United States Navy USS Ranger CV-4
History of the USS Ranger CV-4
USS Ranger (CV-4) was the first ship of the United States Navy to be designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. Ranger was a relatively small ship, closer in size and displacement to the first US carrier —Langley — than later ships. An island superstructure was not included in the original design, but was added after completion. Of the eight pre-war US aircraft carriers CV-1 through CV-8, Ranger was one of only three to survive World War II, the others being Enterprise and Saratoga. Deemed too slow for use with the Pacific Fleet's carrier task forces, the ship spent most of the war in the Atlantic Ocean.
USS Ranger CV-4
Ranger was laid down on 26 September 1931 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia, launched on 25 February 1933, sponsored by Lou Henry Hoover (the wife of the President of the United States), and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 4 June 1934,with Captain Arthur L. Bristol in command.
Ranger conducted her initial flight operations off the Virginia Capes on 21 June 1934 and departed Norfolk on 17 August for a shakedown training cruise that took her to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. She returned to Norfolk on 4 October for operations off the Virginia Capes and two stints in dry dock for post trial repairs until 1 April 1935, when she sailed for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal on 7 April, she arrived in San Diego on the 15th.
For nearly four years, she participated in fleet problems reaching to Hawaii, the first-ever carrier cold weather test trials in Alaska, and in western seaboard operations that took her as far south as Callao, Peru, and as far north as Seattle, Washington. On 4 January 1939, she departed San Diego for winter fleet operations in the Caribbean based at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. She then steamed north to Norfolk, arriving on 20 April.
Ranger cruised along the eastern seaboard out of Norfolk and into the Caribbean Sea. In the fall of 1939, she commenced Neutrality Patrol operations, operating out of Bermuda along the trade routes of the middle Atlantic and up the eastern seaboard up to NS Argentia, Newfoundland.
World War II
1942: In December 1941, she was returning to Norfolk from an ocean patrol extending to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Arriving in Norfolk on 8 December, she sailed on the 21st for patrol in the South Atlantic. She then entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for repairs on 21 March 1942. Ranger was one of 14 ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 radar.
Ranger served as flagship of Rear Admiral A. B. Cook, Commander, Carriers, Atlantic Fleet—until 6 April 1942, when he was relieved by Rear Admiral Ernest D. McWhorter, who also broke his flag in Ranger.
Steaming to Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island, Ranger loaded 68 Curtiss P-40Es and put to sea on 22 April, launching the Army planes on 10 May to land at Accra, on the Gold Coast of Africa (Ghana). She returned to Quonset Point on 28 May, made a patrol to Argentia, then steamed out of Newport on 1 July with another 72 Army P-40s, which she launched off the coast of Africa for Accra on 19 July. Both groups of P-40Es were en route to augment the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers (soon to be redesignated as the Army Air Forces' 23rd Fighter Group) in China, to replenish their losses as well as forming a second unit, the 51st Fighter Group. After calling at Trinidad, she returned to Norfolk for local battle practice until 1 October, then based her training at Bermuda, in the company of four new Sangamon-class escort carriers: ships converted from oil tankers to increase U.S. air power in the Atlantic Ocean.
As the largest carrier in the Atlantic Fleet, Ranger led the task force that comprised herself and the four escort carriers. These provided air superiority during the amphibious invasion of Vichy-ruled French Morocco and the resulting Naval Battle of Casablanca, beginning on 8 November.
It was still dark at 06:15 that day, when Ranger—stationed 30 mi (48 km) northwest of Casablanca—began launching her aircraft to support the landings made at three points on the Atlantic coast of North Africa (Operation Torch). Nine of her Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters attacked the Rabat and Rabat-Sale aerodromes, headquarters of the French air forces in Morocco. Without loss to themselves, they destroyed seven planes at one field, and fourteen bombers at the other. Another flight destroyed seven planes on the Port Lyautey field. Some of Ranger's planes strafed four French destroyers in Casablanca Harbor, while others strafed and bombed nearby shore batteries.
The carrier launched 496 combat sorties in the three-day operation. Her attack aircraft scored two direct bomb hits on the French destroyer leader Albatros, completely wrecking her forward half and causing 300 casualties. They also attacked the French cruiser Primauguet as she sortied from Casablanca Harbor and dropped depth charges within lethal distance of two submarines. They knocked out coastal defense and anti-aircraft batteries, destroyed more than 70 enemy aircraft on the ground, and shot down 15 aircraft in aerial combat. However, 16 planes from Ranger were lost or damaged beyond repair. It was estimated that 21 enemy light tanks were immobilized and some 86 military vehicles destroyed – most of them troop-carrying trucks.
Casablanca capitulated to the American forces on 11 November. Ranger departed from the Moroccan coast on 12 November, returning to Hampton Roads on 24 November and Norfolk on 14 December 1942.
1943: Following training in Chesapeake Bay, Ranger underwent an overhaul at the Norfolk Navy Yard from 16 December 1942 – 7 February 1943. She next transported 75 P-40L fighters of the Army Air Forces' 58th Fighter Group to Africa, arriving at Casablanca on 23 February. Next, she patrolled and trained pilots along the New England coast steaming as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia. Departing from Halifax on 11 August, she joined the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland on 19 August, with which she patrolled the approaches to the British Isles.
Ranger departed from Scapa Flow with the Home Fleet on 2 October to attack German shipping in Norwegian waters (Operation Leader). The objective of the force was the northern Norwegian port of Bodø. The task force reached launch position off Vestfjorden before dawn on 4 October completely undetected. At 06:18, Ranger launched 20 SBD Dauntless dive bombers and an escort of eight Wildcats. One division of dive bombers attacked the 8,000-long-ton (8,100 t) freighter LaPlata, while the rest continued north to attack a German ship convoy. The bombers severely damaged a 10,000-long-ton (10,000 t) tanker and a smaller troop transport. They also sank two of four small German merchant ships in the Bodø roadstead.
A second attack group from Ranger—consisting of 10 Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers and six Wildcats—destroyed a German freighter and a small coastal ship, and bombed a troop-laden transport. Three of the aircraft were lost to anti-aircraft fire. On the afternoon of 4 October, Ranger was located by three German aircraft; her combat air patrol shot down two of the enemy planes and chased away the third.
Ranger returned to Scapa Flow on 6 October. She patrolled with the British 2nd Battle Squadron in waters extending northwestward to Iceland, and then she departed from Hvalfjord on 26 November, arriving at Boston on 3 December.
1944-1945: On 3 January 1944, Ranger became a training carrier out of Quonset Point, Rhode Island. This duty was interrupted on 20 April when she steamed to Staten Island, New York to take on 76 Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters—together with Army, Navy, and French Navy personnel—for transportation to Casablanca. Steaming out on 24 April, she arrived at Casablanca on 4 May. The new aircraft were replaced with damaged U.S. Army aircraft marked for repair in the U.S., while military passengers were embarked for the return to New York City.
Prior to her returning to the U.S., Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King had planned to overhaul the carrier by lengthening the hull and installing new engines. Ranger had been designed in the late 1920s, and consequently was smaller, slower, less armored, and carried fewer aircraft and ammunition supplies than the rest of the U.S. carrier fleet. Admiral King favored having the conversions done, but his staff officers pointed out that the resources required to accomplish this would impact on the construction and repair of newer, larger, and more capable aircraft carriers. Based on this information, the full project was canceled. After arriving at New York Harbor on 16 May, Ranger entered the Norfolk Navy Yard to have her flight deck strengthened, new aircraft catapults installed, and radar equipment updated. This provided her with the capability of night fighter-interceptor training. On 11 July, she departed from Norfolk and headed for Panama. She transited the Panama Canal five days later, embarked several hundred U.S. Army passengers at Balboa, Panama, then sailed to San Diego, arriving there on 25 July. After embarking the men and aircraft of Night Fighting Squadron 102 and nearly 1,000 U.S. Marines, Ranger steamed for Hawaiian waters on 28 July, reaching Pearl Harbor on 3 August. During the next three months, Ranger conducted night carrier flight training operations out of Pearl Harbor.
Ranger departed from Pearl Harbor on 13 October to train new naval pilots for combat duty. Operating out of San Diego under the Commander, Fleet Air, Alameda, California, Ranger continued training air groups and squadrons along the California coast throughout the remainder of the war. Ranger was the only pre-war U.S. carrier to have never engaged Japanese forces in battle.
1944–45: Departing San Diego on 30 September 1945, she embarked civilian and military passengers at Balboa and then steamed for New Orleans, Louisiana, arriving on 18 October. Following Navy Day celebrations there, she sailed on 30 October for brief operations at Pensacola, Florida. After calling at Norfolk, she entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 19 November for overhaul. She remained on the eastern seaboard until decommissioned at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 18 October 1946. Struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 29 October, Ranger was sold for scrap to Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania on 31 January 1947.
For her service Ranger was awarded two Service stars and the following ribbons/awards. The 2 Service stars awarded to Ranger were awarded based on her participation in the operations detailed below.
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