Brought about during the heavy fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War 2 (1939-1945), USS Kearsarge (CV-33) was destined to not take part in that conflict due to its end arriving in August of 1945. However, this aircraft carrier became a major participant in the post-war actions concerning the Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975) that followed. She was part of the all-important Essex-class numbering twenty-four total ships that proved so critical to U.S. naval actions in the Pacific against the Japanese Empire. USS Kearsarge was laid down on March 1st, 1944 by the New York Naval Shipyard and launched on May 5th, 1945. She was formally commissioned for service on March 2nd, 1946.
USS Kearsarge followed the Essex-class design, featuring a stern-to-bow, full-length, straight-line flight deck. The island superstructure was offset to the starboard side in the typical way and dimensions included an overall length of 888 feet with a beam measuring 93 feet and a draught down to 28.6 feet. Displacement was 27,100 tons under standard load. Aboard was a crew of about 3,448 personnel including the air wing, which operated between 90 and 100 World War 2-era aircraft of various makes and models.
The warship was driven by a steam-based arrangement involving 8 x boiler units coupled to 4 x Westinghouse geared steam turbines developing 150,000 horsepower and driving 4 x shafts under stern. Maximum speed was 33 knots and range was out to 20,000 nautical miles.
Installed armament was purely defensive in nature, the warship relying on CAP (Combat Air Patrol) sorties and its accompanying fleet for ranged protection. The point-defense suite, however, was led by 4 x 5" (127mm) guns in twin-gunned emplacements, 4 x 5" guns in single-gunned emplacements and 8 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in quadruple-gunned emplacements. The last-line-of-defense was 46 x 20mm Oerlikon autocannons in single-gunned installations.
Armor protection included up to 4" at the belt and 2.5 inches at the hangar deck. The protection decks added 1.5 inches of coverage and the conning tower was secured by 1.5 inches of armor plate.
USS Kearsarge originally home-ported out of Norfolk, Virginia during her early career and managed several training actions in Caribbean waters throughout the latter part of 1946 before managing a trip to Britain the following year. Back in home waters, more exercises greeted the ship and her crews before a trip to the Mediterranean. On June 16th, 1950, she was decommissioned to undergo SCB-27A modification, the Essex-class program intended to bring the warship to a new fighting standard - namely supporting the operation of jet-powered aircraft about her deck.
On June 25th, 1950, elements of the North Korean Army invaded South Korea and pushed the United States back into war. USS Kearsarge was recommissioned for service on February 15th, 1952 and ended in Pacific Waters to begin her training, readiness phase and wartime tour. Once on station in the Far East, her warplanes were used in anger for nearly half of a year, recording some 6,000 total sorties that covered airspace denial and strike - all in support of ground forces. At about this time, her hull classification was revised to become "CVA-33".
With an uneasy armistice signed between North and South Korea to "end" the war, USS Kearsarge remained in Asian waters to serve as a deterrent from further Communist aggression (including protection for the island nation of Taiwan from Communist China). From 1956 until 1957, she underwent additional work which added improved seakeeping and an angled flight deck (running from aft-starboard to forward-portside). In 1958, she was given additional Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) equipment to better counter the threat of the growing Soviet undersea force and this ultimately led to another hull reclassification as "CVS-33". Her crews and aircraft then served in a humanitarian role following a devastating typhoon in Japan.
In August of 1962, she was used to recover the space capsule from Project Mercury and underwent various training exercises from then on. In the 1960s, she was stationed back in Asian waters as the Vietnam Conflict grew in its reach and attention. She began her tour by providing ASW service for the Navy fleet and had her warplanes engage enemy ground targets as they presented themselves. In 1965, she underwent an overhaul at Long Beach, California and remained in West Coast waters for the short-term before returning to the Far East once more. From October 1966 onward she took part in further actions surrounding the Vietnam War until, in December of that year, the warship was finally in home waters. By this time she was regularly operating jet-powered warplanes along her flight deck such as the classic Douglas A-4 "Skyhawk" fighter-bomber (detailed elsewhere on this site).
With the Vietnam War drawing down, the U.S. Navy began a purge of its aging fleet and USS Kearsarge fell victim. She was decommissioned on February 1970 and placed in reserve status for a period of three years before being struck from the Naval Register. In February of 1974, her stripped hulk was sold for scrap and her sailing days were officially over.