USS Wasp (CV 18 / CVA 18 / CVS 18):
The ninth Wasp (CV-18) was laid down as Oriskany on
18 March 1942 at Quincy, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; renamed Wasp on
13 November 1942; launched on 17 August 1943; sponsored by Miss Julia M.
Walsh, the sister of Senator David I. Walsh of Massachusetts; and
commissioned on 24 November 1943, Capt. Clifton A. F. Sprague in command.
Following a shakedown cruise which lasted through the end of 1943, Wasp
returned to Boston for a brief yard period to correct minor flaws which had
been discovered during her time at sea. On 10 January 1944, the new aircraft
carrier departed Boston; steamed to Hampton Roads, Va.; and remained there
until the la;;t day of the month, when she sailed for Trinidad, her base of
operations through 22 February. She returned to Boston five days later and
prepared for service in the Pacific. Early in March, the ship sailed south;
transited the Panama Canal; arrived at San Diego, Calif., on 21 March; and
reached Pearl Harbor on 4 April.
Following training exercises in Hawaiian waters, Wasp steamed to the Marshall
Islands and at Majuro Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery's newly formed Task
Group (TG) 58.6 of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force
(TF 58). On 14 May, she and her sister carriers of TG 58.6, Essex (CV-9) and
San Jacinto (CV-30), sortied for raids on Marcus and Wake Islands to give the
new task group combat experience; to test a recently devised system of
assigning-before takeoff-each pilot a specific target; and to neutralize
those islands for the forthcoming Marianas campaign. As the force neared
Marcus, it split, sending San Jacinto north to search for Japanese picket
boats while Wasp and Essex launched strikes on the 19th and 20th, aimed at
installations on the island. American planes encountered heavy antiaircraft
fire but still managed to do enough damage to prevent Japanese forces on the island
from interfering with the impending assault on Saipan.
When weather canceled launches planned for the 21st, the two carriers
rejoined San Jacinto and steamed to Wake. Planes from all three carriers
pounded that island on the 24th and were sufficiently effective to neutralize
that base. However, the system of preselecting targets for each plane fell
short of the Navy's expectations; and, thereafter, tactical air commanders
resumed responsibility for directing the attacks of their planes.
After the strike on Wake, TG 58.6 returned to Majuro to prepare for the
Mariana campaign. On 6 June, Wasp--reassigned to TG 58.2 which was also
commanded by Rear Admiral Montgomery-sortied for the invasion of Saipan.
During the afternoon of the 11th, she and her sister carriers launched
fighters for strikes against Japanese air bases on Saipan and Tinian. They
were challenged by some 30 land-based fighters which they promptly shot down.
Antiaircraft fire was heavy, but the American planes braved it as they went
on to destroy many Japanese aircraft which were still on the ground.
During the next three days, the American fighters- now joined by
bombers-pounded installations on Saipan to soften up Japanese defenses for
American assault troops who would go ashore on the 15th. That day and
thereafter until the morning of the 17th, planes from TG 58.2 and TG 58.3
provided close air support for marines fighting on the Saipan beachhead.
The fast carriers of those task groups then turned over to escort carriers
responsibility for providing air support for the American ground forces,
refueled, and steamed to rendezvous with TG 58.1 and 58.4 which were
returning from strikes against Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima to prevent Japanese
air bases on those islands from being used to launch attacks against American
forces on or near Saipan.
Meanwhile, Japan-determined to defend Saipan, no matter how high the cost-was
sending Admiral Jisa-buro Ozawa's powerful First Mobile Fleet from the Sulu
Islands to the Marianas to sink the warships of Admiral Spruance's 5th Fleet
and to annihilate the American troops who had fought their way ashore on
Saipan. Soon after the Japanese task force sortied from Tawi Tawi on the
morning of 13 June, American submarine Redfin (SS-272) spotted and reported
it. Other submarines-which from time to time made contact with Ozawa's
warships-kept Spruance posted on their progress as they wended their way
through the Philippine Islands, transited San Bernardino Strait, and entered
the Philippine Sea.
All day on the 18th, each force sent out scout planes in an effort to locate
its adversary. Because of their greater range, the Japanese aircraft managed
to obtain some knowledge of Spruance's ships, but American scout planes were
unable to find Ozawa's force. Early the following morning, 19 June, aircraft
from Mitscher's carriers headed for Guam to neutralize that island for the
coming battle and, in a series of dogfights, destroyed many Japanese
During the morning, carriers from Ozawa's fleet launched four massive raids
against their American counterparts; but all were thwarted almost completely.
Nearly all of the Japanese warplanes were shot down while failing to sink a
single American ship. They did manage to score a single bomb hit on South
Dakota (BB-57), but that solitary success did not even put the tough Yankee
battleship out of action.
That day, Mitscher's planes did not find the Japanese ships, but American
submarines succeeded in sending two enemy carriers to the bottom. In the
evening, three of Mitscher's four carrier task groups headed west in search
of Ozawa's retiring fleet, leaving only TG 58.4 and a gun line of old
battleships in the immediate vicinity of the Marianas to cover ground forces
on Saipan. Planes from the American carriers failed to find the Japanese
force until mid-afternoon on the 20th when an Avenger pilot reported spotting
Ozawa almost 300 miles from the American carriers. Mitscher daringly ordered
an all-out strike even though he knew that night would descend before his
planes could return.
Over two hours later, the American aviators caught up with their quarry. They
damaged two oilers so severely that they had to be scuttled; sank carrier
Hiyo; and scored damaging but non-lethal hits on carriers Ryuho, Junyo, and
Zuikaku and several other Japanese ships. However, during the sunset attack,
the fuel gauges in many of the American planes registered half empty or more,
presaging an anxious flight back to their now distant carriers.
When the carriers spotted the first returning plane at 2030 that night, Rear
Admiral J. J. Clark bravely defied the menace of Japanese submarines by
ordering all lights to be turned on to guide the weary fliers home.
After a plane from Hornet landed on Lexington, Mitscher gave pilots
permission to land on any available deck. Despite these unusual efforts to
help the Navy's airmen, a good many planes ran out of gasoline before they
reached the carriers and dropped into the water.
When fuel calculations indicated that no aircraft which had not returned could
still be aloft, Mitscher ordered the carriers to reverse course and resume
the stern chase of Ozawa's surviving ships-more in the hope of finding any
downed fliers who might still be alive and pulling them from the sea than in
the expectation of overtaking Japan's First Mobile Fleet before it reached
the protection of the Emperor's land-based planes. During the chase,
Mitcher's ships picked up 36 pilots and 26 crewmen.
At mid-morning of the 21st, Admiral Spruance detached Wasp and Bunker Hill
from their task group and sent them with Admiral Lee's battleships in Ozawa's
wake to locate and destroy any crippled enemy ships. The ensuing two-day hunt
failed to flush out any game, so this ad hoc force headed toward Eniwetok for
replenishment and well-earned rest.
The respite was brief; for, on 30 June, Wasp sortied in TG 58.2-with TG
58.1-for strikes at Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima. Planes from the carriers
pounded those islands on 3 and 4 July and, during the raids, destroyed 75
enemy aircraft, for the most part in the air. Then, as a grand finale,
cruisers from the force's screen shelled Iwo Jima for two and one-half hours.
The next day, 5 July, the two task groups returned to the Marianas and
attacked Guam and Rota to begin more than a fortnight's effort to soften the
Japanese defenses there in preparation for landings on Guam. Planes from Wasp
and her sister carriers provided close air support for the marines and
soldiers who stormed ashore on the 21st.
The next day, Wasp's task group, TG 58.2, sortied with two other groups of
Mitscher's carriers, headed southwest toward the Western Carolines, and
launched raids against the Palaus on the 25th. The force then parted, with TG
58.1 and TG 58.3 steaming back north for further raids to keep the Benin and
Volcano Islands neutralized while Wasp in TG 58.2 was retiring toward the
Marshalls for replenishment at Eniwetok which she reached on 2 August.
Toward the end of Wasp's stay at that base, Admiral Halsey relieved Admiral
Spruance on 26 August and the 5th Fleet became the 3d Fleet. Two days later,
the Fast Carrier Task Force-redesignated TF 38-sortied for the Palaus. On 6
September, Wasp-now assigned to Vice Admiral John S. McCain's TG 38.1-began
three days of raids on the Palaus. On the 9th, she headed-with her task group,
TG 38.2, and TG 38.3-for the southern Philippines to neutralize air power
there during the American conquest of Morotai, Peleliu, and Ulithi-three
islands needed as advanced bases during the impending campaign to liberate
the Philippines. Planes from these carriers encountered little resistance as
they lashed Mindanao airfields that day and on the 10th. Raids against the
Visayan Islands on the 12th and 13th were carried out with impunity and were
equally successful. Learning of the lack of Japanese air defenses in the
southern Philippines enabled Allied strategists to cancel an invasion of
Mindanao which had been scheduled to begin on 15 November. Instead, Allied
forces could go straight to Leyte and advance the recapture of Philippine
soil by almost a month.
D day in the Palaus, 15 September, found Wasp's TG 38.1 some 50 miles off
Morotai, launching air strikes. It then returned to the Philippines for
revisits to Mindanao and the Visayas before retiring to the Admiralties on 29
September for replenishment at Manus in preparation for the liberation of the
Ready to resume battle, she got underway again on 4 October and steamed to
the Philippine Sea where TF 38 reassembled at twilight on the evening of 7
October, some 375 miles west of the Marianas. Its mission was to neutralize
airbases within operational air distance of the Philippines to keep Japanese
warplanes out of the air during the American landings on Leyte scheduled to
begin on 20 October. The carriers steamed north to rendezvous with a group of
nine oilers and spent the next day, 8 October, refueling. They then followed
a generally northwesterly course toward the Ryukyus until the 10th when their
planes raided Okinawa, Amami, and Miyaki. That day, TF 38 planes destroyed a
Japanese submarine tender, 12 sampans, and over 100 planes. But for Lt. Col.
Doolittle's Tokyo raid from Hornet (CV-8) on 18 April 1942 and the daring war
patrols of Pacific Fleet submarines, this carrier foray was the United States
Navy's closest approach to the Japanese home islands up to that point in the
Beginning on the 12th, Formosa-next on the agenda -received three days of
unwelcome attention from TF 38 planes. In response, the Japanese Navy made an
all-out effort to protect that strategic island, even though doing so meant
denuding its remaining carriers of aircraft. Yet, the attempt to thwart the
ever advancing American Pacific Fleet was futile. At the end of a three-day
air battle, Japan had lost more than 500 planes and 20-odd freighters. Many
other merchant ships were damaged as were hangars, barracks, warehouses,
industrial plants, and ammunition dumps. However, the victory was costly to
the United States Navy, for TF 38 lost 79 planes and 64 pilots and air
crewmen, while cruisers Canberra and Houston and carrier Franklin received
damaging, but non-lethal, bomb hits.
From Formosa, TF 38 shifted its attention to the Philippines. After steaming
to waters east of Luzon, Wasp's TG 58.1 began to launch strikes against that
island on the 18th and continued the attack the following day, hitting Manila
for the first time since it was occupied by the Japanese early in the war.
On the 20th, the day the first American troops waded ashore on Leyte, Wasp
had moved south to the station off that island whence she and her sister
carriers launched some planes for close air support missions to assist
MacArthur's soldiers, while sending other aircraft to destroy airfields on
Mindanao, Cebu, Negros, Panay, and Leyte. Task Group 38.1 refueled the
following day and, on the 22d, set a course for Ulithi to rearm and
While McCain's carriers were steaming away from the Philippines, great events
were taking place in the waters of that archipelago. Admiral Soemu Toyoda,
the Commander in Chief of Japan's Combined Fleet, activated plan Sho-Go-1, a
scheme for bringing about a decisive naval action off Leyte. The Japanese
strategy called for Ozawa's carriers to act as a decoy to lure TF 38 north of
Luzon and away from the Leyte beachhead. Then-with the American fast carriers
out of the way-heavy Japanese surface ships were to debouch into Leyte Gulf
from two directions: from the south through Surigao Strait and from the north
through San Bernardino Strait. During much of the 24th, planes from Halsey's
carrier task groups still in Philippine waters pounded Admiral Kurita's
powerful Force "A," or Center Force, as it steamed across the
Sibuyan Sea toward San Bernardino Strait. When darkness stopped their attack,
the American aircraft had sunk superbattleship Musashi and had damaged
several other Japanese warships. Moreover, Halsey's pilots reported that
Kurita's force had reversed course and was moving away from San Bernardino
That night, Admiral Nishimura's Force "C", or Sourthern Force,
attempted to transit Surigao Strait but met a line of old battleships
commanded by Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf. The venerable American
men-of-war crossed Nishimura's "T" and all but annihilated his
force. Admiral Shima-who was following in Nishimura's wake to lend support-realized
that disaster had struck and wisely withdrew.
Meanwhile, late in the afternoon of the 24th-after Kurita's Center Force had
turned away from San Bernardino Strait in apparent retreat-Halsey's scout
planes finally located Ozawa's carriers a bit under 200 miles north of TF 38.
This intelligence prompted Halsey to head north toward Ozawa with his Fast
Carrier Task Force. However, at this point, he did not recall McCain's TG
58.1 but allowed it to continue steaming toward Ulithi.
After dark, Kurita's Center Force again reversed course and once more headed
for San Bernardino Strait. About half an hour past midnight, it transited
that narrow passage; turned to starboard; and steamed south, down the east
coast of Samar. Since Halsey had dashed north in pursuit of Ozawa's carriers,
only three 7th Fleet escort carrier groups and their destroyer and destoyer
escort screens were available to challenge Kurita's mighty battleships and
heavy cruisers and to protect the American amphibious ships which were
supporting the troops fighting on Leyte.
Remembered by their call names, "Taffy 1," "Taffy 2," and
"Taffy 3," these three American escort-carrier groups were deployed
along Samar's east coast with "Taffy 3"-commanded by Wasp's first
captain, Rear Admiral Clifton A. F. Sprague-in the northernmost position,
about 40 miles off Paninihian Point. "Taffy 2" was covering Leyte
Gulf, and "Taffy 1" was still farther south watching Surigao
At 0645, lookouts on "Taffy 3" ships spotted bursts of antiaircraft
fire blossoming in the northern sky, as Center Force gunners opened fire on
an American antisubmarine patrol plane. Moments later, "Taffy 3"
made both radar and visual contact with the approaching Japanese warships.
Shortly before 0700, Kurita's guns opened fire on the hapless "baby
flattops" and their comparatively tiny but incredibly courageous
escorts. For more than two hours, "Taffy 3's" ships and
planes-aided by aircraft from sister escort-carrier groups to the
south-fought back with torpedoes, guns, bombs, and consummate seamanship.
Then, at 0911, Kurita-shaken by the loss of three heavy cruisers and thinking
that he had been fighting TF 38-ordered his remaining warships to break off
Meanwhile, at 0848, Admiral Halsey had radioed McCain's TG 58.1-then refueling
en route to Ulithi- calling that carrier group back to Philippine waters to
help "Taffy 3" in its fight for survival. Wasp and her consorts
raced toward Samar at flank speed until 1030 when they began launching planes
for strikes at Kurita's ships which were still some 330 miles away. While
these raids did little damage to the Japanese Center Force, they did
strengthen Kurita's decision to retire from Leyte.
While his planes were in the air, McCain's carriers continued to speed
westward to lessen the distance of his pilots' return flight and to be in
optimum position at dawn to launch more warplanes at the fleeing enemy force.
With the first light of the 26th, TG 38.1 and Rear Admiral Bogan's TG
38.2-which finally had been sent south by Halsey-launched the first of their
strikes that day against Kurita. The second left the carriers a little over
two hours later. These fliers sank light cruiser Noshiro and damaged, but did
not sink, heavy cruiser Kumano. The two task groups launched a third strike
in the early afternoon, but it did not add to their score.
Following the Battle for Leyte Gulf, which ended the Japanese Fleet as a
serious challenge to American supremacy at sea in the Far East, TG 38.1
operated in the Philippines for two more days providing close air support
before again heading for Ulithi on the 28th. However, the respite-during
which Rear Admiral Montgomery took command of TG 38.1 when McCain fleeted up
to relieve Mitscher as CTF 38 - was brief since Japanese land-based planes
attacked troops on the Leyte beachhead on 1 November. Wasp participated in
raids against Luzon air bases on the 5th and 6th, destroying over 400
Japanese aircraft, for the most part on the ground. After a kamikaze hit
Lexington during the operation, McCain shifted his flag from that carrier to
Wasp and, a short time later, returned in her to Guam to exchange air groups.
Wasp returned to the Philippines a little before mid-month and continued to
send strikes against targets in the Philippines-mostly on Luzon-until the 25th
when the Army Air Force assumed responsibility for providing air support for
troops on Leyte. TF 38 then retired to Ulithi. There, the carriers received
greater complements of fighter planes and, in late November and early
December, conducted training exercises to prepare them better to deal with
Japan's new threat to the American warships, kamikazes or suicide planes.
Task Force 38 sortied from Ulithi on 10 and 11 December and proceeded to a
position east of Luzon for round-the-clock strikes against air bases on that
island from the 14th through the 16th to prevent Japanese fighter planes from
endangering landings on the southwest coast of Mindoro scheduled for the
15th. Then, while withdrawing to a fueling rendezvous point east of the
Philippines, TF 38 was caught in a terribly destructive typhoon which
battered its ships and sank three American destroyers. The carriers spent
most of the ensuing week repairing storm damage and returned to Ulithi on
But the accelerating tempo of the war ruled out long repose in the shelter of
the lagoon. Before the year ended, the carriers were back in action against
airfields in the Philippines, on Sakishima Gunto, and on Okinawa. These raids
were intended to smooth the way for General MacArthur's invasion of Luzon
through the Lingayen Gulf. While the carrier planes were unable to knock out
all Japanese air resistance to the Luzon landings, they did succeed in
destroying many enemy planes and thus reduced the air threat to manageable
On the night after the initial landings on Luzon, Halsey took TF 38 into the
South China Sea for a week's rampage in which his ships and planes took a
heavy toll of Japanese shipping and aircraft before they retransited Luzon
Strait on the 16th and returned to the Philippine Sea. Bad weather prevented
Halsey's planes from going aloft for the next few days; but, on the 21st,
they bombed Formosa, the Pescadores, and the Sakishimas. The following day,
the aircraft returned to the Sakishimas and the Ryukyus for more bombing and
reconnaissance. The overworked Fast Carrier Task Force then headed for Ulithi
and entered that lagoon on the 25th.
While the flattops were catching their breath at Ulithi, Admiral Spruance
relieved Halsey in command of the Fleet, which was thereby transformed from
the 3d to the 5th. The metamorphosis also entailed Mitscher's replacing
McCain and Clark's resuming command of TG 58.1-still Wasp's task group.
The next major operation dictated by Allied strategy was the capture of Iwo
Jima in the Volcano Islands. Iwo was needed as a base for Army Air Force
fighter planes which were to protect Mariana-based B-29 bombers during raids
against the Japanese home islands and as an emergency landing point for
crippled war-planes. Task Force 58 sortied on 10 February, held rehearsals at
Tinian, and then headed for Japan.
Fighter planes took off from the carriers before dawn on the 16th to clear
the skies of Japanese aircraft. They succeeded in this mission, but Wasp lost
several of her fighters during the sweep. Bombing sorties, directed primarily
at aircraft factories in Tokyo, followed; but clouds hid many of these
plants, forcing some planes to drop their bombs on secondary targets. Bad
weather, which also hampered Mitscher's fliers during raids the next morning,
prompted him to cancel strikes scheduled for the afternoon and head the task
During the night, Mitscher turned the carriers toward the Volcano Islands to
be on hand to provide air support for the marines who would land on beaches
of Iwo Jima on the morning of the 19th.
For the next few days, planes from the American carriers continued to assist
the marines who were engaged in a bloody struggle to wrest the island from
its fanatical defenders. On the 23d, Mitscher led his carriers back to Japan
for more raids on Tokyo. Planes took off on the morning of the 25th; but,
when they reached Tokyo, they again found their targets obscured by clouds.
Moreover, visibility was so bad the next day that raids on Nagoya were called
off, and the carriers steamed south toward the Ryukyus to bomb and
reconnoiter Okinawa, the next prize to be taken from the Japanese Empire.
Planes left the carriers at dawn on 1 March; and, throughout the day, they
hammered and photographed the islands of the Ryukyu group. Then, after a
night bombardment by surface ships, TF 58 set a course for the Carolines and
anchored in Ulithi lagoon on the 4th.
Damaged as she was, Wasp recorded-from 17 to 23 March-what was often referred
to as the busiest week in flattop history. In these seven days, Wasp
accounted for 14 enemy planes in the air, destroyed six more on the ground,
scored two 500-pound bomb hits on each of two Japanese carriers, dropped two
1,000-pound bombs on a Japanese battleship, put one 1,000-pounder on another
battleship, hit a heavy cruiser with three 500-pound missiles, dropped
another 1,000-pound bomb on a big cargo ship, and heavily strafed "and
probably sank" a large Japanese submarine. During this week, Wasp was
under almost continuous attack by shore-based aircraft and experienced
several close kamikaze attacks. The carrier's gunners fired more than 10,000
rounds at the determined Japanese attackers.
On 13 April 1945, Wasp returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton,
Wash., and had the damage caused by the bomb hit repaired. Once whole again,
she steamed to Hawaii and, after a brief sojourn at Pearl Harbor, headed
toward the western Pacific on 12 July 1945. Wasp conducted a strike at Wake
Island and paused briefly at Eniwetok before rejoining the rampaging Fast
Carrier Task Force. In a series of strikes, unique in the almost complete
absence of enemy airborne planes, Wasp pilots struck Yokosuka Naval Base near
Tokyo, numerous airfields, and hidden manufacturing centers. On 9 August, a
suicide plane swooped down at the carrier; but a Wasp pilot flying above the
ship forced the enemy to splash into the sea.
Then, on 15 August, when the fighting should have been over, two Japanese
planes tried to attack Wasp's task group. Fortunately, Wasp pilots were still
flying on combat air patrol and sent both enemies smoking into the sea. This
was the last time Wasp pilots and gunners were to tangle with the Japanese.
On 25 August 1945, a severe typhoon, with winds reaching 78 knots, engulfed
Wasp and stove in about 30 feet of her bow. The carrier, despite the
hazardous job of flying from such a shortened deck, continued to launch her
planes on missions of mercy or patrol as they carried food, medicine, and
long-deserved luxuries to American prisoners of war at Narumi, near Nagoya.
The ship returned to Boston for Navy Day, 27 October 1945. On 30 October,
Wasp got underway for the naval shipyard in New York for a period of
availability to have additional facilities installed for maximum
transportation of troops. This work was completed on 15 November 1945 and
enabled her to accommodate some 5,500 enlisted passengers and 400 officers.
After receiving the new alterations, Wasp was assigned temporary duty as an
Operation "Magic Carpet" troop transport. On 17 February 1947, Wasp
was placed out of commission in reserve, attached to the Atlantic Reserve
In the summer of 1948, Wasp was taken out of the reserve fleet and placed in
the New York Naval Shipyard for refitting and alterations to enable her to
accommodate the larger, heavier, and faster planes of the jet age. Upon the
completion of this conversion, the ship was recommissioned on 10 September
Wasp reported to the Atlantic Fleet in November 1951 and began a period of
shakedown training out of Norfolk which lasted until February 1952. After
returning from the shakedown cruise, she spent a month in the New York Naval
Shipyard preparing for duty in distant waters.
On 26 April 1952, Wasp collided with destroyer minesweeper Hobson (DMS-26)
while conducting night flying operations en route to Gibraltar. Hobson lost
176 of the crew, including her skipper. Rapid rescue operations saved 61 men.
Although Wasp sustained no personnel casualties her hull was severely
damaged, with a 30 x 50-foot bite gouged out of the bow. With the carrier
urgently needed for duty in the Mediterranean, preparations for repairs were
The carrier carefully proceeded to Bayonne, N.J., entered drydock there on 8
May and her damaged bow was cleared out with blow torches. The following day,
the bow of aircraft carrier Hornet (CV-12) - then undergoing conversion in
Brooklyn, N.Y. -was cut off and floated by barge across the bay. Fitted into
position under Wasp that afternoon, the bow was fitted with steel plates to
close any remaining gaps and workers began round-the-clock welding
operations. This remarkable repair task, which including replacing 61
lifeboats and refitting the carrier's anchor chain, was completed in only 10
days, enabling the carrier to get underway on 21 May. Shifting south to
Norfolk, the crew spent a short three days preparing for deployment and the
carrier sailed east across the Atlantic on 24 May.
Wasp relieved Tarawa (CV-40) at Gibraltar on 2 June and joined Carrier
Division (CarDiv) 6 in the Mediterranean Sea. After conducting strenuous
flight operations between goodwill visits to many Mediterranean ports, Wasp
was relieved at Gibraltar on 5 September by Leyte (CV-32). The carrier then
sailed north to take part in NATO Exercise "Mainbrace" in the north
Atlantic, an exercise designed to test the Allied response to a hypothetical
Soviet naval attack. Wasp then visited at Greenock, Scotland, and enjoying a
liberty period at Plymouth, England, before heading home on 29 September. She
was reclassified CVA-18 on 1 October while enroute to Norfolk and arrived
there early on the morning of 13 October 1952.
On 7 November 1952, Wasp entered the New York Naval Shipyard to commence a
seven-month yard period to prepare her for a world cruise which was to bring
her into the Pacific Fleet once more. After refresher training out of
Guantanamo Bay in the West Indies, Wasp departed Norfolk on 16 September
After sailing across the Atlantic, the carrier participated in NATO Exercise
"Mariner" in the north Atlantic before sailing for the
Mediterranean. Wasp transited the Suez Canal, steamed across the Indian Ocean
and joined Task Force 77 for operations off China in the tense months after
the armistice ended the fighting in Korea. While operating in the western
Pacific, she made port calls at Hong Kong, Manila, Yokosuka, and Sasebo.
On 10 January 1954, China's Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek spent more than
four hours on board Wasp watching simulated air war maneuvers in Formosan
waters. On 12 March, President Ramon Magsaysay of the Republic of the
Philippines came on board to observe air operations as a guest of American
Ambassador Raymond A. Spruance. Wasp operated out of Subic Bay, Philippines,
for a time, then sailed for Japan; where, in April 1954, she was relieved by Boxer
(CV-21) and sailed for her new home port of San Diego, Calif.
Wasp spent the next few months preparing for another tour of the Orient. She
departed the United States in September 1954 and steamed to the Far East
visiting Pearl Harbor and Iwo Jima en route. She relieved Boxer in October
1954 and engaged in air operations in the South China Sea with Carrier Task
Group 70.2. Wasp visited the Philippine Islands in November and December and
proceeded to Japan early in 1955 to join TF 77. While operating with that
naval organization, Wasp provided air cover for the evacuation of the Tachen
Islands by the Chinese Nationalists.
After the Tachen evacuation, Wasp stopped at Japan before returning to San
Diego, Calif., in April. She entered the San Francisco Naval Shipyard in May
for a seven-month conversion and overhaul. On 1 December, the carrier
returned to duty displaying a new canted flight deck and a hurricane bow. As
1955 ended, Wasp had returned to San Diego and was busily preparing for
another Far Eastern tour.
After training during the early months of 1956, Wasp departed San Diego,
Calif., on 23 April for another cruise to the Far East with Carrier Air Group
15 embarked. She stopped at Pearl Harbor to undergo inspection and training
and then proceeded to Guam where she arrived in time for the Armed Forces Day
ceremonies on 14 May. En route to Japan in May, she joined TF 77 for
Operation "Sea Horse," a five-day period of day and night training
for the ship and air group. The ship arrived at Yokosuka on 4 June; visited
Iwakuni, Japan; then steamed to Manila for a brief visit. Following a drydock
period at Yokosuka, Wasp again steamed south to Cubi Point, Philippine
Islands, for the commissioning of the new naval air station there. Carrier
Air Group 15 provided an air show for President Ramon Magsaysay of the
Philippines and Admiral Arthur Radford. During the third week of August, Wasp
was at Yokosuka enjoying what was scheduled to be a fortnight's stay, but she
sailed a week early to aid other ships in searching for survivors of a Navy
patrol plane which had been shot down on 23 August off the coast of communist
China. After a futile search, the ship proceeded to Kobe, Japan, and made a
final stop at Yokosuka before leaving the Far East.
Wasp returned to San Diego on 15 October and while there was reclassified an
antisubmarine warfare aircraft carrier, CVS-18, effective on 1 November 1956.
She spent the last days of 1956 in San Diego preparing for her transfer to
the east coast.
Wasp left San Diego on the last day of January 1957, rounded Cape Horn for
operations in the South Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, then proceeded to Boston
where she arrived on 21 March. The carrier came into Norfolk, Va., on 6 April
to embark members of her crew from the Antisubmarine Warfare School. The
carrier spent the next few months in tactics along the eastern seaboard and
in the waters off Bermuda before returning to Boston on 16 August.
On 3 September, Wasp got underway to participate in NATO Operations
"Seaspray" and "Strikeback," which took her to the coast
of Scotland and simulated nuclear attacks and counterattacks on 130 different
land bases. The carrier returned to Boston on 23 October 1957 and entered the
Boston Naval Shipyard for a major overhaul which was not completed until 10
March 1958 when she sailed for antisubmarine warfare practice at Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba. Upon returning to Boston on 29 April and picking up air squadrons
at Quonset Point, R.I., on 12 May, she became the hub of TF 66, a special
antisubmarine group of the 6th Fleet.
The carrier began her Atlantic crossing on the 12th of May and sailed only a
few hundred miles when trouble flared in Lebanon. Wasp arrived at Gibraltar
on the 21st of May and headed east, making stops at Souda Bay, Crete; Rhodes,
and Athens. Wasp next spent 10 days at sea conducting a joint
Italian-American antisubmarine warfare exercise in the Tyrrhenian Sea off
Sardinia. On 15 July, the carrier put to sea to patrol waters off Lebanon.
Her Marine helicopter transport squadron left the ship five days later to set
up camp at the Beirut International Airport. They flew reconnaissance
missions and transported the sick and injured from Marine battalions in the
hills to the evacuation hospital at the airport. She continued to support
forces ashore in Lebanon until 17 September 1958 when she departed Beirut
Harbor, bound for home. She reached Norfolk on 7 October, unloaded supplies,
and then made a brief stop at Quonset Point before arriving in her home port
of Boston on 11 October.
Four days later, Wasp became flagship of Task Group Bravo, one of two new
antisubmarine defense groups formed by the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic
Fleet. Wasp's air squadrons and seven destroyers were supported by
shore-based seaplane patrol aircraft. She sailed from Quonset Point on 26
November for a 17-day cruise in the North Atlantic. This at-sea period marked
the first time her force operated together as a team. The operations
continued day and night to coordinate and develop the task group's team
capabilities until she returned to Boston on 13 December 1958 and remained
over the Christmas holiday season.
Wasp operated with Task Group Bravo throughout 1959, cruising along the
eastern seaboard conducting operations at Norfolk, Va., Bermuda, and Quonset
Point, R.I. On 27 February 1960, she entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for
overhaul. In mid-July, the carrier was ordered to the South Atlantic where
she stood by when civil strife broke out in the newly independent Congo and
operated in support of the United Nations airlift. She returned to her home
port on 11 August 1960 and spent the remainder of the year operating out of
Boston with visits to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for refresher training and
exercises conducted in the Virginia capes operating areas and the Caribbean
operating areas. The carrier returned to Boston on 10 December 1960 and
remained in port there into the New Year.
On 9 January 1961, Wasp sailed for the Virginia capes operating area and
devoted the first half of 1961 to exercises there; at Narragansett Bay, R.I.,
and at Nova Scotia. On 9 June, Wasp got underway from Norfolk, Va., for a
three-month Mediterranean cruise. The ship conducted exercises at Augusta
Bay, Sicily; Barcelona, Spain; San Remo and La Spezia, Italy; Aranci Bay,
Sardinia; Genoa, Italy; and Cannes, France; and returned to Boston on 1
September. The carrier entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for an interim
overhaul and resumed operations on 6 November 1961.
After loading food, clothing, and equipment, Wasp spent the period from 11 to
18 January 1962 conducting antisubmarine warfare exercises and submarine
surveillance off the east coast. After a brief stop at Norfolk, the ship
steamed on to further training exercises and anchored off Bermuda from 24 to
31 January. Wasp then returned to her home port.
On 17 February, a delegation from the Plymouth Plantation presented a
photograph of the Mayflower II to Captain Brewer who accepted this gift for
Wasp's "People to People" effort in the forthcoming European
On 18 February, Wasp departed Boston, bound for England, and arrived at
Portsmouth on 1 March. On 16 March, the carrier arrived at Rotterdam,
Netherlands, for a week's goodwill visit.
From 22 to 30 March, Wasp travelled to Greenock, Scotland, thence to
Plymouth, England. On 17 April, Capt. Brewer presented Alderman A. Goldberg,
Lord Mayor of Plymouth, England, a large picture of Mayflower II as a gift
from the people of Plymouth, Mass. On 5 May, Wasp arrived at Kiel, West
Germany, and became the first aircraft carrier to ever visit that port. The
ship made calls at Oslo, Norway; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Argentia,
Newfoundland; before returning to Boston, Mass., on 16 June.
From August through October, Wasp visited Newport, R.I., New York, and Earle,
N.J., then conducted a dependents' cruise, as well as a reserve cruise, and
visitors cruises. The 1st of November gave Wasp a chance to use her
capabilities when she responded to a call from President Kennedy and actively
participated in the Cuban blockade. After tension relaxed, the carrier
returned to Boston on 22 November for upkeep work; and, on 21 December, she
sailed to Bermuda with 18 midshipmen from Boston area universities. Wasp
returned to Boston on 29 December and finished out the year there.
The early part of 1963 saw Wasp conducting antisubmarine warfare exercises
off the Virginia capes and steaming along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica
in support of the presidential visit. On 21 March, President Kennedy arrived
at San Jose for a conference with presidents of six Central American nations.
After taking part in Fleet exercises off Puerto Rico, the carrier returned to
Boston on 4 April. From 11 to 18 May, Wasp took station off Bermuda as a
backup recovery ship for Major Gordon Cooper's historic Mercury space capsule
recovery. The landing occurred as planned in the mid-Pacific near Midway
Atoll, and carrier Kearsage (CVA-33) picked up Cooper and his Faith 7 space
craft. Wasp then resumed antisubmarine warfare exercises along the Atlantic
seaboard and in the Caribbean until she underwent overhaul in the fall of
1963 for FRAM (Fleet rehabilitation and modernization) overhaul in the Boston
In March 1964, the carrier conducted sea trials out of Boston. During April,
she operated out of Norfolk and Narragansett Bay, R.I. She returned to Boston
on 4 May and remained there until 14 May when she got underway for refresher
training in waters between Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Kingston, Jamaica,
before returning to her home port on 3 June 1964.
On 21 July 1964, Wasp began a round-trip voyage to Norfolk and returned to
Boston on 7 August. She remained there through 8 September when she headed,
via the Virginia capes operating area, to Valencia, Spain. She then cruised
the Mediterranean, visiting ports in Spain, France, and Italy, and returned
home on 18 December 1964.
The carrier remained in port until 8 February 1965 and sailed for fleet
exercises in the Caribbean. Operating along the eastern seaboard, she
recovered the Gemini IV astronauts White and McDivitt with their spacecraft
on 7 June. During the summer, the ship conducted search and rescue operations
for an Air Force C-121 plane which had gone down off Nantucket. Following an
orientation cruise for 12 congressmen on 20 to 21 August, Wasp participated
in joint training exercises with German and French forces. From 16 to 18
December, the carrier recovered the astronauts of Gemini VI and VII, and then
returned to Boston on 22 December to finish out the year.
On 24 January 1966, Wasp departed Boston for fleet exercises off Puerto Rico.
En route, heavy seas and high winds caused structural damage to the carrier.
She put into Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on 1 February to determine the
extent of her damages and effect as much repair as possible. Engineers were
flown from Boston who decided that the ship could cease
"Springboard" operations early and return to Boston. The ship
conducted limited antisubmarine operations from 5 to 8 February prior to
leaving the area. She arrived at Boston on 18 February and was placed in
restricted availability until 7 March, when her repair work was completed.
Wasp joined in exercises in the Narragansett Bay operating areas. While the
carrier was carrying out this duty, a television film crew from the National
Broadcasting Company was flown to Wasp on 21 March and stayed on the ship
during the remainder of her period at sea, filming material for a special
color television show to be presented on Armed Forces Day.
The carrier returned to Boston on 24 March 1966 and was moored there until 11
April. On 27 March, Doctor Ernst Lemberger, the Austrian Ambassador to the
United States, visited the ship. On 18 April, the ship embarked several
guests of the Secretary of the Navy and set courses for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
She returned to Boston on 6 May.
A week later, the veteran flattop sailed to take part in the recovery of the
Gemini IX spacecraft. Embarked in Wasp were some 65 persons from NASA, the
television industry, media personnel, an underwater demolition recovery team,
and a Defense Department medical team. On 6 June, she recovered astronauts
Lt. Col. Thomas P. Stafford and Lt. Comdr. Eugene Cernan and flew them to
Cape Kennedy, Fla. Wasp returned their capsule to Boston.
Wasp participated in "ASWEX III," an antisubmarine exercise which
lasted from 20 June through 1 July 1966. She spent the next 25 days in port
at Boston for upkeep. On the 25th, the carrier got underway for "ASWEX
IV." During this exercise, the Soviet intelligence collection vessel,
Agi Traverz, entered the operation area necessitating a suspension of the
operation and eventual repositioning of forces. The exercise was terminated
on 5 August. She then conducted a dependents' day cruise on 8 and 9 August,
and orientation cruises on 10, 11, and 22 August. After a two-day visit to New
York, Wasp arrived in Boston on 1 September and underwent upkeep until the
19th. From that day to 4 October, she conducted hunter/killer operations with
the Royal Canadian Navy aircraft embarked.
Following upkeep at Boston, the ship participated in the Gemini XII recovery
operation from 5 to 18 November 1966. The recovery took place on 15 November
when the space capsule splashdown occurred within three miles of Wasp. Capt.
James A. Lovell and Maj. Edwin E. Aldrin were lifted by helicopter hoist to
the deck of Wasp and there enjoyed two days of celebration. Wasp arrived at
Boston on 18 November with the Gemini XII spacecraft on board. After
offloading the special Gemini support equipment, Wasp spent 10 days making
ready for her next period at sea.
On 28 November, Wasp departed Boston to take part in the Atlantic Fleet's
largest exercise of the year, "Lantflex-66," in which more than 100
United States ships took part. The carrier returned to Boston on 16 December
where she remained through the end of 1966.
Wasp served as carrier qualification duty ship for the Naval Air Training
Command from 24 January to 26 February 1967 and conducted operations in the
Gulf of Mexico and off the east coast of Florida. She called at New Orleans
for Mardi Gras from 4 to 8 February, at Pensacola on the 11th and 12th, and
at Mayport, Fla., on the 19th and 20th. Returning to Boston a week later, she
remained in port until 19 March when she sailed for "Springboard"
operations in the Caribbean. On 24 March, Wasp joined Salamonie (AO-26) for
an underway replenishment but suffered damage during a collision with the
oiler. After making repairs at Roosevelt Roads, she returned to operations on
29 March and visited Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, United States Virgin
Islands, and participated in the celebration from 30 March to 2 April which
marked the 50th anniversary of the purchase of the Virgin Islands by the
United States from Denmark. Wasp returned to Boston on 7 April, remained in
port four days, then sailed to Earle, N.J., to offload ammunition prior to
overhaul. She visited New York for three days, then returned to the Boston
Naval Shipyard and began an overhaul on 21 April 1967 which was not completed
until early 1968.
Wasp completed her cyclical overhaul and conducted post-repair trials
throughout January 1968. Returning to the Boston Naval Shipyard on the 28th,
the ship made ready for two months of technical evaluation and training which
began early in February.
The 28th of February marked the beginning of almost fiv
e weeks of refresher training for Wasp under the operational control of
Commander, Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On 30 March, Wasp
steamed north and was in Boston from 6 to 29 April for routine upkeep and
minor repairs. She then departed for operations in the Bahamas and took part
in "Fixwex C," an exercise off the Bermuda coast. The carrier set
course for home on 20 May but left five days later to conduct carrier
qualifications for students of the Naval Air Training Command in the
Jacksonville, Fla., operations area.
On 12 June, Wasp and Truckee (AO-147) had a minor collision during an
underway replenishment. The carrier returned to Norfolk where an
investigation into the circumstances of the collision was conducted. On 20
June, Wasp got underway for Boston, where she remained until 3 August when
she moved to Norfolk to take on ammunition.
On 15 June, Wasp's home port was changed to Quonset Point, R.I., and she
arrived there on 10 August to prepare for overseas movement. Ten days later,
the carrier got underway for a deployment in European waters. The northern
European portion of the cruise consisted of several operational periods and
port visits to Portsmouth, England; Firth of Clyde, Scotland; Hamburg,
Germany; and Lisbon, Portugal. Wasp, as part of TG 87.1, joined in the NATO
Exercise "Silver-tower," the largest combined naval exercise in
four years. "Silvertower" brought together surface, air, and
subsurface units of several NATO navies.
On 25 October 1968, the carrier entered the Mediterranean and, the following
day, became part of TG 67.6. After a port visit to Naples, Italy, Wasp
departed on 7 November to conduct antisubmarine warfare exercises in the
Tyrrhenian Sea, Levantine Basin, and Ionian Basin. After loading aircraft in
both Taranto and Naples, Italy, Wasp visited Barcelona, Spain, and Gibraltar.
On 19 December, the ship returned to Quonset Point, R.I., and spent the
remainder of 1968 in port.
Wasp began 1969 in her home port of Quonset Point. Following a yard period
which lasted from 10 January through 17 February, the carrier conducted
exercises as part of the White Task Group in the Bermuda operating area. The
ship returned to Quonset Point on 6 March and began a month of preparations
for overseas movement.
On 1 April 1969, Wasp sailed for the eastern Atlantic and arrived at Lisbon,
Portugal, on 16 April. From21 to 26 April, she took part in joint Exercise
"Trilant" which was held with the navies of the United States,
Spain, and Portugal. One of the highlights of the cruise occurred on 15 May
as Wasp arrived at Portsmouth, England, and served as flagship for TF
87,representing the United States in a NATO review by Queen Elizabeth and
Prince Phillip in which 64 ships from the 11 NATO countries participated.
After conducting exercises and visiting Rotterdam, Oslo, and Copenhagen, Wasp
headed home on 30 June and, but for a one-day United Fund cruise on 12
August, remained at Quonset Point until 24 August. The period from 29 August
to 6 October was devoted to alternating operations between Corpus Christi,
Tex., for advanced carrier qualifications, and Pensacola for basic
qualifications, with inport periods at Pensacola.
A period of restricted availability began on 10 October and was followed by
operations in the Virginia capes area until 22 November. In December, Wasp
conducted a carrier qualification mission in the Jacksonville operations area
which lasted through 10 December. The ship arrived back at Quonset Point on
13 December and remained there for the holidays.
The carrier welcomed the year 1970 moored in her home port of Quonset Point
but travelled over 40,000 miles and was away from home port 265 days. On 4
January, she proceeded to Earle, N.J., and offloaded ammunition prior to
entering the Boston Naval Shipyard for a six-week overhaul on 9 January.
The carrier began a three-week shakedown cruise on 16 March but returned to
her home port on 3 April and began preparing for an eastern Atlantic
deployment. Wasp reached Lisbon on 25 May 1970 and dropped anchor in the
Tagus River. A week later, the carrier got underway to participate in NATO
Exercise "Night Patrol" with units from Canada, the Netherlands,
Portugal, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. On 8 June, Wasp proceeded to
the Naval Station, Rota, Spain, to embark a group of midshipmen for a cruise
to Copenhagen. During exercises in Scandinavian waters, the carrier was
shadowed by Soviet naval craft and aircraft. The ship departed Copenhagen on
26 June and, three days later, crossed the Arctic Circle.
On 13 July 1970, Wasp arrived at Hamburg, Germany, and enjoyed the warmest
welcome received in any port of the cruise. A Visitors' Day was held, and
over 15,000 Germans were recorded as visitors to the carrier. After calls at
Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, Wasp got underway on 10 August for operating
areas in the Norwegian Sea. The carrier anchored near Plymouth, England, on
28 August and, two days later, sailed for her home port.
Wasp returned to Quonset Point on 8 September and remained there through 11
October when she got underway to offload ammunition at Earle, N.J., prior to
a period of restricted availability at the Boston Naval Shipyard beginning on
15 October. The work ended on 14 December; and, after reloading ammunition at
Earle, Wasp returned to Quonset Point on 19 December to finish out the year
On 14 January 1971, Wasp departed Quonset Point, R.I., with Commander, ASWGRU
2, CVSG-54 and Detachment 18 from Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
embarked. After refresher training at Bermuda, she stopped briefly at Rota,
Spain, then proceeded to the Mediterranean for participation in the
"National Week VIII" exercises with several destroyers for the
investigation of known Soviet submarine operating areas. On 12 February,
Secretary of the Navy John Chafee, accompanied by Commander, 6th Fleet, Vice
Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, visited the carrier.
Wasp detached early from the "National Week" exercise on 15
February to support John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) as she steamed toward Gibraltar.
Soviet ships trailed Wasp and John F. Kennedy until they entered the Strait
of Sicily when the Soviets departed to the east. After a brief stop at
Barcelona, Spain, Wasp began her homeward journey on 24 February and arrived
at Quonset Point on 3 March.
After spending March and April in port, Wasp got underway on 27 April and
conducted a nuclear technical proficiency inspection and prepared for the
forthcoming "Exotic Dancer" exercise which commenced on 3 May.
Having successfully completed the week-long exercise, Wasp was heading home
on 8 May when an American Broadcasting Co. television team embarked and
filmed a short news report on carrier antisubmarine warfare operations.
On 15 May, the veteran conducted a dependents' day cruise and, one month
later, participated in Exercise "Rough Ride" at Great Sound,
Bermuda, which took her to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Wasp returned to Quonset Point on 2 July 1971 and spent the next two months
in preparation and execution of Exercise "Squeeze Play IX" in the
Bermuda operating area. During August, the ship conducted exercises with an
east coast naval reserve air group while proceeding to Mayport, Fla. She
returned to her home port on 26 August and spent the next month there. On 23
September, Wasp got underway for Exercise "Lantcortex 1-72" which
terminated on 6 October. For the remainder of the month, the carrier joined
in a crossdeck operation which took her to Bermuda, May-port, and Norfolk.
She arrived back at Quonset Point on 4 November.
Four days later, the carrier set her course for the Newport News Shipbuilding
and Drydock Co. where she was in drydock until 22 November. She then returned
to Quonset Point and remained in her home port for the remainder of the year
preparing for decommissioning.
On 1 March 1972, it was announced that Wasp would be decommissioned and
stricken from the Navy list. Decommissioning ceremonies were held on 1 July
1972. The ship was sold on 21 May 1973 to the Union Minerals and Alloys
Corp., of New York City, and subsequently scrapped.
Wasp earned eight battle stars for her World War II service.
source: US Naval History & Heritage Command