Judy narrowly missed several Planes that were fully gassed and armed waiting to take off. The damage to the flight deck was quickly patched up and the ship continued launching planes.
Video of the kamikaze attack on the USS Essex
USS Essex takes a Kamikaze hit aft of the forward elevator. She was able to survive due to damage control improvements
When the Essex returned to Leyte Gulf in June of 1945, after the campaign in Okinawa, the Essex had completed the longest combat ever made by an aircraft carrier in a theatre of action. The carrier had assisted in the final assault on the Japanese mainland and was in Tokyo Bay at the time of the signing of the Japanese surrender documents. She was the first carrier to return to the United States at the end of the war. When she arrived in the U.S., the USS Essex CV9 had steamed some 233,419 nautical miles since her commissioning in December of 1942. The Essex was placed out of commission and in reserve on 09 January 1947. She was then modernized and re fitted in the late 40’s and early 50’s to accommodate the new jet aircraft and was re-commissioned January 16th, 1951. On 23 August 1951 she went into combat in Korea, the first carrier to launch F2H Banshee twinjet fighters on combat missions. In the 1960’s the USS Essex was converted into an anti-submarine support carrier and re-designated CVS9. However in June of 1969 she was once again decommissioned and by 1973 she was taken off the U.S. Naval Resistor all together. Two years later, in July of 1975 the “Fightingest Ship in the Navy” was sold for scrap, a sad end to a once mighty and noble ship.
Cool story Glad you Dad made it. My Grandpa was in the navy in WWII had his back broke when a plane crashed the ship he was on pinning him against something. I never got the full story because he died when I was 8 years old of emphysema.
Grandpa served on USS Ticonderoga as an aircraft mechanic. I've been told that he was present at Pearl during the attack. But he never really talks about it. I was looking at a small black Elgin clock with an illuminated dial on an endtable, at his house last weekend, and he told me it came out of a Corsair that crashed on a cliff either on, or coming from an attack on, Saipan. ("Most of it was too high up and was left there"). I asked a question, but he just chuckled and changed the subject. I didn't press the subject. He has terminal cancer that will take him soon, but not today.
Edited by scratchy wilson, Apr. 16 2010 - 11:02 PM.
My grandfather was on the USS Hornet (CV-8), witnessed the Doolittle Raid and Battle of Midway.
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My Dad was a gunner in an SB2C Helldiver on the Yorktown (CV10), Air Group 1 May '44 thru September '44. Battle of the Philippine Sea, Bhonin Islands, Iwo, Chi Chi, and HaHa Jima were all islands they bombed. Ditched once and spent 21 hours in a raft with his pilot until picked up by a tin can. He saw it all...
Commissioned in 1943, she set more records than any other Essex Class carrier in the history of naval aviation.The ship was the oldest working carrier in the United States Navy when decommissioned in 1991. An Essex-class carrier, LEXINGTON was originally named the USS CABOT. During World War II, final construction was being completed at Massachusetts’ Fore River Shipyard when word was received that the original carrier named USS LEXINGTON, CV-2, had been sunk in the Coral Sea. The new carrier’s name was changed to LEXINGTON.
After training maneuvers and a shakedown cruise, LEXINGTON joined the Fifth Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The Fifth Fleet was established April 26, 1944, at this time it was Central Pacific Force. During World War II, the carrier participated in nearly every major operation in the Pacific Theater and spent a total of 21 months in combat. Her planes destroyed 372 enemy aircraft in the air, and 475 more on the ground. She sank or destroyed 300,000 tons of enemy cargo and damaged an additional 600,000 tons. The ship’s guns shot down 15 planes and assisted in downing five more.
The Japanese reported LEXINGTON sunk no less than four times! Yet, each time she returned to fight again, leading the propagandist Tokyo Rose to nickname her “The Blue Ghost.” The name is a tribute to the ship and the crew and air groups that served aboard her.
After the war, LEXINGTON was briefly decommissioned (1947-1955). When reactivated, she operated primarily with the Seventh Fleet out of San Diego, California. Although not involved in actual combat, LEXINGTON kept an offshore vigil during tensions in Formosa, Laos, and Cuba.
In 1962, she sailed into Pensacola, Florida, and began training operations, eventually being officially designated CVT-16, Navy Training Carrier. Corpus Christi is privileged to be selected as the permanent home to this national treasure.
Edited by Joel74, Mar. 14 2017 - 10:53 AM.
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