The USS Yorktown (CV-10, CVA-10, CVS-10) was born from the fighting of World War 2 and persevered through some of the more important battles of the Pacific Campaign. She became one of the special vessels to emerge complete from the fighting and graduate into the jet age where her decks were not filled with technologically-advanced navy fighters. The Yorktown was commissioned, decommissioned and reclassified twice during her time at sea before settling into a life of retirement off the coast of South Carolina as a museum ship. A well-decorated veteran of two major wars concerning America, Yorktown saw her keel laid on December 1st, 1941 by shipbuilder Newport News Shipbuilding at Newport News, Virginia. She was launched to sea on January 21st, 1943 and officially commissioned (as US Yorktown CV-10) on April 15th, 1943.
Yorktown's design was consistent with newer aircraft carriers of the period, doing away with the exclusive "flat top" deck approach of pre-war designs and incorporating an island superstructure off of the starboard side. The remainder of the design was a straight-line deck area with accompanying hangar elevators providing access to maintenance, repair, fuel and munitions below. Three deck elevators were provided - two along the ship's centerline and one along portside - for preparing and reclaiming fighter and attack types. The hull's appearance was conventional as was her propulsion, the latter centering on 8 x boilers fueling 4 x Westinghouse geared steam turbines which, in turn, powered 4 x shafts under the stern at 150,000 shaft horsepower output. This provided the vessel with a maximum speed of 33 knots in ideal conditions and allowed for an operational listed range of approximately 20,000 nautical miles.
Structurally, the Yorktown was given a running length of 872 feet with a beam of 147 feet, 6 inches and a draught of 34 feet, 2 inches. She displaced at 27,100 tons under standard load and up to 36,400 tons under full combat load. Her crew complement amounted to 2,600 officers and enlisted personnel including onboard security, air wing and specialists. As built, her decks and hangar storage could support up to 100 aircraft - generally fighters, torpedo bombers and dive bombers. This number was eventually reduced in the post-war period where larger jet-powered aircraft became accepted norms on US Navy carrier decks. During her World War 2 service, the aircraft carrier did not field catapult-assisted launching for her aircraft.
The Yorktown was built with a collection of cannon for anti-aircraft defense (the primary foe would become the Empire of Japan's Navy). 4 x 5" (127mm) /38 caliber twin-barreled cannons were coupled with 4 x 5" single-barreled mountings for form the principle line of defense. This was backed by 8 x 40mm /56 caliber cannons in quadruple mountings. Up to 46 x 20mm /78 caliber single-barreled cannons allowed for a final line of defense. Weapons were stationed at the island superstructure and around the general periphery of the deck area.
In turn, the vessel was given various layers of physical armor for point defense against bomb and torpedo strikes. This included up to 4 inches of armor at the belt and 1.5 inches at the hangar areas. 4 inches were added to bulkheads and 1.5 inches afforded to the upper and side sections of the pilot house. Some 2.5 inches were granted at the steering section to help protect this critical area of the ship.
The USS Yorktown was one of a 26-strong class group of aircraft carriers under the Essex-class name (led by the USS Essex CV-9). The Essex-class could further be broken down into two distinct hull groups known as the "short-hull" and "long-hull" groups. Yorktown was the second of the short-hull group led by Essex and followed by the USS Intrepid (), USS Hornet (), USS Franklin (), USS Lexington (), USS Bunker Hill (), USS Wasp (), USS Bennington () and USS Bon Homme Richard (). The Essex-class was devised as a replacement for the single-ship-class USS Wasp and was, itself, replaced by the Midway-class appearing from September 1945 onwards.
Operational History: World War 2
The USS Yorktown was laid down just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii - December 7th, 1941. To this point, militaries of the world began adoption of larger project scopes and greater funding in anticipation of war. The Japanese began their conquest of the Pacific by invading several neighbors, including China, and had always considered the powerful US Navy their primary threat to completing their kingdom in the Pacific. Standing in their way were also Britain, Australia and other commonwealth allies. Originally named the USS Bon Homme Richard, Yorktown received her finalized name on September 26th, 1942 in honor of the previous USS Yorktown (CV-5) which was lost to the Japanese during the Battle of Midway (June 4th-7th, 1942). CV-10 was launched under ceremony with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt presiding and its first command fell to Captain Joseph J. Clark.
By the time Yorktown was commissioned in April of 1943, the United States Navy was embroiled in total war across the globe. She launched from Naval Station Norfolk in May and entered training and her shakedown cruise in Caribbean waters. She then ended up in the Pacific by way of the Panama Canal before reaching Pearl Harbor. Her first actions involved strikes against Japanese positions at Marcus Island with Task Force 15 in August. In October, her aircraft participated in similar actions at Wake Island. In November of 1943, Yorktown took part in the Abemama, Makin and Tarawa landings through her air cover.
In January of 1944, her air wing once again supported amphibious landings and raided when possible - including strikes against the enemy-held Truk Atoll and, later, Saipan. By June, she had joined her sister forces to partake of the Battle of Philippine Sea (June 19th-20th) which proved a decisive American victory at sea. The battle marked the end of Japanese carrier dominance in the Pacific with five fleet and four light enemy carriers lost in the battle.
In 1945, the final year of the war, Yorktown remained in action by supporting amphibious landings and engaging Japanese warships when possible. Eventually, the ring around the Japanese mainland had tightened to the point that Yorktown and others could launch their aircraft in strikes against enemy airfields. She took a direct hit herself to her signal bridge, resulting in the deaths of five servicemen, but kept functioning at full strength. In March, she assisted in the run up to the invasion of Okinawa by providing air strikes as required. In July, Yorktown joined others in continued raids on the Japanese mainland - including Tokyo. On August 15th, the Empire of Japan signaled surrender and put all further operations on hold. For the rest of the month, her aircraft were used to provide support to incoming occupation personnel.
With the formal Japanese surrender signed on the decks of the battleship USS Missouri on September 2nd, Yorktown comprised a portion of the Allie's "show of strength" entering Tokyo Bay on September 16th. Leaving the bay on October 1st, she made for Buckner Bay where she took on passengers and was brought home on October 6th. In January of 1946, USS Yorktown was set on reserve status but retained her commission until finally decommissioned on January 9th, 1947.
Operational History: The Cold War
During Yorktown's stay away, the communist North of Korea invaded the democratic South to begin the Korean War (1950-1953). In June of 1952, Yorktown was reactivated again and, on December 15th, she was placed on active commission. By this time, the vessel was modernized with new equipment and weaponry as well as aircraft to become a "CVA" attack carrier (USS Yorktown CVA-10). Despite her return, the vessel did not partake in combat service during the Korean War for an armistice was signed on July 27th, 1953 - ending direct armed conflict between the two nations. Yorktown nonetheless continued operational service and was used in various deployments throughout Asia-Pacific waters. On March 21st, 1955, she was once again placed in reserve at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. During this time in dock, the vessel was to go a heavy modernization which included installation of an angled launch/retrieval deck. On October 14th, 1955, the work was completed and the Yorktown's status raised to active commission. In September of 1957, the vessel was reclassified yet again, this time to become a dedicated Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) carrier as the USS Yorktown (CVS-10). As such, she was outfitted with various submarine tracking and engagement facilities as well as increased support for ASW aircraft.
In 1964, the Yorktown was officially deployed for service in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) in another battle to thwart communist expansion. There, Yorktown provided extensive ASW actions as well as general support and also took part in rescues of downed airmen. In February of 1967, she was pulled from service to undergo an extensive 7-month overhaul period. She was placed back into service during the Vietnam War by January 1968. Her final tour in the conflict was on June 16th before she left for Japan en route to the US.
From there, the USS Yorktown assisted in the filming of the Hollywood motion picture "Tora! Tora! Tora!" during November and December of 1968. Also in December, Yorktown was tabbed as the recovery vessel for the Apollo 8 space capsule and its crew of three (Borman, Lovell and Anders). The capsule landed on December 27th, 1968 in the North Pacific Ocean after a six-day mission above Earth. From this point onwards, Yorktown set sail for the eastern American coast, rounding Argentina, before coming stateside at Norfolk, Virginia. She was then sent overseas to Europe and made stops at several American allies before returning to Norfolk in December of 1969.
USS Yorktown Final Decommissioning
USS Yorktown (CVS-10) was decommissioned for the last time on June 27th, 1970. Her name was formally struck from the US Naval list on June 1st, 1973. She was then donated to the Patriot's Point Development Authority of Charleston, South Carolina where she was then moved to and dedicated on October 13th, 1975 as a floating museum. In 1986, she received a National Historic Landmark status.
Yorktown Modernization Programs
During her service years, Yorktown underwent two major modification programs designated as SCB27A and SCB125. Each program gradually increased the vessel's operating displacement from 36,400 tons to 40,600 tons and, finally, 41,200 tons. Her length was increased to 898 feet through the first program and down to 890 feet in the second. Defensive armament dwindled to 8 x 5" single-barreled cannons and 14 x 3" twin-barreled cannons and then 7 x 5" single-barreled cannons coupled with 4 x 3" twin-barreled cannons. During the jet age, she took on 70 fighting aircraft and this was gradually reduced to 50 during her CVS days. H8 series hydraulic catapults were added during SCB27A.
Yorktown Service Awards
During her time at sea, the USS Yorktown was awarded 11 Battle Stars as well as a Presidential Unit Citation for her service during World War 2. Additionally, the vessel was awarded another 5 Battle Stars for its active participation in the Vietnam War. Her long-reaching career across two major conflicts spanning several decades has made her one of the more storied surface ships in the modern US Navy. She remains one of the major preserved World War 2-era ships of the United States.