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  USS Saratoga CV-3
Lexington Class
Aircraft Carrier

36,000 tons (standard)
53,000 tons (1945)
850' x 105' x 24' 3"
4 x Twin 8"
12 x 5" Guns
91 aircraft
2 elevators
1 catapult

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USN December 1941

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USN November 5, 1943
Ship History
Laid down September 25, 1920, as the Lexington class Battle Cruiser #3 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, a division of the American Brown-Boveri Electric Corporation at Camden, New Jersey. Construction canceled and re-ordered as an aircraft carrier and reclassified CV-3 on July 1, 1922, in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty limiting naval armaments; launched on April 7, 1925. Commissioned on November 16, 1927 with Captain Harry E. Yarnell in command.

Wartime History

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, stopping only long enough to refuel. She then rendezvoused with USS Tangier, which had troops and supplies aboard, while Lexington and Enterprise provided distant cover for the operation. However, the Saratoga force was delayed on December 21, 1941 due to the slow speed of their oilier and a decision to refuel escorting destroyers. After receiving reports of Japanese carrier aircraft over Wake Island and the Japanese landing, the relief force was recalled on December 22, 1941 and Wake fell the next day.

Afterwards, Saratoga operated off Hawaii. On January 11, 1942 while steaming for a rendezvous with USS Enterprise 500 miles southwest of Oahu, she was hit without warning by a deep-running torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-6. Although six men were killed and three fire rooms flooded, the carrier reached Oahu under her own power. Afterwards, her 8" guns, were removed for installation of inshore defenses, and the carrier proceeded to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs and installation of a modern anti-aircraft battery.

On May 22, 1942 Saratoga departed Bremerton bound for San Diego arriving three days later. While training her air group, intelligence was received of an impending Japanese assault on Midway. Due to the need to load planes and stores and to collect escorts, the carrier was unable to depart until June 1, 1942 and reached Pearl Harbor on June 6, 1942 after the Battle of Midway.

On June 7, 1942 departed Pearl Harbor and after refueling on June 11, 1942 transferred 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 torpedos 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 had given her a speed of 10 knots and proceeds to Tongatabu. During September 6-12, 1942 for additional repairs then departs bound for Pearl Harbor escorted by USS New Orleans (CA-32) arriving on September 21, 1942 for permenant repairs.

On November 10, 1942 departs Pearl Harbor and proceedes 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 lanuched 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).

USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Princeton (CVL-23) were then designated the Relief Carrier Group for the offensive in the Gilberts, and after striking Nauru Airfield on 19 November, they rendezvoused on 23 November 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 30 November to return to the United States. She underwent overhaul at San Francisco from 9 December 1943 to 3 January 1944, and had her antiaircraft battery augmented for the last time, receiving 60 x 40mm guns in place of 36 x 20mm guns.

The carrier arrived at Pearl Harbor on 7 January, and after a brief period of training, sailed from Pearl Harbor on 19 January with light carriers, Langley and Princeton, to support the drive in the Marshalls. Her aircraft struck Wotje and Taroa for three days, from 29 January to 31 January, and then pounded Engebi, the main island at Eniwetok, the 3rd to the 6th and from the 10th to the 12th of February. Her planes delivered final blows to Japanese defenses on the 16th, the day before the landings, and provided close air support and CAP over the island until 28 February.

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, 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 16 April, the Eastern Fleet, with Saratoga, sailed from Trincomalee, and on the 19th, the aircraft from the two carriers struck the port of Sabang off the northwest tip of Sumatra (Operation Cockpit). The Japanese were caught by surprise by the new offensive ("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. Sailing again from Ceylon on 6 May, the force struck at Soerabaja, Java, on 17 May with equally successful results. Saratoga was detached the following day, and passed down the columns of the Eastern Fleet as the Allied ships rendered honors to and cheered each other.

Saratoga arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 10 June 1944, for overhaul. On 24 September, she arrived at Pearl Harbor and commenced 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 returning aircraft at night during the war, but only in August 1944 did a carrier, Independence, receive an air group specially equipped to operate at night. 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 important training duty for almost four months, but as early as October, 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." The call came in January 1945. Light carriers like Independence had proved too small for safe night operations, and Saratoga was rushed out of Pearl Harbor on 29 January 1945, to form a night fighter task group with Enterprise for the Iwo Jima operation.

Saratoga arrived at Ulithi on 7 February and sailed three days later with Enterprise and four other carrier task groups. After landing rehearsals with Marines at Tinian on 12 February, the carrier force carried out diversionary strikes on the Japanese home islands on the nights of 16 February and 17 February, before the landings on Iwo Jima.

Saratoga was assigned to provide fighter cover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan, but in the process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueled on 18 February and 19 February, and on 21 February, 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 nearby Chi-chi Jima.

However, as she approached her operating area at 17:00 on the 21st, an air attack developed, and taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga's insufficient escort, six Japanese planes scored five hits on the carrier in three minutes. Saratoga's flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck, while she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing. Another attack at 19:00 scored an additional bomb hit. By 20:15, the fires were under control, and the carrier was able to recover aircraft, but she was ordered to Eniwetok and then to the West Coast for repairs, arriving at Bremerton on 16 March.

On 22 May, Saratoga departed Puget Sound fully repaired, and she resumed training pilots at Pearl Harbor on 3 June. She ceased training duty on 6 September after the Japanese surrender.

On September 9, served as a transport for 3,712 returning naval veterans departing Hawaii home to the United States under Operation Magic Carpet. By the end of her "Magic Carpet" service, Saratoga had brought home 29,204 Pacific war veterans, 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 in 17 years.

Assigned to Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll to test the effect of the atomic bomb on naval vessels. She survived Test Able an air burst on July 1, 1946, with only minor damage.

Sinking History
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.

Thanks to Jim Sawruk for additional information

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Last Updated
January 6, 2021


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