Source: Naval History & Heritage Command
SEARCHING FOR THE LOST
SHIPS WITH PAUL ALLEN
IN A YEAR AND
Text: Miro Barič
We spoke about the naval battles around Guadalcanal in the previous
article. The aircraft carriers also participated in them, however they
fought from the distance. Some of them were lost during the fighting.
One such loss was the USS Hornet, the last American aircraft carrier
completed before the attack on Pearl Harbor. She sank exactly one year
and one week after entering the service.
The first American carrier was USS Langley
(CV-1) that entered service in 1920. She came to
life by rebuilding the coal transporting ship USS
Jupiter which had been in service since 1913.
During the rebuild, eight double cranes were
removed as well as both smokestacks, which
up until then had stood next to each other, were
relocated to the port side where they stood inline. In that manner the space for the flight deck,
mounted on the tall supports, was created.
While Jupiter coal transport had 19 670 tons
displacement, Langley aircraft carrier featured
14 100 tons displacement only. The vessel length
was 165 meters and the crew accounted for 468
sailors. Langley carried 36 aircraft which could
use one lift and one catapult. The armament
consisted of 127 mm caliber cannons – two on
the bow and two on the stern. They however
could not be used for the AA defense. Another
obsolete feature was a pigeon cage located
between two rear cannons. The idea was that the
aircraft taking off of Langley will take a postal
pigeon on board which will deliver the message
back to the ship. The pigeons were trained while
Langley was being rebuilt at Norfolk shipyards
and all seemed to work. After that, however,
when the ship set sail and the pigeons were
released near Tangier Island they returned to
Norfolk. After this blunder the pigeon cage was
eliminated. It was also deleted from the plans
of the future carriers, USS Lexington and USS
Langley holds several “firsts” for the US Navy.
On October 17, 1922, the first take off from the
aircraft carrier in the USA took place from her
deck as well as, on November 18, 1922, the first
catapult launched take off. Even though she was
extremely slow (15.5 knots only) to perform
Aircraft carrier shortly
after completion at Hampton
Roads, Virginia, October 27,
efficient operations while Naval aviation was
technically advancing rapidly, she helped
trained the first generations of naval aviators.
After she was completely outdated during 193637, she was re-built as a seaplanes’ carrier. She
was seriously damaged by the Japanese G4M1
Betty bombers on February 27, 1942, while she
was transporting Curtiss P-40 fighters to Java.
After the crew abandoned her, she was sunk by
the escorting destroyers.
Langley sank as the last of her sister ships.
She was the only aircraft carrier (the second
planned vessel was cancelled after the
decision was made to rebuild Lexington and
Saratoga) but as a former coal ship she had
three sister ships. And all of them disappeared
without trace in Bermuda Triangle. Sometime