Warship Wednesday April 6, 2016: The evolutionary link of Casablanca

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday April 6, 2016: The evolutionary link of Casablanca

Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.011.

Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.011.

Here we see the unique aircraft carrier, the first of its kind produced from the keel up for the U.S. Navy, USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 1939.

Although one of just seven carriers in the fleet when World War II broke out, her service was far different from the other six flattops who slugged it out with the Japanese from the Coral Sea to Tokyo Bay.

While the Navy’s “covered wagon” USS Langley (CV-1) was converted from a collier in 1922, and the follow-on Lexington and Saratoga were converted from incomplete battlecruisers in 1927, Ranger was the first carrier for the fleet designed from the onset to be one.

As exemplified from this infographic from the Navy Historical Command, Ranger was a key link in the evolutionary chain.

2550x3300 click to big up

2550×3300 click to big up

Larger than the Langley and smaller than the Lexingtons, the 769-foot one-off ship could make 29 knots, cruise for 10,000 nautical miles at half that, had three elevators, and carry as many as 86 aircraft as designed. Importantly, she also carried a relatively heavy AAA armament for her day (40 .50-cal machine guns). Best of all, at just 17,000-tons she sipped at the allowable tonnage under the Washington Naval Treaty.

Designed in the late 1920s, Ranger was ordered in 1930 from Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co in Virginia and laid down 26 September 1931.

There were over a half-dozen prior Rangers in the Navy dating back to John Paul Jones’ 18-gun sloop built in 1777.

RangerVsDrakeIn a rare case of extreme overlap, two different Rangers were active on the Navy List in WWI (SP-237 and SP-369) while two different Lexington-class battlecruisers (irony!) of the same era were at one time or another to carry the moniker.

Commissioned 4 June 1934, the subject of our tale had a very clean look to her, though was very different from John Paul Jones’ vessel.

At Norfolk Naval base, Virginia, on 7 June 1934 just three days after joining the fleet, she would land her first plane in two weeks. Photographed from a USAAC plane. Description: NHHC Catalog #: NH 93546

At Norfolk Naval base, Virginia, on 7 June 1934 just three days after joining the fleet, she would land her first plane in two weeks. Photographed from a USAAC plane. Description: NHHC Catalog #: NH 93546

First landing on the USS Ranger. Lt Cmdr. A. C. Davis, pilot, H. E. Wallace, ACMM, passenger. June 21, 1934

First landing on the USS Ranger. Lt Cmdr. A. C. Davis, pilot, H. E. Wallace, ACMM, passenger. June 21, 1934

One of the reasons a 17,000-ton ship could carry over 80 aircraft was due to a unique outrigger system that allowed deck parking with a minimum of space. (No folding wings back then).

picture30

Ranger embarked the brand-new Air Group Four consisting of VT-4, VB-4, and VF-4, stood up specifically for the ship. She soon set off for the Pacific and spent almost the entire prewar period in those warm waters.

Well, not always warm…

In early 1936 Ranger and her aircrew, which included Coast Guard aviators at the time, conducted the first-ever carrier cold weather test trials in Alaska waters, proving the concept.

View taken 6 February 1936 showing members of the "Cold weather Test Detachment" that had been embarked for special operations in Alaskan Waters. (The Detachment had been formed 25 November 1935, and was disbanded 25 February 1936) NHHC Catalog #: 80-CF-8005-3

View taken 6 February 1936 showing members of the “Cold weather Test Detachment” that had been embarked for special operations in Alaskan Waters. (The Detachment had been formed 25 November 1935, and was disbanded 25 February 1936) NHHC Catalog #: 80-CF-8005-3

Then followed more normal peacetime service.

Pacific flattops, front to back, the carriers Ranger (CV-4), Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3) pictured at anchor off Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. 4 August 1936

All of the the Navy’s flattops, front to back, the carriers Ranger (CV-4), Lexington (CV-2), and Saratoga (CV-3) pictured at anchor off Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. 4 August 1936. Langley by this time was being converted to a seaplane tender and Yorktown CV-5, would not commission until 30 September 1937. Also, the Ranger, front, is deceptively large due to perspective. Lex and Sara went well over 40,000 tons

The aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor near Hawaii in 1937. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.005

The aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor near Hawaii in 1937. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.005

The USS Ranger (CV-4) is moored at North Island, California with aircraft on her deck. 03/14/1938. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.010.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) is moored at North Island, California with aircraft on her deck. 03/14/1938. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.010.

USS Ranger CV-4 off Honolulu, Hawaii during Fleet Problem XIX, 8 April 1938

USS Ranger CV-4 off Honolulu, Hawaii during Fleet Problem XIX, 8 April 1938

Underway at sea during the latter 1930s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-428440

Underway at sea during the latter 1930s. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-428440

However, with the war drums beating in far-off Europe, and the new Yorktown-class carriers taking her place in the Pac, Ranger chopped to the Atlantic Fleet in 1939. Once the war popped off, she began armed Neutrality Patrol operations in the North Atlantic.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor with aircraft neatly aligned on her deck. 1940. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.013.

The USS Ranger (CV-4) lies at anchor with aircraft neatly aligned on her deck. 1940. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.013.

Flight deck operations, 19 November 1941, showing Vought SB2U "Vindicators" of VS-41 and VS-42 getting ready for a patrol flight, and a Grumman F4F-3 "Wildcat" of VF-41 (right). Note marking schemes in use on planes, white codes, crew of plane in foreground in cold weather gear. Description: NHC Catalog #: 80-G-391590

Flight deck operations, 19 November 1941, showing Vought SB2U “Vindicators” of VS-41 and VS-42 getting ready for a patrol flight, and a Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcat” of VF-41 (right). Note marking schemes in use on planes, white codes, crew of plane in foreground in cold weather gear. Description: NHC Catalog #: 80-G-391590

After Pear Harbor, she was one of the first ships to pick up a borderline experimental RCA CXAM-1 radar, able to detect single aircraft at 50 miles and to detect large ships at 14 miles. Conducting sea patrols in the Atlantic, she also ferried Army P-40 Warhawks to Africa for transshipment to the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers fighting the Japanese in the Far East.

Loading 50-caliber machine gun of Army P40-F aboard the USS Ranger while in route to North Africa. January 17, 1943. In all she would ship 215 P-40s and 70 P-38s to Africa in four separate trips for the Army between April 1942 and April 1944

Loading 50-caliber machine gun of Army P40-F aboard the USS Ranger while in route to North Africa. January 17, 1943. In all she would ship 215 P-40s and 70 P-38s to Africa in four separate trips for the Army between April 1942 and April 1944

Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber Goes around for another landing attempt, after being waved off by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger (CV-4), circa June 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-K-741

Douglas SBD Dauntless scout bomber Goes around for another landing attempt, after being waved off by the Landing Signal Officer on USS Ranger (CV-4), circa June 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHHC Catalog #: 80-G-K-741

Aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 making a tight turn to port, 1941.

Aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 making a tight turn to port, 1942.

Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters R N G R still visible just ahead of the ramp. Also note that her stacks have been lowered. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-10786

Underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 18 August 1942. Note partially lowered after elevator and flight deck identification letters R N G R still visible just ahead of the ramp. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-10786

Setting sail for North Africa, she was the center of the Allied air fleet covering the Torch Landings in November 1942, accompanied by four new Sangamon-class escort carriers (which were technically heavier than Ranger at over 22,000-tons, though with a much smaller flight deck and hangar).

North Africa Operation, November 1942 - testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-30362

North Africa Operation, November 1942 – testing machine guns of Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters aboard USS Ranger (CV 4), while en route from the U.S. to North African waters, circa early November 1942. Note the special markings used during this operation, with a yellow ring painted around the national insignia on aircraft fuselages. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-30362

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter taking off from USS Ranger (CV-4) to attack targets ashore during the invasion of Morocco, circa 8 November 1942. Note: Army observation planes in the left middle distance; Loudspeakers and distinctive CXAM radar antenna on Ranger's mast. Her group at the time consisted of 72 operational planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 VF-41) Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-30244

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter taking off from USS Ranger (CV-4) to attack targets ashore during the invasion of Morocco, circa 8 November 1942. Note: Army observation planes in the left middle distance; Loudspeakers and distinctive CXAM radar antenna on Ranger’s mast. Her group at the time consisted of 72 operational planes (1 CRAG, 17 VS-41, 26 VF-9, and 28 VF-41) Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-30244

Conducting almost 500 combat sorties in 72 hours, Ranger‘s aircraft destroyed at least 28 Vichy French planes on the ground in strikes on the Rabat and Rabat-Sale aerodromes, wiped out over 100 military vehicles, strafed four French destroyers at Casablanca, plastered the Richelieu-class battleship Jean Bart, bombed the destroyer Albatross, and severely damaged the Duguay-class light cruiser Primauguet.

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8 1942

The French battleship Jean Bart, photographed by USN Photographers Mate Third Class Bill Wade from an airplane of the USS Ranger, Nov 8 1942

Ranger lost 16 planes in the Torch operation and cost the lives of ten airmen.

Her next solid combat was in a raid in occupied Norwegian waters in 1943. Attacking the Bodo roadstead, SBD dive-bombers escorted by Wildcats sank four steamers and logged hits on the 8,000-ton freighter LaPlata and a 10,000-ton oiler.

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing direct hit amidships on 5000 GT M/V, 4 October 1943. NHC Catalog #: NH 84270

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing direct hit amidships on 5000 GT M/V, 4 October 1943. NHC Catalog #: NH 84270

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing SAAR under attack, 4 October 1943. NHHC Catalog #: NH 84271

Aircraft attack on enemy shipping, Bodo Harbor, Norway, showing SAAR under attack, 4 October 1943. NHHC Catalog #: NH 84271

With newer, faster, better armored, and larger fleet carriers joining the fleet, Ranger had by 1944 become more than just somewhat obsolescent and was converted to a training carrier.

An aerial view of the USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor with crewmembers lining her deck. 1944. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.024

An aerial view of the USS Ranger (CV-4) as she lies at anchor with crewmembers lining her deck. 1944. Note the 40mm mount on her bow. Naval Aviation Museum Accession Number 1996.488.013.024

She picked up a camo scheme, landed her old 5″/25s and puny .50 cals, replaced them with 40mm and 20mm AAA guns, had catapults installed, and got to the business of qualifying naval aviators.

Photographed from a Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, aircraft on 6 July 1944. Note her camouflage paint scheme. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-236719

Photographed from a Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Virginia, aircraft on 6 July 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. NHC Catalog #: 80-G-236719

Sailing for the Pacific, she arrived in Hawaiian waters in August 1944 and quickly began carrier qualification cruises, concentrating on Navy and Marine night fighter squadrons, securing 35,784 landings by the end of the war.

View from a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as it approaches the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in 1944-45, when Ranger was used as a training carrier.

View from a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat as it approaches the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) in 1944-45, when Ranger was used as a training carrier.

Totally obsolete in a fleet of new Essex-class vessels, she was used in Pensacola for a while then was decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 18 October 1946. She won two battlestars for her wartime service.

Winging over the water, three Navy Curtiss Helldivers provide speedy and deadly air protection for the USS Ranger (CV-4) sun-gilded as it moves through the Pacific on a war mission. April 12th, 1945

Ranger was sold for $259,000 in scrap metal pricing on 31 January 1947 and subsequently broken up.

She minted brass on an unparalleled scale, with all ten of her skippers between 4 June 1934 and 1 May 1946 going on to become admirals including ADM. John Sidney (“Mac”) McCain Sr. His grandson is the current senator from Arizona.

Ranger had lots of “onlys” in the fact that she was the only pre-war US carrier to have never engaged Japanese forces in battle (even Langley was sunk by the Combined Fleet), the only U.S. carrier to perform flight operations above the Arctic Circle (during Operation Leader off the coast of Norway) during WWII, the only carrier not to receive a Unit Citation for her performance in Operation Torch (the four escort carriers which accomplished less all received one), the only carrier whose airgroup used green painted tail assemblies, and was the first U.S. fleet carrier to be scrapped.

Her bell is preserved in Pensacola, the cradle of Naval Aviation, and her builder’s plate is at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

Ship's Bell, on display outside of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. Photos taken on 13 June 2008. Via Navsource.

Ship’s Bell, on display outside of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. Photos taken on 13 June 2008. Via Navsource.

47-040-B

The Forrestal-class supercarrier (CV-61) of the same name ordered in 1954 and sold for scrap in 2014 maintained her legacy.

A vibrant veteran’s group, which celebrates the armada of past Rangers, is very active.

Specs:

020424
Displacement: 14,576 tons standard; 17,577 tons full load
Dimensions (wl): 730′ x 80′ x 22′ 4.875″ (full load)
Dimensions (max.): 769′ x 109.5′
Armor: 2″ (sides and bulkheads)-1″ (top) over steering gear
Power plant: 6 boilers; steam turbines; 2 shafts; 53,500 shp
Speed: 29.25 knots
Endurance (design): 10,000 nautical miles @ 15 knots
Armament: 8 single 5″/25 gun mounts; 40 .50-cal machine guns (1934)
24 40 mm (6x quad mounts); 46 20mm single mounts (1943)
Aircraft: 86
Aviation facilities: 3 elevators; no catapult
Crew: 2,148 (ship’s company + air wing) (1941 figure)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has it place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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