Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Independence class aircraft carrier
The Independence class light carriers were a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's interest in Navy shipbuilding plans. In August 1941, with war clearly in prospect, he noted that no new fleet aircraft carriers were expected before 1944 and proposed to quickly convert some of the many cruisers then building. Studies of cruiser-size aircraft carriers had shown their serious limitations, but the crisis following the December 1941 Pearl Harbor disaster demonstrated the urgent need to have more carriers as soon as possible. The Navy responded by greatly accelerating construction of the big Essex class aircraft carriers and, in January 1942, reordering a Cleveland class light cruiser as an aircraft carrier.
Plans developed for this conversion showed much more promise than expected and two more light cruisers were reordered as carriers in February, three in March and a final three in June 1942. Completed in January-December 1943, simultaneously with the first eight Essexes, the nine Independence class ships were vital components of the great offensive that tore through the central and western Pacific from November 1943 through August 1945. Eight of them participated in the June 1944 Battle of the Philippine Sea, which effectively eliminated Japan's carrier air power, supplying 40 percent of the fighters and 36 percent of the torpedo bombers.
The Independence class design featured a relatively short and narrow flight deck and hangar, with a small island. To compensate for this additional topside weight, the cruiser hulls were widened amidships by five feet. The typical air group, originally intended to include nine each of fighters, scout-bombers and torpedo planes, was soon reoriented to number about two dozen fighters and nine torpedo planes.
These were limited-capability ships, whose principal virtue was near-term availability. Their small size made for seakeeping problems and a relatively high aircraft accident rate. Protection was modest and many munitions had to be stowed at the hangar level, a factor that contributed greatly to the loss of Princeton in October 1944.
There was little margin for growth, as the ships' post-war careers showed. Independence was expended as an atomic bomb target, and the rest were laid up in 1947. Five returned to service in 1948-53, two with the French Navy. Two were used as training carriers, while Bataan saw Korean War combat duty with Marine Corps air groups. She and Cabot received anti-submarine warfare modernizations in the early 1950s, emerging with two smokestacks instead of the original four. All but the French ships decommissioned in 1954-56 and were reclassified as aircraft transports in 1959. Cabot got a new lease on life in 1967, when she became the Spanish Navy's carrier Dedalo, serving until 1989. Despite best efforts to preserve her, Cabot was scrapped at Brownville, TX starting in 1999 and ending in 2003. Preservation efforts continued until the hull was half scrapped; in the end only her island was preserved.
The nine ships of the Independence class were all converted from Cleveland class light cruisers building at the New York Shipbuilding Coporation shipyard, Camden, New Jersey. Initially classified as "aircraft carriers" (CV), all were redesignated "small aircraft carriers" (CVL) on 15 July 1943, while four ships were still under construction.
Independence (CV/CVL-22). Keel laid in May 1941 as Amsterdam (CL-59); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in January 1942; launched in August 1942; commissioned in January 1943. Postwar, she was surplus to the Navy's requirements and expended in Operation Crossroads (July 1946); survived both tests with little damage. She was used as a radiation research hulk for several years afterward and expended as a target in January 1951.
Princeton (CV/CVL-23). Keel laid in June 1941 as Tallahassee (CL-61); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in February 1942; launched in October 1942; commissioned in February 1943. Destroyed by Japanese fire 24 October 1944 during Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Belleau Wood (CV/CVL-24). Keel laid in August 1941 as New Haven (CL-76); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in February 1942; launched in December 1942; commissioned in March 1943. Decommissioned to reserve in January, 1947. Transferred to French Navy as Bois Belleau (R97) 6/51. Returned to the US Navy for scrapping 9/60.
Cowpens (CV/CVL-25). Keel laid in November 1941 as Huntington (CL-77); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in March 1942; launched in January 1943; commissioned in May 1943. Decommissioned to reserve in January, 1947. Stricken and scrapped starting November 1959.
Monterey (CV/CVL-26). Keel laid in December 1941 as Dayton (CL-78); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in March 1942; launched in February 1943; commissioned in June 1943. Decommissioned to reserve February 1947. Recommissioned as training carrier September 1950, decommissioned to reserve again January 1956. Redesignated aircraft transport AVT-2 May 1959. Stricken June 1970.
Langley (CVL-27). Originally planned as Fargo (CL-85); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in March 1942; keel laid in April 1942; name changed from Crown Point to Langley in November 1942; launched in May 1943; commissioned in August 1943. Decommissioned to reserve February 1947. Transferred to France as Lafayette (R96) 2 June 1951. Returned to USN and stricken March 1963, scrapped at Baltimore in 1964.
Cabot (CVL-28). Keel laid in March 1942 as Wilmington (CL-79); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in June 1942; launched in April 1943; commissioned in July 1943. Decommissioned to reserve February 1947, recommissioned and modernized as ASW carrier October 1948. Decommissioned to reserve January 1955, modernized 1965-7 and transferred to Spain as Dedalo (R01) 30 August 1967. Stricken from NVR and sold to Spain August 1972. Decommissioned for preservation at New Orleans August 1989, preservation efforts failed. Scrapped at Brownville, Texas starting October 2000.
Bataan (CVL-29). Originally planned as Buffalo (CL-99); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in June 1942; keel laid in August 1942; launched in August 1943; commissioned in November 1943. Decommissioned to reserve February 1947, recommissioned and modernized as ASW carrier May 1950. Decommissioned to reserve April 1954. Stricken for scrapping September 1959.
San Jacinto (CVL-30). Originally planned as Newark (CL-100); reclassified as an aircraft carrier in June 1942; keel laid in October 1942; name changed from Reprisal to San Jacinto in January 1943; launched in September 1943; commissioned in December 1943. Decommissioned to reserve March 1947. Stricken June 1970.
- Displacement: 11,000 tons (standard)
- Dimensions: 622 ft 6 in (190 m) length overall; 71 ft 6 in (21.8 m) hull; 109 ft 2 in (33.3 m) over flight deck and projections
- Powerplant: 100,000 horsepower (75 MW), steam turbines, four propellers, 31.5 knot (58 km/h) maximum speed
- Aircraft (Typical operational complement, October 1944): 34 planes, including 25 F6F Hellcat fighters and 9 TBM Avenger torpedo planes.
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