USS Wasp (Wasp-class)
|Ship Class||Wasp-class Aircraft Carrier|
|Builder||Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Quincy, Massachusetts, United States|
|Laid Down||1 Apr 1936|
|Launched||4 Apr 1939|
|Commissioned||25 Apr 1940|
|Sunk||15 Sep 1942|
|Displacement||14700 tons standard; 19116 tons full|
|Machinery||6 boilers, steam turbines, 2 shafts|
|Power Output||75000 SHP|
|Range||12,000nm at 15 knots|
|Armament||8x5in, 4x quad 1.1in machine gun mounts, 24x0.50 cal machine guns|
|Catapult||2 in flight deck, 2 in hangar deck|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Wasp was the lead and only ship in her class. She was the eighth American ship to bear that name. After radio direction finder calibration, her shakedown cruise took her to the Caribbeans, conducting carrier qualification tests for pilots while en route. She spent 4 Jul 1936, United States' Independence Day, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At end of Jul, she was in Boston Navy Yard for post-shakedown repairs. Her final trials were not completed until 26 Sep 1940. She joined Carrier Division 3's Patrol Force on 11 Oct 1940, operating out of Norfolk, Virginia, United States. While with Carrier Division 3 she provided Army aircraft the opportunity to test taking off from an aircraft carrier. She served in the Caribbeans and off the US east coast until the outbreak of WW2.
On 23 Jul 1941, Wasp loaded up 33 Army aircraft and sailed for Iceland five days later. She was escorted by destroyers O'Brien and Walke, and later joined by cruiser Vincennes. She delivered the aircraft to Iceland, and returned to Norfolk for more carrier qualifications and other flight training. On 24 Aug, Rear Admiral H. Kent Hewitt broke her flag on Wasp. She anchored in Trinidad on 2 Sep after a rumored hunt for German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. On 6 Sep, she began her patrol "to enforce the neutrality of the United States in the Atlantic." However, the United States was nowhere near neutral at this period of time. Wasp, along with many other American warships, escorted British merchant ships in convoys.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941, Wasp was at Grassy Bay, Bermuda. After the tension with French forces in the Caribbeans lessened, she sailed for Norfolk Navy Yard to commence an overhaul that lasted until 14 Jan 1942. She sailed for Newfoundland and Maine on 16 Mar then returned to Norfolk. On 26 Mar she sailed for Britain to reinforce the Royal Navy. After stops at Scapa Flow and Glasgow, she took on the mission to ferry 47 aircraft to the British island of Malta in the Mediterranean; she was escorted by Force W of the Royal Navy and two American destroyers. The mission was successful as she delivered the British Spitfire aircraft to Malta, though many of the Spitfires were later destroyed by German Luftwaffe on the ground. On 3 May 1942, she delivered another group of Spitfire aircraft to Malta along side of British carrier Eagle that did the same.
During the Malta missions, Battles of Coral Sea and Midway rendered American naval aviation weaker in the Pacific, and it was decided Wasp was to be transferred. After hastened repairs at Norfolk Navy Yard, Captain John Reeves who had been with the ship since commissioning was relieved by Captain Forrest Sherman on 31 May (Reeves was being promoted to flag rank), and Wasp departed for Panama Canal, where she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Leigh Noyes. She arrived in San Diego on 19 Jun, loaded up additional aircraft, and headed for the South Pacific. Her aircraft attacked Japanese positions at Tulagi and Guadalcanal to assist in the landing of the two islands by more than 10,000 American Marines.
On 15 Sep 1942, Wasp was in a group of warships that escorted transports bound for Guadalcanal. While in the process of spotting and launching combat air patrol fighters, she was struck by two out of a spread of four torpedoes launched from Japanese submarine I-19. Amidst aircraft launching and recovering operations, the abundance of fuel and ammunition quickly turned Wasp into an inferno. The water mains were also heavily damaged during the explosions, which left firefighters aboard no choice but to form bucket brigades. After a conference with his executive officer Commander Fred Dickey, Captain Sherman ordered abandon ship at 1520 after confirming the order with Rear Admiral Noyes. Strangely, however, those who served in the engineering spaces did not realize the seriousness of the fire when they heard the order. Engineering officer Lieutenant Commander Ascherfeld noted after the war that his men had no idea of the uncontrollable fires until they made their way above. After ensuring an orderly abandonment, Sherman left the ship at 1600. By nightfall, Wasp had proven to be unwilling to go down, and destroyer Lansdowne was ordered to fire torpedoes to scuttle the ship. Five torpedoes were fired, but only three exploded. She sank at 2100. Of the 2247 men on her at the time, 193 were killed, and 366 were wounded. All but one of her aircraft made a safe trip to carrier Hornet nearby before Wasp sank. I-19 escaped safely after her strike to report the good news to Tokyo.
Sources: the Struggle for Guadalcanal, Wikipedia.
Aircraft Carrier USS Wasp (Wasp-class) Interactive Map
USS Wasp (Wasp-class) Operational Timeline
|25 Apr 1940||Wasp (Wasp-class) was commissioned into service.|
|17 Mar 1942||USS Wasp collided with destroyer USS Stack in foggy weather at 0650 hours off the east coast of the United States, causing flooding in the boiler room of the destroyer.|
|13 Apr 1942||USS Wasp took on British Spitfire fighters at Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom in preparation for an aircraft ferrying mission to Malta.|
|14 Apr 1942||USS Wasp departed the Clyde Estuary, Scotland, United Kingdom with 52 Spitfire fighters of No. 601 and No. 603 Squadrons RAF on board for Malta; she was escorted by destroyers USS Lang and USS Madison.|
|18 Apr 1942||USS Wasp passed through the Strait of Gibraltar en route to Malta.|
|29 Apr 1942||USS Wasp arrived at Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, completing Operation Calendar.|
|3 May 1942||USS Wasp departed Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom with 47 Spitfire fighters aboard, embarking on Operation Bowery aiming to resupply Malta.|
|1 Jul 1942||Wasp departed San Diego, California for Tonga Islands, escorting transports carrying men of the US 5th Marine Regiment.|
|18 Jul 1942||USS Wasp arrived at Tongatapu, Tonga.|
|15 Sep 1942||Japanese submarine I-19 sank USS Wasp (3 torpedo hits; 194 were killed, 1,969 survived) in the Coral Sea at 1444 hours; USS North Carolina and USS O'Brien were also damaged in the attack.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935