The role of the US aircraft carrier in WWII cannot be overlooked, especially as some of the most significant battles of WWII took place at sea. The importance of Naval technology was paramount during this time given the global involvement of World War II. The role of the aircraft carrier was to deliver planes to a closer proximity of distinct battles. This was especially true in the Pacific as many of the battles occurred on various islands and along the coastal areas.
The War Begins
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States entered into the war. Within three months, carriers Enterprise and Yorktown were involved in the first US aircraft carrier offensive, attacking Japanese installations on several Pacific islands.
Throughout the balance of 1942, a number of aircraft carriers would be utilized to throughout the war including the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
Battle of the Coral Sea
During the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942), the USS Yorktown was once again involved, this time accompanied by the USS Lexington. This battle was the first to be fought without the opposing ships coming into contact with each other. The Japanese lost their light carrier – the Shoho and the US Navy lost the USS Lexington. The battle did prevent the Japanese from landing at Port Moresby.
Battle of Midway
From June 3-6, 1942, in an attempt to gain occupancy of Midway Island, the Japanese launched a full offensive operation, in which the USS Yorktown, USS Hornet and USS Enterprise were greatly outnumbered. However, four of Japan’s carriers were sunk during this three day battle taking a total of 258 planes and some of Japan’s highly trained, most experienced battle pilots to the bottom of the Pacific. This loss was a blow from which the Japanese would not recover, making it a turning point for the war in the Pacific.
A number of US aircraft carriers were commissioned in 1943. Among them were the USS Independence (first known as Amsterdam), USS Bunker, USS Princeton, USS Intrepid and USS Langley. By mid-July in 1943, new designations were established for the carrier class differentiating the lighter class (10,000 ton class) from the larger, heavier class (45,000 tons).
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was one of the more crucial battles of 1944. On June 19th, the USS Hornet began launching strikes in an effort to destroy as many Japanese aircraft on the ground in Saipan as they could. The Japanese countered and approached the US carriers, but the fighters from the USS Hornet were able to thwart each attack. The Japanese lost 395 of their 430 planes. The Japanese also lost two tankers and one of the carriers.
The War Ends
After the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan surrendered to defeat – the war was over. The final documents declaring peace were signed aboard the USS battleship Missouri.
The accounts listed here are just brief highlights from a few of the many battles that ensued throughout the war involving US aircraft carriers. Without doubt their WWII involvement extends far beyond those outlined above. A closer, more detailed look into the role of the US aircraft carrier in WWII further confirms the importance of their involvement in this epic war.