The Essex-class aircraft carrier was one of the most important American ship groups of World War 2 (1939-1945) and were constructed from 1941 until 1950 with twenty-four of the planned thirty-two vessels seeing completion. All completed ships survived the conflict and all were retired in the post-World War 2 period. The warships were conventionally-powered, carried self-defense armament, and housed up to 100 aircraft of various types. One of the few Essex-class carriers to see completion after the war had ended was USS Oriskany (CV-34). As such, she missed out on action in the Grand Conflict altogether but more than made up for it in her service during the ensuing Cold War years.
Oriskany was named in honor of the Battle of Oriskany of 1777, part of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and was known under various nicknames during her time in service ("O-Boat", "Mighty O").
The ship was ordered on August 7th, 1942 as the United States continued its military build-up following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 1941). The New York Naval Shipyard laid her keel down on May 1st, 1944 and the vessel was launched on October 13th, 1945 (the war concluded in August of that year) so her construction was halted in 1946. Her formal commissioning finally arrived on September 25th, 1950 but not after she was heavily reworked and modernized along the lines of the "SCB-27" program - Oriskany served as the program's prototype.
SCB-27 ushered in a new carrier design approach intended to better support higher-performance combat jet aircraft being introduced. This led to reinforcement of several major components of the ship including the flight deck itself as well as its accompanying hangar elevators. The launch catapults were also made stronger to better contend with heavier aircraft and many of the wartime Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns were removed to clear up deck space. At the superstructure, the new island encouraged a more compact form with a lower profile. This also forced a redesign of the main mast and smoke funnels. Many other facets of the ship, including protection and crew quarters, were also addressed.
Fourteen total Essex-class carriers were modernized to the standard with Oriskany being the last of the group to come online.
As built, Oriskany held a length of 911 feet, a beam of 129 feet, and a draught of 30.5 feet. Her propulsion scheme incorporated 8 x Boilers feeding 4 x Westinghouse geared steam turbines developing 150,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts. This propelled Oriskany to speeds of 33 knots out to ranges of 20,000 nautical miles. Onboard was a crew of 2,600 and up to 100 aircraft could be carried depending on type and model. Three elevators serviced the flight deck (one deck-edge and two centerline). Armor included up to 4" at the belt and 4" at the bulkheads. Displacement was 30,800 tons.
USS Oriskany was one of the U.S. Navy warships featured in the Korean War (1950-1953) and, for her service in the conflict, she was awarded two Battle Stars. In October 1952, she was reclassified from "CV" to "CVA" and, on January 2nd, 1957, the warship was decommissioned for the first time. With the arrival of the Vietnam War, she was recommissioned for service (this on March 7th, 1959) and went on to earn five additional Battle Stars. In 1966, an onboard fire claimed the lives of forty-four of her crew. On June 30th, 1976, she was reclassified from "CVA" back to "CV" and saw decommissioning for the second, and final, time on September 30th, 1976. She was struck from the Naval Register on July 25th, 1989. Her hulk was sold for scrap in 1995 though she survived the scrapman's torch to instead be sunk as an artificial reef off the coast of Florida (Gulf of Mexico) in May of 2006. In this way she served as the pilot vessel for the artificial reef program.