Paramount Battles Involving Essex Class Carriers

Marcus Island

In early 1942, the United States navy had a limited number of carriers and was therefore cautious in their deployment. To maximize firepower, carriers would launch combined air attacks upon agressors. Once these air attacks were completed the carriers would split-up in an effort to minimize the concentration of ships (targets) in one area. However, by 1943, American industry had produced a wealth of new carriers making the experimentation of carrier strategy feasible. Undecided whether to implement fast carriers as a long-range mobile strike force or as an amphibious support ship Admiral Nimitz decided to baptise his new Essex Class Carriers by fire in small strikes agains enemy outposts.

Marcus Island
The first attempt to operate a multi-carrier group occured on August 23, 1943 when the carriers Essex (CV-9), Yorktown (CV-10), and Independence (CVL-22) along with ten destroyers, two cruisers and the battleship Indiana were grouped together to form Taskforce 15. By August 31st the taskforce was in striking posistion 130 miles north of Marcus Island. Home to a Japanese airfield and weather station, Marcus Island, was quickly desimated by the suprise air attack.

Wake island
October 5-6 saw the second wave of attacks on the Japanese held Wake Island. Lead by the largest carrier taskforce yet assembeled, Taskforce 14 included six aircraft carriers - (Essex, Yorktown, Lexington (CV-16), Independence, Belleau Wood and Cowpens), seven cruisers and twenty four destroyers. This battle was instremental in two important aspects. First, this was the first time carrier planes met Japanese fighters over the target. The duel of the skies proved the F6F to be a superior combat fighter to that of the Japanese Zero.Secondly, ship handling techniques of a multi-carrier force were developed and used in combat.

Rabaul Island
The defining battle for the Essex Class Carriers came on November 11, 1943 while fighiting the major Japaese airbase of Rabaul Island. 120 land based aircraft decended upon the carriers who were left alone and whose sole means of protection were thier antiaircraft guns. As the swarming Japanese planes approached the carriers, Adm. Montogomery motovated his sailors by yelling "Man your guns and shoot those bastards out of the sky!" The ensuing battle lasted 46 minutes as over two dozen Japanese planes were shotdown. In a miraculous feat of determination to surive the U.S.did not sustain any ship losses. The battle at Rabaul proved that carriers were not only a formidable offensive weapon but a defensive weapon as well. The loss of Japanese planes and experience fighter pilots at Rabaul would prove fatal in the remaining air battles of the Pacific.

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