USS Wasp Service
The USS Wasp was conducting varied operations in the Atlantic since its commissioning in 1940. She participated in exercises as required and was then utilized for enforcing America's position of neutrality in international waters. German U-boats had become active the Atlantic and were waging an open war against all vessels attempting to resupply the British mainland. After December 1941, the USS Wasp was being used in North Atlantic waters to support the British Home Fleet. Further on, she delivered much-needed aircraft to the British Royal Air Force stationed at Malta, this being shipments of the fabled Supermarine Spitfire fighter. Malta served as a strategic setting within the Mediterranean Theater as German supplies were ferried from Italy to North Africa in support of the German Afrika Corps actions there. Malta was heavily pummeled by Axis bombers in an attempt to lay waste to its use as an Allied base. However, the island held out and Axis shipping suffered greatly, ultimately leading to the German withdrawal of North Africa altogether.
It was not until June of 1942 that the USS Wasp was called to service in the Pacific Theater. Japanese progress was strong in the region but ultimately thwarted in several key engagements including the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. Wasp was arrived just after and was used to strengthen the US fleet after its losses were calculated. Her vital air arm was of particular note in a part of the world where battles would be mostly won or lost at sea. The Wasp was sent to refuel and would miss out on Allied actions in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons as a result. Afterwards, she was saddled with new fighter aircraft at Noumea (French New Caledonia) for delivery to US Marine elements at Guadalcanal.
In August of 1942, now steaming near Pearl Harbor, USS Wasp was enlisted to take part in the Allied amphibious landings at Guadalcanal as part of the Solomon Islands campaign. The battle raged from August 7th to February 9th of 1943. A combined force of American, Australian, New Zealand, British, Tongan and Fijian troops took part in the bloody engagement that pitted 60,000 Allies against 36,200 determined defenders. The battle resulted in only 1,000 of the enemy being captured. Allied air losses amounted to 615 aircraft while the Japanese lost up a hundred more than that. Each side lost dozens of ships in the process but the battle went down as an Allied victory in the grand scope of the war.
The Sinking of the USS Wasp and Aftermath
From then on, USS Wasp was utilized as a permanent fixture near Guadalcanal to help support the Allied hold in the region and to prevent it from falling to a Japanese counter-invasion. On September 15th, 1942, the USS Wasp was spotted by crew of a prowling Japanese submarine in the early part of the afternoon. Having delivered its aircraft from her decks, the Wasp was sailing south of Guadalcanal. Seizing the opportunity, the captain of IJN submarine I-19 sent six torpedoes towards the Wasp. Two of these torpedoes struck the Wasp low along her port side, dangerously close to stored aviation fuel. The third managed to find its way higher up the waterline near the vessels refueling system, causing major damage.
Such direct hits immediately caused the aviation fuel to ignite, consequently leading to incontrollable fires throughout her sub-decks. As fires raged and the damage was deemed irreversible, the captain of the USS Wasp gave the order for the crew to officially abandon ship. Survivors were picked up by other vessels and the destroyer USS Lansdowne was called in to sink the Wasp in full - a practice utilized by navies to avoid their vessel falling into enemy hands, or to be sunk at the hands of the enemy. Some 193 US personnel were killed in the submarine attack. The USS Wasp was officially struck from the Naval Register on September 15th, 1942, ending her promising tenure as a fleet carrier.
The sinking of the USS Wasp delivered vital experience to the United States Navy. Her damage control crews were not yet experienced enough to handle such an onboard disaster and it was the final direct torpedo hit that truly led to her sinking. She maintained several deficiencies in her inherent design and these shown painfully through on that September night - she was ill-prepared and not armored enough to survive such an attack.
The USS Wasp was awarded two Battle Stars for her service in World War 2 and was the recipient of the following honors: American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War 2 Victory Medal. The USS Wasp CV-7 was the eight United Sates Navy vessel to carry the "Wasp" name.
Interestingly, the USS Wasp was the only ship of her class.