USS Saratoga CV-3

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USS Saratoga CV-3
(CV-3: dp. 33,000; 1. 888'0", b. 106'0" dr. 24'1l/2" s.33.91 k.; cpl. 2,111; a. 8 8", 12 5" 4 6 pdrs., 81 dct; cl. Lexington)

The fourth Saratoga (CV-3) was laid down on 25 September 1920 as BattleCruiser #3 by the New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, N.J.; ordered convertedto an aircraft carrier and reclassified CV 3 on 1 July 1922 in accordancewith the Washington Treaty limiting naval armaments; launched on 7 April1925, sponsored by Mrs. Curtis D. Wilbur, wife of the Secretary of the Navy;and commissioned on 16 November 1927, Capt. Harry E. Yarnell in command.

Saratoga, the first fast carrier in the United States Navy, quickly provedthe value of her type. She sailed from Philadelphia on 6 January 1928 forshakedown; and, on 11 January, her air officer, the future World War IIhero, Mare A. Mitscher, landed the first aircraft on board. In an experimenton 27 January, the rigid airship Los Angeles (ZR-3) moored to Saratoga'sstern and took on fuel and stores. The same day Saratoga sailed for thePacific via the Panama Canal. She was diverted briefly between 14 and 16February to carry marines to Corinto, Nicaragua and finally joined the BattleFleet at San Pedro, California, on 21 February. The rest of the year wasspent in training and final machinery shakedown.

On 15 January 1929, Saratoga sailed from San Diego with the Battle Fleetto participate in her first fleet exercise, Fleet Problem IX. In a daringmove Saratoga was detached from the fleet with only a single cruiser asescort to make a wide sweep to the south and "attack" the PanamaCanal, which was defended by the Scouting Fleet and Saratoga's sister ship,Lexington. She successfully launched her strike on 26 January, and despitebeing "sunk" three times later in the day, proved the versatilityof a fast task force centered around a carrier. The idea was incorporatedinto fleet doctrine and reused the following year in Fleet Problem X inthe Caribbean. This time, however, Saratoga and carrier, Langley, were "disabled"by a surprise attack from Lexington, showing how quickly air power couldswing the balance in a naval action. Following the fleet concentration inthe Caribbean Saratoga took part in the Presidential Review at Norfolk inMay and returned to San Pedro on 21 June 1930.

During the remaining decade before World War II Saratoga exercised inthe San Diego-San Pedro area except for the annual fleet problems and regularoverhauls at the Bremerton Navy Yard. In the fleet problems, Saratoga continuedto assist in the development of fast carrier tactics, and her importancewas recognized by the feet that she was always a high priority target forthe opposing forces. The fleet problem for 1932 was planned for Hawaii,and, by coincidence, occurred during the peak of the furor following the"Manchurian incident" in which Japan started on the road to WorldWar II. Saratoga exercised in the Hawaii area from 31 January to 19 Marchand returned to Hawaii for fleet exercises the following year between 23January and 28 February 1933. On the return trip to the west coast, shelaunched a successful air "attack" on the Long Beach area.

Exercises in 1934 took Saratoga to the Caribbean and the Atlantic foran extended period, from 9 April to 9 November, and were followed by equallyextensive operations with the United States Fleet in the Pacific the followingyear. Between 27 April and 6 June 1936 she participated in a fleet problemin the Canal Zone, and she then returned with the fleet to Hawaii for exercisesfrom 16 April to 28 May 1937. On 15 March 1938, Saratoga sailed from SanDiego for Fleet Problem XIX, again conducted off Hawaii. During the secondphase of the problem, Saratoga launched a surprise air attack on Pearl Harborfrom a point 100 miles off Oahu, setting a pattern that the Japanese copiedin December 1941. During the return to the west coast, Saratoga and Lexingtonfollowed this feat with "strikes" on Mare Island and Alameda.Saratoga was under overhaul during the 1939 fleet concentration, but, between2 April and 21 June 1940, she participated in Fleet Problem XXI, the lastto be held due to the deepening world crisis.

Between 14 and 29 October 1940, Saratoga transported a draft of militarypersonnel from San Pedro to Hawaii; and, on 6 January 1941, she enteredthe Bremerton Navy Yard for a long deferred modernization, including wideningher flight deck forward and fitting a blister on her starboard side andadditional small antiaircraft guns. Departing Bremerton on 28 April 1941,the carrier participated in a landing force exercise in May and made twotrips to Hawaii between June and October as the diplomatic crisis with Japancame to a head.

When the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Saratogawas just entering San Diego after an interim drydocking at Bremerton. Shehurriedly got underway the following day as the nucleus of a third carrierforce (Lexington and Enterprise were already at sea), carrying Marine aircraftintended to reinforce the vulnerable garrison on Wake Island. Presence ofthese aircraft on board made Saratoga the logical choice for the actualrelief effort. She reached Pearl Harbor on 15 December and stopped onlylong enough to fuel. She then rendezvoused with Tangier (AV-8), which hadrelief troops and supplies on board, while Lexington and Enterprise provideddistant cover for the operation. However, the Saratoga force was delayedby the low speed of its oiler and by a decision to refuel destroyers on21 December. After receiving reports of Japanese carrier aircraft over theisland and Japanese landings on it, the relief force was recalled on 22December. Wake fell the next day.

Saratoga continued operations in the Hawaiian Island region, but, on11 January 1942, when heading towards a rendezvous with Enterprise, 500miles southwest of Oahu, she was hit without warning by a deep running torpedofired by Japanese submarine, 1-16. Although six men were killed and threefirerooms were flooded, the carrier reached Oahu under her own power. There,her 8-inch guns, useless against aircraft were removed for installationin shore defenses, an] the carrier proceeded to the Bremerton Navy Yardfor permanent repairs and installation of a modern antiaircraft battery.

Saratoga departed Puget Sound on 22 May for San Diego. She arrived thereon 25 May and was training her air group when intelligence was receivedof an impending Japanese assault on Midway. Due to the need to load planesand stores and to collect escorts the carrier was unable to sail until 1June and arrive] at Pearl Harbor on the 6th after the Battle of Midway hadended. She departed Pearl Harbor on 7 June after fueling; and, on 11 June,transferred 34 aircraft to Hornet and Enterprise to replenish their depletedair groups. The three carriers then turned north to counter Japanese activityreported in the Aleutians but the operation was canceled and Saratoga returnedto Pearl Harbor on 13 June.

Between 22 and 29 June, Saratoga ferried Marine and Army aircraft tothe garrison on Midway. On 7 July, she sailed for the southwest Pacific,and, from 28 to 30 July, she provided air cover for landing rehearsals inthe Fiji Islands in preparation for landings on Guadalcanal. As flagshipof Real Admiral F. J. Fletcher, Saratoga opened the Guadalcanal assaultearly on 7 August when she turned into the wind to launch aircraft. Sheprovided air cover for the landings for the next two days. On the firstday, a Japanese air attack was repelled before it reached the carriers,but since further attacks were expected, the carrier force withdrew on theafternoon of 8 August towards a fueling rendezvous. As a result, it wastoo far away to retaliate after four Allied cruisers were sunk that nightin the Battle of Savo Island. The carrier force continued to operate eastof the Solomons, protecting the sealanes to the beachhead and awaiting aJapanese naval counterattack.

The counterattack began to materialize when a Japanese transport forcewas detected on 23 August, and Saratoga launched a strike against it. Theaircraft were unable to find the enemy, however, and spent the night onGuadalcanal. As they were returning on board the next day, the first contactreport on enemy carriers was received. Two hours later, Saratoga launcheda strike which sent Japanese carrier RVuJo to the bottom. Later in the afternoon,as an enemy strike from other carriers was detected, Saratoga hastily launchedthe aircraft on her deck, and these found and damaged seaplane tender Chitose.Meanwhile, due to cloud cover, Saratoga escaped detection by the Japaneseaircraft, which concentrated their attack on, and damaged, Enterprise. TheAmerican force fought back fiercely and weakened enemy air strength so severelythat the Japanese recalled their transports before they reached Guadalcanal.

After landing her returning aircraft at night on 24 August, Saratogarefueled on the 25th and resumed her patrols east of the Solomons. A weeklater, a destroyer reported torpedo wakes heading toward the carrier, butthe 888-foot flattop could not turn quickly enough. A minute later, a torpedofrom 1-26 slammed into the blister on her starboard side. The torpedo killedno one and only flooded one fireroom, but the impact caused short circuitswhich damaged Saratoga's turbo-electric propulsion system and left her deadin the water. Cruiser Minneapolis took the carrier under tow while she flewher aircraft off to shore bases. By early afternoon, Saratoga's engineershad improvised a circuit out of the burned wreckage of her main controlboard and had given her a speed of 10 knots. After repairs at Tongatabufrom 6 to 12 September, Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor on 21 Septemberfor permanent repairs.

Saratoga sailed from Pearl Harbor on 10 November and proceeded, via Fiji,to Noumea which she reached on 5 December. She operated in the vicinityof Noumea for the next twelve months, providing air cover for minor operationsand protecting American forces in the Eastern Solomons. Between 17 May and31 July 1943, she was reinforced by the British carrier, Victorious; and,on 20 October, she was joined by Princeton (CV~23). As troops stormed ashoreon Bougainville on 1 November, Saratoga's aircraft neutralized nearby Japaneseairfields on Buka. Then, on 5 November, in response to reports of Japanesecruisers concentrating at Rabaul to counterattack the Allied landing forces,Saratoga conducted perhaps her most brilliant strike of the war. Her aircraftpenetrated the heavily defended port and disabled most of the Japanese cruisers,ending the surface threat to Bougainville. Saratoga, herself, escaped unscathedand returned to raid Rabaul again on 11 November.

Saratoga and Princeton were then designated the Relief Carrier Groupfor the offensive in the Gilberts and, after striking Nauru on 19 November,they rendezvoused on 23 November with the transports carrying garrison troopsto Makin and Tarawa. The carriers provided air cover until the transportsreached their destinations, and then maintained air patrols over Tarawa.By this time, Saratoga had steamed over a year without repairs, and shewas detached on 30 November to return to the United States. She underwentoverhaul at San Francisco from 9 December 1943 to 3 January 1944, and hadher antiaircraft battery augmented for the last time, receiving 60 40-millimeterguns in place of 36 20-millimeter guns.

The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor on 7 January, and, after a briefperiod of training, sailed from Pearl Harbor on 19 January with light carriers,Langley and Princeton', to support the drive in the Marshalls. Her aircraftstruck Wotie and Taroa for three days, from 29 to 31 January, and then poundedEngebi, the main island at Eniwetok, the 3d to the 6th and from the 10thto the 12th of February. Her planes delivered final blows to Japanese defenseson the 16th, the day before the landings, and provided close air supportand CAP over the island until 28 February.

Saratoga then took leave of the main theaters of the Pacific war foralmost a year, to carry out important but less spectacular assignments elsewhere.Her first task was to help the British initiate their carrier offensivein the Far East. On 4 March, Saratoga departed Majuro with an escort ofthree destroyers, and sailed via Espiritu Santo, Hobart, Tasmania, and Fremantle,Australia, to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She rendezvousedat sea on 27 March with the British force, composed of carrier, Illustrious,and four battleships with escorts, and arrived with them at Trincomalee,Ceylon, on 31 March. On 12 April, the French battleship, Richelieu, arrived,adding to the international flavor of the force. During the next two days,the carriers conducted intensive training at sea during which Saratoga'sfliers tried to impart some of their experience to the British pilots. On16 April, the Eastern Fleet, with Saratoga, sailed from Trincomalee, and,on the 19th, the aircraft from the two carriers struck the port of Sabang,off the northwest tip of Sumatra. The Japanese were caught by surprise bythe new offensive, and much damage was done to port facilities and oil reserves.The raid was so successful that Saratoga delayed her departure in orderto carry out a second. Sailing again from Ceylon on 6 May, the force struckat Soerabaja, Java on 17 May with equally successful results. Saratoga wasdetached the following day, and passed down the eoluTnns of the EasternFleet as the Allied ships rendered honors to and cheered each other.

Saratoga arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 10 June 1944 and was underrepair there through the summer. On 24 September, she arrived at Pearl Harborand commenced her second special assignment training night fighter squadrons.Saratoga had experimented with night flying as early as 1931, and many carriershad been forced to land returning aircraft at night during the war; but,only in August 1944, did a carrier, Independence, receive an air group speciallyequipped to operate at night. At the same time, Carrier Division 11, composedof Saratoga and Ranger (CV4), was commissioned at Pearl Harbor to trainnight pilots and develop night flying doctrine. Saratoga continued thisimportant training duty for almost four months, but as early as October,her division commander was warned that "while employed primarily fortraining, Saratoga is of great value for combat and is to be kept potentiallyavailable for combat duty." The call came in January 1945. Light carrierslike Indepe~ndence had proved too small for safe night operations, and Saratogawas rushed out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January 1945 to form a night fightertask group with Enterprise for the Iwo Jima operation.

Saratoga arrived at Ulithi on 7 February and sailed three days later,with Enterprise and four other carrier task groups. After landing rehearsalswith marines at Tinian on 12 February, the carrier force carried out diversionarystrikes on the Japanese home islands on the night of 16 and 17 Februarybefore the landings on Iwo Jima. Saratoga was assigned to provide fightercover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan; but, inthe process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueledon 18 and 19 February, and, on 21 February, Saratoga was detached with anescort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out nightpatrols over Iwo Jima and night heckler missions over nearby Chichi Jima.However, as she approached her operating area at 1700 on the 21st, an airattack developed; and, taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga'sinsufficient escort, six Japanese planes scored five hits on the carrierin three minutes. Saratoga's flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboardside was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck whileshe lost 123 of her crew dead or missing. Another attack at 1900 scoredan additional bomb hit. By 2015, the fires were under control and the carrierwas able to recover aircraft, but she was ordered to Eniwetok and then tothe west coast for repairs, and arrived at Bremerton on 16 March.

On 22 May, Saratoga departed Puget Sound fully repaired, and she resumedtraining pilots at Pearl Harbor on 3 June. She ceased training duty on 6September, after the Japanese surrender, and sailed from Hawaii on 9 Septembertransporting 3,712 returning naval veterans home to the United States underOperation "Magic Carpet." By the end of her "Magic Carpet"service, Saratoga had brought home 29,204 Pacific war veterans, more thanany other individual ship. At the time, she also held the record for thegreatest number of aircraft landed on a carrier, with a lifetime total of98,549 landings in 17 years.

With the arrival of large numbers of Essex-class carriers, Saratoga wassurplus to postwar requirements, and she was assigned to Operation "Crossroads"at Bikini Atoll to test the effect of the atomic bomb on naval vessels.She survived the first blast, an air burst on 1 July, with only minor damage,but was mortally wounded by the second on 25 July, an underwater blast whichwas detonated under a landing craft 500 yards from the carrier. Salvageefforts were prevented by radioactivity, and seven and one-half hours afterthe blast, with her funnel collapsed across her deck, Saratoga slipped beneaththe surface of the lagoon. She was struck from the Navy list on 15 August1946.

Saratoga received seven battle stars for her World War II service.