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36,000 tons (standard)
53,000 tons (1945)
850' x 105' x 24' 3"
4 x Twin 8" guns
12 x 5" AA guns
36 x 20mm guns (1942-3)
60 x 40mm guns (1944-5)
2 x elevators
USN June 8, 1932
USN December 1941
USN November 5, 1943
Built by New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey. In 1916 authorized in 1916 as a Lexington-class battlecruiser but construction was delayed during World War I as more critical anti-submarine and merchant ships were prioritized. After World War I, her design was improved to incorporate the latest Naval architecture improvements including improved boilers, anti-torpedo bulges, and increased armor protection.
Laid down September 25, 1920 as the Lexington class Battle Cruiser No. 3 with hull number CC-3. By February 1922 the warship was 28% complete prior to the Washington Naval Conference when construction was suspended. On July 1, 1922 construction resumed as an aircraft carrier with hull number CV-3 in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty limiting Naval vessels. Launched April 7, 1925 as USS Saratoga (CV-3) the fifth warship named for the Battle of Saratoga sponsored by Olive Doolittle, wife of Curtis D. Wilbur, Secretary of the Navy. Commissioned November 16, 1927 in the U. S. Navy (USN) with Captain Harry E. Yarnell in command. Nicknamed "Sister Sara" and during World War II nicknamed "Sara Maru".
On December 7, 1941 Saratoga was entering San Diego after an interim dry docking at Bremerton. She hurriedly got underway the following day as the nucleus of a third carrier force. Both USS Lexington (CV-2) and Enterprise were already at sea, transporting Marine aircraft bound for Wake Island.
On December 15, 1941 arrived at Pearl Harbor and stopped only long enough to refuel then rendezvoused with USS Tangier (AV-8) and a convoy with troops and supples with Lexington and Enterprise providing distant cover. The Saratoga force was delayed on December 21, 1941 due to the slow speed of their oilier and a decision to refuel escorting destroyers. On December 22, 1941 after receiving reports of Japanese carrier aircraft over Wake and the Japanese landing, the relief force was recalled and Wake surrenders the next day. For the remainder of the month, Saratoga operates off Hawaii.
On January 11, 1942 while steaming for a rendezvous with USS Enterprise (CV-6) roughly 500 miles southwest of Oahu, without warning, Saratoga was hit port amidships by a deep-running torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-6. Although six were killed and three fire rooms flooded, the carrier is able to increase speed to 16 knots and return to Pearl Harbor under her own power but repairs will keep her out of action for repairs and training for almost six months. Afterwards, her 8" guns, were removed for installation as coastal artillery and the carrier proceeds to Bremerton Navy Yard at Bremerton for permanent repairs and installation of upgraded anti-aircraft guns with repairs completed by May 22, 1942 and departs for San Diego arriving three days later and begins training her air group. Meanwhile, intelligence reveals plans for a Japanese attack against Midway. Saratoga rushes to load planes, supplies and for escorts. On June 1, 1942 departs for Pearl Harbor arriving five days later and missed the Battle of Midway.
On June 7, 1942 departs Pearl Harbor and refuels four days later and transfers thirty-four carrier aircraft to USS Hornet (CV-8) to replenish their depleted air groups. The carriers turned northward to counter Japanese activity reported in the Aleutians, but the operation was canceled and instead Saratoga returned to Pearl Harbor on June 13, 1942. Between June 22, 1942 until June 29, 1942 Saratoga ferried Marine and Army aircraft to Midway. On July 7, 1942 departed for the South Pacific, and between July 28, 1942 to July 30, 1942 provided air cover for rehearsal landings on Fiji.
Saratoga served as the flagship of Rear Admiral F. J. Fletcher. During August 7-9, 1942 she provided air cover for the Marine landing at Guadalcanal. On the first day, a Japanese air attack was repelled before it reached the carriers, but since further attacks were expected, the carrier force withdrew during the afternoon of August 8 for a refueling rendezvous. As a result, th carrier was too far away to retaliate after the Battle of Savo Island. She continued to operate east of the Solomons, protecting the sea-lanes and awaiting a Japanese naval counterattack.
A Japanese transport force was detected on August 23 and Saratoga launched an air strike, but her planes were unable to find the enemy, and instead landed at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. As they were returning the next day, the first contact report on enemy carriers was received. Two hours later, Saratoga launched an air strike that sank Ryojo. Later in the afternoon, as an enemy strike was detected and Saratoga hastily launched the aircraft on her deck, and these found and damaged seaplane tender Chitose. Meanwhile, due to cloud cover, Saratoga escaped detection by Japanese aircraft, which damaged Enterprise. The American force fought back fiercely and weakened enemy air strength severely and the Japanese recalled their transports before they reached Guadalcanal. Afterwards, her returning aircraft at night on August 24, 1942. The next day, Saratoga refueled then resumed patrolling east of the Solomons Islands.
On August 31, 1942 around 6:30am Japanese submarine I-26 spotted Saratoga and at 7:46am comes to periscope depth next to escorting USS MacDonough (DD-351) and fires a six torpedo salvo from a distance of 3,830 yards at the carrier then dives to 330' to escape. The wakes of torpedoes are spotted and the carrier begins an evasive turn. One torpedo broaches due to a malfunction, four others miss by 7:48am. One torpedo hits the starboard blister flooding one fire room. The impact caused short circuits which damaged Saratoga's turbo-electric propulsion system and left her dead in the water but kills or injures no one. Afterwards, USS Minneapolis (CA-36) took the damaged carrier under tow while her aircraft took off to operate shore based. By early afternoon, Saratoga's engineers had improvised a circuit out of the burned wreckage of her main control board and achieved the speed of 10 knots and proceeds to Tongatabu. During September 6-12, 1942 for additional repairs then departs for Pearl Harbor escorted by USS New Orleans (CA-32) arriving on September 21, 1942 for permanent repairs.
On November 10, 1942 departs Pearl Harbor and proceeded to Fiji then arrives at Nouméa on December 5, 1942. For the next twelve months, Saratoga operates in the vicinity of Nouméa providing air cover for minor operations and protecting the Eastern Solomons. During May 17, 1943 until July 31, 1943 reinforced by the British carrier, HMS Victorious (R38). On October 20, 1942 joined by USS Princeton (CVL-23).
November 1943 Raids on Bougainville and Rabaul
As part of "Operation Shoestring 2", Task Force 38 including USS Saratoga and USS Princeton was assigned to attack Buka Airfield and Bonis Airfield, to cover the landings at Torokina on November 1 and 2. Lost during the two strikes are: TBF 24422, SBD 10923, F6F Hellcat 08884 , F6F Hellcat 26014 and TBF Avenger 06117.
On November 5, 1943 in response to reports of Japanese cruisers concentrating at Rabaul, Saratoga aircraft penetrated the heavily defended port and disabled most of the Japanese cruisers, ending the surface threat to Bougainville. Saratoga herself escaped unscathed. Lost were SBD 28404, F6F 26117, TBF 24401.
On November 11, 1943 Saratoga carrier aircraft launched an attack against Rabaul. Lost were TBF 23973 (POW/MIA), TBF 24422, TBF 06127, TBF 06117, SBD 10923, Also, radioman ARM2 James M. Claycomb was KIA and 2 radiomen WIA (Alva J. Parker ARM2 & Forest B. Webb ARM2).
Afterwards, USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Princeton (CVL-23) were then designated the Relief Carrier Group for the offensive in the Gilberts. On November 19, 1943 her aircraft strike Nauru Airfield. On November 23, 1943 the group rendezvous with the transports carrying garrison troops to Makin and Tarawa. The carriers provided air cover until the transports reached their destinations and then maintained air patrols over Tarawa. By this time, Saratoga had steamed over a year without repairs, and she was detached on November 30, 1943 departs bound for the west coast of the United States.
On December 9, 1943 underwent overhaul at San Francisco until January 3, 1944 and had her antiaircraft battery upgraded again adding 60 x 40mm guns removing her 36 x 20mm guns. After overhaul, returns to Pearl Harbor on January 7, 1944 and undergoes a brief period of training. On January 19, 1944 departs with light carriers USS Langley and USS Princeton to support the offensive in the Marshall Islands. On January 29, 1944 until January 31, 1944 her carrier aircraft strike Wotje and Taroa. On February 3, 1944 until February 6, 1944 her aircraft strike Engebi Island in Eniwetok Atoll with more strikes February 10, 1944 to February 12, 1944. On February 16, 1944 her planes strike again strike Engebi Island and cover the amphibious landing and provide close air support and combat air patrol (CAP) until February 28, 1944.
Saratoga then took leave of the main theaters of the Pacific war for almost a year to carry out important but less spectacular assignments elsewhere. Her first task was to help the British initiate their carrier offensive in the Far East. On 4 March, Saratoga departed Majuro with an escort of three destroyers, and sailed via Espiritu Santo; Hobart, Tasmania; and Fremantle, Australia, to join the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She rendezvoused at sea on 27 March with the British force, composed of carrier HMS Illustrious, HMS Renown (flagship of Vice-Admiral second-in-command Eastern Fleet), HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant with escorts, and arrived with them at Trincomalee on Ceylon, on 31 March. On 12 April, the French battleship Richelieu arrived, adding to the international flavor of the force, which also included warships from Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. During the next two days, the carriers conducted intensive training at sea during which Saratoga's fliers tried to impart some of their experience to the British pilots.
On April 16, 1944 the Eastern Fleet, with Saratoga departed Trincomalee and three days later participates in Operation Cockpit when aircraft from the two carriers strike the port of Sabang off Sumatra. The Japanese were caught by surprise by the new offensive and "caught with their kimonos up", and much damage was done to port facilities and oil reserves, with minimal losses. The raid was so successful that Saratoga delayed her departure in order to carry out a second strike. On May 6, 1944 departs Ceylon and the next day their carrier aircraft strike Soerabaja on Java successfully. On May 8, 1944 Saratoga was detached and passed down the columns of the Eastern Fleet as the Allied ships rendered honors to and cheer each other then proceeds across the Pacific back to Bremerton arriving June 10, 1944 for an overhaul then departs for Pearl Harbor arriving September 24, 1944.
At Pearl Harbor, commences her second special assignment training night fighter squadrons. Saratoga had experimented with night flying as early as 1931, and many carriers had been forced to land aircraft at night, but only in August 1944 did USS Independence receive an air group specially equipped to operate at night but proved too small. At the same time, Carrier Division 11, composed of Saratoga and USS Ranger CV-4 were commissioned at Pearl Harbor to train night pilots and develop night flying doctrine. Saratoga continued this training duty for almost four months, but as early as October 1944, her division commander was warned that "while employed primarily for training, Saratoga is of great value for combat and is to be kept potentially available for combat duty." On January 29, 1945 Saratoga departs Pearl Harbor to form a night fighter task group with USS Enterprise bound for Iwo Jima.
On February 7, 1945 arrives Ulithi and three days later departs with USS Enterprise and four other carrier task groups. On February 12, 1944 supports landing rehearsals for U. S. Marines on Tinian. Afterwards, the carrier force departs for Japan. During the night of February 16, 1945 to February 17, 1945 carrier aircraft strike targets in Japan as a diversionary strike ahead of the Iwo Jima landing. During this operation, Saratoga provides fighter cover but her fighter aircraft attack two Japanese airfields. On February 18, 1945 and February 19, 1945 the carrier force refuels at sea. On February 21, 1945 Saratoga was detached with an escort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out night patrols over Iwo Jima and night heckler missions over Chi Chi Jima.
On February 21 at 5:00pm as she approached her operating area, a Japanese air attack developed using low cloud cover and attacked Saratoga that had an insufficient escort. Over a three minute period, sustained five hits that wrecked the forward flight deck and two holes and large fires raged in the hanger deck and suffered 123 crew dead and missing. At 7:00pm another attack resulted in another bomb hit. By 8:15pm the fires were under control and was able to recover aircraft but was ordered to withdraw to Eniwetok then across the Pacific to Bremerton arriving March 16, 1945 for repairs until departing on May 22, 1945 bound for Pearl Harbor arriving June 3, 1945.
For the remainder of the Pacific War, Saratoga resumes pilot training until the official surrender of Japan. On September 6, 1945 Saratoga suspends training duty. For her World War II service, Saratoga earned a total of eight battle stars.
On September 9, 1945 under Operation Magic Carpet serves as a transport for 3,712 returning Naval personnel from Hawaii to the United States. By the end of her "Magic Carpet" service, Saratoga transported 29,204 personnel from the Pacific, more than any other individual ship. At the time, she also held the record for the greatest number of aircraft landed on a carrier, with a lifetime total of 98,549 landings over a seventeen year span.
Afterwards, assigned to Operation Crossroads to test the effect of the atomic bomb on naval vessels. On July 1, 1946 at at Bikini Atoll used as a target during Test Able air burst with only minor damage.
On July 25, 1946 at 8:35am Test Baker an underwater blast detonated under LSM-60 500 yards from Saratoga damaged the carrier and salvage efforts impossible due to radioactivity. Around 4:00pm, 7 hours and 30 minutes after the blast, her funnel collapsed across the deck and sank Bikini Lagoon. Officially stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on August 15, 1946.
The top of the shipwreck at a depth of 50' and is accessible to divers. Today, Saratoga is one of only three aircraft carriers at recreational SCUBA diving depths.
NavSource - USS Saratoga CV-3 (photos)
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