Monday, November 17, 2014

90th Anniversary of the First Aircraft Carrier Reporting for Duty

"This Day in History"

November 17, 1924

Traditionally, an aircraft carrier is the capital ship of a navy, meaning that she possesses the heaviest firepower and armor and is the leading ship in the fleet.  Aircraft carriers are used to deploy aircraft, and can be categorized based on the distinct types of aviation they carry, or their operational assignments. Originally, they were wooden vessels that were converted from different ship types such as cruisers, cargo ships, or even battleships. Today, they are nuclear-powered and can carry dozens of aircraft, ranging from fighter jets to helicopters.

Photograph courtesy of Naval History and Heritage.

USS Langley started her early life as USS Jupiter, a Collier whose keel was laid on October 18, 1911, and who was the first vessel to transit the Panama Canal from west to east.  Jupiter served during the Veracruz crisis in 1914, and after her transit through the canal, arrived in the Naval Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, to start her conversion to an aircraft carrier. As the United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier, Langley’s mission was to conduct experiments for the new discovery of seaborne aviation. Named after Samuel Pierport Langley, the first American astronomer, physicist, aeronautics pioneer and aircraft engineer, she was commissioned on March 20, 1922, with Cmdr. Kenneth Whiting in command.  By October 17th of that same year, Lieut. V.C. Griffin made the first take off from Langley in a Vought VE-7SF, while she was anchored in the York River, Virginia. After additional testing over a two year period, Langley reported for duty with the Pacific Battle Fleet on November 17, 1924, becoming the first operational aircraft carrier in the United States Navy.  

Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Navy and the National Archives.

When the United States entered World War II, aircraft carriers became an essential component of the Navy. They were used to provide air support for both convoys and amphibious invasions, and further refinement would eventually lead to several different designs. Small escort carriers were used as a stop-gap measure, while light aircraft carriers were used as a more militarized version of her predecessor.  With the freedom to move around in the oceans, an aircraft carrier is a large, roaming, military base.

Like Langley, USS Razorback served during World War II.  Unlike Langley, Razorback was a submarine.  Submarines were escorts for aircraft carriers, and though they spent the majority of their time on the surface of the water, they were effective enough to sink over thirty percent of the Japanese Navy.  Since that time, Razorback has gone through a few upgrades, which changed her entire appearance and operation.  Stop by the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum for a tour to learn her history and how she assisted the Navy's war efforts during World War II.

Author: Nicolette Lloyd


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