USS Essex (CV-1943)


Back to US Navy ship list:


The Essex class won the Naval war for the Allied Powers. To have 24 large, 110 aircraft capacity, aircraft carriers being completed in the period 1943 to 1950, out produced every other nations output for the war. Japan was trying to produce the Unryu class as their 'production line' type but could not match the output of the US Navy, the carrying capacity of the Unryu was also too small to make them effective against the US Navy monsters. The Germanic States built some fine aircraft carriers but they never really had a chance against the sheer numbers arrayed against them.

One thing I have always wondered about was why the US Navy had the enclosed bow on the Lexington and Saratoga, but it never featured again until the Forrestal class of the 1950's, from new. Many of the Essex class were converted during the 1940's and 50's to have an enclosed bow, also the Midway class. I can only assume it was a weight saving device. The earlier carriers through to the Essex class were all displacement  regulated and a few extra tons in the bow could be used more advantageously elsewhere in the ships.

The class was ordered as a pair of improved Yorktown class ships. The Washington and London Naval treaty limits had been removed and with the news of the size of the Japanese battleships and by how far the Japanese had flagrantly thumbed their noses at the 'Treaty' limits, the gloves came off the US Navies building programs. The first ships of this class were laid down in 04/1941 with completion set for December 1942, a total of 32 being ordered. 24 were completed, 14 of which saw action in WW2.

The armament is shown 'as completed' and all of the class received more light 40mm and 20mm mountings under refits. From 1943 the numbers of 20mm started dropping in favour of more 40mm weapons. Post-war the light armament fitted was the automatic twin 3".

  • Design: 27,100 long tons (27,500 t) std, 33,000 long tons (34,000 t) full
  • Actual: 30,800 long tons (31,300 t) std, 36,380 long tons (36,960 t) full
  • 820 ft (249.9 m) pp
  • 872 ft (265.8 m) oa (short-bow units); 888 ft (270.7 m) oa (long-bow units)
  • 862 ft (262.7 m) (short-bow) flight deck; 844 ft (257.3 m) (long-bow) flight deck
Beam 93 ft (28.3 m) wl; 147.5 ft (45.0 m) max
Draft 23 ft (7.0 m) std; 27.5 ft (8.4 m) fl
Installed power 150,000 shp (110,000 kW)
Propulsion Westinghouse geared turbines connected to 4 shafts; 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Speed 33 knots (37 mph 60.6 km/h)
Range 20,000 nmi (37,000 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h)
Complement 268 officers, 2,363 enlisted
  • Belt: 2.5-4 in (64102 mm) on .75 in (19mm) STS
  • Decks: 2.5 in (64mm) STS hangar deck; 1.5 in (38mm) STS 4th deck
Aircraft carried 90110

Sourced from Wikipaedia



Photos of Essex class carriers. One above is titled Murderers Row.

Originally the Essex class went to sea with 14x5"/38cal weapons, in four twin mountings and six singles. As can be seen in the drawing above, the Oriskany still mounted four of the single 5" mountings in 1974.

Essex class ships fought in all of Americas wars through the 50's, 60's and 70's. They proved excellent investments and populated the US Navies fleets around the world for over thirty years. But they were too big for the smaller navies to contemplate purchasing one or two as their aviation ships. The British Majestic CVL's and the Saipan class (especially the last four with enclosed bows and other improvements) proved more financially attractive.

Back to US Navy ship list: