|Ship Class||Lexington-class Aircraft Carrier|
|Builder||New York Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Laid Down||25 Sep 1920|
|Launched||7 Apr 1925|
|Commissioned||16 Nov 1927|
|Sunk||25 Jul 1946|
|Displacement||38746 tons standard; 53000 tons full|
|Machinery||16 boilers, geared turbines, electric drive, 4 shafts|
|Power Output||180000 SHP|
|Range||10,000nm at 10 knots|
|Armor||5-7in belt, 2in third deck, 4.5in over steering gear|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Saratoga was originally laid down as a Lexington-class battlecruiser, and like her sister Lexington, she was converted to become an aircraft carrier in 1922. Because she was visually identical to Lexington, a large black stripe was painted on her funnel to help sailors differentiate her, and it led to her nickname Stripe Stacked Sara. Her conversion to carrier was completed a month before Lexington's, therefore she was the first fast carrier in the United States Navy. Her shakedown took place off Philadelphia with Marc Mitscher on board as her air officer; Mitscher was also the first pilot to land an aircraft on her flight deck. She served off Panama, in the Caribbean Sea, and in the San Diego area before WW2, contributing greatly to the development of US Navy carrier doctrine. In Mar 1938, she conducted a mock surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that was eerily similar to how the Japanese would conduct the attack three years down the road.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, Saratoga was just entering San Diego from Bremerton. With US Marine Corps aircraft intended for Wake Island, she got underway hurriedly, reaching Hawaii on 15 Dec 1941. The relief mission for Wake was cancelled on 22 Dec as Wake was already in danger of falling. She remained in the Hawaiian Islands region. On 11 Jan 1942, she was struck by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-16; she limped back to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Her 8in guns were removed while being repairs as they were useless against enemy aircraft; they were instead installed on shore facilities.
Saratoga arrived at San Diego on 22 May 1942 after repairs at Bremerton, and departed for Midway on 1 Jun. Because of the delay in loading aircraft at San Diego, she missed the action at Midway. She departed for the Aleutian Islands, but turned back after the operation was cancelled. She reached Pearl Harbor on 13 Jun.
Between 22 and 29 Jun 1942, Saratoga ferried Marine and Army aircraft to Midway. On 7 Jul, she departed for the South Pacific, conducting carrier rehearsals at Fiji at the end of the month, then participated in the Guadalcanal Campaign as the flagship of Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher in Aug 1942. On 24 Aug, at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Saratoga's aircraft bit the bait and attacked the light carrier Ryujo, sinking her with several 1,000-lb bombs and one torpedo. Although they were able to sink Ryujo, the actual main attack in the form of aircraft from fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku attacked American carrier Enterprise; Saratoga, hiding in a squall, escaped unscathed.
In Sep 1942, Saratoga was struck by torpedo from Japanese submarine I-26 and was dead in the water. Cruiser Minneapolis towed her while her crew conducted temporary repairs. She eventually sailed to Tongatabu and then Pearl Harbor for repairs.
Saratoga returned to service in Nov 1942. Until mid-1943, she provided air cover for various American operations in the Solomon Islands area. On 5 and 11 Nov 1943, her aircraft conducted devastating attacks on the Japanese base at Rabaul, disabling many cruisers and lifting threat to US forces in the region from Japanese surface ships. Later that month, she supported the invasion of Tarawa.
After overhaul in San Francisco in Dec 1943, Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbor on 7 Jan 1944. She participated in the Marshall Islands Campaign, striking Japanese garrisons at Wotje, Taroa, and Eniwetok. In Mar, she joined the British Royal Navy Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. The Eastern Fleet struck Sabang, Sumatra on 19 Apr and Soerabaja, Java on 17 May, with her aircraft contributing significantly to the success of both missions. She returned to Bremerton, Washington for overhaul in Jun 1944, then trained night fighter squadrons at Pearl harbor from Sep 1944 to Jan 1945.
On 29 Jan 1945, Saratoga set sail from Pearl Harbor for Iwo Jima. After landing rehearsals with Marine aircraft on 12 Feb off Tinian, her aircraft struck the Japanese home islands on 16 and 17 Feb. Her aircraft attacked Japanese positions on Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima. On 21 Feb, six Japanese aircraft scored five hits on Saratoga, damaging her flight deck and starting several fires. A second wave of attack two hours later scored another hit. By 2015 that evening, the fires were under control, and temporary repairs to the flight deck allowed it to function again. She returned to Bremerton for repairs in Mar.
In Jun 1945, Saratoga trained pilots at Pearl Harbor. She remained there until the end of the war.
After the war, Saratoga participated in Operation Magic Carpet that brought American servicemen back to the United States; she brought home 29,204 men, more than any other ship in the operation. As she became obsolete after the war, she was used as a target at Bikini Atoll for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests. She survived the first blast on 1 Jul 1946, but the second test conducted on 25 Jul sank her.
USS Saratoga Operational Timeline
|16 Nov 1927||Saratoga was commissioned into service.|
|23 Jan 1929||Starting on this date and lasting through 27 Jan 1929, the US Navy aircraft carriers USS Lexington and USS Saratoga participated in their first exercise. Sailing with the opposing forces of Fleet Problem IX, Saratoga was detached on a southerly sweep against the Panama Canal, where she arrived undetected, and launched 69 aircraft on a mock dawn raid.|
|2 Nov 1931||US Marine Corps Squadrons VS-15M and VS-14M embarked in the aircraft carriers USS Lexington and USS Saratoga respectively, the first US Marine squadrons to be assigned to carriers, as part of the organisation in Aircraft, Battle Force. They were to remain carrier-based until late 1934 giving US Marine Corps pilots necessary experience in a realm of naval aviation which, previously, had been largely denied to them.|
|13 Jun 1939||The US Navy carrier USS Saratoga completed a two day trial of underway refuelling tests with the fleet tanker Kanawha. These sea replenishment techniques greatly extended the range of the US carrier force and proved invaluable for later operations in the Pacific War.|
|8 Dec 1941||USS Saratoga departed San Diego, California for Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii.|
|15 Dec 1941||USS Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii.|
|16 Dec 1941||USN Task Force 14, centered around USS Saratoga, departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii to relieve Wake Island.|
|25 Dec 1941||Carrier USS Saratoga launched F2A Buffalo aircraft of Marine Fighter Squadron 221, originally intended to relieve Wake Atoll, to Midway Atoll. They became the first fighters to be based in Midway, and they immediately began a daily patrol schedule.|
|27 Dec 1941||USS Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii.|
|31 Dec 1941||US Navy Task Force 11 with USS Saratoga departed Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii for patrol.|
|12 Jan 1942||USS Saratoga was damaged by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-6 about 500 miles southwest of US Territory of Hawaii; she returned to Pearl Harbor under own power.|
|1 Jun 1942||USS Saratoga departed San Diego, California for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.|
|7 Jun 1942||USS Saratoga transferred aircraft to Enterprise and Hornet so that they could sail north to reinforce the Aleutian Islands.|
|13 Jun 1942||USS Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor.|
|22 Jun 1942||Saratoga departed Pearl Harbor to ferry aircraft to Midway.|
|25 Jun 1942||Saratoga delivered 25 P-40 Warhawk fighters and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers to Midway.|
|29 Jun 1942||USS Saratoga arrived at Pearl Harbor, US Territory of Hawaii after ferrying aircraft to Midway Atoll.|
|7 Jul 1942||Saratoga departed Pearl Harbor for the South Pacific.|
|18 Jul 1942||Frank Fletcher was promoted to the rank of vice admiral. He broke his flag aboard USS Saratoga.|
|31 Aug 1942||Japanese submarine I-26 damaged USS Saratoga by torpedo 240 miles east of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, leaving her dead in the water. There were no casualties from this attack. She would be out of action for next three months for repairs.|
|5 Nov 1943||US carriers Saratoga and Princeton raided Rabaul, Bismarck Archipelago, damaging four Japanese heavy cruisers.|
|21 Feb 1945||The Japanese Army and Navy launched a combined tokko attack, dispatching 4 and 21 suicide aircraft, respectively. The fleet carrier USS Saratoga and escort carrier USS Lunga Point were hit and damaged, while escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea was sunk.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945