Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
The Yorktown-class carriers were built during the inter-war period between the Great War and World War II. The ships were built in response to the restrictions on the construction of battleships and battlecruisers from the Washington Arms Treaty(1922). Originally laid down as battlecruisers, these ships had legendary survivability in combat. Ironically because of their original intended size they ended up making superb aircraft carriers compared to previous carrier designs.
During the mid 1920's, the United States along with other naval powers were building up a heavy fleet of new battleships and battlecruisers. As a response to the Washington Arms Treaty, the US Navy converted the construction of their already under-construction Yorktown-class battlecruisers from warships over to aircraft carriers. Since the hulls of these vessels were less complete then the Lexington-class aircraft carriers, they were able to design them into fully purpose-built carriers allowing larger airwings then the larger in size Lexington-class vessels. Because of their original layout as battlecruisers, these ships had excellent hull armor and internal compartmentalization. This gave all of the ships in this class legendary survivability in combat.
All three ships of this class were heavily involved in the Pacific Theater of WWII. The Yorktown was reported sunk by the Japanese on more then one occasion, but due to the technical prowess and skill of the US Navy, damage control crews were able to repeatedly bring the ship back to operational status, much to the surprise of the Japanese Navy. Despite being heavily damaged during the Battle of Coral Sea (damaged enough that the Japanese had assumed she'd been sunk), the US Navy was able to repair her in time for the ship to be fully operational at the Battle of Midway(in just 3 days of miraculous yard work). In fact, during the Battle of Midway, the ship was reported sunk twice, once as itself and then again assumed to be the Enterprise. This was because the ship's damage control teams had repaired the ship to the point that it looked undamaged from the air. The Yorktown was sunk by the Japanese submarine I-168 during an attempt to salvage the ship after the battle. The Japanese sub captain misidentified the Yorktown as the USS Hornet, leading the Japanese to believe they had managed to sink all three American carriers at Midway. This was quickly found to be incorrect. The Japanese nicknamed the Yorktown "The Blue Ghost" because of how many times it had seemingly returned from the dead.
The USS Hornet fought hard during the war as well. Like her sister ship Yorktown, she also was able to handle massive battle damage. The most famous operation involving the Hornet was the Doolittle Raid. Supported by the Enterprise, the Hornet launched sixteen B-25 light bombers for an attack on the Japanese capital of Tokyo. The impact of this attack lead to the Japanese Navy escalating their plans for Operation-MI, leading to the Americans ambushing and destroying their carrier force supporting the attack on Midway Island. The Hornet was heavily engaged with the Japanese Navy until battle damage during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where the ship was forced to be abandoned. Despite repeated attempts to scuttle the ship, she refused to sink until torpedoed by several Japanese destroyers.
The USS Enterprise was the only ship of the class to survive the war and was heavily involved with nearly every battle in the Pacific War. Its actions during the Pacific war can only be referred to as legendary earning her the nickname "The Lucky E" among others. During the war she served heavily, and at one point she was the only operational carrier in the Pacific, after both her sister ships and the much less capable USS Wasp were lost in combat. Time and time again the USS Enterprise would survive when other ships would not. All during the war, the Enterprise was constantly upgraded and refitted, making it more and more capable in combat. Included in these various upgrades was the addition of torpedo blisters, improved Anti-aircraft defenses, and electronics upgrades to allow for night operations as well as massive increases in radar ranging and fire-control capability. She served in the Pacific War until she was struck directly on her forward elevator by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft, taking her out of action and requiring extensive repairs. Those repairs were complete in time for the ship's airwing (records do not confirm the ship's presence) to be present at the Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri. The Enterprise was scrapped following the end of the war.
There is a reason that the flagship vessel of the Star Trek universe is named Enterprise.
- Type: Aircraft Carrier
- Service Period: 1937-1947
- Waterline: 234.7 meters
- Main Hull: 246.81 meters
- Overall: 251.38 meters
- Waterline: 25.3 meters
- Flight Deck: 33.38 meters
- Draft: 7.93 meters
- Standard: 20,100 tons
- Full Load: 25,900 tons
- Crew: 2,217
- Installed Power:89 MW
- Propulsion: 9 boilers
- Range: 23,150 kilometers)
- Speed: 60.19 km/hr
- 8 x 5"/38-caliber guns
- 4 x quad 1.1"/75-caliber guns (replaced by 40mm Bofors guns on Enterprise)
- 24 x .50-caliber machine guns (replaced by 20mm Oerlikon cannons on all ships)
- Aircraft Carried: Up to 90
- USS Yorktown CV-05
- USS Enterprise CV-06
- USS Hornet CV-08
USS Wasp CV-7
The Wasp-Class is a Yorktown-class vessel that was finished as a smaller design due to new treaty restrictions with limited success. The treaty was the London Arms Treaty (1930). Part of the reason for the new restrictions was the politicians of various Washington Arms signatories not seeing aircraft carriers as viable warships but the converting of battlecruisers and battleships over to them a loophole in the treaty, as they feared the hulls being later converted back into battlecruisers. This lead to setting a tonnage limit for carriers to 20,000 ton operational limit, double the limit for cruisers under the Washington Arms treaty. This of course showed that the politicians did not understand the engineering differences between an aircraft carrier and a fighting ship. In most cases, once a ship had been finished as an aircraft carrier, so many changes had been made to the ship's interior spaces that it would be physically impractical to convert it back into a gunship again.
The design tried to retain the same aircraft compliment, deck size and operating range of the Yorktown-class with a much lower displacement (19,116 long tons fully loaded). This meant that the design was lacking key features, such as a central elevator (replaced by a gantry crane, which was useless in all but calm seas) and one less steam boiler. It also lacked much of the Yorktown-class's internal compartmentalization and had very little armor plating. Its lower tonnage did end up giving it a max speed of 29.5 Knots at least making it capable of operating with the other Yorktown-class carriers on at least an operational level without slowing them down too much.
The ship was not as capable and too easily damaged in combat. The USS Wasp sank after taking only 3 torpedo hits from a Japanese submarine. For perspective, at the Battle of Midway, USS Yorktown took 3 bomb hits and 2 torpedo hits and stayed in a salvageable state. It took an additional 6 torpedoes from a sub attack to finally sink the ship. Looking at how much punishment USS Hornet managed to endure at Santa Cruz (4 torpedo hits, 5 bomb strikes and 2 suicide aircraft then 9 additional torpedoes followed by over 400 5-inch shells in the scuttling attempt) just adds to the disparity of the difference between the Wasp-class and the Yorktown-class.
In a case of irony, the USS-Hornet was initially laid down as a Wasp-class vessel until it was realized that the Japanese were not being honest with their ship building programs resulting in the switch back to using the original layouts and plans for the Yorktown-class with updated electronic systems and weapons. Hornet is one of few ships that was started as one design but finished as another. Since the USS-Wasp was already completed at the time, it became the only carrier constructed by the US Navy to comply with the London Arms Treaty.
The kamikaze elevator hit that took Enterprise out of action.