USS Sable file photo [19744]


CountryUnited States
Hull NumberIX-81
BuilderAmerican Ship Building Company, Lorain, Ohio, United States
Launched27 Oct 1923
Commissioned8 May 1943
Decommissioned7 Nov 1945
Displacement6,690 tons standard
Length535 feet
Beam58 feet
MachineryInclined compound steam engine driving 2 sidewheels
Speed18 knots


ww2dbaseUSS Sable (IX-81) was a training ship of the United States Navy during World War II. Originally built as the Greater Buffalo, a sidewheel excursion steamer, she was converted in 1942 to a freshwater aircraft carrier to be used on the Great Lakes and was used for advanced training of naval aviators in carrier takeoffs and landings.

ww2dbaseThe Greater Buffalo was originally built in 1924 by the American Ship Building Company of Lorain, Ohio as a sidewheel excursion steamer. She was powered by a three-cylinder inclined compound steam engine. She had six passenger decks and carried three funnels along her top.

ww2dbaseOne of the largest ships on the Great Lakes from 1924–1942, Greater Buffalo was acquired by the US Navy on 7 August 1942 to be converted in to a training aircraft carrier. She was renamed Sable on 19 September 1942.

ww2dbaseSable was converted by the American Shipbuilding Company at Buffalo, New York. The upper decks were removed leaving the main deck. Along with additional supports, a steel flight deck was installed instead of the originally planned Douglas-fir wooden deck like what was installed on the Navy’s other Great Lakes sidewheeled aircraft carrier, USS Wolverine. Sable lacked a hangar deck, elevators or armament, as her role was for the training of pilots for carrier take-offs and landings. Sable was commissioned on 8 May 1943, Captain Warren K. Berner in command.

ww2dbaseThe completed Sable departed Buffalo on 22 May 1943 and arrived at her assigned homeport of Chicago, Illinois on 26 May 1943. While sailing out of Chicago on Lake Michigan, Sable acquired the nickname "Sister Sue." Sable and Wolverine were assigned to the 9th Naval District Carrier Qualification Training Unit (CQTU) and used for qualifying pilots for carrier operations. Sable's steel deck was used for testing non-skid material on the flight deck as well as her normal duties. Following the end of World War II, Sable was decommissioned on 7 November 1945 and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 28 November 1945. She was sold by the Maritime Commission to H. H. Buncher Company on 7 July 1948 and was reported as "disposed of" on 27 July 1948.

ww2dbaseTogether, Sable and Wolverine trained 17,820 pilots in 116,000 carrier landings. Of these, 51,000 landings were on Sable alone. One of the pilots qualified on Sable was a 20-year-old Lieutenant, junior grade, future President of the United States George H. W. Bush. Of the estimated 135–300 aircraft lost during training, 35 have been salvaged and the search for more is underway.

"Wave-Off" (USS Sable Newsletter)

Last Major Revision: Dec 2013

Sable (IX-81) Interactive Map


The steamship Greater Buffalo before she was converted to the training aircraft carrier USS Sable. The Great Lakes, United States, 1930s.As work finishes up on the side-wheel aircraft carrier USS Wolverine, work begins on converting the Greater Buffalo, left, into the second side-wheel aircraft carrier USS Sable, Buffalo, New York, United States, Aug 1942Captain Warren K Berner, left, reading his orders to take command of the training carrier USS Sable at her commissioning ceremony at the American Shipbuilding Company in Buffalo, New York, 8 May 1943.The training aircraft carrier USS Sable in the icy waters of Lake Erie on the day of her commissioning in Buffalo, New York, United States, 8 May 1943.
See all 75 photographs of Sable (IX-81)

Sable Operational Timeline

27 Oct 1923 Excursion steamer Greater Buffalo was launched at the American Ship Building Company of Lorain, Ohio, United States.
7 Aug 1942 Excursion steamer Greater Buffalo was acquired by the US Navy.
19 Sep 1942 Excursion steamer Greater Buffalo was renamed Sable.
8 May 1943 USS Sable was commissioned into service with Captain Warren K. Berner in command.
22 May 1943 USS Sable departed Buffalo, New York, United States.
26 May 1943 USS Sable arrived at Chicago, Illinois, United States.
18 Oct 1944 Commander William Henry Ashford, Jr. was named the commanding officer of USS Sable.
7 Nov 1945 USS Sable was decommissioned from service.
28 Nov 1945 Sable was struck from the US Naval Vessel Register.
7 Jul 1948 Sable was sold to H. H. Buncher Company for scrapping.
27 Jul 1948 Sable was reported as "disposed of".

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
22 Jan 2014 04:59:52 PM

I've met several men who got certified on those. They hated taking off since those were slow so couldn't produce any extra headwind. All said they nearly splashed a few times due to that.

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
More on Sable
» Bush, George

Sable (IX-81) Photo Gallery
The steamship Greater Buffalo before she was converted to the training aircraft carrier USS Sable. The Great Lakes, United States, 1930s.
See all 75 photographs of Sable (IX-81)

Famous WW2 Quote
"Goddam it, you'll never get the Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!"

Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!