Paramount Battles Involving Essex Class Carriers
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.
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.
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.
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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