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Do you know this about supercarriers?

BIRTH of a SUPERCARRIER | TO SEA | VIETNAM and ONE TRAGIC DAY | HERCULES and the CAT | RETURN to the MED and the FINAL DAYS

That on 1 October 1955, the U.S. Navy commissioned its first supercarrier, USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in ceremonies at Newport News, Virginia.

Being first at anything many times brings its share of difficulty and such was the case with USS Forrestal (CVA-59). Though World War II propelled the aircraft carrier into the forefront as the primary striking arm of the Navy, to some the mass formation of carrier planes flying over the battleship Missouri (BB-63) during the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay was a curtain call. The atomic age had dawned with the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Army Air Force leaders were proclaiming that long-range bombers equipped with atomic weapons had made conventional forces obsolete. The National Security Act, signed by President Harry S. Truman on 18 July 1947, furthered the bomber barons’ clout by, in part, creating an independent U.S. Air Force.

With economy a stated policy in postwar America, the military services engaged in a hotly debated battle over respective roles and missions, each trying to claim a larger piece of the defense budget pie. By far the bitterest struggle pitted the Navy against the upstart Air Force. The former believed that the atomic mission could be carried out partially from the decks of carriers, and managed to obtain funding for a 1,090 ft. flush deck supercarrier, to be called USS United States (CVA-58). The Air Force argued that money for the ship would be better spent on a fleet of giant B-36 bombers.

Click on Pictures to Enlarge

Then Undersecretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal (r), whose name the Navy’s first supercarrier would bear, confers with ADM Chester W. Nimitz during 1944.

The keel for USS United States (CVA-58) was barely laid at Newport News Shipbuilding when Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson canceled what was to be the Navy’s first supercarrier

The interservice struggle would consume the better part of two years, culminating in the "Revolt of the Admirals." A major casualty was United States, which was cancelled by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson on 23 April 1949, just five days after she was laid down.

Birth of a Supercarrier- USS Forrestal (CVA-59) takes shape at the shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, 1954

Tugboats push USS Forrestal (CVA-59) away from the pier at Newport News Shipbuilding prior to the commencement of the carrier’s sea trials, 29 August 1955.

The "Revolt of the Admirals" essentially preserved naval aviation’s role in the postwar world, yet new carriers would be needed to implement it. Experience was demonstrating that existing carriers, designed to operate propeller-driven aircraft, were having difficulties handling jet aircraft. On 30 October 1950 the Secretary of the Navy approved a budget that included provisions for a new, large-deck carrier. Though initial drawings resembled the design of United States, in final form the new 1,036 ft., 60,000 ton flat-top possessed a look all her own, featuring a small island structure, angled deck, and more powerful steam catapults capable of operating the Navy’s largest heavy bombers. Appropriately, the ship carried the proud name Forrestal after James V. Forrestal, World War I naval aviator, first Secretary of Defense and key supporter of United States.

BIRTH of a SUPERCARRIER | TO SEA | VIETNAM and ONE TRAGIC DAY | HERCULES and the CAT | RETURN to the MED and the FINAL DAYS