USS Essex (CV-9)
The first American carrier designed without regard to international treaties, USS Essex was the lead ship in a planned class of thirty-two. Essex was rushed into service after the heavy losses the American carrier fleet suffered in 1942, commissioning 31 December of that year. She was ready for service in May, 1943, and received her baptism of fire in a raid against the Japanese base on Marcus Island. Essex spent the next few months raiding various Japanese bases, before supporting the invasion of Tarawa in November. After operations in the Marshall Islands, Essex participated in Operation Hailstone, a major raid on the Japanese base at Truk Atoll, which inflicted heavy damage. She continued raiding bases, interrupted only by major operations, like the Battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, through the end of the War. Even a direct kamikaze hit to her flight deck in November, 1944, didn't slow down Essex, with repairs affected at sea. Essex supported the initial occupation of Japan, and returned to the US after the surrender ceremony on 2 September. Decommissioned 9 January, 1947, Essex was taken in for modernization in 1949, rejoining the fleet off Korea in 1951. During the War, Essex launched the first combat sorties of the F2H Banshee jet fighter, but suffered a second aircraft incident on her flight deck when one crashed into parked aircraft on landing, and several exploded. After the Korean Armistice, Essex continued operations in the western Pacific, until she was taken in for another rebuild in 1955. This gave her an angled flight deck, enclosed bow, and a relocated aft elevator. In 1957, Essex returned to the Atlantic for the first time since 1943, and operated with the Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleets for the next twelve years. In 1961, she flew A-4 Skyhawks with blotted out markings in support of the Bay of Pigs invasion, with her crew sworn to secrecy about the incident. She suffered major damage from a hurricane in late 1961, spending most of the following year in drydock. However, Essex was back in service in time to enforce the embargo of Cuba during the October, 1962, Cuban Missile Crisis. She suffered a collision with the submarine USS Nautilus in November, 1966, resulting in both limping back to port with heavy damage. Essex joined the Apollo space program, serving as the recovery ship for Apollo 7 in 1968. She decommissioned 30 June, 1969, and was sold for scrap in 1975.