80 Years Ago: Essex, Arriving

In perhaps the most welcomed addition to any fleet, ever, some 80 years ago today on New Year’s Eve 1942, the U.S. Navy changed the status of USS Essex (CV-9) to “in commission.”

The brand-new USS Essex (CV-9) underway at 1615 hrs. during May 1943, in position 37 05’N, 74 15’E, as photographed from a blimp from squadron ZP-14. Among the aircraft parked on her flight deck are 24 SBD scout bombers (parked aft), about 11 F6F fighters (parked in after part of the midships area) and about 18 TBF/TBM torpedo planes (parked amidships). 80-G-68097

The new 27,000-ton 872-foot fleet carrier, the first of a planned 32-ship class– the numerically largest envisioned in the history of full-sized flattops– had been rushed to be sure. Laid down on 28 April 1941 at Newport News while the country was in a cautious neutrality period in the Second World War, by the time she was commissioned 20 months later the Navy had seen its pre-war carrier force whittled down from seven to just three after the loss of USS Lexington (CV-2), USS Yorktown (CV-5), USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Wasp (CV-7), sunk in just a five-month period between May and September 1942 in action against the Japanese.

While the Navy had rushed a new class of light carriers from converted cruiser hulls and escort carriers using first fleet oilers then merchant hulls into service and even borrowed the occasional armored-deck flattop from the British, Essex and her sisters were needed for fast fleet operations of the sort the CVLs and CVEs just weren’t suited.

And Essex would be very busy over the next 31 years, fighting in two hot and one cold wars, and undergoing a radical conversion to allow her to operate aircraft of types unimagined in 1942. 

USS Essex (CV 9) during Okinawa operations, 20 May 1945. 80-G-373816

USS Essex (CV 9) underway during her first Korean War deployment, circa August 1951-March 1952. Two F2H-2 Banshees of Fighter Squadron 172 (VF-172) are flying by in the foreground, preparing to land. The nearest plane is Bureau # 124954. The other is probably Bu # 124969. NH 97270

USS Essex takes spray over the bow while steaming in heavy seas, 12 January 1960. Note S2F type airplane at the rear of the flight deck, with its engines turning. Other planes visible, amidships, including AD and F4D types. NH 98517

Before she was stricken from the Navy List in 1973, Essex received the Presidential Unit Citation and 13 battle stars for World War II service then add 4 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for Korean war service, in addition to helping hold the line throughout two decades of the Cold War against the Soviets.

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