USS Essex (CV-9)

USS Essex (CV-9)

USS "Essex" (CV-9) (later CVA-9 and CVS-9) was a United States Navy aircraft carrier, the lead ship of her class.

She was launched on 31 July 1942 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., sponsored by Mrs. Artemus L. Gates, the wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air, and commissioned on 31 December 1942 with Captain Donald B. Duncan commanding. "Essex" received the Presidential Unit Citation and 13 battle stars for World War II service, and 4 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for service in the Korean War.

Operational history

World War II

Following her shakedown cruise, the "Essex" steamed to the Pacific in May 1943 to begin a succession of victories which would bring her to Tokyo Bay. Departing from Pearl Harbor, she participated with TF 16 in carrier operations against Marcus Island (31 August 1943); was designated the flagship of TF 14 and struck Wake Island (5 October6 October); participated in carrier operations during the Rabaul strike (11 November 1943), along with the USS "Bunker Hill" and USS "Princeton"; launched an attack with TG 50.3 against the Gilbert Islands where she also took part in her first amphibious assault, the landing on Tarawa Atoll (18 November23 November). Refueling at sea, she cruised as flagship of TG 50.3 to attack Kwajalein (4 December). Her second amphibious assault delivered in company with TG 58.2 was against the Marshall Islands (29 January2 February 1944).

"Essex" in TG 58.2 now joined with TG 58.1 and TG 58.3, to constitute the most formidable carrier striking force to date, in launching an attack against Truk (17 February18 February) during which eight Japanese ships were sunk. En route to the Marianas to sever Japanese supply lines, the carrier force was detected and received a prolonged aerial attack which it repelled in a businesslike manner and then continued with the scheduled attack upon Saipan, Tinian and Guam (23 February).

After this operation "Essex" proceeded to San Francisco for her single wartime overhaul. Following her overhaul, "Essex" became the carrier for Air Group 15, the "Fabled Fifteen," commanded by the U.S. Navy's top ace of the war, David McCampbell. She then joined carriers "Wasp" (CV-18) and "San Jacinto" (CVL-30) in TG 12.1 to strike Marcus Island (19 May20 May) and Wake (23 May). She deployed with TF 58 to support the occupation of the Marianas (12 June10 August); sortied with TG 38.3 to lead an attack against the Palau Islands (6 September8 September), and Mindanao (9 September10 September) with enemy shipping as the main target, and remained in the area to support landings on Peleliu. On 2 October she weathered a typhoon and 4 days later departed with TF 38 for the Ryukyus.

For the remainder of 1944 she continued her frontline action, participating in strikes against Okinawa (10 October), and Formosa (12 October14 October), covering the Leyte landings, taking part in the Battle for Leyte Gulf (24 October25 October), and continuing the search for enemy fleet units until 30 October when she returned to Ulithi, Caroline Islands, for replenishment. She resumed the offensive and delivered attacks on Manila and the northern Philippine Islands during November. On 25 November, for the first time in her far-ranging operations and destruction to the enemy, "Essex" received damage. A kamikaze hit the port edge of her flight deck landing among planes gassed for takeoff, causing extensive damage, killing 15, and wounding 44.

Following quick repairs, she operated with the task force off Leyte supporting the occupation of Mindoro (14 December16 December). She rode out the typhoon of 18 December and made special search for survivors afterwards. With TG 38.3 she participated in the Lingayen Gulf operations, launched strikes against Formosa, Sakishima, Okinawa, and Luzon. Entering the South China Sea in search of enemy surface forces, the task force pounded shipping and conducted strikes on Formosa, the China coast, Hainan, and Hong Kong. "Essex" withstood the onslaught of the third typhoon in 4 months (20 January21 January 1945) before striking again at Formosa, Miyako Shima and Okinawa (26 January27 January).

During the remainder of the war she operated with TF 58, conducting attacks against the Tokyo area (16-17, and 25 February) both to neutralize the enemy's air power before the landings on Iwo Jima and to cripple the aircraft manufacturing industry. She sent support missions against Iwo Jima and neighboring islands, but from 23 March to 28 May was employed primarily to support the conquest of Okinawa.

In the closing days of the war, "Essex" took part in the final telling raids against the Japanese home islands (10 July15 August). Following the surrender, she continued defensive combat air patrols until 3 September when she was ordered to Bremerton, Washington, for inactivation. On 9 January 1947 she was placed out of commission in reserve. Modernization endowed "Essex" with a new flight deck, and a streamlined island superstructure, on 16 January 1951 when recommissioned, with Captain A. W. Wheelock commanding.

Korean War

After a brief cruise in Hawaiian waters she began the first of three tours in Far Eastern waters during the Korean war. She served as flagship for Carrier Division 1 and TF 77. She was the first carrier to launch F2H Banshee twin jet fighters on combat missions; on 16 September 1951 one of these planes, damaged in combat, crashed into aircraft parked on the forward flight deck causing an explosion and fire which killed seven. After repairs at Yokosuka she returned to frontline action on 3 October to launch strikes up to the Yalu River and provide close air support for U.N. troops. Her two deployments in the Korean War were from August 1951-March 1952 and July 1952-January 1953.

On 1 December 1953 she started her final tour of the war, sailing the China Sea with the Peace Patrol. From November 1954 to June 1955 she engaged in training exercises, operated for 3 months with the 7th Fleet, assisted in the Tachen Islands evacuation, and engaged in air operations and fleet maneuvers off Okinawa.

Pacific fleet

In July 1955 "Essex" entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for repairs and extensive alterations, including installation of an angled flight deck. Modernization completed, she rejoined the Pacific Fleet in March 1956. For the next 14 months the carrier operated off the West Coast, except for a 6-month cruise with the 7th Fleet in the Far East. Ordered to join the U.S. Atlantic Fleet for the first time in her long career, she sailed from San Diego on 21 June 1957, rounded Cape Horn, and arrived in Mayport, Florida, on 1 August.

Atlantic and Mediterranean

In the fall of 1957 "Essex" participated as an anti-submarine carrier in the NATO exercise Strikeback and in February 1958, deployed with the 6th Fleet until May when she shifted to the eastern Mediterranean. Alerted to the Middle East crisis on 14 July 1958, she sped to support the U.S. Peace Force landing in Beirut, Lebanon, launching reconnaissance and patrol missions until 20 August. Once again she was ordered to proceed to Asian waters, and transited the Suez Canal to arrive in the Taiwan operational area where she joined TF 77 in conducting flight operations before rounding the Horn and proceeding back to Mayport.

"Essex" joined with the 2nd Fleet and British ships in Atlantic exercises and with NATO forces in the eastern Mediterranean during the fall of 1959. In December she aided victims of a disastrous flood at Frejus, France.

In the spring of 1960, she was converted into an ASW Support Carrier and was thereafter homeported at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Since that time she operated as the flagship of Carrier Division 18 and Antisubmarine Carrier Group Three. She conducted rescue and salvage operations off the New Jersey coast for a downed blimp; cruised with midshipmen, and was deployed on NATO and CENTO exercises that took her through the Suez Canal into the Indian Ocean. Ports of call included Karachi and the British Crown Colony of Aden. In November she joined the French navy in Operation "Jet Stream".

Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis

In April 1961, the "Essex" steamed out of Jacksonville, Florida on a two-week "routine training" cruise, purportedly to support the carrier qualification of a squadron of Navy pilots. Twelve unarmed A4D attack fighter-jets had been loaded aboard. The squadron pilots were from VA-34 (the "Blue Blasters"). After several weeks at sea the A-4s were repainted a ghost gray color, obliterating all insignia and tail numbers and were armed with 20 mm cannon. They began flying mysterious missions day and night with at least one returning bearing battle damage. Not generally known to the "Essex" crew was that they had been tasked to provide air support to the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. The naval aviation part of the mission was aborted by President Kennedy at the last moment and the Essex crew sworn to secrecy. [Wyden, Peter, "Bay of Pigs, The Untold Story," Simon and Schuster, New York, 1979.Verify source|date=October 2007] Verify source|date=October 2007

Later in 1961, the "Essex" completed a "People to People" cruise to Northern Europe with ports of call in Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Greenock, Scotland. During the Hamburg visit over one million visitors toured the "Essex". During her departure the "Essex" almost ran aground in the shallow Elbe River. On her return voyage to CONUS she ran into a severe North Atlantic storm (January 1964) and suffered major structural damage. In early 1962 she went into drydock in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a major overhaul.

The "Essex" had just finished her six-month long overhaul and was at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for sea trials when President John F. Kennedy placed a naval "quarantine" on Cuba in October 1962, in response to the discovered presence of Soviet missiles in that country (see Cuban Missile Crisis). (The word quarantine was used rather than blockade for reasons of international law - Kennedy reasoned that a blockade would be an act of war, and war had not been declared between the U.S. and Cuba.) [Kennedy, Robert F. "Thirteen Days: A memoir of the Cuban missile crisis". W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1969. ISBN 978-0333103128] The "Essex" spent over a month in the Caribbean as one of the US Navy ships enforcing this "quarantine", returning home just before Thanksgiving.

Apollo missions

The "Essex" was scheduled to be the prime recovery carrier for the ill fated Apollo 1 space mission. It was to pick up the "Apollo 1" astronauts north of Puerto Rico on March 7, 1967 after a 14-day spaceflight. However, the mission did not take place because on January 27, 1967, the "Apollo 1" crew were killed by a flash fire in their spacecraft on LC-34 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

"Essex" was the prime recovery carrier for the Apollo 7 mission. She recovered the "Apollo 7" crew on 2 October 1968 after a splashdown north of Puerto Rico.

Decommissioning and disposal

"Essex" was decommissioned 30 June 1969. She was struck from the Navy List on 1 June 1973, and sold by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) for scrapping 1 June 1975.


See also

* List of aircraft carriers and list of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy
* List of World War II ships

External links

* [ Navy photographs of "Essex" (CV-9)]
* [ "Life and Death Aboard the U.S.S. Essex"] - Review of book by Richard W. Streb, who served aboard "Essex" during World War II.
* [ "The original USS Essex"] - A scaled model of the original USS Essex.
* [ CV-9 Personnel Roster at]

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